Baseball w/early war on drugs
How much would an early (1981 onward) war on drugs help baseball? Would early education and monitoring of players have helped players like Gooden and Strawberry? Would Jose Canseco have enough brains not to try steroids, as he claims he did his whole career, IIRC - haven't read the book but heard way too much about it last year.
I've come up with the following partial timeline and need ideas on figuring out what does happen to Doc, Darryl, et. al.
Dec. 2, 1980: Steve Howe celebrates his winning the Rookie of the Year award by partying a little too much with several other players at a party. In this timeline, he will not receive half a dozen or so lifetime suspensions for cocaine. He will not survive the night, in fact. He is discovered to have died of an overdose, the man who would become one of the most heavy users in baseball in our timeline instead igniting something that will change baseball.
Dec. 5: A federal probe is launched into what players were at that party. Names invariably leak out to the media, and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn promises stuff penalties. However, his actions cause the players union to balk – momentarily.
Dec. 14: Kuhn agrees to meet with an arbitrator to discuss appropriate sanctions, as baseball’s winter meetings have been met with an emergency owners’ meeting at which they are convinced not to lock out the players. “We have them where we want them,” Kuhn declares.”
Dec. 19: President-elect Reagan, a former sportscaster, weighs in as the evidence mounts that this party was merely the tip of the iceberg, and evidence starts to point toward another source on the east coast, a man with access to players in Philadelphia. Reagan declares that, “For the good of the game, and of our young fans, we need to come down hard on this problem. Not one young boy should have to suffer the heartbreaking feeling of walking up to his favorite ballplayer, and tearfully plead with him, ‘Say it ain’t so, Joe. Say it ain’t so!’ Our young people should never have to hear the sad truth that it is so, that a player committed a federal offense.”
Dec. 20: Though Johnny Carson and other comedians are making fun of Reagan’s use of the “say it ain’t so” legend, just as he will use many movie lines over the years, Commissioner Kuhn weighs in in support of year-long suspensions for anyone mentioned in the probe, as well as month-long ones for anyone testing positive the first time. The players’ union objects to the automatic inclusion of such testing in the CBA – especially since Kuhn plans to test for *all* illegal drugs, including greenies.
Dec. 21: The St. Louis Cardinals had made a trade involving Leon Durham to the Cubs. With Durham’s name having come up now in rumors, instead of just Ty Waller, the Cardinals trade Garry Templeton – who looks like a future Hall of Famer at this stage of his career, though it’s Ozzie Smith who will be - and Sixto Lezcano, plus others, for Ozzie Smith and several other players, including outfielder Gene Richards. Richards is then given to the Cubs as another player to be named later, as there is concern that Bowie Kuhn will void this deal and any involving players suspected in the growing drug scandal. He does not, however.
Dec. 28: The Major League Players’ Union announces that if their other demands are not met and baseball insists on such tough sanctions, they will set a strike date. However, they refuse to strike at the start of spring training, because of the ongoing investigation; they don’t wish to have egg on their faces if some players turned out to be really heavily involved. “We certainly don’t want anyone thinking we condone what Steve Howe did, we don’t want anyone thinking we want a player’s family to suffer like that.”
Feb. 7, 1981: Players announce a strike date of May 24 if their demands aren’t met. (Note – this is over 2 weeks earlier than in our timeline, because of 2 factors. First, it’s a couple weeks earlier because of the extra demands, and second, instead of just pushing it 2 weeks earlier, after 6 weeks of pay, they push it a week earlier to threaten the lucrative Memorial Day weekend.
Feb. 15: Paul Molitor of the Brewers voluntarily checks himself into a drug treatment clinic. Commissioner Kuhn announces an amnesty program whereby any major leaguers who wish to follow Molitor and clean themselves up will not be suspended. The union, in response to this, pushes back their strike threat to the morning of Friday, May 29, as talks continue to progress very slowly.
Feb. 20: Mike Schmidt comes out and admits that, “a couple times, only a couple,” as a youngster, he was tempted to try greenies because “so many others were.” He confesses that he hasn’t in years, and promises a “breakout season,” an impressive feat for a man who won the MVp last year with 48 home runs, and had 45 the year before. Schmidt also calls for a lighter penalty than a month – a week to 10 days is what he considers fair. “Some of these kids just don’t know any better,” he contends. “We shouldn’t just be punishing, but educating them.” He calls for baseball to also begin a plan of education starting in the minors, which they will.
