Friday, November 29, 2013

Newbies

I guess I'm starting a tradition of only posting around the holidays, seeing as how my last post here at Yellow Cardboard was on Halloween.  Things are going strong over at my "regular" blog, but I've been neglecting the Yellow.

Anyways, enough about that.  'Tis the season to be thankful, and while I have a lot to be thankful in my life, I'm going to take a look at the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot that was recently released and take a look at some of the players that fans in 1991 were thankful to see, and who should just be thankful to even be on the ballot.

While there are plenty of players on last year's ballot who had cards in the '91 Fleer set, here are the six new guys on the block.  I've listed them the order they appeared in the set.

First up, The Big Hurt, Frank Thomas.


Is he Cooperstown worthy?
Yes.

Why?
In his 19 year career, he was known for his power (521 career home runs, had eleven seasons of 100+ RBI, including eight years in a row), but looking at his numbers, I was really surprised by a few things. First, he had a career batting average of .301.  I knew he was a good hitter, but I thought it would've been a bit lower.  Also, he led the league in OBP four different times, due in large part to leading the league in walks three times and winning the batting title once (in 1997).

In 1991…
He was showing promise after a great rookie season in 1990.  He made his first appearance on the MVP ballot, coming in third behind Cecil Fielder and the eventual winner, some guy named Cal Ripken Jr.  He led the league in walks (138), OBP (.453), and OPS (1.006).  Those stats would've led the majors in 2013, except OPS (Miguel Cabrera's is .072 higher).  I do not know enough about OPS to know if that is a little or a lot.

About the card…
A swinging Frank Thomas is a great sight.  Also makes me remember how much I love those early 90's Sox caps with the cursive "C".

Next up, The Gamblin' Man.


Is he Cooperstown worthy?
Sorry Kenny, it's just not in the cards.

Why?
A twenty year career that resulted in… four All-Star appearances?  A very pedestrian 4.27 career ERA?  His perfect game in 1994 isn't enough to get you into Cooperstown, but he's still in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame, and that's nothing to sneeze at.

In 1991…
Not the greatest of years for K-Rog.  A 10-10 record isn't horrible, but his 5.42 ERA wasn't anything to brag about, though he would go on to have three more seasons with a higher mark.  He only started in nine games, so he was still coming out of the bullpen pretty frequently, as the Rangers had Nolan Ryan, Kevin Brown, and Jose Guzman at the top of their rotation.

About the card…
Pretty generic pitchers shot here, with the blue fence in the background, not much to say about it.

Alright!  Three players in an row with some type of nickname!  On to The Mad Dog!


Is he Cooperstown worthy?
If this is even a question, it is clear that you know nothing about baseball.

Why?
Greg Maddux is one of the greatest pitchers ever, and the greatest pitcher that I have ever seen in person (sorry Trevor).  I almost hesitate doing the whole "stat rundown", because if 355 wins, a career 3.16 ERA, and 109 complete games is something that needs to be said to sway your opinion, you are not worth my time.  I've heard that some players with big numbers get docked because they weren't "dominant" during their time, but no pitcher in the early 90's was more dominant than Greg, as he won the NL Cy Young Award four years in a row ('92-'96).  He would also finish in the top five for four years after that.  Okay, I need to move on, because the "why" for Maddux' entrance into Cooperstown could go on forever.

In 1991…
Maddux won his second Gold Glove and led the league in games started (37) and innings pitched (263).  This would've led the majors in 2013, as Adam Wainwright led all pitchers with 241.  Maddux was by far the ace of the staff, as he was joined in the rotation by names like Bielecki, Boskie, Castillo, and Sutcliffe.  The Cubbies would finish 4th in the NL East, six games below .500.

About the card…
Another pretty generic pitching card, though I think it's a better angle than the Rogers card.  There are a bunch of pictures from this set that were taken at Wrigley Field, but seeing as how Maddux spent half the season there, it makes sense.  It is so ingrained into my brain that Maddux is a Brave, so it always kind of weirds me out to see him as a Cub.

Next, a man who etched his name into postseason history, Luis Gonzalez.


