1982 baseball season in review

14 10 2010

I’m done with the 1982 box breaks; here’s an overview of the 1982 season. I’m now two years old when this is going on, and probably just getting an idea of what sports and/or baseball even is. That’s probably a good thing as a Reds fan – these weren’t some of the more exciting years. The Bengals did play in Super Bowl XVI in January, 1982, and much like 7 years later, Joe Montana kept them from their first title by winning. I have no recollection of Ken Anderson ever being the Quarterback in Cincinnati, nor do I remember a time when Pete Rose played baseball for a team other than the Reds.

Highlights and Events:

There were a couple of HOF-ers moving teams in the offseason leading up to 1982. Reggie Jackson, still a powerful slugger but on the downside of his career, ended his 5-year run with the Yankees when he returned to California to play with the A’s. Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith, both in the early stages of their career, were traded to the clubs where they would don Hall-of-Fame caps. Additionally, the LA Dodgers broke up the longest intact baseball infield in baseball history when they traded Davey Lopes to the A’s.

On April 6th, the Twins opened the Metrodome against the Seattle Mariners. Their domed stadium would see 2 World Series titles until outdoor baseball came to Minneapolis this year.

The Braves opened the season on a tear for new manager Joe Torre. They won their first 13 games. They would go on to win their first division crown since Henry Aaron was still a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate.  By leading the NL in homers and RBI, Dale Murphy wrestled the MVP away from 3-time winner Mike Schmidt.

On May 6th, Gaylord Perry, now at his 8th stop with his 7th team, won his 300th game for the Seattle Mariners. Later in the year Perry was ejected from a game for the only time in his career for pitching the outlawed “spit ball”.

On May 30th, Cal Ripken Jr. starts at 3B for the Orioles. He wouldn’t come off the Orioles box score for some 16 years.

On August 4th, Joel Youngblood did what no player had done before and none has done since. He started a Wrigley Field day game in Center Field for the New York Mets, and got a 2-run single off of future HOF-er Fergie Jenkins. He was then replaced in the line-up and dealt to the Montreal Expos, who were playing in Philadelphia that night. In the 7th inning of that game, he got a single off another future HOF-er, Steve Carlton.

On August 14th, Pete Rose passed Hank Aaron’s career record with the 12,365th at bat of his career. He would pass Aaron’s record for plate appearances (13,940) just 4 days later. In June, Rose had passed Aaron for 2nd on the all-time hit list and became the 5th player to play in 3,000 career games (Aaron, Yastrzemski, Cobb, Musial).

Rollie Fingers closed out 28 victories with the Brewers in 1982 – on August 8th, he became the first player in MLB history to save 300 games.

The Milwaukee Brewers didn’t start the year as hot as the Atlanta Braves, but they represented some of the best power hitting baseball had seen in a long time. The Brewers put together a season where their young future HOF-ers like 2B Paul Molitor (19 HR, 136 R) and league MVP, SS Robin Yount (210 hits, 29 HR, 114 RBI) delivered on their promise, and their cagey veterans, like 1B Cecil Cooper (32 HR, 121 RBI), Ben Oglivie (34 HR, 102 RBI), Gorman Thomas (39 HR, 112 RBI), Ted Simmons (23 HR, 97 RBI) maintained their past performance. The team hit 216 home runs and scored a whopping 891 runs. Even with all that offense, and league Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich, “Harvey’s Wallbangers” needed veteran Don Sutton to win the 162nd game to avoid a 4-game sweep and potential 1-game playoff against the Baltimore Orioles and Rookie of the Year Ripken.

Whitey Herzog implemented his philosophy of speed with the St. Louis Cardinals, and rode newcomers like Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, and Lonnie Smith in keeping the Phillies and perennial Cy Young winner Steve Carlton out of the playoffs for only the second time since 1975.

By adding Reggie Jackson, the Angels now had 4 former MVPs on their roster (Jackson, Rod Carew, Don Baylor, Fred Lynn). Jackson hit 39 homers and led the team to the AL West title by 3 games over the Royals, who had also only missed the playoffs once since 1975. Speaking of Jackson, “Mr. October” set the dubious strikeout record in August. Jackson passed Willie Stargell, who was wrapping up his final season, on August 20th. In typical Reggie fashion, he struck out twice that day but also blasted a home run.

There were some important individual performances by players on non-playoff teams as well. Most notably, Rickey Henderson stole 130 bases on the year, shattering Lou Brock’s record of 118. John Wathan also set a major league steals record; his 36 were the most ever by a catcher. Tim Raines and Fernando Valenzuela avoided the sophomore jinx – Raines again led the NL in steals, and Fernando won 19 games with an ERA under 3.

Gary Carter was again the best hitting catcher in the majors, and though he didn’t defend his All-Star game MVP in his home Olympic Stadium he did impress the crowd with an RBI single in the NL’s victory. The game’s MVP award went to Davie Concepcion.

Schmidt was still easily the best player in baseball – in fact, there is a good argument he was deserving of the MVP over Murphy that season. He led the league in OBP and slugging, was only 1 homer behind Murphy – and his Win Share total was 5 shares higher than Murphy. His exceptional seasons the past 7 or 8 years likely had a “Michael Jordan” effect. In fact, in the 10 years between 1974 and 1983, Schmidt led the NL in Bill James’ win shares stat 7 times and was 2nd to Joe Morgan in 1976. The great seasons by Yount, Murphy and Henderson proved there was a crowd joining George Brett behind Schmidt as the next best player in the game.

The best pitcher in baseball was still Steve Carlton – he had another Cy Young year, the last of his career.

Reds season:

The Reds followed up the season with the best record in baseball… with the worst record in the National League. They finished last in the NL West by losing over 100 games (61-101), 28 games behind the Atlanta Braves. Manager John McNamara was fired mid-season, replaced by Russ Nixon. This was the Reds first last place finish since the 1930’s.

Before the season, the Reds got rid of two more Big Red Machine members, trading Ken Griffey to the Bronx and George Foster to the Mets. This left only Bench and Concepcion as cogs of the Big Red Machine. Concepcion was one of the few bright spots; he made his 9th All-Star game and was named the game’s MVP. Mario Soto continued on previous success, winning 14 games, striking out 274 batters, and posting an ERA of 2.79.  However, the rest of the team underperformed; Tom Seaver battled injuries and went from a near Cy Young season in 1981 to a 5-13 season with a 5.50 ERA.

Team MVP & Best Pitcher: Mario Soto (14-13/2.79/274)

Award Winners:

Concepcion, Silver Slugger, AS MVP

All-Stars:

Concepcion (starter, MVP)

Soto

Tom Hume

Read on for the playoff summary…

Postseason:

The ALCS went five games as the Brewers became the first team to come down from 2 games. This would prove to be Milwaukee’s only AL Championship. In the senior circuit, the Cardinals swept Torre’s upstart Braves in 3 games.

World Series:

Suds Series

The St. Louis-Milwaukee World Series played on another rivalry – Anheuser Busch / Miller Brewing – and became known playfully as the “Suds Series”. The series was a strong contrast – while Milwaukee hit 216 homers, St. Louis hit only 67. Paul Molitor opened the series with 5 hits in game 1, and the Brewers clobbered the Cards, 10-0. After that, the series lead changed hands 3 more times, as the Cards won the next 2, the Brewers won games 4 and 5, and the Cardinals drove off elimination by winning games 6 and 7. Darrell Porter was named MVP of the series, becoming only the 2nd player to win the LCS and WS MVP awards in the same season.

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