Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 13: A parade of stars retire

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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.

Every year sees its share of baseball retirements. In terms of quality, 2018’s share was larger than most.

The biggest star to call it quits was Adrian Beltre. He announced he was done in late November, capping a 21-year career in which he hit .286/.339/.480, slugged 477 homers and collected 3,166 hits, all while being one of the best if not the best defensive third basemen of his era. The numbers aside, he was considered a team leader for most of his career and it’s hard to find a more respected figure around the game. He’ll almost certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Another third baseman who took his final bow in 2018 was David Wright, whose career was sadly cut short by debilitating injuries. He was activated late in the season, however, and on September 28 he made an emotional farewell to his fans in New York, taking the ceremonial first pitch from his daughter, taking the field before the rest of his teammates in order to receive a solo ovation and, after two plate appearances and a couple of successfully-handled chances at third, being removed from the game to a final ovation.

An even bigger star than both of them may have played his last game, but we’re not entirely sure. That’d be Ichiro Suzuki, who stopped playing after May 2 to join the Mariners’ front office and, occasionally, its coaching staff. While many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later in the season or during the offseason, it is now suspected that he’ll go to spring training with the Mariners in 2019 for the specific purpose of playing in the team’s season-opening series against the Athletics in Tokyo next March 20-21. If so, it’ll be a really nice gesture by the Mariners and a wonderful gift for Ichiro’s fans in Japan. One suspects that, as soon as that series is over, Ichiro will officially call it quits, pushing his certain Hall of Fame induction back a year.

Among the others making their final appearances:

  • Chase Utley, a World Series champion with the Phillies, one of the best players of his era and a guy whose career will make for a very interesting Hall of Fame debate in five years;
  • Ryan Howard, a former National League MVP who, like Utley, was a World Series champion in Philadelphia;
  • Jayson Werth, also a member of that 2008 Phillies team and a fine hitter in his own right;
  • Shane Victorino, yet another member of the 2008 Phillies championship team and a member of the 2013 World Series champ Red Sox as well. He didn’t play after 2015, but he signed a one-day contract in 2018 in order to retire with the Phillies;
  • Joe Mauer, a former American League MVP and all-time Twins great and, like Utley, an interesting Hall of Fame candidate in a few years;
  • Brandon McCarthy a cerebral and at times excellent pitcher who, to the amusement of many, finished his career with a 4.20 ERA and 69 wins;
  • Victor Martinez, one of the finest hitters in the game over the course of his career;
  • Mike Napoli, an excellent hitting catcher, a much beloved player both in the clubhouse and among fans and a key part of the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series championship team;
  • Kyle Lohse, a 147-game winner in the bigs and member of the 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals;
  • Kris Medlen, a one-time 15-game winner and a member of the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals;
  • Aaron Laffey, an eight-year veteran who spent time with the Rockies, Indians, Blue Jays, Mets, Yankees, and Mariners;
  • Brayan Pena, a journeyman catcher with a fun sense of humor who joined the Army reserves in the middle of his career;
  • Colby Rasmus, a supremely talented outfielder who certainly had his moments on the field, but who never quite lived up to expectations. He retired twice, actually, once in the middle of the 2017 season and again, presumably for good, this past year;
  • Andre Ethier, a solid outfielder and hitter who was one of the most important players on a Dodgers team that transitioned from an OK but uneven club to a perennial NL West champ;
  • Luke Hochevar, the first overall pick of the 2006 draft who, while never panning out as a starter, was an effective reliever for the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals;
  • Brad Ziegler; a guy who did not even pitch in the big leagues until age 28 yet managed to pitch in 11 big league seasons; and
  • Mike Scioscia and Buck Showalter, each longtime managers who, while possibly managing again, are more likely to be seen in broadcast booths or in studio shows going forward.

Hats off to these guys and to the others not mentioned here who said goodbye to their playing days and hello to the rest of their lives in 2018.

Rutschman has five hits in opener, Orioles outlast Red Sox 10-9

Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON – The last time Adley Rutschman recalls feeling this level of emotion on a baseball field was playing in front of intimate, 5,000-seat crowds in college at Oregon State.

