Thursday, October 30, 2014

1992 toronto blue jays

this post covers the 1992 toronto blue jays and cards numbered 294 to 296 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
here, very near the end of the set, we get a new team, a new stadium on the back, and a new name on the checklist - all thanks to the first canadian team to win the world series!

what team is this?: the 1992 world champion toronto blue jays

why this team?: as noted, the '92 blue jays were the first canadian team to win the world series, as they defeated the braves in six games after taking out the oakland a's in the alcs.  they were 96-66 on the regular season, and won the al east by 4 games over the brewers.

which players are featured?: 40-year old dave winfield, 37-year old jack morris, and 32-year old joe carter.

why these players?:  winfield served as the team's dh while finishing second on the team in batting average, home runs and rbi, morris led the club with 21 wins, and carter was the one who finished ahead of winfield in homers and runs batted in.  let's break it down.

dave winfield hit 26 homers, drove in 108 runs, and had a .290 batting average as the blue jays' designated hitter in 1992 - the first year that he was primarily used as a dh.  he had not appeared in the postseason since 1981 when he struggled in the world series and was given the "mr. may" moniker by yankee owner george steinbrenner.  this time, winfield hit a pair of home runs in the alcs against the a's, and then exorcised any world series demons with the game and series winning double in the 11th inning of game 6 off of the braves' charlie leibrandt, the subject of his memorable moments card.

jack morris had been part of the 1991 twins team that beat the blue jays in the alcs, but he joined the blue jays as a free agent for the 1992 season and promptly led the league in wins.  unfortunately, the 1991 world series mvp who pitched so brilliantly in game 7 of that series against the braves, did not pitch well in the 1992 postseason.  he was 0-1 in the alcs against the a's, although the team was 1-1 in his starts, and the loss he suffered was a complete game effort in game 1.  against the braves in the world series, morris again made two starts but this time lost them both - game 1 to tom glavine and game 5 to john smoltz in a rematch of the final game of the 1991 world series.

joe carter was in his second season with the blue jays in 1992.  he hit 34 home runs and drove in 119 runs that year finishing second in the league in the rbi category.  he hit a home run in game 6 of the alcs against the a's to give the blue jays a lead they would not surrender en route to their first pennant, and then he hit two more homers in the world series.  the second of carter's world series home runs came in game 3 and again put the blue jays on the board in a game that they would go on to win.

the stadium on the back is...?: skydome, which opened in 1989, and is still the home of the blue jays, although now it is known as rogers centre.

did upper deck get it right?: first of all, the blue jays' logo upper deck used on each of these cards is not correct for the 1992 team.  the blue jay with the maple leaf behind it came into play in 1997 - back in '92, the team was still using the original logo with a smaller maple leaf beside the blue jay.

that leads into the photo selection.  winfield only spent one season in toronto, so we know his photo comes from 1992.  morris was there for two seasons, and the photo used could be from '92 or 1993.  carter's photo, however, is obviously from much later in his career. carter remained with the blue jays through the 1997 season, which (as mentioned above) was the first year that they used the logo seen on carter's sleeve, so we know the photo is from '97, not '92.

as for the players, i have kept in mind that some of the key players on this team, such as roberto alomar and jon olerud, were still active in 2004 and so were not considered for this set.  winfield and morris had previously appeared in the set, but both make sense for this team, too.  joe carter is also a no-brainer.  other players who might have made sense include devon white, jimmy key, and juan guzman, but i have no complaints.

is this team timeless?:  yes, although the 1993 team may be more memorable because of joe carter's walk-off series winner against the phillies.  still, this was the first team from outside the united states to win the world series and so i consider it to be a timeless one.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

1991 minnesota twins

this post covers the 1991 minnesota twins and cards number 291 to 293 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
upper deck skipped over 1989 and 1990 (sorry a's, giants, and reds) to get to 1991 and the unlikely world champion twins.

