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Wrapping Up 2001
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Holiday gifts from Santa
by Ian Browne
MLB.com


With Cal Ripken gone, the Orioles would like a new identity for the holidays.
If Major League Baseball had a Santa Claus, here are the gifts he would hand to each Major League team.

Anaheim Angels: Someone who at least resembles an ace. For too long, the Angels' staff has been a collection of 10- to 13-game winners.

Arizona Diamondbacks: A case of amnesia for Byung-Hyun Kim. Some closers have never recovered from infamous postseason blowups. Let's hope that the young and talented Kim doesn't let his Game 4 and 5 World Series meltdowns linger. After all, his team won the Series, making his gaffes easier to forget.

Atlanta Braves: A legitimate full-time first baseman. Aging Julio Franco? Young and untested Wes Helms? Declining veteran B.J. Surhoff moving in from the outfield? The Braves are an upper echelon team, and upper echelon teams almost always have productive thumpers playing first.

Baltimore Orioles: The next Cal Ripken Jr. With their iron man icon finally retired, the Orioles now lack any sort of identity. Are they rebuilding or not? You can never tell by the way their roster is constructed.

Boston Red Sox: An injury-free 2002 for the invaluable right arm of Pedro Martinez. When healthy, nobody in the game is more dominant or electrifying than the three-time Cy Young award winner. A healthy season from shortstop Nomar Garciaparra would also be nice, if Santa was feeling particularly generous.

Chicago White Sox: Less hurt for the Big Hurt. Frank Thomas had a throwback season in 2000, only to see it washed away by an injury-ravaged 2001. Thomas needs a few more big years to cement his case as a Hall of Famer.

Chicago Cubs: A World Series. The ever-loyal Wrigley fans have waited more than half a century to see the Cubbies play in the game's ultimate spectacle. It's time.

Cincinnati Reds: A tape measure long enough to get an accurate reading on the blasts that muscular youngster Adam Dunn is bound to hit in the next several seasons. The enormously gifted left-handed swinger showed considerable glimpses of potential, smashing 19 homers in 244 at bats last season.

Cleveland Indians: A bottle of consistency for Bartolo Colon. With his dominant stuff, there's no reason the Dominican righty from the shouldn't be a candidate for the All-Star game and the Cy Young award every year. At 26, youth can no longer be used as an excuse.

Colorado Rockies: A rejuvenated Mike Hampton. The Rockies wouldn't have signed Hampton for more than $120 million if thin air was enough to thicken his ERA so dramatically. Hampton's too fierce a competitor not to bounce back.

Detroit Tigers: A pennant race. The Tigers haven't been in one for keeps since the late 1980s. They have a shrewd new team president in Dave Dombrowski who should be able to maneuver the Tigers back into the mix of contenders.

Florida Marlins: A clubhouse leader. When the going got tough for the Marlins last season, they splintered in countless different directions instead of staying together. A respected figure in the locker room with championship experience could remedy that.

Houston Astros: Full and unconditional support from the front office for new Manager Jimy Williams. A lack of those things ultimately hastened the departure of the classy Williams in his previous managerial stop with the Red Sox.

Kansas City Royals: A throwback season from Chuck Knoblauch. Only then will Kansas City fans understand why the Royals deemed it necessary to sign a player who steadily declined in his four seasons in New York.

Los Angeles Dodgers: For Nomo-mania II to be a sequel that works. Sequels have rarely worked on the Hollywood screen, but maybe it can work on the baseball diamond in LA-LA land.

Milwaukee Brewers: Contact drills in Spring Training. Yes, those are usually reserved for the football field, but this is a different type of contact drill. The Brewers' had too many hitters providing a breeze last season. Jose Hernandez struck out 185 times, followed by 178 whiffs from Richie Sexson, 150 out of Jeromy Burnitz and 120 by Geoff Jenkins. The team led the Majors with 1,399 whiffs.

