HBT Classic: The 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers Are The Future Of Baseball


Note: This post originally appeared on HardballTalk on October 21, 1988. In light of today’s rush to make instant history and draw instant lessons from the Kansas City Royals’ success, I reprint it here in order to show that the idea is not new.

OAKLAND — Sure, the Los Angeles Dodgers are an intriguing tale for the typical reasons. A team that hasn’t won even 75 games the past two years wins the World Series over a favored opponent. On Thursday evening, the Dodgers beat the Oakland Athletics 5-2, finishing them off in five games and winning their first World Series in seven years.

But the Dodgers are more than just an enchanting success story. They represent the changing game of baseball.

In the post-healthy era, the game is going through a remarkable transition. Functioning limbs are out. Horrible, hobbling knee injuries are in. Before 1988, strapping, vibrant players posted MVP seasons and led their teams to championships. Now, surly, limping veterans are the key to success.

Enter the Dodgers. The Dodgers had the fewest functioning knee ligaments among MVP candidates this postseason, with zero. But no team had more improbable pinch-hit home runs from players with no healthy ligaments than the Dodgers. The team has one. That one came in their wild 5-4 win over the Oakland A’s in Game 1 of the World Series.

The last big-league club to win the World Series with a slow, hobbled MVP candidate was the 1979 Pirates, led by a waddling Willie Stargell. Those Pirates teams played an exciting brand of “cripple ball” throughout the decade: the ’71 Pirates featured Richie Hebner, a grave-digger in the offseason, suffering from trench foot during the Fall Classic. In 1975 they lost — albeit valiantly — in the NLCS even though Richie Zisk posted a line of .500/.583/.600 while suffering from an attack of the gout.

For the Dodgers, leg injuries pay off in the field too.  Because of Kirk Gibson’s destroyed lower body, Mickey Hatcher was around to cover for him in left field, hitting .368 in the World Series, thereby providing a two-pronged attack. This versatility has baseball analysts raving. “Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here,” wrote Peter Gammons of the Boston Globe. “We’re not just talking about a hurt knee, or a badly hurt knee. We’re talking about what one might decide to argue is the most hurt knee of a walkoff-home-run-hitting sonofabitch of all time.”

The Dodgers have found a winning formula. These days, if you have two healthy knees, you’re more likely than ever to get caught stealing. So just step awkwardly off a curb – Dodgers hitters are the least likely to go all the way to a crosswalk – and take your chances with your legs. Hurt your knees to make that ninth inning home run all the more dramatic.

Let the high-payroll Mets and A’s overpay for healthy young sluggers who will inevitably tire out from all of that running around the outfield (Daryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, Lenny Dykstra). Maimed-ball is inspirational, and effective. This is where the game is heading. The Dodgers just do it best.

Gallegos agrees to 2-year, $11M contract with Cardinals

Atlanta Braves v St. Louis Cardinals
Getty Images

ST. LOUIS – Reliever Giovanny Gallegos and the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to a two-year, $11 million contract, a deal that includes a club option for 2025 and escalators that could make it worth $20.5 million over three seasons.

The 31-year-old right-hander is 3-5 with a 2.91 ERA and 14 saves in 20 chances this season. He has 72 strikeouts and 15 walks in 58 2/3 innings.

“I feel so happy,” Gallegos said before the Cardinals played the Pirates in Pittsburgh. “I don’t have the word for exactly how I’m feeling.”

He was obtained from the Yankees in July 2018 along with left-hander Chasen Shreve in the trade that sent first baseman Luke Voit to New York. Gallegos is 14-15 with a 3.02 ERA and 34 saves in six major league seasons.

Gallegos gets a $500,000 signing bonus and salaries of $4.5 million next year and $5.5 million in 2024. St. Louis has a $6.5 million team option for 2025 with a $500,000 buyout.

His 2025 option price can increase by up to $3.5 million for games finished in 2024: $500,000 each for 20-25 and 26-30 and 31-35, and $1 million apiece for 36-40 and 41 or more.

He would get $250,000 for winning the Rivera/Hoffman reliever of the year award, $50,000 for All-Star selection and World Series MVP and $25,000 for League Championship Series MVP.

Gallegos has a $2.41 million salary this year.

He was eligible for salary arbitration and is potentially eligible for free agency after the 2024 season.