Following are albums 200 through 151 on my 250 favorite albums since 1950, each matched up with one of the 250 greatest player seasons in the same span, based on some criteria, obvious or obscure. For further detail and background, see Part I.
200. Boxer , National , 2007 = Joe Morgan , 1972
Morgan, who got on base at a .417 clip and stole 58 bases in 1972, represents a time when the National League dominated the AL in World Series, All-Star Games, and general star power.
199. Either/Or , Elliott Smith , 1997 = Tom Glavine , 1991
Maddux wasn’t on the Braves yet in ’91, so if you faced a future Hall of Famer in Atlanta, it was Either Glavine Or John Smoltz. This was Glavine’s best year in terms of ERA (2.55) and strikeouts (192) and the best album in Smith’s far-too-short career.
198. This Year’s Model , Elvis Costello , 1978 = Bret Boone , 2001
This year’s model of Bret Boone looked little like any other iteration, as he hit 15% of his career home runs and drove in 14% of his career runs in 2001.
197. Screamadelica , Primal Scream , 1991 = Willie Wilson , 1980
Primal Scream and Willie Wilson were both probably better than you think, though Wilson’s 79-steal, 133 run 1980 was a loud year.
196. Electric Warrior , T-Rex , 1971 = Wade Boggs , 1987
This was “the home run year” for Boggs, who hit 24 with a .461 OBP. You might say he was a warrior on and off the field.
195. The Chronic , Dr. Dre , 1992 = Matt Kemp , 2011
The defining West Coast hip-hop album meets LA’s biggest current star, who starred in a Beats by Dre commercial in 2012.
194. Loaded , Velvet Underground , 1970 = Rickey Henderson , 1980
I could have gone a different way with “Loaded”, but Rickey and the Velvet Underground were revolutionaries who spawned legions of imitators, none as good as the original.
193. Red , King Crimson , 1974 = Al Kaline , 1961
Only King Crimson landed a record in my top 100 albums of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Another underappreciated superstar, Kaline was among the game’s best players throughout the ’50s and ’60s and into the ’70s.
192. Sketches of Spain , Miles Davis , 1960 = Albert Pujols , 2004
Miles branched out in ’60, working Spanish influences into another classic, while Pujols gave postseason heroics a try in ’04, with 14 hits and four homers in a victorious NLCS.
191. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots , Flaming Lips , 2002 = Curt Schilling , 2002
Four of the greatest pitchers of all time (Maddux/Clemens/Johnson/Martinez) were working in 2001-2002, but the best pitcher over those two years might have been Schilling, who struck out 316 and walked 29 in ’02. In a similarly crowded field, the Flaming Lips’ output form ’99-’02 may have been the best in their game.
190. Brothers , Black Keys , 2010 = George Brett , 1980
Another one about Geroge Brett and his brother? Sorry. This was the year Brett hit .390 and the year the Black Keys became stars.
189. Moon Safari , Air , 1998 = Carlos Delgado , 2000
Playing in Canada might have felt like playing on the moon for Delgado, a Puerto Rican, and his numbers (.344/.470/.664) suggest that he may have been playing on the moon as well.
188. The Low End Theory , Tribe Called Quest , 2009 = Chipper Jones , 2008
Chipper played for one tribe for his whole career and first made his mark in the ’95 World Series against another. He was 36 when he his .364 with a .470 OPB in ’08.
187. Talking Book , Stevie Wonder , 1972 = Ernie Banks , 1958
Banks was one of the first black superstars in MLB, hitting over 500 homers, including 47 in 1958, while Stevie Wonder was among the first superstars in Motown’s LA era, dominating the charts throughout the 1970s.
186. What’s Going On? , Marvin Gaye , 1971 = Brady Anderson , 1996
I have an idea what was going on in 1996, when Anderson, who had hit 74 homers over his first eight seasons, hit 50.
185. Hail to the Thief , Radiohead , 2003 = Lenny Dykstra , 1990
Radiohead’s hardest rocking album matches up with an 8.8-win season from Nails, who would become a car thief in his post-baseball career.
