Vintage Rookie Cards 1959-1980

'65 Perez Mary

 

In 1959, Topps expanded their baseball card set to 572 cards and produced them in series. So when you purchased a pack early in the year, the cards would only be numbered 1-110 and as the year went on, other series would be offered for sale. At the time, it seemed logical, but for collectors of Topps cards from 1959-1973, it represented a challenge…and still does today. The later series were marketed late in the season when interest had waned and the cards became more scarce. So, when you hear a collector talk about “high numbers” being difficult to find, you understand the issue.

 

How this relates to “rookie cards” begins with that beautiful ’59 set. The best rookie card that year was future Hall of Famer Bob Gibson and his card was in the high number series (#514)…making it a tough card to find, especially in nice condition. In addition, all the All-Star cards were also in the high number run, creating another difficult collecting challenge that included Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays & Hank Aaron.

 

As the calendar turned to the 60’s, many great players made their debut and their rookie cards were (and still are) in great demand. In 1960, there was Carl Yastrzemski & Willie McCovey…1961 had Juan Marichal & Billy Williams…and in ’62, it was Lou Brock, Gaylord Perry and “Mr. Baseball” Bob Uecker.

 

The 1963 Topps set included a concept where many of the rookies were shown together on cards that had small, cropped photos of four different players…and some were in the high series. That is where you’ll find the rookie card of Pete Rose…shown with Pedro Gonzalez, Ken McMullen & Al Weis. While not very visually appealing, still a valuable card indeed. Willie Stargell’s rookie card is also in this category and includes three more obscure players.

The ’64 set has Phil Niekro and two famous Managers inTony LaRussa & Lou Piniella as well as a medical miracle in Tommy John. Lots of Hall of Famers in ’65 with Steve Carlton, Joe Morgan, “Catfish” Hunter & Tony Perez…’66 included three HOF hurlers with Jim Palmer, Fergie Jenkins & Don Sutton. Tom Seaver & Rod Carew both debuted in the high number series of the ’67 set.

 

The 1968 set features the rookie cards of two of the most popular players of the era…Nolan Ryan & Johnny Bench. Once again, Topps included multiple rookies on certain cards, so Ryan shares his cardboard with Jerry Koosman, while Bench is shown with Ron Tomkins. Finishing off the decade, Reggie Jackson & Rollie Fingers grace the ’69 set with their rookie cards.

 

In 1970, Topps issued their largest set ever at 720 cards in six series. The key rookie card in the set was that of the Yankee Captain, Thurman Munson. Interestingly, however, the 3rd year Nolan Ryan card is twice as valuable because it was part of the scarce high number run.

 

The 1971 set was even larger at 752 cards and remains a distinct challenge to collectors even today for one primary reason…the cards had black borders. So, even the most careful of handling couldn’t prevent excessive wear and finding 71’s in nice condition is very difficult. The key rookie cards are the Dusty Baker / Don Baylor in the high number series, Steve Garvey & HOF Pitcher Bert Blyleven.

 

In 1972, the Topps set expanded once again…this time to 787 cards. Carlton Fisk (who shares the card with Cecil Cooper) is the key rookie card. 1973 found the set reduced to 660 cards (five series of 132) and includes one of the best rookie cards of the decade in Phillie great Mike Schmidt. As with other years, this particular card was in the high series and Schmidt shared the card with two other players.

 

660 cards remained the standard from 1974-1977 and cards were no longer issued in series, making it easier for the collector to put together a set. Great rookie cards were found during that time including Dave Winfield in ’74. George Brett, Robin Yount, Jim Rice & Gary Carter were all in the ’75 set…Dennis Eckersley in ’76…and Andre Dawson in ’77 along with Mark Fidrych.

 

Topps went to 726 cards for 1978 and that remained in place for the next four years. The ’78 set featured the rookie card of Eddie Murray and a combo rookie card including both Paul Molitor & Alan Trammell. 1979 finished off the decade with the rookie card of the “Wizard”…Cardinals legend Ozzie Smith.

 

We’ll include the 1980 set in our review, as it was the final year of the Topps monopoly. Rickey Henderson’s RC highlighted the product and is still very desirable today.

 

Hope some of your favorites are included…

 

Baseball Card Collecting : The Rookie Cards

'54 Aaron

Somewhere during the evolution of the baseball card, collectors determined that the first card of a great player had more demand and enhanced value. So, the “rookie card” became the standard for the hobby and remains that way today. Fans will chase these cards and in today’s marketplace, with scouting and resources going down to the High School level, everyone is looking for the first card of the next superstar. A case in point is Bryce Harper, the phenom who was the #1 pick in the amateur draft of June 2010 by the Washington Nationals. In addition to his record contract, he also had a deal in place with Topps and baseball cards with his image were available for sale before he ever had a professional at-bat.

