It was 20 years ago today that baseball shut its doors on the 1994 season. Unable to come to an accord with owners after the Collective Bargaining Agreement expired at the end of 1993, baseball's players walked out on the season having played between 112 and 117 games depending on the team.
The strike forced the cancellation of the rest of the 1994 season and, for the first time in 90 years, the World Series.
Most adversely affected by the strike were the Montreal Expos, who at 74-40 were the best team in baseball when the season abruptly ended. It wasn't some sort of fluke, either, Montreal was a legitimately good team with star power, sending Moises Alou, Wil Cordero, Darren Fletcher, Marquis Grissom and Ken Hill to the All-Star Game. The Expos also had Cliff Floyd, Mike Lansing, Larry Walker, Rondell White, Pedro Martinez and John Wetteland, among others.
However, like it did around so much of the continent, the strike soured Montreal fans on baseball, killing any momentum for a much-needed new stadium for the Expos, and management ordered a fire sale before the start of the 1995 season. The Expos never recovered, which is why they're the Nationals now.
Perhaps the most notable element of the Expos' fire sale was Larry Walker's free agent move to the Rockies. The addition of Walker along with the move to Coors Field gave Colorado one of the most fearsome offensive forces in baseball history, the Blake Street Bombers. Behind Walker and the Blake Street Bombers, the Rockies made the playoffs in 1995, the fastest expansion team ever to do so.
On the other end of the spectrum, the 1994 strike did spare us the worst playoff team in baseball history. When the season ended, there was quite the race for the AL West crown, with the Rangers leading Oakland by a game and Seattle by two. However, Texas held that division lead despite a record of just 52-62. That's right, no one in the AL West was any better than 10 games below .500, even the last place Angels were just 5.5 games out of first despite a miserable 47-68 record.
The NL West wasn't much better than its AL counterpart, with the Dodgers leading the division at season's end with a record of 58-56. That division did bring the two best individual storylines of 1994. The Padres' Tony Gwynn was attempting to be the first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941, hitting .394 through 117 games when San Diego's season and the Giants' Matt Williams had 43 home runs through 115 games, which put him on pace to challenge Roger Maris' single season record.
After losing the remainder of the 1994 season and all of those storylines, the strike effectively came to an end on March 28, 1995 when then-District Judge Sonia Sotomayor issued an injunction stating that baseball would resume operating under the previous CBA until a new one could be agreed upon. Everyone also agreed to turn a blind eye to steroids so guys could start hitting a bunch of home runs and win the fans back.
In the end, there were no winners in the strike at all. While baseball has seen 20 consecutive years of labor peace, it has dealt with scandal after scandal surrounding the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The strike also bred a generation of angry fans that didn't take their kids to ballgames, the fruits of which we're seeing now with the sport's waning popularity. The 1994 strike was probably the single most damaging thing that has ever happened to baseball and is something we still feel the effects of today.