1993 MLB season in review

18 12 2011

Highlights and Events:

After the Blue Jays clinched the first World Series by a team outside of America in October 1992, baseball’s attention turned to expansion.  The Florida Marlins hired Renee Lachemanm as their first manager; Don Baylor got the job as skipper for the Colorado Rockies.  The Rockies made the first plunge into the free agent market, signing first baseman Andres Galarraga and aging Dale Murphy.  The “Big Cat” had a standout first season, leading the majors with a mighty .370 average, while Murphy retired .  In the expansion draft, the Rockies first pick was pitcher David Nied from the Braves; they also picked up Vinny Castilla, Eric Young and Joe Girardi.  The Marlins first pick was Nigel Wilson from Toronto; they also picked up Trevor Hoffman and Jeff Conine.

As there were 2 new teams in 1993, that meant there were 2 “new” ballparks – though both teams used pre-existing football facilities.  The Marlins started off in Joe Robbie Stadium, where they won their first game on April 5th.  Charlie Hough struck out Jose Offerman and got a win to start the franchise on the right foot – though they’d only go 64-98 in their inaugural season.  The Rockies didn’t start off as well – they were shut out 3-0 by the Mets at Shea Stadium on April 5th.  They did win their first home game at Mile High Stadium to a record crowd of 80,227, smashing the Expos, 11-4 after Eric Young led off the game with a home run.  Despite Galarraga’s great season, though, the Rockies pitching was atrocious – giving up 5.97 runs per game, a full run more than any other NL team.  They finished 67-95.

In addition to expansion, there was potential for a move in the National League.  Unable to get public funding for a new ballpark, owner Bob Lurie put the San Francisco Giants up for sale.  The National League voted 9-4 to block the sale to a Florida-based group led businessman Vince Naimoli, who intended to move the team to St. Petersburg.  TV revenue just wasn’t then what it is today, I guess – the Bay Area market is far greater than the one in … the other Bay Area.  Instead, the team was sold to a group headed by Peter McGowan, a lifelong Northern Californian and the former CEO of Safeway (and grandson of one of the founders of Merrill & Lynch).  Before that sale was even finalized, the Giants made what is still probably the most productive free agency signing in history – they snagged Barry Bonds away from Pittsburgh for a record 6-year $43.75 million.  Bonds came to the team his father, Bobby, and godfather, Willie Mays, had played for.  He switched numbers from the 24 he wore in Pittsburgh – which was retired by the Giants in honor of Mays – to #25 in honor of his father.  He didn’t disappoint, either – Bonds won his 3rd MVP in 4 years after leading the league with 46 HR, 123 RBI, .458 OBP, and .677 SLG.

The pennant winners from the year before – Toronto and Atlanta – both “three-peated” as division champions in 1993.  The Blue Jays won the AL East by 7 games – they were led by a breakout season by John Olerud.  Olerud flirted with .400 in a way baseball hadn’t seen since George Brett in 1980.  Olerud had a torrid April, hitting .450, and was still above .400 as late as August 2nd.  His average dipped a bit down the stretch, but he finished with a .363 average good for the batting title.  Paul Molitor, a free agent signing for the defending champs, also had a great season, finishing as the MVP runner-up (one spot ahead of Olerud).  Molitor replaced Dave Winfield at DH, hitting .332 with 211 hits, 121 runs and 111 RBI.  Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar were again stellar, and they got help from a late season pickup of Rickey Henderson.

But the Braves participated in what many call “the last true pennant race”, and they needed an incredible comeback to do so.  At the end of July, San Francisco had a 10 game lead, but by the end of September, the teams were battling back and forth, with the Braves occasionally pulling ahead.  Going into the final game of the season, the teams were tied at an incredible 103 wins.  The Braves got Tom Glavine’s 22nd win of the season, while the Giants were steamrolled by 2 Mike Piazza home runs – he finished his rookie season with 35 – and the rival Dodgers, 12-1.  Greg Maddux was the other huge free agent signing in the offseason.  Like Bonds, he successfully defended his NL award on a new team, repeating as the NL Cy Young after going 20-10 with an ML leading 2.36 ERA.  The Braves also benefited from a mid-season trade for Fred McGriff (37 HR), and got break-out seasons from Dave Justice (40 HR) and Ron Gant (36 HR).

The Chicago White Sox had quite a turnaround, led by third straight stellar season by Frank Thomas.  The Sox had speed throughout the lineup with Joey Cora, Time Raines, and Lance Johnson – turning Thomas 41 homers and a 1.000+ OPS into 128 RBI.  Jack McDowell won 22 games for the club, earning himself the AL Cy Young.

The Philadelphia Phillies flipped their fortunes around as well, with an impressive 27-game turnaround to take the AL East.  The Phillies had an “idiot” mentality similar to the 2004 Red Sox, and showed balance across their entire team.  They had a deep lineup where no one hit 25 home runs, 5 players had 70+ RBI and 4 players had 90+ runs.  Lenny Dykstra scored an incredible 143, and was runner-up to Bonds as the MVP.

As happens any time there is expansion, 1993 became a breakout offensive season – there was a nearly half-run increase per game (4.12 to 4.6).  Ken Griffey Jr. grew into true stardom, hitting 45 home runs with a .309 average; he tied a record held by Don Mattingly and Dale Long by hitting homers in 8 straight games.  Juan Gonzalez again led the majors in home runs – this time with 46.  Griffey and Gonzalez faced off in a memorable Home Run Derby.  The All-Star game festivities were held in the 1-year old Camden Yards.  Griffey hit what is still the only batted ball to reach the warehouse in right field on the fly.  But his 445-foot smash wasn’t quite enough – Gonzalez outlasted him after 2 playoff rounds were required for the first time ever.   The American League won the All-Star game – which was highlighted by a crazy at-bat by the Phillies’ John Kruk.  Seattle’s young star fire-baller, Randy Johnson, threw a pitch over Kruk’s head – and the future ESPN announcer bailed out on the next two pitches.

Piazza and Tim Salmon had notable rookie seasons in southern California – both earned unanimous Rookie of the Year selections.  Piazza hit .318 with 35 home runs and 112 RBI, while Salmon went .283/31/112.

In May, Dale Murphy decided to hang up his cleats after a comeback attempt with the Rockies.  He was 2 home runs short of 400.  Carlton Fisk also retired in 1993.  In his last game on June 22nd, he caught all 9 innings of a 3-2 White Sox win over Texas – this was his 2,226th career game at catcher, which put him one ahead of Bob Boone for the all-time record.  He was controversially released 6 days later.  Fisk was the last position player to have played in the 1960’s.

An even longer mainstay ended his career in 1993.  Nolan Ryan announced at the start of the season his 27th season would, in fact, be his last.  Ryan spent a good portion of the season on the DL – he went 5-5 in 13 starts and 66 innings.  He finished his career with 324 wins and an incredible mark of 5,700 strikeouts that was 1,600 more than the nearest pitcher at the time.  He also had one more memory – he kicked the tar out of Robin Ventura when the White Sox star charged the mound after a bean ball.  Like Fisk – Ryan was the last pitcher (or player of any type) to play in the 1960’s.

Two ballparks were “retired” as well.  Ryan’s Rangers played their final game in Arlington Stadium on Sunday October 4th, and the Indians played their final game at old Cleveland Stadium on the same date.  Both teams closed their parks out with a loss.

Milestones and accomplishments in 1993 included:

  • Carlos Baerga became the first player to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same inning on April 8th against the Yankees.
  • Craig Biggio made the All-Star team at 2nd base.  After making it as a catcher the year before, he became the first player to make it at those 2 positions.
  • On July 28th, Anthony Young of the Mets broke a record 27-game losing streak with a win over the Marlins.
  • Tony Gwynn had 4 games with 5+ hits – tying a record held by Stan Musial and Ty Cobb.
  • Jim Abbott, Darryl Kile and Chris Bosio threw no-hitters
  • On September 7th, “Hard-hittin’” Mark Whiten had a memorable night.  Against my Reds at Riverfront Stadium, he hit 4 home runs and knocked in 12, tying both Major League records.
  • After Robin Yount and George Brett joined the club the year before, Dave Winfield got his 3,000th  hit in his hometown Minneapolis
  • Glavine became the first NL pitcher with 3 straight 20-win in over 2 decades
  • Randy Myers saved 53 games, setting a National League record
  • After Jeff Reardon had passed Rollie Fingers as the all-time saves leader, Reardon was passed by Lee Smith. Smith, who was traded from St. Louis to the Yankees at the end of the season, became the first pitcher with 400 career saves.
  • On June 16th, Rickey Henderson added another tally to his many stolen base totals.  With his 24th steal of the year, off of the White Sox’ Jack McDowell & Ron Karkvoice, Henderson passed Yutaka Fukumoto of Japan’s Nippon Professional League as the all-time base stealer in professional history.

Barry Bonds had the best season of anyone in baseball and widened the gap between himself and everyone else as the best player in baseball.  People tend to focus on the incredible numbers Bonds put up in his “Steroids years” – but in 1993 he was in the midst of a 7 or 8-year stretch that baseball hadn’t seen from a hitter since the days of Mays and Mantle.  Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey were starting to show potential as the new stars of baseball.

After back-to-back Cy Young awards – Greg Maddux had passed Roger Clemens as the best pitcher in baseball.  The only argument for Clemens at this point would have been that he may have had a slightly better 5-year span.  Clemens, Glavine and the Reds’ Jose Rijo were all in the discussion as the 2nd best pitcher in baseball.