Mar. 11: Indictments are handed down against several men, including the ones in charge of supplying the drugs to the party where Steve Howe died, and the man in Philadelphia. (Same one as in our timeline’s 1985 trial.) Commissioner Kuhn announces that baseball has conducted its own three-month investigation, and announces the suspensions of numerous ballplayers for the season, including Tim Raines, Keith Hernandez, Dave parker, Willie Aikens, and others.
Mar. 12: With the Pirates hit hard by the drug scandal, they instantly seek some players to at least take them through this season and replace the bat of Dave Parker if nothing else. Their trade of a couple minor leaguers for Joe Rudi will not help them much, but it will some. It will also cause Wade Boggs to make the majors for a while, and be the full-time third baseman in 1982 when Carney Lansford is traded to the A’s, as he had a successful 1981 showing.
Mar. 15: The Pirates trade Grant Jackson, Luis Tiant, and a couple others to the Dodgers for several minor leaguers, including outfielder Candy Maldonado – though the high altitude at Alberquerque means Dodger offensive stats are somewhat misleading, he will end up sticking with the Bucs by 1983. The Dodgers then trade starter Rick Sutcliffe to the Indians in a multi-player deal a year early, getting Jorge Orta in return, who will be very valuable off the bench this year.
Jackson will start out great for the Dodgers, then hit some reall rough patches (as in OTL after a trade to the Expos), Tiant will still be okay in spot starts, winning 6 and losing 2, and he’ll help the young pitchers and finally earn his Series ring. Alejandro Pena will come up earlier than planned and do great for the bullpen, too, while being groomed at a potential starter someday, too. “We wish we hadn’t traded Maldonado, but we’ve got plenty of great minor leaguers,” the Dodgers say.
Mar. 23: Because Vida blue is out for the Giants, they decide not to trade Bob Knepper. This leaves the Astros searching for pitching help, as any trade talks involving Knepper are off, though the Giants do get Jeffery Leonard in a separate trade soon.
Apr. 2: The loss of Raines is seen as hurting the Expos in most preseason forecasts, but they are still seen as co-favorites with the Phillies, who lost Lonnie Smith. The Dodgers have “some questions” and are “probably a bit less favored than Houston, but it’s not certain.” In the East, Molitor’s loss means the Yankees and Orioles have a more clear shot, while the royals lost enough, “Brett would need to hit .400 or more for them to be sure of a title, but not many clubs out there can catch them.”
May 29: Major League baseball players go on strike, with the Orioles, Athletics, Phillies, and Dodgers leading their divisions, the Orioles and Dodgers by three games each. The surprising Indians are in a tie for 2nd, in fact, in the A.L. East. “Howe’s loss has been made up by shrewd managing, more complete games, and the incredible Fernando Valenzuela,” according the L.A. writers. The Phillies lead by two games over the Cardinals and five over the Expos, who really miss Tim Raines in their lineup. The A’s are up by a game over Chicago, with the Royals an embarrassing tie for 5th, 12 games back, after making it to the World Series last year.
June 6: The Astros are way too far back, and in need of younger players. They send Jose Cruz, who suddenly is looking quite old, and struggling hurler Joaquin Andujar to the Cardinals for pitcher Lary Sorenson and a couple others, including outfielder Tony Scott and another starting pitcher, one who will look very promising, then get hurt and not play much again next year.
The Cardinals now have their left fielder, and have no need to look to acquire Lonnie Smith – David Green will be with them soon, and he is still looked upon as a potential superstar, as he was one of the main parts of the megadeal with the Brewers in the previous offseason. It’s felt Green will eventually replace Cruz.
June 11: The strike ends after baseball agrees to Schmidt’s proposal concerning greenies, slightly altered – 15 days suspension for the first offense, 2 months for the second, a year for the third, and lifetime for the fourth. The same is adopted for “any performance-enhancing drugs” – in other words, it is what is considered appropriate for steroid users, though those aren’t huge yet they would become one but for baseball’s tougher guidelines.
Those suspended for cocaine use, since it’s seen as a “harder drug” by the baseball establishment, will not be eligible to return till after the All-Star break. “We feel we’ve reached a fair compromise on this and other issues,” Marvin Miller says, though almost nobody paid attention to what those others were.
