The new year is finally upon us. While the 2010 season was a very eventful season, I think 2011 is going to be..."/> The new year is finally upon us. While the 2010 season was a very eventful season, I think 2011 is going to be..."/>

The Buzz: Bold Predictions For 2011

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The new year is finally upon us. While the 2010 season was a very eventful season, I think 2011 is going to be one of the most important years for baseball when all is said and done. So, forget about predicting who will win the World Series, we are going to look at two things that I believe will happen at some point during the 2011 season.

1. Albert Pujols Will Not Become a Free Agent- I’m sure all the media’s attention will be on Cardinals first baseman-and perhaps the best player in the game- Albert Pujols, as he is entering his last year under his current contract. Meaning that there is a chance that the game’s best player could become a free agent, however, I believe that Pujols will not get the chance to test the free agent market. The most likely scenario at this point is that Pujols will re-sign with the Cardinals before a game is even played in 2011. No offense to the 24 other players on the Cardinals roster, but Pujols is essentially the Derek Jeter of the Cardinals. To compare, look at the Cleveland Cavaliers and how they were a NBA Finals contender with LeBron James, and now without him they are one of the worse teams in the league. So, I would expect the Cardinals to give in to whatever Pujols and his representatives are asking for. The expectation is that Pujols will likely command a 7 or 10 year deal that is worth $28MM or $29MM per season. It is not known if the Pujols is willing to take a discount to remain with the Cardinals, but if he doesn’t, the Cardinals may have a difficult time trying to come up with the money to pay Pujols.

Which brings me to my next point, and that is that if the Cardinals realize that they will not be able to afford Pujols then they may look to trade him. Because, it is hard to imagine that a team would be willing to let their superstar player just walk away without getting compensated in any form. The Cardinals may have already hinted that they are willing to trade Pujols. Remember last winter when there were rumblings that the Cardinals and Phillies were talking about a trade that would have sent Albert Pujols to the Phillies in exchange for Ryan Howard. While both teams denied that they discussed such a deal, there were at least internal discussions about the trade. But it is hard to imagine how much Pujols would net the Cardinals on the trade market. While I do not think that Cardinals would get a player like Ryan Howard-who signed a long term extension with the Phillies last season- they would be in a position to get a phenomenal package in return for Pujols. A trade that involved Albert Pujols would arguably the biggest trade in the history of Major League Baseball. Obviously, whoever would trade for Pujols would want an exclusive window to work out  a long term extension. Meaning, that Pujols would not be hitting the free agent market when the season is over.

At this point, I believe that the Cardinals will eventually re-sign Pujols before the season starts. Because, the Cardinals can not afford to be without their long time star. So, all this hype about Albert Pujols being a free agent in 2012 is irrevelant. Because by the time that free agency hits for the 2012 winter, Albert Pujols will either be with the Cardinals, or the team that he was traded to.

2. The Number Of Playoff Teams Will Be Expanded

The hottest topic generating from the owners meetings this past November, was the possibility that playoff teams will be expanded. Currently the 4 teams from each league make it to the postseason. Those teams consist of three division winners, and one wild card winners. The Playoff structure is currently constructed in three different series, the divisional series, the championship series, and concluded with the World Series. When is all said and done, a team could potentially play close to 200 games in a season.

It appears, however, that Major League Baseball is determined to add more games to the postseason. As the belief among Major League Baseball owners is that number of playoff teams will increase from 4 to 5. Meaning you would have the two wild card winners instead of one. Increasing the number of teams that are eligible for the postseason would only increase the number of games that are played during the actual postseason.

That is where I disagree with the decision to add to the number of postseason teams. Because, the regular season combined with the postseason is already long enough. In recent years, the Word Series were scheduled to end in the first week of November. So by adding teams to the postseason, the chances are increased that we may see baseball on Thanksgiving.

The simple solution is that Major League Baseball should just shorten the length of the regular season instead of leaving it as is. Because by doing so, they would not be risking playing games into late November. Which would only benefit the league considering that weather would be a huge factor in those games. Also by shortening the length of the regular season, I think it may gain more interest into Major League Baseball. Because as the 6-7 months of the baseball play out, many viewers and fans begin to lose interest to the point where they no longer watch it. However, a shortened season means that competition would be increased, and that of course would bring more interest from the fans.