Five underrated baseball cards from Ken Griffey Jr.’s career

When we think of Ken Griffey Jr. and baseball cards, it’s a no-brainer which one we think of first: his 1989 Upper Deck rookie card. It’s become so synonomous with The Kid that ESPN’s Darren Rovell had a Twitter meltdown over it not being included in his Hall of Fame display.

There’s no denying how iconic that card is, but his career shouldn’t be defined by just that one card. Griffey played 22 years in the bigs, and between ones from his playing career and the ones produced in the subsequent years, there are roughly 5,000 cards under his name on COMC.

I don’t have anywhere near that number — my eCrater store features 13 different cards of The Kid at time of publication — but I want to highlight some of the ones that help best tell the story of this iconic player.

1991 Donruss: The First All-Star

The 1991 Donruss set falls victim to 90s-baseball-card syndrome — overproduced, strange design (have you ever seen any other card with blue borders?) — but this one does help chronicle his career. It was in 1990, Griffey’s second season in the bigs, that he made his first of 13 All-Star Games. He started in center field and hit fifth, in between Cal Ripken Jr. and Mark McGwire, but went 0-for-2 with a walk during the game at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately, the photo on the card isn’t from the game — it looks to be at the old Rangers ballpark — but it still documents his first trip to the Midsummer Classic.

1994 Leaf: The Kid Gets His First Crown

Baseball was Griffey crazy by the time the 1994 season started. He had already played five seasons with the Mariners, had been an All Star and Gold Glove winner in four of them, and was a perennial MVP candidate despite being just 24. As the doomed ’94 season began, Griffey was coming off a 45-homer season and he landed Sports Illustrated’s season preview cover with Mike Piazza, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame with Griffey in 2016. Griffey continued to live up to the hype as he reached all of his usual accolades and found a way to top them. For the first time in his career, he led the AL with 40 home runs despite playing in only 111 games (the baseball season itself only lasted 112). He would lead the Junior Circuit in homers three more times in his career.

1995 Topps: How Griffey Saved The Mariners

The Mariners 1995 season is the stuff movies are made of: the franchise had never been to the playoffs, its star player goes down for two and a half months, relocation rumors swirl around the team, yet somehow they come together and win in the most dramatic way possible. Of course, the best-known moment from that season came in Game 5 of the ALDS when the Mariners rallied from a 5-4 deficit in the 11th thanks to a 2-run double from Edgar Martinez (that scored, who else?, Griffey as the winning run) to stun the Yankees and earn a trip to the ALCS. Heck, that play even has its own Wikipedia page. But what is often forgotten in that saga is that the Mariners were just about a .500 team until Junior came back in mid-August from a severe wrist injury and helped the M’s overcome a 13-game deficit in the standings to California/Anaheim/Los Angeles of Anaheim and force a one-game tie-breaker against the Angels to determine winner of the AL West.

2004 Topps: Griffey Makes History

By the 2004 season, The Kid was a shell of his former self. Injuries had plagued him following his trade to Cincinnati with the exception of his first season in 2000, and was coming off a pair of seasons where he only appeared in 70 and 53 games. However, Junior still showed he could turn back the clock during the first half of the 2004 season as he stayed healthy and was named to his first All-Star Game since 2000. But the highlight of the season came on June 20 — Father’s Day — when he became the 20th player to reach 500 career home runs. It was a fitting moment for The Kid to do that considering that he played with his father during the 1990 and ’91 seasons. And just to make it extra special, that home run also gave Junior 2,143 career hits — the same number of hits that Senior had in his career.

2014 Topps: A Very Special Griffey Retrospective

When Griffey came up to the bigs, there weren’t any widely available top prospect lists. Baseball America’s first Top 100 list didn’t come out until 1990, by which time Griffey was ineligible for rookie status. However, his debut was much anticipated by Mariners fans, and he lived up to the billing early as one of his 2014 Topps cards documents. Griffey had played in 5 MLB games by the time he played his first home game at the Kingdome and was still searching for his first home run. He changed that in a hurry on that April 10, 1989 game. Batting second in the Mariners lineup, Griffey took the first pitch he saw from the White Sox’s Eric King and deposited it well into the left-field stands for his first career four-baser (he would go on to his 629 more in his career). That moment was definitely baseball-card worthy.