 

Looking back, you will see that the “rookie cards” in a particular issue have great significance on the value and staying power of those sets. The Goudey company made cards in the 1930’s and the 1936 issue includes the RC of Joe DiMaggio. The Play Ball company made baseball cards in the three years prior to World War II and even though over 75 years have passed, their 1939 set is still cherished because it included the rookie card of  Ted Williams.  The Yankee Clipper and the Splendid Splinter…aka Joltin’ Joe & Teddy Ballgame.

 

The 1952 Topps set includes the “holy grail” of modern baseball cards…#311, Mickey Mantle. Even though it is the most iconic card of the era, Mantle’s first Topps card is technically not his rookie card, as there was a Mantle card issued in the 1951 Bowman set. However, the history of that initial Topps offering makes the ’52 Topps Mantle worth 3-4 times more than the ’51 Bowman. Another Hall of Famer had his rookie card in the ’52 issue…Braves 3B Eddie Mathews. The Mathews card is very rare in good condition because it was the last card in the set (#407). Why should that matter? Because kids of that era didn’t have protective pages, sleeves and albums for their cards, so they would hold them together with a rubber band…and the Mathews card always took the abuse of being the bottom card. That is also why the #1 card, of an obscure player named Andy Pafko, is also very difficult to find in good condition.

 

The 1954 Topps set was another historical landmark, as it included the rookie cards of four Hall of Famer members…Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Al Kaline and Tommy Lasorda. The 1955 Topps set didn’t disappoint collectors with the rookie cards of Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax and Harmon Killebrew. Other sets of the 50’s has some unique stories also…in the 1957 Topps set, you’ll find the rookie cards of both Robinsons…Frank & Brooks, who teamed up later in their careers with the Orioles. Topps offered up the rookie card of Roger Maris in their 1958 set, while the 1959 collection featured the rookie card of Bob Gibson.

 

The November issue of Beckett’s Baseball Price Guide chose the ten cards of the last 50 years that had the most impact on the hobby. #1 on their list is Mike Trout’s Rookie Card from 2011 Topps Update.  After nine seasons of incredible performance, his accomplishments my be taken for granted but this is a generational player. Even though his RC isn’t really scarce, an ungraded one in Near Mint (NM) condition currently books for $300+.

 

Other RC’s in the top ten include Ken Griffey’s card from 1989 Upper Deck, the Albert Pujols autograph card from 2001 Bowman Chrome, Don Mattingly’s Donruss card from 1984 and the Derek Jeter Foil RC from 1993 SP. If you’re just getting started, the 2018 RC’s to look for are Ronald Acuna Jr. & Juan Soto…for ’19, it’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr. & Pete Alonso.

 

Hopefully, your baseball card collection is filled with prospects, not suspects.

Unexpected WAR

'19 Semien

Baseball fans and Fantasy Baseball Managers love pleasant surprises. Those players who weren’t on the radar in March and then turned out to be a very productive asset to your team.

 

They could fall into a number of categories. There are prospects who exceeded their ranking in the organization. Then there are those acquired in some insignificant trade who emerge with their new team. Or a post-hype player who disappointed in his first season or two and then figured it out. Every season, these players make a difference in the success of MLB teams and 2019 is no exception. We’re not talking about established guys like Cody Bellinger or Alex Bregman who took their game to another level or top prospects such as Victor Robles or Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

 

To identify the best of these, we’ll once again rely on “Wins Above Replacement” (WAR) which is a statistic designed to answer the following question…if this player got injured and their team had to replace them with an available minor leaguer or a AAAA player from their bench, how much value would the team be losing? The value is expressed in a wins format, so we can compare each player’s actual value.

 

According to the rankings provided by Fan Graphs, there were about 65 position players who provided at least 3 Wins to their team with Mike Trout leading the way at 8.6. In that top 65, we’ve identified a dozen who would certainly qualify as a pleasant surprise. Let’s take a look at the list with their overall ranking and WAR contribution…

 

 

> #5 Marcus Semien, Athletics (7.6 WAR) – Had a nice year in 2018 with a 4+ WAR, but this year in his 5th season as the A’s SS, his performance was off the charts. 33 HR’s, 92 RBI’s, 10 SB and a .892 OPS.

 

> #6 Ketel Marte, D’Backs (7.1 WAR) – His age 25 season was like nothing we’d seen before. 32 HR’s, 92 RBI’s 10 SB and an increase in OPS from .768 in ’18 to .961 in ’19. And he played multiple positions!

 

> #12 Rafael Devers, Red Sox (5.9 WAR) – At age 22, in his second full big league season, this 3B became a star. 32 HR’s, 115 RBI’s, a .916 OPS and he improved his BA from .240 to .311.

 

> #16 Yoan Moncada, White Sox (5.7 WAR) – The perfect example of a post-hype breakout, this former #1 prospect finally fulfilled the expectation. Cut down his strikeout total by 40% and contributed 25 HR’s, 79 RBI’s, 10 SB’s and a .915 OPS.

