At the beginning of 2017, all we could talk about in baseball -- in all of sports, really -- was the Chicago Cubs. It was the biggest non-election story of 2016, and more than a year later, you could make an argument we're all still a little buzzy about it. You guys, the Cubs won the World Series. A decade's worth of sports stories couldn't compare with that.
So 2017 in baseball couldn't quite live up to 2016, but nothing could. This was still a deeply compelling year in Major League Baseball, one that thrilled us, saddened us and kept us riveted from stem to stern. As we continue to wrap up 2017, we look back at the biggest baseball stories of the year.
10. Albert Pujols hits No. 600. It was not the best of seasons for El Hombre -- 2017 was his first season with an OPS-plus of under 100 in his career, and his slash lines were career lows in all three categories -- but for all his recent struggles, it's still worth remembering that Pujols is out there regularly doing things few have done before. On June 3, Pujols hit his 600th home run, becoming only the ninth player in baseball history to do so … not to mention the youngest. He is 82 RBIs away from 2,000 -- he'd be only the fourth player to reach that number -- and 32 hits away from 3,000. He is also under contract to the Angels for four more years. He needs to average 37 home runs per season in those four years to tie Barry Bonds for the most home runs in history. That's 14 more homers than he hit in 2017 … though he did just hit 40 in 2015.
9. Edinson Volquez's no-hitter. We were tempted to go with Scooter Gennett's four-homer game here, and we probably should have, but we felt obliged to note just how rare the no-hitter has suddenly become. Volquez threw the only no-hitter in 2017, and there was also only one (Jake Arrieta) in 2016. After five in 2014 and seven in 2015, they've nearly stopped all together. The last season without a no-hitter was 2005. Will 2018 be the next?
8. Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell finally make the Hall. It took each of them, especially Raines, far longer than it should have, but the two all-timers, along with Ivan Rodriguez and Bud Selig, finally entered Cooperstown. Raines just barely sneaked in, and Bagwell barged through the door in what would turn out to be a rather eventful year for Astros fans. We'll have some more entrants next summer, but none of them with have the drama of Raines at last getting in on his final year on the ballot.
7. An eventful year for the Marlins. The Marlins had the only no-hitter this year, they were sold (to a baseball legend, no less), they grieved the loss of a franchise icon, they watched their best hitter smash 59 home runs and then they then traded away that best hitter (along with their second-best hitter). It's still up in the air what will happen next with the Marlins, but 2018 is unlikely to be quite as eventful as 2017 was.
6. Dodgers finally make World Series. The World Series was unquestionably the season highlight: You'll be seeing a lot of it on this list. So let's not forget just how much of a breakthrough it was for the Dodgers to finally make the World Series, regardless of what happened afterward. The Dodgers hadn't made the Fall Classic in nearly 30 years, a shocking extended absence for one of MLB's signature franchises. They didn't make it all the way, but they took a step their fans have been awaiting for far too long. Now it's time for the next, final step.
5. Indians win 22 in a row. It sure felt like this was the Indians' year, didn't it? After a sluggish start, they went absolutely nutzo in August and September, winning 22 games straight, the longest streak in more than 100 years. (And maybe ever, depending on how you count a 1916 Giants tie.) It was as giddy a month as a baseball team has had, and the only thing it was missing was a World Series at the end of it. That could happen in 2018, but 22 straight wins in a season … that's something the Indians are unlikely to ever see again.
4. Aaron Judge emerges. It is difficult to believe that Judge hit .179, with strikeouts in half his at-bats, in 2016. Was that even the same guy? Judge exploded onto the scene in 2017, becoming the larger-than-life Yankee hero that we never knew we were waiting for all along. He won Rookie of the Year and was this close to winning the American League MVP Award, and he was such an attraction that he revitalized a sort of sleepy Yankees franchise to the point that now he has Giancarlo Stanton next to him in the lineup. We'll all go back to hating the Yankees next year. This year, it was a blast for Yankees fans and Yankees haters alike to watch Judge become baseball's most mythic folk hero.
3. That amazing World Series. OK, fine, so the last two games in Los Angeles turned out to be a bit anti-climactic, as much as any seven-game series can ever be anti-climactic. But heavens, after Game 5, this looked like the most amazing World Series that ever existed. Baseball was at its best, its most viscerally thrilling in Game 5, with superstars doing superstar things and a wild back-and-forth that felt like it would never end … and we all wished it wouldn't. This decade, we've had three of the greatest World Series games ever: 2011 Game 6, 2016 Game 7 and now 2017 Game 5. Can't ask for much more than that.
2. The World Baseball Classic comes of age. The WBC has sometimes struggled to secure its footing, with its odd timing, incomplete lineups and unconventional roster construction. (It hasn't helped that Team USA has always struggled.) But this year, it was as compelling as any regular-season game, nightly fever dreams of high-stakes, high-emotion baseball. The players clearly cared deeply, and their enthusiasm carried over to the fans. We already can't wait for the next one. USA! USA!
1. The Astros win their first-ever World Series. So maybe it wasn't quite the Cubs winning the World Series. But it was close! In the wake of everything that happened in Houston this year, and how long Astros fans had waited for this opportunity, the Astros' breakthrough was as vital and eternal as anything else that happened this year. There are now seven teams that have never won a World Series: Brewers, Mariners, Nationals, Padres, Rangers, Rays and Rockies. The Astros are now no longer a part of that group. Hallelujah.
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