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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The 1994 strike cost us a terrible playoff team

CONSPIRACY THEORY: Bud Selig cancelled the World Series to avoid this embarrassing failure!

When the strike hit on August 12, 1994, the AL West had four teams with a losing record out of four, with the first-place Rangers sitting at 52-62.

That alone is bad enough, but let’s slap some context on this to drive home how absurd it would have been for the 1994 Rangers or one of the teams trailing them—after all, the last-place Angels were just 5.5 back of Texas at the time of the strike—to make the playoffs. Were the Rangers playing in a division that had even one half-decent team in it, they would have been chasing the newly introduced wild card instead of the division. Except their .451 winning percentage would have put them behind eight other teams gunning for the wild card—another way to say that is the Rangers trailed every single team in the American League for a playoff spot, except for their three pals in the AL West who were somehow worse….

What’s especially odd is where all this poor production came to be a problem. The Rangers went 21-20 against the far superior AL East, and posted a 23-20 mark against the Central, but had all of eight wins in 30 tries against their AL West opponents. They were 20-19 against teams over .500 and 32-43 against teams under that threshold, and their complete inability to beat teams that they theoretically should have was their undoing.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 02:48 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: playoffs, rangers, strike, work stoppage

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   1. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 13, 2014 at 02:56 AM (#4769953)
excellent article on why artificial construct of divisions is such an abomination, and why the wildcard is a godsend.

I think if the teams with the best two records are in the same division, they should go directly to the league championship. The 2 division "winners" that were so lame they couldn't win as many games as a wildcard team that had to play the best team in baseball twice as much, should serve as bat boys during the league championship, wearing skirts.
   2. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 13, 2014 at 04:23 AM (#4769961)
Somewhere there's a universe where there was no '94 strike, the Rangers or A's won the AL West with a way below .500 record, won the World Series, and caused a media outcry that led to the establishment of a divisionless league with the top four seed making the playoffs.

That's probably the universe that never introduced the DH in the AL and where nobody cared that the all-star game once ended in a tie.
   3. vortex of dissipation Posted: August 13, 2014 at 04:40 AM (#4769962)
Or the Mariners, who were only two games out at the time, win the division and Ken Griffey hits 62 home runs (he had 40 at the stoppage), and then Griffey goes wild in the playoffs, and brings Seattle a championship. That's a much better storyline...
   4. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 13, 2014 at 07:38 AM (#4769969)
Ha. That was the most frustrating pennant race ever as an A's fan.
   5. bobm Posted: August 13, 2014 at 08:05 AM (#4769971)
Brisbee: "The AL Central and the division screwed most by the '94 strike"

The standings on August 12, 1994:

W L W-L% Games back
Chicago White Sox 67 46 .593 --
Cleveland Indians 66 47 .584 1
Kansas City Royals 64 51 .557 4
Minnesota Twins 53 60 .469 14
Milwaukee Brewers 53 62 .461 15

That's a karaoke party in Pompeii, an unchanging celebration buried under layers of ash and dust. Those will always be the standings for the 1994 season. There will never be closure to what looked like the best race in baseball. There were three teams contending, and all of them had gone through or would soon embark on worlds of pain. Fans of one of those teams could/should have been able to point back at '94 as the reason they follow sports, as a memory of why they plan on getting so worked up about 162 games every year for the next 20 or 30 years.

They were all hosed.
   6. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 08:21 AM (#4769974)
The strike robbed Don Mattingly of his World Series ring, and delayed the Yankee Dynasty by two years. A great loss for baseball and for America.
   7. Dennis Eclairskey, closer Posted: August 13, 2014 at 08:24 AM (#4769975)
I know a lot people think of the Expos getting to the playoffs and perhaps saving baseball in Montreal, similar to what the Mariners did in '95. At the time though it was disheartening to see Don Mattingly and the Yankees (who hadn't been to the playoffs since '81) get cheated out of the postseason. I was a big Jimmy Key fan and I remember some stat guy who came up with a computer program with what "would" have happened had the postseason played itself out was featured on 20/20 or some news show. He had Cincinnati beating New York in the WS and Jimmy Key taking the game 1 loss. I just didnt see Cincy coming out of the NL and certainly didnt agree with Key losing
   8. Jeltzandini Posted: August 13, 2014 at 09:32 AM (#4770012)
There were 48-50 games to go. Odds are one of the West teams would have stumbled up to the .470-.510 range. The 1973 Mets or 2006 Cardinals, or a little worse. While not ideal, baseball would have survived it. Anyway, four teams is too few for a division, and that part is fixed now.
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 09:42 AM (#4770019)

There were 48-50 games to go. Odds are one of the West teams would have stumbled up to the .470-.510 range.


Stumbled? The Rangers would have had to play .600 ball the rest of the way to get to 81-81.

They fixed this by adding more intradivisional games - back then everyone had a balanced schedule.
   10. TerpNats Posted: August 13, 2014 at 09:43 AM (#4770021)
Scheduling was different in those days -- no interleague play, of course, plus the semblance of a balanced schedule left over from the two-division days. (In 1993, the one season both leagues had two-division, 14-team formats, you played 78 games against your own division, 84 vs. the other; that's how it was in the AL from '79 to '93.) I think more games within the division possibly were set up for '95, and certainly for '96, before interleague play was instituted.

If anyone has any pocket schedules left from 1994, please corroborate this.
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 09:44 AM (#4770022)
I know a lot people think of the Expos getting to the playoffs and perhaps saving baseball in Montreal, similar to what the Mariners did in '95. At the time though it was disheartening to see Don Mattingly and the Yankees (who hadn't been to the playoffs since '81) get cheated out of the postseason.

