Big League Stew

Best of Big League Stew 2013: Before we flip the calendar, let’s recall the year in baseball

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

The 2013 baseball season seemed to have it all — surprise contenders, ripe controversy, huge, game-altering changes and, of course, many wonderful highlights and goofy videos.

As always, The Stew is happy that you choose to be with us to keep track of things such as the latest Biogenesis news, the playoff status of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chris Davis' home-run count, Mike Trout's most recent highlight or Yasiel Puig's newest controversy. Thank you for making us your go-to baseball blog.

Now, here's our annual look back at the biggest stories in baseball and our favorite posts of the year. Consider it your baseball fix as we transition into 2014. (Happy New Year!) There is reason to be excited about 2014 already, baseball fans — pitchers and catchers report in 41 days.

Previous best of Big League Stew retrospectives: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008

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STORY OF THE YEAR (ON THE FIELD):
Pittsburgh Pirates make the postseason for the first time in 21 years.

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(Getty Images)

With all apologies to the Boston Red Sox and their worst-to-first World Series run, we as a people love the Cinderella story, the underdog, the downtrodden turned around. In 2013, that was the Pittsburgh Pirates, who made the playoffs (and finished above .500) for the first time in 21 years. They didn't advance past the NLDS, but for one night — in that wild card game against the Cincinnati Reds — the Pirates were the kings of MLB and even people outside of Pittsburgh were thrilled for them. Their star, Andrew McCutchen, later claimed the NL MVP award and now also carries with him the title of coolest guy in baseball.

Honorable mentions:
Red Sox win the World Series in Boston.
Mariano Rivera's retirement brings wonderful moments at All-Star Game and in his final Yankee Stadium appearance.
• Yasiel Puig arrives in the big leagues, become the most interesting man in baseball as Dodgers rebound from horrible start.
• Yankees are decimated by injuries but still win 85 games. They do, however, miss the playoffs for only the second time since 1995.
• Matt Harvey has breakout season, then needs Tommy John surgery.
• More attention shown to blown calls by umpires leads MLB to expand instant replay for 2014.

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STORY OF THE YEAR (OFF THE FIELD):
Biogenesis scandal rocks baseball, sets off unprecedented suspensions and war between MLB and A-Rod.

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(Getty Images)

The off-the-field scandal that shook MLB in 2013 started way back in January and still isn't resolved. The Biogenesis clinic near Miami was detailed by the Miami New Times as a PED peddler for MLB stars. That set off months and months of drama and investigations. Eventually a handful of players — Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, namely — were suspended by MLB. Alex Rodriguez was handed down a 211-game suspension, which is awaiting an appeal ruling. A new year isn't going to mean this story is going away, either.

Honorable mentions:
• MLB votes to ban home-plate collisions.
• Dodgers celebrate NL West crown in Diamondbacks' pool, doubling down on brewing rivalry.
Nobody is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013.
• Mariano Rivera’s farewell tour, which also saw him meeting fans and receiving gifts in each city he was visiting for the final time.
Sewage issues at O.co Coliseum underscore need for new stadium for Oakland Athletics, as the City of San Jose sues MLB to bring A's to town.
• Bud Selig announces he'll retire (for real this time) after the 2014 season.

* * *

PLAY OF THE YEAR
David Ortiz's dramatic ALCS grand slam helps Red Sox win game, series and World Series

It's Dec. 31 and we've seen this thing 1,000 times by now, but there's no doubt it's the most indelible moment of the 2013 MLB season. David Ortiz's grand slam changed a game, a series and an entire postseason narrative. Before this, the Red Sox were done for. After it, it seemed like they couldn't be beat.

With the bases loaded, two outs and the Boston Red Sox facing a 5-1 deficit, David Ortiz clobbered the first pitch he saw from Detroit Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit over the right-field fence and into the Red Sox bullpen.

Grand slam. Tie game. Big Papi, a hero forever.

