The 1994 MLB season was cut short and ended due to a strike by players over league owners proposing a salary limit to address a dire financial situation. The last games were played on August 11, and the season officially ended on September 14 after owners and players failed to reach an agreement.
It would be an understatement to say that a lot was left to ponder. It would have been the inaugural year of the eight-team playoff format. We won’t know if Frank Thomas and Mike Piazza could lead their teams to greatness on another level. Or if the entire history of baseball in Montreal could have been changed? If the Expos had won the world series, would they still be in Montreal today? Today we will take our best guess at how the season would have unfolded.
Today we will act like the player strike was resolved in time to have a postseason in 1994. The 1994 division winners are the teams that finished first on August 11. The same goes for teams who finished first in wild-card standings.
Keep this in mind. This format has four teams. The wild card teams also plays the team with a better record outside their division. Even though Expos and Braves are the one and four-seed, they would not play each other.
The setup for the division series was also different back then. Instead of a 2-2-1 format, the first two games were hosted by the lower seed, while the three remaining would be hosted by the higher seed.
Let’s now take a look at the teams that would have made those playoffs in 1994.
The Bronx Bombers are known for finding ways to win, and 1994 was no exception. Wade Boggs was an all-star selection, and he led a lineup that included Bernie Williams, Danny Tartabull, and all-star Paul O’Neill. Jimmy Key commanded a rotation that included Jim Abbott, MelidoPerez, and Scott Kamieniecki. The Yankees have something to prove, despite having the American League’s best record going into October. In 1993, they finished second to the Blue Jays in the division crown. They also finished below.500 in 1992. Since then, they haven’t had a lousy record like that again.
The White Sox enter this matchup as division champions for the second consecutive year and first-ever winners of the A.L. Central. The lineup features Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura, and Tim Raines. Wilson Alvarez and Jason Bere are the leaders of the rotation. Both of them were first-time all-stars. The White Sox’s starters maintained an ERA below four throughout the season.
The team featured some notable talent. Ivan Rodriguez showed signs of potential Hall-of-Fame talent, while Jose Canseco (and Will Clark) also put up solid numbers. Kenny Rogers also showed some promise and pitched a perfect game during the season. The team finished the regular season with a six-game losing streak. Will they be able to change the momentum in the postseason?
One of the best lineups in baseball is featured by the American League Wild Card Winner. Albert Belle and Kenny Lofton are the outfielders, with Eddie Murray and Jim Thome rounding out the lineup. Their 647 runs as a team rank highest among all playoff teams. Charles Nagy and Dennis Martinez lead a strong rotation. But Jeff Russell, a closer, is the best pitcher. He finished the American League regular season in sixth place in saves.
The Expos have not made it to the playoffs since 1981 (a season also cut short by a strike of players). There was reason to believe that the 1994 Expos would be different. Stars like Larry Walker, Moises Alou, and Marquis Grissom dotted the outfield along with Darin Fletcher and Will Cordero. All-star Ken Hill, future Hall-of-Famer Pedro Martinez and Jeff Fassero rounded out the rotation. After their outings, a bullpen awaited of Mel Rojas and John Wetteland. The team boasted five all-stars and more talent than any baseball team in 1994. Is it enough to keep the Commissioner’s Trophy North of the Border?
The Big Red Machine enters the postseason with one of baseball’s most complete teams. Barry Larkin, a Hall-of-Fame shortstop, leads a Cincinnati lineup that had 569 runs batted in, which was second in the National League. Jose Rijo led a rotation with John Smiley, Erik Hanson, and Jeff Brantley as the closer. The staff ERA of 3.78 is third in the senior circuit, behind the Expos and Braves.
The Dodgers are much like their Big Apple counterparts in pinstripes. Every year, they find a way to win. Thanks to a young Mike Piazza, whose power, Raul Mondesi (the NL Rookie-of-the Year), and Tim Wallach, the Dodgers can compete this year. Orel Hershiser, a 1988 world champion, is the leader of the rotation. He, Kevin Gross, Ramon Martinez, and Tom Candiotti make up one of baseball’s deeper rotations.
Although they don’t win the division for the fourth year in a row, the Braves are not a team to laugh at. Fred McGriff and David Justice, both all-stars lead a strong team. Although the rotation doesn’t need to be introduced, it is always helpful. Greg Maddux enters this postseason as the league leader in earned runs average (1.56), innings pitched (202.2) and wins (16). He also won the NL Cy Young Award. He’ll be partnering with Steven Avery, future Hall-of-Famers Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz to show why the Braves are the team of the 1990s.
It is amazing to see the atmosphere at Game 1 of this series. The first-ever postseason baseball event is to take place in Dallas. Globe Life Park is still in its inaugural year. George H.W. Bush is called upon to throw the first pitch. Rangers fans will find the next part less appealing. Wilson Alvarez leads a talented but unimpressive lineup, while Frank Thomas and Co. cause enough damage to Kenny Rogers to win the opener. The same continues in Game 2. Jason Bere is back with seven solid innings, and it’s the same story. The White Sox return home with a 2-0 lead. The Rangers send Hector Fajardo to Game 3. He is knocked out by the Southsiders in the fifth inning. The Sox swept the series.
White Sox 3, Rangers 0
In Cleveland, Jimmy Key is battling Charles Nagy in a pitcher’s duel in game one. Bernie Williams scores a crucial hit late in the game, giving the Yankees the lead. The Indians lineup can get Scott Kamieniecki in the game early, while Dennis Martinez and Jeff Russell hold the Bombers off. The home crowd gives the Yankees life as the series moves to the Bronx. Paul O’Neil, Mike Stanley and Mark Clark each hit home runs against Mark Clark in an offensive barrage that was not unlike the Yankees’ current-day capabilities. The Indians’ lineup is a force of nature and puts up solid numbers against Jim Abbott in Game 4. The Indians have a one-run advantage in the bottom of the eighth but keep Jeff Russel at the bullpen until the ninth. They are out of luck as Wade Boggs and Don Mattingly lead a comeback. Steve Howe ends it and sends the Indians home. They are blessed with brighter days ahead.
Yankees 3, Indians 1
The teams will have a pitcher’s duel, this time between Ken Hill and Orel Hershiser. The Dodgers win in extra innings, with Brett Butler scoring the winning run. The Dodgers are given a formal introduction to Pedro Martinez in Game 2. He strikes out ten batters in seven innings before Mel Rojas (and John Wetteland) close it out. Olympic Stadium’s third game is electric. Walker, Alou and Grissom get massive hits and play almost perfectly to get the win. The Dodgers are again rudely awakened in Game 4, this time by Butch Henry, who goes eight innings and closes it out for John Wetteland, sending the ‘Spos to their first championship series since 1981.
Expos 3, Dodgers 1
Greg Maddux’s Game 1 win finds Maddux dominant; Tom Glavine continues the same thing in Game 2. Things change in Game 3. The Reds tag John Smoltz early, leading to a shootout they win. The Braves and Reds trade blows in Game 4. However, the Big Red Machine wins in the ninth inning with a homer from Kevin Mitchell off Greg McMichael. It is a win-or-go-home game. It is a dominant game for Greg Maddux once more, with the Braves becoming the first wildcard team to reach the championship series.
Braves 3 Reds 2
Yankee Stadium is rocking for game one of the 1994 ALCS. Wade Boggs and Bernie Williams have big hits, while Jimmy Key keeps the South Side hitters at bay. The White Sox are back in action the next night, with Jason Bere shining and Robin Ventura having an impressive day at the plate, bringing the series to Chicago. Jack McDowell is knocked around in Game 3, but the White Sox offense takes a liking to the pitching of Melido Perez, who departs after five innings. This game ended with a win for the Sox.
Chicago’s Alex Fernandez, who has given up six runs in 4 1/3 innings, shows signs of rust the next night. Paul O’Neill drove in three runs. The Yankees tied the series at two and set up Game 5. Similar to Game 1, Jimmy Key and Wilson Alvarez are engaged in a pitcher’s duel, with the game tied going into the seventh. After Key’s night ends, Frank Thomas and Julio Franco drive in runs that bring the White Sox back to the Bronx. Jason Bere shines again in Game 6. Robin Ventura and Tim Raines have big nights at the plate. Roberto Hernandez overwhelms Danny Tartanbull, who flies out to send the White Sox to their first World Series since 1959.
