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Saturday, October 2, 2010
You want craziness? Well, here goes …

By Jayson Stark
ESPN.com

Anytime two home run trots last longer than a Lindsay Lohan jail term, Derek Jeter turns into Sir Laurence Olivier and a guy needs surgery after putting on his shirt, it's officially a Year in Review kind of season. So let's take one final look back at some of our favorite moments in nuttiness.

Injuries of the Year

Chris Coghlan
Coghlan

• First prize: I have a feeling Marlins hit machine Chris Coghlan won't be ordering pie for, like, the next 70 years -- since he tore his meniscus trying to slam a postgame pie into Wes Helms' face after a July 25 walk-off. Thanks to that half-baked mishap, Coghlan needed knee surgery that terminated his season. And in case you weren't clear on whether to try this yourself at home sometime, Marlins reliever Burke Badenhop reported to the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer: "I wouldn't say a pie in the face is an occupational hazard."

• Second prize: Mariners masher Russell Branyan gets Year in Review's goofy-injury daily double. First, he flunked his close-the-hotel-curtains test in July, by toppling over a coffee table that fell on his foot and scrunched his toe. Then, just last week, he managed to get hurt taking his family out for pizza. No, he wasn't attacked by a runaway pepperoni. The trouble started when his son kicked off a flip-flop. Branyan reached over to pick it up, his chair tried to escape, and he fell and wiped out his tailbone. I bet next time he orders takeout.

• Third prize: Here's to lovable Astros utility whiz Geoff Blum. Until July, he undoubtedly figured the worst thing that could happen to him while putting on a shirt was finding out it didn't match his pants. Then he tried slipping on his shirt after a game, felt his elbow pop and needed arthroscopic elbow surgery to zap some bone chips. Astros broadcast-witticist Jim Deshaies later told Year in Review he used to worry about chips only while removing his shirt. "When I took off my shirt," he said, "the only chips they found were a half-eaten bag of Lay's potato chips."

Alexi Casilla
Casilla

Ron Gardenhire
Gardenhire

• Special manager citation: Just last weekend, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was minding his own business, taking pregame throws at first base from shortstop J.J. Hardy, when second baseman Alexi Casilla smoked him in the ear with a throw he never saw coming. Next thing he knew, Gardenhire said, his ear "went ka-boom," and he couldn't manage that day. But at least, he said, Casilla finally showed off that great arm of his.

"Best throw he's made all year," Gardenhire told the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Joe Christensen. "I've been telling him all year, 'Quit lobbing the ball, throw the ball, son.' Just didn't know he'd do it in BP when I wasn't looking."

Honorable mention: Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco tweaked his knee tying his shoelaces. … Padres ace Mat Latos wound up on the disabled list after straining a rib-cage muscle -- by sneezing. Gesundheit! … Dodgers catcher Russell Martin blew out his hip -- by turning to see whether he'd been called out at the plate. … Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson got bit by a scorpion. …

Phillies reliever Ryan Madson blew a save, drop-kicked a defenseless folding chair, broke a toe and spent the next two months on the disabled list. … Rays reliever Grant Balfour won't be appearing on any future editions of "WrestleMania" after straining a rib-cage muscle in a "playful" pregame wrestling exhibition with pitching coach Jim Hickey. … Indians coach Ruben Niebla had to be carted off the field after wiping out his ACL during some "harmless" pregame shagging. … And Cardinals infielder Felipe Lopez apparently won't be taking the Babe Ruth/Rick Ankiel career path anytime soon. He aggravated his elbow pitching in the Cardinals' wild 20-inning game with the Mets and got a three-week trip to the disabled list out of it.

Injuries of the Year -- Hot-to-Trot Division

Never has hitting a home run been more hazardous to the health of America's greatest sluggers than it was this year -- when five players got hurt immediately before, after or during the once-glamorous act of going deep:

Kendry Morales
Morales

• Angels cleanup powerhouse Kendry Morales knocked himself out for the season when he tried to jump on home plate after a May 29 walk-off grand slam and didn't quite nail the landing. Instead, he slipped, broke his leg and never took another swing all year. Oops.

• The good news for Cardinals pitcher Brad Penny is he now has hit more grand slams (one) than Mark Reynolds or Rickie Weeks (none). The bad news is, Penny also canned himself for the year while hitting that slam back on May 21. Tore a lat muscle on that mighty hack. Hasn't been spotted since.

