Today’s Card of the Day comes from the 2003 Upper Deck Vintage set. The featured player is Kenny Lofton, who agreed to a free agent deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates 20 years ago today. He barely lasted four months with the Pirates, but his signing was an exciting time for the Pirates, who also added outfielder Reggie Sanders as a free agent around the same time. Add in Matt Stairs, who signed earlier in the off-season, and the Pirates added a lot of firepower with those three players. All of them played just one year with the Pirates, but they still bring up great memories for fans who were excited about possibly ending the losing streak that season.
Lofton doesn’t appear on many cards that show him on the Pirates. We have already featured two of those cards here, so we are going to run out of options for him at some point in this series. I like highlighting him because he’s a vastly underrated player. He was a strong lead-off hitter with a little power, who added terrific speed and center field defense.
Don’t take this as a knock against Miguel Cabrera, but there’s been a lot of discussions recently about his place in baseball history, seeing as this is his final season. I believe Cabrera is a no doubt first ballot Hall of Famer. However, we are talking about a guy who has 67.7 career WAR in 20 seasons, with that WAR total likely to go down again this year. He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer. Kenny Lofton put up 68.4 WAR in 17 seasons. He received 3.2% of the Hall of Fame votes in 2013, dropping off of the ballot in his first year. Cabrera was a much better hitter at his peak, but Lofton was the better overall player for their careers. Look at his stats, he was a Hall of Famer.
The way Lofton ran the bases, you can call him a throwback player. With that in mind, this throwback look for the 2003 Upper Deck vintage set is perfect to use for today’s article.
Here’s the front of the card:
Another reason why this card is perfect for today is because it is highlighting the reason Lofton was picked for today’s article. This card notes that “Speedy Lofton Joins Bucs”, which is then tied into the back, which we will get too shortly. I like the look of this set, even though it’s not really a throwback design. More of a design that is meant to look like a throwback.
It’s too bad Lofton has those glasses on his cap. You would be able to see that great Pirates logo three times. I think I have one of those exact windbreakers. Probably doesn’t fit anymore, but I’m not 100% sure if that logo is on the front left. I love the look though, especially since I’m so tired of seeing the current boring team logo. The Pirates need a logo like the one shown above back. It shows some grit. You want something intimidating, not something that looks like it brings you an episode of Sesame Street.
Here’s the back of the card:
When I first saw the little thumbnails of these scans, I didn’t know if that #7 in the baseball on the front was for his number with the Pirates, or the card number. That same small thumbnail on the back made me think that it was also the card number and possibly a coincidence. Then when I clicked on the scan, I could see that little #314 above the #7, ruining that cool coincidence. Anyway, the back doesn’t have stats here. It talks about the signing of Lofton and what it means to the Pirates. This back also has a throwback feel to it, which I really like.
Lofton is unfortunately also remembered for being part of the Aramis Ramirez trade. The Pirates weren’t really giving up anything with Lofton. He had two months left and they weren’t making the playoffs with or without him, he just would have made those final two months more tolerable. I’ve said this before, but I actually didn’t mind them trading Ramirez. His defense and lazy style of play annoyed me in 2003. Of course, his effort and defense did a 180 once he was traded, but I was done with him already.
I didn’t mind him being trade BUT I absolutely hated the trade return they got when the deal happened, but even more when that exciting player to be named later turned out to be Bobby Hill. Jose Hernandez and Lofton canceled each other out to me, except for the excitement part obviously. Both were upcoming free agents, and Lofton was going to be looking for a bigger deal elsewhere. That left a marginal minor league pitcher and a Scott Boras client (Hill), who wasn’t living up to the hype in the minors. That’s what they got for 2+ seasons of Ramirez.
Anyway, if you’re interested in this card, there aren’t many for sale on Ebay. There are some being sold by sellers who offer singles from the set that you select from a drop-down menu. Only two sellers actually have auctions with the scan of this Lofton card, so it’s lucky I was able to get good scans for this article. One has it for $2 delivered, the other for $3.50 delivered, though the latter has a best offer option. Someone actually recently paid $5.50 for this card, while another sold for $2.