The New York Mets came extremely close to ending Atlanta’s five-year reign as N.L. East champions in 2000, concluding the regular season with a record of 94-68 that left them just one game behind the Braves in the final division standings. However, New York advanced to the postseason tournament as the senior circuit’s wild-card entry.
Although the Braves edged out the Mets for the division title, they began to show clear signs of vulnerability, winning eight fewer games than they won the year before and displaying a lack of depth in their starting rotation for the first time in years. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux both pitched well, posting 21 and 19 victories, respectively. But Kevin Millwood, who won 18 games and compiled a 2.68 ERA one year earlier, finished just 10-13 with a 4.66 ERA. An arm injury also sidelined John Smoltz for the entire year.
Fortunately for the Braves, Andres Galarraga and Javy Lopez returned to the team’s starting lineup full-time. Galarraga, who sat out the entire 1999 campaign recovering from cancer, hit 28 homers, drove in 100 runs, and batted .302. Lopez, who missed extensive playing time the previous year with injuries, homered 24 times and knocked in 89 runs. N.L. Rookie of the Year Rafael Furcal added speed to the top of the batting order, stealing 40 bases, while also batting .295 and scoring 87 runs. Andruw and Chipper Jones both had big years as well. Andruw hit 36 homers, drove in 104 runs, scored 122 others, and batted .303. Chipper went deep 36 times, scored 118 runs, and led the club with 111 runs batted in and a .311 batting average.
Improved pitching helped the Mets close the gap on Atlanta considerably. New York’s starting rotation included five hurlers who posted double-digit win-totals, with Al Leiter and Mike Hampton serving as co-aces of the staff. Leiter finished 16-8, with a 3.20 ERA and a team-leading 200 strikeouts. Hampton went 15-10 with an ERA of 3.14. Meanwhile, Edgardo Alfonzo and Mike Piazza led the Mets on offense. Alfonzo hit 25 homers, drove in 94 runs, scored 109 others, and batted .324. Piazza also batted .324, and he led the club with 38 home runs and 113 runs batted in.
Even though the Montreal Expos finished fourth in the N.L. East, 28 games behind the first-place Braves, they featured the division’s top offensive player in Vladimir Guerrero. The right-fielder scored 101 runs and placed among the league leaders with 44 home runs, 123 runs batted in, and a .345 batting average.
While the Braves spent the entire year battling the Mets for supremacy in the East, the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants had much easier times in their respective divisions. St. Louis ended Houston’s three-year reign as N.L. Central champs, finishing the campaign with a record of 95-67, 10 games ahead of the second-place Cincinnati Reds. The Milwaukee Brewers finished a distant third in the division, 22 games back, while the Astros slipped to fourth, 23 games off the pace.
Poor pitching prevented Houston from contending for the division title once again, with the Astros finishing last in the league with an inordinately high 5.42 team ERA. Meanwhile, Jeff Bagwell and Richard Hidalgo led a Houston offensive attack that placed second in the senior circuit with 938 runs scored. Bagwell batted .310, finished near the top of the league rankings with 47 home runs and 132 runs batted in, and led the N.L. with 152 runs scored. Hidalgo hit 44 homers, knocked in 122 runs, scored 118 others, and batted .314.
Although the Cubs finished last in the division, 30 games behind first-place St. Louis, their lineup featured arguably the league’s top slugger in Sammy Sosa. The right-fielder joined Mark McGwire as the only players in baseball history to reach the 50-homer plateau three straight years by leading the league with 50 home runs. He also knocked in 138 runs, scored 106 others, and batted .320.
The Cardinals combined solid pitching with one of the league’s best offenses to capture their first division title in four years. Darryl Kile anchored the St. Louis pitching staff, placing second in the league with 20 victories. On offense, Mark McGwire hit 32 home runs and drove in 73 runs, in just 89 games and 236 official at-bats. Shortstop Edgar Renteria scored 94 runs, batted .278, and stole 21 bases. Centerfielder Jim Edmonds earned a top-five finish in the league MVP voting by hitting 42 home runs, knocking in 108 runs, scoring 129 others, and batting .295.
The top two vote-getters in the MVP balloting played for the San Francisco Giants, who finished first in the N.L. West with a record of 97-65. The Los Angeles Dodgers placed second in the division, 11 games back, while the Arizona Diamondbacks finished third, 12 games off the pace.
Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds served as San Francisco’s offensive catalysts the entire year, enabling the Giants to win their first Western Division crown in three years. Kent earned N.L. MVP honors by hitting 33 home runs, knocking in 125 runs, scoring 114 others, and batting .334. Bonds finished right behind his teammate in the voting, having hit 49 homers, driven in 106 runs, scored 129 others, and batted .306 over the course of the regular season.
