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30 teams, 2016 edition

Welcome again, from the Night Owl Cards ranking studios.

It's time for the eighth edition of "30 teams," my annual ranking of every major league team from the greatest team that ever lived to the one that reminds you of that time you stepped in dog shit.

This tradition, started when I was a kid in my bedroom, is right up there with many preseason rituals. I coordinate it to run near the start of spring training, and for this edition of the ranking, I dug out cards that feature photos that were taken during spring training.

There are certain tell-tale signs of a spring training photo. Trees, for starters, is a huge tip-off, especially palm trees. How great it must be to live in a place where the word "frond" is used on a regular basis.

Other clues include: fences without padding, metal benches, signs for Jim's Hair Restoration, and any structure that looks like it could house a family of three or more.

Take these identifying tips with you, because you're going to need them in the future. Signs of spring training on cards are disappearing and have been particularly scarce in the last four years. There is more emphasis on in-season photos now. And with Topps cropping photos so close and obscuring backgrounds, detecting cards with photos taken during the spring could become a lost art. The stories behind the photos are disappearing from cards. But, gee, at least that app is awesome.

Where was I? ... oh, yes, ranking things! OK, let's get to subjective categorizing.

One more time, this is the authoritative list. If you want to rank teams yourself, go nuts, but this is the original copy.

1. LOS ANGELES DODGERS (highest ranking: 1st, lowest ranking: 1st): The Dodgers, my wonderful, wonderful team for which I live for every season, are probably not going to win the World Series this year ... again. Just being realistic here, even though that's not the thing to do at this time of year. But at least they're so much more enjoyable to follow than the other 29 teams. In fact, if MLB was to rename every team except the Dodgers as That Other Team, that would make sense to me.

2. KANSAS CITY ROYALS (highest ranking: 2nd, lowest ranking: 5th): I will be forever grateful to the Royals for winning the World Series and proving once again that a team that I like and could root for could actually win the World Series. 2015 was the least painful October since the 1980s.

3. PITTSBURGH PIRATES (highest ranking: 3rd, lowest ranking: 4th): It's good to know that once long-suffering teams become good again -- like the Royals and Pirates -- that they continue to be enjoyable. I don't want to be one of those jerk-offs who hates anyone who is successful.

4. BOSTON RED SOX (highest ranking: 2nd, lowest ranking: 4th): The background on this card is full of grapefruit goodness. Palm trees, a batting cage featuring a giant wheel, and some batter playing golf. Quick! Someone hide this card before Topps shows up and covers it with smoke!

5. BALTIMORE ORIOLES (highest ranking: 5th, lowest ranking: 17th): This is your annual reminder that the new baseball season also means another year of Harold Reynolds saying goofy things.

6. HOUSTON ASTROS (highest ranking: 6th, lowest ranking: 16th): The Astros rocket up the rankings again this year. This despite having both Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez in their outfield. See? I can look past things. I need the Astros to get to the World Series, just so it can be an all-National League World Series (unless, of course, the Brewers make it, too).

7. TEXAS RANGERS (highest ranking: 5th, lowest ranking: 17th): Sorry, Rangers, you've lost the battle for Texas. It's all because I'm sad that I haven't seen the Rangers-loving Target girl lately.

8. OAKLAND A'S (highest ranking: 5th, lowest ranking: 8th): Another year of Oakland churning out terrific baseball cards and unmemorable players. I promise to learn 10 A's names by the end of September.

9. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (highest ranking: 2nd, lowest ranking: 9th): I know even fewer Phillies than I know A's. I think that's the first time that's ever happened.

10. CHICAGO WHITE SOX (highest ranking: 6th, lowest ranking: 11th): Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest spring training card ever made. Why did any other company attempt to make a baseball card set in 1993?

11. DETROIT TIGERS (highest ranking: 7th, lowest ranking: 11th): In going through my collection, I determined that the Tigers have the best spring training photos ever. So much spring greatness over the years. Other top spring training card teams: the White Sox, Mets and Dodgers. Also, the Expos once were kings of spring training pictures. RIP.

12. CINCINNATI REDS (highest ranking: 9th, lowest ranking: 13th): The sign in the background seems to be advertising for some sort of school service called Teacher's Pet. The phrase below the apple refers to "school districts." And I am stumbling through this so someone less lazy than I will search out exactly what this sign is and put it in the comments.

13. TORONTO BLUE JAYS (highest ranking: 13th, lowest ranking: 18th): I love cards that look like they were photographed down at the community park where I grew up.

14. MINNESOTA TWINS (highest ranking: 10th, lowest ranking: 14th): It's that time of year when I look up a Minnesota Twin that I've never heard of before; there are so many. I'll be right back ...

OK, Michael Tonkin -- you are now a known baseball player.

15. CLEVELAND INDIANS (highest ranking: 11th, lowest ranking: 17th): Remember when there were 5 or 6 different Indians card bloggers? Now there's maybe half a blogger. How does that happen?

16. NEW YORK METS (highest ranking: 16th, lowest ranking: 21st): The Mets would have moved up higher, but there's something irritating about a team attempting to beat the team you're rooting for to win the World Series. So they stay at 16.

17. MIAMI MARLINS (highest ranking: 13th, lowest ranking: 18th): Don Mattingly instituting a "no facial hair" policy is weird. If I was one of those photoshop devotees, I'd go through all my Mattingly cards from his playing days and remove his mustache. Then I'd mail them to him.

18. TAMPA BAY RAYS (highest ranking: 17th, lowest ranking: 23rd): Look, you can see half a phone number behind Adam Kennedy! Isn't that the best? No? You're right, let's blur it out and add some fog.

