Friday, November 27, 2015

Mike Trout 2011 Bowman Draft RC

Photos: from my own collection

Here's a Mike Trout Bowman Draft rookie card.

This is not to be confused with the 2011 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome rookie card, or the 2011 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome Draft rookie card.  Both cards with "draft" in the name are #101, while the Chrome is #175.  Go figure.  What I can tell you is that when I went to bid on these, and the many dozens of other options that showed up, I had to look at my Beckett Graded book to see which one was which time and time again, since the three different cards also have different values.  I had to stop a few times and adjust my eyes, and it doesn't help that the listings on Ebay are often misleading or flat-out incorrect.  The sellers didn't seem to know what they were selling, at times, since some said they were selling a Bowman Chrome when they were actually selling a Bowman Chrome Draft.  There were many other misleading tags as well.  Crazy. And, oh yeah, there are tons of bunched-together listings in the Beckett book, and they tended to blur together after awhile, too.

I also had to look at the established Mike Trout rookie cards from, which lists the actual rookie cards of every important player.  This is now necessary, since there are so many cards that say "rookie" or "RC" on them, but they're not actual rookies, they just got released in the player's rookie year.  That makes it a rookie, right?  No, because there are so many subsets from the same card company that not each of them are considered rookies.  Plus, there are a lot of "prospect" cards, which used to mean rookie, but now doesn't.  And some players have a rookie card even before their rookie year or their prospect card--see: Mark McGwire's Olympics card, which is his rookie.

For those who're wondering, Mike Trout's only rookie cards are: 2011 Bowman Chrome #175; 2011 Bowman Chrome Draft #101; 2011 Bowman Draft #101; 2011 Bowman Sterling #22 (Good luck! That one's BV is $150 for a NmMt 8 and $500 for a Gem 9.5 / 10); 2011 Finest Baseball #94 and 2011 Topps Update #US175.  (See how the Chrome and Topps is #175?  That's because Topps owns Bowman, but all the Bowman Draft sets and subsets are #101.)  That's a lot to see, and blur through, while you're sorting out listings by condition, cost, reputation and listing accuracy--the last of which was terrible!

And thank you to Cardboard Connection for providing those separate rookie and prospect listings.

By the way, did you know that prospect cards are released before the rookie cards, so you'll see them before you see the rookie cards, which used to be the ones you'd see first?  And some prospect cards are traded and bought like they're rookies, and are often worth much more than the rookie cards!

Anyway, as I mentioned in the previous Bryce Harper entry, I don't usually buy recent rookie cards. Bryce Harper is an exception worth taking a chance on.  Mike Trout is an exception you have to take a chance on.  Trout is a no-brainer, like Pujols was, but more so, because Pujols was so obvious, and so alone in the field of new players at the time, that he didn't even have to be awesome to be the one to buy at that time.

Mike Trout is different because he is shoulders above some very impressive newer players in the past few years.  Bryce Harper also stands out almost as much.  But there's also Paul Goldschmidt, the most underrated player in baseball, who's finished second in the MVP voting the past two straight years, and who noticed?  Very quiet player who plays for a very bad team; had he played for the Yankees, we'd be talking about him like we do Trout and Harper.  (I've been trying to get a Goldschmidt rookie, too, though I have far surpassed my holiday spending.  But a Mint Condition Goldschmidt Topps Update RC is only $10--and that's Buy It Now, not even bidding.  (Bids tend to be a few bucks cheaper.)  Anyway, I feel Goldschmidt is a sleeper, and I'm going to get his rookie now while it's cheap.  I just did the same with Jose Altuve's, which is just plain cheap; I got 7 Altuve Bowman RCs for $7, including shipping.  Ungraded, sure, but I gave to a friend the one with a few corner dings, and I'll send the best of the others to get graded and take my chances.

And we haven't talked about Rizzo, or Correa, or Arrieta, or any of the other ones.  These last 3-4 years have been amongst the best three to four year stretch for rookies since the early 90s.

Anyway, Mike Trout stands way above all of these guys, and the collectors seem to know it, since his ungraded Bowman cards sell for about $20 when bidding, and over $30 for Buy It Now.  Lots of buyers are Buying It Now, too, which tells me they're in very high demand, since experienced Ebay shoppers would rather spend $10 more just to know they can get one.

I spent $19.38 for the one pictured above, and that includes shipping.

So I'm taking a chance, because once I send it away, it has to be graded an 8 or better for me to break even.  In fact, an 8 is just $20 BV, so I'll lose out a little bit because I have to pay for it to be graded (I wait for the $5 or $7 specials from SGC) and I have to pay about a buck combined for shipping and insurance.  (I send 10 cards at a time to SGC, because it costs the same to ship and insure 1 card as it does 10 cards, so you may as well do 10.)

