by Phoenix Desertsong, Major Sports Nut
This post is sponsored by ThePit.com
Searching online for the best sports cards to invest in for 2020? You're likely bombarded with lists of some of the most expensive cards in baseball, football, and basketball. You’ll also be told to review the 50 most watched sports cards on eBay to know what’s currently hot.
But, there's a quicker way to find the best baseball, football, and basketball cards to buy right now.
What’s Wrong with Watching the Most Watched Cards on eBay?
There are two problems with watching the most watched cards on eBay.
First, just because a card has a lot of people watching it, that doesn’t mean it actually has a huge market. This is especially the case with cards that are 1/1 or have other low serial numbers. While there’s always a market for these cards, they often make poor investments because they rely on a bidding war taking place to get high prices. If only one highly interested party shows up for the auction, the “hammer price” will doubtless be disappointing to the seller.
Yes, there’s always collector demand for these sorts of cards, and it’s cool to own something so truly rare. But, you need to be willing to bet on what a very small demand pool will give you, since so few collectors have the cash to buy unique or greatly limited cards. Or, you need to hold the card for a very long time. For investment purposes, these aren’t the cards you want to focus on.
If you’re serious about sports card investing, you need cards that are both sought after and can be sold at any time for a fair return.
The second problem with cards that often come up on eBay as “most watched” is that they may represent minor league prospects or players currently on a hot streak. These tend to be more speculative buys, and if you’re fine with gambling, they can either pay off or sink you.
Sure, you’ll see names on this list you’ll recognize like Mickey Mantle, Michael Jordan, and Tom Brady. But, many of these iconic players' cards usually have high price tags already, and have much of their market value already baked in due to their popularity.
While eBay is an established marketplace for sports cards, it isn’t a great place to actually track what cards are great investments... unless you already know exactly what you’re looking for!
There’s also the strategy of watching the cards with the most bids on eBay. While this approach is a more direct way of finding the cards that people are not wanting to let get away, it is also likely to lead to bidding wars. That’s not really a sound investment strategy, as you’ll probably pay far more for the card you want than it’s worth in the long-term marketplace.
So, what’s the best source of recommendations for investment-quality players and cards? You’ll want to check out ThePit 50 sports card indices.
What is ThePit.com?
ThePit.com is a bid/ask marketplace where you can trade sports cards online like stocks without transaction fees. The Pit50 indices include hot graded rookie cards. Card prices on ThePit are usually lower than the lowest buy-it-now price on eBay by a significant amount.
When you remove the transaction fees, shipping cost and (increasingly) sales tax associated with trading cards requiring physical delivery (as on eBay), you save 15 percent or more on a card right away!
What are ThePit 50 Indices?
ThePit 50 indices are based on the top graded cards in each of baseball, football, and basketball. It takes the current “Sell Now” price of the card on ThePit multiplied by its graded population - which is publicly available information. The idea behind the indices is to establish a total population value (“market cap” in Wall Street terms) for individual cards in specific grades. This allows sports card collectors and investors the ability to truly treat sports cards like stocks.
Graded cards are more valuable than their raw counterparts in grades PSA 9 and 10 & BGS 9.5 and 10, and collectors only grade cards they feel are valuable. So, knowing which cards have both high populations and high sell prices lets you know what cards have the best market and overall value. Thanks to this index, you can take a lot of the guesswork and hours of research that go into figuring out what’s hot and what’s not.
So, what are some of the best sports cards to buy right now? Let’s see what thePit 50 index tells us in baseball, football, and basketball.
Best Baseball Cards to Buy Right Now in 2020
thePit Baseball 50 takes a unique approach to finding the best baseball rookie cards currently on the market. The index uses Bowman Chrome Refractor Autographs graded BGS 9.5/10 Auto by Beckett Grading Services. Using population multiplied by the current bid price on thePit, every month this list is updated, giving you the top 50 Bowman Chrome Refractor Autos on the market.
Of course, Mike Trout is #1 and in a league of his own. In July 2019, the other members of the top 10 include Ronald Acuna, Jr., Cody Bellinger, Aaron Judge, Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Juan Soto, Mookie Betts, and Carlos Correa. There’s also future Hall of Fame players like Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander, as well as current big stars like Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton, Alex Bregman, and more.
If you follow the game even casually, these names probably all sound familiar. But what’s key to thePit 50 is that it tracks only the key rookie cards of these players. There are so many baseball card products out there today that it’s overwhelming. When choosing what cards are worth putting your money into, Bowman Chrome Refractor Autos tend to hold the best value. In this way. thePit Baseball 50 helps narrow the focus to the top cards you want to own!
Best Football Cards to Buy Right Now in 2020
Quarterbacks dominate the football card market and always have. Occasionally, a running back or wide receiver will have a big game or strong year and see a nice appreciation in their rookie cards. But if you look at the thePit 50 Football index, you’ll see it dominated by the best Quarterbacks in the league - with Tom Brady rookie cards being far and away the most valuable.
Patrick Mahomes II and his 2018 Panini Prizm Rookie Card jumped right in behind Brady's 2000 Bowman Chrome PSA 10 on the index with his Super Bowl win. He's followed by Aaron Rodgers, and other strong, young quarterbacks in Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Baker Mayfield, Dak Prescott, and Lamar Jackson.
Best Basketball Cards to Buy Right Now in 2020
Michael Jordan has and probably always will be the best player ever to invest in when it comes to basketball cards. For a time, LeBron James rookie cards were surpassing high grade copies of the iconic 1986 Fleer Jordan rookie in price. "The Last Dance" ESPN Documentary helped Jordan's rookie cards to soar to even new heights, however. Current superstars like Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, and Trae Young are also at the top of the list.
Kobe Bryant is another name you can’t go wrong with when investing in basketball cards. Established stars like Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant make appearances in the Top 50, as well as future Hall of Fame players like Dirk Nowitzki. While vintage players have value (such as the 1980 Bird/Erving/Johnson scoring leaders card), the latest stars are the most actively traded.
Why Trade Sports Cards Online at ThePit?
Since 2000, thePit allows you to build a sports card portfolio and trade online. This also saves you from other realized costs such as sales tax. Then, you can cash out your balance to PayPal at any time (with a 10% fee) or have the physical cards listed in your portfolio shipped to you for a reasonable flat rate. It’s safe and secure.
All you have to do is create a free account at ThePit.com, fund your account with a VISA or Mastercard. Then, you’re good to start buying and selling.
Let us know in the comments what you think of the site!
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Card Fanatic
This post features products available at ThePit.com - where you can trade sports cards and hobby boxes like stocks!
Topps Update prices soared in 2019. Why is that? Has the popularity of the 2011 Mike Trout Topps Update rookie card worn off on the entire brand? Because these sets often have what are considered the “true” Major League rookie cards for MLB players, it’s no surprise that sets with big name players have value. But, why have they sold so fantastically well in 2019?
Update sets have existed for a long time, going back to when they were called Topps Traded back in 1981. These sets consisted of players who were traded during the season. They also included rookies that were called up during the season.
In the past, Update sets were typically factory sets, in which you got the full set in one purchase. This was a popular trend in the 80s, fueled by competition between the three major brands (Topps, Fleer and Donruss). For Topps Update, sets were sold in complete form all the way through 1994. But, in 1995 Topps turned Update into a set that had to built the traditional card collecting way, through opening packs.
Topps seemed to decide that variations were the way to sell the Update product, which started out as “Traded” and would later become called Updates & Highlights and later just Update. That was probably a good move, since the popularity of the factory sets depended entirely on whether there were hot rookie cards that people wanted to chase. By turning them into pack sets, rather than complete sets, they could include some inserts and create a chase for the rookies and stars in the set.
Turning the Update sets into a pack-based product worked out well for Topps. Eventually, they would start including relic cards and even autograph cards. They later included photo variations and other short printed versions of cards in the set.
Photo variations and other short printed cards are hot with collectors, especially player collectors. So, even though the Update sets don’t have large base checklists, pulling individual cards is actually more difficult than you would think. Now, you don't just chase key rookie cards. You now have multiple other cards of those rookies to chase, as well.
Is Topps Update produced in smaller quantities than the Bowman sets? There isn’t any data to show this, but there is definitely a crazy amount of demand for these sets. Having short printed (SP) variations, especially ones that are serial numbered, has made the Topps Update set a major favorite every fall. The scarcity of the SP's clearly helps to create enthusiasm for the product.
People really do like the photography and design of the Update cards. But, what drives the recent Update sales are the pure amount of good players included in the sets. Then, when you consider the short-printed photo variations and serial numbered parallels, suddenly you can be opening multiple cards of the same player - something that is pretty cool for collectors..
Let’s take a look at three of the best Topps Update sets in recent memory: 2015, 2017, and 2018 Topps Update.
* * 2015 Topps Update * *
Key players: Kris Bryant, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, and Noah Syndergaard
Kris Bryant is featured right on the box of 2015 Topps Update. After a 2018 season that was awful by his standards, Bryant bounced right back in 2019. Bryant’s rookie card is the chase card in the 2015 Topps Update set, along with the rookie card of Indians superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor.
Beyond the big five names, there are also rookie cards for hot 2019 players like Gio Urshela of the Yankees and Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto also has a rookie card in the set. It also has the rookie card of Texas Rangers’ slugger Joey Gallo. You’re guaranteed at least one auto or relic card (aka a “hit”) in every box.
Available on thePit:
2015 Topps Update Series Baseball Hobby Box 2015 Topps Update Sealed Box - ONLY $125!
* * 2017 Topps Update * *
Key players: Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge was incredible in his 2017 rookie season and while injured some in 2018 he still put up good numbers. 2019 was extremely unkind to Judge on the injury front, though. Fortunately, Cody Bellinger decided to become the talk of baseball during the first couple months of 2019. With his National League MVP, he’s become the key player to chase in the 2017 Topps Update set.
2017 Topps Update also has rookie cards for Oakland A’s star third baseman Matt Chapman, Astros’ third baseman Alex Bregman, Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong, Yankees first baseman Luke Voit and rising starting pitcher Domingo German, and Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi.
Many collectors opt for the Jumbo box which has 10 massive 50-card packs. A regular box of 2017 Topps Update contains only one autograph or relic card, but the Jumbo box guarantees an autograph AND two relic cards.
Available on thePit:
2017 Topps Update Series Baseball JUMBO Hobby Box
* * 2018 Topps Update * *
Key players: Shohei Ohtani, Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Gleyber Torres
2018 was a GREAT year for rookies. The Braves had Ronald Acuna Jr and Ozzie Albies perform, and Acuna broke out in a BIG way in 2019! Juan Soto was a nice surprise for the Nationals, won a World Series, and has become one of the hottest players in the entire hobby.
Shohei Ohtani lived up to his hype in 2018, though injury set him back big time in 2019. Even unable to pitch, he still provided value with the bat. Gleyber Torres turned out to be an awesome steal by the Yankees. He’s bloomed into an everyday power-hitting infielder who has become an anchor for the Bronx lineup.
There are also rookie cards of 2019 breakout performers like Austin Meadows and Shane Bieber in the set. So, there is even more potential for this set from an investment standpoint.
Available on ThePit:
2018 Topps Update Series Baseball Sealed BLASTER Box
2018 Topps Update Series Baseball BLASTER Sealed 16 Box CASE
2018 Topps Update Series Baseball Sealed Hobby Box
Which is your favorite of these three Topps Update sets? Do you think 2019 Topps Update will come anywhere close to the value of these two sets in the coming years?
by Phoenix Desertsong, Red Sox Crazy Fanatic
Unlike fellow Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas, Bobby Dalbec may be close to his Major League debut. In 2019, Dalbec did plenty of damage at Double-A Portland in the Atlantic League. His first 30 game stint was encouraging, hitting 7 home runs without embarrassing himself. Dalbec will be 25 in June 2020, so very soon the Red Sox will want to see what they really have in their top prospect. Like Casas, Dalbec has immense raw power, rated a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Also Like Casas, Dalbec has a below average hit tool, meaning he doesn't really hit for average. Unlike Casas, he may never develop into more than a .250 hitter at the MLB level.
However, Dalbec has other things going for him. Dalbec has much more advanced plate discipline and tons of walks at Double-A. He has also been trimming his strikeout rate Which is another good sign. The only troubling thing so far is he walked very little on his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket. That can partially be explained away by Dalbec potentially trying to prove himself at the minors most advanced level. He did show the power and didn't strike out more than he did at Portland.
The other plus with Dalbec perhaps is what will make him a much better real life player than may be ever reflected in his card prices. Casas may be a passable third baseman with his above average arm, but his future is likely as a slightly better than average first baseman on defense. On the other hand, Dalbec projects to be a better than average fielder with an excellent arm at the hot corner. Because he is likely much more versatile on defense, the Red Sox may be happy to just have him for his fielding ability and take any power he offers as a binus.
Obviously, Dalbec looks to be a nice useful player. But being on the doorstep of the major leagues with really only raw power, walk, and nice fielding skills to his credit, is there much potential for the hobby to embrace him?
Bobby Dalbec's key rookie card is 2016 Bowman Chrome Draft. While his auto is popular, it still sells for less than that of Single-A slugger Triston Casas. Is Dalbec undervalued, especially being so close to the majors? Or are hobby prospectors more intrigued by Casas' ceiling? Both have plenty of prospect hype, but Dalbec can likely help very soon at the MLB level. Considering you can find his base Chrome - and even the refractor - very recently in the dollar bin, he could be a nice player to hoard and flip very soon if that's what you'd like to do.
The big question is Dalbec ready for regular MLB duty. Many prospect evaluators Believe he has more room to grow. His Autos aren't super cheap, and there still is some prospect hype baked into thatorice. A lot has to do with how the Red Sox front office handles him. The red sox may not be the team he starts for in the near future, as the Red Sox may need to evaluate whether Dalbec is better off as a trade chip as they try to creatively rework their roster.
Of course, staying with the Red Sox may be good for his future, but if he can become a starter somewhere else and succeed, that’s even better for both Dalbec and his rookie cards. In any case, Dalbec seems to be very close to Major League action. Whether he becomes a backup corner infielder, a second-division starter (that is, for a below-average team), or an all-star is all up to how he fares once thrown into the MLB fire. His base Chrome would be my choice, although his auto is still cheap enough that if you believe he can carry his power, arm, and glove to a starting job somewhere, it’s worth a look.
Pedro Martinez has two cards in the 32-card 1991 Cal League set, and they are #1 and #32. The first card is the more commonly available of the two. It’s a typical minor league card that doesn’t appear to have the greatest printing quality. Also, Pedro didn’t look too happy in the portrait. However, Pedro very much enjoyed his time in the Cal League, which he dominated.
Pedro pitched to 8 wins and no losses with 10 starts at Bakersfield. He enjoyed a 2.05 ERA in 61 ⅓ innings, as well as a 12.2 strikeout rate per 9 innings against only a 2.8 walk rate per 9. It was definitely a sign of things to come, huh? Anyway, Pedro dominated the league so much that the Dodgers called him up to Double-A San Antonio, where he also pitched well. He finished at Triple-A Albuquerque, where he pitched OK, although not great.
Pedro’s other 1991 Cal League card, #32, is a much nicer looking card. It’s also apparently extremely difficult to find, especially in top condition. Even raw, they can sell for $15 or more. What makes it a nicer card is the photo, which is a shot of Pedro throwing a warm-up pitch from the mound, while smiling.
Both cards also list his Dominican League (Santo Domingo) stats on the back, which is awesome. Good luck finding anything better than a PSA 8 of #32, though.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Pedro Martinez Fan for Life
The first ever Pedro Martinez rookie card is pretty much where you have to start with any serious Pedro Martinez rookie card collection. For a minor league card, it’s not bad. The design is a bit bland, but the portrait isn’t bad - albeit dark. It’s a piece of history in any case, hearkening back to when Pedro played in Montana.
