Oct. 15, 2017
Greatest Teams to Never Win a World Series in the Past 30 Years-90 Athletics
This may not be the STRONGEST of blogs compared to the 87 Blue Jays or the 88 Athletics, given that I covered a good bit of the Athletics from 2 years previous. But you do have to remember the time. As I mentioned before in my 88 Athletics post, the late 80's/early 90's A's were the team. Pitching, hitting, speed, charisma from the players. And they were THE draw, similar to what you see today wanting to see the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs now. And for every reason why. They were awesome.
Yes, the 88 Athletics lost the World Series, but they won it back in 89, thanks in part to the addition of Rickey Henderson. Henderson filled a void at the lead-off spot for the A's and it gave the sluggers of McGwire, Canseco, Dave Parker, and Dave Henderson better chances of driving in runs. And they did. Oakland thumped the Blue Jays in the ALCS in 89 and then their Bay Area rival Giants in the Series, though marred by the Earthquake.
When 1990 came into play, once again, the A's had the team to beat. Parker was gone, but the A's were still stout all throughout the lineup. McGwire and Canseco were still crushing the ball like always and the Henderson Boys (Rickey and Dave) were also strong. But again, the fire came from Dave Stewart and Bob Welch at the top of the rotation (and the duo won 49 games for Oakland while posting ERA's under 3). And then you had a bullpen that the 5 major players (Dennis Eckersley, Todd Burns, Gene Nelson, Rick Honeycutt, and Joe Klink) all had ERA's under 3 and 3 of the 5 (Eckersley, Burns, and Honeycutt) had WHIP's of under 1.10. In other words, if Oakland ever had a lead in the late innings, game over.
Oakland followed the same suit as the previous years. Dominate the relatively weak AL West (they finished 9 games ahead of the Chicago White Sox, and then 20 ahead of Texas). though it took a little longer to shake off the Sox as it did Minnesota in 88, and then once again sweep Boston in the ALCS in dominating fashion.
Then it was off to Cincinnati to play the Reds, a team that won 12 fewer games than the A's in 1990. It seemed like it would be a repeat of 1989 where the A's would just thump the Reds given the superstardom that they had and having Stewart & Welch to start while having a lights out bullpen. And the Reds had stars like Eric Davis, Chris Sabo, and Barry Larkin, but nothing compared to what Oakland had.
When the Series started, it started off bad for Oakland and it never got better. Stewart took the ball for Game 1 against former Oakland pitcher Jose Rijo (who had become a good ace in his own right) and Rijo struck out Henderson & Canseco in the first while Stewart gave up a 2-run homer to Davis in the bottom half. Oakland never mustered a fight in Game 1. The A's jumped off early in Game 2 with a 4-2 lead after 3, but Welch was not dominant and could not hold the lead as Cincinnati's Nasty Boys Bullpen stymied the Oakland bats after Danny Jackson was pulled. The A's lost in extras as Eckersley could not get anybody out in the 10th after 3 consecutive singles. Game 3 was a debacle as the A's gave up 7 in the third off starters #3 & #4 for Oakland, Mike Moore & Scott Sanderson. And again, the Nasty Boys of Cincinnati of Myers & Dibble shut down Oakland's bats. And in Game 4, Rijo got the best of Dave Stewart again (Stewart pitched well, but perhaps LaRussa left him in too long for the game as he gave up the two key runs in the 8th). The Series had a vibe for Oakland of how can they lose this game.
WHAT WENT WRONG? People always looked at this Series as "well, the better team may not have won," but I can't agree with that. I mean it is possible Oakland was the better rounded team. Some could point that the A's nearly had a week off from their final win against the Red Sox in the ALCS as opposed to 4 days for the Reds. I think part of it was the Athletics just started getting into that phase of "things were becoming too easy." But there were holes. Mike Moore, who had a great 1989 season for Oakland and was a major contributor to the World Series run, was HORRIBLE that season and the Reds exposed him in Game 3. Scott Sanderson pitched all-right, but after you faced Stewart & Welch, he was a relief. And with the lineup, the A's were strong with the Henderson-Canseco-McGwire-Henderson group. The rest of the everyday guys (Lansford, Steinbach, Weiss, Mike Gallego/Willie Randolph, and Felix Jose) were anemic at the plate. Nobody in that group hit higher than .268 (Lansford), higher than 9 home runs (Steinbach), and had an OPS higher than .675 (Jose). In other words, the A's front end stars both bats and arms, were the only fearful guys. After you got past them, it thinned out greatly. But it went to show how great those superstars were the Athletics had.
AFTERMATH: To me, even then it signaled the beginning of the end of what was the Bash Brother era. Oakland relinquished control of the AL West title in 1991, going 84-78 thanks in part of Dave Stewart & Bob Welch falling off a massive cliff (and ironically it was Mike Moore who probably saved the A's from being an under .500 squad in 91) as was the bullpen. McGwire struggled as well, though the offense was actually better (even Mike Gallego had a good year at the plate), but the pitching fell apart. Oakland won the West in 1992, but mid-season had traded Jose Canseco for Ruben Sierra from Texas and while the offense was stout, the pitching was not the same, starters or relievers. And the game that stuck out for me that signaled the end of the run was Game 4 of the ALCS against the Jays in 1992 where Oakland blew a 6-1 lead at one point in the 8th and seeing Roberto Alomar crush a home run off of Eckersley to tie the game in the 9th. After that, the franchise was never the same. It would take nearly a decade for Oakland to be relevant in baseball again, and under a different situation.
OTHER GREAT TEAMS NEVER TO WIN A WORLD SERIES BLOGS:
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat