Let's catch up to real tourney time. This weekend revealed the prestigious Final Four college basketball teams for this season. Let's see which MLB teams will be the Final Four of my card collection. A new round means new cards for these eight competitors as they battle it out. Here is an overview of today's matchups.
Round 3: Minnesota Twins vs. Seattle Mariners
1997 Topps #428 Matt Lawton vs. 2021 Topps Opening Day #83 Justus Sheffield
Both of these cards leave me with questions about what is going on. Matt Lawton's card seems pretty straightforward at first. But then I wonder about the empty seats. What was this game? Was there really nobody attending it? Justus Sheffield also has an intriguing photo. Where is his glove? What kind of warm-up drill is this? Are those umpires standing in the baseline? Actually it looks like maybe an umpire and a player. Is this pre-game or between innings? I may not fully understand either card, but I can say I prefer the catch in foul territory over the warm-up in these two cards.
Round 3: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres
1994 Collector's Choice #209 Raul Mondesi vs. 1987 Leaf #114 Steve Garvey
Great matchup! Both Raul Mondesi and Steve Garvey are PCs in my Rookie of the Year and All-Star Game MVP collections, respectively. Mondesi has a couple of things really working in his favor: a nice dugout pose is always good. I've always like this Choice set and its little position guy in the corner. Garvey is a nice card, too. He looks so happy just to be playing. It looks like he might be taking BP--there are people just sitting on chairs in the background and I think I see a net behind him. The novelty of Leaf over Donruss is a plus. This is a really hard decision. When I sit back and take the whole card in as a whole, it feels like all the colors and photos and design of the Garvey just come together better.
Round 3: Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Guardians
1993 Upper Deck #38 Ryne Sandberg vs. 1992 Bowman #676 Manny Ramirez
Here's another competitive clash. We have two outstanding players facing off, one in the Hall of Fame and one who could be if not for his behavior. At first glance, the Ryno is kind of a boring card. But the details start to make it: batting cage shot, cool (if not-so-interestingly designed) subset, and a write-up of his charity work on the back (which includes buying tickets to every home game and giving them to less-privileged people). Manny, on the other hand, gets your attention right away. The gold foil border on these 90s Bowman cards are eye-catching. It's a prospect card of someone who ended up having a great career, a true rookie card even. But why did Bowman choose to dress up high school baseball prospects like fashion models in a catalog and use those pictures on their cards? To me, that detracts big time from the otherwise high potential of this card. And given the choice between Sandberg and Ramirez, I choose Sandberg any day.
Round 3: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Washington Nationals
1991 Conlon Collection #244 Johnny Gooch vs. 1994 Finest #342 Sean Berry
These two cards are vastly different. Black and white versus chromed. Coach versus player. 1930s versus 1990s. The only thing they really have in common is the fact that they were produced within three years of each other. A quick glance at stats indicates they had similar success in their playing careers: 4.1 WAR to 4.4 WAR. Ultimately, this comes down to the card itself. As much as I like Conlon cards, it's harder for me to get excited over an old-timer that I had never heard of. It's hard to beat the green Finest. Gooch just doesn't have enough to do it this time.
So there we have it. Twins, Padres, Cubs, Nationals. Our Final Four. I've now done this twice each for football and baseball. This is the first time either the Cubs or the Packers have advanced this far, so I'm excited. Will my team finally be champion of my card collection? Just two more rounds to go until we find out.