A certainly wild and wacky first half
Crazy injuries, nutty box-score lines, no-hitters all over the place and much more
Any time a guy needs surgery after taking off his shirt, 36 consecutive zeroes bust out on the same scoreboard and a catcher gets run over at the plate twice after a grand slam, you know it's been our kind of half-season. So let's rewind the highlight reel. Here come the best and worst of 2010:
Injuries of the Half-Year
First prize: A lot of bizarre injuries have made this list over the years. And a lot of bizarre stuff has happened to the Angels over the past half-century. But we still can't believe that our very own eyeballs witnessed the sight of their best hitter actually breaking his leg trying to jump on home plate after a walk-off grand slam. Well, it happened to poor Kendry Morales on May 29. And walk-off hoopla may never be the same. Of course, that's a good thing. Now if we could just ban those shaving-cream pies.
Second prize: Has there ever been a year when hitting a home run was this hazardous to the health of the hitters? Orioles bopper Luke Scott sure doesn't think so. He blew out his hamstring roaring around first base while trying to run out a June 30 homer he wasn't sure was gone. So he wound up taking 35.76 seconds to stagger around the bases. And that's the slowest trot of the season, according to the trot-timer geniuses at wezen-ball.com. You can find Scott's dramatic base-by-base splits here, believe it or not. But it'll be a while before he can work on smoothing out his next trot, because he's been on the disabled list ever since. Scott's reaction to all this, to the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly: "It sucks. I am glad the ball went out. But this is frustrating."
Third prize: We bet you thought the worst thing that could happen to you while putting on a shirt was popping a button. Tell it to lovable Astros utility dynamo Geoff Blum. He popped his elbow last week while slipping on his shirt after a game -- and wound up needing arthroscopic elbow surgery. Obviously, the shirt didn't cause the chips and loose bodies to show up in his elbow. But you can never discount the Revenge of the Fashion Police at times like this. Former Astros pitching great and current broadcast-wit Jim Deshaies told Half-Year in Review he only used to worry about chips while removing his shirt: "When I took off my shirt," Deshaies reported, "the only chips they found were a half-eaten bag of Lays Potato Chips."
Special injury citation: Here's what kind of year it's been in Baltimore: The Orioles had a guy hit a home run (that's good), only to have him pull a hamstring 100 feet into his trot (that's bad). And they innocently set out to film a promotional commercial (that's good), only to have one of their best pitchers (Brad Bergesen) hurt his shoulder by throwing too many pitches -- at game speed (that's bad). OK, the commercial shoot actually took place in December. But Bergesen now has a 6.40 ERA and hasn't been the same since. "The production company that came in wanted it to be as realistic as possible," Bergesen told the Sun. "And I was trying to please." Wow. Find this team some stunt doubles!
Honorable mention: Yet another home run injury: Cardinals pitcher Brad Penny strained a lat muscle while hitting a May 21 grand slam, and hasn't thrown a pitch since. Phillies reliever Ryan Madson had to spend two months on the disabled list after blowing a save, drop-kicking an innocent folding chair and breaking a toe. Andre Ethier did a number on his Triple Crown ambitions by somehow fracturing his finger during batting practice. Two different Pittsburgh second basemen (Bobby Crosby and Neil Walker) wound up with concussions after running into two different right fielders. And Cardinals infielder Felipe Lopez had to visit the disabled list after aggravating his elbow while pitching -- in that already legendary 20-inning game with the Mets. (Much more on that shortly.)
Box-Score Lines of the Half-Year
• First prize: After 684 trips to the mound over 24 seasons, you might have thought Jamie Moyer had spun every kind of box-score line he could spin. Nope. He never spun one like his June 11 line in Fenway:
1 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR, 6 doubles, 61 pitches to get 3 outs
Claim to fame: So how many other pitchers in the past half-century have had a game with twice as many doubles as outs? That would be none.