19. WASHINGTON NATIONALS (highest ranking: 19th, lowest ranking: 24th): This is the highest the Nationals have ever been on this countdown. That doesn't mean I haven't gotten over the Expos no longer existing, it just means Bryce Harper is growing up.

20. SEATTLE MARINERS (highest ranking: 18th, lowest ranking: 20th): Dig that southwestern scenery.

21. ATLANTA BRAVES (highest ranking: 20th, lowest ranking: 24th): Classic shot. There needs to be more trailers on baseball cards.

22. MILWAUKEE BREWERS (highest ranking: 10th, lowest ranking: 23rd): The Brewers are still suffering from all of that annoying from a few years ago. Most of those players are gone, but, oh, yeah, Ryan Braun.

23. COLORADO ROCKIES (highest ranking: 23rd, lowest ranking: 26th): I think this photo is from spring training. I had the most difficulty finding a spring training card with the Rockies. That's the Rockies for you, being difficult just to be difficult.

24. CHICAGO CUBS (highest ranking: 20th, lowest ranking: 25th): The Cubs move up a place this year. That does not mean I am rooting (gee golly) for (please oh please oh please) the Cubs (we've waited sooooooo long) to win a World Series. ... Oooh, yuck, now I can't get that image out of my brain. Stupid Cubs and their dramatic plaintiveness.

25. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (highest ranking: 6th, lowest ranking: 25th): Yup, Cardinals, you're now below the Cubs. Happy with yourself?

26. LOS ANGELES ANGELS (highest ranking: 25th, lowest ranking: 26th): You didn't know a photo of a baseball player on one knee could be so cool, did you?

27. SAN DIEGO PADRES (highest ranking: 27th, lowest ranking: 27th): I found the Padres' season last year endlessly amusing. Please let there always be Padres.

28. NEW YORK YANKEES (highest ranking: 28th, lowest ranking: 29th): The Yankees don't deserve palm trees. Their spring training field should be covered in asphalt, with exhaust fumes pumped into the ballpark, and the ballpark music just the sound of people yelling obscenities over and over.

29. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (highest ranking: 28th, lowest ranking: 29th): I've always considered the Diamondbacks a poor excuse for a major league team. I will have no trouble rooting against Greinke and all of their paper-doll dress-up uniform combinations.

30. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (highest ranking: 30th, lowest ranking: 30th): The stands are empty. As they should be for every Giants game.

As usual, keep this list by your TV/viewing device so you know who you should root for.

Also, I don't want to imply that baseball card backgrounds are gone forever. We still do have Heritage and Topps does a fine job of sticking to the script for whatever year it is featuring. This year they're focusing on 1967, so there should be lots of backgrounds.

I'm just glad that I probably won't be around for Heritage in 2065.


Adam Kaningher said…
2007 Topps #272 Jeff Salazar. There's your Rockies Spring Training card for next year.
Stealing Home said…
Here, here on the Giants analysis.
P-town Tom said…
I flinched at seeing the Cubs at 24, but all was forgiven when I saw who was 25. Carry on.
Robert said…
Blue Jays getting close to the top 10. Maybe by 2065 they'll make it there...
Stack22 said…
Do the nats historical rankings include their glory years as the Expos, or just the dumpster fire in DC?
Cardboard Jones said…
What would Owl call a trailer on 2016 Topps? Trailer trash
Mike Matson said…
The way I see it, the Nationals are a separate entity altogether. Just because they moved the franchise doesn't mean it's the same team..
Mike Matson said…
I do like the fact that you used a couple Canadian born players in your cards :)
night owl said…
The Nats are the Nats only. They'd be a lot higher if the Expos were included.
JediJeff said…
So looking back on your previous year's rankings, we have these WS winners:
2009 New York Yankees
2010 San Francisco Giants
2011 St. Louis Cardinals
2012 San Francisco Giants
2013 Boston Red Sox
2014 San Francisco Giants
2015 Kansas City Royals

So being ranked 30th is far, far more victorious than being ranked 1st. Maybe you should try taking a dump on your Dodgers one year since they seem to take a dump when the playoffs come around each year.
AdamE said…
Hate to burst you bubble but it is nothing special to live around palm trees. And nobody says frond here either; you trim the branches just like any other tree.

Your right about dbacks being bush league. (Sorry Daniel) They have a pool in the outfield for goodness sakes. What is more bush league than that?
night owl said…
If you read the Dodgers portion of this post, you saw me intentionally dumping on the Dodgers. Way ahead of you, sport.
night owl said…
Dude, palm trees don't grow where it's 11 degrees. Therefore, my point.
Man said…
We aren't last!
The A's and Blue Jays cards were taken in Oakland before Mount (Al) Davis was built to close off the Colesium and accommodate the Raiders demands.
night owl said…
Hmmmmmm. Well, that's an easy fix.
Other clues include: a chain link fence and a full parkin, lot a la Luis Alvarado's 1973, #627, card. You guys are familiar with that card.
Jeremya1um said…
You're right about the Tigers having the best Spring Traing cards. I've probably been to 25 Tiger Spring Training games over the years. I've been thinking about starting a Tiger Spring Training pc.
BobWalkthePlank said…
Solid ranking for the Pirates. If you ever want to jump ship from the Dodgers we will happily take you. We are nice like that.
chris said…
I believe most of the 1993 Topps Rockies photos are spring training photos. I seem to recall a lot of posing and palm trees.
arpsmith said…
I think if we flipped the Giants and Dodgers and the Red Sox and Angels our rankings would be pretty similar. Maybe we are more alike than different...
Sascards67 said…
Until last year the Braves were #1 for me. Since they gave up at the all-star break and traded Andrelton Simmons (plus moving out of actual Atlanta next year) they are quickly dropping. Tigers now #1 with Royals #2.
It's Rolllllllliiiiiieeeeeeeee!! Sweet.