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Looking Back: What If 1994

By Mike Silva ~ August 18th, 2011. Filed under: NY Baseball Memories.

This is a little old, but figured I would share it since we talked about the viability of baseball in Montreal earlier this week. What If Sports ran a sim of the complete 1994 season on the 10 year anniversary of the strike. It’s been 17 years since the players and owners walked out on what was shaping up as an historical season. If your memory is fuzzy, here were some records that were being chased:

- Matt Williams and Ken Griffey were chasing Roger Maris‘s home run record

Chuck Knoblauch was chasing Earl Webb’s single season double total

- Cal Ripken Jr. was ready to break Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games record

- Tony Gwynn was chasing .400

As What If Sports points out, the best hitter that season may have been Mr. Beer himself, Frank Thomas. I wouldn’t forget Jeff Bagwell, who was lost just to injury in early August when a pitch broke his hand. Thomas was pursuing the Triple Crown.

Jeff Bagwell 213 1994 26 HOU 110 400 104 147 32 2 39 116 65 14 65 .368 .451 .750 1.201
Frank Thomas 211 1994 26 CHW 113 399 106 141 34 1 38 101 109 12 61 .353 .487 .729 1.217
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/18/2011.

As a matter of fact, the single season OPS+ of these players is the highest in the history of the game by someone not named McGwire or Bonds.

The big story here locally was the Yankees pursuit of their first division title since 1981. It was 16 years since they last won the World Series, and only the second year of their renaissance under Gene Michael. They led the AL East by 6.5 games over Baltimore with a 70-43 record. Of course, the big story was Montreal, as they led the NL East by 6 games over Atlanta, and had the best record in baseball at 74-40.

So how did things turn out according to What If?

- Griffey tied Roger Maris with 61 homers. Matt Williams finished with 57. Barry Bonds finished with 52.

- Knoblauch finished with 66 doubles, one short of the record, and tied for the MLB lead with Craig Biggio.

- Tony Gwynn finished with a .396 batting average.

- Frank Thomas did not win the Triple Crown. He finished the season batting .358 with 55 homeruns and 148 runs batted in. These numbers were the best in the league for batting average and RBIs, but only second best in HRs.

-  The Yankees, White Sox, and Texas all went on to win the division, with Cleveland winning the wild card in the American League. In the National League, Cincinnati took the wild card and Montreal, Houston, and Los Angeles won their divisions. As for the Mets, they were 55-58 when the strike happened. A year after losing over 100 games it appeared they had a great shot at a .500 record. The simulation has them struggling the rest of the way and finishing at 70-92, last in the NL East.

The Yankees would square off against the Expos in the World Series and lose in six games.

So how would that change the course of history? Who knows? Maybe baseball survives in Montreal. The Expos fire sale the next year benefitted the Yankees, Rockies, and Braves with the trades of John Wetteland, Larry Walker, and Marquis Grissom respectively. Of course, they would lose Pedro Martinez, Moises Alou, and Mike Lansing a few years later.

What really was lost was an historical season for the fans. I know the writers rail against the use of steroids and the bloated offense, but there were some fun records being chased. It took another record-chasing season, 1998, to help the league recover from that lost season. It didn’t hurt the Yankees started their dynasty during that time as well.

Check out the final standings  and write up at What If Sports.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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1 Response to Looking Back: What If 1994

  1. Mick Kern

    I am in pain, just readin this. Les Expos..

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