This Top 7 was simply going to be a ranking of the top playoff teams for this year, but I scrapped that idea for a few reasons. First, I don’t feel like jinxing, reverse jinxing, or reverse-reverse jinxing the Cardinals. Secondly, it’s kind of hard to rank teams when literally all eight of them could theoretically win the World Series. Thirdly, it’s depressing to admit how much better the American League is than the National League.
With your favorite team being in the NL, it’s hard not to have some sense of strange league-pride, even though it means absolutely nothing. If your team is in the NL and they win the World Series, it’s not like it doesn’t count. That being said, the AL is definitely superior and will be heavily favored against any NL team this year. So with that idea scrapped, how about some baseball moments since 1990 that have kind of slid under the radar and really should have gotten or should continue to get some pub as some of the greatest performances and records of this era.
7. Barry Bonds
It’s hard to choose one for Bonds. The 73 homers definitely gets its just due, even if it’s downgraded because of steroids and because Bonds is a total prick. The one that is mind-boggling is the 120 intentional walks. 120 regular walks would lead either league this season, and would have led the AL each of the last six years. This helped Bonds achieve another wiffle-ball level record, a freaking .609 OB%, and 232 total walks. Wiffle ball doesn’t even do it justice. It’s like a hyped-up high schooler’s stats whose team gives him a hit even on bobbled grounders. Are there any stats more untrustworthy than high school baseball? Usually it’s Doug the manager keeping score, who has to ask the backup right fielder what happened on 50% of the plays. Take about 65% of what the team tells you and you’ll get an idea of the accurate stats for a player.
6. Bob Welch
Whatever happened to Steve Lyons? He once asked Pedro Martinez, who had about 14 starts left in the season, what he thought about his chances to win 30 games, when he had 15. He is dearly missed. He was a standout of saying illogical things in a world full of people saying illogical things. 30 wins is probably one of the hardest things to do in modern-day baseball that has been done before (hey, there’s an idea for next week’s list!). The closest anyone has gotten is Bob Welch, who won 27 games in 1990. No one else has gotten more than 24 since 1980. This year, only two even have a shot at 20. It takes a lot of luck to win 27 games considering that you have to trust your offense and usually at least two relievers in order to get the win.###MORE###
5. Every 40/40 guy after Canseco
The only person that has given this its proper respect is Jay-Z, whose New York club is named 40/40. That could top a list of “most random facts.” You don’t see Chuck D owning a restaurant named “300 Wins.” Canseco didn’t even know that no one had ever joined the club when he predicted that he would do it in the spring of 1988. It’s amazing that he did. It’s one of the greatest follow-throughs ever, right behind everyone downright expecting Mark McGwire to hit 62 the spring before he hit 70. Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Alfonso Soriano (!) are all members of the 40/40 club. I remember a discussion back in 2002 or 2003 that is hilarious now: who would you rather have, Alfonso Soriano…or Albert Pujols? Matt Kemp could join this group next year.
4. Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez
What these two guys did during the peak of the home run binges in the majors is the most amazing full season achievements of the last 20 years. If you religiously check baseballreference.com, you are familiar with the ERA+ stat, which gives you an index of a pitcher’s ERA in relation to the rest of the league and park factors. Of the top five ERA+es of all-time, Martinez has one of them, and Maddux has two, and the other two were in 1880 and 1914. As dominant as Zack Greinke has been this year, his season only ranks 25th on the list, which gives you an idea of how silly Pedro and Maddux made people look in those years.
3. World Series Winning Hits
Carlton Fisk’s home run in the 1975 World Series is one of the most easily identifiable moments in baseball history, and the Sox didn’t even win that year’s Series. Edgar Renteria and Luis Gonzalez both have game-winning Game 7 World Series hits since 1997 they don’t seem nearly as big of a part of baseball lore. It could perhaps be because of the skewed markets nowadays…back 15 or 20 years ago, everyone watched This Week in Baseball, where they would show moments like Fisk’s homer in the intro, so it seemed as if you’d seen it thousands of times. Now, you can watch your own team’s games on your local Fox channel and never really have to worry about seeing other teams’ highlights if you don’t want to. I would imagine that Fox Sports Arizona shows the Gonzalez hit often. The 1997 World Series in particular is the most forgotten great Series of the last 20 years. Over 67,000 people came to the Marlins’ park to watch the games (about ten times as many as now), there was the famous 14-11 game, Devon White’s triple play, and an 11-inning 7th game.
2. Mark Whiten
You can honestly say that he had the greatest single-game in baseball history in September of 1993. In the first game of a doubleheader, the Cardinals and Reds set a major league record for most pitchers used in a game. You wonder what in the world the managers were thinking when there was another game to be played. In the second game, Whiten hit four homers and had 12 RBI, the only person to tie both records in the same game. His last homer was an absolute bomb, a 440+ foot three-run dong to center. He had another three-run homer, a grand slam, and a solo homer. He also tied the record for most RBI in a doubleheader with 13…but shouldn’t there be penalty points for such a high standard deviation?
1. Jack Morris
You often hear about Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, John Lackey, or Josh Beckett when recent great World Series pitching performances. Less often mentioned is Chris Carpenter’s Game 3 2006 start, but the best pitching performance under pressure since 1990 is Jack Morris, and nothing else is even close. 10 shutout innings, 7 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts, Game 7, World Series, 1-0 victory. Unless one throws a no-hitter, it’s not possible to get any better than that.