2010 MLB Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Amazing
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It's been a heckuva season. We saw surprising and disappointing teams, offseason acquisitions that wound up being busts, and key injuries to key players.
But summer is over, and the leaves are changing colors. Now that all 183 days have passed, it's time to take a trip down memory lane and look back at the season that was.
Enjoy this month-by-month review of the 2010 MLB season.
April: When It All Began
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The first month of the season is always a special time. Fans finally get a chance to see that big superstar their team acquired in the offseason.
Yankee fans were itching to see Curtis Granderson fly around in the outfield. Mets fans were anxious to see Jason Bay smash homers out of Citi Field. Phillies fans couldn't wait to see Roy Halladay bring his Cy Young-like stuff to the City of Brotherly Love.
But several teams also began the season without intricate members of their rosters. The New York Mets were without Jose Reyes (thyroid condition) and Carlos Beltran (offseason knee surgery) out of the gates.
Arizona's ace Brandon Webb hadn't thrown a pitch since 2009 Opening Day and remained on the shelf as the '10 season got under way. The Twins lost All-Star closer Joe Nathan for the entire year before the season even began.
There couldn't be a more intense way to start a season than a series between the New York Yankees and the host Boston Red Sox. With a rivalry that dates back to the days of Henry Ford and the Model T, Opening Day did not disappoint one bit.
A cold, blustery evening featured a future Hall of Famer and Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez throwing out the first pitch and a marquee pitching matchup—CC Sabathia vs. Josh Beckett. But neither ace had his best stuff, as neither of them lasted longer than six innings. In dramatic fashion, the Red Sox came from behind with a three-run seventh inning to stun the Yanks in what was a 9-7 Boston victory.
This was only the beginning...
The next day was officially MLB's Opening Day 2010. This special occasion saw Braves rookie sensation Jason Heyward smack a home run in his very first Major League at-bat.
Roy Halladay took no time to introduce himself to Philadelphia Phillies fans. Halladay, acquired from the Blue Jays during the offseason, threw seven innings of six-hit ball, allowing one earned run and striking out nine Washington Nationals, as the Phils clobbered the Nats 11-1.
The Minnesota Twins opened their new home, Target Field, in dubious fashion—a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Red Sox.
But perhaps April 17 gave the most memorable moments of the month. The New York Mets met the St. Louis Cardinals at new Busch Stadium in the second game of a three-game series. The game started at 4:00 EDT and was nationally televised on Fox. The game came to an end almost seven hours later after the two teams competed in an epic 20-inning marathon.
The conclusion of the game, which saw the Mets survive with a 2-1 victory, had a closer (Francisco Rodriguez) get the win, an infielder (Felipe Lopez) get the loss, and a starting pitcher (Mike Pelfrey) record the save. But this wasn't the only piece of history to occur on this date...
Ubaldo Jimenez took the hill for the Colorado Rockies as they squared off against the Braves. Despite allowing six men to reach base via base on balls, Jimenez became the first pitcher in the Rockies' 18-year history to toss a no-hitter. After throwing 128 pitchers, he held the Braves hitless as his club swatted the Braves 4-0.
May: Pitcher Perfect
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If your name is Dallas and you wear a green and gold uniform, May was a perfect month. More specifically, Mother's Day (May 9) was one which A's lefty Dallas Braden will never forget.
Braden twirled a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. He retired all 27 Rays in order, allowing no batter to reach base, as the A's won the game 4-0.
But the perfection on the mound didn't end in Oakland. Just 20 days later, Roy Halladay spun his own perfect game in Miami against the Marlins, shutting them out 1-0. He was deadlocked in a pitcher's duel with Josh Johnson, but Halladay was just that much better and added more credentials to what has already been a Hall of Fame career.
That day also featured the dawn of a new era in the Bay Area. Buster Posey made his season debut for the San Francisco Giants against the Arizona Diamondbacks (he did appear in seven games for the Giants at the end of last season). He went 3-for-4 with three RBI, and Posey was here to stay.
That's not all from that same day in May. The Anaheim Angels defeated the Seattle Mariners in dramatic fashion. With the teams tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 10th inning, Kendry Morales launched a game-winning grand slam to give the Angels a 5-1 victory. But that victory would be accompanied by a loss.
After making the turn at third base, Morales did the customary helmet toss and jumped 10 feet in the air and landed on home plate, surrounded by his cheerful mates. But as he landed on the plate, he crumpled to the ground in severe pain...he had broken his leg. That grand slam would be the last swing Morales would take in 2010, and walk-off celebrations would be forever changed.
