According to Baseball Reference, 17,733 athletes have their names into the annals of Major League Baseball record-keeping. In fact, 239 of them made their MLB Debuts in 2011. That's 239 more players that have etched their names into history books, baseball encyclopedias, and baseball websites. Two hundred thirty-nine more players who finally reached the pinnacle of their professional careers, no matter how long or how brief their stay was. They can honestly say that they have arrived.
In 1992, Topps created a box set featuring all 192 players who made their big league debuts throughout the 1991 season. The 194-card set (featuring two checklists), was similar in design to the 1992 Topps set, but instead of a team name, the colored box that appeared on the right side of the card contained the date of the player's first appearance. Once again, the players' cards were numbered in alphabetical order, even though the checklists listed all the players by the date of their debut. It would also be the final MLB Debut set Topps conceived.
Everyone from Jeff Bagwell (who debuted on April 8, 1991 and was one of four players to make his debut that day) to Doug Lindsey (who made his first appearance on October 6, 1991, the last player to debut that season) was included in this set. Twenty-six players would go on to become All-Stars at some point in their careers. We'd all get to know their names on a regular basis like Mo Vaughn, Rod Beck, Jim Thome, Bernie Williams, Kenny Lofton, and more who were part of this set. Players who had high expectations, but eventually faded from the spotlight (Scott Kamieniecki, Kirk Dressendorfer, Tom Drees) were also in this set. This was the only set that would have Topps cards of Phillies pitcher Amalio Carreno, and Jeff Banister of the Pirates.
Believe it or not, three players who made their debut in 1991 were still on a MLB roster during the 2011 season. The debutantes of 1991 (as of the end of the 2011 season) combined for 74 All-Star Game appearances, 4,788 home runs, 20,331 runs batted in, 3,444 stolen bases, and a batting average of about .267. Pitchers who debuted in 1990 have gone on to a combined record of 2709-2693, saved 1375 games, completed 328 games, faced 205,683 batters, struck out 33,360 of them, gave up 5,364 home runs, and had a cumulative ERA of 4.35.
At any given point during the 2011 season, there were 750 players on active rosters (not counting those on the disabled list). And in amongst the shuffling of talent, 239 baseball players, some who've toiled in the minors for a very long time, and at least two players who were drafted in the 2010 free agent draft, got to step onto the field of a major league stadium for the very first time and play at least one inning of major league baseball. One hundred seven of them were position players, the other 132 stepped onto the pitcher's mound for the very first time. Of the 239, three were born in 1991 (Julio Teheran,Mike Trout,and Jacob Turner) and the oldest player to debut was 35 years old (Yoshinori Tateyama).
The 2011 debutantes combined for two All-Star Game appearances (Aaron Crow and Michael Pineda), 188 home runs, 1001 runs batted in, 230 stolen bases, and a cumulative .246 batting average. Pitchers went 168-219 with an ERA of 4.43, striking out 2,968 batters, and saved 35 games.
Just for fun, let's compare both classes:
- Players making debut: 1991 = 192; 2011 = 239
- Position Players/Pitchers: 1991 = 92/100; 2011 = 107/132
- Earliest Debut: 1991 = Jeff Bagwell, Darryl Kile, Tony Scruggs, Mike Timlin (April 8, 1991); 2011 = Nathan Adcock, Brandon Belt, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Cedric Hunter, (March 31, 2011)
- Latest Debut: 1991 = Doug Lindsey (October 6, 1991); 2011 = Jarrod Parker (September 27, 2011)
- Youngest at time of Debut: 1991 = Ivan Rodriguez, (born November 27, 1971, or 19 years, 205 days old); 2011 = Mike Trout (August 7, 1991, or 19 years, 335 days old)
- Oldest at time of Debut: 1991 = Jose Escobar (October 30, 1960, or 30 years, 165 days old); 2011 = Yoshinori Tateyama (December 26, 1975, or 35 years, 149 days old)
- Shortest Career (1 Game only): 1991 = Jeff Banister (one plate appearance, one hit, ended his career with a perfect 1.000 batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and an OPS of 2.000); 2011 = Rafael Dolis, Eric Farris, Steve Garrison, Alan Johnson, Darin Mastroianni, Jarrod Parker, and Elih Villanueva each have only one MLB game under their belt (Farris has one at-bat, Garrison pitched in 2/3 of an inning).
- Longest Career, Seasons: 1991 = Ivan Rodriguez and Jim Thome (21 seasons each, Arthur Rhodes is next with 20, but pitched in 2011); 2011 = only time will tell.
Of the players from the debut class of 2011, just like in 1991, there could be some Hall of Fame candidates. Most may go on to All-Star caliber, or very long careers in the bigs. And for some, this may be their only year in the majors. But all of them can say that they achieved their dream of being a Major League Ballplayer.
And nothing can take that away from them.
I've clamored before about wanting to bring back the Major League Debut set. But I know in today's age of exclusive contracts and rookie card restrictions that a set of this type might never see the light of day again. And although I have a feeling that many collectors would not want to get a set that might have stars but plenty of "never will be's" amongst them, a set like this could contain the only card of a player who played in one inning of major league ball.
|1992 Topps MLB Debut '91 Jeff Banister #8|
Oh well, I can dream, can't I???
P.S. Later on this week, I will post my picks as to who I think will make the 2011 Topps All-Star Rookie team. There will be a contest involved. Details to come soon. jba