By Father Gabe Costa
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Well, 2011 is coming to an end.

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A lot has happened over this past year…and it might be well to look back and reflect on a few things.

At the same time, in a little over a week, we will be welcoming in 2012…and in January (at the risk of pushing it), we can joyfully exclaim, “Pitchers and Catchers will be reporting next month!”

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So, in no particular order, here are just a few “significant” events which occurred during this past baseball season:

  1. Mariano Rivera became the all-time leader in Saves.
  2. Tony LaRussa, after leading the St. Louis Cardinals to an improbable World Series victory over the Texas Rangers, announced his retirement.
  3. Ron Santo, Chicago Cubs third baseman, was finally elected into the Hall of Fame.
  4. The Boston Red Sox suffered one of the worst collapses in history in September and did not participate in post-season play. This precipitated the removal of manager Terry Francona, who guided the Bosox to championships in both 2004 and 2007.
  5. Barry Bonds was in the news again. 
  6. National League batting champion Jose Reyes of the Mets, left New York and signed with the Miami Marlins.
  7. Yankee All Star Alex Rodriguez was clearly on the decline.
  8. Albert Pujols, arguably baseball’s greatest player today, left the Cardinals and signed on with the Angels.

Discussing these few points above, of course, is what the “Hot Stove League” is all about. It is part of the soul of baseball; for no team sport revels in its past – whether we are talking about last year or last century – as does baseball. For example, I suspect that when Pujols slammed three home runs in Game Three of the 2011 World Series, every real fan of the game instantly recalled that only Reggie Jackson (1977) and Babe Ruth (1926 and 1928) had accomplished the same feat.

So…looking ahead, I will comment on, and ask questions pertaining to, the eight points above. The reader is invited to do likewise.

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  1. Like good wine, Mo improves with age. His class, style and grace are the epitome of what is best about baseball. When he retires, he most probably will be considered as the second greatest Yankee ever, after Ruth.
  2.  Many people were surprised at the timing of LaRussa’s leaving; others felt it was appropriate. The underlying question is, “Will Tony come back to manage?” My feeling is that he will return…maybe not in 2012…perhaps in 2013. He is only 35 victories away from John McGraw, who holds second place on the all-time Wins list.
  3. Santo should have gotten into Cooperstown many years ago. It is too bad that he did not live to enjoy his enshrinement.
  4. Terry Francona may go into the Hall of Fame. He was the manager of the team which ended “The Curse of the Bambino”. But Boston is a tough town…tougher maybe than even Chicago or New York. Even so, Francona deserved to be treated in a better way.
  5. Roughly speaking, Bonds averaged one home run in 15 at-bats through 2000. From 2001 through the end of his career, he averaged one home run for every 9 at-bats. How could that be? Will he get into the Hall of Fame? How about Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa? Will the Guardians of Baseball Tradition allow that? As time goes on, we will eventually get the answers to these questions.
  6. How will Reyes do in Florida? As some say in mathematics, Reyes can be considered as a “Random Variable”. He has all the talent in the world, but has considerable baggage as well.  Time will tell, but my feeling is that he will not become the “Face of the Franchise” for the Marlins.
  7. A-Rod will be 37 in July. While his lifetime batting average is .302, it is on the “down swing” – bad pun! – and he has a woefully poor on-base percentage. Once considered the greatest player in the game, he is, at best, a three-tool player: he hits with power, he can field and he can still throw. The Yankees will have him for six more years. He needs 133 home runs to break Barry Bonds’ all time record. Will “diminishing returns” apply here?
  8. How will Pujols do with the Angels? Very well, I believe. I also feel he will eventually settle into a Designated Hitter slot. This might mean an extra year or two over and above what he would have had, if he remained in the National league. In any event, when Pujols finally hangs up his spikes, he may very well be considered as the greatest hitter since one Theodore Samuel Williams.

So, what do you think? Leave a comment below.