Awards, milestones, amazing feats and more
Originally Published: September 30, 2007By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com
Whew. What a year.It was a great year to join a club -- as long as it was the 500 Homer Club, the 500 Save Club or the Wildfire Schulte Memorial 20-20-20-20 Club. It was a tremendous year to contemplate all the thrilling cash-register implications of being a 50-homer Bronx Bombardier with an opt-out clause. And it was an especially tremendous year to go off and get your PhD in Baseball Tiebreaker Scenarios. But with the finish line upon us, let's hand out the awards you've waited all year for. The envelopes please ...
National League MVP: Jimmy Rollins, PhilliesWe could easily make a case for Matt Holliday, a guy who is going to have his season unfairly devalued because his home ballpark is a mile above sea level. We could easily make cases for Prince Fielder, particularly if he'd tugged the Brewers into the Octoberfest, and David Wright, who has had a tremendous second half. But after long and tortured deliberation, our vote goes to the 5-foot-8 shortstop who set the tone for the Phillies' wild and crazy season the minute he decreed last winter that they were the team to beat in the NL East. Rollins has blown away the modern NL record for runs scored (139) and extra-base hits (88) by a shortstop. No player at any position has ever matched his combination of runs, hits, doubles, triples, homers and steals in the same season. And he's not just a product of that offensive paradise his team plays in, either. (He has more runs, hits, doubles and RBIs -- and a higher OBP -- on the road.) But here's the real reason to vote for him: His team never would have been in position to make this historic September climb back from oblivion without him. Everybody but the Phanatic went down around him. But Jimmy Rollins kept plugging -- and Sunday he became the first NL shortstop in 34 years to start all 162 games. So he should be sputtering right now. Instead, he's the biggest energizer in the park and the most dependable defensive player on the field. If you take into account every area -- offense and defense, tangibles and intangibles -- it seems to us he's been a more important player (just barely) than Holliday, Fielder or Wright. And that's what that big word of the day, "valuable," means to us. Apologies to: Holliday, Fielder, Wright, Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols, Jake Peavy, Chase Utley, Hanley Ramirez.
American League MVP: Alex Rodriguez, YankeesJudging by the back pages of those indispensable New York tabloids, it's definitely been The Year of A-Rod. And without it, where would the Yankees be next week? Polishing up their fishing rods? Or trying to decide between their lob wedge and sand wedge? They wouldn't be participating in any playoff games. That's for darned sure. So to have a player like A-Rod have a season like this, in the midst of his team's astonishing midseason reincarnation, makes A-Rod the AL's easiest MVP pick in a decade. Only two players in the history of the American League have had this many homers (54), RBIs (156) and runs scored (143) in a season -- and they've been dead for a total of 99 years. That would be Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx. And nobody in any league has ever hit this many homers and stolen 24 bases in the same season. So as stupendous as Magglio Ordonez, Vladimir Guerrero, Jorge Posada and Ichiro Suzuki may have been, we regret to inform them there's no need to clear any space in their trophy rooms. This election was over before it started. Apologies to: Ordonez, Guerrero, Posada, Suzuki, Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, J.J. Putz, Curtis Granderson, Victor Martinez.
National League LVP: Michael Barrett, Cubs/PadresAs free-agent marketing campaigns go, Barrett's walk year ranked right down there with, say, Armando Benitez's. Too bad. Barrett is one amiable fellow, and at least he's always swung the bat a little until this year. But from the moment Carlos Zambrano tried out his Johnny Nitro impression on him in the Cubs' dugout in May, this poor guy's season seemed to avalanche out of control. Lou Piniella couldn't export him out of Chicago fast enough. And the Padres haven't been able to figure out what the heck to do with a guy who missed three weeks with a concussion, has thrown out seven of 40 base stealers, has gone 8 for his last 46 (.174) at the plate and never seems to be involved in any games they actually win. (They're 11-20 when Barrett starts behind the plate -- and 25 games over .500 when anyone else has strapped on those shin guards.) Hard to believe, folks. Sighs of relief for: Marcus Giles, Ray Durham, Andruw Jones.
American League LVP: Richie Sexson, MarinersHe's the seventh-highest paid position player in the whole sport. He makes more moolah ($15.5 million) than Vladimir Guerrero, David Ortiz or Carlos Beltran. And he's definitely one large (6-foot-6), imposing human. So all the Mariners envisioned when they signed Richie Sexson was your basic 40-homer, 120-RBI, middle-of-the-order production. Not too much to ask for $15.5 million a year, right? But what they got instead this year, in a critical season in the life of the franchise, was a little different than that. As in the lowest batting average (.205) of anybody in the big leagues who made it to the plate 300 times. A lower OPS (.694) than Marco Scutaro. A mere 21 homers and 63 RBIs, which are more miniscule numbers in both those departments than, just to pick a name, Ty Wigginton. And a spectacularly disastrous 3-for-45 nightmare against that Angels team the Mariners chased all summer. Yep, 3 for 45. But one thing you have to say for Sexson: At least he was consistent. He hit .205 before the All-Star break -- and .205 after. Sighs of relief for: Josh Barfield, J.D. Drew, Bobby Crosby, Elijah Dukes, Jay Gibbons.
