I was at Walmart earlier today wrapping up a bit of birthday shopping. As usual, I entered via the side entrance because I try to avoid the mob scene at all costs.
The side entrance opens into the "seasonal" department. This time of year it is filled with outdoor grills and patio furniture and items totally out of sync with what's going on outside. I walked in from snowbanks and wind whipping and 20 degrees into a fantasy land. They should call that department the "keep dreaming" department.
But what I'm about to do here is kind of the same thing. I schedule my annual "30 teams" tradition around the start of spring training in hopes it will get people in the mood for baseball.
This is the 11th time I've done this exercise on this blog (and I did it many times with pen and paper back in the '70s and '80s). As you no doubt know, this is my ranking of all the MLB teams in order of how much I like them, from the very bestest good guys to the very least, rank, stinky, oh, god they smell, bad guys.
This year I've decided to showcase each team with a card from Topps' 2009 flagship set. This was the first flagship set I collected while writing a blog and it was the set on store shelves during my very first "30 teams" post for this blog. I completed 2009 Topps and looking at it today, I noticed a few things about it that makes it stand out, especially with the kind of cards Topps is producing today.
There is one thing that all of the '09 cards that I am about to feature have in common. See if you can figure it out.
All right, time for the list. As usual, I've compiled this for reference so you know who to root for this season. You are welcome to make your own list. But this is the master copy.
Here we go:
1. LOS ANGELES DODGERS (highest ranking: 1st; lowest ranking: 1st): I know that many fans consider the Dodgers a big-market team that can buy their way to a title. But obviously that's not true because there's this small matter about not having won a World Series since the Berlin Wall came down. That's why I will always consider my Dodgers as much of a little-engine-that-could team as the Pirates or the Twins. Love those boys in blue.
2. KANSAS CITY ROYALS (highest ranking: 2nd; lowest ranking: 5th): Ever since the Royals started disposing of the players that won them a championship in 2015, I've lost track of who is on the team. And the guys whose names are familiar to me, like Whit Merrifield, I still couldn't pick out of a lineup.
3. PITTSBURGH PIRATES (highest ranking, 3rd; lowest ranking: 4th): I rely on the Pirates to counter a whole lot of ugly in the NL Central. They did what I wanted them to do last year: produce a winning record. That only got them to fourth. Stupid other teams.
4. BALTIMORE ORIOLES (highest ranking: 4th; lowest ranking: 17th): The O's take another step forward, mostly because they're a non-threatening team that is mortal enemies with the Yankees and Red Sox. We like teams like that here.
5. OAKLAND ATHLETICS (highest ranking: 5th; lowest ranking: 8th): This year I resolve to get to know the Oakland A's. Honestly. At the end of this season, I will know their starting lineup and be able to spout off a few players' stats. I know that's a big promise. But I can't keep thinking that Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi are playing for the A's.
6. CLEVELAND INDIANS (highest ranking: 6th; lowest ranking: 17th): The Indians have been heading north ever since their 2016 World Series appearance. I still consider them one of the most fun teams to watch. I'd watch them more if they were in the National League.
7. BOSTON RED SOX (highest ranking: 2nd; lowest ranking: 7th): Red Sox sink to an all-time low, probably the lowest they've ever been since I started ranking teams. You can't beat my team in the World Series and expect me to still like you.
8. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (highest ranking: 2nd; lowest ranking: 10th): Phillies stay put. Now that they have Bryce Harper, we'll see what happens to their ranking in future years. I don't have the problem with Harper that some fans do. Sure he likes himself a little too much, but he's not egregious about it like some other players I could mention.
9. MINNESOTA TWINS (highest ranking: 9th; lowest ranking: 14th): Twins make a five-position jump for absolutely no reason at all. I guess out of all the nondescript teams in the middle of the countdown, this is the one I least mind winning.
10. TORONTO BLUE JAYS (highest ranking: 10th; lowest ranking: 18th): Blue Jays crack the top 10 for the first time since -- I don't know, the '80s? Still hoping they embarrass some of those AL East teams with an embarrassment of riches. I don't even care that they're from Canada anymore.
11. DETROIT TIGERS (highest ranking: 7th; lowest ranking: 12th): Tigers fall one place because I can't keep ranking a team I find exceedingly dull in the top 10.
12. TEXAS RANGERS (highest ranking: 5th; lowest ranking: 12th): Chris Woodward, former third base coach for the Dodgers, is now the Rangers' manager. So that's something that will make me root for Texas a little.
13. CHICAGO WHITE SOX (highest ranking: 6th; lowest ranking: 15th): Anyone else consider the White Sox the Oakland Raiders of Major League Baseball?
