The 2012 season is the greatest season
PITTSBURGH -- The superlative makes me uncomfortable unless it can be mathematically measured. I accept the tallest, longest, fastest, heaviest, et al. Subjective assessments, though -- the greatest game, best shortstop, funniest reliever, quickest bat -- routinely bother me. That said, the 2012 season is, without question, the greatest baseball season. No need to measure it; merely reviewing it will be sufficient to put it above all others.
We have a Triple Crown winner for the first time since the Summer of Love. Seven no-hitters, three of them perfect games, have been pitched since Opening Day. A team that was 13 games from first place and seemingly left for dead before July 4 prevailed over the course of 162 games and won the division championship on the final day. A rookie took the American League by storm. The knuckleball made a comeback more stirring than that of Davey Johnson, Adam Dunn or Buster Posey.
The Yankees, Giants and Cardinals, the leaders in World Series jewelry, are in the postseason. A great and revered player, Chipper Jones, was saluted from coast to coast as he approached retirement. Derek Jeter landed 216 punches to the face and body of Father Time. A young man, smoked in the noggin in his only big league at-bat, came back to take some cuts. And Washington had a winner even before the debate, and even though Stephen Strasburg was sent home early.
The addition of one game in each league restored the importance of the regular season. The big league equivalent of the NHL's Original Six -- call it the Sweet 16 -- has six teams, the Yankees, Giants, Braves, Cardinals, A's and Browns-Orioles, among the postseason 10. The A's are a sensational story, one that obscures all that the Orioles and Nationals accomplished. The final-week collapse of the Rangers is filled with intrigue.
Willie, Whitey, Yogi, Ernie, Hank, Kiner and Stan the Man still are among us, representing the game's Golden Age. Scully and Mo Rivera announced their intentions to return. The unflawed Barry Larkin was inducted, and Tim McCarver won a place in Cooperstown. Fenway and Wrigley saw no wrecking balls appear on the horizon. Johnny Bench sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." And Teddy finally won a race. Bully for him.
And even where disappointment lurks now -- say, on both sides of Chicago -- the summer brought special developments in the rise of Robin Ventura's White Sox and the Hall of Fame induction of Cubs icon Ron Santo.
Sixty-one years to the day that Bobby Thomson took Ralph Branca over the wall in that bathtub-shaped park in Manhattan, baseball ended and celebrated a regular season as stunning as 1951 and any that followed. Thomson's home run was heard 'round the world. This season ought to be embraced anywhere the game is played, watched, read about or discussed.
Perhaps 1941 can be compared with 2012, what with the Clipper's 56-game hitting streak and the .406 batting average of Mr. Theodore Ballgame. One of the '41 pennant races was a runaway, though, and 16 teams, playing 154 games each, produced one no-hitter.
Almost every baseball zip code had a compelling story to follow in 2012. The Reds rolled. The Pirates still had a shot in August. The Rays almost reached No. 162 before they flat-lined. The Brewers made a run. The Phillies found themselves. The Padres found something. The Dodgers did some nice remodeling that excited their city and bolstered their prospects for 2013. David Price came of age. And Johan Santana removed that vexing double negative -- no no-no -- from the Mets' resumé.
New England saw its manager dismissed before the smoke had cleared, and Houston, if nothing else, kept its distance from the footprints left by the '62 Mets in its final National League season.
But most of the more conspicuous moments and developments were positive, even grand. Any one of a half-dozen events could have made this "The Year of the (fill in the blank)."
Miguel Cabrera's late rush to the Triple Crown, the spate of no-hitters, Mike Trout's brilliant season, the A's young arms and Silky Sullivan summer, R.A. Dickey doing for the knuckleball what Maury Wills did for the stolen base, and the rise of BW -- Baltimore/Washington -- baseball.
And the postseason hasn't even begun.
Bully for all of them.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.