Best of 2012: Baseball Stories

Mike Ehrmann

Maybe we shouldn't have been super-surprised when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. But considering they did it with their $20 million starting pitcher struggling all season? And with their best first-half hitter suspended for most of the second half, never to be seen again? As if all that weren't enough, this was the Giants' second World Championship in three years, after going without one for their first 52 seasons in San Francisco. I just don't see how that wasn't the biggest baseball story among baseball stories in 2012.

Ah, but what about the second-biggest baseball story? I've got 10 candidates for you ...

McCourt out as Dodgers owner; billionaires in.
When 2012 began, the Los Angeles Dodgers seemed to be stuck with one of the worst owners of a professional sports team in recent memory, apparently intent on plundering the franchise's treasury while real-estate and hair-style prices were still depressed. But in March, something called Guggenheim Partners and someone called Magic Johnson purchased the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium for $2.15 billion. Since then, the new magnates have been spending money like they've an unlimited supply of money ... which they essentially do, thanks to their next television deal.

Just shy of 50, Moyer sets all-time record.
Jamie Moyer suffered a serious elbow injury in 2010, when he was 47 years old. Most guys probably would have called it a career. Moyer didn't. After spending 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Moyer pitched well in spring training with the Rockies, and broke camp with a slot in the rotation. And on the 17th of April, in his third start, Moyer pitched seven strong innings and became the oldest pitcher in major-league history to win a regular-season game. But he would win just once more, and presumably has finished his career with 269 victories.

Johan Santana throws Met' first no-hitter.
Sure, it took umpire Adrian Johnson's blown call, but Carlos Beltrán's line drive down the left-field line will forever be a foul ball in The Great Scorebook of History -- even though it actually fell to the ground a foot or so fair -- and so Johan Santana's no-hitter will forever reside as the Mets' first no-hitter, coming in the franchise's 51st season.

Orioles go from worst to (almost) first.
After four straight last-place seasons and 14 straight losing seasons, the Baltimore Orioles went from 69-93 in 2011 to 93-69 in 2012, then topped the Rangers in the American League's Wild Card Game before taking the Yankees to the limit in a dramatic Division Series. The O's went 16-2 in extra-inning games, and set some sort of record by going 29-9 in contests decided by just one run.

Athletics mount one of history's greatest comebacks.
A year ago, at least one Bay Area writer said the Oakland A's had completely given up. Then they outbid everybody else for Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. But after losing to Texas on the last day of June, the A's were 13 games behind the first-place Rangers. And then they got hot, going 18-5 in July to get back into the conversation. Later there was a nine-game winning streak in August, and a six-game winning streak to close out the season. Those last three victories came against the Rangers, and resulted in Oakland's first division title and postseason berth since 2006; they didn't hold first place for a single moment until recording the last out of their last game.

Two Perfect Games at Safeco Field?
Entering 2012, there had been 20 perfect games thrown in major-league games. In 2012, there were three more ... and two of those were thrown in Seattle's Safeco Field. The first of those came in April, and now seems highly unlikely, as Phil Humber would eventually lose his rotation slot and finish the season with a 6.44 ERA (or 7.06 without the perfecto). The second came in August, and seemed highly likely. Well, relatively speaking, as Félix Hernández has been one of the game's best pitchers for some years now.

Strasburg shuts the whole thing down.
Entering the season, Washington Nationals management said that Stephen Strasburg, who'd thrown only 24 innings in 2011 after recovering from Tommy John surgery, would be allowed to throw only 170 innings in 2012. During the season, management said some other things, but ultimately Strasburg was shut down in August after throwing 159⅓ innings. The Nationals still led the National League with 98 wins, but lost a heartbreaking Division Series to the Cardinals, with both Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson struggling in their single starts.

Miguel Cabrera does it "all".
Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Mike Piazza, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Larry Walker. What do all of those players have in common? All were great hitters, and all failed to win a Triple Crown. As did every other hitter, great or otherwise, since 1967, when Carl Yastrzremski led the American League in batting average, home runs, and RBI. Until, that is, Cabrera batted .330-44-139 for the pennant-winning Tigers in 2012, capturing the first Triple Crown in 45 years.

Marlins stop rebuilding, implode, give up, start rebuilding.
Last winter, the re-named and new-homed Miami Marlins spent big money on free agents Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes. They hired an exciting new manager, Ozzie Guillen. For a moment in early June, they owned a share of first place. And then everything fell apart. The Marlins went 38-70 after the 3rd of June, and finished in last place. And between Thanksgiving and Christmas, they traded virtually every player making a real salary -- Reyes, Buehrle, Bell, Josh Johnson -- and clearly signaling to their fans that competing for a postseason berth in 2013 or '14 isn't really part of the plan.

Blue Jays make their move.
The Marlins' losses were quite literally the Toronto Blue Jays' gains, as the Jays turned themselves into immediate contenders this winter by trading for Marlins stars Buehrle, Reyes, and Johnson. And they might have turned themselves into favorites a few weeks later when they acquired National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, and signed him to a contract extension through 2015.

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