Jack Of All Trades: My First 2011 Pack

While much of the attention has been focused on the anniversary that Topps is celebrating- 60 years of selling baseball cards- I, too, reached a milestone. I've been collecting baseball cards for 25 years, going back to the first pack of Topps I opened in 1986, with Glenn Wilson there to greet me first.

My collecting isn't as serious as it was when I was growing up, but it still represents a part of me that stubbornly refuses to mature. After all, I don't get the thrill of trading with my friends anymore. My wife doesn't have any cards I want, and my baby daughter offers little for my best cards, other than future considerations in exchange for the chance to chew on one. (Screw-top cases are the thinking father's teether.)

But when this year's Topps came out, I treated myself to a box. If I couldn't trade them myself, I figured, I could write about just which trades I'd find hidden within a random pack of cards. Here's what I found, from my very first pack in the box.

First up was Kevin Kouzmanoff, a participant in two trades. Back in November 2006, the Indians traded Kouzmanoff and Andrew Brown to San Diego for Josh Barfield. Alas, none of the participants in that trade panned out, and San Diego shipped Kouzmanoff and discipline-rich infielder Eric Sogard to the Athletics for outfielders Aaron Cunningham, who was useful in 2010, and Scott Hairston, who really wasn't. Both from a trade and card standpoint, it was kind of a Glenn Wilson way to start.

Next came Brandon Inge, a man who has worked hard to stay out of MLBTR's web, much like a celebrity who tries to avoid TMZ by wearing underwear. He was drafted by the Tigers in 1998, and that is where you'll find him today. Same goes for my third card, Peter Bourjos, a product of the Anaheim organization still in Anaheim. Bourjos is pictured about to either make a sliding catch, or gift someone a triple.

Fourth up was a special card- recognizing Manny Ramirez for putting up the ninth-best OPS of all time. Ramirez has seen his share of moving around, but only one trade bears his name. It is one of the more underrated moves of the past few years. The Dodgers, as part of a three-way deal, sent Bryan Morris and Andy LaRoche to the Pirates, while the Red Sox traded Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss to the Pirates. The Dodgers got Ramirez. The Red Sox got Bay. Leave aside Bay for a moment- that means the Dodgers got 223 games of a 170 OPS+ from Ramirez for Bryan Morris and Andy LaRoche. That was a steal. I'm putting Ramirez in hard plastic.

Batting fifth, a game-used memorabilia card from Josh Hamilton. He earned the honor for finishing with the highest OPS in baseball last year, while Topps earns major plaudits from me for caring so much about expanded stats. (Get me a Topps card with WAR and we'll really be talking.) The Hamilton deal back in December 2007 was one of my favorites. The Reds got back pitchers Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera. Despite Hamilton's injury struggles since then, he's been significantly more valuable than Volquez, leading to the obvious conclusion: bank on the position ahead of the pitcher in any challenge trade. They are far more projectible.

Batting sixth is Stephen Strasburg, while Andre Ethier takes up the seventh spot. I don't intend to ruin any nights among Nats or Dodgers fans by suggesting that either one has been traded. But I thought of the two as a kind of Hamilton-for-Volquez challenge trade. Which future would you bet on? The smart money is probably on Ethier, even with the dramatically higher ceiling Strasburg offers.

Rounding out the pack was a CC Sabathia card, inviting me to unlock some digital Topps cards. I admit to being confused by the idea of virtual cards-isn't that just eBay cards I look at but can't afford?- but will happily see what the online fuss is all about. Having a virtual CC Sabathia is probably what the Milwaukee Brewers felt like they had after dealing Michael Brantley, Matt LaPorta, Rob Bryson and Zach Jackson for him in the summer of 2008, only to see the Yankees snap him up that winter.

Overall, it was not my strongest pack of all time- that would be a 1989 Donruss pack I got on a trip to a bagel establishment long since defunct in Marlton, NJ, which contained eight all stars in 15 cards, if memory serves. But the pack served a vital purpose- by the time I finished looking, baseball season was that much closer.

26 Responses to Jack Of All Trades: My First 2011 Pack Leave a Reply

  1. David C. Ruckman 4 years ago

    I’ve been collecting cards for 19 years myself, and I have to say this article is an absolute treat. Well done, sir.

  2. totally agree. i’ve bought a few 2011 packs and it doesn’t bother me one bit that i have amassed 3 xavier nady (as a cub) cards. i’m just glad its almost “baseball is back” time.

  3. CaseyBlakeDeWitt 4 years ago

    Awesome article!
    I especially liked the Brandon Inge part: “Next came Brandon Inge, a man who has worked hard to stay out of MLBTR’s web, much like a celebrity who tries to avoid TMZ by wearing underwear.”
    Great work.

  4. cardinalfanNY 4 years ago

    my gosh, this is a beautiful article.

