Capped off by an instant classic World Series that saw the Houston Astros claim their first championship in franchise history, it was an incredible year of baseball. To help alleviate my sadness of the impending five months without baseball, and hopefully yours as well, I compiled, in no particular order, my top 10 most memorable, exciting, what-did-I-just-witness moments from this year’s MLB season.
10. Nolan Arenado, cycle with an exclamation point
Baseball in 2017 was defined by the home run, with more and more hitters defined by the “three true outcomes” rule of walk, strikeout, and homer. That makes hitting for the cycle, in which a player hits a single, double, triple and home run in the same game, all the more impressive. This year, Colorado’s Nolan Arenado basically ended the debate over the best third baseman in the majors, flashing greatness on both sides of the ball (and maybe most importantly, doing it outside of hitter-friendly Coors Field). In a June game against the Giants, Arenado started the day with a triple (the hardest part), followed by a single and a double. He then came to bat in the bottom of ninth, with the Rockies trailing 5-4 and two men on. A home run would not only give him the cycle, but would give Colorado a walk-off victory. I think you can guess what happened next.
9. Austin Jackson’s HR-robbing catch
This season was packed with awe-inspiring web gems, especially of the home run-robbing kind. There was Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. taking a home run away from Aaron Judge, and then Judge’s superhuman home run-saving grab of his own in Game 7 of the ALCS. But none were better than Cleveland’s Austin Jackson flipping over the wall in Fenway to rob Hanley Ramirez. The timing of the leap, the height he gets over the wall and holding onto the ball as he gets clotheslined were all perfect.
8. Albert Pujols’ 600th career home run
Growing up, Pujols was one of those few larger-than-life players who, as a young baseball fan and player, symbolized sheer dominance at the plate. Today, I wonder if young Little Leaguers have even heard of the guy. It’s sad to see a player fall off like Pujols has, due to a myriad of injuries, age and defensive shifts. And that’s why it was all the more memorable when Pujols hit his 600th career home run earlier this season, and a grand slam at that. Only nine players in MLB history have hit that mark, and I’m glad I was witness to this one.
7. Yankees come back from 9-1
I’m a Yankees fan. Thought I’d get that out of the way. This might not be memorable for most baseball fans, but for me, this one game exemplifies their entire season. Back on April 28th, Baltimore’s Mark Trumbo hit a grand slam into the seats at Yankee Stadium, giving the Orioles a seemingly-insurmountable 9-1 lead in the sixth. The Yankees trimmed the lead to 11-9, and Starlin Castro stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with a man on first. He swung at the first pitch, a swing I won’t forget for a long time: a powerful uppercut pull that dropped him to one knee, and he watched as it blasted out of the park to tie the game. An inning later, Matt Holliday hit a walk-off three-run homer to complete the comeback. It was the first moment that I realized the Yankees could really make a run, and of course as they proved in the ALDS, this team was more than capable of making improbable comebacks.
6. Indians’ 22-game winning streak
In the short term, the Indians’ 2017 season will likely be remembered for blowing yet another series lead in the postseason. The record books, however, will note something far more celebratory. From August 24 to September 14, Cleveland won 22 straight games—just think about that! It’s the second-longest streak in MLB history, and as FiveThirtyEight showed, it’s probably the most impressive. Winning streaks do not compare to championships, but they’re pretty impressive nonetheless.
5. Jose Altuve wins MVP*
*This, of course, hasn’t happened yet. Aaron Judge may have a chance at the award, and the biased part of me believes he should get it. Altuve will, however, in all likelihood win the award, and deservingly so. There are plenty of heart-warming storylines on the Astros roster, like Evan Gattis’ journey from janitor to World Series champ, but Altuve’s is perhaps the most inspiring of all. There are plenty of accounts of his story online, but to summarize: The 5-foot-5 second baseman was cut by the Astros after a tryout in 2007 because he was considered too small. Now, he’s the best player on the best team in the world.
4. Aaron Judge’s 50th home run of the season
Yankees fan or not, it is impossible to talk about the 2017 season without mentioning the meteoric rise of Aaron Judge to superstardom—even if he doesn’t win MVP. There were plenty of moments to choose from, but I’m going with his 50th home run of the season, which broke Mark McGwire’s record for most in a rookie season. Yes, he had an abysmal August. Yes, he strikes out a ton. But Judge had a season for the ages, and is well on his way to being another Yankee great. Like him or not, Judge is great for baseball.
3. “The Freeze” captivates the world
Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration on that one. But this was pretty cool. For those that have forgotten, the Braves had a brief promotional event mid-innings called “Beat the Freeze,” in which contestants, given a generous head start, raced against some superhuman speedster member of the Atlanta grounds crew in a costume. It even sounds exhilarating. In the first “running” of the event, the fan was sure he had won, and starts celebrating prematurely, before being passed and falling on his face. At the time, I was sure it was staged, but looking back, I’m not so sure. Either way, a genius idea, and a truly heartbreaking letdown when he finally lost a few weeks later.
2. Edinson Volquez’s no-hitter
In 2015, there were seven no-hitters. This year, there was one. On June 3, Miami’s Edinson Volquez threw the 296th no-no in league history, somehow needing only 98 pitches to do it against a potent Diamondbacks offense. Volquez had a 1-7 record entering the game, and twisted his ankle in the first inning, but that night, he was unhittable. It was an emotional night, as June 3 would have been the 26th birthday of former teammate Yordano Ventura, who passed away in a car crash in January.
1. Astros win the World Series
Since I’m rarely correct in predictions, I feel the need to brag that I picked Houston to win it all before this season even started. That aside, sometimes in sports, the best team is not necessarily the one hoisting the trophy at the end. Not this year. The Astros were simply the best team in baseball from beginning to end. It was a World Series for the ages with too many ridiculous moments to list. Houston players and fans alike are thoroughly deserving, and UConn can boast that they produced a World Series MVP. A fittingly-tremendous end to a superb year of baseball.
Andrew Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets at @asmor24