what team is this:  the 1991 world champion minnesota twins who beat the national league champion atlanta braves in 7 games, including two of the best world series games ever played - games 6 and 7.

why this team?: the twins went from worst to first in 1991 - their 95-67 record was a 21-win improvement over the previous year.  they won their second title in 5 years under manager tom kelly.

which players are featured?: just three - jack morris, kent hrbek, and kirby puckett

why these players?: aside from the fact that they have each appeared in the set previously, these three twins are good representatives for the 1991 team.  let's break it down.

jack morris was a free agent pick-up in the offseason, and the saint paul native came through for his hometown team.  he was 18-12 during the regular season and finished fourth in the cy young award voting.  in the postseason, morris was 2-0 in the alcs against the toronto blue jays, and 2-0 in the world series as well.  he won the world series mvp award in large part thanks to his 10-inning shutout of the braves in the winner take all game 7.

kent hrbek hit .284 with 20 homers and 89 rbi during the regular season.  the bloomington, minnesota native didn't play all that well in the postseason, but he did double and homer in the first game of the world series, as well as kind of/sort of pull ron gant off of first base on a pick off attempt in game 2 to help the twins win both of those contests.

kirby puckett was the mvp of the 1991 alcs thanks to his 2 homers, 5 rbi, and .429 batting average.  he had hit 15 homers with 89 rbi and a .319 average during the regular season and finished 7th in the league mvp voting.  when the world series rolled around, puckett put the team on his back for their must-win game 6, and wound up making a terrific catch early in the game to keep the braves off the scoreboard, and later hit an 11th inning walk-off home run to force game 7 the following night.  that home run is the subject of the memorable moment card puckett receives in this subset.

the stadium on the back is...?:  the no longer in existence hubert h. humphrey metrodome.  the new minnesota vikings stadium is currently being constructed in its place.

did upper deck get it right?: morris and puckett are no-brainers for this team, and hrbek is not a bad choice. other players that would have made sense include 1991 al rookie of the year chuck knoublach, 20-game winner scott erickson, and closer rick aguilera.  heck, even game 7 hero gene larkin who drove in the series winning run would have been welcome.

as for the photos, morris is obviously shown in 1991 as he did not pitch for the twins in any other season.  hrbek's picture looks about right as well, but puckett's may not be from 1991.  i don't think the twins wore their navy tops in '91, but i am not certain. either way, i wish upper deck had used the photo of puckett during his game 6 home run trot - the same photo that served as the model for his statue at target field.

is this team timeless?: yes. even though the twins won their first title in 1987, this team from just four years later is timeless.  thanks in large part to one-year twin jack morris and puckett's heroics in game 6, this team remains at the forefront of twins fans' minds.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

1988 new york mets

this post covers the 1988 new york mets and cards numbered 282 to 290 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
nine cards for the metropolitans who won the national league east in 1988, but ran into a bulldog in the playoffs.

what team is this?: the 1988 national league east division champion new york mets

why this team?:  this team wasn't too different from the 1986 world champions, winning 100 games for the second (and to date, last) time in franchise history.  the '86 squad won 108 games while this team hit the century mark on the nose.  they won the east by 15 games over the pirates and were 10-1 in the regular season against the nl west champion dodgers.  as a result, they were heavy favorites going into the nlcs, but were defeated by orel hershiser and company in 7 games.

which players are featured?:  the same folks we saw in the 1986 team post, except for jesse orosco (now with the dodgers) and ray knight - darryl strawberry, dwight gooden, gary carter, howard johnson, keith hernandez, lenny dykstra, mookie wilson, wally backman, and sid fernandez.

why these players?:  well, we've got the runner up in the mvp vote, the all-star game starting pitcher, and most of the team's starting lineup.  let's break it down.

darryl strawberry, the mets' right fielder, led the national league in home runs and ops in 1988, but lost the mvp to kirk gibson. it was not his last great season (that came in 1990), but he did score over 100 runs for the second and final time in his career that year.  come playoff time, strawberry did well, hitting .300 in the seven game series against the dodgers with a home run, 6 rbi and an ops of .810.

