Sunday, December 11th, 2011

What a Week (or Two) in Baseball

Let's see. Major free agent signings and a PED scandal. At this point, I'm not truly sure what was the biggest story of the last week.

Was it Albert Pujols leaving the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals? After all he did sign a 10-year, $250 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Though people can argue he's the best player in Major League Baseball, he'll turn 32 years old by the start next season, and long-term contracts can turn bad quickly at that age. Pujols has suffered injuries over the last several seasons, too. In terms of sports, 32 is getting up there in age. Up to this point in his career, he's been an All-Star first baseman and National League MVP. If his skills begin to diminish, he'll have the luxury of the designated hitter role in the American League. Can he possibly live up to the expectations of Angels fans? Stay tuned.

How will Pujols be remembered in St. Louis? Will Cardinals fans still embrace him as one of their own? Will he be booed mercilessly as a defector and a traitor? Since word broke that Pujols was jumping to the American League, comparisons have been made to Stan Musial who played his entire career with the Cardinals (1941-1963). Many experts and fans expressed their desire for Pujols to remain with the Cardinals. If he could begin and end his career in St. Louis red, he would stand on the pedestal next to Musial. Now, no one will ever know.

But, the Angels were far from finished handing out large contracts. On the same day they signed Pujols, they also inked C.J. Wilson to a 5-year, $77.5 million contract. As a starting pitcher, Wilson led the Texas Rangers to two consecutive American League pennants. Though a monumental signing in its own right, it was somewhat obscured in the wake of the Pujols announcement.

Could the biggest story be in South Beach? Over in the National League, the Miami Marlins were making noise. With their recent rebranding that includes a new unnamed ballpark, a new franchise name (formerly the Florida Marlins), they decided to open their checkbooks and sign free agents, too. The Marlins enticed three major free agents to make the move south. They signed Jose Reyes (shortstop) away from the New York Mets, Heath Bell (closer) from the San Diego Padres, and Mark Buehrle (starting pitcher) from the Chicago White Sox. Will big contracts lead to the franchise's third World Series title? It certainly did in 1997 for their first.

I think it's premature to fast-forward to October 2012 and expect to see the Angels and Marlins preparing to match up in Game 1 of the World Series, but they've certainly made every attempt to do so.

Or, could the biggest story of the week be taking place in the smallest market? If free agent signings weren't enough, word broke on Saturday night that the reigning National League MVP tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in October. Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers will face a potential 50-game suspension to start the 2012 season. Braun's spokesman claims there are "unusual circumstances surrounding this case" and that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing. While the details are still unclear in this case, it's difficult news for a franchise that faces the potential loss of All-Star first baseman, Prince Fielder, to free agency. Now that Pujols has a new home, the focus will shift to Fielder. All of this after reaching the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The small teams are being heard from early in the off season, but the big money boys are staying quiet until after Christmas and then I believe that you are going to see some deep movement.
BeanCounter37   Monday, December 12, 2011
That's possible.
Bill Pearch   Monday, December 12, 2011
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