Walk-Off GIBBY nominees loaded with variety
Fans to help decide which game-ending hit was best of the season
Few things whip a stadium into a frenzy quite like a walk-off win, and now some of this season's most dramatic finishes need that enthusiasm behind them as they vie for a GIBBY, MLB.com's Greatness in Baseball Yearly Award.
A collection of 13 plays have been nominated for a GIBBY in the Walk-Off of the Year category, and fan voting on MLB.com will help decide which one earns a virtual Gatorade shower or shaving cream pie to the face.
The walk-offs each represent a different team and come in a variety of flavors. For those who dig the long ball, there are plenty of home runs to choose from, including a grand slam and an inside-the-park job. But don't despair, small-ball advocates, there also are singles, a suicide squeeze and even a wild pitch. The walk-off heroes are stars and role players, rookies and veterans, but they all authored moments that unleashed exuberant celebrations and sent the crowd home happy.
Now they just need your votes.
Major League Baseball's A-listers will take home 2013 GIBBY trophies -- the ultimate honors of the industry's awards season -- based on votes by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni, fans 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.
GIBBYs also will be awarded for the year's top play, storyline, hitting performance, pitching performance, oddity, 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 were restricted to individual League affiliation. Fan voting runs through Dec. 1.
Winners will be presented their GIBBYs at the MLB.com Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards extravaganza during the Winter Meetings in Orlando.
• Since walk-offs are the ultimate endings, it makes sense to start the list of nominees at the end of the year, when some unlikely drama unfolded in Miami. In the season finale on Sept. 29, the Marlins and Tigers were locked in a scoreless tie going into the bottom of the ninth. Miami's Henderson Alvarez, after nine no-hit innings, was standing on deck with the bases loaded and two outs when Luke Putkonen uncorked a wild pitch that brought Giancarlo Stanton home with the winning run. The Marlins had the first walk-off no-hitter since 1997, and Alvarez had the fifth no-no in franchise history.
"I've never seen it where we got a walk-off win and we're mauling the pitcher instead of the guy who got the hit or scored the run," Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison said.
• That wasn't the year's only unorthodox walk-off, however. On Sept. 17, the Brewers' Logan Schafer pinch-hit with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning of a 3-3 tie against the Cubs when manager Ron Roenicke ordered a suicide squeeze. Schafer got a high and outside curveball but lunged and got his bat on it, hitting it back toward pitcher Justin Grimm and allowing Jeff Bianchi to scamper home with the run.
"I'm never surprised to get the squeeze sign," Schafer said. "When you're in my role, that's what you're expected to do. I've got my glove, I can bunt, I can run. Those are the things as a bench player right now, that's my job. So I'm never surprised by the suicide squeeze, especially if it wins the game. I had it on my mind going up there, but I was ready to hit, too. I was pretty confident I was going to get the job done either way."
• While Jay Bruce's walk-off for the Reds on April 17 was fairly conventional in nature -- he singled with the bases loaded for a 1-0 win over the Phillies -- the circumstances were anything but. Bruce's hit came almost 19 hours after the start of the game, which was delayed and eventually suspended when a storm hit Great American Ball Park before the bottom of the ninth inning. Play resumed the next day, before the teams had their regularly scheduled game, which the Reds also won.
"I wished it was quicker," Bruce said. "It was nice to get that one out of the way and set the tone for the second game."
• The A's game against the Angels on April 29 never stopped, but it still turned into a marathon affair, dragging into the bottom of the 19th in an 8-8 tie. Finally, with two outs and a runner aboard, Oakland's Brandon Moss got a changeup from Barry Enright and blasted it into the right-field seats to cap a six-hour, 32-minute battle that featured 16 different pitchers.
"It's one of those things where you just want to quit, but at the same time you don't want to lose so you're not going to quit," said Moss of the longest game in franchise history. "You just keep fighting through and keep hoping they throw a ball into your bat. I don't even know how I hit it."
• Moss has company when it comes to extra-innings walk-off homers. Angel Pagan came up with one for the Giants against the Rockies on May 25, and he didn't even need to clear the fence to do it. With San Francisco trailing, 5-4, with one out and one on in the 10th, Pagan lifted a deep drive that hit the right-center-field wall at AT&T Park and took a crazy hop back toward center, allowing Pagan to race all the way around and slide in for the Giants' first walk-off inside-the-park homer since 1931.
"I saw all of my teammates ... everybody giving me their support, as well as the fans -- they're screaming as loud as they can -- and it was such a great feeling to get it done in that way," Pagan said.
