B/R MLB Community Picks the Most Memorable Moments of the 2021 SeasonAugust 26, 2021
B/R MLB Community Picks the Most Memorable Moments of the 2021 Season
Welcome to this week's Bleacher Report MLB community article.
After looking at who readers thought were the most underrated and most overrated players in baseball the last two weeks, it's time to shift gears.
This time around, we're looking back at the most memorable moments of the 2021 season.
There are sure to be others added to the mix as the pennant race unfolds and the playoffs kick into gear, but for now, there are already plenty of enduring moments from the first five months of the campaign.
Ahead, we've highlighted some of your best answers to the simple question of: What is the most memorable moment of the 2021 MLB season?
An Empty Coliseum, Joey Votto's Power Surge and Toronto's Homecoming
"The Athletics open to full capacity and can't even draw 5,000 fans to the game. It's the moment I realized this team is destined to be moved somewhere else." (@CHYTnUP)
The Athletics drew a meager 4,739 fans on June 29 in their first game back at full capacity since 2019. It was a Tuesday, and they averaged a more respectable 20,557 fans during the weekend series against the Boston Red Sox that followed, but the point still stands.
Despite contending, Oakland ranks 28th in average attendance this year. With the club now openly exploring the viability of a move to Las Vegas, it's only a matter of time before the A's pack up and go.
"Blue Jays return home!!" (@RDouce)
That's how long it was between true home games for the Toronto Blue Jays when they finally took the field at the Rogers Centre on July 30.
"Joey Votto finding the fountain of youth and hitting a home run for seven straight games." (@BoogerMcfarland)
Joey Votto had 12 home runs in 68 games heading into action on July 24.
Over his next seven games, he hit nine home runs in 33 plate appearances, showcasing a power surge rarely seen from the on-base machine throughout his storied career.
The 37-year-old is hitting .321/.428/.756 with 17 home runs and 41 RBI in 36 games since the All-Star break, climbing into the National League MVP conversation.
Tyler Gilbert's No-Hitter
"Tyler Gilbert throwing a no-hitter in his first career start." (@NYCSports321)
It's been a trying season for the Arizona Diamondbacks but one that is not without a signature moment.
Tyler Gilbert took the mound Aug. 14 for his first MLB start following three relief appearances to begin his big league career, and he promptly etched his name into the record books.
Facing off against the San Diego Padres, he needed 102 pitches to complete the unlikeliest of no-hitters, walking three and striking out five along the way.
It was the third no-hitter in D-backs history and the record eighth no-hitter of the 2021 season. He is also just the fourth pitcher in MLB history to throw a no-hitter in his first MLB start, joining Theodore Breitenstein (1891), Bumpus Jones (1892) and Bobo Holloman (1953).
"For me, it's what Major League Baseball or the game of baseball is all about—as long as you have a uniform, as long as you give the right effort, anything's possible," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo told reporters. "It lined up perfectly for him today. We're all celebrating him."
I still remember St. Louis Cardinals rookie Bud Smith throwing an out-of-nowhere no-hitter in...checks Baseball Reference...2001.
If that one has occupied a spot in my brain for 20 years, it's fair to assume Gilbert's will do the same.
A Game-Saving Robbery, a Head-Scratching Rundown and the Smoothest Slide Ever
"Mike Tauchman robbing the Dodgers of a walk-off." (@BRINGBACKBONDS)
Robbing someone of a home run is great. Robbing them of a potential walk-off home run is even better. Robbing a future Hall of Famer of a potential walk-off home run while playing your division rival is as good as it gets.
That's what San Francisco Giants outfielder Mike Tauchman did May 28 when he brought one back off the bat of Albert Pujols that would have sent the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 6-5 victory.
You can find the highlight here.
"Trea Turner's slide." (@LilPitch)
If you haven't seen the GIF, go watch it here.
Heck, even if you have, go watch it again. It never gets old. Smoothest play in baseball history?
