Monday, February 25, 2019

The 1990 Topps All-Star Rookie Team

Here they are - the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" following the 1990 season and featured in the 1991 Topps set. 

I have completed the run of these up through 2018, specifically all regular issue cards that bear the All-Star Rookie Trophy.

Catcher - Sandy Alomar, Jr.
San Diego (N.L.) 1988 - '89; Cleveland (A.L.) 1990 - '00; Chicago (A.L.) 2001 - '02, 2003 - '04, 2006; Colorado (N.L.) 2002; Texas (A.L.) 2005; Los Angeles (N.L.) 2006; New York (N.L.) 2007

Last week I covered the hype machine that was Gregg Jefferies. Sandy Alomar, Jr. was the catching equivalent in 1990. He, like Jefferies, had been named Minor League Player of the Year multiple times. Combine that with a life spent around the ballpark with his dad as major league lifer, and a premium position, and you have a recipe for potential greatness. Alomar was blocked in San Diego by another tremendous young backstop, Benito Santiago. Cleveland swooped in and made a steal of a trade by getting lesser known infielder Carlos Baerga and Alomar in exchange for their impending free agent slugger Joe Carter. Carter would play well in San Diego, but it would just make him harder to re-sign. Alomar became a fixture in Cleveland for a decade behind the plate, being there for both of the World Series runs in the 90s. The start of his reign was a good one - finally delivering on the promise of several seasons in the Padres' system. He was the AL Rookie of the Year, hitting .290 with 9 homers and 66 RBI. This would be a bit over league average, but for a 24 year old catcher, you couldn't ask for more. He also won the Gold Glove for catchers in 1990, throwing out 34% of base runners trying to steal. Injuries would make his coronation as the game's best catcher a short lived one. He would have a resurgence towards the end of his run in Cleveland, making three straight All-Star games. Alomar would be the MVP of the 1997 Mid-Summer Classic, and even received a few AL MVP votes by the end of the season, for his role in taking Cleveland to the playoffs.In the 2000's, Sandy would extend his career as a backup and mentor to both catchers and pitchers alike. Alomar would go on to a long career in coaching, back again in Cleveland for the 2019 season.

Sandy's Rookie Card is in the 1989 Topps Set, Card # 648

Left Handed Pitcher - Scott Radinsky
Chicago (A.L.) 1990 - '93 , 1995; Los Angeles (N.L.) 1996 - '98; St. Louis (N.L.) 1999 - '00; Cleveland (A.L.) 2001.

Radinsky jumped from Single-A to the majors in 1990, the first pitcher to do that since Dwight Gooden. He beat cancer, joined a punk rock band, built a skate park on the site of the skateboarding Hall of Fame, and is just a "Rad" dude. In 1990, Radinsky became a quick fan favorite, and had a very good season coming out of the pen, setting up Bobby Thigpen for his then record 51 saves. Radinsky notched 4 saves of his own, pitching in 62 games as a rookie. 

His early punk band was from his high school and early minor league days, called Scared Straight. They were a Nardcore (Oxnard, California) group, and are reminiscent of other straight edge punk bands like Minor Threat:

Sound quality sucks, which I guess is exactly what you would expect for a late 80s punk LP, but check it out straight edge fans! Radinsky would continue his punk career and his lefty specialist career side by side. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma after the 1993 season, and underwent surgery and aggressive chemo treatment. He would return to pitching for the 1995 season, and would continue as a steady lefty reliever until 2001. He best seasons would come in Southern California with the Dodgers, pitching three straight seasons of sub 3.00 ERAs including a career high 75 games in 1997.

Scott's Rookie Card is in the 1990 Traded Set, Card # 99T.