• Second prize: We could devote a whole section of this column just to Edwin Jackson's box-score lines this year. But here's one, from April 27 in Colorado, that might have been even crazier than his eight-BB no-hitter:
2 1/3 IP, 11 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 55 pitches to get 7 outs
Claim to fame: Who knew that two months later, Jackson would become just the eighth pitcher -- and only the second National Leaguer -- in the live-ball era to pitch a no-hitter and give up 10 runs in a game in the same season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau? The only other NL pitcher to do it: Ramon Martinez, in 1995.
• Third prize: If this is the end of Dontrelle Willis' career, it's still hard to comprehend what a disaster his final three seasons were. Not just three straight seasons of more walks than strikeouts, but more walks plus hit batters (126) than innings (123 1/3) over that span. Here's his most mind-boggling start of 2010 -- June 23 against the Yankees:
2 1/3 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 7 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, just 27 strikes in 66 pitches
Claim to fame: This was the second seven-walk, one-hit start of Willis' career. The only other active pitcher with more than one: (who else?) Oliver Perez. If you add Jackson's eight-walk no-hitter three days later, the Diamondbacks became the first NL team in 19 years to have two different pitchers crank out pitching lines that included seven or more walks and one or no hits in the same season. They were the first since the 1991 Phillies (Jose DeJesus and Tommy Greene).
Box-Score Lines of the Half-Year -- Tag-Team Dept.
• First prize: It isn't every day you see a starting pitcher give up eight runs -- and then see the pitcher who relieves him give up more runs. But the Braves pulled that off April 12 in an insane 17-2 loss to the Padres:
Claim to fame: So when was the most recent time a starting pitcher gave up that many runs and the guy who relieved him gave up more runs? How 'bout more than 17,000 games ago, when Ben Diggins (8 R) and Andrew Lorraine (9 R) did it for the Brewers on Sept. 2, 2002.
• Second prize: The White Sox came out of spring training thinking they had a bullpen full of swing-and-miss relievers. They weren't kidding. Check out the strikeout column of the five pitchers they used in their April 15 game in Toronto:
Freddy Garcia: 3 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
Randy Williams: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
Sergio Santos: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
J.J. Putz: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Scott Linebrink: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Claims to fame: You won't be shocked to learn that, according to Elias, this was the first nine-inning game in modern history (1900-present) in which five different pitchers for one team rolled up at least three strikeouts (let alone exactly three). Elias reports this was also the first game since 1900 in which a team racked up its last nine outs on strikeouts -- and had three different pitchers divide them at three apiece. Craziness!
• Third prize: Could a team possibly get two more diametrically opposite box-score lines from its starting pitchers than the Nationals did from Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis on April 17 and 18 against the Brewers? A shutout one day -- and a starting-pitching meltdown that led to 10 runs in the first inning the next. Check out these lines:
Hernandez: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
Marquis: 0 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2 HBP, 28 pitches, 13 strikes
Claims to fame: Last time a team threw a shutout one day and then gave up at least 10 runs in the first inning the next day, according to Elias: July 5 and 6, 1954, when the Indians got blanked by Detroit's George Zuverink (in 11 innings), then scored 11 in the first the next day off Baltimore's Joe Coleman and Mike (Buy a Vowel) Blyzka. Last time a team had a pitcher throw a shutout in one game, then had its next pitcher get zero outs, according to Elias: July 21-22, 1992 (Hipolito Pichardo and Rick Reed doing those honors). And Marquis was just the 15th starting pitcher in history to face that many hitters without getting an out.
Box-Score Line of the Half-Year -- Strasburgian Dept.
All Stephen Strasburg pitching lines are mesmerizing in their own right. But it doesn't get any more spectacular than the line from his June 8 debut against the overmatched Pirates:
7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 14 K
Claims to fame: CC Sabathia, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee and Josh Beckett have never struck out 14 hitters in any game in their careers. And Strasburg did it in the first game of his career. No pitcher in history had ever had a 14-strikeout, no-walk game in his big league debut. And only five other pitchers since 1900 have ever had one, in an outing of seven innings or shorter. And, as the Elias Sports Bureau reported, it took Nolan Ryan 568 starts before he finally packed at least 14 whiffs and no walks into the same pitching line. Really.