• Orioles bopper Luke Scott sealed the Slowest Trot of 2010 Award, according to wezen-ball.com, by blowing out his hamstring tearing around first base after crunching a June 30 homer he wasn't sure would leave the premises. Took him 35.76 seconds to gimp around the bases. He didn't heal up and make it back into the batter's box until the week after the All-Star break.

Jim Edmonds
Edmonds

• It's possible the final swing of Jim Edmonds' great career was a Sept. 21 homer against his old friends the Brewers. But hold the Ted Williams footage. Edmonds popped his Achilles on his way around third base. But hey, at least he made it home 7.5 seconds faster than Luke Scott did.

• And does this sum up the state of the Mets, or what? As the Wall Street Journal's Mike Sielski reported to Year in Review, the Mets got one home run all year out of their half-dozen second basemen -- and the guy who hit it (on Sept. 18), Luis Hernandez, never played again. That's because he'd just broken his foot with a foul ball the pitch before. So he had to stagger around the bases in an agonizing 33.08 seconds. But, thanks to the mad trot trackers at wezen-ball, we know that was still 2.68 seconds faster than Luke Scott. "It was his Kirk Gibson moment," said the pitcher who gave it up, Tim Hudson.

Box Score Lines of the Year

• First prize -- Fearsome foursome dept.: Who says the Brewers didn't have enough rotation depth? In July, they were deep enough to become the first team since Pete Naktenis' 1936 A's to have four pitchers give up at least 10 runs in a game in the same month. Here come those box-score lines. Place your tray table in the full upright and locked position:

• July 7: Chris Narveson vs. Giants: 3 1/3-9-10-9-2-3
• July 18: Manny Parra vs. Braves: 5 1/3-10-10-10-2-4
• July 20: David Bush vs. Pirates: 4-9-10-5-2-2
• July 21: Randy Wolf vs. Pirates: 5 2/3-13-12-12-2-4

Claim to fame No. 1: These guys gave up more runs (42) in four starts than Oakland's Brett Anderson has given up all season (39) -- in 18 starts.

Claim to fame No. 2: Yankees starters have allowed 10 runs or more in a game four times in the past 13 seasons. Brewers starters did it four times in 13 games. Yikes.

Edwin Jackson
Jackson

• Second prize -- How do you spell unhittable dept.: Ever heard of a pitcher who had a season quite like Edwin Jackson's? He threw a no-hitter in one game. He gave up 10 runs in another game. Then, after getting traded from the Diamondbacks to the White Sox, he threw a 13-hitter in a third game. Here come those lines:

• April 27 vs. Rockies: 2 1/3-11-10-10-2-2
• June 25 vs. Rays: 9-0-0-0-8-6
• Sept. 11 vs. Royals: 5-13-6-6-1-3

Claim to fame: So how many other pitchers in the live-ball era do you think threw a no-hitter, a 13-hitter and a 10-run special in the same season? Right you are. That would be none.

• Third prize: Marquis event dept.: When the Nationals signed Jason Marquis last winter, they were hoping he'd have a memorable year -- but this wasn't what they had in mind. Marquis made two starts this year in which he never hung around quite long enough to get, uh, the second out. Here they are:

• April 18 vs. Brewers: 0-4-7-7-1-0 • Sept. 17 vs. Phillies: 1/3-6-6-6-1-0

Claim to fame: Marquis became the first pitcher since 1979 (Lynn McGlothen) -- and only the fifth in the past 90 years -- to have two games in one year in which he got one out or none while giving up six earned runs or more.

Jamie Moyer
Moyer

• Fourth prize -- Double trouble dept.: He's made 686 trips to the mound over 24 seasons. But if you thought Jamie Moyer had already done it all, his June 11 start in Fenway Park shot that theory to smithereens:

1-9-9-9-1-1, and six doubles

Claim to fame: So how many other pitchers in the past half-century have had a game that featured twice as many doubles as outs? Not a one, of course.

