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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #14: Bartolo Colon hits a homer

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

As Bartolo Colon walked to the plate in the second inning of the Mets-Padres game in San Diego on the night of May 7, he was a few days shy of his 43rd birthday. He was also a complete and utter offensive failure, posting a batting average of .089 in 225 at-bats, while striking out 119 times.

While that went by mostly unremarked upon for years, as he grew older and heftier and became something of a fan favorite, Colon’s lack of hitting ability actually began to become endearing. He often swung so hard that his helmet fell off in the process, drawing a mixture of cheers and laughs.

But on this night, the laughter disappeared and the cheers grew louder. Why? Because Bartolo Colon hit a homer:

The blast, which hit the lower level of the Western Metal Supply Building in left field of Petco Park, came off of James Shields. The pitch was a verrry straight 90 m.p.h. fastball, but a homer is a homer. Even when the home run trot can be timed with a sun dial.

In the wake of the homer, many people — even some who you thought would know better — argued that it justified pitchers batting and the lunacy of the designated hitter. Other, more sensible people, mind you, noted that this was merely the exception which proves the futility of having pitchers bat. Even newly-minted sluggers like Colon who, later that month, literally told the other team that he didn’t plan on swinging at any pitches in a game so they should feel free to strike him out.

Those arguments will never end, of course. Nor will the Colon at bats any time soon. He just signed a contract with a National League team, so maybe he’ll hit his second dinger at age 44.

Javier Baez, D.J. LeMahieu have disagreement about sign-stealing

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Fellow second basemen Javier Baez of the Cubs and D.J. LeMahieu of the Rockies got into a disagreement in the top of the third inning of Sunday’s game at Coors Field over sign-stealing.

LeMahieu reached on a fielder’s choice ground out, then advanced to second base on Charlie Blackmon‘s single. While Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story were batting, Baez was concerned that LeMahieu was relaying the Cubs’ signs to his teammates. Baez decided to stand in front of LeMahieu to block any information he might have been giving to Arenado and Story. LeMahieu got irritated and the two jawed at each other for a bit. Umpires Vic Carapazza and Greg Gibson had to intervene to tell Baez to knock it off.

There has always been a back-and-forth with alleged sign-stealing. As long as teams aren’t using technology to steal signs, it’s fair game for players to relay information to their teammates about the opposing team’s signs. Last year, MLB determined the Red Sox went against the rules and used technology — an Apple watch in this case — to steal signs from the Yankees. Other teams in the past have been accused of using binoculars from the bullpen to steal signs. In this particular case with Baez and LeMahieu, there was no foul play going on, just Baez trying to make the Rockies cede what he perceived to be their slight competitive advantage.

The Cubs went on to beat the Rockies 9-7 on Sunday.