14. CINCINNATI REDS (highest ranking: 9th; lowest ranking: 14th): Through no fault of their own, the Reds plunge five spots simply because they acquired three Dodgers that I liked over the offseason. There is nothing I want to see less than Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood do well for another team, especially against the Dodgers. So I can't be rooting for these guys.
15. SEATTLE MARINERS (highest ranking: 15th; lowest ranking: 20th): I've decided to give the Mariners some slack. I've never cared about them, they're so far away. And then all the '90s love for them annoyed me. But actually there's nothing really wrong with them. So 15 it is. Enjoy it, Mariners.
16. MIAMI MARLINS (highest ranking: 13th; lowest ranking: 18th): The Marlins are going to be really, really bad this year. But at least they can say I ranked them 16th!
17. HOUSTON ASTROS (highest ranking: 5th; lowest ranking: 18th): Astros take another big plunge for a second straight year. I can't stand seeing them win anymore. I don't care if Altuve is the most lovable player in the game. I can't take it. The longer we get away from the 2017 World Series, the more I think the Dodgers deserved to win it, and ef Springer and Beltran and Bregman and the rest. I'm ready for them to be dead last again. Sorry, J.R. Richard.
18. TAMPA BAY RAYS (highest ranking: 17th; lowest ranking: 23rd): GET A NEW STADIUM!!
19. NEW YORK METS (highest ranking: 16th; lowest ranking: 21st): The closest minor league team to me is now a Mets affiliate. I expect that to bode well for my perception of the team. At the very least it'll be more interesting than watching an affiliate of the Nationals. The Mets and I have our history of problems, but you have to admit they are interesting.
20. WASHINGTON NATIONALS (highest ranking: 19th; lowest ranking: 24th): True confession time: Sometimes I slip up and call them the "Senators." That's probably more my issue than theirs, but they still don't have an identity like the Expos.
21. ATLANTA BRAVES (highest ranking: 20th; lowest ranking: 24th): As long as the Braves keep losing to the Dodgers, they can keep their No. 21 ranking. If it becomes 1992 again, expect to see them in San Diego Padres territory.
22. MILWAUKEE BREWERS (highest ranking: 10th; lowest ranking: 23rd): Isn't there just a little part of me, the part of me that used to root for Cecil Cooper, that was a little bit sad when the Dodgers beat the Brewers in the NLCS? .... Nope. In fact, I think I'll watch my recording of the series again tonight.
23. CHICAGO CUBS (highest ranking: 20th; lowest ranking: 25th): I think it's time for the Cubs to take a year off. I don't mean "not win," I mean "not play." I need a rest: from their fans, from all the lovableness, from Joe Madden, from Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, from take me out to the ball game, all of it. Just go away for a year.
24. COLORADO ROCKIES (highest ranking: 23rd; lowest ranking: 26th): The Rockies finished a game behind the Dodgers last year in second place. They still don't bother me as much as every other non-Dodgers team in the NL West. I think it's because they weren't annoying in the 1970s.
25. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (highest ranking: 6th; lowest ranking: 25th): A nice plunge down the standings would do wonders for the Cardinals' ranking here. Either that or get Lou Brock back on the team.
26. LOS ANGELES ANGELS (highest ranking: 25th; lowest ranking: 26th): Mike Scioscia is no longer the Angels manager and now there is nothing about their team that appeals to me.
27. SAN DIEGO PADRES (highest ranking: 27th; lowest ranking: 27th): The Padres tried so hard again this past offseason. It was darling as always.
28. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (highest ranking: 28th; lowest ranking: 29th): Arizona takes a step up because they're going to be terrible. I appreciate them allowing me to see them dead last in the standings. And if they're not dead last, that's OK. The Padres or Giants will be.
29. NEW YORK YANKEES (highest ranking: 28th; lowest ranking: 29th): The other day a Facebook friend asked people to list their top five favorite players from their favorite team. It got a lot of comments. Only THREE people (one of them was me) did not list Yankees. THREE. That is how indoctrinated people are around here. I can't explain it. Every time anyone around here talks about the Yankees in any kind of affectionate way, I want to move to Alaska immediately.
30. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (highest ranking: 30th; lowest ranking: 30th): People assume I automatically place the Giants last every year. But their recent visit to the bottom is mostly a product of their recent World Series victories and the gross players involved (example No. 1 is pictured). Back when I was compiling this list as a youngster, the Yankees were firmly entrenched at the bottom. I can't even remember where they Giants were because they sucked and who cares? Fortunately, though, right now, in 2019, they are exactly where they belong.
OK, so that's the list for this year. Could you figure out what all of these 2009 cards have in common? If not, perhaps Fuji could tell you. It was a different time. And I rather liked it.