These Guys Could Play: 250 Albums and 250 Seasons: Part III

Following are albums 150 through 101 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. For albums 200 through 151, see Part II.

Now that we’re on the threshold of the top 100, I’ll start counting down the top 100 album/season pairs on Twitter (follow @replevel), and will post Part IV once my followers have seen the next 50.

150. Merriweather Post Pavilion , Animal Collective , 2009 = Darrell Evans , 1973
Animal Collective makes brilliant music without following any sonic blueprint. Evans was a trailblazer himself, using power (41 home runs) and patience (124 walks) to add immense value (8.9 rWAR) despite low batting averages (.281 in ’73 was the best of his career).

149. Poses , Rufus Wainwright , 2000 = Alex Rodriguez , 2002
Perhaps the most brand-focused player in baseball history, Rodriguez had plenty of reasons to pose while hitting 57 home runs in 2002.

148. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road , Elton John , 1973 = Ken Griffey, Jr. , 1997
Sir Elton and Junior were both flashy, widely idolized, and as talented as anyone in their profession.

147. Raw Power , Stooges , 1973 = Sam McDowell , 1969
Sudden Sam won with raw power, striking out 279 in 1969 and earning 6.9 fWAR despite 102 walks.

146. Siamese Dream , Smashing Pumpkins , 1993 = Alan Trammell , 1987
Trammell and double-play partner Lou Whitaker were practically Siamese twins, playing side-by-side for 19 seasons. Trammell’s 28-homer, 21-steal ’87 was the best season either of them ever had.

145. Synchronicity , Police , 1983 = Ryne Sandberg , 1984
Like few other bands in the ’80s, the Police lived at the crossroads of popular success and criticial acclaim. Likewise, Sandberg was a well-liked superstar whose greatness is supported decades later by advanced metrics (8.4 rWAR in ’84).

144. The Songs of Leonard Cohen , Leonard Cohen , 1968 = Ryan Braun , 2011
Both Jewish, both awesome (though I’ve never heard Cohen in beast mode).

143. Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake , Small Faces , 1968 = Roger Clemens , 1987
Clemens wouldn’t go insane, throwing bat barrels and claiming he’d have a third ear if he’d used steroids, for another decade plus, but his numbers (18 complete games, seven shutouts) went flake in ’87.

142. Elephant , White Stripes , 2003 = Willie McCovey , 1969
McCovey was big in stature and in production (.320/.453/.656 in ’69), like the sound of The White Stripes and the name of their ’03 album.

141. I Am a Bird Now , Antony & the Johnsons , 2005 = Robin Roberts , 1953
I’m done comparing Robin to birds. I promise. Roberts had 39 decisions (23-16) in ’53. No pitcher has even started that many games since knuckleballer Charlie Hough started 40 in 1987.

140. Stand! , Sly & the Family Stone , 1969 = Dave Winfield , 1979
Winfield stood 6’6″ and hit with all the pomp and grandeur of Sly Stone in ’79, accumulating more rWAR (8.1) than either of that year’s co-MVPs.

139. Black Monk Time , Monks , 1966 = John Smoltz , 1996
Smoltz wins association with the Monks by virtue of his hairstyle (or lack thereof). If you’re not familiar with the American band recording from military bases in Germany, trust that this association is quite the honor.

138. Ready to Die , Notorious B.I.G. , 1994 = David Ortiz , 2006
One may argue that Ortiz’s monster 2006 preceeded the death of his run as a superstar, but this association has more to do with a B.I.G. year (54 homers, 119 walks) from a B.I.G. guy.

137. Physical Graffiti , Led Zeppelin , 1975 = Josh Hamilton , 2010
One of the albums I think I underrated most (perhaps after Big Star’s #1 Record), Physical Graffiti goes to Hamilton in honor of the tattoos covering his body, many of which he regrets getting.

136. Entertainment! , Gang of Four , 1979 = Ozzie Smith , 1989
No one, including the hard-thumping Gang of Four, was more entertaining than the Wizard of Oz, who earned a record 4.7 dWAR in ’89, per baseball-reference.

135. Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? , Of Montreal , 2007 = Tim Lincecum , 2009
One of the strangest albums on this list meets one of the strangest players in Lincecum, who exceeded his 2.48 ERA with a crazy 2.34 FIP.

134. Let it Be , Beatles , 1970 = Willie Mays , 1964
The second-to-last studio album the Beatles recorded (and the last one they released) meets the second-to-last great season of Mays’s career, in which he slugged ‘607 with 47 homers.

