Sunday, February 17, 2013

2001 Topps Phillies

2001 Topps #487, #478, 2001 Topps Traded #T66 and 2001 Topps #144
This post has been sitting in my draft folder for the better part of 9 months.  I started the Topps Phillies series of posts in January 2011 with a look at the 1951 Topps Red and Blue Backs sets.  The next 49 posts focusing on the Topps Phillies cards from 1952 to 2000 came together quickly and easily as it was genuinely fun and interesting for me to revisit those years in Phillies history.

And then I hit 2001.  And I fizzled out.

2001 is divided very clearly in my mind into two distinct parts - before 9/11 and after 9/11.  The entire year was fraught with turmoil for me personally, and it's not a year that I'm necessarily keen to revisit at this point.  But for the sake of the ongoing Topps Phillies project, I'll soldier on.

The Set
2001 Topps #487 (Back)
Number of cards in the set:  The set comes in at a whopping 790 cards - 405 from series one and 385 from series two.  There's another 265 cards available in the Traded set, meaning there are a total of 1,055 base cards available - by far the largest tally for a Topps flagship set to this point in time.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  The set uses an all-green border, which works surprisingly well.  There's a little too much foil for my taste, but I can say that for just about every Topps set released from 1995 through the present day.  Topps acknowledges its 50 years in the baseball card racket with a tasteful "Topps 50 Years" gold rectangle logo on the front of each card.  The backs of the cards are nicely done, carrying over the green theme to the back borders and using the front photo as a watermark behind the player's statistics.  Honest to goodness team cards return for the first time since 1981 and manager cards are present for the first time since 1993.
Notable competition:  The scientific term for the amount of baseball cards released in 2001 is crap-ton.  By my very unofficial count, the card manufacturers released 74 different sets as follows - Fleer (16), Pacific in its last year (2), Playoff (11), Topps (23) and Upper Deck (22).  Perhaps the biggest competitor to the Topps flagship set was the Topps Heritage set, which used the design of the classic 1952 Topps set.

2001 Topps #124, #523, #574 and #592
2001 Phillies
Record and finish:  Larry Bowa brought some excitement to the club in his first year as manager, and the Phillies put together a winning season (86-76) for the first time since 1993.  They entered the All-Star break in first place, but they ultimately finished just two games behind the Braves in the N.L. East.  Bowa was named the National League Manager of the Year for his efforts.
Key players:  Right fielder Bobby Abreu contributed his third straight stellar season, leading the club in home runs (31) and RBIs (110) while hitting .289.  He became the first player in club history to have 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the same season.  Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, playing in his first full season, made the All-Star team, led the league in triples with 12 and tied for the league lead with 46 stolen bases.  Third baseman Scott Rolen (.289, 25, 107), left fielder Pat Burrell (.258, 27, 89) and first baseman Travis Lee (.258, 20, 90) also enjoyed strong seasons at the plate.  Robert Person (15-7, 4.19) and Omar Daal (13-7, 4.46) led the pitching staff while new closer Jose Mesa notched 42 saves.
Key events:  All-Star catcher Mike Lieberthal missed most of the season after tearing up his right knee in May.  Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Phillies and Braves helped the nation try to return to a sense of normalcy with an emotional game on September 17th.  Topps would commemorate the game with a card within its 2002 set.

2001 Phillies in 2001 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 23 Phillies within series one and two, and another 8 Phillies base cards within the traded set.  The 31 total cards are the most since there were 39 cards in the 1995 Topps base and traded sets.
Who’s in:
  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 7 cards
#124 Travis Lee (1b), #523 Marlon Anderson (2b), #T66 Jimmy Rollins (ss), #478 Scott Rolen (3b), #144 Pat Burrell (lf), #574 Doug Glanville (cf), #487 Bobby Abreu (rf)

Only starting catcher Johnny Estrada got left out.  Fleer, Playoff and Upper Deck all managed to include Estrada in a few late season releases, but Topps neglected to include the rookie in their Traded set or any other set.

2001 Topps #676, #236, #131 and 2001 Topps Traded #T24
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 3 cards
#676 Robert Person, #236 Omar Daal, #131 Randy Wolf

Dave Coggin (17 starts), Bruce Chen (16 starts) and Amaury Telemaco (14 starts) were left out by Topps.  Coggin and Chen were featured in the other manufactuer's sets.
  • Base cards of players who played with the Phillies in 2001 - 10 cards
#172 Kevin Jordan, #194 Rob Ducey, #563 Nelson Figueroa, #592 Mike Lieberthal, #639 Wayne Gomes, #656 Paul Byrd, #T12 Rheal Cormier, #T24 Jose Mesa, #T40 Ricky Bottalico, #T50 Brian L. Hunter
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with the Phillies in 2001 - 6 cards
#13 Brian R. Hunter, #182 Mike Jackson, #274 Jeff Brantley, #539 Kevin Sefcik, #T159 Carlos Silva, #T229 Ryan Madson

