And some of the major headlines going into the season is the Ryan Braun/drug test fiasco, and the big contract signings for Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angles and Prince Fielder to the Detroit Tigers. Those stories and some others will be focused on during the remainder of spring training.
But another story baseball fans should pay attention to is how will the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox bounce back for their epic season-ending collapse and missing out on the 2011 post season.
There was a lot of blame going around for each team on how and why they gave up big leads for the Wild Card spot. But for one Braves player, he is shouldering all the blame for his team’s collapse.
That player is catcher Brian McCann.
“I truly felt if I played up to my standards, the Cardinals don’t get in the postseason,” McCann said.
The Braves began September with an 10-1/2-game wild-card lead over the Cardinals but fell 1 game behind them in the season finale to miss the playoffs. Of course it wasn’t all of McCann’s fault but he did contribute to it.
McCann was having a great 2011 season, hitting .286, before suffering an oblique injury. When he return to the lineup mid-August he hit .180 over the last six weeks of the season.
Some believe, including me, that he returned too early from his injury – causing that hitting slump.
It still isn’t not all his fault that the Braves missed out on the playoffs but what else do you expect a team leader to say. McCann and the Braves need to not worry about last season’s slump anymore and stay focus on this year. They have a lot to look forward to.
Jason Heyward is showing signs that he is back to his rookie season form after going through his own slump last season. Due to a nagging shoulder injury Heyward hit only .227 with 14 homers, a .319 on-base percentage and .389 slugging percentage – down from .277/.393/.456 with 18 homers as a rookie.
They have other young talent like shortstop Tyler Pastornicky and first baseman Freddie Freeman who can help the Braves get back to the post season team they use to be in past years.
As a Braves fan, I expect big things out of them this season. Its time they get back to their playoff winning days and hopefully win another World Series and put the city of Atlanta out of its sports misery.