These were 10 moments from June, 2017 that reminded us why baseball is the greatest
The All-Star Game is nearly here, which means we are already at the halfway point of the season. No matter how hard we've tried to slow it down and enjoy every baseball game, time keeps passing. To honor that passage, let's look back at 10 of the most fun things we saw in June.
10. The Freeze
Turns out, superheroes are real. Dressed in a sports drink-esque electric blue unitard, The Freeze toys with his prey the way a cat plays with a mouse. Given a head start, the usually-Braves-tee-shirt-and-cargo-shorted fan begins to think "I can do this."
Then, the Freeze takes off. And as he picks up speed, the fan realizes the warning track is awfully long. His legs start to go and, well:
9. Kenley Jansen finally walked a batter
You might think this is a strange one to include in a post about the best parts of the month, but this was important. See, Jansen started the year striking out an absurd 51 batters before walking his first on the season. Not only was that a record, but it started raising some very important questions. Namely: Is Jansen even human? How could someone who is that good ever have been a catcher? And, of course, are the batters he's facing broken?
With that walk, we realized that's nonsense. He's just very, very, very, good.
8. Eloy Jimenez cosplayed as Roy Hobbs
Usually, when someone dresses up as their hero, they wear a costume and take some pictures. Not Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez. During the Carolina League home run derby -- which means that the fans were there just to see majestic dingers -- Jimenez managed to astonish the crowd. How? By blasting a home run to the lights.
Eat your heart out, Roy Hobbs.
6. Jose Berrios' curveball could save a life
Wondering how the Twins have surprised the pundits and are still fighting at the top of the AL Central standings? Look no further than the 23-year-old Berrios. After struggling in his rookie year with an 8.02 ERA -- hey, that's bad, but c'mon, kids that age are just graduating college -- Berrios is now who we thought he was.
This year, Berrios' has a 2.98 ERA -- which would be fifth in the American League had he enough innings to qualify. But what makes him so special is his curveball.
Look at that movement. It's like the ball forgot its actual mission -- to break across the plate -- until the very last minute. Like a car gunning it through a yellow light, it zooms across the plate. And the batter is helpless against it.
5. Zack Cozart's quest for a mule
Cozart has always been a sublime defensive shortstop. Unfortunately, his bat too often played the part of "unnamed extra" in the story of his life. Not so this year. Cozart, currently on the DL, was hitting .320/.404/.562 at the end of June, good for first among Major League shortstops. It also put him in the running among players like Corey Seager and Addison Russell for the starting spot at the Midsummer Classic.
An All-Star appearance would be a fitting honor for a fantastic season, but there's another reason to get excited: Joey Votto told the shortstop -- who is a big fan of donkeys -- that if he made the All-Star team, he was getting his very own donkey.
Votto didn't run from the promise. In fact, he even promised that the fans would have a hand in naming the farm animal.
4. Miguel Cabrera plays beard inspector
If Cabrera hasn't already punched a ticket to Cooperstown, with a career average well above .300 and nearing 500 home runs, he's awfully close. While fans will long remember him as one of the best hitters ever to step onto the field, we can only hope we don't forget that he was also one of the funniest, too.
3. Scooter Gennett had a very powerful night
Only 17 players in Major League history -- and 15 in the modern-era (post-1900) -- have hit four home runs in a game. Scooter Gennett may be the most unlikely of them all. For one, he goes by the name Scooter -- a name he took from "Muppet Babies." Don't think anyone else on the list can claim that.
For another, Gennett's not exactly known for dingers. Standing only 5-foot-10, the utility infielder certainly doesn't have the look of a bruising slugger. And, he entered the day with only 39 home runs in his big league career. To top it all off, he wasn't even supposed to start that day.
Instead, he unleashed fury for a shocking and glorious four home runs. Was it fate? Magic? It didn't matter. It happened.
2. Cody Bellinger only hits home runs
The Dodgers blitzed the Major League field in June with a 20-7 record. A lot of that success can be laid at the feet of Cody Bellinger. You thought Aaron Judge was going to be the only rookie to challenge our notion that home runs are hard to hit?
After showing off his ability to hit dingers after being called up at the end of April, he became an absolute machine in June as he crushed 13 homers. He hit big ones. Little ones. He had multi-home run games and had game-winning smashes. He was like a Dr. Seuss book, if the esteemed MD concerned himself mainly with home runs.
Even if he cools off, we'll always have this photo:
1. Pujols hits No. 600
If you want an even more rare jewel of a home run accomplishment, enter Albert Pujols . On June 3, the list of players with 600 dingers reached nine -- enough to field a full lineup. After over a hundred years in existence, with thousands of players, you'd think the list would be bigger. But no. It is as exclusive a club as can be.
A quick glance at Pujols' career numbers reveals that he deserves to be in such company: 10 seasons with a .300 or better average (and one at .299 that just missed the cut), a career on-base percentage just below .400 and the ability to almost automatically hit 30 home runs a season.
So when he went deep -- with a grand slam, natch -- off Ervin Santana, it was just confirmation of what we already knew: He's one of the greatest. And that confirmation was so, so sweet.