By: James Murphy
With each passing day, it seems less and less likely that the MLB Season will actually happen. No World Series. No Postseason. Not even an end to the regular season.
However, it wouldn’t be the first time baseball fans were deprived of the Fall Classic.
First, a history lesson. In 1994, the MLB season was shortened due to a players strike as a result of league owners proposing a salary cap to treat a gruesome financial situation. Games were last played on August 11 of that season, with it officially ending on September 14 with the owners and players failing to reach an agreement.
To say a lot was left unresolved would be an understatement. For one thing it would have been the first year of the eight-team format. On another level, we’ll never know for sure if the efforts of All-Stars like Frank Thomas or Mike Piazza would have been enough to lead their respective teams to greatness.
But what if they did?
Let’s propose another timeline, the “Nosebleed Timeline,” if you will. In this, a player’s strike does happen, cancelling the rest of the regular season. However, it’s resolved in time for there to be a postseason. Therefore the teams in first place on August 11 are your 1994 division winners. The same goes for the teams that finished first in the wild card standings.
One thing to keep in mind. In this format, not only are there only four teams, but the wild card teams play the team with the better record OUTSIDE their division. So even though the Expos and Braves are the one and four seed, respectively, they wouldn’t play each other.
Additionally, the setup for the division series was different then than it is now. Instead of a 2-2-1, the first two games would be hosted by the lower seed with the back three being hosted by the higher seed.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at the contenders.
East Champions: New York Yankees
The Bronx Bombers always seem to find ways to compete for all 162 games and 1994 was no different. Wade Boggs, an all-star selection, led a lineup featuring Bernie Williams, Danny Tartabull and all-star Paul O’Neill. Jimmy Key led a rotation featuring Jim Abbott, Melido Perez and Scott Kamieniecki. Despite having the best record in the American League heading into October, the Yankees do have something to prove. They finished behind the Blue Jays for the division crown in 1993 and finished under .500 in 1992. They haven’t finished with a record that bad since.
Central Champions: Chicago White Sox
The White Sox head into this matchup as division winners for the second straight year and the first ever winners of the A.L. Central. Their lineup is headlined by now Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas with Robin Ventura and Tim Raines putting up solid numbers. The rotation is led by the two-headed monster made up of Wilson Alvarez and Jason Bere, both of whom were selected to the all-star game for the first time during the season. Each of the White Sox’s starters kept their ERA under four the entire season.
West Champions: Texas Rangers
This team had some note-worthy talent across the board. Ivan Rodriguez began to show flashes of what would become Hall-of-Fame talent while Jose Canseco and Will Clark put up solid numbers in the lineup as well. Kenny Rogers showed some flashes and even threw a perfect game during the season. However, there’s not much pitching talent behind him in the rotation or the bullpen. As a whole, the team limped through the end of the regular season on a six-game losing streak. Can they change momentum in the postseason?
Wild Card: Cleveland Indians
The first ever American League Wild Card winner features one of the better lineups in all of baseball. Albert Belle and Kenny Lofton anchor the outfield with Eddie Murray, Jim Thome and Paul Sorrento rounding out the lineup. Their 647 runs batted in as a team rank best among all playoff teams. Dennis Martinez and Charles Nagy lead a good rotation, but the best arm is closer Jeff Russell, who finished the regular season ranked sixth in saves in the American League.
East Champions: Montreal Expos
It’s been tough sledding for Nos Amours ever since their franchise started in 1969. The team failed to finish with a winning record in any of their first ten seasons and haven’t made the playoffs since 1981, a season also shortened by a players strike. However, there was plenty of reason to believe the 1994 Expos would be different. The outfield was littered with stars like Larry Walker, Moises Alou and Marquis Grissom along with all stars Will Cordero and Darin Fletcher. The rotation consisted of all-star Ken Hill, future Hall-of-Famer Pedro Martinez, Jeff Fassero and Butch Henry. Once their outings were over a two-headed monster in Mel Rojas and John Wetteland awaited in the bullpen. In total, the team had five all-stars and even more talent. Would it be enough to keep the Commissioner’s Trophy north of the border?
Central Champions: Cincinnati Reds
The Big Red Machine goes into this postseason with one of the more complete teams in baseball. Hall-of-Fame shortstop Barry Larkin leads a Cincinnati lineup whose 569 runs batted in were the second most in the National League. Jose Rijo leads a rotation featuring John Smiley and Erik Hanson with Jeff Brantley as the closer. The staff ERA of 3.78 ranks third in the senior circuit behind the Braves and Expos.
West Champions: Los Angeles Dodgers
Much like their Big-Apple counterparts in pinstripes, the Dodgers always seem to find ways to compete every year. This time it’s with help from a young Mike Piazza whose power along with Tim Wallach and Raul Mondesi, the NL Rookie of the Year, make for a potent lineup. The rotation is led by stalwart and 1988 world-champion Orel Hershiser who with Kevin Gross, Ramon Martinez, Tom Candiotti and Pedro Astacio make for one of the deeper rotations in baseball.
