YEAR IN REVIEW : 2003 National League

Off the field...

After the U.N. repeatedly failed in its efforts to uncover weapons of mass destruction or identify links between Saddam Hussein and international terrorists, the United States and a group of coalition forces joined together for a pre-emptive strike aimed at disarming Iraq. On March 19 th , the U.S. launched what would become known as Operation "Shock and Awe" as a "decapitation attack" aimed at the Iraqi President and other top members of the country's leadership. More than forty satellite-guided Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from U.S. warships in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf with support from multiple squadrons of F-117 stealth fighters, carrying 2,000-pound bombs. Although the initial attack failed to eliminate Saddam, it only took twenty-one days for coalition forces to eliminate the Republican Guard and take the capital city of Baghdad. For the first time in history, people from around the world were able to watch the war effort live via embedded war journalists and strategically placed web cams.

Tragedy struck the NASA Space Program after the space shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry fifteen minutes before its scheduled landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Those killed on the ill-fated flight were commander Rick D. Husband; pilot William C. McCool; payload commander Michael P. Anderson; mission specialists David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark; as well as Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon. An investigation into the explosion later revealed that a piece of foam designed to protect the vehicle from heat had dislodged during take-off, striking the left wing. Columbia, the oldest of NASA's shuttle fleet, had first launched in 1981 and was completing its twenty-eighth mission. Ironically, the accident occurred less than a week after the anniversaries of two other deadly space program disasters: the seventeenth anniversary of the explosion of the shuttle Challenger (January 28) and the thirty-sixth anniversary of a launch pad fire that killed three Apollo astronauts (January 27).

In the American League...

New York Yankees ace Roger Clemens joined one of the most exclusive clubs in sports after becoming the twenty-first pitcher in Major League history to win three-hundred games. After announcing his intentions to retire at the end of the 2003 season, Clemens went on to complete his quest for three-hundred by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-2, in front of a sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium. In doing so "The Rocket" became the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1990 to reach three-hundred wins, tying Hall-of-Famers Early Wynn and Lefty Grove for nineteenth place on the all-time victory list. Later he joined another "pitching fraternity" after striking out the four-thousandth batter of his career. Only Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Steve Carlton (4,136) had more strikeouts than Clemens (to date), who had ten on the night. Ironically, Carlton had also won his three-hundredth against the Cardinals in 1983.

The ongoing rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees came to a head during Game 3 of the American League Championship Series after both dugouts emptied twice due to what some felt was "overly-aggressive" pitching. The ensuing argument was first instigated after Boston ace Pedro Martinez struck Yankees' designated hitter Karim Garcia in the back and was fueled by Manny Ramirez who took offense to a high pitch thrown by Roger Clemens. As both dugouts cleared, New York's bench coach Don Zimmer charged at Martinez who promptly reacted by throwing the sevent-two year-old to the ground. After several minutes of suspended play, both teams went back to business until a second brawl erupted in the Yankees bullpen between Jeff Nelson, Garcia and a member of Fenway Park's grounds crew. Following the 4-3 Yankees victory, Major League Baseball issued fines to Martinez, Ramirez, Garcia and Zimmer while the Boston Police issued additional charges on Garcia and Nelson for their involvement in the bullpen altercation.

In the National League...

The entire baseball world was shocked after one of its most beloved athletes Sammy Sosa was ejected in the first inning of a Chicago Cubs versus Tampa Bay Devil Rays game after umpires found cork in his shattered bat. Sosa, who had recently joined the five-hundred home run club and gained national prominence in 1998 during his home-run battle with Mark McGwire, apologized to fans, his teammates and the Commissioner of Baseball. Stating that the corked bat had been strictly used for batting practice and mistakenly taken to the plate, Sosa received a seven-game suspension following an appeal. Sosa's other bats, which had been confiscated by security personnel and turned over to Major League Baseball, showed no signs of tampering. Still, many doubted the integrity of Sammy's previous accomplishments and it would be some time before he would be back in the fan's favor.

Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne set a new Major League record after converting fifty-five saves to top Boston's Tom Gordon, who had previously converted fifty-four in a row from April 19, 1998, to June 5, 1999. Practically "un-hittable" throughout the season, Gagne had increased the velocity on his fastball from ninety-two miles-per-hour to ninety-seven and complemented it with a hard eighty-seven mile-per-hour changeup that dropped much like a split-finger pitch. His forty-first consecutive win gave him the longest saves streak to start a season in Major League history and he also became the first relief pitcher in history to tally one-hundred more strikeouts (137) than hits allowed (37).