National League Cy Young: Jake Peavy, PadresIf we even need to explain this pick, you've been spending way too much time on your fantasy football roster. But what the heck. We'll explain it anyway. There have been 10 pitching Triple Crown winners since the invention of the Cy Young Award (i.e., pitchers who led their league in wins, strikeouts and ERA). Those Triple Crown authors then went 10-for-10 in the Cy Young voting. And Jake Peavy is about to make it 11-for-11. But here's the crazy part of Peavy's year: You wouldn't think it would be possible for a guy to go 19-6, with a 2.36 ERA, and still be able to say he'd pitched better than his record. But in Peavy's case, that's actually true. This man has had one run or none scored for him, while he was in the game, in nine different starts, (And it would be 12 if we did this less technically and counted the score when he was pinch hit for). So he could easily have 25 wins, maybe more. And he's no Petco Park creation, either, friends. He's been better on the road (10-1, 2.16) than at home (9-5, 2.51). So this is the slam-dunk Cy Young case of the millennium. Apologies to: Brandon Webb, Aaron Harang, Brad Penny, John Smoltz, Takashi Saito.
American League Cy Young: C.C. Sabathia, IndiansAs much as we admire the brilliance of Josh Beckett and John Lackey, and as easily as we could make a case for putting about a half-dozen other pitchers on this ballot somewhere, not one of those men has quite managed to outpitch the human mountain range who should be on the verge of becoming the largest (OK, heaviest) Cy Young winner ever. We're talking, ladies and gentlemen, about 6-foot-7, 260-pounds (give or take 50) Carsten Charles Sabathia. And for those who have their doubts about this choice, let's subtract wins and losses from the argument and look at Sabathia versus Beckett and Lackey. True, Lackey leads the league in ERA, and Beckett has a better strikeout rate. But check these categories: Starts of seven innings-plus: Sabathia 24, Lackey 19, Beckett 15. Starts allowing no more than two earned runs in six-plus innings: Sabathia 19, Beckett 15, Lackey 15. Innings pitched: Sabathia (241 innings) led Lackey by 17 and Beckett by 40. Then there's Sabathia's amazing 5.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio (209-37), the best by any left-handed pitcher in American League history. But the clincher is the way Sabathia kept outdueling those other AL Central aces down the stretch, especially his 3-0, 1.64 record in three late-season starts against Johan Santana. There has never been a 260-pound Cy Young winner, let alone one whose first name would be unrecognizable to 99 percent of all living Americans. But six weeks from now, unless there's a massive miscarriage of voting justice, we won't be able to say that anymore. Apologies to: Beckett, Lackey, Fausto Carmona, Johan Santana, J.J. Putz, Erik Bedard.
National League Cy Yuk: Kip Wells, CardinalsTough call here between the Kipper and Adam Eaton, a fellow who compiled the highest ERA (6.29) since 1894 by a pitcher who had a .500 record and made at least 30 starts. But in the end, we looked at it this way: Eaton was signed by the Phillies to be a back-of-the-rotation starter. And that's what he was, although not a real reliable one. Wells, on the other hand, was signed by the Cardinals to be (gulp) their No. 2 starter. He was their biggest starting-pitching addition of the winter, a man who would come to St. Louis and finally harness his always-photogenic stuff. But that's not quite how it worked out. By the time the Cardinals yanked him out of the rotation, Wells was 6-17, with a 5.81 ERA (5-17, 6.27 as a starter), and had allowed at least six runs in more starts (nine) than any pitcher in the league. So in another tight Cy Yuk field, our vote went to the pitcher who did more to foul up his team's season than anyone else we considered. Cys of relief for: Eaton, Anthony Reyes, Guillermo Mota, Jason Jennings, Rick VandenHurk, Scott Olsen, Chris Capuano.
American League Cy Yuk: Horacio Ramirez, MarinersIf we were sitting around the old corner saloon, debating the Ugliest Trade of the Year award, it wouldn't be a long debate. We could stop the conversation as soon as we got to the deal that sent Ramirez from Atlanta to Seattle last winter for Rafael Soriano. While Soriano was allowing the lowest on-base percentage in the National League among pitchers who worked as many innings as he did, Ramirez led his league in a slightly less prestigious department: highest ERA (7.16). In fact, he had the worst ERA in the big leagues among men who pitched more than 80 innings. Somehow, thanks to the miracle of run support, Ramirez finished with a winning record (8-7). But that just allowed him to sidle alongside Colby Lewis as the only starting pitchers in history to have ERAs over 7.00 and still win more than they lost. It isn't often we find a Cy Yuk candidate with these kinds of credentials: an 8.70 road ERA, more walks (42) than strikeouts (40) and a .417 opponent average/.696 slugging/.481 OBP with men in scoring position. So this case is now just as closed as that Ugliest Trade of the Year debate. Cys of relief for: Jeff Weaver, Bartolo Colon, Cliff Lee, Vicente Padilla, Casey Fossum.