Quote of the day: We found only one person in Nationals Park that night who seemed surprised that Strasburg struck out "only" 14. That was his first baseman, Adam Dunn, who told Half-Year in Review he was shocked to have to take part in two 3-unassisted outs at first that night. Wait. Shocked? "Yeah," Dunn quipped. "I didn't think I'd need my glove."
Box-Score Line of the Half-Year -- Leather Dept.
In an April 11 game against Seattle, Texas' David Murphy reached base in back-to-back plate appearances -- and he owed it all to the wandering mitt of Mariners catcher Adam Moore. Here's Moore's line that day:
E -- A. Moore 2 (catchers interference 2)
Claim to fame: Yep, those are two catcher's interference calls, on the same catcher, with the same batter at the plate. According to Retrosheet founder Dave Smith, this was only the fifth game in the past 60 seasons in which the same player reached base twice on catcher's interference -- and just the third time it happened in back-to-back plate appearances.
No-Swings-Needed Box-Score Line of the Half-Year
Finally, here's a line we're guessing you've never seen in any box score in your life -- from the normally hack-minded Giants infielder Juan Uribe, May 9 against the Mets:
Claims to fame: This was Uribe's 1,136th game in the major leagues -- and the first in which he'd walked four times. As the San Jose Mercury News' Andy Baggarly reported, the Mets threw Uribe 21 pitches in his five trips -- and he never swung at any of them. And according to baseball-reference.com's sensational Play Index, Uribe, of all people, was the first player in the past 59 seasons to crank out an 0-1-0-1, four-walk box-score line that also included an HBP. Hard to do.
Epidemic of the Half-Year
The Center for Disease Control has been trying to keep this hush-hush. But our Half-Year in Review investigators are onto it anyway.
Another terrifying epidemic is sweeping our land:
Oh, it started innocently enough, with a little Ubaldo Jimenez no-hit action in April (9-0-0-0-6-7). Nobody even questioned that. But then, in a span of 3½ weeks, it spread.
And then, three weeks after that, along came Edwin Jackson's imperfect classic (9-0-0-0-8-6). So that makes five no-hitters -- four that actually counted -- in a span of 69 days. (Before that, we'd had four in the previous 991 days.) And three perfect games -- two that actually counted -- in a span of 24 days. (Before that, we'd had three in the previous 12 years.)
So while no announcement has been forthcoming from the Surgeon General, you connect the dots. No-Hit Fever has arrived, friends. And if you swing a bat for a living, you'd better line up for those inoculations before it's too late.
To find out what precautions are being taken by those in the know, we checked with the manager of a team that has mysteriously been the victim of the past three no-hitters thrown against American League clubs (Mark Buehrle last year, Braden and Jackson this year) -- Joe Maddon, of those Tampa Bay Rays.
Maddon admitted he's spent more time studying charts and scouting reports than he's spent looking into No-Hit Fever vaccinations. But he's also considered other remedies.
"We should think about No-Hit Soup, maybe No-Hit Italian Wedding Soup," he said. "But actually, we have not tried soups yet, or special meatballs, or postgame wines. We're too locked into the pragmatic kind of thing right now."
But that pragmatic thing can take many different forms -- including, well, good old-fashioned dollar signs.
"I've tried offering 50 bucks to the guy who got the first hit the next game, so we wouldn't get no-hit two games in a row," Maddon admitted. "In fact, I owe [Ben] Zobrist 50 bucks for getting the first hit the day after Braden's game. I'm glad you brought this up. I'm going to pay him as soon as we finish talking."
So why 50 bucks over a big pot of No-Hit Soup?
"I find the financial reward works much better than the gastronomical," Maddon revealed, exclusively.
