We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.
Every year sees its share of baseball retirements. In terms of quality, 2018’s share was larger than most.
The biggest star to call it quits was Adrian Beltre. He announced he was done in late November, capping a 21-year career in which he hit .286/.339/.480, slugged 477 homers and collected 3,166 hits, all while being one of the best if not the best defensive third basemen of his era. The numbers aside, he was considered a team leader for most of his career and it’s hard to find a more respected figure around the game. He’ll almost certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Another third baseman who took his final bow in 2018 was David Wright, whose career was sadly cut short by debilitating injuries. He was activated late in the season, however, and on September 28 he made an emotional farewell to his fans in New York, taking the ceremonial first pitch from his daughter, taking the field before the rest of his teammates in order to receive a solo ovation and, after two plate appearances and a couple of successfully-handled chances at third, being removed from the game to a final ovation.
An even bigger star than both of them may have played his last game, but we’re not entirely sure. That’d be Ichiro Suzuki, who stopped playing after May 2 to join the Mariners’ front office and, occasionally, its coaching staff. While many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later in the season or during the offseason, it is now suspected that he’ll go to spring training with the Mariners in 2019 for the specific purpose of playing in the team’s season-opening series against the Athletics in Tokyo next March 20-21. If so, it’ll be a really nice gesture by the Mariners and a wonderful gift for Ichiro’s fans in Japan. One suspects that, as soon as that series is over, Ichiro will officially call it quits, pushing his certain Hall of Fame induction back a year.
Among the others making their final appearances:
Chase Utley, a World Series champion with the Phillies, one of the best players of his era and a guy whose career will make for a very interesting Hall of Fame debate in five years;
Ryan Howard, a former National League MVP who, like Utley, was a World Series champion in Philadelphia;
Jayson Werth, also a member of that 2008 Phillies team and a fine hitter in his own right;
Shane Victorino, yet another member of the 2008 Phillies championship team and a member of the 2013 World Series champ Red Sox as well. He didn’t play after 2015, but he signed a one-day contract in 2018 in order to retire with the Phillies;
Joe Mauer, a former American League MVP and all-time Twins great and, like Utley, an interesting Hall of Fame candidate in a few years;
Brandon McCarthy a cerebral and at times excellent pitcher who, to the amusement of many, finished his career with a 4.20 ERA and 69 wins;
Victor Martinez, one of the finest hitters in the game over the course of his career;
Mike Napoli, an excellent hitting catcher, a much beloved player both in the clubhouse and among fans and a key part of the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series championship team;
Kyle Lohse, a 147-game winner in the bigs and member of the 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals;
Kris Medlen, a one-time 15-game winner and a member of the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals;
Aaron Laffey, an eight-year veteran who spent time with the Rockies, Indians, Blue Jays, Mets, Yankees, and Mariners;
Brayan Pena, a journeyman catcher with a fun sense of humor who joined the Army reserves in the middle of his career;
Colby Rasmus, a supremely talented outfielder who certainly had his moments on the field, but who never quite lived up to expectations. He retired twice, actually, once in the middle of the 2017 season and again, presumably for good, this past year;
Andre Ethier, a solid outfielder and hitter who was one of the most important players on a Dodgers team that transitioned from an OK but uneven club to a perennial NL West champ;
Luke Hochevar, the first overall pick of the 2006 draft who, while never panning out as a starter, was an effective reliever for the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals;
Brad Ziegler; a guy who did not even pitch in the big leagues until age 28 yet managed to pitch in 11 big league seasons; and
Mike Scioscia and Buck Showalter, each longtime managers who, while possibly managing again, are more likely to be seen in broadcast booths or in studio shows going forward.
Hats off to these guys and to the others not mentioned here who said goodbye to their playing days and hello to the rest of their lives in 2018.