Yeah, it isn't appropriate at all considered Mark's reputation around the blogworld for sending vintage cards.
Still, the set this year features the 1967 Topps design. If you know anything about Mark and his collection, you'll know that one of his main collecting interests is the 1967 Boston Red Sox "Impossible Dream" team.
It sounds crazy to modern ears, but the Red Sox of 1967 provided the team's first winning record since 1958 -- a nine-year drought -- and featured a three-team race in the unified ten-team American League involving the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins that finished with with the Red Sox winning the league by just one game over those two teams. After 1967, the Red Sox would not have a losing season until 1983.
Even crazier sounding to modern ears is the idea that, in 1966, the Red Sox drew just 811,172 fans -- a number that more than doubled in 1967 to 1,727,832. That attendance -- again, crazy to modern ears with everyone drawing 2 millions fans, basically -- set a record for Fenway.
Let's learn a little more about that 1967 team through strange parallels drawn with the 2016 Milwaukee Brewers -- who will almost certainly not spring out of nowhere and win the National League this year but, then again, you just never know. Just look at 1967.
The Superstars: Carl Yastrzemski and Ryan Braun
Whether you like him, hate him, or are agnostic toward him, there is no denying the fact that Ryan Braun is the best player on the Brewers currently. Similarly, there is no denying the fact that Carl Yastrzemski was the Red Sox best player in 1967 -- and it was not even close. Granted, Yaz was in his age 27 year and was simply transcendent in 1967 --more like Braun in 2011. It's not that much coincidence that Braun and Yaz each won MVPs in those seasons.
But Yaz in 1967 was much better than Braun in 2011. Indeed, if we look only to post-World War II seasons, Yaz's 1967 season by WAR was the second best. Yaz racked up an incredible 12.4 WAR in 1967 -- literally equal to Babe Ruth in 1927 -- and just 0.1 of a win behind the best season after World War II, which belongs to Steve Carlton's ridiculous 1972 season. For comparison, Barry Bonds's best two years came at ages 36 and 37 -- post steroids -- in which he had 11.8 WAR.
Braun has never been anywhere near that good, in many respects because Braun's WAR gets very little help from his defense.
The Managers: Dick Williams and Craig Counsell
Counsell is in his first full season as a manager in Milwaukee, though he managed for much of last year after the horrendous start to the Brewers' season caused the Brewers to fire Ron Roenicke.
Dick Williams had managed only in the minor leagues prior to 1967 and, when appointed, the job was his first major league opportunity. Williams took the opportunity by the reins and ran with it. He instilled discipline on his team -- drilling the team in fundamentals for hours and requiring players to play for the team and not for themselves. It clearly worked.
Traded Away: Don McMahon and Jean Segura
Segura's trade to Arizona for what seem to be parts and further trade bait. There really is no good analogy in 1967 Red Sox story, mainly because teams didn't really rebuild in the way that teams try to rebuild these days. By the time that Don McMahon was traded, it was June 2 and the Red Sox could tell that they might have a winning team.
McMahon was traded for Jerry Adair -- a thirty-year-old utility infielder who did well for Boston in his 89 games.
The Closers (?): John Wyatt and Jeremy Jeffress
Word out of Arizona is that Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith will split the closer duties in Milwaukee this year, and that the decision on who will close from night to night will depend on matchups. I'm not so sure -- I think Smith will probably end up as the closer so long as his left-handedness doesn't preclude that from happening. It is nice, though that Jeremy Jeffress is straight Suttoning.
Wyatt saved 20 games for the 1967 Red Sox. While it wasn't his final season, it was certainly his last hurrah as a closer. He appeared in 60 games, closing 43, and finished with a 10-7 record and a 2.60 ERA (3.24 FIP) in 93-1/3 innings.
The Starting Pitchers: Jim Lonborg and Matt Garza
Garza needs to have a major bounceback season this year if the Brewers are going to surprise anyone. Okay, let's be clear: if Garza is doing reasonably well by time July rolls around, I'm quite certain that the Brewers would trade him for a bag of balls and some Gatorade mix.
The same cannot be said for Lonborg. The 1967 Red Sox were not known for the strength of their starting pitching. Only one pitcher -- the 25-year-old Lonborg -- started more than 25 games. Lonborg was a workhorse. He started 39 games, completing 15, and pitching 273-1/3 innings. No one else had more than 181-2/3 (Lee Stange did that).
Lonborg led the American League in starts with that 39, in Strikeouts with 246, in hit batsman with 19, and in wins with 22. His FIP was 2.95 -- right on par with his 3.16 ERA. For his efforts and based in part on his team's success, he was named the Cy Young Award winner with 18 of 20 voters selecting him. Joe Horlen of the White Sox was better, though, and probably should have won the Cy Young based on the advanced statistics.
Of course, Lonborg never was the same pitcher after that. The closest he came to being that good came in 1974 with Philadelphia -- two years after being traded there by the Milwaukee Brewers with Ken Brett, Ken Sanders, and Earl Stephenson in exchange for John Vukovich, Bill Champion, and Off Hiatus PC Don Money.
Completing the comparison, the pitcher most like Lonborg at the ages of 27 and 28 was none other than....Matt Garza.
And the circle is unbroken.
Thank you, Mark, for the great cards!
Next time out: Post #500 on Off Hiatus!