OAKLAND ATHLETICS - MARK MCGWIRE
The 1987 A.L. Rookie of the Year set a then-record with 49 home runs as a rookie. He was named to his first All Star game and hit .289/.370/.618, collecting 161 hits, 97 runs scored and 118 RBIs. He led the team in home runs, runs, RBIs and slugging percentage.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Yes. Not only was he a huge draw from a hobby standpoint as a rookie phenom, but he did lead the A's in OPS (.987) and OPS+ (164). He was second on the team in WAR, but only by a tenth of a point (5.1 to 5.2). Carney Lansford led the team in WAR, primarily because he was a much better defender. He hit .289/.366/.455 with 19 home runs and 76 RBIs. Otherwise, Dave Stewart had a great season, going 20-13 with a 3.68 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 261.1 innings pitched.
GRADE: A. Easily the best choice, from several standpoints.
MONTREAL EXPOS - TIM RAINES
Raines did not play the first month of the season due to archaic free agency rules (and collusion), but still managed to hit .330/.429/.526 with 18 home runs, 68 RBIs and 50 stolen bases (versus just five times caught stealing). He led the league in runs (123) and also contributed 34 doubles and eight triples while being named to the All Star team and finishing seventh in the MVP race.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Yes. Despite that missed time, Raines led the team in WAR (6.7), OPS (.955) and OPS+(149). Second place probably goes to third-baseman Tim Wallach, who hit .298/.343/.514 with a team-leading 26 home runs and 123 RBIs. From a pitching standpoint, Tim Burke had a great year as the closer, going 7-0 with a 1.19 ERA and 18 saves.
GRADE: A. Raines could have been the N.L. MVP had he not missed the first month of the season.
SAN DIEGO PADRES - BENITO SANTIAGO
The 1987 N.L. Rookie of the Year was also a Diamond King. The Padres catcher won the Silver Slugger after hitting .300/.324/.467 with 33 doubles, 18 home runs, 64 runs scored and 79 RBIs. He had some speed for a catcher as well, swiping 21 bags.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Not really. Santiago was a very good all-around player, but he did not lead the team in any major category. Now, he was a rookie and a catcher, so that is not shocking. Tony Gwynn was the Padres' best player as he won the batting title hitting .370/.447/.511 and led the league in hits (218) while also stealing 56 bases. The power bat in the lineup was John Kruk, who hit .313/.406/.488 with 20 home runs and 91 RBIs. Randy Ready also had a great season, hitting .309/.423/.520.
GRADE: B+. I will give Donruss extra points because Santiago was the Rookie of the Year and had a great season as a catcher. Gwynn would have been the best choice though.
DETROIT TIGERS - ALAN TRAMMELL
Trammell finished second in the A.L. MVP race, and probably should have won it. He was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger after hitting .343/.402/.551 with 28 home runs and 105 RBIs. He led the team in all three slash categories, as well as hits (205). He also scored 109 runs, hit 34 doubles and stole 21 bases.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Yes. Trammell was one of the best players in the league and was easily the best player on the team. Jack Morris was second on the team in WAR after going 18-11 with a 3.38 ERA and 208 strikeouts in 266 innings. Darrell Evans led the team in home runs (34) and drove in 99 runs.
GRADE: A. Trammell had a great season and was easily the best player on the team.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS - DANNY TARTABULL
In his first year with the Royals after being acquired in a trade with the Mariners, Tartabull hit .309/.390/.541 with 34 home runs and 101 RBIs. He also collected 95 runs, 180 hits, 27 doubles and nine stolen bases. Tartabull led the Royals in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Probably not. While Tartabull's numbers were certainly impressive, context matters. 1987 was a huge offensive season, so Tartabull's WAR was actually only 2.2. The best player on the team was Bret Saberhagen, who had a record of 18-10 with a 3.36 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 257 innings. Charlie Leibrandt was 16-11 with a 3.41 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 2401.1 innings. Kevin Seitzer had a huge rookie season, leading the league in hits (207) while hitting .323/.399/.470 with 15 home runs and 83 RBIs and stole 12 bases.