Jackson, Brantley and Sefcik were with other organizations by the time this set was released.  It seems particularly odd that Sefcik received a card in series two since he signed with the Rockies in early January.  Hunter made it through Spring Training with the Phillies in 2001 before getting released.  Silva made his Phillies debut in 2002 and Madson followed with his debut in 2003.
  • Phillies appearing on multi-player Prospects cards - 1 card, #733 Eric Valent
  • Phillies appearing on multi-player Draft Picks cards - 1 card, #751 Keith Bucktrot
After what seemed like dozens of appearances on prospect and future stars cards, Valent finally made his debut with the Phils in June 2001.  He'd play in 29 games for the team in 2001 and 2002, hitting .118.  He eventually found some success with the Mets in 2004, hitting .267 in 130 games.  Bucktrot never made it to the Majors, but the player he shares this card with - Reds catching prospect Dane Sardinha - played in 18 games with the Phillies in 2010 and 2011.
  • Manager cards - 2 cards, #347 Terry Francona and #T146 Larry Bowa
  • Team card - 1 card, #773
2001 Topps Traded #T146, #T40, #T12 and 2001 Topps #199
Who’s out:  The biggest omission is the eventual starting catcher - Estrada.  He hit .228 in 89 games after taking over for the injured Lieberthal.  Tomas Perez was a valuable utility player, hitting .304 mostly as a pinch-hitter and late inning defensive replacement.  As mentioned above, three of the main starting pitchers were left out, as was reliever Jose Santiago, who appeared in 53 games.
Phillies on other teams:  There are quite a few here.  Brian L. Hunter (the actual one) appears with the Reds on card #199 while Ricky Bottalico appears with the Royals on card #283.  Both would have Phillies cards in the traded set.  Or would they?  (See the Did You Know? section below for an explanation.)  Other 2001 Phillies appearing on cards with their former teams are - #23 Todd Pratt (Mets), #156 Dennis Cook (Mets), #168 Turk Wendell (Mets), #309 Matt Walbeck (Angels), #589 Turner Ward (Diamondbacks) and #590 Felipe Crespo (Giants).
2001 Topps #773
What’s he doing here:  For the second year in a row, both Jackson and Bucktrot share the honors.  Jackson missed the entire 2000 season due to injury, was granted free agency immediately following the season, and signed with the Astros.
Cards that never were candidates:  I'll go with just six, although the number could easily reach a dozen - Estrada, Perez, Coggin, Chen, Telemaco and Santiago.
Favorite Phillies card:  The photography used for the cards continued to improve, but there really aren't any Phillies cards that stand out from the others.  I'll pick Rollins' card as my favorite as it was his first base Topps card.

Other Stuff
Recycled:  The Topps Opening Day set from 2001 uses the same design and photos, but with a navy blue border instead of green.  Maybe it's just because I'm used to the green borders by now, but the navy blue borders look odd.
Blogs/Websites:  Topps produced a novel insert set in 2001 called Through the Years, featuring reprints of key cards from its 50 year run.  It was a cool idea back then, but Topps has sort of run the idea into the ground with seemingly a new reprint set every year since then.  bdj610's Topps Baseball Card Blog ran a post several years ago featuring a gallery of the 50 cards included in the original Through the Years insert set.
Did You Know?:  Brian L. Hunter appears in the 2001 Topps Traded set as a Phillie in name only.  I wrote a couple of posts a few years ago explaining this conundrum and celebrating the fact that at least Brian L. Hunter received a team-issued Phillies card for his efforts.


Anonymous said...

1,055 base cards and no Johnny Estrada? No Bruce Chen? Shame!

I've never been much of a fan of Upper Deck, and I don't really miss them. That being said, I have to admit that any time there's a player that should be in the Topps set but isn't, I find myself thinking "Upper Deck would've had a card for him!" Panini, please take note.

night owl said...

How did the Phillies win anything with that pitching staff?

Jim said...

Completely agree about the Estrada and Chen cards and Upper Deck. Their products were sometimes inferior, but Upper Deck (along with Fleer, Donruss, Pacific) could be counted on to include the random fringe players in their sets.

Night Owl - Bowa willed those pitchers to somehow win through fear and intimidation.

Steve F. said...

Speaking of random fringe players, I was looking at my 1973 Phils cards and it got me thinking that, worst case, we'll get some more cards picturing coaches in 9 years when Topps Heritage gets to the 1973 set. And then again the next year. Two of the autographed Phils cards in my collection come only as a result of the 1961 Topps set (Ken Silvestri) and 2000 Topps Heritage set (Rich Dubee; and I will someday have Davey Lopes on that card too...).

Arsen Kashkashian said...

Thanks for continuing the series. You do a great job with them.
I enjoyed the Upper Deck sets. I got tired of how many players were missing in the Topps sets over the years. Also, the photography was usually stronger in those Upper Deck sets.

Jim said...

Steve - I wish Topps would bring back the coach cards.

Thanks Arsen! If I ever finish the Topps series, there's a chance I could go back and look at some of my favorite Fleer, Donruss and Upper Deck team sets. There were some great cards in all those sets.