Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Trading Post #99: Collecting Cutch

Nolan Arenado has been having a pretty great summer. Last month, he hit a walk-off home run to complete the cycle, the first time any player has done that while trailing in the 9th. A few, including teammate Carlos Gonzalez, did so when it was tied, but no one besides Nolan did it in such dramatic fashion. That capped off a four-game sweep of the Giants.

Last week, he became the first Rockie to slug two hits in a single All-Star Game. And yesterday, his 5-for-6, 7 RBI, 3-homer performance was one of the best days at the plate any Rockie has ever had, and that's saying something, given the team's history of double-digit win margins at Coors Field.

2017 Topps Jackie Robinson Day #JRD-28 Nolan Arenado
So it was nice to see a few cards of him show up as a bonus from Collecting Cutch, thanks to my Todd Helton entry into his top-ten cards contest. Arenado is making a strong case for keeping hold of his uniform number 28, the same one that hangs in my closet. But on Jackie Robinson Day, he and all his colleagues wear #42, as shown on this insert from 2017 Topps. You can't tell from the scan, but the Topps logo is done up in gold foil, something we don't often see in this set anymore.

On the back, Topps tells us about Nolan's home-run-hitting performance on April 15th, 2015, presumably the date of this photograph. The game was played against the Giants, but this doesn't look like AT&T Park to me. The person in the front row appears to be wearing a Braves hat or something. But people show up to the ballpark with random team memorabilia all the time these days, and I don't just mean Marlins Guy. So I'll trust Topps on this one, and I'll also point out that this year's Jackie Robinson Day was pretty much the same story. The Rockies played the Giants in San Fransisco on April 15th, 2017, and the Rockies won, thanks in part to a Nolan Arenado home run.

2017 Topps Spring Training Logo Patches #MLBST-NA Nolan Arenado (MEM)
This package alone has greatly expanded my count of 2017 Topps inserts, and while I don't usually go for manufactured patch relics, this one appeals to me, probably because it approximates the actual patches worn during Cactus League games this spring. I was expecting it to be metallic, but it's actually some type of polyurethane. The herringbone pattern in the copper area really jumps out, as does the tiny indentation for the ball in the MLB logo at the top of the shield.

Kudos to Topps for keeping the copper thing alive during Upper Deck's conspicuous absence from the hobby. I'd love to see one from the Grapefruit League, as I'm sure there are some slight differences that would make a nice little set.

2013 Bowman Platinum Chrome Prospects Purple Refractors #BPCP40 Nolan Arenado
He's only 26, but he looks quite a bit younger on this Bowman Platinum card from 2013. The base set isn't quite this well color-coded. This happens to be the Purple Refractor parallel, a color variation that is practically tailor-made for Rockies cards. It's not the rarest one out there, nor is it even rare enough to get a serial number, but I don't see how this card could look any better.

We all like to have actual card numbers in our sets, compared to the alphabet soup found on that Spring Training card above. But with Bowman, you get both! It's card #40 from the Bowman Platinum Chrome Prospects set, which helpfully gets shortened to BPCP40. The numbering system of Bowman continues to be one of my biggest sources of confusion in the hobby, further blurred by the fact that the "P" in the Bowman Platinum logo still looks like an "L" to me.

2017 Topps Bunt #80 Jon Gray
Jon Gray, who has returned to the Rockies rotation following an injury, offers my first look at 2017 Topps Bunt. Compared to 2016, this year's set design shrinks the logo way down, and adds a slightly-too-small circular border around it. Also, it's one of the most clearly color-coded sets in recent memory, a nice card to follow Arenado's Bowman Platinum card above. Jon Gray has cropped that long hair a bit since this photo was taken, abandoning the trend that Tim Lincecum started last decade.

Long hair or no, this card is correct. Colorado has never had a pitcher like Gray. 16 strikeouts in one game gives us a tantalizing hint that maybe, just maybe, the Rockies rotation can someday be as fearsome as its lineup.

