Commentary

What a wild and wacky season it was

Strangest injuries, craziest box-score lines, funniest Tweets and quips

Updated: September 28, 2013, 2:16 PM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

Boy, what a year. It wasn't safe to play catch in the outfield. Or high-five your buddies. Or lift your suitcase. Or even hug your kid.

Why is that, you ask? You're about to find out, as Year in Review reveals its annual Injuries of the Year, Box-Score Lines of the Year, Tweets of the Year and Late-Night Quips of the Year:

Injuries of the Year

Fifth prize: Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus was just doing something last week that he does (literally) a thousand times a year -- running out to the outfield between innings -- when a nutty thing happened to him: His formerly favorite right fielder, Anthony Gose, thought he was ready for the regularly scheduled game of catch they play before every inning, heaved him the baseball and nailed Rasmus, smackeroo, in the face. Next thing he knew, Rasmus wound up A) in a CT-scan tube and B)on the disabled list. So kids, here's a tip for you: Only play catch with guys who are actually watching.

Fourth prize: You won't hear Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez yelling, "Check, please," any time soon. Not after he sprained his knee in April -- by checking his swing. That's one check that's definitely not in the mail.

[+] EnlargeJeff Baker
Rick Yeatts/Getty ImagesHands down, Rangers! As Jeff Baker learned, something as simple and joyful as a high-five can lead to a trip to the disabled list.

Third prize: How women and general managers don't think alike: Women say there's nothing sexier than a guy who likes to help in the kitchen. GMs beg to differ -- especially when one of their pitchers misses a start because he cuts his finger … while doing the dishes. That actually happened to the Diamondbacks' Ian Kennedy in May. He pitches for the Padres now. Still checking out rumors he left an eight-foot pile of dirty plates in his sink back at his old apartment in Phoenix.

Second prize: It was Bill Gates who once said, "It's fine to celebrate success. But it is more important to heed the lessons of failure." I just hope Rangers utility whiz Jeff Baker remembers that, because it was definitely the celebrating that screwed up his whole season. He was high-fiving it up in the dugout, sprained his thumb and was out for five weeks. He was hitting .317/.391/.695, with nine homers, before he got hurt. He's .243/.325/.386, with two homers, since he came back. And the Rangers' response? What else? They officially banned high-fives.

First prize: We'll never know where Clay Buchholz's magical season was heading if he hadn't made the mistake of letting something as trivial as fatherhood get in the way. He was on pace to go -- what? -- about 28-1, until he got home from a May road trip and fell asleep while cradling his 2-year-old daughter, Colbi, on his shoulder. Oops! He woke up with an irritated AC joint near his right collarbone and was out for three months. Those darned kids. They're always tempting you to cradle them and stuff. And look how that worked out.

Injury of the Year: Coaching Division

Dave Righetti
Righetti

Back when he was pitching for a living, Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti made 718 trips to the mound and never had to go on the disabled list once because of an arm issue. So naturally, he needed to have reconstructive elbow surgery this July -- after blowing out his elbow lifting a suitcase. Pretty good chance it was the 1,400 innings he once threw that really caused this, as opposed to the luggage. But here are two words I'd like to pass along, anyway: Rolling bags.

Honorable mention: The Dodgers' Chris Capuano strained a calf muscle -- while running in from the bullpen to join a brawl. … The Brewers' Corey Hart blew out his left knee while rehabbing his right knee after surgery. … All three Braves outfielders (Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward) got hurt in a span of 24 hours in July. … Torii Hunter missed a Tigers game with an Achilles problem -- which he blamed on wearing new shoes that were too tight. … And here's to Miami's Casey Kotchman, who managed to rack up the Injuries of the Year Special Achievement Award by finishing the season with more disabled-list trips (two) than hits (0-for-20). He got hurt in spring training when he crashed into the popup machine, came back in April and blew out his hamstring, then returned again in June and went down again a week later with an oblique strain. Ouch!

Box Score Lines of the Year

Juan Nicasio
Nicasio

Fifth prize: Back in June, a Rockies pitcher authored a messy little a 12-hitter in just 2 1/3 innings. Which totally sounds like something a Rockies pitcher might do. Except that Juan Nicasio got himself into that June 25 mess at Fenway Park, against a Red Sox team that handed him this picturesque line: 2 1/3 IP, 12 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 K.

What's up with that? The magic numbers here were 12 hits -- and just seven outs. And it's so challenging to give up that many hits in that short an outing, it's only happened to four other starters in the live-ball era, according to baseball-reference.com's ever-helpful Play Index. And two of those four -- Kyle Davies in 2006, Shawn Estes in 2003 -- did it at Coors, against the Rockies. So the only two who did it back on Planet Earth were Johnny Podres in Dodger Stadium on Sept. 28, 1963, and Jarrod Washburn at Comerica Park on May 21, 2008.

