Yesterday marked the 20th Anniversary of the 1994 Strike that crippled baseball. Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter:
1. The Montreal Expos were in first place. Let me try that again. The Montreal Expos were in first place. In their entire time in Montreal, the Expos were in first place at the end of a season exactly twice: the 1981 split season strike year and 1994. Talk about bad timing.
2. The Texas Rangers were in first place. They had a losing record. It’s a measure of how weak the AL West was in ’94 that a team with a losing record was in first.
3. We missed a chance to see Tony Gwynn and Matt Williams do something extraordinary. Gwynn was close to hitting .400 and being Gwynn he might have pulled it off. Williams had a legitimate shot at 62 home runs. He didn’t get close ever again.
4. We lost a World Series for the first time since John McGraw refused to play in 1904 (90 years earlier). The revenue, the emotion, the interest that a Series, especially a good one, produces were all lost. Had Montreal won then Canada would have won three in a row (they’ve won none since).
5. It was hard to root for either side. The idea of a guy making $10,000 an inning versus a billionaire over the issue of money made it difficult to favor either side. I know there was more than money involved, but ultimately most people fixated on the cash. Around here most people also favored the owners. Maybe it’s just a Red State issue, but most of the people I know would have given up their first-born to be Moonlight Graham, so it was hard to have sympathy for someone willingly giving up playing ball for something other than age or injury.
6. Neither Bud Selig nor Don Fehr came off looking good. Selig was new and still acting commissioner (he got the job in 1992) and looked lost and when he occasionally looked found he seemed absolutely pro-owners and couldn’t be considered nonpartisan at all. Fehr appeared to care only about the cash, not the fans. In both cases they were doing their job but neither seemed at all concerned about the game itself. Neither man had their finest hour. Fehr ultimately hurt the union more than Selig hurt the owners when Fehr refused to support drug testing before Congress and Selig did support it (again both were doing their job, but for Fehr it turned into a PR nightmare).
7. Cal Ripken couldn’t save things alone, so the “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” attitude of both owners and players over steroids was allowed to take full flight. Things got temporarily better because “chicks dig the long ball”, but ultimately baseball took another hit.
8. But they apparently learned. There hasn’t been a work stoppage since. I think we should celebrate that, but I also think we ought to keep a wary eye cast toward both parties.
Some of my thoughts on the strike. There are others. I’m sure you have your own. Feel free to express them.