Monday, June 23, 2008

Cards That Makes You Go...What??! of the Week: 2008 Topps Taylor Buchholz #402

2008 Topps Taylor Buchholz #402. I do hope that he was in on the gag when the photographer snapped this picture. What was Topps thinking when they selected this picture for use on his baseball card???

The last time Topps had a fully comprehensive set, where everyone from the all-star outfielders to the third string catcher or the mop up reliever had a card, was in 2001. And prior to that, when Topps stopped the practice of having a 792 card set, was 1994. Since then, the "official" number of cards in the basic set has been (in this order from 1995): 660, 440, 495, 503, 462, 478, 790, 718, 720, 732, 733, 659, 661, 660. So every card has to count.

In the 2008 Topps 660 card set, take out the 64 subset cards (30 manager, 10 league leader, 6 award winners, 10 combo cards, and 8 playoff highlights) and you have 596 cards for players. There are at any given point in time in the majors 750 active players, and that does not count the active players on the disabled list. That means that more than 200 players will not get a card. The 596 players who do get a card are immortalized forever with a 2½ x 3½ picture on cardboard. And, all gimmicks aside, I'm sure every player wants their card to look good. Because years from now, they will be telling their grandchildren about their lives in professional baseball, and the cards will become tools in telling their stories.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, than the card worthy of the What??! of the Week is going to need a few hundred more words. If only to explain what the mindset was of the Topps editors when they let this picture go through the presses for Colorado Rockies pitcher Taylor Buchholz.

Topps photographers take at hundreds of shots of players during the course of a year. Many are not usable due to the way Topps designs its cards. I can live with that. The eponymous Topps set has its usual combinations of action shots and head shots, along with a few candids mixed within it. Out of the possible hundred or so pictures they snapped of the young Rockies hurler, Topps thought this was the best one to use for the flagship??? If you can't tell, that's not even the Rockies mascot behind him ready to pounce on the pitcher. That would be Parrot Pete, the Pittsburgh Pirates mascot. So at least we can tell that this picture was taken at PNC Park.

Can you imagine the dialogue between the Topps photographer and Taylor when this shot was taken (TP for Topps photographer, TB for Taylor Buchholz):

TP: Okay those were some good pose shots.
TB: Thank you.
TP: I'll try and get some action shots of you if you get in the game today.
TB: Thanks.
TP (seeing Parrot Pete sneaking up behind Buchholz): Uh, oh Taylor. I have a little bit of time left before I go on, can I get a few more shots of you?
TB (as he begins to get into a pitcher's stance): Sure, how's this?
TP: Uh, no. Let's just have you standing up straight.
TB: How about this?
TP: Well, no, how about if you raise both arms.
TB: Like this?
TP: No, like you're just giving a shrug. That's it.
TB: This good? (as his teammates watch what's happening, and see what's about to happen).
TP: Perfect. Now hold that shrug and smile. (Camera clicks to the picture you see now).
TB: What's going on? Why is everyone looking at m...AAAAAHHHHH!!!! (as the Parrot attacks, or does whatever it was going to do to him).

The above dialogue is only a dramatization of what I think happened when this shot was taken. I don't really know what was said, or if the Rockies were watching in amusement as the opposing team mascot was going to make the poor guy do a number one on the field (many parents will know what "number one" is). I really hope that Buchholz was in on the gag, but again, I highly doubt it.

So the season ends, and the 2008 Topps cards don't arrive until February. Taylor, looking for his card, is disappointed that he is not in series one. So series two comes out in June, almost a full year since this shot was taken. One of his teammates, ripping through packs of series two, says, "Hey Taylor, you made it. Lucky you. Ha ha ha ha ha."

"What's so funny?" thinks Taylor as he walks over to the pile of wrappers on the floor. Imagine poor Buchholz's shock that of all the pictures they could have used of him, the above shot with Parrot Pete was what was chosen.

To the Topps Company, please bring back the 792 card sets. Please bring back the cards of the third string catcher and that mop up reliever. Because more players are in the game now, and you're not getting them into the set. And if you are not going to go back to that many cards, please pick some better pictures for the players you do include. Otherwise, we the collectors will be left to ask:

"Topps, what were you thinking??!"


JayBee Anama

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