As a kid following baseball and collecting baseball cards in the 1980s, you could always count on the Topps team leaders cards to give you a rough barometer of a team’s health.

After all, these cards (generally) featured the player from each team with the highest batting average from the year before AND the pitcher with the lowest ERA.

And, thus, it was easy to apply a rough heuristic — the bigger the gap between the top batting average and the top ERA, the better the team.

Unless the difference — batting average minus ERA — were negative. Then you had the potential for a stinker.

All of this after accounting for pesky issues like decimal places, that is.

Here, take a look at the 1982 Topps card showing the Texas Rangers’ team leaders from 1981:

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Al Oliver batted .309, while George Medich ERA’d 3.08. And, 309 minus 308 is plus one.

Which meant, to my kid’s mind, at least, that the 1981 Rangers had been solid on both sides of the ball, and that they should have had a winning record.

Sure enough, Don Zimmer’s crew finished that split season with a healthy 57-48 record, a marked improvement over the Pat Corrales-led 1980 squad that went 76-85-2.

Alas, by the time this card was hitting its stride, Oliver was gone, traded to the Expos in March of 1982 for Dave Hostetler and Larry Parrish.

And, by the time the season was done, Medich had slipped to 7-11 with a 5.06 ERA.

Zimmer was canned midseason, and his replacement, Darrell Johnson couldn’t right the ship.

Overall, the ‘82 Rangers tumbled to 64-98 and sixth place in the old American League West.

And their leading hitter and pitcher?

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Sure, Sabermetrics and WAR and run differentials and all the modern baubles we’ve grown to love could give you a more sophisticated picture.

But maybe — just maybe — Topps had the Scoop on simple measures of team success.

Can I get a Medich??


End Date: Tuesday 06/25/2024 10:45:14 EDT
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1982 Topps - #486 Ronnie Lott (RC)

End Date: Saturday 06/01/2024 14:15:46 EDT
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1982 TOPPS BASEBALL - YOU PICK #601 - #792 - NM/MT

End Date: Saturday 06/08/2024 20:31:36 EDT
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