The Man in the Mirror

I’ve spent an unordinary amount of time on this website defending the greatness that is Bowman’s forgotten love child, Bowman’s Best. During the Bowman Chrome age, especially as pack inserted, certified autographs of young teenage boys took over collecting, it appears Bowman’s Best was inexplicably left in the dust. I never quite understood the masses in their thinking because in 1997, the year Bowman Chrome made its debut, the checklist carried exactly ZERO autographs, while 1997 Bowman’s Best was loaded with them, including a legendary Derek Jeter autograph.

Not only did Bowman’s Best, well, best Chrome in the autograph department but it also beat them to the punch in having the first parallel of a parallel. Up until that point, we had refractors in Finest, Best, Topps & Bowman Chrome but we had no level beyond that until Bowman’s Best introduced the beautiful Atomic Refractor. It’s sad that in today’s world of collecting, all that matters now are parallels but in 1996 when they were still a new thing, pulling an Atomic Refractor was just about the most amazing thing that could happen to you.

Bowman’s Best hasn’t always lived up to their name, though and eventually the product took a long nap for nearly a decade before its return, where once again, it’s not getting the attention it deserves and probably rightfully so. Anyway, one of their big inserts were Mirror Image, where a veteran was paired up with a prospect that had some sort of chance of being as good, if not better than the veteran. Unfortunately, some prospects were paired up with once in a lifetime players and just never stood a chance. One such conundrum is the poor saps who had to live up to what Ken Griffey Jr. was doing in the mid-90s.

Let’s take a look and see how the prospects faired against Junior.

1995 Bowman’s Best – Mirror Image (Griffey Jr./T. Greene)

This one here is bizarre for many reasons. For one, Greene was a catcher that stood just 5-10 and had a stocky 200 lbs. frame. Griffey Jr. had speed and grace and was as dynamic as they come out in the outfield. That being said, I was excited for Todd and saw him as potentially a bigger, more powerful Mike Piazza, maybe.

As you can imagine, things didn’t quite work out. In 1996, Griffey Jr. hit 49 bombs, was an all-star, won a gold glove, as well as a Silver Slugger. Greene managed to hang on to an MLB job for 11 seasons but never managed to hit more than 14 home runs in a single year. He did manage to earn just under $4,000,000 playing a game so kudos to him.

1996 Bowman’s Best – Mirror Image (Griffey Jr./B. Grieve)

This one here almost holds up. Ben Grieve was a talented kid that could have used a little muscle. Still, he managed to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1998 and had a little pop in his bat for a couple of seasons. In Jose Canseco’s book, Juiced, Jose talked about offering advice on steroids to Ben, who had no interest in it. In 2009, I tweeted to Ben regarding his comments and he told me that he is proud of his career and that he played the honest way every day he suited up.

Unfortunately, during the Steroid Era of baseball, class and dignity didn’t take you very far and Ben managed to play in just 9 seasons, bouncing around in the latter half with Tampa Bay, Chicago Cubs, and even in Milwaukee. He did manage to earn over $14,000,000 during his playing days so I am sure Ben is living his best life today and hey, not many players have a Rookie of the Year trophy to hang on their shelf.

1997 Bowman’s Best – Mirror Image (Griffey Jr./J. Cruz Jr.)

Folks, this one here is personal. I was all on board the Jose Cruz Jr. hype train and in early1997, Jose outhomered Griffey Jr. and was getting way more attention then Junior was until he was mysteriously traded to the Blue Jays, something that truly makes zero sense. My belief, and give me a second to adjust my tin foil hat, is that Cruz Jr. was shipped to Canada because Griffey Jr. didn’t like his spotlight being taken away by a younger and seemingly better player.

I tweeted my insane conspiracy theory to Jose Cruz Jr. and shockingly he tweeted back and I quote, “That’s an interesting theory.”. You can read about it HERE.

