Over the weekend, I finished up work on my time machine – it’s built out of an early-80s Delorean, hover-converted, but runs off of Milwaukee’s Best rather than Mr. Fusion – and the first thing I did was travel back to 1908 so that I could see the Cubs win a World Series in my lifetime. After that, though, I decided to travel forward a bit – to October 2011, in fact – to get a copy of the season summary post that I’m going to write after the final out of the World Series is made. Here, in its entirety, is that post. I can not be held accountable to any destruction of the space-time continuum that results from your reading of the contents within.
Braves New World
“We just treated this series like we treated the regular season. One win at a time,” said Tommy Hanson. “Today, well, today proved that all of that work paid off.” Hanson went 8 shutout innings for the Braves, as they closed out their first World Series title since 1995, defeating the Boston Red Sox in a stunning climax to a memorable 2011 season.
Of course, for anyone who watched this Braves team during the season, it was clear that it was one that could never be counted out. From their wire-to-wire NL East championship in which they had to hold off the Wild Card-winning Philadelphia Phillies and the late-surging Florida Marlins, sweeping the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS after coming in as heavy underdogs, and their comeback from 3-to-1 down in the NLCS against those same Phillies, the Braves showed the kind of resiliency one would expect out of a champion.
That’s not to say there wasn’t some luck involved, though. The Braves capitalized on the early-season malaise of the Phillies’ offense – an offense that didn’t really get going until the acquisition of Matt Kemp from the Dodgers at the trading deadline and the return of Chase Utley in mid-August. The 10 1/2 game lead the Braves built was able to stand, though by the end of the season it had evaporated to just 1. Also lucky for Atlanta was the injury that Red Sox starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano – another midseason acquisition – suffered in the ALCS against the A’s. Zambrano – who went 9-1 down the stretch for Boston – had won his first 2 playoff games for the Red Sox and helped stabilize a rotation decimated by the injuries and ineffectiveness of Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Dan Uggla – whose 42 home runs led the Braves during the regular season – was named World Series MVP after hitting .429 with 11 runs knocked in, while Hanson’s 2 wins showed why many believe he could be a serious challenger to Roy Halladay for the NL Cy Young Award this year.
Red Sox Nation Comes Up Just Short
Early in the season, the Red Sox had established that they were the team to beat in the American League East with a fast start punctuated by likely MVP Adrian Gonzalez hitting home runs in 7 straight games. Pitching inconsistency, however, caused the Sox to come back to the back, and it was a 5-team race for much of the summer thanks to the improvement of both the Blue Jays and the Orioles. The parity amongst all 5 clubs was the primary reason that the Wild Card didn’t come from the East this year, as the unbalanced schedule forced the teams to pound on each other all summer long. Boston put the division away with a 12-game win streak in September that included sweeps of the Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles and Yankees, with the aforementioned Zambrano picking up wins in 3 of those games. The biggest of those was likely his 1-0 duel with presumptive AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson on September 15th that knocked the Rays – then in 2nd place – to 4 games out, a deficit they would never make up.
Though Philadelphia would recover from its early-season swoon to win the Wild Card, it wasn’t without its share of questions about the team. Roy Halladay was his typical dominant self, and Cole Hamels vaulted himself into the next echelon of starting pitchers, but the 12 starts that Cliff Lee missed mid-season with an oblique injury and Roy Oswalt’s 5.00-plus ERA were too much for a Phillies team struggling to score runs to overcome. It took a miracle late season surge led by Lee’s and Utley’s return for the Phils to claim the Wild Card on the season’s last day, just edging Milwaukee for the berth.
No More Cellar-Dwelling
Neither the Kansas City Royals nor the Pittsburgh Pirates finished in last place this year, which was a remarkable achievement for both moribund franchises. And though they both fell short of .500 records – 73 wins each, ironically – both clubs got some glimmers of hope for the future. Mike Moustakas came up in mid-July and hit 15 home runs over the season’s final 2 1/2 months, while Andrew McCutcheon won the All-Star Game for the National League with his bases-clearing triple off of Mariano Rivera.
Still the Goat
Carlos Pena may have clubbed 47 home runs, but he alone wasn’t able to carry the anemic Cubs offense through the season. By mid-July the Cubbies were in full sell-now mode, dealing Zambrano to the Red Sox as previously noted, while also sending Aramis Ramirez to the A’s. Both deals restocked the Cubs’ farm system, but the prevailing theory is that the team was preparing to retool around a push to sign Albert Pujols in the coming off-season, though, there is also rumor that the Cubs have serious interest in lefty C.C. Sabathia, who is expected to opt-out of his contract with the Yankees first thing tomorrow morning.
Rocky Mountain High
They may have lost the NLDS to the Braves in controversial fashion when a Carlos Gonzalez game-winning double off of Johnny Venters in Game 5 was ruled foul, but the Rockies still had a fantastic season. CarGo and Tulo combined for 93 home runs and 217 runs batted in, and the Colorado pitching staff posted it’s lowest staff ERA in franchise history at 4.01. They won the NL West going away, taking the crown by 9 games over the late-fading Dodgers and by 12 games over the defending champion Giants, whose mediocre offense from 2010 took a step back in 2011. The acquisition of Michael Young at the trading deadline to solidify the infield was a real turning point for the Rockies, who led the NL with 98 wins.
Final 2011 Results
East – Braves
Central – Reds
West – Rockies
Wild Card – Phillies
Projected MVP – Troy Tulowitzki
Projected Cy Young – Roy Halladay
Projected Rookie of the Year – Freddy Freeman
East – Red Sox
Central – Tigers
West – A’s
Wild Card – White Sox
Projected MVP – Adrian Gonzalez
Projected Cy Young – Justin Verlander
Projected Rookie of the Year – Jeremy Hellickson
Scott Caruso is the former Editor-in-Chief of Rays of Light. He blackmailed Joe into letting him come in every now and again to muse about baseball. Joe folded like a stack of cards and agreed. He loves statistics, Evan Longoria, a perfectly-cooked ribeye, and a good Charlie Sheen joke.