Special Bi-Leagueal Cy Yuk: Mike Maroth, Tigers/CardinalsMaroth was actually reasonably respectable (5-2, 5.06) when he was still in Detroit. But he did allow 133 baserunners in 78 1/3 innings, which turned out to be a clear portent of things to come. After he got to St. Louis, he took it to another plateau, though, compiling the highest ERA (10.66) and highest WHIP (2.37 baserunners per inning) by any Cardinals pitcher since 1897. Here's what clinched him this award, however: After Brandon Webb reached 42 straight innings without allowing a run, we went looking for the anti-Brandon Webb -- and found that in Maroth's last 42 innings, he'd allowed (no kidding) 53 runs. We still can't believe that happened in real life. Bi-Leagueal Cys of relief for: Jose Mesa, Rick White.
National League Rookie of the Year: Ryan Braun, BrewersWe've gone back and forth on the merits of Braun versus Colorado's dynamic Troy Tulowitzki for a couple of weeks now. So now that our head is officially pounding, we've concluded there's not even a true correct answer. Tulowitzki has had a historic defensive season, accumulating more assists than any shortstop since Ozzie Smith. But Braun had a historic offensive season, wiping out Ted Williams' record for most homers in a season by players who debuted as late in the year (May 25) as he did. It's amazing how close their numbers are in departments like total bases (Braun 286, Tulowitzki 284), multihit games (47 apiece), RBIs (Braun 97, Tulowitzki 98) and on-base percentage (Braun .370, Tulowitzki .357). But if Baseball Prospectus' Value Over Replacement Player rankings are any guide, they rank Braun No. 18 in the big leagues (right behind Vlad Guerrero) and Tulowitzki 52nd. And we keep coming back to a couple of things: (1) Since Braun's first game, he almost as high of a slugging percentage (.634) as A-Rod (.630), more extra-base hits (67) than Curtis Granderson (54) and 34 more RBIs (97) than Todd Helton (63). And (2) this guy got dropped into the No. 3 hole in the lineup of a first-place team in his third day in the big leagues. "And you know what was more impressive?" says hitting coach Jim Skaalen. "He thought he belonged there." Apologies to: Tulowitzki, Hunter Pence, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Chris Young, Josh Hamilton, Tim Lincecum, Yovani Gallardo and a stellar cast of dozens.
American League Rookie of the Year: Dustin Pedroia, Red SoxAt any given point in any given month this season, you could have talked us into a vote for Daisuke Matsuzaka, Brian Bannister, Jeremy Guthrie or Hideki Okajima. But there's something fitting about the way the long-underrated Pedroia has outlasted and outperformed them all. When he gimped out of April hitting .182 and slugging .236, it's a miracle he wasn't banished to Pawtucket for the next four months. But since May 1, you'd have a tough time distinguishing Pedroia's numbers (.333. .389 OBP, .467 SLG, 36 doubles, 81 runs scored) from Derek Jeter's (.319, .386, .454, 36 doubles, 84 runs). And in case anybody's wondering, that's a compliment. Plus there's something you can't help but love about fire-breathing dirtballs who care way more about winning than about trophies. Pedroia may not have been the Red Sox rookie with his own 175-member international media entourage this spring, but six months later, there's no doubt he's the Red Sox rookie who most deserves a rookie of the year award. Apologies to: Matsuzaka, Delmon Young, Bannister, Okajima, Guthrie, Joakim Soria.
Managers of the Year: Bob Melvin, Diamondbacks, and Mike Scioscia, AngelsHow does a team go into the last weekend of the season with the best record in its league, even though it has gotten outscored for the year, scored almost 200 fewer runs than the Phillies, had Randy Johnson for only 10 starts all season and starts a lineup consisting of Eric Byrnes and seven people that nobody in Nebraska has ever heard of? That's called managing, friends. Meanwhile, this year reminded us again that no manager makes a greater imprint on the on-field and off-field personality of his team than Scioscia. This team doesn't hit homers, doesn't walk, doesn't make the big trade, doesn't conform to all the trendy sabermetric trends of our time. Yet it's a team no one wants to deal with in October. That, too, is called managing. Apologies to: Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella, Clint Hurdle, Manny Acta, Joe Torre, Eric Wedge, Terry Francona, Jim Leyland.
