Wednesday, January 29, 2014

1987 minnesota twins

this post covers the 1987 minnesota twins and cards numbered 272 to 274 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
this is the smallest team subset so far, but features two new players to the set - kent hrbek and kirby puckett.  that blyleven card is in the blog header - a nod to my adopted hometown(s).

what team is this: the 1987 world champion minnesota twins.

why this team?:  the twins went from worst to first under rookie manager tom kelly to win the world series over the saint louis cardinals 4 games to 3.  it was the first title for the twins and the first for the franchise since walter johnson led the senators to the crown in 1924.

which players are featured: bert blyleven, kent hrbek, and kirby puckett.

why these players?:  well, let's break it down

bert blyleven was three years into his second stint with the twins when he went 15-12 with 8 complete games and a shutout.  of course, he also led the league for the second straight year in home runs allowed.  the 36-year old hall of famer to be was also the only guy on the team who had been on the twins previous division winner, way back in 1971!  in between stints as a twin, blyleven had earned a world series ring with the pittsburgh pirates for whom he appeared games 2 and 5 of the fall classic.  in 1987, he was the winning pitcher in both game 2 and game 5 of the alcs against the tigers, and he also earned the victory in game 2 of the world series.  he took the loss in game 5 of the fall classic despite giving up only 2 earned runs in 6 innings.

kent hrbek was the hometown boy straight outta bloomington when he took over the first base duties in 1981.  by 1987, he was firmly entrenched in the lineup, and was one of three twinkies (tom brunansky and gary gaetti were the others) to hit over 30 home runs that year.  he hit only .150 in the alcs against detroit, and only .208 against the cardinals in the world series, but he did deliver a grand slam at the metrodome in game 6 to pad the twins' lead and force the decisive game 7.  that granny is the subject of the memorable moment portion of hrbek's card.

kirby puckett was in his prime in 1987.  he hit .332 during the regular season while leading the american league in hits with 207.  it was the second of four straight seasons in which he would surpass the 200 hit mark and hit .328 or higher.  he also fell just two home runs short of 30, which would have given the twins the first foursome to reach that mark since the 1977 dodgers did it with dusty baker, ron cey, steve garvey, and reggie smith.  in the postseason, puckett hit .208 with a home run and 3 rbi against the tigers, but then in the world series he hit .357.  he did most of his damage in the last two games with a 4 for 4 game 6 in which he scored 4 times and then with a game tying double in game 7 to turn the tide in favor of the twins.

the stadium on the back is...?: the hubert h humphrey metrodome, which was deflated (on purpose this time) a couple of weeks ago and is in the process of being demolished.  not sure when this photo was taken (maybe the 2002 alcs as the huge banners/seat covers are not being used so there were a lot of tickets sold for this game), but at least it's the right stadium for this team.

did upper deck get it right?: world series mvp frank viola, gary gaetti, and tom brunansky (and why not manager tom kelly?) would have been good choices for this team, in addition to bert, herbie, and puck.  kudos, by the way, to upper deck for not including steve carlton in this team subset (yes, he pitched for the twins in 1987) even though he was already included on the checklist with various phillie and cardinal teams.

the photos are all wrong, however, as the twins switched to their pinstriped uniforms in 1987, complete with a 'm' logo on their hats and helmets.  no more baby blues or 'tc' logo for a while.

is this team timeless?:  yes.  here in minny, they never forget their first.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

1987 detroit tigers

this post covers the 1987 detroit tigers and cards numbered 265 to 271 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
this may be the first team subset without a black and white photo on the front.  i'll have to check.  i'm back.  nope, the 1979 cincinnati reds lacked a black and white photo, too.

what team is this:  the american league east champion detroit tigers, who won 98 games in 1987.  they swept the toronto blue jays in the final series of the season to tie and overtake the jays and win the division, but lost to the twins in the alcs.

why this team?: good question. the team featured many of the same players that helped to win the world series in 1984.  i recall when the '87 tigers lost to the twins in the playoffs that there was a sense of underachievement regarding this team.

which players are featured?:  alan trammell, dan petry, chet lemon, sparky anderson, jack morris, kirk gibson, and lou whitaker.

why these players?:  this is a pretty good representation of the team, but let's break it down.

alan trammell finished second behind george bell in the 1987 american league mvp voting.  he hit .343 on the season (third behind wade boggs and paul molitor).  he also hit 28 home runs and drove in a career high 105 runs while scoring 109 times, also a career best.  his single in the bottom of the 12th inning of game 161 beat the blue jays and put the tigers one game up with one to play.  unfortunately, trammell hit just .200 with only a couple of rbi in the tigers' 5-game loss to the twins in the alcs.

