Too Many Big Macs: A Return to 1992 and the Donruss/McDonalds Cards

1992 McDonalds Donruss Display

1992 McDonalds Donruss Display

Back when I was a younger man and had a thirst for all things baseball, McDonalds partnered with Donruss to put out a set of cards for the Canadian market which would increase the sale of its sandwiches. The ’90s were a time when sports cards dominated the hobby market and baseball became a rival to hockey in Canadian collector’s minds. With the Blue Jays winning the World Series sales of baseball cards could be purchased at corner stores, gas stations, and hobby stores. Dealers carried commons to fill your sets and displayed insert and rookie cards along side their hockey counterparts. Yes it was a golden time for Canadian boys interested more in baseball than ice skates and hockey sticks.The honeymoon lasted a good four or five years before the Canadian market returned to its usual ways of leaving all sports cards except hockey by the wayside.

The 1992 Donruss McDonald’s set itself consisted of 33 cards which were identified as twenty-six MVP cards (one from each MLB team who they considered to be the team MVP), six Blue Jays Gold subset cards, and one unnumbered checklist card. These cards included stars and semi-stars and the following Hall of Famers: Cal Ripken Jr., Frank Thomas, George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Ryan Sandberg, Robin Yount, Barry Larkin, Kirby Puckett, Roberto Alomar, Ken Griffey Jr., and Ozzie Smith.

The 26 MVP cards were designed after Donruss’ regular issue of 1992 with an added MVP logo and the McDonald’s Golden Arches trademark shown on both sides of the cards. The six Blue Jays Gold cards show front full-bleed photos with gold foil stamping in a rectangular outline just inside the card edges. The backs of all 32 cards show player biographical information and recent yearly statistics and career statistics.

The cards came in a gold foil wrapper inside of which were four cards, three from the MVP set (included in the mix was also the Checklist card) and one Blue Jays Gold card. Packs could be aquired for thirty-nine cents (Canadian) with the purchase of a sandwich or breakfast entree.

Lastly, randomly inserted into packs was a redemption card which could be sent in to receive one of 1000 serial-numbered Roberto Alomar autograph cards.

1992 Donruss McDonald's MVP's Alomar Signature Card

1992 Donruss McDonald’s MVP’s Alomar Signature Card

The Alomar signature card came in a plastic holder and a letter (see the post: The Most Elusive Roberto Alomar Signature for more details).

Assembling this set was one of the highlights of my early ’90s collecting although once the promotion was finished I had a dislike for Big Macs and McChicken sandwiches. I frequented the local restaurant daily replacing my regular lunches with a McDonalds sandwich and a pack of baseball cards. I never found any redemption cards for the Alomar signature but I did accomplish both completing the regular set and gaining ten pounds.

 

 

What Happened to Supply and Demand?

1980 Topps #482 Rickey Henderson Mint Graded Cards

1980 Topps #482 Rickey Henderson Mint Graded Cards

One of the cards, out of the thousands I’m looking for, is a graded Rickey Henderson 1980 Topps RC. I usually end up buying three rookie cards of any given Hall of Famer from 1980 forward. One is for the set I build which includes the card, the second is an ungraded card for my HOF display collection (they get puttied to a wall in my house) and a third is a graded card for storage. It’s always the third card that is a pain in the ass to buy.

1989 Upper Deck #1 Ken Griffey Jr. PSA 10

1989 Upper Deck #1 Ken Griffey Jr. PSA 10

With Rickey Henderson it is an added burden. Although the ’80s began the overproduction of baseball cards (and 1980 Topps is not an exception) there are certain cards at certain grades that just seem to escape the law of supply and demand when it comes to their pricing. Ken Griffey Jr.’s 1989 Upper Deck #1 in Gem Mint is one (it consistently sells in the $350.00 to $400.00 range on eBay, a ridiculous price when the cards population at that grade is in the thousands (over 2500 graded 10 by PSA alone). Rickey Henderson’s 1980 Topps #482 graded at Mint is another.