• Fifth prize: J.J. madness dept.: I'm not sure what the odds are of having your starting pitcher give up eight runs -- and then having the pitcher who relieves him allow more runs. But the Braves proved April 12 that it sure wasn't impossible, in a nutty 17-2 loss to the Padres:

Jair Jurrjens 3 1/3-8-8-8-2-1
Jo-Jo Reyes 3 1/3-10-9-9-3-2

Claim to fame: It was the first time a starting pitcher gave up that many runs and then had the guy who relieved him give up more runs since Ben Diggins (8 runs) and Andrew Lorraine (9 runs) did it for the Brewers on Sept. 2, 2002. That was more than 17,000 games ago!

Five More Classic Box Score Classics

Scott Kazmir
Kazmir

• Scott Kazmir on July 10 (vs. A's): 5-11-13-13-3-2, plus 3 HR, 2 WP, 1 HBP, 6 XBH

What's up with that: Kazmir becomes the sixth pitcher since World War II to give up 13 earned runs in one game.

• Octavio Dotel on Aug. 18 (vs. Rockies): 1-0-1-1-3-2, plus 3 WP

What's up with that: Dotel becomes the first reliever in the past 60 years to cram three walks, three wild pitches and two strikeouts into the same inning.

• Jose Valverde on July 30 (vs. Red Sox): 1 1/3-2-4-4-5-4, in 60 action-packed pitches

What's up with that: Valverde becomes the first reliever in the 24-season pitch-count era to finish off a win by launching that many pitches in an outing that short.

Stephen Strasburg
Strasburg

• Stephen Strasburg's debut rocks the house June 8 (vs. Pirates): 7-4-2-2-0-14

What's up with that: Strasburg becomes the first pitcher in history to unfurl a 14-strikeout, no-walk game in his big league debut.

• Giants hack machine Juan Uribe channels his inner Barry Bonds, May 9 (vs. Mets): 0 AB, 1 R, 0 H, 1 RBI -- on 4 walks and an HBP

What's up with that: In the 1,136th game in Uribe's career, he has his first four-walk game, seeing 21 pitches -- and swinging at none of them.

Wildest Games of the Year

April 22 (Brewers 20, Pirates 0): What have the Pirates done now that the Steelers haven't done since 1989? Lose a 20-0 game, of course. Clearly, that's tough to do in any sport. But the Pirates proved anything is possible by allowing three runs or more in five of the last seven innings, and giving up 25 hits, 11 extra-base hits and four homers. It was the first big league game to end in a score of exactly 20-0 since Aug. 10, 1889. And when it was over, the Pirates had become the first team to get outscored by 35 runs or more in a three-game series since Doc Newtown's 1901 Reds got steamrolled by the Dodgers 50-10.

Colorado RockiesBoston Red Sox

June 24 (Red Sox 13, Rockies 11): It was Dustin Pedroia versus Coors Field, and the winner sure wasn't Coors. These two teams combined for 33 hits and 430 pitches over 4 hours and 48 action-packed minutes. The Rockies coughed up leads of 2-0 and 8-6. The Red Sox blew a four-run lead, charged ahead again and then blew a three-run lead. Then, after the Rockies had tied it with a two-run ninth, Pedroia took over. He cranked what manager Terry Francona called a "Sandberg-esque" 10th-inning homer, and it capped off both a crazy win and the most spectacular offensive game of Pedroia's career: 5-for-5, with three homers, a double and four RBIs, in a cameo visit to the No. 3 hole yet. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he was just the fourth No. 3 hitter in history to go 5-for-5 with three homers and four runs scored in any game ever played. See if the others ring a bell: Albert Pujols, Willie Stargell and Ty Cobb.

July 6 (Rockies 12, Cardinals 9): But that Red Sox game might not have been the wackiest Coors Field special of the year. How 'bout this one: The Cardinals took a 9-3 lead into the ninth, then did something that can't, theoretically, be done. They gave up nine runs in the bottom of the ninth on the way to a nearly impossible loss. That's an all-timer, even for Coors. It was the first time in the history of the National League that any home team had started the bottom of the ninth trailing and then put up a nine-spot to win. And according to Elias, the only two games like that in AL annals both took place in 1901 -- the first season of the American League. And one of them (Detroit-Milwaukee, on April 25, 1901) was on the second day of the American League. Who knew!

