Baseball gave us a little bit of everything in the year 2023. It began with a World Baseball Classic that shattered viewership records across the globe, and ended with the most momentous (and, arguably, the wildest) free-agent decision in MLB history. There were new rules, first-time champions and even some all-out brawls.
So before we turn our eyes to what 2024 might have in store, let’s take one more look back on the best the sport had to offer this year. This is by no means a comprehensive list — and how could it be, with all that happened — but one that reflects what stuck with us from the calendar year. We know there were plenty of moments to relive across all of baseball that you’ll also want to share, so leave your standouts in the comments below.
The best baseball moments of 2023
Shohei Ohtani vs. Mike Trout - March 21
The highlights began even before we reached Opening Day, with a hitter-pitcher matchup for the ages: Ohtani on the mound for team Japan, Trout at the plate for Team USA, longtime teammates and historic talents facing off with the WBC title on the line. At the start of the tournament, it was just an absurd hypothetical, something we could scarcely dream of actually happening. And then we got it, and boy did it live up to the billing:
Padres and Giants hold a home run derby - April 30
We already knew that Saturday’s game between the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres would be historic. The latest installment in MLB’s World Tour, it marked the first time a regular-season Major League game came to Mexico City.
But we had no idea it would make a different kind of history as well: The two teams combined for 30 hits and a staggering 11 home runs — just two off the all-time big league record — in a 16-11 Padres win. What do you get when you let big league hitters loose at an altitude over 2,000 feet higher than Coors Field? A lot of this:
Liam Hendriks returns - May 30
In January, the White Sox All-Star closer was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In May, he was back on a Major League mound, soaking in a standing ovation from the Guaranteed Rate Field crowd:
HERE HE COMES— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) May 30, 2023
Less than 5 months after being diagnosed with cancer, Liam Hendriks is back on the mound for the White Sox pic.twitter.com/QEwPDvETu1
Hendriks’ comeback was short-lived — he went down with an elbow injury after making just five appearances, eventually undergoing Tommy John surgery that will keep him out for most of 2024 — but seeing him in game action at all was still among the most heart-warming moments of the year.
A’s fans hold reverse boycott - June 14
Athletics fans’ first response to owner John Fisher’s proposed relocation of the team to Las Vegas — after years of mismanagement and financial neglect that had stripped the team to the studs — was to not show up at all. But when Fisher, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and other stakeholders used their absence as evidence that there simply wasn’t enough support to keep the team in Oakland, they decided to flip the script: Nearly 28,000 fans packed the Coliseum for the team’s game against the Rays in mid-June for a “reverse boycott”.
It was a party in the parking lot prior to first pitch, with music, games and plenty of colorful signs. Once the game began, though, fans made sure Fisher knew exactly how they felt, donning green shirts that read “SELL” and filling the Coliseum with chants of “sell the team”.
A's fans are LOUD tonight— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) June 14, 2023
27,759 fans in attendance tonight pic.twitter.com/UM7NBW1iEi
Even better? A late rally and some stellar pitching gave the home team a 2-1 upset over the powerhouse Rays. Of course, none of it changed anyone’s mind, and the A’s seem almost certainly bound for Vegas in the coming years. But for at least one night, Oakland reminded everyone that it is, in fact, a baseball town.
Elly De La Cruz arrives - June 23
De La Cruz entered the Majors like a thunder clap, a 6’5 unicorn who ran faster and hit balls harder than just about anyone else in baseball. Over his first 14 games with Cincinnati, he tallied two homers, six steals and a .923 OPS, turning the Cinderella Reds into must-see TV as the division-leading Braves came to town. With all eyes on him, Elly didn’t disappoint, needing just six innings to hit for the cycle and propel Cincy to a 12th straight win.
Julio Rodriguez makes history - July 10
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may have won the 2023 Home Run Derby, but the night really belonged to Rodriguez. Hitting in front of his hometown fans at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, the weight of the world was on the young outfielder’s shoulders — especially with an opening-round matchup against two-time Derby champion Pete Alonso. So all Rodriguez did was go out and smash 41 homers, setting a new single-round record:
JULIO RODRIGUEZ PUT ON A SHOW— ESPN (@espn) July 11, 2023
41 home runs in the first round pic.twitter.com/JrI4Ajag0p
The All-Star Game was in their house, their team was surging and their face of the franchise had just announced himself to the entire world. It’s been a rough last couple of months for Mariners fans, but for that one moment, everything was all right in the Emerald City.
Shohei Ohtani makes history (again) - July 26
Before Ohtani bolted in free agency, before he had his second elbow surgery, before everything fell apart for the Los Angeles Angels, there was a 24-hour period where it seemed like the team might just manage to make some magic.
It began the night of July 26, when Angels brass decided they were taking Ohtani off the trade market — and loading up for one final postseason push. Despite the fact that they were four games out of the final Wild Card spot, the Angels sent two of their top prospects to the White Sox for pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. The next day, Ohtani repaid that faith by doing something that no one else in baseball history had ever done: In the opener of L.A.’s doubleheader against the Tigers in Detroit, the two-way star fired a one-hit shutout; in the nightcap, he walloped two homers, his 37th and 38th of the season. The Angels ended the day three games out of a playoff spot and believing that, with Ohtani, anything could happen.
A truly crazy trade deadline - August 1
The Mets unloading Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and much more in a shocking fire sale. The Rangers igniting their championship run by landing Jordan Montgomery. The Dodgers thinking they had a deal for Eduardo Rodriguez, only for the lefty to nix the move from Detroit to L.A. The Diamondbacks landing closer Paul Sewald from the Mariners, a move that would kick off an improbable run to an NL pennant. The Angels buying and then selling in a matter of days. When the dust settled on August 1, the landscape of the league had been dramatically altered.
Down goes Tim Anderson - August 7
The brouhaha heard ‘round the world: Jose Ramirez slid hard into second base, Tim Anderson objected and before you knew it, the gloves were off.
It's fight night in Cleveland pic.twitter.com/3NEIpBEbSf— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) August 6, 2023
While brawling has a long and storied history in the big leagues, it’s rare to see actual punches thrown like this — and it gave us arguably the best call of the year.
Tom Hamilton's call of the Jose Ramirez-Tim Anderson fight on Cleveland radio is the stuff of legend.— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) August 6, 2023
"DOWN GOES ANDERSON! DOWN GOES ANDERSON!" pic.twitter.com/ZXSUW4eE0V
Ronald Acuna Jr. makes a club of his own - September 28
Okay, this should really read “clubs”, plural, because Acuna wrote a whole chapter for himself in the record books in 2023. Already sitting on 68 steals, the Braves star hit his 40th homer on Sept. 22, not just joining the 40/40 club but also becoming the sole member of the 40-50 and 40-60 clubs. Five days later, he swiped his 69th and 70th bags in the same game against the Chicago Cubs, ripping second base over his head as a raucous Truist Park celebrated like they’d just won the World Series.
The moment Ronald Acuña Jr. j̶o̶i̶n̶e̶d̶ created the 40/70 Club. pic.twitter.com/6jeTmwtoBI— MLB (@MLB) September 28, 2023
Corey Seager walks it off - October 27
There are a ton of postseason moments you could choose to highlight here: The Phillies toppling the Braves in a white-knuckle NLDS, the Astros’ incredible comeback late in Game 5 of the ALCS, the Diamondbacks’ shocking shellacking of Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. But as the saying goes, to the victor goes the spoils, and the Texas Rangers were the one team left standing when all was said and done.
A big part of the reason why Texas outlasted Arizona in the World Series? Seager’s (and heroics in Game 1, when the star shortstop nearly lifted the roof off Globe Life Park with a game-tying homer in the ninth inning.
Not too much later, Adolis Garcia sent everybody home.
Shohei Ohtani signs with the Dodgers - December 9
How could we end with anything else? Ohtani was the biggest free agent the sport — hell, just about any sport — had ever seen, and the speculation as to where he might land reached such a fever pitch that a judge on Shark Tank was mobbed by reporters and photographers upon stepping off a plane in Toronto that was supposed to be carrying Ohtani. Despite all the flight tracking and rumors of restaurant reservations, Ohtani never set foot in Canada, instead signing a record-shattering 10-year, $700 million deal with the Dodgers. What will 2024 have in store? We can’t wait to find out.