Walk-offs always work, but what about impossible catches? Ridiculous throws? The ever-rare squeeze play? It's all up for debate.
We posed a very simple question to our MLB staff: What's the most exciting play in baseball? Everyone has their own favorite flavor of baseball, from squeeze plays to walk-off dingers to the rare stolen base. Time to put on your baseball fan cap and think about what gets you excited in baseball, independent of who's playing.
Any run-scoring wild pitch, with extra points for a walk-off. There’s the natural excitement of, well, a run scoring, heightened by the fact that the runner knows he has a limited window to make it safely in an unorthodox situation, usually amplified by the batter wildly waving him in—and then there’s the manic fright of the catcher trying to track down the ball, which might not be exactly exciting for him, but it’s perfect drama for everyone else, and it all has the vibe of watching someone else’s nightmare. What’s more exciting than that?
I've long said that my favorite play in any sport—the one I find most impressive—is the infield web gem. A hard-hit ball gets on infielders so quickly that any minor misstep is the difference between a spectacular play and a hit. Those plays may not build to a crescendo like an inside-the-park homer or a bases-clearing double, but they stop you in your tracks, take your breath away, and force a borderline-involuntary response after the out has been recorded. For my money, I'll take a do-or-die diving play on the infield where the infielder then has to make a long throw to get the out as baseball's most exciting play.
A “five-star” catch in the outfield. A big knock on baseball among non-baseball fans is that it supposedly doesn’t require much athleticism. But when you look at the type of athletes patrolling major league outfields—from speedsters such as Mookie Betts and Byron Buxton, to hulking freaks of nature Mike Trout and Yasiel Puig—it’s very clear that it takes a pretty good athlete to play adequate defense. Watching an outfielder sprint to make a sliding snag, make an over-the-head catch or scale a wall to somehow pinpoint a baseball making its way out the yard is among the most athletic and stupefying feats in sports, to me.
A close second: Nasty curveballs to end a strikeout.
I'm always game for a good ol' fashioned play at the plate, preferably in the late innings with the winning run coming around. While actual collisions are all but forbidden at this point between the runner and catcher, even one of the most exciting plays in baseball history demonstrates that contact isn't necessary for excitement. (Not shown below: The 15-minute review that would commence if this play occurred today)
Watching Cody Bellinger's ludicrous throw to gun down Carlos Gomez at Dodger Stadium on Monday night has me fully convinced: A rightfielder throwing a runner out at third is the most exciting play in baseball.
We've seen the play plenty of times before from Ichiro, Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and a cast of other cannon-armed stars. But the play never ceases to amaze. Seeing a projectile missile fly from the outfield to third base is always satisfying, especially so when chasing a tagging runner. Carlos Gomez may have cost the Mets a run on Monday, but he did provide one of the season's top highlights. Let's hope someone tests Bellinger's arm again soon.
I can’t think of anything more fun or cooler than a truly rare occurrence: the walk-off grand slam when down three runs. It’s the scenario you dream up playing in your backyard. It's the ultimate game-winner, a perfect hit, the kind of thing you’d see in schlocky movies. What could beat that excitement?