Manny Ramirez Controversy and the 8 Biggest Surprises in MLB This Season
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The 2011 MLB season has not gone how I predicted. Of course, I don't feel so bad because no one predicted this type of season.
The season has been full of surprises, from random injuries to early retirements—from the Boston Red Sox being at the bottom of the AL East to the Cleveland Indians being atop the AL Central.
It's almost surreal at this point. This season has been nuts from day one.
Here are the eight biggest surprises (thus far) in the 2011 MLB season.
Manny Ramirez Retires Amid Controversy
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Manny Ramirez announced his early retirement after being informed he had violated MLB's drug policy. Exactly how Manny violated the policy is still under speculation, but the superstar has said his goodbyes to the Tampa Bay Rays and MLB.
Perhaps Manny could have appealed. Perhaps this was all a mistake. That said, if you don't think this early retirement had something to do with Tampa fans booing Ramirez and manager Joe Maddon benching him, you should go hide in the Green Monster between innings.
Manny Ramirez could have announced that he did not "knowingly" violate any policy (this seems to be the standard answer these days to drug policy infractions). He could have had a team of lawyers petition MLB. Instead he chose to quit.
He quit because he was unproductive, unappreciated and unused as a Ray. He came out of the gate in spring training on fire but immediately fizzled out.
This is good and bad news for the Rays.
The bad news is that they lost one of the more explosive bats in the history of baseball.
The good news is that the player was Manny Ramirez (and the Rays got him for $2M).
The Boston Red Sox Start the Season at 2-9
The pitching for Boston has been exceptionally bad this season. The Boston starting rotation has an average ERA of 8.28. They have given up a total of 14 home runs. They have given up 67 hits in 11 games...and this is just the starting rotation. Boston's pitching is going to have to start performing soon.
As bad as the pitching from the Red Sox has been this year, their offensive production has been even worse. Only one player on the entire team is hitting over .300 (Dustin Pedroia).
History lesson: The "Mendoza Line" is named either for Mario Mendoza or Minnie Mendoza (no one can quite agree). These batters had career batting averages of .215 and .188, respectively. Thus, the Mendoza Line has been set arbitrarily between .180 and .215 over the years. This is the batting average line that no player wants his batting average to drop to, or management will usually start dropping players.
Having said that, of 13 batters that have been to the plate for Boston, eight are below the Mendoza Line. Eight players on a $164M roster are hitting at a level far below that of MLB expectations. Eight of the most highly paid players in the game are not producing.
Luckily for Boston, the season is 162 games. The Sox can still make some adjustments and come back before the end of the season. Manager Terry Francona is one of the best and brightest managers to ever coach at Fenway and should be able to fix whatever issues the BoSox are having.
The Cleveland Indians Are Atop the AL Central
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The Cleveland Indians are 8-3. They are one of the best teams in baseball right now and are just getting it done on every level. Finally, that famous farm system they have in Cleveland is making some noise for the home team.
The Tribe has six pitchers boasting a sub-2.00 ERA. The Indians' bullpen is absolutely sublime at this point.
Add to that a team that has six players hitting over .260, and you have yourself a first-place team.
Understandably, it is still early in the season, but if the Indians can keep up their current pace, they might really have something to talk about...and to keep fans coming to the park.
Los Angeles Dodgers / San Francisco Giants Rivalry Goes Too Far
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After the season opener at Dodger Stadium, Giants fan Bryan Stow was assaulted by two men in Dodgers gear and left in a medically induced coma.
Watching the Dodgers and the Giants play has always been one of the highlights of the year for baseball fans everywhere, but sometimes a fan can take a rivalry too far.
After a plea to fans from both teams stressing the importance of a rivalry staying on the field, things seem to have calmed down a bit in California, but the echoes of that moment should stay forever on the minds of true baseball fans everywhere.
Injuries, Injuries, Injuries
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You could make an All-Star team from the players with injuries that have occurred early in 2011. These injuries could be a fluke or could be from players not training well enough in the offseason, but the fact remains that they are a baseball constant.
Every team has an injury thus far this season. This is expected. Many of the best players in baseball are injured right now. This is not expected and is a huge letdown for the clubs and the fans.
Notable injuries, by team, this season include:
Arizona 3B Geoff Blum
Atlanta SP Jair Jurrjens
Baltimore SP Brian Matusz
Boston RP Matt Albers
Cubs SPs Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells
White Sox SP Jake Peavy
Cincinnati SPs Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez
Cleveland LF Trevor Crowe
Colorado SP Jorge De La Rosa
Detroit RF Magglio Ordonez and 2B Carlos Guillen
Florida C John Baker
Houston C Jason Castro
Kansas City C Jason Kendall
Angels SP Scott Kazmir and 3B Freddy Sandoval
Dodgers SP Jon Garland and SS Rafael Furcal
Milwaukee SP Zack Greinke
Minnesota SP Kevin Slowey and 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Mets SP Johan Santana
Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez (illness) and RP Luis Ayala
Oakland CF Coco Crisp and SP Rich Harden
Philadelphia 2B Chase Utley
Pittsburgh SP Scott Olsen
San Diego SS Jason Bartlett
San Francisco RF Andres Torres
Seattle CF Franklin Gutierrez
St. Louis SPs Bryan Augenstein, Adam Wainwright and Brian Tallet
Tampa Bay 3B Evan Longoria
Texas LF Josh Hamilton
Toronto SP Dustin McGowan
Washington SPs Stephen Strasburg and Chien-Ming Wang and 1B Adam LaRoche
Baltimore Leads the AL East
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The AL East is perhaps the toughest division in baseball. It boasts the powerhouse New York Yankees, the loaded Boston Red Sox, the returning champion Tampa Bay Rays and the up-and-coming Toronto Blue Jays.
No one in their right mind would have picked the Baltimore Orioles to be in first place at any point during the season, but then again, everything has been crazy this season.
The 6-3 Orioles have been dynamite on the road and are ahead of the Yankees by one game.
Reality may be crashing down soon, though, as the Orioles are on a two-game losing streak.
The Texas Rangers Are Undefeated at Home (And Nearly That Way on the Road)
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The Texas Rangers have had one of the best starts in franchise history despite the loss of ace Cliff Lee in the offseason. They have leaned heavily on SP Matt Harrison, who has been outstanding in the early part of the season this year. Harrison is boasting a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings and an 11K to 3BB differential.
Harrison has not been carrying this team, though. The high-powered Texas offense, led by Michael Young, has been on fire. They have amassed 64 total runs this year.
The loss of Josh Hamilton will surely affect the Rangers, but if they can hold it together with their young bevy of pitchers, the Rangers may be this year's World Series dark horse.
Barry Bonds Overpaid His Lawyers (Maybe)
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After an onslaught of witnesses being called in by the prosecution in the Barry Bonds perjury case, the elite lawyers Bonds hired to protect him and his reputation countered by calling exactly zero. The defense simply rested as soon as the prosecution was finished calling witnesses.
Either Barry Bonds has hired the smartest team of lawyers since O.J. Simpson or is planning on an appeal, based on incompetent attorneys.
Is it surprising that Bonds is on trial? A little. Is it surprising that he has a team of lawyers that didn't have a defense ready? Completely! Unless he wins. If he does, then forget I said anything!