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West Division

Central Division

East Division

Series Wrapup

Story

The 1996 baseball season opened with tragedy and ended in shame.  On Opening Day, umpire John McSherry became only the second on-field fatality in major-league history when he succumbed to a heart attack at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium.  During the last week of the campaign, a clash between Baltimore’s Roberto Alomar and umpire John Hirschbeck culminated in a near postseason suspension for the second baseman after he spit in Hirschbeck's face.

In between those events, fans saw more runs scored than in any other season.  In the American League alone, Seattle, Cleveland, Baltimore, Texas, and Boston all scored more than 900 runs, a feat not achieved by any team since 1953.  Six men hit 47 or more home runs, with Oakland's Mark McGwire clubbing 52 round-trippers in just 423 official trips to the plate.  

Along the way, the Cleveland Indians compiled baseball’s best record for the second year in a row, the Texas Rangers captured their first A.L. West title, and the New York Yankees claimed their first division championship in 15 years.

The Yankees posted a regular-season record of 92-70 that left them four games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the final A.L. East standings.  The Orioles also advanced to the playoffs as the circuit’s wild-card entry.  The Boston Red Sox finished third in the division, seven games off the pace.

The Red Sox actually had the division’s top offensive performer in Mo Vaughn.  The slugging first baseman followed up his 1995 MVP campaign by placing among the league leaders with 44 home runs, 143 runs batted in, 118 runs scored, and a .326 batting average.  Unfortunately for Vaughn and his Red Sox teammates, Boston’s pitching staff surrendered just under five earned runs a game to the opposition, negating the fact that the club tallied a total of 928 runs over the course of the season.

Baltimore fielded an equally impressive lineup that placed third in the league rankings with 949 runs scored and established a new major-league record by blasting 257 home runs during the regular season.  Roberto Alomar hit 22 homers, drove in 94 runs, scored 132 others, and batted .328.  Bobby Bonilla hit 28 home runs, knocked in 116 runs, scored another 107, and batted .287.  Rafael Palmeiro placed among the league leaders with 39 homers, 142 runs batted in, and 110 runs scored.  Brady Anderson had a career year, hitting 50 home runs, driving in 110 runs, scoring 117 others, and batting .297.  

Playing in tiny Camden Yards certainly helped boost the offensive numbers compiled by the members of Baltimore’s power-laden lineup.  However, the size of the ballpark also contributed greatly to the inordinately high earned run averages posted by the members of the team’s pitching staff.  Even staff ace Mike Mussina, who concluded the campaign with a record of 19-11, finished the year with an unseemly 4.81 ERA.

Although the Yankees lacked the offensive firepower of either the Red Sox or the Orioles, they won the division title on the basis of their superior team balance.  The Yankees finished just ninth in the league with 871 runs scored, and they also finished just 12th with 162 home runs.  However, they placed second in the junior circuit with a team batting average of .288, and their pitching staff compiled a team ERA of 4.65 that placed them fifth in the league rankings.  

Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, and A.L. Rookie of the Year Derek Jeter paced New York on offense.  Martinez hit 25 homers, drove in 117 runs, and batted .292.  O’Neill went deep 19 times, knocked in 91 runs, and batted .302.  Williams batted .305, drove in 102 runs, and led the club with 29 home runs and 108 runs scored.  Jeter batted .314 and crossed the plate 104 times.  Meanwhile, Andy Pettitte anchored New York’s starting rotation, earning a close second-place finish in the Cy Young balloting by leading all A.L. hurlers with 21 victories.

The Yankees’ greatest strength lay in their exceptional bullpen duo of Mariano Rivera and John Wetteland, which allowed them to essentially turn games into six-inning affairs.  With Rivera serving as setup man for closer Wetteland, opposing teams knew they had little chance of winning if they trailed New York after six innings.   Rivera finished 8-3, with a 2.09 ERA, five saves, and 130 strikeouts in 108 innings of work.  Wetteland led the league with 43 saves.

While the Yankees separated themselves from the runner-up Orioles by a slim four-game margin in the East, the Cleveland Indians waltzed to their second straight Central Division title by compiling a major-league best 99-62 record.  The Chicago White Sox finished a distant second, 14 ½ games off the pace.

Although the White Sox finished well out of contention, their lineup featured arguably the league’s most imposing figure at the plate.  Frank Thomas had another huge year for Chicago, scoring 110 runs and placing among the league leaders with 40 home runs, 134 runs batted in, a .349 batting average, a .459 on-base percentage, and a .626 slugging average.

