Yadier Molina #4, Gerald Laird #13 and David Freese #23 (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Yadier Molina #4, Gerald Laird #13 and David Freese #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate after defeating the Texas Rangers 6-2 to win the World Series in Game Seven of the MLB World Series at Busch Stadium on October 28, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri.
Will he stay or will he go?
St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols reported for spring training on Feb. 17, the day after his contract extension negotiation deadline expired, beginning his final season before free agency. His aim was to avoid being a distraction for the team during the season, but it still dominated conversation about the star all year. Pujols fielded a frenzy of offers at winter meetings in December, being courted by the Cardinals, Marlins, Cubs and Angels. He ultimately chose the Angels' offer of $254 million for 10 years.
On Opening Day after the Dodgers-Giants game in Los Angeles, paramedic and Giants fan Bryan Stow (in a file photo with his children), was savagely beaten by men dressed in Dodgers gear. He sustained brain damage and was in a coma for months. As a result the Dodgers beefed up security at the stadium. Stow is slowly improving at a rehab facility and two suspects are in custody.
Calling it a career
Manny Ramirez retired abruptly on April 8. The official cause of termination was another “issue” under Major League Baseball’s drug treatment program. Less controversial retirements included Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte who made his announcement on Feb. 4 after 16 seasons and baseball's all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, who called it quits on Jan. 12 after 18 seasons.
A federal jury spent almost four days deliberating in the Barry Bonds perjury trial, but in the end it reached agreement on only one of the four charges he faced — obstruction of justice. Three perjury counts were deadlocked. Theoretically, Bonds faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, but federal sentencing guidelines recommend 15 to 21 months. On July 14 the judge declared a mistrial in the Roger Clemens perjury trial after prosecutors showed jurors evidence that the judge had ruled out of bounds.
Dodgers in disarray
On April 20 MLB seized financial and day-to-day operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers. On June 27, the Dodgers filed for bankruptcy protection in a Delaware court. Owner Frank McCourt blamed the league for refusing to approve a multibillion-dollar TV deal that he was counting on to keep the troubled franchise afloat. McCourt finally agreed in October to sell the team at auction, a process that is ongoing. MLB hopes to have a new owner in place by Opening Day 2012.
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey was leveled by Marlins baserunner Scott Cousins in the top of the 12th inning on May 25. It does not take a medical degree to understand from this picture why the reigning NL Rookie of the Year's season ended on that day.
Fight of his life
On May 31, Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor called a glioblastoma. He is being treated with chemotherapy and radiation.
On July 7 Texas Rangers fan Shannon Stone, 39, fell about 20 feet from the stands during the second inning of a game against the Oakland A's. Stone went into full cardiac arrest in an ambulance en route to the hospital and was pronounced dead an hour after the accident. Stone, who was a lieutenant with the Brownwood Fire Department, was trying to catch a baseball tossed his way by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.
On July 9, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter had a game for the ages. Not only did he collect his 3,000th hit (all with the Yankees) on a home run, he went 5-for-5 on the day and drove in the game-winning run.
Outta the park
On July 11, 2011 at Chase Field in Phoenix, American League second baseman Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees won the Home Run Derby with his father Jose Cano (a former major league pitcher) pitching to him. The National League won their second consecutive All-Star Game the following day, with Prince Fielder taking home ASG MVP honors.
No he didn't
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Ervin Santana threw the season's third no-hitter vs. the Indians on July 27 in Cleveland. Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander threw a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on Saturday, May 7, just four days after Twins lefty Francisco Liriano threw the season's first no-hitter, a 1-0 win over the White Sox in Chicago.
Game of the season? On July 31 a much-hyped pitching matchup between Angels ace Jered Weaver and Tigers ace Justin Verlander carried Cy Young implications. Verlander had allowed only two walks through seven innings and Weaver had given up only two runs on Magglio Ordonez's homer in the third. Weaver snapped after serving up a homer to Carlos Guillen, who taunted the pitcher by admiring the ball sailing into the right-field stands before shuffling toward first base. Weaver retaliated by tossing the next pitch near Alex Avila's head, eliciting a prompt ejection. Verlander, still working on a no-hitter in the eighth, took exception when Erick Aybar dropped a bunt. Shortly after, Verlander lost his no-hitter, but still won the game.
Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano cleaned out his locker and left the team after giving up five homers and being ejected from a 10-4 loss to the Braves on Aug. 12. He did not return to the team Saturday. General manager Jim Hendry said the next day that Zambrano's actions, including a brush-back pitch to Chipper Jones that led to the ejection, were ''intolerable.''The Chicago Cubs placed Carlos Zambrano on the disqualified list the next day and said the right-hander would receive no pay and have no part in team activities for 30 days; he did not pitch again in the 2011 season.