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Review: 2016 Topps Baseball Series 1

With 2015 Topps the usual design was broken and multi-colored borders were introduced to baseball card design for the first time since the 1990 set. Topps took it up another level in 2016.

This year’s set is marked by one major difference: the elimination of full-card borders. Instead there are white-out sections in opposite corners, depending on what side the nameplate is on.

Get all of your 2016 Topps cards here.

Should this type of design be the future of Topps’ flagship set moving forward or should it just be a one-year experiment? I’ll go into that — and more — in the Good, Bad, and Ugly of this set.

The Good

Let’s start with the everybody’s favorites: the rookies. After a rookie-heavy class in 2015, and especially the Update series (more on that here) I was worried that there wouldn’t be too many good rookies in this set. There are a couple of heavyweights in there — Kyle Schwarber, Miguel Sano, Corey Seager, Luis Severino — but even the “secondary” rookies are still impressive. Guys like Michael Conforto, Aaron Nola, Greg Bird, Jon Gray, Brian Johnson, Jose Peraza, Stephen Piscotty, Trea Turner, Ketel Marte, John Lamb, and my favorite, Rob Refsnyder, help give this set a well-rounded lineup. It looks to be one collectors will be chasing for years to come (unlike, say 2011 Topps Series 2 which is light on key rookies outside of Michael Pineda and Brandon Belt).

Another good thing Topps did is limit the parallels of these cards. For the second year in a row, gone are the Target Red and WalMart Blue retail exclusives that just cluttered up the set. The widely available ones are the same as last year — rainbow foil and gold border — and once again look great. I hope Topps continues to do that.

One of my favorite aspects of this year’s design is the nameplate. There’s a fade to white in the center of the nameplate that reminds me of the 1994 Leaf set, which stands out as one of my favorites of all time (more on that here). It’s a minor touch but still a great thing.

And one last thing about it: the cards feel great in the hand. For some reason, they just feel thicker. Since I don’t have anything that can measure the thickness of the cards, I stacked up 50 2015 and 2016 cards to compare them. Turns out they’re the same height. But for whatever reason, the 2016 ones just feel more sturdy.

THE BAD

When Topps first released what the 2016 cards would look like, I wasn’t too crazy about them. I felt the white blotches would take off too much of the photo. But after opening my first few packs I realized that it wasn’t too bad. It looks OK on some cards but others it looks weird. The bottom line for me is that this design doesn’t feel like a normal Topps set, but it could have been worse. I would hope to see a return to borders next year whether they be white or multi-colored.

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Maybe it’s because of the lack of borders, but this set looks more like a Stadium Club set than a base set. Certain brands have certain basic tenants — Topps has its borders, Upper Deck is known for its photo-heavy cards without borders. So I’ll repeat myself: bring back the borders, Topps.

Elsewhere, and this is a minor thing but take a look at the position listing for infielders. For first, second, and third basemen, the ‘B’ is larger than the base number. It’s a minor thing but it just looks sloppy.

THE UGLY

With a good deal of the photos taken over by the white blotches, it’s hard to see much of the background. You pretty only see the player and then not much of the background. That works fine for when you create a special background — a la the Walk-Off Wins insert — but not when it’s the basic card. That, plus some heavy edits done to lighten up the photos gives some of the cards a poster-type look. It has a different feel than not only in 2015 but also all previous years.

Something else I would like to see changed going forward is having free agents featured on their old teams. For example, it was no given that guys like Alex Gordon and Darren O’Day would return to their teams but yet they are featured in Royals and Orioles uniforms, respectively. Topps didn’t get so lucky when it came to Zack Greinke (Dodgers uniform) and guys down to Denard Span, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Asdrubal Cabrera, etc.

The same could be said for guys who were traded early in the offseason. Andrelton Simmons was sent to the Angels in early November, yet his card still lists him on the Braves. Last year it came back to bite Topps as Josh Donaldson was featured in Series 1 wearing an A’s uniform despite being dealt to Toronto in late November. He only went on to win the AL MVP last year, yet collectors had to wait until the Update set to get a card of him in Blue Jays threads. I know Topps can’t wait until the last minute to get these photos placed but there are still a couple of months between the November trades and the February release. That should be enough time to update a photo.

OVERALL GRADE

All in all, this set turned out better than I thought it was going to be when I first saw the set design. It’s still not as bad as the 2015 Topps football design but it’s still not great. For the most part, the inserts are good but a set shouldn’t be carried by them, just complemented by them. I really hope that this was just a one-year venture for Topps, and it returns to a more traditional-looking design next year.

Grade: C

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My 5 favorite baseball card designs of the past 25 years

I’m starting this article with a confession: I’m going to cheat. I’m saying 25 years goes back to 1990, even though it’s technically to 1991. But since I was born in 1990 and only 25 — it’s going to stick.

In that time the baseball card industry has changed dramatically. Ken Griffey Jr.’s rookie card was all the rage — now it’s just the face of the mass-produced time period. Instead of rookie cards fetching the highest price, dual-relic quad books and things like bat knobs are what collectors go gaga over.

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I do miss simpler times like that but we’re clearly never going back to those days. Instead we’re left to reminisce about the days when there were multiple manufacturers on the market, and not just Topps.

Here’s five of my favorite designs from the past 25 years (or so).

1995 Topps

I detailed my love for this set here. But if you don’t want to read all of it (I promise it’s not that long) it basically boils down to this: it’s the ultimate 1990s card. There’s the perfect text, the computer-aided images, it ushered in the foil parallels, etc.

It’s not one of the most popular sets among collectors but I don’t care. It’s one of my favorites and one that I really want to finish.

1994 Leaf

I remember being excited about these cards when I was a kid. Everything about it was awesome. The marble-based nameplates on the bottom of the card, the city or ballpark scene on the back of the card, the standalone player photo on the back; the ticket design that lists the player’s vital info and has another photo of the players; heck, even the holographic team sticker is sweet. I have yet to see another set quite like it (minus the 1993 Leaf set) and it’s a little sad. You just don’t see three different photos on a card nowadays — you’re lucky to see three different photos a set if you include the inserts.

While there’s not a lot wrong with the design, it does get dinged in the standings for it’s low set count (only 440 cards split among two series) and lack of base rookies. There are a special insert for some rookies and included guys like Carlos Delgado, Manny Ramirez, and Javy Lopez but none in the main set. Still, those minor ‘flaws’ pale in comparison to all the benefits of the set.

1996 Score

One of the great things about 1990s NBA uniforms was the two-toned-ness of them. I loved seeing how one color bled into another. The 1996 Score set did exactly that. Along the nameplate of the card, the player’s teams two primary colors go together to create a unique look. Between that, and the teared-looking top corner of the photo — something unique and frankly awesome — sets this design apart from all others. Combine that with some great photography and you’ve got all the makings of a great year.

2004 Topps

I’ll admit that this design took me a lot longer to pick up the nuance detail than it should have. I don’t know why but I didn’t realize that the player outline in the bottom left corner of the card was shaped exactly like the player’s pose in the photo. It goes down as just another reason to like this card.

Among the other great things about this set are the great, two-colored photo borders, the nice team plate at the top of the card, and the full team logo in the bottom right of the card. Plus, it’s also the first ones I got a full set of — so it holds personal significance. That all helps make it a great one, in my opinion.

2011 Topps

In between two of the most disappointing designs — 2010 and 2012 — there’s a great 2011 set. Sure, some heavy editing to the cards that distorts some of the colors but there’s a lot to like about it. One of the great things about it is how minimal it is — outside of the nameplate on the bottom, there’s not a lot going on. Nice and crisp and clean. Throw in a great teamplate on top of a baseball, it’s cool to see. This set relies on the photos to carry the day and that’s the way a baseball card should be.

Honorable mentions: 1992 Upper Deck, 1996 Leaf, 1996 Upper Deck1997 Fleer, 2000 Topps, 2009 Topps.

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Topps should add these inserts into future baseball sets

I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of generic insert sets because they feel like a way to make collecting everything harder. Take the 2015 Update set for instance. Including parallels, there are 12 different subsets to collect — and that doesn’t even include any autographs, relics, or any other fancy types of cards.

