Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Comparing the Major League Debut Classes of 1991 and 2011.

In 1990, Topps created a set honoring the players who made their MLB debut during the 1989 campaign. It was a relatively successful set, with future HOF's like Ken Griffey, Jr., and Deion Sanders (okay, he's in the Football HOF) and others. In 2009, I created a post comparing the MLB Debut classes of 1989 and 2009 in honor of that set. Because the MLB Debut set had a three-year run, I thought it would be a good idea to continue this series of comparisons with the MLB Debut classes of 1990 and 2010 and again for the Debut classes of 1991 and 2011. Who knows? This might be an annual post at the end of the season and I'll probably do one for 1992 and 2012 next year.

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:

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
At least Jeff Banister has a card in the 1992 set. Who knows what the future will bring for the 239 players who first appeared in 2011. 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 a 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 2011 Topps All-Star Rookie team. There will be a contest involved. Details to come soon. jba


John Bateman said...

Great Post - Banister - as a pirates fan I may try to get his card.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances are not listed on the 2011 Debuts page on Baseball Reference, but they both definitely debuted in 2011.