The baseball card-collecting world is being starved.
While being served a low-protein gruel of boring batting stance and watching-long-fly-balls photographs on cards, the Kobe steak of baseball player poses is being wasted.
On a recent research mission to rip apart 2013 Topps Series 2, I loaded Getty Images - Topps' honey-hole of baseball snapshots - I was looking for players snubbed from recent sets in a plea to get them into Series Two. While I am sure it is far too late - I decided to to Topps' work for them in selecting a pile of photos of Toronto Blue Jays fan-favourite: Munenori Kawasaki.
If you go looking for Muni's cards, you're going to get blanked on finding him in a major-league uniform. All that seem to exist are World Baseball Classic cards from 2009 Bowman Draft.
And while Kawasaki is producing a less-than-inspiring .274 slugging percentage in 2013, we Toronto fans love him, and would greatly appreciate his first non-Team Japan card.
And boy, are there options.
Finalist #1: The Asics Samurai
Prior to watching Munenori this season, I had no idea Asics made baseball equipment. 'Nori, of course, is decked out in the gear. Without doing any particular research on the subject, I'll believe that his has some wort of equipment endorsement with them. For the most part, MLB players select bats with good pop and low breakage - but Munenori is not like all MLB players, so with what I would liberally value him at about 20 power, I'm sure the amount of pop in his bat matters not. This Tom Szczerbowski photo serves as a solid baseball card shot, but believe me, they only get better from here.
Finalist #2: Batting Circle Stretchin'
Every good samurai/baseball player needs a good stretch of the loins before weakly grounding out to second base. Munenori has become a camera magnet in Toronto just for his stretching along, comprising about 31% of SportsNet broadcast time. Any youthful baseball players should pay attention. Kudos on the shot to Tom Szczerbowski again on this excellent shot.
Finalist #3: That time Munenori Kawasaki stopped a ball in mid-air with what could only be described as his sixth - or maybe even his seventh sense.
Ahh, yes. The first mid-air ball stop was attributed to Jim Leyland, yet this one, a photo by Jared Wickerham, is likely aided more by proper diet and stretching than coffee and Marlboros. This photo reminds me of how refreshing it is to see little skinny guys like myself in the game of professional baseball, rather than, you know, the hulking maniacs I grew up watching in the 90s and early 00s (read: "auts".)
Finalist #4: Sniper in the Trees!
Much praise goes to Ivan Nova's erratic pitch which struck Munenori on this pitch. He was fine, but now Nova is on the DL. The baseball gods work in mysterious ways, and were captured at this moment by photographer Jim McIsaac. While the lack of a face on this card would perturb many collectors, the pure action of a known moment in history card would not. I would greatly appreciate an entire rainbow of these cards, but as promised, there was a clear-cut winner in this set.
The Winner: The Melky Bow
So much of Toronto's love of Muneori Kawasaki is from his trademark respectful bow to umpires (before every at-bat and after reaching base) and other players after scoring runs, premium pitching performances (I suppose, anyway, the Blue Jays haven't had any in 2013) and remarkable plays in the field, as was the case with this photo by Tom Szczerbowski photograph of a Melky Cabrera catch on May 20th of this year.
So come on, Topps. Make it hapen. Series two, update series, anything. We need Munenori Kawasaki baseball cards.
Collecting needs Kawasaki cards.