Friday, September 7, 2012
Models of consistency
There really isn't much consistency with baseball cards these days.
With all the different sets, the "super short-prints", and new "rookie cards" that aren't actually rookie cards, it's easy to get lost.
Fortunately, there's a few players who still bring a model of consistency to a sometimes crazy hobby.
The "cardogenics", as Mr. Night Owl calls them.
I don't own near as many Tim Wallach cards as Night Owl does, so I'll take his word for it.
Bloggers hiflew and gcrl have brought my attention to another member of the "cardogenic club", Eric Young. (More on him here.)
Over the years, I've noticed a few of my player collection subjects belong to the "club". Then there's others that can't seem to buy a break when it comes to their cardboard issues...but more on them later.
Access isn't just limited to the newer generation of ballplayers.
Even though there was no other company to compete with at the time, Topps still rewarded a few players with perpetually fantastic cards during their early days.
Harmon Killebrew is one of those lucky few.
I still rate his '73 issue as one of the greatest cards ever made.
This is one of the few "impulse buys" of my collecting career. Although I've always been a huge Killebrew fan, this is one of the few cards I just had to have the minute I saw it.
I think you can see why.
During last night's Cubs-Nationals brawl, I noticed the name "Eckstein" on the back of one of the Nationals jerseys.
For a moment, I thought that David Eckstein was back in the game of baseball. (A little research told me that the scrappy shortstop's brother, Rick Eckstein, is currently the hitting coach for the Nats.)
That little glimmer of hope inspired me to take a trip through my Eckstein collection this afternoon.
I'm a fan of all the "little guys" that have played the game of baseball. Mike Fontenot, Tony Campana, Bo Hart, you know the type.
David Eckstein is at the top of that list, as far as I'm concerned.
I quickly noticed that Eckstein could easily be considered one of the "cardogenics".
Considering the way he played the game, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone.
Although they might be dying out, there's still a few "cardogenics" left in today's game.
Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols, and Troy Tulowitzki are a few that come to mind.
Still, the one that stands out most to me has got to be Ichiro, my favorite player in the game today.
In terms of just his stats, he might well be the most consistent player of my generation, as hinted on the front of this throwback "in-action" card.
It's good to see that his knack for perpetual greatness has carried over to cardboard.
If there's ever been a specific group of "cardogenic" players, it's these guys.
Sadly, they seem to be waning in the game today as well. It's a shame, because it's darn near impossible to not have fun watching a submarine pitcher.
Although my favorite of the bunch has to be Chad Bradford, there's been a number of great ones over the years.
Kent Tekulve, Dan Quisenberry, and Byung-Hyun Kim can all lay claim to have some of the best baseball cards ever, thanks to their quirky below-deck delivery. (Here's a more comprehensive list of submariners.)
My elbow starts to hurt every time I glance at that Mike Myers card.
I still have no clue as to how anyone could throw like that.
As I mentioned earlier, there's few guys who always seem to get the wrong end of the stick when it comes to their baseball cards.
They're the polar opposite of the "cardogenics".
As surprising as it might seem, I'd mercifully nominate Mike Schmidt as the chairman of that "club".
For whatever reason, card companies pretty much gave him the shaft during his long, illustrious career.
I think it's a big reason why I never seriously got into collecting his cards. Although I can't resist a good dime box Schmidt here and there, I've never fully committed to starting a specific collection of his.
Between the above '84 Fleer issue and this one, I'm starting to believe that there was some collusion going on between card companies. They had to have gone out of their way to not give Mike Schmidt a decent card.
I can't think of any other explanation.
Pitchers are a common target for bad cards.
If you look closely, there's a great variety of horrific shots on pitcher cards of all generations.
Octavio Dotel has a special section in the "museum of funny faces". Apparently, it's a plague that's stayed with him for his entire career.
His 2002 Topps Total card is one of the legends of the "uncardogenics". I don't think there's a word in the English language to describe the look on his face there.
Dotel's last issue was found in last year's Update set, picturing him during his brief (but important) stay with the Cardinals.
Different uniform, similar crazy face.
Should Topps be up for the challenge, they'll probably have one last shot to release a proper card of Octavio Dotel with the Tigers, his record-breaking thirteenth different team.
I beg you, Topps.
Don't let that be Dotel's last card.
The president of the "uncardogenics" has to be Arthur Rhodes.
He's the subject of one of the classic so-bad-it's-good issues in cardboard history, one which I've already showcased on this blog.
Middle relievers like Rhodes don't get much recognition in the current hobby, so it's important that they make the most out of the few cards they have.
In that regard, card companies massively failed Arthur Rhodes.
Although the guy pitched in the bigs for twenty years, he couldn't buy himself a decent baseball card.
My Arthur Rhodes collection consists of about 25 different issues, yet I wouldn't rate a single one of them as "great".
Sadly, this was about as good as it would get for the longtime reliever.
At least Topps still has a shot to right the ship with Dotel.
It's not the same for Rhodes, as he most likely pitched his final games in the bigs last year. (Also with the world-champion Redbirds.)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rhodes wears yet another funny face on his "sunset" card from 2011 Topps.
He stayed true to form until the very end.
I've always been one to try and embrace change, but it's still good to know that great cards of guys like Ichiro will continually be out there for all to see.
Oddly, the perpetually odd shots of guys like Octavio Dotel and Arthur Rhodes make it a blast to flip through my cards of theirs.
After all, consistency is something that should be valued in this hobby.