GRADE: B+. I get this choice, because Tartabull's numbers certainly stand out on the team, they just maybe were not quite as impressive in the context of the big numbers around the league. Seitzer might have been the better choice.
NEW YORK METS - RON DARLING
Darling had a record of 12-8 and an ERA of 4.29. He struck out 167 and walked 96 in 207.2 innings pitched. He had a WHIP of 1.343. Darling led the Mets staff in starts, innings pitched and strikeouts. He also pitched two complete games.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? No. The Mets' best player was Darryl Strawberry, who had a big season, hitting .284/.398/.583 with 39 home runs and 104 RBIs while stealing 36 bases. Howard Johnson gave the Mets two players who had 30/30 seasons as he hit .265/.364/.504 with 36 home runs, 99 RBIs and 32 stolen bases. Dwight Gooden had a 15-7 record, 3.21 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 179.2 innings pitched.
GRADE: F. This is a bad pick. Darling was not the best pitcher on the staff, nor even close. He was an innings eater only. Darling's WAR was 0.9, behind Gooden, Sid Fernandez, Rick Aguilera and reliever Terry Leach on the pitching staff alone.
MILWAUKEE BREWERS - PAUL MOLITOR
Despite splitting the season between second base, third base and designated hitter, Molitor finished fifth int he MVP vote and won the Silver Slugger for designated hitter. He hit .353/.438/.566 with 16 home runs, 75 RBIs and 45 stolen bases. He led the league in runs (114) and doubles (41). He led the team in all three slash categories and stolen bases as well.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? It's close, so I will give it to Donruss. Ted Higuera had the highest WAR on the team, but only by 0.3 over Molitor. Higuera was 18-10 with a 3.85 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 261.2 innings pitched and finished sixth in the Cy Young vote.
GRADE: A. I get picking Molitor over Higuera, particularly with the 39-game hitting streak he had.
CALIFORNIA ANGELS - DEVON WHITE
In White's rookie season, he hit .263/.306/.443 with 24 home runs and 87 RBIs while stealing 32 bases. He collected 103 runs, 168 hits, 33 doubles and five triples. White led the Angels in hits, doubles, triples and stolen bases. He finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year vote.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Probably. Due to his outstanding defense, White led the Angels in WAR. Wally Joyner had another impressive season, leading the team in most major offensive categories, hitting .285/.366/.528 with 34 home runs and 117 RBIs. Brian Downing had a big year as well, hitting .272/.400/.487 with 29 home runs and 77 RBIs.
GRADE: A. White was another impressive rookie. His value went beyond his hitting stats and he was the best overall player on the team.
CHICAGO CUBS - ANDRE DAWSON
Dawson was the N.L. MVP in 1987 after leading the league in home runs (49), RBIs (137) and total bases (353). Dawson hit .287/.328/.568 and scored 90 runs while notching 178 hits and 24 doubles. Dawson was also an All Star while winning the Silver Slugger and the Gold Glove.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? I am giving this one to Donruss, but Dawson was not the WAR leader, primarily due to the context of the season and his low on-base percentage. Dawson was the N.L. MVP and that still means something. Rick Sutcliffe actually led the team in WAR as he went 18-10 with a 3.68 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 237.1 innings pitched.
GRADE: A. It is hard to ignore 49 home runs and an MVP Award. Dawson had a pretty quick turn-around time since his last Diamond King in 1986, but he did change teams, so Donruss was likely okay with it.
CLEVELAND INDIANS - JULIO FRANCO
Shortstop Franco hit .319/.389/.428 with 158 hits, 86 runs scored, 24 doubles, eight home runs and 52 RBIs. He also stole 32 bases. Franco led the Indians in batting average and was second in stolen bases. He walked more than he struck out (57 to 56).
