Unlike the real Cubs, the other day, I actually spent some money and brought back Nick Castellanos.
Okay... so paying a dollar on Ebay for a 2019 Bowman Heritage base card a couple of months after the product's release isn't really the same thing as inking a highly sought after, star player to a massive four year, $64 million dollar contract. But, then again, I am not part of the Ricketts family, rolling around in Ameritrade money a la Scrooge McDuck, either. They were outspent by the Reds... the small market Reds... who have also stolen Pedro Strop away from us and spent all winter getting better than us...
Meanwhile, as I was saying before I got sidetracked on an emo tangent, I have finally "Cubgraded" my Nicholas Castellanos representation in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection. In case you're new to Wrigley Roster Jenga, that means that I have upgraded a player included within the binder from a non-Cubs card to the proper blue pinstripes.
From his acquisition at the trading deadline on July 31st until this week, "Big Stick Nick" was wearing a Tigers jersey in my most treasured collection. I was supremely disappointed that he didn't show up in North Siders uniform in last fall's Update checklist and mildly worried that - upon his seemingly inevitable free agent departure - he wouldn't get a proper, pack-pullable Cubs card at all. Sidenote - how did he not make an appearance in Update? A big name swaps spots on two heritage franchises, one of which is in the middle of the playoff hunt, at the trade deadline? Isn't that Update's wheelhouse? WTF, m8?
Luckily enough, Bowman Heritage was rebooted just in time to save Nick from Tiger purgatory. Although, it should be noted that he also popped up in blue and red in Topps Gallery, as far as pack-based, retail products go. However, the photograph of Nick looking imposing as he strides up to the plate in the home pinstripes set against the clean, "keep it simple, stupid" design of 1953 gave it the edge over Gallery's hit or miss "artsy fartsy-ness."
As far as Gallery cards go, Nick's isn't too bad - I've seen some real horrors since the product was rebooted a couple of years ago. However, when it comes to documenting the entirety of the Chicago Cubs all-time roster, I'll take a photograph of a player over a drawing any day. Plus, the home pinstripes look so much better than the blue "softball" alternates. I don't think that's much of a hot take, but I know that certain sectors of the Chicago fan base thinks that the blues are the best uniforms of the bunch. I am not among them.
Anyway, I definitely feel like the Bowman is better than the Gallery, which is why the former is comfortably resting in my All-Time Roster tome and the latter is a scan that I swiped from Ebay.
Anyway, Nick is now a Cubs, if in my silly little collection and not in real life. I guess that's an okay consolation prize. However, I will not be thrilled when I inevitably see Castellanos wearing Red in Topps Series II... Nick may have only been a Cub for half a season, but he made a huge impact. One could say he carried the team on his back during the later summer and fall of 2019, posting an absurd .321./.356/.646 slash line with 16 home runs in just 212 at-bats. Needless to say, the team floundered in spite of his Herculean effort. Plus, by all accounts he was an enthusiastic and positive clubhouse presence, seemed to want to stick around, and would have slotted nicely into what is now a rather week outfield rotation at Wrigley Field.
Alas, the Ricketts have to same some money so that they can abide by this broken luxury tax system which actively encourages the sport's largest money makers to shed salary. Just look at the Mookie Betts/David Price trade that went down last night... if I were a Red Sox fan, I'd be lighting some torches right about now. Of course, I might need to keep some of those handy anyway in case Kris Bryant gets dealt. We shall see.
In the meantime, at least I now have a proper Cubs card to commemorate Nick's electric and all too brief time on the North Side of Chicago.