The Most Unforgettable MLB Moments of the Decade

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2020

The Most Unforgettable MLB Moments of the Decade

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    David Banks/Associated Press

    The arrival of 2020 ushers in a new decade, which means it's the perfect time to look back at the past 10 years and highlight some of baseball's most unforgettable moments.

    There will be retirements, brawls, walk-offs, statistical milestones and, of course, World Series heroics.

    In narrowing our list down to 10, we've inevitably omitted a lot of amazing stuff. But these moments will inarguably live forever in MLB history.

The Perfect Games

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    OK, we're cheating a little here, but a perfect game is a perfect game. Like a snowflake, each one is unique and beautiful in its own way.

    Of the 23 official perfect games thrown in MLB history (postseason included), five were thrown in the past decade. 

    The Oakland Athletics' Dallas Braden and the Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Halladay achieved perfection against the Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins, respectively, in 2010.

    In 2012, a trio of hurlers tossed nine innings with nary a hit, walk or error to blemish their record: the Chicago White Sox's Philip Humber (against the Seattle Mariners), the San Francisco Giants' Matt Cain (against the Houston Astros) and the Mariners' Felix Hernandez (against the Rays).

    Notably, the only other time more than one official perfect game was thrown in a single season was 1880, when Lee Richmond of the Worcester Worcesters and John Ward of the Providence Grays achieved the feat.

Cleveland Indians Win 22 Straight Games in 2017

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    Phil Long/Associated Press

    In 2017, the Cleveland Indians reeled off one of the greatest winning streaks in MLB history. The final win, their 22nd straight, came on September 14 against the Kansas City Royals.

    To add dramatic icing to the cake, the Tribe sealed the victory on a 10th-inning walk-off by outfielder Jay Bruce.

    It wasn't the longest run of Ws in MLB history. That title belongs to the 1916 New York Giants, who won 26 in a row. But it puts Cleveland second all-time.

    The Indians won 102 games and the American League Central crown that season. Yet they were defeated in the division series by the New York Yankees and haven't hoisted a Commissioner's Trophy since 1948, the longest current championship drought in the game.

Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins Pay Tribute to Jose Fernandez

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    In 2016, MLB lost one of its most promising young stars when Miami Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez died at the age of 24 in a boating crash that killed two other people.

    At that point, Fernandez was already an All-Star and a Rookie of the Year winner with a backstory rooted in his defection from Cuba.

    In their first game after his death, Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, who was close friends with Fernandez, hit his first home run of the season and circled the bases with tears in his eyes.

    "That guy would have been on the mound," Gordon said in his postgame remarks to Fox Sports' Craig Minervini immediately after the Marlins beat the New York Mets, 7-3, and piled their hats on the hill next to Fernandez's stenciled-on No. 16. "And if he wasn't on the mound, he would have been on the top step screaming for us."

The Rougned Odor-Jose Bautista Brawl

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    From poignant to ugly, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the blowup between Rougned Odor and Jose Bautista.

    This is actually a series of moments. First, Bautista hit a pivotal postseason home run for the Toronto Blue Jays against the Texas Rangers in 2015 and flipped his bat, shall we say, emphatically.

    The following season, Bautista was hit by a pitch in a game against Texas and then went in with a hard slide on Odor at second base. Odor responded with a haymaker to Bautista's jaw and, naturally, the benches cleared.

    When the dust settled, Odor received an eight-game suspension, and Bautista was suspended for one game (various members of both clubs were also slapped with suspensions).

    We aren't condoning this behavior, which has no place in the game. But this was a rare and memorable throwback to the no-holds-barred brawls of yore.

Vin Scully Says Goodbye

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    In October 2016, legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully called it a career after 67 seasons behind the microphone. 

    During his tenure, he went from Brooklyn to L.A., and his smooth, simple catchphrase ("It's time for Dodger baseball!") defined a franchise.

    Fittingly, Scully's final call came in a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and their archrivals, the San Francisco Giants. (Though, surely to his consternation, the Dodgers lost.)

    One of the most iconic, erudite play-by-play announcers in sports history signed off in typically classy fashion, citing an unattributed quote: "Don't be sad that it's over. Smile because it happened."

Miguel Cabrera Wins the Triple Crown

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    On October 3, 2012, the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera became the first player since 1967 to win the Triple Crown.

    Yes, it's something of an anachronistic achievement in this era of advanced metrics. Who cares about runs batted in anymore?

    Still, there's no denying the impressive nature of Miggy's .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. The latter two stats didn't just lead the American League; they paced all of baseball.

    Cabrera rightly won the first of two consecutive AL MVP Awards that year and began to cement what is now a surefire Hall of Fame legacy.

Derek Jeter's Farewell Yankee Stadium Walk-off

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Could it have gone any other way for the Yankee captain?

    Playing his final game at Yankee Stadium in 2014, Derek Jeter came to the plate with the game on the line. New York and the Baltimore Orioles were tied 5-5. It was the bottom of the ninth. There was a runner on second. The best script doctor in Hollywood couldn't have set it up any better.

    Jeter was 40 years old and a shell of his former self. His pedestrian .617 OPS was easily the lowest of any season in which he'd played 100 or more games.

    And so, of course, Jeter slapped a single to right field to plate the winning run. Did it matter that the Yanks finished 84-78 and missed the postseason? Eh. Do we need to mention Jeter's present not-so-great stint in the Marlins front office? Meh.

    That hit capped a Bronx career that belongs in the company of Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and, heck, even Babe Ruth. Enough said.

Madison Bumgarner Seals 2014 World Series in Game 7

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    By 2014, the Giants had won two championships (in 2010 and 2012). They didn't need another one. And yet, they stood on the precipice of an even-year trifecta.

    It was Game 7 against the Kansas City Royals. Left-hander Madison Bumgarner had carried San Francisco through the National League Wild Card Game, the division series and the National League Championship Series with one superlative performance after another. 

    Then, on short rest, MadBum entered the do-or-die contest under the brightest lights and twirled five shutout innings against K.C to earn the title-clinching save.

    The Giants got a third parade down Market Street, and Bumgarner became one of the most legendary postseason pitchers of all time.

Red Sox Help Boston Heal with 2013 World Series Win

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    In April 2013, tragedy struck Boston. A bombing at the city's annual marathon killed three and injured hundreds more.

    Roughly six months later, the Red Sox won Game 6 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals and claimed their second title since 2004, when they busted the curse of the Bambino. 

    The Sox would win it all again in 2018, but that 2013 championship might be their most emotional given the circumstances. 

    "I think that this may be the most special of all the World Series that I have been a part of," veteran designated hitter David Ortiz, who hit .688 in the series, told reporters. "This is a team that we have a lot of players with heart. ... And when you win with a ballclub like that, that's special."

Cubs Win 1st Title Since 1908

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 1908 and then...didn't do so again. That ignoble run lasted until 2016 when, at long last, the North Side bathed in champagne and confetti.

    It was a hard-fought, seven-game series against the Cleveland Indians, and Game 7 featured both a cinematic rain delay and an inspirational speech by outfielder Jason Heyward.

    In the end, the Cubbies prevailed. Executive Theo Epstein etched his place in MLB lore by leading a second franchise (after the 2004 Red Sox) to curse-busting glory.

    It all went down in ludicrously exciting fashion, and Cubs fans could finally sleep soundly at night.

       

    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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