After failing to become just the third team in major league history to win four consecutive world championships the previous year by losing the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the New York Yankees captured their fifth straight A.L. East title in 2002. The Yankees concluded the campaign with a major-league best 103-58 record that left them 10 ½ games ahead of the second-place Boston Red Sox in the division.
Buoyed by the off-season free-agent acquisition of slugging first baseman Jason Giambi and the further maturation of sophomore second baseman Alfonso Soriano, New York led the American League with 897 runs scored and placed second in the junior circuit with 223 home runs. Giambi finished first on the team with 41 home runs and 122 runs batted in, scored 120 runs, and batted .314. Soriano earned a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by hitting 39 homers, driving in 102 runs, batting .300, amassing 51 doubles, accumulating 381 total bases, and leading the league with 128 runs scored, 209 hits, and 41 stolen bases. Jorge Posada added 20 homers and 99 runs batted in, while Derek Jeter scored 124 times, batted .297, and stole 32 bases. Bernie Williams also made significant contributions on offense, driving in 102 runs, scoring 102 others, collecting 204 hits, and finishing third in the league with a .333 batting average. New York also had a deep starting rotation that included 19-game winner David Wells, 18-game winner Mike Mussina, and fellow 13-game winners Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.
Although the Red Sox’s 93 victories weren’t enough to get them into the playoffs, they also had a very solid team, finishing second in the league with 859 runs scored and compiling a team ERA of 3.75 that placed them third in the league rankings. Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez anchored Boston’s starting rotation. Lowe finished 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA, while Martinez compiled a record of 20-4 and led all A.L. hurlers with a 2.26 ERA and 239 strikeouts. Meanwhile, Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez paced the Red Sox on offense. Garciaparra hit 24 homers, knocked in 120 runs, scored 101 others, and batted .310. Ramirez went deep 33 times, drove in 107 runs, and led the league with a .349 batting average and a .450 on-base percentage.
The Minnesota Twins surprised everyone by winning their first A.L. Central title, replacing Cleveland at the top of the division standings by finishing the regular season with a record of 94-67. The Chicago White Sox finished second, 13 ½ games back, while the Indians came in third, 20 ½ games off the pace. The Twins got fine seasons from pitchers Rick Reed and Eric Milton. Reed led the staff with 15 victories, while Milton added another 13 wins. Reliever Eddie Guardado led the league with 45 saves. On offense, Jacque Jones hit 27 homers, drove in 85 runs, scored 96 others, and batted .300. Torii Hunter scored 89 runs, batted .289, led the team with 29 home runs and 94 runs batted in, and earned a Gold Glove for his outstanding centerfield play.
The runner-up White Sox had the division's best player in Magglio Ordonez. The Chicago right fielder hit 38 home runs, drove in 135 runs, scored 116 others, and batted .320. The Indians also featured one of the division’s top performers in Jim Thome, who finished second in the league with 52 homers, knocked in 118 runs, batted .304, and topped the circuit with a .677 slugging average.
The A.L. West ended up being the league’s strongest and most competitive division, with three teams posting more than 90 victories. The Oakland Athletics edged out the Anaheim Angels for the top spot, finishing four games ahead of them with a record of 103-59. Anaheim gained a postseason berth as the circuit’s wild-card entry with a mark of 99-63. The Seattle Mariners finished third in the division, 10 games behind the first-place Athletics, with a record of 93-69. Although the Texas Rangers finished last in the division, 31 games off the pace, they featured arguably the league’s finest all-around player in Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod batted .300, scored 125 runs, and topped the circuit with 57 home runs, 142 runs batted in, and 389 total bases. He placed second in the league MVP balloting.
Even though they won 23 fewer games than they did one year earlier when they established a new A.L. record by posting 116 victories, the Mariners played good ball over the course of the season. Both Ichiro Suzuki and Bret Boone had big years once again. Ichiro batted .321 and placed among the league leaders with 111 runs scored, 208 hits, and 31 stolen bases. Boone homered 24 times and drove in 107 runs. John Olerud also performed well for the Mariners, hitting 22 homers, knocking in 102 runs, and batting .300.
The runner-up Angels had one of the league's top starters in Jarrod Washburn, and they also boasted the circuit's top closer in Troy Percival. Washburn compiled a record of 18-6 and a 3.15 ERA. Percival finished 4-1, with a 1.92 ERA and 40 saves. He also struck out 68 batters in 56 innings of work. On offense, Darin Erstad batted .283 and scored 99 runs. Shortstop David Eckstein batted .293 and scored 107 times. Tim Salmon homered 22 times, drove in 88 runs, and batted .286. Troy Glaus hit 30 homers, knocked in 111 runs, and scored 99 others. Garret Anderson earned a top-five finish in the A.L. MVP balloting by hitting 29 home runs, driving in 123 runs, scoring 93 others, batting .306, and leading the league with 56 doubles.