Wild Card: Atlanta Braves
Though they fail to win the division for the fourth straight year, this Bravos squad is nothing to scoff at. All-stars Fred McGriff and David Justice lead a strong lineup. The rotation barely needs an introduction, but it always helps. Greg Maddux heads into this postseason as the league leader in earned run average (1.56), innings pitched (202) and wins (16) en route to the NL Cy Young award. Before that, he’ll team up with Steven Avery as well as future Hall-of-Famers Tom Glavine and John Smoltz to prove why the Braves were the team of the 90’s.
White Sox vs. Rangers
The atmosphere for Game 1 of this series is a sight to behold. Postseason baseball has arrived in the Dallas area for the first time ever with the lights shining bright at Globe Life Park, which is in its first year. Even George H.W. Bush gets called on to throw the first pitch. What follows is a bit less desirable for Rangers fans. Wilson Alvarez dominates a talented but shallow lineup while Frank Thomas and Co. do enough damage to Kenny Rogers to take the opener. It’s more of the same in Game 2, only with Jason Bere continuing his all-star campaign with seven solid innings. The White Sox head back home up 2-0. In Game 3, the Rangers turn to Hector Fajardo, who is knocked out before the fifth innings as the SouthSiders put up double digits on the Rangers and head to the ALCS for the second straight year.
White Sox 3, Rangers 0
Yankees vs. Indians
Meanwhile in Cleveland, Jimmy Key and Charles Nagy are locked in a pitchers duel for Game 1. Late in the game, Bernie Williams gets a crucial hit that puts the Yankees up for good. The next night, the Indians lineup gets to Scott Kamieniecki early while Dennis Martinez and Jeff Russell keep the Bombers at bay. As the series heads to the Bronx, the home crowd gives life to the Yankees. Paul O’Neil and Mike Stanley each hit home runs off of Mark Clark in an offensive barrage not unlike what the present-day Yankees are capable of. In Game 4, the Indians lineup fights like hell and puts up solid numbers against Jim Abbott. In the bottom of the eighth, the Indians hold a one-run lead but elect to keep Jeff Russel in the bullpen until the ninth. It costs them big time as Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs lead a comeback and Steve Howe closes it out sending the Indians home. Fortunately for them, brighter days are ahead.
Yankees 3, Indians 1
Expos vs Dodgers
As is the case with most Game 1’s, the teams have a pitchers duel in place, this time between Ken Hill and Orel Hershiser. Each team only musters one run a piece over nine innings, but the Dodgers break through in extras with Brett Butler driving in the winning run. However, the Dodgers get a formal introduction to Pedro Martinez in Game 2, who strikes out ten in seven innings before Mel Rojas and John Wetteland close it out. In Game 3, Olympic Stadium is electric as the outfield of Alou, Walker and Grissom all get big hits and play much more like the Expos from the regular season. Game 4 once again serves as a rude awakening for the Dodgers, this time at the hands of Butch Henry, who goes eight innings before John Wetteland closes it out and sends the ‘Spos to the championship series.
Expos 3, Dodgers 1
Reds vs. Braves
The tomahawk chop can be heard through the night as Greg Maddux silences the Reds bats in Game 1 for the opening win. Tom Glavine does more of the same in Game 2, with the Braves putting a number on John Smiley. However, things start to change in Game 3. John Smoltz is tagged by the Reds early leading to a shootout which they ultimately win. In Game 4, the Braves and Reds trade blows, but the Big Red Machine walks it off in the bottom of the ninth with a homer by Kevin Mitchell off of Greg McMichael setting up a win-or-go-home game 5. In it, Greg Maddux dominates once again, and the Braves become the first wild card team to advance to the championship series.
Braves 3, Reds 2
Yankees vs. White Sox
Yankee Stadium is giddy at the chance to get back to the World Series in Game 1. Big hits by Bernie Williams and Wade Boggs lead the pinstripes offense while Jimmy Key holds the South Side hitters at bay for the win. The next night, the White Sox return the favor with Jason Bere dazzling and Robin Ventura having a big day at the plate evening the series heading into Chicago. In Game 3, Jack McDowell gets knocked around early, but the White Sox offense has a field day on Melido Perez who leaves after five innings, en route to a win.
The next night Chicago’s Alex Fernandez shows signs of rust as he gives up six runs over 4 ⅔ innings with Paul O’Neill driving in three runs. The Yankees even the series at two and set up a crucial Game 5. Much Like Game 1, Wilson Alvarez and Jimmy Key are in a pitchers duel with the game tied heading into the seventh. Once Key’s night is done, Frank Thomas and Julio Franco drive in runs that put the White Sox up for good as the series heads back to the Bronx. In Game 6, Jason Bere shines once again with Tim Raines and Robin Ventura having big nights at the plate. Roberto Hernandez gets Danny Tartanbull to fly out which sends the White Sox to the World Series for the first time since 1959.
