Friday, October 1, 2010

Countdown Friday: Baseball Headlines

As the 2010 regular season draws to a close, it only seems fitting that we pay some respect to this year in baseball. Sure, the season had its typical lulls, but how could a 162-game campaign not get a little dull from time to time? As the playoffs near, there are plenty of stories to remember. Here are the top 5 headlines from the 2010 MLB season.

5. The Padres Collapse, In That Car Wreck Oh My God I Can't Stop Looking Way - This team had an virtual stranglehold on their division. And not in June, when nothing matters - we're talking late August. The Padres were 6 1/2 games up in the division on August 25th, with the best record in the NL. 6.5 games up with a month to doesn't take stellar baseball to hold onto the division. Just play decently. Just don't lose 10 games in a row. Or 16 of 22. Oops. Now, 3 games back, the Padres need to sweep the Giants this weekend to salvage any chance of making the playoffs.

4. The AL East Is Absurdly Good - We knew this going into the season, but the level of play that came out of baseball's premier division exceeded our expectations. With 3 games to play, the division currently boasts two 94-win teams and four teams over the 83-win mark. The Rays and Yankees will slug it out for the division title. Boston, however, would probably have won the AL West and possibly the AL Central had they been in one of those divisions. I will even contend that Toronto, after a very impressive season at the plate, would be right in the mix in any other division in baseball, save the NL East. Kind of makes you put your head in your hands, and let out a sigh: Oh, AL West.

3. Joey Votto and Jose Bautista Emerge As Two Of The Best Sluggers In Baseball - Where did these guys come from? Be honest, who here was itching to draft these guys for their fantasy teams? (I, for one, got Votto on autopick and picked up Bautista as a free agent). Despite not (yet) being household names, these two players put up some amazing numbers. Votto is currently batting .323 with 37 HRs and 111 RBIs. Bautista's .262 pales in comparison, but oh wait, he's got 54 HRs and 124 RBIs. I hope both these guys can back up their 2010 campaigns with great years in 2011.

2. The Cincinnati Reds Win The Division For The First Time Since 1995 - Ending a 15 year playoff drought, the Reds won the NL Central - and it wasn't even close. The Reds rode good pitching and solid hitting into the playoffs, clinching with several games left in the season. The Cardinals, currently 6.0 GB, never made the push that we all expected. I love this story, and I hope the Reds win the World Series. They won't.

1. Pitching, Pitching, Pitching - There is no doubt that the biggest story from the year is, well, a collection of stories. All about one person: the pitcher. In this "Post-Mitchell Era," with the hitters finally not taking (as many) performance enhancers, the pitchers are storming back. Ubaldo Jimenez got things going with a no-hitter on April 17th. Dallas Braden threw a perfect game on May 9th, followed a few weeks later by Roy Halladay's perfect game on May 29th. Even the Rays got into the party with Matt Garza's July 26th no-no. And who could forget Armando Galarraga's perfect* game on June 2nd (Jim Joyce wishes he could). Even outside these big games, pitching as a whole has been phenomenal. Veteran's, like C.C. Sabathia and Roy Halladay are doing what they've always done, while young guys, like Clay Buchholz, are emerging as aces. And my favorite pitching story of the season has to be the Reds' Aroldis Chapman, who set an MLB record with his 105 mph fastball. 105!!! Now that's some serious cheese.

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