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Best of Big League Stew 2012: Coming back to earth after a memorable year in baseball

Kevin Kaduk
Yahoo Sports

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(Getty Images)

If Big League Stew were a baseball player, we'd be heading into our final year of arbitration.

Yup, that's right. As hard as it is to believe, we've been taking our hacks for five seasons now and we're about to close the book on a 2012 that ranks up there with all the others. From the emergence of exciting young players to a wealth of no-hitters and perfect games to playoff expansion and the emergence of the San Francisco Giants as a possible dynasty, the year gone by was an excellent time to be a baseball blogger. We can only hope 2013 is just as fun.

But before we move on, let's perform our annual custom of looking back on the year that was. We'd like to thank all of our loyal Stewies for their continued readership and would like to wish each of you a happy and healthy new year that's filled with dirt and diamonds.

Remember: Spring training camps open in just 42 more days.

Previous best of Big League Stew retrospectives: 2011201020092008

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BLS story of the year: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper splash onto scene

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(USA Today Sports)

It was the year of the San Francisco Giants. And the year of the perfect game/no-hitter. And the year of the first Triple Crown winner since Yaz in '67. And the year when the baseball's power base shifted from the country's northeast corridor to the west coast.

But for our money, 2012 will always be the year when Mike Trout and Bryce Harper burst onto the scene and put together historical seasons for men not yet old enough to legally buy a drink. Both were named the rookie of the year in their respective leagues and Trout was good enough to create one of the biggest AL MVP debates in the award's history. (Though Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera would walk away with the award, no one will soon forget the MVP impact Trout had on the Angels. Better yet, Trout could win the award in 2013 and still be the youngest winner in history.)

Chronicling the debut years of Trout and Harper always gave us the feeling that we were watching the next generation of baseball lurching into place. And with other great rookie performances including some from international players like Yu Darvish, Yoenis Cespedes and Norichika Aoki, it's impossible not to feel like baseball's future is going to be a good one.

Honourable mentions: Marlins and Blue Jays make each other over ... Giants win second title in three years ... Pablo Sandoval makes World Series history ... Miguel Cabrera wins first Triple Crown in 45 years ... The Stephen Strasburg shutdown ...  Josh Hamilton lands with Angels ... A-Rod's playoff playing time drama ... Infield fly rule game ... Dodgers and Red Sox pull off blockbuster trade ...  Felix Hernandez joins Matt Cain and Philip Humber as 2012 perfect gamers ... Babe Ruth jersey sells for $4.4 million ... Kerry Wood leaves great legacy in Chicago ... Hamilton hits four homers in one game ... Wishing Fenway a happy 100th birthday ... Magic Johnson's group buys the Dodgers for $2 billion ... Ryan Braun wins appeal of 50-game suspension ... Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter dies at age 57

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BLS play of the year: Mike Trout lands unbelievable catch in Baltimore

Trout made several jaw-dropping home run robberies during the year, but his theft of J.J. Hardy's home run bid in a late June game in Baltimore was the best of the bunch.

Honourable mentions: Hunter Pence's triple-double in NLCS ... Adam Greenberg strikes out in MLB return ... Travis 'Snider-Man' ... Yoenis Cespedes' mammoth homer

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BLS video of the year: Little League umpire goes overboard

When I first saw the "most exaggerated strike-three call of all time" video on Deadspin, I was skeptical. After all, how could you top  the classic Naked Gun-stylings of Leslie Nielsen?

But this, dear Stewies, is the real deal. It's like Enrico Pallazzo and Kenny Powers had a baby and he eventually ended up calling Little League games in Rock Island, Ill., for nine bucks and all the Capri Sun he could drink a game

Honourable mentions: Woman misses marriage proposal at Wrigley ... Kenyan orphans score YouTube hit with '86 World Series clip ... Brett Lawrie fires helmet at ump ... Why you don't want to be standing under a Giancarlo Stanton home run ... Bryce Harper joins softball game at Washington Monument ... David Freese's interview with lovestruck reporter ... "The worst cheap shot ever" ... Bear Grylls lights first pitch on fire

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(AP photos)

BLS media story of the year: Ozzie Guillen talks with Time Magazine

The new mouth of the South headed down to Miami on a four-year contract, but it only took him one poor year to get fired.

A lot of that, of course, had to do with Guillen only needing one week to find the line in south Florida and cross it. In comments made to Sean Gregory of Time Magazine, Guillen expressed an admiration for Cuban leader Fidel Castro, an absolute no-no in Miami Marlins land. Though Guillen went through a long public apology and served a team-ordered suspension, the damage was done. He never won over his fan base and within six months, he was looking at his first team-less winter since the early '80s. The $7.5 million he's still owed by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria should help cushion the blow, but Guillen's pride took an enormous hit during the year.