The Henderson card consistently sells at Mint in the $400.00 to $500.00 range on eBay. Which is plainly ridiculous. The 1980 set was produced recently enough to avoid much of the damage incurred by cards in the ’70s, ’60s. and earlier. Those cards that were thrown around in schoolyards and put onto bicycle spokes. When protection of cards began to be popular in the mid ’80s the 1980 set was one of the sets that was protected. You can easily find the whole set in Near Mint condition or better for $100.00 or less without much difficulty (I picked one up recently for $60.00). So why the outrageous price for the Henderson card?

The card follows a trend that is quite alarming for this collector. It seems the younger generation is beginning to believe a card isn’t worth squat unless it’s sealed up in a graded case. Just looking at population reports from the major graders shows that most submissions are for the newer cards. Each year more and more cards from the previous seasons of baseball and other sports are graded by younger collectors. Why not? If your card ungraded is worth 2.00 but graded at Mint or Gem Mint it jumps up to $100.00-$500.00 because people are stupid enough to pay those prices for them you would have to be an idiot not to grade your cards.

Returning to the Henderson card, it just seems that if a card is not even the least bit rare at a certain grade, then its price should no way be the price of some people’s monthly rent. Here are the populations from the major graders for Mint 1980 Topps #482 Rickey Henderson Rookie card at the time of the writing of this post:

PSA 9 Mint – 1540
BGS 9 Mint – 149
SGC 96 Mint – 130

That is over 1800 of the cards graded Mint and there are more added each month. The people who argue that it is because of the demand that drives the price up needs to look around at the different online sellers, such as eBay, Amazon, Dean’s cards, COMC, Kijiji, etc. to easily see that the card is always available. At this present time, eBay has sixteen copies listed at PSA 9, three BGS/BVG 9s, and one SGC 96 and this is always the case. The card has a higher supply than its demand, which should reduce its price but it hasn’t.

COMC Logo

COMC Logo

The only solution to this craziness is to keep a keen eye out for nice ungraded copies of the cards you want and then roll the dice and submit them to the grading companies yourself. That is, if you want graded cards in your collection. COMC has made the practice quite easy as the site has teamed up with Beckett to grade any card you buy off the site without it being shipped to you first. It’s a crapshoot but when you can buy a nice ungraded copy of the Henderson card for $15.00, and the avg. price to grade it is around $15.00, it means that unless the card comes back at a 6 or less you have at least broke even on the cost. And if you are astute enough to get an 8 or 9 you just saved yourself $50.00, $100.00 or even more dollars.

It is a shame when graded card pricing becomes so ridiculous, but ever since the boom era of the late 80s, early ’90s, greed has dominated the hobby, it just moved from over pricing of packs, boxes, and insert cards, to graded cards. I wonder what will be next.

The Hall of Fame Challenge, Post Three

Hall of Fame, The Wall, Part Three

Hall of Fame, The Wall, Part Three

The next set of Hall of Fame cards I purchased came in from COMC. I also picked up a couple of 1989 Upper Deck Factory sets which I broke open to add the Ken Griffey Jr. RC to the wall. Thirdly I found in my cards a copy of Griffey Jr.`s Donruss RC.

Here are the cards from COMC:

Latest HOF Purchases

Latest HOF Purchases

Here is a list of the new additions to the wall:

  1. 1989 Upper Deck #1 Ken Griffey Jr. RC
  2. 1989 Donruss #33 Ken Griffey Jr. RC
  3. 1989 Bowman #220 Ken Griffey Jr. RC
  4. 1989 Fleer #548 Ken Griffey Jr. RC
  5. 1992 Bowman #461 Mike Piazza RC
  6. 1989 O-Pee-Chee #186 Randy Johnson RC

The Griffey Jr. cards and the Mike Piazza card are the two players’ first cards. For Griffey Jr. Topps and Score waited until their Rookie/Traded sets to include the Mariner. Piazza was missed by everyone except Bowman. Fleer included him in their low print Update set at the end of the year, but all the other companies missed the boat completely.