The Oakland Athletics rivaled the Yankees as the American League’s strongest team over the course of the regular season, finishing just ½- game behind them in the race for the league’s best record. The loss of Jason Giambi to New York via free agency hurt the A’s offense considerably, since they finished just eighth in the league in runs scored. Nevertheless, they managed to win their division largely on the strength of their outstanding starting pitching. Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson gave the A’s a formidable “Big Three” at the top of their rotation. Zito earned A.L. Cy Young honors by compiling a brilliant 23-5 record that made him the circuit’s top winner. He also posted an exceptional 2.75 ERA and struck out 182 batters. Mulder finished 19-7 with a 3.47 ERA, and Hudson went 15-9 with a 2.98 earned run average. Hardly bereft of talent on offense, Oakland also received strong performances from outfielder Jermaine Dye, third baseman Eric Chavez, and shortstop Miguel Tejada. Dye hit 24 home runs and drove in 86 runs. Chavez homered 34 times and knocked in 109 runs. Tejada earned A.L. MVP honors by hitting 34 home runs, driving in 131 runs, scoring 108 others, batting .308, and collecting 204 hits. He solidified his MVP candidacy by batting .359, hitting five home runs, and driving in 17 runs during the month of September.
In spite of their outstanding regular season, the A’s made an early exit from the postseason tournament, losing their Division Series matchup with the Twins in five games. Meanwhile, the Angels upset the favored Yankees in the other first-round playoff series, needing only four games to dispose of the four-time defending league champions. Anaheim scored 31 runs and compiled a .376 team batting average over the course of the four contests.
The Angels subsequently handled the Twins rather easily in the ALCS, defeating them in five games and outscoring them by a combined margin of 29-12. Anaheim’s Adam Kennedy earned ALCS MVP honors by batting .357 and hitting three home runs during the Angels’ 13-5 Series-clinching victory in Game Five.
The Angels had a much harder time with the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, falling behind their National League counterparts three-games-to-two before mounting a momentous comeback. Trailing the Giants 5-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game Six, the Angels closed the gap to 5-3 on a two-out, three-run homer by Scott Spiezio. They then rallied for another three runs in the bottom of the eighth on a home run by Darin Erstad and a two-run double by Troy Glaus, to pull the game out, 6-5. With momentum clearly on their side, the Angels captured their first world championship in their 42-year history by winning Game Seven by a score of 4-1.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• February 27 - The sale of the Boston Red Sox to a group headed by John Henry became official.
• March 1 - The Red Sox fired GM Dan Duquette and hired Mike Port on an interim basis.
• March 11 - The Red Sox hired Grady Little as their new manager.
• April 29 - Former major league outfielder Darryl Strawberry was sentenced to 18 months in prison for violating the terms of his probation six times.
• May 11 - Rafael Palmeiro hit his 500th career home run against David Elder of the Cleveland Indians.
• August 7 - In a historic movement, major league players ended their long-held opposition to mandatory drug testing by agreeing to be tested for illegal steroids beginning in 2003.
• September 4 - The Oakland Athletics set an AL record by defeating the Kansas City Royals 12–11 for their 20th straight win.
• September 5 – Alex Rodriguez became the fifth player in major league history to record successive 50-home run seasons during an 11-2 Texas victory over Baltimore.
• September 20 – Baltimore’s Mike Bordick set a major league record with his 102nd consecutive errorless game at shortstop. He also extended his major league mark of errorless chances at shortstop to 504.
• October 28 - Lou Piniella asked to be released from his managerial contract with the Seattle Mariners so that he could sign with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
• November 25 - The Boston Red Sox signed 28-year–old Theo Epstein as their new general manager. He became the youngest GM in major league history.
• Toronto third baseman Eric Hinske (24 home runs and a .279 batting average) earned A.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• Boston’s Derek Lowe tossed a no-hitter.
• Seattle’s Mike Cameron hit four home runs in a game on May 2.
• The All-Star Game ended in a 7-7 tie when both teams ran out of pitchers.
• The players and owners averted an imminent work stoppage by agreeing to a contract on August 31.
• The Hall of Fame inducted Ozzie Smith.
• Legendary slugger Ted Williams died on July 5 at age 83.
- Adam Kennedy won the ALCS MVP
- Troy Glaus won the Babe Ruth Award
- Barry Zito won the Cy Young
- Alex Rodriguez won the Hank Aaron Award
- Mike Scioscia won the Mgr of the year
- Miguel Tejada won the MVP
- Billy Koch won the Rolaids Relief
- Eric Hinske won the Rookie of the Year
- Barry Zito won the TSN Pitcher of the Year
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- Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, Anaheim Angels, Andy Pettitte, Barry Zito, Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Boston Red Sox, Bret Boone, Cleveland Indians, Darin Erstad, David Eckstein, David Wells, Derek Jeter, Derek Lowe, Eddie Guardado, Eric Chavez, Eric Hinske, Eric Milton, Garret Anderson, Ichiro Suzuki, Jacque Jones, Jarrod Washburn, Jason Giambi, Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, Jorge Posada, Lou Piniella, Magglio Ordonez, Manny Ramirez, Mariano Rivera, Mark Mulder, Miguel Tejada, Mike Bordick, Mike Mussina, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Nomar Garciaparra, Oakland Athletics, Pedro Martinez, Rafael Palmeiro, Rick Reed, Roger Clemens, Scott Spiezio, Ted Williams, Theo Epstein, Tim Hudson, Tim Salmon, Torii Hunter, Troy Glaus, Troy Percival