posted on August 27, 2010 00:00
For the first time since Gary Sheffield in the 90s, there is a legitimate chance that someone could win the triple crown. No, there is no one in the American League with a shot, just take a look at how far some of the “contenders” are back in one of the categories. It’s just like the year Pedro Martinez had a “shot” at 30 wins (or Ubaldo Jimenez for that matter). Not going to happen. In the NL, however, there is a real chance that Albert Pujols could do so, and sure, I guess Joey Votto too. But Votto plays for the Reds, who are a bunch of little bitches. This race is actually a poor man’s Sosa/McGwire 1998 home run chase—two rival teams trying to do something that hadn’t been done in a long time. The main difference is that if either of these two were found to use steroids, you may have your first suicide related to an American pro athlete by a fan (thought we had a shot with LeBron leaving Cleveland, but no). With the triple crown a hot topic, this week’s Top 7 looks at two baseball card sets called “Triple Crown” contenders, 2006 Fleer “Tradition” (whatever that means) and 1993 Upper Deck. There were some pitchers who had better shots at the triple crown than some of these guys in the sets. It shows just how desperate card companies were and still can be to just throw together a random subset and call it a day. But it also shows just how desperate everyone has been to get a triple crown winner, Now it may happen. Onto the list.
7. Fred McGriff
When putting together this list, I thought of McGriff has a low average/power guy. I was wrong, and I now realize that McGriff had a freaking awesome career. I think I may be in the McGriff for Hall of Fame camp. He had an OPS+ of 106 or better every single year from 1987 to 2001, including once leading the league. He was a poor man’s Pujols in his consistency, and this era’s version of Greg Maddux as a hitter with that streak of good seasons. He led the league in homers twice (with 35 and 36, which seems unbelievable that someone could lead with that low of a total, even in the “post-steroid” era, which is a stupid name). His nickname “The Crime Dog” is one of the best of this generation too. AND he was in that instructional video commercial for seemingly three decades. Fred McGriff, right up there with Griffey and Frank Thomas as most underappreciated players since the late 80s. He was still no triple crown threat, but I recommend checking out his Baseball Reference page and being surprised.
6. Andruw Jones
Before he was selected for the Triple Crown Contenders set, here were Jones’ batting averages the previous five seasons: .251, .264, .277, .261, and .263. He couldn’t have led pitchers in batting average any of those years. And he followed up with a .262 average in ’06. This was coming off of his incredible season where he led in homers and RBI, and Fleer seemingly thought, “well he led in two, we HAVE to include him.” I realize that Jones is a serviceable bench player now, but remember when people thought that he was going to break the all-time home run record? Things can change quickly.
5. Jose Canseco
Canseco only finished in the top ten in batting average once, when he finished 9th in his career year 1988. By the time this set came out in 1993, he was very close to his have-a-ball-go-off-your-head-and-make-people-realize-that-he’s-insane phase. He may be the craziest baseball player outside of Albert Belle of this era. Upper Deck was holding onto the past by including him in this set as he was one of the top draws in the hobby for all of the pre-Griffey years and a couple after. Even more entertainingly, the year this set came out, he hit .255 with 10 home runs.
4. David Wright
Random question: how long before one of the screaming, yelling, idiotic d-bags on one of the sports shows tries to downgrade a potential triple crown in the NL for one of the following reasons: 1, that is happened in the “inferior NL;” 2, that all of the leaders in the American League had higher numbers in the categories? I say it happens before there is even a winner. Hell, someone may have already done it. Both of those are nonsense and not even worth going into. It’s like when people ripped Ichiro for getting more hits than anyone ever in a season. Some people literally can’t enjoy anything, and this coming from someone who likes to bitch a lot. As for David Wright, he’s one of my personal favorite players, and probably the first time I’ve ever liked a Mets player, but no one that will ever hit 10 home runs in a full season should ever be mentioned for the triple crown.
3. Cal Ripken
Upper Deck included him in this set apparently still based off of his ridiculous 1991 MVP season, and not 1992. It’s one of the biggest one-year drop-offs I have seen for someone that played 162 games both seasons—his OPS+ went from 162 to 92 between ’91 and ’92. Ripken was coming off a year when he hit .251 with 14 homers and 72 RBI. He wasn’t much better in 1993 either as his OPS+ went to 97. In fact, Ripken hovered between an average and a slightly below average player for the rest of his career, until he became a part-time player in 1999 and his OPS+ shot up to 143 (!) for the season. Makes one wonder if he shouldn’t have milked the streak for so long.
2. Kirby Puckett
What’s frustrating about this list is that it just sums up what exactly ruined the baseball card hobby. Upper Deck needed an idea for one of these idiotic “subsets.” Gary Sheffield was a huge triple crown contender at the time, so they created a set with him in mind and him only. They then had to fill up the rest of the set with random people just so it was, in fact, a set. Next thing you know, Kirby Puckett is a triple crown contender. Puckett was awesome to watch, but it does him a disservice to put him involved in such nonsense. He had hit 9, 12, 15, and 19 homers leading up to the year this set was put together, and had just one 100 RBI season. It’s simply ludicrous to think that he could win the triple crown (of course, how much money could you have won this year if you had thrown $100 on “Jose Bautista to win the AL home run title”).
1. Jason Bay
Yes, Jason Bay. This was 2006 too, when Fleer apparently thought a guy in the middle of the Pirates lineup had a shot at the triple crown. To his credit, in 2006, Bay finished 10th in AVG and 10th in homers in the league, it’s just that he was off by 29 average points and 19 homers. It’s amazing how quickly things change—you probably would have killed to have Jason Bay on your team in the mid 2000s, but now he’s the guy Mets fans already despise because he got a gigantic contract, and has followed through with a .259 average, 6 homers, and injuries.