Top five injuries of the year• Fifth prize (killer ZZZs division): Didn't your mom always tell you to be careful about where you close your eyes? Mariners outfielder Raul Ibanez must have missed that pearl of wisdom. He was out for a week in May after he hurt his back, somehow or other, trying to catch some sleep on a plane. • Fourth prize (coaching can be hazardous division): No wonder managers and coaches spend so much time at the ballpark. It isn't safe outside those walls. Ask Brewers manager Ned Yost. He tried jogging to Wrigley Field one day -- only to trip over a patch of loose concrete and break his collarbone. Or ask Devil Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey. He went out golfing -- and got attacked by his own golf shot. It missed the fairway, caromed off a curb and drilled him in the eyebrow. He needed surgery for a detached retina. • Third prize (ifs, ands or butts division): Some maladies are tougher to describe than others. So no wonder the Nationals struggled to come up with just the right words to categorize a June injury to reliever Jesus Colome. It was first described as "a soft tissue injury in a lower right extremity." Later, though, they amended that to report that Colome was suffering (and boy, was he ever) from a (yikes) "abscess on his right buttock" that deposited him in a hospital for more than a week. "It's a serious situation," GM Jim Bowden told The Washington Post's Barry Svrluga. "We pray for his buttocks and his family." • Second prize (license to grill division): The heck with all those home run milestones. We're pretty sure 2007 produced an all-time record for most barbecue injuries. Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand missed two games in July after "tweaking" his back while playing tag with a bunch of neighborhood kids at a postgame barbecue. Meanwhile, Cubs reliever Bobby Howry's back also lost a barbecue-related battle -- when he wrenched it trying to carry a gas grill across his patio. But amazingly, neither of those guys won the gold medal in the barbecue-mishap triathlon. Pirates pitcher Ian Snell seared away with that prestigious honor in June -- when a routine chicken-grilling expedition went amiss and he burned the tip of his index finger, forcing him to miss a start. Luckily for him, Tom Gorzelanny took his place, beat the Mariners and told the Beaver County Times' John Perrotto afterward: "Ian owes me dinner for this -- takeout. • First prize (don't mess with Bud Black division): We've chronicled hundreds of bizarre and innovative injuries here at Year in Review. But we've never, ever chronicled one quite as bizarre or innovative as Milton Bradley's torn ACL. Anybody ever heard of a player getting hurt while arguing with an umpire? We haven't. Anybody ever heard of a player injuring himself in a tangle with his own manager? We haven't. But Bradley wrapped both of those unprecedented feats into one surreal mishap last weekend, and knocked himself out for the rest of this season (and a chunk of next season) in the process. If the WWE doesn't put in a call this winter to Bud (Bam-Bam) Black for a guest WrestleMania appearance, somebody is asleep at the switch. • Bonus injury of the year (distinguished spectator division): How important was it to some folks to witness those historic Barry Bonds home runs? Well, as The San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman reports, it was so darned important to Steve Sockolov, the grown son of one member of the Giants' ownership group, that even flying bats couldn't pry him out of his seat. He was sitting in that seat Aug. 6 when Bengie Molina lost the grip on his bat. Which then soared into the stands and conked Socklov in the head area, breaking his nose and clavicle. But when paramedics arrived and told him he needed treatment, Sockolov resisted. Why? Because he didn't want to miss Bonds' 756th home run. Why else? (Barry was one away at the time.) • Bonus injury No. 2 (order of the Moose division): Is Geiko offering mascot insurance? Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp hopped out of the dugout in Seattle on Aug. 5 -- and promptly got drilled in the knee by the Mariner Moose mobile, driven by said Moose. Luckily for moose impersonators everywhere, Crisp saw the Moose mobile coming at the last moment and veered away from an antler-first hit. So whew. No harm, no foul. Crisp even told The Seattle Times' Steve Kelley he'd be happy to go grab lunch with the Moose next time he was in town. "Maybe," he said, "I'll have some moose jerky." • Bonus No. 3 (most innovative noninjury excuse for missing time): Anybody who changed teams as often as Tigers/Braves/Padres pitcher Wilfredo Ledezma this year needed a visa more than most people. But that turned into a slight problem for Ledezma in July. He headed home to Venezuela for the All-Star break and broke International Travel Rule No. 1: Never put your visa through the laundry. That unfortunate bout with the rising tide of detergent left him visaless and stuck in Venezuela. So the Braves had to put him on the restricted list for a whole week because of what GM John Schuerholz called a "washing incident." The Braves were so delighted, they spin-cycled him off to the Padres a week and a half after his return.