Is he Cooperstown worthy?
That's a big no for Gonzo.

Why?
With a 19 year career, you're going to need to distinguish yourself in one area or another, and 2,591 hits, 354 homers, and a career batting average of .283 is not going to get it done.  He made five All-Star teams, or rather, he didn't make 14 All-Star games.

In 1991…
He was getting regular playing time after only playing 12 games in the previous season.  He responded by hitting .254 with 13 homers, 69 RBI, and 101 strikeouts.  Not a bad rookie season at all, but he failed to garner any Rookie of the Year votes.  The Astros finished last in the NL West, 32 games below .500, or 14 games better than this year's Astros.

About the card…


While the Fleer company had the foresight to include this future All-Star into their Update set, I'm not sure how highly they thought of him, only granting him this "stand still and don't smile" card with an empty stadium as a background.  A pretty forgettable rookie card, if you ask me.

Well, it looks like the string of nicknames is broken.  On to another Braves pitcher


Is he Cooperstown worthy?
Most definitely.

Why?
Unfairly, Glavine's case for the Hall might need more explanation for some, since a large chunk of his career was spent playing second fiddle to Maddux.  He led the league in wins five times, the same number of times he was a 20+ game winner.  He had 305 career wins, which is 50 less than Maddux, but he had 24 fewer losses (205).  When you win 100 more games than you lose, that seems pretty special.  Despite all of that, he only won half as many Cy Young's as Maddux, though he was named to  ten All-Star teams

In 1991…
Glavine was at the top of his game, making his first All-Star game, while winning his first Cy Young as well as his first Silver Slugger (he'd go on to win four).  He'd lead the league in wins (20) and complete games (9), while the Bravos would win the NL West, beat the Pirates in the playoffs, and lose to the Twins in the World Series.

About the card...
No generic pitcher's shot here, this is one of the best cards in the entire set, the only one showing a pitcher sliding into home.  A Hall of Fame caliber card for a Hall of Fame caliber player.

The last player new to the ballot didn't actually make it into the '91 Fleer base set, but was included in the Update set.


Is he Cooperstown worthy?
I pretty much only know of Mike Timlin from baseball cards, and seeing as how it's called a Hall of Fame, well, it doesn't bode well for Timlin.

Why?
While he had a long career (18 years) and a decent ERA (3.63), he was a bullpen guy who only got more than 20+ saves twice and never was chosen for the All-Star game.  He is easily the biggest head scratcher on this ballot.  He does, however have the most MLB wins for any alumni from Southwestern University (Georgetown, TX, which is a beautiful campus a few minutes away from where I used to live in Round Rock).

In 1991…
He placed sixth on the AL Rookie of the Year ballot, and had a crazy 11-6 record, starting three games and finishing seven (three saves).  That would be the only time that he'd have double digit wins in his career.

About the card…
Once again, generic but not necessarily boring shot of a pitcher who looks like he's throwing out of the stretch.  Sometimes I'm surprised by how far apart a pitcher's legs can be before they even bring the ball up to throw.  Digging the Blue Jays blue caps with the white front panel.

Well, there you have it, there's the rundown of six of the new guys on the All-Star ballot.  Not included in the 1991 set were other newbies Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, Moises Alou, Ray Durham, Hideo Nomo, Richie Sexson, Paul Lo Duca, Armando Benitez, Sean Casey, Jacque Jones, Eric Gagne, J.T. Snow, and Todd Jones.

For what it's worth, of the new guys, the only ones that I'd consider "first ballot" would be Thomas, Maddux, and Glavine.  If I was granted a vote this year, I'd also include:

* Craig Biggio (2nd year)
* Jack Morris (15th year)
* Mike Piazza (2nd year)
* Tim Raines (7th year)
* Lee Smith (12th year)
* Edgar Martinez (5th)
* Fred McGriff (5th)

That'd be a full ballot of ten players.  Hopefully somebody gets elected to the Hall this year.

EDIT: At first, I wrote that Gonzalez had been included in the Update set, when in fact he was a part of the base set.  My bad.