By Marc Normandin
Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes made a tremendous throw to nail Howie Kendrick at the plate and deny the Angels a run on Tuesday evening. Without even having to think very hard, it was clearly an all-time level throw, the kind you'll remember when trying to remember the most jaw-dropping throws or plays of your formative years.
Who wants to avoid thinking hard about some of the other throws it matches up against, though? We've got an entire Internet full of baseball players showing off their cannon arms, so we should use it to share that very beautiful thing with all of you. Sadly, due to the fact baseball was played before video cameras existed or the recording of games was prevalent, we can't make a list of the Absolute Greatest Without Question Throws of all-time.
We can, though, show you the 10 best from the last few decades, allowing you to revel in both the glory of the throws and modern technology.
Yoenis Cespedes, 2014
Why not begin with the most recent? Cespedes' throw is incredible for reasons we'll get to, but the one getting the least attention is that the play never had to happen. Had Cespedes just fielded the ball cleanly, he never would have had to throw home, because it's unlikely Kendrick would have tried to run on Cespedes' arm alone. When it became chancing both a botched play and Cespedes' arm, the Angels sent their runner, and only earned an out and a dugout full of dropped jaws for their efforts.
This Vine exists for a good reason:
It also took perfection on the angle of the throw for Cespedes to throw a literal strike, as baseball fan and Professor Emeritus of the University of Illinois Alan Nathan pointed out on Twitter on Wednesday:
Cespedes' margin of error: +/-1 deg horiz-->+/- 6 ft to L/R. +/- 1deg vert-->+/- 5' in height at home plate. Amazingly accurate throw!- Alan Nathan (@pobguy) June 11, 2014
He also said that the throw traveled 97-98 miles per hour. Pitchers have a hard time hitting the plate from 60 feet away, never mind over 300. They also don't necessarily catch as much of the plate with their throws as Cespedes, either.
Josh Reddick, 2014
Why does someone with Cespedes' arm play in left field? Because Josh Reddick patrols right field for the Athletics.
George Springer can run, and run fast. Reddick can throw faster than that, and he can throw it to the exact spot he needs to, all the way across the diamond. There are a whole lot of Reddick-to-third throws out there, but this one is perfection: He uses his momentum running towards the ball in place of a large crow hop, then fires on a line from deep right directly into the glove of Josh Donaldson, who only has to drop his glove to tag Springer.
Make sure to watch the video from every angle, as the least impressive is the initial viewing that cuts back to Springer's progress between second and third. When you get to see the full trajectory of Reddick's throw, you'll understand why it sticks out even in a season where Cespedes has made waves.
Bo Jackson, 1993
This was after Bo's heyday, his first season back after missing all of 1992 with a serious hip injury, but he still had an absolute cannon equipped. He doesn't look like he puts that much effort into the throw, even shooting it flat-footed, but still getting it all the way to third from deep right, and accurately.
The only thing you can criticize about this is that Jackson made it to third on a hop, and it was the glove work of third baseman Robin Ventura that allowed this to become a classic moment rather than an overzealous attempt at gunning out a baserunner. Ventura snagged it and applied the tag, though, and the rest is wonderful, powerful history.
Vladimir Guerrero, 2001
Sometimes I think about this throw without any real reason to. I don't see another throw that makes me consider it, I'm not even necessarily watching baseball. Something in my file cabinet of a brain shuffles loose, though, and suddenly Vladimir Guerrero is doing absurd things with his arm.
I generally reserve those random "Hey, remember when?" moments for the likes of Barry Bonds and Pedro Martinez, and while Vlad's entire career might not get that treatment, this throw absolutely merits its place alongside the other things from my childhood that I would hug were they to take physical form.
Ichiro Suzuki, 2001
From the same year, we have Ichiro Suzuki introducing himself and his right arm to the league in his eighth game of his first season.
Terrence Long is rounding second base before Ichiro even has the ball in his glove. He was halfway to third base before Ichiro even let loose a throw, and he was still beat by the full length of his slide.
