After a one-year hiatus, the Oakland Athletics returned to the top of the A.L. West standings in 1992, capturing their fourth division title in five years by compiling a regular-season record of 96-66. The defending world-champion Minnesota Twins placed second in the division, six games back, while the Chicago White Sox finished third, 10 games off the pace.
Hardly the powerful Athletics team that dominated the American League from 1988 to 1990, this Oakland squad lacked the swagger and superb pitching of its predecessor. Only two Oakland hurlers won as many as 15 games, with 17-game winner Mike Moore posting an extremely unimpressive 4.12 ERA. The A’s finished just fourth in the league with a team mark of 3.73.
Meanwhile, Jose Canseco’s frequent injuries and failure to live up to his MVP form of 1988 earned him a ticket out of Oakland. The A’s dealt Canseco to Texas for Ruben Sierra and two other players at the end of August, after the enigmatic slugger hit 22 homers, drove in 72 runs, and batted just .246 over the season’s first five months. Canseco’s departure left Rickey Henderson and Mark McGwire as the team’s primary offensive threats. An oft-injured and seemingly disinterested Henderson batted .283, scored 77 runs, and stole 48 bases in only 117 games. McGwire rebounded from a subpar 1991 campaign in which he batted just .201 to hit .268, knock in 104 runs, place second in the league with 42 home runs, and top the circuit with a .585 slugging average.
Fortunately for the A’s, Dennis Eckersley performed brilliantly in relief throughout the season. The 37-year-old closer earned A.L. MVP and Cy Young honors by going 7-1, with a 1.91 ERA and a league-leading 51 saves. Eckersley also surrendered just 62 hits in 80 innings of work, while striking out 93 batters and walking only 11.
Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett finished runner-up in the MVP balloting after leading his team to a second-place finish by hitting 19 homers, driving in 110 runs, scoring 104 others, batting .329, and topping the circuit with 210 hits.
Also placing high in the voting was Chicago’s Frank Thomas, who hit 24 home runs, knocked in 115 runs, scored another 108, batted .323, and led the league with 46 doubles, 122 bases on balls, and a .446 on-base percentage.
While the A’s reestablished themselves as the Western Division’s strongest team, the Toronto Blue Jays continued to reign supreme in the East, winning their second straight division title by concluding the campaign with a record of 96-66 that left them four games ahead of the second-place Milwaukee Brewers.
The Blue Jays featured a well-balanced attack on offense, finishing second in the league with 780 runs scored and 163 home runs, and topping the circuit with a .414 team slugging average. First baseman John Olerud hit 16 homers, drove in 66 runs, and batted .284. Centerfielder Devon White homered 17 times, scored 98 runs, and stole 37 bases. Designated hitter Dave Winfield batted .290, hit 26 home runs, knocked in 108 runs, and scored 92 others. Right-fielder Joe Carter earned a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by scoring 97 runs and placing among the league leaders with 34 home runs and 119 runs batted in. Gold Glove second baseman Roberto Alomar led the team with a .310 batting average, 105 runs scored, and 49 stolen bases.
The Blue Jays weren’t quite as strong on the mound, finishing just ninth in the league with a 3.91 team ERA. Nevertheless, their pitching staff featured two of the circuit’s top starters and one of its most effective relievers. Jack Morris posted an exceptional 21-6 record, to lead all A.L. hurlers in victories. Juan Guzman finished 16-5 and placed among the league leaders with a 2.64 earned run average. Meanwhile, Tom Henke saved 34 games and compiled a 2.26 ERA.
Toronto’s superior team balance proved to be too much for Oakland to overcome in the American League Championship Series. The Blue Jays defeated the A’s in six games, winning the final contest at home in convincing fashion by a final score of 9-2. Roberto Alomar earned ALCS MVP honors by batting .423, homering twice, driving in four runs, scoring four others, and stealing five bases.
The Blue Jays similarly disposed of the Braves in six games in the World Series, even though their National League counterparts outscored them over the course of the Fall Classic by a combined margin of 20-17. The Blue Jays prevailed by posting all four of their victories by a one-run margin. Dave Winfield delivered the Series-clinching hit in the top of the 11th inning of Game Six by driving in two runs with a double down the left-field line. The Braves scored once in the bottom of the frame, but it wasn’t enough as the Blue Jays claimed their first world championship with a 4-3 victory. Toronto catcher Pat Borders earned Series MVP honors by collecting nine hits in 20 times at-bat, for a .450 batting average.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• March 30 - In one of the biggest cross-town trades in Chicago baseball history, the Chicago Cubs dealt George Bell to the Chicago White Sox for Sammy Sosa.
• Dave Winfield, at age 41, became the oldest player to hit a home run in World Series play.
• Cleveland’s Carlos Baerga became the first second baseman in American League history to bat .300, collect more than 200 hits, surpass 20 homers, and drive in at least 100 runs in the same season.
• Cleveland rookie Kenny Lofton set an American League record for first-year players by stealing 66 bases.
• Milwaukee shortstop Pat Listach (.290 average, 93 runs, 54 steals) earned A.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• Detroit's Cecil Fielder hit 35 home runs and led the major leagues with 124 runs batted in, joining Babe Ruth as the only players in baseball history to lead the majors in RBIs three straight years.
• Juan Gonzalez of Texas led the league with 43 home runs.
• Seattle’s Edgar Martinez led the league with a .343 batting average.
• Having suffered through the worst year of his career, Wade Boggs signed with the Yankees as a free agent after the Red Sox failed to offer him a new contract.
• After helping the Blue Jays win the World Series, David Cone signed a free-agent contract with Kansas City in December.
• Seattle’s Randy Johnson led the league with 241 strikeouts.
• Rollie Fingers and Tom Seaver were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
• Pitcher Hal Newhouser and umpire Bill McGowan were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.
• Kevin Brown of Texas tied Jack Morris for the league lead with 21 wins.
• Baltimore inaugurated its new stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
• Kansas City’s George Brett and Milwaukee’s Robin Yount both collected their 3,000th hits.
• Minnesota’s Jeff Reardon broke Rollie Fingers' record of 341 career saves, concluding the campaign with 357 saves.
• Rickey Henderson became the first player in major league history to garner 1,000 career stolen bases. He finished the year with 1,042 steals.
• Fay Vincent, under unrelenting pressure, stepped down as commissioner.
- 1992 ALCS, 1992 World Series, American League, Carlos Baerga, Cecil Fielder, Dave Winfield, David Cone, Dennis Eckersley, Devon White, Edgar Martinez, Fay Vincent, Frank Thomas, George Bell, George Brett, Jack Morris, Jeff Reardon, Joe Carter, John Olerud, Jose Canseco, Juan Gonzalez, Juan Guzman, Kenny Lofton, Kevin Brown, Kirby Puckett, Mark McGwire, Mike Moore, Oakland Athletics, Pat Borders, Pat Listach, Randy Johnson, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Alomar, Robin Yount, Ruben Sierra, Sammy Sosa, Tom Henke, Toronto Blue Jays, Wade Boggs