 

> #18 D.J. LeMahieu, Yankees (5.4) WAR – A really curious free agent signing because there wasn’t anywhere for him to play, turned into a coup for the Bronx Bombers. Playing all over the diamond, he provided an All-Star season. 26 HR’s, 102 RBI’s and a .893 OPS made him a bargain.

 

> #21 Pete Alonso, Mets (4.8 WAR) – A valued prospect but no one expected this kind of season. A new major league record for HR’s by a rookie with 53, he also added 120 RBI’s and a .961 OPS.

 

> #36 Jorge Polanco, Twins (4.0 WAR) – When a player gets an 80-game suspension for PED’s, you temper your expectation for the following season. Stats like 22 HR’s, 79 RBI’s and a .841 OPS from the SS position certainly helped the Twinkies to a post-season berth.

 

> #37 Austin Meadows, Rays (4.0 WAR) – The former Pirates prospect got the chance to play everyday and became an All-Star at age 24. 33 HR’s, 89 RBI’s , 12 SB’s and a .922 OPS foresees a bright future.

 

> #46 Jorge Soler, Royals (3.6 WAR) – Came to KC from the Cubs in 2017, but injuries seemed to hold him back creating a general consensus that his prospect rating was overdone. That all changed in ’19, as he played all 162 games, hit 48 HR’s and contributed 117 RBI’s.

 

> #50 Christian Vazquez, Red Sox (3.5 WAR) – Had been a part-time Catcher in Beantown for the last four seasons, hitting just .207 in ’18. This year, everything changed  as he became the full-time backstop and contributed 23HR’s, 72 RBI’s and a .276 BA.

 

> #52 Tim Anderson, White Sox (3.5 WAR) – Three seasons with the Pale Hose had been fairly disappointing and his 2018 BA of .240 was the low point. This season , he cut down the K’s significantly and ended up winning the AL batting title at .335.

 

> #60 Bryan Reynolds, Pirates (3.2 WAR) – Not considered a top prospect in the Buccos organization, he came up in late-April, started hitting and never stopped. A rookie season of 16 HR’s, 68 RBI’s, a .314 BA and a .880 OPS makes him look like a mainstay moving forward.

 

On the pitching side, surprises included Lance Lynn at #3 (6.8 WAR), Lucas Giolito at #10 (5.1 WAR) & Sonny Gray at #18 (4.4 WAR).

 

If you had these 15 players on your Fantasy squad, congratulations on winning the championship.

Getting My Dux In A Row

xfllogo

In 30+ years of playing auction-style Fantasy Baseball, winning over 30 championships can make you feel like an “expert”. The real test, however, is when you compete in a league full of experts. That has been a yearly challenge for The Old Duck and it presented itself once again as the 15 owners in the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL) gathered in Phoenix last week for their 18th annual draft.

 

As a quick refresher, the XFL is the only experts keeper league within the fantasy industry and many of the owner’s names are familiar to those who have viewed the landscape of fantasy sports over the years. These brilliant guys produce websites, magazines, newsletters and blogs that help guide you in becoming a better player in your league. The league is a 5 X 5 format (with on-base percentage replacing batting average), a 23-player live auction draft in October with a $260 budget and a supplemental snake draft in late March to round out the 40-man rosters (23 players are active each week during the season). Donald’s Dux (my squad) has captured four championships and holds the top overall performance record encompassing all 17 seasons of the league.

 

After finishing 1st, 1st, 2nd & 2nd from 2011-14, the Dux  struggled with 7th place finishes in 2015-16 and then a more respectable 5th place in ’17. The 2018 season, however, was a disaster and the Dux finished 11th. The 2019 season didn’t look too promising as the projections had the squad in the middle of the pack but the boys overachieved and finished a strong 3rd while actually contending for the top spot during the Summer. Solid seasons from long-time team members such as Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig & Yoan Moncada helped the cause as well as the spectacular rookie campaign of Pete Alonso, a great sophomore performance by Gleyber Torres and a healthy year for Stephen Strasburg.

 

So, as we approached the October Draft for the 2020 season, it appeared that the Dux had a much better starting point than last year.

 

Here’s the keeper list that was frozen on October 4th –

 

C – Willson Contreras $13

C – Tom Murphy $6

1B – Jose Abreu $19

3B – Yoan Moncada $10

1/3 – Pete Alonso $4

2B – Eduardo Escobar $15

SS – Gleyber Torres $7

2/S –

OF – Yasiel Puig $19

OF – Niko Goodrum $6

OF –

OF –

OF –

U –

P – Patrick Corbin $13

P – Brandon Woodruff $11

P – Sandy Alcantara $6

P – Alex Colome $6

P –

P –

P –

P –

P –

P –

P –

Farm – Royce Lewis

Farm – Christian Pache

 

Here’s a quick review of the salary structure…

 

> October Draft – Player salaries are determined by the winning bid at the table and increase $5 each season. So, unless a team finds a break-out player in the end-game, there’s a reasonable chance that expensive veterans will only be on your team for one season.

