Sunday, February 9, 2014

Complete sets: 2000 Upper Deck Legends

I've always been more of a fan of traditional set-building--start with packs/boxes or singles and then slowly buy/trade for the rest--but that doesn't always make sense for me.  Take 2000 Upper Deck Legends, for example.  It's a baseball set I've long coveted because of its outstanding design.  I vaguely recall picking up a handful of packs closer to its release, but not many since it was fairly pricey at the time.  In searching around all the boxes of my collection, I dug up something like 20 cards from the 90-card set (which also has short-prints I don't care about).  I did entertain some possibilities of building off those until I found an auction for the complete set, which came in at a bit over $7 shipped.  There was no way I was gonna pick up all the singles for that little, so the choice to buy it was an easy one, and with the cards in-hand I'm especially glad I made it!

The first iteration of the set arrived one year earlier in the form of "Century Legends," which made sense since the 21st would be dawning in just a couple years.  Also, MLB announced its All Century Team that year, so the name definitely made sense.

In 2000 the set dropped "Century" from the name and rolled with that theme.  The product features a mix of then-current players along with undisputed legends, and in general the player selection is pretty good (I'll note my objections later).  As you'll see, the design is foil-heavy (including borders) with the player's name running vertically up the right side in a box based roughly on team colors.  A box of the same color runs most of the length of the bottom and includes a blurb about that player, which is cool since that's the kind of thing usually confined to a back.  The player's position (again vertical) and number round out the bottom-right corner.

The set is organized by team, alphabetically by the nickname instead of the city, which is a bit of a curveball.  All 30 modern teams have at least one representative (which makes things...interesting at times), with a few inclusions for relocated teams as well.  The Dodgers (including Brooklyn), Orioles, and Yankees lead all teams with five cards apiece while the Mariners, Marlins, and Padres balance them out with just one.

Whether or not you're like me and love smaller sets that are multiples of nine, please enjoy all 90 cards of 2000 Upper Deck Century Legends!:

To be fair in my judgment of the player-selection, I have to pretend it's 2000; of course in hindsight I'd leave Vaughan off, and I'd probably replace Giambi with another A's legend.  Other than that, the choices here are pretty good, especially for the Astros.  And I have absolutely no arguments over any of the legends that were chosen for the whole set.

Again, pretty solid work here.  The Braves trio (to go with Hank above) is solid, and although I probably would have gone with Glavine or Smoltz in place of the Big Cat, Galarraga deserves a TON of respect for coming back from a season dealing with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and returning to a pretty high performance level, if not as good as his prime years.  Yount is a no-brainer while Burnitz was in the midst of some nice power numbers, though hindsight makes this choice look terrible.  UD was able to squeeze Molitor in right next to the Brewers (for whom he played for 15 years) but picture him as a Blue Jay (three) instead, which was questionable.  Delgado was an easy choice, but I thought Wells got in only on the strength of his 2000 season.  Hey, that's a great shot of Banks!

If it's the year 2000, you'd be angry if Sosa and Wood WEREN'T included.  The Cardinals quartet gets a C for including Tatis, who had a big 1999 and never played that well again, but was riding the fame of his pair of slams in one inning.  The Musial and Gibson cards feature outstanding photos, another reason I can't get enough of this set.  Johnson and Matt Williams, meanwhile, are great picks for the nascent D-Backs.  And there's another outstanding HOF photo of basepath warrior Jackie Robinson.

The rest of the Dodgers are pretty good choices too, even if I can't stand Kevin Brown and Gary Sheffield; they were having some pretty good years, and definitely obvious choices.  Green's 2000 season was bookended by a pair of excellent years on each end.  Pickings were a bit slimmer for the Rays, but Vaughn and Canseco were fine choices at the time.  Carter and Guerrero are perfect representatives for the Expos, except the Kid is shown in a Mets uni for some reason, which is a shame; why not kick him to the Mets and include Andre Dawson in that case?  A solid "Say Hey Kid" closes out this group.

This group is about as close to perfection as it can get.  Much as I despise Bonds, that's a great shot of him batting, and Kent put up some eye-popping numbers himself.  I have no argument with the excellent Indians group, which includes a beautiful shot of "Rapid Robert," fellow HOFer Alomar, and a couple other Cleveland legends in Thome and Manny.  A-Rod (back when nobody hated him) is a good choice for the Mariners, who don't get the benefit of Griffey, who had been sent to the Reds.  Wilson is my only complaint here, but only because UD felt they had to include every team, All-Star game-style; I looked at that season's pitiful roster and couldn't find a better choice.  And wow, that is a YOUNG Tom Seaver in a great photo to kick off the Mets quartet...

