MLB 2014: A Year in Review

Alex Mennella, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The once colorful autumn trees are now bare, signaling the end of the hunt for October and the MLB season. The World Series champions have been crowned, and the baseball diamonds will be empty until next April. The disappointments suffered by 29 teams disappear into hopes for next season. While MLB fans look to move on to next season, let’s take a look back at the best moments from 2014:

Farewells and Returns Dominated This Season

Derek Jeter: Arguably the biggest storyline during the MLB season was Derek Jeter’s impending retirement. After playing 20 seasons for the New York Yankees, the “Captain” called it a career. New Yankee Stadium, dubbed, “The House the Jeter Built,” will now be captainless. For Jeter, the 2014 season was filled with much more than farewell gifts from almost every team the Yankees played. 2014 ended with Jeter being the Yankees all-time leader in at-bats, hits, singles, doubles, and games played to name a few. Jeter’s career came to storybook ending in his final game at Yankee Stadium. In the bottom of the 9th, Jeter hit a walk off single to give the Yankees a 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles. “The Captain” will be missed in the Bronx, but he will be forever remembered as one of the all-time greats to play the game.

Paul Konerko: Overshadowed by Derek Jeter’s farewell, an equally important farewell was said on the South side of Chicago. Long time Chicago White Sox legend and Captain Paul Konerko called it a career as well. “Paulie,” as he was known by fans as, had a memorable, long, and successful career with the White Sox. During his 17 year career, Konerko’s career highlights include winning the ALCS MVP in 2005, winning the World Series in 2005, and making the all-star game 6 times. He hit over 400 homeruns and 2000 hits and will go down as not only a fan favorite, but one of the greatest White Sox of all time.

A Royal Return: Like all postseasons, 2014 didn’t fail to excite. It was filled with thrills, heartbreaks, and for the Kansas City Royals, redemption. Up until 2014, the Royals hadn’t made the playoffs since 1985 when they won the World Series. The following 29 years were filled with heartbreak and heartache for Royals fans. 2014 looked hopeful, but no one could have imagined what would transpire. As the season was coming to a close, the Royals were out of the picture for the AL Central Division title. They were still hunting, trying to secure a Wild Card spot. On the very last day of the season, the Royals won to grab the last spot in the winner take all Wild Card game. From then on, they dominated. The Royals became the first team in MLB history to win eight straight playoff games, sweeping the Angles and Orioles.  Unfortunately, their Cinderella story wouldn’t end the way they had hoped it would. The Royals took on the Giants for the World Series that was as evenly matched as it could have been. It all came down to game 7, winner take all. The Royals fought hard, but lost by 1 run. The World Series appearance uplifted not only Royals fans, but the entire city of Kansas City. The Royals will be good, if not better, next season and will look to finish off their Cinderella story one year late.

International Rookies Making an Impact

Jose Abreu: The White Sox arguably got the deal of the decade when they signed a 27 year-old Cuban slugger and first baseman named Jose Abreu in the offseason. He had shown off his power in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and that was enough for the Sox to go after him. This signing couldn’t have come at a better time for the White Sox, not only because they were seeking a power hitter, but because their long time first baseman Paul Konerko was retiring (as mentioned above). In a matter of a few months, Jose went from a kid with potential to a possible MVP candidate. He not only had the longball working for him (hitting 37 homeruns), but his average (.317) was among the best in the MLB. John Grochowski of the Chicago Sun Times calls him the, “only choice for AL Rookie of the Year.” Jose will be the face of the White Sox and an MVP contender for years to come.

