Saturday, September 24, 2011

The real surprises of 2011

It may be too early to take a look back at the results of the 2011 season. After all, the wildcard spots in both leagues are still very much up for grabs. But after looking at the results of last night’s games, things have become a lot clearer. All the division results are now in. So what were the surprises?

The NL East was a foregone conclusion considering the pitching rotation of the Phillies. Indeed, the way many pundits and fans feel, the result of the coming World Series is a foregone conclusion. The big surprise would have been if the Phillies hadn’t won the east.

The Brewers went out during the off season with the expressed desire to buy or trade themselves to a division championship. Even with their stumble towards the end as the always-dangerous Cardinals seemed to be knocking at the door, they have clearly been the class of their division. No big surprise here that they took the NL Central.

The NL West was the really surprising division in the MLB this year. Who could have predicted that the D-backs would have been standing atop the pile at the end of regular season play? I’m not alone when I say I thought the Giants were a shoe-in to take that honor. If it wasn’t them, then I thought it would be Rockies or perhaps the Dodgers (who might have done better if they weren’t featuring that ownership sideshow all season). And who would have thought that the Padres could fall so far?

The stars seem to be aligning in the AL East as they always do. Hate the Yankees as much as you like, but you have to admit that they know how to field a winner better than anyone else. Yes, it’s due to the money that they command, but so what? Would you complain if your team could go out and buy a contender every year? The Rays were the real surprise in this division in 2011. I fully expected them to not come close to even a sniff of the playoffs. It’s a tribute to their management that they keep churning out quality players and fielding competitive teams. The real surprise to me is that they have such miserable fan support. (For last night’s tilt with the Jays, they managed to get a good crowd only by offering free parking!) I remember seeing empty seats when they were in the Series in ’08. Come on. Does this city even deserve such a good team?

In the AL Central, the Tigers have clearly been the class of the division all year. Verlander is putting up Cy Young numbers and they have a solid team. Again, the surprise here is that the Twins were so bad. Riddled with injuries, they struggled all year where they perennially compete. It was sort of sad to see. I was happy that Cleveland was doing so well for awhile. It was clear that they didn’t have the horses to go all the way, but it was nice to see.

The AL West was no surprise. I kept a list from the first day of the season of what I thought the standings would be at the final bell, and the only division that I aced was the AL West. Does anyone else also feel really sad for the Mariners? They just can’t seem to put it together and 2011 was no different.

As for the Wild Cards, the only surprise in the list of contenders, as stated above, is the Rays. Judging by the standings at the beginning of the month, I figured the AL East and AL wildcard would have been all wrapped up by now. The Red Sox’s September stumble is approaching epic proportions. That choking sound you hear in the distance are ball fans all over New England. You’ve gotta feel for them.

No comments: