The guys of TheSportsDegens.com and their friends will be recapping some of their top moments of 2017, by sports and in their format. Before we move on, we would like to specially thank all the contributors to the many year end recap pieces and more importantly to the viewers and listeners of all the content throughout the year. Feel free to let us know your top moments as well. With all that said, let’s see the Top MLB Moments of 2017.
3. June 3: Albert Pujols hits his 600th home run
As the baseball world gets further away from the dependence of the numbers on the back of the baseball card, it will never lose the fascination of its milestones. There are no more storied numbers in baseball than the ones regarding home runs. The big one people have kept their eye on throughout the years was #500; when a player was approaching that number, they were on the precipice of becoming a legend.
Only 27 players in MLB history have hit their 500th home run, but only nine have hit number 600. This season Albert Pujols got to join the more select club. If 500 marks legendary status, 600 makes you immortal in the baseball world.
It was a down season for Pujols; in fact, Fangraphs WAR value system ranked him as the least valuable player in the whole league. That statement seems like sacrilege if you had followed Pujols’ career. He was the best player in baseball for a good chunk of time and it doesn’t seem too long ago when that statement was universally accepted.
Injuries and just good old-natured aging has dropped Pujols down a peg and 2017 was far from his best. But on June 3 of this past season, he again had the spotlight on all of his career achievements and with his home run that night, he became immortal.
Aaron Judge, without a doubt had to be mentioned in one of the top moments of the 2017 baseball season; Aaron Judge was baseball in 2017. It may be unfair, however, to include a non-home run moment as the highlight, but this one was a one that included some additional impact to the entire season.
This moment was too good to pass up. The New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox rivalry hasn’t been all it’s cracked up to be in the past few years. In 2017, the rivalry felt re-born. The Yanks and Sawx both made the postseason for the first time since 2009.
So at times over the last seven years it may have felt unjust for this rivalry to continue to be shoved down the public’s throats. Seemingly every time the Yankees and Red Sox play they have been put on a national broadcast.
Which is again why this play ranks so highly as a moment in 2017.
On ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, there were certainly many people tuning in to see Judge’s ridiculous record-breaking rookie season face his Yankees’ biggest rival. And when he hit another of his majestic bombs to the deep center field part of Fenway Park, any fan of baseball stared in awe as they were surely seeing another tally to Judge’s home run total.
But Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. had other plans as he jumped high above the wall, and at full extension, was able to corral the bomb at the peak of his leap. The catch preserved a shutout victory for Boston and looking back at the Red Sox only winning the AL East by two games, was an incredibly important win. Expect more of those big plays in 2018 several times as this re-born rivalry seems here to stay. You can almost guarantee it will be nationally broadcasted.
1. October 29: Houston Astros win pivotal Game 5 of World Series
Very possibly the best game of the MLB season was saved for its biggest stage.
When the Dodgers took a 4-0 lead with the best pitcher in baseball on the mound, it felt like the season was close to ending for the home team Astros. With the win the Dodgers would take a 3-2 lead in the series with two home games remaining to clinch the title.
But in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Astros improbably got to Clayton Kershaw, scoring four runs on four hits tying the game. Even after going down by three again in the fifth inning, they got to Kershaw once more before AL MVP Jose Altuve tied the game again with a three-run blast.
The Dodgers, down by three in the ninth inning, tied the game up pushing it to extra innings.
And in the bottom of the 12th inning, way into the late hours of the night, Alex Bregman became the hero hitting a walk-off single off of super-reliever Kenley Jansen. The Astros had won Game 5, perhaps saving their season, and were able to win the whole thing in seven games.
In a year where everyone was perpetually mad and seemingly no one could agree on anything, there was one thing that provided the masses with much needed highlights. That one thing was baseball. The 2017 MLB season was everything I needed it to be. Despite the fact that my Rays only won 80 games and are now mired in a streak of four consecutive seasons without a winning record, are still poor and playing in a decrepit stadium that would make some arena football franchises cringe, and sadly are now moving forward without the mainstay and heart and soul of the organization in Evan Longoria, I still got nearly as much personal fulfillment from watching baseball every single day as I have in years past when my team was actually competitive. I found immense joy in simply taking in all of the great baseball moments, regardless of how said moments might impact my own rooting interests. Were there some down moments? There were. No person should ever have to watch Pedro Baez take so long in between pitches. We shouldn’t have had to deal with baseball minus the likes of the phenom Jose Fernandez. Angel Hernandez is still willfully employed as an umpire and is making decisions that decide the outcomes of actual baseball games. We learned that Bryce Harper cannot fight. But for every bad moment, there were many, many more amazing ones. Here are just a few of my personal favorites.
Yes, I realize that the criminally-underrated J.D. Martinez also accomplished the same feat of crushing four homers in one game this year, but JDM has a career wRC+ of 129 and a slugging percentage north of .500, and Scooter simply does not. This came from nowhere. The fact that Gennett was able to do so still strikes me as one of the most improbable accomplishments for one of the most unlikely players in recent memory. The fact that I had him in multiple DraftKings lineups also helps.
C-DICK’s Epic First Half
Corey Dickerson has been a personal favorite of mine for several years, even before he was traded to my Rays. There’s just something about his left-handed swing that I find so appealing. Baseball Prospectus writer Matthew Trueblood finally succumbed to my multiple requests directed at him to write about the player in depth, and he came to the conclusion that C-DICK is, in fact, a very weird player: one that should take his already swing-happy approach and run with it even more. We saw just that during the first chunk of 2017, with the result being a first half slash line of .312/.355/.548 and many a #CDICKDONG. He even made the All-Star Game, albeit with less than desirable results. Like all good things, his run of elite hitting didn’t quite hold all season, but to see a somewhat obscure player that you genuinely love come from nowhere and string together a few really good months was one of my proudest moments as a baseball fan. Also, every time C-DICK did anything my twitter mentions were straight fire.
