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Monday, March 8, 2010
Reds' Francisco already a cardboard god


Via OMGreds.com, this is a cool baseball card. Granted, I'm a sucker for group shots. One of my all-time favorites is the classic Dodgers' Sluggers from the '57 set.

That said, when I first saw a card titled REDS HEAVY ARTILLERY depicting Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Juan Francisco, my initial reaction was "Juan who?" Granted, Francisco did play with the big club last year, but he debuted in the middle of September and by then I'd stopped paying any attention to Cincinnati. Does Francisco really fit in with those other guys, though? I looked him up. He's got real power, but the strike zone is a mystery to him and he's No. 2 (at best) on the depth chart at third base, behind Scott Rolen.

The new card is an homage to the 1961 version of Reds' Heavy Artillery, featuring Vada Pinson, Gus Bell, and Frank Robinson.

Robinson was an obvious choice, and Pinson had hit 20 homers in 1960. Bell, though, was an odd choice. Where both Robinson and Pinson were still young, Bell was a grizzled veteran who'd managed only a dozen homers in 1960. Better choices would have been outfielder Wally Post -- who'd hit 17 homers in just 77 games after coming to the Reds in a June deal -- or even catcher Ed Bailey. Meanwhile, Bell hadn't hit more than dozen home runs since 1957. My guess is that the card existed simply because a photographer was able to get Bell, Robinson, and Pinson together one afternoon.

Today, thanks to the wonders of the computer, Topps can do whatever they want, and quickly (here's a disturbing example). But with the only other "sluggers" on last year's team being Brandon Phillips and Jonny Gomes -- with 20 bombs apiece -- it's not hard to figure why Francisco got his shot at carboard immortality.

To take the next step, he just needs to figure out the difference between a ball and a strike.