Since I'm spending another $7 to $9 or so on the grading, shipping and insuring, I need this card to get graded at least an NmMt+ 8.5, worth $25, in order to break even.  I have no idea whether this card is that or not, as I have long ago decided that I'm not going to drive myself crazy predicting a grading company's grade for a card, since I have conclusive evidence that they're often wildly off their own grading scale, and so it's basically a crapshoot.  This is especially true of newer cards.  (I've been very good at grading T206s--but the grading companies have been much more consistent with their grades for those, too.)  Even cards from the mid-80s have been graded one or two grades different than I'd predicted.  Why's my 1980 Rickey Henderson RC an 8 rather than a 9--which is a difference of about $275 in Ebay bidding value?  Couldn't tell you.  What's the difference between my Rickey 8 and the previous Rickey 7 it just replaced?  I don't know.  The corners and the gloss and the centering are the same.

Will this one break even?  I don't know, but here's why it's worth the chance for me, and also why I bought a 2011 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome RC and a 2011 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome Draft RC:

--Trout's RC values have increased lately and, I believe, will continue to do so.  For a long time.

--My Trout Chrome RC is a 9 and the Chrome Draft RC is a 9.5, so I've got my Mint condition Mike Trout rookie card situation covered.  (Those deals will be blogged about when they come in.)

--If this one is a dud--say, a 6 or 7--I can give it as a gift to either a relative or a friend of mine.  Neither takes this anywhere near as seriously as I do, and would love to have a Trout rookie of any grade.

--Worst possible scenario: I can sell it at the occasional yard sale I have every other summer, and I can get $20 to $25 for it, no problem, especially from older folks who love baseball but hate the internet.  And there's lots of those!

And that's why I bought an ungraded Mike Trout rookie, and would do so again, for either the relative or the friend who doesn't get this one.

Sorry for the long entry!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bryce Harper 2012 Bowman Platinum

Photo: from my collection, scanned in.

So, this is Bryce Harper's 2012 Bowman Platinum rookie card, graded in PSA 9 Mint condition.  I got it for $8.51, plus $1.18 shipping, for a total of $9.69.  (This was in a package of 3 other cards from the same Ebay company.  I may write about those cards another time.)  The book value of this card from the Beckett Graded Card Price Guide is $25.  The Ebay selling price lately for this is about $20 to $25.  I got a Mint condition card for even less than half of what I can re-sell it for, which is always what I try to do.  I always buy with an eye to re-sell, if necessary in the future, so I always buy for about half the book value, and for about 75% of the recent Ebay value.  I made out well here.

I normally don't buy baseball cards of recent rookies or of recent new stars because their values can fluctuate wildly over a very short time.  If you take a look at the values of autographed rookie cards, or of prospect cards of the hottest new player, they've often cost hundreds--and thousands!--of dollars, and for what?  For the player to crash and burn, and now his cards are worthless, and all that money is down the drain.


However, Bryce Harper, and--even more so--Mike Trout are rare exceptions.  Trout's Bowman rookie cards are worth hundreds of dollars or more in Mint or Gem condition.  (I just got a Mint at about $50 and a couple of ungraded ones I'll take a chance on at $20 apiece.  If the ungraded ones get graded and turn out really low, I can give them away as gifts to guys I know who'd be thrilled to have them.) I may run an entry about my Mike Trout cards soon.

So why Bryce Harper?  Well, he won the ROY Award a few years ago, and just won the MVP.  Last year he hit .330.  He slugged .649 with over a 1.100 OPS.  He hit over 40 homers (with just 99 RBIs, but he's not to blame if nobody's on in front of him) and walked 124 times for a ridiculous .460 on-base percentage.

He has rubbed a few the wrong way, and certainly he had his cocky and immature moments--but remember a guy who was so cocksure and immature he was called The Kid?  I'm not saying Bryce Harper will even come close to Ted Williams, of course, but he has the tools--if he can stay healthy, mature and not party too much--to hang around a long time and to put up potential HOF numbers.

That's what I'm counting on.  Mike Trout has a better chance to do so, and I'll write about him next.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Patriots 27 NYG 26

Photo: The catch that wasn't, from Jason Szenes of the New York Times.  Article at BTW, note to the Times: The caption beside this photo says, "The Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. made a catch past the Patriot's Malcolm Butler (21)."  No, he didn't.  That was the play of the game, you know.

A few things from this game, the best I've seen all year and probably better than a few playoff games to come:

--"The receiver had not yet become a runner."  That was from Ed Hochuli, who seems to have toned down his tight-shirt accentuating his toned upper-body thing.  No better explanation necessary for why an incompletion is so, even in the end zone.  And, I noticed at the time, the receiver's second foot had not made solid contact with the ground before the ball had popped loose.  In short, the receiver has to make the catch and complete some other kind of football play.  That didn't happen.

--And Malcolm Butler, who knocked the ball out of Odell Beckham's hands on that play, really saved the day, and more than made up for his one awful play--the throw on the second play from scrimmage that allowed  (Though McCourty actually ran into him on that play, and it was more McCourty's fault overall than his.)  The Giants had to settle for a field goal a few plays later, which put them ahead only by 2 with about 1:30 left.

--Losing Edelman for anything longer than this game is really going to hurt.  He does so many things well, but he's also really Brady's favorite receiver.  And with Dion Lewis out, that's especially painful.

