MLB in 1990: Is this the same league?

Looking back at the season of 1990 it appears a mere glimpse of the league, perception, and business it is today.  Twenty years has brought expansion, the wild card, steroids, and an influx of state of the art stadiums.  Gone are the days of domes, 25 game winning pitchers, and small market teams with the ability to compete.  Unbelievable to fathom in comparison to the New York Yankees 2010 payroll of $206 million, the Kansas City Royals held the leagues highest payroll at over $23 million.

Hall of Famer, Nolan Ryan threw his 6th career no-hitter against the powerful Oakland Athletics on June 11, 1990.  The American League captured the mid-season classic, 2-0 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.  Texas slugger Julio Franco was awarded the All-Star MVP, and Ryne Sandberg won the Home Run Derby over Mark McGwire and Matt Williams.  The Washington Nationals were then the overlooked Montreal Expos and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were simply known as the California Angels. With no Marlins, Rays, and Diamondbacks, baseball players only traveled to Florida and Arizona for spring training.  A far cry from today, the Yankees were the worst team in the AL East, and the Pittsburgh Pirates were the team to beat in the NL. The commissioner was Faye Vincent, and Bud Selig was merely the owner of the AL East Milwaukee Brewers.

Steroid users Roger Clemens, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire were fan favorites for their respective teams.  Clemens posted an AL leading 1.94 ERA, while Canseco and McGwire combined to hit 76 home runs for the ALchampion Athletics. Future users, Rafael Palmeiro of the Texas Rangers led the AL with 191 hits, and Gary Sheffield was beginning his third season with Milwaukee.

Only four teams qualified for the postseason in 1990, meaning the importance of winning your division was far greater then today. Cincinnati beat the Pirates 4-2 in the NLCS and the Red Sox were swept by the Athletics 4-0 in the ALCS.

1990 World Series – The Cincinnati Reds swept the defending champion Oakland Athletics in four games led by first-year manager Lou Pinella. Pinella took over a talented Reds squad overcoming adversary after the infamous departure of Pete Rose after his gambling scandal in 1989. The “Nasty Boys” of Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton, and Randy Myers combined to allow 0 earned runs in 8 and 2/3 inning pitched during the series.  Jose Rijo, the series MVP allowed only one earned run in winning two games.

Both Oakland, and Cincinnati have yet to return to the World Series since 1990.  The Athletics were a collection of superstars including the “Bash Brothers” of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, the all-time stolen base leader Ricky Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, Dave Henderson, and Dave Stewart. “Sweet” Lou Pinella continues to be one of the most electrifying personalities in baseball in his stints with the Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  The champion Reds were a collection of team players including Chris Sabo, Barry Larkin, Mariano Duncan, Eric Davis and future Yankee Paul O’Neill.

Still playing today – Only three players from 1990 squads continue to play professionally today.  Jamie Moyer was playing his fourth year in the bigs, pitching for the Texas Rangers.  Moyer, currently with the Philadelphia Phillies holds one All-Star appearance and a World Series ring to his credit. The freshest superstar of the league, Ken Griffey Jr. was entering his second year season with the Seattle Mariners.  “Junior” and his father Ken Griffey hit back to back home runs on September 14, 1990 at the Kingdome in Seattle. Another former Mariner, Omar Vizquel currently plays for the Chicago White Sox and entered the league in 1989.

Dual-sport athletes – Both Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson split their professional careers between professional baseball and football.  Concerned with injuries and protecting an investment, modern professional organizations now frown upon dual sport athletes.  Sanders hit .158 in 133 at-bats for the New York Yankees in 1990, and Jackson hit 28 home runs for the Kansas City Royals.

Notable Debuts – Moises Alou with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Luis Gonzalez with the Houston Astros, and the “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas with the Chicago White Sox.

Notable Retirements – Current Red Sox Manager Terry Francona, 1986 World Series scapegoat Bill Buckner, San Diego Padre Fred Lynn and ex-New York Met Keith Hernandez.

1990 Statistical Leaders

Batting Average: AL – George Brett, Kansas City .329. NL – Willie McGee, St. Louis . 335

Hits: AL -Rafael Palmeiro, Texas 191. NL – Brett Butler, San Francisco 192

Runs Batted In: AL – Cecil Fielder, Detroit 132. NL – Matt Williams, San Francisco 116

Runs: AL – Rickey Henderson, Oakland 119. NL – Ryne Sandberg, Chicago Cubs 116

Stolen Bases: AL – Ricky Henderson, Oakland 65. NL – Vince Coleman, St. Louis 77

Earned Run Average: AL – Roger Clemens, Boston 1.94. NL – Danny Darwin, Houston 2.21

Wins: AL – Bob Welch, Oakland 27. NL – Doug Drabek, Pittsburgh 22

Strikeouts: Nolan Ryan, Texas 269. NL – David Cone, New York Mets 233

Saves: AL: Bobby Thigpen, Chicago White Sox 57. NL – John Franco, New York Mets 33

1990 American League Standings

AL East

1. Boston (88-74) 2. Toronto (86-76) 3. Detroit (79-83) 4. Cleveland (77-85) 5. Baltimore (76-85) 6. Milwaukee (74-88) 7. New York Yankees (67-95)

AL West

1. Oakland (103-59) 2. Chicago White Sox (94-68) 3. Texas (83-79) 4. California (80-82) 5. Seattle (77-85) 6. Kansas City (75-86) 7. Minnesota (74-88)

1990 National League Standings

NL East

1. Pittsburgh (95-67) 2. New York Mets (91-71) 3. Montreal (85-77) 4. Philadelphia (77-85) 4. Chicago Cubs (77-85) 5. St. Louis (70-92)

NL West

1. Cincinnati (91-71) 2. Los Angeles (86-76) 3. San Francisco (85-77) 4. San Diego (75-87) 5. Houston (75-87) 6. Atlanta (65-97)

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~ by philip d. on May 12, 2010.

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