White Sox 4, Yankees 1
Two NL-East opponents will decide the National League pennant. The Expos send Ken Hill to the mound in Montreal to open the series. Meanwhile, the Braves use Tom Glavine for game 1. Glavine gets overwhelmed by the Expos’ firepower but eventually settles down. David Justice scores a two-run homer off Ken Hill, who otherwise puts in another stellar performance. The game was tied at 2 in the eighth. The Expos would win it in the bottom of the ninth on a walk-off Larry Walker home run to take a 2-0 series lead.
The Braves cannot capitalize in Game 3, as Larry Walker and Moises Alou hit home runs to beat Steven Avery. Jeff Fassero allowed just three runs in six innings before turning it over to the bullpen. The bullpen locks it down. Greg Maddux, who has nine strikeouts in seven innings of shutout baseball, keeps the Braves alive the next night. Montreal adds a run late, but the Braves have already built too much of a lead.
In Game 5, Tom Glavine pitches seven strong innings. Fred McGriff and Ryan Klesko also get big hits. Fred McGriff scores a late home run that puts the Braves ahead. The Braves lead by one in the ninth inning with Montreal’s Larry Walker at home plate. Walker hits a go-ahead bomb to right field with the count at 2-2. John Wetteland strikes David Justice out in the ninth to send the Montreal Expos to their first-ever World Series.
Expos 4, Braves 1
It is all set for one of the greatest World Series matchups ever. The White Sox team is determined to break a curse placed upon them many decades ago. The National League representative is an organisation that was not even the best team in Canada up until this season as the Expos entered the World Series for the first time. Can they make it three straight World Series wins for Canada, as the Blue Jays brought home the trophy in 92 and 93?
Montreal’s Pedro Martinez faces off against Jack McDowell from Chicago. Both of them have lost this postseason. McDowell pitches well, but Martinez is phenomenal, and Frank Thomas can’t touch his fastball. The Expos score a few runs thanks to some speed on their basepaths. The Expos win their first World Series match in franchise history after nine innings.
Next night, Alex Fernandez & Jeff Fassero exchange punches. Frank Thomas then breaks it open with an easy two-run homer that puts the White Sox up. Ramon Hernandez the Expos to tie the series at one apiece.
The White Sox sends Wilson Alvarez back to the mound as the series moves on. Butch Henry counters for the Expos. Although he shows some promise, his inexperience is his downfall as he surrenders four runs over 5 1/3 innings. Alvarez goes seven strong and then gives it to the White Sox bullpen. Although shaky at the beginning, they give the Southsiders an advantage of a 2-1 series lead.
Jason Bere shines the next night again as the White Sox take an early lead thanks to big hits by Ozzie Guillen and Julio Franco. Chicago leads by two at the end of the eighth inning, when Marquise Grissom hits a single into center. He tries to steal a few seconds later, is safe and then advances to third on a wild pitch to move to third. Grissom scores on a sacrifice fly later in the ninth. Roberto Hernandez allows a double and a single, which ties the game. The Expos get the win on a walk-off wild pitch in a game they had to win.
Jack McDowell and Pedro Martinez are again battling it out on the mound, until the seventh inning, when Lance Johnson doubles to give the White Sox a lead of one run. Roberto Hernandez brings the White Sox to within 3-2 with the lead standing in the ninth. Rondell White, who is acting as a pinch hitter, surprises Hernandez by throwing a drag bunt. He makes it to first safely. Marquis Grissom is the next batter and hits a long drive to left that barely crosses the fence. Expos take the lead. John Wetteland makes Robin Ventura ground into a game-ending double play.
The teams will take to the field two days later in front of a sold-out Olympic Stadium, with thousands of fans eager to see history. Jeff Fassero takes the mound and allows only two runs in 6 1/3 innings. Alex Fernandez is good early, but Cliff Floyd and Moises Alou’s home runs in the second inning give the Expos a lead of 4-2. John Wetteland will bring the game home after Mel Rojas has pitched a flawless 1 1/3 innings of relief. He struck out Julio Franco, and Robin Ventura. Darrin Jackson, the next batter, works a 3-1 count. Wetteland throws an outside corner fastball, but Jackson makes contact. The ball is lined to the right side and lands right in the glove of Mike Lansing, second baseman. The Expos storm the mound, and the crowd celebrates. Fireworks are then shot into the night in southern Quebec. The wait is over after 25 long years. Montreal wins its first-ever world championship.
Expos 4, White Sox 2
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