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? No. Franco played in just 128 games and was third on the team in WAR. Brett Butler was the WAR leader after hitting .295/.399/.425 and stealing 33 bases while playing better defense in center than Franco did at short. Brook Jacoby was second after hitting .300/.387/.541 with 32 home runs and 69 RBIs. Joe Carter had the eye-popping 32 home runs, 106 RBIs and 31 stolen bases.
GRADE: B. Franco had a high batting average and a lot of stolen bases, but that was pretty much it. Other players were better. Jacoby would have been the better choice.
TEXAS RANGERS - SCOTT FLETCHER
The Rangers shortstop hit .287/.358/.374 with five home runs and 63 RBIs. He also notched 82 runs, 169 hits, 28 doubles, four triples and 13 stolen bases. Fletcher led the Rangers in batting average, on-base percentage and tied for the team lead in hits.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Probably not. Fletcher was second on the team in WAR to Pete O'Brien and had an OPS+ of 95. O'Brien hit .286/.348/.457 with 23 home runs and 88 RBIs. As for more traditional eye-opening numbers, the Rangers had two hitters reach 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in Ruben Sierra (30 home runs, 109 RBIs) and Larry Parrish (32 home runs, 100 RBIs).
GRADE: D. This is a really weird pick. It is made somewhat better when looking at his WAR due to his defensive value, but he was a below-average hitter as he simply had no power and was only slightly above-average at getting on base. I might have given it a lower grade, but there were not a lot of better choices. O'Brien would have been the best pick.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS - TONY FERNANDEZ
Fernandez was an All Star, won the Gold Glove for shortstop and finished eighth in the MVP vote. The Blue Jays shortstop hit .322/.379/.426 with 90 runs scored, 186 hits, 29 doubles, eight triples, five home runs, 67 RBIs and 32 stolen bases. He walked 51 times versus 48 strikeouts.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? No. The A.L. MVP was teammate George Bell, who hit .308/.352/.605 with 47 home runs and a league-leading 134 RBIs. Jimmy Key was the team's WAR leader as he went 17-8 with a league-leading 2.76 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 261 innings. He also led the league in WHIP (1.057) and finished second in the Cy Young vote.
GRADE: C+. Fernandez was very good, but Donruss missed the MVP and the runner-up in the Cy Young vote by picking him. That is really a questionable choice. Key would have probably been the best choice.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES - SHANE RAWLEY
Rawley had a 17-11 record with a 4.39 ERA. He led the league in games started (36) and pitched 229.2 innings with four complete games. He struck out 123 batters versus 86 walks and had one shutout. Rawley led the Phillies in wins and innings and was second in strikeouts.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Definitely not. Mike Schmidt was the team's best player as he hit .293/.388/.548 with 35 home runs and 113 RBIs. Juan Samuel had a huge season, hitting .272/.335/.502 with 28 home runs, 100 RBIs, 15 triples and 35 stolen bases while scoring 113 runs. Closer Steve Bedrosian won the Cy Young Award after going 5-3 with a 2.83 ERA and a league-leading 40 saves while striking out 74 and walking 28 in 89 innings pitched.
GRADE: F. I am shocked by this pick. Rawley was a below-average pitcher (ERA+ was 97) who happened to pitch a lot of innings and games. He had the worst ERA among the team's four starters. Schmidt would have been the best pick, with Bedrosian also a decent choice, even if he was not really the most deserving of Cy Young winners.
CINCINNATI REDS - KAL DANIELS
Daniels played in 108 games in 1987, but hit .334/.429/.617 and hit 26 home runs while also stealing 26 bases. Daniels collected 73 runs, 123 hits and 24 doubles. He led the team in all three slash categories and had an OPS of 1.046 and an OPS+ of 169.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? No. Eric Davis was the best player on the team, though he was the 1987 Diamond King. Davis hit .293/.399/.593 with 37 home runs, 100 RBIs and stole 50 bases. He was also the WAR leader, primarily due to playing in more games and being a better defensive player. John Franco had a decent season, saving 32 games with a 2.52 ERA.