Philadelphia PhilliesHouston Astros

Aug. 24 (Astros 4, Phillies 2 in 16 madcap innings): One minute, this looked like a routine little Astros win. The next, Jimmy Rollins was thumping a game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth, and complete madness busted out. Thirteen relievers wound up facing 68 hitters. Both teams blew through all their position players. Then Ryan Howard got ejected in the 14th for arguing a checked swing -- and out trotted Roy Oswalt to play left field (and hit cleanup). He was the first Phillies pitcher to play anywhere in the field since 1971. And if you don't count multipositional types, he was the first to play the outfield since Joe Bowman on Aug. 21, 1935. The good news for his team was, Oswalt caught the only fly ball hit to him. The bad news was, he had to march to the plate, representing the winning run, with two outs and two on in the 16th. As what was left of a sellout crowd chanted, "Let's go, Oswalt," the TV cameras caught infielder Geoff Blum and hitting coach Jeff Bagwell chanting right along with them in the Astros' dugout. "Had to," Bagwell told MLB.com's Alyson Footer, after Oswalt made the final out. "I knew he wasn't getting a hit."

Aug. 25 two-for-the-price-of-one sale (Rockies 12, Braves 10 and Reds 12, Giants 11 in 12 zany innings): Unless you went to school with Betty White's mom, you've never seen anything quite like this: two teams blowing 10-1 leads on the same day, practically simultaneously. It was the first time since 1912 that two teams made nine-run leads disappear on the same day. But at least the Reds found a way to win after their meltdown. They blew all nine runs of their lead, actually fell behind in a six-run eighth, then tied it in the ninth after a disastrous Pablo Sandoval error and won it in the 12th (after getting the winning run thrown out at the plate once) on a Joey Votto single. "It was ugly, beautiful or whatever. It was a win," infielder Miguel Cairo told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. For the Braves, on the other hand, it was a loss -- on an afternoon when they somehow became the first NL team in the live-ball era to lose a game in which all nine starters (including pitcher Jair Jurrjens) got an extra-base hit. Meanwhile, the Rockies, who at one point were looking for position players interested in pitching, found themselves rampaging to 11 runs over the last five innings in the kind of game that's made Coors Field famous. "Those kinds of comebacks don't happen in most ballparks," Bobby Cox said. "But they happen here."

Mystery Pitcher of the Year

It was one of those tales that gave a whole new meaning to the expression "the beauty of baseball."

It all started with Stephen Strasburg feeling "discomfort" while he was warming up for his July 27 start for the Nationals.

Whereupon ever-erudite reliever Miguel Batista was forced to head for the mound instead and found himself getting booed by 40,000 people who hadn't planned on turning their life savings over to StubHub to see Miguel Batista pitch.

Katherine Connors & Miguel Bautista
Katherine Connors, aka Miss Iowa, became somewhat of a celebrity at Nationals Park this past summer, thanks to Nats pitcher Miguel Batista.

Whereupon Batista, afterward, would utter the words that changed Katherine Connors' life: "Imagine," he said, "if you go to see Miss Universe, then you end up having Miss Iowa. You might get those kind of boos." Uh-ohhh.

So the next day, 1,000 miles from the scene of the quote, Miss Iowa USA, Katherine Connors, was hanging out in a salon, getting her hair done, when the texts started.

"They said, 'They're talking about you on ESPN,'" Connors told Year in Review. "And I was like, 'What?' And they said, 'There are pictures flashing up.' And I said, 'Oh my God. What pictures?'"

Little did Connors know her world had just done a big 180. One fateful quote led to a phone call of apology from Miguel Batista. And then an invitation from the Nationals to go to Washington and throw out the first pitch. And then an emergency pitching workout with a friend who used to pitch in high school, who quickly concluded: "It's a lost cause."

And then there she was, on a plane to D.C. And there she was, wearing a Nationals jersey with "MISS IOWA" on the back, actually warming up in the bullpen with Batista, Pudge Rodriguez and pitching coach Steve McCatty.

And minutes later, she was out there on the mound in Nationals Park, throwing what our Year in Review umpiring panel has decided was a clear-cut strike -- even though, technically, it didn't quite cross that object some umpiring panels know as home plate.

"I think I threw out my shoulder," Connors told Year in Review. "That's why my pitch went off to the right."

Shockingly, the Nationals didn't sign her immediately. But they might want to reconsider because, when Year in Review asked Connors which pitcher in baseball she'd compare herself to, that name, Strasburg, came to mind.

