25 Images That Tell the Story of Major League Baseball in 2012

Benjamin Klein@BenjaminJKleinContributor IIIDecember 26, 2012

25 Images That Tell the Story of Major League Baseball in 2012

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    The 2012 Major League Baseball season was quite the story.

    If you missed it, well, you missed quite a bit. From Opening Day to the July 31 trade deadline to the final day of the regular season to Game 4 of the World Series, 2012 was one of the best seasons in MLB history.

    But instead of telling you everything that happened, I’m going to show you through the best images of the year—although I will give you brief descriptions to put the pictures into context.

    These are the top 25 images from the 2012 MLB season—in my opinion—so please feel free to put any other moments you deem worthy in the comments section below.

    So, without further ado, let me show (tell) you a story.

Fenway Park Celebrates 100th Anniversary

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    Fenway Park is the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball, and the historic landmark celebrated its 100th anniversary when the Boston Red Sox played their 2012 home opener on April 20 against their most-hated rivals, the New York Yankees.

    Fenway Park opened on April 20, 1912 and has seen plenty of memorable moments in its history.

    Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Fenway Park wasn’t very good to them in 2012, as they finished the season 34-57 when playing at home.

    The last-place Red Sox completed their worst season since 1965, when Boston lost 100 games. 

Philip Humber Goes 27 Up, 27 Down

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    In just Philip Humber’s second start of the young season for the Chicago White Sox, he made history against the Seattle Mariners.

    On April 21, Humber took the mound just looking to get a win for his team. He did just that...and a little more.

    Humber went inning after inning without allowing a Mariners hit. He rarely got behind in the count and never threw more than three balls to one batter.

    Humber came into the bottom of the ninth with a perfect game on the line. He struck out Michael Saunders to start the inning, and a John Jason fly out to right field put him one out away from history. He then struck Brendan Ryan out on a check swing that got away from A.J. Pierzynski, but Humber’s catcher made the throw to first with ease, and the ballgame was over.

    Final Pitching Line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K (W)

Young Superstars Make Their Debuts

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    April 28 was a big day in baseball in regard to minor league promotions. The Los Angeles Angels and Washington Nationals each called up the top prospect in their respective organizations: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

    Trout would go on to have a phenomenal season, finishing second in the American League MVP voting behind Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and running away with the league’s Rookie of the Year award. Trout finished the season hitting .326/.399/.564 with 129 runs, 30 home runs, 83 RBI and 49 stolen bases.

    Harper would have quite the season as well, winning the National League Rookie of the Year award while helping Washington win the NL East and enter the postseason as the NL’s No. 1 team. Harper finished 2012 hitting .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs, 59 RBI, 98 runs and 18 stolen bases. 

Dream Weaver Holds Twins Hitless

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    On May 2, Jered Weaver took the mound at Angel Stadium against the struggling Minnesota Twins. He would enjoy plenty of run support from his teammates, but all eyes were on him the entire game.

    Weaver cruised through the first inning and had success in the second as well, but a passed ball allowed Chris Parmelee to reach after he originally struck out. Weaver wouldn’t allow another baserunner until the fifth inning, when he lost a battle to Josh Willingham, who drew a rare walk.

    However, he had still not allowed a hit.

    Minnesota’s hitless streak would continue from there, as Weaver grew stronger as the game went on. In the top of the ninth, with the Twins still looking for their first hit, Weaver retired the side in order to complete a no-hitter—the first of his career.

    Final Pitching Line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K (W)

A Fallen Hero

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    It’s never easy to watch one of the game’s best go down with a terrible injury, but that’s what happened on May 3 in Kansas City when the New York Yankees were getting ready to take on the Royals.

    Future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera was out in the outfield shagging fly balls during batting practice when he went back to make a catch and ended up tearing his ACL after his knee buckled.

    The injury sidelined Rivera for the remainder of the 2012 season and the postseason, putting his future in jeopardy.

    Nonetheless, New York is confident that Rivera will return as if he never missed one game, signing him to a one-year deal (via Yahoo! Sports) that will keep Rivera a Yankee for his 18th season. 

Josh Hamilton Hits Four Bombs

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    Josh Hamilton started the 2012 season on an absolute tear. Through his first 25 games, he hit .381/.431/.691 with nine home runs and 26 RBI.

    And then Hamilton and the Texas Rangers traveled to Baltimore for a four-game set against the Orioles.

    He went 1-for-4 in the series opener with a home run, but he was just getting warmed up.

    The next game, Hamilton went deep four times in a 10-3 rout of the O’s. He homered off of Jake Arrieta in the first and third innings, Zach Phillips in the seventh and then Darren O’Day in the eighth for one of the most incredible hitting performances all season long.

