On Sunday the Blue Jays celebrated the 30 year anniversary of the 1985 Blue Jays team that won a franchise best 99 games and captured the AL East for the first time. That team would later see a great postseason run in 91 then two famous World Series victories in '92 and '93. And so I asked myself, how has baseball changed since that year and was was notable about that season?
Rickey Henderson was a stud. 80 stolen bases, plus defence and a great on base percentage of .419. His Yankees counterpart Don Mattingly got the MVP despite subpar defense and base running and a good but not great .371 on base. The two of them had similar power, though Don ended up with more home runs. The difference was that when Don was up to bat, Rickey was in scoring position and therefore had a stunning 145 RBIs. Back then they thought a player controlled that stat. Sigh.
Ozzie Smith was an epically good and Reggie Jackson was an epically bad defender. Reggie was in his second to last year of what seemed like a great career. Outfield defense wasn't as valued as it is now. Meanwhile Ozzie was in his prime. His best defensive year would come in 1989 (number two defensive player in 1989: Barry Bonds).
In the last thirty years home runs are up, as only one guy hit 40 homers in '85 compared to the half-dozen guys that will achieve that feat this year. Stolen bases went away over time too. However, defense made a comeback in recent years where we can value fast athletic guys with average hitting ability.
It seems the Blue Jays were lucky to beat the Yankees. They had the second best offence in the AL while the Yankees had the best. The Yankees also had better pitching, ranked 4th to the Jays' 6th.
What did it for the Jays? DEFENSE. The Jays had the best defense in the AL by a significant margin thanks to Tony Fernandez, Jessie Barfied and Ernie Whitt. Though he was recognized on Sunday, George Bell was not a good defender, just a power hitter. If the Jays had a slightly stronger bullpen and and a bona fide designated hitter, they would've been a World Series team.