That’s just a lot.

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Thankfully, Topps took a step forward last year by discontinuing the retail variations. If memory serves me correctly, there could be up to seven different variations of the same card on the market in certain years.

But as I’ve realized with buying 2015-16 Upper Deck Series 1 hockey cards in a rack pack (1 insert in the 32-card pack) I do appreciate getting something a little different.

And if my understanding of basic economics is correct, the harder and scarcer a card is, the more value it has. With so many subsets on the market today, they do have a tendency to feel like a filler.

But I digress. The point of this article is to throw out some suggestions for future inserts. Some of them will be base, others will be higher-end. After all, I do have a history of predicting a future insert:

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 12.51.08 AM

If you have any ideas that you would like to see, leave a comment below. But here are my five picks:

The Trades That Never Were

One part of baseball history that I love looking up is old trade rumors, especially of deals that didn’t go through. I like to see and try to figure out how the history of the game would be different. My idea is to see what these players who didn’t end up on certain teams would look like in other uniforms.

For instance, the Yankees were discussing a deal with Seattle for shortstop Felix Fermin before the 1996 season. One player involved in the discussions? Mariano Rivera (source). As a Yankees fan, I shudder to think about how different things would have been if that trade had been completed. But I would like to see Topps edit a Mariners uniform onto the greatest closer, and discuss the proposed trade on the back.

Other potential players include: Clayton KershawMatt KempJames Loney in a Marlins uniform (can also work as Miguel Cabrera in a Dodgers uni), Jon Lester with the Twins, Zack Greinke with the Nationals, Robinson Cano with the Diamondbacks, Royals or Rangers, David Wright with the Blue Jays, Barry Bonds in Atlanta, Albert Pujols with the Expos.

Oh, and let’s not forget about one of the most famous near-trades, Alex Rodriguez to Boston.

Same Face, Rare Place

One of the running jokes when Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. were announced as the Hall of Fame’s 2016 class was whether they would enter as a Marlin and White Sox (Sock??), respectively. They were with those teams for just a blip in their careers, but it’s still cool to see them in these seldom-seen threads.

Really, there’s not much more to say about it. This is a pretty self-explanatory card. Maybe put some info on the back about how they got to that team, but other than that, Topps can have fun with it. Getting the photos to some of them might be tricky, but I’m sure Topps could do it.

Others potential players include: Randy Johnson on the Astros, C.C. Sabathia on the Brewers, Manny Ramirez on the Athletics, Hideki Matsui on the Rays, Dale Murphy on the Rockies, John Smoltz with the Cardinals, Carlos Delgado on the Marlins.

Home Run Relics

You know how everyone goes crazy trying to chase down a home run ball (provided that it’s from the home team)? How about putting a piece of it into a card.

For this one, all Topps needs to do is track down a ball hit out of the park by certain players and put a piece of the rawhide into a card. I would imagine it’s no more difficult than putting in a piece of the jersey.

Don’t you think Angels fans would love to have a Mike Trout card featuring a piece of a ball he hit out for say his 23rd home run of the year? What about Cubs fans getting one of these cards featuring a Kris Bryant dinger? Teams/MLB tracks and authenticates all of this info now, so why not add some of it to Topps’ collection?

On the back of the card have a diagram of the park and where it went out, as well as the game situation. Do that and I think Topps would have a neat card in its lineup.

Curtain Calls

One of the great traditions of baseball is the curtain call. Whether it’s for setting a record or for hitting a clutch home run, it’s the best way fans can show their appreciation to their favorite players.

It would be neat to see it on its own subset. On the back can be some info about what earned the player that appreciation, and would be a cool way to chronicle a season.

The only hesitation I have about this insert line is that these photos are already used from time to time as base-type cards. After all, take a look at the Roger Clemens card to the left, and then this one of Oscar Taveras. Both of them are in mid-curtain call. But hey, I’m sure that wouldn’t stop Topps from making it a line.

Hit The Dirt

I feel like this has been used not that long ago in the Topps Opening Day lineup, but if so, it could be modified and used in the keystone line.