 

> March Supplemental Draft – A 17-round snake draft gets all the squads up to a 40-man roster from which you determine 23 active players each week. All players chosen in this phase have a $1 salary. For current major-leaguers, the increase each season is $5 so the annual keeper lists have a smattering of $6 players that were great choices the previous year. Examples this time around include Sonny Gray, Kolten Wong, Domingo German, Marcus Semien, Jorge Soler & Adam Frazier . Minor-leaguers taken in this phase also have a $1 starting salary, but once they get to “the show”, their salary only goes up $3 per year. This is what might be described as the “dynasty” component in this particular league. An example would be Jose Abreu, who was taken as a free agent by my team in March of 2014 and now enters his 7th season on the roster at a salary of $19.

 

> In-Season Monthly Free Agent Selections – Teams can choose free agents once a month and drop someone on their roster in a corresponding move. The salary is $5 with a $5 increase in subsequent seasons, so you’ll see a few of these players scattered on keeper rosters at $10 each year. Current examples include Taylor Rogers, Christian Walker, Lucas Giolito, Jake Odorizzi & Bryan Reynolds.

 

The nine hitters on the keeper list had a salary total of $102, while the four pitchers equaled $36 leaving $122 to buy 10 players at the draft table. The basic allocation would be $67 for the five hitters and $55 for the five pitchers. So, the draft strategy was as follows…

 

> Spend $15+ to fill the 2/S spot and prioritize speed…someone like Andrus, Segura or Newman.

 

> Allocate $45-$50 for three OF’s who are solid everyday players…or overpay for the first two (Conforto, Castellanos, Schwarber, et al) and find an overlooked player for the 3rd spot (Hicks, Margot, etc.)

 

> Look for one of those end-gamers in the Utility spot that could be productive…Winker, Cooper, Hays & Grichuk come to mind.

 

> Three starting pitchers for about $40…Strasburg ($35 salary) wasn’t kept because the money needed to be spread around. Hurlers like Wheeler, Bumgarner, Ray & Musgrove are on the radar.

 

> Spend $12-$15 on a 2nd Closer…the priority is just finding someone who will have the job in March. Iglesias, Osuna & Neris all fill the bill

 

> Look for skills in the last pitching spot for a minimal cost…Lugo, Jimenez, Leclerc and others.

 

> My advice to players has always been to not “chase” any particular player. Find a group of players that fit your need and focus on getting one of them. This was the biggest challenge because so many of MLB’s star players were already rostered.

 

Before reviewing the results of the draft, there’s one other important league rule for readers to understand. Even though the word “list” is being used in this discussion, the really unique aspect of the XFL is that team owners can bring nothing to the table…no lists, no projections, no research, no draft software, no laptops, no tablets and no smart phones. When you sit down at the table, major league depth charts are handed out with the names of keepers crossed off and that is your only reference material during the auction. Even the depth charts are as neutral as possible with players listed by position and alphabetically. You don’t get any help as the typical MLB team could have 12 relief pitchers on the sheet and you need to know which one might get (or be next in line for) Saves.

 

The actual approach at the draft table needed to be somewhat aggressive for the positions needed because 1/3 & C were already filled. And, of course, never forget the words of a world-class poker player who once told me, “If you sit down at the table and don’t spot the pigeon, it just might be you”.

 

One of the keys in a keeper league environment is to  determine what the inflation factor might be on player salaries. You can do the math prior to the Draft, but until you actually hear the bids, you can’t really be sure. Every Fantasy league is basing their valuations on projections but when you’re bidding in October, knowing what a player actually “earned” the previous season can give some insight into inflation.

 

The first player nominated might tell us some of what we wanted to know. The last two seasons, J.D. Martinez went for $50+ at the table and ended up earning $26 for 2019 in our statistical format. This time, he was bought for $34, which only represented a 30% inflation factor. Did that mean the inflation factor was going to be less than usual?

 

That question was answered when Joey Gallo was the 2nd players off the board at $37. Even accounting for injury time, this seems to be about a 100% inflation factor. The 3rd player was Chris Sale at $29 and he only earned $8 in an injury plagued season, so that inflation factor would certainly be 50%+. The answer was now clear…inflation would be traditionally high and overpaying for assets in the early rounds would be necessary.

 

The next eight players told the tale…Charlie Blackmon ended up costing $32 (60% inflation), Stephen Strasburg $38 (40%), Jose Altuve $34 (100%), Paul Goldschmidt $30 (58%), Clayton Kershaw $30 (30%), Zack Greinke $31 (7%), James Paxton $23 (130%) & J.T. Realmuto $31 (107%).

 

The only “bargain” in Round 1 seemed to be Hyun-Jin Ryu, who sold for $18 despite earning $27 in 2019.