Pedro didn’t pitch too badly at his first minor league stop in the Pioneer League. He compiled an 8-3 win loss record with a 3.82 ERA in 14 starts. He had a decent strikeout rate with 82 strikeouts in 77 innings. Pedro was still honing his control, though, as he walked 40 in those 77 innings. It’s not a bad performance, in any case. However, he was actually out-pitched by lefty Mark Mimbs. Who? Yeah, exactly. (Although, Mimbs actually did pitch for the Pawtucket Red Sox in 1997, so that is an interesting Red Sox connection, I guess…)
There was a time where these 1990 Sport Pro Great Falls cards held a lot more value. But, in June 2019, one PSA 10 example of the Great Falls Pedro Martinez card sold for just $25. You can grab a PSA 9 copy for under $15, but why wouldn’t you just want a 10? There are 901 PSA 9 copies VS 545 PSA 10 copies. They aren’t exceptionally rare. Still, this is a must have card for any Pedro Martinez rookie card collection.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Pedro Martinez Fans for Life
While not one of Pedro Martinez’s premier rookie cards, the 1992 Donruss card from their “The Rookies” subset has a few things going for it. First off, this card does feature Pedro in a major league uniform, in Dodger Blue wearing his familiar number #45. Secondly, unlike previous editions of “The Rookies,” Donruss actually released this set in packs rather than in a boxed set. Why is that good? It means that gem mint copies of this card are much harder to find than you’d expect.
There are 2075 graded examples of the 1992 Donruss Rookies Pedro Martinez card, yet only 275 of those have graded out as a PSA 10 Gem Mint. There are 1295 PSA 9 examples, which is why that’s what you’ll much more commonly find for sale.
As a serious Pedro Martinez collector, you’ll most likely want the PSA 10. In late 2019, you can find PSA 9 copies for about $15-20, but the PSA 10 copies tend to be $30 or more. You’ll find a similar case for Pedro’s former teammate, Manny Ramirez, who actually has a whopping 2500 graded examples of his card in the set, yet only 270 graded PSA 10. That card, interestingly has similar price points. So, it’s pretty cool to have these two in the same set.
(It’s worth noting that Tim Wakefield also has a rookie card in the set, as well as all-star second baseman Jeff Kent. Of course, Wakefield doesn’t have many graded examples, although neither does Kent, interestingly enough.)
Of course, this card also depicts Pedro on the mound. Many of his early cards do not. I’ve also always preferred rookie cards with players in Major League uniforms, which is something I know many collectors prefer. All in all, this is a pretty nice and affordable Pedro Martinez rookie card that still holds some value from the Junk Wax era when graded PSA 9 or better.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Baseball Stat Freak
Justin Smoak was one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball in 2019. According to StatCast, he was the 9th unluckiest hitter in terms of xwOBA minus actual wOBA. That 9th place is misleading as a bunch of the guys ahead of him are backup catchers or utility type players. There are only a couple of guys we'd even care about as far as fantasy or rookie cards are concerned. Those two are Marcell Ozuna and Kendrys Morales.
As for Smoak, his quality of contact suggests his .208 batting average and .406 slugging percentage are much too low. StatCast expected a .245 batting average, which is also his career average. For slugging, StatCast expected a .476 mark, also not far off of his career average. With his career high 15.8 percent walk rate in 2019, Smoak should've had a .367 wOBA. That's a whopping 40 points higher than his actual wOBA.
To put that in perspective, his expected rates put him in the neighborhood of the actual results of Bryce Harper and Joc Pederson. But his surface numbers put him more in the production range of big disappointments like Paul DeJong and Dexter Fowler. Sure, they're about league average. But, Smoak is a well above league average hitter. As he has since been signed by the Milwaukee Brewers, apparently their front office feels the same way.
Going into his age 33 season and free agency, Smoak could be a really nice bargain. Of course, Smoak is also the exact type of player that teams are shying away from. With all the young talent Toronto is stockpiling, it was a foregone conclusion he wouldn't be back with the Blue Jays in 2020. The Brewers, on the other hand, are happy to guarantee him just $4 million for 2020, plus an option for 2021 at $5.5 million with a $1 million buyout.
It's likely no surprise that people aren't too excited about Justin Smoak rookie cards. He also doesn't have a Bowman Chrome Auto, which makes his card market a little harder to gauge relative to his peers. His top rookie autos are several 2008 Razor cards and 2008 Upper Deck Team USA. Of course, the Upper Deck cards are more sought after. For base rookie cards, there are the serial numbered 2010 eTopps and 2011 Topps rookie cards.
Because of his poor surface numbers, particular Smoak rookie cards don't sell that consistently. But if you are looking for one card to target, it would be colored refractors of his 2011 Topps rookie card, as those are the cards targeted most consistently.
A strong 30 HR and 100 RBI could still be in Smoak's future. While Milwaukee isn't a big market, a strong season from both him and the Brew Crew could help the value of Justin Smoak cards. What do you see in the cards (pun intended) for Justin Smoak's future?
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
When I began following baseball around the turn of the 21st century, the Red Sox and New York Yankees rivalry was as hot as ever. One of my favorite players to watch right from the beginning was Bernie Williams…of the Yankees. That's right. The long time Yankees center fielder spent all 16 major league seasons in the Bronx. I saw him right towards the end of his prime. Today, I feel like he's become vastly underrated.
For eight seasons, 1995 to 2002, Bernie Williams was consistently one of the best players in baseball. His counting stats were never that impressive, but someone who consistently hits 20 HR, 100 RBI, steals 10 to 15 bases, and hits over .300 is going to be damn valuable. Whether coincidence or not, it so happens that Bernie's peak almost perfectly coincided with the Yankees eight year Dynasty. What held him back, interestingly enough, was his "Gold Glove" defense.
That's right. The 4 time Gold Glove winner was actually a below average center fielder. Sure, he made the plays. The problem was that he didn't really have great range as a center fielder. I certainly never thought of Bernie as bad a fielder as the defensive metrics have him. In retrospect, he was probably better suited to a corner, but staying in center field is what gave him such impressive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) numbers. He finished with 49.6 WAR according to Baseball Reference. That is nothing to sneeze at, but well short of the Hall of Fame standard.
However, Bernie was a postseason hero on several occasions and probably a better fielder than Total Zone would lead you to believe. He also won FOUR World Series with the Yankees and hit very well even in losing efforts. I always thought of Bernie Williams as a future Hall of Famer? Will he ever get a plaque in Cooperstown? It's highly unlikely, but he is on the Today's Game Committee ballot for 2022.
Then again, Chris Bodig makes an excellent case for Bernie Williams as a Hall of Famer on his excellent website Cooperstown Cred. I happen to agree with his arguments. But while I am usually a stats oriented guy like he, I'm going to look back at his peak performance merely as a fan…
Of course there will be some stats and a particular focus on his breakout career year. But, mostly, observations extrapolated from my experience and memories as a teenaged fan. Of course, even then I was obsessed with stats…
Bernie Williams and His Early Career
Like many baseball stars I grew up watching, Bernie Williams' career began in the Junk Wax era of card collecting. In fact, Bernie's first cards debuted in 1987, the widely considered beginning over the Junk Wax overproduction. It's also the year of my birth.
Anyway, 1987 ProCards was the official cardboard debut for Bernie Williams. Several other minor league issues would follow in 1988 and 1989. Bernie's first official rookie card was 1990 Bowman, which thankfully has a glossy Tiffany version if you're looking for his key rookie card to collect. It's a great card. Bernie also appeared in 1990 Donruss, Topps, and Score.
Bernie's major league debut wouldn't come until 1991, but by 1992 he would become an above average player in MLB. Bernie would post a 2.0 WAR Mark in just 62 games in 1992 and a 2.5 WAR Mark in 139 games in 1993. Building my "Junk Wax" Dynasty, I would be very happy to fill out my roster with a young Bernie Williams.
