Friday, June 19, 2009

1990 Upper Deck #701 702 703 704

Jim Gott
Rookie Threats - Delino DeShields, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker
Alejandro Pena
Willie Randolph


For starters, you can click on the photos for larger versions. The card backs are down toward the bottom.

Three things catch my eye about this set of photos. Firstly, it's tough to ignore the trio of young Expos on the card, with the bonus Brave walking in the background. Secondly, it's striking to see Willie Randolph in an Oakland uniform. I can accept Yankees, Dodgers, Brewers (due to his great 1991 season) and Mets, but Oakland slips under the radar. Thirdly the back of the Pena card (see below) deserves a more detailed look.

I should mention that I'm not crazy about the use of quotation marks around the words "Rookie Threats." That's not a correct use of this punctuation.


Here's an awesome stat I just found to kick things off. Since 1981, just 3 pitchers have at least 7 career shutouts and 70 career saves. Who are they? John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersely are the easy ones. The tough one? Alejandro Pena. Go back a little futher and Bob Stanley joins the list.

BEST IN 1990

Willie Randolph was not very good in 1990 and looked finished, but as mentioned he rebounded to have an awesome season with the Brewers in 1991. Jim Gott was solid in 1990, as was Pena. But the best has got to be one of the Expos. Walker and Grissom had yet to really get going, and DeShields had the best year of the three. In terms of value, DeShields wins but he's probably just a smidge ahead of Gott.


Rookie threats = Shakier tooter
Alejandro Pena = A jalapeno nerd
Willie Randolph = A downhill peril


It's clear that the only contenders among this set are Larry Walker and Willie Randolph. Willie was a solid player, part of 5 teams that went to the World Series and 2 champions (although he didn't play in the 1978 post-season) and he also recently managed the Mets for 3 1/2 seasons with some success. Walker, on the other hand, had a fantastic career (helped only somewhat by Coors Field) although had less success in the post-season. Still, based on Walker's strength as a player, he gets the nod here.

So we need to see that photo on the back of Pena's card. Here it is:

Right away this is a very unusual photo. It's not immediately clear which guy is Pena, although I have to assume he's the fellow looking into the camera. It's unusual (or at least was unusual in 1990) to see a card photo that is so casual, i.e. a guy wearing a towel on his head. And who else is in the photo? I assume these are all members of the bullpen, since these guys appear to be sitting on chairs or a bench down one of the lines. You can see arms from a fan in the background. The guy in the foreground appears to have a uniform number starting with a 5 and a name starting perhaps with a P. My first thought was Bill Pulsipher, was this photo was far too early, as Pulsipher didn't debut until 1995. The only Met pitchers with a 5 in their uniform number that year were Sid Fernandez (50) and Ron Darling (15) and clearly it's neither of those guys. Hmm. Could be a bullpen catcher or a coach maybe. The guy all the way on the left is easy to identify...That's Julio Machado.

OK so here we have a poll to decide which of these 4 cards should continue on in our quest to find the best card in this set. There are no rules on what criteria to use for voting. You can vote for the best player, the best photo, the best-looking card, or whatever else tickles your fancy.


  1. Being the autograph hound that I am I always look at cards with an eye towards autographs; would it be a good card to get autographs on.
    That Rookie Threats card would be awesome with three black sharpie autographs on it.

  2. This set was during the height of my card colleting. What a difference in photo quality from the 1989 Topps Major League Debut set. I have fond memories of this card and many other from the 1990-1992 Upper Deck sets. A lot of talented players came through the Expos organization.

  3. Yeah the difference in quality is shocking, both in the photos and the quality of the cards themselves.

  4. Could it be Greg Pavlick? He was a pitching coach for the Mets for a while.

  5. I think you're right, Bo. Looks like him and he wore #52 with the Mets. (see here)

    Nice call.

  6. I'm pretty sure the guy all the way to the left is Orlando Mercado and not Julio Machado.

  7. Yeah--I think you might be right Laurens. Thanks.

  8. Andy, I'm very ignorant thats a given, is there a link to, or, what is your email address so I can respond to the new Shopped Cards?

  9. It's listed in the post itself. use 88topps at gmail dot com.

  10. For whatever reason, I was a pretty big fan of DeShields his first couple of seasons. So the Rookie Threats gets my vote.

  11. DeShields was an exciting player when he first came up. I was a big fan too. He really tailed off later in his career.

    That card is going to be tough to beat, I think, since it's got 3 players, it's a cool card, and they're all good.

    There are a few other very special cards in this set, though, so we'll see. The voting for best card in 1988 Topps was unexpected for me, so I'm not going to try to predict this one either.

  12. I voted for the Rookies.

    As Chaz said, a lot of talent came through the Expos system, but always flourished elsewhere because Montreal just couldn't afford to keep them (especially after the strike).

    I think they could have been a great team if they had some money to hold onto players. I miss the Expos, they're just not the same in DC.

  13. Andy, I agree that Willie Randolph had a better career than Marquis Grissom, but the gap is not necessarily that large: Grissom wins big on RBI, Gold Gloves, stolen bases, and MVP voting. Randolph ultimately prevails, though, because he got on base and accrued his numbers in a less hitter-friendly era.

  14. My thought process was that Walker and Grissom were from the same era, and Walker clearly beats Grissom---but since Randolph played for more than 10 years before either of those debuted, he needed to be considered separately. I hadn't really thought about whether Randolph was ahead of Grissom, but I pretty much agree with your analysis. Grissom was a good player but his career totals benefit significantly from the era in which he played.

  15. Us Braves fans will always like Grissom since he caught the last out of the 1995 World Series.