I've always enjoyed the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray finds himself stuck reliving the same day over and over again, no matter what reckless or heroic or monotonous actions he takes. (As an aside, he also utters a great insult to a couple of annoying locals in Punxsutawney: "Morons, your bus is leaving!".) But while being stuck in a loop made for an entertaining movie, Upper Deck has taken a similar concept and turned it into a disappointing set of cards.
Upper Deck Documentary could have been something worthwhile. You all know how much I enjoy UD's crisp, detail-oriented photography, and how I've used it to pinpoint the game and moment that certain cards belong to. With Documentary, they undertook a massive set: one card per team per game for the entire 162-game 2008 season. My calculator tells me that the total is 4,860 cards. In theory, it's an excellent way to take a set of cards to the next level, to commemorate the most recent season and commit it to history. (At $2 a pack for 10 cards, it's also as much bang for your buck as you're gonna get these days.) So you would figure that each card would feature a photo taken during the corresponding game, right? Mmm, think again. Take a look at Thorzul's CC Sabathia scans and you'll see the same photo used for five different Documentary cards. So already, the set is repetitive and that much more bland. I suppose it would be pretty time-consuming to select nearly five thousand player photos for a card set, but it was Upper Deck's bright idea, not mine. But at least the player pictured is relevant to the featured game, right?
You'll notice that the card I've chosen highlights Adam Loewen. If you don't remember any command performances from the Canadian righty in 2008, you're pretty sharp (8.02 ERA in seven games). He wasn't even on the active roster on May 20, the date of this game. The O's starter and winning pitcher was Daniel Cabrera. The card back notes that Adam Jones cleared the bases with a double in Baltimore's seven-run first inning that chased Mike Mussina. So either one of those two players would have been a perfectly acceptable choice for this card. The whole set is full of crap like this, based on the four packs that I foolishly bought. One card has a bottom-front headline about A's catcher Rob Bowen...underneath a picture of Bobby Crosby. Another talks about Gavin Floyd shutting down the Orioles...and accompanies a photo of Jim Thome. This set is the very definition of sloppiness and laziness.
...Yet I would probably still be interested in completing the Orioles team set. Am I a masochist? Probably. But as I said, it's still an intriguing chronicle of a full season in club history. The card back, which box score, division standings (showing the O's a full 4.5 games ahead of the last-place Yankees!), and game summary nearly make up for the photographic failures. I probably watched more games (both in person and on TV) last year than I have in a long time, and reliving this game in particular warmed my black little heart. I was transported to that Tuesday night, when I stopped playing Nintendo Wii and flipped on MASN to find the Birds up 8-0 in Yankee Stadium in the SECOND INNING, with Mike Mussina already showering.
I wish these cards were a little less Groundhog Day in their visual approach, but there's something here. I'm sure as heckfire not going to buy another pack of this stuff, but if I see a stack of Orioles on eBay, I may have to give it a click.