In the shortened season, the stars still had a chance to shine in 1981
The season started with Fernandomania and ended with a classic World Series matchup between the Dodgers and the Yankees. Mike Schmidt made his way to a second straight MVP, and Nolan Ryan released another no-hitter.
But perhaps the best way to describe baseball in 1981 it is counting Pete Rose's pursuit of the National League career success record. He tied the mark in June, then had to wait until August to break it, because a strike closed the sport for about two months.
All Rose could do was make regular visits to the batting cage while she waited.
I went there every day, Rose said.
If baseball is able to come back at all this year, fans should be prepared for a significantly shortened season, and that 1981 campaign may be the most relevant comparison available. The season was split in two by a labor dispute, but when the sport finally returned, its stars still had an abbreviated chance to shine.
The chaos, the change, the uniqueness, the intensity, all those elements have an absolute factor in how memorable all that time is, he said. Steve Rogers , the right-hander whose Montreal Expos made their first postseason appearance in 1981.
The first days of the '81 season were dominated by Fernando Valenzuela . The Mexican rookie stormed Los Angeles, winning his first eight starts for the Dodgers and pitching shutouts in five of them.
When the strike started, Rose was in the spotlight. He was with defending champion Phillies at the time, and on June 10, he entered Philadelphia's last game before the attack that needed a punch to match Stan Musial's mark in the 3,630 National League.
Ryan was on the mound against the Phillies, and Rose tied the record with a single in the first inning. Rose then struck out her next three opportunities against the Houston right-hander. He finally broke the record on August 10 against St. Louis, in his team's first game.
El primer gran evento de baseball después del paro fue el Juego de Estrellas en Cleveland el 9 de agosto. Schmidt conectó cuadrangular en la octava entrada para darle a la Liga Nacional una victoria de 5-4.
That would have been my best year overall if we had played a full season, Schmidt said in an email. I was at my best, especially after 1980. It really had nothing to do with something unique that I did during the strike, I actually worked for CBS as a sports presenter. I did some exercise with (Phillies reliever) Tug McGraw.
Schmidt hit .316 with 31 home runs in 102 games. Baseball-Reference.com credits him with 7.7 wins over the replacement that year. In 2019, with a full season, only two National League players reached that WAR total.
If baseball 's return went smoothly for position players like Rose and Schmidt, pitchers faced more of a challenge. And Rogers had the added responsibility of being on the union's negotiating committee during the strike.
My ability to stay fit had been significantly reduced, Rogers said. He really didn't have the ability to throw that much.
Sin embargo, se convertiría en un año memorable para Rogers y los Expos. El baseball expandió su postemporada, permitiendo que los cuatro líderes de la división antes de la huelga califiquen, y también tomando a los equipos con los mejores récords posteriores a la huelga en cada división.
That led to some unusual results. Cincinnati was 66-42 for the best overall record in the game, but the Reds finished second in both halves and missed the playoffs. Kansas City went 50-53 but won the second half in the American League West and kept playing.
The teams played an uneven number of games. The Expos (30-23) outscored the Cardinals (29-23) atop the NL East Division in the second half, securing what would be their only postseason spot in Montreal.
The Milwaukee Brewers also made their first appearance in the playoffs. Houston reached the postseason with the help of Ryan's fifth non-hitter on Sept. 26 against the Dodgers.
The fired manager of the Expos Dick Williams at the end of the season, then went 16-11 under Jim Fanning to get to the playoffs. Rogers pitched a two-hit shutout against the Mets in their final start to the regular season _ and was just getting started.
In the first round of the playoffs, Rogers beat Steve Carlton twice, even in the fifth game the winner takes it all in Philly. He went the distance in that 3-0 victory and even drove two races.
In the National League Championship Series against Los Angeles, Rogers pitched another full game in a Game 3 win, but when he was relieved in Game 5, Rick Monday hit a home run at the top of the ninth to give him to the Dodgers the pennant. The end was disappointing, but it was a remarkable race for the Expos.
By the time the World Series ended, with the Dodgers winning in six games, it was fair to say that the 1981 season, while far from ideal, had avoided becoming a sham.
That is the challenge that sport faces this year in the midst of coronavirus pandemic, which has put the entire season in jeopardy. If baseball does resume, it may be in front of empty stadiums, and if the start is delayed well into the summer, the season could be so short the results seem tarnished.
Is he really going to be a true champion? Rose wondered. The commissioner, boy, has his work done for him. You cannot make everyone happy.
Ultimately, though, the format of baseball 's return may be a secondary concern. If the sport can be played safely, that would be a victory in itself. Whether that's really possible is still very much in doubt.
How would you contact trace if a player had the virus and was in a clubhouse? The point is, I think the amount of games is a moot point, Schmidt said. If you need a number, and there was no problem playing, you could probably crown a world champion after a regular 60-game season. And a shorter postseason. It's about money and what everyone is willing to bet on to stop losing that.