Category Archives: Player Spotlights

10 Types of Mike Piazza Memorabilia Cards Worth Owning

Celebrating a Hall of Fame Cardboard Career

Over at Beckett, Ryan Cracknell covered some great Mike Piazza cards, from gems to oddballs. The list is heavy on older cards (Dodgers) and autographs ($$$) and a bit light on memorabilia. Which is a shame because Piazza has one of the richest memorabilia checklists of any retired Met. Now that he’s enshrined in Cooperstown, you’ll probably want to add some of his memorabilia to your collection, so here’s a list of some good options to start with.

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Player Spotlight: Jenrry Mejia

Stomp you later, Jenrry. Stomp you later forever…

Plenty has already been written about Jenrry Mejia’s stunning fall from grace and far more will be written needlessly. Ted Berg sums things up nicely without any of the sanctimonious moralizing that hacks and blowhards rely on in place of actual discussion about performance enhancing drug use in baseball. As tends to be the case, what we know is dwarfed by what we don’t know and what we don’t know that we don’t know. In the end, it’s a sad story with many questions and few answers.

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Player Spotlight: Bobby Bonilla

It’s July 1st, do you know where your $1.19 million are?

It’s that time of year again – Bobby Bonilla gets his annual paycheck from the Mets and the entire world laughs at the team for a move that actually saved them money in the (Madoff-fueled) long run. What seems like a massive waste now actually made good fiscal sense at the time, at least as much as can be expected from an ownership group heavily invested in a Ponzi scheme. In cards though, Bonilla is the model of efficiency, managing the rare three-way solo appearance in bat, jersey, and patch cards. And none from his time(s) with the Mets.

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The Many Autos of Matthew Reynolds

A case of life imitating art?

When the World Series rosters were announced today, there was only one small change on the Mets side – Juan Uribe is back! After missing the NLDS and NLCS due to injury, clubhouse sensation Uribe was back on the roster, not quite 100 percent but good enough to get a spot. And why not? It’s not like the Mets have been relying on their bench for much in the postseason. Uribe’s presence alone is a big add.

But it came at a price. Matt Reynolds, who seemed due for a 2015 debut at the start of the season, only made it onto an active roster in October because of Ruben Tejada’s injury in the NLDS. He did not appear in the remaining three games of the NLDS. And he did not appear in the four-game NLCS sweep. And then he was bumped off the World Series roster for Uribe. An improbable postseason MLB debut now looked impossible (barring another shortstop injury). But for Matt Reynolds, this is nothing new. Story of his life, in cardboard at least.

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Player Spotlight: Juan Centeno

Two-time September call-up gets no love from Topps

As we await the announcement of the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, we can safely rule out Juan Centeno. We can probably rule him out for next year as well; he will carry his rookie eligibility into 2015. Still, someone who started the final game of the season for two consecutive years deserves some recognition, right?

Juan Centeno’s claim to fame may have come in just his second major league game. On September 25, 2013, he became the first MLB catcher to ever throw out Billy Hamilton. Hamilton would go on to be the early favorite for NL Rookie of the Year in 2014 while Centeno would spend most of that season in the minors, finishing with AA Binghamton before getting the call to Queens, his second of the year after a brief stint in May. Despite the appearances early in the season, Centeno apparently did not merit his own fake Topps card at the entrance to Citi Field on the final game of the season.

In fact, he wouldn’t get any real cards from Topps either. Wilfredo Tovar, also a two-time September call-up and the recipient of the throw that nabbed Hamilton, got half of a Rookie Card in 2014 Topps Heritage. He had all of 3 MLB plate appearances in 2014 and has yet to play in a single AAA game. Centeno just can’t catch a break. Well, with Topps at least.

