I'm trying to be positive here, but those 9 games really stick in the craw.
Anyway, here are the conclusions I've drawn:
Second Place - I had them finishing 6th in their 5-team division, so 2nd place in the standings looks mighty good considering my preseason pessimism.
The Bullpen - Anchored by five arms with a composite ERA of 2.74: Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith and closer Chris Perez (36/40 in save opportunities). This complement of relievers was unimpeachable. If bullpens weren't so maddeningly inconsistent from year to year, I'd say the team should be set through 2015 in this department. These unsung stalwarts kept the season afloat when the injuries and losses started mounting.
Asdrubal Cabrera - A late season fade does not negate an injury-free breakout year. Never saw the 25 home runs coming. He's no Vizquel in the field, but the occasional flub with the glove is more than offset by frequent brilliance. Without the team MVP, we're talking 15 fewer wins, at least. Would have been a candidate for league MVP but for the second-half dropoff.
Justin Masterson - Rotation's MVP. Never complained that the team averaged 0.3 runs for him. Should have won 18 games. Ideal #2 starter.
Carlos Santana - Quick hands and a violently powerful swing generate tons of power. When (if) he learns to shorten his swing by a fraction, he will be a 30+ 100+ guy. Combines power with patience. I love how often he gets on base, but he needs to hit .280, not .240. A hair's breadth away from superstardom.
Josh Tomlin - This kid doesn't have the showiest arm, but he displayed good stuff and poise well beyond his years his first campaign. I don't think anyone foresaw a 12-7 season. Went 2-2 with an RBI and a run scored in stupid interleague play. Pitchers should never hit. Ever.
Jason Kipnis - Rookie looks like a gamer. Hard-nosed and ready to play immediately upon his call up from AAA. Showed a lot of power and no jitters in his first big-league action. Starting second baseman next year, end of story.
Shelley Duncan - Can't believe I'm saying this, but he should have been playing every day on this team. He remains a backup outfielder on a good team, though. Incendiary August has me hoping he's back next year as our fourth outfielder.
Manny Acta - Kept the kids playing hard through a summer swoon and all the way up to the bitter end.
Ubaldo Jimenez - The team's success next year hinges on Ubaldo's success. I commend Antonetti's testicular fortitude for trading pitching prospects #1 and #2 for a guy who could very well be the next Fausto Carmona.
Kosuke Fukudome - He is what he is, but he stabilized an injury-plagued outfield with some energetic play after a midseason trade.
Travis Hafner - Found his swing. Hit several game winning home runs. Got injured.
Fans - Beat last year's attendance. Beat projections. Should have been more supportive of an overachieving team that thrived at home.
Lonnie Chisenhall - Third baseman of the future looked overmatched. I'm not crazy about his bat speed (slow) or his apparent aversion to getting on the basepaths. Has all the swagger and confidence of a young Andy Marte. Better keep these guys around:
Jack Hannahan and Jason Donald - Did what utility infielders are supposed to do: not much. Hannahan was, at times, spectacular at third. Can't hit a lick.
Ezequiel Carrera - Stubbornly unproductive. Give the guy 700 ABs and you will get a solid .255 with 20 RBI.
Matt LaPorta - Sabathia for LaPorta will go down as one of the five worst trades in the history of the franchise. Classic no-tool player. Doesn't hit for average or power. Doesn't get on base. Can't field. Can't run. His 11 home runs were three more than utility infielder Jack Hannahan's. All of his RBI were earned on fielder's choice groundouts. Should never have another at bat with this team.
Matt LaPorta - He predicted that this season would determine if he was a 15 or a 40 home run guy, then failed to amass 15 home runs.
Matt LaPorta - Led the league in getting jammed.
Fausto Carmona - Enough already. Sick stuff, and absolutely no faith in it. If fellow sinkerballer Jake Westbrook had Fausto's arm, he'd be a Hall of Famer.
Shin-Soo Choo - Got drunk, got injured, didn't produce when he was on the field. The team's all around best player from the past two seasons might as well have used 2011 to fulfill his military obligation in South Korea. Major letdown. Cost the team many, many victories.
Grady Sizemore - I'm sure Grady will have a renaissance with another team. Played well for one week after returning from injury, and then got injured. Still strikes out too much. Career in shambles. Should be on the verge of a $20+ million contract with the Yankees. Pundits wonder if the Indians will pick up his option. Future Pittsburgh Pirate?
Injuries - Sizemore, Brantley, Choo (that's the entire starting outfield, folks), Tomlin, Carrasco, Talbot (that's three starting pitchers), Hafner, Kipnis...etc, etc. The staggering body count made necessary the services of guys like Ezequiel Carrera.
Jim Thome - So, the guy skips town for more money and, after he clears waivers 10 years later and collects a couple of feel-good homers, suddenly we're erecting a STATUE of him? Makes me almost as sick as Chief Wahoo does.
Chief Wahoo - This ugly, obnoxious, outmoded, tacky, offensive and racist logo remains, aside from Matt LaPorta's swing, the most hideous sight in all of American Sport.
Dolans - 0.0 McBones. Why be that rich and own a baseball team if you're not going to enjoy it? Dolans are like the guy who buys a Ferrari and parks it in storage for 40 years.
So that's it. I'll give this season a 3.0 McBone rating with a--yes I'm going there--positive outlook. Another year of seasoning and a few less injuries should have them in the hunt in 2012. They will not be good enough/healthy enough/lucky enough to make the playoffs, but a five game improvement is plausible.
Oh, and regarding the events of yesterday:
Ballplayers have been chafing under the sportswriter irritant for as long as there have been ballplayers and sportswriters. This is the best of the best. I believe the reporter intentionally asked the stupidest question possible to see if Jonathan Papelbon's head would explode. Watch his eyes bug out. See the unfiltered hate pour forth:
Jonathan Papelbon's pain = McBone endorphin rush.