A place where Colorado Rockies baseball card collectors (all 3 of us) can waste some time reading about our favorite sport. The Rockies and their cards will be the primary focus, but I like to go off on tangents as well so anything and everything baseball related may be covered here.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Rating the Rookie Cups 2.0 - 2004


Hey guys.  It's been a long day here at the Quarry.  My dog decided that today was the day to give birth and lucky for me she figured she would get an early start on my day off and begin at around 6AM.  So I have been playing a combination nursemaid and midwife for most of the day.  She gave birth to 6 healthy puppies between 6 and 10 this morning with no real complications other than the father wanting to break down the bedroom door to get in all day long.  He's a sweet dog, but he plays a little too rough for day 1 puppies.  He'd probably be fine near them, but it's not worth chancing it.  She has been a surprisingly great mother thus far.  I was worried, because she didn't seem like a motherly type, but am thrilled to have been wrong.  I'll show off the family in a couple days, but for now I am happy to get a break to talk about some Rookie Cups.

Last week we looked at the 1981 team which featured the left handed phenom, Fernando Valenzuela.  This week we are going to look at the closest lefty to Fernando, at least as far as being a spectacle, since then, Dontrelle Willis.  There were great LHPs after Fernando including Mark Langston, Tom Browning, and CC Sabathia, but none captured the attention like Willis and his oversized leg kick.  

Another significant piece of trivia about the 2003 Rookie All Star Team is the inclusion of a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks for the first time.  Arizona was the last of the four 1990s expansion teams to have a rookie selected to the team.  Much like the Rockies, Arizona set up their team as much more veteran than the two Florida teams.  However, unlike the Rockies, the Diamondbacks have never really strayed from that.  As of 2020, the Diamondbacks have only had 4 players ever selected to Rookie All Star Teams.  The next lowest team is the Rockies with 9.

As far as the 2004 set goes, I am actually a big fan.  I believe it is, along with 2009, one of the top 2 flagship sets of the 2000s decade.  There are three main features which stand out on the card fronts.  The most noticeable is the all caps team name at the top of the card.  That is nothing new as it had been done several times before, but this was the first time it was done in foil.  Some people might see that as a negative, but I'm okay with it.  

Second is the inclusion of a team colored border around the player photo.  The only earlier set that may have done that was 1991 and I am not 100% that EVERY team had proper colored borders.  Topps had team colored borders for some teams before 2004, but others were stuck with things like pink and lime green.  

The final feature that stands out is the small figure in the lower left corner.  It is reminiscent of the generic figures in 1976 Topps except they are actually outlines of the card photo.  It is a very cool concept that easy to overlook.  The addition of the uniform number in that outline is just gravy to me.  Although it is good gravy.

Let's take a look at the 2003 Topps Rookie All Star Team

Miguel Olivo - C - White Sox - Season Rank (41 of 61) - Career Rank (25 of 61)

Mark Teixeira - 1B - Rangers - Season Rank (14 of 61) - Career Rank (9 of 61)

Bo Hart - 2B - Cardinals - Season Rank (53 of 61) - Career Rank (59 of 61)


Ty Wigginton - 3B - Mets - Season Rank (16 of 61) - Career Rank (24 of 61)
Angel Berroa - SS - Royals - Season Rank (8 of 61) - Career Rank (39 of 60)

Jody Gerut - OF - Indians - Season Rank (62 of 184) - Career Rank (144 of 184)

Rocco Baldelli - OF - Devil Rays - Season Rank (23 of 184) - Career Rank (132 of 184)

Scott Podsednik - OF - Brewers - Season Rank (8 of 184) - Career Rank (99 of 184) 


Brandon Webb - RHP - Diamondbacks - Season Rank (14 of 50) - Career Rank (7 of 50)

Dontrelle Willis - LHP - Marlins - Season Rank (14 of 49) - Career Rank (21 of 49)


Here are the players I feel should have made the team.  This is based solely on rookie years stats and is a straight up "battle of the stats" with my opinion not factoring into the decision.  I give a chance to all rookies from that season that either played in 100 games, started 15 games, or had at least 10 saves.  If there happen to be less than 2 rookies that meet those qualifications at a position, then I will just compare the top two that don't meet parameters.  In this case, and all cases before 2011, I am retroactively adding a relief pitcher spot to the team. 

