Expansion is one of the topics that has been on people's minds during the pandemic. Talking heads in both MLB and the NBA have discussed adding franchises in order to recoup revenue from the shortened 2020 season and the potential for much smaller attendance in 2021 as well. New franchises have always been obligated to pay exorbitant fees to the rest of the league in order to join. It serves as a large upfront payment to teams in exchange for taking a slightly smaller piece overall league revenue in the future. Basically teams are banking on the new franchises adding enough additional revenue to the overall pot to offset taking a smaller percentage, but just in case they don't rise enough, they require the fee up front. As you might surmise based on my choice of team, I like expansion. People will complain about "watering down" the league and making an overall worse product. While I agree with the first point to an extent, I disagree with the second completely.
With this topic in mind, let's take a look at the last Topps Rookie All Star team that played during an expansion year. 1998 served as the debut season for both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay (then) Devil Rays. Thanks to those two teams, 1998 allowed for 50 additional roster spots in the major leagues. As you might imagine, a significant portion of those players were rookies. Would it prove to provide a lot of competition for the RAST positions or would it allow the cream to rise to the top even easier? As you will see, in most cases, the latter proved to be true.
That season was also significant for the two other expansion teams that began 5 years earlier. 1998 served as the year after the Florida Marlins first World Championship and their first fire sale. In effect after trading away their championship roster for prospects, the Marlins were really a third expansion team in 1998. 1998 was also the first time a member of the Colorado Rockies occupied a spot on the Topps Rookie All Star team. The Rockies originally built their team around veterans which did not give rookies the chance to shine. It worked somewhat because they made the playoffs in their third season. By 1998 though, the Blake Street Bombers were starting to be replaced with younger options.
With all that in mind, let's take a look at the 1998 Topps Rookie All Star Team.
A.J. Hinch - C - Athletics - Season Rank (39 of 61) - Career Rank (51 of 61)
Todd Helton - 1B - Rockies - Season Rank (8 of 61) - Career Rank (2 of 61)
Miguel Cairo - 2B - Devil Rays - Season Rank (33 of 61) - Career Rank (29 of 61)
Ben Grieve - OF - Athletics - Season Rank (16 of 184) - Career Rank (108 of 184)
Mark Kotsay - OF - Marlins - Season Rank (54 of 184) - Career Rank (61 of 184)
Magglio Ordonez - OF - White Sox - Season Rank (88 of 184) - Career Rank (20 of 184)
Kerry Wood - RHP - Cubs - Season Rank (19 of 50) - Career Rank (15 of 50)
Jesus Sanchez - LHP - Marlins - Season Rank (46 of 49) - Career Rank (48 of 49)
Strongest Team Members (career) - Todd Helton, Magglio Ordonez, Kerry Wood
Weakest Team Members (rookie) - Jesus Sanchez, A.J. Hinch, Bobby Smith
Weakest Team Members (career) - Bobby Smith, Jesus Sanchez, Mike Caruso
Rockies on the team (Present and future) - 1 (Helton)
Best Card (IMHO) - Todd Helton (as I have said this is probably my favorite rookie cup card ever)
Worst Card (IMHO) - Mike Caruso (Caruso's back was annoyingly printed upside down just like 2020 Topps Update)
NEXT WEEK'S PREVIEW
The 2011 team pictured on 2012 Topps cards.
Thanx for reading.