The 1980's was a decade when speed, pitching, and defense trumped power. You won't see arcade-like power stats, which became common in the following two decades, as only ten HR leaders out of twenty (both leagues) finished with forty or more round trippers. In contrast, the '90s saw 18 finished with 40 or more and no player hit 50 home runs.
This was the decade when speed was king. With guys like Rickey Henderson, Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Willie Wilson, and Tim Raines, 11 out of the top 50 all-time stolen base amounts (season) were recorded during this decade.
This would also be the last decade when it was common to see complete games and four-man rotations.
This was the decade that belonged to the Royals, Cardinals, Phillies, and the Dodgers. The Dodgers is my choice for best team of the 1980's. The Dodgers won two World Series rings, and two other years where they won the NL West.
This slide show will identify my choices for the All-Decade team. Out of the three decades presented, this decade was the toughest to choose. But it should be noted that every non-pitching position player selected are in the Hall of Fame except one.
Tough choice in selecting the general of the team between Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, and Lance Parrish.
Fisk hit 192 home runs and was selected to four All-Star games. Parrish hit 225 home runs, drove in 762 runs (114 in 1983) and was chosen to seven All-Star Games.
As for the "Kid", Carter hit 207 home runs and drove in 100 runs four times. Carter also was selected to nine All-Star games and six times finished in the top 15 in the MVP ballot.
If you look up the word "consistent" in the dictionary, you would see Steady Eddie's face. Except for 1986 and the strike season in '81, Murray played in over 150 games every year.
The Orioles always knew what to expect from him, which was 27 home runs, 100 ribbies and a .300 batting average. With numbers like that, Eddie was selected to six All-Star games and finished in the top 10 in the MVP ballot six times (runner up in 1982 & 1983).
With guys like Lou Whitaker, Frank White, Steve Sax, and Willie Randolph, there was no shortage of talent at second base during this decade. But no one performed as well as Ryne Sandberg.
One of the most popular Cubs ever, Sandberg compiled 139 home runs over eight seasons. He also topped 100 runs four times, stole 250 bases, was selected to six All-Star games, won six Gold Gloves, and won the MVP award (1984).
Prior to being the best shortstop during the '90s (selected for the All-Decade Team), Ripken was the best shortstop of the '80s.
Ripken won the Rookie of the Year in 1982 and followed up with the MVP award in 1983.
The Player of the Decade
Aside from the outfield, third base was the deepest position during the decade. There were Hall of Famers like George Brett, Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor, and this man Mike Schmidt.
Schmidt hit 313 home runs, drove in 929 runs, won six Gold Gloves, was selected to eight All-Star games, and won three MVP awards.
No lineup would be complete without Rickey Henderson leading off. To me his style was the offensive model of this decade.
Henderson scored 1,122 runs and stole a whopping 838 bases. He also was selected to eight All-Star games and finished in the top 10 for the MVP award five times.
Prior to every season, my friends and I would predict various awards. Each year I would pick Tony Gwynn to win the NL batting title, which he did four times during this decade.
Gwynn also had 200-plus hits four times out of his eight seasons during the 1980's. His success included five All- Star selections.
When I began to watch and follow baseball in the mid '80s, I could not collect enough Dale Murphy cards. To me, he was the most exciting baseball player and the first superstar I watched on TV, which was only when the Mets played the Braves.
Murphy, who converted from catcher, won the MVP awards in 1982 & 1983. He hit 308 homers and drove in 929 runs. He also won the Gold Glove five times and appeared in seven All-Star games.
Surprisingly, Dale Murphy has not been selected to the Hall of Fame. For his career, Murphy hit 398 home runs over 18 seasons.
The rotation is led by Detroit's Jack Morris. Morris won 162 games, which included 146 complete games and 20 shutouts. Jack won 20 or more games twice but only finished as high as third in the Cy Young ballot.
Perhaps, his lack of the award and his 3.90 career ERA is the reason for him not be elected to the Hall of Fame, but he is our Pitcher of the Decade.
The rotation is followed by "Dr. K" Dwight Gooden. If you were a Met fan during this decade, there was no player who impacted the team more than Gooden, as witnessed by his 1984 Rookie of the Year award and 1984 Cy Young (24-4, 1.53 ERA).
Every time Gooden pitched, the stadium was packed and K signs were hanging everywhere which identified his strikeout totals for the game.
During the six season in this decade, Gooden average a record of 17-7, nine complete games, three shutouts and 195 strikeouts.
The third pitcher in the rotation is Nolan Ryan. If you feel that awards are the sole reason to select a player then the Ryan Express would not make the team. But if you needed a dominant pitcher to win a game in the postseason then Ryan was your man. Nolan Ryan won 122 games during the 80's, to go along with 2,167 strike outs and two ERA titles (1.69 in 1981).
Prior to researching stats, Dave Stieb was no where close to being on my initial list. I remember that he was good but didn't realize how good and dominant he was. Dave Stieb won 140 games, which included 92 complete games and 27 shutouts. He was also selected to six All Star Games.
The choices to round out the rotation were between two Dodgers. Fernando Valenzuela narrowly beat Orel Hershiser mainly due to his extreme popularity in the early 80's. Fernandomania began in 1981 as Valenzuela and his unorthodox delivery enabled him to win the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Awards while helping the Dodgers to beat the Yankees in the World Series. Fernando would go on to win 128 and complete 102 games. His popularity helped him to be selected to six All Star Games during the nine season in the 80's.
The Fireman Reliever of the Decade was Jeff Reardon. The Terminator compiled 264 saves for Montreal and Minnesota. The other choices were Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, and Dan Quisenberry.
The following players were not selected, but deserved to be mentioned.
Kirby Puckett R.I.P.