Monday, October 11, 2010

Comparing the Major League Debut Classes of 1990 and 2010.

1991 Topps Major League Debut 1990: Luis Gonzalez, Frank Thomas.

I had so much fun last year comparing the MLB Debut classes of 1989 and 2009 that I thought since Topps produced three MLB Debut sets in the early 90's that I would do this kind of article again this year and will most likely do one again next year after the 2011 season.

According to Baseball Reference, 17,498 athletes got their names into the annals of Major League Baseball record-keeping. In fact, 203 of them made their MLB Debuts in 2010. That's 203 more players that have etched their names into history books, baseball encyclopedias, and 203 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.

After the success of the 1990 product, Topps once again created a box set featuring all 159 players who made their big league debuts throughout the 1990 season. The 161-card set (featuring two checklists), was similar in design to the 1991 Topps set, but lacked the 40th Anniversary logo that was seen on the top left corner of the regular cards, and instead of a team name, the banner that appeared on the right side of the card held the date of the player's first appearance. And once again, the players' cards were numbered in alphabetical order, even though the checklists listed all the players by the date of their debut.

Everyone from Delino DeShields (who debuted on April 9, 1990 and was one of six players to make his debut that day) to Glenn Sutko (who made his first appearance on October 3, 1990, the last player to debut that season) was included in this set. Nineteen 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 Frank Thomas, Luis Gonzalez, Carlos Baerga, Moises Alou, Charles Nagy, Steve Avery, Todd Hundley, and more who were part of this set. Players who had high expectations, but eventually faded from the spotlight (Kevin Maas, Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes, Scott Chiamparino) were also in this set. This was the only set that would have Topps cards of Mets catcher Dave Liddell, Ramon Manon of the Rangers, and Howard Hilton of the Cardinals. And if you're asking who these last three guys are, let's just say that they are among the few players whose major league career lasted no more than two games (and in the case of Manon, just two innings in one game).

Believe it or not, as of the end of the 2010 season, every player who made their debut in 1990 were no longer in baseball. In fact, the last 1990 debutant finished his career in 2008 (actually, two of them did). So unless somebody makes a surprising comeback next year, the final stats for the debut class of 1990 are complete. Combined, the debutantes of 1990 combined for 46 All-Star Game appearances, 5,007 home runs, 23,011 runs batted in, 3,379 stolen bases, and a batting average of about .266. Pitchers who debuted in 1990 have gone on to a combined record of 1695-1690, saved 667 games, completed 214 games, faced 133,003 batters, struck out 19,889 of them, gave up 3,296 home runs, and had a cumulative ERA of 4.41.

At any given point during the 2010 season, there were 750 players on active rosters (not counting those on the disabled list). And in amongst the shuffling of talent, 203 baseball players, some who've toiled in the minors for a very long time, and at least one player who was just 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. Ninety-eight of them were position players, the other 105 stepped onto the pitcher's mound for the very first time. Of the 203, one was born in 1990 (Starlin Castro), and the oldest player to debut was 35 years old (Hisanori Takahashi).

The 2010 debutantes combined for one All-Star Game appearance (Jason Heyward), 239 home runs, 1172 runs batted in, 170 stolen bases, and a cumulative .249 batting average. Pitchers went 155-180 with an ERA of 4.38, striking out 2,565 batters, and saved 35 games.

Just for fun, let's compare both classes:

Of the players from the debut class of 2010, just like in 1990, 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.

1991 Topps Major League Debut 1990: Dave Liddell, Jeff Richardson.

At least both Dave Liddell and Jeff Richardson have cards in the 1990 set. Who knows what the future will bring for the 203 players who first appeared in 2010. Most might never play in the majors again, disappearing in the obscurity of minor league baseball for the rest of their professional careers. A set like this would give them an albeit slim piece of cardboard immortality.

Oh well, I can dream, can't I???


JayBee Anama

P.S. Later on this week, I will post my picks as to who I think will make the 2010 Topps All-Star Rookie team. There will be a contest involved. Details to come soon. jba

No comments: