- Baseball had a season full of thrilling playoffs and great milestones. These were our writers' favorite moments in an exciting 2017.
Jon Tayler: The Never-ending Story, Starring Mike Trout and Felix Hernandez
In 2017, the average time of game in MLB ballooned to three hours and eight minutes—the longest on record. And of those 188 minutes, you'd be lucky if you got a total of 15–20 of action; the rest was warmup pitches and infielders walking around on the dirt and crotch tugs. This April 8 at-bat between Mike Trout and Felix Hernandez—14 pitches and roughly six minutes—isn't much different: Aside from some foul balls, this matchup is a lot of staring in and staring back and waiting.
But as Trout lays off or is just late, the tension builds and builds; like a joke that goes on so long it stops being funny, then becomes hilarious, the at-bat becomes must-watch through its persistence. And with that, we feel the suspense rise, waiting for the epic conclusion, wanting all those minutes and pitches to add up to something—for those dead seconds to pay off. Results-wise, they don't, really: Trout strikes out (though considering his lifetime .367 average against King Felix, Hernandez probably considered this a wild success). But look at Trout's smile as he strikes out on that 50-50 pitch: He knows that, despite it all amounting to nothing, it meant something. It was fun, no matter how long it took to get to the end.
Jay Jaffe: Beltre's ejection for moving the on-deck circle
Adrian Beltre's 3,000th hit was great, in part because it created a moment to for people to celebrate his remarkable, often underappreciated career and sealed the deal for his future election to the Hall of Fame. But the moment I enjoyed more came a few days earlier, when Beltre, who's also become one of the game's most beloved elder statesmen and a social media favorite—for his home runs hit from one knee and his well-known distaste for teammates rubbing his head—was ejected for moving the on-deck circle. Can't say I've ever seen that before.
Connor Grossman: Pujols hits 600
Since the 2010 season, Albert Pujols has gradually receded from his dominant, best-player-in-baseball status. That title now belongs to his teammate. But if only for one swing last season, we were reminded of just how historically great he's been over his career and that his place in the Hall of Fame has long been decided. Now is he worth $84 million over the next three years? Well...
Stephanie Apstein: Matt Cain’s emotional farewell outing
I wrote about this earlier this year. Matt Cain's final outing was a really gripping moment not simply for Giants fans, but for baseball. He was one of baseball's top starters for a short period who started to struggle with injuries and ineffectiveness. His final outing, however, was an unforgettable moment for one of baseball's truly nice guys who endeared himself to one of the game's most appreciative fan bases.
Jack Dickey: The Rockies’ Chad Bettis returning from chemo to throw seven scoreless innings against the Braves on Aug. 14. Baseball is full of comeback stories, but few have the improbability and heft of Bettis’s. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer late in 2016; he had surgery and presumed that was the end of his worries. In spring training, though, his doctors discovered the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. While his teammates were breaking camp, he was undergoing a nine-week chemotherapy regimen that sapped him of his endurance. He’d get winded after five minutes on the exercise bike.
But Bettis vowed to make it back to a big-league mound in 2017, no matter how much work it took. He made his first minor-league outing in July and made it back to Coors Field in mid-August. And he didn’t just start—he stunned.
Gabriel Baumgaertner: Logan Forsythe's walk and mad dash to continue Game 2 of the World Series
I have an irrational love for perfectly executed at-bats in high-leverage situations. While everybody remembers Rajai Davis's home run to tie Game 7 of the 2016 World Series (an incredible at-bat itself), I loved Brandon Guyer fighting Aroldis Chapman to a 3–2 count before doubling to keep the inning going.
Logan Forsythe, lauded by coaches and peers for his consistency, struggled through an injury-wracked and inconsistent 2017 season. But his at-bat against Ken Giles during the nutty Game 2 of the World Series demonstrated exceptional command of the strike zone and sterling focus when the everyman would be on the verge of soiling himself. Watching professional hitters navigate at-bats of such magnitude with 50-plus thousand spectators nervously watching is a scenario of which I'll never tire. The growing tension between pitches will excite (or torture) even the most casual fan. There is no comparison in any sport.
Forsythe's sprint home on Kiké Hernandez's game-tying single—despite a pinpoint throw from rightfielder Josh Reddick—is the perfect snapshot of a player exerting maximum effort on the game's biggest stage.
The Dodgers lost that game. But as Forsythe chugged home to narrowly beat Reddick's throw, it was one of the most thrilling scenes I'd ever witnessed.