It was a rollercoaster year for Major League Baseball, full of both positive and negative stories. Joe Mauer and Adrian Beltre announced their retirements, Albert Pujols made history, the Boston Red Sox won another World Series, and Jacob deGrom was the best pitcher in the solar system.
We’re taking a look back at the 18 biggest stories to hit baseball from the 2018 season just before we ring in the new year:
Feb. 26: Martinez signs late in stalled free agency
“This is a guy who not only can hit homers, but he has the ability to hit for average, too. He’s a complete hitter. We not only got better lineup-wise and on the field, what he brings in that clubhouse, the way he prepares, I’m looking forward to him connecting with players, help young players.” – Red Sox manager Alex Cora
J.D. Martinez wasn’t the last free agent off the board, but for a player of his profile, waiting until spring training has begun to officially sign is unthinkable. A lingering foot injury apparently stalled the deal, but ultimately the Red Sox added a key offensive piece on their road to World Series glory.
Not long before that, Lorenzo Cain inked his five-year contract in Milwaukee, Eric Hosmer went to the San Diego Padres for eight seasons, and Yu Darvish signed for six with the Chicago Cubs, but they all waited until after the new year to finalize their deals. It was a historically slow offseason that resulted in claims of collusion among team owners to force a suppression of player salaries.
April 21, May 8: A pair of southpaw no-nos
“Honestly, it still doesn’t feel real. Even after the last out, I couldn’t imagine throwing a no-hitter in the big leagues, especially against a team like the Red Sox. It’s incredible. I don’t even know what to say.” – Sean Manaea
Oakland Athletics lefty Manaea tamed the imposing Red Sox lineup by no-hitting the eventual World Series champs in late April. A few weeks later, Seattle Mariners ace James Paxton no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays, becoming the first Canadian to ever do so on home soil.
In between these two games, the Los Angeles Dodgers also completed a combined no-hitter against the Padres. Considering that game was played in Monterrey, Mexico, MLB was treated to a trio of no-hitters in three different countries.
May 4: Pujols gets 3,000th hit
“It was going to happen, it was just a matter of when. I just thank the Lord that it happened tonight in front of my family, my friends. Now we just stay focused on the things that I want to do, which is help this ballclub to win. We don’t have to talk too much about 3,000 now.” – Albert Pujols
Pujols may be a far cry from the perennial MVP candidate of his earlier years, but he’s still climbing leaderboards. With a single against the Mariners, he became the 32nd player to ever reach 3,000 hits and by the end of the season, he had surpassed the likes of Craig Biggio and Rickey Henderson for 24th on the all-time list. Pujols also joined Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Alex Rodriguez as the only players with 3,000 hits and 600 home runs.
May 8: Osuna arrested for domestic assault
Roberto Osuna was arrested in May and subsequently charged with assault. He was placed on administrative leave and eventually suspended for 75 games. It also marked the end of his tenure with the Blue Jays who traded him to the Houston Astros for Ken Giles, David Paulino, and Hector Perez later in the season.
May 15: Cano suspended 80 games
“Today I decided to accept MLB’s suspension. This is the most difficult decision I have ever made in my life, but ultimately the right decision given that I do not dispute that I was given this substance. I apologize to my family, friends, fans, teammates, and the Mariners organization.” – Robinson Cano
Robinson Cano received a lengthy suspension that kept him out of action until the middle of August after he tested positive for Furosemide, a diuretic, which has been used as a masking agent. He later apologized, explaining that he was treating injuries and was prescribed the medication.
May 19: Romo kicks off Rays’ “opener” strategy
“It’s a completely different animal. Kudos to all the starters that can do that every fifth day. Plus, they get asked to throw 100 pitches. I barely got a quarter of that done today. It’s impressive what they do, and I can’t sit here and say I can do it as well as they can. But I got two zeros in the first inning, so I think I’m OK at this point.” – Sergio Romo
Prior to 2018, 35-year-old Romo had never started a game in Major League Baseball. He then “opened” five games in less than a month. While the Tampa Bay Rays would deploy the strategy of using different relievers in the early innings through the rest of the season, it was Romo who served as the test case. Other teams followed suit, and with starters throwing fewer innings in general, this may not be a passing fad.
July: Old, racist, and homophobic tweets resurface
Three young stars faced major controversies in July when their old tweets were unearthed, revealing homophobic, racist, and otherwise damning comments. Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader, Atlanta Braves starter Sean Newcomb, and Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner all came under fire for their posts. None of the players were suspended, by the league or their respective teams, but Hader was directed to undergo sensitivity training.
Summer: Machado, Archer among major deadline deals
“It’s exciting. It’s probably as a result of us playing good baseball. We put them in the position to go out and make these decisions. I’m happy that we added. I’m even more happy that we didn’t just add to add. I’m happy that we added them for how long we have them. I’m really excited to work with them.” – Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon
The trade deadline brought about a few major changes of address this season. Most notably, the Dodgers landed Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles to replace injured shortstop Corey Seager in an effort to push for a World Series. The Pittsburgh Pirates surprised everyone by buying in July and acquiring Chris Archer from the Rays for Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and Shane Baz.
Rounding out the big names to be dealt was Josh Donaldson, who was sent to the Cleveland Indians from the Blue Jays in August. He didn’t have a tenure with the Blue Jays as long as either Machado or Archer did with their squads, but it was arguably more memorable. He won an MVP, and was part of a resurgence that sent Toronto to the postseason for the first time since 1993.
