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  • 1980s Star Power

    With all the talk about star power in the 70s and 30s, we had some members also saying how they thought the 1980s was a very weak period in baseball, and that it had a real lack of true stars. Bill James also offered this opinion in the original version of his Historical Baseball Abstract when he said this:

    "The baseball which returned from the strike in 1982 was perhaps a little lackluster. Most Valuable Players and Cy Young Award Winners were difficult to identify for a couple of years, 40 homer seasons were all but extinct and reliable starting pitchers scarcer than normal."

    All of this, IMO, is quite clearly false. The MVPs in the five years 1982-1986 were Dale Murphy (twice), Robin Yount, Cal Ripken, Ryne Sandberg, Willie Hernandez, Don Mattingly, Willie McGee, Mike Schmidt, and Roger Clemens. Out of that, we have two fluke MVPs, who really weren't all that great players but just had an outstanding one season (Hernandez, McGee). Every era has a few of these, that's nothing out of the ordinary. It's not like nobodies were winning because no one was any good. Then we have two near HOF players who some want in (Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly), and the rest (Yount, Ripken, Sandberg, Schmidt, Clemens) are all truly great players and pretty much consensus all time greats (with the possible exception of Sandberg.

    Cy Young winners were perhaps a little bit more flukish, but that is true with the general way the awards have gone. There have always been more fluke players winning the Cy Young than the MVP. Players like Mike McCormick, Jim Lonborg, Bob Turley, Vern Law, Dean Chance and Randy Jones all won Cy Youngs in other eras. The Cy Youngs in the years after the strike were Steve Carlton, Pete Vuckovich, John Denny, LaMarr Hoyt, Rick Sutcliffe, Willie Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Bret Saberhagen, Mike Scott, and Roger Clemens. We have two all time greats in Carlton and Clemens, three who were all time great for a short time but didn't last long (Gooden, Scott, Saberhagen), and the rest are good pitchers who had career years. However, like I said this is normal. Every era of the CYA has had a large number of fluke winners.

    I don't find the MVP or CYA winners after the strike to be "difficult to indentify with".

    With the 40 home run seaosns, there were four in the five years after the strike, those by Tony Armas, Mike Schmidt, Darrell Evans, and Jesse Barfield. 40 home run seasons were down a bit, so what? The 80s weren't a huge home run era. That doesn't say anything about the quality of the league or its stars.

    James goes on.....

    "There was a transition period between generations of stars, with the Roses and Reggies and Ryans and Carltons fading slowly away and the Bogges and Mattinglys and Tim Raineses and Tony Gwynns not yet fully established. Only a few superstars, Dale Murphy and Robin Yount being the obvious ones, bridged the gap. George Brett and Jim Rice, though still of an age to be dominant players, did not dominate."

    Rice wasn't dominating that much, but I don't know where he got that part about George Brett from. Brett was dominating. He had an awesome 1985 season, and good years throughout the decade, certainly just as dominant as his 1970s seasons.

    Anyway, James is wrong about there not being many stars to bridge the gap. He mentions Murphy and Yount, I'll give some more great stars of that time:

    Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Dwight Evans, Wade Boggs, Bobby Grich, Carlton Fisk, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, George Brett, Paul Molitor, Ted Simmons, Dave Winfield, Willie Randolph, Rickey Henderson, Ryne Sandberg, Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Al Oliver, Mike Schmidt, Keith Hernandez, and Ozzie Smith.

    That's a pretty distinguished list of stars, and I'd put them against the big boys from just about any era. All those guys (along with Yount and Murphy) were "bridging the gap", and they did it quite well.

    That ends James' argument.

    Another thing to take into consideration I've heard a few times here is that the "baby boom" generation was reaching maturity in the 1980s. That's the time there were many people bieng born, and the country was expanding its horizons. New technology for fitness was coming out, and the computer age was really beginning. This was the time when workout gyms became common and people really all started believing the virtues of a weight lifting program.

    Statisticians have tried to come up with ways to quantify league quality of play, including our very own SABR Matt recently, and the general conclusion has been that the 1978-1986 period (the exact time James described as "lackluster") was, indeed the strongest time for baseball, and the relative lack of separation from the pack of the stars is because of this.

    So, I'd like to hear some opinions on this. How do you think the 1980s star pwer and quality of play compares to other eras?

    I personally think the 1980s are probably the 2nd highest level baseball we've had, behind the 1970s.

  • #2
    Off hand, I would probably hypothesize that the 80's is overlooked as an era because it didn't really have an identity. There was a wide assortment of talent. Many of the stars were well rounded players who weren't dominant in a single phase of the game. More Craig Biggios, less Manny Ramirezes, in terms of one our last exchanges, Chris.