dwight gooden was the national league's starting pitcher at the midsummer classic who wound up 18-9 on the year with a 3.19 era.  his 6.3 k/9 ratio was the lowest of his career at that point, and he didn't post a lower ratio until 1997 with the yankees.  in the nlcs, gooden started games 1 and 4, and relieved in game 7.  he got a no-decision in the mets' game 1 victory, striking out 10 in 7 innings, and then went 8 and a third innings in game 4, but was pulled two batters after allowing mike scioscia's huge game-tying home run.  in game 7, gooden pitched 3 innings in relief of starter ron darling, who was charged with 6 runs in one inning of work although gooden allowed a couple of inherited runners to score.

gary carter was the mets' primary catcher for the last time in 1988.  he appeared in 130 games, 119 of them while donning the tools of ignorance.  he hit .242 on the season with just 11 home runs and a paltry 46 rbi - a function of hitting 7th in the lineup for parts of the season i would guess.  in the nlcs, carter hit just .222 with a couple of extra base hits, one of which was a triple.

howard johnson had a bret saberhagen thing going on in the mid to late 1980's.  in the odd years, hojo was a 30/30 machine with a decent average, surpassing 30 homers and 30 steals in 1985, 1987, and 1989.  in the even years, however, he didn't so as well.  in 1988 for example, he hit only .230 and was a 20/20 player (24 homers and 23 steals).  he spent most of the season as the mets' third baseman, but was used primarily at shortstop in the nlcs.  in that series, he was just 1 for 18.  he got his lone hit in his second at bat of game 5, which meant that he had extended his postseason hitless streak which began in the 1984 world series and continued in the 1986 postseason to 22 at bats.  ouch.

keith hernandez won his last career gold glove in 1988, even though he only made 90 starts at first base during the season.  he hit just .276 - his lowest average since 1978 - and shared time with dave magadan in the field.  he hit .279 in the nlcs with a home run and 5 rbi.

lenny dykstra spent his last full season with the mets in 1988, as he was dealt to the phillies during the 1989 campaign.  in '88, he patrolled center field and hit .429 in the nlcs, although he started only 4 of the 7 games.

mookie wilson hit .296 in 1988 (also his final full season with the mets), playing all three outfield positions and appearing in 112 regular season games.  he started 3 of the first 4 games of the nlcs in center field, but gave way to dykstra for the final 3 games of the series.

wally backman hit .303 in 99 games for the 1988 mets, playing at second base as part of a platoon with tim teufel for davey johnson's squad. he hit .273 in the nlcs with a double and a stolen base to his credit, getting 6 of the 7 starts against the dodgers.

sid fernandez was 12-10 despite a 3.03 era in 1988.  he had his traditionally low whip as well, but i didn't see too many losses that he didn't deserve after a quick look at his game log.  there were some no-decisions that he deserved to win, however.  he finished the season on a high note, as his last 6 decisions were victories, and he won his last four starts.  he didn't appear in the nlcs until game 5, however, as he got the start in the day game that followed the game 4 12-inning affair.  he lasted just four-plus innings, giving up 6 runs including a 3-run home run to kirk gibson in the fifth which was the knock out blow for fernandez and the mets in that game.

the stadium on the back is…?:  shea stadium.  i mentioned in the 1986 team post that the photo is from a game in 1983.

did upper deck get it right?: like i said in the 1988 dodger team post, the 1988 a's should have been included in the set.  having said that, the mets also have a place on the checklist, even if there are no new players featured beyond the 1986 subset.  the player selection is solid, however, as upper deck gave us 7 of the 9 regulars (kevin elster and kevin mcreynolds are missing) along with two-fifths of the starting rotaion.  a case could be made for mcreynolds, as well as david cone (20-3), ron darling, roger mcdowell, randy myers, and even manager davey johnson and late season call-up sensation gregg jefferies as other folks deserving of inclusion.  cone especially would have made sense, since he then could have also been included as part of the 1995 yankees (yet to be featured on the blog), and johnson had already been featured in the set with the 1969 and 1970 baltimore orioles, so it would have been easy to fit him in here as well.

