Another Ramirez grabbing headlines

The Florida Marlins official website is reporting that Hanley Ramirez added 25 lbs. of muscle during the off-season. Already considered one of the game’s premier players, Hanley, 24, looked more like Manny Ramirez during the 2009 Marlins Fan Fest.

In a time when the game’s most popular players are being outed for Steroid use it sure is bold to add that much muscle in less than five months time. Hanley, who entered the 30-30 Club in 2008 now has an opportunity to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in 2009.

As for Hanley’s best and most recognizable rookie card; it’s none other than 2003 Bowman Chrome. A base version that features Hanley in a Boston Red Sox uniform recently sold for under $150 dollars but it’s the parallels that bring in the most money. An Xfractor recently sold for just under $200 dollars and rare Gold Refractor copies sell for a lot more.

Will this be the year Hanley Ramirez becomes a household name?

Hanley Ramirez signing during the 2009 Marlins Fan Fest

The Rookie Challenge – Lance Berkman

It seems strange that “Fat Elvis” Lance Berkman has just ten years of Major League Service. What’s even more amazing is that during that decade he has been one of the most exciting players in baseball and has stayed put in Texas.

Early into the 2009 season you can expect Berkman to hit his 300th career home run and drive in his 1,000th R.B.I. While those numbers pale in comparison to players like Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez, there is still a very good chance that Berkman could end up in the 500 Home Run Club and finish his career with a .300 lifetime batting average.

As far as baseball cards are concerned, Berkman is the king of 1997 Bowman Chrome as all the other “can’t miss” prospects have since burnt out. There are actually several different Bowman releases from that year that feature Lance, his infamous white pick-up truck, and the old stadium in the background. You can choose from Bowman, its parallels and Bowman Chrome, its parallels, which includes this beautiful Bowman Chrome International and the hard to come by Refractor version.

Berkman also has a rookie card in the forgettable but great-looking 1997 Topps Stars. Strangely enough, I could not find one Upper Deck Lance Berkman release up until the 1999 season. Did U.D completely miss the boat on this possible future Hall of Fame ball player?

So, which 1997 Berkman wins the Rookie Challenge and why?

Is Bowman flooding the market?

This afternoon I received a wonderful package from reader Dan W. with a ton of current Marlins players, including “Hulk” Logan Morrison. Even though he sent some awesome cards (including a Ricky Nolasco autograph), a 2008 Bowman Sterling Refractor of Hulk really caught my eye.

While Bowman was once again the “King” among prospect collectors in 2008, the design itself was a little on the weak side. Of course, it did not stop them from releasing a total of four products, three of them using the same design. The only release that had it’s own design was Bowman Sterling, which was a ultra high-end product many collectors were not pleased with.

We don’t need to read The Sports Card File to know that our hobby is in the dumps. As much as we bashed Upper Deck for unnecessary releases like ‘X’ and ‘Documentary’, where were the collectors who realized that there was just way too much Bowman products last year? Surely we didn’t need four of them, did we? How many are in store for 2009?

What kills me as a collector is how amazing Bowman Sterling looks. Why, you ask? With the $240 dollar per box asking price, it’s just out of reach to 95% of collectors today. Can you imagine if Topps decided to release just two Bowman products this year? All we really need is the flagship brand and one high-end chrome version that is an upgrade over Bowman Chrome. More collectors deserve to bust products like Bowman Sterling.

Sadly, that is never going to happen.

Card of the Day – ’08 Bowman Chrome

When Charles of Hawk to the Hall walked into his local hobby shop today he didn’t intend on buying any 2008 Bowman Chrome.  Luckily for him, he just could not pass up the $2 dollars a pack price tag and picked up a few packs. Inside, he found five Refractors, an autograph, and a dual autograph, titled ‘Head of the Class’, featuring popular New York Yankees pitchers, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes.

As far as the ‘Head of the Class’, which is one of the better pulls from last year’s Bowman Chrome… it’s not the first time these two hurlers have appeared on a card together. The first time was in 2007 Topps ’52 Rookie Cup Edition but the best-known and most valuable is a 2007 Bowman Sterling dual autograph which sells well despite both players still not having lived up to their potential.

I believe 2009 will be Joba’s year but I am still not sold on Hughes, who is beloved by collectors for joining the Beckett Message Board (and posting) a couple of years ago. Today, collectors still hold their “man crush” despite Phil’s long absence from the forum and even his own WordPress blog.

If these two breakout this year, expect this card to climb to back to “hype” levels again.

What is the best “1 of 1”?

It doesn’t matter what kind of collector you are, each and every single time we bust wax we are secretly hoping for that special “1 of 1”. While the shine of the “one of a kind” baseball card wore off years ago, it’s still one of the most exciting elements in collecting.

Today, it’s perfectly clear that the “King of 1 of 1’s” is the Topps produced Superfractor. Of course, if the Super does nothing for you there are many different alternatives to whet your appetite. For example, Bowman Sterling chooses the Red Refractor to be their “1 of 1” while Topps’ Allen & Ginter produce miniature wood cards. If you like keeping it old school, you could always go with the long-used, less-desired printing plate as your choice.

I am purposely leaving out cards from Topps Sterling, Moments & Milestones and others that feature a game-used relic, certified autograph and/or mass produce the “1 of 1” trading card. This poll is for a bare bones 1 of 1 and I have chosen the most common not to mention popular cards in the Hobby today.

So which “1 of 1” is the king of the hill coming into 2009?

Superfractor(Topps Company exclusive)

Red Refractor(1/1 in Bowman Sterling only)

Printing Plate – (Upper Deck, Topps, Razor)

Mini Wood(Topps Allen & Ginter exclusive)