Bernie's Breakout Season of 1995
After a strong showing in the strike shortened 1994 season, Bernie would have his best season in the Majors by WAR. It would be the beginning of his 8-year peak. He would amass 6.4 WAR, with the best defensive season of his career by defensive WAR (1.7)... Ok, enough stats…
I wasn't watching baseball at that time, but 1995 was the year that Bernie was becoming the player I'd later admire. His 18 HR and 82 RBI were nothing to sneeze at. He did steal 8 bases, but was caught 6 times. However, he also hit .307. Keep in mind this is back when batting average was still far, far more important than on base percentage. These were stats that fans were excited about.
The Yankees were getting really good, too. While the hobby was going into decline around this time, what kid didn't want to have some Bernie Williams rookie cards? He was a young star, and he was legit.
Bernie Williams: The Best Hitter of the Late '90s Yankees Dynasty, Who Was Almost a Red Sox...
Chris Bodig goes into it in great detail in his piece on Bernie Williams on Cooperstown Cred, but even as a more casual fan in the late 90's, I knew just by watching him that Bernie Williams was the best hitter on the Yankees. I often wished he played for the Red Sox. Well, ironically, it almost happened just as I was getting into following the sport seriously…
After the 1998 season, the Boston Red Sox actually made Bernie Williams a six year offer for $90 million - with a seventh year option on the table. Keep in mind, Mike Piazza signed a seven year $91 million deal with the Mets not long before that, at the time, the largest contract in baseball history. Arguably, that one worked out pretty well…
The great news for the Yankees is that they decided to offer a seven-year deal worth $87.5 million, which he accepted. The even better news is that the Yankees would've instead signed Albert Belle… and we all know where his career went after that. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they not only lost Mo Vaughn to the Angels, but they essentially replaced Vaughn with.Jose Offerman (who actually was quite good in 1999, believe it or not).
There's a non zero chance that had Bernie gone to Boston, the Sox may have won both the 1999 and 2000 World Series. In retrospect, the Yankees should consider themselves very fortunate that Bernie returned to the only organization he'd ever known. They likely would have won in 2003 and 2004, as well. (No one was beating Schilling and Randy Johnson in 2001.)
Oh, what could’ve been…
Is Bernie Williams a Hall of Famer?
From my observations, Bernie Williams was absolutely, positively a Hall of Famer. He had as many, if not a couple more, big hits in the postseason as Derek Jeter - who is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Yankees not only may not have won all four of those rings - they may not have even gotten to the postseason some years without the consistent bat of Bernie Williams. As the Yankees primary cleanup hitter, he was the centerpiece of their offense. Period.
It also helps that Bernie Williams is also one of the most likable people to ever play the game of baseball. His second career as a jazz musician has also been a phenomenal success. Since he made so much money in his career, Bernie uses his musical talents mostly for charitable causes. If he’s not a Hall of Fame ballplayer, Bernie’s a Hall of Fame human being.
Bernie Williams is one of those guys who I’ll just throw WAR out the window and put him in the Hall of Fame anyway. As it is, modern center fielders are vastly underrepresented in the Hall. If he’s not elected into the Hall by the Today’s Game Era Committee in December 2021, I will be greatly disappointed.
Bernie, I wish you continued success in all you do!
You can visit Bernie’s official website: www.bernie51.com
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
J.D. Drew hit .278/.384/.489 with 242 home runs over a 14-year career. His glove was worth 69 runs in the outfield according to TotalZone. For his solid bat and above-average glove, Drew was worth a substantial 44.9 WAR. That’s comparable to Hall of Famer Edd Roush and Indians & Tigers legend Rocky Colavito. He has more career WAR than early 20th-century hall of famers Hugh Duffy and Roger Bresnahan. I’m not saying that J.D. Drew belongs in the Hall of Fame. But, at one time, there is a possibility that he could’ve gotten there.
Drew’s 1998 Fleer Update Rookie Card is a really nice looking piece. His card #U100 in the set got plenty of attention from prospectors in the baseball card hobby. As a can’t miss prospect, over six thousand J.D. Drew Fleer Update cards were sent in to PSA. As of May 2019, there are 819 PSA 8, 3477 PSA 9, and 2066 PSA 10 copies in existence. Today, you can buy a copy of a PSA 10 graded J.D. Drew rookie card for $4 to $5 plus shipping. What happened?
J.D. Drew and the St. Louis Cardinals Years
Actually, J.D. Drew turned out to be extremely good. After murdering AA and AAA in 1998, Drew had a torrid 14 game introduction to the major leagues, hitting .417/.463/.972. But, in 1999, after hitting well in AAA, his first rookie season was actually pretty mediocre with the bat (91 OPS+) but exceptional with the glove in center field (17 runs above average). So, in real life, he was worth 2.7 WAR, but that had to be a let down for everyone who had invested in his rookie card.
The 2000 season was a good one, though, for Drew. He’d hit 18 HR, steal 17 bases, and have a .880 OPS, good for a 121 OPS+. 2001 was a monster year, as he hit for a 160+ OPS. But even then, he started missing games here and there with nagging injuries. This would be a theme throughout his career. He would only play more than 140 games in a season three times. Even so, he racked up 18.1 WAR in 6 seasons with St. Louis.
J.D. Drew and His Career Year With the Atlanta Braves
After the 2003 season, Drew was traded along with Eli Marrero for Ray King, Jason Marquis, and Adam Wainwright. It would be a good trade in the end for the Cardinals as Wainwright blossomed into an ace pitcher. But it was also good for the Braves, who got Drew’s biggest season and the only season in which he hit more than 30 HR - .305/.436/.569 with 31 HR and 12 steals for 8.3 WAR.
Drew was looking pretty good at this point with 26.4 WAR in 7 seasons Interestingly, though, Drew had zero All-Star game appearances, despite being an All-Star level player in all but 2003, and he only played 100 games that year and still collected 2.5 WAR. That’s because his power numbers were good, but not great, and he missed a lot of games with nagging injuries.
J.D. Drew, the Dodgers, and the Red Sox
A two-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers proved fruitful as he posted 3.2 and 4 WAR seasons. What’s most impressive is that his 3.2 WAR season was in an injury-marred 2005 campaign in which he played only 72 games. The Red Sox really liked what they saw in 2006 and gave Drew a five-year, $80 million contract.
While many Red Sox fans seem to remember only the beginning and end of that contract ,Drew actually was pretty good with the Red Sox. After an injury-marred 2007 in which he still managed to play 140 games but diminished at both the plate and the field, he was actually an important piece of the Red Sox’s run to winning the 2007 World Series. In 2008, Drew played very well and earned his first All-Star game appearance, and then he got hurt again...
Fortunately, Drew managed to be just as good in 2009 and actually played 140 games. But in 2010, despite playing 139 games, his nagging injuries were clearly eroding his ability at the plate, although he was still a 3 WAR player thanks to still being above league average and very good on defense. In his first four seasons with the Red Sox, he collected 12.2 WAR. That’s not a horrible return on investment for $64 million over four years.
Unfortunately, at age 35 in 2011, the wheels just fell off for Drew. He would actually be “worth” -0.9 WAR for the Red Sox in 81 games, a season in which the wheels fell off for the Red Sox in general. Had he not been hurt, Drew could’ve helped save that 90-win season. But, he was clearly a washed-up player at that point. A lot of people remember the broken down Drew, and it’s too bad because he actually was a pretty good player.
Could J.D. Drew Have Ever Gotten Into the Baseball Hall of Fame?
The problem is that being “pretty good” doesn’t get you in the Hall of Fame, nor does it help you do well in the baseball card market. Drew was a very calm and quiet player and many people had the impression that he refused to play unless he felt one hundred percent. But, as someone who watched Drew a great deal, I can say that when he did play, he played very hard. He had a great batting eye and a great swing that could do a lot of damage when he was locked in.