I’m not sure how well informed my readers are about grading companies (I assume they are somewhat informed due to the fact that grading has been popular since the late ’90s). The Piazza card I bought from COMC was a graded card from BCCG (Beckett’s Collector’s Club grading service). I’m not sure why Beckett has this service as it is inferior and somewhat dubious in its grading practices. It actually is a stupid way to conduct business as many novice collectors are fooled into thinking the numerical grading (1-10) is equal to that of PSA. They see a lower price for the BCCG graded card and buy it not realizing it is not of equal quality to its PSA counterpart. If you come across any of these BCCG graded cards, ignore the grade and just consider it an ungraded card which you will need to inspect to get a proper grade for it.

I did this with the Piazza card I purchased for the wall. I bought a BCCG graded 10 Piazza Bowman RC for $21.30. It was in better condition than the equally priced ungraded versions of the card so it was an easy decision to purchase it and remove it from its case when I received it in the mail:

Mike Piazza Before and After

Mike Piazza Before and After

As you can see, the card is off center to the right and would probably be graded at most a PSA 9. If you wish to remove any cards from their graded case it’s quite simple. Here is an example:

Returning to the wall, I moved it to the hallway to give the dedication more space as new cards come in. You can see the new wall, with the latest cards added, at the top of this post.

The Hall of Fame Challenge, Post Two

The Hall of Fame Challenge, Post Four

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Two

1952 Bowman #11 Ralph Kiner

1952 Bowman #11 Ralph Kiner

With over half of the set completed it has become more difficult to find bulk lots of cards that don’t include numerous (usually over half) duplicates to my collection. Time will tell if I find any more.

Not one to do nothing I decided to begin buying more of the star cards in the mean time. These cards usually are not included in bulk lots anyway (it’s usually just commons) and these star card purchases will bide the time until another lot comes my way.

The first of these purchases became the #11 card in the set. I found the Hall of Fame Ralph Kiner at COMC for $15.00. It was in good shape and should look pleasing alongside all the other cards on the wall.

With the Kiner card it brings the count up to 145 cards. (145/252,  57.54%)

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post One

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Three

$70.00 for Bryce Harper?

2012 Topps Update Hobby Box

2012 Topps Update Hobby Box

2012 Topps Update #US299 Bryce Harper - Shirt and Jacket

2012 Topps Update #US299 Bryce Harper – Shirt and Jacket

It was a fun idea. Usually, I am more apt to buy sets and/or cards from pre 90s days but I decided to try something more recent this time. Buying boxes over the internet is not usually a smart thing. eBay and other sites really nail you on the shipping costs (and usually a small mark up on the product as well). Blow Out Cards occasionally has some good deals, but it is usually on boxes of product that has failed to sell when it first came out, or was over-printed. The best way to get exactly what you want and to save money is to buy locally.

2012 Topps Update #US299 Bryce Harper

2012 Topps Update #US299 Bryce Harper

In my city, there is one shop that beats out all others in pricing for all sports cards and sports cards supplies. I won’t plug it but suffice it to say they are usually about 20% cheaper than their competition. When I decide to collect something, I want to collect all of the year’s base cards. The main series and the update/rookie series as well. With Topps that usually means collecting three series of cards (Series I, Series II, and the Update). I looked over the stock of my local dealer and found that 2012 was the more recent of his product that he had boxes for all three series of cards. Other years he would have one, or sometimes two, of the series but not three.

2012 Topps Update #US183

2012 Topps Update #US183

Over the next few weeks I went in and purchases three boxes from Series One, then again three boxes from Series Two, when I returned for the Update boxes, I was in for quite a surprise. Series One sold for $34.99, Series Two for $39.99. Because I bought multiple boxes the dealer gave me a discount of 5% which further reduce my costs. But with the Update boxes he wouldn’t budge. Plus he was charging 105.00 per box. Being less knowledgeable about more recent players and cards I asked why the sharp price increase? The dealer, a man who knows much more about hockey than baseball couldn’t really tell me. He reacts to the marketplace was all he could say. I did some research and it seems that the Update set includes the rookie card and parallels etc. of Bryce Harper.

