Firsts, lasts, and everything in between
It’s hard to believe that it’s March already. And this piece is two months late… Between Topps and Panini releasing products right down to the wire, chasing down cards, and chasing down answers, it took me longer than expected to get this the way I wanted it. 2014 brought us the first cards, first autographs, and first memorabilia from the first Mets player to win the Rookie of the Year award in 30 years. It also brought us the last autograph card from the first person ever to wear a Mets uniform.
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The Prospect Boom Goes Bust
With all of the cards released across dozens of products in 2014, it can be hard to figure out what is worth collecting and what might as well be forgotten. What makes something essential? It’s a mix of collectibility, notability, and attainability. Popular brands/inserts and player debuts will dominate here, not big money low-numbered parallels or big stars. Just about everything mentioned here should still be fairly easy to find on the secondary market at reasonable prices.
2014 continued the Mets prospect autograph explosion that started in late 2013, but that fizzled out late in the year. While that meant lots of autographs for many top Mets prospects who had previously been overlooked, it was bad news for the Mets’ 2014 draft class, which is still waiting for its first autograph card from Topps.
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Panini 3, Leaf 1, Topps 0
Full list of 2014 Mets draft picks
With the 2014 product year now behind us, we can tally up the score for getting the year’s draft picks to sign autographs. Panini came out on top with Milton Ramos, Eudor Garcia, and Josh Prevost (the team’s round 3-5 picks) live in Elite Extra Edition and Michael Conforto only available as a redemption (or live on dual player autograph cards). Topps completely whiffed with no Mets autographs in 2014 Bowman Draft and a Michael Conforto redemption (supposedly signed as of 30 January 2015) in Bowman Sterling as their only 2014 autograph from a 2014 Mets pick. Leaf beat out Topps for the number 2 spot with the only live 2014 autographs from Michael Conforto in 2014 Leaf Metal Draft, 2014 Leaf Valiant, and 2014 Leaf Trinity. That makes a total of 0 MLB-licensed autograph cards from 2014 Mets picks issued live in all 2014 products. The dark days of Mets prospect autographs are once more upon us.
Six out of eleven ain’t bad
After drafting just five players with any baseball cards in 2013, the Mets came up big in 2014 with 11 of 39 picks having certified autograph cards. Most of these were from 2013 Leaf Perfect Game, which has asserted itself as the premier pre-pro product and should merit a look when it returns later this year. While the Mets did sign all of their picks in the first 20 rounds, most late-round high school picks declined to sign, taking away five players with 2013 Leaf Perfect Game autographs: Luke Bonfield, Tommy Pincin, Keaton McKinney, Jordan Hand, and Jonathan Teaney. McKinney and Hand also have various memorabilia cards, leaving top pick Michael Conforto as the only signed Mets pick from 2014 with memorabilia. The loss of nearly half of the potential autographs in this draft class is unfortunate, but the remainder still rates as the best-ever draft day autograph crop.
2013 Mets Draft Class Autographs
2012 Mets Draft Class Autographs
2011 Mets Draft Class Autographs
The Mets get less than you would expect but more than you think
Full list of 1992 Mets draft picks
Tonight’s big story is about the 6th overall pick in 1992. After a 20-year career, he will be walking off into the sunset, a sunset called Fenway Park. Yeah, I don’t get it either. In honor of the cream of the 1992 draft class crop, we’re taking a look back at the Mets’ picks in 1992. Those weren’t quite as creamy. Or much of anything else. Combined, all of the players drafted by the Mets in 1992 appeared in just eight games with the team. Only three made the majors with any club. And yet, the Mets’ 1992 draft was key in bringing another iconic player to New York.
The autographs for this draft class begin and end with Preston Wilson. The nephew / adopted son of fan-favorite Mookie Wilson, Preston had name recognition working for him in addition to his prospect status. With the big guy off the board three picks before the Mets made the first of their three first-round picks (they received two comp picks for the loss of Frank Viola), Wilson was a reasonable choice. Looking through the rest of the names in this draft, it becomes apparent that there just wasn’t much elite talent on the board.
So what of those other two first-round picks? Um, not much. With plenty of players who would at least prove useful over their careers still available, the Mets walked away with absolutely nothing. Of their remaining picks, the only one who became a star player (albeit briefly) was Darin Erstad, who didn’t sign with the Mets. The third pick that would reach the majors was 20th-rounder Allen McDill, who did so with the Royals and didn’t do much. Neither did the players he was traded for. The Mets weren’t alone in failing to sign a future star at least; the Padres failed with Todd Helton, who would go on to become a franchise player for the newly-created Colorado Rockies. Of the players who did sign, the only big stars the Mets passed on were Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi, who would both spend time as teammates of a certain someone on the Yankees.
Viewed on its own, it sure looks like the Mets made the worst of a mediocre draft class. Only 8 games in the majors for the entire bunch? It’s hard to do much worse than that. But things look a bit different when you realize why Preston Wilson’s Mets career ended after just 8 games. On May 22, 1998, after just two weeks in the majors, Wilson was the centerpiece in the trade that brought Mike Piazza to the Mets. Piazza would nearly take the Mets to the postseason in 1998 before signing a 7-year contract extension. With Piazza behind the plate, the Mets ended a decade-long playoff drought and made it as far as the World Series in 2000. He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 2013 and should be enshrined in Cooperstown soon (well, he should be there already…). And that’s how Preston Wilson (plus $91 million) helped to make history in Queens.
Now we’re getting serious
Like anyone with a big stack of autographed baseballs, the last thing I want to see happen to them is for the autograph to fade away to nothing over time. Unfortunately, there isn’t much literature out there on this problem, just collections of anecdotes. Over the past year, I’ve conducted a couple of tests to help make sense of the mechanisms involved and give me an idea of where to go next. With the preliminary research out of the way, it’s time to go full-scale and test the key variables to finally answer the question of what a baseball should be signed with. To get up to speed, start with these posts:
Faded Memories in Ink on Leather
Synthetic Leather Baseball Ink Test Phase 2
Baseball Ink Test Preliminary Results
But first, let’s go over what I’m not accounting for. One concern that this test will not resolve is about the effect of different pen pressures and stroke styles on the longevity of a signature. Theoretically, an autopen setup could be used to carefully control these aspects of the test, but I don’t have one. Also, these factors are out of the control of the receivers of an autograph, so I’m not sure what could be gained. This is an area where this test will fall short of full technical rigor and I would be negligent if I failed to point that out.
Also beyond the scope of this experiment is the effect on temperature and humidity on the different aspects of this process. These factors could significantly affect the flow of ink from the pen, the application of the ink to the ball, and the durability of the ink over time. Environmental conditions will be the same for the initial application of all ink and will be the same within each test location, though these locations will not be maintained to guarantee identical conditions between locations. Some variation is accepted as a limitation of this test.
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