Monday, August 15, 2016

The Trading Post #73: Texas Rangers Cards

The day after Ichiro's 3,000th hit, I caught another ballgame at Coors Field, this time against the Texas Rangers for the first of a short two-game series. That marks the 22nd of 30 Major League teams I've seen in person, with only a few American League teams (including the Astros) left. I never saw the Astros as an NL squad, nor the Expos before their move to Washington D.C.

2011 Bowman Draft Prospects Gold #BDPP3 Tyler Anderson
Tyler Anderson pitched a quality start, giving up only one run over seven innings. The Rockies took a two-run lead into the ninth, only to have it blown by then-closer Carlos Estevez. The Rockies lost 4-3, prompting me to leave a comment on this post at Texas Rangers Cards. Spiff, the longtime writer of that blog, offered to send a few Rockies to ease the pain of the Rockies losing three out of four games against the Rangers, in all of which they blew a late lead. They managed to rally in the fourth game, but not before going down by 2 in the 7th.

Anderson is one of those rare players on a Bowman card to actually show up in the majors, and he's gone 4-4 in his time as a Rockie so far. The facsimile signature on that Bowman card is about as thick as the card itself. And he's one of a promising batch of young pitchers the Rockies have, along with Jon Gray and top prospect Jeff Hoffman. Veteran Jorge de la Rosa remains an anchor of the pitching staff, which means the Rockies may have finally put together a solid rotation. The lineup has pretty much never been the weak link in the Rockies organization, so the last piece of the puzzle is the bullpen. Clearly, that needs a lot of work, but the Cubs didn't have a great bullpen until quite recently, and look how well they're doing now.

2011 Topps Diamond Duos #DD-GT Carlos Gonzalez / Troy Tulowitzki
When the Rockies can put up a bunch of runs, as they do on a pretty consistent basis, then they don't need to lean on their bullpen quite as much. But in close games, it's a glaring weak point in the armor. Between Trevor Story's season-ending surgery, Carlos Gonzalez sitting out most of the week with an ankle injury (he started that game but was taken out in the 2nd), and Mark Reynolds on the DL, that huge offense isn't putting up enough runs to take the pressure off the bullpen, even with Charlie Blackmon's recent flurry of long balls.

This Diamond Duos Topps insert card shows the Rockies dangerous offense, but with CarGo benched, Tulowitzki up in Toronto, and his replacement out for the year after an incredible first half (he's still tied for 3rd in the NL this year), it seems that the Rockies' annual July implosion has surfaced in August.

Photos are always small on dual-player cards, but I see Todd Helton in the on-deck circle behind Tulo, and both players wearing a memorial "KSM" patch. That patch is a memorial to Keli McGregor, President of the Rockies who died in 2010. His initials can be found at Coors Field above the visitor's bullpen, right alongside Helton's and Jackie Robinson's retired numbers.

2009 Upper Deck Goudey #145 Carlos Gonzalez
Of course, CarGo wasn't always a Rockie. He came over from Oakland in the Matt Holliday trade. Upper Deck has him listed as a Rockie, but still pictured as an Athletic (as an A?). Goudey is a lot like Topps Heritage, but the ubiquitous Upper Deck hologram on the back ruins the antique look a bit. Interestingly, he wore #28 in Oakland, the number that fellow star Nolan Arenado wears now.

2006 Topps #189 Jose Mesa
Jose Mesa became a Rockie in 2006 toward the end of his journeyman career. Topps has him listed with the right team, though he's still pictured as a Pirate. This card is clearly between Topps' days of airbrushing and Photoshop editing, which doesn't bug me as much as this card having the Pirates' color scheme. I would file this card with the listed rather than pictured team, but it does screw up the aesthetic a bit.

1993 Topps #132 Preston Wilson (RC)
Preston Wilson got a draft card in 1993 Topps (just like Derek Jeter), pictured in his high school uniform and swinging an aluminum bat. Wilson did indeed play for the Rockies in the early 2000s, leading the league in RBIs in 2003. But I wouldn't necessarily expect a Rangers fan to remember this, especially on a card that doesn't picture Wilson in a Major League uniform of any kind. The only way you can tell what team drafted him is by checking the tiny black lettering and the color scheme on the back. It wasn't the Marlins, but rather the Mets that picked him.

The back of this card also says that he was the inaugural Baseball America High School Player of the Year, an award that has gone to Bryce Harper, Josh Hamilton, Joe Mauer, and Justin Upton.

2014 Topps Update #US-5 Jair Jurrjens
Here's a great candidate for Nick's Short Term Stops theme. Jair Jurrjens came to the Rockies in 2014, but only appeared in two games. This is from the first of those two games on July 4th, 2014, judging by that patriotic hat. Jurrjens got rocked for eight runs by the Dodgers that day, on his way to an astronomical 10.61 ERA while wearing the purple pinstripes. He started another game about a week later, got a no-decision, and never appeared in another Major League game.

He did pretty well as a Brave, and I actually remember him being a Rockie, but I guess he was in the minors for most of his time with the organization. As a card from Topps Update, it's not one I was likely to run across on my own, so if the Rockies didn't blow that game last Monday, this might never have made it into my collection.

