Posts Tagged ‘Otis Nixon’

The Best World Series I Ever Saw: Atlanta

April 18, 2016
Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta

Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta

By 1991, the Atlanta Braves were largely irrelevant for 20 years. They’d made a playoff or two and lost quickly, and Hank Aaron had hit his 715th homer while in Braves uniform, but that was about it. Their owner, Ted Turner, may have been more well-known than the Braves. That changed in 1991, when they, like the Twins went from last place to a pennant.

Manager Bobby Cox was over from a stint as manager and general manager at Toronto (and he’s never really gotten proper credit for that). He led a team that went 92-70 and beat Pittsburgh for the National League pennant. They were second in the NL in runs, doubles, average, and OBP. They were third or fourth in slugging, OPS, hits, and homers. The staff was third in ERA, saves, and runs given up while being first in hits allowed (meaning they gave up the fewest hits in the league).

The staff was, in some ways, the heart of the team, although it was not yet the staff that dominated most of the 1990s (Greg Maddux wasn’t there). Steve Avery, Tom Glavine, and Charlie Leibrandt were all lefties and accounted for three-quarters of the main staff. Glavine had 20 wins, Avery 18, and Leibrandt had 15. Glavine’s ERA was 2.55 and easily led the starters. John Smoltz was the right-hander. He went 14-13 and had a starter high 3.80 ERA. Between them they started 141 games. Glavine led the team with 192 strikeouts and Avery’s ERA+ of 116 led the starters. Galvine, Avery, and Smoltz all produced WAR above 5 with Glavine leading the team at 9.3. All that got Glavine his first Cy Young Award. Juan Berenguer had a 2.24 ERA and 17 saves while Mike Stanton appeared in 74 games with an ERA of 2.88. By late in the season Dodgers reliever Alejandro Pena had taken over the closer role racking up 11 saves in 14 appearances with an ERA of 1.40.

Greg Olson did most of the catching. He was 30, hit .241 with no power, and allowed stolen bases at a rate above the league average. Mike Heath was his backup. He was 36, hit even worse, and wasn’t any better behind the plate. Playoff hero Francisco Cabrera got into 31 games, only a handful as catcher.

Six men shared outfield duty. David Justice, former Rookie of the Year, was in right field. He was third on the team with 21 home runs, hit .275, had 87 RBIs (good for second on the team) and managed all of 1.6 WAR. Otis Nixon and Ron Gant shared time in center. Nixon was fast, leading the team with 72 stolen bases and walked more than he struck out. Gant provided the power. He led the team with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs. His WAR was 1.4 while Nixon checked in at 2.2, Left field saw Lonnie Smith and Brian Hunter split duty. Smith wasn’t much of an outfielder (the called him “Skates” for a reason), but he could still hit going .275 for the season. Hunter was new. He played a lot at first and was another player in the lineup primarily for his bat. His 12 home runs were fourth on the team. Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders got into 54 games for Atlanta, primarily in the outfield. He hit .191 and had 11 stolen bases.

The infield was stable at the corners and in flux up the middle. MVP Terry Pendleton, over from St. Louis, hit .319 with 22 home runs, 86 RBIs, and a 6.1 WAR, tops among non-pitchers. Sid Bream was across the diamond at first. He was notoriously slow (which is part of what makes his “dash” in the playoffs so famous), but could hit and fielded his position well. He had 11 home runs in 91 games (Hunter did most of the first base work in Bream’s absence.). Jeff Treadway, Rafael Belliard, Jeff Blauser, and Mark Lemke worked the middle of the diamond. Treadway hit .320, Blauser popped 11 home runs, neither Belliard nor Lemke hit .250, but both were good defensemen.

The Braves, like the Twins, were surprise winners. They had a nice mix of veterans and fairly new guys and a pitching staff that was rounding into form. With Glavine winning the Cy Young and Pendleton the MVP they were capable of winning the whole thing.

 

 

Game Six: Bunt?

August 12, 2011

The period 1991 through 1993 produced three extraordinary game six dramas. I talked about 1991 in my last post. Most people who follow baseball know about Joe Carter, Mitch Williams, and game six of 1993. I really don’t want to look at three in a row, so I think I’ll skip it to look at the 1992 game six, which was also an interesting game. It ended on, of all things, a bunt.

Cito Gaston

1992

Game six of the 1992 World Series was played in Atlanta on 24 October. The Toronto Blue Jays were ahead of the Braves 3 games to 2. It was the first trip to the World Series by a Canadian team and Cito Gaston was in position to become the first black manager to win a World Series. Steve Avery (who started game six in 1991) gave up a leadoff hit to Devon White who later scored the first run of the game.  Jays pitcher David Cone made it hold up until the third when the Braves got the run back. Candy Maldonado put the Jays back on top with an answering leadoff home run in the top of the fourth. The game settled down to a pitching duel, although the Braves went through pitchers like Tony LaRussa. In the bottom of the ninth, Gaston brought in stopper Tom Henke to close out the Series. Henke had 34 saves during the regular season and two already in the Series. He couldn’t get one more. The Braves bunched together a handful of singles and  sacrifices and tied the game, sending game six into extra innings for the second year in a row.

Toronto managed one hit in the tenth, failed to score, and Atlanta went down in order in the bottom of the inning. In the eleventh the Blue Jays used a hit batsman, a single, and a run scoring double by Hall of Famer Dave Winfield to plate two runs.  The Braves answered with a single, then got help from the Jays on an error by Alfredo Griffiin. After one out, the Braves got a run on a ground out and sent pinch runner John Smoltz to third. That brought up center fielder and lead off man Otis Nixon. Nixon was 33 (and looked 63), had stolen 41 bases during the regular season and five in the Series. He decided to get on base and score the tying run from third with a bunt. He hit it too hard. Pitcher Mike Timlin picked it up and flipped it to first baseman Joe Carter. The Jays had won their first World Series.

A lot of people wondered at ending the Series on a bunt. For a while it even overshadowed the true importance of the game. For the first time the World Series champion played its home games outside the United States. And as importantly, a black man became a winning manager of a World Series team. It may not have been the greatest game six ever, but it was historic.