Francisco Liriano
Liriano

Fourth prize: On Aug. 9, Francisco Liriano rolled into Coors Field with a 2.02 ERA, to face a team he'd just unleashed seven innings of two-hit, no-run dominance upon a mere six days earlier. Then, a mile above sea level, this happened: 2 1/3 IP, 12 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HR.

What's up with that? Liriano gave up as many runs, in a span of seven outs, as he'd allowed in his previous eight starts put together. He became just the fifth Pirates starter in modern history to allow 10 runs without getting at least eight outs. And then there's this: Until he served up a three-run homer Wednesday to a guy who hadn't hit a big league home run in 17 months (Darnell McDonald), Liriano was going to be the answer to an amazing trivia question: Name the only pitcher ever to give up 10 earned runs in under three innings and still finish the season with an ERA under 3.00. Sadly, McDonald's one swing of the bat elevated Liriano's final ERA to 3.02. But luckily, according to Elias, that's still the lowest ERA in baseball history by a pitcher who had a game like that. So this great moment in box-score history lives on.

James Shields
Shields

Third prize: You can still find the Royals' James Shields hanging out with the American League leaders in ERA. And that's amazing, considering he interrupted his fabulous season with this unfortunate Sept. 6 outing against a Tigers team that apparently was in a perturbed state after a 20-4 loss to the Red Sox the game before: 3 2/3 IP, 14 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 WP.

What's up with that? You think it's just another day at the office when you give up 14 hits and 10 earned runs without even getting 12 outs? Uh, not exactly. Believe it or not, no starting pitcher had ever done it in the live-ball era. And nobody had done it, period, since Dan Dugan ambled out of the White Sox bullpen and coughed up 15 hits and 13 earned runs to Jake Rothrock's sweet-swinging Red Sox on June 5, 1929.

Matt Cain
Cain

Second prize: Has Giants ace Matt Cain ever had a stranger season than this one? I doubt it -- but his June 1 visit to St. Louis was about as weird as it got. This one belonged in the Twilight Zone Pitching Line Hall of Fame: 6 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 BB, 9 K.

What's up with that? I always hate it when this happens, but every once in a while, the box-score line itself doesn't tell you the full story. So let's recap Cain's action-packed third inning that day: double, single, bunt for an out, single, single, strikeout, single, single, double, single, single, strikeout. Now take your calculators out and add up the hits and runs. Get the picture? Yep, it comes to nine hits and seven runs in that inning -- which means, right you are, that the other five innings went: 15 up, 15 down, seven strikeouts, total domination. And how many other pitchers in the last half-century have pitched at least six innings, given up that many hits and runs in an inning, but allowed zero baserunners in any other inning? The answer, from Elias: Never. Happened. Naturally.

Matt Magill
Magill

First prize: Here are two terms that are hazardous to the ERA of any pitcher: "Coors Field" and "spot start." For the latest evidence, we can point to Dodgers rookie Matt Magill, who got called up to make a last-minute start at Coors on June 2 after Hyun-Jin Ryu hurt his foot. Here's how that turned out: 6 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 9 BB, 5 K, 4 HR, 110 pitches, 55 strikes, 55 balls.

What's up with that? There are two numbers that ought to jump out at you in that line -- nine walks … and four homers. So how many other pitchers have ever had a game where they filled up an box-score line with nine walks and four homers? None, of course, according to our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau.

Special Bullpen Box Score Citations

From Our "Wins" Are Overrated Files: On Aug. 6, Red Sox rookie Brandon Workman popped out of the bullpen and wandered into one of the most insane games of the year. The inning before, knuckleballing starter Steven Wright -- not the same Steven Wright who once asked, "What's another word for thesaurus?" -- had just unfurled one of those seldom-seen one-hit, three-run, two-walk, one-wild-pitch, one-hit-batter, four-passed-ball innings from hell. And that was that for him. So in marched Workman to unleash this line on the Astros: 4 2/3 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, during which 11 of the 23 hitters he faced reached base and his ERA went up more than a run and a half. And what did he get out of it? A "W" (in a 15-10 game). What else?

What's up with that? A) No reliever for any team had given up at least six earned runs and gotten a win in 36 years (since Tom Johnson won a 19-12 game for the Twins on June 26, 1977) … B) Only two other relievers since 1939 (Orlando Pena in 1970, Joe Gibbon in 1967) had allowed six runs in under five innings and gotten a win out of the deal … and C) Workman was the first Red Sox reliever to win a game in which he gave up that many runs in that short a work day since Lefty Grove, who got a "W" out of a neat little 13-hit, eight-run bullpen outing on June 13, 1934. Crazy.