In the meantime, Maddon also commissioned the St. Petersburg Times' Marc Topkin to do a little research project, telling him: "Please find somebody that's been no-hit twice and gone to the World Series and won it. I'd really appreciate it. And if it hasn't happened, please make it up."
It turned out Topkin didn't have to make it up -- because the 1917 White Sox, managed by the immortal Pants Rowland, did just that.
"That's why I've rolled up my pants to expose my socks," Maddon reported. "I'm paying tribute to Pants by exposing my socks. I really believe Pants is smiling down on us favorably right now. We're remembering the 1917 White Sox.
"So that's my rallying cry now: 'Let's get one [hit].' I've gone from Pants Rowland to Socks Maddonini."
Wildest Games of the Half-Year
April 22 (Brewers 20, Pirates 0): The Pirates thought they were having a rough series before this game. The Brewers had outscored them 16-1 in the first two games. But that was just the warm-up act for this madness. The Steelers hadn't lost a 20-0 game since 1989. But the Pirates showed them how it was done, by allowing three runs or more in five of the last seven innings and giving up 25 hits, 11 extra-base hits and four homers. It was the first big league game to end in a score of exactly 20-0 since Aug. 10, 1889. And it enabled the Pirates to become the first team to get outscored by 35 runs or more in a three-game series since Noodles Hahn's 1901 Cincinnati Reds got wiped out by the Brooklyn Dodgers by a combined score of 50-10. (Epilogue: Just four days later, the Pirates headed for Milwaukee and lost a 17-3 game, making them the first team to lose back-to-back games to the same opponent by that many runs since the late, great St. Louis Browns lost 20-4 and 29-4 games to the Red Sox in 1950.)
May 20 (Braves 10, Reds 9): This one is already known as "The Brooks Conrad Game." We'll explain why in a moment. First, Braves starter Tommy Hanson got his team down eight runs in 1 2/3 innings -- and didn't get a loss. That was quite a feat. But as loyal reader Eric Orns reported, it was just as unlikely as the pitcher who got the win (Craig Kimbrel) walking off the mound with his team down 9-3. Then the Braves -- who had won only one other game in franchise history in which they trailed by at least six runs in the ninth -- scored seven in the bottom of the ninth off four Reds relievers. And it was Conrad's walk-off pinch-hit grand slam, in the 101st at-bat of his career, that finished it off. His claim to fame: He was just the fourth player ever to hit a game-ending pinch-hit grand slam when his team was down three runs. "When they do that little highlight montage of the season," Chipper Jones told Half-Year in Review, "I guarantee that will be on top of the list."
June 19 (Twins 13, Phillies 10): Has there been a wilder game than this all season? The Twins had been outscored 18-9 over the first 17 innings of this series, entered the ninth down five (9-4), tied it on a Joe Mauer homer with two outs in the ninth, took the lead in the 10th on .154 hitter Drew Butera's first career homer, blew that lead in the bottom of the 10th, then scored three in the 11th to win. So that's nine home runs total by these two teams, four of them in the ninth and 10th innings alone. The Phillies hit five home runs and lost for only the third time in the past 35 seasons. They also found a way to lose a home game they led by five in the ninth for the first time since April 20, 1961. Oh, and who caught Mauer's game-tying homer in the bullpen? Drew Butera, of course.
June 24 (Red Sox 13, Rockies 11): We're not sure if this was a Coors Field Special or a Dustin Pedroia Special, but it was unforgettable either way. We're talking 33 hits and 430 pitches over 4 hours and 48 insane minutes. The Rockies blew leads of 2-0 and 8-6. The Red Sox blew a four-run lead, went back ahead and then blew a three-run lead. The Rockies scored one in the eighth and two in the ninth to tie it. Then along came Pedroia, to bomb what his manager, Terry Francona, called a "Sandberg-esque" 10th-inning homer and finish off the greatest night of his career: 5-for-5, with three homers, a double and four RBIs, in an emergency appearance in the No. 3 hole. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he was just the fourth No. 3 hitter in history to go 5-for-5, with three homers and four runs scored, in any game. You might have heard of the others: Albert Pujols, Willie Stargell and Ty Cobb.
