Baseball in 2014: from Bumgarner to the lovable Royals, the 10 most memorable moments
1) Giant winner
There’s no particular order to this list but San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner is going straight to the top. That’s because there’s just no debating the status of his signature baseball moment, one that stands alone in 2014.
There was Mad Bum, walking to the hill in Kansas City for the start of the fifth inning of . Pitching on just two days’ rest, how long could the Giants hurler go? Would he be effective? What could the lefty possibly have left after a 117-pitch, just 48 hours earlier? Perhaps he’d go an inning or two and get the ball to airtight relievers Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla.
No. He went all the way, , in a performance that no living baseball fan has ever seen before and will probably never see again. Go ahead and throw out any superlative you like – it won’t be enough to adequately describe his achievement. Five innings, two hits, no runs, only getting stronger as he pitched into the night. After Salvador Perez popped out to Pablo Sandoval, the Giants piled onto their horse, and the San Francisco Giants had their third World Series title in five seasons, .
2) A Royal comeback
The Kansas City Royals. Losers. Bottom feeders. Doormats, for a long, long time. Not in 2014 however, when the franchise enjoyed a rapid turn right into the hearts and minds of baseball fans who couldn’t turn away from their unlikely playoff run. The Royals’ electric brand of baseball lit up a newly energized Kaufmann Stadium, especially during their .
The Royals were down and nearly out after their manager, Ned Yost, brought young staring pitcher Yordano Ventura into a sticky relief situation, stone cold. The rookie would allow a three-run, sixth-inning homer to Brandon Moss, one which brought on the rage of the internet second-guessers, and, , who berated a move that seemed destined to define the game.
But the Royals would rally, using a blend of speed, sacrifice bunts and timely hitting. KC screamed back from a four-run deficit to force extra innings, before overcoming a one-run 12th-inning deficit, all with no power whatsoever and seven stolen bases from seven different Royals.
Salvador Perez slapped a single to left past a diving Josh Donaldson, the wild-card-winning hit scoring Christiano Colon and setting off a Royal run that saw them bounce the heavily favored and a well-managed Baltimore Orioles team. The Royals came within the aforementioned Madison Bumgarner gem of winning their first World Series title since 1985, and it will be interesting to see if Ned Yost’s crew can turn similar tricks in 2015.
3) Mo’ne in the bank
She was a summer sensation – 13-year-old Mo’ne Davis, dominating opponents in the Little League World Series. There were magazine covers, talk-show appearances, book deals and featuring the Philadelphia product who threw like a girl and right past the boys standing in the batter’s box.
Davis wasn’t the first girl to play in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, home of the Little League World Series, but she was the first to earn a victory and with eight strikeouts for her Taney Dragons. Mo’ne said to ESPN:
She got few arguments.
Now the teen’s jersey lives inside the , amongst memorabilia of players who spent most of their lives toiling to be recognized. What does she do for an encore? Well, in 2015, Mo’ne will be too old to play in the Little League World Series, so we’re left waiting to see if she can fulfill her dream of playing for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team down the road.
4) Power play
There were – and Giancarlo Stanton had seven of them. On 4 April he did this to poor San Diego Padres pitcher Eric Stults, who needn’t even look back.
There are very few home runs that fans remember over the course of a Major League Baseball season; mostly it’s the totals at year-end which stick. This blast, which flew off a barrel of ash at a blistering 118mph, won’t be forgotten for some time. In 2014, Stanton represented over 14% of the Marlins’ payroll and played like it, crushing 37 home runs despite missing time after of the Milwaukee Brewers, a nerve-racking moment for all who saw it. With power becoming harder and harder to find these days, it’s no wonder that Stanton inked a moonshot of a contract in November: that made global headlines for its duration and sheer wealth.
5) A (familiar) Bronx tale
If you didn’t think , you haven’t been watching baseball to for the past 20 years. The Yankees’ retiring future Hall-of-Fame shortstop spent the season having his cleats kissed by Major League Baseball teams, ranging from a basket of crabs to a kayak to a pair of pinstriped No2 cowboy boots.
Now he was playing his against the Baltimore Orioles with the Bombers up three runs in top of the ninth, looking to wrap up his Bronx career with a W. Except Adam Jones crushed a two-run home run off David Robertson. Then Steve Pearce smashed a solo shot. Suddenly, the game was tied and the ballpark was quiet. The good news? Jeter would have a final at-bat. Jose Pirela singled and was pinch-run for by Antoan Richardson before Brett Gardner moved him over to second base on a sacrifice bunt.
What do you think happened next?
Of course he did. Jeter, in his 2,905th game as a Yankee, was controlling the moment, again. His game-winning base hit off an Evan Meek but that couldn’t dampen the festivities at Yankee Stadium, where fans and teammates enjoyed lauding their Captain, one final time.
6) Let’s play two ... at once
Confession time. I didn’t watch . I should say that I saw bits of it, having been out that evening. Every time I headed over to the bar for a refill the game was still on. Drink, seventh inning. Drink, ninth inning. Drink, 13th inning. What the? Really? Yes. They were still playing baseball. Drink, 15th inning. Drink, 18th inning. Then, finally, the ballgame was over. The Nats and Giants played the equivalent of two games in one extremely long night – six hours and 23 minutes, to be exact. San Francisco got the win thanks to a Brandon Crawford home run that would help the then-underdog, future World Series champions steal a victory and head home with a 2-0 series lead.