184. Fever to Tell , Yeah Yeah Yeahs , 2003 = Jose Canseco , 1988
Canseco’s 1988 was the first 40-40 season in baseball history, but he’s better known today for his fever to tell the world about his steroid use and its prevalence in the game in the ’90s.
183. The Modern Lovers , Modern Lovers , 1977 = Wade Boggs , 1989
A Boston band meets a Boston legend, who, as it turned out, was more of a fighter than a lover.
182. Closer , Joy Division , 1980 = Mariano Rivera , 2008
See what I did there?
181. Psychocandy , Jesus and Mary Chain, 1985 = Ron Santo , 1966
Santo, who hit 30 homers with a .412 OBP in pitching-dominated 1966, was a diabetic, who occasionally needed psychocandy. Ok, that was a stretch, but you try matching up 250 seasons with 250 albums.
180. You Forgot it in People , Broken Social Scene , 2002 = John Valentin , 1995
If you’re like me, you forgot that John Valentin was this good, with a .399 OBP, 20 stolen bases, and 3 dWAR in ’95. Nomar Garciaparra’s arrival the next year helped us all forget Valentin.
179. Moanin’ , Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers , 1958 = Gary Carter , 1982
Carter caught 153 games in 1982 and was a devastating force on both sides of the ball. I’m sure he did a lot of moanin’ during and after games.
178. Vs. , Pearl Jam , 1993 = Sammy Sosa , 2001
Ten” and Sosa’s ’98 get all the press, but Vs. and Sosa’s ’01 were more complete than their predecessors. Sosa appealed to old school (160 RBI) and modern (10.1 rWAR) MVP voters, but couldn’t compete with Bonds’s best year.
177. Here’s Little Richard , Little Richard , 1957 = Minnie Minoso , 1954
The third-oldest album on this list matches up with a guy who played in the Negro Leagues in the ’40s, was a superstar for a decade in the majors, and came back for brief stints at age 50 (1976) and 54 (1980)
176. The Allman Brothers Band , Allman Brothers Band , 1969 = George Brett , 1979
This is the last time you’ll have to hear about George and Ken Brett. George hit 23 homers and 20 triples in ’79, while the Allman Brothers blew us all away with “Whipping Post” on their ’69 debut.
175. The Who Sings My Generation , Who , 1965 = Randy Johnson , 1995
Maximum R&B meets maximum velocity, as the 6’10” ace’s 18-2 season meets the larger-than-life rockers’ rollicking debut.
174. Low , David Bowie , 1977 = Alex Rodriguez , 2007
Here’s ARod’s last MVP year, a 57-homer affair, and Bowie’s last legendary album.
173. Odelay , Beck , 1996 = Kevin Brown , 1996
Fans tend to love or hate Beck, while most just hated Brown, who fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after one year despite seasons like his 1.89-ERA campaign in ’96.
172. Weezer , Weezer , 1994 = Early Wynn , 1956
Wynn pitched until he was 43, and put together his best season at 36, with a 2.72 ERA in 277 2/3 innings.
171. A Love Supreme , John Coltrane , 1964 = Roberto Clemente , 1968
The smooth, powerful Clemente lines up with the smooth, bold Coltrane. This isn’t the last you’ll hear from either of them.
170. The Gilded Palace of Sin , Flying Burrito Brothers , 1969 = Wade Boggs , 1988
Wade Boggs reached base in 48% of his plate appearances in 1988. This may have been the season when he drank 64 Miller Lites on a cross-country flight as well.
169. Who’s Next , Who , 1971 = Randy Johnson , 1999
Randy meets the Who again, this time with 364 strikeouts and the primal scream of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.
168. Another Green World , Brian Eno , 1975 = Pat Hentgen , 1996
Eno lived in a world far removed from pop, exploring odd textures and ambience, while Hentgen pitched in Canada, quietly enjoying his best season (including 10 complete games) for the post-championship Blue Jays.