 

The Dux didn’t roster a player until the 5th pick in Round 2, when we added Madison Bumgarner for $14. Despite the perception that his 9-9 season was mediocre, he earned $13, pitched 200+ innings and recorded 200+ K’s.

 

In the middle of the 2nd Round, we brought up Andrus and were will to pay $18-$20 based on our budget. The bidding seemed to stall at around $17, but then picked up again, driving the final price to $24. The Dux dropped out at $20. The plan was then to bring up Newman at our next opportunity but Segura was nominated in the interim, so we took him for $13. Not the base-stealer he once was, he still contributes double-digit HR’s & SB’s while hitting in a strong line-up.

 

Now it was time to get that Closer and Rasiel Iglesias was the choice at $16. Quality Closers in this league go for $12-$18 and it is always a roll of the dice. His record of 3-12 was ugly but 34 Saves and a K/9 of 12 says the stuff is still solid.

 

The rest of the picks were unexciting but balanced. $48 was allocated for three OF’s and we added Manny Margot, Kyle Schwarber & Brandon Nimmo for a total of exactly $48. $40 was set aside for three SP’s and Bumgarner, Miles Mikolas & Joe Musgrove only cost $33, allowing us to add another SP in Stephen Matz. The Utility spot was filled by Garrett Cooper, who qualifies at both 1B & OF.

 

The Dux spent $169 on offense (65% of budget) and $91 on pitching (35% of budget), which were the exact target numbers….and we didn’t leave any money on the table.

 

Just to keep your mind percolating during the off-season, here are some random thoughts from the Draft…

 

> October is much too early to evaluate injured pitchers…Nathan Eovaldi went for $1, as did Lance McCullers, Aaron Sanchez, Michael Pineda & Alex Wood.

 

> Reputations don’t matter as future Hall of Famers Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols weren’t drafted.

 

> Never ask the question, “why did someone pay $30 for Frankie Montas” without clearly understanding that someone else bid $29.

 

> And, of course, the annual exercise of listing the players that weren’t even drafted. You can decide if the experts were right or wrong…Anthony Santander, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rick Porcello, Yolmer Sanchez, Leury Garcia, Christian Stewart, Josh Reddick, Wade Miley, Nicky Lopez, Alex Gordon, C.J. Cron, J.A. Happ, Mike Fiers, J.P. Crawford, Domingo Santana, Rougned Odor, Hunter Pence, Justin Smoak, Teoscar Hernandez, Nick Ahmed, Mike Leake, Julio Teheran, Mark Melancon, Jason Heyward, Jose Quintana, Jose Peraza, Ian Desmond, Kiki Hernandez, Starlin Castro, Eric Thames, Orlando Arcia, Ryan Braun, Todd Frazier, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco, Colin Moran, Chris Archer, Dexter Fowler, Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Kevin Pillar & Ryan Zimmerman.

 

You can review additional league information at fantasyxperts.com

 

 

The Baseball Card Version Of Cheers

AZSC

When you’re fortunate enough to retire, here’s some advice…keep busy and do stuff you love. It may sound simple but a number of my friends who haven’t retired yet always seem to wonder, “What will I do”. The answer for me a dozen or so years ago was to immerse myself in the game I love…baseball.  From Spring Training to Fantasy Baseball leagues to the Arizona Fall League, to a community sports interest group, it was an easy transition.

 

Then, I luckily stumbled across the idea of dealing with baseball card collections. At that point, no one would have considered me an expert, but it is amazing how good your study habits can be when you’re motivated. I became a regular customer at a North Phoenix baseball card shop, printed up some business cards (Rotisserie Duck Baseball Cards) and started advertising on free websites. After acquiring a few small collections and utilizing some cards from my personal stash, I became an eBay dealer. There were many mistakes along the way but the end result has been over 10,000 sales through the years with a 100% positive customer feedback rating.

 

The other positive outcome from this experience has been a valued friendship with a great guy I met at that original card shop. We obviously had a mutual interest in collectibles and it evolved into endless talks about sports over lunch, rounds of golf and dinners where his lovely wife would put up with our sports-related conversation.  3 1/2 years ago, fate intervened and another local baseball card store became available due to the untimely passing of the owner. My friend jumped into the void and negotiated a purchase with the family of the owner. Almost everyday prior to the deal being finalized, he would say, “You’re going to help me with the store, right?” The purchase got done and it has been an unbelievably wonderful experience. Two days a week, I set up my “office” behind one of the counters and people make appointments to bring in their collections. The results have certainly been positive for us financially, but it is so much more than that. My friend is meticulous about continually upgrading the look of the store (his background is in retail space construction) and the atmosphere is incredible. Customers describe it as a baseball card version of “Cheers” with bar stools, island seating, counter space, sports events on TV, etc. Due to my continuous pontificating about baseball, I’ve acquired multiple nicknames including, “Senior Buyer”, “OG” (Original Google) and “Don Cardleone”, who will make you an offer you can’t refuse. Can you imagine a better way to spend your time in retirement?

