Pissing Off the Baseball Gods Vol. XIV: Super Bash Bros.

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March 17, 2014 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Baseball is an incredibly superstitious sport; from players such as Wade Boggs and Justin Verlander, and instances like a black cat walking across Ron Santo in the one deck circle, it’s a sport that is steeped in superstition as much as it is rooted in tradition.  The reason for such is that much the same way that the course of the NBA is dictated by David Stern, the MLB is governed by the baseball gods.  They are the committee that controls the flow of the game and the outcome of events.  Like the gods of ancient mythology however, they are not infallible and from time to time have been stymied by the actions of a certain player or team.  As such, there comes a price for crossing the gods and their plans for baseball.

Pissing Off the Baseball Gods: is a 30 part anthology wherein I will go through each of the 30 franchises in the MLB and give an example of how they crossed the baseball gods, and give the ensuing penalty that arose from their transgression.  Essentially, a gigantic dose of karma, each team has had to pay for a victory they shouldn’t have had, or having unfavorable players on their team.  Most of the examples provided may seem disassociated and incongruent, but given the superstitious nature of baseball, chances are it’s just the price to pay for pissing off the baseball gods.

Besides the New York Yankees, there has only been one other franchise that has won three consecutive World Series titles.  That franchise is the Oakland Athletics, and from 1972-1974 they were the only champions of baseball.  Not only did they win, but they also featured some of the best players in the game of that time.  Led by Hall of Famers: Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and Rollie Fingers, the A’s were rounded out by all-stars such as Vida Blue, Bert Campaneris, and Joe Rudi.  They were eccentric, they were kooky, they were tough, but above all else, they were winners.

Those A’s teams of the 70s were all about balance; great hitting coupled with great and timely pitching, plus the addition of one of the first well-developed bullpens led them to domination in the mid-70s.  Some fifteen years later, it appeared as if the A’s were once again on the precipice of another dynasty.  This time however, the keyword would not be balance, but instead, it was power.  Power hitting in the form of the Bash Bros., Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, power pitching lead by the ferocious Dave Stewart and Bob Welch, and a powerful bullpen bolstered by the quiet acquisition of failed-starter-turned-stud-closer Dennis Eckersley.  In the three seasons from 1988-1990, the A’s won an absurd 306 games, all the while winning the American League Pennant in all three of these years.  But, sins and other transgressions against the baseball gods were committed by these same Athletics that led them to suffer crushing World Series humiliations in two of the three consecutive World Series appearances.

Unbeknownst to the general public, but kept a hushed, frivolous secret by the sportswriters was the key to the Bash Bros. success- PEDs.  The most potent tandem of that team, and of that era relied on PEDs to bolster their performance.[1]  The fact that they had to use artificial means to enhance their play, which in turn led them to dominate throughout the regular season, was a transgression that would not go unpunished as the A’s would suffer humiliating World Series loses in 1988 and 1990 to inferior teams in the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds, respectively.

Between both the 1988 Dodgers and the 1990 Reds, there’s only one Hall of Fame position player, and even at best he’s a borderline case.  Meanwhile the A’s boasted two Hall of Famers, and two sure-shot candidates in McGwire and Canseco, if no one retroactively gave a shit about steroids.  Not only were the A’s the best team in baseball in 1988 and 1990, but they lost to teams that weren’t even the best team in the National League.[2]

In 1988, the tone was set from game one where instead of finishing off, closer Eckersley let his pride get in the way and began to toy with pinch hitter, (and undeserving league MVP) Kirk Gibson.  The same Kirk Gibson who was more beat up and physical unable than Steven Hawkins.  After starting Gibson off with two straight strikes, Gibson got to a full count where he bashed an Eckersley slider over the wall for the walk-off win (a term coined by Eckersley about five minutes after this game).  That miraculous home run (courtesy of the Baseball Gods) was all the Dodgers needed to finish off the A’s in five games.

Even though they could not be considered a dynasty, the A’s still had a chance to repeat in 1990, after winning it all in 1989.  All they had to do was beat the Cincinnati Reds, the least talented team to ever play in a World Series.  Not only did the A’s lose however, thus preventing them from even repeating, they were swept.  In four games their vaunted offense produced only eight runs, while their powerful pitching rotation yielded 22 runs.  They were dismantled by pitchers no one’s ever heard of like Jose Rijo and Tom Browning, while Cy Young winner Bob Welch had no idea how to get a no name like Billy Hatcher out.

In three World Series appearances, the A’s amassed a record of 5-8, managing to win only one out of a possible three, exactly like the Baltimore Orioles from 1969-1971.  Oh, and where were Canseco and McGwire during those two horrendous losses in 1988 and 1990?  In the 1988 Series Canseco batted .053, while McGwire proved to be more efficient putting up a stunning .059.  In 1990 the Bash Bros. combined for four hits in 26 at bats.  Surely we should expect better from guys who were doing all those steroids.  PEDs might make you hit the ball further, but they don’t make you clutch.  And the Baseball Gods saw to it that when it mattered the most, the Bash Bros. led Oakland A’s would falter for their transgression.

Next Week: Seattle Mariners


[1] Whether or not they had to rely on PEDs in the first place is up for debate.  But they sure as shit didn’t help Mark McGwire improve his batting average.

[2] In 1988 the best team in the National League (and the MLB) was the Mets.  They would have swept the Oakland A’s in three games…that’s how good they were.

In 1990, the best team in the National League was the Pirates.  They would have lost to the A’s in five…maybe six if Doug Drabek could stymie the A’s with his absurdly slow fastball.

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