167. I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One , Yo La Tengo , 1997 = Luis Gonzalez , 2001
A Cuban-American outfielder, Gonzalez is certainly familiar with the phrase “Yo La Tengo”. In ’01, he followed up a 57-homer regular season with a walkoff single in Game Seven of the World Series.
166. Bee Thousand , Guided by Voices , 1994 = Tony Gwynn , 1987
Gwynn hit .370 in 1987, and has one of the worst voices in the game. His 218 hits were roughly equal to the number of tracks on “Bee Thousand”.
165. XX , XX , 2009 = Wade Boggs , 1985
I’m not sure Dos Equis (or moonshine whiskey) was Boggs’s drink of choice, but like the XX, the had perhaps his best season very early in his career.
164. Plastic Ono Band , John Lennon , 1970 = Willie Mays , 1960
Mays had so many great seasons that I ran out of Beatles albums to match up with him, so I’ll settle for a quasi-Beatles (or anti-Beatles) album.
163. All Things Must Pass , George Harrison , 1970 = Mickey Lolich , 1971
Lolich pitched 378 innings in 1971, which would be two successful seasons in today’s game. Harrison celebrated his divorce from the Beatles with a 103-minute triple album, which would be two long-players today.
162. The Band , Band , 1968 = Frank Tanana , 1977
Tanana looks like the kind of guy who might record an album celebrating rural American life in a cabin in the woods.
161. Being There , Wilco , 1996 = Roy Halladay , 2003
An early album from the best American band of the last 20 years meets a young season from the best American pitcher of the last 10.
160. Is This It? , Strokes , 2001 = Tony Gwynn , 1994
A .394 batting average earns 3.9 rWAR. Is that it? In a strike-shortened 110 games, we didn’t get a chance to watch Gwynn chase .400.
159. Night Falls Over Kortedala , Jens Lekman , 2007 = Jim Palmer , 1975
I have no idea why I matched up these two, but this Lekman album is amazing.
158. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain , Pavement , 1994 = Hank Aaron , 1961
Pavement got even better after their stunning debut and Aaron raised the stakes in ’61, hitting 34 homers and stealing 21 bases on his way to 9.1 rWAR.
157. Veckatimest , Grizzly Bear , 2009 = Jose Bautista , 2011
Playing in Canada has made Bautista look more like a grizzly bear. Pitchers might agree with this, as evidenced by the 132 walks they issued him in his 43-homer 2011.
156. Van Lear Rose , Loretta Lynn , 2004 = Denny McLain , 1968
The last 30-game winner, McLain’s ’68 struck out 280 batters on route to a 31-6 record in ’68. The last great country album, Lynn brought in Jack White to revitalize her sound in ’04.
155. Late Registration , Kanye West , 2005 = Barry Bonds , 1996
I could cite West’s song “Barry Bonds” on his next album, but I think there’s enough overlap in personality to justify this one.
154. The Soft Bulletin , Flaming Lips , 1999 = Curt Schilling , 2001
A quiet classic from a less-than quiet band meets a phenomenal season from a loud pitcher who doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his pitching.
153. Endtroducing , DJ Shadow , 1996 = Jose Rijo , 1993
Rijo was just 28 in ’93, but while he’d already been World Series MVP at the time, this would be the beginning and the end of his career as an elite pitcher.
152. The Wild, the Innocent, & the E Street Shuffle , Bruce Springsteen , 1973 = Cal Ripken , 1991
This, not the more heralded Born to Run, is Springsteen’s best work, bubbling over with youthful exuberance. In contrast, Ripken’s best season, with a .323 average, 34 homers, and excellent shortstop defense totaling 11.3 rWAR, came later in his career.
151. Be , Common , 2005 = Teddy Higuera , 1986
Unless you owned Higuera’s ’87, his baseball cards were likely considered commons, as he only left his mark on the game from ’86 to ’88, but during that stretch, he was as brilliant as Common was on Be.