Giancarlo Stanton Stays Healthy, Makes Twitter Haters Question Everything They Thought They Knew
I have long been a Stanton apologist. I never bought into the lame-ass arguments that he would never put it all together, mainly because I don’t think a player taking a fastball to the face warrants writing him off as “injury-prone”. I just think it’s a dumb argument that mouth breathers often make because they don’t know how to reconcile that none of their hopes and dreams have ever come to fruition. Of course, I’m joking. This heart is pure and I wish for nothing but the best for all of humankind. I’ve always maintained that Stanton has an exceptionally rare and coveted skillset and that it is always the sharp move to bet on elite talent over short-term results. In fact, my Dear Mr. Fantasy cohost Mike Yavnieli and I opined on this very topic multiple times over the course of the MLB off season, with both of us going as far as to say we thought that winning an MVP award and hitting 50+ home runs were well within his range of outcomes. So naturally, watching him completely eviscerate pitch after pitch en route to a 59 homer season was one of the most satisfying premonitions of my young fantasy sports career. I’ll be watching in sheer horror and awe as he and Aaron Judge flirt with 100 combined home runs for the Yankees while further cementing the axiom that life truly is not fair.
Note: There were a ton of moments during this season including Beltre getting to 3000 hits, Giancarlo hitting a million HRs, Altuve batting .485 in July, and Aaron Judge breaking the rookie home run record but I chose the 3 moments below.
3. Dodgers historic run
At the beginning of the season, most people picked the Dodgers to win the NL West, and they didn’t let us down. There was a specific period during the season where they were literally unbeatable. On August 5th, the completed the best 50 game stretch since 1912 shown by the tweet from the Dodgers account below.
I feel like every night they’d be losing late in the game and, somehow, came back to win in a ridiculous way. They were 21-7 in June and 20-3 in July. On August 25th, they had a 21-game lead in the division and also eliminated the Giants before the final month of the season. We don’t see this stuff in baseball very often.
2. Indians break AL winning streak record
It’s really unfortunate this isn’t the longest streak in MLB history. Technically, it’s the 2nd longest to the 1916 New York Giants 26 wins in a row (The Giants had a tie right in the middle of the streak but MLB still recognizes it as the longest). 22 wins in a row is still ridiculous and they dominated during the entire streak outscoring their opponents 142-37. The Indians trailed for only EIGHT innings. The starting rotation had a 1.77 ERA.
Normally, when a streak is ended, the team ends up regressing a bit but the Indians were different as they went 11-3 to end the season after the loss to the Royals on 9/15. I miss you Tito
1.MLB Playoff Ratings continue to grow; Astros win the World Series
With all the talk of baseball needing change to gain younger viewers, the ratings for the playoffs continue to grow. It was the most watched postseason since 2011 and game 7 of the ALCS was the most FS1’s most watched telecast ever. Did it help to have 3 of 4 largest markets in the final 4? Sure. But I think most of the games were great TV and a lot of casual viewers enjoyed themselves.
The Astros broke through and completed their rebuild by winning their first world series in team history. A lot of baseball people laughed at them back in 2013 when they traded everyone and had a $26 million-dollar payroll. They drafted well (minus Mark Appel over Kris Bryant in 2013) and were patient with their process. Some would say it’s the real #TrustTheProcess and now other teams like the White Sox and Braves are modeling their rebuild after Jeff Luhnow and the Astros organization.
#1 Astros vs. Dodgers, Game 2, Marwin Gonzalez’s 9th-inning Home Run.
Kenley Jansen, an 0-2 count, with two outs in the top of the ninth. Marwin Gonzalez channels his inner Joey Votto by choking up, and proceeds to stay inside on a 94-mph cutter, taking it out to left-center. Tie game.
Rarely is there a moment in a given season, let alone a World Series game, where I’m thoroughly confused as to how a finite event happened. Gonzalez single-handedly lengthening a game that the Astros went on to win – in equally as inexplicable fashion – encompasses everything I loved about the 2017 World Series.
I made a pact with myself to only include one World Series moment in my top three, and I’ll admit, Game 5 was knocking on the door. This swing, however, marked the beginning of the run of absurdity throughout this series. That holds a special place in baseball lore.
#2 2017 Home Run Derby
Numerous events could have eclipsed this one, and each probably had a greater direct impact on the season itself, but no other aggregated each of the game’s most exciting players in such fashion.
Cody Bellinger, the fastest player to 21 home runs in MLB history, advanced past the perpetually underrated Charlie Blackmon. Equally forgotten man-child Miguel Sano flexed past slugger Mike Moustakas. Gary Sanchez upset NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge continued to amaze towards the title.
You could take a plethora of major storylines during the 2017 MLB season and tie them back to one of this event’s participants. I wanted to acknowledge each revolutionary figure, and others, for putting their fingerprints on 2017, instead of choosing just Bellinger’s heat check, Judge’s mammoth bombs, or Stanton closing off his stance.
#3 Pujols’ 600th Career Home Run
One of the greatest players in baseball history hit his 600th home run in 2017. That player also finished as the worst player in baseball per Fangraphs’ WAR calculation. Albert Pujols, and his playing time for 2018 are now shrouded in doubt with the entrance of two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. Spielberg couldn’t have written a better movie script.
The ninth player to accomplish this feat, Pujols was the only one to achieve immortality with a grand slam… on a day where six other grand slams were hit.
The overlay of storylines – Ohtani, juiced balls, and Pujols himself – makes this moment so representative of where baseball has been and where it is going. The DNA of an unforgettable moment is converging storylines. This moment holds a candle to so many others I won’t soon forget.