    Final Batting Line: 5-for-5, 4 R, 4 HR, 8 RBI

Kerry Woods Gives It One Last Go

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    Before the Chicago Cubs’ May 18 game against the Chicago White Sox, Kerry Wood decided that his next appearance would be the final one of his storied career (via the Chicago Tribune).

    Wood came into the game in the top of the eighth inning to face Dayan Viciedo, only to strike him out on three pitches. Wood was replaced by James Russell when the next batter stepped up to the plate, but he left with a standing ovation.

    In Wood’s 14-year career, he went 86-75 with a 3.67 ERA in 1,380 innings of work and 63 saves. Twelve of his 14 years in the big leagues came with the Cubs, and it was very fitting that he went out in front of the Wrigley Field fans.

Mike Baxter Saves One in the Big Apple

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    The New York Mets were playing well heading into June, set to face the St. Louis Cardinals on the first day of the month. Johan Santana was on the mound for the Mets, and he was dealing early.

    Santana hadn’t allowed a hit through the first six innings, as his defense was playing very well behind him. And then Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina hit a deep shot to left field, right where Mike Baxter was playing.

    Baxter drifted all the way back to the wall, reached out to make the catch and then crashed into the wall to preserve the no-hitter (video via MLB.com).

    Baxter would lie on the ground for a few moments and was then replaced by Andres Torres.

    The catch was easily the best all season for the Mets, and the next slide will tell why.

Johan Santana Makes Mets History

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    As I mentioned on the previous slide, Johan Santana was tossing a brilliant game against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 1. Left fielder Mike Baxter had just made an incredible catch in the seventh inning to keep Santana’s no-hitter alive through six-plus innings.

    After Baxter left with an injury, Santana got Matt Adams to ground out to end the seventh inning.

    He retired the first two batters of the eighth inning before allowing a walk to Rafael Furcal. Santana then got Carlos Beltran to line out to end the inning, needing just three more outs to make history.

    Matt Holliday and Allen Craig were retired to start the top of the ninth. And in what ended up being a six-pitch at-bat, Santana got David Freese to strike out swinging to end the game, leaving the Cardinals hitless.

    Santana’s no-hitter was the first in New York Mets history.

    Final Pitching Line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 8 K (W)

Six Men from Seattle

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    Just a week after Johan Santana threw his no-hitter, the Seattle Mariners looked to make some history of their own against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kevin Millwood threw the first six innings of the game, but ended up leaving with a groin injury. Millwood didn’t allow a hit and struck out six during his outing.

    Charlie Furbush came in to relieve Millwood in the seventh, and he retired the two batters that he faced.

    Stephen Pryor then came in. Although he walked two batters, he got out of the jam without allowing a hit.

    Next, Lucas Luetge retired the one batter he faced before handing the ball to Brandon League, who finished the inning with a clean slate.

    With the Dodgers still seeking their first hit of the night, Tom Wilhelmsen came in for the save, the Mariners only leading 1-0. Wilhelmsen got Dee Gordon to ground out to start the inning, then Elian Herrera to line out and Andre Ethier to ground out to complete the combined no-hitter for the Mariners.

    Final Pitching Line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K (W)

Gregor Blanco Makes a Giant Catch

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    Matt Cain was pitching a brilliant game for the San Francisco Giants on June 13 against the Houston Astros. In fact, Cain was perfect heading into the seventh inning. And that’s when Gregor Blanco made a catch that Cain will never be able to thank him enough for.

    Jordan Schafer stepped to the box against Cain and drilled the fifth pitch he saw to deep right-center field. Blanco raced all the way back toward the warning track, leaped and made a spectacular diving catch (video via MLB.com).

    The Giants ended up winning the game 10-0, but you’ll see the real story of the night on the next slide. 

A Special Night in San Francisco

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    After the miraculous catch by Gregor Blanco, Matt Cain went back to work against the Houston Astros. Cain struck out both Jose Altuve and Jed Lowrie to end the seventh inning and head into the eighth with a perfect game still intact.

    The eighth inning went pretty smooth, as J.D. Martinez grounded out before Cain struck Brett Wallace out looking and induced a ground-ball out by Chris Johnson.

    It was the 27th out of the ninth inning that was really intense, as pinch-hitter Jason Castro hit a ground ball to Joaquin Arias that he almost booted. But Arias was able to make the play and retire Castro at first for the last out of the inning.

    Cain completed his perfect game and was as unhittable as any pitcher had ever been on one night, striking out 14 Astros over the course of the game.

    Final Pitching Line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 14 K (W)

Mike Trout Gets Away with Armed Robbery

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    The Los Angeles Angels were ahead 1-0 over the Baltimore Orioles heading into the bottom half of the first inning on June 27.

    Jered Weaver was on the mound, and he struck Brian Roberts out to start the frame.

