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The best cards of 2009

Today, Russell Martin is handing over the crown. He has reigned for a full year as "The Best Card of 2008." But now it's time for a new card to take on all the responsibilities that are necessary with such a lofty title.

Like I promised before, I am going to count down the best cards of 2009. At one point I had thought of posting a poll so folks could vote on their favorites. But I do enough damn polls. I'm sick of them. So, I'm going communist on this blog. You're going to accept whatever card I determine as the best and you'll LIKE IT. The ruler has spoken.

This list is restricted to cards that I pulled during the past year. And I'm not including "hit" cards -- relics or autos. They're too unique -- well, relatively speaking. It's hard to compare them to regular cards.

The list didn't change a lot from the first one I did back in August. That's because I did the bulk of my 2009 card shopping in the first eight months. And what came out in the final four months didn't impress me much. There's no Goodwin on this list. No T206. Only one Updates & Highlights card.

And, like before, there is no base Upper Deck. If you want to know why, ask yourself, "do you know anyone trying to complete the 2009 UD base set?" Neither do I.

The countdown begins with four cards that aren't special in their own way. Instead, they represent a certain '09 innovation that I appreciated, so I'm honoring them in the countdown.

OK, on with the little dog-and-pony countdown show:

20. Allen & Ginter Negro League stars cards: This was a nice aspect of this year's A&G set. I enjoyed learning about these players, few of whom I had known before this year. Very well-done, but not overdone.

19. Topps Updates & Highlights propaganda cards: I hate to keep showing the Ramirez card, but it's the only one I've got. And really, the only one that matters to me. To me, the propaganda cards were the perfect execution of displaying non-photographic art on a card.

18. Allen & Ginter Creatures of Legend, Myth & Terror: Not all of A&G's insert sets interest me, but I thought this was a cool idea. I traded away the Nessie card, but I wouldn't mind having it back.

17. Topps Wal-Mart black cards: Topps butchered the entire idea of this in Series 2. I don't know if I'll ever get any of the Series 2 black Dodger cards. But the actual look of the card won me over and looked great (although they smelled a bit weird). It's an entire set of night cards!

16. Cat Osterman, Allen & Ginter: OK, now we're onto the actual individual card. This card is great for one reason: it's a card of an attractive, successful female athlete. Female card collectors enjoy a perk in this hobby that male collectors don't: the eye-candy aspect. This card reverses things a little. Maybe Topps is on to something here. I mean look at how popular this card was.
15. Rich Harden, Topps base: There's a blog that doesn't like this card. I don't get it. This is one of the most photographically artistic cards I've seen in a long time. But art is subjective.

14. Albert Pujols, Allen & Ginter sketch card insert: Speaking of which, I am one of the few who doesn't care about the sketch cards that have popped up in sets the last couple of years. There are so many of them that do not look good. However, this is not one. A very sweet card.

13. Brandon Jones, Topps Heritage: Jones is back again and he still looks pissed. I wish there was an actual background and then this really would look like a 1960s throw-back card. Because Jones has that intense stare that I see on a lot of '60s cards down cold.

12. David DeJesus, Topps base: I don't know how I left this card off the first list. That is a great shot. There are so many award-winning worthy photos in the '09 base set.

11. Jon Lester, Topps base: It's difficult to put a new spin on a photo of a pitcher throwing the ball to home plate. This isn't necessarily new, but it has all the ingredients. And you see the focus on Lester's face.

10. Reed Johnson, Topps base: Lots of people like this card. You could make an argument for it being the best card of the year. I'll go with you on that.

9. Chone Figgins, O-Pee-Chee: There are a number of panoramic-type shots in the OPC set. It almost makes up for the bazillion studio shots. This is my favorite one.

8. Paul Konerko, Topps base: Out of all the different photos to pop up in the '09 base set, this is the "most different."

7. Nelson Cruz, Topps base: Best tightest action shot of the year? Yup.

6. Andy LaRoche, Topps Heritage: To me, success in the Heritage set is when you look at the card and everything about it seems like it is "of the era" that is being portrayed with the design. This card does the best job of that.

5. Roy Halladay, O-Pee-Chee black: A new entry on the countdown! What a killer card. I stopped what I was doing when I pulled this card because it looked so good when I saw it. The black border really makes the card.

4. Reggie Abercrombie, Topps base: I'm guessing Abercrombie is out on this play. But he remains a success because his card was the first sign that the 2009 set would not be like that lousy '08 Topps offering.

3. Jim Thome, Topps base: This was No. 1 on the first countdown. I bumped Thome down a bit because I've realized the other two cards are better. But I still think it's a great shot. Classic old-timey shot of a classic, old-timey player.

2. Clayton Kershaw, Allen & Ginter: I really, really wanted to put this card at No. 1 and have Dodgers winning the best card of the year honors two years running. But someone might smell something fishy and close this place down. Still, you can't dispute that it's beyond awesome.

1. David Murphy, Topps base: The champion of 2009! This is the feel-good, baseball-in-July, everything-is-right-with-the-world card of all cards. And that's why it's the best card of 2009.

There you have it. A pretty fine year for some sets. A lousy one for others. Here's to some more great stuff in 2010! Upper Deck! Show us what you've got next year! Do you have anything?


Nachos Grande said…
Interesting choices! I think you nailed the best card of the year though - that's everything a baseball card should be!

PS: Happy New Year!
dayf said…

(I woulda gone with Kershaw or Halladay meself)
Orioles Magic said…
Awesome countdown

Also-I think the word verification is picking on me. Ostrange. O's (s)trange Not nice.
Roy said…
That Halladay is tip-top, but I am Jays-partial.

Great list,couldn't agree more on #6, #12, #15, #16 (reow).
AdamE said…
Halladay should have got number one and Kershaw #2. But I got to admit Topps did so much better this year than it has done in a LOOONG time.
Contrary Guy said…
That is more totalitarian than communist, you know.
night owl said…
True, CC.

But either way, I'm BAD NEWS.
jacobmrley said…
Wanna know how that Murphy card coulda/woulda/shoulda have been even better? He was voted to the Topps Rookie Team but it has no trophy on it. Put that sweet little number on it and you have the card of the year PLUS!
Two Packs A Day said…
Just so you know there is one out there, I am trying to collect 2009 Upper Deck base set... two packs at a time!

I'll have to look through the results of 2 boxes of 2009 UD series 1 that i"ve opened so far and see if I can find a few favorite shots that you can put in your revised 2009 top cards. ;)
As a Rangers fan, I'm happy to see two of them in the top 7. I also thought the Murphy card was the best of the year. At least of the cards I saw. I also appreciate the play at the plate cards that made it!