1994 retrospective of the strike-shortened Mets

Sarah Langs, Intern & Special Contributor

Twenty years ago this week, the longest work stoppage in MLB history was underway. It began on August 12, 1994. The 1994 season’s final games were played on August 11, and for the first time since 1904, there was no World Series.

Unlike their division rival Montreal Expos, the 1994 Mets weren’t in the midst of any record-breaking seasons or newfound successes. They finished the shortened season at 55-58, 18.5 games back of Montreal.

John Franco polaroidNonetheless, some Flushing performances could have been memorable, if only the final month and a half of the season had been played. Starter Bret Saberhagen finished the year 14-4 with a 2.74 ERA and 143 strikeouts. It was the second-best ERA of his career. The strikeouts led the league when the season ended in mid-August.

Closer John Franco had 30 saves at the time MLB closed up shop. As it stood, he led the National League by two saves over San Francisco’s Rod Beck.

Of course, we know now that the strike led to the cancellation of more than 900 games and postseason play. We also know that the league would resume play the following April, a bit late, for an abbreviated, 144-game season. But twenty years ago today, as Major League parks shut their gates on what would otherwise be a normal Thursday, the road ahead wasn’t exactly clear.

“Right now, it just seems like a day off,” Franco said in an August 13 article — one day into the strike. “My daughter keeps asking me, and I said it could be one day, two days, three days, and it could be more. Who knows?” (NYT, 8/13/94)

Two days earlier, before the strike had gone into effect, Franco had voiced even more uncertainty.

“Who knows?” he said. “These could be my last two days in a Met uniform.” (NYT, 8/11/94)

Franco became a free agent after the 1994 season, but would re-sign with the club on April 5 of the following year. He would go on to be a Met for another ten years, but at the time, it was anybody’s guess.

At the time, though, there was still a vague hope that the season might resume. Or rather, whether or not the strike would cancel the rest of the season was simply not yet known.

Shea Stadium from Loge Box 472A, the first seat in fair territory (Michael Baron/MetsBlog.com)

“Realistically, we have to look at this as if it might be the end of the season,” Mets GM Joe McIlvaine said on August 10 (NYT, 8/10/94).

As work stopped, at least temporarily, the players scattered across the country.

Outfielder/1B David Segui planned to drive to Kansas City, Mo., where he lived in the offseason. With 19 hours behind the wheel ahead of him, he joked when asked how long he thought the strike might go.

“As long as it lasts at least 20 hours, I’ll be all right,” he said on August 11. “I don’t think I’ll have to turn around.” (NYT, 8/12/94).

Mets manager Dallas Green’s didn’t seem concerned what his players might do to make ends meet with a work stoppage.

“I don’t anticipate too many of them going out and getting a job anytime soon,” he said. “But a few of them might have to fire their gardeners and chauffeurs.” ( NYT, 8/12/94)

With the majors on strike, though, the minors were still open for business. This meant that young players still had ample in-game action to develop.

A few members of the Mets organization certainly took the time to grow. The club trotted out three rookies over the course of the following season who’d been developing over the past few years and had quite a lot of hope pinned on them — Generation K. As was said on June 14, 1995, and countless times since (for example, two weeks ago, about Jacob deGrom, in Newsday), “The future is now” (NYT, 6/14/95).

The Mets final game of the ’94 season was a 2-1 walk-off loss in Philadelphia. The final Mets pitch of the season — thrown by Mauro Gozzo — was hit for a single to left field by Ricky Jordan to score Billy Hatcher in the 15th inning.

Regular season baseball wouldn’t return for another 258 days.




13 comments
birtelcom
birtelcom

Creative idea for an article, and well-researched and well-written.  More stuff like this please!  One addition: You mention that Bret Saberhagen led the league in strikeouts, but don't mention what was most unique about Bret's performance that year: while racking up his 143 K's, Saberhagen walked only 13 batters all season!  That comes out to the highest K/BB ratio by any pitcher in any season with at least 162 IP in the history of MLB.


Highest K/BB ratios, min. 162 IP:

1. Bret Saberhagen (1994) 11.00

2. Cliff Lee (2010) 10.28

3. Jim Whitney (1884) 10.00

4. Jim Whitney (1885) 9.86

5. Curt Schilling (2002) 9.58


Note that Jim Whitney was pitching before the number of balls required for a walk was reduced to four.    

Great Article. I like that Mets Team and will always hold a special place for that year. It's too bad we didn't see how good the Expos were that year and I can't help but wonder if the team would have stayed in Montreal if there was no short season that year.

Mr. SERCH
Mr. SERCH

Great look back. This strike had so many reprocussions (might've spelled that wrong)... The whole league took a hit, leading to EVERYONE looking the other way at the rise of the "steroid era"...The expos probably would've won the whole thing, hence raising the question would they have been contracted? Winners usually draw big crowds....The Yankees were beginning to be great, and i think would've made the world series, so we might've been subjected to yet one more title, a year before their dynasty. ..and back to the expos, if they make it to, or win the world series, do they go on a Marlins like sell off, changing the career paths of guys like Pedro and the big unit (I could be off on their trade years, so forgive me if so, but still, u get my point)...... All I know is the few times a year I play stratomatic with my old boss, I always make him do the 94 season stats, cuz I'm always intrigued how that year would've ended

hankypanky
hankypanky

Montreal had an all-star team and a 74-40 record to go with it. They played in front of a sold-out stadium in a town that usually went for hockey. The batting order included Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom and Cliff Floyd. I think Pedro Martinez got his start in the Expos rotation. What could have been. How sad.

Rimo Chaloney
Rimo Chaloney

I remember the following year in 1995, when the strike was over and the Dodgers called up a minor league player that had crossed the picket lines and was considered a scab by the Dodgers players.  They shunned him, hated him and ignored him.  And then when he finally got into a game, the entire Dodgers Stadium stood and gave him a standing ovation to mostly show MLB players how pissed off they were at them for the strike.


Here's the story: http://dodgerprofiles.blogspot.com/2006/05/mike-busch_14.html

rico
rico

Watching Franco pitch those 9th innings was a lot like watching a work-stoppage. He was one of those "heart-attack" relievers who had to fill the bases and throw 10000 pitches to get those saves.

2ndhalffun
2ndhalffun

Franco was very outspoken back then of scabs crossing the picket line. Was not happy when Rick Reed crossed the line but later made up with him. 

1harris1
1harris1

No mention of Jason Jacome? He was our "young stud pitcher" that season.

Another baseball summer to forget.

johnsec125
johnsec125

20 years later and still under .500.

Chapter 7
Chapter 7

Didn't this bring Rick Reed to the mets?

BerryBeltran
BerryBeltran

"2014, the year that was supposed to be" (according to Alderson) lol

Rimo Chaloney
Rimo Chaloney

In 1994 I moved out of the NY area and could no longer see Mets games.  This was in the days before mlb.tv.  So that season was largely a black hole for me as it was for most every baseball fan. 

1harris1
1harris1

@2ndhalffun  Didn't Franco relent when he heard about Reed's mother having some type of illness which required treatment that wasn't entirely covered by insurance?  I seem to remember something to that effect.  It definitely took some time though for Reed to be accepted by his teammates.