…That’s the question I’d asked myself after reading a SABR Baseball Cards Committee article written by Mark Armour which examined the player choices made for the 1964 Topps “Giants” set…
…and got me thinking about the players I would pick from each MLB team if I were creating such a set today. One of the things I love about the 1964 Giant set , aside from it being oversized and relatively affordable, is the egalitarian way the checklist was made up. Each of the 20 teams of the day was given three cards in the set, no matter if they were the 1963 World Champion Dodgers or the 111-loss Mets. This lead to some interesting choices… Which Dodgers got left out? Which three from the woeful Mets did they include?
I thought it would be fun to go team by team through the current Major League teams and work out a checklist like the 1964 Giants set. Like with the original, each team will be represented by three players. To further establish some ground rules (and give myself some additional criteria when making player selections), I’m going to treat this as an actual product which would be released in late summer, as the original set was. Ideally, when this set is “released” you’d want it to feature players who had been 2018 All-Stars or at least got some consideration in the voting.
With that in mind, would you include someone who won an award in 2017 but is out for most of 2018? What about the star player on a cellar-dwelling team who’s likely to be elsewhere by the trading deadline? …The future HOFer whose best days are well behind him? …The hyped rookie who could just as easily be a flash in the pan as a superstar?
It seemed that last year’s World Series teams, both of which have no shortage for candidates for the checklist, would be a good starting point for this exercise. To give this all a visual element, I whipped up some custom cards combining the 1964 Topps Giants design with 2018 “Photo Day” images.
I’m going to start off with the National League Champions who made the cut, followed by the other candidates who did not.
I view this as a no-brainer. Aside from being an elite pitcher, he was last year’s leader in wins and ERA, as well as being a 2017 All-Star.
He’s the reigning N.L. Rookie of the Year and an All-Star, and since he hasn’t imploded in his sophomore season, I’m including him as well.
Jansen was the 2017 Reliever Of The Year and an All-Star, so I couldn’t ignore those honors.
As for the players who didn’t make the cut…
Corey Seager – He’s on the 60-day DL after Tommy John surgery, so despite last year’s All-Star nod and Silver Slugger award, I didn’t want to include someone who hadn’t stepped on a field since late April.
Justin Turner – He is clearly a key part of the team, was the NLCS Co-MVP and an All-Star, but he didn’t quite make the cut (even though I consider myself a fan).
Chris Taylor – He had a breakout performance last season and is the other half of that NLCS Co-MVP, but there’s clearly stiff competition.
Alex Wood – An All-Star; the NL Pitcher of the Month for May 2017; lead the Majors in 2017 with a .842 winning percentage (16-3).
Walker Buehler – Highly-regarded prospect; was involved in that combined no-hitter earlier this season.
Other Dodgers garnering consideration: Yasmani Grandal, Kenta Maeda, Yasiel Puig, Hyun-Jin Ryu
OK, let’s move over to those World Champion Astros… I’ll start with their no-brainer:
He’s the reigning AL MVP, not to mention the batting leader and Silver Slugger winner. ‘Nuff said.
Like Kershaw, Verlander seems like a gimme. He wasn’t exactly a slouch with the Tigers in 2017, going 10-8 for a 98-loss team, but he just came alive when he joined the Astros. He was the ALCS MVP and, of course, a former Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award winner.
I have a feeling this next choice is going to draw some flack…
I had a tough time deciding between Springer and Carlos Correa, and maybe people who follow the team more closely than I do will call me an idiot for not going with Correa, but hear me out…
Both Springer and Correa were 2017 All-Stars and key members of the Astros. What pushed me towards Springer was my invoking the “We’re making a real Giants set” criteria. The card backs would feature a faux newspaper article about an accomplishment by each player (Here’s an example for Juan Marichal):
Springer was the World Series MVP, so he would provide for a better headline than Correa.
Besides, all of this wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun if everybody agreed with me.
Touching on the other Astros who got consideration…
Gerrit Cole – He’s been lights-out this year and had been in the past, but for me he wasn’t enough of a star in 2016 and 2017 to get serious consideration.
Alex Bregman – He may have a bright future, but just doesn’t have the list of concrete accomplishments his teammates have.
Dallas Keuchel, Chris Devenski and Lance McCullers – Each was a 2017 All-Star, but that only gets you so far when considering the Astros.
Other Astros garnering consideration: Marwin Gonzalez, Charlie Morton
OK, that covers my choices. Now it’s your turn…
Who would you have picked for the Dodgers and Astros? How did I completely drop the ball when making my selections?
Let me know in the comments!