Imagine working in an office with 10,000 employees and having no shot at a promotion. No matter how hard you work and potential shown, you are stored away in some colorless office with thousands of cubicles at every turn, to be forgotten, perhaps forever. That is the reality of being classified a “common” in a baseball card collection. Of course, everyone’s definition of a common card is different. To some who collect just teams, guys like Albert Pujols & Ichiro Suzuki might be totally worthless and end up in the box of commons. To others, only super stars are worthy of being removed from the commons box. For me, it’s a bit complicated.
Having returned to the hobby after a ten year absence, I knew nothing about today’s players so I began looking at stats. For me, a guy that can hit 25+ home runs a year and/or hit .300+ year in and year out is worthy to enter my box of stars, in a life of penny sleeves and top loaders. A pitcher faces a lot more obstacles, though. Simply winning 20 games once won’t get you in, since so many have a hard time repeating that feat. By the time you enter the box of stars, you are practically a legendary pitcher or an incredibly hot prospect (Daisuke, Joba). Another tough choice was keeping retired and close to retired players out of my stars box. That means players like Frank Thomas & Greg Maddux are currently stuck among my commons, while guys like Jason Bay & Phil Hughes are living the good life in the box of stars.
Well, this morning while organizing my collection, two players made a jump from skid row (commons) to the life of luxury (box of stars). One guy has quietly (at least to me) done something my hero, Jose Canseco never came close to doing; 4 straight seasons with 30+ home runs. Surprisingly, he also keeps a high average and steals a base or two despite being huge. His name is Carlos Lee. Welcome, Carlos.
The other guy is an excellent player with seven gold gloves and one hell of a bat. He may never be a 40+ home run, 120+ R.B.I guy but he is always good for 25/90 with a .280 average or so. Since my return to the hobby I have been a magnet to Torii Hunter high-end “hits” but kept putting them away and focusing on other more well-known players. There is a game-used bat, a Finest black refractor #’d to 99, and a 1 of 1 printing plate, just to name a few. What finally won me over was two cards featured at Cardboard Junkie. One is a drawing from 2007 Topps Allen & Ginter which I thought was a fluke until his 2008 Heritage base card went public. The man’s a great baseball player and has a sense of humor. That’s more than enough for me. Of course, Walt Weiss could have been the second-coming of John Belushi and he’d still be in my commons today.
Welcome to the box of stars, Torii!
As a tribute to Torii and Carlos, I have posted the video below. It’s what commons have to deal every single day. You can also find the first issue of Wax True Baseball Card Story by clicking here.