Buehrle, Hudson, Lincecum and Beckett comebacks
Each of the four pitchers, at one point in their career, were considered among the top pitchers in the game. For varying reasons, whether age, injury or mystery, they fell from the top. Buehrle was among those considered too old but had a great start to the season and was named an All Star. Hudson was once one of the A's "big three" but had aged and when he suffered a gruesome injury at the end of last year his career was feared over. Hudson did not have a tremendous regular season (it was not bad but he was not a Cy Young candidate) but he was a big reason the Giants won despite losing Matt Cain. The fact that he could pitch at all was amazing. Tim Lincecum was once known as "the Freak" for his ability to pitch but fell off in his success to the point where people feared his time in San Francisco might be over. Lincecum had a bounce back season that included a no-hitter against the Padres. Josh Beckett was once considered the ace of the Red Sox staff but when things went bad he was at the center of the controversy. He was dealt to the Dodgers in 2012 where he missed most of the rest of the season. He also missed most of the season in 2013 and had only an 0-5 record. Beckett's 2014 started great and included a no-hitter, although a trip to the DL in July derailed the come back.
Albert Pujols' first few years in Anaheim have not prodced the results that were expected when he signed the big contract. To be fair those results are not his fault as the bull pen since his arival has been attrocious but he is given the blame by many fans. Pujols solidified his Hall of Fame credentials and got his first iconic Angels moment on 4/22 when he hit his 500th career Home Run. Just for good measure he added number 501 the same night. Albert ended the year at 520, 14th on the all time list. He sits just behind Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Frank Thomas, Willie McCovey, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle and Mike Schmidt. Speaking of Michael Jack Schmidt...
Jimmy Rollins passes Schmidt:
The Phillies organization has had some great players in their history. The top players normally mentioned are Chuck Klein, Richie Ashburn, Lenny Dykstra and Mike Schmidt. This year Jimmy Rollins made a case to become the greatest Phillie of all time. Rollins is in the top 10 Phillies all time in games played (2nd), At Bats (1st), Plate Appearances (2nd), runs (3rd), Total Bases (2nd), Doubles (1st), Triples (3rd), Home Runs (9th), RBI (7th), walks (6th) and Stolen Bases (2nd). This season Rollins passed Mike Schmidt as the all time hit leader in Phillies' history.
Derek Jeter, Paul Konerko:
The same season that saw the loss of some of the game's great statesmen in Tony Gwynn and Don Zimmer the game also saw the retirement of two of the classiest players in decades. Paul Konerko is a six time All Star with the White Sox and was the leader on the first White Sox World Series team since 1959 and the first winning World Series team since 1917. Konerko has represented the city of Chicago with class and has been well respected league wide. When Konerko retired afer 18 years he was just below 450 Home Runs (439) and just short of 2500 hits (2340) but should get consideration for the Hall of Fame.
Another great player retired this year and his impact on the league was even greater than Konerko's. Derek Jeter first played for the Yankees in 1995. In his 20 years in the league Jeter won the Rookie of the Year, played in 14 All Star Games, received MVP votes in 12 seasons (three times finishing in the top 3), five Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. He will also retire as the only Yankee to achieve 3000 hits in a Yankees uniform. Speaking of hits, Jeter ended his career as the #6 man on the all time list for hits. Those ahead of him: Rose, Cobb, Aaron, Musial and Speaker. And that is just the regular season. It does not include the post season. His teams made the post season 16 times. He has played in 158 post season games (nearly a full season's worth of games) and he has 200 hits, 111 runs, 61 RBI, 32 doubles, 5 triples, 20 Home Runs, 18 Stolen Bases and a .308 average in the post season. Of his 16 post season appearances his teams have reached the World Series 7 times and have won five (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009). Jeter was also the 2000 World Series MVP. Jeter was more than all the numbers. He was the leader of one of the great periods of the greatest franchise in sports. He was the captain of the Yankees dynasty and the face of the game. Jeter was the class of the league. Although it is nearly impossible to imagine that some one might be able to fill his shoes some day we know that someone will. We had the same thoughts when DiMaggio retired, when Jackie Robinson retired, when Sandy Koufax retired, when Clemente died, when Aaron retired, when Yastrzemski retired, when Nolan Ryan retired and when Gwynn and Ripken retired. The feeling is always that the league has lost something that will never be replaced and in some senses that is true since all players are unique but there will be someone to pick up the position Jeter has left and carry it forward. We just don't know who yet.