"Isn't Strasburg the big rookie pitcher of the year now?" she asked us.

Oh, we said, he was definitely the talk of the country before he got hurt.

"Well," she quipped right back, "I was the rookie pitcher of the year, and I was kind of the talk of the country for a little bit, too, right?"

OK, sold. Miss Iowa also told us she was thrilled by how fast all those Nationals fans who'd been booing Miguel Batista decided it wasn't so bad if Miss Iowa showed up.

"It's amazing, since all this, how many people in Washington are now Iowa fans," she said.

"How can you tell?" Year in Review asked.

"Well," she said, laughing, "there were signs that said, 'We want Miss Universe.' Then they crossed that out and put, 'Nevermind. We want Miss Iowa.'"

She hasn't been back to a ballpark since. But this is one beauty queen whose 15 minutes of fame has lasted for two entertaining months -- all thanks to Batista.

"People keep asking me, 'Aren't you that girl from ESPN?'" Connors said. "I say, 'Yeah, that's me.'"

For now, we should report, there are no indications she's about to replace Hannah Storm. But you never know -- because Miss Iowa USA sure aced this talent competition. She managed to turn an innocent little diss into one of the coolest times of her life, all because she has that invaluable gift for laughing at herself at exactly the right time.

"You know, I'm giving up my crown in a month," Connors told Year in Review. "And when people ask me, 'What was the highlight of your year as Miss Iowa?' I say, 'Miguel Batista making fun of me.' … I told him, 'I'm having so much fun, you can make fun of me anytime.'"

Drama King of the Year

Here we've spent the past 15 years analyzing Derek Jeter's swing, glove and intangibles. Only this year did we find out we were honing in on all the wrong stuff.

The heck with whether this guy deserves to win a Gold Glove. Does he deserve to win a Tony Award? That's the question.

Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter put on quite a show after he was "hit" by a pitch thrown by the Rays' Chad Qualls.

See, it turns out Jeter is a true thespian. We know that now, after Jeter mined every ounce of his acting skills to pantomime his way into a phantom hit-by-pitch call a couple of weeks ago in Tampa Bay.

But rather than pile onto the tiresome debate about whether he's a cheater, a winner or just a clever little conniver, Year in Review thinks it's vital to ask a different question:

Is Jeter going to make it as an actor?

To help answer that question, we called in the tremendous Chris Williams, an actor/comedian who has played Krazee-Eyez Killa on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Todd Carr on "Californication," Dwight in "Dodgeball" and many other spectacular roles. And Williams gave Jeter's acting skills two thumbs up. OK, he's a Yankees fan, but whatever.

• On Jeter's pain-fakeage techniques: "I thought his pain-faking was pretty good," Williams said, "especially the bending over and the heavy heave. When you give that, 'HUHHHHHH,' that's always a good selling technique."

• On the captain immediately waving for the trainer: "That was great," Williams said. "You want to have everybody in on your act. I'm surprised 'Entourage' hasn't called yet."

• On Jeter's hidden dancing skills: "You watch it in slow motion, you can see him actually doing a pirouette with his leg out," Williams revealed exclusively to Year in Review. "That was the impressive part. And he was wincing on his way down to first base and bending over to hide his little wry smile. So it was a great performance."

• On how difficult a role this was to pull off: "I think it was quite impressive," Williams said. "First of all, it sounded like a cannon when it hit off the end of the bat … and the ball went flying. You would have to have bones like titanium to get a ball to fly that far off the bat. So you really have to sell it."

• On whether Jeter reminds him of any actors he's worked with: "I was in a movie once with Sir Anthony Hopkins, and … he does remind me of Sir Anthony Hopkins," Williams said. "When I worked with him, I asked him what makes a great actor. And he basically told me it's what we call the Meisner technique -- being in the moment and knowing your part, knowing your work. … And that's what Jeter did. He knew what he had to do to help his team win. So if that means putting on his acting cap and reacting like he got hit by that pitch, that's what he had to do."

• On whether Jeter was so convincing that if he claimed elbow treatments on his health insurance, the company would honor the claim: "You know, I think it grazed his elbow," Williams said, deadpan. "I think the wind from the ball, before it hit the end of the bat, grazed him and gave his elbow frostbite. That's what it was -- coldness from the speed of the pitch." So in other words, he was pretty sure the insurance company would buy that frostbite diagnosis? "Hey, you submit the claim," he said, chuckling, "and let them do the work."