Drew was also a very underrated fielder, I feel. His power numbers such as home runs and RBI weren’t eye-popping, but he made up for those with his on-base skills and overall ability to hit for extra bases. He was a perennial All-Star level player that just missed too much time and never really became beloved by any fan base.
Had Drew not missed substantial time in several seasons, it’s quite likely that he would be on the Hall of Fame bubble, right? It’s more likely that Drew’s quiet demeanor and unimpressive power numbers would’ve pretty much eliminated any chance of people seriously considering him for the Hall. Drew actually had a great career, considering how many injuries he suffered.
Still, he suffered his injuries playing hard and he stuck with the game he loved for nearly a decade and a half in the Major Leagues. That’s worth remembering. So, his rookie card being worth only $5 in top condition is actually quite a shame, although as far is the card market is concerned, it’s probably correct.
Still, J.D. Drew is a better baseball player than you may remember. I know he was better now than I realized back then. But, from a sports card investment standpoint, wow, did he let a lot of people down. Of course, it’s not Drew’s fault that over 6000 copies of a piece of cardboard were submitted to PSA for grading. (Plus who knows how many more to Beckett?) He just played the game he loved hard, and made the Cardinals look pretty good for choosing him fifth overall in the draft.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
In 2010, Topps created a series of cards called “Cards Your Mom Threw Out” featuring vintage Topps cards with either a new “CMT” back or the original back. These are actually fairly sought after cards by collectors, especially those with the original backs. For me, as a Red Sox fan, the Luis Aparicio CMT-138 is one that’s a nice card to have, as 1973 was not only the last hurrah for “Looie,” but also a pretty good season overall.
Aparicio came to Boston before the 1971 season for second baseman Mike Andrews and infielder Luis Alvarado. Andrews had some nice years for Boston, and would have one more good year in 1971 before fading away. Alvarado never did much of anything. 1971 was a down year for Aparicio and was actually worse than replacement level according to Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement (-0.5 WAR). He’d rebound in 1972 to be a league average shortstop (2.0 WAR). But 1973 was a nice final season for the future Hall of Fame shortstop.
In 1973, Aparicio hit only .271/.324/.309 with the bat, which wasn’t too good, but he did walk more than he struck out and added 13 stolen bases. He was only caught once, too. During the season he passed the 500 SB milestone to finish with 506 steals. Besides his value on the base paths, Aparicio was worth a whopping 11 runs above average according to TotalZone. That was after being “worth” -8 runs in 1971 and -4 runs in 1972. In his career, Aparicio would be worth 149 runs above average over 18 seasons. He won nine Gold Gloves in his career as an elite defender.
Luis Aparicio’s original 1973 Topps card is hardly a pricey one. You can find one graded PSA 8 for under $10 and one in PSA 9 for around $20 to $25. There are only 8 PSA 10 1973 Topps Aparicio cards, and those can fetch several hundred dollars. Aparicio would also have a 1974 Topps card.that are actually similarly priced, with only 4 PSA 10 copies currently graded. Luis Aparicio’s later cards with the Red Sox aren’t super expensive, but since he’s a Hall of Famer who made a living with his speed and glove, he’s worth adding to any vintage baseball card collection.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
Most people think of Baseball Hall-of-Fame third baseman George Kell as a Detroit Tiger. That’s not surprising, as he played in parts of eight seasons with the Tigers and was a Tigers broadcaster for thirty-seven years. But, he started out with the Philadelphia A’s, and the Tigers actually traded Kell to the Boston Red Sox in 1952!
George Kell was part of a nine-player trade that involved Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky going to Detroit. After the trade, Kell hit .319/.390/.453 for the Sox in 75 games. In 1953, Kell would hit 307.383.483 and enjoy a 3 WAR season.
Unfortunately, 1953 would see Kell hit only .258/.361/.290 in 26 games for the Sox. He’d be traded to the White Sox for infielder Grady Hatton and $100,000. Hatton would finish out 1954 well with the Red Sox. Kell would have one more good season with the White Sox in 1955.
There are actually a fair amount of George Kell baseball cards out there depicting the Hall of Fame ballplayer on the Red Sox. The most valuable are graded examples of 1953 Topps #138 and 1954 Bowman #50.
George Kell’s 1953 Topps card is valued around $300 for PSA 8 (Near Mint POP 76) examples, over $600 for PSA 8.5 (Near-Mint+ POP 5), and $1,750 for PSA 9 (Mint POP 8)!
Kell's 1954 Bowman is much more affordable at around $80 for a PSA 8 (POP 84 + 7 with an Off-Center Qualifier), $115 for a PSA 8.5 (POP 3) and $475 for a PSA 9 (POP 9)! There are about the same amount of PSA 8 and PSA 8.5 of each of these cards in existence, but they are still fairly rare.
While George Kell’s legacy is as a Detroit Tiger, his short, fairly productive time with the Boston Red Sox makes his key cards quite valuable to any serious Red Sox baseball card collector.
The Best Michael Young Baseball Cards - Rookie Cards, Autograph, and Memorabilia Cards
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
Michael Young may never reach the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he did have a memorable career, the majority which was spent with the Texas Rangers. Despite strong fielding percentages and high batting averages, though, Young is seen by many analytically-inclined baseball fans as an overrated player. Still, the career .300 hitter was overall a slightly above-average hitter and while he was below average defensively at second base, he wasn’t that bad at his natural position.
For me, what really hurt Young’s overall value was being forced over to shortstop, where he was far below average, and later to third base where he was comparatively even worse. To be fair, the one year Young won the Gold Glove at shortstop, he was actually 9 runs above average by TotalZone’s measure, although he was -4 runs below average by Defensive Runs Saved metrics.
But in the baseball card hobby, we don’t really care about defensive statistics unless your name is Ozzie Smith. But, Smith also added considerable value on the basepaths with stolen bases. To be fair to Young, he only stole 90 bases in his career, but was only caught 30 times. Sure, that doesn’t touch Ozzie’s 580 SB, against only 148 times caught. Ozzie also spent most of his career with the Cardinals, a team that’s always done very well in the card collecting world.
While Michael Young isn’t a player with expensive cards, he’s still an interesting, inexpensive target for baseball card collectors. In fact, he shares some high-end targets with a Hall of Famer and a future Hall of Famer. Let’s take a look at the best Michael Young baseball cards, from his rookie cards, autograph cards, and other memorabilia cards.
Michael Young Rookie Cards
2000 Topps Traded #T46 Michael Young
Michael Young’s first rookie card is the 2000 Topps Traded #T46. It’s often available for $2 or less and shows him with his first team, the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays would trade Young in July of 2000 along with Darwin Cubillan for pitcher Esteban Loaiza. It wasn’t a horrible trade, but the Jays would probably regret it.
Graded examples of this card are extremely rare, with only about 60 of each in PSA 9 and PSA 10 condition. Despite many being listed, they don’t sell that often. This set is mostly known for the Miguel Cabrera rookie card, of which there are 1677 graded PSA 10 copies. Interestingly, it’s a set full of decent rookie cards, including Adam Wainwright and Adrian Gonzalez.
The Chrome versions of 2000 Topps Traded, however, are much more plentiful for Michael Young, with about 125 of each PSA 9 and PSA 10 available. Like the base Traded graded copies, they simply don’t sell very often, despite being listed plenty often.
Michael Young Autograph and Memorabilia Cards2006 Topps Co-Signers Ozzie Smith / Michael Young Dual Autograph Card #CS-83
Prices range from $7.50 to $17.50 for this card! Michael Young also features on a couple other of Co-Signers cards with Nolan Ryan and Kevin Millwood.
2005 Topps Pristine Power Core Game Used BAT KNOB #MY Michael Young #’d to 5
Easily the best memorabilia card of Michael Young out there is the Game-Used Bat Knob from 2005 Topps Pristine. Only 5 copies were ever printed, and one sold for over $30 in January 2019.
