Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Last Minute Group Break (Part 2: Diamondbacks)

That did not turn out the way I'd hoped.

Here it is, Saturday night, and I'm watching the Diamondbacks in Game 2 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium, a game the Rockies could be playing in if Wednesday's wild Wild Card game went just a bit differently.

2017 Topps Bunt #109 Zack Greinke
Of the four Wild Card starters across both leagues, only Zack Greinke held it together in the first inning, and that ended up being the difference. Greinke joined Arizona for the 2016 season, and had a much better year in 2017, helping the Diamondbacks sink the Rockies and get their revenge for the 2007 NLCS. He's a bit removed from his near-Cy Young 2015 season with the Dodgers, but he stayed in the NL West and remained a thorn in the Rockies' side.

His card from 2017 Bunt came my way as part of Chris's late-spring Ultimate Group Break. You saw the Rockies in Part 1, way back when they were still part of the 2017 Postseason picture. The random luck of the draw netted me the Rockies' chief rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks, as my second team. They're, let's just say, not my favorite team. They weren't going into Wednesday, so you can imagine how I feel now.

2017 Topps Archives #287 Paul Goldschmidt
That's partly thanks to this mischievous-looking fellow at the bat rack, Paul Goldschmidt. Goldy launched a three-run shot off of Jon Gray in the first inning of the Wild Card game before an out had even been recorded, and the D-Backs kept the Rockies in the rear-view mirror the rest of the way. There were four home runs, four triples, including a demoralizing one by reliever Archie Bradley in the 8th that really put it away, and a slew of hits, making for the offensive battle we all expected.

And ex-Rockie Daniel Descalso had one of those homers. I thought something like that might happen.

Anyway, here we are, and I'm watching the rest of the Postseason on the sidelines, as is usually the case.

Goldschmidt's card from 2017 Topps Archives obviously uses the 1992 design, one that I think is better color-coded than the Rockies cards in that set. The blue borders here aren't quite right, but the Rockies got yellow, light blue, and red. Chase Field also makes a rare appearance on the back, but doesn't quite capture the park as well as Ian Desmond's card did. This one has little more than the infield and dugout areas, but it does show the unusual dirt path between the mound and the plate, something found only there and in Detroit's Comerica Park.

2002 Flair #12 Mark Grace
When Mark Grace played there, it was still called the Bank One Ballpark, colloquially known as "The Bob", which is why the Diamondbacks' mascot is a bobcat rather than a snake. Bank mergers have made D. Baxter the Bobcat (get it?) a bit of anachronism, though Grace's teammate Jay Bell's son Brantley was the brains behind all this. Jay Bell, of course, scored the winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, in which Mark Grace singled to lead off that fateful 9th inning.

The background photo of Mark Grace on this upscale Flair card has the look of a man who just won a World Series, and he's even sporting an alternate Diamondbacks logo to go along with his previous-year action shot. I haven't seen many 2002 Flair cards, and I particularly like the color of the foil. It's not copper, like we've see on so many Upper Deck cards, but more of a rose gold.

2008 Upper Deck #406 Eric Byrnes
Here's one for Nick's Short Term Stops theme. Not as a Diamondback. Everyone in Denver knows him as a Diamondback, as he didn't make many friends during the 2007 NLCS around here. But when I flipped this 2008 UD card over, apparently Byrnes spent part of 2005 in Denver, his second of three teams that year, forcing Upper Deck to abbreviate that to "ATH/RCK/ORI" on the vertical-backed card. He played just 15 games here, which was apparently something that we all just decided to forget.

2008 Upper Deck X #2 Conor Jackson
Yes, I'm a bit salty, but again, it's not something that just began on Wednesday. This goes way back. And I'm completely fine with the hitting clinic the Dodgers put on in the bottom of the 5th in Game 2 on their way to a 2-0 series lead.

But I guess it's good to have a rival. Who would the Yankees be without the Red Sox? Or vice versa? Who would Tom Brady be without air?

I kid, I kid.

Other than Greinke and Goldschmidt, these are all bonus cards that Chris included in my shipment, and I found quite a few cards to like, even of a division rival. Conor Jackson was swinging a decent bat for a few years, and the back of this Upper Deck X card documents his four home runs in September 2007. One of those homers helped beat the Rockies as the season was winding down, marking the Rockies' only loss between September 16th, 2007 and the end of the NLCS.

If the Rockies somehow won that game, they would have had a 22-game win streak heading into the World Series. That makes the Indians' accomplishment this year all the more impressive, but underscores just how amazing Rocktober was back in 2007.

2012 Triple Play #300 Real Feel Jersey (MEM)
In addition to this stack of hand-selected cards, Chris also threw in an unopened pack of 2012 Triple Play. I don't see a lot of love for Triple Play sets, especially recently, but I was lucky enough to pull this relic card out of that pack. The card doesn't depict any particular player or team, and thus has no need to disclaim that the relic "is not from any particular game" etc... like most relic cards do.

