This afternoon the baseball season continues, the post season. This season marks the first time in Major League Baseball history that 10 teams, yes one-third of the teams, made the playoffs. Now, for two of those teams, the post season will be done today. Today, the first ever Wild Card Play-In games kick off the post season. The two winners will advance to play the #1 seed in their respective leagues, the Yankees and the Nationals. Now, if this were set up like it was through 1969, then we would proceed directly to the World Series with the Yankees and Nationals being the pennant winners. In 2012 though, we start with the winner-take-all play-in round. The defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals play at Atlanta versus the Braves. Did you know that Atlanta is home to Major League Baseball’s third highest elevated ballpark? Only Colorado and Arizona play at higher elevations. The second of these games showcases the amazing Baltimore Orioles at the downward spiraling Texas Rangers. The Rangers led their division for 178 of the 192 days that made up the regular season, but find themselves in a sudden death game right away.
Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) became the first player since “Captain” Carl Yastrzemski to win the Triple Crown, leading the American League in Batting Average, Home Runs, and Runs batted In. He’s also the first to win it since the evolution of the five-man rotation, closer’s, and divisional play. It’s a pretty impressive feat really. He’s only the tenth player to win the Triple Crown since 1909. Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams both did it twice, Babe Ruth never did it. Now the question has become who will win the AL MVP award, Cabrera or sensational rookie Mike Trout (Angels). Trout just completed one of the best baseball seasons ever played by a Major League Rookie. Personally, I would take Cabrera in my line up over any other player in the Major Leagues. Trout was amazing this year, but I don’t think his season, when looking past the rookie part of the matter, was any better than the season Jacoby Ellsbury had last year for the Red Sox. Ellsbury finished 2nd in MVP voting to Justin Verlander last season despite effecting the outcome in 124 more games than Verlander. If Cabrera does not win the MVP, even as a Triple Crown winner, it wouldn’t be unusual. Four of the last nine Triple Crown winners, WERE NOT named MVP of their league. We will have to wait and see.
In the National League, the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw became just the fourth pitcher since World War II to lead the Majors in Earned Run Average for two straight seasons. You may have heard of the other three pitchers on this list, Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez. Despite his efforts, and the blockbuster addition of Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers missed the playoffs.
Then there’s my beloved Red Sox. I don’t know how deep I can go into this subject without subjecting myself to the necessity of counselling. For me, emotionally anyways, this Red Sox season started last September, when it would be hard to argue to the contrary that a collection of players showed up everyday, physically at least, doing barely enough to collect a pay check. They mailed it in. They quit, on each other, on the coaching staff, on a pennant race, and got the manager they all wanted, fired. They missed the playoffs on the last day of the season. The organization removed the best manager they ever had. Their GM left, obviously learning from the events of 1912 in the North Atlantic. They named a new GM which was received as an outrageous joke by the Fenway Faithful (pre-pink hats). Then, the humour continued as Thanksgiving passed, after every other living managerial candidate was turned away, unavailable, or otherwise not chosen, the Sox named Bobby Valentine as their new manager. Personally, I thought his name was being mentioned as a joke. I thought he made the list because he fit the lofty criteria of the job search. One, he was currently alive. Two, he had managed a baseball team before. Three, he was not already under contract managing another team in the same division. And so it was, the Red Sox had a new manager.
To sum this last portion up, the Sox spent the last 13 months showing the world a few interesting, if not maddening or hilarious things, depending on what team you cheer for. First, it became increasingly clear that the ownership group not only took their eye off the ball regarding the make up and character of a championship caliber team, but they clearly meddled in to baseball operations and failed miserably. Second, although the team was hampered with injuries and displayed a toxic make up in the clubhouse, Valentine showed his true colors early and often as adversity followed him and the team like beat reporters around the ballpark. Often times even, he created his own adversity out of virtually nothing. Honestly, I think I could have managed the Sox to a better record this season, even if only by a game or two. But with the power that the ownership holds in baseball matters when they feel like being involved, it’s hard to say if any of the personnel hired into their titles actually make decisions in their roles. Third, and this may be the most maddening point of all, the players played terrible! As a competitor and an athlete who has put in thousands of hours of practice, training, and preparation, how can you come out and not play with the intensity and urgency that shows how bad you want to return to the top of your profession?!?! The Sox broke camp this spring and played like everything that had happened last year was just okay. Are you kidding me? Players quit. They stopped working. They stopped caring. They looked at themselves instead of up and down that bench. They took the reigns that Francona gave them and used them to construct a noose, expediting his demise. Oh man this subject gets me fired up.
So, without a hockey season to bring a smile to my face beginning next week, I will follow the MLB playoffs a little more closely. I look forward to the games later today. I will try to regroup after witnessing one of the ugliest Red Sox seasons I have ever seen. Next February when pitchers and catchers report, the glimmer will again begin, I hope. Enjoy the post season.