Pity the poor Ismael Valdez, whose pitching so uninspired the photographers at Upper Deck that they denied him his very livelihood on this circa-2000 baseball card. It’s like they knew his career was about to go into the proverbial turlet thanks to shoulder trouble, and were suggesting that discerning fans would derive more joy watching him hit in the first year of the new willenium, rather than pitch. No one should have to endure such an indignity, to have his accomplishments so cavalierly tossed aside and misrepresented.
When our memories fade, and we look back on his career, will we remember him as he was, or as Upper Deck would have us remember him? When untold generations come wondering about Ismael Valdez, and they find this card, what will they think about a man so inconsequential that no one saw fit to document him doing what he did best? What he loved best? How could we have allowed this to happen?
Ismael Valdez deserves what any man deserves, to be remembered for what he was. Not canonized or marginalized. He averaged 199 innings from 1995-1999 with an ERA+ of 117. He was a fly ball pitcher who faired well in Dodger Stadium, but who struggled when he hurt his shoulder and moved on to Wrigley Field. He never again reached the dizzying heights he experienced as a 23 year old. He finished one game under .500 for his career, at 104-105, with a 4.09 ERA. He was not a Cy Young candidate. He was not cannon fodder. He was part of baseball’s great faceless middle class, about whom no one is ever going to write a biography and who few will ever talk about again. He will not be remembered, at least not as he was. The world is a cruel place for men such as these.