The Essentials: 2014 Mets Memorabilia

Panini Turns Variety Into Notoriety

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 autograph 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.

Now in the second year of the post-black era, the Mets memorabilia offerings in 2014 were a bit more colorful than they’ve been in the past. Color has been hard to find recently, but new blue and orange jerseys and a renewed focus on pinstripes at home helped to turn things around. It was looking like a great year for memorabilia until the black came back courtesy of Panini. The plague of “event-worn” memorabilia has now spread to baseball.

Bats

But before we get to that, here’s some wood. Bat cards aren’t all that common anymore and insert sets that specifically feature bat slices are even more rare. The best of the bunch comes from Museum Collection in the form of the Jumbo Lumber insert set. This year’s edition featured the first bat cards from Matt Harvey, Travis d’Arnaud, and Zack Wheeler. All three would have bat cards in other products, but you can’t top these.

Pinstripes

Panini earned some goodwill early in the year with the first memorabilia cards from Juan Lagares and Scott Rice in 2013 Panini America’s Pastime. Not only do these swatches feature pinstripes (making 2014 the first year in recent memory with pinstripe jersey cards from more than one current-year Met), but the patch variants revealed that they are from the jerseys worn on Memorial Day in 2013. While those jerseys look awful with camo patches, it’s nice to be able to determine exactly when the material was worn. Or maybe not…

A look at the back of Scott Rice’s two memorabilia cards in 2013 Panini America’s Pastime reveals something disturbing – one is supposedly “game-worn” while the other is “player-worn,” which is code for “something we just gave the guy to put on and take off so we could say that was in some way associated with him.” Both cards feature the same pinstripes and have the same patch variants, indicating that they should be from the same jersey. I mean, if you’re going to get a non-game-worn jersey to use in cards, you’re not going to get the Memorial Day jersey. And with the patch variants numbered to 10 and nothing from either player in question used in any other product in 2014, why get a second jersey? As it turns out, all of the cards from these insert sets have the same guarantee on the back. Which one is correct? Maybe Panini simply mislabeled the ones that say “player-worn.” After all, they haven’t used anything but game-worn material in their baseball products up until this point. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for now…

The return of Donruss brought with it some interesting Mets memorabilia from Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese, and Ike Davis in Series 1 and Matt Harvey in Series 2. If those stripes look a bit off, it’s because Mets uniforms haven’t used that style of stripe since the ’90s. They did however bring it back for one game in 2013 to commemorate the first-ever Colorado Rockies game. That makes six new pinstripes from Panini in 2014. What does Topps have to offer?

Topps didn’t have the numbers, but they made up for it with star power. Zack Wheeler’s first pinstripe jerseys were in 2013 Topps Triple Threads and showed up again in several 2014 products. David Wright hasn’t had a pinstripe jersey card since 2008, so this 2014 Topps Supreme jersey card was a nice surprise. And newly-elected Hall-of-Famer Pedro Martinez had his first Cool Base pinstripes in 2014 Topps Triple Threads.

Events

Speaking of stars, the Mets had a first-time All-Star in Daniel Murphy in 2014. Joining him on the NL team were former Mets Carlos Gomez and Francisco Rodriguez. The 2014 All-Star workout jerseys only had two fabric variants and both were common in the 2014 Topps Update All-Star Stitches insert set.

Meanwhile, we finally got caught up on memorabilia from the 2013 Futures Game held at Citi Field. The Mets had three representatives there (Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and Brandon Nimmo) and later picked up a fourth in Dilson Herrera. Between 2014 Bowman, 2014 Topps Pro Debut, 2014 Bowman Inception, 2014 Bowman Platinum, and 2014 Topps Heritage Minor League Edition, we eventually got patches and all three fabric variants for all four players.  As for the 2014 versions with Noah Syndergaard and Kevin Plawecki, we’re still waiting.

Colors

With the black jerseys mothballed in 2013, the Mets unveiled a new orange Los Mets jersey. In 2014, Zack Wheeler’s made it into cards in several Topps products and Panini got David Wright’s. Panini went one step further and picked up a blast from the past – Tom Glavine’s orange Mets batting practice jersey. On top of that, they also had orange jacket swatches from Gil Hodges. So much orange from Panini was a bit odd considering that they remove all traces of the color orange from Mets jerseys.

The unofficial retirement of the black Mets jerseys also meant new blue home and road jerseys. Zack Wheeler and David Wright had swatches from these jerseys released in 2014. More interesting are the blue mesh Dwight Gooden jersey swatches in 2013 Panini America’s Pastime. These are the first of this type I’ve seen from Gooden. Rounding out the blues are blue swatches from R.A. Dickey that may be from a Toronto Blue Jays jersey. Or his 2012 All-Star jersey. Both use the same type of fabric, so there’s no way to know for sure without patches. Still, anything Dickey is essential.

Green may not seem like a Mets color, but the Mets did wear green jerseys for St. Patrick’s Day during Spring Training in 2013. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was the first to have his released in cards in 2013 Topps Triple Threads and Travis d’Arnaud joined him in 2014 Topps Museum Collection.

Does camo count as a color? It may not be everyone’s favorite jersey material, but it seems to be here to say. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Travis d’Arnaud were the first to have camo Mets jersey swatches released in cards in 2014 Topps Triple Threads.

Gray may not be a color, but these are the first MLB jersey cards from Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, and Matt den Dekker.

Color or not, the Mets haven’t worn black since 2012, a year before any of these players made their MLB debuts. What gives?

So much for Panini only using game-worn material…

All of the material Panini released in 2014 from Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Juan Centeno, Rafael Montero, plus most of Jacob deGrom’s material, was marked “event-worn.” And just what was this “event?” My guess is that it was a “here, put this on” event. And about Jacob deGrom…

From eBay auction #221674525376

Black double knit fabric marked “game-used?” At this point, you have to question the authenticity of any material from Panini.

Patches

And that brings us back around to the patches in 2013 Panini America’s Pastime. Interesting, but are they genuine? We may never know. R.A. Dickey had a different kind of camo patch, this one from a Blue Jays jersey, in 2014 Topps Series 2. These aren’t his first, but this is the first one I’ve been able to get a hold of.

In addition to their first MLB jerseys, Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, and Matt den Dekker also had their first MLB patches. Kirk Nieuwenhuis and d’Arnaud also had St. Patrick’s Day jersey patches.

And with that, we’ve left the realm of the essential. Patches are nice, but we’ll probably see better ones in 2015 as they become more common for last year’s players.

  1. I’m not a fan of the memorabilia cards because of the authenticity issues, and because I don’t like to see vintage bats and jerseys destroyed to make baseball cards.

    It would be interesting if the “event worn” label was applied to material from jerseys worn in games where the player did not participate, but I think it was probably just a screw-up on Panini’s part.

    I wonder if your mystery black swatches were from spring training or minor league jerseys.

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