The 2010s for Major League Baseball were full of many moments that moved the sport ahead in ways that were previously unimaginable. The way the game was played and managed changed more than it had in decades prior. Championship droughts were ended with regularity, and new management introduced previously unimaginable elements to the game. Between it all, some amazing players made their debuts, while others had the signature moments of their already legendary careers. It was a busy decade for the national pastime; here’s a look at the signature events that defined it. 1 of 25
25. The extension of safety nets
While the chance at grabbing a foul ball has long been one of the most enticing parts of the live MLB experience, at the same time the chance of injury became far too frequent of an occurrence. An increasingly alarming number of fans — including some young ones — were being injured by foul balls, and the vast majority of Major League Baseball teams began taking action. By 2018 all teams had extended netting completely around the home plate area, but in coming years, there is the possibility that netting will be extended foul pole to foul pole, which the Chicago White Sox have already done. 2 of 25
24. Clayton Kershaw dominates for Dodgers
Although his postseason struggles continue to haunt him, there is no disputing that Kershaw had one of the greatest pitching runs of all time. An eight-time All-Star with three NL Cy Young Awards and league MVP honors in 2014, Kershaw was the most decorated hurler of the decade. He had the lowest ERA in the majors five times, becoming the first player to ever do so in four consecutive seasons, from 2011 to 2014. His 2.44 career ERA since 2011 is 1.63 runs below the league-wide ERA for the decade. 3 of 25
23. Indians 22-game winning streak
Already in first place with a 5.5 game cushion on Aug. 24, following their 13-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox, the 2017 Indians wouldn’t lose again for nearly a month. Over the next three weeks, the Indians would win 22 straight games, a run that included seven shutouts and was capped by a thrilling 10-inning victory to clinch the second-longest streak of all time, outright. It was the longest winning streak in 82 years and pulled Cleveland 13.5 games up in the AL Central en route to a second consecutive AL Central title.
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22. Shohei Ohtani does double duty
He seemed too good to be true: a two-way talent with a 98-mph fastball who can hit home runs with ease and can do both full time? But Shohei Ohtani showed as advertised upon his arrival in America in 2018, becoming the first player since Babe Ruth to hit at least 15 home runs and pitch at least 50 innings in the same season. On his way to the AL Rookie of the Year Award, Ohtani hit 22 home runs and went 4-2 on the mound while averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings on the mound. 5 of 25
21. The improbable run of the Washington Nationals
After being 12 games under .500 in late May, the Nationals won 65 percent of their games from June on and advanced to the World Series from the wild-card game. In the postseason they defied the odds to extraordinary levels, sandwiching an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals by beating two of the best teams in the NL and AL respectively, the Dodgers and Astros. Riding the potent rotation of Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and eventual 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, Washington became the first team in history to win all of its World Series games on the road. 6 of 25
20. Decade of the prodigy
The youth was indisputably served in the 2010s, as there was a huge uptick in ready-to-play prospects reaching the majors. The single-season rookie home run record was broken twice in three years’ time, with Aaron Judge hitting 52 in 2017…before Pete Alonso hit 53 in 2019. Mike Trout became the youngest player to have a WAR of 9.0 or greater, in 2012, and Bryce Harper became the third-youngest MVP of all time, in 2015. Add in Ronald Acuna, Juan Soto, Jose Fernandez, Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Corey Seager and Kris Bryant, and it was as potent of an early-career impact era as ever.
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19. The death of Roy Halladay
A two-time Cy Young Award winner and one of the two pitchers in history with a postseason no-hitter, Halladay was one of the greatest players of his era. Just shy of four years after his retirement, Halladay tragically crashed a plane he had recently purchased off the Florida coast. He was only 40 years old. In 2019, Halladay would go on to become the first posthumous first-ballot Hall of Fame selection since Roberto Clemente in 1973. 8 of 25
18. The end of the All-Star Game/World Series advantage
The controversial decision to award home-field advantage to the victorious league in the All-Star Game came to an end heading into the 2017 season. It also ushered in an era in which regular-season merit meant more than ever for the first time. The 2017 World Series was the first one ever to be hosted outright by the winningest regular-season team. From 1903 to 2002, home-field advantage was determined via a mixture of coin flips and alternating between leagues, and, as mentioned, from 2003 to 2016, the All-Star Game winner earned the rights. 9 of 25
17. The Giants win three World Series
In the first half of the decade, the Giants made capturing World Series championships a bi-annual event. Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and manager Bruce Bochy were the mainstays for the franchise, as they captured the pennant in 2010, 2012 and 2014, their first since moving to San Francisco in 1958. Built around strong starting pitching, bullpen depth and defense, the Giants never won more than 94 games in any of their championship seasons but rose to the occasion in the postseason, going 12-4 in World Series play.
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16. The video game baseball of the 2017 World Series
The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers squared off in one of the biggest thrill rides the Fall Classic has ever seen. Over the course of the seven-game showdown, a record 25 home runs were hit, including a record-tying five by George Springer. The Astros hit a single-game record of eight in Game 2. The signature game of the series came in Game 5, a 13-12 thriller that featured five lead changes from the seventh inning on and had six game-tying home runs before a walk-off Alex Bregman single in the 10th inning. 11 of 25
15. Albert Pujols signs with the Anaheim Angels
Shortly after winning the 2011 World Series in St. Louis, Pujols headed into free agency for the first time in his career. Interest was obviously high in the three-time National League MVP, but it was hard to imagine him leaving the franchise he was synonymous with. But when negotiations with the Cardinals stalled, Angels owner Arte Moreno swooped in with a record 10-year, $254 million contract to bring Pujols west in one of the most stunning free agent coups of all time. 12 of 25
14. The deaths of Jose Fernandez, Oscar Taveras, Yordano Ventura and Tyler Skaggs
The decade also saw a string of tragic deaths to promising young talents still well shy of their 30th birthdays. Promising Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic at 22 years old in 2014. Three years later, promising Kansas City pitcher Yordano Ventura suffered the same fate. In 2016 Jose Fernandez, already a two-time All-Star at age 24, died via a boating crash in Miami Beach. Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died suddenly in July due to complications from an accidental drug overdose.
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13. Tanking a regular event
Over the course of the decade, it became more prevalent than ever for non-competitive teams to sell off to extents never seen before. “Tanking” led to teams that struggled at times to resemble minor league rosters, as down-and-out teams broke up and jockeyed for draft pick positioning harder than trying for real-time wins. In the process parity hit all-time lows, as records were set for number of 100-win and 100-loss teams co-existing in 2018 and again in 2019. 14 of 25
12. Miguel Cabrera completes the Triple Crown
Since Carl Yastrzemski last completed the Triple Crown in 1967, many had accomplished two legs of the pursuit but none had finished it. That was until Miguel Cabrera did so in 2012, completing what was becoming believed to be impossible in the contemporary game. In claiming the crown, the Detroit Tigers slugger hit for a .330 batting average, with 44 home runs and 130 RBI en route to the American League MVP Award as well. 15 of 25
11. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado cash in
The dual free agency of Harper and Machado was a spectacle that was over a year in the making, as the two precocious talents reached free agency together in the winter of 2019. While neither reached the rumored $400 million level during their time on the open market, both did set new records for free agent pacts. Machado struck first, getting 10 years and $300 million from the San Diego Padres, followed by Harper’s $330 million over 13 years from the Philadelphia Phillies.
By: Matt Whitener