Mike Schmidt promises to “light the league on fire” to help baseball forget this problem. Fans are very annoyed by the strike, and by the problems on both sides. They tend to feel that there’s too much anger on both sides, when both sides should have been getting together after a player with such hope died.
June 13: The Chicago Cubs, after quite a few talks, re-sign pitcher Rick Reuschel, again trying to bolster their fan support. This means, among other things, the Yankees need a pitcher. With the Cardinals’ hopes slipping without Hernandez, they send the Yankees pitcher Dale Murray, in return for minor league centerfielder Willie McGee.
The trading deadline has been pushed back to July 31 since players will be eligible to return after the All-Star break in mid-July.
June 15: Play resumes; most games will be made up, though not all. The Cubs are very bad, having a 9-31 record as play resumes. (Durham wouldn’t have been missed in April, batting around .200, but had a very good May, so call it even.) The mets and Pirates are each rather bad, though not quite that bad.
Schmidt is batting .285 right now, with 14 home runs (3 ahead of Dawson) and an RBI behind the league leader. Several players are well ahead of him in the batting race, but several will drop off dramatically, others will be injured, and Bill Madlock will struggle at .315 all year because he is getting pitched around all the time.
July 14: The American league finally beats the National League in an All-Star game, 3-2. Dave Stieb can’t win it in the 9th with the score tied at 2, but the A.L. wins it in the 11th at Cleveland off of loser Rick Reuschel.
Mon., July 20: With almost all the suspended players back on rosters finally, the Dodgers start play three games ahead of the Reds, with Steve Sax now the starting second baseman for the most part.
Over in the N.L. East, the Phillies have a comfortable five game lead on the Cardinals and seven on the Expos, as Mike Schmidt is tearing up the league, hitting .303 now, and he’ll have an incredible August, hitting about .370. The Expos stand seven back, and while Raines and Hernandez each do quite well as their teams make a run, the Phillies will turn out on top by three over both.
The A’s have a three and a half game lead over the Rangers, as the White Sox have fallen back to seven back. The Royals will struggle and end up below .500 this year.
The Orioles, who seem to be winning with mirrors, are still a couple up on the Yankees and Brewers, who get Paul Molitor back for a while in late June, then lose him to injury till August. The Red Sox are trying to charge toward the top, but are playing with mostly all offense, as usual. The Tigers are also very good, while the Indians are even in the thick of things.
Sept. 1: Johnny Bench plays one of his first games back after an injury. The Reds will play 21-9 baseball this month to close the gap on the Dodgers, who stand eight games up on the Reds before play begins here.
Sept. 18: As Mike Schmidt climbs above the .330 mark and takes the lead in RBis away from George Foster, now leading the league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs, the Dodgers lose the first of a five-game series desgiend to make up the last of the remaining games they need to make up because of the strike. The Reds will also sweep a doubleheader tomorrow, and the teams will split two on Sunday, Jerry Reuss winning the opener 3-1 and the Reds the nightcap, as the Reds pull to within three games.
Sept. 20: After a day off, the Dodgers regroup and start on another winning streak. They are racing the Reds to the division title.
Oct. 1: The Dodgers are now only two games ahead of the Reds entering the last weekend of the season. The Astros were sputtering in a tie for third before the break, with the Giants well back, in fifth, because of Vida Blue’s suspension. While they have rebounded some, they were never a factor in the pennant race.
The Athletics clinch their division, as do the Phillies.
Oct. 2: With a win and a Reds loss, the Dodgers clinch their division. Only the A.L. East is up for grabs now.
Oct. 3: Mike Schmidt hits his 50th home runs of the year, and clinches the batting title. When Goerge Foster fails to get any RBIs the next day, it’s moot, as hit 2 RBI lead extends to 3, and his .329 batting title gives him the triple crown, the first National league Triple Crown since 1937 and Ducky Medwick. “We adjusted to the ban on uppers just like with all other drugs being banned. We showed what hard work can do,” he proclaimed later as he picked up his 2nd straight MVPaward.
Oct. 4: On the last day of the season, Jack Morris outduels Pete Vuckovich 3-2 to win his 20th, denying Vuckovich the same honor. The Tigers put on a spirited charge, but came up just short, while at the same time the Orioles beat the Yankees leading to one of the tighest division races since 1967. The total for all divisions were at follows:
Baltimore, 92 wins, slumped in midseason, then Weaver’s late chargeand a great rookie named Ripken, called up in August, turn the tide over Yankees
Milwaukee, 91, ironically late charge is similar to one Orioles will put on and fall short next year.
