You Thought the ’08 MLB Season Was Fun? Wait Until ’09
Wow!Â What a year!Â Jon Lester threw a no-no.Â ManRam slammed #500 then pulled a “no-no” that sent him to Hollywood.Â Junior Griffey became an elitist with his 600th blast then headed to Chicago where he made it back to the postseason but fell short in his quest forÂ a first World Series appearance.Â Josh Hamilton owned the first half and stole the show at theÂ last All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium byÂ hitting home runsÂ in places no oneÂ imagined playersÂ could hit them during the Home Run Derby.Â In the end, no one even remembered who won (hint: it wasn’t Hamilton!).Â Writer’s note:Â I’d refresh your memory but I can’t remember either.
And let’s not forget the Yankees and Mets closing of Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium while both teams had to settle for saying goodbye during the regular season as neither made the playoffs.Â There was CC in Milwaukee, Cliff Lee’sÂ ”comeback” from a bad season, Fernando Tatis’Â comeback from anonymityÂ andÂ Rocco Baldelli’s comeback from a mitochondrial disorder that weakens his muscles and causes him debilitating fatigue.Â Pitching was back, too.Â Don’t believe me?Â You must not have seen Tim Lincecum, Edinson Volquez or Cole Hamels pitch.
Attendance was down but only slightly.Â Not bad for a year where the economic news was almost as depressing as Andruw Jones’ 2008 addition to his baseball card.Â The Mariners were down even more and became the first team to lose 100 games and spend $100-million.Â Ichiro got his again and socked his 3,000th professional hit — if you count his Japanese numbers.Â (Note to Cooperstown: If the BBWAA don’t vote him in, close!)Â The Angels won 100, the Cubs won 97 but just one combined in the postseason and went home for the winner.
Ivan Rodriguez collected his 2,500th hit, John Smoltz collected his 3,000th strikeout and Kenny Rogers became the All-Time leader with 92 career pick-offs.Â On the 30,000th try (OK, I’m exaggerating!), Greg Maddux won #350 and fellow old dude Jamie Moyer became the sixth pitcher in Major League history to beat every team in baseball.Â And K-Rod saved more games than anyone with 62.Â There were more milestones than that but we need to move on.
But that wasn’t all.Â Joe Maddon’s “9=8″ turned a perennial loser in Tampa Bay into one of the greatest worst-to-first stories of all time only to lose to THEÂ perennialÂ losers, the Phildelphia Phillies (change that worst-to-first to a worst-to-second best).Â Philadelphia Phillies: World Champions?Â World @$%!)@# Champions! (Blame Chase Utley for that one, not me!)
And off the field there was controversy, too.Â There was the Barry Bonds freeze-out, the Jay Gibbons apology letter, A-Rod and Madonna, Roger Clemens and [insert woman's name here], Maple bats, Hank Steinbrenner’s hissy fit about the National League, Milton Bradley’s blow up in Kansas City, Jose Guillen’s meltdown in the same place, the extinction of the “Juiced” era (yeah, right!) and the midnight firing of Willie Randolph.
But let’s move on from ’08.Â It’s time for ’09.Â And there’s plenty in store for us to misremember once it’s all said and done:
April 6, 2009
Gary Sheffield extends his Opening Day start streak to 21 and grabs another milestone when he slams a two-run home run in the ninth inning to put the Tigers ahead 3-2.Â The home run — Sheffield’s 500th — comes off of closer B.J. Ryan who is in to close out the victory for Roy Halladay who ends up with a no decision.
April 17, 2009
Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko both go yard for the second time in ’09 which brings their career totals up to 300.Â The home runs come early in a game at Tropicana Field against the Rays and the White Sox roll to a 9-2 victory that sends the Rays off to a slow 3-8 start.Â After the game, manager Joe Maddon explains to his team that “3-8=10″ and sparks a turn around and the Rays rattle off 10 wins in a row.
April 20, 2009
After soreness costs him most of Spring Training and he starts the season on the Astros’ 15-day disabled list, free agent signee Mike Hampton suffers a freak accident the day before he is supposed to take the mound for Houston when aÂ Lance BerkmanÂ blast during batting practice riccochets off of the flagpole on Tal’s Hill and knocks Hampton unconscious.Â Hampton misses his start the next day and doesn’t make his first start with Houston until May 1 in Atlanta where he pitches six scoreless innings and beats his old team, 5-1 and puts the unlikely Astros on top of the NL Central.