Box score lines of the yearBox score line of the millennium (one and done division): When historians look back on the Houston Astros' Jason Jennings Era, there's a good chance they're not going to rank it with, say, The Nolan Ryan Era. Or The Bagwell-Biggio Era. Or even The Jim Deshaies Era. And once those historians are through picking apart the dubious three-for-one trade that made Jennings an Astro in the first place, they'll turn to this poor guy's July 29 start against the Padres as Exhibit A in their what-a-mess portfolio. Fasten your seat belts: 2/3 IP, 8 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 2 HR, 39 pitches to give up 11 runs. So where does this one rate on the list of all-time box score train wrecks? Here goes: Jennings was the first pitcher in modern history to give up 11 earned runs without getting three outs. ... He was the second pitcher since 1897 to give up 11 runs in the first inning. ... And he was the first pitcher in 113 years, as best we can tell, to give up 11 earned runs in the first inning. Quote of the day (from the victim himself): "I was embarrassed for my teammates to be out on the field." Mathematical impossibility division
• Oakland's Kiko Calero, July 12 in Minnesota: 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 pitch. How'd that happen? How does a guy throw one pitch, give up a hit and still pitch 2/3 of an inning? Simple. Torii Hunter singled into a double play. That's how. Justin Morneau got thrown out trying to go from first to third. Then Hunter got nailed trying to make it to second on the throw. • Philadelphia's Antonio Alfonseca, July 29 in Pittsburgh: 1 K, 1 pitch. How'd that happen? Yeah, it's still three strikes, and you're out, even in Pittsburgh. But Alfonseca had to come in after an injury to reliever Ryan Madson, whereupon he inherited a 1-2 count and struck out Jason Bay with the next pitch. • Atlanta's Chipper Jones, July 29 in Arizona: 1 AB, 0 R, 1 H, 5 RBIs, 0 HR, 0 BB. How'd that happen? How does a guy accumulate five RBIs in a 1-for-1 day without a walk or a homer? He thumps a three-run double and two sacrifice flies. How else? It's the first 1-0-1-5 line of the past half-century, in case you were curious. Mystery pitcher division
In a season in which six different position players were allowed to head for the old pitcher's mound, we have lots of tremendous mystery-pitcher heroes to choose from. But only one of those men got to pitch twice. So here's to Cardinals do-it-all utility wiz Aaron Miles. And here are his two dazzling pitching adventures:
- • The good news: Aug. 4 vs. Washington -- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K.
• The bad news: Sept. 20 vs. Houston -- 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HR (to Astros rookie J.R. Towles).
More spectacular box score highlights• Milwaukee's Manny Parra, Aug. 30 vs. the Cubs: 3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, in what was (seriously) the first 3-3-3-3-3-3 line by any starting pitcher since Sonny Siebert unfurled one for the A's against Texas on Aug. 5, 1978. And did we mention the score when Parra left was (naturally) 3-3? • Yankees rookie Edwar Ramirez, July 20 vs. Tampa Bay: 0 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 0 K, 19 pitches and just 2 strikes -- one of which was cranked for a grand slam by noted .179 hitter Dioner Navarro. • Cincinnati's Phil Dumatrait, Sept. 9 vs. Milwaukee: 0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3 HR (to the first three hitters he faced). How often do you see a starter unfurl a three-homer, zero-out line? How about one other time in the past 50 years -- by the Yankees' Wade Blasingame on June 27, 1972. • Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo, Aug. 8 in Colorado: 2 2/3 IP, 12 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 HR and a minus-12 game score (the only minus-12 of the year, according to baseball-reference.com). • Philadelphia's Jamie Moyer, July 16 vs. the Dodgers: 5 1/3 IP, 10 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 2 BB, 4K, 2 HR, in a game that made Moyer (at 44 years, 240 days old) the oldest pitcher in the past half-century to give up 10 runs in a game. • The White Sox's Mark Buehrle, July 23 vs. the Tigers: 6 1/3 IP, 14 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR. Since Buehrle also had a slightly more attractive box score classic this year (9-0-0-0-1-8), he became the first man to pitch a no-hitter and a 14-hitter in the same season since Steve Busby in 1974. • Oakland's Lenny DiNardo, June 5 vs. the Red Sox: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 BB, 0 K. Let's see now. Six walks, no strikeouts and no runs? How hard is it to do all that in an outing that long? Must be tough. Only one other pitcher in the past 30 years (Omar Olivares, in 1999) has done it. • And don't forget Yankees rookie Chase Wright, April 22 in his second career start: 3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K and (in the lead story on Action News) 4 HR in a row. Counting his time in the minor leagues, Wright had given up four home runs to the previous 673 hitters he'd faced -- and then allowed four in 10 pitches. Hard to do!