GRADE: B+. Daniels had some great numbers, though he missed more than 50 games. I can certainly understand picking him, but Davis would have been the best choice.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS - JACK CLARK
Clark finished third in the N.L. MVP race and was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger. He led the league in walks (136), on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS (1.055). Clark hit .286/.459/.597 and hit 35 home runs while driving in 106 runs. He scored 93 runs and had 120 hits.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Probably not. Clark was second on the team in WAR and the player who finished above him finished just above him in the MVP vote. Ozzie Smith hit .303/.392/.383 and led the team in hits (182), doubles (40) and drove in 75 runs and stole 43 bases while playing outstanding defense at short. Elsewhere, Vince Coleman stole 109 bases.
GRADE: B+. Smith would have been the better choice, but Clark had an outstanding season. I can certainly understand picking him.
BOSTON RED SOX - DWIGHT EVANS
Evans was an All Star in 1987 and split the season between first base and right field as a result of the emergence of several young outfielders in Boston. Evans hit .305/.417/.569 with 34 home runs and 123 RBIs. He also collected 109 runs, 165 hits, 37 doubles and 106 walks. He led the team in home runs, RBIs, runs and walks.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? No. Evans was terrific in 1987, but Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens were better. Clemens led the team (and the league) in WAR and won the Cy Young Award. He had a record of 20-9 with a 2.97 ERA and 256 strikeouts and 83 walks in 281.2 innings pitched. He also led the league in complete games (18) and shutouts (seven). Boggs had a great season, hitting .363/.461/.588 with 24 home runs and 89 RBIs. He led the league in average, on-base percentage, OPS (1.049) and collected 108 runs, 200 hits and 40 doubles.
GRADE: B. Evans was very good, and did lead the team in several major categories. Boggs and Clemens were just better. Clemens would have been the best choice, though he was the Diamond King the previous year.
NEW YORK YANKEES - TOMMY JOHN
At 44 years of age, John was still going strong in 1987. He had a 13-6 record and a 4.03 ERA, striking out 63 and walking 47 in 187.2 innings pitched. He pitched three complete games and one shutout. John led the Yankees staff in starts, shutouts (one) and innings pitched.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Definitely not. Rick Rhoden had a better season as a starter as he went 16-10 with a 3.86 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 181.2 innings pitched. The team's WAR leader though was Don Mattingly, who hit .327/.378/.559 with 30 home runs and 115 RBIs. John actually finished seventh on the team in WAR behind Mattingly, Willie Randolph, Rickey Henderson, Charles Hudson, Rhoden, and Ron Guidry.
GRADE: F. This is one of those career achievement Diamond Kings. John had a decent season, but not a great one. It was more interesting that he was still able to pitch well into his mid 40's. But he was nowhere near the best player on the team.
PITTSBURGH PIRATES - ANDY VAN SLYKE
In his first season in Pittsburgh, the center fielder hit .293/.359/.507 with 21 home runs and 82 RBIs. He also scored 93 runs with 165 hits, 36 doubles, eleven triples and 34 stolen bases. Van Slyke led the Pirates in hits, doubles, triples, RBIs, stolen bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? It is very close between him and Barry Bonds, with Bonds having a slightly higher WAR, but Van Slyke having better traditional numbers, so I am going to give this one to Van Slyke. Bonds hit .261/.329/.492 with a team-leading 25 home runs, while driving in 59 runs and stealing 32 bases. Rick Reuschel also had a decent season, going 8-6 with a 2.75 ERA in 177 innings.
GRADE: A. I am giving this one to Donruss. Bonds had a slightly better WAR, but Van Slyke's other numbers were better.
