|2014 Topps Spring Fever #SF-20 Jose Fernandez|
This card has appeared here before, marking the Baseball Solstice in the 2014-2015 offseason. No one could know that it would make another appearance under much worse circumstances. Fatal boating accidents have struck active Major Leaguers before, as you may recall the 1993 incident that claimed the lives of Tim Crews and Steve Olin. Even outside the baseball world, 2016 has seen its share of untimely celebrity deaths, including Prince and David Bowie, to lesser-known figures like Anton Yelchin and Christina Grimmie.
My thoughts are with the family and friends of Jose Fernandez, as well as the Miami Marlins organization.
I've had a post in mind for a while that's a bit of a downer, and I feel like today might be an appropriate day to share it. Of course, this is not to take away from what happened with Jose Fernandez, who was one of the most promising young pitchers in the game.
A little over a month ago, I did a Cubs-focused post with cards I had obtained at a card show in early 2015. Those cards, and others from that post, have been sitting on my card table for quite some time. As I went through them recently, a theme started emerging that really wasn't all sunshine and roses, like it usually is on this blog, various lamentations about Rockies' losses aside.
|1994 Fleer Golden Moments #5 Bo Jackson|
He played for the Angels the following year, but decided to retire from baseball after that strike-shortened 1994 season, yet another player whose career was ended by the strike.
|2011 Topps Opening Day Blue #106 Todd Helton /2011|
|1982 Topps #781 Pete Rose IA|
Rickey, of course, is in the Hall of Fame, but Pete Rose is not, despite his accomplishments. His gambling scandal landed him on the list of players permanently ineligible from baseball, which has kept him out of the Hall.
There are a lot of names on that list, including the names you might expect like Joe Jackson and other Black Sox players, along with players, umpires, and managers from long ago that were involved with throwing games. Clearly, baseball does not look kindly on gambling. If you're in a position to affect the outcome of the game, that's one thing, but even Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were briefly banned in the mid-1980s for the mere sin of representing a casino in a promotional capacity long after their careers ended.
The Hall of Fame can choose to keep out the all-time hits leader (other than Ichiro, sort of), but if they keep that up, as well as snubbing pretty much any steroid user, enforcing their own sense of morality risks cheapening the value of the Hall itself. A baseball Hall of Fame that doesn't include Pete Rose, Joe Jackson, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, etc... really doesn't give you a complete list, does it?
|2013 Topps Chrome 1972 Chrome #72C-RB Ryan Braun|
Topps is still happy to print nice, shiny cards of Braun in the great 1972 design, so at least Topps knows what the fans want.
|2010 Topps Chrome Refractors #209 Daniel McCutchen|
Daniel McCutchen, despite his use of PEDs, didn't have his performance enhanced that much. He was almost 27 before his Major League debut, and even then, finished with an 8-11 career record over five seasons. He even had an infinite ERA in 2012, giving up two earned runs in one appearance without recording an out. The old divide by zero error doesn't strike many pitchers, so clearly PEDs help some more than others.
All that aside, at least Topps gave him a nice bunting card in 2010.
|2014 Topps Archives #175 Yogi Berra|
Yogi does look good on the 1989 design in 2014 Archives. I'd say this photo is better than most of what was found in the actual '89 set.
|2012 Bowman Sterling Refractors #47 Jordan Pacheco|
This card pretty much feels like a Topps Chrome card, maybe a tiny bit thicker. I can't remember if I got it from Christian, my usual dealer at card shows, or from the new guy who bought all of Adam's inventory, the other dealer at the monthly show that I liked to visit. Adam bowed out of the hobby, and as I haven't been to a show since then, I don't know if the new dealer is still active.
|2012 Finest #90 Jose Reyes|
The Marlins, where Reyes played for one season as shown on this color-coded Topps Finest card, are a bit further out, but they've been a factor in the Wild Card race for some time. To lose their ace in such a tragic accident marks a bitter end to the 2016 season. They cancelled their game against the Braves today, and the league observed a moment of silence before each of today's games.
|2014 Topps Gold #25 Troy Tulowitzki /2014|
CarGo was quoted on the back of Tulo's card, right under the serial number. He says, "When [Tulowitzki]'s not playing, we are a completely different team." Players like Arenado, Story, Blackmon, Gray, and Dahl have helped the Rockies forge a new identity following the trade, but somehow it'll never be quite the same.
