Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Franchise

One of my favorite inserts of the 1990s was Score's The Franchise, particularly the 1993-94 edition. Not because it was flashy or rare, but because the black backgrounds and smooth, semi-glossy coating were like an oasis among the dull, white-bordered base cards.

I opened a lot of '93 Score baseball, football, and '93-94 hockey - probably more than any brand in a single year. These were my peak years of card collecting, so I can't say for sure that I had more Score than any other set. However I am certain that I had more of this design than any product that year, due to the sameness across all three sports.


The other thing I liked about The Franchise cards was in the name. Score chose each team's most indispensable player. I hadn't seen anything like that before on a baseball card; it was like a cross between the Topps Team Leaders of the '80s (which identified the longest-serving player or "dean" of each franchise) and the Team MVP cards Upper Deck produced later in '93.

Some teams had an obvious Franchise player nearly every fan/collector could agree on. It was less obvious if a team had too much talent (or not enough), or if there was a significant amount of roster turnover. For example: Barry Bonds was the National League MVP in 1992 and 1993 but he was not a Score Franchise player because he had left the Pirates after the '92 season and signed with San Francisco.

Since this is the 25th anniversary of the first Franchise insert set* I thought I'd go through each team's franchise player - Then and Now.

I'm not counting '92 Franchise; there are only three subjects - legends who were long retired at the time

The 1993 Franchise players were selected based on their 1992 status; my 2018 picks will be based on the just-completed season. Here they are:

Arizona Diamondbacks
1993: team did not exist
2018: Paul Goldschmidt Led the Snakes in WAR. Approaching the franchise record for games played.

Atlanta Braves
1993: Terry Pendleton The 1991 NL MVP led the team in WAR in 1992.
2018: Freddie Freeman 2018's team leader in WAR has been a Brave for the entire decade.

Baltimore Orioles
1993: Cal Ripken The 1991 AL MVP had one of his worst seasons in '92.
2018: Adam Jones Has probably played his last game as an Oriole, but I can't think of a worthy successor.

Jon (A Penny Sleeve For Your Thoughts) sent me this 1997 Score Franchise Ripken recently. I had never seen these Franchise inserts until he posted this card on his blog. The '97 set only has nine subjects - including two from the Orioles and two from the Braves, which defies "Franchise" logic IMO.

Boston Red Sox
1993: Roger Clemens 1992 was Rocket's last great season with the Sawx.
2018: Mookie Betts A top contender for this year's AL MVP award. He's gotta step up in the postseason though.

Chicago Cubs
1993: Ryne Sandberg Greg Maddux won the Cy Young in '92 before leaving the Windy City for Atlanta.
2018: Javier Baez Tough to choose between Baez and "Bryzzo", but Javy had a monster year in '18.

Chicago White Sox
1993: Frank Thomas The "Big Hurt" was just entering his prime in the early '90s.
2018: Jose Abreu 7th on the Sox in WAR this year. Reynaldo Lopez led the team. I'm not picking Reynaldo Lopez.

Cincinnati Reds
1993: Barry Larkin Reds legend was an NL All-Star 12 times - but not in '92.
2018: Joey Votto Still the man in Cincy, but Eugenio Suarez is ready to take the reigns.

Cleveland Indians
1993: Carlos Baerga Tough call between Baerga, Kenny Lofton, and Albert Belle.
2018: Francisco Lindor Also a tough call. Corey Kluber has two CYs and Jose Ramirez is an MVP contender.

Colorado Rockies
1993: David Nied A Braves prospect in 1992, he was the Rockies' 1st pick in the expansion draft.
2018: Nolan Arenado The best all-around third baseman in baseball.

Detroit Tigers
1993: Travis Fryman All-star and silver slugger award winner in 1992, when he took over for injured Alan Trammell at shortstop.
2018: Miguel Cabrera Miggy's career might be near its end but I'll stick with him over Nick Castellanos.

Houston Astros
1993: Jeff Bagwell Score made the right call, even though he had only played two seasons with the 'Stros.
2018: Jose Altuve I'm going with the 2017 AL MVP here. The defending champs scare me as a Sox fan.

Kansas City Royals
1993: Gregg Jefferies I don't know about you, but when I think of the Kansas City Royals I think of Gregg Jefferies.
2018: Salvador Perez Alex Gordon has been in KC longer, but Salvy is a six-time All-Star.

Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Angels
1993: Mark Langston The Angels' roster was pretty bland in '92. Langston was their only All-Star.
2018: Mike Trout No explanation needed.

Los Angeles Dodgers
1993: Brett Butler Veteran leadoff man stole 41 bases for the '92 Dodgers (their worst-ever season in L.A.)
2018: Clayton Kershaw Small chance he could leave for greener pastures this off-season - if there are any.

Miami/Florida Marlins
1993: Bryan Harvey Florida's first veteran star got MVP and CY votes after a monster '93 season.
2018: J.T. Realmuto When he is inevitably traded, Brian Anderson will be The Franchise. Yikes. 

Milwaukee Brewers
1993: Robin Yount Score got this one right (ahem) though Yount was nearing the end of his great career.
2018: Christian Yelich The first-year Brewer is a favorite for NL MVP. I'll take that over Ryan Braun's (ahem) legacy.

Minnesota Twins
1993: Kirby Puckett One year removed from his unforgettable postseason in 1991.
2018: Jose Berrios I'm going with a wild card here, since Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have disappointed.

