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Anatomy of 2011 Champions

The Cardinals didn't look like the best team in baseball over the course of the regular season, but they more than earned their stripes from September onward. Even though the team came on, almost out of nowhere in the final month, it wasn't built overnight. Any champion is built on the foundation of several sage moves over several years. Here, in chronological order, is how St. Louis acquired every player on their postseason roster:

Final Game of 2011

First of all, wow, game six was a game for the ages. 'Nuff said. The momentum swings, comebacks, and puzzling/dubious decisions made in the late innings (particularly by the Rangers) made for incredible theater. That would have been one of the most amazing games of the regular season, and for such a gem to take place on such a pressure-packed stage is a treasure to celebrate (except for Rangers fans, of course).

Now, I have to admit, I come in with a significant bias to this post. I have to work through the entirety of game seven, including at least the first 6 or 7 innings of extra innings if it were to go that long. I'm missing the whole game, and that's a tough pill to swallow. So, on some level it is therapeutic to say, quite simply, tonight's game between the Rangers and Cardinals will likely be a letdown.

2011 Stan Musial Award Winners

The MVP award-winners of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, the Stan Musial Award recipients, were announced this morning. The results surprised me a bit, though not in a disappointing way. It will be interesting to see if they are a harbinger of things to come from the BBWAA, and their voting for the MVP awards.

In the National League, Matt Kemp took away the honors in dominating fashion. He was a unanimous selection. I wouldn't be surprised if Kemp takes home the NL MVP, but I would be surprised if his selection is so convincing.
In the American League, Jose Bautista just outpaced Jacoby Ellsbury, 225-200. At the All-Star Break, Bautista seemed to be a lock for the award, but a relatively sluggish second half, combined with other dramatic story lines (the Rays surge/Red Sox collapse) shoved him completely out of the spotlight. Overall, Bautista is certainly a worthy award-winner, but he is one that requires a good memory from voters.
Click "continue reading" if you want to see the full press release, and breakdown of the voting:

2011 Walter Johnson Award

Here's a shocker: Justin Verlander was voted the best pitcher in the American League. Meanwhile, in the National League, the voting was slightly more interesting, though in the end not terribly close. Clayton Kershaw outdistanced Roy Halladay to be crowned the best of the senior circuit. Halladay would have had my vote personally, but apparently I was also the only person to vote for Doug Fister in my top five for the AL.

You regular readers already know the drill. Click "continue reading" for the press release and full results:

Perfectly Flawed

Tony LaRussa just managed his sixth team to a league pennant, and will begin his quest for a third World Series title today. He is a four-time Manager of the Year, and only one of those awards came in a year in which his team went to the World Series. His managerial record is 5,097-2,728 2,728-2,365, which includes a winning record with each of the three teams he has managed.

Tony La Russa also has a reputation as an overmanager. He was perhaps at his best/worst on April 17, 2010, when a 20-inning affair ended with a pitcher playing left field, and an outfielder on the mound. La Russa also is the king of specialized bullpen roles, and is far from afraid to change his lineup regularly and liberally.

Generally, La Russa's managerial style often flies in the face of what sabermetrics have suggested as best practices. Yet, despite that, his teams consistently win. There are even ones (like his current Cardinals) that have exceeded expectations.

2011 Goose Gossage Award Winners

The BBA released this year's Goose Gossage Award Winners this morning, honoring the top reliever in each league. Jose Valverde is the recipient in the AL, and Craig Kimbrel in the NL. I voted for Mariano Rivera personally, but I can't get too upset over Valverde. He was perfect on saves, after all.

For the full press release, go ahead and click "continue reading."

2011 Willie Mays Award Winners

The BBA announced their (our? I am a member) 2011 Willie Mays Award winners on Thursday. My bad for not posting them until now.

The NL award was given to Craig Kimbrel, the Braves closer. I didn't have an NL vote, but I thought he was the obvious choice.

In the AL, Jeremy Hellickson and Eric Hosmer tied for the win. There was a wide spread in the AL voting, which you can see by clicking on "continue reading" for the press release. Of course, I voted for Michael Pineda, and I have to say that I am disappointed at how relatively weak of a showing he had. I am not sure Pineda has a brighter future than Hellickson or Hosmer, but I am pretty certain he had a better rookie season. Now I know I am in the minority.

Again, for the full press release, simply click "continue reading."

Red Sox Fall Continues

With all due respect to Ben Cherington, the next Red Sox GM, the franchise he takes over is in shambles as much as such an affluent franchise can be. Sure, the BoSox have money, prospects, and some really talented players - but they also have this whole debacle to deal with.

I wrote a few weeks ago when Francona left that it didn't seem like the Red Sox to do such a thing, but it sure looks like it is at this point. With Theo Epstein gone too, and David Ortiz all but gone - perhaps to the Yankees - it certainly feels like the door has shut on the era that finally broke the curse of the Bambino.

It's always good to keep moving forward. It's not always good to upset the apple cart.

2011 Connie Mack Award Winners

The BBA Connie Mack Award winners were announced today. As a voting member, I will make sure to share all award results as they are announced.

In the American League, Rays manager Joe Maddon took top honors, while in the National League D'Backs skipper Kirk Gibson was a unanimous winner.

Neither vote was close at all, and it is hard to argue with either winner. Click "continue reading" for the official announcement, which includes vote totals, and links to all the ballots cast.

Former M's, 2011 Playoffs Edition

I will honor the traditional code that baseball teams have to abide by, and avoid talking about anything besides the playoffs during the playoffs. Since the Mariners are not in the postseason, there isn't much to type about at the moment. I found a small angle though.

How about some former Mariners? Who is still playing that once suited up in the Emerald City?

  • Casey Kotchman, 1B, Rays - I meant to write something about Kotchman's revival with the Rays during the season, so I'll throw it out there now. The biggest difference between his 2011 and 2010 were a bunch of singles. In other words, balls simply falling in. Part of me thinks this is just luck, but another part of me wonders if he made some sort of adjustment in Tampa Bay. I just don't know. I was certain he had tough luck with the M's last year, but not that bad of luck.

2011 Awards

As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I have the opportunity to vote on postseason awards. Since I am a Mariners blog, I only vote on American League awards. Here are my picks for each award, along with a little rationale behind them. I will post the final results of the voting when it comes out, and compare the BBA picks with the BBWAA. The BBA awards will be announced a full month earlier, so expect some reaction on them first: