Memories of 2012, from the odd to the end (Part 1)by Chris Jaffe
February 04, 2013
Well, we’re still stuck in the long months of the offseason. Baseball is still months away—and even spring training is weeks off. In times like this, it’s nice to have some pleasant baseball memories.
So let’s look back at some pleasant memories of the 2012 season. Oh, it would be pointless to go over the biggest and best of them. Those are the memories that are still so fresh and so widely known that recounting them would be pointless. Instead, let’s go through some of the out-of-the-way ones, the little juicy nuggets you might’ve missed during the season that were part of what makes baseball interesting.
Here are some of the oddities from the 2012 baseball season. Actually, it’s just the first half because I have so many of them they won’t all fit into one column.
April 4, 2012: It’s the first game ever at Marlins Park in Miami. The contest could’ve gone better for the Marlins. Not only do they lose, 4-1, to the Cardinals, but St. Louis starting pitcher Kyle Lohse flirts with a no-hitter. Even worse is what happens before the game, when boxing legend Muhammad Ali throws out the first ceremonial pitch. It sounds awesome—Ali with the first pitch!—but his condition has declined so much that it’s more than a little bit depressing.
April 5, 2012: It’s Opening Day in Pittsburgh, and the Pirates have to face Phillies ace Roy Halladay. The first two batters single against Halladay, and then he shuts them down the rest of the way. He allows no more hits, and he never walks anyone, but he does hit two other batters while pitching a complete-game shutout.
April 11, 2012: Okay, this is kind of neat: Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur buys 20 pizzas for all the Oakland fans in the outfield for today’s Royals-A’s game.
April 11, 2012: The A’s top the Royals, 5-4, on a rare walk-off hit-by-pitch. Making the loss even rougher for Kansas City, it’s a 12-inning game they lose on a bases-loaded plunking. Added bonus: KC actually entered the bottom of the 12th ahead, 4-3. As if this loss doesn’t sound bad enough, the A’s didn’t even get a hit in the final inning. Here’s what happened in the bottom of the 12th: strikeout, error, walk, walk, RBI groundout to tie the game, hit by pitch to load the bases, and then the walk-off HBP.
April 12, 2012: The day after Kansas City’s debacle, the Reds lose an extra-inning game in an odd walk-off manner. Reds reliever Alfredo Simon uncorks a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th for a 3-2 loss to the Nationals.
April 13, 2012: Another day, another ugly walk-off loss in the majors. This time it happens in just nine innings. The victim is the Padres, who fall, 9-8, to the Dodgers. Not only does San Diego lose on a walk-off walk, but the reason the bases were loaded was because the Padres had walked them loaded. Yeesh.
April 13, 2012: The only thing standing between Giants pitcher Matt Cain and a perfect game is the opposing starting pitcher, but that’s enough. Against the Pirates, Cain retires 27 of the 28 batters who come to the plate, but opposing hurler James McDonald singles in the sixth inning to ruin a perfecto.
April 13, 2012: On Friday the 13th, Rockies veteran Todd Helton collects career RBI 1,313.
April 18, 2012: It’s one of the best pitchers' duels of the year when Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee faces off against San Francisco’s Matt Cain. (And yes, it is Cain’s first start since his near-perfect game). Lee pitches 10 innings of shutout ball, but his team loses 1-0 in 11 frames. Cain hurls nine innings of shutout ball. Both pitchers have a Game Score in the mid-80s, Cain at 86 and Lee at 85.
April 18, 2012: Oakland’s Bartolo Colon sets a record by throwing 38 consecutive pitches for strikes. Data for this only goes back to 1988, but the previous record was just 30 straight strikes, set by—of all people—Tim Wakefield.
April 19, 2012: Curtis Granderson not only hits three home runs, but he gets them all in the first four innings as he helps the Yankees top the Twins.
April 20, 2012: The Reds win their 10,000th game as a franchise. They’re the sixth team to do so.
April 21, 2012: The Red Sox blow a nine-run lead, and the way they’re pitching, it could’ve been an even bigger advantage. After taking a 9-0 lead against the Yankees, the end up getting killed, 15-9.
April 27, 2012: The Yankees win on the rare walk-off passed ball. They enter the bottom of the ninth tied, 6-6, versus the Tigers. Detroit retires the first batter but then completely forget how to pitch. Two straight batters are walked, and the second ball four is a wild pitch that lets the lead runner advance to third. From third, he scores on the wild pitch.
