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Remembering the MLB Strike and the 1994 Phillies

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Today marks the 20th anniversary of the 1994 MLB strike that helped kill baseball in Philadelphia. At least for a while.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, at least the Phillies got to be National League champs for an extra year.

When baseball stopped being played on August 12, 1994, it hurt other teams and players more than anyone on the Phils. Numerous milestones and records that could have been broken were submarined by the work stoppage, and a potential Cubs-Red Sox World Series match-up never came to pass.

And even though none of those milestones or records included any Phils fans, the strike could not have come at a worse time for Philadelphia, too.

Fresh off their Macho Row high and making it all the way to the World Series the year before, the cessation of baseball killed any momentum the team had coming off their first NL pennant in 10 years.

The Phillies weren't going to the playoffs in '94, not even with the introduction of the new wild card, which wouldn't actually be used for the first time until baseball resumed in 1995. Even in the midst of the 1993 season, most fans and analysts knew it was a one-year wonder, a fluke, a wonderful marriage of destiny and career years matching up together.

But it all started to fall apart before the season even started, when John Kruk was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Injuries to Dave Hollins and Tommy Greene, and the departure of Terry Mulholland and Mitch Williams, also gave the '94 season a distinctly different feel, and the play on the field suffered as a result.

When the world stopped turning, the Phils were in 4th place in the NL East at 54-61, 20.5 games behind the first place Montreal Expos, who had the best record in baseball at 74-40. Of course, the strike actually did kill baseball in Montreal, to the point the team was sold to MLB and then moved to Washington.

But for the Phils, here is where some notable Phils batters were sitting when the strike began in '94...

Player fWAR wOBA wRC+ OPS HR BA OBP
Darren Daulton 2.6 .397 140 .929 15 .300 .380
Lenny Dykstra 2.6 .267 120 .839 5 .273 .404
John Kruk 1.5 .363 118 .823 5 .302 .395
Jim Eisenreich 1.2 .349 109 .792 4 .300 .371
Mickey Morandini 1.2 .348 108 .787 2 .292 .378
Pete Incavaglia -0.4 .303 78 .716 13 .230 .278
Dave Hollins -0.8 .229 29 .680 4 .222 .328

Compare that to their '93 stats.

Player fWAR wOBA wRC+ OPS HR BA OBP
Lenny Dykstra 6.8 .400 143 .902 19 .305 .420
Darren Daulton 5.3 .382 132 .875 24 .257 .392
John Kruk 4.9 .401 144 .905 14 .316 .430
Dave Hollins 3.1 .362 119 .814 18 .273 .372
Pete Incavaglia 2.5 .364 120 .848 24 .274 .318
Jim Eisenreich 2.2 .355 114 .808 7 .318 .363
Mickey Morandini 0.1 .299 77 .664 3 .247 .309

The decline was teamwide, with notable drops from Hollins and Pete Incavaglia. But the big departure from '93 to '94 was the state of the pitching staff, which absolutely fell apart.

Player fWAR ERA FIP GS
Danny Jackson 3.8 3.26 3.44 25
Bobby Munoz 1.5 2.60 3.92 14
David West 1.4 3.16 3.72 14
Curt Schilling 0.8 4.48 4.43 13
Fernando Valenzuela 0.1 3.07 5.11 7
Tommy Greene 0.1 4.54 5.23 7
Shawn Boskie 0 5.57 5.35 14
Ben Rivera -0.4 7.01 6.53 7

Compare that to '93.

Player fWAR ERA FIP GS
Tommy Greene 4.9 3.42 3.07 30
Curt Schilling 4.8 4.02 3.46 34
Danny Jackson 3.4 3.77 3.79 32
Terry Mulholland 3.0 3.25 3.81 28
Ben Rivera 1.4 5.02 4.43 28

The '93 staff was incredibly durable, with the five rotation members starting 152 of the team's 162 games. In '94, the Phillies used 11 starters, with the less-than-heralded Shawn Boskie accounting for 14 starts, tied for 2nd-most on the Phils.

You know, come to think of it, maybe the strike actually helped save the Phillies for a while.

The 1994 Phillies showed how important good health is. Whereas the '93 Phils stayed healthy for virtually the entire season, the follow-up season was like a MASH unit on steroids.

Of course, the loss of baseball did hurt the game in Philadelphia. From 1984-1993, the Phils averaged 2.087 million fans a season. In the final nine years of the Vet, from 1995-2003, they averaged 1.61 million fans a season. Now, some of that had to do with the team usually being pretty bad, with just two winning seasons (2001 and 2003) in the mix. However, from '84 to '93, the Phils also had just two winning seasons (1987 and 1993), although that last one was more memorable than the others.

When I worked at WIP in the early 2000s as a producer, hosts were often times forbidden to talk about the Phillies on the air. Not because the programmers hated baseball or the team, but because it was deemed there was too little interest in the team to warrant discussion. And while that annoyed me to no end, it's entirely possible that was correct.

It wasn't until the Phillies signed Jim Thome before the 2003 season that the tide began to turn. Then, Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004, and the team started generating young, exciting players, which brought more fans to the park.

Now, we're in a new modern era of Phillies baseball that, even though the team is struggling and attendance is down this year, there is still substantial interest in the team. There is a different feel, even though the results are currently not good.

The city has recovered from the damaging strike of 1994, which began 20 years ago today. But it took a long time to get here.