Making a mockery of Upper Deck Documentary

January 16, 2009 at 2:15 am | Posted in My Cards, Upper Deck | 9 Comments

Back when Upper Deck Documentary was announced this past summer, I was cautiously optimistic about it.  Here’s my post from August 2 with my initial thoughts about it.  At the time, I was in the middle of enjoying the very memorable and historic 2008 Rays season.  I wondered if there would be cards for the postseason games (and it doesn’t appear that there are).  I also mentioned three things that I hoped that Upper Deck would do to make Documentary a meaningful and successful product:

  • Use a picture from the actual game on the front of the card. I don’t want to see the same pictures on multiple cards like the Yankee Stadium Legacy cards.
  • Show the box score and a short summary of the game on the back of the card.
  • Show the team’s record after the game and their place in the standings, including number of games back.

Well, the back of each card does show the division standings after the game, so that’s a good thing.  But everything else is pretty bad.  Maybe my expectations were unrealistic when I asked for a picture from the actual game on each card, especially with Documentary’s relatively low price point.  But at least it would have been nice if Upper Deck chose appropriate pictures for each card.  As you’ll see below, they did not.  They also failed to include the box score on the back of the card, which would have made the cards much more informative and useful.

I’m going to use four Rays cards from Documentary to show you what I don’t like (and a little bit about what I do like) about the set.  Three of them are from a group of five Rays cards that Sooz from A Cardboard Problem was kind enough to send to me after discovering that she didn’t like the product.  The other one (Kazmir) is from a hobby pack that I bought when I was in Rochester after Christmas.

Let’s start with the Scott Kazmir card.  This is from Game #30, a 12-4 loss to the Red Sox on May 3.  Here’s the front and back of the card:



Here are the ways in which Upper Deck screwed up this card:

  • Scott Kazmir is pictured on the front of the card for a game that he did not pitch in.  James Shields was the starting pitcher.  Why not use a picture of Shields, or of Gabe Gross, Akinori Iwamura, or Dioner Navarro, who are all mentioned on the back?
  • Kazmir is pictured in a home uniform.  It was a road game.  If you can’t use a picture from the actual game, at least try to use a picture of a home uniform for a home game and road uniform for a road game.  That shouldn’t have been too difficult to do.
  • The real story of this game was that James Shields had arguably his worst start of the season, giving up 7 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings.  Upper Deck seems reluctant to point out the bad things that happen to teams, and instead they try to find the good aspects of each game.  But when your team loses 12-4 to their biggest rival, it’s not the good things that you remember.

Next up is a B.J. Upton card from Game #58, which was unfortunately another loss to the Red Sox, 7-4, on June 3:



Here’s what I don’t like about this card:

  • Again, home uniforms for a road game.
  • But even worse, why do they use a picture that’s obviously from a post-game celebration on a card for a game that the Rays lost?  Do they want us to think that the Rays were happy to lose that game to Boston?
  • This picture looks like it was from a spring training game (as does the one on the Kazmir card).  A regular season photo would have been nice.

Next is Carl Crawford from Game #120, a victory over Oakland, 7-6, on August 14:



Here are the problems with this card:

  • This was a 12-inning game, but we only see the scoring lines from innings 4-12.  The Yankee Stadium Legacy cards had the same problem with extra-inning games.  How hard would it have been to try to find some space to show all of the innings?
  • At least they show Crawford in a road uniform, but the stadium is clearly not the Oakland Coliseum; it’s probably another spring training photo.
  • Here’s what’s really appalling – Crawford didn’t even play in this game.  He was actually on the D.L. at the time.  He went on the D.L. in early August with a finger injury and missed the rest of the regular season.
  • Carlos Pena and Dioner Navarro were the clear heroes of this game.  One of them should have been pictured on this card.

Finally, here is one card that I like, Dioner Navarro from the All Star Game:



Besides the common problem with the line score that exists for all extra-inning games, I do like how Upper Deck did the All Star cards.  The photo on the front is clearly from the All Star game (that’s Russell Martin behind the plate) and the foil stamp looks great.  The write-up about Navarro’s contributions in the All Star game is very good.  Looking back, I really am proud of the key roles that Navarro, Longoria, and Kazmir all played in the A.L. getting the win.  Because of that, the Rays had (and wasted) home field advantage in the World Series.  I’ll be looking to acquire the Longoria and Kazmir All Star game cards too.

So, in summary, Upper Deck Documentary had a lot of potential, but Upper Deck blew it.  These cards would really be great with the box score from the game on the back of the card and at least an appropriate photo (if not a photo from the actual game) on the front.  The deficiencies in the set outweigh the positive attributes of the set in my opinion.  And that’s a shame, because if Upper Deck had put any effort into this set, it would have been a lot of fun to try to collect all of the Rays cards from this memorable season.

If Upper Deck decides to produce another Documentary set in 2009, I really hope that they’ll take heed of my advice.  I also hope that they would consider selling Documentary in team sets instead of in packs.  I can’t imagine that any sane collector would try to build the entire 4980-card set.  Anyone who is interested in this set only wants to collect the games for their favorite team, so why not just deliver it in a team set format?



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  1. One more fact about the Kazmir picture: it’s from a spring training game, as can be seen by the chain-link fence and trees in the background.

    Way to go, UD!

  2. On that Navarro card … oh what could’ve been for the Dodgers. Both of their young up-and-coming catchers on the same card. Too bad they gave up on one prematurely. Although, arguably Navarro never would’ve blossomed into an AS until Tampa gave him the at-bats he needed.

  3. This seems to be a pattern: Sooz hates the Documentary cards, she distributes the cards, the cards arrive in respective bloggers’ mailboxes, the bloggers hate the cards, the bloggers blog on why they hate the cards, the bloggers have all the same reasons for hating the cards.

    I think this is Documentary’s sole purpose: To give us something to bash! Documentary might have to exist next year just to give us a blog entry for the day.

  4. Tied with UDX for worst product of the year!

  5. Charlie – I’d rate UDX as far worse than Documentary. At least Documentary serves a purpose – which it serves poorly. UDX has absolutely no purpose at all. Documentary can be improved with some effort, and UDX is broken beyond repair.

  6. Nice post Dave I think Ill be passing on this one.

  7. Here’s hoping that Upper Deck has seen all of these negative comments and 1)decides not to issue this set in 2009, or 2) better yet, gits it right next time.

  8. I bought a couple of packs of this product a couple of weeks back thinking it was a great idea…I was sorely let down and couldn’t put my finger on it until now. Great analysis!

  9. I just bought a card of the last game i ever went to at Yankee Stadium, July 30th 2008. I don’t like Documentary, but I thought it would be a cool idea. And yeah, UDX is horrible

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