Masahiro Tanaka: The most well known and sought after international free agent rookie of the offseason was Masahiro Tanaka. The 26 year old pitcher from Japan had made a statement at the 2013 World Baseball Classic along with Jose Abreu. He has devastating splitter that has even the most patient of hitters chasing it, along with a fastball and a nasty slider. It was no wonder almost every team in baseball wanted a shot at signing him. Tanaka narrowed his options down to the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers. He ultimately decided to sign with the Yankees. This choice was correctly predicted by MLB Cut4, as they had reported that when Tanaka was on the All-Japan National High school team, he had visited Yankee Stadium. Tanaka started his season out in a lights out fashion. At the midway point in the season, it looked as though he and Jose Abreu would be battling it out for AL Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, Tanaka suffered a partial ligament tear in his right elbow, and he was sidelined for the rest of the season. Tanaka definitely established himself as a dominant starting pitcher in the MLB and should be back to full strength next season.

Single Game Conquests

Clayton Kershaw: Dodgers Ace Clayton Kershaw had one of the most dominating seasons in recent history. He went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA (Earned Run Average) and 198.1 innings pitched. According to ESPN, Kershaw, “is among the finalists for the NL Most Valuable Player and the Cy Young Award, [and] in position to become the first NL player to sweep both honors since Bob Gibson in 1968.” Kershaw’s greatest moment of 2014 was his near perfect game against the Colorado Rockies. USA Today called it, “MLB’s all-time best” no-hitter. This is a bold statement, but Kershaw’s dominance is among the best all time. Kershaw’s gem should have been a perfect game, but an error by Hanley Ramirez was the only thing that went wrong that game. Kershaw is the only pitcher in history to have 15 strikeouts and no walks in a no-hitter. His performance was magical and will more then likely be repeated soon seeing he had such a dominant season.

Phillies Bullpen No-No: One of the most bizarre and cool performances of 2014 was seeing the Philadelphia Phillies throw a combined no-hitter. In the history of the MLB, there have only been a handful of combined no-hitters in the modern era and the Phillies added one to the list on Labor Day against the Atlanta Braves. Cole Hamels started the game and dominated from the get go. Normally, if someone has a no-hitter going, you leave them in the game. Hamel’s case was the exception because he was on a strict pitch count and didn’t want to injure himself. Enter Phillies relievers Jake Diekman, Ken Giles, and Jonathan Papelbon. They pitched the remaining three innings to finish off the no-hitter. The no-hitter marked the 12th in Phillies history and was a bright spot in a disappointing year.

The “Worst World Series Ever”

This year’s World Series was as exciting as it can get. The Royals and the Giants faced off for a title in a championship no one saw coming. Both teams made it to the playoffs on the last possible day. It was only the second time in history two wild card teams faced off, and their records were anything but incredible. The Royals and Giants combined for fourth fewest wins in history. Two of those seasons were shortened (1918 due to WWI, and and 1981 due to a strike), leaving only one other group with fewer combined wins. ESPN dubbed it the, “worst World Series ever.” That statement was the farthest from the truth. The World Series pitted two equally matched teams against each other. It was a back and forth battle that game down to a winner take all game 7. It was a nail bitter all the way, but the Giants emerged victorious, beating the Royals 3-2 and capturing their 3rd World Series title in the past 5 seasons.

In Memoriam

Tony Gwynn: One of the greatest hitters professional baseball has ever seen, Tony Gwynn was an icon. An athlete through and through, Gwynn was a star baseball and basketball player in college. He had a tough choice when deciding which sport to turn pro in, but he ultimately decided upon baseball. He was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 1982 and stayed with the club all the way until he retired in 2001. “Mr. Padre” as he was known, was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. Gwynn was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010, something he attributed to his frequent use of chewing tobacco during his playing career. On June 26th, 2014, Gwynn died from complications with his cancer. He was 54 years old.

Oscar Taveras: The most heartbreaking story from 2014 was the tragic death of St. Louis Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras. Taveras was a native of the Dominican Republic and was signed by the Cardinals in 2008 at the age of 16. He worked his way through the minors and finally made his debut in 2014. He hit a homerun in his first game with the Cardinals and continued to produce all the way into the playoffs. The Cardinals were eliminated by the San Francisco Giants in the NL Championship series, and shortly after Taveras returned to his native Dominican Republic.  On October 26th, Taveras was killed in a car accident along with his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelos. He was 22.