However, the Indians again proved to be the American League’s strongest team over the course of the regular season.  Cleveland finished fifth in the circuit with 218 home runs, placed second with 952 runs scored, 160 stolen bases, and a .475 slugging average, and led the league with a .293 team batting average, a .369 team on-base percentage, and a 4.34 team ERA.  Charles Nagy led a quartet of starters that posted double-digit win-totals.  Nagy finished 17-5, with a 3.41 ERA.  Orel Hershiser, Jack McDowell, and Chad Ogea won 15, 13, and 10 games, respectively.

Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel served as the table-setters for the middle of Cleveland’s powerful lineup.  Lofton batted .317, scored 132 runs, collected 210 hits, and topped the circuit with 75 stolen bases.  Vizquel batted .297, scored 98 runs, and stole 35 bases.  Julio Franco, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Albert Belle comprised the middle of Cleveland’s batting order.  Franco finished near the top of the league rankings with a .322 batting average.  Thome had his breakout season, hitting 38 home runs, driving in 116 runs, scoring 122 others, batting .311, walking 123 times, and compiling a .450 on-base percentage.  Ramirez hit 33 homers, knocked in 112 runs, and batted .309.  Belle earned a third-place finish in the MVP voting by batting .311, placing among the league leaders with 48 home runs and 124 runs scored, and topping the circuit with 148 runs batted in.  

The Texas Rangers joined New York and Cleveland as the league’s third division champion, winning their first A.L. West crown by finishing the regular season with a record of 90-72, 4 ½ games ahead of the second-place Seattle Mariners.  Although the Rangers lacked a true staff ace, they managed to tie the Yankees for fifth place in the league with a team ERA of 4.65.  Ken Hill finished 16-10 and, with an ERA of 3.63, was the only member of the Rangers’ starting rotation who compiled a mark below 4.50. 

The Rangers relied heavily on their potent offense to claim their first division title.  Texas finished fourth in the league rankings with 928 runs scored, 221 home runs, and a .469 team slugging average.  Ivan Rodriguez hit 19 homers, drove in 86 runs, scored 116 others, and batted .300.  Dean Palmer hit 38 home runs, knocked in 107 runs, and scored 98 others.  Rusty Greer batted .332, drove in 100 runs, and scored another 96.  Juan Gonzalez earned A.L. MVP honors by hitting 47 home runs, knocking in 144 runs, and batting .314.

Yet, Gonzalez wasn’t the Western Division’s best player, nor was he its top slugger.  Oakland’s Mark McGwire claimed the latter title by driving in 113 runs, scoring 104 others, batting a career-high .312, and leading the league with 52 home runs, even though he appeared in only 130 games and collected a total of just 423 official at-bats.  Meanwhile, both Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez had exceptional all-around years for the runner-up Mariners.  Junior hit 49 homers, drove in 140 runs, scored 125 others, and batted .303.  Rodriguez earned a close second-place finish in the MVP balloting by hitting 36 home runs, knocking in 123 runs, collecting 215 hits, and leading the league with a .358 batting average, 141 runs scored, 54 doubles, and 379 total bases.

Gonzalez did his best to justify his MVP selection by posting tremendous numbers against New York in the first round of the playoffs.  He clobbered Yankee pitching for five home runs, nine runs batted in, and a .438 batting average.  However, the rest of the Rangers didn’t perform nearly as well, enabling the Yankees to close out the series in four games.  Bernie Williams excelled at the plate for New York, batting .467, hitting three homers, driving in five runs, and scoring five others.  Meanwhile, wild-card Baltimore surprised Cleveland in the other first-round matchup, eliminating the defending A.L. champions in four games.  

The American League Championship Series between New York and Baltimore experienced its fair share of controversy, particularly in Game One.  The Yankees ended up winning the contest on a walk-off homer by Bernie Williams in the bottom of the 11th inning, after they earlier capitalized on a generous ruling by the umpiring crew, which awarded Derek Jeter a game-tying home run in the eighth inning on a clear case of fan-interference.  The Yankees needed no such help the rest of the way, taking three of the next four contests to defeat the Orioles in five games.

Facing the heavily-favored Atlanta Braves in the World Series, the Yankees appeared dead-in-the-water after they dropped the first two contests at home by a combined score of 16-1.  However, they somehow managed to pull themselves together, sweeping the next three games in Atlanta, before returning to Yankee Stadium to close out the Series with a 3-2 victory in Game Six.  The turning point of the Fall Classic occurred in the fourth contest, when New York overcame an early 6-0 deficit to defeat the Braves 8-6 in extra innings.  Jim Leyritz provided the big blow for New York, tying the game with a three-run homer in the top of the eighth inning.  John Wetteland earned Series MVP honors by saving all four of New York’s victories.  The win gave the Yankees their first world championship in 18 years.

Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:

• July 12 - After the failure of two operations to repair the glaucoma-induced damage that blinded him in his right eye, Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett announced his retirement effective immediately.

• September 6 – Baltimore’s Eddie Murray became the 15th player in major league history to hit 500 home runs.  By doing so, he joined Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the only players to collect 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.

• September 18 - Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox tied his own major league record for a nine inning game by striking out 20 Detroit Tigers during a 4-0 win.

• September 29 - Against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Skydome, Baltimore’s Brady Anderson hit his 50th home run of the season, making him the first player to hit 50 home runs in one season and steal 50 bases in another (he stole 52 bases in 1992).

• November 26 - Less than three weeks after major league owners voted 18-12 against ratification of baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, they voted again and this time approved it by a vote of 26-4. The landmark agreement brought interleague play to the regular season for the first time, as well as revenue sharing among owners and a payroll tax on players.

• Toronto’s Pat Hentgen earned A.L. Cy Young honors by going 20-10, with a 3.22 ERA and a league-leading 266 innings pitched and 10 complete games.

• Twelve-year-old Jeffrey Maier helped the Yankees win Game One of the ALCS when he interfered with a long fly ball hit to right field by Yankee Derek Jeter.

• The Hall of Fame inducted Earl Weaver, Ned Hanlon, Jim Bunning, and Bill Foster.

• Mark McGwire became the first player in major league history to compile 50 home runs in a season before collecting his 400th at-bat.

• Baltimore (257), Seattle (245), and Oakland (243) all broke the 1961 New York Yankees’ previous single-season home run mark of 240.

• Roberto Alomar was almost suspended for the postseason after he spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck near the end of the regular season.

• Major league umpires threatened not to work postseason games when American League president Gene Budig delayed acting against Alomar after the spitting incident.

• Seattle’s 993 runs scored represented the highest total compiled by any team since 1950.  

• Boston's Roger Clemens led the American League with 257 strikeouts.

• Seattle’s Edgar Martinez batted .327, hit 26 homers, drove in 103 runs, and scored 121 others.  

• Minnesota’s Paul Molitor batted .341, knocked in 113 runs, scored 99 others, collected 41 doubles, and led the league with 225 hits.  

Batting

TM G AB R H RBI AVG 2B 3B HR SB CS TB OBP SLG OPSLG GIDP SF SH
BAL 2245 5689 949 1557 914 .249 299 29 257 76 40 2685 .344 .406 .750 134 67 31
BOS 2325 5756 928 1631 882 .273 308 31 209 91 44 2628 .399 .406 .831 148 47 33
CAL 2244 5686 762 1571 727 .277 256 24 192 53 39 2451 .379 .394 .790 148 33 45
CHA 2339 5644 898 1586 860 .271 284 33 195 105 41 2521 .371 .412 .783 139 62 56
CLE 2248 5681 952 1665 904 .256 335 23 218 160 50 2700 .376 .429 .822 164 57 34
DET 2276 5530 783 1413 741 .224 257 21 204 87 50 2324 .325 .352 .691 132 49 48
KCA 2236 5542 746 1477 689 .254 286 38 123 195 85 2208 .363 .382 .746 102 49 66
MIN 2318 5673 877 1633 812 .257 332 47 118 143 53 2413 .367 .365 .751 172 63 20
ML4 2317 5662 894 1578 845 .254 304 40 178 101 48 2496 .382 .400 .799 115 50 45
NYA 2307 5628 871 1621 830 .237 293 28 162 96 46 2456 .356 .353 .724 153 72 41
OAK 2359 5630 861 1492 823 .234 283 21 243 58 35 2546 .357 .397 .754 134 39 35
SEA 2300 5668 993 1625 954 .250 343 19 245 90 39 2741 .373 .401 .774 121 58 46
TEX 2216 5702 928 1622 890 .253 323 32 221 83 26 2672 .401 .418 .819 128 69 32
TOR 2129 5599 766 1451 712 .244 302 35 177 116 38 2354 .354 .377 .731 120 37 38

