|2008 MLB season|
|League||Major League Baseball|
|Duration||March 25 – October 29, 2008|
|Number of games||162|
|Number of teams||30|
|TV partner(s)||Fox, TBS, ESPN|
|Top draft pick||Tim Beckham|
|Picked by||Tampa Bay Rays|
|Season MVP||AL: Dustin Pedroia (BOS)|
NL: Albert Pujols (STL)
|AL champions||Tampa Bay Rays|
|AL runners-up||Boston Red Sox|
|NL champions||Philadelphia Phillies|
|NL runners-up||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Runners-up||Tampa Bay Rays|
|World Series MVP||Cole Hamels (PHI)|
The 2008 Major League Baseball season began on March 25, 2008, in Tokyo, Japan with the 2007 World Series champion Boston Red Sox defeating the Oakland Athletics at the Tokyo Dome 6–5 (in 10 innings) in the first game of a two-game series, and ended on September 30 with the host Chicago White Sox defeating the Minnesota Twins in a one-game playoff to win the AL Central division. The Civil Rights Game, an exhibition, in Memphis, Tennessee, took place March 29 when the New York Mets beat the Chicago White Sox, 3–2.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays shortened their name to Tampa Bay Rays.
The All-Star Game was played on July 15 at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, New York City, with the AL winning 4 to 3 in 15 innings. The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series 4 games to 1 over the Tampa Bay Rays. This was Philadelphia's second championship, and also the first World Series appearance for the Rays.
|League Championship Series
|3||Chicago White Sox||1|
Note: Two teams in the same division could not meet in the division series.
|Baltimore Orioles||Dave Trembley||In his first full season as Orioles skipper, Trembley was given a one-year extension for the 2009 season with an option for 2010.|
|Boston Red Sox||Terry Francona|
|Chicago White Sox||Ozzie Guillén||In his fifth season as Chicago White Sox skipper, Guillén led his team to the American League Central Division title in a one-game playoff against the Minnesota Twins on September 30, 2008.|
|Cleveland Indians||Eric Wedge|
|Detroit Tigers||Jim Leyland|
|Kansas City Royals||Trey Hillman||Former Nippon Ham Fighters skipper joined Royals in his first MLB managerial job.|
|Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim||Mike Scioscia|
|Minnesota Twins||Ron Gardenhire|
|New York Yankees||Joe Girardi||Replaced Joe Torre with three-year, $6 million deal after being TV analyst for YES and WWOR-TV in 2007.|
|Oakland Athletics||Bob Geren|
|Seattle Mariners||John McLaren||Was in first full season as Mariners' manager until he was sacked June 19; Jim Riggleman replaced McLaren as interim manager for the remainder of the season.|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Joe Maddon||Lead the Rays to their first playoffs. Won the AL Manager of the Year Award.|
|Texas Rangers||Ron Washington|
|Toronto Blue Jays||John Gibbons||Fired June 20; Cito Gaston returned to dugout as replacement. Following season, Gaston was given a contract extension.|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Bob Melvin|
|Atlanta Braves||Bobby Cox|
|Chicago Cubs||Lou Piniella||Led the Cubs to the NLDS, won NL Manager of the year.|
|Cincinnati Reds||Dusty Baker||After one year at ESPN, Baker returned to dugout with Reds.|
|Colorado Rockies||Clint Hurdle|
|Florida Marlins||Fredi González|
|Houston Astros||Cecil Cooper||First full season as Astros' skipper.|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Joe Torre||Walked away from Yankees after rejecting one-year deal valued at $7.5 million to join Dodgers.|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Ned Yost||Fired on September 15; Dale Sveum named interim manager for remainder of season, and led team to wild card. Ken Macha was hired to manage the 2009 season on October 30; Sveum, who was third base coach in 2008, will become hitting coach in 2009 under Macha.|
