I don't do a lot of baseball card shopping in March.
It remains the busiest month on the calendar and I'm also shopping for family birthdays this month, so cash goes toward gifts rather than card goodies.
But still the cards end up in my cart ... on a smaller scale. As much as gift shopping has become an online venture, I still find myself in Target or Walmart for a few birthday things, and when I do, it's always necessary to take the edge off with a small something from the card aisle.
Yesterday, I was in Target and I snagged a single hanger pack of 2020 Topps Series 1. It was an excellent choice as this relic/auto of Jose Altuve showed up. It very likely could be my pull of the year, which is too perfect considering how much I dislike the Astros right now.
The Altuve is already reserved for Marc, one of the few people out there who doesn't have an issue with the Astros at the moment. So I'm glad someone who will appreciate it will end up owning it.
But also, this card is a good lead in for the 12th annual 30 Teams post on this blog.
This is a tradition that I've continued from pen and loose leaf paper when I was teenager, all the way to today on virtual paper. It's a simple exercise: rank all of the MLB team in order of how I like them, from the greatest team ever created to the most annoying collection of humans I've ever seen on a diamond.
Most of the years, the teams stay relatively the same. Honestly, I don't have many thoughts on about half the teams in baseball, so how can I rocket them upward or plunge them downward? I have nothing to go on.
But this year's list is a little more volatile. For one particular team especially. Take a wild guess who that is.
This year I am using what Topps calls "team cards" these days, those over-the-top celebration photos that have been all the rage for the last decade or so. I was hoping we were getting away from that with the stadium shots from last year, but the histrionics returned this year.
I selected the most recent team celebration card that I have for each team.
OK, here we go. As always, you're welcome to make your own list, but this is the master copy. Post it where you can see it.
1. LOS ANGELES DODGERS (highest ranking: 1st; lowest ranking: 1st)
It's another year of rooting for the Dodgers and another year of feeling like the Dodgers have gotten screwed out of a title.
Many fans think their team has the worst luck, but I know my team has had more bad luck than many others over the years. The 2017 World Series fiasco isn't even the first postseason situation in which the Dodgers were unjustly robbed of a title through questionable sign-stealing.
So I don't care who doesn't like my team. I know if the Dodgers win a championship this year, it will be the most appropriate victory ever.
2. KANSAS CITY ROYALS (highest ranking: 2nd; lowest ranking: 5th)
One of the many developments that has created a divide between my fandom and the current MLB game is the knowledge before the season even starts that certain teams are completely out of the question for a championship. The Royals are one of those teams. This really wasn't the case for team back in the '70s, '80 and '90s. Maybe one or two were out of it at the season's start but everyone seemed like they had a shot at the beginning. That is definitely not the case now.
3. BALTIMORE ORIOLES (highest ranking: 3rd; lowest ranking: 17th)
Another team with almost zero shot, but the Orioles are now at their highest ranking ever. I watched a lot of Orioles games last year, mostly because during the period when my brother and I were taking care of my parents, my brother -- an Orioles fan -- would switch on O's games a lot. My nephew is also an Orioles fan, so I started to get familiar with some of the players for the first time since, oh I don't know, 1998?
4. OAKLAND A's (highest ranking: 4th; lowest ranking: 8th)
The A's are also at an all-time high, which is unusual because the A's are one of those teams that rarely hangs on to a player for more than three years. That makes it difficult for me to know who is on the team and also to form an attachment. But the A's have done a terrific job of not pissing me off the last 20 years, so here we are.
5. PITTSBURGH PIRATES (highest ranking: 3rd; lowest ranking: 5th)
I'm a little mad at a traditional favorite, just because they seem committed to being one of the worst teams in baseball this year. They're saying all the right things -- they think they'll surprise some people, they have a good bunch of guys -- gee, I hope they're right. But given the choices they've made, it's not looking good.
6. CLEVELAND INDIANS (highest ranking: 6th; lowest ranking: 17th)
Frankie Lindor didn't end up on the Dodgers. He's still an Indian. Throw in long-time favorites like Santana and Ramirez and that's good enough for 6th place.
7. BOSTON RED SOX (highest ranking: 2nd; lowest ranking: 7th)
Part of me wanted to wait until the MLB announced its verdict on any Red Sox video cheating before I ranked the Red Sox. But Boston gifted the Dodgers with Mookie Betts so I guess we're even. We'll see.
8. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (highest ranking: 2nd; lowest ranking: 10th)
It would be quite entertaining if the Girardi-led Phillies ended up beating out the Nationals, Braves and Mets for the NL East title. I'd like that quite a bit.
9. TORONTO BLUE JAYS (highest ranking: 9th; lowest ranking: 18th)
Hopefully, a fun team to watch. That's why the Jays are also at their highest ranking ever. The best part to me is that they are visual evidence that those who grew up with '90s baseball players are now old, too. As daddy Bichette, Biggio and Guerrero all have kids playing for the Jays.
10. MINNESOTA TWINS (highest ranking: 9th; lowest ranking: 14th)
Every year my comment for the Twins is something along the lines of "harmless enough." Some of y'all's teams make me think too hard about what I think about them.
11. TEXAS RANGERS (highest ranking: 5th; lowest ranking: 12th)
The state of Texas is weird to me for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that strange relationship Rangers and Astros fans have with each other. Some of them REALLY don't like each other. It's odd. But I'm on the Rangers' bandwagon now. Everything the Astros now hate, I enjoy.
