Published on my baseball blog, December 30, 2011:
In an off-season that has yet to bore us, and for that matter has yet to end, there is no shortage of exciting headlines and clubs to watch for the 2012 season. But through all the free agent signings and reorganizing, there seems to be two standout stories.
Although the dominant Phillies are considered the favorite in the NL East, no one can ignore the changes going on in the Marlins franchise. They have a new name, a new stadium, and new uniforms. But most of all, they set out to prove that it wasn’t just appearances they were looking to develop when they hired a new manager in Ozzie Guillen, jumped ahead of the competition to nab two of the top free agents on the market in Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, and even made a run for the expensive Albert Pujols (a subject surely to be revisited in a moment.)
If that doesn’t already sound like a winning, and quite spiffy, combination, might I remind you that both Guillen and Buehrle were part of the 2005 White Sox Champion team? And that Reyes is a four time All-Star and base-running master? Now if he can only get along with friend and new teammate, Hanley Ramirez, whom he bumped to third base…Either way, the Marlins are certainly shaping up to have one hell of a debut season in the new Miami ballpark.
And now we cross both leagues and miles as we head west to focus on the other end of the nation. I’m sure by now you’ve put the pieces together and guessed it – how could I write about the upcoming season and not focus on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? They shocked the baseball world by swooping in to sign not one but two of the biggest stars, fresh off of World Series runs…both in the same day…and no one saw it coming at all.
Albert Pujols has a Hall of Fame worthy reputation that precedes him and C.J. Wilson has been the ace of the Rangers for years, so I’m sure not going to spit statistics at you. But I am going to point out that this is another team with money to spend and big aspirations. They’ve certainly set themselves and Los Angeles up for a very exciting season. And let’s face it – with the ownership disputes facing the Dodgers, the baseball fans of the city could use something to look forward to.
Now, as for a third story going into 2012, I find it difficult to pinpoint just one as we still have a couple months of off-season to go. I could be a biased St. Louisan and discuss how I believe the Cardinals really came out on top, even after losing Albert Pujols. I could discuss our enemy, the Cub’s, appointment of Theo Epstein. But instead, I think I will turn elsewhere in the NL Central. Yes, I am aware that the Ryan Braun steroid scandal may be resolved soon, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things happening with the Brewers.
While the baseball world watches to see where former Brewer Prince Fielder will sign, Milwaukee has made acquisitions of their own in Aramis Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez. And you can’t deny that they still have a strong lineup, so they are certainly one team for which my Birds and I will be watching out.