    Then J.J. Hardy came up and crushed a ball to deep center field at Camden Yards at Orioles Park.

    Rookie outfielder Mike Trout raced all the way over to the wall and perfectly timed an attempt at the ball. He stretched his left arm all the way out to the maximum and somehow ended up with the ball in his glove (video via MLB.com). His entire arm ended up over the wall as he made the play and robbed Hardy of a home run.

    Trout’s catch was just one of many phenomenal plays made by the MVP runner-up in 2012, but this spectacular one stands out as his best. 

Melky Cabrera Gets Busted for PEDs

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    Melky Cabrera was on a roll until MLB halted his success.

    Cabrera was hitting .346/.390/.516 with 11 home runs and 60 RBI through 113 games for the San Francisco Giants, and he had just received the MLB All-Star Game MVP for hitting a two-run home run that helped the National League win home-field advantage for the World Series.

    Then his world came crashing down.

    Major League Baseball suspended Cabrera 50 games after he tested positive for testosterone (via ESPN). Cabrera missed the remainder of the regular season and all of San Francisco’s postseason games.

    Cabrera became a free agent after the season and signed a two-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays (via ESPN). 

The King Does It All Himself

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    Felix Hernandez is unlike any other pitcher in baseball. The way he approaches hitters and is constantly able to sit them down is amazing to watch, and he has no-hit potential each time he steps on the mound—although he had never done that until recently.

    On August 15 against the Tampa Bay Rays, Hernandez tossed a perfect game.

    That’s right, King Felix sat down a Rays hitter each time one stepped into the batter’s box. A Tampa Bay batter failed to even get on base 27 consecutive times.

    The perfect game was the second no-hitter a Seattle pitcher or combination of pitchers threw all season long.

    Final Pitching Line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K (W)

Red Sox Shake Things Up

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    The Boston Red Sox weren’t having the season they had hoped for and decided to try and drop a lot of payroll in order to rebuild going forward.

    Boston had already traded away longtime third baseman Kevin Youkilis in order to give prospect Will Middlebrooks the time to develop in the big leagues. But in order to fully fix the troubled club, the Red Sox needed to find a partner willing to take on large contracts that weren’t working for Boston any longer.

    On August 25, the Red Sox found a partner: the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Boston traded away first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, left fielder Carl Crawford, starting pitcher Josh Beckett and infielder Nick Punto for first baseman James Loney and a slew of young talent (via MLB.com).

    Tons of money exchanged hands in the deal, and it is one of the biggest trades in MLB history. 

Homer Bailey Stymies the Pirates

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    Homer Bailey is not an overpowering pitcher by any means, but there was just something about him on September 28 that the Pittsburgh Pirates just couldn’t figure out.

    Bailey got off to a great start in the first inning, retiring the first three batters in order. He would do the same in the second—and most likely in the third as well if it weren’t for an error.

    It wasn’t until the bottom of the seventh inning when another Pirates batter reached first base—that being Andrew McCutchen, who drew a walk.

    But from there, that was it for Pittsburgh, as it couldn’t do anything against Bailey.

    With a no-hitter intact through eight innings, Bailey finished off the final three Pirates hitters in the ninth to make history.

    Final Pitching Line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K (W)

Miguel Cabrera Is Good at Baseball

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    Even though you should already know this, Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera is one of the best to ever play the game. He’s an incredible hitter who can do whatever he wants with a bat and a ball.

    2012 proved that Cabrera was the best hitter in the game, and he did that by doing something that no one had done since 1967: win the Triple Crown.

    All throughout the season, Cabrera was a beast at the plate. He hit with consistency, he hit with power, and he hit to drive runners in.

    Cabrera finished the season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI—all of which led the league.

    On October 3, in the regular-season finale against the Kansas City Royals, manager Jim Leyland took Cabrera out mid-game so that he could get the ovation he deserved—despite being on the road—for winning the AL Triple Crown.

Omar Vizquel Bids Adieu

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    Omar Vizquel was a major leaguer for the past 24 years, and he felt that 24 years was good enough and decided to retire at the end of the 2012 season.

    He had a spectacular career, especially in the field, where he played shortstop so tremendously over the years. The guy does have 11 Gold Glove awards to his credit.

    Vizquel’s final season was played in Toronto, where he didn’t get a lot of playing time but was able to help some of the younger guys with their on- and off-the-field skills and qualities.

    Vizquel’s final game of his career came against the Minnesota Twins on October 3. In the top of the ninth inning, with two outs and the Blue Jays in the field, manager John Farrell replaced Vizquel with Mike McCoy so that Vizquel could leave to a standing ovation from his home crowd.

Postseason Droughts Come to a Close

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    2012 was a year unlike any other for the teams playing in Baltimore and Washington D.C. The Baltimore Orioles hadn’t made the postseason since 1997, and the Washington Nationals hadn’t made the postseason in franchise history.