May 4, 2009
Phillies closer Brad Lidge blows his first save in a Phillies’ uniform when he gives up a three-run walk-off homer to Albert Pujols.Â The entire world of baseball writers and “experts” pool their money together to buy a full-page ad in the USA Today which reads, “SEE!Â WE TOLD YOU SO!”
May 7, 2009
Brewers’ catcher Jason Kendall collects his 2,000th big league hit in Milwaukee’s 3-1 win over the Reds.Â The bigger story is CC Sabathia who continues to reward the Brewers for the big bucks they plunked down on him.Â Sabathia’s complete game four-hitter pushes his record to 6-0 with a 2.21 ERA.
May 24, 2009
Japanese import Junichi Tazawa makes his Major League debut in a Red Sox uniform and tosses a no-hitter against Johan Santana and the New York Mets.Â The 22-year-old Tazawa who signed with Boston in the offseason and tore apart Triple-A pitching in April collected the no-hitter against Santana who also had a no-hitter through five innings until Jason Bay hit a solo homer in the sixth.Â Bay’s homer would be the only hit in the game as the Red Sox win 1-0.
June 9, 2009
Philadelphia’s Jamie Moyer makes a start at his 48th ballpark when he takes the hill against the New York Mets at Citi Field.Â In May, Moyer pitched at “new” Yankee Stadium and got the win but he’s not able to get the win on the 9th as the Phillies lose to the Mets 7-4 and slip back into a tie for first place in the National League East.
June 14, 2009
Alex Rodriguez launches his 570th career home run to pass Rafael Palmeiro for 10th on the All-Time home run list.Â A-Rod’s homer guides the Yankees to a 7-3 win over the Mets but it’s A-Rod’s marriage proposal to Madonna during the seventh inning stretch that really steals the show.Â The win puts the Yankees into a three-way first place tie with the Red Sox and Rays.
June 25, 2009
In a World Series rematch, the Phillies drop three straight in Tampa Bay to the Rays.Â The Phillies follow that series by dropping two out of three to the Blue Jays and fall four behind the Mets in the National League East.Â Immediately following the series with Toronto, the Phillies continue their trend of adding a B-list pitcher when they go out and trade for Tim Redding from the Washington Nationals.Â Like Joe Blanton in ’08 and Kyle Lohse in ’07, Redding pitches strong in the second half of the year despite an average start in D.C.
July 12, 2009
Randy Johnson, who joined the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the offseason, pitches a gem against the Yankees to notch his 300th career win.Â On the day before the All-Star break, Johnson goes seven and whiffs 13 in a 8-3 win over the Bronx Bombers in Anaheim.Â The win distances the Angels from the rest of the AL West pack and puts the Yankees in a tie for third with the Blue Jays and behind the Red Sox and Rays in the AL East.
July 13, 2009
He’s no Josh Hamilton but Rangers’ teammate Nelson Cruz follows in Hamilton’s footsteps with an impressive display of power in the first round of the Home Run Derby in St. Louis.Â The surprise star of the first half for the Rangers doesn’t win the Derby because of its silly rules of resetting the score following the first round and even in a fake future no one remembers who won, but Cruz adds to his impressive first half performance.Â In the second half, he adds his name to the list of players who have great Home Run Derby performances and then fade from mid-July on.
July 14, 2009
The American League wins the All-Star Game… again!
August 1, 2009
In his first game as a Phillie, Trade Deadline pick-up Matt Holliday goes 5-for-5 as the Phillies score six in the first on Barry Zito and beat the Giants, 13-4 behind yet another surprisingly solid outing from Tim Redding.
August 6, 2009
Manny Ramirez still loves L.A. and slams three homers as the Dodgers kill the Braves 10-2.Â The homers push Ramirez past Mike Schmidt for 14th on the All-Time home run list.Â The Dodgers lead the NL West by four games.
August 20, 2009
Desperate to not miss the playoffs for a second straight year, the Yankees sign 45-year-old Barry Bonds as the team’s DH.Â Fresh off of a three-month house arrest sentence for obstruction, Bonds breaks down in tears at the press conference as he discusses how important it is that he get one more chance to play the game he loves.Â Behind the Rays and Red Sox for a playoff spot yet again, Bonds joins the team for a three-game set in Boston where he goes 3-for-7 with a home run and five walks as the Yankees sweep the Red Sox and fall to one behind the Red Sox for the wild card while the Rays hold a three-game advantage over both teams.Â By the looks of things, though, the RaysÂ should fade any day now.
