We’re in the final hours of 2018, but the memories aren’t going anywhere. Especially when it comes to baseball, where this year saw the Boston Red Sox win another World Series, the rise of a two-way phenom unlike anything the game has seen in decades, a historic season by a starting pitcher and the newest strategy to take the game by storm.
With 2019 on the horizon, we’re looking back at some of the moments from baseball in 2018 that will be etched in our brains for years to come — whether they’re storylines, amazing plays or record-setting achievements.
Red Sox win the World Series, David Price gets redemption
The Boston Red Sox were the undisputed kings of baseball in 2018. After winning a franchise record 108 games during the regular season, the Red Sox were even more convincing in October, going 11-3 against the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers to win the franchise’s fourth World Series championship since 2004.
Along the way the Red Sox provided several moments their fanbase won’t soon forget. Perhaps no series of moments brought more relief and happiness than David Price’s postseason redemption. Price changed the narrative with a string of excellent outings as a starter and a reliever. He notched his first three career playoff victories this October, which included a fantastic seven-inning outing in the World Series clincher.
Price went from being the guy we expected to see fail in October, to being Alex Cora’s go-to man.
Jacob deGrom’s incredible season amid Mets chaos
There wasn’t a single moment with Jacob deGrom. His season was a continuously brilliant display of dominance that ranked among the greatest pitching seasons in recent history. And what made it even more special was the consistently horrific display of incompetence that surrounded him.
DeGrom somehow managed to overcome the Mets miserable season to become the franchise’s fourth NL Cy Young award winner. He led MLB in ERA (1.70), FIP (1.99), xFIP (2.60) and home runs per nine innings (0.4). He also posted MLB single-season records with 24 consecutive quality starts and 29 straight outings of three runs or fewer.
DeGrom was a must-see attraction on a team that otherwise was entirely unwatchable.
The Ohtani Experiment thrills despite some disappointment
No baseball player was more fascinating in 2018 than Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese import who was attempting to be a two-way star for the Los Angeles Angels. It was all we heard about early in the baseball season, from his disappointing spring training to his even-more-impressive early regular season.
The most thrilling moment came April 8 when he flirted with a perfect game against the Oakland Athletics. It lasted into the seventh inning, with 12 strikeouts and was a great glimpse of Ohtani’s potential.
So was this: Ohtani changed the narrative of disappointment like only he could. When he started to have elbow troubles and eventually needed Tommy John surgery, Ohtani stopped pitching and just focused on hitting. Such is the advantage of being a two-way player. He finished the season with 22 homers and 61 RBIs, plus a 4-2 record with a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts on the mound — winning the AL Rookie of the Year. Though he’ll be out all of 2019, it looked like just the start of things to come for Ohtani.
Bryce Harper wins Home Run derby in Washington D.C.
If Bryce Harper moves on from the Washington Nationals this winter, this might go down as his signature moment in front of the home fans. Harper won the 2018 Home Run derby in dramatic fashion, besting Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber with a walk-off in the championship round.
Harper, who has preferred not to participate in past derbys, decided to give the home fans a treat. Harper hit 45 home runs total during the event, including an incredible nine during one 47-second stretch.
At the time, it felt like an epic goodbye from player to city. If that’s the case, it was quite a sendoff.
The Yankees homer into the history books
We knew the Yankees were going to hit a lot of dingers once they traded for Giancarlo Stanton. We knew they might, in fact, challenge for the all-time record. Actually, they set it.
The Yankees hit 267 homers in 2018, beating the Seattle Mariners’ mark of 264 in 1997. They were led by Stanton’s 38 bombs, but had six players who hit 20+, including Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres.
Two of the greatest plays you’ll ever see
We saw two of the best plays in 2018 on back-to-back August days, leaving plenty of people to wonder which was better. One was an outfield throw for the ages — A’s rookie Ramon Laureano making a great catch and following it with a 321-foot throw to complete a double play. It’s the definition of wow.