 

As a public service, here’s the latest version of Card Collecting 101…

 

 

Baseball fans fall into categories – 1) card collectors…2) former card collectors…3) wannabe card collectors…4) or as George Carlin once said, “Grow up, these are just pictures of grown men”. For those of you in the first three groups, maybe a primer on the basics of collecting would enhance your experience or motivate you to get back into the hobby. For this exercise, we’ll stick to new products as opposed to secondary markets that sell older cards.

 

  1. Where do I buy cards?
  2. Card shops, hobby stores, retail chains and Internet dealers.

 

  1. Are the products from these outlets all the same?
  2. No, there are “Hobby” packs and “Retail” packs. A hobby pack will have more autograph, memorabilia and insert cards…and will have a higher price.

 

  1. Huh, what are autograph, memorabilia and insert cards?
  2. When the card manufacturers re-invented themselves about 20 years ago, they created interest in new products by inserting cards autographed by players or including a piece of memorabilia in the card (jersey, bat, etc.). Insert cards include parallel versions of the regular card or a special set highlighting certain players.

 

  1. Can cards be purchased directly from card companies?
  2. Yes…some manufacturers sell on their websites, but the pricing will be comparable to other outlets

 

  1. What is the configuration of today’s cards?
  2. Baseball cards still come in packs which have a certain number of cards (depending on the product). A sealed box of cards will include a specific number of packs. For example, the Topps Heritage brand arrives from the factory is a case of 12 boxes, each box has 24 packs, each pack has 8 cards.

 

  1. What size are cards?
  2. Today’s standard is 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches.

 

  1. What is a rookie card?
  2. Usually, the first regular issue card of a player in his major league uniform.

 

  1. What is a short-print card?
  2. This goes back all the way to the 50’s and is a card made in smaller quantities than others. Again, using Topps Heritage as an example, the 500 card set has #’s 426-500 made in lesser quantities.

 

  1. Sometimes when I open a pack, there’s a blank card inserted – why is that done?
  2. Companies insert them to discourage people from trying to “search” unopened packs for thicker memorabilia cards. If they weren’t used, a buyer could just buy the one thick pack in a box to acquire a more valuable card.

 

  1. What is a “common” card?
  2. The Beckett price guide only lists certain star players in each set. The remaining cards are listed as commons or semi-stars and have equal value.

 

  1. What is a “redemption” card?
  2. When card companies contract with players for autographs, the timing doesn’t always allow for those cards to be in the original production run. So, the manufacturer puts an insert in the pack that describes the card and gives the collector guidelines to redeem the insert for the real item at a later date.

 

  1. When were the first cards made?
  2. Baseball cards first appeared in the late 1800’s when they were inserted into packs of cigarettes and tobacco. The modern era of baseball cards really began with the 1952 Topps set.

 

  1. When I was kid, there was a piece of bubble gum in the packs…when did that end?
  2. As collectors became more aware of card condition, they complained about the gum staining or damaging the cards. Topps removed gum from the cards in the early 1990’s.

 

  1. How can I protect my cards?
  2. For newer cards, many collectors still use albums and nine-pocket pages…especially for sets. For loose cards of any value, always use “penny sleeves” (a clear plastic sleeve that covers the card) and then a “top-loader” (a more rigid holder). Never use rubber bands!

 

  1. What about really valuable cards?
  2. Don’t use the old-fashioned “screw-down” holder (two pieces of hard plastic screwed together). Instead, use a “one-touch” holder (the same concept but held together by a magnet).

 

  1. What is grading?
  2. Third-party companies will inspect your card, give it a grade (from 1-to-10), encapsulate it and include a serial number on the case. This is the best way to protect valuable older cards and enhance their marketability. The two major vendors in this field are PSA & Beckett.

 

  1. What is an error card?
  2. A mistake on the card such as the player’s name spelled incorrectly or his position missing. If the mistake was never corrected by the manufacturer, it is listed in guides as “UER” (uncorrected error). However, if the mistake was corrected, these cards become variations and can be more valuable.

 

  1. I see some cards referred to as “Refractors”…what does that mean?
  2. A Refractor is a card manufactured by Topps using a technology that creates a shiny version of their “Chrome” cards. It reflects light and can be found in a number of colors. These are always made in limited quantities.

 

  1. What is a rack pack?
  2. Not as prevalent as in the past, it was a pack of cards made from clear cellophane that usually had cards in three separate compartments. Today, they are primarily found at retail outlets.

 

  1. Who should I collect?
  2. The most difficult question of all. Think about your own personal history involving baseball and go from there. Your favorite player(s), your favorite team or maybe your favorite year…including the year you were born. Above all, create a collection you can enjoy and share.