as for the photos, they all look good based on the uniforms except for keith hernandez (his photo comes from sometime between 1983 and 1986 based on the script 'mets' on the away jersey) and wally backman (his photo looks to be from anywhere between 1982 and 1984 based on the blue jersey).  gary carter's photo is inconclusive because of the chest protector, but i'll give upper deck the benefit of the doubt for a change.

is this team timeless?:  nope.  the 1986 team that won the world series certainly is, but this team became an afterthought once they lost the nlcs to the dodgers.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

1988 los angeles dodgers

this post covers the 1988 world champion los angeles dodgers and cards numbered 275 to 281 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
1988 was the year that was so improbable for the dodgers, that the impossible happened.  i love vin scully.

what team is this?: the 1988 world champion los angeles dodgers

why this team?: did i mention that they were the world champs? they went from 73-89 and 17 games out of first in the nl west in 1987 to 94-68 and 7 games ahead of second place cincinnati in 1988.  this dodger team was an underdog to the 100-win mets in the nlcs and the 104-win oakland a's in the fall classic but won both series.  the team featured the league's mvp, cy young award winner, and manager of the year, although only one of those guys are included in the set.

which players are featured?:  there are no new players to the set checklist here.  representing the 1988 dodgers, upper deck gives us alejandro pena, jesse orosco, john shelby, kirk gibson, mickey hatcher, mike scioscia, and steve sax.

why these players?:  aside from the ease of obtaining autographed cards to meet the demands of a fully signed parallel set(s) that comes with not adding new players to the checklist, each of these folks contributed to the dodgers' success in 1988.  let's break it down.

alejandro pena returned to the dodger bullpen full time in 1988.  he pitched in 60 games and was 6-7 with 12 saves and a 1.91 era.  he saved game 2 of the nlcs, lost game 3 of the series, but earned the win in the extra inning affair that was game 4.  he next pitched in game 1 of the world series and wound up as the winning pitcher thanks to kirk gibson's home run, just as he had in game 4 of the nlcs.

jesse orosco joined the dodgers as part of the three-team trade between the a's, mets, and dodgers prior to the 1988 season.  he teamed with pena and howell (also acquired in that trade) to form a closer tandem and earned 9 saves in his 55 appearances.  in the playoffs, orosco did not retire a batter (he faced 4) in his first two nlcs appearances.  in his next two against his former team, he didn't allow any runs in 2.1 innings pitched.  still, orosco did not pitch in the world series, and he left to join the indians as a free agent.

john shelby had a big season for the dodgers in 1987 after being acquired in a trade with the orioles.  his 1988 season was very similar, but with less power.  still, he played in 140 regular season games, and did not miss even an inning of the dodgers' postseason in '88.  he hit just .167 in the nlcs and .222 in the world series, but did provide the club with a very meaningful postseason walk.  in the 9th inning of the aforementioned game 4, the dodgers were down 4-2 with shelby leading off the inning.  he walked against dwight gooden and mike scioscia followed with his game-tying home run.  everybody remembers mike davis and his big walk, but shelby's was also hugely important to the dodgers' postseason success.

