The 1990s was the decade Major League Baseball almost shot itself. It almost shot itself in the foot with a long strike (as in work stoppage, not an umpire’s call), and some players shot themselves with steroids. When they were caught, the game’s reputation was further damaged
According to Wilkipedia, “Routinely in the late 1990s and early 2000s, baseball players hit 40 or 50 home runs in a season, a feat that was considered rare even in the 1980s. It has become apparent since that at least some of this power surge was a result of players using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.
The 1994′”95 Major League Baseball strike was the eighth work stoppage in baseball history, as well as the fourth in-season work stoppage in 22 years. The 232-day strike, which lasted from August 12, 1994, to April 2, 1995, led to the cancellation of between 931 and 948 games overall, including the entire 1994 postseason and World Series.”
Despite all the sport’s problems during the decade, there were stars (whether on or not on steroids) that made their mark..
The statistics are based on data contained in Baseball Digest (May/June 2010, Vol. 69, No.3).
Barry Bonds, supposedly one of the sport’s most serious steroid offenders, led all major leaguers during the decade with 1,091 runs scored. Bonds was second in slugging percentage (.602) and on base percentage (.434), third in home runs (361) and runs batted in (RBI) with 1,076, and sixth in stolen bases (343).
Mark Grace was first in hits (1,754) and doubles (364). He also tied for seventh in batting average with a .310 mark. Always an underrated player because he was a first baseman who did not, as a rule, hit home runs, Grace has an outside chance of making the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Lance Johnson was first in triples with 113, and 10th in stolen bases (297).
Mark McGwire, who’s supposed use of steroids is keeping him from the Baseball Hall of Fame, like Bonds, was first in home runs for the decade with 405, and slugging percentage with a .615 mark.
Otis Nixon was the base-stealing leader of the decade, with 478.
Albert Belle was the RBI leader for the decade, with 1,099. He was tied for third in slugging percentage (.581) and was fourth in home runs (351) and doubles (344).
Tony Gwinn led the decade in batting average with a .344 mark. In addition, he was fourth in hits (1,713) and tied for sixth in doubles (330).
Frank Thomas led the majors in the 1990s with a .440 on base percentage. He was also fourth in runs scored (968) and batting average (.320), tied for fifth in RBI (1,040) and ninth in home runs (301). Thomas’ name has never been connected to steroid or other drug use. He should be a first ballot Baseball Hall of Famer.
Craig Biggio was second in runs scored (1,042) and doubles (362), third in hits (1,728), and eighth in stolen bases (319). He also has a good shot at reaching the Hall.
Ken Griffey, Jr. was second in RBI (1,091), third in runs scored (1,002) and tied for third in slugging percentage (.581), and sixth in hits (1,622). Another player untouched by the steroid scandals, Griffey should be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Rafael Palmiero was second in hits (1,747), tied for fourth in RBI (1,068), fifth in runs scored (965) and doubles (343), and seventh in home runs (328). Hall of Fame numbers, no doubt, but Palmiero was virtually run out of major league baseball because of accused steroid use.
Roberto Alomar was fifth in hits (1,678), sixth in runs scored (951), eighth in batting average (.308), and ninth in doubles (321) and stolen bases (311). Alomar has an outside chance of being elected to the Hall of Fame.
Chuck Knoblauch was sixth in triples (59), seventh in runs scored (950) and stolen bases (335).
Still going strong in his second decade in the game, Ricky Henderson was second in stolen bases (463), and ninth in runs scored (932).
Steroids or no steroids, imagine what these players could have accomplished if they had not missed almost 1,000 games.
Baseball Digest (May/June 2010, Vol. 69, No.3).
Major League Baseball history:
Major League Baseball strike background: