The Athletics staying in Kansas City
By Chris Nuttall
Part 12 – Baseball’s Drug Scandal and Aftermath, NFL Notes
(Note: It’s not known exactly how many were on something at this time; I just used names from the 1985 drug trials and a few others which had appeared elsewhere at that time – chalk it up to changes causing it to be just those caught here)
In the 1982 offseason, almost a dozen players were given Federal immunity in exchange for testimony against drug dealers. They fingered others. Commissioner Kuhn was determined to come down heavily. Before spring training, he suspended those involved in drugs indefinitely. The players’ union balked, but not much. Considering the number who would be suspended – something which kept a lot of deals from being made at the Winter Meetings, and caused one player to be replaced with a one-year loan – some in baseball felt that was prudent. Eventually, the suspension were in effect till the All-Star break at least, with rehab required, as well.
Not every team lost someone, but a majority did, including some important, top offensive stars. Season preview magazines wondered if some clubs might have to employ a few AAA-level players if enough allegations proved true. (All based on players involved in the Pittsburgh trials of OTL, Kuhn suspended someone indefinitely at first in 1980, then cut it down to ten days, but this is without the threat of a players’ strike so close, and also with more hard testimony, worse than just being caught once.) A few Kansas City players later noted that they were lucky they weren’t sentenced to jail time, as they might have been if caught. (As a few were in OTL late in ’83; this prevents that from happening, as they’ve been forced into rehab before that could take place.)
Trying to right the ship, Kuhn noted the positive things about the game. Would Robin Yount or Dale Murphy – or Andre Dawson or Mike Schmidt – win the N.L. MVP? Would the Orioles complete their unfinished business from last year? Could theDogers and Braves, with good farm systems, each overcome a loss due to the scandal?
One preview put it this way: “With a few teams relegated to almost AAA status, this is not the time to revel in the losses from the scandal. There probably won’t be a great race between the Dodgers and Cardinals this year, like the last 2; that’s fine. The N.L. East might be pretty weak; again, that’s okay. The Dodgers look to be the class of the league, and if they can win, or the Braves’ Ron Guidry finally wins a pennant, that’s enough. Fans are looking for something they can rely on right now….
“In the American League, if the Orioles can finish the work they started at the end of last year, and stave off age and the retirement of a great manager – the same way the Giants did 50 years ago – or if the Red Sox can win one more for Yaz, or Angels can win this year’s World Series, despite an aging team in some spots, that’ll be great. There are plenty of things fans can look forward to. Like Babe Ruth and the lively ball, though, after the Black Sox Scandal, they just want a sure thing, that’s all.”
More thought the Orioles would falter, but they broke through a tight race late to climb to the top, while Chicago, after a hot start in 1981, suffered their 2nd straight slow one. They struggled around .500 till after the All-Star break, when it was too late to catch up. They ended up 3rd, a game behind the Tigers. If there was a division of parity, it was the A.L. West, where Denver wont heir first division title, with a very good pennant race occurring between them and the Padres, after the Rangers slumped in July and August, and the Angels really showed signs of age in places, winding up with 76 wins. The Rangers’ Rick Honeycutt lost the A.L. ERA title in the last month, too, as he faltered on the road, and fell to 2nd behind the Athletics’ Atlee Hammaker.
The Braves had re-signed Tom Seaver, who wound up with a .500 record, and they stormed through the N.L. East for several months. Then, they started to fall flat again, but the Phillies couldn’t get any closer than 4 games, despite Tug McGraw – who had come over after 1979 from the Yankees – doing some of his best relief work since ’80, and quite a few complete games and even a couple relief appearances from Steve Carlton (17-15) and John Denny (21-9). The rotation of Guidry, Niekro, and Seaver was joined by good, young hurlers. The Dodgers, meanwhile, faced no serious challengers, and then beat the Braves in 5 to capture the N.L. pennant.
Baltimore won the pennant, though Doug DeCinces had been injured almost half the year. Ripken remained at shortstop, though. The Dodgers won game 1 in Baltimore, but could only win 1 in Los Angeles, as Jim Palmer got his last postseason win, and the Orioles won the World Series in 6.