From Our "Outs" Are Not Overrated Files: There was nobody out in the fifth inning Sept. 12, when White Sox rookie Charlie Leesman jogged in from his bullpen to face the Indians. Seven hitters later, there was still nobody out in the fifth, and Leesman's day was done after this sequence: homer, walk, walk, walk, RBI single, two-run single, walk. Dylan Axelrod then replaced Leesman and gave up two more run-scoring hits (without getting an out), but that's not important now. What's important is this line: 0 IP, 3 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 0 K, 1 HR, 35 pitches, 14 strikes.

What's up with that? Leesman -- who has given up just five earned runs to 65 hitters in all his other outings this season -- tied quite a record, at least in the live-ball era: Most hitters faced in a relief outing without getting an out. And he was just the second reliever since 1949 to have all seven of those hitters score. The other: the Marlins' Hansel Izquierdo, on June 24, 2002.

Special Mystery Pitcher Citation

You know it's been a wild and crazy season when we have 14 pitching appearances by position players in one year. But none of them had a night quite like Casper Wells put in for the Phillies in an epic, 7-hour, 6-minute, 18-inning game against Arizona.

His pitching line: 2/3 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 0 K, 40 pitches, 22 strikes. And a fairly momentous addendum: LP: Wells (0-1).

His hitting line: 7 AB, 0 H, 0 R, 0 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K

What's up with that? Wells was the first Phillies position player to get hung with a loss on the mound since Bob Bowman, on Sept. 18, 1959. So that was interesting. And he saw 42 pitches as a hitter -- and threw 40 pitches as a pitcher. You don't see that much! But our favorite Kernel collector, ESPN Stats and Info's Doug Kern, reports that Wells also became the first man in 71 years to go 0-for-7 as a hitter and give up five runs as a pitcher in the same game. Last to do it: A real pitcher, Chalmer (Lum) Harris, in a 16-inning complete game for the Philadelphia A's on Sept. 14, 1942. Wells' surreal evening was summed up beautifully (but clearly jokingly) by his biggest fan -- his dad, Casper, to the Albany Times Union: "I looked at the box score, I almost died. That had to be the worst one-game performance by a baseball player ever."

Tweets of the Year

Apparently, that Alex Rodriguez guy was in the news a lot this season, because we collected approximately 1.8 trillion humorous Twitter items about him. So here's a very special A-Rod-centric edition of the Tweets of the Year:

• Can't imagine why, but after that Ryan Dempster HBP "incident" last month, the conspiracy theorists at @OnionSports began to suspect that A-Rod might not be the most popular man in baseball:

• Ever get the impression America feels A-Rod has a slightly delusional opinion of himself? Here's just one example, from Baseball Prospectus witticist Matt Sussman (@suss2hyphens):

• Was there more a bizarre daily double all season than the day A-Rod got suspended for 211 games -- and made his 2013 major league debut on the same day? Clearly, Late Show genius @EricStangel didn't think so:

• And if A-Rod's appeals process fails, comedian @MattGoldich says that's OK -- because he has a backup plan:

• But as all that behind-the-scenes legal maneuvering played out, Rodriguez played on -- and actually made a little history, by breaking Lou Gehrig's all-time record for most grand slams in a career. So did euphoria erupt? Let's consult the always hilarious Batting Stance Guy, Gar Ryness (@BattingStanceG):

Late Nighters of the Year

You'll be shocked to hear this, but A-Rod's name came up in a few late-night monologues, too:

• From David Letterman: "The United States is going to make a deal with Russia and Syria and … here's the deal: Syria will turn over their stockpiled chemicals -- and we send them Alex Rodriguez."

• More Letterman, on what he took away from Ryan Dempster Target Practice Night at Fenway: "Baseball is so much different than it used to be. They stop the game and let the pitcher that hit A-Rod with the baseball ... choose a stuffed animal from the top shelf."

• One more from Letterman, on how we could all celebrate A-Rod's birthday: "If you want to get a little something for Alex Rodriguez, you can't go wrong with clean urine."

• And in non-A-Rod quippery, Jay Leno provided this early-season bulletin on the latest developments in the Cubs' negotiations to renovate Wrigley Field: "In baseball news, the Chicago Cubs said they will move if improvements are not made to Wrigley Field. Today, Wrigley Field said THEY will move if improvements are not made to the Chicago Cubs."

• And finally, here's Letterman, on the return of the cicadas to North America, after 17 years: "They haven't been here in 17 years. They got to New York City. They flew over the Bronx. They saw Yankee Stadium. And the first thing they said, the cicadas – (Did I tell you they talk?) – over Yankee Stadium was, 'Wow, Mariano Rivera is still pitching?'"

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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