speaking of davis' walk, let's discuss kirk gibson next. gibby was the national league mvp in 1988, hitting .290 with 25 homers and 76 rbi, but instilling a focus in his teammates that was lacking in previous teams.  i have no problem with gibson winning the award over the statistically superior darryl strawberry, even though gibson won partly on 'intangibles'.  the dodgers would have been nowhere without him.  in the postseason, he had only 5 hits, but 3 were home runs.  he hit 2 of them in the nlcs, including the game 4 winner, a 12th-inning shot off of roger mcdowell, and a 3-run shot off of sid fernandez in game 5 that gave the dodgers a 6-0 lead that the mets could not overcome.  gibson had aggravated his already injured legs making a nice catch in game 3, but he still started every game of the nlcs.  unfortunately, he was unable to start game 1 of the world series, but famously came off of the bench in the 9th inning to hit the game winning home run off of dennis eckersley following a two-out walk issued to mike davis.  we all recall the hobbling and the fist pumping and the jumping up and down that ensued i am sure.  it was gibson's only appearance of the series, but the dodgers found a way to win 3 more games without him.

mickey hatcher returned to the dodgers as a free agent early in the 1987 season.  in doing so, he missed out on the twins' world series triumph that year, so i certainly was happy for him in 1988.  during the regular season, hatcher was used as a pinch-hitter and a sometimes first baseman/outfielder.  during the postseason, however, he was anointed by tommy lasorda to be the team's first baseman in place of franklin stubbs with mike marshall playing in the outfield instead of mike davis who had struggled all season.  then, when kirk gibson went down, hatcher moved to left field with stubbs taking over at first.  hatcher hit safely in every postseason game but one (in the nlcs), and his 2 home runs and 5 rbi in the world series led both teams (jose canseco also drove in 5).  speaking of hatcher's home runs - a 2-run shot in the bottom of the first inning in game 1 and a 2-run shot in the top of the first in game 5 - hatcher sprinted around the bases, almost catching up to steve sax following his game 1 blast.  if not for orel hershiser's pitching heroics in the series, hatcher may well have been the series mvp.

mike scioscia appeared in 130 regular season games (123 as a catcher) in 1988 and hit only 3 home runs.  that's why his home run in game 4 of the nlcs was so unexpected.  he did have a home run off of gooden earlier in his career, but still.  those two runs that scored on the homer were the only two rbi scioscia had in the nlcs, although he hit .364 in the series.  he only drove in one run in the world series, but it was a big one, too.  his 6th inning single in game 1 of the fall classic cut the a's lead to one run, putting the score at 4-3 and setting up gibson's two-run homer as the game winner.

steve sax began the 1988 season with a bang - he led off the bottom of the first in the season opener with a home run off of the giants' dave dravecky.  unfortunately, the dodgers didn't score any more runs that day.  1988 turned out to be sax's last season with the dodgers, and he hit .277 with 42 steals in 160 games in his regular season swan song.  in the '88 postseason, saxy hit .267 with 7 runs scored and 5 steals in the nlcs, then hit .300 in the world series.

the stadium on the back is...?:  dodger stadium, home of the dodgers since 1962 and site of gibby's game winning home run.

did upper deck get it right?: upper deck included both the mets and dodgers in the set, but surely the a's should also have been included.  as for the players upper deck chose, i think that they did ok.  the obvious misses are orel hershiser (the cy young award winner and nlcs and world series mvp) and tommy lasorda (the nl manager of the year), but one could make a case for tim belcher or jay howell, too.  on the flip side, upper deck could have included don sutton, who was already on the checklist, because he pitched for the club until his release in august.  kudos to upper deck for not including sutton - that would have been a pretty egregious checklist grab.

as for the photos, pena's is a head shot and certainly could be from 1988.  orosco's on the other hand looks more like the 2002 version of the dodger reliever (yes, he was a double dipper).  it's hard to tell about shelby, hatcher, and scioscia - they certainly look right based on the away grays that they are each wearing- and the dodgers didn't wear any sleeve patches during the 1988 regular season to help me know for sure (they did wear a vero beach 40th anniversary patch during spring training, and then the postseason patches on the right sleeve during the postseason).  we know that the gibby photo comes from game 1 of the world series, but i think that saxy's photo is from earlier in his career since it looks like there is a patch on his left sleeve.

is this team timeless?:  no doubt about it.