Friday, January 27, 2023

Rookie of the Year Spotlight: Scott Rolen

Some of the collections I have been working on over the years are starting to get filled out and my goals are being reached. As a result, I'm starting to slow down a little when it comes to acquiring many cards for some of my mini-collections. Now that the collection is feeling more and more complete, I wanted to start showcasing the cards I have, player by player.

One such collection is my Rookie of the Year collection. I love collecting players who have won the award as the top newcomer in each league. This wasn't born of hot rookie hype and the desire to prospect. Rather, I became fascinated thinking about the careers of guys like Eric Karros, Jerome Walton, and Tim Salmon, who experienced varying degrees of success but may not have become superstars. I thought it would be fun to have a collection that chronicles the individual career journeys of rookie stars--whether they burned bright and flamed out quickly, regressed to the mean, or wended their way to Cooperstown.
My goal has been to fill a binder page for each player who won the award in my lifetime and to fill a row for older players. I may expand that later as I expand my vintage collection. The ultimate goal of my binder is to show a card from every different uniform the player wore, from fresh-faced rookie to grizzled vet. This series is to commemorate each Rookie of the Year's career and show my collection of their cards. I have a randomized list of winners that I use to determine the order of these posts, but for the second time in a row, I'm going away from that order. Today we highlight

Scott Rolen

It's not every day that I get to do one of my regular series posts on the guy who is the talk of baseball at the moment. Well, one of the topics of conversation, at least. Scott Rolen was just elected to the Hall of Fame, to be officially inducted alongside one of my other collecting project PCs, Fred McGriff.
Rolen broke into the Bigs in 1996, appearing in 37 games for the Phillies and putting out a .254/.322/.400 slash line. He remained on the roster in 1997, becoming the full-time 3rd baseman for the club. His 1997 season saw him hit 21 HRs with a strong OPS of .846 over 156 games. It was enough to earn him all the first-place Rookie of the Year votes in the National League. The two closest players behind him in the voting were Florida's Livan Hernandez and St. Louis' Matt Morris, who both received 25 total voting points--well behind Rolen's 140.
Though his rookie-year defense was the shakiest of his career (24 errors and a career-low .948 fielding percentage), it developed nicely in 1998. In his second season, he took home the first of his eight Gold Gloves. Not only that, but his OPS improved to .923, his home runs to 31, and he played in all but two games. Scott "Rockin'" Rolen's numbers stayed steady at the top of his position for the next 5 1/2 years before he finally got his first All-Star nod. 
It was just after that All-Star appearance in 2002 that Philadelphia traded him (along with Doug Nickle) to St. Louis for Placido Polanco, Bud Smith, and Mike Timlin. Over the next six seasons with the Cards, Rolen played in four more All-Star games, won three Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger, and finished as high as fourth in the MVP voting (2004). 

After the 2007 season, the Cardinals traded him to the Blue Jays in a swap of third basemen, receiving Troy Glaus in return. Though his play had declined in 2007, he bounced back in Toronto with a WAR over 3 in both of his seasons there. He was traded at the deadline in 2009, going to Cincinnati for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart. He played in Cincinnati until 2012. He retired after 2012 at the age of 37, but not before being named an All-Star at ages 35 and 36 with the Reds.

For his career, Rolen slashed .281/.364/.490, picked up 2077 hits, and slugged 316 homers. He drove in 1287 runs, too. Those numbers aren't too shabby and earned him one Silver Slugger. However, he may have been even better known for his defense. In 2023 career games at third base (the only position he would play in the Majors), he finished with positive runs saved above average in every season but one. (Since the stat started being kept in 2003. He won eight Gold Gloves in his 17 seasons.

To be completely honest, I remembered watching Rolen play and was impressed. Maybe it was because of my anti-St. Louis Cardinal bias. Or maybe it was because he never really led the league in anything. Either way, I didn't ever think much of his Hall of Fame candidacy. Seeing how solid and consistent he was throughout his career as I wrote this post, however, has opened my eyes. I think he was absolutely a good candidate and I'm glad to have a ROY PC of another Hall of Fame player. He makes the 19th former Rookie of the Year to make it to Cooperstown.

