Sunday, March 10, 2013

2004 Topps Phillies

2004 Topps #1, #384, #420 and #35
It was fun to be a Phillies fan in 2004.  It wasn't always necessarily fun to watch the Phillies play, but it was fun to be a fan.  I was absolutely giddy throughout the '04 season each and every time I entered Citizens Bank Park.  It was brand new, it was gorgeous, and it belonged to the Phillies.

The Set
2004 Topps #1 (Back)
Number of cards in the set:  There are 366 cards in series one, another 366 cards in series two and 221 cards in the traded series.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  For the first time since 1997, Topps went back to base cards with a white border.  And for the first time since 1988, Topps displayed each player's team name in large capital letters across the top of the cards.  Topps took the tiny-player-in-the-corner concept (first used on its 1973 and 1976 cards) to a whole new level with its 2004 set.  On every player's card in the bottom left corner, is a small silver foil outline of the player's larger photo.  Looking at the design a little closer now, I'm thinking it's probably one of the toughest Topps designs from the past 60 years for which to create a custom card template.  I wouldn't even know where to start if I were to try to recreate the little silver foil mini player for each card for a future Chachi set.  Another first, and perhaps my favorite part about the fronts of the cards, is the inclusion of each player's uniform number within the mini player silver outline thingy.
Notable competition:  As was the case in the prior several years, Topps, Fleer, Playoff and Upper Deck each released dozens of baseball card sets.  Over the next few years, the baseball card landscape would change dramatically as first Fleer, then Playoff and eventually Upper Deck would disappear.

2004 Topps #152, #117, #76 and #69
2004 Phillies
Record and finish:  The Phillies fell short of the postseason once again, finishing with a record of 86-76 - ten games behind the Braves in the N.L. East and six games behind the Astros for the N.L. Wild Card.
Key players:  Jim Thome (.274, 42 home runs, 105 RBIs) and Bobby Abreu (.301, 30 home runs, 105 RBIs) paced the offense with David Bell (.291, 18 home runs, 77 RBIs) and Pat Burrell (.257, 24 home runs, 84 RBIs) enjoying nice come-back seasons.  The homer-friendly new ballpark contributed to a record nine players with double digit home runs - Thome, Abreu, Burrell, Bell, Mike Lieberthal (17), Placido Polanco (17), Jimmy Rollins (14), Chase Utley (13) and Jason Michaels (10).  New acquisition Eric Milton led the pitching staff with 14 wins, although his 4.75 ERA is a testament to his struggles throughout the season.  Injuries slowed new closer Billy Wagner (21 saves) and he shared ninth inning duties with Tim Worrell (19 saves).
Key events:  The big event was the opening of Citizens Bank Park and the promise of a new era of Phillies baseball.  Injuries to Vicente Padilla, Randy Wolf, Wagner, Burrell and Polanco played a huge part in the team's struggles.  The disappointing season cost manager Larry Bowa his job as he was dismissed with two games left to go in the season.  On the positive side, Thome hit his 400th career home run on June 14th and Bell hit for the cycle on June 28th.

2004 Phillies in 2004 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 33 Phillies cards in the base set and another 7 Phillies cards in the Traded & Rookies set.
Who's in:
  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 8 cards
#152 Mike Lieberthal (c), #1 Jim Thome (1b), #117 Placido Polanco (2b), #76 Jimmy Rollins (ss), #35 David Bell (3b), #420 Pat Burrell (lf), #69 Marlon Byrd (cf), #384 Bobby Abreu (rf)

2004 Topps #488, #551, #11 and #222
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 5 cards
#488 Eric Milton, #551 Brett Myers, #11 Kevin Millwood, #222 Randy Wolf, #59 Vicente Padilla

For the third year in a row, Topps went 13 for 13 in including cards of the eight main position players and five main starting pitchers.
  • Base cards of players who played with the Phillies in 2004 - 11 cards
#181 Jason Michaels, #434 Doug Glanville, #445 Tomas Perez, #468 Chase Utley, #493 Ricky Ledee, #561 Shawn Wooten, #571 Roberto Hernandez, #618 Todd Pratt, #630 Rheal Cormier, #T15 Billy Wagner, #T113 Jim Crowell

2004 Topps Traded #T113
How in the world did Topps decide to issue a card for Crowell?  Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but Crowell - a journeyman middle reliever - is the perfect example of the kind of player Topps typically shuts out of its sets.  Crowell appeared in two games with the Reds in 1997 and then wouldn't make it back to the Majors until the Phillies called him up for four games in May.  Somehow Crowell, who was assigned #75 as a non-roster invitee in Spring Training and kept the number for his May call-up, ended up with a base card in the Traded & Rookies set.
  • Base cards of players who didn't play with Phillies in 2004 - 7 cards
#68 Carlos Silva, #182 Terry Adams, #202 Jose Mesa, #T146 Danny Gonzalez, #T179 Lee Gwaltney, #T187 Rob Tejada, #T205 Terry Jones

