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2005 Year in Review
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Year in Review - Top Ten Stories of 2005
by Asher B. Chancey, Baseball Evolution
December 27, 2005



10. Derrek Lee Chases Triple Crown

The Cubs Derrek Lee broke out of the gates on a tear and led the league in the Triple Crown categories as late as June before Andruw Jones ultimately ended up taking the homerun and RBI titles. Lee ended up winning the batting title with a .335 average, as well as leading the National League in slugging, OPS, hits, doubles, total bases, runs created, and extra-base hits.

9. Andruw Jones Breaks Out, Hits 51 Home Runs

After two straight seasons in which no one in the Majors hit 50 or more homeruns, Andruw Jones became the first Brave ever to hit 50 or more. Jones set career highs in several categories while leading the National League in homeruns and RBIs. Additionally, his surge in production came just as the rest of the Braves were slumping and falling behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East. The Braves ultimately won the division thanks in large part to Jones' breakout year.

8. Barry Bonds Misses Most of Season; Ruth, Aaron Safe One More Year

After a four year stretch in which he broke the single season records for home runs, walks, intentional walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS, and on the verge of Babe Ruth's mark for career home runs by a left hander, Barry Bonds underwent off-season knee surgery (twice) and missed but 14 games. Though the excitement surrounding Bonds' chase of Ruth and Aaron was put off for another season, the hiatus may have actually been good for a league whose fans were already skeptical as a result of steroid allegations involving Bonds and other ball players.

Bonds needs 6 home runs to tie Ruth and 47 to tie Aaron, both of which may be possible in 2006 if Bonds is healthy.

7. Zach Duke, Roger Clemens Finishes With ERA Below 2.00

In a possible torch passing season, Texans Zach Duke, a 22 year old rookie with the Pirates, and Roger Clemens, a 22 year veteran with the Astros, each finished with a season ERA below 2.00. Duke made his Major League debut in 2005, and proceded to pitch 14 games, giving up only 17 earned runs in route to a 1.81 ERA (236 ERA+) and an 8-2 record. Meanwhile, Clemens gave up 44 earned runs in 211.3 innings in route to a 1.87 ERA (221 ERA+). Despite his ERA, Clemens only went 13-8 for an Astros team that struggled to score runs all season.

Next season, Duke will spend a full season with the Pirates while Clemens, who was not offered arbitration by the Astros, may have to choose a new team or even retire.

6. Expos Move to Washington, D.C.

2005 began with much excitement as Major League Baseball announced its return to Washington, D.C., with the relocation of the Expos. The Washington Nationals defied expectations in the 2005 season, finishing with a winning record (81-81, albeit in last place). The Nationals were even in first place late into the summer before ultimately fading.

2005 meant much more than on-the-field excitement for the new D.C. franchise. It also meant three way political controversy between the league, Mayor Anthony Williams, and the D.C. City Council. After over a year, the league had yet to put an ownership group in place, and a stadium deal negotiated by Williams was threatened with a City Council defeat when rising costs pushed the original estimated cost up over $100 million.

The Nationals controversies will continue well in 2006 and perhaps even into 2007.

5. Albert Pujols Win His First National League MVP

Albert Pujols, in his fifth year at the age of 25, solified his place as one of the greatest young players of all time. After having suffered through four seasons of MVP caliber play only to see Barry Bonds make off with the hardware, Pujols finally won his first MVP as Bonds missed almost all of the 2005 season.

Read more about Pujols' fantastic season, and his historic first five seasons.

4. Jason Giambi Rebounds From Career Pergatory

Jason Giambi had a miserable 2004 season, playing only 80 games and managing a career worst .720 OPS. Then, in the off-season, it was revealed that Jason Giambi had admitted before a grand jury that he had used a variety of performance inhancing substances. Through the first three months of 2005, Giambi was also terrible. But, on July 4th, Giambi hit 2 homeruns, and by the end of July he had hit 14 in the month. He never really cooled off, finishing the season with 32 homers in 139 games, and with an OPS over .950. With the Yankees struggling and the season in question, Giambi stepped up and made a difference.

Giambi's season was importance for more than its contribution to the Yankees. Giambi's performance answers an important question - is there life after steroids? At in Giambi's case, the answer is apparently "yes". But in the case of another prominent American League slugger, the answer may not be so clear . . .

3. Rafael Palmeiro Tests Positive for Steroids

"My parents and I came to the United States after fleeing the communist tyranny that still reigns over my homeland of Cuba. We came seeking freedom, knowing that through hard work, discipline, and dedication, my family and I could build a bright future in America . . . I have never used steroids, period."

Less than five months after adamantly denying having used steroids in a hearing before Congress, Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for use of a controlled substance and was suspended for 10 games. The suspension cast a dark shadow over what had been a momentous season for Rafie, as it came within a month after he collected his 3,000th hit. Indeed, the remainder of Palmeiro's career, as well as his Hall of Fame candidacy, have been called into question.

2. Astros Go to First World Series

After 43 years, the Houston Astros finally made it to their first World Series, knocking off the St. Louis Cardinals in a rematch of the 2004 ALCS. The first trip to the Fall Classic for the 'Stros came near the end of the careers of future Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, who have a combined 33 seasons with the team. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be for the Houston franchise as they were swept by the Chicago White Sox.

1. Chicago White Sox Win the World Series

One year after the Boston Red Sox bested the Curse of the Bambino to win their first World Series in 86 years, the White Sox pulled off a similar feat, winning their first pennant since 1959 and their first World Series since 1917. Facing the Astros in their first ever World Series appearance, Ozzie Guillen's team swept the Series and only lost one post-season game after barely holding on to win the AL Central. In 2006, fans will be looking North to the Chicago Cubs to see if they can make it three World Series droughts ended in three years.





Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.

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