New York, 90, relied on pitching, but it wasn’t enough, offense was quite bad
Boston, 88, but found young, surprising star in Boggs, .319 in 46 games.
Detroit, 88, took them a while to find themselves, had great 2nd half
Cleveland, 83, this could only happen to the Indians; they were never closer than 7 games back and 4th after July 1. Sutcliffe did look good, so they decide they have their four big starters. However, they hope their offense improves.
Toronto, 65, showed some promise in 2nd half, though.
Oakland, 90 wins, but looking tired in the 2nd half, they get swept by Orioles in ALCS
Texas, 84, looked plain old in dog days of August
Chicago, 83, Big first 2 months, then teams caught up to them, but nice rebound at the end
California, 80, But if Lynn has better year next year, and Reggie gets signed, who knows
Kansas City, 77, Another team that looked old, but drug problem was a big part, even with Clint Hurdle emerging as a force
Seattle, 65,Not much to root for
Minnesota, 59, Going totally with youth in 2nd half, their 1st half of 1982 will be even worse before a rebound in the 2nd half
Philadelphia, 93 wins, Weathered lack of Lonnie Smith nicely for first half (our timeline he wasn’t very productive anyway, so no big change), Mike Schmidt carried team, managed not to get booed at times now
Montreal, 90, Tim Raines did well coming back, Expos just too far back to catch up, promise next year is “the year.”
St. Louis, 90, Keith Hernandez was on fire in 2nd half, on mission to prove critics wrong
New York,73, actually showed some promise
Pittsburgh, 72, Parker just coming out of it by end, too many distractions with investigation and all
Chicago, 57, Reuschel only bright spot, and even he took loss for N.L. in 11th inning of All-Star Game
Los Angeles, 97 wins, a team built on pitching
Cincinnati, 94, a great team but too old in some ways
Houston, 87, never really recovered from poor start
Atlanta, 78, not much to say
San Francisco, 76, building for future, yet also trying to win now
San Diego, 69, big trades did show some improvement, good farm system now
Oct. 10: The Dodgers complete a 4-game victory over the Phillies.
Oct. 13; Rick Monday’s home run in the bottom of the 8th gives Jerry Reuss a 2-1 lead, and he holds on for the win.
Oct. 20: The Dodgers wrap up a 6-game victory over the Orioles, winning 6-4. Luis Tiant They took 2 of 3 in Baltimore, and 2 of 3 in games 3-5 at home in L.A.. The Orioles barely scored more than they allowed, however, and this Oriole squad is considered perhaps Earl Weaver’s best managing job.
Dec. 9: The Phillies trade the now clean Lonnie Smith to the Indians for catcher Bo Diaz. The Indians send Miguel Dilone to the Astros, with a couple other players, for an older pitcher, Verne Ruhle. Dilone flops, and only spends a few more years in the majors.
The Phillies, meanwhile, have also traded away Ryne Sandbert for veterans, and will send the Indians young shortstop Julio Franco and several others next year for Von Hayes. They will end up winning the pennant in 1983 before losing to Baltimore in the World Series.
Jan. 1, 1982: The very first major Gatorade ad featuring “Triple Crown winner Mike Schmidt” appears during New Year’s Day bowl games. Schmidt, who was approached to try the new sports drink as the controversy heated up over his admissions, claimed to drink quite a bit of it during the season, and the ads featuring his best performances from that 1981 season.
Jan. 9: Major League baseball decides that the trading deadline will be kept at July 31 now, as June 15th is seen as a bit too early, and the close pennant races in each league last year are something baseball would like to see more of. They will.
July 1: With the Indians in contention, in 4th at only 4.5 back, and John Denny doing poorly, they trade him and 2nd year player Von Hayes, and a couple others to the Phillies for shortstop Julio Franco, Manny Trillo, starting pitcher Larry Christenson, and a variety of other players, 8 in all. It’s hoped that Franco’s speed will energize the club, which has Lonnie Smith doing very well for them. McBride will play right, while the Phillies can use Hayes’ youth in right, while also getting Denny, whom they hope can shore up a weakened pitching staff. He will, but not till next year. McBride ends up being injured and doesn’t play a lot for the Indians; they got him from the Phillies before the season.
