Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Great Rookie (and Cup) Debate

Topps rookie cup/trophy cards have been around for a long time.
Over the course of that time, Topps has made a few errors.  In recent years we have seen players have a rookie cup logo in addition to a rookie card logo on the same card because Topps has chosen to release the player's rookie card after the player's actual rookie season.  We saw it happen in 2020 with Yordan Alvarez, 2021 with Alec Bohm (although the year 2020 was a strange year for distribution, player debuts, shortened seasons, etc due to the worldwide pandemic), and 2022 with Wander Franco. 

As much as people get upset (myself included) for Topps not releasing a rookie card during a player's rookie season we have seen this happen many times in the past including HOF guys like Willie Mccovey and Eddie Murray.  Their Rookie Cup cards aknowleding the tremendous performance as a rookie got placed on their cards for their true 2nd year in the big leagues, but they are considered rookies because they didn't get a rookie card when they were actually rookies.

Many of us believe that in the earlier 2010s Topps seemed better at applying the correct RC logos on players and those good enough to make the Rookie Cup award get their 2nd year card to adorn the Rookie Cup. I'm going to prove that theory wrong too.

With the Pirates deep in nearly two decades of losing seasons, Andrew McCutchen's debut in 2009 gave the fans hope of better things to come.  Cutch won the Baseball America Rookie of Year, finished in 3rd for Baseball Writers NL ROY, and was announced as a Topps Rookie Cup winner for his debut season in 2009.
Cutch got a RC logo on his 2009 Topps Update card during his rookie season. 

Cutch's performance as a rookie lead to Topps producing cards of Cutch in 2010 with the Rookie Cup/Trophy logo for Topps Flagship and Heritage releases.
Good things were definitely on the horizon for Pirates fans as it saw the team promote their top 3 positional prospects (Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker) in 2010. 

Both Neil and Jose received a RC in 2010 due to their early season debuts.
Pedro Alvarez was called up later in the season and didn't appear in 2010 products except Pro Debut (a prospect filled minor league set).  He did not receive a RC in 2011 like what we have seen recently with other top prospects like Wander Franco, Yordan Alvarez, Alec Bohm. However as you can see below Topps didn't put a RC logo on Pedro's 2011 Topps release.
The 2010 Topps Rookie Team can be found here.  As you can see from that list, Pirates 2B Neil Walker was named a Rookie Cup winner.

This meant that Walker would have his Topps Flagship and Topps Heritage cards feature the rookie cup.

One name missing from that list is Jose Tabata, who was good enough to receive one rookie of the year vote in 2010 for his performance.

He slashed .299/.346/.400 with 19 stolen bases in 26 attempts.  After the 2010 season, he was believed to be atop the Pirates lineup for the future for his above average speed and hitting approach. He also provided outstanding defense in left field. 

Tabata had a good rookie season in 2010, but in comparison to Jason Heyward, Mike (Giancarlo) Stanton, and Austin Jackson it just wasn't good enough to receive the cup/trophy honor for his 2011 Topps flagship cards.

However, Topps Heritage did produce a 2011 Topps Heritage card featuring the All Star Rookie trophy for Tabata.
The back mentions Tabata having the second most stolen bases on the Pirates.  Andrew McCutchen lead the club with 33 SB that season. 

This means that Topps produced 4 outfield rookie cup cards for Topps Heritage.
But oddly enough, Giancarlo Stanton was rejected the All Star Rookie Trophy for all parallels while Tabata maintained the logo.
A more recent mistake by Topps was including Ke'Bryan Hayes in the 2021 All Rookie Cup product highlighting players who have earned the distinction of Topps Rookie Teams for the past 70 years.
The problem with that is Alec Bohm was announced as the 3B for the 2020 All Rookie Topps Team, not Ke'Bryan. Again due to the odd year that 2020 was, I am willing to forgive RC mistakes on 2020 products and having them all have to be included in 2021 products, but there's no excuse for putting someone on the checklist for a set called Topps Rookie Cup for a guy that didn't get nominated by Topps as a Rookie Cup winner for the 2020 season. 

Do you pay attention to the rookie cups and rookie card logos on flagship or Heritage releases?

Do you think there should be a clear deadline for Topps to release rookie cards of players so a Rookie Cup and Rookie Card logo don't appear on the same card?

Are you aware of any Rookie Cup logos being added or subtracted in error for Flagship or Heritage products?



  1. I am one of those who believe a true RC card is the next year's set which includes just the first year (or previous years stats for those thatare not rookies), thus the trophy cup should follow the next year release with the 2nd year stats included. If Topps would actually wait to release the "update" set after the World Series or even in January or February. Things would be easier for them. Then release series one after Spring training, series 2 after the all star break. I don't think any player should get a card during their first season other than in minor league/pro debut issues. That's just me though.

  2. There IS a clear deadline, albeit one that's not publicly announced, and which changes each year. If you're not called up by that date, you can't get a rookie card that year. Note that those players will still get Topps Now cards, but the cards will say "Call Up" rather than having the RC designation.

    I think it's not an ideal situation, but much better than the 90s/early 00s when players would get "rookie" cards when they were still in Single-A. Certainly I have no problem with someone having the rookie cup on their rookie card; as you say, if it's good enough for McCovey and Murray, it's good enough for today's players. Even with guys who didn't get the cup, some got multi-player rookie cards while others got solo cards because they played a lot before Topps got them on cardboard. (Consider for example Rice, Lynn, Carter, and Hernandez in 1975 Topps vs. George Brett and Robin Yount). It happens.

    But Topps needs better quality control. It's bad enough to have missing Cup logos and inconsistent parallels, but giving the cup logo to a player who didn't win it? No excuse for that, that's not an oversight, it's an active error from someone who can't be bothered to check.

  3. As much as I enjoy rookie card and rookie cup logos... they totally confuse me and it's not worth my time to try and sort them out. I think a deadline and some guidelines would help though.