He trumped that experience at Fenway Park on Thursday in his first career opening day start.

“This blows that out of the water,” Rutschman said.

Rutschman became the first catcher in major league history with five hits in an opener, and the Baltimore Orioles survived a wild ninth inning to beat the Boston Red Sox 10-9.

“To have that close game in the ninth inning and the crowd get so loud. You kind of sit there and say, ‘This is pretty cool,’” said Rutschman, the top overall pick in the 2019 draft.

Rutschman – who debuted for the Orioles last May and quickly became indispensable to the young, resurgent club – homered in his first at-bat and finished 5-for-5 with a career-best four RBIs and a walk on a chilly day at Fenway Park, with a temperature of 38 degrees at first pitch.

Ramon Urias hit a two-run homer for Baltimore, which finished with 15 hits, nine walks and five stolen bases.

Kyle Gibson (1-0) allowed four runs and six hits over five-plus innings to earn his first opening-day victory since his 2021 All-Star season with Texas. Gibson gave up an RBI groundout in the first inning before retiring nine straight Red Sox hitters.

The Orioles nearly gave the game away in the ninth.

With Baltimore leading 10-7, closer Félix Bautista walked pinch-hitter Raimel Tapia. Alex Verdugo followed with a single and advanced to second on an error by center fielder Cedric Mullins.

Rafael Devers struck out. Justin Turner then reached on an infield single to third when Urias’ throw was wide, scoring Tapia. Masataka Yoshida grounded to shortstop Jorge Mateo, who stepped on second for the force but threw wildly to first, allowing Verdugo to score.

Bautista struck out Adam Duvall on three pitches to end it and earn the save.

The Orioles scored four runs in the fourth and three in the fifth to take an 8-2 lead. Baltimore led 10-4 before Bryan Baker allowed three runs in the eighth to give the Red Sox some hope.

The eighth could have been even better for the Red Sox had Devers, who led off the inning, not become the first player in major league history to strike out on a pitch clock violation. Devers was looking down and kicking debris off his cleats when umpire Lance Barksdale signaled a violation that resulted in strike three.

“There’s no excuse,” said Alex Cora, who dropped to 0-5 in opening-day games as Boston’s manager. “They know the rules.”

Boston offseason addition and two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (0-1) struggled in his Fenway debut, surrendering five runs on six hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings.

“Less than ideal,” Kluber said. “Didn’t turn out the way I would have hoped for.”


Red Sox: Christian Arroyo stayed in the game after taking an inadvertent cleat to the side of his head in the second inning. Arroyo was applying a tag to Rutschman at second base as he attempted to stretch out a single. Rutschman’s leg flipped over as he slid awkwardly. … LHP James Paxton was placed on the 15-day inured list (retroactive to March 27) with a strained right hamstring.


Rutschman, one of six Baltimore players making his first opening-day appearance, became the youngest Oriole to homer in his first opening-day at-bat since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1984.


The Orioles took advantage of MLB’s bigger bases – going from 15- to 18-inch squares – that are being used for the first time this season. Baltimore hadn’t stolen five bases in a game since last June 24 against the White Sox. Mullins and Jorge Mateo swiped two bags apiece, and Adam Frazier got a huge jump on his steal against reliever Ryan Brasier. There was nothing Boston catcher Reese McGuire could do to stop them and on the majority of Baltimore’s steals, he didn’t bother to throw.


Right-hander Kaleb Ort and Tapia earned Boston’s final two roster spots to open the season. Tapia got the nod over Jarren Duran, who was sent down to Triple-A Worcester. Ort pitched a scoreless sixth with one strikeout Thursday.


Orioles: RHP Dean Kremer will make is sixth career start against Boston when the three-game series resumes on Saturday. In 11 road starts last season, he went 5-3 with a 3.63 ERA.

Red Sox: LHP Chris Sale, who has pitched in only 11 games over the past three years due to injuries, is set to begin his seventh season in Boston.