The latest installment of interleague play got underway as well. The weekend of May 21-23 featured round one of AL vs. NL, including the infamous Subway Series; two matchups between some of baseball's age-old teams, as the Dodgers took on the Tigers and the Phillies went up against the Red Sox; and of course the recently revived rivalry between the Orioles and Nationals.
Also in May, the Kansas City Royals made the first managerial change of 2010. Trey Hillman was removed as the Royals' manager on May 13th and replaced by Ned Yost. Yost, who managed the Milwaukee Brewers from 2003-2008, had been working in the Royals' front office prior to this change. During Hillman's tenure, which began in 2008, the Royals had a record of 152-207 and never finished higher than fourth in the AL Central Division.
June: Bring on the Heat
Ken Griffey Jr. called it a career on June 3
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The month of June started off with a legend hanging up the cleats.
On May 31, in the bottom of the ninth inning in a game against the Minnesota Twins, Ken Griffey Jr. pinch-hit for Rob Johnson. He grounded into a fielder's choice and was subsequently pinch-run for.
This would be Griffey's last plate appearance of his illustrious career. Four days later, he announced his retirement from baseball.
Junior ended up with 630 career long balls and was the American League MVP in 1997. He will be forever idolized for his enthusiasm, his energy, and his everlasting positive attitude. There was a period of time when his career looked to be in constant jeopardy as he suffered injury after injury. But he persevered and played 22 seasons and is almost certain to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
While one Kid said goodbye, plenty more said hello. June is also the month in which Major League Baseball conducts its First-Year Player draft. Once again this year, the Washington Nationals had the first overall pick. Their choice was Bryce Harper, a standout from the Junior College of Southern Nevada.
Harper, who will turn 18 in October, was primarily a catcher in college, but the Nationals have indicated that they plan to have him play in right field, at least initially.
Just days after the completion of the draft, the Nationals' first overall pick from a year ago made his much anticipated Major League debut. Stephen Strasburg made his debut against the Pirates in a home game on June 8, and he made it known instantly why he was drafted first overall—he struck out 14 Pirates in seven innings, allowing two runs on four hits.
The 14 Ks sit one short of the all-time record for a pitcher making his Major League debut (Karl Spooner in '54 and J.R. Richards in '71 each had 15).
In a season where no-hitters and perfect games became almost commonplace, June remained par for the course. On June 2, Tigers hurler Armando Galarraga came one blown call within the third perfect game of the year.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Galarraga had held the Cleveland Indians to no hits, no walks...no baserunners. But with a 1-1 count, Jason Donald hit a weak grounder to second base. Though Donald appeared to be out, first base umpire Jim Joyce declared that he beat the throw and robbed Galarraga of his perfect game and no-hitter. After the game, Joyce watched the replay and admitted his error by embracing Galarraga, teary-eyed and emotional.
But baseball did in fact witness its fourth no-hitter of the season after all. On June 25, Edwin Jackson logged an eye-popping 149 pitches and walked eight Tampa Bay Rays en route to the first no-no of his career.
June brought more managerial changes in the big leagues. The Baltimore Orioles dismissed manager Dave Trembley on June 4 and replaced him with interim skipper Juan Samuel. Also, on June 23 the Marlins replaced manager Fredi Gonzalez with Edwin Ramirez. Ramirez had been managing the Marlins' Triple-A team in New Orleans for the previous year and a half.
July: A Month For The Stars
After a rather quiet month of June, July was sure to offer plenty of excitement around Major League Baseball.
However, the month got off to a solemn start. Two Yankee legends were lost before we reached the halfway point of July.
On the day of the 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game, "The Boss" George Steinbrenner died, just nine days after his 80th birthday. Steinbrenner had been the owner of the Yankees since 1973 and will forever be remembered for his fiery attitude, as well as building the greatest franchise this sport, or any sport, for that matter, has ever seen.
His latest legacy will stand for years to come—New Yankee Stadium, which opened in '09.
Just two days earlier, on July 11, the voice of the Yankees also passed away at the age of 99. Bob Sheppard, who had been referred to as "The Voice of God," was the public address announcer at Yankee Stadium for more than 50 years. Names like DiMaggio, Mantle, Jackson, and Jeter have all been gracefully spoken by Sheppard to the fans at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees, and all of baseball, were in a complete state of mourning for the better part of the month.
