Tommy T is on the mend and still not quite up to doing that voodoo that he does so well.
For the second consecutive week, we have a guest post by Ryne Hancock. This time, he’s talking baseball.
The All-Time, No-World Series Starting Nine by Ryne Hancock
One thing my friend Peter and I bond over is our love of baseball history (in fact I had floated around the idea of a podcast that focused on baseball history before the Great Pause). Despite the fact that I’m a diehard Cardinals fan and the fact that Peter’s Giants have beaten us three times in the postseason in my lifetime, we can both say that we’ve seen our teams reach the Fall Classic in our lifetimes.
With baseball playoffs in high gear, I thought about a starting nine of players that never saw their talents showcased in the Fall Classic. While I’m pretty certain that you, the reader, have different opinions on who should be on this list, I encourage you to leave comments in the comment section on who I left off.
OF Dale Murphy: Sandwiched between Hank Aaron & Chipper Jones, Dale Murphy was the only reason why most people during the 1980’s gave a damn about the Braves. In 15 years with the Braves, Murphy won two MVPs and led the Braves to the 1982 NL West title, where they would lose to the Cardinals in the NLCS. After that season, the Braves would have one more winning season during his time in Atlanta, an 88-win season in 1983. Despite the fact that he put up numbers that were Hall of Fame worthy, Murphy’s name isn’t etched in the annals among the immortals in Cooperstown.
OF Ken Griffey Jr. The greatest tragedy in baseball history was not the Indians choking away a 3-1 lead to the Chicago Cubs and extending the misery of the Cub fans, but kids of a certain generation never got to see Ken Griffey belt a home run with that sweet swing or rob someone of a home run in the World Series. The closest Griffey ever got to the Fall Classic was in 1995, when they beat the vaunted Yankees (more on one of their players later on) to reach the ALCS. Another postseason appearance followed two years later that ended in the ALDS with the Mariners, which would be the last one for Griffey until 2008 when he played on the White Sox.
I thought about that the other day when I was watching a softball game at the Fly when I had a conversation with a 14-year-old kid about Mike Trout and how the Angels were wasting his prime.
“Kid, when I was your age,” I told him, “we didn’t see Griffey in the World Series. You’re getting that with Trout”.
OF Vlad Guerrero: There were a bunch of names that stood out for me for the rightfield position. Of the four names I had (Andre Dawson, Vlad Guerrero, Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzalez) the one that stuck out for me was Vlad Guerrero.
Of all the players I grew up watching, no one hit the ball more violently than Guerrero, especially balls that were out of the strike zone. Despite all the success the Angels had during that time, with five division titles in six years, Guerrero could never reach the Fall Classic.
3B Ron Santo: Kids of a certain generation in Chicago saw the primes of Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, Ernie Banks, & the third baseman on this team, Ron Santo, squandered like an Atlanta Falcons lead in the Super Bowl.
A key cog in the Cubs’ resurgence in the 1960’s, Santo didn’t get a chance to sniff a winning season until 1967, when the Cubs finished third behind my Cardinals, who of course won the World Series that year. In 1969, the first year of divisional play, the Cubs looked primed to reach the playoffs and possibly the World Series when thanks to the managerial malpractice of Leo Durocher and the fact that Wrigley didn’t have night games, the Cubs squandered an eight-game lead in the new National League East to the New York Mets.
The Cubs wouldn’t reach the playoffs until 1984.
SS Ernie Banks: When the Cubs won four years ago, the first person that came to my mind was Ernie Banks. In 1958 & 59 Banks won the National League MVP when the Cubs finished fifth and seventh, respectively. It wasn’t until his 11th season in which the Cubs had a winning record, when the Cubs finished 82-80.
Banks had to deal with not only racism, but also an eccentric owner that was more focused on the ballpark than fielding a competent team. He saw the dregs of a pennant race late in his career, but never got a chance to see the Fall Classic.
Just think how things would have been had he had a competent front office.
2B Ryne Sandberg: Despite my fandom for the Cardinals, I was named for Ryne Sandberg. Long before Sosa made his sojourn to the North Side, Sandberg was the face of the Cubs. Fifteen years after their collapse in 1969, the Cubs reached the playoffs for the first time since 1945 when they won the National League East. Another trip would follow in 1989 as they won the division by six games over the New York Mets.
Unfortunately, those two trips would be the closest Sandberg would get to the Fall Classic. In 1984, the Cubs would blow a 2-1 lead to the Padres and five years later, the Giants behind the bat of Will Clark would derail pennant hopes for the Cubs.
1B Don Mattingly: Similar to Dale Murphy in Atlanta, Mattingly was the gap between Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter. Despite putting up solid numbers during his time in the Bronx, Mattingly could never showcase his talents in the World Series. Many baseball scholars suggest that had the 1994 strike not happened, the Yankees would have probably made the postseason.
P Jim Bunning: Lost in the shuffle of great pitchers in the 1960’s and long before he became a quack politician, Jim Bunning was one of the best pitchers in baseball. In a 17-year career, most notably with the Tigers and the Phillies, Bunning led the American League in wins once and strikeouts three times. During his time in Detroit, Bunning got close to the World Series once, playing on the 1961 team that won 101 games and finished second behind the Yankees. In Philadelphia, he played on the 1964 team that collapsed down the stretch and lost the pennant to the Cardinals.
C Joe Mauer: In a perfect world Joe Mauer is like Kent Hrbek, a local kid who made good by playing for the local baseball team and won two world championships.
Despite being the face of the Twins for over a decade, Mauer didn’t have the same luck in the postseason as Hrbek. In five trips to the postseason, Mauer never won a postseason series.