We’re a few short days away from 2018 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2017. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.
As I was going through the baseball stories of the past year, I realized that I had way more than 25 worthy of mention. In the past, I have just cut things off regardless, letting numbers 26 through, well, whatever, disappear into the haze of history. Then I made the mistake of tweeting about one of the stories that wasn’t going to make the cut:
A lot of people responded to that, demanding that it be included, if only as an honorable mention. Let no one say I don’t serve my readers, so here are the honorable mentions. Stories which mattered — arguably, anyway, at least to some — which fall just short of Top 25 Stories of the Year importance:
- As noted, Mr. Mets flipped off a fan on May 31 and got fired for it. Fred and Jeff Wilpon, meanwhile, have been flipping off Mets fans, figuratively speaking, for years and suffer no discipline for it whatsoever;
- Oh, Yasiel Puig gave a fan the finger in the same month. He was not fired either, but then again, he’s less replaceable than either a guy in a mascot costume or the owners of the Mets.
- Gift Ngoepe debuted with the Pirates. When he did so, the South African man became the first black African player in major league history (Al Cabrera, a white Spanish man from the Canary Islands played in 1913);
- Back in June Edinson Volquez tossed a no-hitter and, in a touching moment afterward, dedicated it to the late Yordano Ventura, who we’ll be talking about much later in our countdown. Volquez’s was the only no-no thrown in baseball this past season;
- Rich Hill tossed nine no-hit innings himself back in August, but he lost his bid, and the game, in the 10th inning. Of course, simply taking a no-hit bid to the 10th is a notable accomplishment;
- Eric Thames, who had spent the previous three seasons putting up monster numbers in Korea, returned to Major League Baseball with the Brewers in 2017. Despite those monster numbers, most folks didn’t expect much from him. He defied expectations, however, and raked out of the gate, hitting 11 homers in his first 24 games and putting up an OPS of 1.276 in the month of April. While he cooled off in later months, Thames finished the season with 31 homers and a line of .247/.359/.518.
- Madison Bumgarner came out of the gate quickly too — he hit two homers on Opening Day, becoming the first pitcher to do that — but a couple of weeks later he experienced a career low, when he wrecked a dirt bike on a day off in Colorado, injuring his shoulder and bruising some ribs. That put him out of action for nearly three months, limiting his season to 17 starts. While there were a lot of reasons that the Giants were tied for the most losses in baseball in 2017, Bumgarner’s injury proved to be the harbinger of the doomed campaign for San Francisco.
- Matt Harvey had a season to forget, suffering more injuries and pitching so poorly that many are wondering if he’s washed up as a player. He made some news off the field too, for partying too hard and too late on Cinco de Mayo and failing to show up to Citi Field for a game;
- As Hall of Fame voters have softened their stance on players confirmed, accused or suspected of using PEDs, the Baseball Hall of Fame itself decided to harden its position when it comes to character and decorum of candidates. In August, Hall president Jeff Idleson said that he preferred players who “played the game the right way.” In November, Hall member Joe Morgan — in a move clearly supported and helped out by the Hall itself — wrote an open letter to Hall voters, imploring them to keep PED users out of the Hall. No one has, apparently, told Idelson and Morgan that there are already PED users in the Hall of Fame;
- Steve Bartman, the Cubs fan who has lived in undeserved infamy for 14 years, got a Cubs 2016 World Series ring. Aww;
- Ugly baseball fights have been on the decline for years, but we had a couple of humdingers in 2017, including a Yankees-Tigers brawl that featured sucker punches and dogpiles and a fight between the Giants Hunter Strickland and Nationals star Bryce Harper, that was apparently based on a beef so old that everyone except Strickland had forgotten about it;
- While Derek Jeter has suddenly become pretty unpopular — much more on this later in the countdown — we experienced something of an A-Rod Renaissance in 2017. Now that he’s not playing anymore he’s . . . actually likable?! And, finally . . .
- MLB did something called the “Players’ Weekend” which mostly involved players wearing little-league looking uniforms with nicknames on the back. Many players’ jerseys featured some pretty hilarious nicknames. Many, however, dutifully fulfilled the stereotype of being unfun and declined to put nicknames on the back. Can’t have that, you know. Wouldn’t want anyone to think baseball was anything besides Serious Business.
So there we have the, uh, big stories that didn’t make the cut. Stay tuned over the next few days for the actual Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2017.