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AND WHAT A YEAR IT WAS
Baseball is in trouble, huh? It's boring, the games are too long, and no one is watching, right? Wrong. This has been one of the most dramatic, unpredictable, bizarre and hilarious seasons in history.
The Phillies are on their way to becoming the third team in this century to go from last place to first in one year, while the A's arc threatening to become the second team to go from first to sole possession of last. The Giants lit up Candlestick, but the Braves blew by them eight weeks after their stadium caught fire on July 20. The Rockies, who set several major league attendance records, and their expansion brethren, the Marlins, appear certain to avoid last-place finishes and 100-loss seasons, but the Mets.... Was their 1962 expansion team really worse than these guys, who had lost 102 games at week's end?
This was also a year of important individual accomplishments. Dave Winfield got his 3,000th hit; Carlton Fisk set the record for most games caught in a career (2,226); Lee Smith became the alltime save leader; Mark Whiten of the Cardinals tied big league marks with four homers and 12 RBIs in one game; Mariner Chris Bosio, Yankee Jim Abbott and Astro Darryl Kile pitched no-hitters; and Anthony Young of the Mets ran his string of consecutive losses, dating back to 1992, to a major league record 27.
It was a season filled with events that made no sense—which made it all the more interesting. The Orioles' Jamie Moyer had more wins than the Red Sox' Roger Clemens; the Indians had eight pitchers with lower ERAs than that of the A's Dennis Eckersley; the Braves' Terry Pendleton inexplicably walked off the field in the middle of a game; Yankee owner George Steinbrenner didn't fire anyone important, but Met Vince Coleman fired a firecracker into a crowd of people and was charged with a felony.
In 1993 fans said goodbye to Fisk, Nolan Ryan and George Brett—three certain first-ballot Hall of Famers—as well as to Cleveland Stadium and Arlington Stadium. And we'll say farewell to this season with our annual picks for baseball's biggest awards and a few special citations of our own. (All statistics are through Sunday's games.)
American League MVP. Frank Thomas, White Sox. He led the league in RBIs (126), was third in slugging (.606), third in home runs (41) and tied for sixth in hitting (.316), and he was at his best in the second half when Chicago pulled away to the American League West title.
National League MVP. Barry Bonds, Giants. Bonds was a tough call over the Phillies' Lenny Dykstra, but he led the league in homers (44), slugging percentage (.683, highest in the league since Stan Musial's .702 in 1948) and on-base average (.462). He was second in runs (122) and third in RBIs (114), had 28 stolen bases, played brilliant defense, batted .356 with runners in scoring position and hit .372 with 18 homers when batting from the seventh inning on. He went 13 straight games without an RBI when San Francisco collapsed in September, but had it not been for him, the Giants wouldn't have led the National League West for a day, let alone four months.
American League Cy Young. Randy Johnson, Mariners. Sure, he had only the 10th-best ERA in the league and didn't win a game in July, but he went 18-8 and was the most dominant pitcher in the game. He had 14 double-figure strikeout games en route to becoming the first lefty to whiff 300 since Steve Carlton in 1972; and he held batters to a .200 average, lowest among the league's starters.
National League Cy Young. Greg Maddux, Braves. He led the league in ERA (2.42) and innings (253), and was fourth in wins (19). Best of all, he was 11-1 in the second half of the season, when the Braves got hot. Consistent? The highest ERA Maddux had in any one month was 3.17. If he wins the award, Maddux will become the first pitcher to win back-to-back Cy Youngs for different teams.