July 6 (Rockies 12, Cardinals 9): Did this really happen? The Cardinals went into the ninth with a 9-3 lead, then gave up nine runs? You might think that sort of thing goes on at Coors Field about 14 times a year, but guess again. That sort of thing doesn't go on anywhere. This was the first game in the history of the National League, believe it or not, in which the home team rampaged from behind to score nine runs or more in the bottom of the ninth to win. And according to Elias, the only two other games like that in the history of either league both happened in 1901 -- and one of them took place on the second day in the life of the American League (Detroit-Milwaukee, April 25, 1901). So this was an all-timer.
20 Was Plenty Game of the Half-Year
We've seen 20-inning games before in our lives. But we've never seen a 20-inning game like Mets 2, Cardinals 1, on April 17. Here are only five of the reasons there might never be another game like that one:
• This game started with 36 consecutive half-innings worth of zeroes -- after which, of course, the same two teams scored in three half-innings in a row! And there had never been a game in history in which a team (in this case the Cardinals) forgot to score for 18 innings, got behind in the top of the 19th and then tied it in the bottom of the 19th.
• The Cardinals sent two different position players (Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather) to the mound to get nine outs in this game. No team had gotten that many outs from multiple mystery pitchers since the 1979 Brewers, and no team had done it in a game that wasn't a blowout since the 1945 Phillies.
• Mather kept on pitching until he became the losing pitcher. And that turned this into a game in which, in the immortal words of Johan Santana, "at the end, you see a position player losing the game [Mather], a closer [Francisco Rodriguez] winning the game and a starter [Mike Pelfrey] saving the game. I've never seen that before." For good reason, too. There had never, ever been a game like that.
• Meanwhile, Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse spent three innings playing left field and wound up catching two fly balls. He was the first pitcher to record two putouts in a game in which he wasn't pitching since Fernando Valenzuela did it, at first base, in a 22-inning game June 3, 1989.
• Finally, the Mets won this game, even though precisely one of their first 37 hitters got a hit (seriously) -- and Jose Reyes, Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur all went 0-for-7, making the Mets the first team to have three players go 0-for-7 or worse in the same game since the 1977 Expos. Francoeur reported afterward that when he got back to the clubhouse, he got a text from his father that said: "I'm sick and tired of watching you hit. All you did was make outs. So you'd better get in to pitch."
Web Gem of the Half-Year
This is one season in which it won't take long to pick out the numero uno defensive classic of 2010 -- since it happened when the season was, like, about 20 minutes old.
Let's hear it for White Sox web gemologist Mark Buehrle, ladies and gentleman. His Opening Day kick save, mad scramble into foul territory and between-the-legs glove flip against the Indians was a play out of the Flying Wallendas playbook, not the Ozzie Guillen playbook. And three months later, we're still talking about it.
In an attempt to recapture the magic, Half-Year in Review checked in with Buehrle's friend and catcher, A.J. Pierzynski.
"I'm still amazed," Pierzynski quipped. "I didn't know Mark had any athletic ability. I'd have thought if he had it, in six years I'd have seen it. But this was the first time."
Asked if that flip between the legs made him wonder whether Buehrle had spent the offseason as the Bears' long-snapper, Pierzynski replied: "I'm pretty sure he hasn't. In the offseason, he spends pretty much all his time in a tree stand [hunting]. So it's hard to practice your long-snapping up there."
When we mused about how we'd grade that play on a scale of one to 10, Pierzysnki had no doubt.
"It has to be a 10," he said. "Not only did he kick the ball in the perfect spot, but he ran over there faster than I'd ever seen him run. Then he flipped it between his legs with his glove, not his hand. And [Paul] Konerko caught it at first with his bare hand. So everybody did everything with the wrong hand on that play.