MINNESOTA TWINS - GARY GAETTI
Gaetti was a Gold Glove-winning third-baseman for the World Champion Twins. He hit .257/.303/.485 with 31 home runs and 109 RBIs while stealing ten bases. Gaetti also had 95 runs, 150 hits and 36 doubles. He led the team in doubles and RBIs.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? No. Frank Viola was the team's WAR leader as he went 17-10 with a 2.90 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 251.2 innings pitched. Bert Blyleven also had a great year, going 15-12 with a 4.01 ERA and 196 strikeouts in 267 innings. Kirby Puckett was the team's best hitter as he hit .332/.367/.534 with 28 home runs and 99 RBIs. Kent Hrbek also hit .285/.389/.545 with 34 home runs and 90 RBIs.
GRADE: D. Gaetti had some power and was good defensively, but he was nowhere near the best player on the team. As a hitter, he was one-dimensional. The Twins had several players with similar home run numbers. Viola or Puckett would have been the best picks, with Hrbek in the mix.
SEATTLE MARINERS - MARK LANGSTON
Langston was an All Star, finished fifth in the Cy Young vote and won the Gold Glove in 1987. He led the league in strikeouts with 262, the third time he led the league in that category. He had a record of 19-13 with a 3.84 ERA and 14 complete games, pitching 272 innings. He led the Mariners in every major pitching category.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Yes. Langston was the team WAR leader by a fairly significant margin. Other players who had good seasons were Phil Bradley (.297/.387/463, 40 stolen bases), Ken Phelps (27 home runs, 68 RBIs) and Alvin Davis (.295/.370/.516, 29 home runs, 100 RBIs).
GRADE: A. Langston was easily the best player on the team. The Mariners were not a great team, but Langston was a terrific pitcher.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS - WILL CLARK
Clark finished fifth in the N.L. MVP race as the Giants first-baseman hit .308/.371/.580 with 35 home runs and 91 RBIs. He also scored 89 runs and collected 163 hits and 29 doubles. He led the Giants in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Yes. Clark was the team WAR leader. In second place was utility man Mike Aldrete, who managed to lead the Giants in average and on-base percentage. Aldrete hit .325/.396/.425. Candy Maldonado also had a good season, hitting .292/.346/.509 with 20 home runs and 85 RBIs.
GRADE: A. Clark was the team's best player and had a big, breakout season.
ATLANTA BRAVES - GLENN HUBBARD
Hubbard hit .264/.378/.381 with five home runs and 38 RBIs. The Braves shortstop also hit 33 doubles and two triples among his 117 hits and scored 69 runs. He walked more than he struck out (77 walks versus 57 strikeouts).
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? No, definitely not. Dale Murphy was the team's best player by a significant margin. Murphy hit .295/.417/.580 with 44 home runs and 105 RBIs. Dion James hit .312/.397/.472 with 37 doubles, ten home runs and 61 RBIs. Hubbard was tied for second in WAR with James behind Murphy.
GRADE: F. Hubbard was a very good defensive shortstop, but he was not a very good hitter. Donruss probably did not want to make Murphy a three-time Diamond King, but the Braves did not have a ton of options and Murphy was a much better choice than Hubbard, whose OPS+ was 99.
HOUSTON ASTROS - BILLY HATCHER
Hatcher hit .296/.352/.415 with eleven home runs and 63 RBIs. He led the Astros in runs (96) and stolen bases (53), as well as being the team's batting leader. He also notched 167 hits, 28 doubles and three triples. Hatcher was second on the team in hits and third in doubles.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? No. Houston's best player was still undoubtedly Mike Scott, who was 16-13 with a 3.23 ERA with 233 strikeouts. Nolan Ryan had 270 strikeouts and a 2.76 ERA, but had a record of 8-16. Closer Dave Smith had 24 saves and a 1.65 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched. Among hitters, Kevin Bass had a better year, hitting .284/.344/.449 with 19 home runs and 85 RBIs, along with 21 stolen bases. Glenn Davis hit 27 home runs and drove in 93 runs.
