Major Leaguers On Minor League Cards: Just Like They Was Before They Was

Over the weekend I was looking for cards to scan for yesterday’s post about minor league hockey and baseball, and that got me diving into my monster box that’s partially filled with older minor league sets. I had remembered that I recently saw an image of a 15-year-old R.A. Dickey card, and wanted to dig into the archives to see if I had it or not.

I was pretty sure I owned a copy, and was not wrong…
2000 Just The Preview RA Dickey
…This card no longer has to suffer in crowded conditions in the monster box;  it now luxuriates in the binder reserved for my player collections.

I also found several interesting cards from the same set, so I figured I’d share them with you…

This is the card that surprised me the most.
2000 Just The Preview Josh Hamilton
I could see that the card was of a player named Josh Hamilton, but I couldn’t believe it was THAT Josh Hamilton. Wouldn’t I have noticed long ago that I had a card of a noted slugger? And apparently I would not, because it is that Josh Hamilton, 18-years old and in his first season of pro ball after being selected with the first overall draft pick.

As long as I’m featuring Mr. Hamilton, I’ll just mention that the recent unpleasantness involving him and the Los Angeles Angels has caused me to lose quite a bit of respect for the ownership and front office of that team. I didn’t think much of them after the whole “Technically, ‘Anaheim’ doesn’t have to be in front of ‘Angels’! HA! Gotcha!” situation, and this did nothing to improve my opinion. Yes, Josh Hamilton fell off the wagon, but he also did not try to get away with it.  We shouldn’t even know about any of this, but someone leaked out the information and then the Angels organization got all bent out of shape when their own player did not get suspended.  “We are only looking out for what’s best for our $80 Million —- I’m sorry, I meant to say what’s best for Josh.”  I’m sure that every player in the Angels organization sleeps well at night knowing that ownership has their backs.

Cesar Izturis is no longer an active Major Leaguer, but he has been around enough that most of you should know who he is. (Been around, eh, been around? Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no MORE!)
2000 Just The Preview Cesar Izturis
He looks a lot more mature than the 20-years-old he was at the time, doesn’t he?

Finally, here’s a particularly awful card of a current Met. It’s very hard to read the text or see the face, but trust me, it’s Michael Cuddyer. Whenever I’m going through these cards, I look at the backs rather than trying to read the gold print on a transparent colored background.
2000 Just The Preview Michael Cuddyer
My suspicions for this set was that it looked fine while being designed on their computers, but then when it came back from the printer everybody said “Oh… That doesn’t look as good as I though it would”.

…Or maybe I’m just being generous.

“Hey, Mets Fans… Are These Guys Boring You?”

“…Come and talk to us.  We’re from a different country.”

I wouldn’t put it past the Blue Jays to use a Zaphod Beeblebrox pickup line on the Mets faithful.  It occurred to me that, intentionally or not, they’re doing a lot to ensure that the interest of Mets fans ends up directed north of the border.  Think about it…

They’ve got the guy who rose to stardom, became a fan favorite and won a Cy Young with the Mets…
2012 Card #720 - R.A. Dickey Cy Young

They’ve got the guy who was an 4-time All-Star and also a favorite of many Mets fans…
2011 Sticker Jose Reyes

They’ve got the Mets’ 2012 starting catcher…

2011 Sticker Josh Thole

…and one of his backups…
2011 Topps Mike Nickeas

Their new AAA affiliate is the Buffalo Bisons, the Mets top farm team for the past 4 years…

2011 Topps Pro Debut Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Heck, even their manager is a former Met.

1987 Donruss John Gibbons

Their filthy Canadian schemes won’t work on me, though… Not as long as I’m also an Orioles fan.

Well, OK, maybe I’ll root for the Blue Jays, perhaps they can win the Wild Card while the O’s win the division.  But no matter who the Jays acquire, I’m never calling their home ballpark anything but the SkyDome.

R.Jay Dickey

2012-13 Hot Stove #8 - RA DickeyBeing a Mets fan is an odd mix of hope and resignation, of optimism and pessimism. I’d hoped the Mets would keep R.A. Dickey, who was by far the best – and very often only – reason to watch the Mets this past year. After things didn’t seem to be going well with a contract extension, I became more and more resigned to the idea that Dickey would be elsewhere in 2013, and I began to hope that at least Sandy Alderson meant what he said when he talked about wanting a big package for R.A. Dickey.

