Every year, when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, the majority of folks are looking for a fresh start, as the New Year brings new possibilities and a chance to leave the failures of the past year behind.
The same is true in professional sports, as each new season provides a team with an opportunity to forget the struggles and disappointments of the previous season and look forward to starting the new season fresh. Everyone has the same record and the same positive outlook.
So as we begin 2011, it gives me great pride to introduce the first ever Canadian-American Association Power Rankings. The rankings are conducted based solely on the input of the committee of one, and at this very early stage of the year, the rankings are based mostly on how the teams fared last season and give a broad idea of what fans should expect of their teams as they get ready for the 2011 season. So without further adieu, on to the rankings:
1. Quebec Capitales (57-37): The defending two-time Can-Am Champions check in at number one in the inaugural rankings. The Capitales shot out of the gates quickly last year as they captured the first half championship and then ran roughshod in the playoffs as they took home the league championship while going 6-1 during the playoffs. Fans can expect to see more of the same from the consistent Capitales as Sebastien Boucher and Ivan Naccarata return to lead a potent offensive attack, and workhorse pitchers Matthew Rusch and Dan Sausville lead a very reliable pitching staff.
2. BrocktonRox (54-39): Brockton returns the core of a club that had a very successful run last year. Although they did not win either of the half championships, they were able to finish the season with the second-best cumulative record and capture a playoff birth. The powerful duo of Melvin Falu and Keith Brachold look to pick up this season where the last one left off and continue to punish opposing pitchers. Mike Smith and Mike Wlodarczyk bring experience and consistency to a staff that finished amongst the best in the league last year.
3. New Jersey Jackals (42-50): Joe Calfapietra’s club may not be the most talented, but they sure play hard for their manager. After getting off to a disastrous start last year, the team rallied with a strong finish in the second half to secure the last playoff spot. The loss of slugging first baseman Jabe Buergeron will hurt, but solid pitching lead by staff ace Isaac Pavlik should keep the team in the hunt for a playoff spot this season.
4. Pittsfield Colonials (48-45): Pittsfield also got off to a slow start in the first half of the season last year, but the second half was a different story. They caught fire early and were able to win the second half championship and qualify for the playoffs. Riding the momentum of their second half surge, the Colonials defeated Brockton in the first round before falling to Quebec in the finals. So why are the Colonials at number four? Manager Brian Daubach will not return next season, and the uncertainty in the managerial position is the cause of the initial drop. All is not lost for Pittsfield though, as talented outfielder Daniel Carte and the clutch Danny Bomback are both looking to build off of spectacular seasons last year. Stud closer Juan Padilla returns to shore up the bullpen as he looks to close the door for Miguel Flores and company.
5. Newark Bears (53-86 in Atlantic League): The Bears make their debut in the Can-Am League coming off of a disappointing 2010 campaign in the Atlantic League. The team struggled to win 53 games last season, but will be returning the same core that went to the playoffs in the 2009 season. Newark will feature a team with a good mix of veteran leadership, led by Carl Everett, as well as young talent led by the emerging Brian Barton. Pitching may be a concern for the Bears, as only a handful of players on the roster ended the year with an ERA under 4. Armando Benitez must remain the rock of the bullpen if the team is to have any success this year.
6. Worchester Tornadoes (42-51): Worchester opened the 2010 season with a very poor start, as the team ended the first half in last place. The second half brought stronger play from the Tornadoes as they finished with a .500 record for the second half of the season. Mark Minicozzi carried the offense last year, finishing in the top three in average, home runs and RBIs for the Tornadoes. John Kelly returns to head up a staff that had its share of struggles last season. Kelly is looking to build off a solid season that saw him lead the team in wins and strikeouts. Rick Asadoorian seemed to have separated himself from the other closers on the Tornadoes, as he finished the season with 8 saves and a 1.99 ERA.
7. Sussex Skyhawks (35-56): After beginning the season with an impressive start, the club finished the first half of the 2010 season in third place, making it tough to watch the wheels fall off the bus as the Skyhawks struggled to win 10 games in the second half. Sussex’s offense is centered by powerful outfielder Caleb Stewart, who led the entire Can-Am League with an astounding 88 RBIs last season. Pitching figures to be an issue this season for Sussex, as only starter Jeff Icenogle logged over 100 innings pitched but had an abysmal ERA of 5.62. If pitchers Kevin Gunter and Jared Locke can increase their workload, the Skyhawks should see a sizeable increase in their win total this season.
8. Rockland Boulders (0-0): The Boulders are the new kids on the block in the Can-Am League as 2011 will mark the inaugural season for the franchise. As of this moment, they are currently still in the process of conducting try-outs and filling out their roster for the upcoming season. Fans should anticipate the club to field a competitive team that will look to make an immediate impact during their first season. The unknown surrounding the Boulders can work as an advantage and a disadvantage to the team. An advantage the Boulders will have this season is that since the club is new to the league, their opponents will not be able to scout the Boulders in advance since most of the players on the team will be unknown, as will their tendencies. Of course the obvious disadvantage Rockland will face this upcoming season is featuring players who are unfamiliar with playing professional ball in the Can-Am League. This inexperience could prove to be a hindrance in 2011 for the Rockland Boulders.