April 29, 2012: Of all the odd ways to end a game in April, none are less likely than this one, a game-ending failed steal of home. The Cardinals have runners on first and third while trailing the Brewers, 3-2. The trailing runner breaks for second, and when the catcher throws the ball, the lead runner breaks for home—and is gunned down to end the game.
May 1, 2012: White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza hits the rare infield double. De Aza pops one up versus Cleveland, but the infielders lose it in the smoke. Wait, smoke? Yeah, the game is on the South Side of Chicago, and right before De Aza came to the plate, teammate Gordon Beckham hit a home run. As is the White Sox tradition, the team set off fireworks to celebrate Beckham’s blast, and the smoke wafts over the field at just the right moment for De Aza.
May 2, 2012: Jason Giambi, at age 41 years and just shy of four months, becomes the second-oldest person ever to hit a walk-off, pinch-hit home run. Tony Perez is the only person to do it at an even older age.
May 3, 2012: In a rather impressive fluke, both starting pitchers in today’s Cubs-Reds game celebrate their birthdays, Homer Bailey of the Reds and Ryan Dempster of the Cubs. Cincinnati wins, 4-3 in 10 innings, after scoring three in the bottom of the ninth to tie it.
May 3, 2012: All things must pass. It looks like Mariano Rivera’s career is over, and in such an unfortunate and odd manner. He’s hurt shagging flies in the outfield during batting practice. He has to be carted off the field after messing up his knee.
May 6, 2012: Better late than never: Albert Pujols finally gets his first home run of the year. After a slow start, he finally turns it on later.
May 6, 2012: It’s one of the most bizarre games of the year as the Orioles top the Red Sox, 9-8, in 17 frames. It’s the first game since 1925 in which both squads use a position player on the mound: Darnell McDonald for Boston and Chris Davis for Baltimore. Davis is the winning pitcher, which is rather odd for a man who began the day as DH. He pitches two scoreless innings and fans Adrian Gonzalez, too.
It’s a good thing he has a good day on the mound because he’s horrible at the plate. He is 0-for-8 with five strikeouts and a GIDP. In fact, he’s so bad that according to WPA he has the worst one-game performance at the plate by any pitcher. Yeah, that’s a fluke, but still he did it. Who ever would’ve guessed that arguably the worst batting performance ever in one game by a pitcher was by a designated hitter?
May 9, 2012: The Mariners use catcher John Jaso as their leadoff hitter. It’s the first time they’ve used a catcher as leadoff hitter since 1978.
May 12, 2012: The Arizona Diamondbacks have an unusual promotion: tattoo arms. They give fans slip-on sleeves that give them the same tattoos third baseman Ryan Roberts has on his arms.
May 13, 2012: There are only three walk-off grand slams all season long, and wouldn’t you know it two are on the same day. Giancarlo Stanton hits one for the Marlins for an 8-4 win over the Mets, and Joey Votto hits one for a 9-6 Reds win over the Nationals. As it happens, the other walk-off slam was just five days earlier when new A’s player Brandon Inge does it for a 7-3 win over the Blue Jays.
May 13, 2012: Jeff Suppan is back, and that allows him to make history. Starting for the Padres against the Phillies, Suppan allows a leadoff home run to Jimmy Rollins. It’s the 19th career leadoff homer Suppan ever has allowed, which ties him with Pedro Martinez for the most career leadoff homers surrendered.
May 16, 2012: For a few minutes, it’s scary in the Baltimore-Tampa Bay game. Rays second baseman Will Rhymes is hit by pitch, goes to first, and promptly collapses. It turns out to just be a post-adrenaline faint, and he’s fine.
May 20, 2012: Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer nearly sets a franchise record when he whiffs 15 batters in just seven innings pitched against Pittsburgh. All 15 batters go down swinging; none are called third strikes.
May 21, 2012: Reds fan Caleb Lloyd does the nearly impossible: he catches not one, but two home runs hit to his section. They were back-to-back home runs, too.
May 25, 2012: The Cubs lose, 1-0, to the Pirates despite getting 12 men on base and hitting into zero double plays. That’s tough to do. It’s the Cubs’ 10th straight loss. Starting pitcher Ryan Dempster gets the loss, giving him a record of 0-3 despite a 2.14 ERA.
May 26, 2012: A day after one heartbreaking loss, the Cubs have another one. They lose to the Pirates, 3-2, on a walk-off hit-by-pitch for Chicago’s 11th consecutive loss. Six of the 11 losses have been by one run.
May 27, 2012: Reds pitcher Mat Latos allows five home runs but gets the win anyway. He’s just the 12th pitcher in history to do that. The Reds top the Rockies, 7-5.