|New York Mets||Willie Randolph||Sacked June 17 in middle of night. Jerry Manuel named replacement.|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Charlie Manuel||Led team to first World Series win in 28 years.|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||John Russell||Former catcher had his first season as an MLB manager.|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Tony La Russa||La Russa signed a new two-year contract October 22, 2007, through 2009.|
|San Diego Padres||Bud Black|
|San Francisco Giants||Bruce Bochy|
|Washington Nationals||Manny Acta|
Main article: 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
|Baseball Writers' Association of America Awards|
|BBWAA Award||National League||American League|
|Rookie of the Year||Geovany Soto (CHC)||Evan Longoria (TB)|
|Cy Young Award||Tim Lincecum (SF)||Cliff Lee (CLE)|
|Manager of the Year||Lou Piniella (CHC)||Joe Maddon (TB)|
|Most Valuable Player||Albert Pujols (STL)||Dustin Pedroia (BOS)|
|Gold Glove Awards|
|Position||National League||American League|
|Pitcher||Greg Maddux (SD/LAD)||Mike Mussina (NYY)|
|Catcher||Yadier Molina (STL)||Joe Mauer (MIN)|
|1st Base||Adrián González (SD)||Carlos Peña (TB)|
|2nd Base||Brandon Phillips (CIN)||Dustin Pedroia (BOS)|
|3rd Base||David Wright (NYM)||Adrián Beltré (SEA)|
|Shortstop||Jimmy Rollins (PHI)||Michael Young (TEX)|
|Outfield||Nate McLouth (PIT)
Carlos Beltrán (NYM)
Shane Victorino (PHI)
|Torii Hunter (LAA)|
Grady Sizemore (CLE)
Ichiro Suzuki (SEA)
|Silver Slugger Awards|
|Position||National League||American League|
|Pitcher/Designated Hitter||Carlos Zambrano (CHC)||Aubrey Huff (BAL)|
|Catcher||Brian McCann (ATL)||Joe Mauer (MIN)|
|1st Base||Albert Pujols (STL)||Justin Morneau (MIN)|
|2nd Base||Chase Utley (PHI)||Dustin Pedroia (BOS)|
|3rd Base||David Wright (NYM)||Alex Rodriguez (NYY)|
|Shortstop||Hanley Ramírez (FLA)||Derek Jeter (NYY)|
|Outfield||Ryan Braun (MIL)
Matt Holliday (COL)
Ryan Ludwick (STL)
|Josh Hamilton (TEX)|
Carlos Quentin (CHW)
Grady Sizemore (CLE)
|Month||National League||American League|
|April||Chase Utley (PHI)||Josh Hamilton (TEX)|
|May||Lance Berkman (HOU)||Josh Hamilton (TEX)|
|June||Hanley Ramírez (FLA)||J. D. Drew (BOS)|
|July||Ryan Braun (MIL)||Miguel Cabrera (DET)|
|August||Manny Ramirez (LAD)||Melvin Mora (BAL)|
|September||Ryan Howard (PHI)||Shin-Soo Choo (CLE)|
|Month||National League||American League|
|April||Brandon Webb (ARI)||Cliff Lee (CLE)|
|May||Todd Wellemeyer (STL)||Scott Kazmir (TB)|
|June||Dan Haren (ARI)||John Lackey (LAA)|
|July||CC Sabathia (MIL)||Jon Lester (BOS)|
|August||CC Sabathia (MIL)||Cliff Lee (CLE)|
|September||Johan Santana (NYM)||Jon Lester (BOS)|
|Month||National League||American League|
|April||Geovany Soto (CHC)||David Murphy (TEX)|
|May||Blake DeWitt (LAD)||Aaron Laffey (CLE)|
|June||Jair Jurrjens (ATL)||Evan Longoria (TB)|
|July||Ian Stewart (COL)||Chris Davis (TEX)|
|August||Geovany Soto (CHC)||Alexei Ramírez (CHW)|
|September||Joey Votto (CIN)||Scott Lewis (CLE)|
|Team Name||Wins||%±||Home attendance||%±||Per Game||Est. Payroll||%±|
|New York Yankees||89||-5.3%||4,298,655||0.6%||53,070||$212,286,789||2.5%|
|New York Mets||89||1.1%||4,042,045||4.9%||49,902||$137,793,376||18.6%|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||84||2.4%||3,730,553||-3.3%||46,056||$118,588,536||9.3%|
|St. Louis Cardinals||86||10.3%||3,432,917||-3.4%||42,382||$99,624,449||10.3%|
|Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim||100||6.4%||3,336,747||-0.9%||41,194||$119,216,333||9.1%|
|Boston Red Sox||95||-1.0%||3,048,250||2.6%||37,633||$133,390,035||-6.7%|
|San Francisco Giants||72||1.4%||2,863,837||-11.1%||35,356||$76,594,500||-15.1%|
|Chicago White Sox||89||23.6%||2,500,648||-6.8%||30,496||$121,189,332||11.5%|
|San Diego Padres||63||-29.2%||2,427,535||-13.0%||29,970||$73,677,616||26.8%|
|Toronto Blue Jays||86||3.6%||2,399,786||1.7%||29,627||$97,793,900||19.3%|
|Tampa Bay Rays||97||47.0%||1,811,986||30.6%||22,370||$44,970,597||82.6%|
|Kansas City Royals||75||8.7%||1,578,922||-2.3%||19,493||$59,445,500||-12.2%|
The 2008 Spring training session was marked by the final at-bats for three stadiums that had been mainstays in the Grapefruit League, as the spring training sites in Florida are called.
The first to end its run was Holman Stadium, longtime home to the Los Angeles Dodgers. On March 17, the Dodgers played their last game in Vero Beach; they lost to the Houston Astros, 12–10. It has been rumored that the Baltimore Orioles might move into the facility.
The next stadium to close its doors was Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, home of the Cleveland Indians. On March 27, they lost their final game in the stadium to the Tampa Bay Rays, 9–7 in 10 innings. Both the Dodgers and the Indians left their longtime Florida homes for new stadiums in the Cactus League in Arizona.
The oldest of them all, Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, was retired on March 28 with the Tampa Bay Rays losing to the Cincinnati Reds 6–3. The Rays, unlike the other teams to close stadiums before them, are staying in Florida; they are relocating their spring training home to the Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, where they spent $20 million to rebuild its main stadium. The site of Progress Energy Park was connected to plans to build a new retractable roof stadium for the Rays to replace the fixed-dome Tropicana Field, but was eventually withdrawn from consideration by team ownership in favor of a more thorough study.
On March 15 and 16, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres played a 2-game exhibition series at Wukesong Stadium in Beijing, China, which would later be the baseball venue for the 2008 Summer Olympics. The series marked MLB's first games played in China. The first game ended in a 3–3 tie, and the second ended in a 6–3 win for the Dodgers.
On March 29, as part of the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers' relocation from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, the Dodgers hosted an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Dodgers' home stadium from 1958 to 1961. Proceeds from the game were donated to the Dodgers' official charity, ThinkCure. The game saw a sellout crowd of 115,300, which broke the Guinness World Record for the largest crowd to ever attend a baseball game. The previous record was an estimated 114,000 for a baseball demonstration during the 1956 Summer Olympics at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The Washington Nationals began the domestic portion of the 2008 season in their new US$611 million home, Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. with a nationally telecast ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game (in a rare one-game series) against the Atlanta Braves on March 30 in the first official baseball game stateside. President Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch while being booed by some of the crowd that night, and joined Jon Miller and Joe Morgan in the broadcast booth for the third and part of the fourth inning of the game telecast. Fittingly, Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off home run to give the Nats a 3–2 win. Nationals Park replaced their temporary home, RFK Stadium. Unlike RFK, Nationals Park has been considered to be fair to both hitters and pitchers. Additionally, there was an exhibition game March 29 against their beltway rivals, the Baltimore Orioles, in which season ticket holders were admitted free. The first game, however, was on March 22, when local university George Washington played a home Atlantic 10 college contest against Saint Joseph's at Nationals Park. The Colonials sent their fans home happy by defeating the Hawks 9–5.