Outfield - David Justice
Atlanta (N.L.) 1989 - '96; Cleveland (A.L.) 1997 - '00; New York (A.L.) 2000 - '01; Oakland (A.L.) 2002

I had a friend in High School that was popular, smart, good-looking, athletic, etc etc. We used to joke about how much we hated him. One of my other friends even made a website (a much more involved endeavor in those days) that would pop up with a different fact about our friend, like "Named to the 'A' honor roll 3 years running" followed by "I HATE THAT." It was very tongue in cheek. Dave Justice was the guy you "hated" in high school, but you know, still thought was a cool guy. Justice had a breakout rookie season, including a scorching hot 2nd half that resulted in 28 homers. He was the National League Rookie of the Year, and it was just beginning of a very successful career. Justice would be in the playoffs every season from 1991 to 2002 (excluding the 1994 Strike). He was a World Series champ with Atlanta in 1995, and the Yankees in 2000 - that post-season he was also the ALCS MVP. Justice had some controversy just before his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot, it was right around that time that the Mitchell Report was released. Justice was recovering from a shoulder injury, and had discussed HGH with Brian McNamee while he was the Yankees' strength coach. Justice claims that he then found syringes and pills in his locker from McNamee, but did not like the idea of needles, and disposed of the drugs without using them. He was also connected with Kirk Radomski, however Justice denied any contact with the former Mets clubhouse attendant. 

Dave's rookie card is in the 1990 Topps Traded Set #48T

Outfield - Larry Walker
Montreal (N.L.) 1989 - '94; Colorado (N.L.) 1995 - '04; St. Louis (N.L.) 2004 - '05

Are we looking at a future Hall of Famer? In 1990, Walker had 19 homers and 21 stolen bases, hitting just .241, but with a .326 OBP. Walker would never hit below .265 in another season. His career average was .313, OBP was .400. He was the NL MVP in 1997 with Colorado, leading the league in Homers, OBP, SLG, and total bases. Walker when healthy was a true five-tool player- he hit for power, average, stole bases, and won 7 Gold Gloves. If you take the ten players closest to Walker statistically, you'll find 5 Hall of Fame outfielders, and guys like Lance Berkman, Moises Alou, Ellis Burks, Jim Edmonds, and Matt Holliday. Contemporaries who all have at least a compelling argument or two in their favor. Walker was a 3 time batting champion, and a 5 time All-Star. Walker takes a beating for being successful in Coors Field, but the question that needs to be asked is really how big of a boost does it give a player? Over his career, Walker had over 2,100 hits, 383 homers, 230 stolen bases, 1300+ runs scored, and 1300+ RBI.

Larry's Rookie Card is in the 1990 Topps Set #757.

Outfield - Felix Jose
Oakland (A.L.) 1988 - '90; St. Louis (N.L.) 1990 - '92; Kansas City (A.L.) 1993 - '95; New York (A.L.) 2000; Arizona (N.L.) 2002 - '03.

Felix Jose is already in the Hall of Fame- in the Dominican Republic. He came up in 1988 with Oakland, but his best MLB season came in 1991 with the Cardinals. It was his lone All-Star appearance, and he hit .305 with 40 doubles and 20 stolen bases. He became an International sensation - Jose made a career in Korea, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and in the MLB from 1988 until 2009! In MLB, Jose had a .280 career average in 11 seasons. He would hit over 60 career homers in the Dominican Republic in Winter League play, and had several successful seasons for the Lotte Giants in Korea. In 1990, he split the season with Oakland and St. Louis, coming the Cardinals in the Willie McGee trade. Over 126 games between the 2 teams, he hit 11 homers and stole 12 bases.

Felix's rookie card is in the 1989 Donruss set, card #38

Second Base - Delino DeShields
Montreal (N.L.) 1990 - '93; Los Angeles (N.L.) 1994 - '96; St. Louis (N.L.) 1997 -'98; Baltimore (A.L.) 1999 - '01; Chicago (N.L.) 2001 - '02.

The speedy middle infielder is unfairly judged against the trade that sent Pedro Martinez to the Expos and DeShields to LA. The Dodgers alone should be to blame for underrating their young starting pitcher, but DeShields should not be at fault for that. Perhaps the pressure of LA was too much for him, as he hit just .241 over 3 seasons with the Dodgers. He would remain a speed threat, stealing 463 bases over his career. He led the National League in triples in 1997. DeShields would go on to a successful coaching career, spending several seasons as Manager for the Reds AAA farm club, and currently serves on the Reds' major league coaching staff. In 1990, DeShields hit .289, 28 doubles, 6 triples, swiped 42 bases and came in 2nd in the ROY Vote.

Delino's Rookie Card is in the 1988 O-Pee-Chee Set #88 and it's awesome!

Right Handed Pitcher -  Kevin Appier
Kansas City (A.L.) 1989 - '99, 2003 -'04; Oakland (A.L.) 1999 - '00; New York (N.L.) 2001; Anaheim (A.L.) 2002 -'03.