Honorable mentions:
Carlos Gomez robs Joey Votto of home run in 9th
Manny Machado pulls off defensive play of the year, throws out Yanks’ Cruz from New Jersey
Oakland’s Josh Donaldson makes fantastic diving catch to save ball from tarp
J.B. Shuck leaps into stands to rob Jose Bautista of home run
Royals relay nails Prince Fielder at home on dramatic game-ending play
That happened: Giants’ Angel Pagan delivers first walkoff inside-the-park home run since 2004
Jose Iglesias makes an amazing catch in ALCS Game 5, proves he’s a wizard
Whoa! Ben Revere takes flight to make an incredible catch

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VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Dancing Royals fan uses hypnotic belly and intense eyes to celebrate arrival of pennant race in Kansas City

We've heard of Rally Monkeys, Rally Caps and the like. But a Rally Belly? From Sept. 17:

If the Kansas City Royals are going to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1985 when they won the World Series, the effort will require dominant pitching, timely hitting, sound defense and as much dancing as possible by a fan named Jimmy Faseler.

Faseler's curiously hypnotic, surprisingly intense and altogether hilarious routine, performed Monday night at a critical point in Kansas City's 7-1 victory against the Cleveland Indians, was shown on the JumboTron scoreboard at Kauffman Stadium, and on Fox Sports Kansas City. Fans in person and at home went wild, or were possibly aghast. Faseler was not only entertaining, but he also was serving notice to the rest of the potential playoff field: The Royals won't be out-danced.

In a phone interview with Yahoo Sports, Faseler, a 28-year-old resident of nearby Independence, Mo., expressed only one qualm about his televised dancing: His exposed belly.

"I got a text from my mom that said, 'Hey, sweetie, saw you on TV. You need a longer shirt.' "

Bravo for the type of fandom that makes you not care about embarrassing yourself while cheering.

Honorable mentions:
Shane Victorino unprepared for Koji Uehara’s high-powered high five in Red Sox dugout
Taiwan's Manny Ramirez home run call: “Like the ex-girlfriend who never will return!”
National anthem standoff: Scott Van Slyke and Joe Kelly refuse to leave field before Game 6
San Diego State baseball team plays game in Halloween costumes
Angel Hernandez’s latest blown call sends Hawk Harrelson over the edge
Space Jays cartoon stars Toronto Blue Jays R.A. Dickey, Ricky Romero and Mark Buehrle’s exiled dog
When a bat flies toward them in the stands, this man leaves his woman to fend for herself
Gross! Houston Astros vendor fired after bringing snow cone tray into toilet stall
The animated Jim Leyland breakfast
Hooters ball girl picks up fair ball and gives it to a fan
‘L’il Papi’ becomes a viral hit after jersey-popping, money-counting home run trot

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TOUCHING STORY OF THE YEAR
Matt Kemp literally gives terminally ill fan the jersey off his back, then befriends the young man

Matt Kemp made the day of a terminally ill Los Angeles Dodgers fan, famously giving him his hat, jersey and shoes after a game in San Francisco. The video of Kemp undressing and handing one article of clothing after another went viral and brought a tear to many eyes, inside of baseball and out. Kemp later brought the young man, Joshua Jones, to L.A. to meet other Dodgers before a game in May. Unfortunately, there's no happy ending here. Jones died in August from brain cancer.

Honorable mentions:
Deployed dad makes surprise return — disguised as catcher while daughter throws first pitch
Red Sox honor Boston Marathon victims during championship parade
Jose Bautista dedicated Friday's game to young Blue Jays fan who died tragically
Kyle Seager receives touching letter from young Astros fan struck by his bat
Arizona Diamondbacks give paralyzed draft pick Cory Hahn a special introduction
Royals K-Crew member resuscitates 14-year-old girl after collapse at Kauffman Stadium
Cincinnati Reds’ Todd Frazier delivers home run after ball boy Ted Kremer’s request
White Sox pitcher Hector Santiago connects with kids of Newtown, Conn.
Young Indians fan presented Dustin Pedroia with supportive sign spotted in Red Sox dugout
Robinson Cano surprises 13-year-old leukemia survivor with Wiffle ball game at MLB Fan Cave

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FAN PLAY OF THE YEAR
A great snag by a great-grandmother

Many people catch foul balls at baseball games, but they're not usually great-grandmothers who had brought their gloves to every game they attended, hoping to catch a ball. In September, Virginia Smith finally caught one and, boy, did she celebrate.

