The National League was absolutely loaded with starting pitchers in 1988. At the end of the year, it was a three-man race for the Cy Young Award, but at mid-season the field was wide open. Dwight Gooden got the starting nod. You would not have convinced me in 1988 that he would never be on another All-Star team.
Next up was Houston’s Bob Knepper, the only Astro on the team. I shook his hand during the All-Star workout the night before. I didn’t have anything to get signed with me, and he was the only one that acknowledged my existence.
David Cone is another one of the borderline Hall of Fame cases. I wouldn’t vote for him, but there are a lot of Coneheads who believe he was snubbed by the voters.
I never would have guessed that Kevin Gross was an All-Star. He did have 10 wins at the break, though, and 2.47 is a pretty good ERA. He just doesn’t register as an All-Star in my brain.
Mark Davis got a hefty raise after his 1989 Cy Young season, but he never pitched like he did in 1988 and 1989 again.
As names go, “Walk” may be one of the worst for a pitcher. “Homer” beats it, but “Walk” is not far behind. Fortunately, Bob Walk never appeared in the top ten for walks.
Orel Hershiser spent 18 years in the majors, winning 204 games for the Dodgers, Indians, Mets, and Giants. 1988 was his greatest season, winning the Cy Young Award, the NLCS MVP, and the World Series MVP.
Just as Tom Kelly chose his closer for the American League roster, Whitey Herzog named his closer Todd Worrell to the National League team. Worrel actually got into the game and retired the side in the top of the 9th: George Brett, Cal Ripken Jr., and Don Mattingly.
Greg Maddux made his first of eight All-Star teams in 1988, but didn’t pitch in the game. Am I the only one who thinks eight is way too low of a number for one of the greatest pitchers ever?
Danny Jackson was one of three Reds on the roster, but didn’t get to play in the game. There should be a rule that all players from the host city get to play. Jackson only made one more All-Star roster; while with the Phillies in 1994, he faced Scott Cooper, Kenny Lofton, and Will Clark without getting an out. He allowed two inherited runners and one of his own to score.
The National League took six outfielders from four teams to the midsummer classic in 1988: starters Darryl Strawberry, Vince Coleman, and Andre Dawson, and backups Willie McGee, Rafael Palmeiro, and Andy Van Slyke.
I love the nicknames of the 1980s. The Straw, Vincent Van Go, The Hawk…the nicknames of players today just don’t have the same panache.
Not everyone liked their nickname, though. Case in point, Willie McGee hated the name “E.T.” He hated it so much, it became a national news story. The New York Times reported in 1982, “Willie McGee won’t elaborate on his dislike for the nickname. Perhaps he thinks that it’s a racial slur since E.T. is dark-skinned. Perhaps he’s embarrassed because he has the hooded eyes and pinched nose similar to that of the little creature; he also wobbles when he walks, as E.T. does in the movie. Whatever the reason, Willie McGee is entitled to prefer his name to that nickname, even though he has virtually landed in the World Series from another planet.”
If Palmeiro had a nickname, what would it be? “Finger-pointer”?
Kirk Gibson is the only difference between the players’ top six and the actual roster. Gibby was the eventual National League MVP and had one of the most dramatic home runs in World Series history, but his invite to the 1988 All-Star Game was evidently lost in the mail.
- Darryl Strawberry 118
- Andre Dawson 100
- Willie McGee 71
- Andy Van Slyke 57
- Kirk Gibson 37
- Rafael Palmeiro 32
- Vince Coleman 25
- Tim Raines 25
- Barry Bonds 20
- Tony Gwynn 10
- Dale Murphy 8
- Gerald Perry 7
- Eric Davis 5
- Will Clark 3
- Tom Brunansky 3
- John Shelby
- Candy Maldonado 2
- Brett Butler 1
- Dave Martinez 1
- Casey Candaele 1
- Jeffrey Leonard 1
- Danny Heep 1
- Kevin McReynolds 1
- Keith Moreland 1
- Mike Aldrete 1
- Gerald Young 1
- Albert Hall 1
Say what you will about the ’90s shortstop revolution, I’ll take the ’80s defensive wizards any day. Ozzie Smith was the no-brainer fan pick, starting his sixth straight All-Star Game; he would start the next four straight before passing the mantle to Barry Larkin. Lark would end up starting five ASGs in his career, and being on the roster for seven more. The other backup in 1988, Shawon Dunston, was only named to two All-Star teams in his career, but man he had a rocket for an arm.
