Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Trading Post #97: Nachos Grande

I've been pretty out of the Cardsphere loop lately. I entirely skipped the 30-day Card Challenge, for example, although I suppose I could do it all in one go, like Night Owl and Dime Boxes did this weekend. In fact, this is only my third post in April, my lowest monthly total since...well, February. Between watching half my fantasy team go on the DL in the first month (Bumgarner, Sanchez, Beltre, others, and now Cespedes), and keeping an eye on the Rockies' textbook April hot streak, I haven't had a lot of time for blogging. The weather's been getting nicer too, and I took a pretty strenuous hike last weekend with some friends, but since this weekend has brought us our annual spring snowstorm, what better time to pick my virtual pen back up?

Fortunately, I've had plenty of potential blog post topics, such as a trade sent by Nachos Grande long before the season started.

2013 Topps Heritage #164 Dexter Fowler
Dexter Fowler was a fan favorite around here, spending time with Houston, Chicago (of course winning the World Series last year), and now St. Louis. I was about to say that he's really made the rounds in the National League, but then I realized Houston moved to the AL. I remember, really, I do.

But back when 1964 took its turn in the Topps Heritage set, Fowler was spending his final season as a Rockie. This retro-themed shot of a hatless Fowler in the dugout offers a pretty intimate look at the day-to-day job of a ballplayer. The action shots are always a crowd-pleaser, but hanging out in the dugout while the other part of the batting order is taking its turn is roughly as common as playing the field. Many of them find interesting ways to pass the time, such as (Buster Posey's good friend) Hunter Pence coming up with personalized handshakes for each of his teammates.

2012 Elite Extra Edition #91 Tom Murphy
The injury bug has bitten the Rockies, too. Their shiny new free agent, Ian Desmond, has yet to play in a game this year. David Dahl and Jon Gray are on the DL, and CarGo narrowly missed a broken hand during an unfortunate foul ball last week. Catcher Tom Murphy is down as well, the subject of this red foil card from Donruss Elite. He's been called up to the big leagues twice, but his potential is still yet to be fully realized. For now, that means most of his cards are in the Donruss Elite and Bowman sorts of brands. But if he becomes the star catcher he's expected to be, we should be seeing a lot more cards of him.

I'm sure that's just a batting glove in his back pocket, but it looks slightly like he has a duck tail.

Anyway, Mark Reynolds and Tony Wolters have been filling in nicely in the Rockies' lineup, good enough to keep them in first place. Because they just won this weekend's series in Arizona, they've held on to first place into the month of May, barely, despite the absolute destruction that the Washington Nationals visited upon them this past week. But they've bounced back nicely with an exciting come-from-behind win and will go for the sweep tomorrow.

1994 Bowman's Best #R72 Ellis Burks
Bowman's Best did shiny red cards better than just about anyone. Ellis Burks, who had just joined the Rockies when this card was printed, was already an established power hitter. He even had eight grand slams to his name before becoming a founding member of the Blake Street Bombers, tacking on even more before his retirement in 2004.

Topps knew they had a hit on their hands with the production of shiny cards like this, a set that appeared after the seminal 1993 Finest set. I would like to know what the design in the upper left is supposed to be. It looks a bit like the NFL shield. But maybe it's just some sort of home plate thing.

Standard practice for close to two decades over at Bowman was to use red colors for veteran players, and blue colors for rookies.

1994 Bowman's Best #B11 John Burke
Fortunately for our exploration of this design, Chris was kind enough to include both. They look really good side-by-side, especially since the design elements are a mirror image. Burke's card is noted as a "Blue Chip", though Burke only went 4-6 in two seasons with the Rockies, his only time spent in the Majors. Burke was more of a speculative small-cap than a blue chip, but others in this set went on to do great things, such as Shawn Green, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Chipper Jones, to name a few.

I can only imagine what a green card from this set would have looked like. Throw in a yellow with that and you can make the Microsoft logo.

1994 Topps #780 Jason Bates / John Burke
Burke showed up again along with Jason Bates on the Rockies' Coming Attractions card in 1994 Topps. This movie theater-themed subset caught my eye, as I can still recognize the first factory set I ever bought in a split second. Jason Bates, who found a bit more success with the Rockies than Burke, is called out as a "switch-hitting shortstop with power." Burke, on the other hand, was at that time the career leader in strikeouts as a Florida Gator. Besides those one-sentence tidbits, this card gives us a rarely-glimpsed bit of info: the scout who signed the player. Randy Johnson (no relation to the Big Unit) signed Bates, and Bob Gebhard, the first General Manager of the Rockies, signed Burke.

I'm surprised that doesn't make it onto Bowman cards. It would be perfect for a prospect-heavy set like that, and might give hope to fans and collectors who want to be part of baseball but aren't good enough to play.

2014 Topps #237 Michael Cuddyer / Chris Johnson / Freddie Freeman LL
When it comes to League Leader cards, the players are much more likely to have found success than a pair of prospects. Michael Cuddyer won the NL batting title in 2013, one of many times that trophy has been brought to Denver. Rounding out the top three are two Braves. Chris Johnson hit .321 in 2013, but hasn't had a stellar career since. He broke a bone in Triple-A a few weeks ago, and was released by the Indians in 2015. The likelihood of him making a comeback is looking slimmer by the day.

Freddie Freeman, on the other hand, the second runner up to the 2013 batting title, is still performing well as a Brave. He went deep on Friday with a go-ahead two-run shot, and is finding a nice home at SunTrust Park, the Braves' shiny new stadium.

2014 Topps #20 Charlie Blackmon
I often remark on how different Todd Helton looks without his goatee. But that's nothing compared to Charlie Blackmon without his lumberjack beard. He has a little bit of scruff on this 2014 Topps card, but he looks like a completely different person. He's just as capable in center field as Fowler was, beard or no. And it's a Coors Field card, worthy of a spot in my Frankenset. This 2014 set does make me miss the previously ubiquitous silver foil and white borders that were once so familiar.

But what's still familiar is great trading partners, a Rockies team that is hot in April (though winning all these one-run games is a little weird), and shiny Topps cards from all eras of the Colorado Rockies.

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