With the end of baseball’s regular season upon us, we’re doing something different with the grades this week. It’s all about America’s Pastime. WGEM SportsCenter host Josh Houchins and I will break these down on ESPN 1440 around 8:20 or so on Wednesday. If you have a grade, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or text us at 217-617-9437:
A — Jose Bautista. Obviously, there are folks out there who think the Blue Jays’ slugger is juicing. I think that’s pretty hard to do these days with the increased testing, not to mention the microscope the game is under thanks to the ‘Roids boys of the late 1990s and early 2000s. He’s slammed 52 homers, which is far and away the most in the big leagues this year. He’s hit 39 more homers this year than he did in 2009. It’s the biggest single-season homer leap in Major League Baseball history.
B — San Diego Padres. Back in late March, Houchins and I were looking for a team to track for the most losses in baseball. I think its Houchins’ dream to see some team do worse than the 1962 Mets. Since neither one of us could name more than three Padres at the time, we thought they’d be as good a pick as any to follow. Instead of blowing past the 100-loss mark like we thought they would, the Padres go into the final days of the season in the thick of the NL West and wild-card races. It would be nice to see a bunch of fresh faces like the Padres’ make it to October.
C — Albert Pujols. Read on before calling me crazy. Pujols had another amazing season. He’ll finish with more than 40 homers, 100 RBI and a batting average better than .300 for the 10th straight season. Had his batting average been a bit higher, he could be thinking about a Triple Crown. That’s all fine and good, but Pujols isn’t about individual accomplishments. Despite his and Matt Holliday’s great seasons, the Cardinals’ offense floundered for most of the year, which is a big reason why they’ll be sitting home in October. Awards voters will likely look toward Cincy’s Joey Votto or Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez when it comes to the NL MVP award, meaning Pujols’ monster season was truly for naught.
D — Lou Piniella. After taking the Cubs to back-to-back NL Central titles in 2007 and 2008, things seemed to get away from Piniella. The 2009 team underachieved and he seemed to give up on the 2010 Cubs after it came out that this season would be his last. He left the team last month in order to spend time with his ailing mother. It’s probably best that Piniella left when he did. The Cubs have had some time to check out some of their younger players en route to a losing record. Given one of the highest payrolls in baseball that last two years, Piniella couldn’t get it done.
F — Pittsburgh Pirates. Going into Tuesday’s game at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals, the Pirates had won all of 15 road games all season. The 1963 Mets have the worst road record ever when they went 17-64. The Pirates could beat that with a miserable finish. After today’s series finale against the Cardinals, the Pirates finish the season with a four-game trip to Florida. This season was the once-proud franchise’s 18th straight losing season. They lost more than 100 games for the second time during that span and it’s the sixth straight season the team’s lost at least 94 games. If Cubs and Cardinals fans think their teams stunk, they should try to feel the pain of a Pirates’ fan.