Since baseball season extends through over half of the calendar year, it is natural to expect numerous headlines that warrant attention. The 2008 season was of no exception, with several twists and sagas, some of which faded quietly and others that took a life of its own. There were various stories this season that deserve to be recognized, but there’s only so much that should be mentioned. So here they are.
In a season defined by historical games, marks, and trades, the history made at Yankees Stadium for its final game may be the strangest. When Jose Molina hit a home run in the 6th inning, he knotted his name with Babe Ruth forever. Ruth hit the stadium’s first home run, and Molina hit its last. Look at that, Babe Ruth and Jose Molina in the same sentence. Baseball is a weird sport, huh?
For the Mets, Willie Randolph managed to keep his job after the most historic collapse in major league history, but lasted two more months into the 2008 season. It wasn’t surprising that he was handed the pink slip, it was merely the fashion in which it was done. On the first game of a road trip against the Angels, the Mets won a sound game against the best team in the league. Thirty minutes after the game he was fired. Imagine that! Winning then getting fired. While the decision was made before the game, it was one of the oddest sequences in recent memory for a job change.
How ‘bout them Rays! Cut away the Devil in front of Rays and they emerged from the grave into one of the best teams in the majors, one year after compiling the worst record in the bigs. The core of their team is made up of highly touted prospects that are glued together by the veteran prescence of the likes of Cliff Floyd and Gabe Gross. If they can manage to keep their squad together, they won’t even sniff the basement of the league for a long time.
Speaking of the Rays, did you know that Josh Hamilton was actually drafted by them about a decade ago? It’s easy to go into detail about his eye-popping intangibles, but they could be simply presented by saying this: Most scouts had him as the best outfield prospect in the 1990s, which was host to a prospect named Ken Griffey Jr. That’s some compliment, but it wasn’t enough to keep him away from the dangers of drugs, with come with the territory of receiving millions of dollars out of high school. Lost in the world of addiction, Hamilton found himself out of baseball five years after he was called the next Mickey Mantle. With an inordinate amount of resiliency, Hamilton re-emerged from the shadows in 2007 where he played well with the Reds before getting injured. Then he was traded to the Rangers, where he has become one of the best players in the majors. In only one year, he was within reach of the Triple Crown, broke the Home Run Derby record, and nearly hit a ball out of Yankees Stadium. Some would call that a great career. Hopefully for Hamilton, he’s just getting started.
C.C. Sabathia’s time with the Brewers will be short, but it won’t stop him from going down in history. Only Rick Sutcliffe with the Cubs and Doyle Alexander with the Tigers can boast the statistics that can compare with what Sabathia has done for Brewers. He has an ERA less than two and put a team that was floundering on his back so they could at least stay in contention. Regardless of how October goes, Sabathia will be a rich man when spring training opens in 2009. He is a pending free agent, and negotiations will be starting at the 137 million that Johan Santana was given by the Mets. Don’t hold your breath Yankees fans, he really wants to go somewhere where he can bat.
The peaks and valleys of the baseball season is what makes it a special sport. With the exception of a few teams who were on the high and low side of the totem pole, most teams experienced the thrill of an impressive winning streak and the despair of losing heartbreakers successively. After all, it is only in baseball where the likes of a Babe Ruth and a Jose Molina have their names linked together as they do now.