12. CINCINNATI REDS (highest ranking: 9th; lowest ranking: 12th)
I'm getting a little interested in the Reds this year. I think I've bought into the hype. Mostly, I just want somebody else to win the NL Central this year and since it won't be the Pirates, LET'S GO REDS.
13. DETROIT TIGERS (highest ranking: 7th; lowest ranking: 13th)
Who will be worse this year, the Tigers, Pirates, Orioles or Marlins? I don't know. One guarantee, though, the Tigers' 2020 season ensures that I'll know as little about them at this time next year as I do now.
14. CHICAGO WHITE SOX (highest ranking: 6th; lowest ranking: 14th)
The White Sox were quite busy during the off-season. I'd prefer other AL Central teams to win, but honestly, everyone in that division is pretty innocuous (and easy to ignore), so I won't mind if the White Sox take a big step.
15. SEATTLE MARINERS (highest ranking: 15th; lowest ranking: 20th)
The Mariners are somewhere between the Browns and the Jaguars of Major League Baseball. Long enough to feel unlucky but not long enough for anyone to care.
16. TAMPA BAY RAYS (highest ranking: 16th; lowest ranking: 23rd)
I am going to try to put aside my issues with watching the Rays on TV in that stadium and give the team a chance this year. They certainly do some interesting things. I think they're worth my time.
17. MIAMI MARLINS (highest ranking: 13th; lowest ranking: 18th)
Can't say the same for the Marlins.
18. NEW YORK METS (highest ranking: 16th; lowest ranking: 21st)
Where would the Mets be ranked if they didn't have the best announcers in baseball, if, say, they had the Yankees' announcers? That is a good question. They'd probably be knocked down a few pegs.
19. ATLANTA BRAVES (highest ranking: 19th; lowest ranking: 24th)
The Braves' unfortunate ways are helping in one aspect: the highest ranking in 30 Teams since this blog was a thing, probably the highest ranking since just before the 1982 season.
20. WASHINGTON NATIONALS (highest ranking: 19th; lowest ranking: 24th)
The Nationals don't move at all, even though they eliminated the Dodgers from last year's postseason. That's difficult to do, as the Red Sox, Astros and other teams have all fallen significantly after ousting my team. I think this is because I don't blame the Nationals. I blame one specific dumb pitching move.
21. MILWAUKEE BREWERS (highest ranking: 10th; lowest ranking: 23rd)
The Brewers took a big plunge around the time of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. I've been unable to let go. Especially since I still have to see Braun every time a Brewers game is on.
22. CHICAGO CUBS (highest ranking: 20th; lowest ranking: 25th)
I've been waiting for this particular Cubs season for awhile. Don't muck it up, Cubs and be good or something.
23. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (highest ranking: 6th; lowest ranking: 25th)
It took the Astros for me to look at the Cardinals a little more favorably. That's what you did Astros. That's messed up.
24. COLORADO ROCKIES (highest ranking: 23rd; lowest ranking: 26th)
See that photo there? That's how I expect the Rockies' season to go. A lot of guys standing like that.
25. LOS ANGELES ANGELS (highest ranking: 25th; lowest ranking: 26th)
I guess I should rank the Angels a little higher given that they are the greatest example to those who hero-worship a single player that baseball is a team game.
26. SAN DIEGO PADRES (highest ranking: 26th; lowest ranking: 27th)
The Padres have been paddling furiously to become a competitive team. It's adorable. But a little part of me thinks: what if this works this time? (*Shiver*). Let's not think about that.
27. HOUSTON ASTROS (highest ranking: 5th; lowest ranking: 27th)
My, what they've done to such a previously lovable team. The Astros drop drastically for a third straight year, which just shows that I've had a problem with players like Carlos Beltran and Alex Bregman even before this sign scandal erupted. But the Astros deserve their ranking because their scheming was sinister, their reaction to being caught appalling and their fans' reaction to the criticism of the team disturbing. They've dug the largest hole I have ever seen an MLB team dig.
28. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (highest ranking: 28th; lowest ranking: 29th)
The Diamondbacks signing Madison Bumgarner is too perfect. Bumgarner probably couldn't handle playing for a team who only mildly disliked the Dodgers. He had to stay in the NL West and continue that irrational feeling, made even more dumb by the fact that the Diamondbacks barely have a history and don't deserve to cultivate a rivalry with the Dodgers. (P.S.: As I've said before, this card features a celebration put on by the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium).
29. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (highest ranking: 29th; lowest ranking: 30th)
What's this? The Giants finally step out of the bottom spot in the ratings? Well, yes. It's not the first time actually. Back before there was no blog, the Giants weren't last a lot. It's only through recent behavior that they've earned that spot. But, now, their struggling ways have pushed them forward. Don't get used to it.
30. NEW YORK YANKEES (highest ranking: 28th; lowest ranking: 30th)
Maybe it's just because I'm on the east coast, but the carping about the Astros from Yankees fans seemed to drown out any justified complaints from Dodgers fans. The Dodgers, after all, lost a World Series to the team. But in true Yankee fan fashion, they had to point out how much more they were wronged, which is ridiculous for a team that has won as often as they have. Nobody feels sorry for you Yankees. Nobody. Ever.
If the Astros end up playing these guys in the playoffs, yeah, I'll probably root for the Astros.
OK. so that's the list for the year.
I expect a very weird season in 2020. So there may be even more upheaval for the 2021 30 Teams.