The least competitive World Series ever played is actually one of the more memorable ones. However, it’s not memorable for anything that happened within the context of the baseball game. It’s memorable because the Loma Prieta earthquake struck San Francisco 30 minutes before the beginning of game 3. Everyone knows 1989 as the Earthquake Series, because there’s really nothing else to know it by.
Note: Leverage Index is an average of the leverage of situations, with 1 being average, below 1 being low-pressure, and above 1 being high-pressure.
The San Francisco Giants (92-70) defeated the Chicago Cubs (93-69) in a 5-game LCS, disappointing many who thought the Cubs might put an end to their then-81 year drought. San Francisco had a juggernaut offense, the NL’s best. 1B Will “The Thrill” Clark batted .333/.407/.546 with 23 HR and finished as the runner-up in the MVP race. Who beat him? His teammate, LF Kevin Mitchell, who had a career year, batting .291/.388/.635, leading the league with 47 homers, 125 RBI, and 32 intentional walks. 2B Robby Thompson (.721 OPS), 3B Ernie Riles (.743 OPS), and CF Brett Butler (.349 OBP, 31 SB) were important contributors as well. The rotation was anchored by 40 year old veteran Rick Reuschel (17-8, 2.94). Don Robinson (12-11, 3.43), Scott Garrelts (14-5, 2.28), and Mike LaCoss (10-10, 3.17) rounded out a solid if non-dominant rotation. The bullpen was an effective one led by 1987 CYA winner Steve Bedrosian (17 saves, 2.65) and the hard working Craig Lefferts (107 IP, 20 saves, 2.69). It was San Francisco’s first World Series appearance in 27 years.
The Oakland Athletics (99-63), on the other hand, had lost the 1988 World Series in a 5 game upset to the Dodgers. They had dispatched an upstart but not quite ready 89-win Blue Jays team in 5 games, and seemed primed to exorcise the demons from the previous October. The A’s of the late 80’s were offensive powerhouses as well, and this team, baseball’s best team in the regular season, was no exception. The A’s had valuable hitters of many different types. 1B Mark McGwire (.231/.339/.467) hit 33 home runs during the regular season. 3B Carney Lansford (.336/.398/.405) stole 37 bases and drew votes for MVP. DH Dave Parker (.264/.308/.432) was still productive at age 38, hitting 22 homers and leading the team with 97 RBI. LF Rickey Henderson (.294/.425/.438) played only 85 games during the regular season, but still went 52 for 58 in steal attempts and was healthy for the postseason. Also healthy was RF Jose Canseco (.269/.333/.542), who homered 17 times in 65 games in 1989. The pitching staff was also stellar. Ace Dave Stewart (21-9, 3.32) had just won 20 games for the 3rd straight year. Mike Moore (19-11, 2.61), Bob Welch (17-8, 3.00), and Storm Davis (19-7, 4.36) followed Stewart effectively. And in the bullpen, Dennis Eckersley was just unfair, with a 1.56 ERA, 33 saves, and a 55-3 K:BB ratio. Yep. THREE WALKS. ALL YEAR.
The A’s took a 3-0 lead in the 2nd inning thanks to some hits and a Clark error (that was charged to Terry Kennedy), and by the 4th Parker and Walt Weiss had added solo homers for a 5-0 lead. Stewart was dominant and the Giants never really threatened, losing 5-0.
Average Leverage: 0.475
Game 2 proved to be the most interesting game of the Series, and it still wasn’t particularly good. Rickey Henderson led off the game with a walk, stole 2nd, and later scored to give the A’s a 1-0 lead. The Giants tied it in the 3rd with some small ball and base hits. The top of the 4th was the last time in the Series the Giants would bat with the game tied, and they never had a lead. In the bottom of the 4th, Parker drove in Canseco for a 2-1 lead, Dave Henderson walked, and Terry Steinbach hit a 3-run homer to give the A’s a 5-1 lead. Moore didn’t give up another run and the A’s cruised to another fairly easy victory.
Average Leverage: 0.77
Game 3 was delayed, because this happened:
Delayed until 12 games after Game 2 had been played, Game 3 gave us more of the same. In the top of the 1st, the A’s scored twice on a Dave Henderson double. Young Giants 3B Matt Williams hit a solo homer in the 2nd to narrow the gap, but Oakland homered twice in the 4th to move to 4-1. In the bottom of the inning the Giants again fought back, with a 2-run bases loaded single from Kennedy, but fell apart in the 5th. A 3-run HR from Canseco and solo shot from Dave Henderson made it 8-3. Both teams kept scoring, but the game never got close, with Oakland winning 13-7.
Average Leverage Index: 0.53
Again, Oakland took the lead in the top of the 1st and never gave it back, with Rickey Henderson leading off the game with a HR. They added 3 in the 2nd and 3 again in the 5th, and with the 7-0 lead, the sweep was never really in doubt. In the 7th, the Giants closed the gap to 8-6, but the A’s pushed back to 9-6, and Eckersley, in his only save situation of the series, dispatched the Giants on just 4 pitches in the 9th.
Average Leverage Index: 0.52
With an average leverage index of 0.57, this is by far the least exciting Series ever played. The lead it has over all others is rather staggering, once you look at the list. If the 1998 Yankees (114-48) played the 2003 Tigers (43-119), I wouldn’t expect less competition than what 1989’s Fall Classic gave us.
It’s not hard to see why this wasn’t much of a series. The Giants never had a lead and had just 16 plate appearances in the entire series with the game tied. They went 1 for 15 with a walk in those 16 plate appearances. This was no contest whatsoever. It’s pretty easily the worst and least competitive World Series ever played.
Series MVP: Dave Stewart – 2 wins, 1 shutout, 16 innings, 10 H, 2 BB, 14 K, 3 runs allowed