OUT OF BOUNDS

As with all good things that eventually end, the 2009 Major League Baseball regular season followed in suit this past weekend for 22 of the league's 30 teams.

For two teams, it came down to the wire, as Minnesota and Detroit needed a 163rd game to decide the American League Central Division race. In the end, the Twins prevailed, winning their division on Tuesday.

As with most seasons, there were some pleasant surprises, such as the Colorado Rockies who overcame a horrific start to win the wild card, and some not-so-pleasant surprises, like the New York Mets who, due to injuries, poor coaching and just plain bad luck, had an awful season.

There were also teams like the Washington Nationals who, well you get the idea.

With a lot of postseason baseball still left to play, it's too early to hand out trophies, but here are a handful of things we can take away from 2009:

First, the Yankees are really good, but Derek Jeter is great.

Despite having the best record in all of baseball, the 2009 team was defined by the play of its captain, not its newly acquired free agents. Jeter led the team in hits, batting average, on-base percentage and steals, not to mention playing in 153 out of 162 games.

Yet Jeter's biggest moment came on Sept. 11 in a game against the Baltimore Orioles when he recorded his 2,722nd career hit, surpassing the immortal Lou Gehrig for the most in Yankees history.

Second, Minnesota's Joe Mauer can flat-out hit.

Three-time All-Star Mauer secured his spot as the best catcher in all of baseball. For the second straight season he was the AL's leading hitter, winning his third batting title in four seasons, as well as hitting 19 more home runs than a year ago.

Mauer is also a Gold Glove catcher with the ability to effectively manage a major league pitching staff, making him the quintessential franchise player. If it were not for St. Louis' Albert Pujols, Mauer may be the leading candidate for the best player in all of baseball. There is one thing that Mauer does have on Pujols though: killer sideburns.

Third, Kansas City's Zack Greinke is a star in the making.

Not that long ago, Greinke took a break from baseball to deal with social anxiety disorder, but returned this year with a season for the ages.

A leading AL Cy Young award candidate, Greinke dominated lineups in 2009, striking out 242 batters and posting a league-leading 2.16 ERA on his way to 16 wins for a last-place team.

Fourth, baseball is just a game.

This year also showed us that even baseball is not devoid of tragedy when 22-year-old Nick Adenhart of the Anaheim Angels was killed in a car accident following his first start of the season.

Adenhart pitched the best game of his life that night, throwing six scoreless innings against the Oakland Athletics before a drunk driver struck the car he was in just hours later.

To memorialize Adenhart, the team carried his jersey to every game and went on to win the AL West by 10 games. You can be sure that Adenhart is on their minds as they begin their playoff run.

Finally, the cloud of the steroid era still looms.

With 2009 came even more steroid implications, as stars like Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were all mentioned in association with the drugs.

At the beginning of the season, A-Rod admitted to using steroids from 2001 to 2003 while with the Texas Rangers.

Several months later, Manny Ramirez was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for using a banned substance. Although he denied ever using steroids after his name was leaked from a 2003 list of alleged drug users, he did apologize for any "distraction" he may have caused.

On the bright side, we seem to be seeing the light at the end of the "steroid era" tunnel. Young stars are giving us hope that the steroid era is fading away and the era of Justin Upton, Adam Jones, Greinke and Mauer has officially begun.

The 2009 MLB regular season was an interesting one. For 22 teams, the offseason is underway and the formula for a 2010 championship is in the making.

For the eight playoff teams, the season in a sense has just begun because it is in October when champions are made.

Maybe this is the year A-Rod finally gets that memo.

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