More spectacular offensive box score lines• Garret Anderson, Aug. 21 vs. the Yankees: 6 AB, 3 R, 4 H, 10 RBI, 2 HR, 2 doubles. Anderson's coolest feat? He pulled off the RBI cycle, by driving in one, two, three and four runs with his four hits. The only other player in the past 50 years with one of those RBI cycles: A-Rod, on April 26, 2005. • Diamondbacks pitcher Micah Owings, Aug. 18 in Atlanta: 5 AB, 3 R, 4 H, 6 RBI, 2 HR, 1 double. Just to pick one active player who has never had that many hits, homers, extra-base hits and RBIs in the same game, here's a name: Barry Bonds. • That very same Micah Owings, Sept. 27 in Pittsburgh: 4 AB, 1 R, 4 H, 3 RBI, 3 doubles. So that makes Owings the first pitcher with two four-hit games in one season since Whitey Ford in 1953. And it gives him more four-hit games that included three extra-base hits, just in the last two months, than David Ortiz, Ryan Howard or Gary Sheffield has had in his entire career. • Prince Fielder, April 10 vs. the Marlins: 4 AB, 0 R, 4 H, 1 RBI, 3 BB. So what's so tough about that? How about reaching base seven times in one game -- and not scoring a run. Fielder was just the fifth player to do that in the past 50 years. • Milwaukee's Bill Hall, during Justin Verlander's June 12 no-hitter: 0 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 0 RBI, 3 BB. After way too much research, we determined that Hall was only the second man since 1900 to play a whole game during an opponent's no-hitter, come to bat at least three times and not make an out. The other: Dale Long, for the Pirates, against the Cubs' Sad Sam Jones, on May 12, 1955. • The Angels' Chone Figgins, June 18 against the Astros: 6 AB, 1 R, 6 H, 3 RBI, 1 walk-off triple. Figgins was the first player to end a 6-for-6 game with a walk-off hit of any kind since Jim Northrop in 1969. "I don't think I've gone 6-for-6 in a video game, let alone a big league game," he said.
Blowout of the yearHe stood there on the field at Camden Yards, staring at the scoreboard. But no matter how many times Kevin Millar looked, the incomprehensible numbers on that board just refused to change. Rangers 30, Orioles 3. "I kept thinking about the announcers all over the country giving the scores during their games," the Orioles' first baseman told Year in Review after the most lopsided baseball game of modern times. "They had to be saying, '30-3? That's gotta be a misprint.'" Yeah, well, they may have said that. And they may have thought that. But that was no misprint. This game really happened, on Aug. 22, in actual life. And we're still trying to digest it all. Four Orioles pitchers gave up six, seven, eight and nine runs apiece -- the first time four pitchers on one team had ever allowed six-plus earned runs in the same game. The Orioles' bullpen gave up 24 (yep, 24) earned runs in this game -- a record for any bullpen, any time, any place, any season. The Rangers' No. 3 hitter, Michael Young, drove in none of his team's 30 runs. But the Rangers' eighth and ninth hitters, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez, knocked in seven apiece -- the first time any 8-9 hitters had ever done anything like that in the same game. The Rangers hadn't scored 30 runs in any series in their past 54 series, then scored 30 in one game. They hadn't scored 16 runs in any of their previous 372 games, then put up 16 just in the last two innings. And they somehow scored those 30 runs in a game in which they had more innings in which they didn't score (five) than innings in which they did (four). "The thing that's unbelievable," Millar said, "is that I didn't pitch in that game. And Paul Bako didn't pitch in that game. And Jay Payton didn't pitch in that game. Those were major league pitchers we used in that game. And it just didn't end." Well, it did eventually. But it couldn't end until the Orioles had trotted back to their dugout after the top of the ninth, down by 27 runs. We'd like you to take a second and imagine that scene, a team about to go hit, trying to make up a 27-run deficit. "I mean, what do you say?" Millar wondered. "Do you say, 'OK, guys, let's hit four grand slams -- and we'll only be losing by 11?'" Good question. How would you know what to say? Or what to do? Or how to act? It's not like anyone has ever found himself in a spot like that -- down 27 ... um, or have they? "The last time I was on a team that gave up 30, I was playing high school football," Millar laughed. "Our secondary defense was terrible that night."
Scrimmages of the yearBut that 30-3 game wasn't the only time this year when we wanted to call in Mike Ditka to figure out what the heck just happened. Here are our two other favorite no-huddle extravaganzas: • July 6: The Twins became the first team since 1939 to score 32 runs in one day, squashing the White Sox in a day-nighter, 20-14 and 12-0. Asked what it was like to play in that 20-14 game, Torii Hunter told Year in Review: "It was the Bears and the Vikings is what it was." • July 21-22: The Yankees pounded the Devil Rays in back-to-back games, 17-5 and 21-4. Those 38 runs the Rays allowed in two straight games were the most coughed up by an American League staff since the '53 Tigers. And the 38 the Yankees scored were the most by any Yankees lineup since 1936. In the Yankees' last 19 possessions (er, half-innings), 64 of the 118 men they sent to the plate reached base. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon's exhausted postgame review: "Their offensive line wore us down."
