Tony Clark was My Aaron Judge

I’ve never been a prospector and not because I didn’t want to be. What collector wouldn’t want to buy low and sell off your stash for a small fortune? The problem was that I simply sucked at predicting what player would turn out be great.

Below is a sample of some of my investments:

Jose Cruz, Jr.

After his ’97 Bowman Chrome caught fire, I stocked up on all his ’97 and ’98 cards only to see him fall in Toronto and never get back up again. I was certain that Jose was destined to be the next Ken Griffey, Jr. Check out the time he Tweeted me!

Ben Grieve

This kid reminded me of a mix between Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire when he came up with the A’s. Unfortunately, he turned out to be more like Walt Weiss with a little more pop in his bat, occasionally.

Orlando Hernandez / Hideki Irabu / Kerry Wood

I blame Beckett Media and the New York press for my very expensive investments in “El Duque” and the “Fat Toad”, as George Steinbrenner once labeled him. Wood, perhaps was the most frustrating with his 20 K performance forever in the rear view mirror.

Andrew Miller 

At 6 feet, 7 inches tall and throwing heat from the left side … how could Andrew not be the new, prettier version of Randy Johnson? I spent thousands on a small number of the most rare cards of Miller only to see him struggle for most of his career.

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As you can see, one big fail by me after another. Of course, Tony Clark was going to change all that. The man was a monster lefty with power that put Jose Canseco to shame and without all the baggage. The man was a saint.

In his first, semi-full season he hit 27 home runs in just 100 games. My take was that over 162 games he would be pushing 45 HRs so now was the time to invest. I quickly scooped up all his big cards and waited.

When Tony finally got around to playing a full year (159 games in ’97), he hit just 32 home runs. In his 15 seasons, he hit the 30-mark four times but never put up monster numbers. He was a great player but not exactly what I was hoping for.

That’s why I am worried about the collectors investing in Aaron Judge, a kid with less than 200 games under his belt. Sure, Aaron’s 2017 numbers are legendary but I also remember the thousands that were being dropped on Joba Chamberlain cards.

To put things into perspective, the most I’ve ever spent on a prospect was $40 for a 1998 Bowman Chrome Orlando Hernandez card. This price tag was due to purchasing it in a card shop and not eBay and because of his recent media hype.

Now, there is currently a 2013 Bowman Gold Refractor auto, graded a 10 by BGS on eBay with a $175,000 price tag. Go ahead and let that sink in for a moment. There is also a same year Chrome, 1/1 printing plate for $161,000. Those are just some of them.

I’m not saying Aaron Judge is going to wind up like Tony Clark.¬†Hell, in one full season he has already done way more than Tony ever could. All I’m saying is that there is a collector out there who spent $5,000 on a Joba Chamberlain card.

I’m still upset about the $40 I dropped on “El Duque”.

Leave Kevin Maas Alone!

As a devoted player collector for thirty years, it is hard not to be burdened with tunnel vision. So much has happened between the time I began collecting in 1990 to the time I stopped in 2015 … but I couldn’t name much of it unless it has to do with my player, Jose Canseco. I’ve seen many “can’t miss” prospects, well, MISS big.

Todd Van Poppel, the flame-thrower the A’s and everyone else wanted you to believe was the second coming of our baseball Jesus, Nolan Ryan.

Joba Chamberlain, a chubby kid whose hype and early numbers somehow suckered a collector into paying $5,000 dollars for his Bowman Chrome Superfractor.

Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, who grabbed so much attention that even I went out and overpaid for his 1998 Bowman Chrome rookie card.

Kevin Maas, however, was something totally different. He was a LIKEABLE New York Yankees rookie who put up big numbers in a shortened, 1990 season. He didn’t ask for the hype that followed but oh boy did it come hard and fast. Seriously, within months of his debut, professional, so-called journalists were comparing him to Mickey Mantle and wondering out loud if he was the man who would break Roger Maris’ single-season home run record.

I. AM.NOT.KIDDING.

Of course, Maas ended up flaming out. It should be noted that in his five years, Maas only played a full season once. He was never a coveted prospect and he was drafted in the 22nd round of the draft at the old age of 25. Kevin just happened to be a good-looking kid who started his career on a tear for the most revered team in the history of baseball. The unrealistic and unfair comparisons were bound to happen.

Kevin Maas’ most-coveted card during his early success was his classic, 1990 Upper Deck rookie. Surprisingly, he also had some Minor League cards in 1989 but the Upper Deck card is what every collector gravitated towards. It’s a damn shame Kevin has become a horror story of MLB failure because he really shouldn’t be. He was just a kid who for one season played well-above his reach and potential. He should be celebrated, not used as a scare tactic for young prospects.

