How the Strike and Injuries Ruined the Promising Career of Jason Bere


As manager Gene Lamont came to the mound with two outs in the sixth inning and took Jason Bere out of the game on August 10, 1994 at the Oakland Coliseum, Bere had a lot to be proud of in that moment as he headed to the dugout.


For starters, he had out-dueled American League ERA leader Steve Ontiveros, eventually earning the win in a 2-1 victory for the 67-46 White Sox, who were leading the AL Central by one game following a loss the previous day by Cleveland.


Secondly, he headlined a young White Sox pitching staff that boasted four pitchers with an ERA+ of 120 or better, as he and fellow young star Wilson Alvarez both were named All-Stars that season and ace Jack McDowell had won the Cy Young in 1993, with Alex Fernandez rounding out the quartet with the fifth-best ERA in the league.


Lastly, after he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting the season before, Bere continued his success, with Chicago believing its former no. 1 prospect to be the future ace of the pitching staff, and with his current 12-2 record, his .857 winning percentage paced the entire league.


Using an arsenal of a fastball, slider, curveball and the rare fosh, which is a mix between a splitter and a changeup that is thrown like a circle change for those who have not heard of it, there was reason to believe Bere would finish the season strong and be an anchor in the postseason with this strong mix of pitches.


Little did Bere and the rest of the league know, that would be the last time we would see him pitch that season, and anyone pitch for the White Sox, for that matter.


Nine games completed the following day on a day off for the White Sox, who were scheduled to fly to Minnesota for a divisional clash with the Twins before the rest of the 1994 season was canceled due to a player's labor strike on August 12.


Everything went dark for the entire league, and it hit harder than some for the White Sox, who were one of the best teams in MLB at the time of the strike, holding the fourth-best record behind the Montreal Expos, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves.


For a team that had not won the World Series since 1917 and had not appeared in the Fall Classic since 1959, hearing that the postseason was canceled that year was rough.


In addition to holding the best staff ERA in the majors, Frank Thomas was in the midst of the best season of his career, holding a ridiculous 212 OPS+ and a slash line of .353/.487/.729, which is one of the top-50 seasons of all-time. He still won MVP, but it was not the same as he and Jeff Bagwell competed for the best season in the league that year.


To put it in perspective, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire are the only players since Thomas and Bagwell to finish with an OPS+ of 200 or better in a full season.


Bere finished the 1994 season with that 12-2 record, a 3.81 ERA, a 122 ERA+ and 1.9 fWAR, on pace for his best season yet. It would be the final season where he would finish with an ERA+ over 100. Bere also finished 23rd in MVP voting that season, earning a single vote point but gladly losing to teammate Frank Thomas.


As players returned in 1995, Jason Bere was clearly not the same. His arm started hurting that season and he changed his arm slot while also trying He pitched just three innings in his first start back, and in his first six appearances of 1995, he had a 6.43 ERA, allowing five runs in four of the six.


After eight innings of shutout ball to end the month of May, he looked to have turned the corner. However, he allowed three runs or more in 20 of his 21 starts and finished the season with a ghastly 7.19 ERA after allowing five runs in just 1.1 innings in his last start of the year.


All told, after leading the majors in win percentage the year prior, he led the American League in losses in 1995 with an 8-15 record, a complete juxtaposition of his special 1994 season.


He hit the DL late in August with biceps tendinitis, the first trip he took to the list and not the last. Much like this MLB season, the quick ramp-up in activities after a dead period may not have been good for his arm.


In an interview with David Laurila of Red Sox Nation in 2005, Bere was asked if the strike had any affect on his career.


"In a way, it was huge," Bere said. "I was 12-2 at the time, and the team was doing well. When we got going again the following year, I had the arm injury and was terrible."


When asked if he believed the strike contributed to his injury trouble, he pointed to that among trying to learn a new pitch that caused it.

That's hard to say. We did have a short Spring Training, but working on a new cut fastball, which I probably didn't even need, probably had more to do with it. I wanted another pitch to use against left-handed batters, one that would bore in and get off the barrel. In a way it was more like a slider, but on an "evener" plane, and I put a lot of torque on it. And it was kind of like getting a new toy and wanting to play with it. Instead of just using it to bust left-handers inside, I found myself throwing it too much, even against right-handers down and away. I remember talking to Mickey Tettleton in '95, and him telling me, "You already had good stuff. Why did you try to fix something that wasn't broken?" But was that, or the late start to spring training, ultimately responsible for my arm injury? It's really impossible to say.

This arm injury set off a cascade of future injuries for the right-hander. Right elbow tendinitis plagued his 1996 season, only making five starts and getting rocked around before opting to have elbow surgery. Bere noted that he made the mistake of resting in 1995 instead of getting surgery, which did not help his 1996 season.


Returning in 1997, he made six starts and pitched respectfully to the tune of a 4.71 ERA. However, his next season was worse. Finally healthy, he could not get anything going and was released with a 6.45 ERA in June. He latched on with the Reds, beginning the journeyman phase of his career.


Bere was worth 3.0 fWAR for the Cubs in 2001, at least getting to enjoy one more season of underlying success if not seeming that way at the time.


All in all, Bere pitched just two complete seasons after 1997, bouncing from Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Chicago. In 2003, after another elbow surgery, he fought back to pitch in the minors in 2005, but the pain eventually became too much, ending his career.


From 1993-94, Bere pitched to a 24-7 record with a 3.64 ERA, was named an All-Star, had an ERA+ of 122 and was worth 4.0 fWAR and looked to be a future ace and reliable pitcher.


Following the strike, in 163 games from 1995-2003, Bere had a 47-58 record with a 5.65 ERA, a 78 ERA+, fighting through injuries and ineffectiveness the whole time.


Bere spent the 2015-17 seasons as the bullpen coach for Cleveland after being named a special assistant for the club during the 2006 campaign.


If the strike does not occur, who knows what happens to Bere's career? Maybe the White Sox battle the equally dominant Expos in the World Series and Bere wins a ring, and becomes a multiple-time All-Star and wins awards down the line. There is no telling what could have happened, as it is fun to play the what-if game.


The strike screwed over many people, and Bere, who may not say it, had a promising career ripped away after the strike.

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