White Sox 4, Yankees 2
Expos vs. Braves
The National League pennant comes down to two NL-East rivals. The ‘Spos send Ken Hill to open the series in Montreal while the Braves, having used Greg Maddux to close the NLDS, turn to Tom Glavine, who gets overwhelmed early by the firepower in the Expos’ lineup but settles down late. David Justice hits a two-run home run off of Ken Hill, who otherwise turns in another great outing. With the game tied at two in the eighth, Terry Pendelton would overthrow Fred McGriff on a routine ground out allowing the go-ahead run to score and giving the Expos the 1-0 lead. That lead would grow to 2-0 after Montreal dominated the Braves pitching staff with Marquise Grissom and Will Cordero each stealing a base.
Though Game 3 heads to Atlanta, the Braves can’t really capitalize, as Steven Avery is knocked around by home runs from Moises Alou and Larry Walker. Meanwhile Jeff Fassero allows just three runs over six innings before handing it off to the bullpen, which locks it down. The next night, Greg Maddux keeps the Braves alive with nine strikeouts over seven shutout innings. Montreal adds on a run late, but by then, the Braves have built too big a lead and get their first win of the series.
In Game 5, Tom Glavine goes seven strong innings and the lineup gets big hits from Ryan Klesko and Fred McGriff, who puts the Braves up late with a home run. In the top of the ninth, the Braves lead by one with Montreal’s Larry Walker at the plate, one run on and two outs. With the count at 2-2, Walker hits a go-ahead bomb to right field. In the bottom of the inning, John Wetteland gets David Justice to ground out and Los Amours win their first National League pennant in team history.
Expos 3, Braves 1
Expos vs. White Sox
The stage is set for one of the best World Series of all time. From the American League, a White Sox team looking to shatter a curse that had been placed on them decades ago. From the National League, an organization that wasn’t even the best team in Canada until this season.
Game 1 sees Montreal’s Pedro Martinez facing off against Chicago’s Jack McDowell, neither of whom had lost this postseason. McDowell pitches well, but Martinez is sensational, with not even Frank Thomas being able to touch his fastball. Meanwhile the Expos are able to scrape a few runs courtesy of some speed on the basepaths. At the end of nine innings, the Expos win their first World Series game in franchise history.
The next night, Alex Fernandez and Jeff Fassero trade punches before Frank Thomas breaks it open with a two-run homer to put the White Sox up. The Expos try for a comeback, but it falls short as Ramon Hernandez retires the side in order to tie the series at one a piece.
As the series heads to the South Side, the White Sox send their ace, Wilson Alvarez, back to the mound while the Expos counter with Butch Henry. The latter shows flashes, but his inexperience proves to be his undoing as he gives up four runs in 5 ⅓ innings. Alvarez, meanwhile, goes seven strong before handing it off to the White Sox bullpen, who, while shaky at first, give the SouthSiders a 2-1 series lead.
The next night Jason Bere dazzles once again as the White Sox jump out to an early lead with big hits from Julio Franco and Ozzie Guillen. Chicago leads by two in the eighth inning when Marquise Grissom singles into center. As he attempts to steal moments later, White Sox catcher Ron Karkovike overthrows the second baseman allowing Grissom to advance to third. He scores later in the inning on a sacrifice fly to make it a one-rum game. In the ninth, Roberto Hernandez gets the first man out, but allows a double, a walk and a single that ties the game. Just when it couldn’t get worse, he overthrows his catcher and the runner from third scores, giving the Expos a lead they wouldn’t let go of in a game they absolutely had to win.
In Game 5, Pedro Martinez and Jack McDowell are once again duking it out on the mound until the seventh inning when Lance Johnson doubles to drive in a run and give the White Sox a one-run lead. In the top of the ninth, with the lead still standing, Roberto Hernandez gets the first two men out with a chance to put the White Sox up 3-2 heading north of the border. In as a pinch hitter, Rondell White surprises Hernandez with a drag bunt and beats out the throw to reach first safely. The next batter, Marquis Grissom, hits a long line drive into left that barely clears the fence, giving the Expos the lead. In the bottom half, John Wetteland gets Robin Ventura to ground into a game-ending double play.
Two days later, the teams take the field in front of a sold-out Olympic Stadium with fans hoping to witness history. Jeff Fassero Takes the mound and gives up just two runs over 6 ⅔ innings. Alex Fernandez does well early on, but home runs by Cliff Floyd and Moises Alou in the later innings break things open and give the Expos a 4-2 lead in the game. After Mel Rojas pitches a spotless 1 ⅓ innings in relief, it’s up to John Wetteland to bring it home. He strikes out Julio Franco and gets Robin Ventura to pop out in foul territory. The next batter, Darrin Jackson works a 3-1 count and is one ball away from bringing the tying run to the plate. Wetteleland throws a fastball on the outside corner, but Jackson makes contact. The ball gets lined to the right side of the infield and right into the glove of second baseman Mike Lansing. The Expos storm the mound, the crowd celebrates and fireworks are shot off into the southern Quebec night. After 25 long years, the wait is over. Montreal has its first world championship.
Expos 4, White Sox 2