Kansas City, Seattle, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Toronto, Washington, Pittsburgh
For years this group of teams have struggled in the middle or bottom of the league and have been considered "small market" teams. The theory has been that teams in small markets are unable to compete with the big earning teams in Los Angeles, Boston and New York. This year Seattle, Milwaukee, and Toronto were in the fight right down to the end. Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Washington all made the playoffs and a few even advanced in the post season.
In the first part of the season the Giants looked like they would be running away with the season. By the All Star Break they had squandered their lead and fallen to second place. What we got out of this back and forth was a classic Dodgers-Giants battle that went back and forth all summer long. For years we have seen the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry but what we got this summer goes even farther back than that. With the division on the line we even had a some pushing and shoving in their final showdown.
Last season the Pirates, Reds and Cardinals all made the post season. The Brewers were considered by many on the down trend and were expected to be an outsider in the division race. Instead what we got was four teams fighting for first place and with the Braves and Dodgers leading the Wild Card race for most of the year it meant that the teams in the Central looked to be fighting for one playoff spot. In the end the Brewers collapsed terribly. The Reds suffered through injuries. The Pirates went into the final day of the year with a chance to force a one game playoff for the division. With the Cubs gathering young talent and adding Joe Maddon it could get even closer next year.
Bud Selig took over a stagnant league in the 1990's and built it back into a league that could compete with the NFL. Some of the changes he made have worked and some have not. Some have been well received and some will need to be evaluated with a longer view. Regardless, with Selig at the head of the league things have improved from where they were under Faye Vincent. As Selig moves on there are questions of how his replacement will fare. Only time will tell but Selig has certainly set him up nicely.
Hall of Fame
One year after the steroids era disrupted the Hall of Fame weekend the Hall of Fame inducted 6 well deserving members. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were inducted as players. Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre were inducted as managers. All six new members were obvious choices and there was never a question that these members will represent the Hall of Fame with class. Hopefully, this will help us move past the disaster of 2013 but that may be too much to ask.
The Trade Deadline:
For the last few years the trade deadline has been a big disappointment. Lots of talk with most major deals fizzling out at the end. This year things were different. The A's kicked things off early on the final day with a trade that sent Cespedes to Boston for Lester and Gomes. Most of the rest of the teams followed suit and one of the best trade deadlines in almost a decade was in full swing. The Tigers picked up David Price, the Cardinals picked up John Lackey and Justin Masterson and the Yankees picked up several players. Some of the players ended up effecting the playoff run but mostly it was the excitement generated by the activity that was most important.
Jose Altuve played his first full season in the Major Leagues with Houston in 2012 and made the All Star team over Brandon Phillips. As the lone representative for the Astros many fans felt that this was another example of why managers should not be forced to include representatives of every team. Altuve's place kept Brandon Phillips of the Reds off the team. As a fan of Brandon Phillips I questioned why he didn't make the team but after looking at Altuve's numbers it would be hard to argue that he didn't belong. Altuve's numbers improved in 2012 and his fielding is often spectacular. In 2014 Altuve showed what he is truly capable of. He madethe All Star team (his second), set a Houston Astros record for hits in a single season (225) and won the American League batting title. He also finished 13th in the MVP voting (not bad for a player on a team that was never in contention) and won the Silver Slugger. It will be fun to see wha Altuve can do for 2015.
The 2014 Playoffs:
The playoffs kicked off with a great game in Kansas City. The fact that Kansas City, Baltimore and Pittsburgh reached the playoffs at all was excitement but the Wild Card game between Kansas City and Oakland was amazing. There was no way that could be matched. Then it was. In the LDS and LCS rounds nearly every game was close. It all ended with a tight Game 7 that saw Madison Bumgarner come in to close the game. While just moments before Bumgarner got the final we nearly saw Gregor Blanco become the new Bill Buckner.
Think I missed a great moment? let me know in the comments section.
Mentioned today was the fact that Milwaukee, Toronto, Kansas City and Seattle were all in the playoff hunt for the first time in a very long time. When was the last time each had made the playoffs?
Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
Cecil Fielder played for the Tigers from 1990 through part of the 1996 season. Cecil started with the Blue Jays but spent several years playing in Japan before returning to star for the Tigers. Cecil hit 245 Home Runs and drove in 758 runs with the Tigers.
Prince Fielder, Cecil's son, signed with the Tigers after the 2011 season. He played in Detroit for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Prince hit 55 Home Runs and drove in 214 in Detroit.
That gives father and son 300 Home Runs and 972 RBI in their time in Detroit.