Everybody loves those gritty players who aren’t afraid to get their uniforms dirty — I’m looking at you Hunter Pence and Jose Altuve. So why not celebrate them with their own insert cards?

To turn it up a notch and make it even cooler, Topps could get some dirt from their stadiums and put it in a little case in the card. That way we could have the actual dirt that these players probably, well, hit.

Related: Why 1995 is my favorite Topps design

Dirt from the stadiums is a fairly popular keepsake so I’m sure collectors would appreciate this subset. And it would be unique.

So that’s my list. I don’t know if any of these will ever be produced but maybe some day if I ever get rich and get the MLBPA license to create my own line of cards, then you’ll see these. But until then, enjoy what Topps puts out and keep collecting!

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Five reason 1995 Topps is the best baseball card series

The one great thing about card collecting is seeing the changes in design year to year. Naturally, that leads to debate about whether the newest one is good, and which one is the best.

For me, nothing has topped the 1995 set. Sure, some have come close — I’m a particular fan of the 2000, 2004, and 2011 sets — but the 1995 one will always be my favorite.

Get your 1995 Topps cards here!

Here’s the description of the set from baseballcardpedia:

1995 Topps Baseball is a 660-card set divided into two series of 396 and 264 cards. As an aftereffect of the 1994-95 Major League Baseball Player’s Strike, Topps announced that production of 1995 Topps would be it’s [sic] lowest in 30 years.

Each pack contains one “CyberStats” card, a partial-parallel that shows the player’s computer-projected statistics had the entire 1994 season been played.

But the reason why I like them cannot be found (mostly) in that excerpt. Here are five of them:

The Awesome Photo Edits

Look at the photo(s) from the Wayne Kirby card at the right. How cool is that? You get to see a whole sequence play out. Topps easily could have just chosen one of those shots — let’s face it, any one of those would have been cool — but instead, it goes and tells the story of the play. That’s just awesome.

The Kirby card is far from the only one to get that treatment. Again, take a look at this Scott Servais card (good luck managing the Mariners this year, Scott!) and see how much fun Topps had with this one. Sure, it’s not as smooth of a card as the Kirby one, but it’s still cool to see something different.

Topps also nailed it in terms of limiting the number of heavily altered cards to make them interesting. In my opinion, that sequence card would be cool as an insert or maybe its own offshoot brand, but as the flagship set for Topps, doing it too much messing around would diminish the aesthetics of the set. In a way, it makes the cards — especially of “common” players — more memorable. It would be great to see Topps bring that back in the near future.

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The 90s Font

As a child of the 90s, I have a strong sense of connection with everything from that time period. I’m almost tempted to try to collect the Goosebumps and X-Files cards that Topps produced. But I digress.

Instead, I want to focus on the font on these cards. Specifically the font for the players names. It can be a little difficult to read via scans since it’s foil, but there’s just something so 90s about it. I know, that’s a great description. Maybe it’s because of the proliferation of computers during that time that made everything more “fun” and like it’s almost Word Art, but whatever the reason for it, I’ve always dug it. Plus, it’s a lot easier to read than the script from the 1994 production line.

It Was My First…. One That I Collected

I’m getting personal here, so this reason won’t apply to a lot of you. But my blog, my listicle, my rules. And this one holds a special place in my personal history.

I’ve collected cards for as long as I can remember, going all the way back to when I was 3 or so. But it wasn’t until I started getting the 1995 ones that I started actually collecting and saving them. I used to use these cards to play baseball, meaning that I set up as if my bedroom floor was a baseball diamond and had them hit Pogs (yay, 90s!) and play full games that usually only lasted until the 3rd inning when I got tired of playing the same game. But when these cards came out, my dad would take the already-opened packs, pick out the stars (I remember it as Frank Thomas and/or Barry Bonds being the first ones he ever picked out) and put them aside to save while I played with the rest.

So yes, this was my first…. set that I collected.

This Awesome Paul O’Neill Card

OK, I’m cheating here a bit and piggy-backing off the first point. But look at how cool this Paul O’Neill card is. Once again I have to give it up to the Topps design team from 20-plus years ago.

