Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Curious Stat About '80s World Series Champions

In 1983, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. helped lead the Baltimore Orioles to the World Series championship, their third since moving to Baltimore from St. Louis in 1954.  At the time, the Orioles were one of the best teams in the American League.  From 1966-1983, no team in baseball won more pennants than Baltimore's six.  Not the Yankees or the Big Red Machine (they each won four).  Not the Dodgers (they won five pennants, but only one championship).  Not even the Oakland A's dynasty (three titles) could surpass the pennant-winning success of the Baltimore Orioles for an almost two decade span.

Murray and Ripken probably expected more championships following their 1983 title, but in the past 28 years, the city of Baltimore has been left without a World Series championship or an American League pennant.  In fact, they're not the only team to win it all in the '80s and then win nothing since then.

Following the Orioles' run to the championship, the Detroit Tigers spent every day of the 1984 season in first place in the American League East, culminating their spectacular season with a World Series championship.  The Tigers won another division title three years later (1987), a pennant in 2006 and another division title this past season, but have not given Motown another championship since '84.

After Detroit's championship in 1984, the Kansas City Royals were the last team to spray champagne in 1985, albeit with a little help from Don Denkinger's blown call in Game 6 of the World Series.  The 1985 campaign marked the seventh playoff appearance for the Royals in ten seasons, but they have not sniffed the postseason since their one championship season.

We're Mets fans.  We know what happened in 1986.  We also know that the Mets haven't won another World Series in the past quarter century.  We can move on to the next team now.

The 1987 Minnesota Twins finally broke the streak of four consecutive World Series winners in the '80s who have failed to win it all since then.  The Twins repeated as World Series champions four years later when Jack Morris (a key member of the 1984 World Champion Tigers) pitched ten shutout innings in the seventh and deciding game of the 1991 World Series against the Atlanta Braves.  But we can talk about that '91 Twins team later (and we will).

The 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers rode on the coattails of Orel Hershiser's arm and Kirk Gibson's bat to stun the Mets in the National League Championship Series and the trying-to-start-another-dynasty Oakland A's in the World Series.  Unfortunately, the Dodgers have failed to reach the World Series, let alone win it, since then.

Mets fans should remember these faces very well, even if they'd rather forget the 1988 season.  (Photo of Orel Hershiser by Tom Gannam/AP; Photo of Kirk Gibson by Steve Dykes/LA Times)

Remember those "trying-to-start-another-dynasty" A's from the last paragraph?  Sure you do.  Well, they did follow up their loss to the Dodgers in '88 with a championship of their own in 1989, defeating their Bay Area rival San Francisco Giants in four games.  The World Series that was known for the devastating earthquake prior to Game 3 would also be known to A's fans as the last one they would win.

Even after the 1980s ended, the curious stat concerning World Series winners failing to win another title continued.  The 1990 Cincinnati Reds shocked the A's in that year's World Series, sweeping Oakland in four games.  The Reds have failed to win another pennant since then.  The following year, the Minnesota Twins won their second title in five seasons.  Although the Twins have won six division titles in the past decade, they have yet to win the World Series that has eluded them for twenty years.

The 1992 Toronto Blue Jays did win another championship following their six-game defeat of the Atlanta Braves in that year's Fall Classic.  However, that title came the following season (1993).  Toronto has failed to return to the postseason since their mini-dynasty ended.

The 1994 strike killed that year's World Series, but did not kill the streak of World Series winners failing to return to glory following their championship seasons.  That streak had one more season left in it, as the 1995 Braves won their first and only title in Atlanta, defeating the Cleveland Indians (who themselves have not won a championship since 1948, the longest title-less drought in the American League) in six games.

Seriously.  This is a Mets site.  Who authorized the use of this photo?

When the Yankees won the World Series in 1996, it ended a stretch in which ten teams won their final World Series championship in 12 seasons (not including the 1994 season, which had no World Series).  Only the 1987 Twins and 1992 Blue Jays were able to win another championship during those dozen seasons, and both of them have now gone approximately two decades since their last title.

For all the talk about parity in baseball in the 21st century, what with teams like the Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays all competing for World Series championships over the past few seasons when very few experts predicted them to reach the Fall Classic, the real time for parity happened a generation ago.

One-third of the teams in major league baseball all won championships from 1983 to 1995.  None of those teams has been able to scale that mountain again.  It's a curious stat that has been overlooked over the past 20-30 years.  It makes you wonder if the teams that are winning championships now will go that long in search of their next title.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"One-third of the teams in major league baseball all won championships from 1983 to 1995"

This is an incredible stat.