A couple of weeks ago, I was at a used book sale, and there were a couple of copies of old Baseball America Almanacs available. I picked them up, as I thought it would bring some interesting insights now that it’s been a few years since they were published. I’ll be writing a few posts on and off during the remainder of the season, with plans to cover both this (2003) edition as well as the 2008 edition as well.
The 2003 edition follows after the end of the 2002 season. The Almanac starts out with a recap of the top stories of the 2002 season:
After the 2001 season, Commissioner Bud Selig mentioned that he was a proponent of the idea of contracting two of the organizations, as neither team appeared to be economically viable based on their current market conditions. The two teams: The Montreal Expos and the Minnesota Twins. I can distinctly remember at the time being extremely interested in how they would go about doing this: How would they distribute the players currently under contract with these teams, would they become free agents as well or would there be some version of a contraction draft, similar in nature to an expansion draft. Some of the players who were under team control who could very well have been available in such a contraction draft:
- Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, A.J. Pierzynski, Brad Radke and Johan Santana from the Twins
- Vladimir Guerrero, Orlando Cabrera, Javier Vazquez, Grady Sizemore, Milton Bradley, and Cliff Lee from the Expos
This clearly would have also modified the formatting of the leagues themselves as well, as someone would have had to go to one of the leagues to make both of them have even numbers of teams. I think it is interesting to look at, much in the same manner that it would be interesting to see what happened if MLB were to expand to 32 or more teams as well.
The players’ union was clearly not for this idea, as it essentially amounted to losing at minimum 50 jobs for union members. Thankfully for all parties involved, this idea was shelved with the completion of the next item.
If you look at the baseball landscape now, it clearly would have been a lot different had the Twins and Expos been eliminated. The first thing that pops into my mind is just how much of a viable entity the Twins have become in the Twin Cities. Part of this has also been helped by the fact that ownership changed from Carl Pohlad to his son Jim. The newly opened Target Field appears to be another stunning example of a great ballpark in a downtown area.
Labor Strife and Something Different
The biggest story surrounding the 2002 season, which to be honest with you, I had forgotten had even happened, was the expiration of the previous labor agreement on November 7, 2001, and the potential for a lockout or a strike that could result from this. It clearly did not bode well for the parties involved, as they had not been able to come to an agreement for a labor contract without some version of a work stoppage in the past.
Clearly, this much remains true: The fact that they had set a lockout date (August 30th, before the Cubs-Cardinals day game) shows us just how close it really came to being another work stoppage, and potentially more irreparable harm done to the game. The sides were able to come to an agreement 3 hours before the deadline set by the players.
The impact to me, is that it proved to both the owners and the players that their differences were not such that they could not be met together and solved together. So much so that the 2006 labor negotiations came off without any particularly concrete mentions of work stoppages. Long term, this particular contract really has helped to solidify the labor peace for years to come.
Baseball Games Can End in Ties Apparently
Talk about a disappointing finish. No one ever really thought that the All-Star game was particularly important, and knew that nearly everyone was just showing up for a fun three days, see their favorite players, and go back to the business of winning games. But they clearly ran into a bit of a problem in 2002, when both teams ran out of pitchers after going 11 innings in the All Star Game and commissioner Bud Selig declaring the game a tie and ending it there.
Ugh. What a mess this one created. We have the “Now it counts” campaign, which to me has done very little for the All-Star game’s popularity. The point of the game originally was to showcase the stars of the season, but now it gives the winning league the home field advantage in the World Series. I think it honestly should have stayed as an exhibition, allowing it to be a nice break in the season for all the parties involved. Instead, it’s now become extremely important to win this game. However, watching Tuesday’s All Star game it still seems like the managers are less concerned about winning than MLB would hope. To me, if I am trying to win that game no matter what, I don’t let David Ortiz run the bases after getting on in the bottom of the 9th. There’s no guarantee that Alex Rodriguez would have made it in time to second base, but clearly he’s a better baserunner at this point than David Ortiz.
The Passing of Legends of the Game, and One Gone Too Soon
2002 saw two titans of the game pass on unfortunately. For St. Louis fans, it was almost too much to bear when iconic broadcaster Jack Buck passed away on June 18th. You can see what, to me, was one of his greatest moments ever, when he spoke to Cardinals fans when games resumed after September 11th. Sadly for the Cardinals, the week just continued to get worse, as hours before their game against the Cubs 4 days later, it was discovered that 33 year old starting pitcher Darryl Kile had passed away in his sleep from a blocked coronary artery. The Cardinals were still able to win the NL Central division with a 97-65 record, and lost to the Giants in the NLCS.
The other major passing in 2002 was of the Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams. The story that ensued afterward became an embarrassment to everyone involved, as the members of the Williams family disputed Ted’s final wishes. The argument stemmed around whether or not he had made a viable determination that he wanted to be cryogenically frozen or whether he was to be cremated and scatter his ashes. Thankfully, the story sort of went away by the end of the year.
MLB, Owner of the Montreal Expos
In an extremely unusual twist of fate, MLB stepped in in early February to purchase the Montreal Expos from their previous owner, Jeffrey Loria, so that he could purchase the Florida Marlins from their current owner, John Henry, so that Henry could purchase the Boston Red Sox. It became a bit of a contentious point as the other 29 teams essentially became the part owners of the Expos, and it was widely wondered exactly how the team would be allowed to operate, including signing free agents, trading players, and managed. MLB placed Omar Minaya in the GM’s office, and Frank Robinson as the field manager. Surprisingly, the team actually performed very well in 2002, to the point where they actually acquired ace starting pitcher Bartolo Colon from the Indians at the trade deadline. However, the team fell out of contention, finishing with a bery respectable 83-79 record but stunting the growth of the franchise by moving future franchise players Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Grady Sizemore to the Indians to acquire Colon.
As I am sure it is with any season, the 2002 season had its own share of major stories. Anyone remember any other specific stories from the 2002 season? Post them in the comments below.
The next post from this series will be early next week, and will look at BA’s 2002 Minor League All-Star Teams.