By the end of 1983, almost all suspended players were back with their clubs, thanks to successful rehab, and would stay out of trouble. The way the teams treated these players varied. Some, like the Cardinals, were wary; Whitey Herzog worked out a deal to send Keith Hernandez to the Mets for relief help. He tried to find a taker for Lonnie Smith, though outfielders were hard to find in return. Others, like the White Sox and Dodgers, hoped to wait. Alejandro Pena had a great 1983, so if Steve Howe couldn’t come back, L.A. had a deep system. The White Sox kept Lamarr Hoyt, but looked to sign a free agent or two; he’d be around .500 in 1984, then finish 17-10 in 1985, as the “New Hitless Wonders” battled the Yankees in a great A.L. East battle. Other teams were even more willing to take a chance. The Reds quickly signed Dave Parker, for instance, hoping to boost the offense on the club that had finished 4th in 1983. Still others simply released them or let them walk away as free agents.
Younger players, or those in their prime, tended to bounce back rather well, though a few were either slowed by injuries, which especially hampered those who relied on their legs as a major part of their game. Still, even they bounced back with determination to have a good 1984. The Athletics, in fact, after a very poor start that saw them in last part of the way through, wound up in 2nd place. It did seem with some, though, that taking a half year off or more caused them to need a little time to get back to normal. Pitchers tended to be helped by the layoff, as their arms could recover some.
Teams that had suffered a fair amount made other trades, too. In addition to Herzog’s trade with the Mets, he engineered a trade that sent veteran catcher Ted Simmons, who had one of this best seasons in 1983, to the Brewers with some pitching help for a younger catcher by a few years, Darrell Porters, and Davis Green, who had turned out to be not as good as he’d been hyped to be. The Brewers had bounced back to battle the Astros for 2nd, well behind the Dodgers, but the Cardinals had finished 5th, barely ahead of the Cubs. They thought they could bounce back, but they weren’t certain.
As 1984 went on, arguments about drug testing went back and forth. Eventually, with the threat of a strike looming, a compromise was reached so the players wouldn’t walk out. However, when Bowie Kuhn’s 2nd term ended, enough felt he’d been too soft on the players, he wasn’t rehired. Owners would want Peter Uebberoth, but they’d waited too long, and he’d been hired by another group. So, they went with Bart Giamatti.
Giamatti loved to speak of the purity of the game; he was a great fan of baseball, and wanted to encourage the fan, and support them wherever possible. This was vital, because the NFL was without a few headaches they might have had.
As noted, the city of Oakland, fearing losing another team – one that acted professional – knew they had to give a lot to please Al Davis. They hurriedly gave him every concession he wanted, to keep the Raiders in Oakland. Though he really coveted Los Angeles, since Oakland had been ensuring he stayed since 1977, he could show no reason why he should move. When any case against the NFL looked too bleak, he asked the NFL to consider expansion. “Our league can easily handle two Los Angeles teams,” he said.
His raiders wound getting Marcus Allen in the draft, as Davis kept lobbying for expansion. The NFL vowed to look into it after their labor woes were over. Oakland barely lost to the Jets in the playoffs in ’82, but won the Super Bowl the next year. Meanwhile, the USFL was causing great problems.
After the 1983 season, Bob Irsay’s lawsuit against the NFL was filed. He wanted to be able to move with no league restrictions. Pete Rozelle – sensing hostility from the USFL culd cause a lot more players to leave – decided to allow Irsay to move, but quickly called for local buyers to come forward for expansion teams in Baltimore and Los Angeles. The Baltimore team would be called the Colts, while the Indianapolis club would be forced to take on a new name. Davis sold his Raiders, and got the 1985 expansion Los Angeles Invaders instead.
The USFL flopped the 3rd year, as fans saw their concerns were being met.
Baseball, however, was doing very well, too. 1984 was dominated by the Detroit Tigers, who won the World Series. But, the Cubs (yes, the lovable loser Cubs), Mets, and Twins provided very interesting stories first. And, the Chicago Cubs, thanks to the Mets’ inexperience, finally won a pennant for the first time since 1945. Though they lost to the Tigers in the World Series, it was still just what baseball needed. After a year of uncertainty, fans could once again enjoy fresh, new stories and new teams. Especially when it was one like the Cubs.