2011 Bowman Chrome Throwbacks #BCT9 Tyler Matzek
Now, it's no secret that I don't know Bowman very well. But I guess I do have a decent general idea of their design history, as this 2011 card of Tyler Matzek really didn't look like the 2011 design to me. I didn't have much faith in that determination, and I sure couldn't place what year it might have been from if I had followed that line of reasoning. It turns out that I was vaguely right, as this Chrome card is from a Throwbacks insert set using the design from 2001.

I probably couldn't describe the 2011 design at all (probably had a black border though); all I know is that it's not this. I do believe it's different from Anderson's card at the top, since the Draft Picks and Prospects cards have a different design than regular Bowman, further adding to the confusion. I guess that's why 2016 Stadium Club's similarity to 1997 Fleer doesn't bother me that much. Those are just two sets, but every Bowman set looks pretty much like every other.

2010 Topps Heritage #301 Ryan Spilborghs
Ryan Spilborghs was one of those under-the-radar players for the Rockies, usually having a decent season at the plate and some solid defensive plays. He's still a familiar face to Rockies fans, as he is a color analyst and postgame anchor on Root Sports, the Rockies' TV network. I snapped this photo of him from the bleachers in 2007 in a blowout win against the Cubs, shortly before the magical month of Rocktober.

1961 Topps isn't a set I know very well, which is the design used on 2010 Topps Heritage. The avocado green color on the back is definitely period-correct, though. And "Spilly" looks just like he does on TV!

2005 Upper Deck #70 Shawn Estes
Along with that Johnny Bench card, Shea Stadium seems to be showing up a lot lately. The Rockies used to wear pinstripes on the road, which is fairly unusual, and can be a little tricky to tell it's a road jersey if the home team isn't in the photo. I'm basing my guess of Shea Stadium on all those orange railings in the first level. I'm not sure why they put those there, but it looks like you had quite the labyrinth to go through to get to your seats.

Shawn Estes went a solid 15-8 for the Rockies in 2004, likely one of the better records in Rockies history. He only spent a year in Denver, so he wasn't able to follow up that performance. Even with that record, he still led the NL in Earned Runs. 

This card is from 2005 Upper Deck, a set I don't recognize and may very well not have any cards from besides this and the rest of what Spiff sent. The color coding is quite nice, and Upper Deck went down the full-bleed path long, long ago, something Topps is finally on board with, continuing with the quasi-3D 2017 design, which was just announced. 

2010 Upper Deck #3 Eric Young Jr. (RC)
By 2010, Upper Deck had run its course. No one really went after it, and they were practically begging for legal trouble by blatantly using team logos in the photograph and team names in the paragraph on the back. They did not, however, use the official Rookie Card logo, instead coming up with this bizarre 2010 Rookie logo, which is rather redundant to the "2010 Star Rookie" label in the bottom banner where the player's photograph typically goes.

1993 Upper Deck #793 Armando Reynoso
Upper Deck had a long way to fall after this legendary 1993 set, and fall they did. But the hobby was still graced with this set, and like Willie Blair's head peeking out in front of the UD lettering on his card, so too does the pitch thrown by pickoff artist Armando Reynoso. He wore #42 during his tenure as a Rockie, which wrapped up in 1996, the year before MLB retired #42 league-wide in honor of the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier.

1998 Collector's Choice #84 Neifi Perez
We can see evidence of that event on this card, as the Jackie Robinson MLB commemorative patch is visible on Neifi Perez' right sleeve. This UD Collector's Choice card has a lot going on, including Eric Young, Sr. behind the play, and Cubs fan favorite Ryne Sandberg likely out at second. Sandberg, a Hall of Famer and former manager of the Phillies, wore #23 as a Cub. That was a great number in Chicago, as this guy on the Bulls wore it too. Perhaps you've heard of Michael Jordan? 

It must just be coincidence, but there must be other times when sports stars in the same city shared numbers across sports. Larry Walker and Patrick Roy both wore #33 while in Denver, for example. I'm not an expert on uniform numbers, so can you think of any others?

1999 Upper Deck #90 Neifi Perez
1999 Upper Deck's design has always raised some eyebrows. It's been nicknamed "The Salad Tongs set" for obvious reasons, and while I never really minded it that much, it's flaws are quite apparent on this card, as we have absolutely no clue who the cameo is on this double play card. I can barely even venture a guess. Maybe a Dodger, simply based on the higher likelihood of this being a divisional game.

This was 1999, after all, and UD devoted quite a bit of space on the back to their website, encouraging collectors to "Get ONLINE" at (back when browsers weren't quite smart enough to just add all that prefix stuff automatically). I wonder what visitors in 1999 would think of today's website? Would they be more amazed by the LeBron memorabilia for the Cleveland Cavaliers (also #23), by the fact that Officially Licensed NHL cards had top billing and baseball was nowhere to be found, by three of the six banners referencing Marvel Comics products, or maybe by newfangled digital e-Packs and social media links to Twitter and Facebook? It would all be a lot to take in during 1999. I don't think I'd even heard of the Cavaliers then.