    Brett, Yount, Hernandez, Henderson, Trammell, Molitor, Raines, Murphy, Strawberry, Davis and so forth. Most of these guys were high quality on both offense and defense, many of them ran.

    The Cards won games year after year with speed and defense, there was just a lot of variety in the era.

    I know you could make this argument about any era, really, but the 80's seem to be the epitome.
    THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

    In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

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    • #3
      I would say that the perception of a lack of stars was because most of the best players were not in the larger, more traditional markets. In addition, parity was probably greater in this era than in any other. From 1978-1987, 10 different teams won the World Series.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by 538280
        All of this, IMO, is quite clearly false. The MVPs in the five years 1982-1986 were Dale Murphy (twice), Robin Yount, Cal Ripken, Ryne Sandberg, Willie Hernandez, Don Mattingly, Willie McGee, Mike Schmidt, and Roger Clemens. Out of that, we have two fluke MVPs, who really weren't all that great players but just had an outstanding one season (Hernandez, McGee). Every era has a few of these, that's nothing out of the ordinary. It's not like nobodies were winning because no one was any good. Then we have two near HOF players who some want in (Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly), and the rest (Yount, Ripken, Sandberg, Schmidt, Clemens) are all truly great players and pretty much consensus all time greats (with the possible exception of Sandberg.
        Let's explore the studio space on this one.

        Forgetting Hernandez and McGee, what are we left with? Mattingly was truly great for a year or two before his back got the best of him... but you can say that of a lot of players. His peak certainly wasn't any better than, say, David Justice's, and was significantly lower than forgotten guys like Mo Vaughn... and he was only a great player for a very, very short time. Murphy? Murphy's a guy who wouldn't have made all star teams in any other era (seriously, he won an MVP in 82... .281/36/109? You kidding me?). Neither one of them cracks the top 30 all time at their positions.

        Yount I probably underrate because I don't have him at any position, but I'd probably leave him out of my top 100 position players of all time. Ripken is a guy who was a pretty good but not great player for almost his entire career, and gets mentioned as a great only because of longevity. Color me not impressed.

        Of all the stars of the 80's, the only ones who crack my top 10 at any position are Ripken and Henderson. There's 80 spots in my top 10 at the various positions. That's kind of pathetic.
        "Simply put, the passion, interest and tradition surrounding baseball in New York is unmatched."

        Sean McAdam, ESPN.com

        Comment


        • #5
          Of all the stars of the 80's, the only ones who crack my top 10 at any position are Ripken and Henderson. There's 80 spots in my top 10 at the various positions. That's kind of pathetic.
          who are your top 10 catchers?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by yest
            who are your top 10 catchers?

            1. Gibson
            2. Berra
            3. Bench
            4. Cochrane
            5. Dickey
            6. Rodriguez
            7. Hartnett
            8. Piazza
            9. Bresnahan
            10. Fisk

            I suppose you could call Fisk an 80's player, but I go 70's.
            "Simply put, the passion, interest and tradition surrounding baseball in New York is unmatched."

            Sean McAdam, ESPN.com

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by ElHalo
              Of all the stars of the 80's, the only ones who crack my top 10 at any position are Ripken and Henderson. There's 80 spots in my top 10 at the various positions. That's kind of pathetic.
              You don't have any of the following "80s" players in your top 10?

              Fisk at C?
              Carter at C?
              Murray at 1B?
              Sandberg at 2B?
              Trammell at SS?
              Smith at SS?
              Brett at 3B?
              Boggs at 3B?
              Raines in LF?
              Puckett in CF?
              Murphy in CF?
              Gwynn in RF?
              Winfield in RF?

              I don't rank all of these players in my top 10, but I think they all have at least reasonable arguments and their share of proponents.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by DoubleX
                You don't have any of the following "80s" players in your top 10?

                Fisk at C?
                Carter at C?
                Murray at 1B?
                Sandberg at 2B?
                Trammell at SS?
                Smith at SS?
                Brett at 3B?
                Boggs at 3B?
                Raines in LF?
                Puckett in CF?
                Murphy in CF?
                Gwynn in RF?
                Winfield in RF?

                I don't rank all of these players in my top 10, but I think they all have at least reasonable arguments and their share of proponents.
                As I said in the post above, I consider Fisk a 70's player, but, yes, he does just barely crack my top 10. Boggs and Brett of course make it; mental lapse for me not remembering them.

                None of the rest really come remotely close. Most of them don't crack my top 20 at their positions.
                "Simply put, the passion, interest and tradition surrounding baseball in New York is unmatched."

                Sean McAdam, ESPN.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by ElHalo
                  As I said in the post above, I consider Fisk a 70's player, but, yes, he does just barely crack my top 10. Boggs and Brett of course make it; mental lapse for me not remembering them.