Friday, January 20, 2023

The Joy of a Year's Worth of Completed Sets

Since the time that I apparently decided I was a bit of a set collector, around five years ago, I have kept track of the final card of each set. To me, it's a fun exercise to look back at which card was the most elusive and see how many sets were knocked off my needs list each year. I've found that I tend to finish off around a dozen sets in a typical year (many of them small insert sets), with 2020 being a high point of 27 and 2021 a low point of seven. 2022 rode the flow back to a higher point, with 17 sets completed. Here is a review of those sets I put to bed last year.

2021 Topps Opening Day

220 cards; Last card: #218 Daniel Johnson

It used to be that a box of Opening Day yielded a complete set. For the last few years, that hasn't been the case. After my box of 2021 Opening Day, Daniel Johnson was the last card I tracked down.

2015 Score Gridiron Heritage

25 cards; Last card: #16 Ozzie Newsome

2016 Panini

300 cards; Last card: #285 Paul Perkins

I took my time on this set, opting only to pick up the missing rookies when I found them for less than 75 cents. Ironically, Perkins was the last card I needed--but the foil parallel has been in my collection since I broke my first box of the product 6 years before completing the set.

1998 Fleer Tradition

250 cards; Last card: #182 Derrick Rodgers

 This set was part of my mission to complete one set for every year that I have been collecting. By 1998, I was barely collecting. But I wanted to keep the complete set streak years going. I wasn't sure about 1998 because of the big rookies in the year (Peyton Manning, Randy Moss, Charles Woodson, etc.) I was able to find them pretty easily and inexpensively for this set. The streak will stop at 2000, though. There's no Tom Brady rookie I could afford.

2012 Leaf National Convention

90 cards; Last card: ??

This is an interesting one. I bought this oddball multi-sport set from ebay because I'd never seen it before. The listing said it was a 98-card set. But when I went to enter it into TCDB, I discovered that it was listed as 100 cards on the database. I was missing Marshall Faulk and Eric Dickerson. However, I've still been unable to even verify the existence of those cards. So, was it a 98-card set and TCDB has an incorrect checklist, or am I to search forever for Faulk and Dickerson?

2021 Panini Prestige

300 cards; Last card: --

I didn't collect this set piecemeal. I bought the entire set in one fell swoop. Frankly, newer products have become so expensive as unopened products that I may have to complete many base sets by just buying complete sets.

2012 Panini Cooperstown The Village

10 cards; Last card: NNO Otesaga Hotel

This is a set that I thought I had completed years ago. Last year, I discovered one missing card and had to go back and finish it off. Someday I'll go to Cooperstown.

1998 Pinnacle Mint

30 cards; Last card: #18 Cal Ripken, Jr.

This was a fun one. I collected the base set--all of which have holes for the coins. I collected the brass coins, too. It just so happened that the last card and the last coin were the same. I picked up the coin first and it sat on my desk for a few weeks while I waited for the cardboard part. It was cool to unite the two to finish off the set. Both of them, actually.

1992 Upper Deck MVP Holograms

54 cards; Last card:--

This one is a boxed set I already posted about.

1992 Fleer

720 cards; Last card: --

Part of my junk wax rampage this past summer. After tackling 1989-1991 sets a piece at a time, I opted for a factory set of 1992.

1993 Topps Colorado Rockies Inaugural Edition

825 cards; Last card: --

Another factory set. This one left me with a story about my collection I'll never forget. You can read about it here.

 2022 Topps Opening Day

220 cards; Last card: #204 Joey Bart

Same story as the 2021 Opening Day set. This one didn't spill over into the next year, though.

1993 Upper Deck (Berman's Best subset)

10 cards; Last card: #433 Jerry Rice

Probably nobody but me counts this as a completion. I was just shooting for the "Berman's Best" subset. I've loved Chris Berman's nicknames since I was a kid. Bonus points to this set for containing my only Chris Berman card.

