Tuesday, March 1, 2011
30 teams, 2011 edition
I cannot believe that the 1986 Topps set is 25 years old this year. How is it possible that a set that I've always regarded as radically modern (you had to be there in 1985 to know what I'm talking about), is now an ancient dinosaur?
As a tribute to that wonderfully strange set, I've decided to use the leaders cards from the set for this year's edition of 30 teams. The '86 leaders cards certainly were different. I never thought they went with the rest of the set. It was as if the '86 set slipped into a dream sequence composed entirely of the deans of every major league team.
But apparently they were popular as Topps used the design a number of other times through the late 1980s. And when you separate them from the rest of the '86 set, they kind of look cool together.
I've removed them from my '86 binder and will display them all as I rank all 30 teams in order of my personal preference as I did in 2009 and 2010. (I've actually done it a number of times before then, just not as publicly).
As for the teams that weren't around in '86, well you'll just get a regular old OPC team card and like it. Seniority rules on this countdown.
All right, there were quite a few teams that jumped and dipped this year, so let's get to it. The best and worst teams according to me. And you know, deep in your heart, though you will never admit it, that I am right:
1. LOS ANGELES DODGERS (2010 rank: 1st, 2009 rank: 1st): I didn't think it would be possible, but the gap between the Dodgers and the rest of the teams in the major leagues has grown in the past year. I blame interleague play. I'm simply intolerant of any team that tries to beat my Dodgers.
2. BOSTON RED SOX (2010 rank: 2nd, 2009 rank: 3rd): I'm not a fan of Boston attempting to accumulate every high profile free agent in baseball, especially since it spent so long ripping the Yankees for doing the same thing. But when I think about that or see Clay Buchholz's fiendish face, I think back to Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, El Tiante and Dewey, and the Red Sox remain at No. 2.
3. KANSAS CITY ROYALS (2010 rank: 4th, 2009 rank: 5th): The Royals move up a single step in anticipation that their young prospects will eventually take them to greatness. One of those up-and-coming stars shares his last name with a former co-worker of mine who, to put it mildly, stunk of bacon. I will be reminded of that every time I see this player play, but I can rise above it.
4. PITTSBURGH PIRATES: (2010 rank: 3rd, 2009 rank: 4th): I wanted to drop the Pirates down farther because of their decades of ineptitude. But after looking at the other teams, I just couldn't move Pittsburgh any lower. I'll just silently hope for some kind of turnaround. I know no one in Pittsburgh cares anymore. But I do.
5. OAKLAND A's (2010 rank: 8th, 2009 rank: 8th): Oakland takes a leap because several other teams plunged. So, yeah, it's not anything you did, Oakland. I still need to figure out who is on the team. I mean I know the names, but that's about it.
6. CHICAGO WHITE SOX (2010 rank: 9th, 2009 rank: 11th): Like Oakland, Chicago is the benficiary of other teams' plunges. But I've always liked the White Sox, even when they wore uniform numbers three inches from their crotch.
7. TEXAS RANGERS (2010 rank: 13th, 2009 rank: 16th): For the longest time, I've been looking for an excuse to move the Rangers up. They finally gave me a reason. Knock off the Yankees in the ALCS and you get to jump 6 spots on my insignificant list!
8. DETROIT TIGERS (2010 rank: 6th, 2009 rank: 7th): Miguel Cabrera is not helping the Tigers' cause. But I still like them and still root for them.
9. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (2010 rank: 5th, 2009 rank: 2nd): Hoo-boy, this is not good news for my Plan B team. They have been a solid second favorite for many years. But the 2008 and 2009 postseasons, combined with Philadelphia's mimicking of the Yankees and Red Sox, just don't make them lovable anymore. It's hard for me to root for anyone in the NL East, but the days of Philadelphia getting a pass are over.
10. MINNESOTA TWINS (2010 rank: 12th, 2009 rank: 13th): Joe Mauer. Jim Thome. Gardy. Outdoor stadium. The fact that Braves fans still hate them for 1991. What's not to like? If I can get a better handle on the rest of the team, they may climb even more next year.
11. CINCINNATI REDS (2010 rank: 10th, 2009 rank: 9th): OK, they're a good team now. That's good. But they can't get too good. That would be bad. If I start to get flashbacks of Pete Rose's Prince Valiant hair and Joe Morgan's chicken-flap thing, you may see them below the Giants next year.
12. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (2010 rank: 7th, 2009 rank: 6th): I've concluded that I don't like Tony La Russa. He's always rubbed me the wrong way, but I gave him some slack (partly because I've interviewed him). But I think he makes the rest of his team hyper and indignant, and it's irritating.
13. BALTIMORE ORIOLES (2010 rank: 17th, 2009 rank: 17th): The Orioles move up based solely on hope. I hope this revamped team can hurt the Yankees at least a little more than last year. If you can beat the Yankees, you move up on the list. Simple as that. Besides, the O's have Vladdy!
14. CLEVELAND INDIANS (2010 rank: 11th, 2009 rank: 12th): Starting to get to the meh portion of the list. What happened to all the Indians bloggers?
15. FLORIDA MARLINS (2010 rank: 14th, 2009 rank: 15th): The Marlins are lucky I don't compile this list in the summer. After watching them play the Mets 400 times a season and help other teams win the World Series (re: Cody Ross), I would push them down much lower.
16. HOUSTON ASTROS (2010 rank: 16th, 2009 rank: 14th): I just looked at the Astros roster. Wow, they're not going to have a good season are they?
17. TORONTO BLUE JAYS (2010 rank: 18th, 2009 rank: 17th): If the CBC or CTV or whichever one of those Canadian networks would air more games in my area, I would definitely rate them higher. So I guess I need to spring for some sort of cable package don't I?
18. SEATTLE MARINERS (2010 rank: 19th, 2009 rank: 19th): The rest of the team is bringing Felix Hernandez down.
19. MILWAUKEE BREWERS (2010 rank: 15th, 2009 rank: 10th): Once upon a time, the Brewers had Gorman, Coop, Oglivie and Gantner. Now they have three hitting stars on their roster that I find most unpleasant. Not even tucking in their shirts can save them now.
20. NEW YORK METS (2010 rank: 21st, 2009 rank: 21st): The Mets move up! The Mets move up! You can attribute this totally to Gary, Keith and Ron. Well, Gary and Keith anyway.
21. TAMPA BAY RAYS (2010 rank: 20th, 2009 rank: 23rd): I was prepared to give the Rays some more love, but then they scrapped a good chunk of their team and added both Manny and Damon. Ugh.
22. CHICAGO CUBS (2010 rank: 22nd, 2009 rank: 20th): Anything I say here just feels redundant. I have a feeling their season will be redundant, too.
23. ATLANTA BRAVES (2010 rank: 24th, 2009 rank: 24th): Atlanta moves up one only because Dave Trembley is a member of the organization. That's the ONLY reason.
24. WASHINGTON NATIONALS (2010 rank: 23rd; 2009 rank: 22nd): I really miss the Expos. The Nationals are a poor substitution. They make me think of this. And I don't want to think of that.
25. ANGELS (2010 rank: 25th, 2009 rank: 25th): I used to really like this team, when they didn't have two cities in their name.
26. COLORADO ROCKIES (2010 rank: 26th, 2009 rank: 26th): We've reached the N.L. West portion of the list. The Rockies remain the non-Dodger N.L. West team that I like the most. And by that I mean, they need to DIE.
27. SAN DIEGO PADRES (2010 rank: 27th, 2009 rank: 27th): I almost made the Padres my second favorite team after the laughingly crushing way they missed out on the playoffs. But I wouldn't want anyone to get any ideas.
28. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (2010 rank: 28th, 2009 rank: 28th): It pains me that Kirk Gibson is their manager. It doesn't look right. It doesn't feel right. I'm hoping that the baseball gods will sense the wrongness of this and hand out more of the bad karma that hit Arizona in 2010.
29. NEW YORK YANKEES (2010 rank: 29th, 2009 rank: 29th): Anytime I get hopeful about the start of a new season, the Yankees are like that gnawing little inkling in your brain that not everything is lovely about baseball, and then I formulate the complete thought: "People exist who are actual fans of Nick Swisher!"
30. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (2010 rank: 30th, 2009 rank: 30th): We need to return to the days when Greg Minton was with the Giants. The guy pitched for them for 13 seasons and they never made the playoffs. What a golden era that was.
Quite a bit of shake-up in this year's list, except for the bottom third or so. As usual, I invite you to make your own list. But it will be wrong.