Around the League...

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler collapsed at the team's spring training complex in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on February 16 th and died the next day. Following an autopsy, it was determined that the twenty-three year-old had suffered a "heart attack-like event" after taking a dietary supplement containing ephedra. His widow later filed a $600 million lawsuit against the manufacturers while bringing national attention to the dangers of using potentially harmful weight loss aids. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, called the product Xenadrine RFA-1 a "poisonous cocktail" unsafe for human consumption.

Major League Baseball's marketing division attempted to restore the fan's faith in the All-Star Game and make amends for the 2002 debacle that had ended in a 7-7 tie after both leagues ran out of available pitchers. To add more meaning to the fledgling exhibition, the 2003 Midsummer Classic slogan read "This Time It Counts" and for the first time in professional baseball history, home-field advantage in the World Series would be granted to the winner. The enticing proposal initially appeared to be more than just a marketing ploy as the last team to overcome the "home-field curse" was the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had beaten the odds (and the Baltimore Orioles) while away in 1979. However, despite winning 7-6, the American League later proved that home-field advantage was overrated after the Florida Marlins toppled the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium.

After years of less-than-stellar ratings, record audiences finally tuned in to the Major League Baseball postseason, making it the most-watched playoffs ever on cable. Fans also flocked to the ballparks setting a new attendance mark with over 1,858,979 tickets sold. Many attributed this renewed interest to the playoff's storybook backdrop that featured two of baseball's most beloved underdogs, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. Both teams had surprised the experts by making the post season and each continued to shock their opponents by battling back in their respective leagues time and time again. After surviving the Divisional round, generations of long-suffering fans from both ball clubs reveled in the possibility that the curse of both "The Bambino" and "The Goat" was finally coming to an end. The baseball god's apparently had other plans and both teams fell just five heartbreaking outs short of making it to the Series.

Baseball Almanac Top Quote

"It's probably the biggest moment of my professional career (winning 9-6 in Game 7 versus Chicago)I can't even explain it. It probably hasn't even sunk in yet, but I do know that it's a wonderful feeling. People asked me was I going to come back for next year, and I told them if I get in the World Series and manage the All-Star team, I'll definitely be back." - Florida Marlins Manager Jack McKeon

2003 National League Player Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

San Francisco
148
St. Louis
.359
St. Louis
51
St. Louis
212
Philadelphia
47
San Francisco
.529
Colorado
141
St. Louis
137
San Francisco
.749
Florida
45
St. Louis
394
Arizona
10
Atlanta

2003 National League Pitcher Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

Montreal
8
San Francisco
2.34
Los Angeles
89
Los Angeles
55
Philadelphia
3
St. Louis
San Francisco
Chicago
266
San Francisco
.773
Atlanta
21

2003 National League

Team Standings

Atlanta Braves 101 61 .623 -- $106,243,667
Florida Marlins 91 71 .562 10 $49,050,000
Philadelphia Phillies 86 76 .531 15 $70,780,000
Montreal Expos 83 79 .512 18 $51,948,500
New York Mets 66 95 .410 34½ $117,176,620
Chicago Cubs 88 74 .543 -- $79,868,333
Houston Astros 87 75 .537 1 $71,040,000
St. Louis Cardinals 85 77 .525 3 $83,496,666
Pittsburgh Pirates 75 87 .463 13 $54,812,429
Cincinnati Reds 69 93 .426 19 $59,355,667
Milwaukee Brewers 68 94 .420 20 $40,627,000
San Francisco Giants 100 61 .621 -- $82,852,167
Los Angeles Dodgers 85 77 .525 15½ $105,872,620
Arizona Diamondbacks 84 78 .519 16½ $80,640,333
Colorado Rockies 74 88 .457 26½ $67,179,667
San Diego Padres 64 98 .395 36½ $47,928,000
National League Team Standings

