AT THE Topps baseball card company they know the devil is in the details. Each card in Topps's annual 770-piece set gets a number, and sharp-eyed collectors may notice a pattern in the players that in recent years have received 666, the so-called number of the beast mentioned in the Book of Revelations (and, of course, by various heavy-metal acts). In 2002, 666 was then Diamondbacks reliever Byung-Hyun Kim. The next year the number was assigned to then Angels closer Troy Percival, followed by Marlins ace Josh Beckett in '04 and Red Sox closer Keith Foulke in '05.
The connection? All four helped eliminate the Yankees from the playoffs the season before they were deep-sixed. "Officially it's purely coincidental," says a Topps spokesman. "But I will say that the editor who works on that set is a big Yankees fan."
So who will get the stamp of Satan in 2006? One prime candidate: Angels righthander Ervin Santana, who shut down the Yankees in Game 5 of the ALDS. If the infernal itemizer goes with a position player for a change, Angels catcher Bengie Molina (who hit three home runs against the Yanks in the playoffs) is a good bet. Or perhaps it will be Mark Hendrickson, the pitcher who beat the Yanks three times for the team that bedeviled them in the regular season: the Devil Rays.