Hey baseball fans!
Matt Nadel of Baseball with Matt here with another guest blog for More Than A Fan and another dose of ML”what would”B. In this series, I take famous events in baseball history and tell you what I think would have happened if different things had occurred. Today’s post is about the highest paid player in baseball (at one time) and the luckiest city in the United States, San Diego.
The legendary Hall of Famer Dave Winfield wasn’t always a Yankee. He actually began his career with the San Diego Padres, but what if he had never gone to New York? First things first, the Yankees would have needed a left fielder, so they would’ve signed Tigers’ outfielder Kirk Gibson during the off-season of 1981. In his first season in New York, he does fairly well: hitting 23 homers, batting .298, and stealing 27 bases. Winfield, meanwhile, also does well: hitting 36 dingers, 120 RBIs, and batting .314, winning the NL MVP Award. Because of his amazing stats, he lifts the Pads to the World Series to face Gibson’s Yanks. The Yankees go up three games to one over the struggling Padres because Winfield is not performing like his usual self. Anyway, in the bottom of the eighth at Yankees Stadium in Game Five, Kirk comes to bat with the Bronx Bombers leading 4-3 with Reggie Jackson at second and Mickey Rivers at first. San Diego manager Frank Howard elects to walk Gibson, but relief pitcher Eric Show says otherwise, stating that he has good numbers against Kirk. On a 2-2 count, Gibson proceeds to crush a three-run shot into the right field seats, sending Yanks’ fans into a frenzy. The Yankees end up winning the game and the series, with Gibson winning MVP.
For the next six years, Kirk exceeds all expectations, batting .306, hitting 176 homers, and stealing 198 bases during that span. Back in San Diego, Dave isn’t doing so hot, hitting “only” 145 homers and “only” batting .287 over the same span of time. However in 1988, Winfield gets hot and with the help of Tony Gwynn, the Padres get to the World Series to face the heavily-favored Athletics. Sadly, Winfield tears his ACL during the 1988 ALCS and PROBABLY will not be able to play. In the bottom of the ninth of Game One with Oakland up 3-2 in San Diego, Winfield starts to swing off of a batting tee, while relief pitching legend Dennis Eckersley steps to the mound. After Dennis walks Tony Gwynn with two outs, Pads manager Tommy Lasorda sends Winfield out to pinch-hit for Graig Nettles. On a 3-2 count after fouling off seven agonizing pitches, the hobbling Winfield swings at a backdoor slider and sends it into the seats for a game-winning homer! It was his only at-bat of the series, but with the help of great pitching by Nolan Ryan, the Padres end up sweeping Oakland to win the franchise’s first World Series championship.
For the next five years, from 1989-1993, the Padres and Yanks meet up in the World Series three times, in ’90, ’92, and ’93. I know what you’re asking yourself: how could the Yanks be so good even though they weren’t the best team? My answer is simple: Kirk Gibson, Don Mattingly, Jeff Bagwell, and Edgar Martinez. With Gibson’s speed, Bagwell’s power, and Mattingly and Martinez’s overall great hitting, the Yanks become a powerhouse in the AL. In the 1990 World Series, Tony Gwynn gets twelve hits and San Diego beats NY four games to two. In the 1992 Fall Classic, long-time Yank Reggie Jackson hits a double down the left field line in the top of the eleventh in Game Six in Qualcomm Stadium (home of the Pads) to score the eventual winning run, helping New York win the game 5-4 and the series four games to two. In Game Six of the 1993 World Series, with the Padres up 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium, Jeff Bagwell hits a three-run homer to win the game and the series. It was the second homer to win a World Series, but Bill Mazeroski‘s shot for Pittsburgh in 1960 came with his team tied, not trailing. Anyway, after 1993, Dave Winfield retires and gets elected into the Hall of Fame, after the 1997 season, Gibson retires and gets elected into the Hall, and after the 2005 season, Bagwell retires and also gets elected into the Hall of Fame. It should have happened in real life and I’m glad it happened here in the ML”what would”B.