This season also marked the last season in New York City for two historic stadiums where the Mets and Yankees reside. Shea Stadium closed in Flushing Meadows, Queens on a down note September 28 with the Mets being eliminated from postseason play for the second consecutive season by the Marlins, 4–2, while Yankee Stadium closed after 83 seasons (the Yankees played at Shea Stadium in 1974 and 1975 while Yankee Stadium was refurbished), with the final home game played on September 21 as the Bronx Bombers defeated the Orioles, 7–3. The teams will move into new ballparks near their current homes – Citi Field for the Mets and New Yankee Stadium for the Yankees – in time for their 2009 home openers on April 13 against the San Diego Padres (Citi Field) and 16th against Cleveland Indians (New Yankee Stadium) respectively. With the closing of these ballparks, Dodger Stadium becomes the largest seating capacity park (56,000) and third oldest baseball stadium (after Fenway Park and Wrigley Field) starting in 2009, and Angel Stadium of Anaheim (built in 1966) and Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum (first baseball game in 1968; stadium was built in 1966) become the fourth and fifth oldest baseball stadiums, respectively.
Starting with the 2008 season, the Cleveland Indians' home field was renamed Progressive Field – after the insurance company based in suburban Mayfield Heights – in a deal valued at US$57.6 million over the next sixteen seasons. The new name replaces Jacobs Field, named for former team owner Richard Jacobs.
Another naming rights agreement concerned a stadium still under construction. The Minnesota Twins and Minneapolis-based retail giant Target Corporation announced on September 15 that the Twins' new stadium set to open in 2010 will be named Target Field. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Target Field is located not far from another facility of which the discount retailer owns naming rights: Target Center the home of the NBA's Timberwolves.
On September 19, the naming rights contract owned by McAfee for Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum lapsed; McAfee declined a new contract offer. The Coliseum, home to the Oakland Athletics since their 1968 relocation from Kansas City, reverted to its old name after 10 years, during which it was originally known as Network Associates Coliseum, then McAfee Coliseum when the company changed its name in 2004. The A's played their last home series after the stadium reverted its name.
As a consequence of Hurricane Ike damaging the Houston area, two games between the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs were relocated to Miller Park in Milwaukee. Although Milwaukee was picked as a "neutral" site whose retractable roof would ensure the game would be played in the event of inclement weather, Miller Park's location 90 miles (140 km) from Chicago – and well over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from Houston – resulted in a decidedly pro-Cubs crowd in a series where Houston was officially designated as the home team. Adding to the controversy from the Houston perspective was the fact that Turner Field in Atlanta had been suggested by the players' union as a potential neutral site. This would mark the second time in as many years that a series was moved to neutral Miller Park due to weather, as a series between the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians was relocated there one year earlier as a consequence of snow storms in northern Ohio.
During last season, especially the ALCS, several plays were deemed to be considered controversial on whether or not balls were ruled home runs. During a game in the annual interleague Subway Series between the Mets and the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, a home run was taken away and ruled a ground rule double. This led to discussions about introducing instant replay to Baseball games, especially on balls that are ruled fair or foul and home runs. In August, all 30 parks have been wired to send feeds similar to a video goal judge in the NHL, where all video feeds are sent to a central control room at Major League Baseball Advanced Media's home office in New York City to be reviewed, and correct any errors. On August 20, MLB and the World Umpires Association, the umpires union, agreed to start reviews based only on whether or not a ball that is ruled a home run was fair or foul, or whether or not balls that clear walls are home runs according to each team's ground rules. This practice started August 28.