Milestone men of the yearIt was The Year of the Round Number. It was The Year Barry Passed Hank. It was a year when it sometimes seemed as if history came flying off the TV screen at you every 20 minutes. Craig Biggio got his 3,000th hit -- and became the first man to do it in a game in which he also got four other hits. A-Rod smoked his 500th homer -- and got there at age 32. Which was four years, eight months younger than Barry Bonds was when he reached 500. Jim Thome hit No. 500. Frank Thomas hit No. 500. Sammy Sosa returned from the land of the lost to hit No. 600. Tom Glavine won No. 300 -- and became just the fourth left-handed pitcher to do that in the live-ball era. Roger Clemens won No. 350 -- and became the first right-handed pitcher to do that in the live-ball era. And Trevor Hoffman joined the 500 Save Club -- a club that consists of no one on earth except him. And, lest we forget, there was Barry. He finally bashed No. 756, on Aug. 7 at AT&T Park. Washington's Mike Bacsik -- a pitcher whose father had once faced Hank Aaron when Aaron was sitting on 755 homers -- was the victim. The commissioner of baseball missed the party. Aaron taped a video for the JumboTron. And the new record-holder announced afterward: "This record is not tainted. At all. At all. Period." OK then. Cleared that up. We've never had a season in the history of the sport during which that many milestones of that significance arrived practically at once. But it wasn't merely overwhelming. It was also, well, time-consuming. "All I know is, there was a lot of game stoppage," Dodgers coach/witticist Rich Donnelly told Year in Review. "I think there was a total of 7½ hours of game stoppage [to honor all those feats]. And that's a lot of time, isn't it? That's a lot of extra Dodger Dogs. "You know, there was a lot of good TV on this summer, and a lot of people missed their shows, because they were watching a game and they kept stopping it. Every time you looked up, they were stopping the game. We had a guy ground out to second for the 48th time the other night. They even stopped the game for that. "And I've got to admit. I don't understand why we keep stopping the games in the middle. When you're in the middle of watching an Academy Award movie, they don't stop the movie and hand out the Academy Award, do they? So I don't get this. Don't get me wrong. They're all great accomplishments. But I think if we're going to keep having this, we should honor them in their proper place -- in January."
Crazy eight of the yearSo who was the only National Leaguer to drive in eight runs in a game this year? Ryan Howard? Nope. Albert Pujols? Sorry. Matt Holliday? 'Fraid not. Of course, it was September Astros call-up J.R. Towles, a fellow who had just finished driving in exactly two runs in his entire 13-game tour of Triple-A. But on Sept. 20, he knocked in eight in a mere four at-bats against the Cardinals. "What are the odds of a guy like that having the best night all year by anybody in the league?" mused Astros broadcast humorist Jim Deshaies. "It was like signing a guy to a 10-day contract in the NBA -- and he comes in and scores 50."
Our five favorite goofy moments of the yearThe real hidden-ball trick: June 22, Indians vs. Nationals. Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman tried to field a ground ball by Franklin Guttierez, only to have the baseball hop right between a couple of buttons and land inside his shirt. "It was kind of like the Twilight Zone," Zimmerman told Year in Review. "I know I couldn't do that if I tried to do it, anyway." But first baseman Dmitri Young said this just proved his longtime theory about how Zimmerman makes all those acrobatic plays at third. "I think he has a magnet inside him that just sucks up balls," Young said. The 3:32 a.m. classic: Aug. 24 (and 25), Yankees vs. Tigers. Thanks to the miracle of a four-hour rain delay, extra innings and a 4-hour, 32-minute game, the Yankees and Tigers got the thrill of becoming the first AL teams in history to find themselves still playing baseball at 3:32 a.m. OK, so maybe "thrill" isn't the right word. Fortunately, Carlos Guillen ended it with a middle-of-the-night walk-off homer. Which at least enabled everybody to get to bed around dawn. "You know, as my eyelids were shutting, the sun was coming up," Tigers coach Andy Van Slyke told Year in Review. "So as one was coming up, the other was going down." The unassisted trifecta: April 29, Rockies vs. Braves. Rockies shortstop dynamo Troy Tulowitzki had more assists this year than any shortstop since Ozzie Smith. But he wasn't too bad at accumulating putouts, either. On this day, he pulled off the 12th unassisted triple play in history. But what made it such a classic video moment is that, after tagging Edgar Renteria for the third out, he fired the baseball to first baseman Todd Helton for ... uh ... what exactly? "I guess," Tulowitzki confessed, "I was trying to be the first person to get four outs." The sliding drill: June 5, Phillies vs. Mets. It's always inspirational to see a blooper video come to life. So by that standard, Pat Burrell's adventures on the bases in this game were a thing of YouTube beauty. Burrell thought he'd just romped from first to third on an Aaron Rowand single, except a funny thing happened when he'd finished sliding into third: He found Chase Utley already on third. So Burrell popped up, scrambled back toward second, got stuck in a rundown, U-turned and wound up sliding into third a second time. Which Utley decided had to constitute baseball history. "You know," he told The Philadelphia Inquirer's Todd Zolecki, "I've never seen a guy slide twice into third base on the same play." The wildest pitch ever: April 21, Nationals vs. Marlins. It isn't every day a pitcher can wind up, throw a pitch and have it land in the stands between the plate and first base. But Nationals rookie Matt Chico did that in this game -- all because he lost the handle on a changeup and entered it in the Wildest Pitch of All Time Derby. That inspired Year in Review to ask catcher Brian Schneider and first baseman Dmitri Young which one had a better chance of catching the pitch. Young's reply: Neither of them. "Dontrelle Willis had a better chance of catching it than I did," Young chuckled. "And he was in the on-deck circle."
