The 2011 baseball keeps rolling along like a steam engine and as each month passes, the more baseball continues to surprise. The month of June was no exception to surprises.
In the month of June alone,we saw three managerial changes, two devastating injuries, and one pitcher run through the National League like a hot knife through butter. Here are the top-10 things we learned about baseball in June…
10. South Carolina wins their second consecutive College World Series: The University of South Carolina baseball team won their second consecutive College World Series as they beat the Florida Gators 5-2 in Game 2 of the Championship Series to sweep the best of three series.
The Gamecocks won their 16th consecutive NCAA tournament game with their victory, breaking the all-time record of 15 shared with the University of Texas in 1983 and 1984. On top of that, with their win, South Carolina has won11 straight CWS games dating back to last season. The Gamecocks broke the mark of 10 consecutive CWS wins they shared with both USC (1972-74) and LSU (1996-98).
Congrats to the Gamecocks for yet another fantastic season. The Gamecocks play in the SEC and are rivals with the University of Arkansas, where this pitcher played his college ball…
9. Cliff Lee ripped through the National League. Lee got off to a slow start in April and May, but man, did he turn it on in June and show the National League what we already knew: he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Lee finished the month of June with a 5-0 record with a 0.21 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP in 42 IP. He also finished June with 32 consecutive scoreless innings pitched.
Lee was the most sort after free agent this winter and spurned the New York Yankees to sign with the Phillies. However, they are doing just fine without him…
8. The Yankees catch fire in June: Could it possibly be the Yankees are flying under the radar in 2011? The Yankees finished the month of June 18-8, which was the best in baseball and it has seemed to go unnoticed.
The Yankees used their trademark formula at the plate; patience and power to race to the top of the American League standings. The Yankees led baseball in BB Percentage (10.6 percent) and ISO (.183) in the month of June.
The Yankees were spearheaded by Nick Swisher‘s rebirth at the plate as he hit .326/.445/.651 with seven HR’s in 110 PA’s in June.
While the Yankees surged to the top of baseball, this team did the complete opposite…
7. The Florida Marlins were horrendous in June: The Marlins finished the month with a 5-23 record and at one point were 1-17. 1 and freakin 17!!! The Marlins completely fell apart in every aspect of the game.
The Marlins hit just .225/.284/.340 as a team, which was good for 29th in baseball and their pitchers finished the month with a 4.17 ERA. It didn’t help that Hanley Ramirez landed on the DL and overall, is having a terrible year and Josh Johnson hasn’t pitched in over a month.
Their poor play resulted in this…
6. Edwin Rodriguez resigns as Marlins manager: On the morning of June 19th, the Marlins accepted the resignation of manager Edwin Rodriguez. Rodriguez was in his first year as Marlins manager and has guided them to a 32-39 record.
At the time of Rodriguez’s resignation, the Marlins were in the midst of a 1-17 stretch and it was probably only a matter of time before Rodriguez was canned. After Rodriguez resigned, the Marlins turned to Brandon Hyde on an interim basis, but then made a shocking move.
In hopes of bringing back the magic he brought to the Marlins in 2003, Florida hired 80-year-old Jack McKeon has manager. With his hiring, McKeon became the second oldest manager in major league history.
Rodriguez’s resignation in Florida wasn’t the only managerial news in June…
5. Bob Geren got the axe and Jim Riggleman has some giant sized grapefruits: In a move that didn’t come as much of a surprise, the Oakland A’s fired manager Bob Geren. The A’s were 27-36 overall and were 0-7 at the time of Geren’s firing over.
Unfortunately for Geren, he was a victim of two things — poor communication with his players and unrealistic expectations.
Geren’s firing and Rodriguez’s resignation were small potatoes compared to what happened in Washington.
In the most shocking move since Andre The Giant turned on Hulk Hogan in the winter of 1987, Washington Nationals manager Jim Riggleman resigned as Nationals’ manager. Riggleman gave his walking papers after the Nationals defeated the Seattle Mariners 1-0 on June 23rd.
According to ESPN.com, there was a rift between Riggleman and Nationals’ management over his contract for 2012. Riggleman had an option for next season that wasn’t picked up. According to the report, Riggleman asked to have his option picked up and the Nationals said no thanks.
This story gained national attention as Riggleman was criticized for quitting on his team. My take on this matter still stands. If baseball is a business (something I have never agreed with), then people quit in business all the time. And while the timing of Riggleman’s quitting has come under scrutiny, there is no good or right time for quitting.
Riggleman is now the former manager of the Nationals and the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs expect to be one of the most active teams this winter when it comes to free agency and could have their sights set on this guy…
The Cardinals placed Pujols on the DL with a fractured left forearm. He fractured the forearm when Wilson Betemit of the Kansas City Royals ran into Pujols as Pujols was trying to stretch for a ball at first.
The original diagnosis had Pujols out six-to-eight weeks, but it now appears Pujols could return shortly after the All Star break. It was also believed that this injury could effect Pujols long-term. Though, I am in no way a doctor, but I would be shocked if this injury affects Pujols long-term. My guess is Pujols does return to form when he comes back in August or September and still ends up back in St. Louis in 2012.
Once Pujols is off the market this winter, this guy might be the next best option…
3. Prince Fielder had a monster June: The Milwaukee Brewers are fighting for AL Central supremacy and are being led by their power hitting first baseman Prince Fielder. Fielder is making a strong case for National League MVP.
Fielder hit .337/.491/.747 and led the majors with 10 HR’s in 110 PA’s in June. Fielder is having a great year overall, and will be a highly sought after free agent this winter.
If Fielder isn’t the first half MVP of the National League, then this next guy most certainly is…
2. Jose Reyes might be the best player in baseball: Reyes is having a season for the ages in New York. Reyes led baseball with a 2.2 WAR in June and overall, Reyes is hitting .354/.398/.529 with three HR’s, 15 triples, and 30 SB’s.
Reyes is on pace for a 242 hit season with 29 triples and 59 SB’s. I don’t care how many games the New York Mets finish out of a playoff spot, if Reyes continues to put up these types of numbers, Reyes will win the NL MVP and make a killing this offseason.
And the No. 1 one thing we learned about baseball in June…
1. The baseball season is halfway done: The end of June represents the halfway point of the baseball season and if the season ended on June 30th, the Yankees, Indians, Rangers, Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, Giants, and Braves would be playing postseason baseball. On the opposite end, the Houston Astros would start the process of preparing for the first pick in the 2012 June Draft.
Those eight teams who would qualify for a playoff spot halfway through the season should feel pretty good about themselves right now. Out of the eight teams who qualified for a playoff spot in 2010, five of them qualified for a playoff spot at the halfway point of last season.
For the teams that are between four and six games behind a division leader or Wild Card leader, don’t worry. Both the Giants and Phillies came from four and five and a half games out respectively on June 30th to make the playoffs.
Watch for the White Sox (3.5 games behind the Tigers) and the Rays (five games behind the Yankees and 2.5 games behind the Red Sox for the Wild Card) as two teams that could mirror the Giants and Phillies of last season.
Well that’s all for June. I think July is going to be pretty intense. With so many teams in contention, one trade could make a massive difference.