The final pitch of the 2022 MLB regular season has been thrown, the final swing taken, the last out called. The start of the postseason in only a few days and for 22 of the other MLB franchises, that means it's time to hit the golf course while the remaining eight play meaningful baseball.
But that's not to say this season was a wash for everyone. In fact, this season had some interesting winners and losers. Baseball's a game that utilizes time as a strategic element. And much like a single game, just because the final result doesn't go your way, doesn't mean a team didn't use every moment to their advantage.
Or, in the case of the other half of our list, they completely squandered a golden opportunity.
Winner: Aaron Judge
Easily a winner. Aaron Judge just had the greatest offensive season the game has seen since the mid-1950s. Not only did Judge come within inches of winning the American League Triple Crown in the last 50 years, but he also broke the AL single season home run record by passing both Babe Ruth and Roger Maris. To top things off, Judge did all of this after turning down a monster $200 million long-term deal from the Yankees, opting to bet on himself and a better evaluation after the season was over.
Safest. Bet. Ever.
In all seriousness, Aaron Judge was putting up video game numbers all season and it was truly a sight to behold. If for some reason he doesn't win the AL MVP -- because Shohei Ohtani exists -- his 2022 season will be looked at and dissected for the next half century. Judge was unbelievable this season, enough said.
Loser: Boston Red Sox
There's a plethora of things I could say about the Red Sox in 2022, so here's a bulleted list.
- Trevor Story signing was.... meh.
- Trading away Christian Vazquez, the heart of their clubhouse, to the team you're playing against, during pregame batting practice.
- Chris Sale getting hurt for the billionth time.
- Jaren Durran flopping.
- General uneasiness in the clubhouse, especially around the trade deadline.
- Bad vibes from the front office.
- Finished the season as the only team below .500, which means the Baltimore Orioles were better than them.
Winner: Cleveland Guardians
The Guardians are good and no one expected that. When you have one player making 25% of your team's payroll, that's generally not a good sign. For Cleveland, they didn't care.
Instead, the Guardians did something not a lot of other teams have been willing to do: they let the young guns play ball. With the average player age landing around 26.3 years old, Cleveland had a younger roster than any other Triple-A team this year. That's insane, but what makes this crazier, is that they played at an insanely high level. Manager Terry Francona doesn't suffer fools and youngsters and that was clear this season, as the Guardians played a vintage style of baseball that saw them move the line, get on base and keep the ball in the yard.
The Cleveland Guardians were supposed to be in last place in their division. Instead, they're heading to the playoffs.
Loser: New York Mets
I want you to imagine that you're a child and you're out at the grocery store with a parent or guardian. You're having a great time. Said parent or guardian lets you get a box of Cookie Crisp and a soda and you see the Lobsters in the Lobster tank and you get a free sample of cheese and it's the best. You're having a great time.
And then you and your parent or guardian head to the checkout line. You load everything out of your cart at the register and your parent/guardian says, "oh no, i forgot one thing, I'll be right back."
You know where this is going. The cashier is ringing up your items with lightning speed and you see the total going higher and higher. You frantically look all around for your parent or guardian to save you and now there's a line of people and they all look angry at you, this child, who is holding up the line. You hear trumpets in the distance and they keep getting louder and louder. Finally, the cashier finishes looks at you and says, "Who is gonna pay for all this? It's $1,958.42. I don't suppose you have that kinda cash, do you?" You're sweating and crying and you just want to disappear and then you wake up and realize you're an adult and that was a dream and the Mets are in the playoffs and you have Cookie Crisp in the kitchen if you want.
But you still go back to sleep remembering the pain.
That's what it was like to be a Mets fan this year, especially in the last month of the season.
Winner: New York Mets
GOTCHA! The Mets still won 101 games, their second best finish in their 60 years of existence. That's pretty good, considering they've been a dumpster fire of a baseball team since their last postseason appearance in 2016.
Sure, things could have been better for the Mets. Jacob deGrom was out for half the season, Max Scherzer struggled to stay healthy and they did absolutely nothing at the trade deadline to make themselves any better, but when you're a Mets fan, you learn to look for the silver lining.
The Mets made it to the playoffs, Jeff McNeil won the NL Batting Title, they have a competent manager and a fun baseball team. That's a win.
Winner: Albert Pujols
Over the last decade, Albert Pujols has spent his days making every baseball fan shake their head and ask, "What happened?" Albert Pujols prior to joining the Los Angeles Angels lived up to his nickname "The Machine." A hitting machine, a fielding machine, a baseball machine, a home run machine. That was back in 2011 and then things went south for Pujols.
Signing a one-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals so he could play one final season with his longtime teammates Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, no one really expected the former MVP to have a renaissance season, but that's exactly what he did. By making a tiny adjustment in his swing, Pujols began to swing for the fences yet again and was able to become the third player ever to reach 700 home runs.
Pujols could've walked off into the sunset with a shrug last season, but instead he went out with a bang, giving every baseball fan the once-in-a-lifetime chance of seeing a player reach such an incredible milestone.
Loser: Chicago White Sox
In the words of Tyra Banks, "We were rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!"
The Chicago White Sox came into the 2022 season as the clear favorites to win the AL Central. Their lineup was solid, their rotation was young and on the verge of elite and then it all came crumbling down.
Say what you want about Tony La Russa as the manager of this team, but this team was just mediocre. Dylan Cease was a bright spot, for sure, but the talk of AL Central dominance was an over promise that the rest of the White Sox underdelivered on.
Winner: Sandy Alcantara
It's been a long time since the Miami Marlins had a win, which is why Sandy Alcantara and his 2022 season on the mound is a no-brainer winner.
Alcantara's 2.28 ERA is .20 points lower than the next qualifying NL pitcher, Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves. But what's really outstanding is how many complete games Alcantara threw in 2022. The last time a pitcher threw six complete games in a season was 2016 when Chris Sale did it for the White Sox. Not only did Alcantara rack up six complete games, he also pitched into the eight inning in half of his 32 starts. That's unheard of in today's MLB.
Sandy Alcantara was a frightening sight on the mound. In the year of the home run, Alcantara proved that good pitching can still quiet the hottest of bats.
Loser: Los Angeles Angels
Where to begin? The Los Angeles Angels have not one, but TWO generational talents on their roster in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Having that insanely talented core should be enough for any team to want to build a championship club around them, but the Angels continue to underperform and overestimate their abilities on the field.
After starting off the season in a less than desirable fashion, the Angels fired manager Joe Maddon and continued to lose, at one point losing every game for two weeks straight. At the deadline, they dealt fan favorite Brandon Marsh and Noah Syndergaard, their only big offseason acquisition, who left the Mets after having dinner with Angels GM Perry Minasian, who sold Syndergaard on the promise of the Angels season. Oops.
The Angels continue to falter and waste two of the of the greatest players to ever step on a diamond. I'm sorry, but finishing under .500 with so much potential is unacceptable. It's a step in the right direction that Arte Moreno is selling the team, but still, there are organizational problems that need to be fixed before this team can go anywhere. Consider this, at the beginning of the season Minasian was quoted saying, "The Moreno family is willing to invest in this club. They're willing to make the necessary financial commitment to get us where we want to go." After one season, that was proven to be a lie. I know there's a Disneyland in California, but there's some serious fantasy happening the Angels organization.
All in all, the Angels continue to be a massive disappointment.
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