Yet, neither Kemp nor Bonds posted the most impressive offensive numbers of anyone in the division. Todd Helton had a huge year for the Colorado Rockies, who finished fourth in the West, 15 games behind the first-place Giants. The Colorado first baseman hit 42 home runs, scored 138 times, and led the league with 147 runs batted in, a .372 batting average, 216 hits, 59 doubles, a .463 on-base percentage, and a .698 slugging average.
Also having big years were Gary Sheffield of the Dodgers and Luis Gonzalez of the Diamondbacks. Sheffield hit 43 homers, drove in 109 runs, scored 105 others, and batted .325. Gonzalez went deep 31 times, knocked in 114 runs, crossed the plate himself 106 times, and batted .311.
Arizona also had the league’s best pitcher in Randy Johnson. The Big Unit captured his second straight Cy Young Award by going 19-7, with a 2.64 ERA and a league-leading 347 strikeouts, eight complete games, and three shutouts.
Facing favored San Francisco in the opening round of the playoffs, the Mets sent the Giants home early by defeating them in four games. After the Giants won Game One by a score of 5-1, the Mets turned the series around by taking the next two contests in extra innings. Bobby Jones then pitched New York into the NLCS by hurling a one-hit masterpiece during a 4-0 Game Four victory.
The St. Louis Cardinals provided an even bigger upset when they swept the Braves in the other Division Series matchup. Shockingly, the Cardinals outscored Atlanta by a combined margin of 24-10 over the course of the three games, posting a .275 team batting average against Atlanta’s vaunted pitching staff, while limiting the Braves’ lineup to an average of just .189.
The Mets then handled the Cardinals rather easily in the NLCS, needing only five games to dispose of them. Mike Hampton earned NLCS MVP honors by posting two of New York’s four victories, while allowing St. Louis only nine hits over 16 scoreless innings.
Although the Mets subsequently fell to the Yankees in New York’s first Subway Series since 1956, they handed their American League counterparts their first loss in World Series play in 14 tries when they defeated them in Game Three. The Yankees captured their third straight world championship by defeating the Mets in five games, but the National Leaguers made the Fall Classic an extremely competitive one, remaining in each contest down to the final out.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• January 31 – Commissioner Bud Selig suspended Braves reliever John Rocker from baseball until May 1 for his uncomplimentary comments in a national magazine regarding homosexuals, immigrants, and New Yorkers.
• March 29 - The Chicago Cubs opened the major league season in the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, by defeating the New York Mets 5-3, in the first big league game ever played outside of North America.
• April 11 - The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants, 6–5, in the first game played at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco.
• May 18 - Mark McGwire’s three home runs during a 7-2 St. Louis victory over the Philadelphia Phillies gave him 539 for his career, moving him past Mickey Mantle into eighth place on the all-time list.
• September 10 – Arizona’s Randy Johnson became the 12th pitcher to reach the 3,000-strikeout plateau when he struck out 14 batters in seven innings during a 4-3, 12-inning loss to the Florida Marlins.
• September 28 - In the final game ever played at Milwaukee's County Stadium, the Brewers dropped an 8-1 decision to the Cincinnati Reds.
• October 1 - The Chicago Cubs defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, 10-9, in the last game played at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium.
• Todd Helton became the first National League player ever to collect 200 hits, 40 homers, 100 walks, 100 runs scored, 100 RBIs, and 100 extra-base hits in the same season.
• Florida second baseman Luis Castillo batted .334 and led the National League with 62 stolen bases.
• Kevin Brown of the Dodgers led the National League with a 2.58 ERA.
• Chan Ho Park of the Dodgers compiled a 3.27 ERA and placed among the league leaders with 18 wins and 217 strikeouts.
- 2000 NLCS, 2000 NLDS1, 2000 NLDS2, 2000 World Series, Al Leiter, Andres Galarraga, Andruw Jones, Atlanta Braves, Barry Bonds, Bobby Jones, Bud Selig, Chan Ho Park, Chipper Jones, Darryl Kile, Edgar Renteria, Edgardo Alfonzo, Gary Sheffield, Greg Maddux, Javy Lopez, Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Kent, Jim Edmonds, John Rocker, John Smoltz, Kevin Brown, Kevin Millwood, Luis Castillo, Luis Gonzalez, Mark McGwire, Mike Hampton, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Rafael Furcal, Randy Johnson, Richard Hidalgo, Sammy Sosa, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Todd Helton, Tom Glavine, Vladimir Guerrero