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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 24: some international records fall

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We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. 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.

We talk a lot about all-time records in baseball history quite a lot, but given how radically the game has changed over the years — and given how radically the player population has changed over the years — that often requires us to compare apples to oranges.

Sure, Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth’s exploits were and still are great, but it’s worth remembering that they were playing against inferior competition compared to the players of today. There were no black players in baseball at all until 1947. Latino players were extraordinarily rare, with only those with Spanish heritage — as opposed to African or indigenous heritage — allowed to play because of their light skin. With black and Latino players out of the picture, it’s hard to argue that white players didn’t have a much easier go of it.

Which isn’t to say that we should not look at the entirely of baseball history. What happened happened and, given how baseball and its fans hold on to history as much as they do, treating the eras as distinct for records purposes is never going to happen. We can, however — and we probably should, however —  make note of the accomplishments of players of color who came into the game after the near-century of segregation ended and give them their props.

At least three players who wouldn’t have made it onto a major league field had their careers began before 1947 set new marks in 2018: Bartolo Colon, Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre.

  • With his victory against the Seattle Mariners on August 7 — his 246th career victory — Colon became the winningest Latin American-born pitcher in Major League history, passing Nicaragua’s Dennis Martínez. Colon finished the year with one more win and now sits at 247.
  • With a second-inning double against the Oakland Athletics on April 5, the Dominican-born Beltre became the all-time leader in hits by a player from Latin America, passing Rod Carew of Panama with his 3,054th safety. A couple of months later he because the all-time leader in hits by any non-U.S. native, passing Ichiro Suzuki. Beltre just retired and is Cooperstown bound with 3,166 hits.
  • Finally, on May 26, Choo hit a homer against the Royals. That was his 176th career bomb, putting the Korean slugger past Japan’s Hideki Matsui for the most homers by a player from Asia. Choo will begin the 2019 season at 189 homers and counting.

Colon’s wins total doesn’t come close to Cy Young’s, Beltre’s hit total doesn’t exactly make him Ty Cobb and Choo’s homer total doesn’t make him Babe Ruth. But it’s also the case the Cy Young wasn’t facing hitters like Beltre and Choo and Cobb and Ruth weren’t facing any pitchers of color whatsoever. I don’t think it takes anything away from those immortals to note that. And I think it takes much away from baseball history not to note the milestones reached by Colon, Beltre and Choo.

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.