"Will Craig's rundown blunder." (@VisibleProfanity)
From the home run off Jose Canseco's head to the ground ball through Bill Buckner's legs, bloopers and blunders have their own special corner among memorable MLB moments.
The biggest blunder of this season saw Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Will Craig chase Javier Baez between home plate and first base, allowing a run to score, when he could have simply stepped on first base to end the inning.
Here's a full breakdown of the play.
Miguel Cabrera's HR in the Snow
"Miguel Cabrera's home run in the snow. A living legend adding another moment to his legacy. And more importantly, it was the first moment of the season. The start of baseball is already the best time of year. This just made it even more special." (@joshuag71)
The 2021 season began on April 1, and in some Midwestern cities, that meant frigid forecasts for Opening Day.
In fact, Cleveland and Detroit faced off at Comerica Park in a legitimate snow storm.
Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera provided the game's enduring highlight with a two-run home run off reigning AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber in the bottom of the first inning.
Amid a sea of flurries, Cabrera thought the ball had hit off the wall, and he slid into second base before standing up and finishing rounding the bases.
"When I hit the ball, I didn't know where the ball was going to be," Cabrera told reporters. "I looked at the right fielder and he went back. When the ball hit the fence, I thought there was going to be a play at second base. That's why I slid into second. When I saw the umpire, he said [it was a] home run, so I said, 'OK, thank you."
It's been a memorable season for Miggy, who also hit his 500th career home run this past Sunday.
A 14-Pitch At-Bat, Wainwright Pulls a Maddux and Charlie Freeman
"Anthony Rizzo's 14-pitch at-bat when the Cubs were actually good." (@chasep0610)
If you have eight minutes to kill, this is one of the best at-bats you'll ever see.
In the first game with Wrigley Field back at full capacity and facing off against the rival St. Louis Cardinals, Anthony Rizzo capped off a 14-pitch at-bat against Daniel Ponce De Leon with a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
He fell behind 0-2 in the at-bat and fouled off nine two-strike pitches before finally depositing a 3-2 fastball into the right field bleachers
"I'm going to go off the beaten path and say Charlie Freeman and Fernando Tatis Jr.'s new relationship." (@striplingwarrior)
The wholesome content produced as a result of Atlanta Braves star Freddie Freeman's son meeting his favorite player, Fernando Tatis Jr., has truly been the gift that keeps on giving.
"Waino tossing a Maddux." (@Jacobsolik)
Adam Wainwright is proving to have a lot more left in the tank than anyone would have imagined.
The 39-year-old has logged a 3.10 ERA in 162.2 innings this season, tossing three complete games along the way. That includes his first shutout since 2016, when he needed just 88 pitches to fire a two-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 11.
A "Maddux" is an unofficial stat used to describe a complete-game shutout of fewer than 100 pitches.
Chicago Cubs Fire Sale
"It's not my favorite moment, but I'll certainly remember the Cubs' liquidation." (@IAmEvilHomer)
I have to say, I love "liquidation" as a stand in for "fire sale," which has become an extremely overused word in sports today. It makes the Chicago Cubs sound like a second-rate furniture store that's going out of business.
When the dust settled on the July 30 trade deadline, the following players had all been dealt by the North Siders:
- Anthony Rizzo
- Kris Bryant
- Javier Baez
- Craig Kimbrel
- Joc Pederson
- Ryan Tepera
- Trevor Williams
- Jake Marisnick
A nine-game losing streak in late June and early July torpedoed the Cubs' season, jump-starting a roster rebuild that began during the offseason when the team traded Yu Darvish and cut loose Kyle Schwarber via non-tender.
It doesn't mean the Cubs are headed for another lengthy losing period. They'll have a ton of money to spend in free agency and major market appeal. But the page has been turned on the 2016 World Series-winning core.
"Sticky stuff memos and checks will be synonymous with 2021." (@lilsnoozybert)
In late June, Major League Baseball officially began its efforts to crack down on pitchers using foreign substances to increase their grips on the baseball.
With that came a drastic decrease in spin rates around the league and an adjustment period for pitchers that saw some of the game's top arms struggle.
