It's been awhile since the Cardinals have lingered in the middle of the baseball pack, but it appears that this year's roster is a little thin on talent and Mike Matheny is proving himself to be one of the most idiotic managers currently employed by a Major League team. There are still some bright points to watching this year's team with rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz leading the highlights.
Currently the former Cuban national is in the top ten in several offensive categories including batting average, on-base percentage, runs, hits, total bases, doubles, runs created, extra base hits, and at bats per strikeouts. However, no card company has made a card of Aledmys and there are not even whispers of one coming out soon. ToppsNow? Nothing. Maybe his lack of baseball cards has something to do with the fact that Mike Matheny won't bat him higher than seventh or eighth. (insert eye roll emoji).
The Aledmys Diaz rookie card will happen at some point, but it is hard waiting around for it. While we are waiting I decided to dig back through my boxes of cards and find my five favorite Cardinals rookie cards of the modern card era (1981-current). I will do some vintage Cardinals sometime soon along with a broader rookie card countdown that will encompass a few more teams.
The list is based on players who were pictured as a Cardinal in their rookie card. Yes, I love Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and Chris Carpenter, but they all played somewhere else besides St. Louis at the time of their rookie cards. Sorry, Brendan Ryan and Pete Kozma did not make it.
Without further delay, my top 5 modern Cardinals rookie cards......
Honorable Mention - 1990 Upper Deck Ray Lankford
I know this is my favorite 1990s Cardinals player, but seriously the guy has some solid career numbers and ranks high in numerous offensive categories amongst the Cardinals all-time leaders. If Lankford had his rookie card put out at some other point, other than the early 1990s, his rookie card might hold more weight. As it stands now, its a fun card to own of an underrated player that I really enjoyed watching. On to the others....
5. 1986 Topps Vince Coleman
All I wanted in third grade was a Vince Coleman rookie card. I know a lot of collectors like the looks of the 86 Topps set, but it does not really have a great rookie card. Well, for some of us who grew up collecting cards in the 1980s the Coleman rookie is pretty great even if you can now buy copies of this cards for a dime. Coleman left the Cardinals for the Mets in the early 1990s and I really stopped watching him. His stolen base totals fell off too. Over the last couple of years I have kind of rediscovered Vince Coleman and his cards. Fun player.
4. 1983 Topps Willie McGee
Another favorite Cardinals rookie card from my childhood. Willie McGee spent a long time with the Cardinals at the beginning of his career helping the team win a World Series and win two National League Championship Series. Willie also won the 1985 National League MVP and two batting titles. Interestingly enough the last batting title he won in the National League happened while he was playing for the A's. Willie is not a Hall of Famer, but is a real favorite with Cardinals fans. As a kid this was a great card. Again, like Coleman, it has a lot more sentimental value than actual monetary value.
3. 2004 Bowman's Best Yadier Molina
Yadier has been another nice part of 2016 so far. After a pair of down years with some thumb injuries Yadi is hitting again and doing what he always does on defense. Yadier also has a few nice rookie cards. It's a little hard to narrow it down to just one, but I am going to go with his Bowman since it has the on-card autograph. Always thought it was a little Tony Gwynn-esque that Molina has a bunch of rookie cards wearing 74, instead of 4, like Gwynn is sporting 53 instead of 19.
2. 2001 Fleer Premium Albert Pujols
The whole Pujols rookie card craze in 2001 was pretty ridiculous at times. Lots of short prints and serial numbered cards, autographs, etc. One of his first cards put out in the beginning parts of the 2001 baseball season was an exchange card in Fleer Premium. This was one of the first Pujols cards I owned, still one of my favorites.
2001 Bowman Heritage Albert Pujols
No serial numbers, foil, or autographs. Just a really nice looking Albert Pujols card.