Friday, August 28, 2020

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: The 2008 Chad Bradford Chronicles

Topps SHB #5: 2008 Chad Bradford, Baltimore Orioles
 I credit the movie Moneyball for clueing me into a lot of the more niche aspects of 2000s-era baseball, and niche players like Scott Hatteberg, Carlos Pena, Ricardo Rincon, Billy Koch and Jeremy Brown. Perhaps the biggest 2002 Oakland A's oddity whose stock grew after this movie was Chad Bradford, the sidearming reliever whose janky motion turned away several GMs [but not Billy Beane].

I've heard of people collecting him contemporarily, especially Nick from Dime Boxes, just for how refreshing  of a player he was in this era, despite being woefully underrepresented on cards.

Well, his final full season in 2008 was similarly unrepresented. Upper Deck made a card of him with Baltimore, where he started the season and played in 2007 as well, but Topps did not. A lot of the 2008/2009 entries in this project  were covered by UD in some way, but not Topps flagship, which says a lot about both companies in this point.

Anyway, Bradford was still a relief asset for teams in 2008, and posted a 2.45 ERA in 47 appearances, some career numbers for him in his seasons since his 2001 breakout. His strikeout numbers had diminished, but  he was one  of the bright spots of a middling Baltimore team.

Now, at the waiver period in August, the Orioles placed him on waivers so that a competitor could scoop him up. The team that did purchase Bradford was a competitor...ironically, a divisional competitor.

Topps SHB #6: 2008 Chad Bradford, Tampa Bay Rays
Yes, Bradford found himself a bullpen asset on the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays, who rewarded him by actually giving him a decent team to support. Again, his K numbers were low, but he posted a 1.42 ERA in 21 appearances. His good work continued into the postseason, as despite some Boston players getting  hits off him in the ALCS, Bradford held a sub-3 ERA for the entire playoffs.

Bradford pitched for the Rays in 2009 for his final season, but I could not find any 2009 photos from my source, so the saga ends in 2008.

[Similarly, I wish my source went as far back as 2005 so I could make Topps cards of him for every  year they missed from 05-07, but mine starts at 2008]

Still, these customs fill in a great piece of the story for Bradford, and one of his best seasons, that Topps and its bias against relievers sadly neglected to document.

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