Card of the Day: 1988 Sportflics Rick Reuschel

I have avoided the Sportflics sets for too long here. You’ll soon see why I actually did that up until now. Today’s featured player is Rick Reuschel, who quietly carved out a strong Hall of Fame resume during his 19-year career. His time with the Pirates started on this date in 1985.

Only 36 pitchers have put up more pitching WAR than the man they called Big Daddy. Only four eligible players have more pitching WAR and aren’t in Cooperstown. That group includes Roger Clemens, who we know why he isn’t in, even though other steroid players skated into the Hall because they weren’t part of the witch hunt. I can think of some catchers who wouldn’t pass a lie detector test on the subject.

It also includes Curt Schilling, and we know why the media didn’t put him in. His political views don’t line up with them, though those same writers will have no problem inducting Todd Helton next year with his Coors Field inflated stats and two more DUI arrests than anyone should ever get in their life. I can ignore politics better than anyone, I couldn’t tell you one thing about Schilling’s politics, nor do I care to ever learn, but I can’t ignore someone habitually risking the lives of others to save $10 on an Uber.

Then there’s Jim McCormick, who pitched for the 1887 Alleghenys. He put up 76 WAR in ten seasons. He would likely be in the Hall of Fame now if he didn’t quit baseball after the 1887 season to run his own business. Of course, the Hall of Fame didn’t exist, so there was no one around to tell him to take that three-year deal offered by Pittsburgh prior to the 1888 season. By the way, multi-year deals were almost unheard of back then. If he played three more years, he would have certainly won 300 games, which is an automatic ticket.

Finally, the fourth player is just 0.1 ahead of Reuschel. That’s Kevin Brown, who actually finished lower in career WAR than Reuschel due to the difference in their hitting value. There are 43 Hall of Fame pitchers (not including Negro League players, who have incomplete stats), who have less pitching WAR than Kevin Brown. Brown is 36th on the list of top pitching WAR, meaning that there are more Hall of Fame pitchers have less WAR than him, compared to those who have more. Also, four of those players ahead of him aren’t even eligible, and they didn’t have more WAR until recently, so he was higher up on that list when he got 2.1% of the votes during his only year on the ballot.

Then there’s Rick Reuschel, who I understand why he didn’t get the support. He never won the Cy Young award. He barely got MVP support once in 19 years. He never led the league in wins, ERA, innings or strikeouts. His postseason pitching was awful, and he has zero World Series rings. He was a really good pitcher for a long time though, while playing on some very bad teams. The guy should get extra WAR just for going 14-8 on the 1985 Pirates, a team that lost 104 games.

Like I said, I get why some people don’t get his case, but that’s more of me saying he’s not a first ballot Hall of Famer. I don’t think he was as good as Scott Rolen, but waiting 5-6 years to finally make it would have made sense for Reuschel. It looks like Billy Wagner will make it in the next two years and he pitched 903 innings. Reuschel pitched four times the amount. A reliever isn’t a position. They are pitchers too. I don’t understand how any of them make the Hall of Fame when guys who did so much more work (and did it well) sit outside and wait.

That’s a long intro for a Card of the Day article, but I wanted to mention Reuschel’s Hall of Fame case in depth. I’ll keep the descriptions below shorter, especially once you see why I haven’t used Sportflics cards in the past (remember that part from way up top?)

Here’s the front of the card:

Here’s the front of the card:

Here’s the front of the card:

If you’ve never seen these cards, they have three different photos using a method called lenticular printing. You turn the card a little and you see one of three pics. The reason I don’t feature these cards is because this is what “the best look at all three pics” looks like. There isn’t a great look at any of them here. It’s tough finding scans of all three pictures for some players. I tried with a different player once and didn’t even find three this good for them. These cards are thicker than your normal cards, so conditioning isn’t an issue with them, though they will curl a bit if storage allows that curl to happen. Similar to what can happen with the old Kellogg’s cards. You won’t find many with corner dings. You have to want to ding them for that to happen. What you will find is discoloration on the borders from people handling them more often to turn/change the pictures.

Here’s the back of the card:

The backs of these cards are really nice. Reminds me of the Score cards that came out a few years later. You don’t get many pitching categories here for stats, but you get his career stats, as well as a small bio section and a great actual photo. You can see some rough win/loss seasons in his career compared to his ERA. Take his 1975 season for example when he led the league with 17 losses. His ERA was 11 points above league average. That amounts to three runs over 26 complete game starts, something you would never notice in a full season. His teammate Ray Burris went 15-10 with a 4.12 ERA that season. That’s exactly a half of a run over average. How do you punish Reuschel for something like that happening? Keeping him out of Cooperstown? That seems kind of drastic. That’s just one example of many.

One other thing to point out here. Sportflics printed these cards in 1987 (see the small line at the bottom), so the year is often misidentified on Ebay lists. That’s something to keep in mind if you want to purchase one of these cards. These cards are cheap because they are more of a novelty. There aren’t a lot of Sportflics collectors out there. They were also printed in a decent quantity, though they did cost more than your average cards back then, so those printing numbers don’t approach sets like Topps, Donruss, Fleer or Score. They were a clear fifth back in 1988. If you look for one of these, you can get it for $2 delivered. Just be sure not to get the wrong year, because people will identify them wrong. Why would you want one showing him on the San Francisco Giants?