2011 MLB Year in Review
And that's a wrap.
Another season in the books and another season to look back on as one of the most historic in sports history.
In a season of comebacks, downfalls, inspirations and milestones, it only seems appropriate to look back at what made this another great summer of baseball. Before we enter playoff baseball, why not take a look at what was the good, the bad and everything else notable from this 2011 MLB season.
The Good: Justin Verlander
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I dare anyone to argue that another player had a more dominant season than Justin Verlander.
JV led the league in wins (24), win percentage (.828), ERA (2.40), innings pitched (251.0) and strikeouts (250). On top of that he has a no-hitter, two shutouts, a guaranteed Cy Young award, and a chance to be the first MVP awarded pitcher since Dennis Eckersley and his mustache won it in '92.
If that isn't dominance, then I don't know what is.
The Bad: Adam Dunn
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Last offseason, White Sox fans were stoked that they reeled in hard-hitting first baseman Adam Dunn.
This offseason, fans are thrilled that they won't have to see his putrid performance for the next few months.
After a year of batting .159 with only 42 RBI, fans are questioning why this guy is making roughly $100,000 per game.
Whatever was bugging him needs to be turned around next season or otherwise he could be the most hated man in Chicago since Steve Bartman.
Except he is $56 million richer thanks to his four-year contract.
The Best Comeback: Bartolo Colon
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One year ago, Bartolo Colon was sitting on his sofa watching teams duke it out to get into the postseason. This year, Colon is preparing to make a playoff run with his Yankees.
Talk about a difference.
Colon was picked up up on a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. Who knows, maybe he could make it up as a reliever in the middle of the season. Or so everyone thought.
Colon had an excellent preseason, and because of that he made the Opening Day roster. Throughout the season, Colon made 25 starts and gave the Yankees eight wins with a 4.02 ERA.
Not bad for a guy who was out of the big leagues for a year.
The Worst Exit: Manny Ramirez
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Well, Manny was just being Manny.
Unfortunately that means getting caught with performance-enhancing drugs for the second time of his star-studded career, earning himself a 100-game suspension.
Rather than riding the pine for more than half the season, Manny said his quick goodbyes to the game he used to thrive in and vanished into retirement.
Not quite as classy as Jordan retiring after he won a title.
The Unusual: Ozzie Guillen Traded to the Marlins
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The most outspoken manager in sports just came out and said it: "Money is everything besides health," and the White Sox were just not willing to give him that payday.
The Marlins, however, were interested in acquiring the World Series-winning manager, but with one year left on his contract, they needed to be creative in grabbing him.
The White Sox offered to release the manager, and if he signs with Florida, they will send the White Sox two prospect pitchers in exchange, making it a trade.
Yep, I have now seen it all.
The Normal: Chicago Cubs Go Another Year Without a Title
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will might could hopefully happen someday, Cubs fans.
The Embarrassing: Frank McCourt Drama
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After a messy divorce with his wife, Dodger owner Frank McCourt only saw more bad news headed his way.
In April the MLB appointed a representative to oversee day-to-day financial operations after it was reported that Fox Sports gave McCourt a $25 million loan to cover the cost of salaries.
Shortly after, he filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection, and that was a giant distraction in the locker room and upset the fan base.
The Uplifting: Lily Anderson's National Anthem
In one of the greatest feel-good moments of the year, 10-year-old Lily Anderson stepped up and sang a memorable rendition of the national anthem.
Anderson, who is undergoing treatment for a relapse of Neuroblastoma, sang on behalf of the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research. After wrapping up the wonderfully sung tune, she smiled ear to ear and received the biggest standing ovation from Turner Field this season.
Well done, Lily, and we hope you are getting better.
The Disappointing Team: Minnesota Twins
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The Twins were slated to finish at the top of the AL Central according to many writers and experts.
Problem was they were never in contention to be in first.
Early injuries bogged down the team before they could even get themselves settled into the season, and that never gave their fans a glimpse of hope.
Now that's disappointing.
The Surprising Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
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Is there even a debate for this?
The D-Backs were picked to tank in the NL West so hard that many experts had them slated to finish dead last.
Well, they were dead wrong.
Kirk Gibson rallied up his young team and took the division title in convincing fashion. Now Arizona looks to shock the baseball world even more by taking home their second-ever World Series title.
The Best Fan: Christian Lopez
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Christian Lopez, the man who caught Derek Jeter's 3,000 hit, was in student debt all the way up to his eyeballs.
But Christian Lopez wasn't a broke college student on July 9, he was a fan.
After he grabbed the ball that some say would have been worth $500,000, he immediately gave it back to Jeter. Lopez had everything thrown at him, including autographed memorabilia, suites, and even his own trading card.