...which rightfully includes Mike Piazza.  Ventura was a good player, but I would have put Carter here and put Dawson with the Expos, if nothing else.  Meanwhile, Hampton had already peaked with the Astros in 1999, and was only pretty good in his lone season with the Mets.  The Orioles rightfully dominate the page with four HOFers and Belle, a guy who everyone hated but put up excellent numbers until his career was cut short after 2000.  Bonus points for a nice shot of Ripken's goofy batting style and Eddie Murray with the old-school logo.  I love seeing the Robinsons paired up like that, as well.  Finally, I always love it when Ripken and Gwynn, who entered the Hall the same year, end up together.

Here's another page with nice pretty good-to-obvious choices.  The Pirates quartet nails it with legends Clemente and Stargell (in that ridiculous 70s uni) and modern stars Giles and Kendall.  Giles was in the middle of his peak after arriving in a trade with Cleveland, and Kendall, though I was never a fan, was a solid hitting catcher for years for that team.  The Pirates' in-state rivals also get four cards, with an excellent Schmidt photo leading the way.  Abreu would put up solid numbers with the Phils for a few more years while former ROY Rolen with only be around for two more.  Schilling made his way to the D-Backs in 2000 and proceeded to team up with Randy Johnson for a memorable World Series win.  Fellow red uniform-wearer Johnny Bench rounds out the group in a somewhat rare shot of him hitting instead of behind the plate!

Sean "The Mayor" Casey could probably have been bumped from this set, but he's not an awful choice, and teammates Larkin and Griffey join with Bench to give the Reds three current or future HOFers.  Next, Brett and Beltran give the Royals one of the best combos of any team with only two cards; Beltran was highly regarded at the time, but I still think nobody at the time knew he'd exceed those expectations quite a bit!  I feel that UD rightfully depicted Nolan Ryan with the Rangers, but that's because I'm younger and remember him best with that team.  Pudge and Palmeiro were obvious inclusions at the time, though they spark plenty of debate these days.  Finally, Larry Walker was another no-brainer for the set, despite a lost 2000 season.  He's as natural a choice for the Rockies as...

...Todd Helton.  I think if you were to put a gun to my head and tell me to name two Rockies in five seconds, Walker and Helton would be my choices, even with more recent stars like Troy Tulowitzki.  Cirillo, meanwhile, is one my nominations for worst inclusion in the set:  the Rockies already had two representatives, and his numbers just aren't that "legendary."  There's another missed opportunity for a good player to appear.  2000s Boston stars Nomar and Pedro were easy selections, but Jurassic Carl's inclusion bothers me quite a bit--at least Cirillo's numbers were consistently decent.  The juxtaposition of Killer and Koskie is glaring, even without foreknowledge of Koskie's short career; was Kirby Puckett somehow not an option here?  Cirillo, Everett, and Koskie make this easily the worst group in the set.  Cobb balances that out a tad, and of course I'm a huge Palmer fan, though he probably should have been dropped in favor of someone like Tram or Whitaker.

Still, a reminder of Gonzalez's days in Detroit somehow seems worse, so let's move on.  The trio of White Sox is perfect, really:  HOFer Fisk, who played for 13 years with the South-Siders; the Big Hurt, who was the face of the franchise in the 90s and early 2000s; and Magglio Ordonez, who starred for the ChiSox until 2004, and sadly missed out on the '05 team's title.  Lastly, there's our final five-player team--the Yankees.  Once again, I have no complaints:  Gehrig and Ruth are such no-brainers they should be watching Fox News while listening to Justin Bieber.  Jeter and Williams were a large part of New York's multiple titles, and Clemens fit in fine with the team with whom he finally won a ring (two, actually).  I was a bit surprised Mantle didn't make the cut, but I can see wanting to appeal to newer collectors, so whatever.

Since I didn't bother to scan a card back, here's one courtesy of COMC:
Not so much foil on the back, eh?  You get full career stats, a pretty good blurb (in addition to the one on the front) and the usual biographic info, all on top of a black-and-white version of the front photo.  It's different than the front but looks just as good.

Well, what do you all think of this set which, once again, has always been one of my favorites?  And what would you have done in my shoes--buy the complete set, or piece it together the hard way?  Let me know in the comments!


  1. I like putting sets together myself (I don't care for SP's either and don't count them), but if I have the opportunity to buy a set cheap (especially one I really want), I would go ahead and buy it.

    1. Thanks for validating my laziness! Also, love your blog's name.