Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How did this happen?

I find myself asking that question a lot in the winter time. When you get more than two feet of snow in two days, you can't help but stare out at the enormous snowbanks and ask, "how the hell did this happen?"

And being stuck inside helps you ponder other ridiculous occurrences. Like the two Willy Aybars that Topps issued in 2008. The card of the former Dodger on the right is No. 654 from Series 2. The card on the left is from the Updates & Highlights set, No. UH217.

Exactly what about Aybar is Topps updating? He didn't change teams, obviously. Why would Topps issue two regular old base cards of the same guy when nothing has changed?

You'll note the difference in the backs. The Series 2 card at the top has all his minor league stats but apparently forgot his 2007 season. The bottom card excludes the minor stats and adds that Aybar did not play in 2007. Is that really worth the update, to include the forgotten '07 season?

The Aybar cards remind me of the puzzling cards of Elizardo Ramirez from the 2007 Topps set.

The card on the left is from Series 1, No. 84. The right card is No. 554 from Series 2. I had never heard of Ramirez when I pulled his Series 1 card. So imagine my surprise when he showed up again in Series 2, except with a tighter-cropped photo. The backs are the same except for the write-ups.

What the heck happened here? Did they forget that they already issued Ramirez in the first set? They couldn't possibly have run out of players to feature. They don't include enough players as it is. Do you think Ramirez phoned back home in the Dominican Republic and asked his family, "Guess who has two base cards in the Topps set? No, it's not Jeter. No not A-Rod. No not Prince Albert. It's me, Elizardo!"

The Ramirez cards of 2007 reminded me of the Scott Hattebergs from the 2006 Topps set.

The Hatteberg on the left is card No. 4 from Series 1. The card on the right is card No. 533 from Series 2. What we have here is basically an Update & Highlight card in the second series!

Hatteberg was signed by the Reds in February of 2006 after the Series 1 cards were printed. It's kind of cool that the Hatteberg card was updated, but it's odd that he was the only one who got an updated card before the U&H set actually came out.

My question is how the heck does this happen? For years, Topps issued its main set in series, often breaking it up into five or six separate series. Never did they issue a second card of a player (unless it was a special card, like a record breaker or all-star card, etc.). And Topps has been issuing update (or traded) sets each year since 1981. To my knowledge they've never before run a second card of a player in the update set who hadn't even been traded.

Is there so much going on at Topps that they're losing track of what players they have featured? Are they too busy issuing their dozen-and-a-half other sets and creating their zillions of inserts that the quality control is slipping on the flagship set? Are they too busy thinking up gimmicks that they're letting other things slide?

I wonder. This stuff never used to happen. Why is it now?


  1. Nice post. I'm really intrigued by stuff like this. I'm not sure, but I thought I noticed at least one other card in U&H this year that was like the Willy Aybar situation. I don't really get it. But then again, I also don't get why Albert Pujols has an Upper Deck series 1 and series 2 card in 2008... not that I'm complaining or anything.

  2. Ah, so that's what happens when I forget to logout of my girlfriend's account. Oops.

  3. Great post. If I hadn't spoken to a nice gal at Upper Deck last week, I'd swear they've gone the way of the American corporation and began outsourcing. Could you imagine if we had the find folks in New Delhi, India doing our baseball card research?

  4. I don't mind it, if it is a superstar, but Willy Aybar??

  5. We're talking about a company that can't post an accurate & complete checklist on its own website. I'm surprised there aren't more incidents like this.

  6. I think Topps is updating his new tat on his forearm....

  7. Wait... even better! Check both of Bengie Molina's cards from 2007 Topps (4 from S1, 342 from S2). They're exactly the same; they didn't even tighten up the photo like they did on Elizardo.

  8. Quality control. Perhaps this should update our Blog Bat Around #3. Topps & UD, please set some standards for your flagship sets, as in:

    1. Issue a base card of all players with significant time in the big leagues the previous year, unless there's a September call-up that is expected to have a significant role this year.

    2. If a player pictured in the "regular" series of the flagship sets (whether 1 or 2), no more base cards of that player until the Update set.

    2A. If a player pictured in the "regular" series or the flagship sets (whether 1 or 2) changes teams since the original card, that player must have a card in the Update set. That card takes precedence over All-Star, highlight, etc. cards of someone in the main set who did not switch teams.

    3. If there are 2 cards of a player, use a different picture. That means you may have to instruct your photographers to save all the shots to a stick and catalog the memory stick so you can access it to print a separate photo.

    Of course, Topps hasn't always followed rule 3. I think the Night Owl has already posted about the Roadrunner (Ralph Garr). I remember seeing this in Russ Gibson's 1968-69 cards.

    Good point to bring out. I wish they'd get a grip.

  9. OK, I can't remember which card it is, but I am sure this has happened more than once. One of this years UH cards was the same exact card of the player in the Series 1 or 2, just with the uniform photoshopped.

    By the way, I know how you feel with a ton of snow. The past week we have had significant enough snowfall on a daily basis to shovel everyday/every other day. I once had a black car, then winter came and now I have a white car.

  10. I think they did the same thing with Jason Jennings in the 2008 regular and update sets. That after he spent all but about two games on the DL.

  11. I should pay a bit more attention to this as I didn't realize that Molina and Elizardo had two cards in both series I and II in 2007. That means five guys had cards in both series in 2007, along with:

    Gary Sheffield (133 & 470)
    Michael Barrett (68 & 492)
    Mike Rabelo (294 & 636)

    The difference is that in the factory sets, Barrett was replaced with John Buck (492) and Rabelo with Billy Butler (636).

    Now I'm going to have to see if the factory set came up with different cards as well.


    JayBee Anama

  12. Definitely a lack of quality control, which I touched on in my Blog Bat Around.

  13. Just finally got around to looking through the factory set...Topps did not replace either the Molina or Ramirez card with another player (as previously mentioned in my first comment).

    Back to your post...in 2001, Topps did have two Alex Rodriguez cards, in series I as a Mariner and II as a Ranger.

    In 1999, Topps had two Roger Clemens cards, in series I as a Blue Jay and II as a Yankee.

    In 1998, Jay Bell (along with others taken in the expansion draft) had cards as a Pirate in series I and a Diamondback in seires II.

    In 1993, Eric Young and Charlie Hayes (among with some others taken in the expansion draft) had cards as a Dodger and Yankee respectively in series I, as well as Rockies cards in series II.

    Maybe Topps should stop the series thing...but then it'd be harder to complete a set in one box.


    JayBee Anama

  14. Thanks for the research, JayBee.

    I think it's ridiculous that Topps would have two cards of some players and none of a bunch of others. And like I said, back before 1973, they would split the set up into 5 or 6 series and they weren't duplicating anyone.

  15. I just started up my blog toppstribe.blogspot.com and I came across some similar incidents to what everyone is talking about. After looking at them side to side I am fairly sure the exact same photo is used for 1995 Traded's Orel Hershiser as in the 1996 Regular issue. Also I found another instance of two cards in one set where it should've been a traded, Matt Williams in 1998 appears in Series 1 with Cleveland and in Series 2 with Arizona. But keep up the good work, I enjoy reading your blog!