A Royals World Series Brings Memories of 1985

The game has changed a lot since the last time Kansas City played in the Fall Classic.

The Kansas City Royals are going to the World Series.

For the first time since 1985, when a team led by George Brett, Steve Balboni, Frank White, Bret Saberhagen, Willie Wilson and Charlie Liebrandt propelled Kansas City to the Fall Classic, the Royals will appear on baseball's biggest stage once again.

They are the first team in Major League history to start a postseason 8-0, and have won 11 straight postseason games dating back to Game 5 of the '85 World Series against St. Louis. They're going to the Fall Classic despite finishing last in all of baseball in home runs in the regular season, led instead by an incredible display of athleticism, remarkable defense, timely hitting, decent starting pitching and the best bullpen in the game.

So with K.C. playing for a world championship for the first time in 29 years, let's take a look back at what the game looked like during that interesting 1985 season, and what's changed since then.

These Guys Were Making What?

Salaries were a little, oh how should I put this, less insane back in 1985. Check out what the top five salaries were back then.

PlayerTeam Salary (Millions)
Mike SchmidtPHI$2.13
Gary CarterNYM$2.03
George FosterNYM$1.94
Dave WinfieldNYY$1.76
Goose GossageSD$1.71

The Phillies' Hall-of-Fame third baseman was the highest-earning player in the game, taking home a cool $2.13 million in '85, just slightly more than New York catcher Gary Carter. Interestingly, a reliever, Goose Gossage, was the fifth-highest paid player in the game at $1.71 million. Owners apparently thought these contracts were so ridiculously high that they began colluding with each other to keep salaries, and more specifically the length of contracts, down, restricting contracts to three years for position players and two years for pitchers.

Cable money completely changed everything.

These Guys Were Still Playing?

Yep, these guys were still putting on a uniform and playing baseball every day.

Pete RoseCIN0.6
Phil NiekroNYY1.7
Tony PerezCIN1.7
Tommy JohnCAL0
Rusty StaubNYM0.3
Tom SeaverCHW-0.1
Steve CarltonPHI0.2

Pete Rose, who was serving as the player/manager of the Reds that season, actually made the NL All-Star team at 44 years old. I guess that .264/.395/.319 slash, with two homers, was too good to ignore.

All Hail Dwight Gooden

Back in 1985, everybody was computing on their Commodore 64s and Apple IIs, and the internet was nothing more than an abstract thought in some computer guy's wildest dreams. So we did not have Wins Above Replacement, OPS, Ultimate Zone Rating, or any of the other metrics that are largely used to determine the best players in baseball.

But now that we have them, it's fun to look back and judge players from the past on current data. And for 1985, there's only one conclusion you can draw.

Dude. Dwight Gooden, man.

Dwight GoodenNYM13.3
Ricky HendersonNYY9.9
Wade BoggsBOS9.1
John TudorSTL8.3
George BrettKC8.2
Willie McGeeSTL8.2
Pedro GuerreroLAD7.9
Tim RainesMON7.6
Bret SaberhagenKC7.3
Gary CarterNYM6.9

According to Baseball Reference's Wins Above Replacement (bWAR), Gooden was worth 13.3 wins above a replacement pitcher in '85. He went 24-4, posted a league-best 1.53 ERA, threw 16 complete games and an NL-best 276.2 innings, while striking out 268 batters, also tops in the league.

At 20 years old.

Dwight Gooden would only make two more All-Star teams after this season.

The Awards

Thank goodness we didn't have WAR back in '85, or some BBWAA writers would have had some 'splainin' to do.

Don MattinglyNYY6.4
George BrettKC8.3
Ricky HendersonNYY9.9
Wade BoggsBOS9.1
Eddie MurrayBAL5.6

In the American League, Henderson should have won this award, with Boggs a close second and Brett in third, although Mattingly did have a terrific offensive season, hitting .324/.371/.567 with 35 HRs and a ridiculous 145 RBI. Ah, the glory days when the RBI was still king.

Meanwhile in the NL...

Willie McGeeSTL8.1
Dave ParkerCIN4.7
Pedro GuerreroLAD7.9
Dwight GoodenNYM13.2
Tom HerrSTL5.6

I've never been a fan of awarding a pitcher the MVP award, because I feel it should be given to players who play every day. That being said, Gooden was so off-the-charts ridiculous in '85, this vote shouldn't have been close. And LOL Dave Parker, everybody.

AL Cy YoungTeambWAR
Bret SaberhagenKC7.3
Ron GuidryNYY4.5
Bert BlylevenTOT6.7
Dan QuisenberryKC4.3
Charlie LiebrandtKC6.7

They Cy Young Award voting in each league made a lot more sense, with the Royals' Bret Saberhagen winning it in the American League, joined by two of his teammates in the top-five of the voting, closer Dan Quisenberry and starter Charlie Liebrandt.

NL Cy YoungTeambWAR
Dwight GoodenNYM12.1
John TudorSTL8.1
Orel HershiserLAD5.9
Joaquin AndujarSTL2.2
Fernando ValenzuelaLAD5.4

And in the NL, it was a no-brainer. It was Gooden all the way, although it's still tough to figure out how Joaquin Andujar managed to make it into the top-five of the voting.

Oh wait, he won 21 games. Pitchers wins. 1985. Still an important stat. Got it.

A Different Record Book

My how the record book has changed since '85, thanks in large part to the steroid era of the '90s and 2000s.

In 1985, there were only 13 members of MLB's 500 home run club. It was still a big deal back then. Now, the shine is off that figure a bit, with 26 players in Major League history totaling 500. And of course, Hank Aaron's record of 755 homers was shattered by Barry Bonds' 762. Roger Maris' 61 homers was shattered by Mark McGwire and then Bonds after him. In fact, in '85, only Maris and Ruth had reached the 60-homer plateau, but it's happened six more times since then.

Bonds, by the way, was drafted the year before and played 1985 in Class-A ball, where he hit .299/.383/.547 at 20 years old. He jumped up to Triple-A the following year and was playing big-league baseball in the middle of the '86 season. He was good.

By the end of the '85 season, Rod Carew had become the 16th player in MLB history to total 3000 career hits. Since then, it's been done another 12 times. And at the end of 1985, there were 18 300-game winners. Today there are 24.

Baseball has changed so much since the last time Kansas City did what the did on Wednesday night.