For the seventh consecutive season, Emerald Nuts sponsored another team set give away for the San Francisco Giants. For me, that means one more card of Hensley Meulens and Roberto Kelly. Fortunately, this year, the day after Baseball Card night, several people put the sets up for sale on eBay, and one was even kind enough to sell me an extra coaches card for an extra $1, so I could have one for both player collections.
The design is obviously the main 2011 Topps set design, and disappointly they used the same coaches photos from last year's card, only this time without the fake ballpark crowd background. As far as I know, the Giants are the only team to have Topps produce them a team set every year as a ballpark promotion, and one of few teams to consistently have a yearly team set give away. You would think that would be mandatory. But then you'd also think baseball cards in boxes of Cracker Jack would be mandatory, too.
Topps does produce a blister-packed team set for each team every year, different from what is issued in the main base set, but those are usually only 17 cards or so, and are intended for sale at the ball park or in retail outlets. While they are listed in Beckett every year, I don't know how many collectors are aware of them. The main difference between this set and the Topps retail team set, aside from the Emerald Nuts logo, is the inclusion of the coaches. I really think that if Topps included the coaches in the yearly retail team sets, more people would pick them up.
Getting back to the card at hand, the Giants once again find themselves struggling to make the playoffs, and the only reason they are even close is their amazing pitching staff. I just don't see them repeating as World Champions in 2011. And some of that will obviously be heaped on their hitting coach, Hensley Meulens, but I would also put some of that on their 1st base/baserunning coach, Roberto Kelly. The Giants are 13th out of 16 teams in the National League in steals. This coaches card make a point of detailing Kelly's 235 steals over his career. While he was pretty good in his early days, stealing as many as 42 in 1990, that's still 235 steals over 14 seasons, for an average of less than 18 a year. To his credit, Andres Torres did manage 17 steals in the 107 games he played. Unfortunately for the Giants, Andres Torres can't hit the broad side of a barn, managing a pitiful .219 batting average. Not something you want from your lead-off man. I've not seen anything written about replacing Kelly, but I'm curious if he has the same problems as Meulens.
That brings the focus back to Bam Bam. The Giants hitting is the second worst in the National League. One has to wonder if there is some sort of executive problem here. By all accounts, when players actually follow his advice, their hitting improves. Yet the team seems to be loaded with guys who simply refuse to be coached. Quoth Brandon Belt after making an adjustment in the batter's box (emphasis is mine),
“Bam Bam thought that would work. I finally did what he told me to do. It’s going to help. That pitch I hit (Thursday) night, an inside fastball, I’ve been taking it for strike three. It’s just being in a good position to hit. When I’m just able to react up there, that’s when I feel I’m at my best.”How many other players need to finally do what they're told? Do you blame the hitting coach for a player that refuses to be coached? Why not just bench them or send them down to Fresno, and bring up someone who actually wants to win? It was said that the Giants previous hitting coach, Carney Lansford, wasn't a great communicator. And while Bam Bam is multi-lingual, and seems to have a better rapport with the players, communication is a two way street. Maybe Carney's biggest problem was that they players just weren't listening.
In any case, the checklist for the 2011 Giants Emerald Nuts set has been added to the Inventory Manager over at SportsCardForum and TradingCardDB.com.