133. Thriller , Michael Jackson , 1982 = Brooks Robinson , 1968
Another phenomenal defensive season (4.5 dWAR) from a thrilling player, probably the best defensive third baseman ever.

132. The Joshua Tree , U2 , 1987 = Ryan Howard , 2006
An overrated band that really did put together an amazing album in ’87 meets an overrated player who pounded 58 homers in 2006.

131. The Stone Roses , Stone Roses , 1989 = Eric Davis , 1987
The Stone Roses’ debut was so stunning that they might have seemed poised to claim the throne as the world’s best band for a decade, just like Eric Davis when he hit 47 homers and stole 50 bases in ’87. The Roses wouldn’t make another album for five years and never made another great one, while Davis would never top three WAR after ’88.

130. Parallel Lines , Blondie , 1978 = Mike Scott , 1986
There aren’t a lot of blond players on my list. Scott fits the bill, though, and his 2.22 ERA/2.13 FIP 1986 was among the best of the decade.

129. Five Leaves Left , Nick Drake , 1969 = Todd Helton , 2004
Drake and Helton each made the list twice, which may be a better reason to match them up than comparing the altitude in Denver to what I assume is high altitude in Drake’s native Myanmar. Anyway, Helton hit an absurd .347/.469/.620 in 2004, as impressive as Drake’s subtly beautiful debut album.

128. Disraeli Gears , Cream , 1967 = Barry Bonds , 1992
Beyond the allusion to Bonds’s drug of Victor Conte’s choice, I should note that Cream had as much musical talent as any band on this list, and while they don’t crack my top 100 with any album, there are moments on all of their albums as fantastic as Barry’s swan song in Pittsburgh.

127. Hot Rats , Frank Zappa , 1969 = Dick Allen , 1972
Zappa and Allen were men from another time and place- a rock star playing jazz over outrageous jokes and an oft-belligerent, chain-smoking slugger who sang professionally in his downtime. Both are probably overrated in small circles, but largely ignored by the general public despite immense talent.

126. When the Pawn… , Fiona Apple , 1999 = Kevin Appier , 1993
If Kevin Appier released an album, it would probably be sold right in front of Fiona Apple’s CDs in record stores. That’s all I got, except that Appier was better than you thought he was, guaranteed.

125. Crosby, Stills, & Nash , Crosby, Stills, & Nash , 1969 = Vida Blue , 1971
I’m not sure if it was “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” or the Bay Area connection that made me match up these two, but Blue had 301 strikeouts and a 1.82 ERA in 1971.

124. Crazy Rhythms , Feelies , 1980 = Albert Belle , 1995
Everything was crazy about Albert Belle, from his Dick(Allen)ish personality to the 50 homers he hit in strike-shortened 1995.

123. Time Out , Dave Brubeck Quartet , 1959 = Cecil Fielder , 1990
Another 50 homer season that came in well under my 8-WAR threshold, Fielder’s son gave him a timeout when he cut off all ties.

122. The Trinity Session , Cowboy Junkies , 1988 = Duke Snider , 1953
Center field in New York in the ’50s was manned by a trinity of giants: Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. The least of those giants, Snider was worth 9.1 rWAR in ’53.

121. High Violet , National , 2010 = Joe Morgan , 1976
In another dominant season for the National League, Morgan OBPed .444 in the regular season and hit for the cycle in a glorious World Series sweep of the Yankees.

120. The Moon and Antarctica , Modest Mouse , 2000 = Jim Thome , 2002
Another slugger who might have hit a ball or two to the moon and another to Antarctica, Thome hit 52 in 2002 while drawing 122 walks.

119. Internal Wrangler , Clinic , 2000 = Jon Matlack , 1974
Here’s another one based solely on reputation, as I’d never heard of Clinic before borrowing this album from a friend in ’09 and I’d never heard of Jon Matlack until this study. Wrangler, though, is quite the joyride, while Matlack had a 2.41 ERA in 265 1/3 innings pitched in 1974.

118. Odessey and Oracle , Zombies , 1968 = Yogi Berra , 1956
Not exactly an Oracle, Yogi probably couldn’t spell Odyssey either, but he did hit three World Series home runs after a huge regular season.

117. Sea Change , Beck , 2002 = Kevin Brown , 1998
Brown’s best season in terms of WAR, he struck out 257 in as many innings (though his ERA was lower in ’96). Similarly, Beck outdid his ’96 masterpiece with one of the great breakup albums of all time in ’02, even if it didn’t win the same praise from critics or fans.

116. Tigermilk , Belle and Sebastian , 1996 = Ben Zobrist , 2009
A dream matchup here between one of the most consistently great players of the last five years and one of the most consistently great bands of the last twenty. Neither gets its due as the powerhouse that it is.

