Thursday, June 18, 2015

Suit Up!

In honor of the legendary Barney Stinson, I got some new baseball cards of Cubs players doing exactly that.  Well, not EXACTLY that; these aren't cards of baseball players putting on their Sunday best or a Bonds-like tux.  Rather, they are depicted donning their Cubs uniform - which in these particular instances are "Cubgrades."

In case you all forgot in my recent sabbatical, a "Cubgrade" is when I acquire a card of player in a Cubs uniform when they had been previously been represented in my CATRC in the jersey of another team.

Part of my goal, besides accumulating a card of every player who has been on the Cubs' roster, is to get a card that honors their time on the Northside.  I'm a Cubs fan after all, I think they always look better in blue!

First up, one of the leaders of the youth movement, Addison Russell.  I pulled the Bowman Chrome card on the left from a random, impulse purchase pack back when he was still in the A's organization.  After Theo and Jed fleeced Billy Beane last summer at the trade deadline, this  card will become a Zero-Year issue; I can't say I'm too disappointed about that.

On the right, we have Addy's card from this years edition of Bowman - his first licensed card in a Cubs uniform.  I think Panini might have had a card out of him as a member of the "Chicago National League Ballclub" first, but I could be wrong.

He was included in the prospects part of the checklist, but the Cubs surprised Topps (and pretty much everyone else) when they called him up after just a handful of games in AAA.  Thus, he's already shed the prospect tag and he looks like a darkhorse candidate for Rookie of the Year in a loaded 2015 class.

However, the back of his card notates something that makes me a little nervous about the guy.

It has nothing to do with his baseball skills though.  If you read the "Up Close" blurb, you'll see he's a big fan of the mind-warpingly creepy American Horror Story series and Gone Girl - a movie that probably scarred me for the rest of my life.  I will never be able to trust anyone again after seeing that flick.

So, watch out for Addison in a dark clubhouse tunnel or concourse.

Now, Russell is a prospect that seems to be paying big dividends for the Cubs and is primed to have a long, successful career.  On the other had, Jason Smith was one that certainly went the opposite direction.

A middle-infielder who could supposedly handle the bat, like Addy, Jason seemed to have a clear pathway to Wrigley.  His stock was high enough in 2001 that he was included in the trade that brought Fred McGriff to the Friendly Confines.

Unfortunately for him, his bat never really developed; but, he was able to bounce around the league until 2009 as a utility infielder.

While the 2002 Donruss Signature Series card on the left is nice and shiny, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for 2001 Upper Deck.  Why?  I have a thing for simple, color-coded layouts.

Meanwhile, I've always had a natural inclination towards early Donruss releases as well.  Concurrently, I've never really gotten the enjoyment out of '79 Fleer as other collectors in the blogosphere have.  So, I was happy to make this swap in my binder.

Hector Cruz, brother of Jose and Tommy and uncle of Jose Jr., was a Cubbie double dipper.  During his brief stints in 1979 and 1981-82, the former top prospect never fully delivered on his early promise and he faded into the obscurity that is Cubs' third basemen and outfielders of his era.

See also:  Thompson, Scott; Lum, Mike; Lezcano, Carlos

On the brighter side, O'Leary got to see some playoff action as a Cub in their magical, yet depressing season of 2003.  The former middle of the order power threat in Boston was on the downswing of his career (in fact, his last year in the Bigs, period) and came to the Cubs in a pinch hitting/extra outfielder capacity.

He played sparingly and hit .218 over 93 regular season games.  But, I'll always remember him for the homerun he hit in the bottom of the 9th of the dreadful NLCS, which provided a last - albeit dull - glimmer of hope before the Marlins broke my heart.

No patch on that 2003 UD Patch Collection base card though, obviously meant to be a high end product at the time.  While I am happy to add it to my collection, part of me is sad to demote his '97 Score issue to my box, as it is one of the last holdouts from my original, childhood card collection - funded largely by my late grandfather.

Damn you sentimentality!

Here's another guy who logged some time with the Cubs during that 2003 season.  The pinch-hitting specialist was thrust into regular duty at third base when Mark Bellhorn failed to live up to expectations and wilted in the spotlight.

After 75 games and the great fleecing of Pittsburgh that was the Aramis Ramirez trade, Lenny and his .183 batting average was given his walking papers.  The joke was on the Cubs though, as Lenny signed with the Marlins and got to see the Cubs collapse from the other side and get a World Series ring too.

Grumble, grumble.

No matter, I've always loved the 2003 Flagship set.  I mean, the blue borders frame up a Cubs card just perfectly, don't they?

 Last, but not least, we have the original Mags.

The former Met was a shadow of his former World Champion self by the time he came to Chicago.  In decline by 1996 and bouncing from team to team, the Cubs somehow saw hope that he could plug their long-standing 3rd base gap, a position that in between Ron Santo and Aramis Ramirez was filled by over 100 players.

Surprise, surprise - Mags' wasn't able to stay in the lineup and his .254/.360/.367 line wasn't cutting it.  He was just another in a long line of aging veterans brought to Wrigley with unfair expectations of living up to their former glory, a long-standing Cubs "tradition" until the current front office came to power.

As for the cards, that rainbow Future Stars card is pretty groovy and the wood grain borders of '87 Topps are always welcome, Cubbie blue will always look better than Mets blue!


Thus concludes my recent splurge of Cubgrading, a task that I'm sure all of you team-collectors out there can appreciate.

In addition, thank goodness these guys played during the over-production era; otherwise, it's seems likely that, even today, none of the featured players (except for Russell and maybe Cruz) would have had a card issued in a Cubs jersey.

Thanks overproduction era, for allowing six more players to be properly "suited up" in my CATRC!


  1. I really like that Bowman card of Addison in an A's jersey. Great pose. Too bad it's for the wrong team. I like the Cubgrades!

    1. The pose is very reminiscent of Bo Jackson, at least in my mind. But I do think blue suits him better than green!