Posted: Wednesday October 30, 2002 11:51 AM
Updated: Wednesday October 30, 2002 2:56 PM
Every season has its ups and downs, its triumphs and snafus, its heroes and buffoons. Baseball in 2002 had all of that: The Mets and Yankees, the collective bargaining agreement and contraction, the Rally Monkey and Bud Selig. You put them under the proper categories. Maybe the biggest story of the 2002 Major League Baseball season, though, was not any of the above. It was that there was a season after all. And all the way through, to boot. Now that it's over and the Anaheim Angels are champs, CNNSI.com's John Donovan looks back on the 2002 season and explains why it was a heck of a ride, in more ways than one.
A strike averted
Got game? A baseball strike was narrowly avoided in August.
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
The specter of yet another work stoppage, the ninth since 1972, hung over the sport like a bad breaking ball all year, all slow and big and looking for trouble. At times, with owners and players sniping back and forth, with commissioner Bud Selig decrying the lack of competitiveness and the sorry economic state of the game, with fans staying away from the parks and threatening their own action, a players' strike seemed inevitable. But on the morning of Aug. 30, just a couple of hours before the players were to lower the hammer, the two sides came to an historic agreement and the game played on. Miraculous? Maybe not. But it certainly was amazing that a labor disaster, for once, was averted.
All Cali, all the time
SoCal sweetness: The Angles knocked off the Giants in Game 7 to win the World Series.
The San Francisco Giants and Anaheim Angels staged the first All-California Series since 1989 and the first all-wild card Series ever. It tanked in the ratings but proved to be entertaining, for the most part. The pitching was mostly rotten, but Barry Bonds thrilled by smacking four home runs even though he was walked a record 13 times. And in Game 6, the Angels rallied from a 5-0 hole to win 6-5, the largest comeback by a team facing elimination in the history of the Series. The Angels won in seven games for the first World Series title in the franchise's history.
Ken Caminiti admitted to using steroids in the July issue of SI.
James Porto/Heinz Kluetmeier
The scourge of the sport was exposed by a Sports Illustrated article in July, sending baseball into weeks of finger pointing and soul searching. The article was the impetus for a drug-testing program that was to be included in the new collective bargaining agreement but, unfortunately for the sport, the program is largely without teeth.
Fit to be tied
There's no tying in baseball: The 73rd All-Star Game abruptly ended in an 11-11 tie.
For years, baseball's All-Star Game has been little more than an over-produced showcase for its best players, a few days of fun under the guise of a game. The guise was ripped off completely in this year's game in Milwaukee when, after a lengthy game completely mismanaged by Joe Torre of the American League and Bob Brenly of the National League, the teams ran out of pitchers. Commissioner Bud Selig was forced to call the game with the score tied as baseball suffered yet another black eye.
Bonds … Barry Bonds
Aged to perfection: The 38-year-old Bonds cemented his status as a legend in 2002.
How would the surly San Francisco slugger top his record 73-home run season on 2001? It didn't seem hard for him. Early on, he hit home run No. 600, joining Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays at that plateau. As the season wore on and pitchers avoided him like the pitchers' plague that he is, Bonds added yet another title to his already impressive resume. At the age of 38, he became the oldest first-time batting champion in history, hitting a stunning .370 to go with his 46 home runs and 110 RBIs. On the way, he set another single-season record for walks (198) and established a new record for on-base percentage (.582). He's the odds-on favorite to win the National League MVP award. It would be his fifth, another record.
From A to Zito: Oakland's lefty ace was 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA.
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images
They did it in all sorts of ways, with dramatic homers and blowouts, coming from behind and cruising from the first. On Sept. 4, after they blew an 11-run lead, Scott Hatteberg crushed a home run in the bottom of the ninth and the incredible Oakland A's had won their 20th straight game, the longest streak in 67 years. The magic didn't translate to the postseason, though, as the A's suffered another first-round collapse, this one at the hands of the upstart Minnesota Twins.
Diggin' in the dirt: Torii Hunter and the Twins won the AL Central.
Harry How/Getty Images
It took a lawsuit to keep Selig and his owner cronies from "contracting" the Minnesota Twins in the offseason. Once they were cleared to play for 2002 … boy, did they play. The Twins jumped out to an early lead and won the American League Central by 13 ½ games over the Chicago White Sox. Led by such stars as Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones, the Twins stunned the favored Oakland A's -- another small-revenue sweetheart -- in the divisional series, winning the deciding Game 5 in Oakland. The Twins' ride finally came to an end against the wild-card Anaheim Angels in the American League Championship Series.
St. Louis sadness
Playing for their fallen teammate, the Cards went on to win the Central.
The city of St. Louis was stunned by duel tragedies in June. Jack Buck, the beloved Cardinals broadcaster, died after a long illness and, less than a week later, 33-year-old starter Darryl Kile, a three-time All-Star, died from natural causes in his hotel room in Chicago. The Cardinals would struggle with the losses all season long, valiantly winning the National League Central and knocking off the defending World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round of the playoffs. They finally fell to the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series.
A last-place MVP?
Campaign in vain: A-Rod's amazing season was lost in Texas.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Late in the season as the Texas Rangers floundered in the American League West, All-Star shortstop Alex Rodriguez threw AL MVP voters into a tizzy. Can an MVP play for a last-place team? With 57 home runs, 142 RBIs, 389 total bases -- all best in the majors -- A-Rod has forced voters to pick a side. A couple of MVP candidates from winning teams -- mainly Alfonso Soriano and Jason Giambi of the Yankees, and Miguel Tejada of the A's -- will be waiting on the answer.
There go the champions
Yer out: The D'backs and Yanks got bounced in October.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
The Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees turned in one of the more memorable World Series ever last year, but they didn't get the chance to repeat it this season. Even though both won their divisions with much of the same cast they had last year -- the Yankees even added slugger Jason Giambi -- both the Diamondbacks and Yanks never got out of the first round of the playoffs. The scrappy St. Louis Cardinals swept the Diamondbacks in the divisional series, beating both Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, while the equally scrappy Anaheim Angels blasted the Yankees in four games.
Open season on managers
Cannery row: Joe Kerrigan was among five managers fired in the spring.
With attendance down early and losing up in too many places, the season started with pink slips flying. Boston's Joe Kerrigan was canned before Opening Day. Detroit axed Phil Garner, Milwaukee said bye-bye to Davey Lopes, Colorado sent Buddy Bell packing and Kansas City said sayonara to Tony Muser. All before the end of May. As expected, none of the changes made a huge difference.
The problem with the Mets
Bobby Valentine was let go after the Mets' lousy season.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Looking to unseat the Atlanta Braves in the National League East, the New York Mets went on an offseason spending binge, trading for All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar, pitcher Shawn Estes, slugger Mo Vaughn and outfielder Jeromy Burnitz and signing free agents Pedro Astacio and Roger Cedeno. Alomar struggled early on, Vaughn struggled just about the whole year and the rest of the new Mets were all disappointing in one way or another. It showed as the Mets fell behind in the NL East race early and never got up, finishing 75-86, 26 ½ games behind the Braves. Manager Bobby Valentine was fired shortly after the season ended.