--The true great ones win in dramatic fashion even when they're not at their best.  That was Brady today.  Really fortunate not to have 1 or 2 more INTs in this game, and a TD is taken back on a holding call, and he throws a pick on the goal line...and they still win.  After completing on a 4th and 10, no less.

--Gostkowski may be the best kicker in the NFL right now, and maybe has been for quite awhile.  Nothing against Vinitiari, and these comparisons are sort of useless anyway.  But a 54-yarder is not a gimme, of course, and this was to win the game, after being iced once, in hostile territory.

--Eli Manning vs. Tom Brady and the Patriots is like Geno Petralli vs. Roger Clemens.  Go figure.  And you get a safety if you leave a comment to explain this one, since you'd have to be my age and a serious Sox fan to get it.  But it's a solid comparison, in its own way.

--Amendola is another Edelman, who himself was another Wes Welker.  Unbelievably awesome receivers who run for a ton of yards after the catch, and make great catches, and catch 7-10 passes per game, and can be used as occasional running backs.  They're also short--much shorter than average in the NFL--and bounce back up after catastrophic hits.  The Patriots keep churning out these guys.

--The Patriots have, in MHO, the best quarterback, tight end, kicker, receiving corps and coach in the NFL.  That'll equal a lot of victories.

--I'm going to bet that Belichik does not retire when Tom Brady does.  But they'll forever be thought of together, now and in the Hall of Fame.

--The Patriots barely beat the Giants in their almost-perfect season as well, for those who remember.  So let's not get cocky here.

Monday, November 9, 2015

2016 HOF Ballot

Photo: Ken Griffey, Jr. from his Wikipedia page

I know I promised a lot of blogs about last year's HOF ballot and winners & losers, and I really dropped the ball on that (pun intended).  I'll follow through this time.  I think.

The ballot: Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Luis Castillo, Roger Clemens, David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Troy Glaus, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Trevor Hoffman, Jason Kendall, Jeff Kent, Mike Lowell, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Lee Smith, Sammy Sosa, Mike Sweeney, Alan Trammell, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker, Randy Winn.

My 10 picks, and the order of my vehemence (c'mon, that's a nice phrase):

1. Ken Griffey, Jr. (of course)

2. Alan Trammell (yes; see recent blog entry)
3. Barry Bonds
4. Roger Clemens
5. Mike Piazza
6. Jeff Bagwell (I know the sniff of steroid scandal surrounds these last four, but none of them ever failed an MLB drug test, or got suspended for PED use. And it's time the writers got off their high-horse.)

These first six are no-brainers, in my opinion.  And repeat after me: Baseball writers are not judges or pariahs.  Baseball writers are not judges or pariahs.  Baseball writers are not...

The next four should go in, but I'm ambivalent about them, in almost equal vehemence. I'd be okay with none of the four getting in, but the stats show that they should:

7. Mark McGwire OR Sammy Sosa (Repeat after me again: Baseball writers are not...McGwire gets the nod from me because of his Gold-Glove caliber defense at first.)

8. Curt Schilling (May place ahead of McGwire and Sosa, whose stats are better and who made bigger overall impacts during the regular season.  Schilling's numbers are better than Mussina's overall, but not by as much as you would think.  Voters aren't supposed to consider the post-season while voting, but...How could you not with Schilling?)
9. Mike Mussina (I see him as a Veterans Committee pick many years from now.)
10. Edgar Martinez OR Trevor Hoffman (The writers see these guys as part-time players, almost.  In truth, Hoffman might have a better shot than Edgar.  But the closer role and the DH are positions, nonetheless, even if a typical closer pitches just 75 innings a year and the DH essentially pinch-hits 5 times a game.)

I still can't justify Tim Raines getting in, though I mentioned last year that if he hadn't played at the same time as Rickey Henderson (and if that vial of coke hadn't shattered in his uniform pocket when he slid into home that day), then he'd be in the Hall.  I still believe that.

Lee Smith, as I said last year, was simply not a dominant closer.  Period.  Eckersley and Rivera were, and they're in the Hall.  Hoffman was not dominant like those two were, ever, but he was more than Smith was, every year.  I'm not sure he was dominant enough to make my Hall.  Probably at some point.  Not this time.  The writers will vote him in, anyway, because they won't vote in the steroids-stained, despite their innocence in MLB's court of law. But he should get in before Billy Wagner does.  Wagner probably doesn't belong at all. Same goes from McGriff and Sheffield, though Sheffield was probably more of an overall force than McGriff.  Had either played for the dominant teams of their time, however, each would be a lock for the Hall.  But whispers surround them as well, especially Sheffield.

I'll have to research Jeff Kent's numbers, but I'd be surprised if he wasn't among the top-10 best-hitting second basemen of all-time.  I hear that when Kent played with Bonds on the Giants, a reporter asked everyone else on the team not named Kent or Bonds to vote for the most-hated man on the team.  Every player said it was Kent, and it wasn't close.

Had Nomar never been drilled in the wrist that day, he would've been better than Jeter, especially in peak value.  But baseball is full of what-ifs.  He broke his wrist and he faltered.