A couple weeks ago, I was getting ready to feature this card as part of my frankenset, which is a set reserved for anyone who isn't already a "binder guy" in my collection.
It's hard to define what exactly makes a "binder guy" to me (even I don't have a full understanding of it sometimes), but one seemingly surefire way of making it in is by playing a prime role in my baseball childhood.
Jose Lima most certainly did that. I'm a little young to remember his prime years with the Astros, but I do remember a This Week in Baseball VHS compilation I used to have (which I wore the tracking out of after many viewings) that featured an entire segment devoted to the man they called "Lima Time."
Between his fun-loving mound presence and his effervescent smile, few personalities in baseball history have matched Jose Lima's. He was just one giant ball of energy.
I became an instant fan.
And yet even after all that, and for reasons I can't quite explain, Lima still wasn't a "binder guy."
After many years of stupidity, I recently decided to change that and induct him into my hallowed binders. One upside (or downside, depending on how you look at it) is that there certainly isn't any shortage of cards to chase, since Lima played in probably most bloated era for cardboard: the mid-to-late 1990s.
Lima started off in the Tiger organization after having signed with Detroit out of the Dominican Republic in 1989. He cracked the big-league roster in 1994 and would pitch in a total of 95 games for the Tigers across the next three seasons, mainly out of the bullpen.
Lima was destined for cardboard greatness right from the start, as evidenced by this stellar multiple-exposure shot on his Pinnacle rookie card.
Lima was traded to Houston after the 1996 season, a city where he would enjoy his best years.
He'd spend five seasons as an Astro, the far and away finest being his stellar 1999 campaign. Lima went 21-10 with a 3.58 ERA and was nominated to the only All-Star team of his career during that spectacular year.
Most fans, myself included, probably best remember Jose Lima as a Houston Astro.
Unfortunately, he could never quite regain the magic of that '99 season.
After a few down years in Houston, Lima was dealt back to his first franchise in Detroit. He struggled in parts of two seasons for the Tigers and was given his release at the end of 2002. He wasn't even in organized baseball at the start of the following year, having signed with an independent league team on the east coast.
The clock had seemed to run out on Lima Time.
But like any true baseball icon, Jose Lima wouldn't go down without a fight.
After posting solid numbers in independent ball, the Royals took a chance on Lima, bringing him back to the big leagues for the remainder of the 2003 season.
To everyone's surprise, he won eight out of the 14 starts he'd make for Kansas City...
...which earned him a free-agent contract with the Dodgers the following winter.
The 32-year-old Lima showed that his time with the Royals wasn't a fluke, going 13-5 with a 4.07 ERA in 2004, the third and final time he'd post a double-digit win total in his career.
Lima went back to the Royals in 2005 and would close out his career with a brief four-game stint with the 2006 Mets.
However, to my knowledge, no cards exist of his short stint with the Mets, so this 2006 Upper Deck issue will go down in history as the sunset card of a man who couldn't help but crack a smile every time he stepped onto a big league mound.
Tragically, the 37-year-old Lima died of a heart attack in 2010, just four years after pitching in his final major league game.
After all that, the question remains: how could I not collect a guy like Jose Lima?
I guess part of my reason for delaying the decision for so long is the fact that taking on a new player collection can be a daunting task. With newer rookies, it's not so bad since there aren't many existing cards of them in the first place. But with Jose Lima, I basically ignored 13 years' worth of cards to choose from. How do you make up for all that lost time?
That's where the beauty of the Internet comes in. While I probably could've slowly accumulated more Lima cards through dime boxes and trades, I decided to expedite the process. As I've done with new player collections in the past, I loaded up my Just Commons cart with virtually every Lima card they had in stock.
In a matter of days, and for under half the cost of a blaster...
...I had an instant player collection of a guy I should've started collecting a long time ago.
From his beginnings as a Detroit Tiger to his golden years as a Kansas City Royal -- and a whole lot in between -- I now own around 50 cards of Jose Lima. Just like that. Even with all the social flaws of technology, sometimes you've got to admit: the Internet can be a great place. It made me look like less of an idiot for not collecting Jose Lima all these years.
Finally, as far as my binders go, it is, and will always be, Lima Time.