"You know, I've seen him stick his feet out a million times," Pierzysnki went on. "I just never saw him move that fast. Maybe because it was Opening Day and he had a little extra adrenaline."
What concerns Pierzynski now is that, after hearing ESPN's baseball geniuses spend the past three months rating plays on the "Buehrle Meter," there might be a movement afoot to change the name of Web Gems in his honor.
"Please don't," Pierzynski pleaded. "His head is big enough. We don't need any extra air to get in there. Then he won't be able to get through the door. Maybe you could call it the 'Hurly Buehrle Chunky Monkey' or something like that. But it doesn't have the same ring to it."
Slamma Jamma of the Half-Year
It was the craziest grand slam ever.
Heck, it isn't every slam that features two collisions at the plate. And gives you the rare spectacle of the guy who hit the slam (Washington's Josh Willingham) being told he's out. And even denies the proud slammer the opportunity to trot. Sheez, ever heard of a slam like that?
Well, we hadn't -- until we saw it unfold, in all its comic splendor, April 11 at Citi Field.
It started routinely enough, with Willingham launching a ball over the yellow line in center field. Alas, nobody in an umpire uniform caught onto that. So runners started flying around the bases. Adam Dunn, who started this adventure on first base, eventually bowled over the catcher, Rod Barajas. And the ball then trickled away. So Willingham restarted the engines, motored toward home, slammed into Barajas himself and got called out.
But was he out? Heck, no. Thanks to the miracle of replay, all this sprinting and crashing was magically transformed, after the fact, into a grand slam.
So you know all that huffing and all that puffing and all those pileups at the plate? Forget 'em. Never happened. But that doesn't mean there weren't lessons to be learned for all those runners who had their home run trotting so rudely interrupted. Premature trotting, Dunn told Half-Year in Review, is clearly overrated.
"Never again," Dunn said. "From now on, on every home run, I'll be in a full-bore sprint -- until I see it land in the upper tank."
Grand Slammer of the Half-Year
If Willingham hit the zaniest grand slam of the half-year, he definitely didn't hit the most memorable slam of the half-year.
He loses a TKO in that bout to the legend that is Daniel Nava.
If the Red Sox rookie hasn't already negotiated the rights to his made-for-TV motion picture, what the heck is taking him so long?
The Saga of Daniel Nava was beautifully told by our buddy, ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes, in June. But here's the short version of Nava's tale, in case you were watching a "Bachelorette" rerun or something:
Weighed 70 pounds when he got to high school. Cut from his college team. Literally washed uniforms and picked up socks to stay around the team. Eventually grew, filled out and found his swing. But still went undrafted. Still got axed by an independent league team. And then
There, miraculously, he was in Fenway Park on June 12. And found himself in the lineup in his first day in the big leagues. And then -- what????? -- launched himself an indelible grand slam on the first pitch he saw, off the Phillies' Joe Blanton.
Now Joey Votto has never hit a slam. Andre Ethier has never hit a slam. Corey Hart has never hit a slam. But a guy who couldn't make the Chico Outlaws -- Daniel Nava -- has hit one that will be traveling forever.
"I'm about to start crying," his manager, Terry Francona, said afterward. "I guess I'm getting old."
Quotes of the Half-Year
The Gardy Files
Our three favorites from Twins quip machine Ron Gardenhire (with thanks to the Minnesota Star Tribune's Joe Christensen):
On whether he'd ever had a player fall asleep during a game: "I've had a player take a nap during the game, when he was in the game. At least I thought so a couple times."
On this important statistical update, after a Jason Kubel grand slam off Mariano Rivera broke the Twins' nine-game losing streak against the Yankees: "We're 1-0 now against the Yankees in our last one game. We'll construe the numbers any way we want to now."
On what he thought of potential tweaks to Target Field to make it more hitter-friendly: "The pitchers are enjoying the heck out of it. And the hitters are hoping there's a swimming pool in center field with dolphins in it next year, and the fences are moved in." Wait. Did he say dolphins -- in Minnesota? "Tampa Bay has their rays. We're going to get dolphins. Or we could put walleye out there, but there's a limit."