As for Jose’s career, he put up some really great numbers but didn’t live up to his 1997 start, which was interrupted by a trade to Canada. He did end up with over 200 career home runs and a gold glove, but I always wonder about what could have been if he played the entire year, uninterrupted, in Seattle. In a multiverse, Cruz Jr. is the Hall of Famer and Griffey Jr. ended his career early due to injuries.

1999 Bowman’s Best – Mirror Image (Griffey Jr./R/ Mateo)

There was no new Mirror Image of Ken Griffey Jr. (officially) in 1998 but in 1999 we had yet another attempt, this time with future great, Ruben Mateo. Now, I’ll be first to admit by 1999, I was growing tired of Bowman’s Best and needed a little break. The entire industry in general was out of control with 10-15 releases each from Pacific, Upper Deck, Fleer, and Topps. It would have been even more had Donruss/Leaf/Pinnacle not filed for bankruptcy in 1998. I just needed a break.

This time around, we got a Ken Griffey Jr. “mirror image” named Ruben Mateo. If you’re hoping he somehow would fare better than Greene, Grieve, and Cruz Jr., have I got some news for you. Unfortunately, due to a career altering injury, Mateo only played 295 games in the Majors, hitting 21 home runs. He did play professional baseball for 18 seasons, however, hitting 241 career home runs with just a little under 1,000 runners driven in.

The point is that for Bowman’s Best, one of Topps’ above average products in the mid-90s, there just wasn’t anyone who could fill Ken Griffey Jr.’s shoes, except maybe Cruz Jr. and despite four strong efforts, none of the players chosen to represent came anywhere close to it, career-wise. Let’s just face the fact that Ken Griffey Jr. was just a once in a generation type talent and Bowman’s Best, from 1995 through 1998, was one of Topps’ best rookie themed products, even if no one remembers.

Just When I Thought I Was Out

A few months ago I went on a temporary hiatus. I was starting a new job in an industry I was unfamiliar with and needed to focus more than ever on non-card ventures. While away from writing about baseball cards for the first time since 2007, something unexpected happened. The negativity and toxic atmosphere fueled by collectors on Twitter finally pushed me away, possibly for good. There’s just too much going on in this world for me to focus on Topps’ awful quality control, Panini America’s shameful disregard of their customers, or Leaf’s pathetic attempts to stay relevant.

I quietly put away my soon to be 33-year old Jose Canseco collection in storage and uninstalled the Twitter app from my smart phone. I still checked in once in a while through my phone’s browser to see what was happening and went on eBay every few days to check out what new Jose Canseco cards were being pumped out by Topps but for the most part, I was 100% out of the hobby and the community. It felt good and for once, I was at peace. I didn’t make some big, dramatic announcement, like the folks on Twitter did when Elon Musk purchased the social media network, I just silently bowed out.

During my sabbatical, one particular card caught my attention, Jose’s 2022 Topps Archives. It features a dare I say, beloved, early-90s Topps design and a brand new Jose Canseco photograph, never before used for cardboard. Aside from the obvious nostalgia this Topps design harkens, in today’s billion dollar sports cards industry, finding new images of Jose Canseco appears to be next to impossible. Image recycling is one of the main reasons I gave up purchasing new Canseco cards in the first place. It was great to see a worthwhile baseball card but nothing could make me return to collecting baseball cards again, or so I thought.

To my surprise, the card showed up in my mail box thanks to friend and one of the last readers of the site, Joshua Blumenthal. It was one of the most kind and generous things I have seen in the hobby in a long time and truthfully, it probably happens a lot more than I notice. Unfortunately, it’s usually the negativity that makes the spotlight.

Josh, thank you for thinking of this pathetic, forgotten blogger and sending out this awesome Topps card of my all-time favorite, pathetic, forgotten slugger. I guess in the end, my love for Jose Canseco and baseball cards will never die and if it comes close, there will always be someone to throw in a lifeline.