The first official use of the Instant Replay system occurred on Wednesday, September 3 in a game between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, when Alex Rodriguez hit a home run in the top of the ninth inning with two outs remaining. Tampa Bay catcher Dioner Navarro and manager Joe Maddon initially protested in order to reverse the call as it appeared to be foul. Television replays showed the ball hit Tropicana Field's D-Ring catwalk on the foul side of the attached yellow post; however, the ball was still in fair territory when it left the playing field (passing over the foul pole) and was therefore a home run. Umpire crew chief Charlie Reliford agreed to the review and after a delay of 2 minutes and 15 seconds, the ruling on the field was upheld and remained a home run.
Replay made its National League debut on September 9 at Minute Maid Park in a game between the Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates. Houston right fielder Hunter Pence hit a fly ball to right field that bounced off the top of the fence and back onto the field of play. The umpires on the field ruled a live ball, and Pence was credited with a double. Houston manager Cecil Cooper argued the ball bounced beyond the fence before bouncing back onto the field and was therefore a home run. After a discussion among the umpires, crew chief Tim Welke allowed the review and reviewed the play with his brother Bill Welke, the home plate umpire. After the review the call was upheld as a double.
The first call to be reversed by instant replay occurred on September 19, and again involved the Tampa Bay Rays in a game against the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field. A fly ball hit by Rays' first baseman Carlos Peña, the umpires ruled, was interfered with by a fan sitting in the front row of the stands, when the ball hit the hands of the fan and fell back onto the field of play. The umpires originally ruled that the fan reached over the wall to touch the ball. After Rays manager Joe Maddon requested the umpires hold a conference to discuss the play, the umpires, headed by Gerry Davis, decided to look at instant replay. Replays showed that the fan did not reach over the wall; the ball was over the wall when he tried to catch the ball, and the ball bounced back onto the field. Just over four minutes later, Davis returned to the field and signaled that the ball was a home run.
The use of replay created a statistical anomaly September 26, in which San Francisco Giants catcher Bengie Molina hit what was ruled a single off the high wall in right field at AT&T Park in San Francisco, in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Once he reached base, Molina was replaced by pinch runner Emmanuel Burriss, while Umpires conferred on whether the ball had actually hit the roof and bounced back, which would make it a home run. After a replay review, the umpires reversed their call, awarding Molina the home run. Giants manager Bruce Bochy then attempted to retract Burriss from the game, and put back Molina, under the logic that he wouldn't have pulled Molina had the correct call of home run been made in the first place. After a 15-minute delay, the umpires denied Bochy, citing the replacement rule. Burriss was told to complete the home run circuit, making it a two-run home run in which Molina, who had hit it, didn't score.
For the 2008 season, TBS switched from doing Atlanta Braves games (who telecast 45 contests on WPCH-TV a/k/a "Peachtree TV" locally in Atlanta) to a national Sunday afternoon Game of the Week format (though some games have involved the Braves). In addition, the Time Warner-owned cable channel also carried the one-game AL Central playoff between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox on September 30 as well as the entire League Division Series and the American League Championship Series this season, with TNT possibly carrying some games when there are time conflicts.
Disney-owned ESPN continued to televise games on Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, and (through the first week in August) Monday nights, switching to Friday nights for the remainder of the season, plus multiple afternoon and prime-time games on the traditional Opening Day (March 31) and the annual State Farm Home Run Derby on July 14. Certain games aired on ESPN2 due to scheduling conflicts with the parent network.
FOX Sports continued with a weekly regional Saturday Game of the Week, the All-Star Game, the National League Championship Series, and the World Series. The Game of the Week was expanded in 2007, as for the first time FOX was allowed to air Saturday games for all 26 weeks of the season, marking the first time since 1989, when NBC ended their iconic run of televising America's Pastime on a weekly basis, that a network covered games on a week to week basis for the entire season. Also, all games on FOX were televised in high definition; in previous years, only the primary (or "A") game was in HD.