Pitching

Team G W L IP SO BB BF H HR ERA ER R GC SH SV WP BK
BAL 541 88 74 1469 1047 597 6460 1604 209 185.920 841 903 13 1 44 38 5
BOS 571 85 77 1457 1165 722 6633 1606 185 160.280 810 921 17 3 37 51 6
CAL 544 70 91 1437 1052 662 6461 1546 219 185.860 849 943 12 3 38 80 8
CHA 553 85 77 1462 1039 616 6405 1529 174 131.580 735 794 7 1 43 59 1
CLE 543 99 62 1455 1033 484 6245 1530 173 85.270 701 769 13 3 46 49 3
DET 588 53 109 1433 957 784 6713 1699 241 220.580 1015 1103 10 4 22 82 4
KCA 483 75 86 1448 926 460 6251 1563 176 95.100 733 786 17 5 35 56 4
MIN 549 78 84 1439 959 581 6355 1561 233 112.650 848 900 13 3 31 49 3
ML4 546 80 82 1448 846 635 6437 1570 213 139.110 829 899 6 1 42 56 6
NYA 573 92 70 1440 1139 610 6289 1469 143 148.650 744 787 6 2 52 55 5
OAK 580 78 84 1455 884 644 6505 1638 205 124.180 842 900 7 3 34 60 6
SEA 564 85 76 1431 1000 605 6351 1562 216 151.370 829 895 4 2 34 37 3
TEX 510 90 72 1449 976 582 6358 1569 168 77.010 749 799 19 5 43 38 9
TOR 465 74 88 1447 1033 610 6271 1476 187 114.100 735 809 19 5 35 61 3

Fielding

Team ID G TC PO A E Fld% InOuts SB CS CS% PB
BAL 2805 7371 5491 1765 115 .969 17624 135 37 0 14
BOS 2955 7220 5386 1675 159 .973 17434 147 36 0 23
CAL 2706 7282 5404 1729 149 .963 17267 146 54 1.00 12
CHA 2907 7304 5576 1597 131 .965 17535 105 55 0 8
CLE 2710 7362 5402 1807 153 .984 17428 104 52 0 11
DET 2804 7360 5422 1758 180 .960 17193 117 54 0 7
KCA 2841 7343 5485 1726 132 .971 17400 69 42 0 11
MIN 2783 7208 5539 1561 108 .964 17273 84 42 0 11
ML4 2905 7403 5526 1726 151 .974 17370 96 40 0 9
NYA 2847 7094 5352 1641 101 .973 17279 120 42 0 17
OAK 2996 7437 5495 1822 120 .968 17477 117 41 0 11
SEA 2811 7138 5433 1580 125 .965 17179 78 42 0 8
TEX 2737 7236 5468 1672 96 .969 17390 62 56 2.00 10
TOR 2691 7182 5414 1641 127 .975 17352 75 41 0 16

West

team W L Att Rk SOP
Texas Rangers 90 72 2889020 1 976
Seattle Mariners 85 76 2723850 2 1000
Oakland Athletics 78 84 1148380 3 884
California Angels 70 91 1820521 4 1052

Central

team W L Att Rk SOP
Cleveland Indians 99 62 3318174 1 1033
Chicago White Sox 85 77 1676403 2 1039
Milwaukee Brewers 80 82 1327155 3 846
Minnesota Twins 78 84 1437352 4 959
Kansas City Royals 75 86 1435997 5 926

East

team W L Att Rk SOP
New York Yankees 92 70 2250877 1 1139
Baltimore Orioles 88 74 3646950 2 1047
Boston Red Sox 85 77 2315231 3 1165
Toronto Blue Jays 74 88 2559573 4 1033
Detroit Tigers 53 109 1168610 5 957

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Tagged:
1996 ALCS, 1996 ALDS1, 1996 ALDS2, 1996 World Series, Albert Belle, Alex Rodriguez, American League, Andy Pettitte, Baltimore Orioles, Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Bobby Bonilla, Brady Anderson, Cal Ripken, Jr., Chad Ogea, Charles Nagy, Cleveland Indians, Dean Palmer, Derek Jeter, Eddie Murray, Edgar Martinez, Frank Thomas, Ivan Rodriguez, Jack McDowell, Jim Leyritz, Jim Thome, Jimmy Key, John Hirschbeck, John McSherry, John Wetteland, Juan Gonzalez, Julio Franco, Ken Griffey, Jr., Ken Hill, Kenny Lofton, Kirby Puckett, Manny Ramirez, Mariano Rivera, Mark McGwire, Mike Mussina, Mo Vaughn, New York Yankees, Omar Vizquel, Orel Hershiser, Pat Hentgen, Paul Molitor, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Roger Clemens, Rusty Greer, Texas Rangers, Tino Martinez

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