A Yankees-Expos WS would have been a huge deal at the time.
   12. Nasty Nate Posted: August 13, 2014 at 09:49 AM (#4770025)
My time-machine alteration would be that they never implemented the WC. But more importantly, they didn't do the bad '98 expansion. If under this timeline, we assume the Expos still fail, they move to Arizona (or Washington). Unbalanced schedule, 6 interleague games a year, first place out of 7 teams makes the playoffs; simple and beautiful.

I know, I know, no one cares.
   13. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 09:52 AM (#4770030)
#12 - that is exactly how I operated my DMB league except the Expos stay in Montreal and Washington gets an expansion franchise over Tampa Bay in the late 2000s after the silly ball era is over.
   14. Batman Posted: August 13, 2014 at 09:56 AM (#4770033)
A Yankees-Expos WS would have been a huge deal at the time.
It would be an even bigger deal this year.
   15. Nasty Nate Posted: August 13, 2014 at 09:59 AM (#4770038)
It seems to me that the '98 expansion was a short-sighted money-grab that blew up in the owners' faces. Within only 3-4 years, they were trying to contract teams which led to the problematic MLB-ownership of the Expos and they were dealing with huge salary inflation. I would think a lot of those problems of the aughts would have been much smaller without the '98 expansion.
   16. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 10:55 AM (#4770088)
The '98 expansion was in response to the lawsuit filed by Vince Namoli threatening the anti-trust exemption after MLB blocked the move of the Giants to Tampa Bay. I think part of the settlement was that MLB would give Tampa Bay a team.

Also, I believe the owners still needed money for to pay off Collusion II? Or maybe that was the '93 expansion fees. IIRC, the '98 expansion fees were enormous.
   17. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:02 AM (#4770095)
IIRC, teams were very passive at the trading deadline too, because they weren't sure there was going to be a post-season. I definitely remember teams not calling guys up because they didn't want to add to the MLBPA ranks. Without those two barriers, the pennant race could have been quite different - we could have seen a young Jeter impacting the race!
   18. bobm Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:20 AM (#4770107)
[10] Apparently still balanced in 1996 AL

http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/TEX/1996-schedule-scores.shtml

Overall
Split W L RS RA WP
Overall 90 72 928 799 .556


Opponent
Split W L RS RA WP
BAL 10 3 91 55 .769
BOS 6 6 95 63 .500
CAL 9 4 74 51 .692
CHW 4 8 53 86 .333
CLE 8 4 77 67 .667
DET 9 4 65 37 .692
KCR 6 6 50 44 .500
MIL 7 6 75 77 .538
MIN 5 7 76 65 .417
NYY 7 5 68 48 .583
OAK 6 7 76 71 .462
SEA 3 10 56 90 .231
TOR 10 2 72 45 .833

ETA - 2001 seems like the first unbalanced AL schedule
   19. Chris Fluit Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:48 AM (#4770130)
I know a lot people think of the Expos getting to the playoffs and perhaps saving baseball in Montreal, similar to what the Mariners did in '95. At the time though it was disheartening to see Don Mattingly and the Yankees (who hadn't been to the playoffs since '81) get cheated out of the postseason. I was a big Jimmy Key fan and I remember some stat guy who came up with a computer program with what "would" have happened had the postseason played itself out was featured on 20/20 or some news show. He had Cincinnati beating New York in the WS and Jimmy Key taking the game 1 loss. I just didnt see Cincy coming out of the NL and certainly didnt agree with Key losing


I ran my own simulation a while back and had the Expos beating the White Sox in the World Series. That's the bittersweet tragedy of 1994. So many fanbases think they could have won but- with the lockout- everyone lost. It makes for some fun wishcasting, but it's ultimately less filling than having an actual champion.


   20. VCar Posted: August 13, 2014 at 11:59 AM (#4770144)
Anyone else think there should be a rule that a team must finish .500+ to go to the playoffs? If a div champ finishes < .500, the next best wild-card contender gets in instead and you reseed. I think it's unlikely to happen with 5 teams in each division now, but it could.
   21. cardsfanboy Posted: August 13, 2014 at 01:24 PM (#4770208)
There were 48-50 games to go. Odds are one of the West teams would have stumbled up to the .470-.510 range. The 1973 Mets or 2006 Cardinals, or a little worse. While not ideal, baseball would have survived it. Anyway, four teams is too few for a division, and that part is fixed now.


On August 10th of 1994 the Rangers were 52-62, in first place in the west with the leagues 10th best record(out of 14 teams...all teams with a worse record were in their division--Milwaukee was tied with them) in comparison the 2006 Cardinals were 62-52 and the second best record in the NL. The Mets are a real good example as they were also 52-62 on after 114 games...they went 30-17, not really sure that was possible for any of those teams that year.

In the three division era, The 2005 Padres have the worst (August 10th) record among division leaders, with a 58-56...and finished the season in first with an 82-80 record. That year was a real aberration, and it could have been the first time we didn't have at least a .500 team winning the division.
   22. Dennis Eclairskey, closer Posted: August 13, 2014 at 03:26 PM (#4770343)
Who knows maybe the Braves would have won it all. The Expos would have had a lot of players who were in their first postseason.

Texas' pitching staff was horrendous. It would have been Kevin Brown, then Kenny Rogers, & pray for two days of rain. Of course they could call upon Canseco in relief!

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