Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 9: A Hall of Fame class for the ages

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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.

There were a few years there when it seemed like no one would be elected to the Hall of Fame. Heck, in 2013, no one was elected to the Hall of Fame, at least by the baseball writers. In 2010 and 2012 only one guy got in. It was a tough ticket.

In recent years, however, the BBWAA has done a better job of clearing what remains a pretty big backlog of deserving candidates. Last January they elected four guys and, with two candidates elected by the Veterans Committe the month before, one of the best classes to ever take the stage together was inducted to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in July: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris all got the call.

Jones spent parts of 19 seasons in the majors, all with the Braves. He hit .303/.401/.529 across his career with 458 home runs, 1,623 RBI, 1,619 runs scored, and 150 stolen bases. He won the 1999 National League MVP Award, made the NL All-Star team eight times, won two Silver Slugger Awards, and won the batting title in 2008 with a .364 average. He helped the Braves win the World Series in 1995 in six games over the Indians. Jones was part of the Braves’ historic dominance as the club made the playoffs in 11 consecutive seasons from 1995-2005, which included two other World Series appearances.

Jones is one of the best switch-hitters in baseball history. According to Baseball Reference, only Mickey Mantle accrued more WAR (109.7) than Jones (85.0) among switch-hitters. He’s ahead of Pete Rose (79.1), Ozzie Smith (79.5), and Frankie Frisch (70.4). Jones is also one of the best third basemen in baseball history. His 85.0 WAR is fifth-best all-time behind Mike Schmidt (106.5), Eddie Mathews (96.4), Adrian Beltre (93.9), and Wade Boggs (91.1). He’s ahead of Brooks Robinson (78.4) and Ron Santo (70.4).

Thome hit .276/.402/.554 with 612 home runs, 1,699 RBI, and 1,583 runs scored in his 22-year career. He spent 13 of those years with the Indians, followed by four each with the Phillies and White Sox, two with the Twins, and short stints with the Dodgers and Orioles. Thome is eighth on the all-time home run leaderboard behind Albert Pujols (614) and ahead of Sammy Sosa (609). Thome’s eye at the plate was just as important as his power, as he led the league in walks three times and drew 1,747 total over the course of his career. He made five All-Star teams and won an AL Silver Slugger Award in 1996.

Guerrero played 16 seasons in the majors. Eight of those came with the Expos, six with the Angels, and one each with the Rangers and Orioles. He hit .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs, 1,496 RBI, 1,328 runs scored, and 181 stolen bases. Guerrero won the 2004 AL MVP Award and eight Silver Slugger Awards (three in the NL, five in the AL), and made nine All-Star teams (three NL, five AL). Guerrero was known as one of the best “bad ball” hitters of all time, meaning that he was able to find success on pitches well outside of the strike zone.

Hoffman compiled 601 saves — second-most all-time behind Rivera — across an 18-year career. He and Rivera are the only closers with more than 478 saves, in fact, showcasing both players’ pitching prowess and longevity. Hoffman also had a career 2.87 ERA with 1,133 strikeouts over 1,089 1/3 innings. The right-hander was drafted by the Reds, went to the Marlins in the 1992 expansion draft, and was traded to the Padres in 1993 in the Gary Sheffield deal.

Morris pitched parts of 18 seasons in the majors, 14 of which were spent with the Tigers. He played on four championship teams: the 1984 Tigers, the 1991 Twins, and the 1992-93 Blue Jays. While his regular season stats weren’t terribly impressive beyond his 254 wins, Morris has always had a decent amount of Hall of Fame support due to his postseason performances. Morris shut the Braves out over 10 innings in Game 7 of the ’91 World Series. That being said, his postseason ERA of 3.80 isn’t far off his regular season ERA of 3.90. If you ask me, Morris doesn’t pass muster for the Hall of Fame. He now has the highest career ERA of any pitcher in the Hall.

Trammell had been unjustly kept out of the Hall of Fame despite a terrific career. He hit .285/.352/.415 across parts of 20 seasons from 1977-96, all with the Tigers. He was regarded as a tremendous defender and made a memorable combination up the middle with Lou Whitaker, who also played with the Tigers from 1977-95. According to Baseball Reference, Trammell racked up 70.4 Wins Above Replacement during his career, which is slightly more than Hall of Famer Barry Larkin (70.2) and as much as Hall of Famer Ron Santo (70.4).



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

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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.