Actually, the playoff marathon could have easily finished up in regulation.
Jordan Zimmermann had been pitching lights out for the Nats all night, allowing just three hits. Protecting a 1-0 lead in the top of the ninth, he issued a one-out walk to Joe Panik. With the Nats’ hurler over the 100-pitch mark, manager Matt Williams opted to replace him in favor of Drew Storen, who had an ERA of 1.12, despite the fact that San Francisco hadn’t had a base hit since the sixth inning. Buster Posey connected immediately off Storen, and Pablo Sandoval sliced a double down the left field line to tie the game. Posey came around third trying to score the lead run but was gunned down at the plate. The game was deadlocked, .
7) Kershaw no-no
Clayton Kershaw was a human no-fly zone, sitting in the dugout all alone. The chances of his teammates striking up a conversation with their ace pitcher were zero, because through eight innings Kershaw had allowed no hits to the visiting Colorado Rockies. Thanks to the sport’s superstition which encourages colleagues to leave him be, the lonely 26-year-old was left to pass the time by picking dirt out of his spikes while the baseball world locked in on the lefty, watching his every move. Then, with Los Angeles retired in their half of the eighth inning, Kershaw walked back onto the diamond, and with no obligations to keep quiet the Dodger Stadium crowd showered their gifted hurler with adulation.
There was more to come.
Kershaw did to the Rockies in the ninth inning what he had done to them all game long – dominate. He finished off the big-swinging team from Colorado with ease, Corey Dickerson no match for his final pitch, a slider he swung through for strike three. Kershaw’s 15th strikeout of the night meant for the second time in 2014, and the 22nd time in history,
It was the high point of the season for Kershaw, who took both NL Cy Young and Most Valuable Player honors thanks to a 21-3 record along with a minuscule 1.77 ERA and a silly WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 0.857. Except for a second straight year, Kershaw failed to duplicate his regular season success in the playoffs,, to the tune of an ERA north of seven. Kershaw and the Dodgers, desperate for playoff success, would’ve likely traded both awards for a pair of postseason wins against the Cards.
8) Cuban missile
It was another big year for Cubans in Major League Baseball. Jose Abreu enjoyed instant success in the American League, hitting .317 with 36 home runs with the Chicago White Sox, winning the Rookie of the Year award and finishing fourth in MVP balloting. In Cincinnati, Aroldis Chapman recovered from taking a line-drive comebacker to the face in spring training to post a wee WHIP of 0.833, while Yasiel Puig was slightly down in overall production but no less enigmatic and exciting to watch out in LA with the Dodgers, continuing to produce all while the played out in the papers.
If forced to pick out a single moment of Cuban greatness in 2014, why not go with Yoenis Cespedes and his all-conquering right arm, which he used to throw out Howie Kendrick of the Los Angels Angels in June.
Of course, had he not made the initial error, Cespedes wouldn’t have been in a situation that required the summoning of his baseball superpower, but then that’s the fun of this play, isn’t it? Cespedes played a vital role for the Oakland A’s – or so we learned after he was traded to the Boston Red Sox at the deadline. The A’s lineup never recovered from his absence, before Billy Beane’s men were eliminated from the playoffs by the Royals. Cespedes was recently dealt to Detroit and will suit up in Motown next season.
OK, OK, I can’t resist – here’s a Puig play we can file under honorable mention.
Several more Cubans are heading to next season, including high-profile signings Yasmany Tomas and Rusney Castillo. Should the US be able to do business in Cuba down the road, expect this northern flow of island talent to increase.
Nobody produced more offense during a single game in 2014 than Lonnie Chisenhall. The third baseman busted out this season overall and in an even bigger way on 9 June while facing the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Chisenhall exploded for three home runs while going 5-for-5 and driving in nine runs, something that hasn’t happened since the RBI became an official statistic in 1920.
noted: “Since 1914, only three other players have ever recorded five or more hits, three or more homers and nine or more RBI in the same game.” It’s probably the best day of hitting in the history of the Cleveland franchise, one which goes all the way back to 1901. That’s quite a stat, and so we can’t possibly ignore Chisenhall’s record haul.
10) Double your fun
What? Everything has to be so serious? Lighten up – we’re ending with a doubleheader featuring two of the best boneheaded plays of 2014.
Let’s start in Colorado, where the Rockies managed to allow three to score on one wild pitch.
It’s 21 June at Coors field and the bases are full of Brewers. Rockies pitcher Christian Friedrich misses high while dealing to Milwaukee pitcher Wily Peralta. The ball bounces oddly off the backstop towards first base, where catcher Michael McKenrey tracks it down and throws wildly past Friedrich, who is covering home. The throwing error allows both Aramis Ramirez and Mark Reynolds to score. Friedrich thinks someone called time and that the play had stopped – but no: Jean Segura, standing at third base, sees that no one is covering home and sprints to the plate, scoring the third run.
That’s a wild series of events, but this next play will always have a special place in my heart.
With one out and runners on first and second, Giants pitcher Jean Machi walks Chris Stewart. The runner at second, Travis Snider, is daydreaming, standing off the base; Machi throws to the bag and catches him in a rundown. Then, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, Gaby Sanchez takes off and also gets gunned down. The end result? A bases-loaded situation with just one out became an inning-ending double play ... which you will never, ever see again. Take my word for it.