Thus far, only Seattle Mariners left-hander Hector Santiago and Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Caleb Smith have been slapped with 10-game suspensions for using foreign substances.
Both pitchers were flagged following an on-field check at the end of the inning, and pitchers handing their gloves, hats and belts to umpires after recording the final out of an inning has now become commonplace.
The smart move going forward would be finding a league-approved grip enhancer that doesn't provide pitchers with a massive spike in spin rate, but until such a thing is found, expect to see pitchers in some stage of undress at the end of each inning.
"Trade deadline. Haven't been on my phone refreshing Twitter that fast in a very long time. Best deadline of all time." (@Anjan)
In case you need a quick refresher of the mayhem that was the 2021 MLB trade deadline, here's a quick snippet from my biggest winners and losers article that published immediately after the passing of the 4 p.m. ET deadline on July 30:
"There's never been an MLB trade deadline quite like the one we just witnessed.
"According to Sarah Langs of MLB.com, a record 10 players were traded in the same season they were named to the All-Star team: Kris Bryant, Nelson Cruz, Eduardo Escobar, Adam Frazier, Joey Gallo, Kyle Gibson, Craig Kimbrel, Max Scherzer, Kyle Schwarber and Trea Turner.
"Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Jose Berrios also found new homes as potential impact players for the stretch run, and two former contenders in the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals stripped their rosters to the studs in a full-blown fire sale.
"There were a total of 32 trades completed in the two days leading up to the deadline, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, and more than 80 players have changed teams in the past week."
Essentially, every big name that was rumored to be available—aside from Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, who inexplicably stayed put—found a new home before the deadline passed.
It was a landscape-altering deadline the likes of which I've never seen in 10 years of MLB coverage, and it will likely be a long time before we see one like it again.
"Anything that Shohei Ohtani has done. You can pick the moment. What he's doing is just absolutely unreal and his 'coming out party' will define the 2021 season." (@Smokin_JayCutler)
I couldn't help but shake my head when Shohei Ohtani was a few people's answer to the most overrated player in the B/R community article a couple weeks ago.
Babe Ruth is often the comparison for Ohtani's two-way contributions.
In truth, Ruth was an everyday player and a regular part of the rotation just once in his career, during the 1919 season as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
Here's how they stack up offensively:
- Ruth: 543 PA, 217 OPS+, .322/.456/.657, 29 HR, 113 RBI, 9.1 WAR
- Ohtani: 495 PA, 163 OPS+, .270/.368/.634, 40 HR, 88 RBI, 4.3 WAR
And here are their pitching stats:
- Ruth: 133.1 IP, 102 ERA+, 2.97 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 58 BB, 30 K, 0.8 WAR
- Ohtani: 100.0 IP, 166 ERA+, 2.79 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 39 BB, 120 K, 3.8 WAR
While Ruth was an otherworldly offensive player even at that early point in his career, Ohtani is having a more well-rounded season as a true two-way star.
Enjoy it, folks, We've never seen anyone like 2021 Shohei Ohtani.
The Field of Dreams Game
"Field of Dreams game. That game was just incredible to begin with. Atmosphere was wild, felt like the game was literally being streamed from heaven." (@JerryCallo)
"As someone who isn't a MLB fan, 100% Field of Dreams game." (@Not_RudyGobert)
Puppies. Tom Hanks. Free samples.
The list of things that are universally beloved is a short one, but if the inaugural Field of Dreams game is any indication, it could soon join that exclusive group.
Before the game even started, the event was a rousing success, with a regular-season game on a Thursday night generating national interest beyond the scope of baseball fans.
It didn't hurt that the game was a thriller, with eight home runs launched into the Dyersville, Iowa, cornfields, and six runs scored in a wild ninth inning that saw the Chicago White Sox cough up a lead and then bounce back with a walk-off blast from Tim Anderson.
It didn't take long for Field of Dreams 2.0 to be announced, as the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds will square off at the site next year on Aug. 11.
Count me among those who can't wait.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Tuesday's games.