Welcome to the Backstop Cards End Of The Year Countdown Special! One thing that I really love about the end of the year is that there are always lots of lists floating around the internet. Best Movies of 2013, Best Albums of 2013, Greatest Moments in 2013, you get the idea. While I don't consider myself completely tuned out from pop culture, I do end up finding some hidden gems that I didn't previously know about while perusing these lists.
It's with that intention that I introduce the "Top 10 Cards of 2013" countdown. This will actually be a four part series, showing my top 10 favorite cards from this year in a variety of categories. We'll start simply today, by taking a look at my favorite cards from this year's Topps flagship set. There were so many other sets released (and they'll get their chance in the countdown), but if you say, "I have that guy's rookie card," chances are, you're talking about the card from the flagship set.
Honorable Mention - David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (Boston Strong SP)
We're starting off with an "Honorable Mention", since this is actually a short printed card, and I don't consider it part of the "base set". Still, it is one sweet looking card, and one that I pulled out of a pack at that! Congrats again to the Red Sox on a great year and a great postseason.
#10 - Adam Greenberg, Miami Marlins (253)
This is a card that got a lot of people excited, as Adam Greenberg was signed to a one-day contract by the Marlins at the end of 2012. He notched his
second first career at bat, unfortunately having to face the eventual Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey. He would strike out on three pitches, but having the chance to play in the majors again after getting hit in the head in his first at bat in 2005 was a special moment, and it's very cool that he was granted a space in the 2013 Topps set.
#9 - Will Venable, San Diego Padres (225)
Well, we didn't waste too much time featuring the first Padre in the countdown, did we? Of course, I am more than a little biased towards my favorite team, but this is a great shot of the Padres team MVP. If I had the base card, I'd show that one, but the emerald is the only one I've got. In a year where Venable made a few flat out amazing catches (look it up, man!), it's fitting that he is shown making one here.
#8 - Craig Gentry, Texas Rangers (531)
Speaking of great catches, here is a perfectly timed leap that I thought looked awesome as well. Craig Gentry is one of those gritty players that is a flat out hustler, and frankly, there are far too few "home run robbing" cards out there. Difficult to time, impossible to plan. This one looks stellar.
#7 - A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox (12)
SPOILER ALERT: Seven of the ten cards in the countdown (eight out of eleven if you count the Honorable Mention) are horizontal cards. With the extra space, you are afforded much more room to show a variety of things. The background of U.S. Cellular Field looks great while A.J. Pierzynski is taking some hacks in the on deck circle. As of now, it is the only major league park outside of California that I have seen a game in. Hoping to change that next year.
#6 - Brandon Inge, Oakland Athletics (76)
The horizontal viewpoint lends itself to some wacky shots like this. What I love more than the staged fighting going on between teammates is the blank stares that they're getting from the guys on the bench. This seems like a very "Upper Deck" thing to do, as most of Topps' gimmicky cards like this are short printed or not even present in the base set.
#5 - Welington Castillo, Chicago Cubs (551)
Alright, back to the action. One thing that I like about doing the countdown is taking a look at cards of guys that I've never heard of. Welington Castillo would be one of those guys. While I may never know much about him, I do know that he has a great card in the 2013 Topps set, and will forever be immortalized on cardboard as tagging out David Ortiz at home (probably, I have no idea if he is actually out).
#4 - Alexi Amarista, San Diego Padres (US97)
Here's Padre number two! I was bummed that Alexi Amarista didn't make it into the 2012 Topps set, his rookie season, and after Series I and II had passed this year, I was beginning to give up hope. Not only did he get a card in the Update set, he got a great one. Amarista, if you're not aware, is only 5'8", making him one of the few players who is shorter than me. Showing his teammates jabbing him because of his height and putting it on a card is pretty funny to me, and makes for a great card.
#3 - Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates (US150)
Here's rookie card number two - this time a much bigger name than Adam Greenberg. Gerrit Cole was hyped up to be "the next big thing," and it looks like he's going to be able to deliver on that promise, helping the Pirates to their first postseason appearance in twenty years. Even though all of the teams are supposed to have colors on the borders that match their uniform/logo, I think that this example of the Pirates logo in the corner, with the yellow border and Cole's uniform looks sharp together. Throw in the fact that it's a good action shot of a very promising rookie and you get a sweet looking card.
#2 - Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres (546)
Once again, if I had the base version of this card, I'd show it. In what my now be an illegal play, Carlos Quentin is shown here right before he barrels into Mets catcher Josh Thole. The photo used is from 80's throwback night, which adds to the awesomeness. CQ was actually out by a pretty large margin, but as you can see, he was looking for contact, and was able to jar the ball loose from Thole's glove. Very cool play, especially since there were no Ray Fosse-type injuries. As a former catcher (only Little League & Pony League, I won't pretend like I'm Crash Davis), I think that everything about a collision at the plate is awesome, and I got hit so hard by a guy who played varsity football that I did a backwards somersault.
#1 - Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees (600)
As great as the CQ card is, no amount of bias could ever knock this card out of the #1 slot. Mariano Rivera, the most dominant closer in baseball history, retired this year, and I can't think of a better cardboard tribute than to show him giving knuckles to his teammates after nailing down another Yankee victory. Rivera was one of those rare closers who wouldn't act like he had just saved a bus full of orphans from driving off a bridge every time he got three outs at the end of a game that his team had been winning when he entered. Class all the way.
Well, there you have it, the first installment of my "end of the year card review". Lemme know if there's anything that you like/disagree with - I'm sure there'll be plenty of both.