  5. Ethier was traded for Milton Bradley from Oakland

  6. Nice article, I havent collected baseball cards since I was younger but reading this article makes me want to go pick up a box!

  7. “Batting sixth is Stephen Strasburg, while Andre Ethier takes up the seventh spot. I don’t intend to ruin any nights among Nats or Dodgers fans by suggesting that either one has been traded.”

    Ethier was involved in a deal that sent Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez in 2005 December. Otherwise, good work!

  8. toptimrubies 4 years ago

    Hey–Ethier was traded actually! In one of Coletti’s only good moves, the Dodgers sent Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez to Oakland.

    • CaseyBlakeDeWitt 4 years ago

      Just about his only other good move is in this article too, with Manny.

  9. toptimrubies 4 years ago

    Slow by a couple of minutes…

  10. jhawk90 4 years ago

    I weep for two reasons – that you began collecting in 1986, a few years before the bottom fell out of the card market (anyone want any of my ’88 wax boxes?) and that I just realized how freaking old I am.

    • If the 1988 wax boxes are unopened …. then yes, let’s talk. I’d be interested.

      • YanksFanSince78 4 years ago

        Is there a market for 88 score wax boxes?

    • YanksFanSince78 4 years ago

      I can 1 up you. I grew up working in a sports card store from about 86 (while is HS) thru college and 2 years after graduating. I went thru the introduction of the 88 Score all the way thru the “Fleer Finest Refractor” craze.

      …I sincerly apologize for the cases and cases of 88 Score wax boxes I’ve sold and the numerous 88 greg jeffries donruss rated rookies I swore would be the back bone of someones retirement plan.

      • damnitsderek 4 years ago

        I worked at a card shop for a short time in high school.

        Once, someone came in and talked me up about baseball cards. He then told me how he had a rookie card of “Miguel Tahiti”, star shortstop of the Athletics. At least half a dozen times.


      • jhawk90 4 years ago

        lol – remember the first batches of ’88 Score with the fuzzy corners?

  11. I hate Howard so much.

  12. toptimrubies 4 years ago

    You should have just called this article “Pack of All Trades.”

  13. JohnKruksWaistline 4 years ago

    Ha! I’m from Marlton.

  14. whitespyders 4 years ago

    I will never forget my best pack of cards. There was this new company called Upper Deck. We knew nothing of the brand except that it came in a fancy foil pack, was glossy on both sides, and had a son of an All-star outfielder as card number one . My friends father waited in line at Price Club to buy a case of boxes. We watched from his porch, where we were eagerly anticipating his return, as he unloaded the package from his taurus stationwagon to his basement. We caught a glimpse of the haul as he hurried by with a grin, his son just shrugged and closed the door in our faces. We waited out front wondering what treasures were being uncovered. Jefferies? Jerome Walton? Griffey Jr? Our friend finally came outside and sheepishly said his father opened all the packs. Sorry. We were so upset. Good news though, he said, his father was selling the Rookie the minus the Griffey which he hadn’t found. Geez, thanks. I left empty handed vowing to find the elusive #1 before that greedy old man did. A few days later I got a tip that this newsstand in our local mall had a few boxes. I hopped on my bike, rushed to the stand, and picked the second pack on the bottom right (my lucky pack).
    I handed the cashier my money, it escapes me how much I paid, but i know it wasn’t under one dollar like the other brands. I scoped out a secluded bench and peeled the foil back. As the first card was slowly revealing itself, it was the backside of the card and it didn’t have a photo and the stats. Could it be a Rookie card? Could it be a Griffey? A card that days earlier eluded a selfish grownup? It was. I flipped the “never before seen by anyone I knew” card over to see a teenager with a contagious grin and a now really outdated turtleneck staring back at me. I was elated to say the least.
    The hobby has changed over the years, for the worst, but it will never take away my memories.

  15. damnitsderek 4 years ago

    I’ve been collecting baseball cards for just about as long as I can remember. The first card I can remember having is a 1991 Topps Kenny Rogers. Twenty years later, I still sporadically keep my collection alive.

    It’s good to know that there are other baseball fans who still collect cards from time to time. Major cheers to this article.

  16. Hruska 4 years ago

    Awesome article! Baseball is about fun!Even though GM’s are the real stars of the show nowadays, I don’t think we’ll see tham on cards anytime soon.

  17. Peter Bourjos doesn’t “gift triples”, he plays where doubles go to die.

  18. woadude 4 years ago

    My best memory is that i couldn’t afford baseball cards, so a lady that was having a yard sale said if I helped her she would give me her husbands baseball cards, I spent a whole Saturday selling vases and crap and at the end of the day she gave me this trunk that had some real gems, I still have my 1955 topps Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, a 1954 Hank Aaron, as well as 1960s Mickey Mantle, along with a ton of 1970s cards, to this day I have great memories of turning down all kinds of offers from neighbor kids trying to give me their 1989-94 cards for my hall of famers.

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