There are a couple of things I want to point out about this card. First, it’s slightly different than the sequence cards I mentioned earlier in that it’s setting a full scene and not a play. So putting it as its own point is valid in my book.

Also, it’s a very cool way to show how popular O’Neill was with Yankees fans — and I’m one so I should know (he says, not too pompously at all….). Granted, the Yankees were still emerging from the depths of obscurity in 1994 — when the pictures were presumably taken — so it’s not like they had hit the dynasty yet. It’s neat to see the support he got back then.

One last thought: Look at how empty that one right-field section was. I know the Yankees struggled to draw before the dynasty but dang, there are plenty of seats available. I haven’t seen a stadium that empty since the couple of late-season Braves games I went to last year (low blow, I know. Sorry, Atlanta fans).

The Introduction Of Foil Cards

Looking back at history, Topps started introducing foil variations in 1992 or so. But back then, they were just gold-foiled names/name blocks. Topps kicked it up a notch in 1995.

With the 1994 strike wiping out the final six weeks or so of the regular season, plus all of the playoffs, final-season stats were down. How did Topps make it so casual fans could see how their favorite players did in the 1994 season? By introducing CyberStats.

CyberStats, which I’ll admit confused me as a 5 year old, projects what stats players would have finished if the 1994 season had gone a full 162 games. And instead of just making the front of cards identical to the normal base card (I’m looking at you, SABR stats cards of recent years), they made the front rainbow-foiled. (Since I don’t have any scans of those cards, I’ll direct you to COMC.com to see what they look like.)

For as 90s as the font was, this parallel set was really ahead of its time. This idea was shelved until the 2011 set came out with its diamond-foiled parallels, and rainbow foil wouldn’t be seen again until this past year’s launch in what I’m going to assume is a 20th anniversary celebration.

Related: Five thoughts on 2015 Topps Update baseball cards

There are other features of this set that I like — such as the jagged edges of the photos and the ‘Diamond Vision’ photo on the back along with the mini cutout of the player — but I think you get the point. Plus, this design was used with Topps’ football and basketball lines which makes me want to collect them one day.

What do you think of this one? Let me know in the comments below!

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Does a Rookie of the Year Award equal higher baseball card prices?

It’s always fun to take a look back at past Rookie of the Year Award voting and see something crazy. This isn’t a shot at the voters — it’s just a way a baseball career works out.

Sometimes injuries cause the winner’s career to hit a downward spiral. Sometimes the book on the player gets out, and he fails to adjust to the league. Other times it’s just someone else further down on the voting who just needs a little longer to grow, and within a few years surpasses the winner in baseball’s echelon.

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This year’s voting will be fascinating to see for years to come too, but maybe for a different reason. With so many high-quality rookies there’s nobody for sure that we can assume is a one-year wonder.

In the AL, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Miguel Sano are the three finalists. Correa and Lindor look to be the best young shortstops in the AL since maybe the mid 90s when Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Nomar Garciaparra all broke into the league. Sano looks like a right-handed version of another former Twins prospect who went on to have a great, power-heavy career, David Ortiz.

Left off the ballot in the AL are guys who look to have solid futures or have had a great debut like Delino DeShields Jr., Blake Swihart, Mark Canha, Andrew Heaney, and Daniel Norris.

Over in the NL, the final vote is between Kris Bryant, Jung Ho Kang, and Matt Duffy. Bryant is the presumptive favorite whose base rookie card is listed for a minimum of $7 on COMC.com (for reference, Buster Posey‘s in listed at $6). Kang and Duffy are two names that no one would have reasonably picked at the beginning of the year but showed that they could be big-time hitters for the next few years (though Kang’s injury has me a bit worried as a Pirates fan).

The list of those players left off in the NL could easily make up a top three in any other year. Joc Pederson was a sensation in the first half of the year before cooling off a bit later on in the year. Noah Syndergaard showed why Mets fans think they could have a rotation full of young, hard-throwing arms once Zack Wheeler gets back. Kyle Schwarber can hit the ball a mile. Maikel Franco is a key part of the Phillies rebuild. And we haven’t even touched on guys like Justin Bour, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Addison Russell, Yasmany Tomas, Nick Ahmed, Odubel Herrera, and Andrew Chafin.