Then there was David Bote, who achieved every kid’s backyard dream for the Chicago Cubs: The Ultimate Grand Slam. Bote came up in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, the bases loaded and his team down by three. He even had two strikes on him. Then he unleashed what is believed to be only the 15th Ultimate Grand Slam in history.
The rise of ‘bullpenning’
Baseball has shown us in recent years how the roles of relief pitchers have changed. It’s not enough for some teams to have a lock-down closer in the ninth, they want closers in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
In 2018, we also saw the opposite of the closer. We saw the invention of “the opener” — a relief pitcher that started a game. Many people scoffed at the idea when the Tampa Bay Rays first tried it, but by the postseason, we saw the Oakland A’s bullpenning the wild-card game and the Milwaukee Brewers doing it in the NLDS. The idea was that if you don’t have a great starter and have better relievers, why not just get to the good stuff?
In the grand history of baseball, perhaps this will be a short-term trend — maybe the wildcat offense of baseball — but right now, it’s definitely a thing. Teams are always looking for a way to maximize their chances of winning with the talent they have. And that’s what this one is all about.
The other not-so-wonderful trend to hit MLB
Speaking of trends: This one wasn’t great, but many young baseball players were on the “old tweets exposed” list, a 2018 social media phenomenon in which people dug through the old Twitter accounts of athletes and found less-than-suitable tweets from years past.
Josh Hader, the Milwaukee Brewers reliever, was the biggest case in MLB, since it happened while he was pitching in the All-Star Game. But the list of players also included Sean Newcomb and Trea Turner. This isn’t a baseball problem so much as it’s a young-athlete problem, one that probably won’t go anywhere in 2019.
Red Sox-Yankees brawl in April
The Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry was alive and well in 2018. The tension reached a boiling point early — April 11 to be exact — when an aggressive slide by the Yankees Tyler Austin led to Joe Kelly drilling Austin with a 98 mph fastball.
Punches were thrown. Suspensions were handed out. Above all else, the stage was set for a season-long battle for the AL East crown.
While there were no more physical altercations during the season, the longtime rivals traded wins and even met in the postseason for the first time since 2004. The Red Sox emerged with the division title and the World Series title, which will no doubt fuel the Yankees fire in 2019.
The end of the Chief Wahoo era
One of baseball’s long-standing debates (don’t worry, there are dozens more) ended in 2018, as the Chief Wahoo era came to a close in Cleveland. For years now, people have clashed about whether Chief Wahoo — the red-faced Native American caricature who was a Cleveland Indians logo for 70 years — was a racist symbol.
Major League Baseball announced earlier this year that Wahoo was “no longer appropriate” for the Indians to wear, and thus 2018 would be his final year on the team’s uniforms. It concluded two years of talk on the subject between the team and the league. The Indians had already moved on to using the Block C as their primary logo a few years ago, so the change won’t be too drastic. But they wore a Wahoo patch on their jerseys and often wore Wahoo caps. Now, the Indians have already unveiled their first Wahoo-less uniforms in 70 years.
Danny Farquhar throws first pitch after life-threatening brain aneurysm
In an instant, Chicago White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar went from battling an opposing batter to battling for his life. The veteran right-hander suffered a brain aneurysm during a game on April 21 that many doctors thought would require a “miracle” to survive.
Farquhar and his family got that miracle. The 31-year-old made a remarkable recovery, which allowed him to throw a very emotional first pitch before a White Sox game just six weeks later. The best news is Farquhar was cleared to resume his baseball career in November and is hopeful to pitch in MLB in 2019.
David Wright’s comeback and emotional sendoff
Few games elicited as much emotion as David Wright’s final game at Citi Field on Sept. 29.
The Mets all-time hits leader and long-time captain returned to the starting lineup for the first time in two years after battling back and shoulder injuries. At the same time, he also said goodbye, bringing an end to a career that will go down as one of the most notable in Mets history.
The Mets gave Wright a proper sendoff, allowing him to take the field one final time.
There was no dramatic final hit or diving play. There didn’t have to be. That Wright wore the Mets uniform one last time made it one of the season’s best moments.
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