MLB: The Best Moments of 2016

MLB

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With 2016 finally coming to a close, we must look back at the good things the year brought us. In the entirety of sports, 2016 was a crazy year. In terms of MLB, we saw a 108-year curse being broken – now that’s special.

2016 has been a crazy year for us all, and in the closing weeks of the year we must reminisce on the good that the year brought us. MLB saw one of its worst tragedies in a while, the unfortunate passing of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. 2016 also saw the abrupt, unfortunate retirement of Prince Fielder. Other retirements, such as David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez, pull a string on our soft spots, but Fielder didn’t get the opportunity to go out on his own terms. The game of baseball saw some sad things this year, but also had some incredible moments.

Instead of focusing on the blemishes of 2016, this list will be bringing out the best things that happened this year. I have always preached that the game of baseball gives us moments that cannot be found anywhere else. This is why it is America’s Pastime. Look at some of sports’ all-time greatest moments and most of them are baseball. Examples include Hank Aaron‘s 715th home run, or Kirk Gibson‘s walk-off winner in Game One of the 1988 World Series. We have Game Seven walk-offs, perfect games, cycles and four home run showcases. The game of baseball offers more variety than any other, hence its common great moments.

With all of that being said, 2016 had some pretty fantastic moments. We had the funny ones that remind us it is just a game, the historic ones and the emotional ones. 2016 will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest years of baseball as of late, so to honor the calendar year dwindling down, let’s take a look at the five best moments from 2016.

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5. Bartolo Colon’s First Career Home Run

Bartolo Colon is one of few players that garners admiration from the fans of just about every baseball team. The 43-year-old pitcher is not only still playing at the big league level, but is producing good numbers. In 2016, Colon boasted a 15-8 record with a 3.43 ERA in 33 games started. Those are impressive numbers already; add in the fact that Colon is 43 years old and it impresses even more. However, his production isn’t what included him on this list. It was his first career home run. On May 7, Colon blasted a two-run home run out of Petco Park.

You can tell from his teammates’ reactions how truly awesome this moment was. Colon has become somewhat of a hero to many baseball fans. Whether it be his discovery of the fountain of youth, or falling over on nearly every other swing, baseball fans adore Bartolo Colon. This is why it is so amazing, and makes number five on the list. Any pitcher hitting a home run is special, but when someone of Colon’s caliber manages to slug on out, well, that’s legendary.

It is quirky, funny moments like this that we need to remember heading into 2017. Players like Colon remind us that baseball in the end is just a game, and if we are not having fun with it, then we are doing it wrong.

Luckily for baseball fans, Bartolo Colon will be returning next season, this time part of the Atlanta Braves. If we are lucky, he could be the first pitcher to hit one out of Atlanta’s new SunTrust Park. Let’s all hope that Colon manages to keep going back to the fountain of youth, because we surely will miss his presence when he hangs them up.

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4. Max Scherzer’s 20 Strikeouts

On May 11, Max Scherzer made history by tying Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens with 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. Scherzer, who would go on to win the NL Cy Young, allowed six hits and two runs to go along with his 20 strikeouts. It was something truly special for the baseball world, as we had not seen that kind of performance since 1998. Heck, I wasn’t even born yet when Kerry Wood did it last, so for the young baseball fans like myself it was something truly special.

We have seen dominant games this season – Jake Arrieta‘s no-hitter, for example – but nothing as dominant as this. Scherzer is a strikeout pitcher, we all know that, but to be able to record 74 percent of the outs in one game as strikeouts is special. The only person he was unable to strike out that day was first baseman Victor Martinez. Martinez went 3-for-4, not allowing the Cy Young winner to strike him out. However, at the time Martinez was batting .348, so it is easy see why he was able to hit the ball.

Besides that, Scherzer managed to strike out everyone the Tigers threw at him. The notable trio of J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera all struck out three times. These weren’t fluke strike outs on Scherzer’s end. It was true domination of world-class heroes. We may have to wait another 18 years to see a performance like this again, which makes it all the more special.

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3. Walk-Off Winner on Vin Scully’s Last Dodger Stadium Broadcast

Being a Dodger fan, this one strikes a particular nerve inside me. Vin Scully has been the voice of the Dodgers as long as I’ve lived, my father has lived, and my grandfather has lived. Scully has become a hero to every Dodger fan, and I think we took his constant presence for granted. In 2016, he finally decided to hang them up and call it a career, 67 years after his first broadcast. In his final Dodger Stadium broadcast, something truly special happened. Needing a win to clinch the National League West after a roller coaster year, the Dodgers gave Scully the perfect swan song.

In the bottom of 10th, utility man Charlie Culberson stepped up and delivered a walk-off winner. This clinched the Dodgers’ spot atop the National League West, and saw the team celebrate for Vin. Culberson is a utility man for the Dodgers who rarely sees himself hit a home run. In fact, this was Culberson’s first home run since 2014, and wow, was it special. The entire game before this was a roller coaster as well. Down 2-1, Corey Seager belted a triple in the seventh to tie the game at two. Then, after the Rockies took the lead in the ninth, Seager stepped up and blasted a two-out bomb to send the game into extra innings.

For a team that plays so close to Hollywood, this truly was a Hollywood ending. The boys in blue gave the legend Vin Scully the best send-off anyone could give. As a fan, I would like to thank Charlie Culberson and company for giving all of us a truly memorable moment.

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2. The Chicago Cubs Finally Break the Curse

A story that was 108 years in the making, the Chicago Cubs finally took home championship gold. Despite being an absolute powerhouse in the regular season, the Cubs still managed to seem like underdogs in the World Series. With the weight of Chicago on their shoulders, Joe Maddon and company managed to do something that 107 Cubs teams prior could not do. In 2016, we truly witnessed history. We witnessed the longest curse in baseball history be broken, and we finally saw the city of Chicago get their ultimate wish.

The thing that makes this so great is it is so much more than just sports. The people of Chicago have suffered for so long. Being one of the most dedicated fanbases, they stuck with the Cubbies even after seeing the crosstown rival White Sox win it all in 2005. People eat, sleep and breathe Cubs baseball, and to finally see their team win it all is something truly special. No more than 200 people have been alive to see both the 1908 and 2016 World Series, making the history seem all the more important.

However, despite being one of the most historical moments ever, the Cubs finally winning it all isn’t the best moment of 2016. Sure, the Cubs fans out there might be upset right now, but some things are more important than winning the World Series. Like I said, this is a game and we are all nothing more than people who share a similar love for the game. In this case, the game of baseball served as an outlet for something much more special.

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1. Dee Gordon’s Home Run

Jose Fernandez was the epitome of what baseball should be. Jose was dominant, young, and more importantly, learned to be serious yet have fun on the baseball diamond. Although many of us fans never personally knew Fernandez, it could be seen from his moniker and his relationships with others that he was a true blessing not only to the baseball world but to the entire world. As you may know, after his tragic passing the Miami Marlins all wore (and retired) Jose’s number in the first game since the incident. Miami leadoff man Dee Gordon hit one of the most important home runs in baseball history, a home run that continues to send chills down my spine.

With his first home run of the year, Dee Gordon created one of the most memorable moments in baseball history.

This is why baseball is so amazing. This is why we all love it. In a time of utter pain, baseball gives us glimpses of joy and hope that help us move forward. In the grand scheme of things, a home run isn’t much, but the tribute and the meaning behind the home run does. Watching Dee circle the bases, tears rolling down his face is something any person can connect to, not just baseball fans. That is what makes this moment so amazing and forever etched in baseball history.

Rest in peace, Jose. We all miss you.

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