Sept. 22: The Cleveland Indians are eliminated, but not for lack of effort; they stay in the race till the final couple weeks, and Lonnie Smith’s superb play lead to an 85 win campaign, 9 games behind the Brewers, 8 behind the Orioles, and just 4 behind the Red Sox. They end up in 4th. The Phillies won’t be eliminated till the final weekend, they end up with 89 wins, the Cardinals with 92 – thanks to Jose Cruz’s .295, Willie McGee’s great rookie year, and David Green’s probably best season. The Expos had 88, with Tim Raines clean now. “That trade worked out nicely for both clubs,” everyone says.
The Indians will find it their high water mark, however, till the middle 1990s.
Oct. 20: Jose Cruz, batting 2nd most of the year for the Cardinals – with Tom Herr leading off – scores the winning run in what will be a 6-3 win for the Cardinals in game 7 of the 1982 World Series, over the Brewers.
Major surprises of this season are the Indians and the Braves, who took a chance on Pascual Perez from the Pirates and were rewarded nicely, winning the division. The Pirates also rebounded nicely, with Dave Parker fighting some injuries but also playing much better than he had been. They had 85 wins. Major disappointments were the Rangers, A’s – who seemed to lose all their starters to injuries in the pitching staff – Reds, and Astros. The Astros, in particular, suffered, with Sorenson losing 16, Dilone struggling to hit .225, and the team having a 72-90 record.
The Padres finished just ahead of the Giants, in 3rd with 83 wins to the Giants’ 82; San Francisco was disappointed in bob Knepper’s 7-12 mark.
June 15, 1983: The St. Louis Cardinals, with David Green apparently able to take over right field full time, trade aging slugger George hendrick to the Mets – where he’ll play first – fir pitchers Rick Ownby and Neil Allen. Keith Hernandez is doing great for the Cardinals at first, and will have another super season next year, though finishing 2nd in the MVP voting.
The Phillies, a couple games out of first, respond by sending Marty Bystrom and a minor league infielder to the Yankees for pitcher Shane Rawley, a veteran who will go 5-1 in August to help vault the Phillies past the Cardinals and Pirates into first.
Oct. 2, 1983: The Phillies clinch the division on the last day of the season in a great pennant race, with 90 wins to the Pirates’ 87 and the Cardinals’ 85. The Indians won only 75 games all year, and finished last. Jose Cruz wins the batting title for the Cardinals at .328, and supplies 18 home runs to help relieve them of some of the problem of losing Hendrick.
Oct. 16, 1983: The Orioles beat the Phillies to clinch the Series title; the Phillies finally beat the Dodgers.
Nov. 9, 1983: After 2 straight years of .290 or so with 28 home runs, Dave Parker is re-signed by the Pirates, who choose to keep him as a free agent. However, the team is getting old.
Jan. 19, 1984: The Houston Astros, still thinking they might have a chance to win, trade for Tom Seaver, sending several minor leaguers to the Mets. None of them will be prominent, but it does show that the Mets are building for the future – they don’t realize that Seaver has some very good years left in him. Seaver will win 17 the next two years despite some very poor offense at times, filling the gap that would have been filled by bob Knepper had the Astros traded for him. The Astros will finish 2nd and then third.
Jul. 12, 1984: With the Expos mired in last, they trade Pete Rose back to the Reds, where he can start at first and pursue his hit record. However, he declines the managerial job, as Pascual Perez and Otis Nixon have recently been suspended for a year, as was Willie Aikens a few months ago – next is a lifetime suspension for each of them, and Rose can tell baseball is getting tough about these things and staying that way. He fears gambling could be the same way.
Hence, he recommends Frank Robinson to manage the club. Marge Schott agree, and Rose is traded to the Reds today, with Robinson, fired after the ’83 season from the Giants, being hired to manage the Reds.
It will only later be learned that Rose was advised by numerous individuals that his gamblig habits could spill over to the baseball field and affect his judgment – baseball had become very concerned about potential gambling problems as well as other problems. Rose would only bet on baseball after his playing days were over, and it would only be announced after his Hall of Fame election.
Sept. 30, 1984: An incredible division race ends in which the Cubs win 95, and finish 4 games ahead of the Cardinals, and 9 games ahead of the Pirates. The Phillies looked good enough to win till the last few weeks, then they lost their last 9 to fall from 3rd to fifth, 81 wins versus 82 for the Mets. The Expos ended up in last, despite a 77-85 record. Dave Parker finished at .305 with 28 home runs.