Of course, the same goes for the Marlins, and for a much worse reason. It puts things in perspective. When they trade your favorite player, it never feels good. But when an accident like that happens to a 24-year old who made his mark in America after defecting from Cuba, it's a whole different story.
|2012 Topps A Cut Above #ACA-17 Tim Lincecum|
Tim Lincecum's career has gone through some tough times recently. He has three World Series rings, but a competitor like that always wants to do the best he can. The two-time Cy Young winner's statistics have been consistently trailing off for years, but he keeps setting his sights on a comeback. The Angels gave him a chance, but he went 2-6 this season. As we saw with Bo Jackson over twenty years ago, hip surgeries aren't easy to come back from.
This die-cut card is from the same set as a Troy Tulowitzki card I got via trade recently, and it shows Lincecum's trademark wild hair. He had a lot to do with the Giants' even-year magic, and without his presence, the streak might come to an end.
|2014 Topps The Future is Now #FN-3 Shelby Miller|
|2012 Topps Opening Day #189 Mariano Rivera|
He appears on this foil-free Topps Opening Day card, but Rivera will always be associated with the last game of the season much more than the first.
|2007 UD Masterpieces #14 David Ortiz|
Like Rivera's saves, Ortiz's 17 postseason home runs carry more importance than his 540 in the regular season. He's certainly worthy of an Upper Deck Masterpieces card, and he still had two rings yet to earn when this was printed, one against my beloved Rockies.
|2012 Bowman Gold #63 Alex Rodriguez|
Even weirder, guess who the Red Sox were playing that day? Yes, Seattle. A-Rod was in the hole when it happened, but A-Rod got to witness an unassisted triple play in his very first Major League game. You can even see him in the dugout during that clip. I remember hearing about it on the radio, but I had no idea that a rookie in that game would go on to be such an important figure in the baseball world. Who would know that? The announcers barely realized what happened during the play.
He's known for one of the most valuable contracts in baseball history, and there was talk of him hitting 900 home runs before his career ended. However, he was suspended for the entire 2014 season over his involvement with PEDs. He retired earlier this season with 696 career home runs. He probably wouldn't have caught Bonds or Aaron, but if he played in 2014, I bet he'd have passed Babe Ruth.
|1998 Topps HallBound #HB2 Tony Gwynn|
Tony Gwynn won eight batting titles in his career, and he was rightly awarded with a plaque in Cooperstown. His career average was .338, and that's the highest any recent player has attained by quite a bit. Come on, he's the only guy in the top-20 with a color photograph.
Sadly, he only got to enjoy that Hall of Fame status for less than a decade. He passed away in 2014 from what he attributed to a tobacco-caused cancer.
|2013 Topps Chasing History #CH-55 Ken Griffey, Jr.|
Plus he was the guy to collect back in the 1990s, along with Frank Thomas. Those two guys were the blue chips of pre-strike Beckett values.
|2007 UD Masterpieces #65 Alex Gordon (RC)|
Baseball has been there for this country in hard times. It helped distract people from the depression as soon as they figured out how to light a field. It helped normalize relations with Japan after World War II. And it helped America start healing after the world-changing events of 9/11. It just becomes a little paradoxical when it occurs within the baseball world itself.
And we won't get to hear the legendary Vin Scully guide us through the game after this season, as we have since 1950.
I'm sure we'll see the Marlins wear a memorial patch next week and for the duration of next season. But they lost more than their ace pitcher with amazing reflexes. They lost a bright young athlete who loved the game and who loved life.