BASEBALL IS BACK!

Posted: April 27, 2011 in MLB

NOTE: This was to be posted prior to the start of the season, technical issues postponed its release.

Well it’s that magical time of year again when Opening Day has come and gone and countless story lines are beginning to play out in what should be an exciting and entertaining 2011 MLB season. Just what exactly should fans be looking out for this year?

R2C2

The newest nickname in baseball is used to describe the superpower that is the Philadelphia Phillies pitching rotation. This past summer like every off season we were overwhelmed with the coverage of where coveted, and perennial playoff monster, Cliff Lee was going to sign his bank breaking free agent contract. The Rangers made several trips in a personal appeal to hisArkansashome to charm him into returning to the reigning American League champion Texas Rangers to build on a strong youthful core of outfield talent and young pitchers (C.J. Wilson and reliever Neftali Feliz). What ended up counting the most in the end was what I always hope to see as the mitigating factor and that is personal fit and enjoyment when choosing a team. Cliff Lee stated in several interviews after signing with the Phillies that he never really wanted to leave in 2009 when he was traded toSeattleto make room for Roy Halladay. Not many people thought about this last year as the Yankees made several huge offers that many of us would have thought would take a mad man to refuse. Now that Lee is set and contract signed, we get to witness a rotation that features Cy Young winners Roy Halladay (2003,2010), Roy Oswalt (2005 NLCS MVP), Cole Hamels (2008 NLCS & World Series MVP) and of course Cliff Lee (2008 Cy young). To not want to see only greatness and perhaps history from this lineup would be petty. Whether or not you’re a fan of the Phillies and their continued greatness the past few years the potential of this rotation is limitless and if they live up to even half of their potential they’ll all have another award to add to their resumes, diamond encrusted rings with their names and a World Series title.

Giants Version 2.0

 Last year we were treated to a great underdog story of a storied franchise finally getting itself out from under the shadows of one of the most dominant and at the same time controversial players in professional sports. The 2010 San Francisco Giants gave us a spectacular story to watch unfold into an incredibly unlikely story of individual and team success. On the last day of the 2010 playoffs the Giants played their way into the playoffs and never looked back. Behind the out of this world pitching from two-time CY Young winner Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and spectacular field play, the Giants shed their wild card label for a shiny new champions one. What made this championship great was that they won with close games (7 of their 11 playoff wins were by 1 run) from superb defense behind their pitching as well as a clubhouse that bonded over their new identity.

They were finally their own Giants, not Bonds’ giants. They played to their own beat, joked the way they wanted to knowing that almost nothing was safe from public mockery and that everyone would take it only the right way. Brian Wilson was established as a club house leader/joker and his ability to keep the atmosphere light while saving 6 post seasons games all helped write this new chapter.

Now as 2011 begins with a new champion we watch on to see if last year was a stroke of good luck or if they’re really a team to be feared when on the mound. I for one hope to see this team back in the post season as their games although low scoring, provided for great TV drama as 1 run is never safe in major league baseball, unless you find yourself in the batters box with a Giant staring right down the heart of plate.

Cardinals Conundrum

Now anyone who has not been under a rock for the past 6 months knows that this year is Albert Pujols’ final year on contract with the St.Louis Cardinals. I don’t even think I need to explain how important this is to the sport but I will anyways for those of you who don’t already know his mind boggling career averages:

Seasons: 10      HR Avg: 40.8   RBI: 123          Avg: .331         Runs: 118         Hits: 190

A fantasy and real life owners dream, Pujols has stayed true so far to his deadline of not talking contract after spring training. Although a short extension was given now that the season has started Pujols refuses to allow his monster contract in waiting to take away from this season. What makes this harder on the Cardinals is that Adam Wainright, a CY Young contender the last few seasons, is now out for the rest of the year. So if the Cardinals contend or even win the NL Central it will surely make Pujols look even more invaluable. The Cardinals have made offers as large as just under $30million per year however no specifics have ever been released based on either length or value of the contract. Everyone knows that Alex Rodriguez and his average salary of $27.5 million per year is highly bloated and over priced and the Yankees must regret that deal everyday. A-rod being a fantastic ballplayer certainly does not warrant $27.5million especially when Mark Teixeira across the infield is making $13 million less in 2011 (A-Rod is being paid $33 million for 2011) and puts up bigger numbers. This is relevant because many believe that Pujols as well as his team will use the A-Rod deal as a measuring stick of both value and contract length when negotiating a structure for their deal. Some writers have come out and said that if he gave the Cardinals a big home-town discount that it would make the union look weak, but I say who cares?! Pujols has no responsibility to the union if he wants to play for less. It is his choice and his money. No one knows whether Pujols intends to walk or really wants to stay and is just trying to defend both the union’s position as well as his own. I would love to see him work out a deal that works for both parties equally, but after the discount he gave them the last several years it might be time for Albert to run for the bank.

Yankees Pitching Woes

The New York Yankees shelled out serious cash for aces CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett two years ago but that’s about all they have. Burnett has still not fully lived up to his billing after his 18 win season in Toronto, Jaba Chamberlin continues to be a mystery in how to use him best, and their ace in the hole Phil Hughes is not panning out at al to what they expected. Pitching never used to be an issue as the Yankees line-up is so potent it can score runs at will. However after last season’s “Year of the Pitcher” you can no longer trust an offense to backup and so-so pitcher. You need to have aces on your staff and reliability through your number 3-5 starters, which they just don’t seem to have. This could be another disappointing (yet always profitable) year for theBronxbombers as we embark on another exciting year on the clay and grass.

All in all this season has more story lines than the ones listed above; I just felt these were 4 of the big ones. We get to see how Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzales perform after steady years and finally getting huge new contracts. We get to see if the Orioles continue their success from the end of last year, if the Dodgers ownership issues will figure themselves out and whether or not the Texas Rangers can return to the World Series after losing the highly touted (and probably overpaid) Cliff Lee. Enjoy the season everyone! I know I will be.

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