2011 provided some of the best baseball I can remember. Sure my beloved Padres did not have a 90-win season like they did in 2010, nor did they come anywhere close to even sniffing a play-off berth. But the Diamondbacks did. They turned their team around and went from worst to first. The Brewers did, and won the division for the first time since the 80’s. The Cardinals overcame a huge deficit in late August to clinch the Wild Card. The Braves collapsed. The Rays reached the postseason for the third time in four years…out of the American League East…with a payroll hovering around $40 million. The Phillies rode the arms of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. Justin Verlander carried the Tigers to a division crown, locking up the AL Cy Young in the process (Barring some sort of travesty, of course). The Rangers and their boom sticks once again made the postseason, and once again they reached the World Series, and once again they fell short. The Yankees did what they do. And the Red Sox provided drama fit for daytime television.
2011 marked another pitcher heavy year. There were three no-hitters, and two of them were from unlikely sources. Ervin Santana tossed his no-hitter then promptly became the Angels 1A starter next to Jered Weaver. Francisco Liriano has always had great stuff, but after multiple injuries, there were questions about whether he could make it back. He answered those with his no-hitter this season. Then of course, there was Justin Verlander. Again, AL Cy Young.
2011 marked the first year in the last eleven that Albert Pujols failed to reached a .300 batting average and 100 RBI (he finished at .299 and 99 RBI). It also marked a year in which he had a remarkable recovery, further earning the nickname “The Machine.” Pujols broke his right forearm and only missed two weeks.
The 2011 baseball season saw some notable employment changes. Jim Hendry in Chicago was finally let go after the Cubs futility became too much. The Cubs’ former GM was credited with almost getting them to the World Series, but also with contracts like Alfonso Soriano’s. Marlins manager, Edwin Rodriguez, quit in the middle of the season. After his team fell into a tailspin, he realized he was not the right man for the job. And, like a hero resurrected, Jack McKeon returned to the Florida dugout. Jim Riggleman, the manager of the Nationals, had Washington playing well, the he up and quit. Frustrated over his lame-duck status, Riggleman walked away from managing, maybe forever. Oakland replaced one Bob with another. Bob Geren was fired and Bob Melvin hired. Neither could do much to help that sinking franchise. Finally, Ozzie Guillen was let out of this contract with the White Sox and left the team with the last few games of the season remaining. He will take over the newly named Miami Marlins in 2012.
Baseball in 2011 saw two big trials against former Major Leaguers. Both related to steroids. Barry Bonds was eventually convicted of obstruction of justice after the prosecution could not prove him guilty of perjury. Roger Clemons never really had a trial. After presenting evidence they should not have, the prosectution in the Clemons trial forced a mistrial. Now, they must decide whether to, and how to, re-try Clemons.
This season also saw the deaths of 81 former players. Perhaps most notably were Mike Flannagan and Hideki Irabu’s suicides, and Harmon Kilebrew’s, Duke Snider’s, and Dick Williams’ passing.
The 2011 season saw so many things, both good and bad, including the launch of this site. About mid-way through the season, a little blog by some unknown writer popped up. The 5.5 Hole could have floundered and led me to give up. It could have attracted views from only family and close friends, which in and of itself probably would have been enough. But instead, the site attracted many more readers than I could have ever imagined in it’s first few months of existence. From the random peaks in page views that I can never seem to explain no matter what amount of analytics I employ, to the constant flow of readers never letting my site go unread for even a day, the introduction of The 5.5 Hole was more successful than I could have predicted. Thank you to everyone who has read, browsed, or heck, even come to the site by mistake. By now you all know how much I love the game of baseball. I also love to write. Some people knit, some people garden, I write a blog. But it’s been so much more than a hobby. This has been a passion. With each new article I write, I hope to get better, more interesting, and more informative. I hope you’ll join me as the site grows and matures.
I will continue to write during the offseason and I will work on getting more exposure. My goal is to generate discussion. The comments section at the end of each post has been left largely untouched. Like a post-apocalyptic ghost town, the discussion area has been avoided. I will do what I can to increase the page views, provide interesting topics, and facilitate discussion. Because, really, nothing about baseball is one sided.
Thank you all again. I look forward to the future of The 5.5 Hole.