Sept. 18: Yelich hits 2nd cycle of season
“There’s been so many great players to play this game. It just shows how freaky, I guess, that is. A lot of luck goes into that. It’s hard enough to get four hits in a Major League Baseball game, yet alone have them all be the right ones and the right sequence.” – Christian Yelich
Yelich went from the bottom-feeding Miami Marlins to the NL Central-winning Brewers and won the NL MVP award in the process. Maybe the most unique aspect of his ascent to superstardom came when he hit his second cycle of the season. He’s the first player in history to hit two cycles against the same team (Cincinnati) in a single year.
Oct. 3: Addison Russell suspended for domestic violence
After Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was accused by his ex-wife Melisa Reidy of physical and emotional mistreatment, Major League Baseball conducted an investigation. Upon completion, he was suspended 40 games without pay retroactive to Sept. 21. Since the suspension, more accusations have surfaced against Russell from a previous partner.
October: Machado’s controversies
“I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen. That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am.” – Manny Machado
Machado ruffled a few feathers in his short tenure with the Dodgers. After a couple rough slides and an incident where he stepped on the back of Jose Aguilar’s foot, Brewers players called him out for being a dirty player. Additionally, he openly admitted that he wasn’t exactly “Johnny Hustle” on the diamond, which drew plenty of ire for a perceived lack of effort. It may not hurt him in free agency, but there are some warning flags surrounding the 26-year-old infielder.
Oct. 27: Red Sox win World Series
“This is the greatest Red Sox team in history.” – Red Sox owner John Henry
The Red Sox cruised through the regular season and didn’t let up in the postseason. By the end of the five-game series against the Dodgers, it never seemed like the end result was ever in question. Steve Pearce won the World Series MVP, David Price finally found his playoff mojo, and Boston stormed to its fourth championship since 2004.
The lone loss wound up being the longest game in World Series history when the Dodgers scraped together an 18-inning victory, but couldn’t ride the momentum in the games that followed.
Nov. 12, 20: Two legends retire
“After careful consideration and many sleepless nights, I have made the decision to retire from what I’ve been doing my whole life, which is playing baseball, the game I love.” – Adrian Beltre
Don’t be surprised when, in a few short years, we get two first-ballot Hall-of-Famers in the form of third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher/first baseman Joe Mauer. Both players announced their retirements fairly close together, and they each made a significant impact on the game. Beltre showed that you can still find elite success in your mid-30s and Mauer had an offensive peak that rivals the best catchers in history. It will be weird knowing neither is playing in 2019.
Nov. 12: Ohtani, Acuna highlight amazing crop of rookies
“I’m really honored. It’s really unbelievable that I was able to win this award, and how I was able to win it at such a high level of competition in Major League Baseball. I’m really proud of this award.” – Shohei Ohtani
Ohtani proved doubters wrong when he excelled both as a hitter and as a pitcher during his rookie campaign while Ronald Acuna Jr. made a habit of hitting leadoff home runs with aplomb. They weren’t the only rookies to make an impact, however. Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres fit in nicely with the New York Yankees.
In any other year, Nationals outfielder Juan Soto and Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler would have easily taken home the NL hardware. That’s not even mentioning Joey Wendle, Jack Flaherty, Dereck Rodriguez, or Brian Anderson. It was just a banner year for first-year players.
Nov. 14: deGrom caps off incredible season with Cy Young
“I’ve said before that this was one of my goals. The team didn’t end up where we wanted to be this past season, but you set personal goals. Being able to accomplish something that’s a dream of yours is just something special.” – Jacob deGrom
Max Scherzer – winner of three previous Cy Young awards – posted arguably the best season of his career and deGrom was better. After allowing four runs in a start on April 10, deGrom rattled off 29 consecutive games without allowing more than three. He posted a 1.70 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and earned his first Cy Young despite registering a 10-9 record thanks to an anemic offense behind him.
November-December: Mariners go trade-crazy
“For those who have already determined that this is what ripping down to the studs looks like, there’s still quite a ways to go to do that. We still have a fair bit of talent on this team.” – Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto
Dipoto kicked off the offseason by announcing the Mariners weren’t about to tear things down, but would embark on a re-imagining of the roster. They then proceeded to trade away James Paxton, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, Alex Colome, and Carlos Santana (after acquiring him from the Phillies). That’s quite the re-imagining, Dipoto. The Mariners will certainly be different next season, but it’s not looking like the playoff drought is about to end.
Dec. 11: Blue Jays release Tulo, eat $38 million
“Through many conversations with Troy and his representative Paul Cohen, and with consideration to what is in the best interest of both sides, we made the decision to release Troy today.” – Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins
At one point in his career, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki seemed like he was on the path to legendary status. Injuries derailed his tenure with the Blue Jays to the point that the team, in the midst of a rebuild, decided it would be best to call it a day during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. As a result, the team will pay out the remaining $38 million on his contract.
December: Goldschmidt, Puig go from NL West to NL Central
“I don’t know of a player in baseball who doesn’t want to play here. There are certain organizations that are just known for greatness, and this is one of them.” – Paul Goldschmidt
Two of the year’s biggest moves were saved for the very end. The St. Louis Cardinals added All-Star first baseman Goldschmidt via trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks to address a hole in the lineup. Meanwhile, the Dodgers traded Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood to the Reds for Homer Bailey in an effort to clear salary. Both Goldschmidt and Puig had spent their entire professional careers with their former teams, meaning the change of scenery will take some getting used to for fans and possibly the players themselves.
(Videos courtesy: MLB.com)