June 1, 2012: In their 8,019th game in franchise history, the Mets finally get their first no-hitter. Johan Santana does it against the Cardinals for an 8-0 win. Only the Padres lack a no-hitter now. Carlos Beltran hit one on the line for St. Louis, but the umps call it foul, though replays show it was fair and would’ve been a double.
June 8, 2012: The Reds top the Tigers with a gutsy move, a walk-off safety squeeze for a 5-4 win in 10 innings.
June 8, 2012: It’s pretty bad to set a new franchise record in futility, and it’s even worse when that club is the long-lasting (and long-futile) Chicago Cubs. Today they set a mark by losing their 12th consecutive one-run decision. The Twins top them, 8-7, in 10 innings.
June 18, 2012: Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey throws his second consecutive one-hitter. He’s the first pitcher to do that since Dave Stieb in 1988. He’s the first NL pitcher to do it since Jim Tobin of the Braves—the Boston Braves—way back in 1944.
June 22, 2012: It’s one of the best pitchers' duels of the year when Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke squares off against Chicago White Sox sensation Chris Sale. Greinke throws nine shutout innings, and Sale shuts the Brewers down for eight frames, but neither figures in the decision as the Brewers win in extra innings, 1-0 (10). Sale has a Game Score of 80, and Greinke tops that with a mark of 84.
June 22, 2012: Shades of Willie Mays: young Angels sensation Mike Trout scores from first base on a single by teammate Torii Hunter.
June 25, 2012: Here’s a novel promotion, Water Awareness Night in Kansas City. The Royals top the visiting Rays, 8-0, with Tampa starting pitcher Alex Cobb allowing all eight runs (none of which are unearned) in a complete game. He’s the first pitcher to allow eight runs in a complete game since Randy Johnson in 1988.
June 25, 2012: Maybe the most unlikely walk-off of the year takes place in the minor leagues this year, a walk-off appeal play! Missoula is leading Helena 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the tenth when a Helena batter hits the apparent game-tying home run. But he missed a bag while rounding the bases and is declared out on appeal, ending the game.
June 26, 2012: Years ago, DeWayne Wise made the most famous play of his career when his sensational ninth-inning catch preserved a perfect game for Mark Buehrle. Now Wise makes the second-most notable play of his career when he doesn’t make a catch. Playing in left for the Yankees, he leans into the stands to try to catch a foul pop-up. Did he get? He indicates to the umpire that he did, and then runs to the dugout—without showing the umpire the ball. The ump believes Wise anyway and calls the batter out. Meanwhile, a fan several seats down is holding up the ball.
June 28, 2012: The Giants set an all-time franchise record, and it’s one you actually want to set. They notch their fourth consecutive shutout when they top the Reds, 5-0. They never did that before, not even in the days of Christy Mathewson and Iron Man Joe McGinnity back in the Deadball Era. The first three shutouts were against the Dodgers, 8-0, 2-0, and 3-0.
June 30, 2012: The Twins have an interesting day as they pull off two double steals in a 7-2 win against the Royals.
July 1, 2012: It’s one of the ugliest plays of the year and certainly the ugliest game-ending play of the year, but the Milwaukee Brewers will take it. In a 1-1 tie against the Diamondbacks, Carlos Gomez is on first and breaks for second in a stolen-base attempt. The throw from the catcher goes into center, so Gomez takes off for third. The center fielder is aggressive, gets to the ball quickly, and throws it to third to nail Gomez, but the ball lands in the dugout. Gomez trots home for the two-error walk-off win.
July 8, 2012: BOOM! In the top of the fourth inning of the Twins-Rangers game in Texas, a sudden, massive thunderclap strikes just north of the stadium. It isn’t even raining, making the loud boom that much more unexpected, so I guess that’s why almost all the on-field personal are so surprised.
The batter, the fielders, and even the umpires immediately run to the dugouts after the boom strikes. One of the only guys not to run right away is Minnesota’s Josh Willingham, a base runner on first. Instead of running, he hits the deck and lies flat on his stomach for a little bit. (Additionally, this turns out to be a great game. Minnesota leads, 1-0, entering the ninth and scores twice in the top of the ninth, but the Twins allow three in the bottom of the frame. Texas wins, 4-3, in 14 innings.
July 10, 2012: Over the annual All-Star break, a story emerges of a man who found 700 baseball cards in his grandfather’s attic. The cards are worth an estimated $3,000,000.
Well, the All-Star break is as good a place as any to stop this, so we’ll get into the second half of the season next time around.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.