Ever since I started collecting baseball cards, I would create fantasy All-Star teams. It started in 1989 using the players found in the backs of the 1989 Topps Sticker cards. I didn't really know much about baseball then, so my All-Star teams consisted of the 66 players who were included in the set.
The 67 card set contained 33 American League players, 33 National League players, and one checklist. Each "team" consisted of three first basemen, three second basemen, three third basemen, three shortstops, nine outfielders (regardless of position), three catchers, three right handed starting pitchers, three left handed starting pitchers, and three closers (regardless of which arm they used). While all 14 AL teams were represented among the 33 players on the AL team, there were only 11 NL teams represented on the NL side. The one team missing was the Atlanta Braves.
To offset this slight (because even then I believed that every team had to have a representative) I went to the Atlanta Braves page (yes, the Topps stickers had an album), and picked a player whos sticker I could use to cover one of my extra cards. It had to be a full sticker, not one of those half stickers. I thought that the two players with the full stickers represented the stars of the team. So my choices were Dale Murphy or Gerald Perry. Because Murphy had the better power statistics (24 HR's and 77 RBI's compared to Perry's 8 and 74) in 1988, I picked him over Perry. So Dale Murphy's sticker was placed over an extra card and included in my "set."
But this gave me another problem. I now had 34 players on the NL side, and 33 players on the AL side. What was I to do? The same thing. Pick a player who had a full sticker and add him to the set. But who? Because I lived in Chicago, I thought it should have to be a White Sox player. So onto the page with the White Sox team. The two "stars" were Carlton Fisk and Harold Baines. Now because Fisk already had a card in the set, I placed the Baines sticker onto the back of another card. Now my "teams" were complete.
But what do I do with them? I know (my 12 year old imaginative mind thought)...I'll make up a game with the cards. I used the cards with the now 34-man rosters, and simulated an All-Star game. I even wrote down the starting lineups, and how the "reserves" would get in the game. Because there were nine pitchers to a side, each person would get to pitch an inning. Every player would at least be on the field for three innings (so there would be an entirely new lineup when the fourth and seventh innings came up). Even though the players and their statistics were from 1988, the cards were made in 1989, so I pretended it was the 1989 All-Star Game. It was, dare I say, an escape. And what 12 year old didn't want that escape, especially when there was nothing else to do around the apartment?
As I got older, and learned more and more about the game, I continued to create teams for this simulated game. And I would rely less and less on Topps to help field the team (since they stopped making the stickers in 1990). I'd pick the stars of the game, still making sure that every team was represented, and then pit them against each other in a fantasy game. Then, sadly, I grew up.
I still would create the teams, but never again did I have time to make up games with the cards. As the years went on, more than 700 players made it onto one of my teams. Of course many players (the Bonds, Griffey Jrs, Ripkens, Sosas) would have high enough numbers to make my teams, but it was always the one year wonders that fascinated me the most. During the off season, while there is a lull between card products, I will include a post with the rosters of each of these teams, just to show what my mindset was when I started drafting them (as well as show how ignorant I was at the time...ahem).
Back to the point. So here I am, ready to start drafting the players who will comprise my 2008 End of Year (or 2009 MLB) All-Star Teams. But, by now, if you have not yet either tuned me out or clicked on another person's blog, you must be wondering, how I determine who makes the team. To do that, I'll have to tell you how the teams evolved from a 34 man team in 1989 to the 36 man team you will see for 2008.
As in the beginning, each side (NL and AL) will have three players each for 1b, 2b, 3b, ss, and catcher. There will be nine outfielders, regardless of their position. There will be six starting pitchers, regardless of how they throw, and three closers. These 33 spots have never changed in the 20 years that I've made all of this up. Every team, regardless of how well or how poorly they did, get a representative. So, just like the regular All-Star rosters, someone is bound to be left off the team. (There was a saying I heard when it came to expanding roster sizes to the game, and that was it would never matter how many players you add to the all-star team, there are going to be deserving players who will always be left off).