The five funniest quotes of the year• Fifth prize: From an unnamed baseball executive, on the Pirates' mysterious trade deadline deal to acquire Matt Morris -- and every penny of the $12 million he had left on his contract: "That move is so far out of left field, it's in the Monongahela." • Fourth prize: The Reds' interim manager, Pete Mackanin, told the Dayton Daily News' Hal McCoy the first thing he planned to do in the offseason, whether he gets the job full-time or not, is take his wife on a five-week trip to Europe. "If I get this job, we'll stay in Five-Star hotels," he said. "If I don't, we'll stay in youth hostels." • Third prize: After 106 games of mediocrity, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa resurrected his favorite innovation sensation, by letting his pitchers bat eighth instead of ninth. While their record didn't change much, and the offense didn't score a whole lot more, at least the pitchers' ERA went down. Asked by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel if the staff was inspired by the higher spot in the order, pitcher Adam Wainwright replied: "Nah. We all want to bat third or fourth." • Second prize: After Phillies speedster Ryan Howard finally stole the first base of his career, following his 1,572nd plate appearance, we asked him if this means he now has the green light. "Uh, more like a blinking yellow," he said. • First prize: From legendary quote machine Andy Van Slyke, to Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler, after Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman beat out a heart-pounding infield single for the first hit of his career: "I've never seen an athlete get to first base hyperventilating. Even a poker player should be able to run 90 feet without hyperventilating. I thought I was going to have to revive him. I told him, 'I know CPR, but I'm not going to perform it on you.'"
Top three Ichiro quotes of the year (courtesy of the Seattle Times' Larry Stone)No one in baseball puts thoughts into words more eloquently than the one, the only Ichiro Suzuki. The evidence please: • Third prize: On whether he thought, after his team's 14th loss in 16 games, that his teammates were pressing: "I don't even comprehend that word. ... If someone did 100 sprints before games, then maybe he'd be pressing, but there's no such idiots on this team." • Second prize: On the Mariners' crazy schedule, which caused them to make three first-half trips to Cleveland because of a four-game April snowout: "If I ever saw myself saying I'm excited going to Cleveland, I'd punch myself in the face, because I'm lying." • First prize: On the prospect of facing his countryman, Daisuke Matsuzaka, for the first time in the big leagues: "I hope he arouses the fire that's dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul. I plan to face him with the zeal of a challenger."
Top three Joe Maddon-isms (courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times' Marc Topkin)If the Devil Rays ever get to be any good, here's our prediction: Their manager, the ever-erudite Joe Maddon, is going to zoom to fame as a magnetic, 21st-century cross between Casey Stengel and Dan Quisenberry. A few recent examples of Maddon's wit and wisdom: • Third prize: After watching the Rays' biggest bopper, Carlos Pena, hit two balls off those pesky Tropicana Field catwalks in the same game, both of which fell to earth just behind Twins second baseman Luis Castillo: "That's the Rays version of the infield hit." • Second prize: After losing to Blue Jays pitcher -- and former Devil Rays bat boy -- Jesse Litsch: "We cannot permit that to ever happen again. I'm going to have all of our present bat boys throw a bullpen session tomorrow, just to see what we have going on here." • First prize: On the Devil Rays' unique flair for making sure their hitting and pitching were never good at the same time: "I guess our biscuits and gravy are a little convoluted at this point. However, we'll develop the proper recipe at some point, and we'll use the correct seasoning, and eventually we'll have the culinary answer to this dilemma."
The Lou and Ozzie showThat sound you heard all summer, emanating from the shores of Lake Michigan, was the sound of Chicago's two quote-machine managers, Ozzie Guillen and Lou Piniella, spinning off their unforgettable pearls. It was tough picking just three from this season, but after weeding out the quotes we'd have had to bleep anyway, we settled on these three: • Third prize: From Ozzie, on trying to write out a lineup card with a team that forgot how to hit: "I had tears in my eyes when I was doing the lineup. I can even hit in this lineup." • Second prize From Ozzie, after his team arrived in Tampa Bay, fresh off 56 strikeouts in their last five games, and learned the Devil Rays were offering a promotion promising fans a free pizza if the visitors struck out 10 times that night: "I'm going to buy a ticket. I feel bad for the people donating the pizzas. They're probably going to go out of business." • First prize From Lou, after issuing a bases-filling intentional walk for Dmitri Young, who promptly hit a grand slam: "We tried to set up the double play. But the shortstop doesn't play in the bullpen."
Late night quote of the yearNo. 9 on David Letterman's list of Top 10 Britney Spears Excuses: "I haven't been myself since Phil Rizzuto died." Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.
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