Panini is a slightly different story. After a disappointing first series, Panini revamped the 2014 Donruss product in Series 2. It was still disappointing, but this time around all of the Mets autograph cards on the checklist actually existed. Among those were Centeno, Tovar, and fellow Rookie Matt den Dekker (plus David Wright for good measure). These are Juan Centeno’s first cards other than team issues. A proper Topps Rookie Card seemed like an inevitability after this, but it was not to be.

But Panini kept delivering in 2014 Panini Immaculate with Centeno’s first memorabilia cards. Included here are swatches from blue and black jerseys, plus patches, piping, and assorted odds and ends. Seems too good to be true, right? A guy who has played in just 14 MLB games with memorabilia cards? Well, it wasn’t true. The black jersey, which the Mets haven’t worn in a game since 2012, was the biggest clue. Well, that and the bit on the back that says “event-worn material” where most others say “game-worn material.” None of this material is from an actual game and I can’t even imagine what “event” it could be from. Seems fishy.

And that’s all there is for Juan Centeno. After helping the Mets make it to the finish line (well behind the NL East champs unfortunately…) in two straight seasons, the Brewers claimed him off waivers when the Mets moved him off the 40-man roster to clear space for prospects in need of protection. With plenty of catchers available as minor league free agents, the move made sense. Still, Centeno deserved better than a couple of sticker autographs and some sketchy memorabilia.

Player Spotlight: Ed Kranepool

The first true Met for life

There were few constants for the Mets of the ’60s and ’70s.  Between some of the worst teams in baseball history and two World Series teams (one winner and one loser), the ups and downs could not have been any bigger.  What all of those teams had in common though was Ed Kranepool.  Kranepool was called up to the majors in 1962 at age 17 and stayed with the Mets until he retired almost two decades later.  More than half a century after his debut, Kranepool remains the only retired Mets all-star to spend his entire career with the Mets.  In fact, Kranepool’s longevity in Queens gave him many franchise records, some of which are just starting to be overtaken by David Wright.  Ed Kranepool was never a superstar player; Baseball-Reference puts his career value at a mere 4.2 Wins Above Replacement, less than David Wright’s bWAR from his injury-shortened 2013 alone.  Still, he was a big part of Mets history and deserves some cardboard commemoration.

Kranepool’s cards from his playing years all predate the demise of the Topps monopoly.  Through the expansion of the hobby in the ’80s and the product diversification of the ’90s, his only cards were in various team issues or specialty sets.  That all changed in 1999 when he appeared in the first great retired player autograph set in Fleer’s Sports Illustrated Greats of the Game.  He looks hungry.

Kranepool’s game-used memorabilia history includes cards in several of the great memorabilia insert sets of the 2001-2005 era.  Between bat cards in Upper Deck’s 2001 Vintage and 2001 Legends of New York and jersey cards in 2002 Topps Super Teams and 2005 Topps Pristine, he had a decent variety of material for a lesser player who hadn’t appeared in a game since the ’70s.

In addition to the game-used, Kranepool also had several base cards and autographs in products from 2001 to 2005.  One of the more interesting was 2004 UD Timeless Teams, a product that shares a name with the memorabilia insert set in 2001 UD Vintage that also featured Kranepool.  The 2001 version included bat cards (and a quad bat card) from Kranepool and teammates Nolan Ryan, Ron Swoboda, and Tommie Agee.  The 2004 version included autographs from Kranepool and teammates Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, and Jerry Koosman.

Sadly, changes in the hobby after 2005 kept Ed Kranepool from appearing in cardboard until 2011, when Topps Heritage issued this coin card to commemorate Kranepool’s rookie year.

2012 had much more Kranepool in store.  With autographs in Topps Archives, Topps Tier One, and Topps Update, it was a big year for Ed Kranepool.  2013 was a bit of a down year with only autographs in Panini Golden Age.  Despite the years, Ed Kranepool’s signature hasn’t changed since I first got his autograph in person more than 20 years ago.  I didn’t know who he was back then, but I’ll be better prepared when I see him on Saturday at the 2014 Queens Baseball Convention and get a chance to re-live a part of my childhood.