Beyond the Glory
Fox's Beyond the Glory is to ESPN's SportsCentury what The Single Guy was to Friends: A cheap knockoff of the superior original.
That said, I did watch the BTG on Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series home run tonight. It wasn't bad, although all I could think was how much better ESPN would have done with it.
Joe Buck even narrated it, giving the special a bit more credibility.
But, after a piece summing up the A's after 1988, this line was uttered:
"The A's were swept in 1990 by an inferior Reds team."
OK, let's just say this didn't sit too well with me. On that World Series, there are two lines of thought.
One, uttered by Fox tonight, is that the Reds were lucky, that the A's were a better team.
The other, said by Peter Gammons the night of the Reds' final triumph, was that Cincinnati was superior, and while the A's posted big names and (at the time thought to be) future Hall of Famers, they also played in a league where the teams were, to quote Gammons, "pretty mediocre."
True, there was no dynasty for Cincinnati, and the only Hall of Famer on the team was Barry Larkin (yes, he will get in).
But they were good, with most of the players on the roster just entering the prime of their careers.
1B -- Hal Morris: He hit .340, but get enough at-bats for a batting title. Still, his play was solid. Todd Benzinger also played first (he caught the last out in the series), but was nearing the end of his usefullness. McGwire would have the edge in head to head though.
2B --Mariano Duncan: Duncan was one of my favorite players at the time, known for getting big hits. He was a solid hitter, though not too strong defensively. That's probably why the Reds kept around Ron Oester and traded (albeit needlessly) for Bill Doran in August. Doran missed the entire postseason due to injury, while Duncan would blast a three-run homer in game three of the NLCS vs. the Pirates that would signal a shift in that series. Willy Randolph was, if memory serves, nearing the end of his career, so Duncan would get the nod.
SS -- Barry Larkin: Walt Weiss ... Barry Larkin. Hmmmm. Larkin was the team's best player, and remained that way for nearly a decade.
3B -- Chris Sabo hit a team high 25 homers in 1990 (another mind-numbing stat in the wake of the steroid era) and was one of the best defesnsive third basemen in the NL. Carney Lansford may have been a tad better, but Sabo had the series of his life, clobbering two home runs in game three of the series and setting a fielding record for put outs.
Right Field -- Jose Canseco, much as I cringe, had a great 1990. We now know why. He was also hurt by the time October rolled around. Paul O'Neil was not the player in Cincinnati he became in New York, but he was very good. The Reds also had Glenn Braggs, who made a leaping catch in game six of the NLCS to protect a lead. He also, in game four of the World Series, swung and missed and broke his bat. This becomes more understandable when one realizes how cut Braggs was. Nowadays he would be signed by Johnny Ace and pushed as a piano player who stutters. But I digress.
Center Field-- You may not know the name Billy Hatcher. But he was the reason the Reds did so well in the 1990 postseason. Hatcher was an average player in the regular season who became a titan when the postseason began.
In 1986, when playing for the Houston Astros in the NLCS, he became a star. He saved Houston's postseason chances with a homer in the 13th innings off Jesse Orosco to tie the Mets at four. This was game six, and the Astros looked to be dead, but Hatcher's homer saved the season ... for two more innings.
And to think, if the Astros had just pushed accross one more run, the Mets would have lost the series, the ball doesn't go through Buckner's legs, and the plane they destroyed would still be flying today.
Hatcher was just as valuable in 1990, lacing eight straight hits against A's pitching. Willie McGee won a batting title for St. Louis that year, but was no match for Hatcher.
Left Field -- Eric Davis vs. Rickey Henderson. OK, Rickey was better. But Davis was the Reds most notable player at that time, and despite injuries, would hit the biggest homer of the series before being hurt again.
Catcher -- Joe Oliver vs. Terry Steinbach. Steinbach is the very definition of overrated. He was so ... ehhh that the A's actually started Jamie Quirk in game four. Yes, THAT Jamie Quirk. Oliver was as solid defensively as anyone. He got a huge game-winning hit in game two of the series. Going in though, you have to argue catcher as even.
Reds: Jose Rijo, Danny Jackson, Tom Browning
A's: Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Mike Moore
I'm tempted to give the edge to the Reds simply because the A's have a pitcher named Michael Moore, but I'll hold off.
OK, this is why the experts picked the A's. Statistically, it's a hard case for Cincinnati to win. While the Reds had solid pitchers like Browning and Jackson and Rijo, Oakland had stars.
Bob Welch was 27 games in 1990. Stewart threw a no hitter and had already won 20 games in each of the last three seasons. Moore, well ... he did win two starts in the '89 series win over the Giants.
Of course, Jose Rijo, en route to World Series MVP, allowed one run in 16 1/3 innings. In game four, he pitched the best World Series game I have ever seen, setting down the final 20 hitters he faced. He was so good that when Lou Pinella (who had yet to earn his reputation as a brilliant manager) pulled him in the ninth with one out, A's fans gave him a standing ovation. I always think of that. It was far classier than I would ever be if I saw Tom Glavine ... oh wait I did.
That brings us to the bullpen:
I remember when the Plain Dealer was stacking up the series, the Reds had only one edge, at shortstop. I was flabbergasted because I couldn't believe the Nasty Boys were so disrespected.
Of course, I was 10 and looking back, the A's had Eckersley. He was awesome, unhittable since the Series two years earlier that inspired the show that inspired the line that inspired the rant.
Of course, the Reds had Myers, Dibble and Norm Charlton. They also had Jack Armstrong, who started the 1990 All-Star game before losing his mojo and never returning to form.
History shows the Reds were better there too. After Jackson was taken out early in game two, Armstrong, Dibble and a host of others shut the A's down.
The Reds dominated the series.
My brother and I used to argue about trivial things. Video games, arm-strength, pitching. Who was better?
We could go back and forth, but in the end, those two words would be uttered:
Same here. The Reds were the best in the NL. The A's were the best in the AL.
They had a series, and the Reds won every game, ouscoring them by 14 runs.
Lansford said afterwards, "They just outplayed us."
Yes, they did. The truth is that the only way to prove the better team is on the field. The Reds did it not once, but four times.
I think "inferior" somehow doesn't fit.