After weeks of captivating the baseball world, Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla's hitting streak ended at 33 on Aug. 14 against the Cubs. Uggla, seen here getting a hug from teammate Jose Costanza said "It was a fun run, but all things have to come to an end sometime." Earlier in the season Dodgers RF Andre Ethier had a 30-game hitting streak. Looks like DiMaggio's 56-game streak is safe.
Pound for pound
Jim Thome reached the 600-HR milestone in style, smacking Nos. 599 and 600 back-to-back vs. the Tigers on Aug. 15.
The New York Yankees on Aug. 25, became the first ballclub in major league history to hit three grand slams in a single game. The Bronx Bombers achieved the feat at Yankee Stadium with Curtis Granderson taking one long to right-center field in the bottom of the eighth inning, adding to earlier slams by Robinson Cano and Russell Martin. The Yankees won 22-9.
MLB marked the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including former New York Mets John Franco and Mike Piazza participating in pregame ceremonies before the Mets played the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field. The Mets played the first baseball game post-9/11 back in 2001.
How do you like that?
New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera acknowledges the cheers of the crowd after recording his 602nd career save. Rivera pitched a perfect ninth as he broke the all-time saves record held by Trevor Hoffman.
On Sept. 26, the Chicago White Sox acquired right-hander Jhan Marinez and infielder Ozzie Martinez as part of the agreement that allowed the Florida Marlins to hire Ozzie Guillen as manager. Guillen was released from the final year of his contract with the White Sox and signed a four-year deal with the Marlins. This was just one of many employment shifts in 2011: Bob Geren was fired as manager of the A's on June 9; on June 19, the Marlins fired Edwin Rodriguez and made 80-year-old Jack McKeon their manager; Jim Riggleman abruptly quit as Nats manager on June 23; Jim Hendry was fired as Cubs GM on Aug. 19; Terry Francona lost his job as Red Sox manager on Sept. 30 after the team's epic collapse; Robin Ventura was hired on Oct. 6 as the new White Sox skipper; Theo Epstein quit as Red Sox GM and became the Cubs' top exec on Oct. 25; Tony La Russa retired as the Cardinals manager immediately after the World Series; on Nov. 2 Mike Quade was ousted as Cubs manager; Mike Matheny was introduced as the Cadinals new manager on Nov. 14; Ed Wade lost his job as the Astros GM on Nov. 28; and reports broke on Nov. 29 that Bobby Valentine would be taking over the manager position for the Boston Red Sox.
The finale of the regular season on Sept. 28 was one of the most electrifying nights in the history of the game — a drama spanning five hours, two ballparks, and one profound collapse. The Rays and Red Sox entered the night in a tie for the AL wild card. The Yankees took a 7-0 lead over the Rays. Meanwhile, 1,000 miles away, the Red Sox were up 3-2 on the lowly Orioles. After a rain delay, the Rays mounted a furious comeback. The O's were busy with a comeback of their own, beating the Red Sox 7-3. The Sox's only hope was a Yank win. Rays 3B Evan Longoria wouldn't have it. He smashed the game winner in the 12th inning. Over in the NL, the Braves also completed an epic September collapse, losing to the Phillies in 13 innings and handing the Cardinals the NL wild card.
He must be nuts!
A squirrel runs past the leg of Cardinals outfielder Skip Schumaker in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the 2011 NL Divisional Series. St. Louis fans adopted the squirrel as a mascot, dubbing it their "rally squirrel." The magic of the squirrel must have worked, as the Cardinals went on to beat the Phillies and advance to the NLCS and, eventually, the World Series.
On Oct. 27, the St. Louis Cardinals won one of the most entertaining games in World Series history. After twice being down to their last strike before being eliminated, the Cardinals rallied to fight back against the Rangers. The evening was capped by David Freese, who belted an 11th-inning walk-off home run to give the Cards the 10-9 victory.
Cards win it all
Defying all the odds, the St. Louis Cardinals won Game 7 of the World Series on Oct. 28. Starting pitcher Chris Carpenter stymied the Rangers as St. Louis won the game 6-2. Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols made history Oct. 22 in Game 3 of the World Series, hitting three home runs and joining Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as just the third player ever to do so in a Fall Classic game.
Wilson Ramos, the 24-year-old Venezuelan catcher for the Nationals, who had just finished his rookie season, was seized from his home in the town of Santa Ines by kidnappers on Nov. 9. Ramos was taken away in an SUV by four armed men from his home and rescued safely two days later. Police last year said that 618 kidnappings were reported in 2009, and the numbers have grown rapidly in recent years. In 1998, when President Hugo Chavez was elected, just 52 kidnappings were reported. Security experts say the real number of kidnappings today is much higher because many cases aren't reported to authorities.
Man of the year?
On Nov. 21, Justin Verlander took home the AL MVP award, as voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Verlander received 13 of 28 first-place votes to edge Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury. The Tigers fireballer became the first starting pitcher to win the award since 1986. Verlander also snagged the AL's Cy Young Award after winning the pitching Triple Crown. See who won the other postseason awards.