Friday, August 10, 2018
Looking at the legends
Allen and Ginter's obsession with putting "legends" into its base set didn't just begin in 2012 with a noticeable uptick in Hall of Famers. Players like Nolan Ryan and Roberto Clemente were in the first A&G set in 2006.
But retired players' presence in A&G (and just about every other set Topps makes) has been quite obvious over the last six years. It's so obvious that I'm growing sick of the same players popping up over and over again. And it's not just restricted to Mays, Mantle and Maris -- who I identified as overkill subjects seven whole years ago. Did you know Paul O'Neill -- Paul O'Neill! -- has been in Allen & Ginter three of the last six years??
This year, after pulling another card of Sandberg, another card of Ryan, another card of Maddux, I did a little digging.
How often have retired players appeared in A&G since 2012? And which ones? Do any new players show up at all?
Here is what I found:
2012 - 31 legends
The year that Hall of Famers (and a few other retired guys) burst through the A&G door and refused to leave. When they showed up in the 2012 set, I noticed right away. And it was kind of interesting. You just didn't see baseball legends much in A&G.
2012 legends: Bench, Mantle, Berra, Jackie Robinson, Kaline, Reggie Jackson, Brooks Robinson, Musial, Koufax, Yastrzemski, Palmer, Brett, Seaver, Mattingly, Ruth, DiMaggio, Gehrig, Cobb, Gwynn, Mays, Griffey Jr., Maris, Aaron, Rickey Henderson, Schmidt, Kerry Wood, Clemente, Bob Gibson, Ripken Jr., Frank Robinson, Nolan Ryan.
Hall of Famers aplenty. And performers of great feats (Maris). And ... Kerry Wood.
2013 - 72 legends
Allen and Ginter went great guns with the legends in 2013. Lots of typing ahead for me.
2013 legends: Ruth, Cobb, Gary Carter, Koufax, Doerr, Smoltz, Feller, Banks, Paul O'Neill, Blyleven, Robin Roberts, Early Wynn, Bench, Jackie Robinson, Mays, Jenkins, Ford, Aaron, Gehrig, Frank Robinson, McCovey, Kaline, Clemente, Ted Williams, Spahn, Griffey Jr., Gwynn, Strawberry, Bob Gibson, Musial, Ripken Jr., Sandberg, Schoendienst, Schmidt, Killebrew, Vida Blue, Reggie Jackson, Brooks Robinson, Enos Slaughter, Mattingly, Carew, Joe Morgan, Boggs, Buckner, Marichal, Phil Niekro, Tony Perez, Jim Bunning, Rice, Stargell, Dawson, Frank Thomas, Catfish Hunter, Brock, Billy Williams, Snider, Gooden, Kiner, Seaver, Will Clark, Mazeroski, Murray, Palmer, Fisk, Newhouser, Brett, Yount, Berra, Rickey Henderson, John Kruk, Ozzie Smith, Ryan.
Plenty of variety here and I wasn't tired of my A&G legends yet. How can I be upset at an A&G card of Vida Blue? Or Jim Bunning? Or Hal Newhouser? Sure, a card of Paul O'Neill is a bit odd, but John Kruk was there, too.
2014 - 93 legends
You thought 2013 had a lot of retired players? How about nearly one-third of the set?! That's what 2014 Allen & Ginter has. Some of the new guys this year are Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and Orlando Cepeda. Oh, and there's Paul O'Neill again. And another head-scratching Yankee: Orlando Hernandez.
2014 legends: Maris, Mattingly, Feller, Sheffield, Matt Williams, Sandberg, Ruth, Palmeiro, Posada, DiMaggio, Jenkins, Brooks Robinson, Sutton, Gehrig, Cobb, Garciaparra, Orlando Hernandez, Koufax, Newhouser, Bo Jackson, Buckner, McGriff, Clemens, Vizquel, Boggs, Kiner, Morgan, Carew, Ripken Jr., Musial, Jackie Robinson, Randy Johnson, Banks, Mays, Brock, Sparky Anderson, Ryan, Frank Robinson, Seaver, Biggio, Stargell, Maddux, Aaron, Ted Williams, Reggie Jackson, Mathews, McGwire, Canseco, Schmidt, Berra, Fisk, Brett, Lasorda, Kell, Molitor, Dale Murphy, Palmer, Glavine, Murray, Paul O'Neill, Rice, Yount, McCovey, Kaline, Bench, Gwynn, Pedro Martinez, Bob Gibson, Cepeda, Ivan Rodriguez, Ozzie Smith, Clemente, Spahn, Gooden, Billy Williams, Rickey Henderson, Marichal, Snider, Piazza, Raines, Steve Carlton, Ford, Will Clark, Dawson, Manny Ramirez, Mussina, Juan Gonzalez, Griffey Jr., Killebrew, Strawberry, Eckersley, Phil Niekro, Smoltz
Phew! I like cards of retired players but that just takes up too much of the set. No wonder Topps didn't have room for revolving doors anymore.