Dec. 9: The Cardinals trade for John Tudor and Brian Harper, giving the Pirates Andy Van Slyke, who will be a mainstay in center for them for years, and shortstop Jose Uribe, another player who will be a great long-term player for them, along with a couple lower minor league players. The Bucs also promise a player to be named later, who turns out to be Joe Orsulak, a promising young outfielder.
Dec. 10: The New York Yankees sign Fred Lynn to a free agent contract, and pencil him in for right field, with newly acquired Rickey Henderson in center and Ken Griffey, Sr. in left. The Orioles were going to try to outbid the Yankees, but their 1981 pennant, and 3 in 5 years, convince them even more to stick with home grown talent, and not try as hard for free agents.
Dec. 11: In a very complex 3-team move, seven minor leaguers change hands in addition to the following:
The Cardinals get Dave Winfield from the Yankees – George Steinbrenner keeps calling him Mr. May, but the blasting is even heavier because the club hasn’t won a pennant since Steinbrenner spent such a huge amount on him – and a few minor leaguers.
The Yankees receive Brian Harper from the Cardinals – though he will not last long as a Yankee, and only come to prominence starting in 1988 as a Twin – and Jack Clark from the Giants. Clark will be the new cleanup man and DH, though he can play some left his range is somewhat limited. New York also gets Joel Youngblood from the Giants, feeling he can platoon well at third with Mike Pagliarulo.
The Giants receive David Green, who will play first base, Dave LaPoint and Joe Boever, pitchers, and outfielder/first baseman Gary Rajschi, from the Cardinals, and shortstop Andre Robertson and infielder Dale Berra.
They and the Yankees each get a couple minor leaguers.
Dec. 16: Knowing Lonnie Smith will likely want to leave Cleveland after 1985, as their years of near contention seem far away now - especially since they traded away Rick Sutcliffe – the 79-83, 6th place Indians trade Smith and a couple others to the Royals for pitcher Atlee Hammaker and outfielder John Morris. “Smith became expendable, anyway, with Brett Butler doing so well in center, he batted second most of the time this past season,” their GM says. Smith hit .286 with 15 homers and will hit .294 with the Royals while starting 150 games in left field.
Hammaker was almost traded to the Giants in 1982, but because of Blue’s suspension in 1981 the Royals were a little leery. Blue had pitched very well since coming back however, and plans to spend the rest of his career with the Giants. Hammaker will flop with the Indians in 1985, going 5-12.
Feb. 8, 1985: With Bob Knepper having only had one good season – muted by the giants’ poor club – and 2 poor ones before that, it’s rather easy for the Giants to simply ship him to the Red Sox in a minor deal for Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, one that gives them another good lefty if he can avoid whatever problems plagued him in 1982-3, which he will. This makes it that much easier for the Red Sox to trade Bob Ojeda to the Mets over the following offseason.
Mar. 29: With Floyd Rayford sure to win the third base spot, the Cardinals trade young Terry Pendleton and Jose Cruz to the Braves, who hope to contend but will instead be in 5th – for reserve infielder Ken Oberkfell (on the Cardinals in ’82), outfielder Brad Komminsk, and Andres Thomas, a supposedly excellent power prospect whom they hope to convert into a third basement. While they get good defense out of him, his bat ends up not being nearly good enough to stick in the majors’ just like Komminsk’s, once a prize prosect.
May 2, 1985: With the Bucs fighting the Cubs for last place (they will win 66 games total), the Pirates send Dave Parker to the Reds, who hope to be able to contend in a weak division, in exchange for Nick Esasky, Gary Redus, and several others, as the Bucs try to rebuild their farm system. Bill Madlock will be traded later.
When asked to comment on the deal, the Bucs’ GM says, “This is a bad team, but you know, it’s not nearly as bad as it could be. We’ve got some good players, it’s just a good thing that that drug scandal hit 4 years ago instead of this year. Fans can see we really want to succeed, and have players like Parker who are truly sorry for what they’ve done in the past.
June 30: The Seattle Mariners announce the signing of the 7th pick in the draft, Barry Bonds. The Pirates were coveting him, but finishing above .500 they had no chance for him, though they will be able to get Ken Griffey, Jr. a couple years later.