Tears of a Flipper

Twitter was a shit-show yesterday. For starters, the most polarizing man on the planet, Elon Musk, became the new owner of Twitter, to the delight of the Right-wing and the many nasty human beings and bots that call Twitter their home. As one can imagine, the Left was up in arms, threatening to leave Twitter, with some prominent Twitter influencers keeping their word and immediately deleting their account. I for one do not care and will continue using my account for its intended purposes.

On the collecting side of Twitter, there was an even bigger storm brewing, followed by a full day of Retail Flipper tears raining down on us as perhaps the biggest card of 2022, a Topps Platinum 1/1 Wander Franco was finally pulled from a cheap hanger box purchased at a Walgreens in California. While I’m not big on Franco (or any modern player), I understand just how important this card is and going on secondary market value alone, this is what you’d call a life-changing baseball card.

I know what you’re thinking, how could anyone be upset that the biggest card of the year was pulled? Why wouldn’t collectors be happy for someone essentially becoming filthy rich overnight by doing something as fun as buying a pack of baseball cards? Most of us have done the same thing most of our lives, secretly chasing that same dream. Besides, with unopened Hobby boxes reaching an all-time high, someone beating the odds should be a great thing. Well, not always …

It appears that a certain element of Twitter, specifically “flippers”, are up in arms over this transaction. These greasy-haired, Mtn. Dew fueled, Hot Cheetos shirt-stained bozos who own more cargo shorts than underwear cannot handle that Topps put such an illustrious card inside a hanger pack at Walgreens. To these people, this card should have been included as a Hobby-exclusive so that that some popular group breaker with 25 cases of product could stream it on Instagram. To them, that’s the only way to do it.

Never should such a card be found in a value pack at a local drug store. To these people, spending $500 on a box of cards should promise the world to them. To breakers who hoard cases by dropping tens of thousands of dollars, this is a travesty. To that 25-year-old living with Mom & Dad, who just wiped-out Target of $5,000 worth of Panini product so that he can add an 80% mark-up, this is a slap in the face. Elon just bought Twitter and some nobody in California just struck oil on a Tampa Bay Rays rookie card. The world is coming to an end!

I for one will celebrate the underdog. So will all the other thousands of collectors who have been completely priced out of buying baseball cards in 2022. As will the long-time collectors who just can’t find cards to buy during what could be the hottest this hobby has ever been. You know who else will celebrate with me? That card shop owner who was only able to secure 8 hobby boxes of Topps Chrome to sell to his dwindling customers because Houdini and his clones purchased 80 cases for YouTube and social media video group breaks.

Need I remind these so-called collectors that if you are overpaying for Topps’ flagship product looking for a 1/1, you are doing it wrong. Topps’ flagship is a low-level, set builders product and has been for over 70 years. If you want big hits or colorful parallels, flagship is not for you. Flagship is a product that is meant to be affordable and attainable to anyone who wants to feel the joy of opening a back of baseball cards. It’s unfortunate that grading has polluted the hobby with greed and even flagship is a tough find during the first month of release.

I for one commend Topps. Thank you for looking out for the little guy.

Saying Goodbye to the Bad Guy

I knew something wasn’t right last week when I logged on to TikTok and was met by a video of WWE Hall of Famer and wrestling legend, Scott Hall, doing a private signing at a comic book store. In the video, Hall appears to be under the influence of heavy sedatives while an endless stream of memorabilia is being shoved in his face. Watching the former slick, “Razor Ramon” struggle with Sharpie markers was truly a sad sight for someone who grew up watching this troubled icon on WWF television.

A couple of days after this TikTok hit the web, news broke that Scott had suffered a serious fall and needed emergency hip replacement surgery. Originally, it was believed that Scott’s injury, while serious, would be something easy to recover from considering that Scott has been a fighter and survivor for most of his life. Unfortunately, over the weekend things took a turn for the worst and it appears the end is near for the 63-year old, after suffering 3 heart attacks and being placed on life support.