115. The Clash , Clash , 1977 = Joe Morgan , 1973
“The only band that mattered” debuted with a bang, while Morgan established himself as the best player in baseball with 111 walks and 67 stolen bases in sabermetrician’s dream season.

114. 100 Miles and Running , Wale , 2007 = Maury Wills , 1962
Wills ran more than a mile and a half between his ten triples and his 104 stolen bases in ’62, a season as unexpected as Wale’s playful debut mixtape.

113. Surfer Rosa , Pixies , 1988 = Mike Schmidt , 1974
Toward the end of the ’80s, the Pixies may have been the best band in the world, turning out flawless album after flawless album. Schmidt was certainly the MLB player of the ’80s, but he got started in ’74 with 36 homers, 23 stolen bases, and excellent defense at the hot corner.

112. Murmur , REM , 1983 = Roger Clemens , 1986
REM was brilliant throughout the ’80s and continued making great music long after most bands would have called it quits. Similarly, Clemens had his first great season (24-4, 2.48 ERA) in ’86, but would still be a force a decade and a half later.

111. Treasure , Cocteau Twins , 1984 = Alex Rodriguez , 2005
By ’05, Rodriguez was colelcting quite a treasure from the Yankees, and he justified it here, with 48 homers and a .421 OBP. And yes, I regret not connecting Treasure from the Twins with Joe Mauer.

110. Otis Blue , Otis Redding , 1965 = Will Clark , 1989
Otis left a beautiful legacy, but was gone too soon. Clark is still alive, but retired at 36 while still building Hall of Fame credentials. He hit .333/.407/.546 in 1989.

109. Rubber Soul , Beatles , 1965 = Willie Mays , 1962
Perhaps the Beatles’ best mix of pop sensibility and experimentalism meets a 10.2-win season in which Mays hit 49 homers and accumulated 2.1 dWAR.

108. Violent Femmes , Violent Femmes , 1983 = Adrian Beltre , 2004
Beltre has a violent swing and, for much of his career, was as underrated as the Femmes’ jerky debut. In ’04, he hit 48 homers and earned 2.5 wins with stellar third-base defense.

107. Moby Grape , Moby Grape , 1967 = Chuck Knoblauch , 1996
The Grape made one phenomenal album before frontman Skip Spence had a nervous breakdown and left the group. Knoblauch was a quietly great player himself (.448 OBP, 45 steals in ’96) before he lost the ability to throw from second base to first.

106. The Crane Wife , Decemberists , 2006 = Randy Johnson , 2002
The 6’10” Johnson recorded 334 strikeouts in 2002. He’s both the player on the list who most resembles a crane and one of the few pitchers worthy of comparison to the Decemberists’ sprawling epic.

105. Automatic for the People , REM , 1992 = Roger Clemens , 2005
A decade after their debut, REM were as strong as ever on Automatic. Two decades after his debut, Clemens turned in a 1.87 ERA in 2005.

104. Parklife , Blur , 1994 = JR Richard , 1979
Few pitchers’ deliveries looked quite as blurry as Richard’s who struck out 313 in 292 1/3 innings in 1979. A year later, Richard was out of baseball. Blur would last nine more years, but never again lived up to the standard they set with Parklife.

103. Tumbleweed Connection , Elton John , 1970 = Ken Griffey, Jr. , 1996
Junior and Sir Elton again, here with John’s greatest triumph, an ode to the American West, and Griffey’s most rounded season, in which the Mariners finished second in the American League West.

102. Bitches Brew , Miles Davis , 1970 = Albert Pujols , 2008
Miles tears down the wall between jazz and rock. Pujols tears down NL pitching, hitting .357/.462/.653.

101. Elvis Presley , Elvis Presley , 1956 = Stan Musial , 1951
The second-oldest album on this list meets the second-oldest player. Two of the greatest ever in their respective fields.

Continue to Part IV and Part V

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4 Responses to These Guys Could Play: 250 Albums and 250 Seasons: Part III

  1. Pingback: These Guys Could Play: 250 Albums and 250 Seasons – Part I | Replacement Level Baseball Blog

  2. Pingback: These Guys Could Play: 250 Albums and 250 Seasons, Part II | Replacement Level Baseball Blog

  3. Pingback: These Guys Could Play: 250 Albums and 250 Seasons, Part IV | Replacement Level Baseball Blog

  4. Pingback: These Guys Could Play: 250 Albums and 250 Seasons, Part V | Replacement Level Baseball Blog

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