Honorable mentions:
Reds fan makes bare-handed catch of Jayson Werth’s home run while holding young child
Safeco Field fan catches foul ball in full cup of beer, chugs it on the spot
Royals fan makes incredible catch while tumbling backwards over row of seats

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FOOD POST OF THE YEAR
One of the Milwaukee Brewers' racing sausages stolen, eventually recovered

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(Getty Images)

The Milwaukee Brewers' Racing Sausages, the most delicious in-game racing activity in MLB, celebrated 20 years of ballpark circling this season. Unfortunately, they also nearly lost one of their own. The Italian sausage was stolen during (what else?) a beer-tasting party. Luckily, it was recovered.

Honorable mentions:
Aroldis Chapman eats ’18′ Cuban pastries filled with cream cheese and guava, blows save
Cincinnati Reds’ strikeouts-for-pizza promo has already paid out $100,000 worth of pizza
Dodger Stadium introduces frozen beer foam machine
Fernando Rodney pulls giant plantain from pants during World Baseball Classic intros
Butterfinger! Josh Hamilton happily eats candy bars Oakland Athletics fans throw at him
Ten crazy food creations you can eat at minor league baseball games
Indians fan attempts to distract David DeJesus by throwing partially filled cup

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GOOF OF THE YEAR
Prince Fielder’s belly flop falls short after baserunning blunder

From Game 6 of the ALCS, Oct. 20:

What followed could only be described as the most unfortunate "rundown" in the history of Detroit Tigers baseball. Granted, Fielder gave it a great effort, especially close to the end when he nearly drew an interference call on Xander Bogaerts (though he was arguably out of the baseline). But it finished with a thud, as in, a failed belly flop that came up several feet shy of the bag.

That certainly won't help Prince's case against being a base-clogger and perhaps the worst slider of our generation. In fact, both were probably sealed the moment he landed and the ground began to shake.

Honorable mentions:
Todd Helton: The $160 million baseball star who got a DUI going to buy lottery tickets
Chris Perez charged with marijuana possession after package of pot mailed to his dog
Brian Cashman breaks ankle skydiving
• Oakland A's ballpark vs. sewage, not once, not twice, but three times.
‘Numbnuts!’: Jordany Valdespin decked in headline by New York Post
Batter prematurely celebrates game-tying homer, looks devastated when it’s caught on warning track
Cardinals radio broadcast mocks Red Sox for holding Kolten Wong seconds before pick-off
Alex Gordon fools Hawk Harrelson, sets off fireworks with awkward approach to flyball
Rays infielders fool Juan Uribe, Dodgers with hidden ball trick
'Colllege' World Series opens with conspicuous misspelling on dugout
That's so Astros: Collision, dropped fly ball gives Pittsburgh walkoff victory over Houston
Botched home run review helps Indians steal victory from A's

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BEEF OF THE YEAR
The Dodgers and Diamondbacks grow into bitter enemies

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(Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks became the most interesting feud in baseball this season. It began early in the season when D-backs ownership asked fans in Dodgers gear seated in Arizona's premium seats to either move or change their clothes. The two teams later had a benches-clearing brawl, set off by Yasiel Puig getting beaned. The final wave-making gesture came when the Dodgers clinched the NL West title in Arizona and celebrated in the D-backs pool. They were called classless and later were condemned by Arizona Senator John McCain.

Honorable mentions:
A-Rod vs. Bud Selig: is this baseball or pro wrestling?
Dodgers vs. Padres: Zack Greinke gets hurt after clashing with Carlos Quentin
Benches clear after Carlos Gomez homers, argues with Braves, Brian McCann blocks him from going home
Benches clear after Jose Fernandez hits first career home run, spits in vicinity of Chris Johnson
Boston’s Ryan Dempster hits Alex Rodriguez but fails to get vengeance
Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer responds to his critics … in a rap song

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PHOTOSHOP OF THE YEAR
If you can dream it, you can create it. Or something like that.

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(BLS Illustration)

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost longs for a third baseman tree. Alas, it is not a real thing ... yet. (Imagined by David Brown).