While most fans and friends of the legendary Scott Hall are choosing to remain optimistic publicly, Hall’s best friend and business partner for more nearly three decades, fellow WWE Hall of Famer, Kevin Nash, pretty much guaranteed that time has all but run out for the Bad Guy judging by this tragic Facebook posting (see below). It appears that at some point this week, Scott’s life support will be removed and his life will hang in the balance and will continue only if Scott can manage to kick out one final time.

As it relates to trading cards, Scott Hall’s signature appeared on multiple Topps products from 2015-2016 after a career resurgence thanks to Diamond Dallas Page’s help getting Scott healthy and ready for the WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2014. As late as 2019, Scott appeared to be in the best shape of his career but clearly the pandemic and aging, not to mention years of abuse took its toll on Scott. As for Scott’s most desired autograph, it comes from 1999 Topps WCW/nWo Nitro, a now legendary and pricey set.

As for the now pivotal 1999 Topps WCW/nWo set, it is filled with legendary wrestlers no longer with us (Macho Man, Mr. Perfect, Eddie Guererro), wrestlers who are about to exit stage left (Hall, Scott Steiner, Hulk Hogan), and icons of today’s world of wrestling (Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, Bret Hart). In reality, this set hands down features the best wrestling checklist ever put together and no amount of $13,000 overpriced and overhyped modern Topps sets can come near it.

Should Collectors Expect More?

The other day on Twitter I ran into a tweet by CheapFunBreaks showing off a Chadwick Boseman cut signature. My immediate reaction was to point out that the cut autograph was too small for the designated window. This is something I’ve address many times. I understand really rare autographs pre-1960 aren’t always catered to fit the traditional trading card formats but for someone who died in 2020, there’s just no excuse to pull a card like this out of a box that retails for well over $20,000.

In case you didn’t know, 2021 Topps Transcendent is the cream of the crop in ultra, high-end baseball cards. For starters, there are only 95 boxes available, and most are immediately gobbled up by big name breakers like CheapFunBreaks and rightfully so, as there’s not many collectors who are going to have the resources to spend $20,000+ on one of these boxes alone. Breaking it up and selling slots is the way to go and has turned quite a bit of profit to those breakers who can afford it.

When I tweeted my disappointment that the cut didn’t fit the window, I was immediately blasted by Topps apologists who were quick to defend their beloved company. My take is that yes, I can accept this from a rare autograph but again, Boseman passed in 2020 and looking online it appears he signed just about ANYTHING handed to him with the exception of trading cards. Upper Deck even released a licensed, Black Panther set in 2018 but failed to obtain autographs of the biggest stars, including the biggest one, Chadwick.

I can understand a cut autograph of Roberto Clemente not fitting a window because Roberto died way back in 1972 and it’s fair to assume most of his autographs are safely stored in private collections and/or have been destroyed by now. Even someone like Andre the Giant, who signed quite a bit in his day but died in 1993 is someone I’d consider rare because he missed the trading card autograph revolution by a few years. Boseman was a star, arguably for nearly a decade before his untimely death two years ago.

Call me crazy but if you are going to release a product with a $20,000+ price tag on it, you had better damn well make sure every card in the product is immaculate (and they mostly are). What breakers won’t tell you is that no matter what 1/1 or cut signature you pull from one of these products, it’s nearly impossible to ever make your money back on any box produced. I’d be okay with that sad fact from a $200 box of cards but when I drop enough to get into a 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer, I need some ROI.

So, I did a little digging on CheapFunBreaks and found his 2021 Topps Transcendent break details. He charges $374.99 for one spot. If you hit a 1/1, you are penalized and have to pay extra for shipping. There are 57 total spots available, which means he clears $21,374.23, plus extra for shipping. It’s clear he receives some kind of kickback and/or rebate from Blowout Cards but I would imagine it’s not that much. Plus, he likely earns money from YouTube. Come to think of it, I really don’t know how these guys are making any profit on these.

My advice, buy some singles on eBay and get yourself a new car.