Honourable mentions: Tom Cheek gets Hall nod ... Hawk Harrelson confirmed as biggest homer in baseball ... Harrelson scolded by Selig after outburst ...  Mike Francesa falls asleep during Yankees update ... Bob Uecker statue is understated ... Jeter responds to Skip Bayless foolishness ... Joe Girardi chases heckler during press conference ... Showtime calls early end to Marlins series ... Marty Brennaman shaves head, raises $50K for charity ...

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BLS fan play of the year: Young fan cries after oblivious couple keeps ball

Kids, crying and controversy form a perfect recipe for Yahoo's front-page gold and so it's no surprise this was one of our most-trafficked posts of the year. And man, was the end result really weird with Yahoo commenters choosing to vilify either the oblivious middle-aged couple who were waaay too happy to have a baseball thrown to them or the toddler who burst into tears over the disappointment of the ball not coming his way.

Honourable mentions: Brewers fan attends all 162 games ... Giant paper airplane crashes game ... Dancing friar catches Headley's grand slam ... Injured softball player catches big Chipper Jones home run ... Impostor crashes Braves alumni game ... Reds fan catches two homers in the same inning ... Royals fan jumps into fountain in pursuit of homer ... Small boy ejected from game after running on field ...

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BLS doppelganger of the year: Babe Ruth, alive and well

"The Sultan of Steak" (John Cirillo photo)

The eyes. The nose. The creases in the face. The belly. The neck and complexion. Even the piece of steak at the tip of the fork. The jersey and cap don't hurt either. Hey, this guy looks exactly like Babe Ruth eating a steak! Lucky for him, Gallagher's famous steakhouse in the heart of Manhattan happened to be hosting a Babe Ruth look-alike contest as part of its 85th birthday celebration Monday night.

OK, it's more than a coincidence. Willis "Buster" Gardner of Oberlin, Ohio, made the drive with his wife of nearly 56 years, Cecile, to New York City in order to defend his title from 2007 and the inaugural contest in 2002. And defend it he did; a panel of judges unanimously named him the winner. Well, duh.

Honourable mentions: Pedro Alvarez fan looks a lot like Pedro Alvarez ... When Tim Lincecum met his cab-driving lookalike ... Philip Humber and Eric Wedge

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BLS touching story of the year: Pat Neshek returns to mound after death of son

(Getty Images)

The baseball world wept along with Oakland A's reliever Pat Neshek and his wife Stephanee after their son Gehrig died just 23 hours after being born in early October. It was one of baseball's most tragic stories in recent memory and no one would have blamed Pat if he had sat out the rest of the season to grieve. Pat and Stephanee, however, decided the best way to cope was with their Oakland A's family, who had just entered the playoffs after storming their way to the AL West title. Three days after his Gehrig's death, Neshek entered Game 1 of the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers, recording two outs in the bottom of the seventh. You can be sure there wasn't a single dry eye in Stew country when he stepped off the mound and touched the special patch the A's were wearing while looking skyward.

Honourable mentions: Detwiler ditches honeymoon to support troops ... Jimmy Rollins and the Ugandan Little League team ... Jim Joyce saves woman's life with CPR ... Rockies pay visit to Aurora movie theater survivors .... Jeff Francoeur shares special moment with autistic child ... Jim Duquette donates kidney to daughter ... Army dad's surprise homecoming at Safeco

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(BLS illustration)

BLS food post of the year: Jeff Francoeur sends 20 pizzas to A's fans

Francoeur, an outfielder for the Kansas City Royals, had 20 pizzas delivered Wednesday afternoon to fans sitting in the right-field grandstand at the Oakland Coliseum. He also sent along a signed bat, with a personal message inscribed. That's quite a gift package. To what did the Oakland folks owe such generosity? Why in the name of another Jeff — Spicoli — would he buy them pizzas?

The unorthodox acquaintance of a visiting slugger and some East Bay baseball crazies began a season ago when a group in the bleachers decided to celebrate "Bacon Tuesday" by bringing homemade bacon-flavored eats to the ballpark. With the Royals in town, fans also made Francoeur the target of good-natured heckling (being the right fielder, he was closest to them). Inevitably, the memes collided. Francoeur got along so well with the crowd — he would wave, shout back at them, and laugh along — that after the game he went over for a meet and greet.