The limits for telecasts per season (starting in 2008) that any team can make are as follows:
ESPN Radio continued as the national radio carrier for Major League Baseball, airing Sunday night games throughout the regular season as well as Saturday afternoon games after the All-Star break, the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby, along with selected Opening Day and holiday games, and the entire postseason.
The biggest change in local rights came as the San Francisco Giants switched their terrestrial telecast rights from longtime home KTVU (Cox Communications-owned Fox affiliate) to NBC Universal-owned KNTV after fifty years, one of the longest in televised sports history. KTVU will continue to air some Giants games as part of the Fox Sports' Saturday afternoon Game of the Week package if the team is competitive.
Baseball games – mostly involving the Toronto Blue Jays – were televised on Rogers Sportsnet, TSN, and CBC. RSN airs Fox and ESPN/ESPN 2 feeds if they do not conflict with the Toronto Blue Jays games, as well as the All-Star Game and the entire post-season.
Several teams wore special uniforms to honor military serving overseas:
Through the 2008 All-Star break, there had not been an official game called that was not suspendable. As of the break, every win and loss in the standings for every team represented a game played to its legitimate nine-inning (or more) completion. The streak ended on August 4 in Chicago, however, when the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros were unable to complete their game due to a rainstorm. The Astros were leading the game 2–0 in the 8th inning, and since that was the score when the inning started, the game was not resumeable to the next day and the Astros were awarded the "win". This was the only game to be rain shortened until September 26, when the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Baltimore Orioles in a game curtailed to seven innings, 2–0. The next day, the Jays lost another rain-shortened game against the O's, 2–1 after 6 innings.
Both the Astros and the Cubs were also involved in a rare "rain-in" due to Hurricane Ike postponing the first two games of their three-game series on September 12 and 13; the city of Houston had been evacuated so they were not able to play at the retractable-roof Minute Maid Park. The last rain-in was on June 15, 1976, when the Astros' game at the Astrodome against the Pittsburgh Pirates was called due to heavy flooding in the Houston area. Two of the games were played at Miller Park in Milwaukee on September 14 and 15, the remaining game was canceled outright, one of three games that would be outright canceled, the first being the Oakland Athletics scheduled to play the Orioles on September 7; however, the game was switched due to a conflict with the Baltimore Ravens' NFL season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. This game was moved to September 6 as part of a day/night doubleheader. However, the remnants of Hurricane Hanna called off the afternoon game, and because both teams were not in the pennant races, the game was not made up, in spite of the fact that both teams still had two common off days.
In another weather-related note involving a team playing in an indoor venue, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays/Tampa Bay Rays had either postponed or canceled a home game on a Sunday in September of a presidential election year three consecutive times due to hurricanes. The streak started on September 17, 2000, and continued on September 5 and 26, 2004. The streak ended when the Rays played their game against the Minnesota Twins as scheduled on September 21, 2008. They played at home on the final day of the 2000 season, but that game was on October 1, not September.
The 2008 season also marked the first time Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies and Busch Stadium, home to the St. Louis Cardinals made it through an entire season without a game either being canceled or shortened. The Washington Nationals came close, but their home finale at Nationals Park was canceled on September 25.
On September 29, one day after the scheduled final day of the season, the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox made up a game postponed from two weeks earlier, the first such game since 1981, as in 1908 and 1973. The game needed to be played because the White Sox trailed the Minnesota Twins by a half-game in the AL Central standings following play on September 28, and even then, rain was a problem as the contest was delayed for three hours and four minutes.
On October 27, Game 5 of the World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies was suspended in the bottom of the 6th with the score tied 2–2 and the Phillies leading 3–1 in games. This marked the first time in World Series history that a game was suspended. The game finished with the Phillies winning 4–3, at home on October 29. However, the official records will indicate that the game was played on October 27, the game's original date.