1977 Batting Leaders and 1978 Batting Leaders, 1978 and 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 5, 2017

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There is a reason I am putting these cards together. 1978 was the first year I collected baseball cards. It was the first year I learned about all of the teams and I began to learn about all the players.

1979 was the first season I really followed baseball day to day, understanding stats and which players were good or not.

A few things seemed set in stone. The Yankees, Royals, Dodgers and Phillies were the only teams allowed to participate in the post season.

And the “Batting Leaders” were always going to be Rod Carew and Dave Parker.

The names underneath them may change, but Carew and Parker were the Batting Kings for life. That’s what it seemed like to me. Hell, they were on the cards for the first 2 years I collected cards.

Granted, I had not yet learned the concept of small sample sizes. But in the late 1970’s there were both super reliable hitters and each won an MVP in one of the seasons represented in these cards.

They looked so serious in the first card and so happy in the second. Maybe that is the faces of men relaxing when they know they are the best.

Carew won 7 batting titles between 1969 and 1978. Modern stat lovers would be pleased to know that he also led the league in on base percentage four times. In 1977 he batted .388 and led the AL with an OPS of 1.019 despite hitting fewer than 20 homers.

His MVP campaign was in 1977 and the Sabermetric crowd today would have a hard time arguing against it. Along with being the batting champ, leading the league in hits and triples and driving in over 100 runs, he led the AL in WAR, Offensive WAR, OPS+, Runs Created, Adjusted Batting Runs, Adjusted Batting Wins, Times on Base, Offensive Win Percentage, Base-Out Runs Added, Win Probability Added, Situational Wins Added and Base Out Wins Added.

I have no clue what a lot of those stats mean. But the fact that he led the league in all of them should amount to something.

Carew would go on to the Angels in 1979. He wouldn’t win another batting title and would often battle injuries in Anaheim. But he did pass 3,000 hits continued to be a .300 hitter and would make it to the Hall of Fame.

Parker was one of the coolest players in the game, wearing the Pirates uniforms like a badass. A great power hitter with a cannon for an arm, Parker had a peak where he was in the conversation for baseball’s best player.

He had to essentially take over for Roberto Clemente in right field after the great star’s death after the 1972 season. Parker emerged in 1973 and by 1975, led the NL with a .541 slugging.

In 1977, he won the first of his back to back batting titles. He smacked 215 hits, 44 of them were doubles, as he led the league in both categories.

In 1978, his .334 average was the standard for the NL. He also had the highest slugging and OPS and total bases in the league en route to his MVP.

As with Carew, Parker’s MVP would survive the Sabermetric gauntlet. He had the top WAR and Offensive WAR as well as leading the league in Adjusted OPS+, Adjusted Batting Runs, Adjusted Batting Wins, Offensive Win Percentage, Win Probability Added, Base Out Runs Added, Situational Wins Added and Base Out Wins Added.

Imagine if they had Topps Cards for each of those categories. Carew and Parker would be on THOSE two, confirming my thoughts that they were the best in the business.

Parker had several more elite seasons with the Pirates and Reds and picked up World Series rings with the 1979 Pirates and 1989 A’s.

He didn’t make the Hall of Fame, his career stats falling short, as he stayed on the ballot for 15 years.

Sure if was a small sample size, but in 1978 and 1979, it was all the research I had.

Rod Carew and Dave Parker were the best hitters in baseball. And I had the cards to prove it.

Dave Parker 1980 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for February 3, 2017

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On the podcast, which if you are reading this I am guessing you subscribe to the podcast, I often refer to “The Rule of Seven.” This refers to my theory that people don’t really start following a sports team in any significant way until they turn 7 years old.

Some do it sooner, other later but 7 is a pretty good average for it.

I turned 7 in 1979 and the first World Series I remembered watching was that year’s memorable and Disco themed “We Are Family” match up between the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Willie Stargell was the emotional leader of the team (and backed up the emotion with a strong bat.) But Dave Parker was the great all around hitter on the squad.

Parker was in many ways the heir to Roberto Clemente. His career did not start exactly after the great Clemente perished over the Gulf of Mexico after the 1972 season. But by 1974, Parker was in right field and the Pirates were a playoff team.

The MVP of 1978, Parker was a batting champ who hit for power and had a cannon for an arm in right field. And after 1979, he was a World Series champ who had a cooler than cool aura about him.

If Pops Stargell was the fatherly steady figure in the clubhouse, Parker was the bad ass trouble maker.

