Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2017 — No. 4: Yordano Ventura, Roy Halladay die in tragic accidents

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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.

Baseball lost several beloved figures in 2017, and we’ll mention some of them below. It lost two, however, in shocking accidents. One a star entering the prime of his baseball career, another entering the prime of his life.

On January 22, Royals starter Yordano Ventura was killed in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic. He was only 25 years-old.

Ventura was a four-year veteran, having debuted in 2013 but truly bursting onto the scene for the Royals in 2014. That year he went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 183 innings, ascending to the national stage along with the entire Royals team with some key performances in that year’s ALDS and World Series. The following year Ventura won 13 games for the World Champion Royals and again appeared in the playoffs and World Series.

Ventura was often in the middle of controversy — he found himself in several dustups and brawls arising out of his habit of hitting and brushing back hitters — but he was an undeniably electric young talent who was poised to anchor the Royals rotation for years to come. His loss, like that of Jose Fernandez just four months prior, was incalculable to both his team, his fans and to Major League Baseball as a whole.

Roy Halladay’s baseball career was over, but he was enjoying retirement in ways that almost seemed shocking to those who watched his intense dominance during his playing days. Indeed, since his retirement following the 2013 season, Halladay had revealed to the public just how affable, easy going and downright goofy he could be.

He dressed up as Jamie Moyer to an 80s-themed Halloween partyHe took a fan who wanted nothing more than to have Halladay take him to the zoo, to the zooHe goofed on A-RodHe got into fights with Roger Clemens over social media, and had the public on his side. He got multiple speeding tickets in one day but had the humility to laugh about it. And, of course, he took to his new hobby — aviation — with a passion and joy. Sadly, that passion led to his death when, on November 7, he was killed in a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico, piloting an amphibious sport plane he had just recently purchased.

Halladay pitched in the majors for 16 years, starring for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, winning Cy Young Awards in 2003 and 2010. He retired after the 2013 season with a career record of 203-105 and a 3.38 ERA. He was, without question, a Hall of Fame talent. When he is eligible, he will almost certainly be inducted.

Ventura and Halladay weren’t the only baseball figures we lost in 2017. Among the others: players Bobby Doerr, Gene Michael, Don Baylor, Lee May, Jimmy Piersall, Darren Daulton, Sam Mele, Jim Bunning, Roy Sievers, Andy Marte, Dallas Green, Anthony Young, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Daniel Flores, Daniel Webb and Miguel Elias Gonzalez. We also lost Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, announcers Dick Enberg and Rafael “Felo” Ramirez and umpire Ken Kaiser.

Others, too many to name here and some who may have escaped our notice, joined them all in Baseball Valhalla. As you ring in the new year, take a moment to remember those we lost in the old one.


Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

Minnesota Twis v Kansas City Royals
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.