 

AZ Sportscards is at 10045 W. Camelback Road…drop in and say hello or check out the website at azsportscards.com

 

 

The Clutch Chronicles – 2019

'12 Rendon Auto

The Urban Dictionary defines Clutch as, “To perform under pressure”. For decades, baseball pundits and fans have extolled the virtues of players who supposedly had this trait. Their evidence, however, was only visual and anecdotal. Back in the 1970’s, most people considered Tony Perez of the “Big Red Machine” one of baseball’s best clutch hitters. After all, he had over 100 RBI’s in six seasons between 1967 & 1975. In fact, some would argue that his election to the Hall of Fame was based on this reputation.

 

Now that baseball is in the age of statistical analysis, our old observations may be called into question. Even a math-challenged fan understands that you can’t get a plethora of RBI’s without baserunners. And, boy, did those Reds teams have baserunners!

 

Statistics on RBI Percentage (RBI-HR/Runners On) now go back to 1974, so let’s see how our legendary clutch hitter fared in a season where he was an All-Star. Perez had 101 RBI’s, 28 HR’s & 489 runners on base for a RBI percentage of 14.93%. That didn’t even crack the top 50 for the major leagues in ’74! He finished behind household names such as Reggie Smith, Richie Zisk, Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno & Ted Simmons. The leaders were Jeff Burroughs at 21.18% and Sal Bando at 21.15%.

 

Our Hall-of-Famer improved considerably in 1975 as he accumulated 109 RBI’s with 20 HR’s and 489 runners on base (again). His percentage improved to 18.20% and he just snuck into the top ten for that season. The only hitters at 20% or higher were Willie Stargell at 20.48% and Thurman Munson at 20.00%.

 

As a fan, you certainly have an opinion on today’s clutch hitters but do the stats back you up? In 2019, there were over 20 hitters who exceeded the 18.20% that Perez posted in ’75. We’ll only include players who had at least 200 baserunners during the season to eliminate the “small sample size” outliers.  These are “Quacker’s Clutch All-Stars” and we’ll see how well their performance aligns with their reputation. There will be players you expected to see and others that will cause you to scratch your head.

 

1) Josh Phegley, Athletics C, 22.83% – When a team seems to over-achieve, you’ll find contributors like this 31 year-old backstop.

 

2) DJ LeMahieu, Yankees U, 22.16% – One of the strangest free agents signings turned out to be the best…100+ Runs & RBI’s.

 

3) Freddie Freeman, Braves 1B, 22.13%- One of the most consistent players in the game…he was #8 last year.

 

4) Anthony Rendon, Nationals 3B, 21.40%- A MVP candidate and a free agent…Cha-Ching!

 

5) Charlie Blackmon, Rockies OF, 21.01% – Colorado gave him a big contract and his productive season got lost in the team’s disappointing results.

 

6) Travis d’Arnaud, Rays C, 20.95% – Practically given away at mid-season, he was a huge factor in Tampa Bay’s playoff run…he’ll also be a free agent in 2020.

 

7) Didi Gregorius, Yankees SS, 20.93%- Didn’t miss a beat coming back from elbow surgery…over 50 RBI’s in half a season.

 

 

8) Daniel Murphy, Rockies 1B, 20.63%- All the clutch hitting in the world can’t make up for Colorado’s pitching staff.

 

9) Eric Hosmer, Padres 1B, 20.21%- This number resulted in 99 RBI’s, but he’s still not a $144 million corner-infielder.

 

10) Nelson Cruz, Twins DH, 20.18% – At age 39, he just keeps producing…OPS over 1.000

 

11) Kurt Suzuki, Nationals C, 20.09%- Seemed to be on the highlights every night…over 60 RBI’s in a little more than 300 AB’s

 

12) Rafael Devers, Red Sox 3B, 20.00%- When you hit 50+ Doubles and 30+ HR’s, you lead the league in Total Bases…he’s also only 22 years old.

 

13) Asdrubal Cabrera, Nationals 2B, 19.84%- Another player dumped during the Summer, his OPS in Washington was over .950

 

14) Adalberto Mondesi, Royals SS, 19.78% – Still just 24, only injuries are holding him back.

 

Others over 19% were Josh Bell, Bryce Harper, Jose Abreu, Colin Moran & David Dahl

 

What about the MVP candidates? All were outside the top 30…Alex Bregman (17.93%), Mike Trout (16.39%), Christian Yelich (16.16%) & Cody Bellinger (15.89%)

 

For everyday players, Willy Adames was the worst in baseball at 9.61%. Others under 11% included Brian Dozier, Adam Eaton, Robinson Cano & Leury Garcia.

 

Hope all your fantasy players came through in the clutch. For more information on RBI Percentage, go to baseballmusings.com.