The players poll showed that those who shared the field with the Wizard agreed wholeheartedly with the fans’ choice.
- Ozzie Smith 143
- Shawon Dunston 17
- Barry Larkin 11
- Jose Uribe 8
- Garry Templeton 2
- Dave Anderson 1
- Alfredo Griffin 1
- Rafael Ramirez 1
Bobby Bonilla seemed to be the heir apparent to Mike Schmidt as the regular NL third baseman, and was given the starting job in 1988. He did log six All-Star Games between 1988 and 1995, but no one today would dare claim that his career measured up to Schmidt’s. To be fair, no one’s career measured up to Schmidt’s. Bonilla’s backups, Vance Law and rookie Chris Sabo, couldn’t claim it either.
Again, the voters and players agreed on the starter, and the managers and players were not far apart on the bench. Here are the players picks for third base in 1988:
- Bobby Bonllla 121
- Vance Law 14
- Mike Schmidt 11
- Chris Sabo 7
- Terry Pendleton
- Tim Wallach 5
- Pedro Guerrero 2
- Buddy Bell 1
- Kevin Mitchell 1
- Graig Nettles 1
Ryne Sandberg was elected to start at second base for the National League, which was really no surprise. Robby Thompson of the San Francisco Giants was chosen to back him up, but did not get into the game (although Ryno didn’t play the full game).
The fans and players agreed on the starter here, as the future Hall of Famer was the clear choice for both. Here are the results of USA Today’s players poll:
The lineup for this week’s Topps TBT set has been announced, and as usual I only want one card. I checked eBay, and that one card is more expensive than I want to spend. Maybe there are others in the same boat, so I thought I might try to organize a set break. If you’re intersted, read on…
I’m claiming Nick Senzel, you can have any other player pictured above…$3.88 shipped PWE. Luke Voit, Tim Anderson, Fernando Tatis Jr., Willson Contreras, Carter Kieboom are available. The set is $19.99, divided by six and add 55 cents for a stamp, that’s $3.88 each. This way there is no need to order the full set if you only want one card. Claim in the comments, or on Twitter, or via e-mail. First claimed, first served.
UPDATE: All cards claimed!
It took far too long for Lee Smith to receive the honor of baseball immortality. After fifteen unsuccessful years on the BBWAA ballot and reaching 50% of the vote only once, the Veterans Committee finally recognized the greatness of the dominant reliever. He will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer with Harold Baines, Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, and the late Roy Halladay.
Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still without contracts*. Andre Dawson didn’t sign with the Cubs until March 9 in 1987. Of course, that was due in part to collusion, a self-imposed, under-the-table salary cap orchestrated by Bud Selig and his cohorts to keep contracts down. Is that happening this year? Honestly, I don’t care. I don’t care if Harper and Machado end up playing in Japan or Mexico or Timbuktu. If this leads to another strike, as Adam Wainwright thinks it will, that’s fine.
I love baseball, but I don’t need baseball. There are plenty of other things to keep me busy. A bunch of whining millionaires (I’m talking about both owners and players) doesn’t sit well with me.
* I wrote this last night, and might be asleep when it actually posts. I probably won’t come back and update it even if a deal with the Phillies or Padres or Yankees or Chunichi Dragons is announced.
Lee Smith should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame a long time ago. He was the all-time saves leader when he retired, since passed by Mariano Rivera (who will likely be inducted this year) and Trevor Hoffman (inducted last year). Yet he never received more than 50% from the BBWAA. And that is why we need the Veterans Committee.
I know a lot of people are upset about Harold Baines (I’m not one of them), but the BBWAA is far from perfect and some players deserve a second look from a different body of voters. I’m especially glad Alan Trammell got that second look this past year, and I’m glad Smith is getting the nod in 2019. It will likely be a long time before a relief pitcher gets considerable attention by either the BBWAA or the VC after 2019, and I’m okay with that as I think the position—particularly how it is utilized today—is overrated by many.
While I was digging around for a photo to use, I came across this awesome custom 1980 Topps Lee Smith card at “Cards That Never Were.”