All in all, we'd call this a rave review -- even if it did come from a guy who loves the Yankees. But now that we've covered this performance, we have one final question: What's Jeter's next big role?

"Oh, his contract next year," Williams quipped. "He's got to act like he's OK with taking less money."

"Wait," we said. "He might not want to pull that act off."

"Well, whether he wants to or not, he may have to," Williams said. "So he's got to act like he's happy."

Excellent advice, if we do say so ourselves. So any time "The Captain" needs more acting tips just like these, he can turn to Year in Review -- and the great Chris Williams. We'll even waive our usual fee.

Debut of the Year

Here at Year in Review, we're always on the lookout for the most heartwarming tale of the season. And this year, it was hard to beat the saga of 33-year-old John Lindsey, who spent 16 years bouncing around the minor leagues until the Dodgers finally invited him to the big leagues in September.

But when Lindsey finally made it into his first major league box score Sept. 8, here's what made his debut so memorable:

This guy had to wait 16 years to play in a game he, um, never actually played in.

That seems like it practically violates the law of physics. But somehow, it fits right into the rules of baseball. Here's how:

Lindsey was announced as a pinch hitter for Scott Podsednik. The Padres then switched pitchers. So Joe Torre sent Andre Ethier up to hit for Lindsey. And that, historians will tell us, constituted Lindsey's major league debut. But where were those historians at the time, when Lindsey was trudging back to the dugout, not even aware of the big debut that had just transpired?

"I had no idea," Lindsey told Year in Review. "It didn't register until Joe Torre said, 'Now you're in the record books.' I was like: 'What? For not playing in the game?'"

Yeah, that's how it works in this sport, all right. Only in baseball can you play without actually playing.

When Lindsey got back to the dugout, his teammates had their own incisive way of explaining to him why this moment was way cooler than he'd realized.

"Somebody said, 'You're so good, you can get in a game without having to hit,'" Lindsey said. "Somebody else said, 'You must be good. They'd rather face Ethier than face you.'"

Right. Or something like that. Lindsey admitted it's going to be tough to explain this to his grandchildren some day. But Torre presented him with the lineup card, and he's promised to display it over his fireplace -- as soon as he gets a fireplace.

Asked how his fireplace shopping was going, Lindsey said: "Uh, I've got to get a couple more paychecks first."

As it turned out, Lindsey had to wait only one more day to play in a game he really played in. And three days after that, he got his first big league hit -- a line-drive single off Houston's Nelson Figueroa. But of all those "firsts," he's come to appreciate the meaning of his official debut, even if he can't exactly show his pals any spine-tingling video to document it.

Asked which game he counts as his true debut, Lindsey could only laugh.

"I count that one, the official one," he said. "To me, it was still a special moment. It's like the guy who goes fishing and gets a little fish, and 20 years later it was a shark.

"I can always say," he said, chuckling, "that I was so intimidating, they brought a right-hander in -- because they didn't want to face me."

Five Snapshots of the Season That Was

No-hit fever: There were five -- yep, five -- no-hitters pitched this year. That's amazing enough. There should have been six. (Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce can explain that to you sometime.) But here's the most astounding no-hit fact of the year:

Of the past four no-hitters thrown against AL teams, all four of them involved the Tampa Bay Rays -- three against them (Mark Buehrle last year, Dallas Braden and Edwin Jackson this year), and one for them (by Matt Garza). So Year in Review asked Rays manager Joe Maddon whether he'd come up with any good remedies for No-Hit Fever.

"We should think about No-Hit Soup," Maddon said. "Maybe No-Hit Italian Wedding Soup."

Got change for a $20? If your idea of a classic ballgame is pitchers in the outfield, infielders on the mound and three dozen zeroes on the scoreboard, you couldn't beat this masterpiece: Mets 2, Cardinals 1, in 20 seemingly never-ending innings April 17.

It was the first game in which two teams went scoreless for 18 innings -- and then both scored in the 19th. It was the first game since 1979 in which a pitcher (emergency Cardinals outfielder Kyle Lohse) recorded two putouts in a game in which he wasn't pitching. And it was the first game in 31 years in which a team (the Cardinals) used two position players (Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather) to get nine outs on the old pitcher's mound.