Catcher - Jason Phillips - Mets

There were only two candidates that met the 100 game criteria, but I lowered the bar to 90 games to pick up a third.  The three players were Topps choice Miguel Olivo of the White Sox, Jason Phillips of the Mets, and Josh Bard of the Indians.  What appeared on the surface to be a close race, ended up being a bit of a runaway with Phillips handily beating his two opponents. 

First Base - Mark Teixeira - Rangers

For first base there were three fairly strong contenders in Teixeira, Ken Harvey of the Royals, and Ben Broussard of the Indians.  With his 26 HRs, which led all rookies, Teixeira dispatched both challengers with relative ease. 

Second Base - Keith Ginter - Brewers

Second base was fairly weak in 2003.  There were three players with over 100 games played, but Topps choice Bo Hart was not one of them, having appeared in only 77 games his rookie year.  I included him anyway along with Keith Ginter of the Brewers, Brandon Phillips of the Indians, and Henry Mateo of the Expos.  Despite his fewer games played, Hart was able to defeat two of his three challengers, but not the third one as Keith Ginter proved to be the best choice.

Third Base - Ty Wigginton - Mets

This position, at first glance, seemed like it would be taken easily by Wigginton as he played in 156 games and the only other candidate meeting parameters, Jamey Carroll of the Expos, appeared in just 105 as a part time player.  However I lowered the bar to 85 games to pick up a third competitor, future HOFer Miguel Cabrera of the Marlins.  Wigginton managed to hang onto the spot, but not by as much as you would expect from someone playing twice as many games.

Shortstop - Angel Berroa - Royals

Shortstop is historically not a very competitive position since you usually didn't see multiple clubs throw rookies out there in arguably the most important defensive position on the diamond.  However, in 2003, there were three strong candidates in 2003 AL ROY Angel Berroa of the Royals, Alex Cintron of the Diamondbacks, and Adam Everett of the Astros.  Berroa held serve over a fairly strong runner up showing from Cintron.

Outfield - Scott Podsednik - White Sox, Rocco Baldelli - Rays, Hideki Matsui - Yankees

As usual the outfield in 2003 had many candidates including Reed Johnson of the Blue Jays, Craig Monroe of the Tigers, and Xavier Nady of the Padres.  However five players proved to stand out above the rest: the three Topps choices in Podsednik, Baldelli, and Gerut along with Hideki Matsui of the Yankees and Marlon Byrd of the Phillies.  Podsednik and Baldelli set themselves apart as the top two, so the only remaining question was who gets the third spot.  Matsui, who somehow played in 163 games in 2003, managed to squeak out a victory over Byrd and Gerut.

RH Starter - Brandon Webb - Diamondbacks

As per usual, there were many qualifying candidates for the RH starter including Jae Weong Seo of the Mets, Jeremy Bonderman of the Tigers, Jason Davis of the Indians, Colby Lewis of the Rangers, and Jerome Williams of the Giants among others.  However, unlike most years, there was a clear winner in Brandon Webb.  It was really not even close as Webb had a great year and most of the others were mediocre at best.

