As we sit here on June 10th, no major league baseball season is scheduled. Owners want 50 games, players want 114 games, fans want games, Fantasy players want box scores and I want baseball cards to be relevant again. It’s an easy cliché to say that the millionaires & billionaires need to figure this out, but none of them are getting any sympathy from us.
This depressing state of affairs isn’t completely self-inflicted, but the two sides have a history and they certainly don’t seem to have learned their lesson from 1994. Those of you under 40 may not know the details but the owners & players couldn’t resolve their differences over the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and the players went on strike in August, never to return to the field that season. No playoffs, no World Series and essentially, no hot stove season as the issues weren’t resolved until April of 1995.
For those fans that lived through that debacle, the only memory left is “what might have been”. The best teams were the Yankees in the AL (70-43) and the Expos in the NL (74-40). Of course, the Bronx Bombers went on to great success later in the decade, but Montreal lost their opportunity and, eventually, their franchise.
Let’s take a look at the best players from 1994 and what might have been. We’ll use the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic to help guide us.
> #1 Greg Maddux, Braves P (8.7) – In the prime of his career at age 28, his season was other-worldly. 16-6 with a 1.56 ERA gave him his third of four consecutive Cy Young Awards.
#2 Jeff Bagwell, Astros 1B (8.2) – Won the MVP with 116 RBI’s (more than one per game) and an OPS of 1.201.
> #3 Kenny Lofton, Indians OF (7.2) – Won the Gold Glove, hit .349 and the led the league with 60 SB’s.
#4 Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners OF (6.9) – 40 HR’s and a Gold Glove at age 24. Could he have hit 60?
> #5 David Cone, Royals P (6.9) – 16-5 and the AL Cy Young Award.
> #6 Frank Thomas, White Sox 1B (6.4) – The AL MVP led the league in Runs and OBP. He had 109 BB and only 61 K’s.
> #7 Barry Bonds, Giants OF (6.2) – 37 HR’s and a Gold Glove in his second season by the bay.
> #8 Roger Clemens, Red Sox P (6.0) – Won only 9 games but led the AL in ERA+ and only allowed 6.5 hits every nine innings.
> #9 Bret Saberhagen, Mets P (5.7) – 14-4 with a 2.74 ERA and the best K/BB rate in the NL (11.00).
> #10 Albert Belle, Indians OF (5.7) – Hit .357, corked 36 HR’s and led the league in total bases.
A few other noteworthy performances are worth remembering…
> Jimmy Key was 17-4 for the Yankees…he never had a 20-win season.
> Lee Smith has 33 Saves at age 36 for the Orioles.
> Tony Gwynn hit .394 and won his fifth of eight batting titles…what if he’d hit .400?
> Matt Williams had 43 HR’s and won a Gold Glove at 3B for the Giants. Staying on pace would have given him 61 Homers for the season…holy cow!
Your humble scribe only has two words left…Play Ball!