Honorable mentions:
‘Upton Saturday Night’: Blockbuster trade gets blockbuster movie poster
What if A-Rod and Miley Cyrus were one?
Josh Hamilton takes public transportation to Friday’s game after Bay Area bridge closure
Where in the world is Brian Wilson?
Five reasons we’re geeking out about Hyun-Jin Ryu’s major-league debut
Robinson Cano in Seattle gives us the pair we’ve been waiting for — Jay Z and Jack Z

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FASHION STATEMENT OF THE YEAR
Fernando Rodney's crooked cap reaches new levels of crookedness

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@CorkGaines

From March 8:

We also know Fernando Rodney doesn't seem to like wearing his cap straight. Wearing it cocked to the side has become Rodney's "thing." He's pitching for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic and on Thursday night decided slightly crooked wasn't enough for the world's stage. He nearly went sideways.

Then we did a year-by-year look at the straightness of his cap. Important stuff.

Honorable mentions:
The five weirdest-looking green caps worn by baseball teams on St. Patrick’s Day
Hilariously hideous 1980 Tucson Toros uniforms making colorful comeback in June
Joe Mauer rocks Zubaz pants and basketball trophy in portrait of the catcher as a young boy
The Red Sox are embracing their beards, but are scruffy faces giving the team a black eye?
Ryan Dempster arrives in St. Louis in style
Andre Ethier wears a pastel plaid suit and bow tie en route to St. Louis, pulls it off

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FIRST PITCH OF THE YEAR
The good, the bad and the very ugly of ceremonial (and celebrity) first pitches

From July 5:

Holy hip replacement! Get a load of this first pitch thrown out at a Korean Baseball Organization game. This amazing woman is Shin Soo-ji, a rhythmic gymnast, who did the first-pitch honors for the Doosan Bears before their game with the Samsung Lions

Honorable mentions:
Korean-American pop star Tiffany Hwang throws terrible first pitch before Dodgers game
Mitch Williams’ wild first pitch highlights ’90s night in Philadelphia
Carly Rae Jepsen, the ‘Call Me Maybe’ singer, definitely throws out a horrible first pitch
Colin Kaepernick brings the heat with 87 mph first pitch in San Francisco
Packers tight end Jermichael Finley spikes first pitch attempt in Milwaukee
Who’s Next? Wrestling legend Goldberg throws out ceremonial first pitch, spears catcher

* * *

MARLINS MOMENT OF THE YEAR
They were the losers we loved to watch lose

(@joecapMARLINS)

We had a lot of reasons to pick on the Miami Marlins this year — look at many of them below — but it all started with one post titled, "This is the line for Marlins tickets." Without that, most of these wouldn't have been possible.

Honorable mentions:
Miami Marlins, desperate to fill stadium for opening day, offering ‘buy one, get one free’ tickets
Miami Marlins’ latest ploy to sell tickets? Groupon
As expected, people in Miami would rather have a $5 pizza than Marlins tickets
Protesting Marlins fans booted from home opener while bag-wearing fans remain in seats
Miami Marlins offering $1 tickets to ‘diehard’ fans
Fish out of water: Two Marlins slide into third base — at the same time

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OUR FAVORITE POSTS
Your three Big League Stew writers picked our five favorite posts we wrote in 2013:

From David Brown:
Sandy Koufax on being part of ‘Big Lebowski’ lore: ‘I don’t care’
Answer Man: Terry Francona talks Indians, Red Sox, Expos, Michael Jordan, going bald, Dustin Pedroia, Belichick hoodies and Billy Bob Thornton
White Sox pitcher Hector Santiago connects with kids of Newtown, Conn.
Ted Kremer — the Cincinnati Reds batboy with Down syndrome — gets his own baseball card
Yonder Alonso switches positions four times in same inning

From Mike Oz:
Big League Stew’s Fantasy Fantasy Draft: Tapping fiction to create our own dream teams
‘The Sandlot’ turns 20: Stories from the cast on the film’s 20th anniversary
Ervin Santana proposes a dodgeball game for MLB pitchers — and we pick teams
Ryan Braun — 10 damning "I am innocent" quotes
Dodgers vs. Cardinals is a baseball playoff series, not a culture war

From Mark Townsend:
Red Sox honor Boston Marathon victims during championship parade
National anthem standoff: Dodgers’ Scott Van Slyke and Cardinals’ Joe Kelly refuse to leave field before Game 6
Jose Bautista dedicated game to young Blue Jays fan who died tragically
Arizona Diamondbacks give paralyzed draft pick Cory Hahn a special introduction
B.J. and Justin Upton become first brothers to hit game-tying and walkoff home runs in same inning

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Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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