Minnesota Twins: A new manager with half as much class and loyalty as the old one. Tom Kelly will be missed and hard to replace, but certainly not forgotten.

Montreal Expos: A resolution to their future. Staying, going, contracting? This situation needs closure.

New York Mets: An advance promise from the Mets that a highlight tape consisting of all the spectacular plays made up the middle by gifted glovemen Roberto Alomar and Rey Ordonez will be put together immediately after the 2002 season.

New York Yankees:. A revival of Robin Ventura's bat. With the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium and a lot more offense around him than he's used to, there's no reason playing for another New York team can't re-energize the classy veteran third baseman.

Oakland Athletics: A rematch with the Yankees in the 2002 Division Series. This way, they can pay back Jason Giambi for leaving and exact revenge on the team that they are 0-4 against in potential elimination games the last two years.

Philadelphia Phillies: A change of heart from third baseman Scott Rolen. Why wouldn't Rolen want to spend the remainder of his career with a team on the rise and bound to capture the imagination of its passionate city in the next year or two?

Pittsburgh Pirates: A lot more recognition for Brian Giles. With shamelessly little fanfare, the left fielder has developed into one of the NL's most prolific hitters the past three seasons.

St. Louis Cardinals: A loss of nerves and return of control for 22-year-old Rick Ankiel. The lefty had greatness written all over him before his 2000 playoff meltdown sent him for a loop he still hasn't recovered from.

San Diego Padres: A start every fifth day for Brett Tomko. A lack of regular work in Seattle led to a regression from a righty who has considerable talent.

San Francisco Giants: A trip back to the postseason for Barry Bonds. A big October is the only thing missing on the resume of one of the greatest players of all-time.

Seattle Mariners: A night of recognition for retired outfielder Jay Buhner. No, the gritty slugger will never go to the Hall of Fame. But he was a Hall of Fame competitor, and his heart and grit sparked the Mariners for the last 14 years.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: A firm commitment from the Devil Rays' front office to stick with the kids and not go for any quick fix additions. Though hardly anyone noticed, the Devil Rays were actually fun to watch in the final days of the 2001 season, riding their youngsters to an 8-3 finish.

Texas Rangers: A babysitter in the clubhouse. Any room that houses both John Rocker and Carl Everett for an entire season might need one.

Toronto Blue Jays: A 100-RBI season for Raul Mondesi. How can it be that one of the most physically gifted players in the game has never driven in 100 runs? It's time for Mondesi to stay focused and consistent for a whole season.

Ian Browne is a regional writer based in New York City. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and are not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.


 


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Vote on the best plays of 2001 in the following categories:
Regular Season Play
Home Run of the Year
Catch of the Year
Throw of the Year
Defensive Infield Play
Greatest Comeback / Finish
Individual Performance
Memory of the Year
Pitching Performance
Collision of the Year
Postseason Play
Blooper of the Year
State of the Game: Where baseball stands as we begin 2002
What a Season!: MLB.com reporter Ian Browne recaps 2001
2002 Predictions: Mark your calendars for these baseball events this season.
Resolutions: New Year's resolutions from around the league
Diamond Digits: Crunching the 2001 stats
Team gifts: Holiday presents from Santa
Boys to Men: Players who showed extraordinary growth in 2001
Men to Boys: Players who had big 2000 seasons, but flopped in 2001
Gone but Not Forgotten: Tributes to the players we've lost this year
2001 Player Debuts
2001 Season Trivia: Think you know baseball? Test your knowledge
By the Numbers: Figures that stood out in 2001
2001 Retirees: Players who ended their careers
2001 A to Z: A handy reference for the season

Holiday Ornaments
Mouth-blown glass, authentic hand-painted baseball ornament with the logo of your favorite team.
World Series Video/DVD
Commemorate the 2001 World Series with the Official Video & DVD full of World Series highlights.
Warm MLB Gear
Bundle up this season with Official MLB sweatshirts and fleece.