But since there can only be one winner, it begs the question: Does the winner’s cards get a bump in value? And the answer is a simple one: maybe. And if it does, it’s usually a short one.

Around this time in 2014, I had a pair of Jose Abreu rookie cards ready to be listed on eBay. Coming off a terrific rookie season, I had a feeling Abreu was going to win the award so I timed up to list his cards right around that time. Within a two-week span, I went from having two Abreu cards for sale to having two more cards to add to my sales log.

A couple of weeks later, I pulled another two Abreu rookie cards (which I still have for sale on my eCrater store) and tried to list them a couple of times. No dice this time around.

TIP: Click on a player’s name to see their cards listed in my eCrater store

One of the big reasons a rookie card gets a boost when the players wins the ROY, or any other award as I found out last year with Corey Kluber, is because they have a lot of attention paid to them at that point. Collectors tend to buy into it. It’s the same reason why things like a Hall of Fame election — that helped generate sales for me of Pedro Martinez and Frank Thomas cards in recent years — or retirements (thanks, Derek Jeter) generally helps boost the interest in that card.

However, the Rookie of the Year Award isn’t a sure-shot to increase demand of a rookie card. Collectors are generally smart and some times know exactly that whoever wins isn’t the best bet to project into a star in the long term. Some times the best player doesn’t even win.

Let’s go back to 2003, for example. Hideki Matsui came over to the Yankees, and proceeded to have the first of many very-good years in pinstripes. But did he win the award? Nope, that went to the Royals’ Angel Berroa. I had just turned a teenager that year so I wasn’t selling cards (but I was collecting!) but I remember there was still a greater demand for Matsui cards than there was for Berroa, regardless of the voting.

Other collectors know there’s no guarantee that a ROY indicates long-term success. Back in 2008, Geovany Soto won the NL award in a landslide. The runner up that year? Only a Canadian by the name of Joey Votto.

The same thing happened the next year. Can you remember who won it in 2009? It was the Marlins’ Chris Coghlan, who suffered through injuries and ineffectiveness and nearly washed out of baseball, but is now a good fourth outfielder for the Cubs. But do you know who was fourth in the voting that year? Only Andrew McCutchen.

So as you can see, predicting success and a healthy market for a Rookie of the Year’s cards can be a tricky proposition. But I’ll end this article by giving you a little help to predict it. I’ve taken a look at each winner in both leagues since 2005 and broken them down into three categories: the always valuable; valuable in the right circumstance; those who only hold valuable to specific fans.

Here’s how it shakes out:

ALWAYS

SEMI-VALUABLE

SPECIFIC FANS

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Gallery: Newcomers to the 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

The 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is out, and features 15 newcomers. Some of the big, new names are Ken Griffey Jr., and Trevor Hoffman.

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Want to see who else is making their debut on the ballot? Take a look at the baseball cards of 13 of them, and find the full list of both returnees and newcomers (as well as links to purchase their baseball cards, if available) below the gallery:

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Newcomers

Returnees

Related Posts

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Remember when these guys were Royals?

The Royals won the World Series in 2015, ending a long 30 years of title-less baseball. And in the past 20 years or so, there have been some lean times.

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The current Royals squad is made up of some pretty recognizable names like Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, and Alcides Escobar, but it wasn’t so long ago that they were trotting out guys like one-time All-Star Ken Harvey.

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So while it’s easy to focus in on the Royals of the past two years, take a look back at some Royals of the recent past through their baseball cards.

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Five thoughts on 2015 Topps Update baseball cards

While October is always bitter-sweet for baseball fans — the playoffs get underway, but that also means the end of the season in near — there is one big thing to look forward to for card collectors: Topps Update.

It would be nice to have the set out in time for the playoffs (think how cool it would be to have Carlos Correa while watching the Astros in the ALDS), but it makes sense for Topps to take some extra time to get everything down. Hopefully they took an extra glance over this year’s set, after having two sets of duplicate card numbers.

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The product hits selves on Oct. 21, so the countdown is on.

Here are my five thoughts — plus a bonus one — based on the set’s checklist (which you can view here). And as a set collector, I’m not going to address the big hits and inserts. This is a base-set only preview.

