In 2010, Topps breathed new life into the baseball card industry when it released one of the most star-studded rookie and prospect laden products since 1992.
Led by Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward and Buster Posey; and later by Bryce Harper, Starlin Castro, Aroldis Chapman and Madison Bumgarner; Bowman reaped record sales of this game-changing brand.
With aggressive global marketing, terrific advertising and strong endorsement of the aforesaid players by MLB pundits, many collectors embraced that kid-like thrill to get a piece of the pack-ripping action.
By late June that year, people were paying hoards of cash on hobby boxes and jumbo boxes to get their hands on rare autographs. Even major retailers like Wal Mart could not re-stock Bowman fast enough.
Bowman’s hype seemed to reach its zenith in June 2010 with the news that Stephen Strasburg’s 1/1 Superfractor sold for more than $21,000.
Meantime, All-Star slugger Miguel Cabrera was enjoying yet another spectacular season for the Detroit Tigers. Before the above phenoms had even set foot on big league turf, Cabrera had already mustered an impressive MLB career.
Already a World Series winner with the Florida Marlins, Cabrera had established himself as a premier MLB hitter. An incredibly cerebral batter, Cabrera had learned the art of spraying the ball to all fields—with power to boot.
Still just 30 years old, Cabrera has batted .320 with 338 home runs and 1,188 RBI in his 10-year career. Cabrera’s .397 on-base percent is just one point shy of Joe DiMaggio (per Baseball Almanac). His career .962 OPS is 16th all-time. Only Albert Pujols (1.013) has a higher OPS among active major league players. Cabrera’s .565 slugging percent is 13th all-time.
Yet despite Cabrera’s sterling career, collectors have seemed to yawn at his cardboard. Minus Cabrera’s rare autographs and 2000 Topps rookie cards (as seen in recent eBay auctions), apathy toward this guy in the market continues to this day.
Why is this?
More specifically, with all Cabrera’s achievements why are his base cards are not consistently listed in major baseball card price guides? Surely he deserves to be regularly listed in Beckett Magazine along with stars like Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter and Justin Verlander. Surely, Cabrera has proven to be a better player than Dustin Pedroia, Evan Longoria and Alex Rodriguez (if you take A-Rod’s admitted use of PEDs into consideration).
So why the monster shun?
Some fans in the blogosphere say Cabrera’s DUI conviction has turned collectors away. Others have said the fact Cabrera plays in Detroit (vs. a place like New York or Boston) is to blame. There is also a third camp that thinks the hobby’s cold shoulder toward Cabrera lies in him being a late big league bloomer.
“It’s harder for a guy who wasn’t a star or hot prospect when he came up to become super hot collectible player later in his career,” wrote Brett Legendre on the Sports Collectors Daily Facebook page. “Collectors are too enamored by the young hot super star prospect and don’t give much credit to someone who has developed over the years. Collectors give up quick too. I call it the Joba effect.”
While this point has some validity for some players, Cabrera is no Joba (Chamberlain). Nor is Cabrera really a late bloomer. Nor is this Triple Crown winner in the twilight in his career.
In fact, given his first full season in 2004, Cabrera darted out the gates and has not looked back since.
Also impressive, in just one year in this same stretch did Cabrera have less than 180 hits in a season. In three separate seasons (2005, 2006, 2009), Cabrera threatened the 200-hit plateau.
The one time Cabrera had less than 180 hits in a full season in this same stretch was in 2004. That year Cabrera had 177 hits in his sophomore campaign. Still, Cabrera hit .294 with 33 home runs and 112 RBI for the Marlins that year.
Now 2013, Cabrera is pacing toward a second Triple Crown. Through 58 games, he is batting .373 with 17 home runs and 66 RBI. Cabrera’s 88 hits lead all major league hitters. As does Cabrera’s .450 OBP.
Only blooming Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis boasts a gaudier SLG and OPS (.732/1.168) than Cabrera’s .661/1.111 line (per ESPN stats).
So what gives? Why in the face of Cabrera’s early success has the hype machine not given this proven superstar (and three-time World Series player) the cardboard respect he deserves?
Surely it is only a short matter of time before the floodgates open wide for Cabrera’s collectibles. Right?
Who knows? Maybe it will take Cabrera winning a second Triple Crown to achieve this end. Or maybe it will take Cabrera finally winning a World Series ring with the Tigers.
Regardless of what it takes, it should not be so tough for Cabrera to break the cardboard barrier as guys who still have not proven as much.
Cabrera is becoming a baseball legend before our very eyes. He has a rare blend of agility, power and dependability fans may never see again. It is time for same hype machine that invests so much in the unproven to come to grips with this fact.