Honourable mentions: Why I've saved my Ken Griffey chocolate bar for 20 years ... Angel Pagan wins free tacos for the country ... Jayson Werth in cupcake form ... Adam Jones' bubble-blowing habit goes prime time ... Bryce Harper celebrates with apple cider ... Hamilton blames struggles on caffeine ... John Lackey's drinking habits ... Kent Hrbek digs dog treats ... Popeyes clowns the Red Sox ... Lincecum loses appetite for McDonalds

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BLS dumb move of the year: Giants fan triggers burning of $1 million city bus

(Susannah Bates/Special to the San Francisco Chronicle)

San Francisco police arrested Gregory Tyler Graniss on Tuesday night and charged him with felony vandalism and a felony count of injuring or destroying a passenger transit vehicle. The 22-year-old San Francisco native is allegedly the person seen throwing a street barricade through the window of a San Francisco Muni bus after the Giants won the World Series on Sunday night. The act of vandalism triggered the burning of the $1 million bus and was captured by photographer Susana Bates before being widely circulated across the Internet, including Yahoo!'s front page. The Big League Stew post was shared on Facebook over 4,800 times alone.

Honourable mentions:  A-Rod asks for phone number during ALCS loss ... Nats fans get World Series ticket information after being eliminated ... Troopers ask for in-game autographs in Yankee dugout ... Derek Holland blames hacker for homophobic tweet ... Yunel Escobar's offensive eye-black ... Pirates given go-ahead to sell playoff tickets ... Cubs decal gone wrong ... Man misses son's first birthday after crashing Johan Santana's no-no ... Stephen Strasburg and 'Hot Stuff' prove bad mix ... John Lackey uses the 'r' word ...

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BLS injury of the year: Brandon McCarthy's head injury

(USA Today Photos)

The BLS "injury of the year" is usually a spot to poke fun at a player who hurt himself in an unusual way — see all the links below — but that doesn't seem appropriate after seeing Brandon McCarthy take an Erick Aybar line drive off his head in early September. Though the A's pitcher walked off the field under his own power, he required surgery to alleviate the pressure on his brain and it made for a scary situation. McCarthy has fortunately made a full recovery and the entire incident could have a lasting sport-wide impact as Major League Baseball is investigating the ways that pitchers can better protect themselves, including the use of padded "pitching helmets".

Honourable mentions: Cashner hurts self while hunting ... Robin Yount shoots Dale Sveum ... Duda breaks wrist while moving furniture ... Bobby V crashes bike while reading text from Dustin Pedroia ... Marwin Gonzalez's spectacular fall ... Falling suitcase breaks Jonathan Lucroy's hand ...Bryce Harper hits own face with bat, get 10 stitches ... Mariano Rivera tears ACL during BP ...Joba Chamberlain's grotesque trampoline injury ...

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BLS screen cap of the year: Cincinnati's sorry-looking broom

(TBS via @cjzero)

There are just some things you shouldn't do as a baseball fan. Waving around a thin-looking broom in anticipation of a sweep while your opponent looks to get up off the mat in the extra innings of a tied elimination game is one of them.

Honourable mentions: Beautiful sunset over AT&T Park ... "Carl" Ripken Jr. ... Rays don gladiator helmets in dugout ... Robert Andino finally feels Oriole Magic ... Tim Welke and the worst call of the year ... Rogue graphics person gives Matt Kemp the 2011 MVP award

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BLS photoshop of the year: Tim Lincecum meets #Linsanity

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(@Fla_Dodger)

Remember those few weeks earlier in the year when everyone was trying to get involved with the Jeremy Lin-inspired mania that was taking over New York? BLS was no exception.

Honourable mention: Matt Cain photoshop contest winners ... Kevin Youkilis as Wade Boggs ... Jonathan Papelbon's bounty ... Charles Dawin Barney the Dinosaur ... James Loney's view of the future ... Papelbon in Paris

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BLS Fashion Ump post of the year: Ranking the sexiest GMs 1-30

(AP)

In Big League Stew's five-season history, we can probably safely say that no post had been read in all 30 front offices. Then David Brown put his tongue in his cheek to write a Hall of Fame-level parody piece that went viral to some very unexpected places.

Honourable mentions:  Tim Lincecum says sayonara to long hair ... Larsen's perfect game jersey sells for $756K ... Ryan Howard plays 'trash the dress' with bride ... Bryce Harper's Halloween costume ... Fake Verlander t-shirt causes Internet stir ... Max Scherzer's mismatched goggles ... Colby Rasmus' cornrows ... Dickey's friendship bracelets declared illegal ... Carne Cabeza! ... Sensing a pattern at All-Star media day ... The 10 best-selling New Era caps ... Affeldt sprains knee while hugging son ... The Colt .45s throwbacks controversy ... Cards' opening day unis get golden touch ... Two tiny teammates, one giant pair of pants ... Hulk Hogan crashes Mets camp ... Carlos Beltran buys  Jon Niese a new nose ... Fan Cave member explains stories behind all 30 MLB tattoos

What was your favorite Big League Stew post? Tell us in the comments below!

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