GRADE: D. Hatcher really was not a horrible pick, but he was not good either. Houston's pitching was much better than its hitting. Hatcher was among the hitting leaders, but the Astros pitchers would have been significantly better picks, particularly Scott or Ryan.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS - BOB WELCH
Welch had a 15-9 record with a 3.22 ERA. In 251.2 innings pitched, he struck out 196 batters, while walking 86. He led the team in shutouts (four) and pitched six complete games. Welch also led the team in strikeouts and was second in wins. Welch finished eighth in the Cy Young vote.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Yes. Welch was the team's WAR leader, just slightly over fellow pitcher Orel Hershiser. Hershiser had a record of 16-16 and led the team in ERA with 3.06 and had 190 strikeouts in 264.2 innings. Pedro Guerrero was the team's best hitter as he hit .338/.416/.539 with 27 home runs and 89 RBIs.
GRADE: A. Welch and Hershiser were very close, with Welch slightly in the lead. Either pick would have worked, but Welch was a little bit better.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX - IVAN CALDERON
In his first full season in the Majors, Calderon hit .293/.362/.526 with 28 home runs and 83 RBIs. He also had 93 runs scored, 159 hits, 38 doubles and ten stolen bases. The right-fielder led the team in most major offensive categories, including runs, hits, doubles, home runs and all three slash categories.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? Yes. Calderon was the team's WAR leader as well as OPS and OPS+. Shortstop Ozzie Guillen was second in WAR, primarily due to defense, as he hit just .279/.303/.354. Harold Baines also had a good season, hitting .293/.352/.479 with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs.
GRADE: A. Calderon was the best player on the team in 1987, and it was not really close.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES - CAL RIPKEN JR.
Ripken continued his consecutive games streak and appeared in the All Star game. The shortstop hit .252/.333/.436 with 27 home runs and 98 RBIs, while scoring 97 runs. He also had 157 hits and 28 doubles. Ripken led the team in RBIs.
WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE? No. Ripken was second on the team in WAR to Eddie Murray. Murray hit .277/.352/.477 with 30 home runs and 91 RBIs. The best offensive player on the team though was probably left-fielder Larry Sheets, who hit .316/.358/.563 with 31 home runs and 94 RBIs. Sheets led the team in most offensive categories.
GRADE: C+. Ripken really did not have that great of a season, particularly in the context of the great offensive numbers around the league. Murray was an obviously better choice and Sheets would have been as well.
Just a note before beginning. It is weird how many of these players played for the Red Sox in 1993. Andre Dawson, Scott Fletcher, Billy Hatcher and Ivan Calderon were all on that team. Jack Clark was released just before the season.
BEST PICK: Alan Trammell. He finished second in the A.L. MVP vote, but probably should have won it. Mark McGwire is probably a very close second given his 49 home runs as a rookie.
WORST PICK: Ron Darling. There are some really questionable picks, but Darling was a 0.9 WAR player, not even among the top ten players on the Mets alone, and behind several other pitchers on the staff. This pick was really bizarre. Tommy John was also a bad pick.
BIGGEST SNUB: Roger Clemens. Clemens had been the Diamond King the previous season, but he had the highest WAR in the league, significantly higher than Red Sox pick Dwight Evans. George Bell, the A.L. MVP, was also a big snub.
WEIRDEST PICK HISTORICALLY: Billy Hatcher. Hatcher spent 12 seasons in the Majors, never appeared in an All Star Game, never led the league in any category and had a career WAR of 3.9. I liked him with Boston, but he was really not a good player for most of his career. Ivan Calderon (11.9 WAR), Kal Daniels (16.9 WAR), Shane Rawley (20.8 WAR) and Glenn Hubbard (19.2 WAR) are also kind of odd to look back on, with Calderon as probably the strangest.