Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2008 Nelson Cruz & J.A. Happ

Topps SHB #10: 2008 Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers
Nelson Cruz doesn't have a Topps card from 2008.

Boggles the mind.

These early-era omissions by Topps are a lot more striking when the player actually has an excellent career. Nelson Cruz had a very okay 2007, hitting .235 in a bench role, and Topps, who'd made a card of him there, decided not to re-up in 2008. In 2008, in 31 games he hit .330 with 7 homers and 26 RBIs, setting the stage perfectly for his breakout year in 2009. But, because said 2008 numbers came later in the season, Topps didn't have time or room for him.

A shame, because it's a gap in a career that would soon become monolithic and HOF-caliber. Cruz is now 40 and hitting .311 with a league-leading 13 homers. It'll be interesting to see what the voting committee thinks of him, especially considering most of his production came after the age of 28.

Despite the lack of image choices, this custom was a simple one thanks to Spring Training photos. This next one was a lot simpler:

Topps SHB #11:2008 J.A. Happ, Philadelphia Phillies
J.A. Happ, similar to Nelson Cruz, had a 2007 card, his Update rookie card in fact, and sat out the 2008 flagship season for some reason before coming back in 2009 Topps. The reason J.A. Happ is in 2009 Topps but not 2008 Update is because the majority of Happ's 2008 numbers came after the cutoff date. Happ was an arm uitilized mostly in September and October for the Phils, which is honestly a good problem to have.

Happ had a 3.69 ERA in 8 games, 4 of them starts, so he was slowly being phased into the rotation as the Phillies got closer to the postseason. Happ made 3 innings of appearances during the NLCS against the Dodgers, did fairly well, and sat out the World Series. It's still a 2008 season that deserves some sort of commemoration from Topps, but...a bit too late, I guess.

Of course, after that 2008 season, Happ became one of the more trusted starters in the game in several points, for Houston, Toronto, and now, in good days, New York.

Cruz and Happ are still some of the best veterans in the game, which makes it odd when Topps misses a step in their careers.

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