Read on for the 1993 postseason summary…

Playoffs:

The Blue Jays hoped to defend their AL pennant against the young White Sox, who had the MVP and Cy Young winner in Thomas and McDowell.  In game 1, the Jays jumped on McDowell at new Comiskey Park and won 7-3.  They got contributions from two best friends and former A’s – Rickey Henderson scored the game’s first run and Dave Stewart and the bullpen shut down the Sox in a 3-1 victory.  Back in Toronto, Lance Johnson led the White Sox to a 6-run and 7-run outburst to tie the series at 2 games.  But Juan Guzman again outdueled McDowell in game 5, and Stewart again outpitched 20-game winner Alex Fernandez to seal the Blue Jays’ return trip to the Fall Classic in Game 6.

The NL Championship Series was also a 6-game series, but in this one, the defending champion would not prevail.  A young Curt Schilling struck out the first 5 batters he faced, but Steve Avery was nearly as good.  The Braves tied the game at 3 with some small ball off Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams in the 9th inning, but Kim Batiste doubled home John Kruk in the 10th inning to give Williams and the Phillies the victory.  The Braves came back behind Cy Young winners Maddux and Glavine to crush the Phils 14-3 and 9-4 in games 2 and 3.

John Smoltz faced off against Danny Jackson in game 4 – a matchup that showcased some serious playoff experience.  Jackson proved the hero, hitting the game-winning RBI and holding the Braves to 1-run.  Williams got the save after allowing 2 runners to reach in the 9th.

Game 4 got the Phillies back in the series – but game 5 turned the tide.  Schilling was again spectacular, taking a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the 9th, but he was pulled after a walk and an error.  Williams couldn’t hold the lead.  A Fred McGriff single and a Dave Justice sacrifice got the Braves within 1 run.  Hits by Terry Pendleton and ’92 ALCS hero Francisco Cabrera tied the game.  Williams got the next two batters out to strand Pendleton at third and send the game to extra innings.  Lenny Dykstra homered in the top of the 10th, and the Phillies called on Larry Anderson to close the game where Williams could not.  The Phillies got to Maddux in game 6 to seal a trip to the World Series.

World Series:

The Blue Jays looked to defend their title as the first champion from out of the States – and become the first repeat champions in 15 years.  The series started in Toronto, with young aces Curt Schilling and Juan Guzman squaring off.  Both got smacked around, and home runs by Devon White and John Olerud gave the Blue Jays a lead in the middle innings.  A young Al Leiter got the win in relief.  The Phillies pulled even in game 2 by pasting Dave Stewart for 5 runs in the 3rd inning.

The Blue Jays had an interesting dilemma in game 3 – back in the National League, they couldn’t use the Designated Hitter.  Manager Cito Gaston chose between the 2 guys with the most hits in all of baseball – replacing the batting champion Olerud with MVP runner-up Molitor.  The decision worked, as Molitor went 3-4 with a home run, and the Blue Jays won, 10-3.

Game 4 was a record-setter.  Tommy Greene and Todd Stottlemyre were the starting pitchers – but neither lasted long, and the Phillies grabbed a 14-9 lead (two TD’s and 3 FG’s!) in the 7th inning.  But Mitch Williams was again a goat as the Phillies bullpen combined to give up 6 runs in the top of the 8th inning, and Duane Ward stopped the offense to earn his second save of the series and a 3-1 series lead.  The 29 runs were the most in World Series history.  In game 5, Schilling and Guzman stopped the offensive explosion of the past 2 games; Schilling shut out the potent Toronto offense – only the 2nd time they’d been shut out all year – to force a game 6.

Game 6 was a memorable one – back in Toronto, the Blue Jays had their full lineup available.  They got to Terry Mulholland for 3 runs in the first, highlighted by a Molitor triple.  Molitor hit a solo shot in the 5th to give Toronto a 5-1 lead, and the champagne appeared to be on ice.  Dave Stewart couldn’t keep up his solid pitching in the 7th inning, though, and the Phillies charged back to take a 6-5 lead behind Lenny Dykstra’s 4th homer of the series.  In the bottom of the 9th inning, Rickey Henderson worked “Wild Thing” Williams for a walk, and Molitor singled him over to 2nd.  The next batter, Joe Carter, pulled a 2-2 pitch to into the left field stands.  Blue Jays announcer Tom Cheek gave the famous call “Touch ’em all, Joe – you’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life”, and Joe became only the 2nd player with a walk-off World Series winner.

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One response

25 12 2011
Robert

I will never forget that Series, the 15-14 game was one of the wildest that I have ever watched, and listening to the crowd when Joe hit the homer in Game 6 was incredible.

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