Sadly, they stopped creating this set. I wish they would bring it back, if only so that every player who makes it to the majors has at least one Topps card to call his own. But even though Topps stopped the MLB debut sets (and they don't plan on making them any time soon), I continued comparing the MLB Debut classes of 1992 and 2012, 1993 and 2013, & 1994 and 2014. As the 2015 MLB season ended a few weeks back, and it looks like we know who's going to the World Series (maybe next year guys), now would be a good time to review this year's 2015 MLB debutantes and compare them to the class of 1995. These have been fun posts for me to write, and it's nice to look back to see how the future stars of my youth (I was 19 in 1995), performed over the years.
According to Baseball Reference, 18,662 athletes have entered their names into the annals of Major League Baseball record-keeping. In fact, 254 of them made their MLB Debuts in 2015. That's 254 more players that have etched their names into history books, baseball encyclopedias, and baseball websites. Two hundred fifty-four 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 1995, 247 players made their big league debuts, up from 114 players the year before. Remember, the strike that started in 1994 carried over into 1995. Spring Training consisted of 27 teams of replacement players (the Orioles did not run a MLB camp, their minor leaguers did get their work in though). When the strike ended all 28 teams had three weeks to get their rosters together. One location was set up for MLB players who were free agents and were looking for a place to play. Among the first of nine players to debut was Todd Hollandsworth (who debuted on April 25, 1995), the last was Gary Bennett (who made his first appearance on September 24, 1995). Thirty players who would debut during the 1995 campaign 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 Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Billy Wagner, Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada, Mike Sweeney, Troy Percival, Andy Pettitte, Jason Schmidt, Johnny Damon, and the man who is credited for breaking down the door for Japanese players to make their impact in MLB, Hideo Nomo. Players who had high expectations, but eventually faded from the spotlight (Jason Bates, Carlos Perez, Terrell Wade, Vaughn Eshelman) also made their debuts in 1994.
Believe it or not, one player who made his debut in 1995 was still on a MLB roster during the 2015 season (and he announced that 2015 would be his final year in the majors). The debutantes of 1995 (as of the end of the 2015 season) combined for 31 All-Star Game appearances, 5,658 home runs, 26,050 runs batted in, 4,011 stolen bases, and a batting average of about .267. Pitchers who debuted in 1995 have gone on to a combined record of 3344-3417, saved 2,820 games, completed 300 games, faced 263,361 batters, struck out 43,084 of them, gave up 7,265 home runs, and had a cumulative ERA of 4.50.
At any given point during the 2015 season, there were 750 players on active rosters (not counting those on the disabled list). And in amongst the shuffling of talent, 254 baseball players, some who'd toiled in the minors for a very long time (Junior Guerra signed with the Braves in 2001 and spent more than 14 years between the minor and independent leagues), and at least six players who were drafted in the 2015 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 four of them were position players, the other 150 stepped onto the pitcher's mound for the very first time. Of the 254, one was born in 1995 (Roberto Osuna), and the oldest player to debut was 32 years old (Angel Castro).
The 2015 debutantes combined for one All-Star Game appearance (Kris Bryant), 360 home runs, 1,396 runs batted in, 206 stolen bases, and a cumulative .249 batting average. Pitchers went 235-280 with an ERA of 4.42, striking out 3,936 batters, and saved 38 games.
Just for fun, let's compare both classes:
- Players making debut: 1995 = 247; 2015 = 254
- Position Players/Pitchers: 1995 = 94/153; 2015 = 104/150
- Earliest Debut: 1995 = Quilvio Veras, Antonio Osuna, Mike Myers, Todd Hollandsworth, and Matt Dunbar (April 25, 1995); 2015 = Devon Travis, Micah Johnson, Odubel Herrera, J. R. Graham, and Miguel Castro (April 6, 2015)
- Latest Debut: 1995 = Gary Bennett (September 24, 1995); 2015 = Gary Sanchez (October 3, 2015)
- Youngest at time of Debut: 1995 = Karim Garcia (born October 29, 1975, or 19 years, 308 days old); 2015 = Roberto Osuna (February 7, 1995, or 20 years, 60 days old)
- Oldest at time of Debut: 1995 = Edgar Caceres (June 6, 1964, or 31 years, 2 days old); 2015 = Angel Castro (November 14, 1982, or 32 years, 176 days old)
- Shortest Career: 1995 = Dennis Konuszewski (1 game, 0.1 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 walk, 2 earned runs, 54.00 ERA) and Noe Muñoz (2 games, 0-1, .000 AVG); 2015 = Chris Beck, John Cornely, Jose De Paula, Daniel Fields, Brian Johnson, Zach Lee, Akeel Morris, Toru Murata, Matt Tracy, and Kyle Waldrop each have only one MLB game under their belt (Waldrop entered as a pinch hitter in the 5th-inning, striking out in his lone at bat. Morris, in his 0.2 innings of faced 8 batters, allowed 3 hits, 3 walks, and 5 earned runs, for a 67.50 ERA).
- Longest Career, Seasons: 1995 = LaTroy Hawkins; 2015 = only time will tell.
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.
Who knows what the future will bring for the 254 players who first appeared in 2015. Most might never play in the majors again, disappearing in the obscurity of minor league baseball for the rest of their professional careers. Creating a set called the 2016 MLB Debut 2015 would give them a slim piece of cardboard immortality.
Oh well, I can dream, can't I???
P.S. The annual Guess the Topps All-Star Rookie Team contest will be postponed this year because of time restraints. No sense in trying to get contest entries when, one, I haven't had time to write up the annual Rookie Review, and two, the readership of this humble, little blog has nosedived. I will still write my thoughts on who will make the team, but we'll skip the contest for this year. Hopefully, I'll have a bit more time next year to devote to the blog. jba