So, because Mather kept pitching until he ended up the losing pitcher, this turned into a game in which, in the profound words of Johan Santana, "You see a position player losing the game [Mather], a closer [Francisco Rodriguez] winning the game and a starter [Mike Pelfrey] saving the game. I've never seen that before." And you know why, Johan? Because nobody else had seen one like that, either.

The Buehrle Meter: At least we didn't have to deliberate long to pick out the year's greatest defensive play. It came roaring at us before the season was, like, 45 minutes old.

The winner and still-Web Gem champion -- six months later -- remains Mark Buehrle's Opening Day kick save, feverish dash into foul territory and between-the-legs glove flip. It was a play so acrobatic, it seemed to pave the way for Buehrle to move on to a gig with Cirque du Soleil once the White Sox get tired of him. But Buehrle's friend and catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, told Year in Review not to count on that.

"I'm still amazed," Pierzynski said. "I didn't know Mark had any athletic ability. I'd have thought if he had it, in six years I'd have seen it. But this was the first time."

Get your ChapStick: It looks like something you'd expect to find on a NASCAR stat sheet, not a baseball stat sheet: average speed -- 100.1 mph. But that's not the average speed for Jeff Gordon, ladies and gentlemen. That's the recorded clip of the average fastball launched by Reds speed-racer Aroldis Chapman -- 100.1 mph.

He has been hanging out in the big leagues for only a month, but Chapman already has unleashed 74 pitches at 100 mph or better -- which computes to more than half of the 131 fastballs he's fired. He once hit triple figures 25 times in one game (Sept. 24 against the Padres). He once topped 104 mph twice in the same at-bat (Sept. 1, against the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy). And in that Sept. 24 game, he propelled the fastest pitch ever recorded by the indispensible Pitch f/x pitch-clockers -- 105.1 miles per frigging hour.

So he's just another junkballing left-hander, all right. Yeah, sure he is. The Aroldis Chapman quote of the year -- from his new teammate, Bronson Arroyo: "We've got the Usain Bolt of baseball."

Royalty: It's turned into Another One of Those Years in Kansas City, friends. Which would make 25 consecutive years of One of Those Years, since the last time the Royals played a postseason game. But the one thing you can say for the Royals is at least they don't dangle their fan base along.

They never spent one day over .500 this year. In fact, they now have played 279 games since the last time they had a winning record. So if setting the tone on Opening Day is the specialty of the Royals' house, they did a super job of that again this year. With two outs in the first inning of the entire season, Zack Greinke got Carlos Guillen to hit a pop-up right over the pitcher's mound -- that every Royal in the infield was successfully able to avoid catching. An unearned run and a Royals loss followed. And it was all downhill from there -- for Greinke and his baseball team.

Greinke's quote, courtesy of the Kansas City Star's Sam Mellinger, says it all: "It was hit so high, I was like, 'There's no way I'm catching this ball.' And I turned around, and no one was even close to it. And I was like, 'Where the heck is everyone?'" Hey, we know where. They were already hanging around, waiting for next year, obviously.

Our Five Favorite Quotes of the Year

• From Indians manager and Yogi Berra impressionist Manny Acta (to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes) after his starting pitcher, Jeanmar Gomez, had finished giving up eight runs with two outs: "When you have two out, you're three-fourths of the way there."

• From then-Astros quipmeister Lance Berkman (to MLB.com's Alyson Footer), on why he smashed his bat into the ground after a game-ending strikeout: "There was a centipede crawling across the ground right in front of me and I didn't want it to bite any of the fans that stuck around, so I had to take care of it."

• From Angels catcher Bobby Wilson (to the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna), on the neurological tests he had to take after a collision at home plate: "They didn't find anything in my head. Just a hamster chasing a peanut."

• From A's pitcher Dallas Braden (to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser) on the mound-trespassing charge he filed against his favorite Yankee, Alex Rodriguez: "If he wants to run across the mound, tell him to go do laps in the bullpen."

• And, finally, from Phillies coach Pete Mackanin, on his choice of vocabulary: "I never use a big word when a diminutive word would suffice."

