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- More from Where to Smoke
Puffing in the 2012 Baseball Playoffs
Putting a Wrapper on the Season that Was with Our Guide to Smoking in MLB's Playoff Cities
Posted: October 4, 2012
If you don’t root for a particular team, there is pretty much no way the 2012 baseball season could have disappointed you. The drama, in fact, began before the first pitch was thrown. Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP, tested positive for use of a performance-enhancing drug (PED), and was exonerated by the collector’s bumbling—he thought FedEx was closed over the weekend and took home the allegedly incriminating urine sample, storing it in his refrigerator for two days. That break from protocol was enough to cast doubt on the sample being tainted. Braun’s 50-game suspension was overturned by an arbitrator. First time ever.
Five players didn’t have Braun’s good fortune, showing the “steroid era” was hardly over. The following were suspended during the 2012 season for PED use: Guillermo Mota (Giants; suspended 100 games); Freddy Galvis (Phillies; 50 games); Marlon Byrd (free agent; 50 games); Bartolo Colon (A’s; 50 games) and most notably Melky Cabrera, whose first year with the Giants saw him surge to lead the National League in batting average. In an honorable move, after several bumbling attempts to explain a positive test result for testosterone, Cabrera took himself out of the batting title race.
In preseason moves, Albert Pujols left the Cardinals and joined the Angels for the magnificent sum of $254 million over 10 years. Pujols looked to need something to enhance his April performance (a cigar?) that saw him go homerless in April, batting .217. Prince Fielder left the Brewers to take a pittance of $214 million for nine years and make Miguel Cabrera move to third base. Both Pujols and Fielder ended up making their usual numbers of 30-plus home runs and 100 or more RBI, but Pujols’s slow start contributed to the Angels not making the playoffs this year, though much of the responsibility can also be heaped on the pitching staff. Newly acquired C.J. Wilson, from the Rangers, actually started off strongly, but faded in the middle of the year.
Everyone thought it was going to be all about Bryce Harper, the highly-charged, 19-year old outfielder for the Washington Nationals, but Angels Stadium soon became the scene of the most exciting introduction in baseball this season. Mike Trout, the 20-year-old starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter for the halos, came up from the minors on April 27. He played in only 139 games and became the first major leaguer to hit at least 30 homers, steal 45 bases (he had 49) and score 125 runs (Trout had 129). He also had 182 hits. In 139 games! That put Trout on a pace with Derek Jeter (215 hits in 158 games) of about 1.3 hits per game. Trout, a star on defense as well, is a reasonable choice for MVP and certainly right there with Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre, in my view. I would add Jeter to that mix.
Other highlights this year included Jeter getting more than 200 hits at the age of 38. There were seven no-hitters thrown this year, three of them perfect games by Phillip Humber of the White Sox, Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, and Matt Cain of the Giants. The Mariners pitched another no-hitter, using six pitchers to blank the Dodgers after starter Kevin Millwood left with an injured groin after six innings. Fernando Rodney, the Rays closer, set the record for lowest ERA, 0.60, in a year for a reliever. He beat Dennis Eckersley’s 0.61 from 1990. On defense, there were too many great plays to mention here.
Of course, as for the “I Forgot Where I Am” award, that goes to Ozzie Guillen. Ozzie, the manager of the Marlins, a team that has its home games in Little Havana, praised Fidel Castro. What else need be said?
Let’s not forget the increasingly difficult task faced by umpires in making correct close calls in a game that is faster every season. Let me be gentle here. The so-called “human element” did not acquit itself well and elevated the cry for instant replay, even of using technology for calling balls and strikes. I approve this message.
The Pirates, despite Andrew McCutchen’s best efforts, took another dive towards the last third and extended their streak of losing seasons to 20. The Mets. Nice park, but oy vey! The dis-Astros are moving to the American League next year. The only question is, really? You want to be in the same division with the Rangers? But the team that takes the cake: Da Cubs. Okay, maybe the Red Sox. Certainly, the Red Sox former manager, Bobby Valentine, had a really bad year and then accused his coaching staff of undermining him. What a class act.
In perhaps the most widely over-discussed happening, Stephen Strasburg, pitching phenom of the Nationals, got shut down to protect his repaired arm (Tommy John surgery) from needing possible further repair.
Comments 1 comment(s)
Alejandro Benes — Newbury Park, CA, USA, — October 11, 2012 2:44pm ET
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