dan petry went 9-7 for the 1987 tigers with a 5.61 era.  primarily a starter, petry was moved to the bullpen in august.  in the alcs, he made one appearance giving up an unearned run in 3.1 innings of work in game 4.

chet lemon hit .277 with 20 homers and 75 rbi in 1987.  it was his last year as the tigers' center fielder, as he moved to right field in 1988.  lemon hit 2 home runs with 4 rbi in the alcs.

sparky anderson was the manager of the 1987 tigers, obviously, and they were the 7th team that he had led to the postseason.  they were also his last, even though he managed the team through the 1995 season.  he won the 1987 al manager of the year award, the second time he was so honored.

jack morris was the ace of the staff.  he won 18 games and his 3.34 era was good for 5th in the league.  he threw 13 complete games during the regular season, and then threw one more in the alcs.  unfortunately, it was of the 8-inning variety as the twins scored 6 runs off of him en route to a game 2 victory.

kirk gibson moved to left field from right in 1987, hitting .277 with 24 home runs and 79 rbi.  gibby was one of the few bright spots for the tigers in the alcs, hitting .286 with a home run, four rbi, and 3 steals against the twins.

lou whitaker scored a career high 110 runs in 149 games for the tigers in 1987.  he hit .265 with 16 homers and 59 rbi as well.  he had 4 lead-off home runs during the season, including the 100th homer of his career, and had two walk-off bombs as well.  in the alcs, he hit just .176 with a solo home run and a stolen base.

the stadium on the back is…?:  tiger stadium.

did upper deck get it right?:  aside from the checklist conveniences, there is really no reason to feature this team instead of the 1987 saint louis cardinals.  upper deck could have added bill madlock to this subset (he was already featured in the set with the 1979 pittsburgh pirates), and matt nokes or frank tanana would have made sense, too (moreso than dan petry, especially since tanana's shutout (along with larry herndon's home run) in game 162 won the division for the team) but for the most part this is a decent player selection.

the photos are mostly from the correct era, but hard to pinpoint the exact year.  i don't know when the tigers wore the navy bp jerseys (so morris's photo may or may not be timely), but the 1987 team wore button up jerseys at home (like petry's) and button up away jerseys on the road (like whitaker's).  the other players (trammell, lemon, and gibson) and their manager are sporting pullovers that were last worn in 1984.

is this team timeless?:  no.  i would say that the team is too similar to the 1984 squad which is much more memorable.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

1986 new york mets

this post covers the 1986 new york mets and cards numbered 255 to 264 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
it's all downhill from here - these 10 players represent the largest remaining team subset.  and, with 9 new players (plus ray knight), we get a boost to the checklist.

what team is this?:  the 1986 world champion new york mets

why this team?:  the 1986 mets won 108 games en route to the nl east title, beat the astros in an epic 6-game nlcs, and then defeated the boston red sox in dramatic fashion to win their second world championship as a franchise.

which players are featured?:  darryl strawberry, dwight gooden, gary carter, jesse orosco, keith hernandez, lenny dykstra, mookie wilson, ray knight, wally backman, and sid fernandez.

why these players?:  this is a good representation of the 1986 team.  pretty much all of the regulars (no rafael santana, though) plus three of the main pitchers on the staff.  still, let's break it down.

darryl strawberry was just 24 in 1986, yet it was his fourth full season in the majors.  he went 20/20 for the third straight year, with 27 homers and 28 steals.  on the down side, his batting average was just .259 and he struck out a career high 141 times.  he hit .227 with 2 homers in the nlcs against the astros (one off of nolan ryan), and .208 with a solo shot and 3 steals against boston in the world series.

dwight gooden had strawberry beat - he was just 21 in 1986, his third season in the majors.  after posting an insane 1.53 era and a 24-4 record in 1985, gooden came back to earth a bit with a 2.84 era and 17-6 record in 1986.  he made 4 postseason starts, two in each series, but was 0-3 overall.  he lost game 1 of the nlcs 1-0 against mike scott (who was named series mvp despite being on the losing end), and then pitched 10 innings in game 5, allowing just one run. the mets eventually won that game in the 12th inning.  in the world series, however, gooden didn't pitch as well.  he was the losing pitcher in both game 2 and game 5, allowing a total of 8 earned runs in 9 innings of work.