Maddon-isms of the Year

Joe Maddon
Maddon

Trying to choose the greatest quotes of the year from Rays oratorical genius Joe Maddon might be more impossible than trying to find a ray of sunshine inside Tropicana Field. But with the help of the exalted St. Petersburg Times Maddon-ologist, Marc Topkin, we did our best. So here goes:

• On how humongous an MRI machine the Rays needed to examine 6-foot-9 behemoth Jeff Niemann: "They used to use it on dinosaurs."

• On his gratitude for the entire city of Detroit that Johnny Damon chose to veto a trade to the Red Sox and stay with the Tigers: "I love the fact that he's in Detroit. His personality in that city, combined with his baseball abilities, can lead to a definite resurgence in the downtown area. That, and I guess Ford is making a better car right now."

• On what it meant that the Rays won their last two games against the Yankees last week to take control of their destiny in the AL East race: "I've been an anti-assumptionist for the last several years, and I don't want to start right now."

• After he ripped the roof of his beloved Trop when a pop-up off a catwalk led to an Aug. 5 loss to the Twins, Maddon formally apologized -- via Twitter -- to his home park. So after the final out of a Sept. 1 win was a pop-up that miraculously missed the catwalk and got caught by Carl Crawford, Maddon said it pays to make peace with stadiums you love:

"I have made amends with the building. And I have promised not to whine again. And I think because of that, that's why the ball missed something. It was going to hit something, but it missed something. I think I actually saw the catwalk move several inches to avoid that ball."

• Finally, on MLB reversing its hoodie ban earlier this year and allowing him to wear his trademark sweatshirt in the dugout: "Thankfully, covered heads prevailed."

The Best of Ozzie

Ozzie Guillen
Guillen

You asked for them. You got them. With a big assist from the Chicago Sun Times' Joe Cowley, here come the three most entertaining quotes of the year -- or at least the three most suitable for a family website -- from White Sox quote factory Ozzie Guillen:

• On how much he thinks about his team's archrivals, the Twins, and the manager for whom they provide nonstop palpitations, Ron Gardenhire: "Are they on my mind? No. Every time we play against them, Gardy's got to go to the hospital. I look in the dugout, 'Where's Gardy?' 'He's up there with a heart attack.'"

• On why he wasn't worried about White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's decree that Manny Ramirez cut his hair: "I look at Ibis' hair, my wife -- not someone else's. [Her hair looks] pretty good. Right now it's starting to bother me because I see that hair every day now. She has been coming on these road trips with me. She knows. Her hair don't look as good as it did two weeks ago."

• On whether his team's offensive issues were going to keep him awake at night: "I'm going to sleep like a baby. I'm going to wake up crying every two hours."

Late Nighters of the Year

Our three favorite baseball quips of the year from the late-night crowd:

Third prize: From David Letterman, on the passing of the late, great George Steinbrenner: "George Steinbrenner, an amazing man in the world of sports -- he took the Yankees, he transformed them from a $10 million franchise … to a $1 billion franchise. And do you know what his secret was? The $9 hot dog."

Second prize: From Stephen Colbert, on the Goldman Sachs scandal: "There's nothing illegal about selling customers a product designed to fail. The Chicago Cubs do it every year. Are they going to jail?"

First prize: From Letterman on the crummy turn in the New York weather this week: "I know the weather outside is lousy. It's raining so hard right now up at Yankee Stadium, they're covering the infield with CC Sabathia's pants."

Tweets of the Year

And finally, Year in Review researchers have combed through our voluminous Twitter files for our three favorite baseball tweets of the season:

Third prize: From the hilarious, now-defunct, parody tweetster @UmpJoeWest, authored by a mystery man who identifies himself only as Not Ump Joe West: "Just had the family over for a cookout. My cousin brought potato salad which we already had, so I tossed him."

Second prize: From comedian/"Late Show" quipster Matt Goldich (@MattGoldich), on the Yankees' trip to the White House: "Yankees visited White House yesterday. Michelle got upset when A-Rod cut directly across the Rose Garden."

First prize: And, from the funniest tweeter we know, "Late Show" writing genius Eric Stangel (@EricStangel): "Breaking: Jim Gray & ESPN will cover Stephen Strasburg's Tommy John surgery live with a special -- 'The Incision.'"

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.