Author Archives: Matthew Lug

2016 Biggest Pulls

End of the Line?

2016 will go down as they year when I just couldn’t take it anymore. Ever-diminishing returns (even with the annual Kris Bryant autograph) already had me cutting back on hobby boxes. The proliferation of the same things in every product and the lack of anything new (Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz autographs in everything and no new prospect autographs until December) certainly gave me plenty of reasons to pass even on old favorites. And with the focus on the high end more than ever ($22,000 for one box?), nothing new was drawing my interest. And that’s just on the input side of the equation.

On the output side, rising postage rates and eBay fees (and new requirements pushing Top Rated Seller status beyond the reach of most mere mortals) made the prospect of selling unwanted cards something to dread. Why pay for a box that guarantees a hit when the hit will either be worthless or require dealing with eBay? I listed 12 items in 2016. 6 sold. And one of those got sent back, despite my listings clearly stating that returns are not accepted. That was the last straw.

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2017 Mets Debut Autographs

Waiting for Amed

So, um, that didn’t work. After three increasingly awful starts for the Mets, Tommy Milone hit the DL and hasn’t been seen since. Meanwhile, the Mets brought in Neil Ramirez to, um, exist in the bullpen and called up Binghamton’s all-time wins leader Tyler Pill to be the sensitive alternative to Rafael Montero in the rotation (Montero would later return to the rotation…). With their season hanging by a thread and a gaping hole at shortstop, the Mets held off on calling up top prospect Amed Rosario. Even after the Super 2 deadline had certainly passed, the Mets held off on calling up top prospect Amed Rosario. With just one more new Met with an autograph card needed to bring the total number of Mets with certified autograph cards up to exactly half of the all-time player list, the Mets held off on calling up top prospect Amed Rosario. Instead, they called up Pill’s 2011 draft classmate Chasen Bradford. The reasons change, but the result is the same – Rosario is not in Queens or anywhere else the big league team goes. Maybe after the All-Star break? It’s hard to argue that he’s not ready when he seems bored in Las Vegas and being ready is part of his catchphrase. He’s ready, we’re waiting, and…

Paul Sewald* Adam Wilk Tommy Milone Neil Ramirez
8 April 2017 7 May 2017 10 May 2017 20 May 2017
Tyler Pill* Chasen Bradford*
27 May 2017 25 June 2017

*MLB Debut
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1967 Mets Draft Class Autographs

If at first you do succeed, the rest really doesn’t matter

1 Jon Matlack 2 Dan Carey 11 Jesse Hudson 38 Dave Schneck

In the third year of the amateur draft, the Mets had their least eventful group of selections yet. After getting lucky on Nolan Ryan in 1965 and infamously passing on Reggie Jackson with the first overall pick in 1966, the Mets took Jon Matlack with the fourth overall pick in 1967. Matlack would go on to be named Rookie of the Year in 1972 and put together one of the best pitching seasons to not get a single Cy Young vote in 1974. After a trade to the Rangers, he eventually began to break down as players tended to do in those days and opted for an early retirement at age 33. He has no certified autograph cards, so I leave this non-certified autograph here in the hopes of someday being able to replace it with something more official. And because without it, there would be nothing to see here. Because the rest of the draft was a bust.

The Mets actually did a pretty good job picking Matlack, who was one of only four star players to be taken in the first round. After that though, it got ugly; their next four picks failed to make the majors while other teams walked away with Vida Blue, Jerry Reuss, and Don Baylor in the second round and a handful of useful players in rounds 3-5. But that’s really where the 1967 draft ended. The Mets can’t be faulted too much for the rest of the draft, in which they signed only four players who would reach the majors, worth a total of -2.0 bWAR.

After the top 100 picks, the 1967 draft was an exercise in futility. 875 more players would be picked over 72 rounds, but many would fail to sign. Of those who did, only 25 made it to the majors, so the Mets’ four was better than most. And of the 21 others, only Rick Dempsey, Gary Lavelle, and Dusty Baker had any real success, plus Jim Willoughby, Mike Paul, Jack Brohamer, and John Wockenfuss if you lower your standard to a career total of 1 bWAR. That’s one even marginally useful player for every 125 picks. That the Mets failed to land even one with their remaining 55 picks is hardly surprising.

Looking at the Mets side of the 1967 draft alone paints a bleak picture of a franchise struggling at every aspect of the game. But a look at other teams’ results puts a positive spin on an organization that was building for a run at sustained contention. Only six of the 20 teams managed to sign multiple players who would rack up at least 1 bWAR over their career. And of those, only the Cardinals (Ted Simmons in round 1 and Jerry Reuss in round 2), Braves (Ralph Garr and Dusty Baker), Twins (Steve Brye in round 1, Dave Goltz, and Rick Dempsey), and Orioles (Bobby Grich in round 1 and Don Baylor in round 2) signed picks worth more than Matlack alone. The Mets did well in acquiring one of the top five players taken in the draft.

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Product Spotlight: 2017 Bowman

Too much of a good thing or just too much?

The base Bowman franchise is one of the cornerstones of the Topps product line. As such, it is a rock, always there, yet always changing in subtle ways. It’s frustrating sometimes, refreshing sometimes, but always there. 2017 Bowman is no exception – it’s there, there’s a lot to like, and there’s a lot that just makes no sense.

In 2015, Topps seemed to be headed in the right direction. 2014’s excess of confusing and unnecessary parallels yielded to the order of 2015 Bowman’s sensible parallel structure. 2016 Bowman did away with the ice parallels and wave refractors introduced in 2012, which was probably due, but it introduced full-size shimmer parallels in green and gold, numbered the same as their non-shimmer counterparts. 2016 Bowman Draft turned this concept into blue and gold wave refractor autographs. And 2017 Bowman combined both ideas and cranked it up to 10 – 10 shimmer refractor parallels, 5 base and 5 autographed. Double the autographs, double the fun?

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2017 Mets Card Spring Preview

Bouncing back from a year that fell short

The Mets made the postseason for the second consecutive season last year, but not even a superb outing from Noah Syndergaard could get the Mets past the Giants in the Wild Card game, so it’s been a long offseason. Speaking of Noah Syndergaard, this happened:

We saw lots of Syndergaard in cardboard last year and will likely see a lot more this year. Beyond him though, the cardboard Mets didn’t have a whole lot of depth in 2016 and there could be less in store for 2017. The Mets have two stars shining brightly in Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes, which could make everyone else hard to see. Or maybe they’ll be a rising tide that lifts everyone else into prominence. Honestly, I have no clue what Topps (and especially Panini) is doing and I get the feeling that they don’t either.

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2016 Mets Top Prospects (Cardboard Edition)

A very different kind of top prospect list

It’s that time of year again when a young (or not-so-young) man’s (or woman’s) fancy (or dread) turns to ordinal rankings of young baseball players. That’s right, top prospect lists! Everyone’s got one and you usually regret looking at the other guy’s. Why should we be any different here? Now, I am not a talent evaluator, so we’re going to have to come up with some other way to rank these guys. And after a comment I made on For All You Kids Out There (For All You Kids Out There is the official podcast of your Baseball Prospectus Mets Local site), the answer became clear – we’ll rank them by the strength of their cardboard.

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