gary carter had joined the mets in 1985, and in 1986 he finished third in the league mvp voting.  he drove in over 100 runs for the third year in a row and the last time in his career.  the 1986 postseason was the first time carter had returned since the 1981 nlcs in which his expos lost to the dodgers.  he hit .207 against the astros in the nlcs, and then had 2 homers (both in game 4) and 9 rbi against the red sox in the fall classic.  his biggest hit may have been his two-out single in the bottom of the 10th in game 6 to start the mets' unbelievable comeback.

jesse orosco is the all-time leader in games pitched.  he was also the oldest player in the majors for a few years.  and, he was a dodger double dipper.  despite all that, jesse orosco is probably best remembered as the reliever who threw his glove to the sky at the completion of game 7 of the 1986 world series.  during the regular season, orosco was the southpaw part of a closer platoon with roger mcdowell.  he saved 21 games to mcdowell's 22, and had 2 more in the world series, including the game 7 clincher.  orosco also won 3 games in the nlcs, thanks to all the extra innings and late inning met heroics.

keith hernandez finished fourth in the league mvp voting, behind mike schmidt, glenn davis, and teammate gary carter.  he won his 9th straight gold glove (his streak started after steve garvey had won four straight), and also hit .310 with a league-leading 94 walks.  he hit .269 and .231 in the nlcs and world series, respectively, but that's ok - he's keith hernandez.

lenny dykstra was a 23-year old spark plug for the 1986 mets.  he hit .295 with 31 steals during the regular season, and in the nlcs the leadoff hitter hit .304 with 3 extra base hits and 3 rbi, including what turned out to be the series winning rbi in game 6.  he also hit .296 with 2 home runs in the world series.

mookie wilson made the move from center to left field in 1986 to accommodate dykstra.  he is best remembered for hitting (as vin scully said) 'a little roller up along first' that got 'through buckner' and allowed ray knight to score the winning run in game 6 of the world series.  he hit just .115 in the nlcs and .269 in the world series otherwise.

ray knight, as mentioned above, scored the winning run in that wild 10th inning of game 6.  he was also the mvp of the world series, hitting .391 with a home run and 5 rbi.  1986 was his third (and final) season with the mets, but the only season in which he was their full-time third baseman.

wally backman, the mets' second baseman, hit .320 in 124 games during the regular season.  in the postseason, he hit .238 in the nlcs and .333 in the world series.  despite the low average in the nlcs, backman contributed some key plays.  his bunt single in the 9th inning of game 3 sparked the game winning rally, although it was not so much of a rally as it was a two-run walk-off homer by dykstra, and backman also scored the winning runs in games 5 and 6.

sid fernandez won a career high 16 games in 1986.  nicknamed 'el sid' which is spanish for 'the sid' (thank you for the inspiration, chris farley), fernandez lost his only nlcs start (game 4) and then was moved to the bullpen for the world series.  after allowing a run and 3 hits in a third of an inning in game 2, fernandez was lights out.  he pitched 4 innings of shutout ball while striking out 5 in an appearance in game 5, and then turned in a key 2 and a third innings of hitless relief in game 7.

the stadium on the back is...?:  shea stadium.  in the 1969 mets post, i just noted that the photo wasn't from 1969 due to the presence of the diet coke sign.  let's try to figure out just when that photo was taken.  using the scoreboard, we know that the mets are hosting the astros.  it's 3:05 in the afternoon, and the game is in the top of the 6th.  it looks like the mets have only 1 hit and have yet to score, and the count is 1-0 on ed taubensee with 1 out.  ok baseball reference, do your thing! money is on april 11, 1993.

did upper deck get it right?: it's hard to argue with the player selection - sorry rafael santana.  certainly, bob ojeda and ron darling were also strong starters on the team (ojeda led the staff in wins and era), and roger mcdowell led the team in saves. any of those three would have also made sense.  the biggest headscratcher in terms of personnel featured however is davey johnson.  johnson was the manager of the team, and was included in the set with one of the orioles teams.  i am not sure why upper deck didn't add him to this team subset as well.

as for the photos, most of them match with the uniforms the mets were wearing in 1986.  in fact, backman's card shows what i believe to be a photo from the world series.  same for orosco.  there are two cards, however, whose images don't work with 1986.  keith hernandez's image is from no earlier than 1988 (that's when the team introduced the away grays with 'new york' on them, according to baseball reference), and mookie wilson's photo comes from 1980, 1981, or 1982 based on the collar and the lack of striping on the sleeves.

i would have liked the 1986 astros to have been included in the set, but you can't disagree with the angels, red sox, and mets.  still, with nolan ryan and personal favorite davey lopes already in the checklist, upper deck could have made it happen.