Part 13 – Lasts Shall Be First
While the Cubs had been in last by a couple games in the N.L. West in 1983, the Mets had been that way in the N.L. East. Neither had awful seasons, though they had few bright spots; for Chicago, it was Ryne Sandberg and a few others. For the Mets, it was Jesse Orosco, acquired in a trade when the Twins made a push to win the 2nd half in 1980, Dickie Thon, and Carney Lansford.
Preseason publications tended to pick the Orioles, Braves, and Dodgers to repeat, with possibly the Padres in the A.L. West, after they’d gotten Graig Nettles and Goose Gossage. A small number picked the Tigers, or the White Sox, in the A.L. East. The Padres wound up winning the West, while the Tigers ran away with the A.L., sweeping the Padres in the ALCS after a 12-inning game 2, the closest of any of the 3 games.
The Twins, it was said, may have been saved by their 2nd half title in 1980, as well as an excellent 1974. Some of that 1980 core was still around in 1984, when Calvin Griffith declared if the team didn’t start drawing people, he’d have to move the ballclub to Tampa. Despite the Padres winning pretty handily, the Twins stayed close enough that – despite a September fade to 3rd – they managed to draw a million.
Over in the N.L., two last place teams saw their dreams come true, but they weren’t dreams of staying. Rather, they were dreams of something that hadn’t happened for either, except for very brief glimpses at the start of seasons, since 1972, when they met in the NLCS. The way each got there was quite unique.
The Mets rode a very young team, including an inexperienced pitching staff and catcher who were all helped by Keith Hernandez, who finished 2nd in MVP voting. The Phillies actually looked poised to win the division, but they hit a tailspin in the end, finishing 9 games behind the Mets, in third; the Braves managed to sneak into 2nd, on the strength of Guidry’s pitching; Guidry left as a free agent after the season.
The Cubs, meanwhile, had some choices to make regarding young players, several of whom were traded for Rick Sutcliffe, and veterans, as they considered a trade of Bill Buckner for Dennis Eckersley. They were thankful Leon Durham bounced back to hit .287 with good power, but the key was Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg’s MVP performance included great clutch hitting. The Cubs were somewhat fortunate, as the Dodgers, after a few really good years, had tons of offensive woes, and slipped to 4th, just behind the Astros. The Cardinals, ironically, were the Cubs’ closest rivals for the division, as the Astros finished just below .500. Chicago won with as close a battle as New York had.
Wrigley had gotten lights after 1972, when there was pressure on several fronts. They could have moved the Series to a Saturday start, too, though.
First, though, the Cubs had to win the pennant. Rick Sutcliffe won the opener over Rookie of the Year Dwight Gooden, by a score of 3-1. Then, Steve Trout beat the Mets in Shea Stadium, as the club had trouble with lefties, despite Lansford’s and Thon’s bats. Thon had 18 home runs on the year, batting 5th behind George Foster, but Foster was clearly aging, and the other good power hitters were lefties, Hernandez and Strawberry. And, Hernandez had only decent power. Lansford, who batted 2nd, wasn’t a great power hitter in Shea, anyway. He could surprise with his power, but what was really needed was what the Mets would do in the offseason, trade for Gary Carter.
For now, they went back to Wrigley down 2-0. Then, Ron Darling beat the Cubs. He’d come with Walt Terrell in the trade of Lee Mazilli a couple years back. The Mets’ 4th starter would face Scott Sanderson.
The Mets and Cubs were tied at 4 in the 10th. Hernandez hit a home run to put the Mets up 6-4, off of Lee Smith. Jesse Orosco had been pinch-hit for, but stood a chance to gain the win, as Doug Sisk entered. However, he and Tom Gorman pitched poorly enough that the Cubs pushed 2 across, and they went to the 11th. Darkness threatened to send the NLCS to Sunday, but in the bottom of the 11th, Ryne Sandberg brought home the game-winner. The Chicago Cubs had won the National League pennant.
“It was our inexperience in the postseason,” manager Davey Johnson said. “We’d never faced anything like it; Gooden was really posed, but even he made a mistake or two. Then, Terrell just gave up too many hits. That game 4, then, we could have won it a couple times, but we used our best reliever to get us into a chance to win. We’ll be back, though, I’m sure of that,” he promised. They would lose the NLCS to the Cardinals next year, as it expanded to 7 games, but they would win the following year, beating the Red Sox in the World Series.
In the end, worry over what might have been done without lights mattered litt;e Kuhn would have just made them push the start to Saturday. As it was, it mattered little. Rick Sutcliffe got ahead 1-0 versus Jack Morris, but couldn’t hold it, as the Tigers won 6-2 in Wrigley. Dan Petry lost game 2, but the Tigers kept doing well, and Jack Morris pitched another masterful game in game 4, as Kirk Gibson hit a key go-ahead home run. Detroit wound up winning in Tiger Stadium.
Rick Sutcliffe likely would have stayed had the Cubs lost the NLCS. However, he had given them their first pennant since 1945. Now, he signed a free agent contract with his hometown Kansas City Athletics. He hoped to provide them the same.
It would take a while. The Athletics had suffered quite a few problems. However, they had a great young pitching staff, and when 1989 rolled around, and he World Series Earthquake delayed Game 3 for a week in San Francisco, it would be Kansas City whom they were playing. Ironically, Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen so dominated things, Stucliffe only got a change to pitch to one batter. Saberhagen had come back to pitch in game 3 as well, and tossed 2 shutouts, allowing only 9 singles the entire time. Saberhagen was named the World Series MVP.
It would be the last Kansas City pennant till the present day. Problems with baseball’s economics made some even worry, after Kauffman’s death, that baseball would go back to having teams go generations without contending; including the Athletics. However, they’d won 6 pennants and 3 World Series in Kansas City, despite those problems.
Part 14 – A Few Other Matters
1993 expansion finally came, and Miami and Tampa entered the N.L., pushing Cincinnati to the N.L. West for a year.
Bart Giamatti died in office in early 1989, after being appointed Commissioner after Bowie Kuh left; Peter Uebberoth had taken another job by the time it was opened. Some speculate that his death was hastened by contention with owners over hiding the steroid scandal that was beginning; owners didn’t want anything to get out after the drug problem caused 1983 to be impacted so badly. Still, Giamatti did make sure an eye was kept on a few players.
Boston Red Sox fans had to wait another 30 years before another Series win, but with the win in ’74, they weren’t quite as upset about losses to the Yankees. In fact, the Athletics were said to be the originators of the “new curse” by some, since they beat them in the ALCS in 1975 and 1978.
Chicago’s White Sox won a World Series in 2005, but it was 1985 that saved them. Since they weren’t close to the Padres by the trade deadline in ’84, they nixed a trade that would have sent Doug Drabek packing. Instead, they traded him and some others a year later, and wound up contending as they had in ’83, as the “2nd Hitless Wonders,” with Walker, Hulett, Fletcher, and Law in the infield. George Brett, however, led the Angels to a pennant that year, though they lost the Series to the Cards despite his heroics. Brett and Dave Winfield each earned a Series ring with Toronto in 1992; ironically, Brett wound up in the city he’d have been in had he stayed with Finley’s expansion A’s.
Denver’s Bears won a surprise pennant in 1993, over the too-weary winner of the Blue Jays/White Sox pennant race. They were the beneficiaries of 2 things; Bill Veeck’s suggestion that they start deadening the ball before he died, and his last signee, Harold Baines, who was among a number of free agents they signed. Denver wound up losing to the Giants in the Series.
Dick Howser had won the World Seires with Detroit in 1984, but had to resign in midseason in ’86 because of health problems.
Dickie Thon played an excellent 15 years for the Mets. While he only won a few divisions, and one World Series, his power and play were good enough that some consider him a borderline hall of Fame candidate, especially with the steroid era as it was after he retired. However, he’s hampered by Yount and Ripken having overshadowed him, plus the poor offensive environment of Shea Stadium. Most feel he’s more equivalent of Alan Trammell, a player with good credentials, but not great.
