After the debacle of the 80's and 90's, when baseball card companies overproduced their products and turned off many collectors, the industry had to re-invent itself with new and innovative products. Starting around 2000, the manufacturers began inserting different types of limited-edition products into standard packs of cards.
The simplest example is short-printed subset cards, where the regular issue card had parallel versions - the "blue" version might have only 150 available, while the "gold" version might be limited to 50. This created an entire new market, as some collectors wanted the scare cards of their favorite player or even desired the entire set of short-prints for a particular year.
Even more unique (and expensive) are the relic and autograph cards you can now find in many baseball card products. Relic cards are also described as "patch" or memorabilia cards and include an actual piece of authentic jersey, or bat, or shoe, or batting glove - you get the idea. Many of these are also limited in their production and the lower the serial number, the higher the demand.
Autograph cards are what most collectors are after in today's market. Card companies contract with MLB players to sign a certain amount of cards (or stickers that are applied to cards) each year and they are randomly inserted into packs you can buy at your local hobby store. In some cases, a card could even include multiple autographs and the signatures are not limited to current players because retired greats also make themselves available for signings. The photo with this article shows a beautiful Cal Ripken Jr. autograph card pulled directly from a 2007 pack of cards - what a thrill for the collector.
Of course, these upscale products aren't inexpensive and the chances of pulling the "key" card are slim, but do you feel lucky - well, do 'ya?
One evening last week, instead of searching eBay for baseball cards, the Old Duck spent 2 1/2 hours in front of the computer choosing the fantasy team that would defend his 2011 championship in an ESPN on-line league. Despite my dislike of the format, maybe some of these strategies or player choices will be of value to you in upcoming drafts. As was mentioned last week, the approach was to go "against the grain" or "out on the limb" at some point in hopes of catching lighting in a bottle. Last year, it worked with Carlos Santana, Ian Kennedy, Alex Gordon, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Beachy and others. So why not try it again?
This is a 15-team mixed league with 22-man rosters (1 catcher) and three reserve picks. The owners are a mixed bag - experienced Rotisserie players to casual fans and everything in between.
The Ducks had the 13th pick in round 1 and waited patiently while the first 12 were chosen...
1) Albert Pujols 2) Robinson Cano 3) Matt Kemp 4) Jacoby Ellsbury 5) Jose Bautista 6) Troy Tulowitzki 7) Miguel Cabrera 8) Joey Votto 9) Ryan Braun 10) Justin Upton 11) Evan Longoria 12) Prince Fielder
Deciding that consistency and stability were the priority, my pick at 1.13 was Adrian Gonzalez. By the time the snake arrived at my door in the 2nd round, Ian Kinsler had joined Cano as 2B off the board, so the Ducks took Dustin Pedroia at 2.18.
With 20+ spots to go before the 3rd round came around to me, the run on top-tier pitchers arrived in a major way. Jered Weaver (2.19), Roy Halladay (2.20), Justin Verlander (2.22), Clayton Kershaw (2.23), Cliff Lee (2.24), Tim Lincecum (2.26), C.C. Sabathia (2.29), Felix Hernandez (3.31), Cole Hamels (3.32) and Dan Haren (3.36) were all taken while I sat there helplessly. It would have been easy to panic and take a SP at this point, but my instinct was to fill more positions before addressing the hurlers. Starlin Castro (3.43) filled the SS spot and added a .300 + hitter with over 600 AB's and SB potential. On the way back, the Ducks added a very non-sexy pick in Michael Young (4.48) but he has multi-positional eligibility and amazing consistency in a potent line-up.
With the four IF positions filled, Round 5 was time for our first OF and Adam Jones joined the squad (5.73). By the time the 6th round came around, numerous other SP's were gone – Zack Greinke (4.54), David Price (4.55), Jon Lester (4.57), Matt Cain (4.58), Ian Kennedy (5.65), Yovani Gallardo (5.70), C.J. Wilson (5.72), Stephen Strasburg (5.74), Madison Bumgarner (6.76) and Matt Moore (6.77). Not wanting to be left completely in the dust, we added Daniel Hudson (6.78) as the team's first pitcher.
Round 7 added Buster Posey (7.103), so that put me in a position to only be concerned about OF and pitchers the rest of the way. Matt Garza was chosen next (8.108) and our first closer, Joel Hanrahan came on-board in the next round (9.133).
More upside potential was added in the OF with Cameron Maybin (10.138), then Johnny Cueto in the next round (11.163). Going further out on that proverbial limb, one of Tom Petty's favorite players (a Refugee) was next as Yoenis Cespedes joined the OF (12.168). CI David Freese was next (13.193) followed by MI Emilio Bonifacio (14.198).
More pitching followed in the next two rounds with Ryan Dempster (15.223) and Brett Myers (16.228). Couldn't pass up Brandon Belt at this point (17.253) and then added a 3rd closer in Matt Thornton (18.258). Another young OF (who will add 1B eligibility) in Yonder Alonso (19.283) and a veteran pitcher in Chris Capuano (20.288) were next, then Chris Iannetta in the utility spot (21.313) to guard against injury concerns with Posey. The final spot went to SP James McDonald (22.318)
How does the team look? Based on last year's stats in the five counting categories, the Ducks are in the middle of the pack or higher in each one. So, the good news is that the team doesn't have an obvious weakness. The other news is that many of these players need to play at the next level to put the squad in the hunt.
You'll be kept in the loop on the team's progress. Thanks for reading - your comments are welcome.