But life does go on, and baseball did too. July 12-14 was the All-Star break. Big Papi David Ortiz blasted his way over Hanley Ramirez to win the State Farm Home Run Derby. But it was the Midsummer Classic that had everyone buzzing. Who were going to be the starting pitchers? Could the National League finally win an All-Star Game?
Well, the answer to that first question was Ubaldo Jimenez for the National League and David Price for the American League. The game itself, though a hard-fought contest, was rather uneventful. But in the end, a three-run double from Braves' catcher Brian McCann gave the NL its first All-Star victory since 1996. He was named the All-Star Game MVP, and all National League fans were able to breath a sigh of relief, as now the NL team represented in the World Series will have home-field advantage.
July is also an exciting month because it culminates with the non-waiver trading deadline. There were a flurry of key moves that were executed by contending teams during the month of July: Cliff Lee was dealt to the Texas Rangers by the Seattle Mariners in exchange for a number of minor leaguers, including prospect Justin Smoak; the Cubs traded Ted Lilly to the Dodgers; the Twins acquired closer Matt Capps; the Astros sent Lance Berkman to the Yankees and Roy Oswalt to the Phillies. That's just to name a few.
There were more manager changes in July as well. The Arizona Diamondbacks replaced A.J. Hinch with his bench coach Kirk Gibson, and on July 29 Buck Showalter finally signed on with the Orioles, amid much speculation. This move meant the end of interim manager Juan Samuel's short-lived managerial debut.
The month certainly ended with a bang. Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez slammed his way into the record books in a July 31st game against the Cubs in Denver. With the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, CarGo needed just a home run to complete the cycle...and win the ball game. He did just that. He took the first Sean Marshall offering over the right-center field wall, becoming the first player since Dwight Evans in 1984 to complete the cycle with a walk-off home run.
August: The Dog Days
Alex Rodriguez sealed his invition to Cooperstown as he smacked his 600th career home run on August 4 agains the Blue Jays
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The dog days of August can be absolutely brutal for a ballplayer. It's been four long months and the temperature continues to rise. But for one Bronx Bomber, this August will be one for the record books.
Alex Rodriguez reached a new pinnacle in his already Hall of Fame career. On August 4, A-Rod became the sixth player in the history of the game to hit his 600th home run. This milestone A-Bomb came at the dispense of a Shaun Marcum pitch in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Rodriguez joined Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Ken Griffey Jr. as members of the 600-home run club...a very exclusive club.
But the injury bug struck in August—and perhaps no injuries were more devastating than those to young blue chippers Carlos Santana and Stephen Strasburg.
On August 3, Santana, the Indians' young catcher, suffered a hyper-extended left knee following a home-plate collision with Boston's Ryan Kalish, trying to score from second. Santana managed to appear in 46 games in his rookie campaign and hit .260 with six home runs for the Tribe.
As wrenching as that injury was, watching Stephen Strasburg almost literally throw his arm out was just horrific to watch. Strasburg, who had missed time on the DL in July with a fatigued shoulder, left his August 21 start against the Phillies in the fifth inning after he injured his elbow throwing a pitch to Raul Ibanez.
Despite the injury, Strasburg was pleading with manager Jim Riggleman to remain in the game. The skipper pulled the 22-year old phenom, and Strasburg would wind up having Tommy John surgery on September 3 and will likely miss all of the 2011 season.
August also brought the end to an era. After almost 24 years as a manager, Lou Piniella called it a career on August 22. Piniella had originally planned on finishing out the season, but family matters accelerated his departure from the game. He leaves the field with a career mark of 1,835-1,713 and won a World Series title as the manager of the 1990 Reds.
September: The End Is Only the Beginning
The Phillies celebrate after clinching their fourth consecutive playoff birth.
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September—the month that some real baseball fans dread, as the season draws to an end. Others look forward to it, as one season ends, another begins. That season would be the postseason.
September is the month when the contenders are made and the pretenders are spoiling the party for the contenders.
For teams like the Diamondbacks, Tigers, Mets, and Mariners, September was a month of auditioning. Young prospects and role players were making their bids to be part of their team's plans for the 2011 season.
But teams such as the Cardinals, Padres, White Sox, and Red Sox spent their month of September duking it out to see who would still be playing in October. As it would turn out, it would be the Giants, Braves, Reds, and Phillies representing the National League in the postseason, while the Twins, Yankees, Rays, and Rangers would be showcasing the American League's finest.
Who will still be standing when the October dust has settled? Which team will raise their hands in victory? Who will be showering in champagne next? Well, that is for another season...the postseason. But two things are for sure—2010 will be a season to remember, and 2011 is bound to be just as memorable.