    And yet, both made the playoffs in 2012.

    Baltimore wasn’t expected to come anywhere close to a playoff berth in 2012, as it was a young team without a lot of talent. But that didn’t stop the Orioles from giving it their all each game and staying within the top two of the AL East throughout nearly the entire season.

    The Orioles earned a spot in the AL Wild Card Game, which they ended up winning over the Texas Rangers. That earned the team a berth into the ALDS against the New York Yankees, which it eventually lost.

    The Nationals, meanwhile, had never finished a season higher than third place in their short time in the nation’s capital. And that happened just once, whereas they finished last five times since 2005.

    Washington made some impact moves during the offseason and called up top prospect Bryce Harper, who helped the team win the NL East for the first time ever.

    Washington forced a Game 5 in the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals and was just an out away from advancing to the NLCS, but St. Louis battled back and ended up shocking the Nationals. 

The Call Heard 'Round the World

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    It was the bottom of the eighth inning of the National League Wild Card Game between the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves were down 6-3 with two men on base and one down. That’s when Andrelton Simmons came up and gave the umpires a test as to how well they knew the rules.

    Simmons hit a high pop to shallow left field, which both shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday ran in to catch. The two miscommunicated and the ball fell to the ground, allowing all runners to advance, thus loading the bases for Atlanta with just one out.

    Except, that didn’t happen.

    The umpire ruled Simmons out via the infield fly rule (video via MLB.com). The game was put into protest by the Braves, as it seemed like a crazy call, but the protest never went anywhere.

    The Braves would lose the game, and the Cardinals would advance to the NLDS. 

Chipper Jones Says Farewell

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    The Atlanta Braves made a major investment in Chipper Jones at the 1990 amateur draft, making him the No. 1 overall selection. Looking back at that pick now, there’s no way that Atlanta is disappointed in how Jones turned out.

    The eight-time All-Star decided before the start of the 2012 season that the upcoming year would be his last in Major League Baseball. Jones was honored by club after club for his historic career with the Braves, and on October 5, he played in his final game.

    The Braves made the 2012 playoffs as a wild-card team and took on the St. Louis Cardinals in a one-game playoff. Atlanta was down 6-3 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs when he came up for the final at-bat of his career. Jones received a standing ovation from the Braves faithful and finished off his career with an infield single.

Raul Ibanez Makes His Mark as a Yankee

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    The New York Yankees weren’t going to win Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles with Alex Rodriguez batting in the bottom of the ninth inning, so manager Joe Girardi gave Raul Ibanez the bat.

    Ibanez walked up to the plate to face Jim Johnson, who had been brilliant all year long. On the second pitch he saw, Ibanez launched the ball to deep right field to tie the game 2-2. The Yankees couldn’t win the game shortly thereafter, and the Orioles couldn’t capitalize in extra innings either.

    After David Robertson retired the side in the top of the 12th inning, the stage was set—Ibanez was due up first. On the first pitch he saw from Brian Matusz, Ibanez connected for another deep drive to right field that landed in the stands for a walk-off home run.

    Final Batting Line: 2-for-2, 2 R, 2 H, 2 HR, 2 RBI

The Giants Are on Top of the World

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    The San Francisco Giants won the National League West for the second time in three seasons and entered the 2012 MLB playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the NL.

    San Francisco dropped the first two games of the NLDS to the Cincinnati Reds, but fought back to win the next three to advance to the NLCS.

    Once again, the Giants fell behind, this time to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Giants lost three of the first four games of the NLCS and were in quite the hole. The never-say-die Giants, however, won the next three games to shock the Cardinals and advance to the World Series.

    The Giants were smart this time around and didn’t let the AL Champion Detroit Tigers take a series lead. San Francisco swept the Tigers en route to their second World Series title in three seasons. Pablo Sandoval was named MVP after going 8-for-16 in the series with three home runs and four RBI.

Josh Hamilton Takes His Talents to L.A.

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    After hitting .285/.354/.577 with 43 home runs and 128 RBI, Josh Hamilton entered free agency as the No. 1 player on the open market.

    Several teams showed interest in the outfielder, including the Seattle Mariners, Milwaukee Brewers and the Texas Rangers, among others, but Hamilton decided to go with the mystery team, the Los Angeles Angels.

    The Angels signed Hamilton to a five-year monster contract (via Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com) that will boost Los Angeles’ lineup in 2013 and in the future. It’s the second straight offseason that the Angels have landed the top name, as they added Albert Pujols last year.

    Los Angeles now features two MVPs in Hamilton and Pujols, as well as 2012 AL MVP runner-up Mike Trout, in its lineup, which is sure to be one of the most feared in baseball.