is this team timeless?:  no doubt about it - the '86 mets are a timeless bunch.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

1986 california angels

this post covers the 1986 california angels and cards number 248 to 254 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
we see seven players for the halos, including a memorable moment card.

what team is this?: the 1986 american league western division champion california angels.

why this team?: the halos returned to the postseason for the third time in club history after winning 92 games and the al west by 5 games over the texas rangers.  plus, they should have won the alcs over the red sox.  they were up 3 games to 1 when the red sox rallied to win game 5 thanks in part to a 9th inning home run by dave henderson off of donnie moore.  the red sox won games 6 and 7 but lost the world series due to some misfortune of their own.

which players are featured:  bob boone, bobby grich, brian downing, don sutton, terry forster, rick burleson, and wally joyner

why these players?:  all of these players, except for terry forster (much to my disappointment) have already appeared in the set, so the economy of scale applies.  still, boone, downing, joyner, and sutton were regulars on the squad. let's break it down.

bob boone enjoyed a career resurgence in anaheim.  the angels purchashed his contract from the phillies after boone hit just .211 in 1981, and he immediately paid dividends.  he returned to being a full-time catcher, and caught more games than anyone else in each season from 1982 through 1986.  in 1986, the 38-year old was behind the plate for 144 games.  he hit just .222 but won his fourth career gold glove.  in the alcs, boone was the catcher for all 7 games, and as a bonus, he hit .455 with a home run and 2 rbi.

bobby grich, like forster, played his last big league game in 1986.  he appeared in only 98 games during the regular season, hitting .268 with 9 homers and 30 rbi.  he hit .208 in the alcs with a home run and 3 rbi.  i am going from memory here, but i recall reading an article the day after game 5 against the red sox, wherein grich relayed that he had spoken with former teammate don baylor while on the bases late in that game.  'greatest game i've ever played in' was the quote.  i really felt badly for grich that he didn't get a chance to play in the fall classic.

brian downing was the angels' left fielder since the early '80's when he was converted from catcher.  as it turned out, 1986 would be his last season spent primarily in the field as he became a full time dh the following season. for the angels, downing enjoyed some good power seasons, and set a personal high in 1986 with 95 rbi.  in the alcs, he hit just .222, but did have a home run and 7 rbi.

don sutton was 15-11 in his first full season for the angels.  one of those victories, a complete game win, counted for the 300th of his career.  sutton made two appearances in the alcs, including a start.  he had an era of 1.86 in those appearances, having allowed 2 earned runs in 9.2 innings of work, but had no record in the series - the last postseason appearance of his career.

terry forster had been released by the braves right before the start of the 1986 season.  the angels signed him to a free agent deal soonafter, and the 'fat tub of goo' went on to pitch in 41 games for the halos, compiling an era of 3.51 and a record of 4-1 with 5 saves. forster did not pitch for the angels in the postseason, and became a free agent after the season ended.  although he signed on with the twins, he did not pitch in another major league game.

rick burleson returned from injury to play in 93 games for the angels in 1986.  he served mostly as a dh and shortstop, hitting 5 homers with 29 rbi and a .286 average.  in the postseason, rooster was 3 for 11 with a sacrifice in the four alcs games in which he appeared.

wally joyner exploded on the socal scene in 1986.  he was the reason that rod carew was essentially kicked out of town by the halos, and angels fans quickly forgave gene autry and buzzie bavasi.  'wally world' was open all season, with the rookie of the year hitting 22 homers, driving in 100 runs, and hitting .290 over 154 regular season games.  in the alcs, joyner played in only 3 of the 7 games due to injury, but he hit .455 with two doubles and a home run in those games.

the stadium on the back is...?: anaheim stadium.  it's the right stadium, but the photo is pre-rams expansion so not as it was in 1986.

did upper deck get it right?:  from a player standpoint, doug decinces is probably the biggest omission along with staff ace mike witt, while reggie jackson (once again) could have been featured.  as much as i appreciated having a terry forster card in the set, i would have preferred, and it would have made more sense, for him to have been featured as a dodger in the 1980 or 1981 subset.

the photos all look pretty good, although i am not sure when the angels started to wear the blue bp jerseys.  at any rate, 1986 was grich's last season, so the photo can't be from any later.  the others, with the possible exception of the rick burleson photo, have the left sleeve state logo inside the baseball, which was new in 1986.  forster's photo is for sure from 1986 as that was his only season with the angels.

is this team timeless?:  for angel fans, yes.  however, there was too much drama in the 1986 postseason for this team to resonate too far beyond southern california, so i will say no. what do you think?