Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Chris Richard, 2002 Upper Deck Vintage #58

If you're unfamiliar with Upper Deck Vintage, it was essentially Upper Deck's attempt to cash in on the throwback card design craze by blasphemously ripping off some of Topps' most classic card designs. This card is from the 2002 set, and as you may have surmised, it is patterned after the ultra-cool 1971 Topps series. In other years, the crumbums at Upper Deck also borrowed from the iconic 1965 and 1963 Topps issues. I suppose this idea was worth a shot if Upper Deck could get away with it, but I still consider it to be a poor imitation.

It's funny that this card would feature outfielder Chris Richard standing alongside then-first base coach Eddie Murray. Not only was he a poor imitation of Eddie, but Richard is also a relic of the Orioles' previous feeble attempt at rebuilding. As the 2000 season trudged on with the aging O's in a nosedive, past-his-prime baseball executive Syd Thrift sold away every veteran player with any shred of trade value, and got virtually nothing of worth in return. Gone were B. J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick, Will Clark, Mike Timlin, Harold Baines, and Charles Johnson. The only player who ended up being a true asset to the Birds was Melvin Mora (acquired for Bordick), and that was something of a surprise; he was a 28-year-old minor league veteran with 246 major-league at bats.

Richard was acquired from the Cardinals for Timlin; many desperate Baltimore fans drank the Kool-Aid that Thrift and Co. were handing out. Here was a kid who hit 30 home runs in 1999! He'd bring much-needed power to the O's for years to come, maybe settle in at first base and become the next Eddie Murray. Sure, it took him five years to reach AAA, and maybe 26 was a little old for a prospect, but who's counting? When Chris hit 13 home runs in his first 200 at-bats in orange and black, our hopes were officially up.

The following season, Richard played regularly but only upped his longball total to 15. Still, he was slightly above league average. 2002 was disastrous for the San Diego native, as a shoulder injury limited him to 50 games. A .232 average and four home runs weren't enough to keep him around, especially since he'd gained a reputation for arrogance that was out of proportion to his actual talents. Baltimore traded Chris Richard to the Rockies in Spring Training 2003 for Jack Cust.

Jack Cust...now there's a story for another day.

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