Best moment nominees highlight an emotional season
Heavy-hearted afternoon at Fenway, Rivera's ASG farewell among GIBBY candidates
The emotions of the 2013 baseball season are hard to fit into one spectrum. The year featured its share of farewells and debuts; of milestones reached and records falling.
And in April the entire season -- not to mention the sport itself -- was put into its proper perspective when tragedy struck Boston. Yet the city came back with its "Boston Strong" resilience. An emotional day at Fenway Park helped kick-start the healing process -- and a World Series run like no other.
Now, the Greatness in Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) Awards seek to uncover the Moment of the Year from 2013.
Was it that heavy-hearted afternoon at Fenway Park? Was it Mariano Rivera's final All-Star Game, or Todd Helton's finale in Colorado?
While Rivera and Helton were making an exit, Yasiel Puig was making a debut in Los Angeles -- and doing so in a manner fitting of Hollywood. Meanwhile, another youngster, 20-year-old Bryce Harper, stole the show early, becoming the youngest player with a multihomer game on Opening Day.
And then there were the milestones, as a trio of baseball's old guard -- Ortiz, Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez -- each hit numerical achievements marking a lifetime of baseball success.
So which of these moments was the best of baseball's regular season in 2013? That choice is yours.
Major League Baseball's A-listers will take home 2013 GIBBY Award trophies -- the ultimate honors of the industry's awards season -- based on votes by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni, fans at MLB.com and the Society for American Baseball Research.
This year's GIBBY Awards feature nominees in 22 categories. Individual honors will go to the MLB MVP, in addition to the year's best starting pitcher, hitter, closer, setup man, rookie, breakout hitter, breakout pitcher, comeback player, defensive player, manager, executive and postseason performer.
GIBBY trophies also will be awarded for the year's top play, storyline, hitting performance, pitching performance, oddity, walk-off, Cut4 topic, regular-season moment and postseason moment from MLB.com's Must C highlight reels.
In the past five years, fans have cast more than 50 million votes across the various GIBBY categories, none of which was restricted to individual league affiliation.
Fan voting runs through Dec. 1.
Winners will be presented their GIBBY trophies at the MLB.com Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards extravaganza during the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Ortiz and the Red Sox appear to be the front-runners for the award. The Saturday after the bombing at the Boston Marathon's finish line, the Red Sox took the field against the Royals and earned a 4-3 victory, capped by Daniel Nava's three-run homer in the eighth inning.
But it was the city's resilience -- not the final score -- that took center stage. A packed house at Fenway Park waved flags and held signs reading "Boston Strong."
"This jersey that we wear today -- it doesn't say Red Sox," Ortiz famously told a crowd of 35,152 before the game. "It says Boston. ... This is our [expletive] city, and nobody's going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong."
Rivera, Ortiz's longtime nemesis and good friend, said his goodbyes throughout 2013, and perhaps no night better encapsulated his year than the All-Star Game at Citi Field.
He exited the bullpen to "Enter Sandman" and threw his warm-up pitches to a raucous ovation -- not just from the fans, but from both teams, as well.
"When I got to the mound, I saw both sides, both teams in the dugout, and it was amazing," Rivera said. "It almost made me cry, too. I was close. It was amazing -- a scene that I will never forget."
In typical Rivera fashion, amidst all sorts of chaos and drama, he calmly retired the side in order.
In Colorado, Helton wrote his own storybook ending to a world-class career. He homered in his final home game and also hit an opposite-field double.
"You can dream about it, and obviously, I hoped I would go out and play well today," said Helton, who received a horse as a gift from the club before the first pitch. "There was so much going on before the game, my expectations really weren't that high. So to go out and to hit a home run, to ... have my last game here, to be able to go out and play and be productive, it means a lot to me."
Puig's remarkable June 3 debut against San Diego saw him notch two hits, and unleash a rocket to first base to double off Chris Denorfia and end the game. Arguably one of the throws of the year by itself, Puig's flair for the moment certainly foreshadowed things to come.
Harper had his moment, too, launching two long balls in his first two at-bats, as Washington topped Miami, 2-0. That earned him a fourth-inning curtain call from the 45,274 on hand at Nationals Park.
Ichiro's moment came later in the season, when he notched the 4,000th hit of his professional career on Aug. 21 at Yankee Stadium. His first-inning single off Toronto's R.A. Dickey marked the 2,722nd of his Major League career, after he had amassed 1,278 in Japan. Ichiro's Yankees teammates spilled onto the field to celebrate the moment with him.
Ibanez, Ichiro's former teammate with both the Mariners and Yankees, made his 300-home run milestone a mere footnote, while setting a record that tells a tale in perseverance. Ibanez's ninth-inning homer against the Angels on Sept. 21 tied him with Ted Williams for the most home runs (29) hit by a player older than 40.
"Fifteen years ago, there were questions around me about whether I was even a Major League player," said Ibanez. "It's a good lesson I try to teach my kids and any kids that listen. It's more about perseverance and believing in yourself and not listening to people that doubt you. The only thing that matters is what you believe."
Ortiz's career, of course, is another example of hard work paying off, and on July 11 he broke Harold Baines' record for most hits by a designated hitter with a second-inning double against the Mariners. He was met by a standing ovation from the Seattle crowd.