There are people who are shouting about Topps’ incompetence after two players, Eduardo Nunez and Brandon Morrow, each appear on two different cards in the 2018 Topps Heritage High Numbers base set.
Now this type of thing is not completely unheard of. In 2015, Casey McGehee appeared in both the regular Heritage set as well as Heritage High Numbers even though he did not change teams.
The same thing happened last year with Aroldis Chapman.
I know the easy path is to say that Topps screwed up, but I think there’s more to it than that.
The main thing to keep in mind is that Heritage all but requires posed photos, or at least candid portraits of players. Topps can’t just go out to Getty Images and grab an action shot of a player and use it on a Heritage card, it wouldn’t look right and people would get upset. Remember, action shots were still a few years away during 1969.
The way I see it, there are a couple of scenarios that might have caused checklist problems for Topps, and I’m going to run through those to show how their options may have been limited when the time came to finalize the High Numbers checklist.
At the beginning of Spring Training, Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman would be a decent bet for a list of potential High Numbers candidates… While he wasn’t good in 2017, he was only a year removed from a season where he had gone 16-6, 3.77 and was arguably the O’s best starter.
But guess what? 2016 turned out to be a trend, not an aberration, the O’s cut Tillman loose and he ends up spending the rest of the season as a Rangers minor leaguer. You might have photos of Tillman, but he’s no longer a candidate for your 250 card checklist.
This gets a reaction from our unofficial Topps spokesperson:
Eloy Jimenez is generally regarded as one of baseball’s top prospects, and with a long season ahead for the woeful White Sox, there may have been hope that the Southsiders would call him up and he could have a rookie card in High Numbers…
…But the White Sox stick to their guns and leave him in the minors. That’s another player you’ve lost from your checklist.
Oh, but look at Jose Bautista! He signed a minor league contract with the Braves over the winter and he’s going to make the team. He’d be a perfect candidate for High Numbers! We’ve got to make sure we’ve got a photo of him!
Oh, but the Braves cut him loose in May and the Mets pick him up (plus he’d be traded to the Phillies at the deadline). You’ve got the photos, but they’re already out of date!
At the end, you find yourself two players short of a full 250 card checklist, and you’re running out of time. There are no subsets in the High #’s base set, so you can’t just fill in the space with a couple of extra “Topps News” All-Stars. What do you do? Perhaps the easiest course of action is to pick two players to duplicate in the checklist and hope that collectors see it as a sort of Allen & Ginter “quirky” rather than a failure.
Hold on… One of my staff members just burst in the room with a piece of paper… It’s a question just in from the blogosphere…
WHAT ABOUT MAX MUNCY????
Muncy had signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers and has hit 35 regular season homers to go with 75 runs, 79 RBI and a .263 average while playing several positions. He’s appeared on a number of Topps Now cards, but has not appeared on a single pack-issued card since 2015. So, indeed… what *is* up with Max Muncy?
I have two thoughts on that.
First off, perhaps there’s some sort of contractual issue which prevents Topps from putting him on anything but on-demand cards. Muncy may be following in the recent footsteps of Ichiro, Andrew Miller and Matt Wieters.
The other possibility?
OK, well, maybe Topps *is* incompetent.