2010 Upper Deck Pure Heat #PH15 Troy Tulowitzki
Die-cut cards existed before 1999, and I've seen some strange ones in my day, but this might be the weirdest. The die cut shape at the bottom doesn't seem to represent anything in particular, and I can't quite tell whether the card is supposed to have that ruffling at the bottom. More likely that's some damage from the printing process, as I've seen that pattern on cards before, particularly 1997 Score. But I couldn't really understand why Tulo's photo was cut off at the top of the card. Then I flipped it over and saw that it was from 2010 UD.

At first, I thought UD engaged in a bit of trickery and deliberately cut off the logo on the helmet to avoid running afoul of MLB's licensing rules, perhaps later in the release cycle when their legal troubles became apparent. The card number on the back is just a millimeter or so from the top edge, so it was clear that the upper portion of the card wasn't all here. Still, I couldn't figure out what that oddly-shaped die cut was supposed to represent.

After looking at similar listings on eBay, I realized I was reading too much into it. There is a better-centered die cut pattern on both the top and bottom of other cards, and the bottom doesn't angle back in like it does on mine. So maybe I just have an innocuous miscut. It's highly uncharacteristic of me to jump to conspiracy theory, but the way this one is cut doesn't violate the licensing rules they knew they were breaking.

2011 Topps 60 #T60-93 Carlos Gonzalez
Ahhh, a nice rectangle. How refreshing. This one is part of the 100-card Topps 60 insert set found in Series 1 and 2. Update tacked on another fifty cards. I wouldn't say I'm close to completing it, but I've found quite a few of these. This one documents Carlos Gonzalez and his 2010 NL batting title. All is right with the world when the Rockies have a batting champ.

1992 Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball Team Logo Holograms #NNO Colorado Rockies
This shiny hologram sticker came out a lot bluer than it really is, but I'm impressed my scanner didn't think this was just a dark rectangle. I had a hard time finding anything out about this card. Beckett doesn't seem to list it, nor does BaseballCardPedia. I'm guessing it's an insert from 1992 Upper Deck which seems like the obvious choice. But it might be some sort of promotional card as well.

Holograms are fascinating things. It was basically a UD trademark, and I think they should have done more with them during their early history. I think there were a few insert cards here and there, but mostly it was just team logo stickers. What if they made a set, even just a 100-card set or High Numbers or something in holograms? They might have advanced the hobby even further than they already did. I remember a few National Geographic covers that were holograms, and I spent maybe a bit too much time in one sitting staring into them, trying to see all the detail.

1994 Ultra Hitting Machines #4 Andres Galarraga
1994 Ultra used a lot of gold foil. A lot. The insert cards had to differentiate themselves somehow, so they got silver foil. This Hitting Machines card of Andres Galarraga previewed some of the craziness to come the next year in 1995 Fleer, They were just getting warmed up. I opened a lot of 1994 Ultra, and I know I have a few cards from this 10-card insert set, probably Barry Bonds. The set is full of Hall-of-Famers, as well as a couple more that should be.

Galarraga gave us one of the many highlights of the inaugural 1993 season, winning the first batting title for the Rockies with an average of .370. Before his knee injury that sidelined him for about a month, there was talk of hitting that mythical .400 average. He didn't quite get there, and there was concern that he wouldn't have enough at bats to qualify. 

It also gave me my first baseball research project. My dad bought a copy of the Baseball Weekly newspaper at the local Albertson's in late summer 1993 and had me pore over the NL batting statistics to find potential challengers to Galarraga's run at the batting title. I remember finding someone hitting .429 and alerted my dad immediately, until he pointed out that this particular batter was just hitting 3-for-7 on the season, and had no chance to qualify for the award. I have no idea who that batter was, but I can't imagine having something like Baseball Reference at that time instead of a newspaper that I couldn't do a Ctrl+F on. 

1993 Ultra #360 Jim Tatum (RC)
Fleer Ultra was one of my favorite packs to buy in 1993 at the local Wal-Mart. I spent a lot of time in that card aisle, which was right next to the snack bar, though I had to go past the pharmacy to get to the toy section where all the awesome Legos and Micro Machines were. I haven't been in a Wal-Mart in over six years, and that particular location was vacated and became a mega-church ages ago, but I can still recall the floor plan of that store from memory quite easily. It was located right next to that Albertson's, in fact. I know Galarraga's 1993 batting average by heart, too.

But I have to consult Baseball Reference a lot.

There were a lot of 1993 Fleer Ultra cards in this trade package, and many of them have been in my collection for almost as long as there's been a collection. Vinny Castilla has one where he's facing to the left, reaching out for the ball with his left hand, the ball isn't quite in his glove, his mouth is open as though he's shouting at someone, and there's a little gold rookie logo in the upper left.

1993 Ultra #344 Vinny Castilla
Yeah, that one.

So the logo's in the upper right. Close enough. 

But that Jim Tatum card is brand-new to me. And it might have the best view of a first baseman's mitt in my entire collection. A set you thought you knew can still surprise you even after all these years!

1 comment:

  1. Glad you got the cards ok and could use a few of them. I'll be setting Rocks aside as I come across them.