Monday, August 4, 2008

Cards That Makes You Go...What??! of the Week: 2002 Topps Archives Future Rookie Reprints Jason Giambi #2 and Mike Piazza #7 of 10

Topps began the practice of including bonus cards in their factory sets in 1992, when they included ten Topps Gold, three Topps BlackGold, and possibly a nine card sample card featuring what would become the 1993 Topps design. They then expanded this to include insert sets that could only be exclusively found inside Topps factory sets. The first such set was found in 1995, with the inclusion of the Topps Finest 1995 MLB Award Contenders, and 1995 Topps Opening Day.

In 2001, Topps included a 20 card insert set that was not for the eponymous brand, but instead was to be an addendum to the 2001 Topps Archives set. It featured 20 current players who would not have qualified for the Topps Archives set (Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Roger Clemens, et. al) and combined a reprint of their rookie card and the 2001 Topps Archives Logo. They called this set Topps Archives Future Rookie Reprints. And depending on what factory set you bought, you would get five cards of the 20 card set. However, there was no differentiating which cards came with what set, so short of buying and opening four factory sets (which is considered sacrilegious), you still could not be guaranteed getting a full set. Fortunately, thanks to eBay, singles were put on sale by only the most daring of eBayers, and I eventually was able to piece out a complete set from singles.

They repeated the process in 2002. But it now became a ten card set, but Topps never announced what cards could be found in what set. The 2002 Topps Hobby Factory sets had five cards (Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Pedro Martinez, Ichiro Suzuki, and Jeff Bagwell). The other five cards (announced in a checklist by Beckett as Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Nomar Garciaparra, Ken Griffey, Jr, and Albert Pujols) could only be found in factory sets that were sold ONLY from either JC Penney's or Sears' websites. But nobody said anything about where to find the last five cards. Who knew that Penneys and Sears even sold factory sets? Why did Topps distribute these cards this way? What??!...okay wait a minute...let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Now the 2001 Topps Through the Years insert set introduced us to the image of Cal Ripken's 1982 rookie card (without the two other guys on either side). A vertical portrait with an enlarged photo of a youthful future "Iron Man" was used as the example of the 1982 Topps design in that 50-card insert set. They repeated this process in the Topps Archives set. As you know, the set featured the rookie and final cards of baseball's best players from the past 50 years. If a player (like Al Martin, Bob Uecker, Mike Schmidt, Carlton Fisk) shared his rookie card with another person, what Topps did was enlarge the player's picture, and then create that year's design around the enlarged picture.

So why is it that for both the 2002 Topps Archives Rookie Reprints Jason Giambi and Mike Piazza cards did Topps not follow this practice??? They reprinted the full cards for both, with Piazza sharing his card with three other players (Brook Fordyce of the Mets AA team, Carlos Delgado of the Blue Jays' A team, and Donnie Leshnock, the 1992 draft pick of the NY Yankees) from the 1993 Topps set. Giambi was the A League representative, and shared the 1994 Topps reprinted card with three players as well (Luis Ortiz of the Red Sox's AAA team, David Bell of the Indians' AA team, and George Arias as the Draft pick).
Giambi's card mates aren't necessarily household names, but I do think that Topps should have been able to find a way to seperate Giambi from the three other players (a large square picture in front of a blue sky and clouds background would have worked here).

However, Mike Piazza shares his card with Carlos Delgado, who is a star in his own right. He may not have the Hobby Love that Piazza does, but he does have a following. Whether with the Jays, the Marlins, or the Mets, Delgado has shined as an All-Star. What was Topps thinking here? The checklist says Piazza, but the card, in the minds of certain people, could have been for Delgado. If Topps really wanted to include Mike Piazza in the Archives set, they should have had no problem removing the three other guys and leaving Piazza and his oval framed picture on the card. But why didn't they do this?

Now you could argue that Piazza was the AAA prospect, so it clearly should be his...but the card listed as Jason Giambi has the clean shaven third base prospect as a single A player. Should Topps have checklisted this as Luis Ortiz's card? Luis Ortiz only played in 60 games during a four year major league career. Not even close to living up to that Top Prospect billing. So this could get a pass, an inexcusable pass, but Topps got away with one here.

Again, Piazza has more of the Hobby love than Delgado. But Delgado was also a recognizable name in 2002, this could have easily been his card too. Because Topps did not fix the card so that only Piazza appears on it, and because it is only Mike Piazza's name on the card, Carlos Delgado player collectors don't even know that this card is out there for them to get. But then again, who would have known that these cards would only be out if you bought a set from Sears or JC Penney?

Topps, what were you thinking??!


JayBee Anama

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