Joe Mauer and David Wright were an early inspiration for this blog post, but I was too busy to post it as they concluded their careers. While neither are all-time greats (Mauer has a chance at eventually getting to Cooperstown) I appreciate that they played with just one Franchise. The "lifers" list is a short one - and it will surely get shorter this winter.

New York Mets
1993: Bobby Bonilla Throwback to when the Mets were paying Bobby Bo for actually playing for them.
2018: Jacob deGrom Can he win the Cy Young after winning just ten games?

New York Yankees
1993: Don Mattingly Throwback to when Steinbrenner was banned "for life" and Gene Michael rebuilt the farm.
2018: Aaron Judge Start spreadin' the news...Thaaaa Yankees lose. (sorry, I had to!)

Oakland Athletics
1993: Dennis Eckersley Eck won the AL MVP and Cy Young award in 1992.
2018: Khris Davis If you'd prefer Matt Chapman I won't argue with you.

Philadelphia Phillies
1993: Darren Daulton "Dutch" won a silver slugger in 1992 and led the NL in RBI.
2018: Aaron Nola He'll get plenty of Cy Young votes but I can't see him winning it over deGrom and Scherzer.

Pittsburgh Pirates
1993: Andy Van Slyke Became their best outfielder after Barry Bonds went to San Fran.
2018: Starling Marte Became their best outfielder after Andrew McCutchen went to San Fran.

St. Louis Cardinals
1993: Ray Lankford I'm kind of surprised Score didn't select Ozzie Smith...
2018: Matt Carpenter ...that said, I'm passing on Cardinal icon Yadier Molina.  

San Diego Padres
1993: Gary Sheffield Had a higher WAR and batting average than Tony Gwynn in '92. But I'd still pick Mr. Padre.
2018: Wil Myers Tied for the team lead in WAR despite playing only half the season.

San Francisco Giants
1993: Will Clark Score was unaffected by the Giants' addition of NL MVP Barry Bonds.
2018: Buster Posey Still the man in San Fran. Still young enough to bounce back from a sub-par season.

Seattle Mariners
1993: Ken Griffey, Jr. Score declared Griffey the Franchise player of all Franchise players.
2018: Edwin Diaz Cano and King Felix are declining, so why not a guy with 57 saves and an astounding 15.2 K/9?

Tampa Bay Rays
1993: team did not exist
2018: Blake Snell Give this guy the AL Cy Young award #winsstillmatter

Texas Rangers
1993: Juan Gonzalez Led the AL in home runs in '92 and '93.
2018: Adrian Beltre It's possible he'll retire or sign with another team. 

Toronto Blue Jays
1993: Roberto Alomar Of the five future HOFers on the '92-93 Jays, Robbie was the only one in his prime.
2018: Justin Smoak Marcus Stroman took a big step back and Kevin Pillar doesn't hit well enough.

Washington Nationals (Montreal Expos)
1993: Larry Walker Won his first gold glove and sliver slugger awards with the Expos in '92.
2018: Max Scherzer Even if Bryce Harper doesn't leave, Max is the man in DC. Scherzer's WAR was nearly 8 points higher than Harper's.

If you've read this far, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on each team's Franchise player, or your favorite Score Franchise cards. I'll try to write a similar post about hockey or football if there's interest (and time). Hope you all have a great weekend! Go Sox!



  1. I think for the 1993 Mets I would have to go with Gooden or HoJo as connections to the '86 Series winners, even if at that point they were no longer playing as well as Bonilla.

    Or just put in Seaver, because to Mets fans he will always be "The Franchise".

  2. It's good to see that you're finally able to blog again! Hopefully this means that things have settled down a little, especially at work.

    Btw, this was another great idea for a post :)

    1. Things are settled at home and at work, but I still feel overwhelmed. I have Fridays off now, so that may be when I do the bulk of my blogging.

  3. Cool post! I'm partial to the glow-in-the-dark parallels of 1997 Score's The Franchise.

    1. I didn't know about 97 Franchise until recently, and I had no idea about glow in the dark versions until your comment. Very cool!

  4. I don't think I even knew these cards existed.

    Kershaw is still L.A.'s franchise, but Justin Turner is creeping up.

  5. Shame on Score for not listing Mr. Padre as the Padres franchise player.

    1. It seems so bizarre in hindsight, but Sheff was a triple crown threat back then.

    2. True. Shame the Padres sent him packing to the Marlins. Then again... that's how they acquired Trevor Hoffman.

  6. Hard to disagree with any of these picks, though I might have to give Castellanos the edge over Miguel Cabrera. He's gonna be a special player someday.

    1. That was a toss-up since Miggy is a shell of his former self. You might be right about Nick.

  7. Griffey definitely was Seattle. Need that card above actually lol

  8. Welcome back Chris! Great article, except the first Score Franchise set was in 1991. That's still the best one IMHO - the black and white photography against the solid blue background was awesome.

    1. Were the 1991s part of the base set though? I know there were inserts in '92 but as I said there were only 4 cards (3 players) and I considered '93 the first true Franchise set because there was one of every team.

    2. They were part of the set, encompassing cards #849-#874.

  9. I've never seen these Franchise cards before. Then again, there's a lot of Score stuff that I've probably never seen...

    1. I collected a lot of Score up until about 1995. Everything after that (such as the '97s Gavin referenced) is foreign to me, too.

  10. I love 1993 Score and like you, collected them across all sports. That is one of my favorite designs, ever.

  11. I've seen these cards and like them but never collected them in the day. Great post. Many PC guys there and really you did a great with the MVP's. I enjoy looking back like this. Great memories.