It is something of a surprise and a relief that the Mets did get as good a return as they did.  After all, Dickey could go (as Graig Nettles once said) “from Cy Young to sayonara”.   Not that I’ll be hoping for that, I like Dickey too much to wish him any ill will in Toronto.  In fact, if I weren’t an Orioles fan, I would be rooting for the Blue Jays this year.  They’ve got two former Mets who are players I collect in R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes.

I’m very excited about Travis d’Arnaud;  guy sounds like a stud, and I’m looking forward to watching him play.  My apologies for the inaccuracies in my photoshopping; While I’ve gotten pretty good at this, I don’t have the skills to add pinstripes or piping to a jersey… so Mr. d’Arnaud will have to make it to Spring Training with a bogus Mets jersey.

2012-13 Hot Stove #9 - Travis d'Arnaud

D’Arnaud has the distinction of being traded for two different Cy Young Award winners. Three years ago, he was part of the package going from the Phillies to the Blue Jays for Roy Halladay.

If d’Arnaud plays in AAA this year, he’ll have the distinction of playing consecutive years for the same minor league team while in different organizations;  the Las Vegas 51’s were the Jays’ top farm team last year, and their affiliation switches to the Mets starting in 2013.

I was surprised at the number of catchers going in both directions.  When was the last time 4 catchers were involved in the same trade?  I like Thole and Nickeas, but I don’t know how much I’ll miss them.  One way or the other, I guess either Travis d’Arnaud or John Buck will be starting for the Mets on Opening Day;  the only other catcher they’ve got is Anthony Recker, who the Mets picked up on waivers from the Cubs, and who has all of 22 games of Major League experience.

Final thought comes from a Blue Jays perspective:  They’d better do something this year, because they’ve done a number on their farm system.  This winter they’ve traded their #1, #2, #3, #5 and #8 prospects to the Mets and Marlins.

Congratulations to R.A. Dickey!

A fan of another team might’ve had a post like this ready in advance, brimming with optimism that their player would certainly win a given award.

Ah, but I’m a Mets fan who has had most of his optimism beaten out of him over the course of 39 seasons, and as a result I’m scrambling to make a custom card while wolfing down breakfast.

I’m so unprepared for this accolade for one of my Mets that I’m not even aware of the specifics… “He’s the first Met to win since… what, Dwight Gooden?” (Yep, Doc won in 1985).

But I couldn’t be happier for R.A.; over the course of his career he’s gone from “That guy who lost most of his signing bonus after an orthopedic consultant saw his photo on the cover of Baseball America” to being my favorite current Met and one of my newest “guys I collect”.

I can only hope that in 2013 he’ll continue to be fun to watch, and continue to be a Met.

Pointless Pairings #2 – Trivia Challenge!

My latest “insert” card features a “Pointless Pairing” of R.A. Dickey and Todd Helton. This is the challenge: What do these guys have in common?  Leave your answers in the comments!

I have one particular thing in mind, but if you can show me that both have a map of Sao Paolo tattooed over their hearts, or that both get their teeth cleaned by a dental hygienist named Myrtle, then that would be acceptable.

Just to make this clear, this isn’t a contest, there are no prizes. …Although I might have a Marvel Comics “No-Prize” in my closet… and I could always make the “prize” be tha I’ll make a custom card of the subject of your choice (if I have access to a photo).

Here’s a hint:  This might be easier for fans of a certain current quarterback.

Mets Monday: 1979 Kellogg’s 3-D Super Stars Pat Zachry

Pat Zachry says “R.A. Dickey only thinks he’s the original scruffy, bearded Mets pitcher.  …Thinks he so great ’cause he climbed Kilamanjaro…”

As every Mets fan knows, Pat Zachry was part of The Trade Which Shall Not Be Mentioned.  In 1976 he was the NL Rookie of the Year with the Reds, going 14-7 with a 2.74 ERA.  He got a win in both the NLCS and the World Series that year, as the Reds swept the Yankees in 4.  He was traded to the Mets in 1978, and was the Mets All-star representative that year.  1979 wasn’t as good a year for Zachry, as he went 5-1 in only 7 games due to an elbow injury.

Zachry was a decent pitcher on some bad Mets teams, until he was traded after the 1982 season for Jorge Orta, who was flipped to the Blue Jays a couple of months later for pitcher Steve Senteney (who?)  For what it’s worth, Senteney and Marvelle Wynne (a great 80’s baseball name) were traded to the Pirates that June for Junior Ortiz and a minor leaguer.

Getting back to Pat Zachry… People have been blogging lately about players who appear with teams you don’t expect them to… I must’ve known at some point that Zachry finished his career with the Phillies, but it caught me by surprise when I researched this post.  He only pitched 10 games in relief before being released.