The 2011 baseball year surprised us at so many turns. Offense was dialed back to 1992 levels, none of the nine biggest payrolls in baseball won a postseason series, not one but two teams suffered pennant race collapses of historic proportions, and the Cardinals joined the 1986 Mets as the only teams to be one strike from elimination and win the World Series -- and then they lost two franchise icons.
Amid such chaos, it was worth remembering the brilliantly twisted words of Casey Stengel, who once cautioned, "Never make predictions, especially about the future."
Fair enough. With 2011 and such Stengelese in mind, as the new year dawns let this be an opportunity not for predictions -- remember that Phillies-Red Sox World Series talk this time last year? -- but for sticking with what we know will happen. It will be a season of changes, many of which are brought about by the new collective bargaining agreement. What's so new about the new year? Here are 15 new developments for 2012:
Then there is the boatload of money they will offer Josh Hamilton to keep him away from free agency after the season. Hamilton turns 31 this season and has played 135 games only once. But he is an impact player who boasts nearly the same profile as Ryan Braun at the time Braun signed a five-year, $105 million extension that begins in his age 32 season:
It was only 1986 when we saw the greatest postseason ever staged with 24-man rosters, the owners having cut rosters that season to save money. Where does it end?
Some players will have blood drawn during spring training solely to study if blood testing causes any effect on competition (i.e. stamina) to see if in-season testing is possible. Hello? Baseball already has a control study group with a large sample size: minor leaguers already have been tested in-season for HGH, with Rockies minor leaguer Mike Jacobs failing a test last year.
Ballots are due before the last day of the year -- or 10 days after the end of the world as some have interpreted from the Maya Long Count calendar. Of course, not many people take seriously 12/21/12 as the end of days. But many people suddenly will take doomsday more seriously depending on whether a certain team wins the World Series.
After all, it was exactly 100 years ago tomorrow that a 16-year-old kid arrived in America for what would become a future as a famous tavern owner in Chicago. Billy Sianis would become even more famous as the man who at the 1945 World Series, upon being ejected from Wrigley Field on account of the stench of his pet goat, put a curse upon the Cubs that they should never win another World Series.
The curse remains intact. The Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908. It has not been quite as long as the Long Count calendar (13 periods of 144,000 days each), though a lifelong Cubs fan can be forgiven for thinking of them as of equal length.