This will be my second to last post on the Heritage comparison – for this post, I picked any really good current players that caught my eye whom I hadn’t featured yet. Tomorrow I’ll do the opposite – players from 1963. Going into this “round”, Heritage was leading by a slim 32.5-31.5 margin.
Card #491 – Ichiro / Harry Craft
Last year, Ichiro had his first season with less than 200 hits last year. Ten years to start his career – he always had 200 hits. His 187 last year was still a pretty good total, and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back. He’ll likely have 40 or so fewer at bats this year as he’s been moved to the 3-hole, so we’ll see if he can get back to that plateau.
Over the next 3-4 years, assuming he plays that long and stays fairly healthy, Ichiro will cross some interesting barriers. He also has just over 3,700 hits when you combine his Japanese totals with his US totals – 2,400+ here and just under 1,300 in Japan. So he’s only about 500 hits from having more hits than Pete Rose when you combine his Japanese and US totals. And he’s less than 600 hits from passing 3,000 in MLB. This would be an incredible feat considering the fact that he started playing in MLB at the age of 27.
Ichiro is card #491, which Topps matched him up with the Houston Colt 45′s manager, Harry Kraft, from the 1963 set. This is kind of a weird comparison, though since the Mariners weren’t around in 1963, they don’t really have any neat options.
I found it particularly interesting that Topps didn’t put the logo in the bottom right corner for Kraft’s card – that’s what they did for other managers. I’d never known about this weird happenstance. I wish Topps had matched that up correctly – putting Houston’s current manager – or maybe Jim Tracy to satisfy Hiflew’s urge for a Colorado manager! They could have made this as one of the SP variations, or just made the card in the same design.
Still, I think cardboard tends to go well with Ichiro – and I’m taking his card here over the Kraft card.
2012 Heritage leads, 33.5-31.5
Card #489 – Jose Bautista / Paul Toth
The Blue Jays are another team that wasn’t around in 1963, so there isn’t really a great match-up for them. They could have put Bautista with Harmon Killebrew – they both led the league in home runs. That would have been better than Michael Cuddyer in a Rockies uniform compared to Killebrew!
I have no idea who Paul Toth was. This is his rookie card according to the internet. He pitched in less than 50 career games, going 9-12.
I’m not going to ding Heritage here for not doing a better comparison. There’s something I really like about the Bautista card. It’s a cool pose, and I like the coloring – it seems more retro than something that’s a brighter blue. And, while I’m sure Mr. Toth is a nice person, Bautista is a more intriguing player.
2012 Heritage leads, 34.5-31.5
Card #347 – Chipper Jones / Joe Torre
Now this is a good comparison! Plus, it looks cool to have them batting from opposite sides here. It almost seems like Torre and Chipper could be showing off their on the same field.
Man, Chipper does really look like fat Chipper here. I don’t dislike the photo, but I like the Torre photo much better. I’m a sucker for the old Milwaukee hats and uniforms. The Torre inset photo is awesome, too – I’m also a sucker for the old school catcher’s mitt. And, finally, I tend to ding 2012 Heritage when the comparison doesn’t make sense. Chipper should be with Eddie Mathews and Torre should be with Brian McCann. Duh.
2012 Heritage leads, 34.5-32.5
Card #161 – Ryan Howard / Frank Torre
I admit that calling Ryan Howard a star right now is starting to become a bit of a question mark. He’s still got a powerful bat, but that power has dipped the past two years and he’s still striking out at a very high rate. Plus the injury he had at the end of the Phillies’ playoff loss last year only adds to my thought that he’s already on a downturn in his career. I hope he bounces back – I’ve got nothing against the guy – but it just seems like things don’t look good.
That said, he’s still been a good player the past two years, just not as good as he was in the 4 seasons from 2006 to 2009 when he won an MVP, finished 2nd, 3rd and 5th in the other years, and smashed 198 homers and led the majors in RBI 3 times. Because of that stretch alone, he’s an all-time Phillie already!
I promise – I didn’t realize until I pulled up who Howard’s 1963 counterpart was that it was Frank Torre. So it is completely inadvertent, but kind of cool that I did the two Torre brothers in back to back posts! Frank was definitely the lesser ballplayer of the two, and he was near the end of his career by this point.
The cool coincidence aside, Howard is the far better ballplayer historically, and I like the photo he’s got here. The background looks like the sun is rising, so maybe Ryan is getting to work early to rehab that achilles! Point goes to Heritage here.
2012 Heritage leads, 35.5-32.5
Card #296 – Jim Thome / Walt Alston
Jim Thomes is who the Phillies signed to help bridge that gap for Howard being out. Which is interesting, because Thome getting hurt in 2005 was what gave Howard the chance to play every day and made Thome expendable during his first stint in Philly.
Topps matched Thome up with an Indian – a young catching prospect named Doc Edwards who never really panned out.
Now this is a photoshop job, which rarely bugs me, but the line on the right of Thome’s batting helmet does bug me. It looks like they just didn’t get all of the Twins or Indians coloring out. Maybe it’s just a shadow and completely reasonable, but that’s a knock against Heritage. Also, a negative for Heritage is what they’ve done for almost all of these guys who changed teams – matching them up with the team they played on last year as opposed to the team depicted on their card. I’d rather show Thome as an Indian if that was the case.
Positives for Thome, though, outweigh the two negatives above. I like the photo because it gives a good shot of him waiting on a pitch – Thome has a very recognizable pre-pitch routine. And I really like the inset photo. Plus, Jim Thome has out-homered Doc Edwards by exactly 589 (and counting). I’ve got to go with him here.
I can’t pick on this one, so I won’t make myself. Mattingly is cool, but so is the old school Los Angeles uniform Alston has. Going with a push on this one.
2012 Heritage leads, 36.5-32.5
Card #285 – Adrian Gonzalez / Dick Stuart
Topps got it right matching Stuart up with Adrian Gonzalez. Stuart was a big cog on the Pirates 1960 championship team, and he had his best season for them (35 HR, 117 RBI) in 1961. But then he had an abysmal 1962 season and was traded to Boston. Like Gonzalez, he had a great season in his first year at Fenway. In fact, for Stuart, it was the best season of his career – he hit 42 dingers and led the junior circuit with 118 RBI and 319 total bases!
The one thing going against Stuart in this comparison is that he’s clearly in his Bucs uniform, not his Red Sox gear. Other than that, it’s a better picture – he’s sporting a bit of an Elvis look while Gonzo just looks like he’s confused about the chain link fence behind him. I’m giving 1963 a point here.
2012 Heritage leads, 36.5-33.5
Card #348 – Miguel Cabrera / Vic Wertz
Topps kind of got this one wrong – Cabrera should really be matched up with Norm Cash, who was the 1962 starting first baseman for the Tigers. Wertz was at the end of his career here. Cash was card #445, and they matched Gabby Sanchez up with him. You’ve got to put the Marlins with someone – but switching the two would make more sense in my humble opinion.
I don’t know a lot about Vic Wertz. The main thing I know (and I bet there are many folks like this) is that he hit a deep drive in Polo Grounds during the 1954 World Series. After that smash, Willie Mays made what’s probably the most famous catch in the history of baseball. I looked up his stats, and Wertz started in Detroit in 1947 and then came back to end his career around this time.
I like Cabrera. I know he’s got an alcohol problem that has probably frustrated Tiger fans, but the dude is a legit triple crown threat. I also like the Wertz card, though – and it’s cool that this made me look up his stats. I’m giving a tie on this one.
2012 Heritage leads, 37-34