The coloring on this card happens to make it fit quite well with a bunch of Diamondbacks cards, and it might actually be a real D-Backs road jersey. The back gives us a lengthy history of the baseball jersey that would not be out of place on an early Score card, and it's one of six relic types you could pull, a few of the others being the base, batting glove, and bat. This is card #300, the final one in the Triple Play set that year. It's not officially listed as a short print, but the "short set" runs only to card #90. Even jerseys of no particular player must be relatively scarce.

Munnatawket Custom #1 Paul Goldschmidt
If the Real Feel jersey capped off the 2012 Triple Play set, then Paul Goldschmidt opened up the magnificent Munnatawket Mini custom set with card #1. I recently lamented that this set hadn't made an appearance around the blogs in quite a while. It's amazing that these have been kicking around for almost ten years, and I'm happy to add another to the small quantity I've managed to collect.

2008 Topps Update #UH293 Adam Dunn
Obviously, the Rockies are heavily represented in my Coors Field frankenset, but the ones that aren't are typically NL West teams. Dee Gordon's card from 2011 Topps Update is a prime example, as he's shown acrobatically turning two over Ty Wigginton with the left field bleachers in view. The Diamondbacks seem to have all sorts of Coors Field cards, including this one of strikeout king Adam Dunn.

And when you're a strikeout king without being a pitcher, that's a bad thing. At this point in his career, he was good for about 40 home runs a season, but he'd put up darn near 200 strikeouts doing it. This Update card points out that no player before Dunn was ever traded during the season when he was leading the league in home runs.

He's either striking out or hitting a home run here, and because you can spot the Coors Field signage on the dugout roof behind him, it's a fair bet that he might be hitting one of those 40-ish home runs instead of striking out. Dunn did hit one home run at Coors Field as a Diamondback, even though that was just a 44-game stretch before he became a free agent and signed with the Nationals.

2008 Upper Deck Spectrum #1 Chris B. Young
This Upper Deck Spectrum card (another card #1) caught my eye with this striking turquoise color, not really a Diamondbacks color anymore, but a pretty card nonetheless. It's not a color-coded set to begin with, but it came in a few colored parallel variations.

This gentleman is Chris B. Young, currently playing in the Postseason for the Red Sox, not to be confused with Chris R. Young, a pitcher for the Royals. They both have quite a bit of Postseason experience. Chris B. played in the 2007 NLCS against the Rockies with a few of these other guys, but Chris R. earned his ring with Kansas City in 2015. Both are still in the league, and it's still a touch confusing.

But that's nothing compared to Khris Davis of the Athletics and Chris Davis of the Orioles. Both are noted power hitters. They've never played together, but somehow they both managed to strike out exactly 195 times this season, tying for third in the American League.

I can't mention 200-strikeout hitters like the Davises and Adam Dunn without mentioning Tony Gwynn at the other end of the spectrum (pun not intended), who only had slightly more strikeouts in the final twelve years of his career.

Of course, that was a Strike-shortened period. I'm sure his total of 203 would be two or three higher if 1994 and 1995 were full seasons.

2003 Ultra #129 Junior Spivey
I don't especially remember much about Junior Spivey. I know he was on the Diamondbacks, and I probably saw him play once or twice, but I don't recall any specific plays. I just like this acrobatic card of him playing the infield, which is cropped perfectly to fit the card and even the little dip in the bottom banner.

The old Diamondbacks uniforms and colors are on display quite vividly on this Fleer Ultra card, as is their large snake patch on the left sleeve. In the days before HDTV, I never really got a good look at that patch, and it always looked like a hot air balloon or a parachutist to me. In reality, has the state, team name, and a large snake head.

I like seeing their occasional retro jersey, but I think there's only room for one purple team in the NL West, and we were there first.

2012 Topps Update #US22 Chris Nelson
I just couldn't do a whole post of Diamondbacks. I had to get this Update card of third baseman Chris Nelson in here to wrap it up. Even if the Rockies lost the Wild Card game, they're still my team. And they're even more fun to watch when they have a four-time Gold Glover covering the hot corner, who makes plays like this look effortless.

I talk a big game about not liking the Diamondbacks, but really, I'd like nothing more than to see our rivalry expand over the next few seasons.

Perhaps a rematch next year? This time at Coors Field.

Unless, of course, the Rockies finally win the division for once.


  1. I enjoyed the run through the box of cards, glad you ended up with something you like (and congrats on the, uhm, relic?). Sorry about the Rockies in the Wild Card game, I was rooting for them in the NL this year for sure.

  2. Fun post! The Wild Card game was "wild" and crazy! Great rivalry for sure, between the Rockies and D-Backs.