Friday, January 29, 2016

Countdown to 2016 Topps #5: On the Brink of Extinction

Eighty-three years have passed since President Franlkin D. Roosevelt said those now famous words during his presidential inauguration: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." And yet, all these years later we are still in what seems to be a perpetual state of fear. Sixty years ago fear against the Soviets united us; fear today often divides us. We fear another stock market crash. Our fear of terrorists lead us to fear the orphan and widow seeking refuge from poverty, war, and assorted madmen. We fear the police; we fear the young black man; we fear the coming Zombie apocalypse. Sometimes we're accused of fearing a group of people because we don't agree with their lifestyle. And it's bad enough that politicians and the media feed our fears, but we also have physicists telling us that we are on the brink of extinction. Please, God, just let me live another five days until the new baseball cards are released!

If you were to ask me what is the most endangered species in the game of baseball today, I would have to say the slick-fielding shortstop whose slash line over 12 years as a starter reads .226/.282/.302. Want to hear something even crazier? How about a big league shortstop hitting .203/.259/.279 with a 0.7 WAR and finishing 9th in MVP voting- even placing ahead of teammate Mickey Lolich, whose 7.2 WAR that same year (1972) netted him 10th place. We're talking Lonesome George territory here, folks. 


One look at the photo of Ed Brinkman on card #5 of the 1973 Topps set tells you all you need to know about how good his glove must have been. I don't know how similar this pose is to Ed's batting stance, but if it is an accurate representation, pitcher's must have pounded the inside part of the plate when he came to bat. Maybe it's just me, but Ed's stance looks so unnatural. Perhaps he'd look more natural on some island out in the Pacific. But on the diamond? No.

But seriously, there was only one contemporary of Brinkman's who even came close to matching his defensive skills, and that was the Orioles' Mark Belanger. Ed had excellent range to either side, was sure-handed and had a rocket for an arm. Not only did the shortstop place 9th in the 1972 MVP voting, but he would also win the only Gold Glove Award of his career that season.

Oddly enough, the man known for his slick glove would struggle after being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1975 season. Ed committed 6 errors in the 24 games he played for the Cards and was then traded to the Rangers on June 4. He would play only one game for Texas and was then sent to the Yankees eleven days later, where he would finish his career.

An interesting, but useless, piece of information: one of Brinkman's teammates with the 1975 Yankees team was cardboard icon Walt 'No Neck' Williams- who just passed away six days ago. Can you imagine getting the two players to stand next to one another for a photo shoot? What a contrast that would be!


  1. Ed Brinkman and Craig Counsell should head the inaugural class for the odd batting stance Hall of Fame. Yeesh!