September 1, 2009
After a loss to the Angels that officially eliminates the Mariners from the playoff race, Ken Griffey Jr. announces that 2010 will be his last season.Â In a surprise move, the Mariners announce that they won’t be picking up his option for ’10 and Griffey proposes that he play three games as a member of every team in the Majors in his last year.Â Commissioner Bud Selig considers the idea but decides that such a move would not be in the best interest of Major League Baseball.Â Unfortunately, Selig doesn’t tell anyone of his decision which causes a major problem in the offseason when Griffey tries to sign three-game contracts with every team in baseball.
September 6, 2009
Although both teams were eliminated from playoff contention, the Orioles and Rangers set records during their three-game set for runs scored in a series with Texas taking the rubber match on Sunday at Camden Yards with a 17-14 win.Â In Sunday’s game, Josh Hamilton becomes the first person in Major League history to hit three homers in back-to-back games and smashes two off of the warehouse becoming the only player to ever hit the warehouse on the fly duringÂ a game.Â During the weekend series, the two teams combine for 97 runs in the three games.
September 15, 2009
Two days after collecting his 2,000th Major League hit, Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki goes 4-for-5 to become the first player to ever get 200 hits in nine consecutive seasons.Â Suzuki’s four-hit day helps the Mariners past the White Sox who are officially eliminated from the playoff hunt as the Tigers and Indians are left to battle it out for the AL Central.
September 26, 2009
Alex Rodriguez slams two home runs as the Yankees down the Red Sox at “new” Yankee Stadium.Â The win gives the Yankees a two-game cushion over the Red Sox and the two homers send A-Rod past Frank Robinson for seventh on the All-Time Home Run list.Â The next night, the Yankees lose to the Red Sox and then win just one of three from the Royals while the Red Sox take two of three from the Blue Jays and tie the Yankees for the wild card.Â With both teams tied, both the Red Sox — by the Indians — and Yankees — by the Rays — are swept to close out the season and must face each other for a one-game playoff for the wild card spot.
October 2, 2009
The Dodgers join the Angels, Cubs and Rays in their return to the postseason with a 5-3 win over the Rockies.Â Although Manny Ramirez has yet another two-RBI game, he now would need to go 8-for-8 over the last two games of the season to hit .400.Â Ramirez goes 7-for-7 and finishes the year at .399.
October 3, 2009
Despite a five-game lead with seven to play, the Tigers drop their sixth in a row while the Indians win again.Â The Tigers bullpen suffers yet another loss as they blow a five-run lead to the White Sox who hit two grand slams in the ninth inning to put away Detroit and knock them out of first place, which allows the Indians to slide by with their sixth win in a row.Â The Tigers finally win one on Sunday but Cleveland knocks off the Red Sox and clinches the AL Central crown.
October 4, 2009
On the final day of the season, the Phillies, Mets, Brewers and Astros are all tied with the same record with two spots available.Â The Phillies send Jamie Moyer to the mound for the third consecutive year in a series-clinching game.Â Moyer runs his career record against the Marlins to 14-1 with the win and the Phillies sit back and wait.Â In St. Louis, the Brewers send CC Sabathia to the mound on an unprecedented two days rest but Sabathia struggles and the Cardinals dash the playoff hopes of the Brewers.Â Finally, the Mets and Astros finish up their series with the way the rest of the action played out, the winner advances to the postseason.Â In the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game, Carlos Delgado smashes a ball down the right field line that is initially signaled a home run.Â As the Mets celebrate and bedlam ensues after Delgado’s 31st home run of the year and 500th of his career, which finally vaults the Mets back into the playoffs, the umpires convene and decide the call should be reviewed.Â After the review, the call is reversed and the home run becomes a foul ball.Â On the next pitch, Delgado strikes out and in the top of the 10th, Lance Berkman hits a two-run home run off of the still shaky Mets’ bullpen.Â Jose Valverde closes out the tenth and the Astros rip victory away from the Mets and they’re sent packing on the last day of the year for the third consecutive season.
October 5, 2009
In the bottom of the ninth with two out and the bases loaded in a 5-4 game, Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon faces New York’s Barry Bonds in an effort to get the final out of the one-game playoff and send the Red Sox back to the postseason and the Yankees home for the second straight year.Â After a long at-bat andÂ a full count, Papelbon gets a fastball up in the zone that Bonds smashes deep to… wait a second… the crystal ball is getting fuzzy.
Guess we’ll just have to wait until next year to see what really happens!