Thankfully, Kevin Maas had one, final tribute in the form of trading cards thanks to 2017 Topps Archives. It is a card that could easily be picked up for under $5 dollars on eBay. I would understand a collector’s disappointment in pulling a Maas autograph instead of a bigger name but if every single card carries a story, Kevin Maas’ is one that is definitely worth reading.

Collecting On A Budget – Babe Ruth

Call me nuts but I have a hard time celebrating a World Series win by a team that plays in the most home run friendly park in baseball and whose 2009 team salary was higher than the Marlins, Nationals, Pirates, and Padres combined.

Rather than to keep dwelling, I’d like to continue the ‘Collecting On A Budget’ segment that first ran in April and never returned. Did you know that for less than the price of a box of 2009 Topps Tribute you could own a Babe Ruth card from the 1930’s, a piece of The Babe’s game-used memorabilia, and even a Ruth one of one?

First thing you have to do is throw expectations out the door. Forget owning one of the legendary ‘Piece of History’ bat relics or a beautiful Donruss 1/1 from the era when they never shut their printers off. You have to be selective and will have to trade aesthetics for the basics.

First thing you will need to do is find a vintage Ruth. Don’t even try to find the best copy out there. Instead, search for those beat-up cards that were tacked on walls and stuck in bicycle spokes for an entire summer. Those are the least expensive and more often than not, authentic.

1933 Sport Kings Gum – $52 dollars

Next up you will need to find a piece of wood and/or clothing the legendary Yankees star used. Topps, Upper Deck, Donruss, and others have produced thousands of these cards so it won’t exactly be hard to find. Just remember to think small and plain. No pinstripe on this relic.

2009 Topps Heritage Heroes Edition – $69 dollars

The final task is perhaps the toughest. Babe Ruth 1/1 cards are extremely hard to come by and sell for big money, even without memorabilia and/or autographs. You will have to settle for the least desirable true 1/1 and that comes from 2008 Upper Deck SPx and their seemingly endless supply of Babe Ruth 1/1’s.

2008 Upper Deck SPx – $76 dollars

So there you have it. You can pre-order a box of 2009 Topps Tribute for $235 dollars and take your chances or for just under $200 you can pick up three interesting (if not highly sought after) Babe Ruth cards to add to your collection.

So what’s it gonna be?

A true 1/1 - Babe, not the SPx card ...

The Rays Fail To Meet Expectations

Early in the 2009 season, the Tampa Bay Rays could do no wrong. Their biggest star, Evan Longoria, was on a torrid home run pace while Carl Crawford was flirting with 100 stolen bases.

In the end, Longoria’s stats were impressive but not phenomenal after a full season. Crawford, meanwhile, has 60 stolen bases which is not even good enough for first place thanks to the speedy Jacoby Ellsbury.

Worst of all, last season’s Cinderella Story, the Tampa Bay Rays, have been eliminated from the playoffs. Of course, it doesn’t help when you play in a division in which the top 2 teams, the Yankees & Red Sox, spent over $320 million in team payroll in 2009.

It’s been more than twenty years since anyone has stolen 100 bases. Vince Coleman accomplished the feat three years in a row starting in 1985 and reached 700+ career stolen bags despite playing 150 games or more just four times in a 13-year career.

You can find a Vince Coleman certified autograph in 2009 Tristar Obak.

He's No Vince Coleman...

Mantle, DiMaggio Not Worth $14,000

A lot of people I speak with in The Hobby seem to think I have something against “high-end” products. The truth is, I am envious of those who can afford all those releases. My only issue with them is that so many times you don’t even come close to getting your money’s worth in terms of secondary value or content.

One of my favorite happenings in collecting is going through eBay and watching those who plunked down a small fortune on Exquisite or some other product trying to make their money back. One current example is the collector who owns this 2005 Upper Deck Ultimate Mantle/DiMaggio/Jeter/Mattingly quad auto numbered to just one copy.

As far as I know, it may be the first time those four legendary Yankees (err, I mean 3) have been featured on one card with autographs but it’s certainly not a one of a kind item nor is it worth the $14,000 the seller is hoping to get. For starters, you can find Derek Jeter & Don Mattingly certified autographs for around $100 dollars combined.

Now some may think Mantle and DiMaggio’s signatures are a rarity because they died before the Hobby fully embraced the pack inserted autographs but not exactly. Mantle has more than one on-card certified autograph thanks to Score and Upper Deck and DiMaggio has an on-card Pinnacle autograph. On a good day you could win both those cards for under $500 dollars.

Question: Why did U.D. place Jeter & Mattingly on the front?

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