Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Modern Dilemma: When is it time to part ways with your favorite player's baseball cards?

Okay, here's the problem. And I'm hoping some people (maybe some Tony Gwynn or Cal Ripken collectors) can chime in about their feelings on this.

My favorite baseball player is Jeff Bagwell. It might seem odd that a Minnesota kid's favorite player growing up was someone who played for a team a thousand miles away and had zero connection to anything related to the entire midwest, but allow me to explain. Common logic would dictate that my favorite player should be from the Twins, right? Among my circle of friends (please bear in mind we're all between 8 and 10 years old) it all went without saying that everybody loves the Twins, and anybody who doesn't is a big stupid idiot and they smell like poop. Of COURSE we're going to root for them, of COURSE we're all gonna love Kirby, Herbie, Sweet Music, Jack, et al. Only problem with those guys is that their baseball cards weren't worth very much. So, as obsessed baseball card collecting kids, with ridiculous and obviously *realistic* dreams of someday getting crazy rich off of our jealousy-inducing collections, we all decided to pick a guy that wasn't on the Twins, a guy you would call your absolute favorite player for as long as you lived. You had to stick with this guy. You couldn't be cheap and just bail if he has one bad year or if his value goes down out of nowhere, or even shows up on Beckett's dreaded "Who's Cold" list.

Subsequently, seemingly *everyone* picked either Frank Thomas or Ken Griffey Jr. That was the easy way to go. You couldn't lose with those guys, they were sure things. I didn't want to go the obvious way, I wanted my OWN player to root for, a guy that nobody else knew a whole lot about. I picked Jeff Bagwell, mostly for the following reasons:

1. He had a really weird crouched batting stance that made him look like he was taking a dump in a public bathroom while trying to avoid actually sitting on the toilet seat.
2. The Astros also had a ton of other young guys that were fun to root for: Craig Biggio, Eric Anthony, Luis Gonzalez, Ken Caminiti, Shane Reynolds, et al . (A little like how Colorado is now)
3. Nobody ever talked about the guy, despite putting up fantastic numbers year after year and winning the NL ROY in 1991.
4. The Astros had just come out with cool looking new uniforms.
5. His cards weren't Griffey/Thomas level valuable, but they were still up there... all it took was one really good year to put him over the top.

After a couple years shortened by injury, my loyalty was rewarded in 1994, when he had that one really good year, tearing up the National League with stats that had him on pace to contend for the first Triple Crown since Yaz in 1967 (one forgotten thing lost among the strike). Bagwell's cards skyrocketed in value, and suddenly I wasn't alone on the Bagwell bandwagon. 1994 ended up being his best year, as he didn't approach those numbers or that pace ever again, but I'll always remember that season when I felt like a 12 year old genius for making a substantially wise financial (and emotional) investment. To this day I still have about 60+ Jeff Bagwell cards, including all of his rookies.

While his cards are only moderately valued now, there's a chance Bagwell will get to the Hall of Fame. If this happens, it's at this point where his cards would be at peak value, very likely for the final time (around when the actual inductions take place). I realize that there's no way I'll ever get back what I originally paid for his cards 15 years ago, but this would be my last chance to get ANYTHING for his cards. That would be the logical thing to do, right? That was the entire POINT of getting his cards in the first place, right? However, I find myself wanting to hang onto these cards, for several completely irrational reasons like: they remind me of my childhood, Bagwell is still my favorite player, and... I just CAN'T sell them, I'd feel guilty. It's completely stupid, but true. I can't even explain it.

Has anyone else encountered this? Post your comments.

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