The Best of Ozzie
Here come the three Ozzie Guillen first-half classics we could publish on a family-oriented website (with a big thank-you to the Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley):
On whether he thought he'd get another managing job if the White Sox fired him: "There are a lot of horse[bleep] managers that [have been] given two and three shots to manage in the big leagues. I don't see why not me."
On why he thought LeBron should sign with the Bulls instead of the Knicks or Heat: "New York, too many people in New York. New York, nobody will care about him. He's just another guy in town. He's not going to be bigger than Derek Jeter. So he's No. 2 now. Maybe No. 3 behind [Jorge] Posada, then [Mariano] Rivera. Miami, there are too many tourists there. Chicago is a real sports city."
On whether his team's offensive issues were going to keep him awake at night: "I'm going to sleep like a baby. I'm going to wake up crying every two hours."
The Maddon Files
Trying to pick the three most spectacular Joe Maddon quotes of the year is like trying to pick out the greenest blades of grass at Dodger Stadium. But here they come, with the help of St. Petersburg Times Maddon-ologist Marc Topkin:
On Carl Crawford, after another of his left fielder's never-ending stream of Web Gems: "He's faster than a speeding baseball.''
On MLB reversing its field and allowing him to wear his trademark hoodie sweatshirt in the dugout after all: "Thankfully, covered heads prevailed.''
On what he and executive VP Andrew Friedman had discussed in one of their late-night, high-level postgame meetings: "We were also talking about Steve Carell leaving 'The Office.' I got that e-mail from him last night, probably like 1 o'clock in the morning. Tough news right there."
Meanwhile, in Dallas
This was the year A's pitcher Dallas Braden emerged, not just as an author of perfect games, but as one of baseball's great quotesmiths. Our three favorite pearls from him this year:
On that mound-trespassing charge he filed against his favorite Yankee, Alex Rodriguez: "If he wants to run across the mound, tell him to go do laps in the bullpen."
On one of his left-handed-pitching heroes, Jamie Moyer. "I don't know how old that guy is. He played catch with Jesus."
On how he finds a way to get serious on days he pitches: "Every fifth day I'm all business. I have four days in between to act like a moron."
Vuvuzela Quotes of the Half-Year
Here they come, the three most memorable quotes on the baseball promotion that had 'em all buzzing -- Vuvuzela Giveaway Night at the June 19 Rays-Marlins game in Miami:
From Marlins outfielder Cody Ross: "It was awful. I couldn't tell you how awful it was. I had a headache in like the third inning."
From Rays announcer Dewayne Staats, on how vuvuzelas compared to the Rays' ever-popular giveaway item, the cowbell: "That's just not right. These vuvuzelas -- they're for soccer. Cowbells have a deep and rich baseball history."
From Rays manager Joe Maddon: "I would much prefer that they went with K.C. and the Sunshine Band next time."
Top Five Quotes from the Half-Year
From Astros masher/humorist Lance Berkman (to MLB.com's Alyson Footer), on why he smashed his bat into the ground after a game-ending strikeout: "There was a centipede crawling across the ground right in front of me and I didn't want it to bite any of the fans that stuck around, so I had to take care of it."
From Nationals outfielder Nyjer Morgan (to The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore), on what he needed to do to end his month-long May slump: "I got to get Dr. Freeze off my twig right now."
From Brewers broadcast legend Bob Uecker (to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt), on how he was easing back into his regular routine after heart surgery: "I started driving. In my garage. Just to get the feel for it again."
From Angels catcher Bobby Wilson (to the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna), on the neurological tests the team put him through after his thunderous collision at the plate with Mark Teixeira: "They didn't find anything in my head. Just a hamster chasing a peanut."
And from Nationals president Stan Kasten, his April assessment of the less-than-glowing preseason predictions about his team: "I predict that every prediction will be wrong."
But wait. What if he's right?
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.