In 1989, I had the luxury of adding the DH (Baines, and Murphy...hey, they had to get in the game somehow.). The All-Star game was in Anaheim that year, an AL city. In 1990, the game was at Wrigley Field. No need for a DH as this was an NL stadium. So instead of a DH, I added an extra closer to the 34-man roster. In 1991, the game was in Toronto, so the DH was back, but I kept the extra closer. So now each team had 35 players on them. And as the years went on, if the following year's All-Star Game was to be held in an AL city, I included the DH. If the game was to be held in an NL city, off came the DH (and back to the 34-man teams).
Starting in 2001, I started including one middle relief pitcher to each team, added one for every year that I didn't have to include a designated hitter. This kept each team at 35 players.
In 2005, I had a problem. First of all, MLB decided to have two NL teams host the Midsummer Classic in consecutive years. Because I was also following the All-Star Game schedule of determining rosters, I did not name a designated hitter for the 2006 teams. David Ortiz of the Red Sox had a terrific year, but because of my little no DH thing, and because, he did not log enough time at first to be included as a first baseman, he was left off the team. At the end of 2006, even though the following ASG was also going to be held in an NL city, I added the DH spot, kept the middle reliever spot, and when I named my 2007 team (with an AL park hosting the event), kept the DH. I have decided to name a DH to both teams from now on. That's how we get 36 guys per team.
Presently, I have created 50 All-Star Teams (from 1987-2011). Each of the rosters can be found on bdj610's Topps Baseball Card Blog by clicking on the all-star team label on the sidebar. Thanks to the Strategic Baseball Simulator (SBS), I have now been able to simulate games to determine which All-Star Team (AL or NL) would be triumphant in a seven game series if they were pitted against each other. For example, which of the teams I created in 1988 would win if they met on the baseball diamond? You can find the results for each series on the sidebar of my humble, little blog.
But now, it's time for a new challenge. What if all 50 teams were to face each other? Would the 1987 AL All-Star Team I created do well against the team I imagined in 2004? Who would win a game if it was started by Greg Maddux of the 1995 NL All-Stars vs. Randy Johnson of the 2001 All-Stars? Would Sammy Sosa of 1998 do well facing Orel Hershiser of 1988? How would Pedro Martinez of 1999 do against a lineup featuring Robinson Cano, Paul Konerko, and Jose Bautista from 2010? This blog will determine which of the teams I created over the last quarter century is truly the "Best of All-Time."
I will re-introduce the teams on this blog (I have to learn how to use the sections under this new blogging format first). Each team will have their own post with pictures from that year's Topps set (I have the 1987 AL All-Star Team set to go, cards compliments of the Baseball Card Cyber Museum). When all 48 teams are introduced (to keep everything even, both 2011 All-Star Teams will not be competing), a 162-game simulation will commence. Each side (NL and AL) will compete against each other in a scheduled series of games. Each team will be designated by the year they were created, and will be randomly placed in divisions and leagues. As there are 24 teams in each league, there will be four separate leagues (AL1, AL2, NL1, NL2). The top 8 teams in each league will then compete in a tournament to determine the best team in each league. The League Champions will then face each other, and eventually, the best AL team will be pitted against the best NL team in a "World Series" simulation. The details of this will be discussed at a later time.
Because my earlier All-Star Teams (from 1987 to 1992) either had a disproportionate number of starters/relief pitchers (my 1991 NL AST pitching staff consisted of eight starters and two closers, while the 1991 AL team had the proper 6 starters and 4 relievers) or too few closers (both 1988 teams featured a three-man bullpen), to make this a competitive tournament, I have added pitchers who, if I knew better when I was 12-years-old, should have been included in the first place. While they are not going to be included in the official rosters (I am not going to change who I originally chose, no matter how bad it looks on paper), these extra pitchers will allow a balance that would be needed during the simulations.
I would like to see this through the end of the year, and maybe continue this blog with new teams (beginning in 2012). Let's see if this journey will have a happy outcome. May the best team win.