The Reds were in first place every day of the season, won the NLCS 4-2 (both losses by one run) and swept the A’s in the Series. The Reds’ real strength was their three top relievers, Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble, and Randy Myers, who pitched the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings respectively with amazing effectiveness, allowing a pretty offense-challenged team to cruise to a championship.
One of the closest Series in history: 5 of the 7 games were one-run, 3 went into extra innings, and game 7 was a 10-inning, 1-0 Twins victory that might have gone the other way if the Braves’ Lonnie Smith had been able to score from first on an 8th-inning double. It was a complete-game shutout for Jack Morris, and the main basis for his weak Hall of Fame case. Both teams had been in last place the previous year; this was the beginning of a 14-season first-place streak for the Braves (if we exclude 1994.)
The Braves again, this time losing to the Blue Jays 4-2. It was Toronto’s first championship, and the first one won by a team from outside the US. Also, the first one for a black manager, Cito Gaston.
The last real pennant race, as the Braves took the NL West by winning 104 games to the Giants’ 103, and there was no wild card as a consolation prize. The exhausted Braves lost the NLCS the to Phillies, but Toronto won the Series 4-2 again. The images from the one included Mitch Williams pitching like his hair was on fire, Curt Schilling covering his head with a towel because he couldn’t bear to watch that, and Joe Carter’s monster shot in the bottom of the 9th of game 6.
The strike wiped out the last fourth of the season, and the post-season. This was the first year without a Series since 1904.
The Braves beat the Indians 4-2, while outscoring them only 23-19. The Braves’ starting rotation, led by Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz, was the best in baseball, and would continue to be for over a decade. The Indians were a beautifully balanced team, who could hit for power (Albert Belle and a young Manny Ramirez) and average (almost across the board) and had speed (Kenny Lofton) and some fine pitching, both starting (Dennis Martinez and Orel Hershiser) and in relief (their mercurial (OK, certifiably insane) closer, Jose Mesa). Their defense wasn’t great overall, but Lofton in CF and Omar Vizquel at SS were standouts. Still, they came up short.
The Braves lost 4-2 again, this time to the Yankees. (They’re baaaaaaack!) After the Braves won the first two by a combined score of 16-1, the Yankees took control, and won four close ones, with John Wetteland (who memorably called himself a “brain-dead heaver”) getting all four saves and the Series MVP.
The Indians again, this time losing 4-3 to the Marlins in their first championship, Florida, which finished 9 games behind the Braves, was the first wild-card team to make it to the Series. They had a roster full of stars and future stars, almost all of whom were traded away the next year to save payroll, as their record plummeted to 54-108.
The best year this version of the Yankees had: 114-48, winning their division by 22 games. And it was a strong division; the 2nd-place Red Sox would have won the AK Central or West. Jeter was 3rd in MVP voting, and there’s a good case he deserved it; certainly more than winner Juan Gone did. They swept the Padres, who didn’t seem to belong in the same stadium. (Bruce Bochy would eventually get to manage a championship team or two, but that’s a story for another day.)
The Yankees over the Braves again. This Yankees team wasn’t nearly as dominant, winning their division by only 4 games. But they turned it on in the postseason, going 11-1 including a sweep of the Braves. Jeter was even better than the previous year. He finished 6th in the MVP voting, but should have been no worse than second behind Pedro Martinez.
The Braves appeared in 5 of the 9 Series, going 1-4. The Yankees were 3-0, Toronto 2-0, Cleveland 0-2. Six teams appeared only once.