By the early 1980’s he looked like a potential Hall of Famer. When the Cincinnati native became a major figure in the Pittsburgh cocaine trials, his reputation took a dip. (Cocaine seems so quaint now, doesn’t it?)

He continued putting up All Star numbers after being dealt to the Reds. He picked up another World Series ring as a member of the 1989 Oakland A’s, often batting in between Canseco and McGwire (two players who substance abuse was not looked at as Parker’s cocaine reputation hung over him.)

After another All Star appearance with the 1990 Milwaukee Brewers, he finished his career bouncing between the Angels and the Blue Jays in 1991.

Parker’s 19 year career featured five Top 5 MVP finishes, including the 1978 title, multiple Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers and was named to the All Star Game in 3 different decades.

Had he picked up 288 more hits over those 19 years, he would have cleared 3,000 and would be a Hall of Famer. Instead he lingered on the ballot for 15 seasons, peaking at 24.5%. Clearly the 10-15% who voted for him over a decade and a half had a similarly positive impression as I had as a kid.

A curious thing about this Topps card. On the back, they featured a cartoon as many of them did.

Take a look at it and see if you can detect the problem.

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Topps Cards had their players be racial neutral. But that means the default is to portray everyone as a dorky white guy, which Dave Parker certainly was not.

So he did not make it to the Hall of Fame and perhaps the Sabermetrics crowd would not embrace him the way I did.

But let’s see anyone else in the Hall of Fame pull off this shirt that Parker wore.

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The Sully Baseball HALL OF FAME BALLOT…2010

I admit, I am a lenient Hall of Fame voter. I am rough on some (sorry Lee Smith. You were an elite closer but you bombed in the post season… sorry Dale Murphy, you were an MVP and a class act but you didn’t do it long enough.)

But I also like to honor lots of players AND I like to see them voted in on the first ballot.

Writers can vote for as many as 10 and as few as zero.
I guess it is necessary to say as few as zero because no doubt there are writers would love to vote some players OUT of the Hall.

I can never understand how someone can be mad about someone being voted in… but I digress.

I know not all of these players are getting in tomorrow. Chances are only 1 or 2 will. But let’s just say I wouldn’t have a problem with any of these names being announced tomorrow at 10 AM Pacific Time.

ROBERTO ALOMAR… for 11 years he was no doubt about it the best second baseman in the game. And for many of those years he was in the conversation for MVP.

10 Gold Gloves reflected his defensive ability.

His four Silver Sluggers showed what he could do with the bat.

He had power (just ask Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 ALCS). He had speed (40th All Time in Stolen Bases) and he came up big in the post season.

BERT BLYLEVEN… one of the best strikeout pitchers of all time. He did it over the long haul, had post season heroics for two World Series winners and came up 13 wins short of 300 (but I broke that down.)

Put him in.

ANDRE DAWSON… A Gold Glover 8 times. An MVP with power and speed and one of the elites in the game for over a decade.

And oh yeah, he did it without having his body suddenly change shape when he turned 35.

BARRY LARKIN… Like Alomar, he did a little bit of everything for the long haul. He won an MVP, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers and a World Series Title.

He began his elite status in the 1980s and carried it through into the new millennium.

And unlike Alomar, he stayed put. The hometown hero was a Red for life.

JACK MORRIS… the bulldog ace of the 1980s with 5 top 5 Cy Young finishes.

Won 7 of his first 8 post season decisions and threw possibly the greatest Game 7 in World Series history with his 10 inning shutout masterpiece. Was his ERA higher than you’d want it to be?
Sure.

But he was the #1 starter for three World Series winners and the guy you’d want on the mound in the big game.

DAVE PARKER… I admit the Cobra’s chances are fading, but I remain a supporter.

He had a stretch in his career where he was no doubt about it the best all around offensive player in the National League.

A batting champ, an OPS leader, an RBI leader, a Gold Glove winner multiple times over, an MVP (with 4 other top 5 finishes).

Plus he was a key player on one World Series winner (1979) and the stable veteran on another (1989.)

TIM RAINES… Possibly the most underrated player of his era as he played North of the border in his prime.

A batting champ, he was the National League’s answer to Rickey Henderson for many years. He stole 70 bases six straight years, had power and was always among the league leader in on base percentage (what you want from a lead off hitter).

Cleaned up from his drug problems, he became an elder leader on two World Series winners in New York. He deserves it.

I am still mulling over Edgar Martinez… and while I mull I hope he makes it to next year when I can cast a fake ballot then too.

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