2016 Diamond Kings DK Originals #DKO1 Mike Trout
Every so often, a non-Rockie sneaks into a trade package. I certainly have no problem with cards of other teams, as I'm a set builder at heart. But it's not something I tend to expect, especially when it's of the best player in baseball. Trout would be a fearsome addition to any lineup, and even though he's fallen out of the top spots on the leaderboard due to injury, he can still keep the Angels on the map.

Earlier this week, he even traded first-inning home runs with Bryce Harper, his NL counterpart that broke into baseball right around the same time. Five years from now, we could even be talking about Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge the same way. But don't count out Joey Votto, the career Red and 2010 NL MVP, who quietly puts up top-tier stats without the glamour, youth, or fame of Harper and Trout.

I've seen a couple cards from the 2016 Diamond Kings set, but none from this 20-card Originals insert set, one that I probably wouldn't have run across if my fellow collectors never sent me non-Rockie cards. Team collectors, how do you get around this? Do you still have any interest in seeing insert sets that don't feature your team? Maybe that's a question only a set builder would ask, but the gold foil and sturdy playing card surface make this quite a nice card, regardless of who's on it.

And here's a more interesting question: if you ignore sets where your team is absent, do you consider that a disappointment or a relief?

2015 Topps Heritage Chrome #THC-453 Troy Tulowitzki /999
Somewhat surprisingly, there were no Todd Helton cards in this trade package, but Tulowitzki made an appearance or two. It's still a bit strange not to have Tulo around, but the way the team has been playing lately makes it seem a bit more normal with each passing day. Trevor Story is still a solid player, and Brendan Rodgers remains one of MLB's top prospects, though he hasn't progressed past double-A yet.

Of all the retro-themed sets Topps cranks out every year, Heritage is usually my favorite. For some reason, I tend to see more Rockies from 2015 Heritage than any other year, and with 19 cards in my collection, that has to be the whole team set, right?

I'm fortunate to be able to add this Chrome parallel just a page or two away in the binder, just the 8th in a print run of 999. These Heritage Chrome cards are always a bit jarring, just because it's so unusual to see a half-century-old design get the shiny treatment. But because they're serial-numbered and so easy to spot, I do gravitate toward them. And the print run has dropped back down into the sub-thousand range. For a while, Topps set the print run equal to the calendar year the design appeared in. If that trend continued, there would be 1,966 copies of this one, but these are half as plentiful (twice as scarce?) as in some previous years.

2012 Topps Triple Threads Unity Relics #TTUR-155 Troy Tulowitzki /36 (MEM)
The print run drops way, way down on this Tulowitzki relic card, to just 36. The black swatch is housed in a cute little home-plate shaped window. Of course, the plate actually comes to a point at the bottom, but I see what they're getting at. Triple Threads (not triple threats, as I originally typed - insert set idea?) always includes an appropriately thick and shiny card, necessitating one of my 100-pt toploaders.

There's some small text above the serial number that says "2007 Heart and Hustle Award". This is not something I had heard of before, but apparently it's been around since 2005. Tulowitzki was a three-time nominee from the Rockies, but wasn't selected by the MLBPA for the final award. Craig Biggio is the only two-time winner of the award, which is given to "an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game." Helton never got the nod, nor did a name I expected to see on this list, the always scrappy Eric Byrnes.

I do not know how heart vs. hustle is calculated or weighted, but there are some great players on that list. Todd Helton may have wanted that more than my personal top-ten list, but maybe Nolan Arenado will earn a nomination before too long.

Thanks to Collecting Cutch for this consolation prize, one I didn't expect when I put that Helton list together. But I now have a few more potential candidates if I ever want to make a list for Tulo or Arenado.


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed the cards. I had a few Helton base cards but you featured them in your list so I held off on including them in your runner up package. I have no idea why I put the Trout in there, but I''m sure I had a reason. As always thank you for following my blog and keep posting comments. I plan on doing a contest at the end of the regular season and there will be some big prizes for that one too. Arenado is my favorite non Pirate player to watch so I have a slew more cards f him if you're interested.