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.
Being associated with the 1986 World Champion New York Mets was like a golden ticket for many players. The National League fans’ 1988 All-Star selection of Gary Carter was not as egregious as Terry Steinbach, but he still was not the best choice. Lance Parrish of the Phillies would have been a better fit to start according to the players.
The results of the USA Today players poll for NL catchers follows:
Joe Morgan only went to two All-Star Games during his first stint with Houston in the 1960s and early 1970s. Once he arrived in Cincinnati, though, he never missed the mid-season appointment. From 1972 to 1978, “The Little General” started at second base for the National League, and in 1979 he was named as a reserve. After leaving the Reds in 1980, he never made another All-Star team. Coincidence?
Another guy who never should have been traded, especially for Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray. I mean, seriously? Tony Perez wasn’t flashy like Pete Rose or an all-time great at his position like Johnny Bench, but he was a key part of the Big Red Machine. Okay, so he was on the decline and Dan Driessen showed some promise, but I don’t know if the fans will ever forgive the front office for letting the Doggie get away in 1976. After seven years in the wind, Perez came back to Cincinnati to finish out his career.
For the first time since 1971, the BBWAA failed to induct anyone in 1996. On the writers’ ballot were future BBWAA inductees Phil Niekro, Tony Perez, Don Sutton, Jim Rice, and Bruce Sutter, and future Veterans Committee selections Ron Santo and Joe Torre (who was inducted as a manager, not a player). Thankfully, the Veterans Committee saw fit to honor a handful of previously overlooked individuals in 1996.
Jim Bunning pitched in the big leagues for 17 years, winning 224 games with a 3.27 ERA and 2855 strikeouts. JAWS ranks him as the 57th best starting pitcher in history. Bunning was on the BBWAA ballot for 15 years, and almost reached the 75% threshold in 1988, his twelfth year on the ballot, falling just four votes short. His support dipped dramatically the next three years, never reaching even 65% again. The Veterans Committee deemed him worthy of baseball immortality in 1996, five years after his final appearance on the writers’ ballot.
Bunning was also known for his political career, which started as a city councilman in my hometown, Fort Thomas, in 1977. From there, he moved up to the Kentucky State Senate in 1980, then to the US House of Representatives in 1987, and finally the United States Senate in 1999. He also had an unsuccessful run at the Kentucky Governor’s office in 1983, losing to Martha Layne Collins.
Richie Ashburn spent several years on the BBWAA ballot, receiving between 2.1% and 41.7% from 1968 to 1982. Ashburn collected more than 2500 hits in 15 years and finished with a .308 average, but his underwhelming power likely hurt his candidacy with the writers. He led the NL in hits three times, triples twice, and on-base percentage four times, while making four All-Star teams for the Phillies and Mets.
Mike Schmidt‘s place among the baseball immortals was a foregone conclusion by the time the voting results were released for the 1995 cycle, and his 96.5% support was the fourth-highest at the time, and is still 11th all-time. Widely considered the greatest player to man the hot corner, Schmidt’s WAR is 10 points higher than any other third baseman and 19th overall for non-pitchers. He is the third baseman by which all other third basemen are compared.
He was one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all-time. Steve Carlton won four Cy Young Awards, all while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies. His first came in 1972, when Carlton won 27 games…and the rest of the staff won 32. He started his big league career with the Cardinals and appeared in three All-Star games wearing the St. Louis uniform before spending 15 years in Philadelphia. At the end of his career, Carlton played for four teams in three years: Giants, White Sox, Indians, and Twins.
By sheer coincidence, today just happens to be Carlton’s birthday.