1990 Topps

792 cards; Last card: #417 Jim Gantner

Not gonna lie. This set was a ton of fun to build. I didn't have much to begin with. Instead of busting packs, I learned what a vending box was. I pulled massive junk wax trades on TCDB. Is it my favorite set? Not even close. Was it some of the most fun I've had collecting in a 4-month span? You betcha.

1990 Bowman Sweepstakes

10 cards; Last card: NNO Bo Jackson

While searching for lots of over-produced cards for my set builds, I came across this little promotional insert from 1990 Bowman. I'd never seen them before I bought a monster box of junk cards. I'm a sucker for art cards, so I just put them all aside as I dug through the box. A quick trade later and the set was all mine.

2022 Panini Chronicles Draft Donruss Retro

25 cards; Last card: --

In the fall, I had some extra card money set aside and I went on a bit of a spending spree. Part of that included finding a deal on this set of current NFL stars in their college uniforms on the 1992 Donruss design.

2022 Panini Chronicles Draft Score Retro

25 cards; Last card: --

From the same seller came a deal on this set of NFL All-Time greats in college on the 1992 Score baseball (but not football) design. Kudos for having a BYU player in each set.

So I polished off all of those sets in 2022. Some I started and finished within the calendar year. Some were years in the making. Some were acquired as factory sets, others as hand-collated sets. Some were spur-of-the-moment, found-the-right-deal-on-a-fun-set-I-had-never-considered-building-until-this-point purchases. But at the end of December 2022, I had 17 more complete sets in my possession.

And almost 18. Here is one that was oh-so-close. I still intend to complete one set each year, even though 2020 posed a problem for me. You remember 2020, don't you? Cards were scarce and prices started to skyrocket. Either I never found or couldn't afford to buy any 2020 football products at all. And with the success of a few top rookies in the class--Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Jonathan Taylor, to name just a few--I wasn't sure I'd be able to afford a complete 2020 football set in the near future. But I found a decent price on a small Panini set on eBay one day. Chronicles only has a 100-card base set, but rookies are there. So I picked up the set and called 2020 done.

After it arrived, I left it on the shelf, unopened for about two months. Just this past week, I finally cracked the box open. And I discovered this:

Foil never scans well, so let me explain what you're seeing. The base cards in this set have silver foil in the helmet "C" logo, the team name, the position, and "Chronicles" across the bottom. Fourteen cards from my purchased set weren't base; they were parallels. The colored cards were mostly pink (Jackson, Polamalu, Kelce, Watt, Rice, and others), but some were bronze (Alexander and Sanders), green (Hockensen), and blue (Swift). Still, the major components were there, so I'm okay going back to complete the final 14 with actual base cards. Even if that means one less set in 2022.

2023 has already brought me two more set completions. Let's see how the rest of the year goes.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Incoming Goodies from Bloggers

I'm working on a 2022 summary post or two, but first, I must give some recognition to a few fellow bloggers for the incoming cards I've received from them. Trading on TCDB is great, but it still doesn't beat a good swap between bloggers. Though I've met exactly zero of you in blogosphere, I feel like I know you through your words over the years and the trades seem more personal.
First up, Tom from Angels in Order took a novel approach to initiating trades between bloggers by posting a bunch of cards for trade, giving readers a chance to claim cards they want, and requesting a return package. I chose these six for my collection. My favorite is the red parallel of former BYU hurler Jeremy Guthrie.

After seeing former BYU linebacker Kurt Gouveia on one of my posts, GCA asked which Gouvieas I lacked. As a Commanders (formerly Redskins) collector, he had a couple to send my way. It's not really visible in this picture, but the top left Gouveia is one of the cool Special Effects parallels from 1994 Topps. I've always liked those. Then he sent along a few other cards that meet the requirements for my NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. Thanks a ton, Greg!

Finally, Kerry--of Cards on Cards--and I worked out a trade over TCDB. The top scan features a nice mix of collection needs. The bottom scan is a quartet of set needs. The highlight of this trade is the acquisition of 2022 Opening Day Joey Bart--AKA, the last card needed for the set. Thanks Kerry (Madding) for the set kill!

Speaking of completed sets, my next post will likely summarize all of the sets I was able to knock off the ol' wantlist in 2022. Opening Day was just one of them.