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Let's Go to the Videotape: 1988 NL East Preview

As I wrote in my last post, we have a long, cold winter ahead of us. What better way to cope with it than remembrances of things past? Today I have yet another clip from the Vast and Dusty Scratchbomb VHS Archives. I hope it will stir up memories for fans of a certain age, and if you're younger than me--well first of all, keep it to yourself. But I hope this will serve as a time capsule from that tumultuous, strangely coiffed era known as the 80s.

Today's blast from the past comes from the same tape as the Sandy Alderson footage from 1988 I posted a short while ago, although not the same special. The Alderson video originated from an NBC Sports spring training preview, whereas this comes from a similar special produced by This Week in Baseball and narrated by the relentlessly cheery tones of Mel Allen.

To refresh your memory, the Mets went into 1988 with the sting of the previous year fresh in their minds. A relentless string of injuries and Doc Gooden's rehab prevented them from winning the NL East again. They made a surge late in the season, and pulled within 1.5 games at the beginning of September when the first place Cardinals came to New York. But in the series opener, an injury to Ron Darling (one of the few pitchers who hadn't missed time) and a Terry Pendleton home run all but doomed their chances to repeat.

If you're technologically challenged or just feel like reading, here are the highlights.

  • To combat the loss of Jack Clark to free agency, the Cardinals added Bob Horner, the ex-Brave who'd just spent a season in Japan playing for the Yakult Swallows. The oft-injured first baseman lasted only 60 games into the season before hurting his shoulder, and was never seen in the majors again. After winning the NL pennant in 1987, the Cardinals finished 1988 10 games under .500, 25 games out of first.
  • When it comes to the Mets, this segment concentrates on their new spring training facility in Port St. Lucie and highly touted rookie Kevin Elster. Allen sounds vaguely uncomfortable mentioning Darryl Strawberry's controversial remarks about his teammates. Frank Cashen sounds just as uncomfortable addressing them, as he basically says Strawberry "can be" a superstar, as if he wasn't one already by 1988.
  • The Expos sound absurdly confident for a team that finished in third in 1987, and would finish in the same spot again in 1988 (with the perfectly mediocre record of 81-81). Tim Raines even says "we're gonna win it all." It would take another eight years until Raines finally won a ring--with the Yankees.
  • Mike Schmidt insists that the Phillies "need" Lance Parrish "to hit 25-35 home runs" and "be a 100-RBI man, not to put to much pressure on him." Nope, no pressure at all, Schmitty! Parrish wound up hitting just 15 homers and driving in only 60 runs, and managed a WAR of only 0.9. The Phillies finished with a record of 65-96 and a firm grasp of last place, and it was all Lance Parrish's fault.
  • The Pirates segment opens with footage from their last game of 1987, with a sizeable crowd on their feet, eagerly awaiting the final out. When it comes, the team celebrates, and the team's announcer exclaims, "The Pirates have finished in a tie for fourth place!" Seems a ridiculously modest goal to celebrate, but better times lay ahead; they'd challenge the Mets for the division for a good portion of the summer in 1988.
  • The Cubs' segment focuses on the advent of night baseball at Wrigley Field. It's hard to remember now just how worked up about people were about this. Ryne Sandberg seems cool with it because he likes to sleep in, while Rick Sutcliffe (reflecting the views of many people at the time) doesn't want to "mess with tradition". As it turned out, the first scheduled night game on August 8 was called due to rain; the first official game came the next night against the Mets, with the Cubs winning 6-4.