LH Starter - Dontrelle Willis - Marlins

In most years, the LH starter usually only gets the spot because he was born left handed instead of clearly being one of the two best starters of the year.  This was not the case in 2003.  In all probability, there were more quality lefties than righties that year.  There were 5 solid pitchers that qualified: 2003 NL ROY Dontrelle Willis of the Marlins, 15 game winner Jeriome Robertson of the Astros, Horacio Ramirez of the Braves, Billy Traber of the Indians, and former NBA player Mark Hendrickson of the Blue Jays.  The four challengers were good, but there was nothing derailing the D-Train in 2003.
Relief Pitcher - Aquilino Lopez - Blue Jays

There was definitely not a shortage of rookie closers in 2003 to qualify for a theoretical relief pitcher spot.  There were four pitchers with at least 10 saves including Mike MacDougal of the Royals, Lance Carter of the Rays, Aquilino Lopez of the Blue Jays, and Jose Valverde of the Diamondbacks.  Lopez pulled out a very close victory over Valverde with the other two holding their own further back.  2003 was a good year for rookie relievers.


100% - Perfect, 80-90% - Great, 60-70% - Good, 40-50% - Poor, < 40% - Utter Failure


This was a year of many standout rookie performances, so the choice was fairly easy in most cases.  Which is usually a good thing for Topps as it makes them looks better than they probably should.   Picking Bo Hart over Keith Ginter is classic Topps thinking of picking the rookie who was hottest at the end of the year over the guy who was solid, but unspectacular, over the whole season.  Strangely, they did not do the same thing with Miguel Cabrera over Ty Wigginton.  The other two choices they whiffed on were absolutely baffling, especially since both players left off were on New York teams.  Jason Phillips was better than Miguel Olivo, but choosing Jody Gerut of the Indians over the well hyped Hideki Matsui of Topps's favorite team, the Yankees, was very Twilight Zone-y.  The only thing I could figure is that since Cleveland had rookies starting at almost every position that year, that maybe Topps thought they deserved at least one spot on the team.  Who knows?

Final Thoughts on the Team

Strongest Team Members (rookie) - Scott Podsednik, Angel Berroa, Rocco Baldelli
Strongest Team Members (career) - Mark Teixeira, Brandon Webb, Dontrelle Willis
Weakest Team Members (rookie) - Bo Hart, Miguel Olivo, Jody Gerut
Weakest Team Members (career) - Bo Hart, Jody Gerut, Rocco Baldelli
Rockies on the team (Present and future) - 3 (Olivo, Wigginton, Podsednik) (technically 4 since Gerut was a Rockies draft pick)
Best Card (IMHO) - Ty Wigginton (That is one of the most intense stares this side of a serial killer.)
Worst Card (IMHO) - Jody Gerut (I don't like not seeing either the face or the name on the back of the jersey)

This team is clearly a rookie peak team.  Meaning most of the players did not accomplish as much in their careers as their rookie year would have led you to believe.  But this was a VERY strong team in 2003.  In fact, it felt weird putting Jody Gerut in the weakest season category because he is in the top third of all Rookie All Star outfielders.  But there is no denying that most of these players tailed off after their superb rookie seasons.  That being said, there were exceptions such as Mark Teixeira putting together a borderline HOF career and Brandon Webb having an extremely high career peak, including a Cy Young Award, that was cut dramatically short due to injury.  The same could be said for Rocco Baldelli, although his peak was not nearly as high as Webb's.  Several others had very solid, albeit unspectacular, careers as journeymen.  All told, I would probably put this team in the top 20 for rookie years, but probably in the bottom 20 for career totals.


The 1975 team pictured on 1976 Topps cards.

Thanx for reading.


The Diamond King said...

Interesting memories. Feels like Teixeira has been gone for a long time, considering he was a Rookie Cup guy in 2003. I guess it hasn't really been that long, but it feels like it.

Fuji said...

Lots of great looking cards in this post... but that Wiggington stare does stand out.

gcrl said...

i do like how the rookie cup was married to the topps logo on these cards, with them both moving around the design together. not as random as the rookie cups have appeared on other cards through the years.

Nick said...

Really wish Bo Hart would've been able to fashion a longer career. He's one of my all-time favorite "fifteen minutes of fame" guys.