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INCREASED SIZE

Topps is continuing its 2015 trend of a bigger set. While series 1 and 2 ran 350 cards, Update is going to be an even bigger set to collect. It checks in at a whopping 400 cards. For set builders like myself, that’s a good news, bad news situation. The good news is that there will (hopefully) be fewer doubles. I’ve grown to like doubles a little more since selling some of them on my site, but I’d rather have a card go toward finishing the set any day of the week.

The bad news is that it’s going to be even harder to finish the set now, though. If the standard retail packs (where I get my cards) comes with 12 cards (minus the 2 insert cards per pack) at $2 per pack, set builders will need to spend at least 80 dollars to get the whole set. Of course, that’s assuming there are no doubles in any of those packs, which we all know will never happen. So for someone like me, I would have to spend into the triple digits to get the whole set. This just goes to show why you have to be in this hobby for enjoyment and not as a smart investment.

THE ROOKIES

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems in recent years that Update has been getting a majority of the good rookies. From 2011 on, these players have had a rookie card in this after-the-season set:

That’s a long list, and doesn’t even include the players who are above-average starters. This year’s set looks no different. Topps is heavily promoting rookie cards for Carlos Correa, Addison Russell, Noah Syndergaard, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Rodon, Joey Gallo, Byron Buxton, and others. You can see the full list here. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see this set rival the 2011 Update set in a few years in terms of the quantity of quality rookie cards.

Related: Recent Topps cards with playoff photos

SPIN TEAM

When I took a look at the checklist, card No. US15 confused me for a second. It said it was a Pirates card, but there was clearly no player named ‘River City Rakers’ on the roster. And as a Pirates fan, I knew it wasn’t one of their minor league teams, so I couldn’t figure out what it was. After about 30 seconds of thinking, it finally hit me. These were team cards. (You can get that Pirates card here.)

After a multi-year absence, Topps brought back team cards in series 1 and 2. In Update, they are going with a variation on the team cards. Normally I would just consider these cards to be set fillers. But with the larger set, and its effectiveness in the past, I’m willing to give it a shot.

COMBO CARDS

This new wrinkle combines my two previous observations. Not only is Topps filling the set with a bunch of rookies, but they are actually turning back the clock to put multiple players on the same card. This used to be a very common practice back from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, but I can’t think of them doing it after 2005. By my count, there are 14 of these combo cards though not many high-profile names among them. These cards might not make the set but are still neat to have.

SAME FACE, NEW PLACE

Really, one of the main reasons that Topps makes this set is to keep up with all the transactions that happened during the offseason, and during the actual year. This set is no different, as players who have spent the whole year with their team (like Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward, and Josh Donaldson) will finally get their first card in their “new” uniforms. It will also be the debut for players like David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, Yoenis Cespedes, Cole Hamels, and Jonathan Papelbon (which will be interesting to see how Nationals fans treat it) with their new teams after being traded midseason.

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We”ll also get veterans who weren’t expected to be big contributors this season, and therefore weren’t included in the first two sets of the year. Some of the names that stick out:

BONUS: And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the return of Ichiro to the Topps flagship set. Ichiro hasn’t been in the main Topps set since 2012, and was out of all Topps cards in both 2013 and ’14. So good job by Topps to get him back, especially on the eve of his 3,000th career hit. Now all they need to do is get Orioles catcher Matt Wieters to sign so they can produce his card.

All photos via Topps

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Gallery: Postseason baseball cards

We are just days away from the start of the MLB playoffs, aka the greatest baseball stretch of the year. Every year comes great baseball moments, that Topps will capture on their Season 1 set the following year, like this 2015 Madison Bumgarner one and this 2012 one of David Freese. We can even go back to 2004 to see an example of this playoff highlight card (Aaron Boone’s 2003 ALCS Game 7 card).

But it’s also time for Topps to get images that will be used as the base card for some players in the 2016 set. (Aside: Topps actually uses an outside agency for photos. I saw a good video of the process recently that Topps tweeted out but couldn’t find it again.)

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As we’ve seen a few times that past few years, Topps will insert these postseason images into a player’s base card. Here are some recent examples, and feel free to share your favorites in the comment section below.

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