Also, you'll note lots of Hall of Very Good Yankees: O'Neill, El Duque, Posada, Mussina. Some of the most anti-A&G collectors I know are Yankee fans. Yet the set is packed with them.
2015 - NONE
That's right. There are no retired MLB players in 2015 Allen & Ginter. I don't know how I missed that when it came out and I don't know why they vanished for this year and this year only. Was there friction between Topps and the retired players association? Did Topps look at the 93 legends in 2014 and think, "whoooooa, that's waaaay too much overkill even for us!"
It's rather strange that they all vanished for one year. But at least my fingers get a rest.
2016 - 28 legends
The legends make a gentle return to A&G with a few new faces like Rollie Fingers and Roberto Alomar. And Paul O'Neill is back. You'd think if O'Neill was included three times, they'd put him in a Reds uniform for at least one of the cards.
2016 legends: Glavine, Fingers, Rice, Roberto Alomar, Piazza, Clemens, Yount, Brooks Robinson, Luis Gonzalez, Mattingly, Sandberg, Yastrzemski, Eckersley, Fisk, Bob Gibson, Gary Carter, Canseco, Ozzie Smith, Garciaparra, Frank Thomas, Molitor, Paul O'Neill, Cepeda, Dawson, Rickey Henderson, Pettitte, Clemente, Steve Carlton
I noticed more emphasis on more recent Hall of Famers and players with this bunch. Save for Brooks Robinson, Yaz, Gibson, Clemente and Carlton, this is a newer crowd.
2017 - 49 legends
This is the third-most legends since 2012. New retired players here include Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, Dave Winfield, Johnny Damon and ... uh, Bobby Abreu. I'm all for random retired players showing up, but how about somebody who didn't retire like 3 years ago? I like my Phillies legends to be players like Garry Maddox.
2017 legends: Ruth, Jeter, Smoltz, Griffey Jr., Johnny Damon, Vizquel, Rickey Henderson, Dawson, Ryan, Larkin, Yastrzemski, Ripken Jr., Maddux, Carew, Bobby Abreu, Winfield, Cobb, Honus Wagner, Pedro martinez, Ted Williams, Reggie Jackson, Ozzie Smith, Bo Jackson, Frank Thomas, Piazza, Brooks Robinson, Banks, Canseco, McGwire, Mattingly, Brooks Robinson, Chipper Jones, Sandberg, Aaron, Clemens, Brett, Gehrig, Maris, Randy Johnson, Clemente, Bench, Raines, Ford, McCovey, Killebrew, Gary Carter, Spahn, Stargell, Bagwell.
There is quite a bit of repetition with those players but that's nothing compared with 2018.
2018 - 49 legends
The same number for the second straight year. Get ready for names I've typed before.
2018 legends: Jeter, Ruth, Dawson, Jackie Robinson, Aaron, Ripken Jr., Ozzie Smith, Mariano Rivera, Larkin, Brett, Piazza, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Clemente, Wagner, Randy Johnson, Thome, Smoltz, Ryan, Maddux, Bench, Banks, Mattingly, Bob Gibson, Chipper Jones, Ted Williams, Koufax, McGwire, Sandberg, Bagwell, Winfield, Gehrig, Maris, Clemens, Brooks Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Canseco, McCovey, Frank Thomas, Boggs, Cobb, Bo Jackson, Hideki Matsui, Will Clark, Eckersley, Strawberry, Pettitte, Rickey Henderson, Gooden
The only new players in that crew are: Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz, Jim Thome and Hideki Matsui. And they are all fairly recent retirees so you can find them in A&G when they were playing, too.
I didn't go through these lists with a fine-toothed comb so I'm probably missing people somewhere, but that's not the point of this exercise. For me, I wanted to prove I was seeing the same retired players over and over.
It's just getting a little mind-numbing pulling the retired players out of Allen & Ginter. If they threw in people like Ted Simmons or Dave Stieb or Gary Matthews or Mike Greenwell I'd be a lot more excited than pulling another Nolan Ryan card again.
But I know this has to do with the MLB license and all that garbage legal stuff. I miss the days when card companies could print whatever subject they wanted.
By the way, even with all the repetition, there are just four retired players who have appeared in Allen and Ginter in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and it's not Ruth, Reggie Jackson or Nolan Ryan.
These are the four:
Strangely, Henderson's 2018 A&G card is the first time he's appeared as a Yankee. All the other ones have been him as an Oakland Athletic.
But none of Mattingly's cards shows him as a Miami Marlins manager.