Card of the Day: 2003 Upper Deck Superior Sluggers Hideki Matsui

Fifty homers. That’s how many Hideki Matsui hit with the Yamiuri Giants in 2002. You hear that? The Yamiuri Giants. So tell me why the hell Upper Deck decided to make note of that in its 2003 Upper Deck insert set named Superior Sluggers. First off let’s get one thing straight: Matsui is not a slugger. He was dubbed Godzilla because he showed power while playing in Japan. But in his six years in the Major Leagues, he has not hit more than 31 homers, and has eclipsed the 25-homer mark only once.  So again, I ask, why put Matsui in the set?

The simple answer is exploitation. But the issue I want to discuss here is the name for certain insert sets and how the player selection for said set does not always match up. This Superior Sluggers set contained some of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen: Mickey Mantle,  Ted Williams, Manny Ramirez, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez.  But then there were guys who didn’t quite fit: Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui.

I’ll save the discussion on Jeter for another time, so I’ll stick to Matsui here.

The Japanese star was a Major League Baseball rookie when this card was produced, and Upper Deck probably felt justified in putting him in the set based on those 2002 stats in Japan. But companies need to realize it is ALWAYS a bad move to put rookies into insert sets, especially when the title of said set recognizes the best hitters in the game. And don’t tell me that Matsui’s 50 homers in Japan qualified him for the set. I don’t see any mention here of American home run heroes Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth.

Rookies in insert sets work when the set is based upon young ball players. But to include them in sets with limited player selection is just senseless and demeaning to those who have already established their career.

Curious who else was in UD’s Superior Slugger set? Here ya go. Kind of a quirky list, huh? Nor sure why Williams and Mantle are included, yet other sluggers were omitted.

1-Troy Glaus; 2-Chipper Jones; 3-Manny Ramirez; 4-Ken Griffey Jr.; 5-Jim Thome; 6-Todd Helton; 7-Lance Berkman; 8-Derek Jeter; 9-Vladimir Guerrero; 10-Mike Piazza; 11-Hideki Matsui; 12-Barry Bonds; 13-Mickey Mantle; 14-Alex Rodriguez; 15-Ted Williams; 16-Carlos Delgado; 17-Frank Thomas; 18-Adam Dunn.

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