• On June 4, the Phillies' John Mayberry Jr. accomplished something even more unlikely when he lined a shot just over the left field wall at Citizens Bank Park for a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning of a game against the Marlins. Mayberry had entered the game in the seventh and hit a game-tying solo shot in the 10th, making him the first player with two extra-inning homers in a game since 1987 and the first in history to have the second one be a walk-off slam.
"It feels pretty good, I can't lie to you," Mayberry said. "That's definitely a first. This is one of those days I'll remember forever."
• The other nominee to come in extras was the work of someone who took over the highlight reels when he arrived on the Major League scene this summer. The Dodgers' Yasiel Puig came to the plate looking to snap a 0-0 tie in the 11th inning of a game against the Reds on July 28 and did just that. The rookie walloped a solo shot halfway up the left field bleachers at Dodger Stadium, part of a 52-13 midseason stretch that rocketed his club toward the postseason.
"It's so exciting," Dodgers pitcher Chris Capuano said. "We probably call it every time he comes up, but there was a number of us that said, 'Oh he's going deep right here,' and he came through. That was a bomb to end the game tonight."
• Another exciting young player with a flair for the dramatic offered his own walk-off moment in Washington on July 25, with the Nationals desperately needing one. The club had lost six straight games and was headed toward a seventh when the Pirates scored four runs in the top of the ninth to tie the score, 7-7. But with two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the frame, the then-20-year-old drove a Bryan Morris pitch out to center field.
"It's great to get the W," Harper said. "We really needed it. Going through that [at-bat], I was trying to put something in the gap so [Roger Bernadina] could score."
• On the other end of the experience spectrum from Harper is 42-year-old Jason Giambi, who was drafted by the A's months before Harper was born. The veteran came up huge for the Indians against the White Sox on Sept. 24, when he pinch-hit in the ninth inning, with two outs, a runner on second and Cleveland trailing, 4-3. Giambi took a down-and-in pitch from Chicago closer Addison Reed and launched it well over the right field wall, becoming the oldest player in history to hit a walk-off homer.
"Yeah, I ran into it," Giambi said with a grin. "God. There's nothing more special. That's what keeps you coming back every year."
• Fans in Atlanta saw their own piece of history made back on April 6, when the Braves entered the bottom of the ninth facing a 5-4 deficit against the Cubs. B.J. Upton, signed as a free agent that winter, opened the frame by blasting a game-tying solo homer to center field off Carlos Marmol. His younger brother, Justin Upton, acquired in an offseason trade, came up two batters later and ripped his own solo shot to center off Marmol, this one a game-winner. That made the Uptons the first brothers to hit a game-tying and walk-off homer in the same inning.
"To have a night like tonight, where I hit the home run to tie it and he hits the one to win it, that is new to me," B.J. said. "It's a pretty good feeling."
• Rangers fans also saw something special during a three-game series against the Angels at the end of July. In the finale on July 31, Adrian Beltre broke a 1-1 tie when he led off the ninth inning with a shot deep into the left field seats. This came on the heels of game-winning blasts from Geovany Soto and Leonys Martin the previous two days, making the Rangers the first team since the D-backs in 1999 to sweep a three-game series, all on walk-off homers.
"It kind of [stinks] for the other team, because they don't want to get tied in the ninth against us right now," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "That's a good sign."
• While they didn't match the Rangers in walk-offs, the Rays enjoyed a pretty drama-filled series of their own against the Orioles in late September, as the teams battled for a Wild Card spot. Tampa Bay took a huge step toward the postseason with a four-game sweep at Tropicana Field that began with a wild 18-inning win and concluded with a comeback victory on Sept. 23. Pinch-hitter James Loney struck the final blow, leading off the ninth with a liner just over the right-field wall to close out the Rays' home schedule.
"It feels pretty good to win the game like that in the last game of the regular season at home," Loney said. "It's a special feeling."
• Of course, the last team standing at the end of the 2013 season was the Red Sox, who previewed their championship-winning resilience during an Aug. 1 tilt against the Mariners at Fenway Park. Down 7-1 after seven innings and 7-2 after eight, they put together their biggest comeback over the final two frames of a game since 1940. Daniel Nava, who had started things with a walk, capped the rally with his bases-loaded, one-out single off the center field wall that broke a 7-7 tie.
"Is it magical? It's a lot of fun. Is it magical? I'll leave that up to you to decide," Nava said. "I don't think anyone saw that happening tonight."