                  None of the rest really come remotely close. Most of them don't crack my top 20 at their positions.
                  None come remotely close, Jim?

                  Tony Gwynn doesn't crack the top 20 in RF? 8 batting titles, maybe the hardest player to strike out in history. When he was young, he was also fast, making him a truly outstanding (and unique) player.

                  Ozzie Smith was possibly the greatest fielder in the entire history of baseball...and he doesn't make your top 10 at SS alone?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    How's Breshan better then Gary Carter?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by csh19792001
                      None come remotely close, Jim?

                      Tony Gwynn doesn't crack the top 20 in RF? 8 batting titles, maybe the hardest player to strike out in history. When he was young, he was also fast, making him a truly outstanding (and unique) player.

                      Ozzie Smith was possibly the greatest fielder in the entire history of baseball...and he doesn't make your top 10 at SS alone?
                      To run those lists...

                      RF:
                      1. Ruth
                      2. Aaron
                      3. Robinson
                      4. Ott
                      5. Waner
                      6. Crawford
                      7. Heilmann
                      8. Kaline
                      9. Klein
                      10. Rice

                      11. Keeler
                      12. Clemente
                      13. Cravath
                      14. Guerrero
                      15. Flick
                      16. Sheffield
                      17. Gwynn


                      And, SS:

                      1. Wagner
                      2. Vaughan
                      3. Cronin
                      4. Ripken
                      5. Jennings
                      6. Jeter
                      7. Appling
                      8. Banks
                      9. Larkin
                      10. Davis

                      And then I'm not sure as to whether I'd put Smith ahead or behind: Sewell, Dahlen, Stephens.
                      "Simply put, the passion, interest and tradition surrounding baseball in New York is unmatched."

                      Sean McAdam, ESPN.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by yest
                        How's Breshan better then Gary Carter?
                        Easily.

                        Bresnahan was a much, much better defender... widely regarded as the best defender between Buck Ewing and Ray Schalk.

                        Bresnahan was a much, much better hitter... finishing in the top 10 in BA 3 times to Carter's none; OBP 7 times to Carter's 1; career 126 OPS+ (just as good as Bench's) to 115 for Carter; best baserunning catcher of all time.

                        Roger Bresnahan was a truly great player, one of the few players ever to be able to play literally every position on the field (at least 8 games at all nine positions plus pitcher), while playing effectively at all aspects of the game but power hitting. Gary Carter was a one trick pony whose decent home run power overshadowed the fact that he was good for basically nothing else as a hitter, and wasn't all that much of a defender after his mid 20's. Gary Carter is easily one of the worst choices the Hall of Fame has ever made, and would be the single worst C in the Hall but for Rick Ferrell.
                        "Simply put, the passion, interest and tradition surrounding baseball in New York is unmatched."

                        Sean McAdam, ESPN.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by ElHalo
                          As I said in the post above, I consider Fisk a 70's player, but, yes, he does just barely crack my top 10. Boggs and Brett of course make it; mental lapse for me not remembering them.

                          None of the rest really come remotely close. Most of them don't crack my top 20 at their positions.
                          I'm having trouble seeing arguments for 20 players better than these players at their respective positions.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            --All the 80s players on XX's list make my top 10 at their positions except Smith, Winfield and Murphy. They all make my top 15. Yount wasn't on that list, but also makes my top 10 at SS. Mattingly and Hernandez make my top 15 at 1B. Might be a few others that don't come to mind now.
                            --I will allow that the pitchers of the 80s are less impressive. The best pitcher of the first half of the decade was Steve Carlton and he was finished at mid-decade. Clemens started at mid-decade and was the best of the second half. There were lots of guys who had a great year or two, but broke down and a large group of good pitchers, but no other great ones (at least starting pitchers).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by DoubleX
                              I'm having trouble seeing arguments for 20 players better than these players at their respective positions.
                              It was probably an overstatement to say "most" don't make my top 20 (though, other than what I previously said, none make my top 10). Of the ones you mentioned, I'd say Winfield, Murphy, Raines, Murray, Carter, and arguably (but probably not) Sandberg don't make my top 20 at their positions.

                              To give you a quick example: I just listed for you 17 RF'ers better than Dave Winfield, and haven't yet mentioned Ichiro, Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, etc.

                              I listed ten catchers, and didn't even begin to get into the guys better than Carter (Ewing and Kelly, Torre, Simmons, Schang, Schalk, Lombardi, Campy, Mackay, McGuire, etc.).
                              ElHalo
                              Greek God of Baseball
                              Last edited by ElHalo; 03-27-2006, 09:22 PM.
                              "Simply put, the passion, interest and tradition surrounding baseball in New York is unmatched."

                              Sean McAdam, ESPN.com

                              Comment

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