Appier is one of several great arms to come up through the Kansas City system in the 80s and early 90s. Saberhagen, Gubizca, Tom Gordon, and Kevin Appier all had excellent careers. Appier had a fantastic debut, pitching to a 12 - 8 record over 24 starts and a 2.76 ERA. He hurled 3 shutouts, with 2 of them coming in  back to back starts. After 10 successful seasons in KC, Appier would bounce around a bit among contending teams. He would reach the World Series in 2002 with the Angels and the team would win in 7 games over the Giants. For his career, he had an ERA+ of 121, 21% better than league average. He had a 169 - 137 career record, with 115 wins coming as a Royal. He is in the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame. 

Kevin's Rookie Card is in the 1989 Fleer Update Set, Card #U-35

Third Base - Robin Ventura
Chicago (A.L.) 1989 - '98; New York (N.L.) 1999 - '01; New York (A.L.) 2002 -'03; Los Angeles (N.L.) 2003 - '04.

record scratch - <freeze frame> yup that's me, I guess you're wondering how I got here 

Hey, Nolan Ryan would probably beat the stuffing out of any of us if given the chance, there's really no shame in it! How did he get to this point? Ventura was a Gold Medalist on the 1988 Olympic Team, and a first round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox. In College, he had a 58 game hitting streak and was a 3 time All-American. In AA in 1989 he was a Southern League All-Star, and was called up to the majors for the last month of the season. In his first full season, he had 123 hits, the most by a White Sox Rookie since Ozzie Guillen. In his second season, Ventura won his first Gold Glove, reached 100 RBI and hit 23 homers. So, maybe by 1993, he had more confidence than the average person? All kidding aside, Ventura was an excellent fielder and developed a consistent power bat for 20+ homers each season. In 1999, Ventura hit one of the most memorable singles in Mets' history. It cleared the right field fence, but because he was mobbed by his teammates and never crossed home plate, he was only credited with a single for the game winning hit in Game 5 of the NLCS. For his career he'd have over 1800 hits, 1000+ walks, 1000+ runs, 1000+ RBI, and 294 homers.

Robin's Rookie Card was in the 1988 Topps Traded Set, Card #124T

First Base - Hal Morris
New York (A.L.) 1988 - '89; Cincinnati (N.L.) 1990 - '97, 1999 - '00; Kansas City (A.L.) 1998; Detroit (A.L.) 2000.

Hal Morris had an all-time great rookie season in 1990. He hit .340, among the highest averages for a rookie in the last 50 years. The Reds would sweep the A's in 1990 World Series. Morris had a tough series, but they wouldn't have made it to the series if not for Morris hitting .417 in the NLCS against Pittsburgh. Morris would continue to hit in the .300s throughout his career, finishing with a .304 mark. He had over 1,200 hits and drove in over 500 runs. Morris was the primary first baseman for 8 seasons, reaching the post season again in 1995, falling to Atlanta in the NLCS. Morris had a 32 game hitting streak that started in August of '96 and extended into 1997. Morris made a pair of All-Star teams, and after his playing career has served as a scouting director for various MLB teams, most recently the Dodgers from 2011 to 2016. 

Hal's Rookie Card is in the 1989 Donruss Set, Card # 545

Shortstop - Jeff Huson
Montreal (N.L.) 1988 - '89; Texas (A.L.) 1990 - '93; Baltimore (A.L.) 1995 - '96; Milwaukee (A.L.) 1997; Seattle (A.L.) 1998; Anaheim (A.L.) 1999; Chicago (N.L.) 2000 

Huson was in the right place at the right time- he was on the field for Nolan Ryan's 7th No hitter. He was a late entrant at 3rd base for Cal Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game. In 1990, Huson had a career year, 95 hits and 12 stolen bases. From 1988 to 2000, Huson played for 7 different teams, providing flexible defense all over the field. After his playing career, Huson became a color commentator for the Rockies.

Jeff's Rookie Card ins in the 1990 Topps set, Card #72


  1. Hal Morris is one of my all-time favorite Reds players, too bad that's not a very flattering picture on that card though.

  2. Never heard of Huson... but he's my favorite rookie cup card in this set.

    P.S. Great song.