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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #12: Tim Tebow plays baseball

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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.

It seems like it lasted all season, but the “Tim Tebow: Baseball Player” thing didn’t get started until early August. That’s when the former Heisman Trophy winner and failed NFL quarterback announced that he was “actively pursuing a career in professional baseball” and that he planned to hold a workout for MLB teams. Tebow is 29 and hadn’t played baseball since he was a junior in high school. As such, the entire thing was viewed as a publicity stunt. Some in baseball were particularly unimpressed by Tebow’s intentions.

Whatever his intentions were and are, Tebow followed through. At least he did after selling some autographed baseball merchandise from his website, as one does. At the end of August, however, he held a workout for scouts. His raw power was, not surprisingly, excellent. Everything else was found lacking. A little over a week later the defending NL champion New York Mets nonetheless signed him. They intended to send him to the Instructional League, but allowed him to take weekends off in order to work his day job as an ESPN college football analyst. The Mets didn’t much care, however, as they were selling a lot of Tim Tebow jerseys themselves.

A hurricane cut Tebow’s Instructional League stint short, but the Mets had bigger plans for their new star: The Arizona Fall League. This rankled many more in baseball than his signing did. The AFL is for serious prospects and Tebow, however nice a guy he may be, is not a serious prospect. On to Arizona he went, however. Apart from some typical Tim Tebow off-the-field heroics it didn’t go well. His very presence in the Fall League was viewed as a “farce,” and the scouts’ assessments of his game was withering. He was called “awful,” was told that he “stinks” and that his game was “ugly.”  The man may have big league dreams, but he had no business in the Fall League.

Not that this has deterred the Mets. They plan to let him play in spring training games next March. They pretty much have to, right? If they don’t, Tebow will have to take the $300 autographed Mets jersey he’s selling off of his website. And that would simply be embarrassing.

 

Sean Manaea pitches the first no-hitter of 2018

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Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.