Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The invisible men

Remember this card from last year's Allen & Ginter set? Everyone had a laugh, or shook their head, over the Invisible Man card, which was part of the "Creatures of Legend, Myth and Terror" insert series.

I didn't bother to chase this card, although I did find it amusing.

But did you know that 2010 Allen & Ginter has its own invisible man, too?

Derek Jeter is not featured in this year's set. I'm sure you know that already, but that stuns me.

Not only is he one of the top five most popular baseball players on the planet and has been for years, but he plays for Topps' favorite team.

That's what makes this so shocking to me. Why would Topps exclude such a popular player on such a popular team in probably its most popular release of the year?

I still don't know the answer to that. Although the absence of popular players from card sets has always fascinated me -- from Ted Williams and Maury Wills to Rusty Staub, Jason Varitek and Barry Bonds. But I don't think this is a case of any Jeter/Topps feud.

First, we would've heard of it by now. Secondly, Jeter is featured in the A&G sketch card insert series. Thirdly, Jeter is also featured in Series 2 of the Topps base set.

Plus, Jeter's not the only notable player to have a card in Topps' base set but not in the A&G set.

Another super popular player, Big Papi, was omitted. I find this almost as mind-boggling as Jeter. The guy's face was all over 2007 Topps. He may have fallen from the spotlight a little, but he's still a big deal and needs to be included in a set like this.

I decided to do a little research and find out who else was left out of the A&G set this year. I simply compared the checklist of this year's A&G set to the checklist of this year's Topps base set.

I realize that the A&G set is only half the size of the Topps base set, and I also realize that A&G includes many, many non-baseball, non-sports and even non-human subjects.

So A&G is limited in terms of how many baseball players it can feature in a set. I was aware of that when I was determining which players in the 2010 base set did not have an A&G card.

After eliminating the players that appear in both sets, what was left was mostly what you would expect:

Players who had announced their retirement recently.

Players whose place of work was on shaky ground at the time of card production.

And players whose rookie buzz had faded. Kind of like the 8 zillion Ching-lung Hu cards in 2008, Topps gave us all the Dexter Fowler cards we could handle in 2009, and then cut back drastically the following year.

Other players not honored with an A&G card this year were lots of No. 4 and 5 starters and less popular outfielders/ infielders on less popular teams. Here are some of them:

Ted Lilly, John Maine, Aubrey Huff, Skip Schumacher, Casey Blake, Coco Crisp, Ryan Spilborghs, Russell Branyan, Lyle Overbay, Matt Capps, Marlon Byrd, and many, many others.

I totally expected players like that to not be included in this year's A&G set. Even if I was annoyed that Topps didn't Fear the Beard. (Blake DeWitt was shunned, too).

But there were still some absences that surprised me:

Tim Hudson. He's in 2009 A&G, in 2010 Topps base, but not 2010 A&G. I know that Hudson played only briefly in 2009, but the guy was recovering from Tommy John surgery! You're going to hold that against him? Does this mean Justin Morneau won't be in 2011 A&G? Hudson has been money every year of his career. He should be in this set.

Corey Hart. In 2009 A&G. In 2010 base. But not in 2010 A&G. Hart had a bit of a down year in 2009 with injury issues, but still owned a consistent record as a key slugger in the Brewers' lineup. And now, with the 2010 season he's having, it looks silly that he's not in A&G.

Aaron Harang (I'm just now realizing that all these guys' last names start with "H." Hmmmmmm). He's also in 2009 A&G, in 2010 base, but not in 2010 A&G. I know he had another awful won-loss mark in 2009, but he's been a mainstay in the Reds' starting rotation for years. He may look scary, but get him a card.

Travis Hafner. (Another "H"!) Also in '09 A&G and '10 base, but not '10 A&G. Haftner didn't play in 100 games in 2009, but his season was a heck of a lot better than his year in '08, and that didn't stop A&G from featuring a card of him in its 2009 set.

Others that have me slightly less puzzled: Mike Lowell, Heath Bell, Scott Rolen and Phil Hughes.

I'm not sure whether there are more notable players left out of 2010 A&G than in past A&G years, or if this is routine. The absence of Jeter and Ortiz probably shined a light on this issue that went unrecognized before.

I do know that you can't blame an increase in the non-MLB player cards. There are around 50 cards of non-current MLB players in this year's set, just like last year.

There are also about the same number of cards of players with the rookie card logo -- 35 -- as there was last year or the year before that.

But if there was one thing I could change about my beloved A&G it would be all those rookie card guys.

I can appreciate having a few of these cards in the set. A Jason Heyward in this year's set or an Andrew Bailey in last year's set is cool.

But do we need 35?

You have only 300 players from which to choose, do you want to bank on Daniel McCutchen or David Ortiz and Derek Jeter?

I mean ask yourself: what's David Patton doing these days? (He was a rookie card guy in '09 A&G. He's now in Single A ball).

This is a set to recognize the World's Champions. Jeter and Ortiz know a little something about that. The rookies? Who knows what they know?


  1. You could make Allen & Ginter bigger, but I think that would annoy the folks who try to build the set every year.

    You could cut back on the rookies, but they have more potential to drive sales than veterans like Jeter and Ortiz.

    You could cut back on the non-baseball cards, but that's what makes Ginter unique.

    Or you could just admit that Jeter & Ortiz (and a bunch of other veterans) really don't need a card in 2010 when they had one in 2007, 2008 & 2009 that all pretty much look the same.

    I'm glad Topps went with that last option.

  2. I agree with Paul. I like it just the way it is. I'm just getting into the Allen & Ginter cards, and think Topps has done a great job with this product line. That "Invisible Man" card is pretty funny.

  3. Maybe I'm in the minority. I don't care in the least if I get a card of Brandon Allen or Daniel Runzler or Adam Moore. If I did, I'd be all over Bowman. Card companies are in a sad state if they think they need to put an overabundance of rookies (it isn't even their real rookie card!) in every single product.

    The non-baseball and non-sports cards make A&G. The rookies don't. I doubt A&G needs all those rookies to drive its product.

    I was semi-seriously considering not collecting the 2011 base set next year and just collecting A&G. But if they're going to shun established players for players I've never heard of -- and may never hear of -- then maybe I won't bother with A&G next year, as far as collecting the set. It's getting annoying.

  4. On a somewhat related note, I bought my first three packs of National Chicle the other day. The results were a mixed bag...

    I got no Yankees (that's good!)
    I also got no Orioles (that's bad!)
    I don't believe I got any Red Sox (that's good!)
    I got five Athletics (that's bad...who knew there were A's hot packs in 2010?)
    One of the Athletics was Jimmie Foxx, possibly my favorite old-school player (that's good!)

    On the whole, I much prefer the legends in this set to the current players. I also got a Honus Wagner card that was absolutely terrifying.

  5. I think I remember reading somewhere that MLB forced card companies to make all sets consist of 10% rookies back when they also made them use the RC logo.

    That is why we don't see sets like Archives and Fan Favorites anymore...