Adams and Mesa left the team via free agency following the 2003 season and Silva was part of the deal with the Twins that brought Milton to Philadelphia.  Of the prospects receiving cards in the traded series, only Tejada spent time with the Phillies, appearing in 26 games with the club in 2005.
  • Base cards of players appearing on Future Stars cards - 1 card, #328 Ryan Madson and Elizardo Ramirez
  • Phillies appearing on Season Highlights cards - 1 card, #333 Kevin Millwood
  • Phillies appearing on National League Leaders cards - 2 cards, #345 Jim Thome (Home Run Leaders) and #346 Jim Thome (RBI Leaders)
  • Phillies appearing on multi-player combo cards - 1 card, #695 Jim Thome and Mike Schmidt (South Philly Sluggers)
  • Phillies appearing on Sporting News All-Stars cards - 1 card, #727 Randy Wolf
  • Phillies appearing on 2004 Draft Pick cards - 1 card, #T73 Greg Golson
  • Team card - 1 card, #659
  • Manager card - 1 card, #288 Larry Bowa
2004 Topps Traded #T15, 2004 Topps #59, #630 and #468
Who's out:  Topps actually did another fantastic job with player selection with this set.  The biggest omission is reliever Worrell who should have had a Phillies card in the traded set.  (Again, Crowell gets a card but Worrell doesn't?  I don't get it.)  Cory Lidle was acquired from the Reds in August, so I understand why he was left out.  Other omissions include relievers Amaury Telemaco (42 games, 4.31 ERA) and Geoff Geary (33 games, 5.44 ERA).
Phillies on other teams:  Worrell (#38 with the Giants), Wagner (#145 with the Astros) and Lidle (#528 with the Reds) appear on cards with their original teams.
What's he doing here:  Other than the four prospects in the traded series and reliever Crowell, there aren't any puzzling inclusions this year.  What is puzzling however is the use of a photo of Wagner covering first in a Spring Training drill for his first Topps base card as a Phillie.  It's not a very closer-ish shot.
2004 Topps #181
Cards that never were candidates:  As mentioned previously, Worrell, Lidle, Telemaco and Geary are good candidates for cards that never were.  I'd also give interim manager Gary Varsho a card.  Varsho took over at the helm for the final two games of the season after Bowa was fired, guiding the team to a 1-1 record.  And hot prospect Ryan Howard made his Major League debut on September 1st.  Howard could have easily replaced any of the other prospects who ended up with cards in the traded series.
Favorite Phillies card:  With all due respect to Michaels and his comically huge glove, I've always loved the card featuring Thome and Schmidt together during the closing ceremony of Veterans Stadium.

Other Stuff
Recycled:  Topps used the design again for its Chrome (shiny), Opening Day (gray borders) and its Retired Signature set.
Did You Know?:  Similar to last week, this isn't so much of a "did you know" feature as it is a "check this out" kind of thing.  Jenna and I travelled to Montreal in September 2004 to witness a few of the last home games in the existence of the Montreal Expos.  It was a surreal scene, as there were seemingly more protesters outside Olympic Stadium than inside the actual stadium watching the ballgame.  The Expos were destined to move to Washington for the 2005 season and being younger (and childless) we decided to head north of the border for the Phillies-Expos series on September 24th, 25th and 26th.  I remember a few things distinctly about the "ballpark" experience - it was dark, the food was awful and it the atmosphere felt more like a JV high school basketball game than a professional baseball game.  Still, I miss the Expos.  (Click to enlarge.)


night owl said...

I visited Philadelphia in 2004. Phillies weren't home then so didn't get a chance to go the "new park." Still had a great time though!

Section 36 said...

I went to Montreal in 2001, to see the Sox play. Boston must be closer to Montreal than Philly, because the place was packed with Sox fans. So, I didn't quite get the JV feel. I think each game of the Sox series had more people than any other series had. (Unfortunately, I did get that JV feel when I saw the Sox play in the Vet the year before. Must be why they made CBP.)

Matt said...

Hey Jim,

Its from PhilliesSGA are you still looking for cards from the 1984 Tastykake update?

Steve F. said...

I took a tour of Olympic Stadium in 1994 when I visited Montreal, but the Expos were on the road. Odd atmosphere in that stadium. I still remember the artificial smell--vague like cookies baking, as I recall. Who knows what chemical created it? And I imagine every game felt like a night game in there. I wonder what it would have felt like in the days when they could still open and close the roof? Probably much better.

Anyway, I miss the Expos. They really got screwed by MLB.

Jim said...

Night Owl - Let me know when you come back!

S36 - Was the JV feel from the Vet or from the Phillies team or both? Wait, don't answer that.

Matt - Yes, yes, yes! The 1984 Tastykake Update set is one of my 11 White Whales. I'll send you an e-mail.

Steve - I remember that smell too! There was a series of underground tunnels below the stadium, and I seem to recall the smell was strongest walking through them.