2003 National League Team Review

Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

162
5,570
717
1,467
303
47
152
696
2,320
531
1,006
76
38
.330
.417
.263
162
5,670
907
1,608
321
31
235
872
2,696
545
933
68
22
.349
.475
.284
162
5,519
724
1,431
302
24
172
691
2,297
492
1,158
73
31
.323
.416
.259
162
5,509
694
1,349
239
21
182
669
2,176
524
1,326
80
34
.318
.395
.245
162
5,518
853
1,472
330
31
198
814
2,458
619
1,134
63
37
.344
.445
.267
162
5,490
751
1,459
292
44
157
709
2,310
515
978
150
74
.333
.421
.266
162
5,583
805
1,466
308
30
191
763
2,407
557
1,021
66
30
.336
.431
.263
162
5,458
574
1,328
260
25
124
544
2,010
407
985
80
36
.303
.368
.243
162
5,548
714
1,423
266
24
196
685
2,325
547
1,221
99
39
.329
.419
.256
162
5,437
711
1,404
294
25
144
682
2,180
522
990
100
39
.326
.401
.258
161
5,341
642
1,317
262
24
124
607
1,999
489
1,035
70
31
.314
.374
.247
162
5,543
791
1,448
325
27
166
757
2,325
651
1,155
72
29
.343
.419
.261
162
5,581
753
1,492
275
45
163
711
2,346
529
1,049
86
37
.338
.420
.267
162
5,531
678
1,442
257
32
128
641
2,147
565
1,073
76
39
.333
.388
.261
161
5,456
755
1,440
281
29
180
713
2,319
593
980
53
37
.338
.425
.264
162
5,672
876
1,580
342
32
196
827
2,574
580
952
82
32
.350
.454
.279
2003 National League Hitting Statistics League Leaderboard

2003 National League Team Review

Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard

84
78
3.84
162
7
11
42
1455.0
1,379
685
621
150
72
526
1,291
101
61
4.10
162
4
7
51
1456.1
1,425
740
663
147
42
555
992
88
74
3.83
162
13
14
36
1456.1
1,304
683
619
143
71
617
1,404
69
93
5.09
162
4
5
38
1446.1
1,578
886
818
209
48
590
932
74
88
5.20
162
3
4
34
1420.0
1,629
892
821
200
84
552
866
91
71
4.04
162
7
11
36
1445.1
1,415
692
648
128
40
530
1,132
87
75
3.86
162
1
5
50
1450.0
1,350
677
622
161
74
565
1,139
85
77
3.16
162
3
17
58
1457.2
1,254
556
511
127
40
526
1,289
68
94
5.02
162
5
3
44
1452.0
1,590
873
810
219
61
575
1,034
83
79
4.01
162
15
10
42
1437.2
1,467
716
640
181
71
463
1,028
66
95
4.48
161
3
10
38
1413.1
1,497
754
704
168
45
576
907
86
76
4.04
162
9
13
33
1443.2
1,386
697
648
142
77
536
1,060
75
87
4.64
162
7
10
44
1444.1
1,527
801
744
178
61
502
926
64
98
4.87
162
2
10
31
1431.1
1,458
831
774
208
62
611
1,091
100
61
3.73
161
7
10
43
1437.1
1,349
638
595
136
43
546
1,006
85
77
4.60
162
9
10
41
1463.2
1,544
796
748
210
65
508
969
2003 National League Pitching Statistics League Leaderboard
Seasonal Events: All-Star Game | All-Star Game | All-Star Game | World Series
Navigation: Year in Review Menu | Previous Season | Next Season
Miscellaneous: A.L. Leaderboard
Retirements | Rookies List
Average Salary: $2,555,476.00
Minimum Salary: $300,000.00
baseball almanac flat baseball

baseball almanac fast facts

Did you know that the only two National League franchises with a payroll less than the World Champion Florida Marlins were the Milwaukee Brewers & San Diego Padres? Did you know that there were only three in the American League and they were the Cleveland Indians ($48,584,834), Kansas City Royals ($40,518,000) and Tampa Bay Devil Rays ($19,630,000)?

On April 8, 2003, Eric Gagne recorded his first save in the 2003 regular season. On September 24, 2003, Gagne recorded his fifty-fifth consecutive ( click here to view his game logs ) and final regular season season setting a new National League (and Major League) record.

Two of the more rare clubs were entered when Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs joined the 500 Home Runs Club on April 4, 2003 and Rafael Furcal of the Atlanta Braves joined the Unassisted Triple Play Club on August 10, 2003.

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