The biggest thing that was thrown at Lopez, however, was everyone's take on whether he should have kept or sold the ball.
What he did was great, it showed everyone that people should get to keep what they have worked on their whole lives, and to that Lopez, we tip our caps to you.
The Worst Fans: The Fans Who Beat Up Brian Stow
Early in the season, a tragedy happened immediately after a Giants-Dodgers game in Los Angeles. After a 2-1 Dodgers victory, 41-year-old Giants fan Brian Stow and his two friends were being harassed by a group of unruly Dodgers fans.
Unfortunately, it turned ugly as Stow was sucker-punched from behind, slammed his head on the concrete and fell unconscious. Stow was placed in critical condition and still struggles to regain his normal life after the incident.
This showed the sports world that fans can't let their emotions get the best of them, or it may turn into the ugliest situation of the year.
The Freak Accident: Matt Holliday
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There are injuries that cause players to leave the game, and then there are injuries that happen to Matt Holliday.
During the eighth inning of a game against the Dodgers, a moth flew deep into the ear of Matt Holliday. Play stopped, Holliday trotted off, and everyone was in amazement and confusion about what was going on.
The training crew took Holliday into a dark room and tried to lure it out with a flash light. No good.
The way they got the sucker out is by going in with tweezers and pulling out the moth. Oh yeah, and it was still alive.
I hope no player ever has to go through that again.
The Foreseeable Accident: Jeremy Affeldt
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Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy, you just had to use a knife, didn't you?
Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt was enjoying a nice summer weekend when he decided to grill burgers. Problem was the patties were stuck together.
Instead of using hot water or a butter knife to pry the beef apart, Affeldt went for the steak knife and sliced his hand open, coming a millimeter away from an artery.
Affeldt was lucky it wasn't worst than just eight stitches, but he could have avoided this whole fiasco if he just used water.
The Best Old Dude: Lance Berkman
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At 35 years old, Lance Berkman had a career year at the plate by hitting .302 with 31 long balls and 93 RBI. Those numbers are the reason why the Cardinals were in the hunt come late September, and without him, you could count them out of the race.
35 has never looked so young when looking at Berkman.
The Best Young Dude: Craig Kimbrel
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Someone forgot to tell Braves pitcher Craig Kimbrel that pitching in the big leagues was supposed to be hard.
Kimbrel baffled opposing teams by not allowing a run in 38 straight appearances. You think that's impressive? How about striking out 126 batters in just 76.1 innings pitched?
Kimbrel, have fun making hitters look stupid for the rest of your career.
The Best Play: Ben Revere's Catch
Let's break this down and go through why this catch is near impossible:
- Over the shoulder is never an easy play to make, especially when you are sprinting as fast as you can.
- Judging where you are on the warning track, again, while sprinting. Not simple.
- Catching the ball as your glove slams against the wall.
- Catching the ball as your body slams against the wall.
Any part of this sound easy?
The Worst Play: Ryan Raburn's Blunder
No explanation needed, only eyes.
The Best Pitching Performance: Justin Verlander, May 7
A year after we saw six no-hitters, there were only three no-hitters in 2011, and none other was better than Justin Verlander's.
Verlander nearly had himself a perfect game if it wasn't for an eighth-inning walk. The no-hitter was just another chapter in JV's historic season and puts him five back from the all-time leader, Nolan Ryan.
The Best Hitting Performance: Derek Jeter, July 9
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On July 9, the pinstriped captain Derek Jeter was the newest member of the 3,000-hit club after he blasted a shot into the left-field seats.
Jeter wasn't done quite yet as he finished the game at 5-for-5 with two RBI as the Yanks topped the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4.
Getting five hits, reaching a milestone, and being the reason your team won a game is just the usual day for Captain Jeter.
The Best Finish: Tampa Bay Rays
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I'm going to write this down before my head explodes from the awesomeness I just witnessed.
Playoffs on the line.
7-0 in the eighth inning.
Comeback and tie it up on a pinch-hit home run with one strike left.
Get out of a no outs, men on the corners jam.
Hit a home run to send your team to the playoffs.
Oh, and by the way, the Red Sox blew a one-run lead in the last inning to avoid a one-game playoff.
The Worst Finish: Braves vs. Pirates Epic
In a 3-3 game that seemed like it would last an eternity, the Braves snuck by the Pirates in the 19th inning on a good slide by Julio Lugo.
Or did umpire Jerry Meals just want to go home?
On the replays it clearly shows that Lugo was not only beaten by the throw by five miles, but the tag was put right on him. The call instantly turned a historic thriller into a game that will always be remembered by a terrible call at home plate.
Just like Jim Joyce after his infamous call, Meals came out and said he erred in his call after watching a replay.