With Opening Day rapidly approaching, the nation is once again gearing up for another season of Major League Baseball. Last season proved to be an exciting one as we saw two of the biggest late-season collapses in recent history with the Atlanta Braves and more notably the Boston Red Sox. We also had the opportunity to witness a thrilling postseason run by the St. Louis Cardinals as they went on to defeat the Texas Rangers for the world title in dramatic fashion.
The 2011 baseball season had us spoiled and, in turn, set the bar for the 2012 baseball season very high. But fear not, as I believe there are a handful of storylines developing that will make this season just as, if not more exciting than last year.
Ryan Braun’s Drug-Testing Scandal
Ryan Braun had a monster 2011 season. He became just the 56th player in MLB history to join the 30 home run/30 stolen base club and led the playoff-deprived Milwauke Brewers to just their fourth postseason appearance in their 42-year history. Braun was ultimately given NL MVP honors in November of 2011. A month later, however, Braun was accused of failing a drug test, testing positive for a “highly-elevated” testosterone level contributed by performance-enhancing drugs. Braun chose to appeal the 50 game suspension he faced and ultimately won it due to questionable testing methods and a normal second drug test. Braun became the first player in MLB history to successfully appeal a drug test. After the situation had seemingly been resolved, it seemed to have conjured up more questions than answers. It will be interesting to see how the reigning NL MVP recovers from this drug-testing scare.
Red Sox Try To Shed Dysfunctional Image
It’s still hard to fathom how the best team in baseball in 2011 managed to keep themselves out of the playoffs. In the month of September, the Red Sox went just 7-20 and blew a commanding 9-game lead to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to miss the postseason. The late season collapse was later accentuated with accusations of beer-drinking and fast food consumption in the clubhouse in addition to an overall lack of leadership.
The Red Sox made huge strides in dealing with last year’s woes by bringing in Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherington as Manager and General Manager, respectively. The Red Sox organization hopes to leave their troubled past behind them and return to championship form this season.
Pujols in a Different Shade of Red
Easily one of the greatest players of the past decade and a no-brainer hall of famer, Albert Pujols became the hottest free agent in recent history after his contract with the defending champions ran up in 2011. After a highly publicized stroke-fest to court Pujols, he eventually decided to sign with the Anaheim Angels. This season, all eyes will be on Pujols to see whether he can replicate the same success he had with the Cardinals and to determine if the club he chose to play for proved to be the right fit.
The New-Look Marlins
The artists formerly known as the Florida Marlins went through a major league makeover during the offseason. In addition to a new logo, new uniform, new name, and a brand new stadium; the Marlins have also overhauled both their roster and coaching staff with some recognizable big names. During the course of the Winter Meetings, the Marlins managed to sign closer Heath Bell, shortstop Jose Reyes, plus pitching aces Carlos Zambrano and Mark Buerhle. Rounding off the big-name acquisitions for the Marlin organization is the signing of outspoken manager Ozzie Guillen. The Marlins proved they could make a big splash when it comes to creating headlines but what really matters is whether or not they can make a splash on the diamond.
[image Marlins via AP Photos]
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