Giant fans saw their team move to Oakland in 1993, as Oakland had failed to get an expansion team, with the N.L. not wanting a 2nd team in the Bay Area. The Oakland Giants won the World Series in their new park across the Bay, though Barry Bonds really disliked it because it cut down on his numbers. They also won a pennant since, losing to the Angels in 2002. It’s said if they hadn’t found local bay Area buyers, they might have moved to Arizona, where the Expos moved after 2002. Speaking of Bonds, he wound up being harmed enough by the park to finish with 744 home runs, though he insists he could have played another year and passed Hank Aaron.
Minnesota managed to win the pennant in 1988, but lost to the Dodgers in the World Series. It was the Mets’ 3rd division title in 4 years, but only one pennant to show for it.
San Diego finally won a pennant, but it took a shift in leagues after 1994, which let Houston move to the N.L. West and the leagues split into 3 divisions. They won the pennant in 1998. Ironically, their last season in the A.L. saw Tony Gwynn hit .403 in the strike-shortened campaign, the first man to hit .400 since Ted Williams. The Padres were a wild car in ’98, when they won the pennant and were swept by the Yankees. When the Expos moved to Arizona, it let the Phillies move into the East with the 2 Florida teams, Atlanta, and New York; Philadelphia had been in the Central with the Brewers, Pirates, Cubs, and Cardinals, thus letting the N.L. West have 4 teams and the others 5. After 2002, Houston moved to the Central.
Sparky Anderson might have quickly been hired to coach the Tigers, but when he won a division in ’78, he remained in Cincinnati, winning another pennant in ’87 and a World Series in ’90. Ironically, ‘87’s saw him losing to the Tigers, who beat the Athletics, a team without a lot of offense. He also played Pete rose enough in ’85 to let him get the career hit title.
St. Louis won a World Series over the Yankees in 2001 in very dramatic fashion. They lost the Series to Boston in 2004, then.won it in 2006.
World Series results
1966: Baltimore over Los Angeles in 4
1967: St. Louis over Boston in 7
1968: Detroit over St. Louis in 7
1969: Baltimore over Atlanta in 6
1970; Baltimore over Cincinnati in 5
1971: Pittsburgh over Baltimore in 7
1972: New York (N) over Kansas City in 7 (could flip flop with ’73 if Mets again)
1973: Kansas City over Cincinnati in 7
1974: Boston over Los Angeles in 6 (Boston keeps Reggie Smith, Sparky Lyle, latter is Series MVP)
1975: Cincinnati over Kansas City in 7 (Athletics win a lot more as Hunter wins 30)
1976: Cincinnati over New York (A) in 4 (Braves trade Seaver to Yankees)
1977: New York (A) over Los Angeles or (probably) Philadelphia in 6
1978: Boston or Kansas City vs. Milwaukee (Athletics win if it’s them)
1979: Pittsburgh over Baltimore
1980: Philadelphia over Kansas City in 6 (Oakland may rule here, because Brett, others are here)
1981: Los Angeles (N) over Toronto in 5
1982: St. Louis over California in 7
1983: Baltimore over Los Angeles in 6
1984: Detroit over Chicago (N) in 6
1985: St. Louis versus New York (A) or California or Chicago (A) (2nd Hitless Wonders, with an infield of Walker, Hulett, Fletcher, and Law, battle Yankees, where Righetti is still a starter since Guidry was gone till this year)
1986 New York (N) over Boston
1987: Cincinnati over Detroit in 5 (Sparky Anderson still managing Reds, Dick Howser replaced midway through ’86 with Tigers when he gets sick)
1989: Kansas City over San Francisco in 4 (Bret Saberhagen allows 9 hits, all singles, in 2 starts, both shutouts)
1990: Pittsburgh over Chicago (A) in 7 (Yankees trade for Henderson before they can sigh Rijo, so others go to Blue Jays, Yankees send Rijo and Fisher to Pirates for Rhoden, since they don’t have Drabek, who stayed with the White Sox since there was no Roy Smalley deal- White Sox in East too far out to want to trade for Smalley. Rijo wins 3 games for Bucs, who win the World Series over Drabek and White Sox)
1993: Atlanta over Denver in 6