Another regular season is winding down, and with only about three weeks left, it’s not too early to select the big disappointments of the 2012 major league season.
Jose Reyes and the Marlins
What costs $124 million and doesn’t make a difference? The shortstop in Miami. When he inked his mega-million and mega-headline contract last off-season and packed his bags for Miami, Jose Reyes was heralded as an impact player (by at least some baseball experts). But, he hasn’t been. In 2012, Reyes has been more like, well…the REAL Jose Reyes. This year he’s hitting around .285 with a .440 SLG and 340 OBP – or almost exactly his career averages. Reyes has never slugged .500, he’s not as fast as he once was, and he’s an average defensive shortstop. Under lightning rod Ozzie Guillen in 2012, Reyes has watched as his team has struggled, slumped, and sucked. As a result many of his teammates have been exiled. The future of the Marlins, who thought this season in a new ballpark would be the first year in a southern Florida dynasty, is unclear. Maybe they should have never stopped calling them the Florida Marlins.
Theo’s Mess in Chicago
Last October when Theo Epstein signed a $18.5 million deal to be President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs, he left one storied franchise for another, intent on resurrecting a team that hasn’t won a World Series since 1908. That’s 104 years, and since Theo the Wonderkid helped erase 1 86-year championship drought in Boston, he seems to be the guy for Chicago. But while expectations for his first season were modest (no one expected a pennant in 2012), the year could have gone much better. The Cubs have the second-worst record in baseball – only the Triple-A like Astros are worse in 2012. Epstein has swept away many of the players who were on the roster when he took over, reshaping the club, but some of those old players (Sean Marshall) have helped division rivals, while new ones (David DeJesus, Chris Volstad) have proved to be duds. To be fair, Theo needs some more time, and his best prospect (Anthony Rizzo) is playing well while several young blue chips are close to being ready for Cubs uniforms. In July, though, instead of watching a revived team, Cubs fans watched as Epstein shipped most of the veterans on the team to contenders at the trade deadline. This week, Theo told reporters that ”There might be some tough things we have to tell (fans) along the way, and there might be another trading deadline in our future where we trade away 40 percent of a really good rotation.” That doesn’t bode well for 2012 either, Cubbie fans.
Phat Albert’s production
It would be easy to look at Albert Pujols’ stats through September 15 and say he’s the same old Albert: 42 doubles, 30 homers, 96 RBI. But the fact is that Pujols – like most players in their 30s who aren’t using steroids – is showing signs of slowing down. It started last season in St. Louis when his slugging percentage dropped 50 points from his 2010 level and more than 100 points from 2009. This year he’s slugging 20 points lower again, and his on-base percentage is more than 70 points below his career average. This doesn’t look like a few off-years, it looks like a typical decline for a power hitter. Possibly even a rapid decline. For now, Pujols is hitting home runs at a decent rate for a corner infielder, but the 30 he has so far in ’12 is a dozen fewer than his season average, and remember in April when he didn’t hit a home run at all? And his RBI totals are not much to get excited about, since Albert hits in the middle of a good lineup and should get 100 RBI. Obviously, considering the huge investment the Angels have made in Pujols (10 years for $254 million), the deteriorating production must be a concern. Coupled with the fact that the Halos find themselves in third place, well behind the Texas Rangers, this season has to be a disappointment.
The Phillies inglorious end to their dynasty
Sure, we figured the National League East would be a dogfight, but the Philadelphia Phillies were given as good a chance as any team to win it. They had been to the playoffs in a franchise-record five straight seasons, twice advancing to the World Series from 2007-2011. With Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee still in their rotation the Phils still seemed to be a winning bunch. But the Fightin’ Phils have rapidly turned into the Agin’ Phils this season. Other than Hunter Pence, every one of their regulars is over 30, and they all pretty much looked like it, even Jimmy Rollins.
Boston’s not-funny Valentine
Not going to say “I told you so,” but didn’t most of us see this coming? Bobby Valentine has made a career out of burning bridges, offending his employers, and getting under the skin of his players. He got away with some of that in Japan, but his act is played out over here in the U.S. Somehow, owner John Henry thought hiring Valentine in the wake of 2011′s epic collapse was a grand idea. Instead, Valentine set some sort of record at pissing off his players – he didn’t get out of the first week in spring training before Kevin Youkilis was upset with him. The Sox, a team with enough talent on paper to win 100 games, never got going and fell apart to the point that Red Sox Nation is breathing a collective sigh of relief that Tom Brady and the Pats are back in uniform.