Other Interesting Michael Young Baseball Cards
2003 Donruss Team Heroes #525 Michael Young
As a set full of some decent autograph cards, 2003 Donruss Team Heroes is a fairly valuable baseball card set. The Michael Young base card #525 is worth around $1 but the glossy version is worth $2 or more, as are most glossy base cards in the set. There’s also a version numbered to 20 which is valued at over $15. Overall, it’s a set you should be looking into, even if not specifically for Michael Young cards.
2006 Topps Changing Faces - Michael Young w/ Hank Blalock, Kevin Millwork, Mark Teixeira, and Nolan Ryan
If you’re a big Texas Rangers fan, this is a particularly interesting subset of the Co-Signers set. None of them are worth much over $10, but they are cool looking cards. They are also serial-numbered to various amounts, including some #’d to 25. The Nolan Ryan would be my favorite here, as the Ryan Express is a huge hobby favorite.
2008 Topps Update Black #UH127 Michael Young / Derek Jeter #’d to 57
While not a memorabilia card, this card numbered to only 57 copies features Jeter, a future Hall of Famer. For that reason alone, this card can fetch north of $10. In the same set is a Black parallel base card of Michael Young #635 also numbered to 57 copies that can command about $2. The card he shares with Jeter seems like an easy investment to me.
Investing in Michael Young Baseball Cards
While Michael Young was a pretty good player who had some truly All-Star seasons, and is remembered fondly by many Texas Rangers fans, Michael Young baseball cards are among the coldest in the hobby. While there are many graded examples of his Topps Traded rookie cards, they simply don’t find buyers often. Even cards that he shares with Hall of Fame or future Hall of Fame talents tend to sell on the low side.
If you’re looking to make money on your investment in Michael Young cards, the best way to go is to buy one of those cards he shares with Derek Jeter, Nolan Ryan, or Ozzie Smith - all hobby favorites. Numbered relic cards are also a nice investment, since they can be had for cheap, and they can later be sold as part of a player collection.
As with any hobby, you should invest in what you like. If you’re a Rangers fan, or believe Michael Young is a player worth collecting, he’s not a bad choice. He’s just not going to bring much return on your investment in the future.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
Digging through all those generally worthless “junk wax” baseball cards of 1987 to 1993, you’ll occasionally find a card that commemorates a great season of a not so famous player. However, to celebrate Bob Tewksbury becoming the Mental Skills Coach of the Chicago Cubs, we take a look at his finest season, which happens to fall right in the Junk Wax era. In building a “Junk Wax Dynasty” it’s important to consider Tewksbury’s 6.4 WAR season with the 1992 St. Louis Cardinals.
The 1992 Cardinals didn’t do much; at 83-79, they placed 3rd in the NL East. Ozzie Smith, Ray Lankford and even Bernard Gilkey were all-star level players that year, but it wasn’t quite enough for them to make the playoffs. Tewksbury pitched like an ace that year, and he never again had a season quite like it, although he was decent in 1993 (2.7 WAR) and had two 3+ WAR years with the Twins at the end of his career.
Interestingly, FanGraphs sees Tewksbury’s 1993 season more favorably than his 1992 season. That’s because FanGraphs uses FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) for its WAR calculation rather than ERA. But for purposes of “Junk Wax Dynasty” we are focusing on results, which is why we’re using Baseball Reference’s ERA/RA9 (Runs Allowed/9) based WAR. FanGraphs has Tewksbury’s 1992 season being worth 4.0 WAR and his 1993 season at 4.3 WAR, thanks to an inflated BABIP (batting average on balls in play).
One thing that FanGraphs does show us, though, is that Tewksbury was probably a better pitcher than his Baseball Reference page may suggest. On Baseball Reference, Tewksbury was worth 21.3 wins in a 13 year career, 10 of those full seasons. But FanGraphs sees him as worth 31.3 wins. That’s because in his “worst” years, he actually pitched better than the results would suggest.
Tewksbury only had a career strikeout rate of 4.04 K/9, but a walk rate of merely 1.45 BB/9. He rarely gave up homers (0.71 HR/9), but with a batting average of balls in play of .300, he relied heavily on his defense. His career ERA of 3.92 belied an FIP of 3.65. So, in reality, he was actually a slightly-above average pitcher who just had some bad luck with defense behind him.
In retrospect, Tewksbury’s 1993 season is actually better peripherally than his 1992 season. In 1992, he had a strikeout rate of merely 3.52 K/9 but a walk rate of only 0.77 BB/9. His strand rate was a high 80.8% and his BABIP only .257, which are big reasons why his 2.16 ERA was a mirage compared to his 3.14 FIP. His 1993 season featured a 4.09 K/9 and a 0.84 BB/9. But he suffered from a .316 BABIP and a more “normal” 70.3% strand rate (career 68.5%).
Still, Tewksbury was actually the pitcher that a lot of teams thought that he was, a workhorse that kept you in games. Suffice it to say, the Yankees should’ve never traded Tewksbury for Steve Trout to the Cubs. Unfortunately for Tewks, he didn’t pitch well for the Cubs and spent a lot of time in the minors until the Cubs let him go and the Cardinals picked him up. He pitched quite well for the Cardinals at AAA, and the rest is history.
If you’re looking to build a team with players from only 1987-1993, consider adding a 1992 Bob Tewksbury to your pitching staff. Heck, even a 1993 Bob Tewksbury would make a fine fourth or fifth starter. At the very least, you know he’ll do all he can to keep you in the game. He was definitely a mentally skilled pitcher, and perhaps, was actually pretty underrated in his time.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Sports Nut
Relief pitchers are hardly a big deal in the baseball card hobby. Of course, guys like Dennis Eckersley and Lee Smith have their fans and collectors. But, a lot of the best relief pitchers out there, even the most consistent, don’t have much of a following. Still, when you’re building a dynasty baseball team out of cards from the Junk Wax era from 1987-1993, it’s good to find some diamonds in the rough, guys like Dale Mohorcic.
Who? Sure, Dale Mohorcic was never a household name. But in 1987, his efforts in relief for the Texas Rangers earned him 3.1 Wins Above Replacement for the Texas Rangers. That was a follow-up to a decent 1986 in which he earned 2.2 WAR. I’m sure you won’t hear people wax nostalgic about Dale, but he did have a couple of pretty good seasons as far as results are concerned.
Of course, with a strikeout rate of 4.3 K/9, that leaves a lot of your success up to the defense. Mohorcic’s FIP of 3.98 and FanGraphs WAR of 1.0 in 1987 (and 0.9 WAR in 1986) gives you more of an idea of the pitcher Mohorcic really was. Indeed, both his 1986 and 1987 seasons were fluky. He had a strand rate of 81.1% in 1986 and 80.1% in 1987, both of which are very high. He also had a BABIP of only .248, which is crazy low - although it was a more sustainable .295 in his good 1986 season.
So, who is Dale Mohorcic? Where did he come from, and what happened to him?
Dale Mohorcic the Journeyman
Mohorcic began his quest through the minor leagues began in the short-lived independent Northwest League with the Victoria Mussels. He was the ace of their staff in 1978 with a 2.02 ERA! Dale caught the attention of the Toronto Blue Jays, who purchased his contract. He was underwhelming in their farm system, though, and was released.
The Pirates were intrigued by Mohorcic, though, as a reliever. He actually enjoyed a fine season in 1980 mostly as a closer. The Pirates held onto him until after the 1984 season, trying him again as both a starter and a reliever, but he never really caught on. They let him go before the 1985 season.
He caught on again with the Texas Rangers and enjoyed a decent 1985 season in relief at AAA. He returned in 1986 and found his way to the majors.
After his strong 1987 season, he scuffled early on in the 1988 season. The Rangers decided to move on from him, deciding to try out Mitch Williams - who himself would struggle but become a pretty good pitcher soon after. Williams himself would be traded to the Cubs after the season in an otherwise underwhelming package for Jamie Moyer and Rafael Palmeiro, The Rangers won that trade. The Yankees picked up Mohorcic for Cecilio Guante, formerly a pretty strong reliever, but he only gave the Rangers 0.3 WAR for the rest of 1988 and 1989.
