Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cards That Make You Go...What??! of the Week: 2002 Topps Archives Best Years Edition Gibson #68, Hernandez #85, Carter #105, and Dawson #147

Starting this week, we are bringing back one of my favorite segments of the blog, "Cards that make you go WHAT??! of the Week." It's been quite a while since this humble little blog had one of these kinds of posts. So with the new year comes a new WHAT??!.

For those of you who are new to the blog, whenever the word "WHAT??!" appears on any of my posts, it means, "What was Topps thinking???" I'll try to post a card or two that for any reason makes me wonder what went through the minds of the people working at the Topps company when they created or designed the cards in question. As the title suggests, I'll be discussing one of my favorite sets, the 2002 Topps Archives "Best Years" Edition, and four cards within it that make me wonder what Topps was thinking upon creating their cards.

Following the massive success known as 2001 Topps Archives, the Topps company brought back the Archives name in 2002, but instead of reprinting another 200 players' first and last cards, they picked 175 players, some who didn't even appear in the previous year's set, and reprinted the Topps card that represents that person's "Best Year" in the majors (hence the official name of 2002 Topps Archives: "Best Years" Edition). And what a job they did. In many cases, you can't argue with some of the choices. Roger Maris is in the set, and the card Topps reprinted was the 1961 Topps card (in honor of his 61 home runs plus MVP in 1961). Dennis Eckersley's best year (according to Topps) was 1992, when he not only won the Cy Young award, but the AL MVP award too. He deserved both awards, as he went 7-1, saved 51 games, and had an ERA of 1.91. In honor of his 1992 effort, they reprinted the Eck's 1992 card. What was cool about this set was that the card backs of each of the players not only had more easy to read card numbers (compared to 2001 Archives...magnifying glass anyone???), but in the ever so important statistics line, they even ADDED the stat year of that year's card. So in the case of Eck's card 1992 card, you could actually read his 1992 stats.

How cool is that???

It should come as no surprise that some players' best years came after their first year with a new team. In baseball, as in other sports, sometimes a change of scenery is all that is needed to bring out the best in an athlete's performance on the field. In the case of the four players listed above, that is exactly what happened.

Gary Carter's best year (according to Topps) was 1985. He was traded to the Mets after a 11 year stint with the Montréal Expos, and promptly hit 32 home runs, drove in 100 runs, and had a batting average of .281 for the Metropolitans. In honor of that "best year," Topps reprinted his 1985 Topps card. One problem though. I said that he played for the Mets in 1985. So why did they reprint his 1985 Topps card as a member of lés Expos???

Willie Hernandez was the star closer for the 1984 Detroit Tigers. And like Eckersley in 1992, he was not only the 1984 Cy Young Award winner, but also the AL Most Valuable Player. His numbers were a dominating (for 1984 standards) 9-3, 1.92 ERA, and 32 saves. The year before, Willie was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. During the offseason, the Phillies traded Hernandez and Dave Bergman to the Tigers for Johnny Wockenfuss and Glenn Wilson. Who do you think got the better end of this deal? The point is that even though the back of the card shows Willie's 1984 power numbers with the Tigers, his reprinted card shows him as a member of the Phillies!!!

Andre Dawson being named MVP in 1987 was impressive because he won the award while playing for a last place team, the Chicago Cubs. After spending many years playing on the carpet at Olympic Stadium in Montréal, he agreed to a blank contract with the Cubs. Basically, he told the team to choose how much to pay him. So what did a one-year, $700,000 deal get the Cubs? How about a player who hit a league leading 49 home runs and drove in 137 runs. Those numbers, along with the fact that he was a Cub when he had them, are on the back of the card (see below). But instead of showing "The Hawk" in Cubbie blue, his 1987 Topps card has him as a member of the Expos.

One more example before I begin my rant...Kirk Gibson is also in this set. His "best year," according to Topps, was 1988. Signing with the Dodgers after the 1987 season, he was named the NL MVP the following year. And who could forget that game winning home run in the '88 World Series, against Eckersley no less? If he played for the Dodgers in 1988, and looking at his lifetime stats, this was definitely his best year, why is he depicted as a Detroit Tiger?

You get the idea?

It's not like Topps couldn't reprint the TOPPS TRADED card of each of the above players. I mean, 2001 Topps Archives had a Traded card reprinted for Ron Cey (1987 Topps Traded), so why couldn't they reprint each player's "traded" card, and actually show each of them in the uniform of the team they had their career year?

Regardless of this tiny little oversight, 2002 Topps Archives is still a great looking set. I wish they could have continued on this theme in 2003. But then, we wouldn't have the Fan Favorites series that we all love so much (I mean that seriously, not sarcastically).

But Topps...

What were you thinking??!


JayBee Anama

P.S. If I was smart, I would have scanned the actual Topps Traded cards of the four players mentioned. What was I thinking??! jba


TDLindgren said...

I'm with you JayBee! 2002 Topps Archives is one of my favorite sets of all-time! I'm working on a display of various MVP's during the Topps era, but had to get the regular traded cards of Gibson and Dawson. I don't know why Topps reprinted the regular cards and not the updates.

Dave - Fielder's Choice said...

I wasn't collecting in 2002, but I definitely agree with you!

capewood said...

Thanks. I have a lot of cards but I never saw this set before.

TDLindgren said...

To make it even more ridiculous, in 2001 Topps reprinted Gary Carter's 1985 Topps Traded card showing him in his Mets uniform as part of their 2001 Topps Traded Set. So Topps reprinted his 1985 Traded card in 2001, but chose to reprint his regular 1985 card in 2002's Best Year set!

And don't even get me started as to why Topps even picked 1985 as his best year!

Anonymous said...

Another note, they didn't italicize Dawson's league-leading numbers from the 1987 season. He was tops in both HR and RBI.