Ichiro only had eight outfield assists in his rookie campaign. You wouldn't be blamed for believing it's because baseball collectively decided to stop running on him unless they absolutely felt they could make it.
Rick Ankiel, 2012
This one is a little different, because it didn't result in an out. It didn't result in an out because Rick Ankiel scared the baserunner at third so much that he just stood and watched the throw rather than challenge it with his legs:
There is barely time to blink between the Nationals' announcer saying the ball might be deep enough for Jordan Schafer to score, and Schafer simply looking up and saying, "Nah, I'm good." Ankiel got a standing ovation for a play that didn't result in an out, because it was as accurate of an outfield throw as there has ever been in baseball, and it went fast enough to scare a baserunner at third from even looking at home plate.
Ankiel, like Reddick, has a career full of wonderful throws to the various bases, but this one sticks out as the most memorable because it didn't thwart an attempt to score: It thwarted an attempt to attempt to score.
Jose Guillen, 1998
You probably remember Jose Guillen from getting in trouble with the Angels to the point they suspended him before the playoffs in 2004, or for various teams thinking he was the answer to their offensive woes late in his career. Before all that, though, we just had this throw.
Like with Cespedes' throw, it came in part due to a mishap. Guillen then managed to throw a ball so far and hard that it briefly traveled off-screen before coming back down right into the glove of the the Pirates' third baseman, Keith Osik. Guillen actually almost overthrew third base somehow, at least relative to the throws you normally see coming from right, despite gunning it from the warning track.
I don't know if there's a more impressive throw on film, but if there is, I absolutely have to see it.
Yasiel Puig, 2013-2014
I didn't know how to pick one Yasiel Puig throw, so instead I selected two that showcase his insane athleticism and ability to fire a ball with inhuman strength. The first comes from this past April, where Puig chased a ball down into the right field corner at Dodger Stadium, and then fired to second base to keep Miguel Montero, who should have had an easy double, from getting one:
It doesn't look special at first, but wait for that last angle, that starts to the side of Puig and ends behind him. Puig scoops up the ball while facing the opposite direction, spins and then throws in one fluid, no-look motion, and gets Montero because of his lack of wasted effort and motion. From a standing position, without any extra help from his legs, Puig let loose a missile, and it found its target.
Like with Ankiel's, it's not as long as a throw as what else is on display here, but if you're just looking for length from your ridiculous outfield throws, you're missing out.
The second Puig throw came in his first-ever major-league game, on June 3, 2013. It was the second half of a game-ending double play, and caused former MLB manager Kevin Kennedy to compare Puig's arm to that of Roberto Clemente:
From the warning track, and sure, Puig got a little help in setting up the play when Padres' baserunner Chris Denorfia was tricked into thinking it was safe to run to second, but come on. A game-ending double play from the warning track that essentially kicked off the historic first year of Puig. What's not to love?
Dave Parker, 1979
Is this actually the greatest Dave Parker throw? It's tough to know for sure, given our previous discussion about the lack of archived footage from his era and before then. We're going to let this particular toss from Dave represent for that entire time period, though, and not just because of his neon yellow jersey.
Gary Carter makes a wonderful play on the ball, but he had to in part because he looked shocked that Parker was even able to make a play a possibility. It's the All-Star Game, so sure, he wasn't used to that sort of thing first-hand out of Parker, but it sticks out.
That's 10 amazing ones, but there are obviously others. I'd love if we could get a collection of Dwight Evans throws, and if any film of Ellis Valentine doing his thing were to appear online, you would hear no complaints from me. You could certainly go a lot deeper than 10, but until all possible baseball history has found its way to the Internet, this bunch will have to do.
If you get tired of them, you can always search for Puig, Reddick, and Cespedes in MLB's archives.
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Marc Normandin writes and edits for Over the Monster, a Boston Red Sox blog, as well as SB Nation's baseball hub. He's one of many behind the e-book "The Hall of Nearly Great," and has written for BaseballProspectus, ESPN, and others. You can follow him on Twitter at @Marc_Normandin