Mohorcic, on the other hand, actually pitched very well for New York, and gave the pinstripes 0.8 WAR in only 22 and two-thirds innings. He was dreadful in 1989 though, being “worth” -1.2 WAR. Mohorcic even spent time in the minors, where he actually pitched very well. Probably because of those good minor league innings, he did catch on in 1990 with the Montreal Expos, pitching well at AAA, and had OK results with 0.6 WAR in 53 innings with the big club. He hung up his cleats after that.
Dave Mohorcic as a Closer?
To be fair, Mohorcic isn’t really someone you’d consider a prototypical closer type pitcher. He walked guys liked a power pitcher, but struck out guys like a finesse pitcher. When he limited the walks, he was pretty successful. But, like a lot of relief guys that pitched to contact, you rely so much on the defense that it’s hard to stay consistent for long periods of time.
Mohorcic hearkens back to the old days of grinding out game after game. This is before bullpens became more specialized. You were either a mop-up guy or a back-end guy like a set-up man or a closer. Mohorcic gained a reputation in the minors as being a shutdown relief pitcher. While he didn’t blow anyone away with peripheral stats, it’s actually possible that Mohorcic could’ve kept pitching and ate some late innings for a few more years.
For my Junk Wax dynasty, I’d consider Mohorcic as a great candidate to serve as a middle reliever or a late inning guy strictly against right-handed batters in a 3+ run game. His platoon splits weren’t great (.247/.309/.364 against RHB and a whopping .305/.351/.446 against LHB). This was a guy who tied Mike Marshall for the major league record of pitching in 13 straight games. It’s hard not to want a guy like that on your team. He showed up and gave his best. In an age of bullpen specialization like today, he’d actually probably have fared a lot better.
In Junk Wax Dynasty, we look at players from the “Junk Wax” era of baseball cards and find the hidden gems from 1987 to 1993. For this installment, we take a look at the career year of a San Diego Padres utility player by the name of Randy Ready.
How many Randy Ready cards from 1987 were put into bicycle spokes? Probably a lot. Funny thing is, utility infielder Randy Ready actually had a career year in 1987. According to Baseball Reference, his performance that year netted the San Diego Padres 5.8 Wins Above Replacement. To put that in perspective, that’s the same number that a young Barry Bonds put up that year. Considering that the Padres acquired Ready in 1986 for a player to be named later that had a career War of -0.1 WAR, the Friars were quite pleased with his performance.
Before we get into that career year, though, it’s important to know what was going on in Randy’s life at the time. This dude dealt with tragedy the year before.. Check this out:
“On June 13, 1986, the day Ready played his first game as a Padre after having been acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers, [Randy’s wife] Dorene collapsed on the floor of their home in Tucson. She was unconscious for 7 to 10 minutes. During much of that time, her brain was deprived of oxygen.”
Oh, boy. That ended Ready’s season right there, so he could go be with his wife and three young sons. His wife had suffered a heart attack that left her with permanent brain damage, and she never recovered from it, So, Randy and his sister Cindy had to raise the children. Later, it would be found that some diet pills that his wife was prescribed were what gave her the heart attack. A few years later, a jury awarded the family more than $25 million in a settlement.
Of course, that eventual money couldn’t make up that loss. Baseball became Randy’s escape. So, it makes what happened that next season even more special.
Ready was a patient hitter who regularly walked more than he struck out. But in 1987, his bat exploded for a .309/.423/.520 batting line for a .943 OPS. That's a 153 OPS+ or 53 percent above league average. He hit a career high 12 home runs and batted in 54 runs. He added 7 steals but was caught three times, so he only added a bit of value there.
In 1987 he played second base, third base, left field, and right field. Ready was a steady average fielder at both second and third base and a bit below average in the outfield. But in 1997, Ready was worth 5 Total Zone runs above average in only 52 games at second base and 3 runs above average at third. He was even 3 runs above average in left field in only 16 games, partly thanks to an outfield assist. In all, he amassed 1.2 defensive WAR.
Unfortunately for Ready, a lot of this success was due to a .325 batting average on balls in play. His .211 ISO or isolated power was backed up by career highs in doubles with 26 and triples with 6. He'd never show that level of power again. So, with eventual career marks of .280 BABIP and .127 ISO, this was a major outlier.
Was Randy Ready in 1988?
Ready was not bad in 1988 but he would be traded to the Phillies along with John Kruk for outfielder Chris James. Obviously, Kruk would go on to be very good. But, it got worse for the Padres. James would be OK, but the Padres would trade James along with Sandy Alomar and Carlos Baerga for Joe Carter. Alomar and Baerga would go on to be very good for the Indians, and even Chris James had a strong year in 1990.
Of course, Joe Carter was a good player, but he went on to be terrible for the Padres. So, he was flipped along with Roberto Alomar (future hall of famer) for infielder Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff. McGriff would be good, but Fernandez would be underwhelming offensively. Imagine if the Padres had Kruk, both Alomar, Baerga, and Ready still… Somewhat hilariously, Fernandez would be part of what could have been an unassisted triple play started by - you guessed it - Randy Ready!
Fernandez would actually never be the player he was in Toronto again (with 2.2 WAR in 1991 and 1.1 WAR in 1992), but he would end up having a late career resurgence, ironically with Toronto in 1993, with Cleveland in 1997, and again very ironically with TORONTO in 1998 and 1999. Of course, the Padres only got one good year out of Wally Whitehurst (2.7 WAR). Man, the Padres made a lot of bad moves…
Anyway, back to Randy...
Randy Ready and the Rest of His Career
Anyway, Ready was never quite as good again after 1987. It’s not hard to imagine why, though, especially with what he had to deal with in his home life. His last really good year was 1991, in which he posted a 1.3 WAR in only 76 games. In that year, he hit .249/.385/.322 for a roughly league average .707 OPS. That batting line included a dreadful .207/.294/.207 (.501 OPS) against right-handed pitching, but a .265/.418/.367 (.785 OPS) against lefties.
The rest of Ready’s career was plagued by some inconsistency with the glove - having some good defensive seasons and some bad - that overshadowed his strong plate discipline. The good news is, he stuck around in the majors until 1995 and played in Japan for a year in 1996. But looking back now, the real thing that held Ready back from being an above-average super utility player were his platoon splits.
Career vs RHP: .246/.341/.356 - .697 OPS in 1180 PA
Career vs LHP: .271/.375/.415 - .790 OPS in 1308 PA
In today’s analytically driven game, Ready would have been strictly a platoon bat that could play second base, third base, and the outfield corners. He would’ve probably been worth 1.0-1.5 WAR in part time duty and perhaps he would’ve settled in at one position, either at second or third base with occasional starts in Left Field or Right Field against a left-handed pitcher. He was also not utilized nearly as much as a pinch hitter as he likely should have, especially in the National League. Still, he cobbled together a decent career as a 25th man, which is hardly something to sneeze at. It’s just interesting that he wasn’t utilized better.
Randy Ready as a Coach and Manager
Randy never really left the game, either. He returned to the game as a minor league manager in 2002 and served as the Padres hitting coach for a bit. That stint as hitting coach proved disastrous as the Padres had one of the worst lineups in baseball. Was that his fault, though? Probably not. Anyway, he has continued in the game as a minor league coach and manager. In 2017, he became a minor league manager in the Marlins system.
Ready is definitely well-liked in the game. The teams he’s managed have often made the playoffs and he’s been an overall winning manager. It’s a shame that his playing career really only had a couple of bright spots (1987 and 1991), but he did have quite a ride.