July 27, 1985: The Astros, without one man who they traded away (Jose Cruz) and one pitcher they almost had (Bob Knepper) are struggling big-time. They are 17.5 games back and in last. They consider trading Nolan Ryan, who after a 16-7 year, another 16 win season, and a 14-win one had gone only 12-12 last year. However, he’s their main drawing card.
They instead send Joe Niekro, Jeff Heathcock, and Jerry Mumphrey, along with several minor leaguers to help boost their system, to the Texas Rangers – who were the main possibility for Ryan, who wanted to stay in Texas. In fact, the Rangers would have been nearer his home, and he’d go there in 1988.
The Astros get pitchers Bobby Witt and Mike Mason, along with left fielder Gary Ward, who ends up doing very well, as the Astros rebound and win the division, with 90 wins, 3 ahead of the Giants and 5 ahead of the Reds.
Oct. 7, 1985: Jack Clark hits a 3-run home run off Bill Caudill in Yankee Stadium to give the Yankees a 7-5 playoff win over the Toronto Blue Jays – “Holy cow, you fans can all go crazy,” Phil Rizzuto declares from the broadcast booth, The Yankees will go on to lose the ALCS to the Royals in 7 games.
Oct. 16: Dave Winfield singles home the game winning run for the Cardinals in game 6 over the Dodgers, erasing the calls of “Mr. May” by George Steinbrenner. The Cardinals will lose in 7 to the Royals in the Series, however. Ironically, Winfield will get his Series ring in 1992, for the Blue Jays.
Dec. 18: The Mets receive 1B Eddie Murray – and a couple minor leaguers - from the 76-86 Orioles. They send the Orioles catcher Ed Hearn, outfielders Mark Carreon and Stan Jefferson, first baseman Randy Milligan, and pitchers Terry Leach, Neil Allen and John Mitchell, along with veteran outfielder George Foster. “We were close last time, this will guarantee us first place.”
Ironically, Murray is injured, forcing Dave Magadan and others to play 25 games at first, but the Mets do win 107 ball games and the World Series.
Meanwhile, Milligan starts at first for the Orioles, Foster has one last so-so year, Carreon is called up in mid-July and has a good career for the Orioles, and the others – while they don’t accomplish much, except for Gregg Jeffries, and even he was rushed because of the lack of talent with the Orioles – show that the Orioles’ farm system has been jump started to some extent.
Feb. 8, 1986: Alan Wiggins receives a 1-year suspension for a drug problem. The Orioles will keep Jeffries in the minors for a while, but by the end of the year he will be in the majors, though not to stay for good till 1988.
Mar. 1: Tom Seaver re-signs with the Astros. He does poorly for the division winners, compared to his last two seasons, only going 9-12. He will be injured part-way through the season, and pitch his last game for them in September. The Astros will lose the pennant to the Mets.
June 25: The White Sox, in 6th and then 5th in 1984 and 1985 after a pennant in 1983, give up on their attempt to get Steve Carlton. They are trying to build for youth, but a last place finish this year will have fans really up in arms.
They pick number one and draft Jack McDowell, a pitcher, out of Stanford next year. They finish last by a game worse than Seattle. This lets the Pirates, drafting number 2, pick Ken Griffey, Jr.. The Mariners call up Barry Bonds on this day, too.
June 29: Steve Carlton, who hung on with the Phillies a few more days while they worked out a trade, is sent to the Red Sox for Steve Lyons. After Bob Knepper loses game 3 of the Series 5-1 to the Mets, Carlton will lose game 4, but by a very close 5-2 count. He will relieve in game 7, but give up a couple runs, including a home run to Darryl Strawberry.
June 30: For one of the first times, a player tests positive for steroids. Jose Canseco is banned for 2 months, dampening the Athletics’ hopes. An interesting, new era has in baseball.
I should note that this came about after reading a column in the Tampa Tribune while on vacation, talking about how instead of going to prison Gooden should be preparing for induction into the Hall of Fame - in fact, he could possibly be pitching still today!
So, if plausible, I'd like to keep one or both of Gooden and Strawberry off drugs in this TL.
Interestingly, Gooden threw tons of innings before age 25, and that can really hurt a career. So, i actually don't don't look for him to have a 25-year career, even if he stays clean.
Also trying to see what Canseco would do, leaning toward having him banned. Wonder who wins MVP in '88, etc.; have to do some digging after where I left off