A place where Colorado Rockies baseball card collectors (all 3 of us) can waste some time reading about our favorite sport. The Rockies and their cards will be the primary focus, but I like to go off on tangents as well so anything and everything baseball related may be covered here.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Rating the Rookie Cups - 1990

It's time to dust off Rating the Rookie Cups once again.  I am going to try and make this a regular Sunday feature, with emphasis on the word try.  For those of you that have not seen Rating the Rookie Cups before, I will be examining Topps' All Star Rookie teams and seeing how Topps did with their choices and whether or not I would have made different choices for the team.  You can click the link on the left sidebar and check out the first 9 years, or I will just make it easier and let you click right here.

This week I will be focusing on the 1989 Topps Rookie All Star Team which was shown with trophies in 1990 Topps set.  This team is interesting for several reasons.  The main thing that is interesting to me is that one of the Rookies of the Year is not on the team.  Reliever Gregg Olson of the Orioles was the 1989 AL Rookie of the Year, but he was beaten out by runner up Tom Gordon.  It is also the only Rookie All Star Team with members from both New York teams and both Chicago teams.  Just one of those odd but true facts.  Let's take a look at the RAST from one of the most colorful sets in Topps history.

Bob Geren - New York (AL) - C -                    (Rookie)   2   (Career)  1
Carlos Martinez - Chicago (AL) - 1B -              (Rookie)   4   (Career)  2
Gregg Jefferies - New York (NL) - 2B -            (Rookie)   5   (Career)  5

Craig Worthington - Baltimore - 3B -            (Rookie)   5   (Career)  2
Gary Sheffield - Milwaukee - SS -                (Rookie)   3   (Career)  8

Greg Briley - Seattle - OF -                              (Rookie)   4   (Career)  3
Ken Griffey Jr. - Seattle- OF -                          (Rookie)   6   (Career)  9
Jerome Walton - Chicago (NL) - OF -              (Rookie)   4   (Career)  3

Tom Gordon - Kansas City - RHP -             (Rookie)   8   (Career)  6
Jim Abbott - California - LHP -                    (Rookie)   6   (Career)  5

Strongest Team Members (in 1989) - Tom Gordon, Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Abbott

Strongest Team Members (as of 2013) - Ken Griffey Jr., Gary Sheffield, Tom Gordon

Weakest Team Members (in 1989) - Bob Geren, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Martinez

Weakest Team Members (as of 2013) - Bob Geren, Carlos Martinez, Craig Worthington

Rockies on the team (Present and future) - 0

Best Card (IMHO) - Craig Worthington (I like it just a little bit more than the Sheffield)

Worst Card (IMHO) - Tom Gordon (it is a nice bright photo, but he is too sweaty)

Overall Team Rating (1-10 compared to other RAST teams)    4

Here we have two players with very strong resumes in potential Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr. and Gary Sheffield along with a few other solid careers in Jefferies, Gordon, and Abbott.  If you only looked at those five players, this team would rank quite a bit higher.  However, the weak links of the team have dragged this team down from a 7 or 8 to a 4. 


Here are the players I feel should have been on this Rookie All Star Team.  This is based on rookie year data only.

Catcher - Craig Biggio - Houston
This is one of the more outrageous omissions that I have covered here on Rating the Rookie Cups.  Biggio had a obviously stronger career than Geren, but he had a much stronger rookie year as well.  Biggio was so much stronger than Geren in virtually every statistic save batting average that it was almost a laughable comparison.

First Baseman - Randy Milligan - Baltimore
This is another one that should have been a no brainer selection, but wasn't.  Milligan was arguably the best rookie for ANY position let alone compared to the weak remainder of the first base crop including Martinez, and Tommy Gregg of the Braves. 

Second Baseman - Gregg Jefferies - New York (NL)
This was an easy choice as Jefferies easily stood out above his competition which included Mike Brumley of the Tigers and Lenny Harris, who spent the year with both the Reds and Dodgers.

Third Baseman - Craig Worthington - Baltimore
Craig Worthington actually had a fairly strong rookie year easily outpacing the likes of Carlos Martinez of the White Sox (who played 3B as well as 1B) and a half season of Seattle's Edgar Martinez.

Shortstop - Omar Vizquel - Seattle
This was a toughie because Vizquel was already a great defender, but his offense hadn't developed yet.  I chose Vizquel because Gary Sheffield was a bad defender (hence his move to the OF later on), but his offense hadn't developed yet either.  The other rookie shortstops of note in 1989 were Sheffield's Milwaukee teammate Bill Spiers and Alvaro Espinoza of the Yankees, but neither of them were credible threats.

Outfield - Greg Briley - Seattle, Ken Griffey Jr. - Seattle, Roberto Kelly - New York (AL)
The outfield was very interesting this year, not because of strength or weakness, but because of depth.  There were 9 players that could have conceivably been on this team.  In the end I chose them in the order of Griffey, Kelly, and Briley ahead of such names as 1989 NL Rookie of the Year Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith both of the Cubs, Baltimore's Mike Devereaux and Steve Finley, and half seasons of Cleveland's Albert Belle and Sammy Sosa of the Rangers and White Sox.

RHP - Tom Gordon - Kansas City
This was probably the strongest position of all in 1989.  Most people forget that before Gordon was a strong reliever he was a starter for several years with the Royals.  His rookie year record of 17-9 with a 3.64 ERA outpaced strong seasons by Kevin Brown of the Rangers and Bob Milacki of the Orioles.  Also under consideration were closers Mike Schooler of Seattle and 1989 AL Rookie of the Year Gregg Olson of the Orioles, but they weren't as good as Gordon in my opinion.

LHP - Jim Abbott - California
Jim Abbott is a beloved icon to most people in my age range so I am glad he didn't deserve replacement on this team.  The only other competition was Greg Hibbard of the White Sox and Abbott was a bit better than him.


Previous Question:

Which team went the longest (either from the beginning of the franchise or the 1960 beginning of the RAST) before having their first member of the Rookie All Star Team?  Hint: It lasted 8 years.

Pittsburgh Pirates 

The Pirates were obviously around when the Topps Rookie All Star Team made its debut in the 1960 set.  However, Pittsburgh did not have a single representative until Woodie Fryman made the team as the left-handed pitcher in the 1967 Topps set.


What team has had the most members of the Topps Rookie All Star team in the 21st Century (2001 Topps - 2014 Topps)?


The 2009 team appearing on 2010 Topps.

Thanx for reading.


Bo said...

Biggio had 131 plate appearances in 1988, and I see he had no ROY votes in 1989. Is it possible he did not qualify as a rookie?

Anonymous said...

This looks like an amazing read...glad I found it as a fledgling Rookie Cup collector as well!

Anonymous said...

Also...dude...Griffey only comes in at a 9 in your career measurements scale?!? Is a 10 even achievable?!? =)

hiflew said...

A 10 is achievable and Griffey could have gotten it if he had fully reached his potential. I think it says more about him that he got a 9 even though he was injured on and off for the lat half of his career. On my scale: 8 = Hall of Fame ballot possibly sneaking into the Hall, 9 = no doubt Hall of Famer, 10 = player that practically changed the game like Cal Ripken or Tom Seaver. Griffey easily had the potential to be the best ever, but injuries held him back to being "just" a Hall of Fame player.