So, the next time you come across a Randy Ready baseball card, especially from 1987 or 1991, don’t be so quick to dismiss them. In fact, he’s the top utility player in my Junk Wax Dynasty. He deserves to be remembered, even if it’s just for that amazing 5 WAR season in the wake of family tragedy.
by Phoenix Desertsong
On May 24th, 2018, card collector Adrian Proietti bought a PSA 10 Derek Jeter rookie card from PWCC through eBay for $99,100. This Derek Jeter card is from the highly sought-after 1993 Upper Deck SP set. Ironically, Adrian was offered a similar card, also PSA 10, ten years ago for $25,000, which he turned down. While that price sounds extremely high, it came only a week after another Derek Jeter rookie card sold for $54,576. At nearly $100,000, Adrian’s purchase was the highest price ever paid for a modern baseball card. With Derek Jeter a likely shoo-in for the 2020 Hall of Fame class, just how high will Derek Jeter rookie card prices go?
Sure, other modern-era sport cards have fetched higher prices, but they’re in basketball and football. You may have heard of LeBron James rookie cards and Tom Brady rookie cards selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They, too, are graded by PSA/DNA, the leading card grading company in the world. Beckett Media also has a highly-regarded grading system, known as BGS. There are a few other grading companies, but none are as highly regarded. When graded and authenticated by PSA or Beckett, cards always fetch a higher price than ungraded "raw" cards.
For those unfamiliar with card grading, a PSA Gem Mint 10 or BGS Pristine 10 is the best you can get, a perfect example of a card in perfect condition. There are very few 10’s of any given card. At the time of the $99,100 sale, there were only 22 PSA 10 Derek Jeter rookie cards in existence. PSA said that they had graded 560 as a 9, or mint, and over 8000 graded as an 8, or near-mint. The SP foil rookie card of Derek Jeter is particularly tough to get in high grade as foil cards tend to show wear and/or damage far more easily than nonfoil cards.
While the differences between PSA 8, PSA 9, and PSA 10 may not be obvious to casual observers, they make a huge difference when it comes to collectible value. This makes sense because, of course, who doesn’t want their collectibles to be in perfect condition? There are also just so few cards worthy of a PSA 10, which is what makes them so rare. Even cards pulled straight from packs and immediately stored in a soft sleeve then hard plastic sleeve (also known as a top-loader) often grade as an 8 and sometimes a 9.
The only things that determine the price of graded cards are the scarcity of a given graded card and how much someone is willing to pay for it. Graded vintage baseball cards have been selling for big numbers for years, even those PSA 7 and below. But with how many cards are being printed today, grading is really the way to distinguish one card from another. Grading has always made cards valuable, and now they’re more valuable than ever.
So, just how high will the prices go on graded rookie cards? Even rookie cards from the “junk wax” era of baseball cards from the late 80’s to early 90’s are worth a few bucks if they’re graded highly. But the 1993 Upper Deck Baseball SP set is far from being a junk wax set. Sets since then have continued to have lower print runs on purpose to make the cards purposely more scarce. With a resurgence in baseball card collecting and sports card collecting in general, we could be seeing rookie cards of other stars start selling for six figures.
Unsurprisingly, there was a bit of a run on this particular card, but there are still fine examples out there for sale if you have the cash. You can find similar Derek Jeter rookie cards, graded and otherwise, for sale on Amazon, eBay, and the like.
Who do you think will have the next high priced rookie card?
The Best Baseball Card Blogs 2019
Photo Credit: chainstogains.com via Flickr
The baseball card collecting hobby (and sports card collecting in general) is still alive and well! There are plenty of great, regularly updated baseball card blogs out there worth reading. So, after finding that many sports card blog lists were very outdated, I decided to put together a blogroll of my own!
Please do not hesitate to let me know if any of these blogs are no longer available or are inactive (no new posts for months.) Also, feel free to suggest new blogs for the list!
Thanks in part to the Sports Card Blogroll by bdj610 on Blogger for pointing me to many of these blogs!
A Pack to Be Named Later - http://apacktobenamedlater.blogspot.com/
A Penny Sleeve for Your Thoughts - http://pennysleevethoughts.blogspot.com/
Deals with a lot of older baseball cards, plus football cards, basketball cards, and non-sport cards.
Angels in Order - http://angelsinorder.blogspot.com/
Baseball Card Breakdown - http://baseballcardbreakdown.blogspot.com/
Baseball Cards Come to Life - http://borosny.blogspot.com
Baseball Dime Box - http://baseballdimebox.blogspot.com
Baseball Every Night - http://baseballeverynight.blogspot.com/
Beckett News - http://www.beckett.com/news/
Because it’s Beckett
Cards on Cards - http://cardsoncards.blogspot.com/
Collecting Cutch - http://collectingcutch.blogspot.com/
CrazieJoe’s Card Corner - http://craziejoescardcorner.blogspot.com/
Daily Autograph - http://www.dailyautograph.com/
Diamond Jesters - http://diamond-jesters.blogspot.com
Dodgers Blue Heaven - http://www.dodgersblueheaven.com/
Foul Bunt - http://foulbunt.blogspot.com
From a 1980’s Baseball Card Collector -
Johnny’s Trading Spot - http://johnnnystradingspot.blogspot.com/
Nachos Grande - http://fanofreds.blogspot.com/
A blog about baseball cards, the Cincinnati Reds, and Barry Larkin
Night Owl Cards - http://nightowlcards.blogspot.com/
Actually runs a lot of baseball card set blogs, too, like 1985 Topps.
Old Sports Cards - https://www.oldsportscards.com/
Also covers basketball & football
One Million Cubs Project - https://www.onemillioncubs.net/
An epic project in which Beau Thompson aims to collect 1,000,000 Chicago Cubs cards!
Pack War - http://packwar.blogspot.com/
SABR Baseball Cards - sabrbaseballcards.blog
Section 36 - http://section-36.blogspot.com/
Shoebox Legends - http://shoeboxlegends.blogspot.com/
Sport Card Collectors - http://sportcardcollectors.blogspot.com/
Sport Cards from the Dollar Store - http://buckstorecards.blogspot.com/
The Collective Mind - http://thecollectivemind.blogspot.com/
The Radicards Blog - http://www.radicards.com/
The Shlabotnik Report - https://shlabotnikreport.wordpress.com/
Writes about other sports cards and music, as well.
The Topps Archive - http://toppsarchives.blogspot.com/
This blog features all sorts of Topps cards, including non-sports oddities.
The Yount Collector - http://theyountcollector.blogspot.com/
Topps Blog - https://www.topps.com/Blog
Upper Deck Blog - http://upperdeckblog.com/
Because it’s Upper Deck
Wax Pack Gods - http://waxpackgods.com/
When Topps Had (Base)Balls - http://whentoppshadballs.blogspot.com/
Wrigley Wax - http://wrigleywax.blogspot.com/
Again, please leave a comment if you have an active baseball card blog you’d like to see added.
by Phoenix Desertsong
Teddy Higuera was a left-handed starting pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers for several years between 1985 and 1994. However, he wasn’t very effective after 1990 due to injuries. Still, he was so good early on in his career that he racked up over 30 WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Hardcore Milwaukee Brewers fans are more than happy to collect baseball cards from all across his career.
Unfortunately, most Teddy Higuera cards are only worth dimes. However, there are a few that are worth over a dollar. The best modern Teddy Higuera baseball card with collectible value is the 2016 Topps Archives Fan Favorites Teddy Higuera Autograph #FFA-TH. They sell on eBay for a few dollars. If you're purely looking for rookie cards, the best Teddy Higuera baseball card you'll find is the 1985 Topps Traded Tiffany. Higuera also has 1985 rookie cards in base 1985 Topps Traded and 1985 Fleer Update.
Another valuable Teddy Higuera card is the 1987 Sportflics #11, which he shares with Roger Clemens and hall of famer Jack Morris. While these 3D cards look extremely dated now, they are still very collectible. If you're looking for something a bit more mainstream, his 1987 Donruss Super Diamond Kings insert card.
Other Teddy Higuera baseball cards worth collecting include:
Are there other players from your favorite team that you like to collect?
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