As 2012 winds to a close, looks back at the stories that made the year memorable. Producer Shane McNeil reflects on the best baseball moments from the past 12 months including Alex Anthopoulos’ big shake-up and Bryce Harper turning heads.

Originally published – December 24, 2012.

Shane McNeil on Alex Anthopoulos’ busy off-season

While it is way, way too early to judge the Toronto Blue Jays’ busy off-season one way or the other, the moves completed by Anthopoulos have to be called a success on one very specific front.

Call it a by-product of months without hockey, but the city of Toronto has been buzzing about the Jays since the evening the 12-player Miami blockbuster broke in a way that it hasn’t since the World Series years.

Fans are already intrigued by the prospect of R.A. DickeyJose ReyesJosh JohnsonMark Buehrle and Melky Cabrera (among others) lining up alongside Jose BautistaEdwin EncarnacionBrandon MorrowBrett Lawrie and the rest of the team’s young talent core.

Much hyperbole has been made about the cost of landing five former All-Stars in both positive and negative lights and all fans know as of right now is that the Jays took risks, be they on players playing up to their contracts or prospects living up to their potential.

However, Toronto is talking baseball more than two months ahead of the first reports for spring training. Whether or not the trade works out, Alex Anthopoulos should be applauded for getting the city’s attention.

Shane McNeil on Bryce Harper, One-Man Show

The Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper did a lot of foolish things in his rookie MLB season.

The eyeblack smeared on like war-paint, the subsequent ridiculous red-tinted contacts to keep the sun out of his eyes and his immortal quote: “That’s a clown question, bro,” all go into the negative end of the ledger.

But what was really impressive was Harper’s first head-to-head against Philadelphia Phillies lefty Cole Hamels.

Finishing off his first full week in the bigs, Harper strode up to face the former World Series MVP in the first inning and was greeted with a pitch labeled for the small of his back. It was a plunking Hamels would subsequently admit was intentional.

After being singled over to third, Harper would seek immediate revenge on Hamels.

Eyeing the lefty all the way, Harper waited until Hamels threw over to first to check the runner and sprinted home. The throw to the plate was high and Harper brazenly answered his “Welcome to the big leagues” with his first career stolen base, safely sliding into home.