 

 

Going To WAR For The MVP

'17 Bellinger Hert Chrm

Are you aware that each year’s MVP winners receive an award called the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award? As the Baseball Writer’s Association has never really defined “most valuable”, would the results have been different over the years if it was just called the “Landis Plaque” and went to the most outstanding player in each league. In other words, do fans think in terms of most valuable player or player of the year? And, do you agree that the MVP is for position players and the Cy Young Award is for pitchers?

 

While there have been some examples over the years of MVP winners on losing teams like Ernie Banks of the Cubs in ’58 & ’59, the general consensus is that the award should go to a player on a contending team. Ted Williams won the Triple Crown (HR, RBI’s & Batting Average) in both 1942 & 1947 but didn’t win the MVP Award in either year. In both seasons, he also led the AL in Runs, Walks, On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage. The winner in ’42 was Yankee 2B Joe Gordon and in ’47, it was Joe DiMaggio. The Red Sox finished nine games behind the Yanks in 2nd place in ’42 and 14 games behind in 3rd place in ’47. If there were more than just two teams going to the post-season in the 1940’s, maybe the results would have been different.

 

Now that just about any team at .500 or better still has a chance for the playoffs at the end of August, will the voters expand the list of players considered for MVP? And, if “most valuable” is really the criteria, how is that defined? It seems that there is some logic in value being related to teams winning games, so maybe WAR (Wins Above Replacement) can help us determine the real contenders. After all, being a difference-maker in team wins certainly equates to a player’s true value. As a reminder, WAR represents a statistical analysis of how many wins a player is worth to his team over that of a replacement level player (think AAA or AAAA). As you’ll see in the ratings, WAR isn’t just about hitting stats for position players, it also includes advanced defensive metrics.

 

“Old School” baseball fans will be disappointed to know that advanced statistics have already had a major impact on how this award is viewed. Over the last decade, every MVP has finished in the top five (5) in WAR. That is about the time that this new-age statistic became somewhat mainstream. As recently as 2006, Justin Morneau won the MVP with a WAR number of 4.3. Not only were there twenty players better than that, he finished third on his own team behind Johan Santana & Joe Mauer. Juan Gonzalez won two MVP’s in the 90’s without being in the top 15 while Don Baylor (1979), Willie Stargell (1979) and Jeff Burroughs (1974) weren’t in the top 20. Those days of writers voting without doing thorough research are gone.

 

Stats are as of Sunday, September 22nd and the WAR numbers are from famgraphs.com & baseball-reference.com

 

AL

 

> Mike Trout (8.4) of the Angels is on the shelf at the end of the season but his numbers say that he’s the best in the game. His 3rd MVP will be well deserved, as he leads the AL with 45 HR’s, .438 OBP, .645 SLG and a 1.083 OPS.

> Right behind is Alex Bregman (7.7) of the Astros who has emerged as a star with 38 HR’s and more Walks than K’s. However, the star-studded Houston roster might keep him from the spotlight.

> Marcus Semien (7.5) of the Athletics is a key piece in the team’s unexpected march to the post-season. Playing a premium position (SS) and contributing great defense, he’s produced 32 HR’s, 90 RBI’s & 10 SB’s. Oh, he’s also played every game this season.

 

> Mookie Betts (6.4) was the MVP in 2018, leading the Red Sox to the World Series title. A victim of his own success, most fans think he ‘s having an off-year. When you look deeper, his OPS of .910 and a league-leading 132 Runs tell a different story.

 

> Matt Chapman (6.1) is another major contributor to the Athletics success. Gold Glove caliber defense along with 34 HR’s & 98 Runs make him a budding star at age 26.

 

> Xander Bogaerts (5.6) is another great young (26) player on the Red Sox. Signed to a six-year extension, he has 32 HR’s, 110 RBI’s, 105 Runs and a league-leading 51 Doubles.

 

NL

 

> Cody Bellinger (8.0) of the Dodgers leads a very close race in 2019. 45 HR’s and a 1.031 OPS are very impressive and his defensive versatility might give him the edge.

> The Brewers Christian Yelich (7.5) won the MVP last year and has continued his success at age 27. Limited to 130 games due to injury, he still leads the NL with a .329 BA, .429 OBP, .671 SLG and a 1.100 OPS.

 

> Ketel Marte (7.0) of the D’Backs has been the breakout star of 2019. Playing all over the diamond, he leads the NL with 187 Hits and has a .981 OPS.

 

> Anthony Rendon (6.8) has put up another stellar campaign on his way to free agency. With 119 RBI’s and a 1.025 OPS, this guy could get big bucks even if I was his agent.

 

> If you had a vote, would it be a SoCal ballot with Trout & Bellinger?

 

Just for the record, in 1942 Ted Williams led all of baseball with a WAR figure of 10.6. MVP winner Gordon had an impressive number of 8.2. In ’47, Teddy Ballgame once again led the majors at 9.9 while DiMaggio wasn’t even close to the top ten at 4.8.

 

If you ever drop by the Duck Pond, you’re welcome to view the extensive collection of Williams memorabilia….but you probably already figured that out.