2012 Topps Update #US299 Bryce Harper - Horizontal

2012 Topps Update #US299 Bryce Harper – Horizontal

Now, tell me if I’m wrong but are there not many more cards that have been produced of Bryce Harper before 2012. Bowman and Topps have Harper cards in there sets in 2011. Upper Deck produced a Harper card way back in 2008. Not technically rookie cards, they nevertheless dilute the water of Bryce Harper cards. You would think demand would be much less for Harper’s actual rookie cards because of it. So why would a $70.00 price increase for the 2012 Topps Update boxes be warranted? I can’t figure it out. I passed on purchasing any of these boxes and decided to buy the base set online for $50.00.

Got an Extra $15,000.00 Hanging Around…

Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection Logo

Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection Logo

If you are not going to buy a car, why not spend it on a box of baseball cards. Why the disbelieving face? Yes, yes I’m serious. It launches early this year, and it’s care of Upper Deck. Called 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection, it’s UDs way of sticking it to the regular Joe. Another in a long list of cards that will hit the market which will be out of reach for the average consumer, 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection will have some amazing collectibles inside it, but wasn’t it always better when a card gained its high price tag through time. It meant that when it was released everyone had a shot at having it in their collection. Sports Cards, once the patches and swatches and 5/5’s and 1/1’s entered the market, began their journey into the realm of social class.

According to Beckett Media, here is what 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection is:

Limited to just 200 boxes and with a five-figure price point, Upper Deck proclaims that it will be “blurring the boundary between trading cards and artistic collectibles” with this product. Each box will contain over 50 cards and the roster of signers could be one of the most impressive ever assembled. Even the box itself is being touted as a collectible as each one is numbered and has an autographed acrylic box topper in the lid.

For starters, 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection has a 25-card base set where each card is signed by a notable or legendary athlete. As expected, longtime Upper Deck spokesmen Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, LeBron James, and Tiger Woods are featured. They will be joined by the likes of hockey’s Bobby Orr, Mark Messier, and Mario Lemieux, football’s Joe Namath, Jerry Rice, Peyton Manning, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, and John Elway, baseball’s Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire and Nolan Ryan, and basketball icon Larry Bird. Rounding out the checklist are golfers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus along with boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Mike Tyson, NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, tennis star Maria Sharapova, retired UFC star Georges St-Pierre, and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.

The autographs are split into several tiers (Silver, Gold, Red, Copper, Green, Blue, Purple, Sonic Blue, and Clear) and are limited to just 20 copies each.

There will be dual autographs called Masterful Pairings that are seeded once per box. The regular version these pair up two living athletes which are produced in varying quantities while the one-of-one Masterful Pairings Autograph & Cut Signature takes one of these talents and combines them with a vintage cut of a sporting icon from the early 20th century.

As a throwback to old-school trading card sets, 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection has a Master Collection puzzle made up of 30 cards. Depicting multiple athletes together, there are three tiers to collect with the basic Logo Collection puzzle being numbered to 125 while the Silver version is limited to 50 and just 25 Gold puzzles will be made.

Upper Deck’s long-standing relationship with Michael Jordan has produced many desirable cards over the years, but this time, their Jordan Diamond Legacy cards are an instant classic out of the box. Every set will have one of these cards and they will have three (/30), four (/15), five (/5), or even six (one-of-one) diamonds embedded into them. Every 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection box also contains a one-of-one Artistic Renderings card, which features autographed original art.

Perhaps the most compelling inserts of all are the Mystery Redemption cards. These cards can be exchanged for some hobby treasures such as game-worn uniforms, championship rings, autographed uncut sheets, game-used equipment from Hall of Famers, and premium signed items from Upper Deck Authenticated or even a motorcycle signed by Michael Jordan.

I’m trying to figure out the point of this product. Is it trying to further create a niche market for collectible cards? Is that niche even create-able? If I were a rich man, and liked to collect memorabilia, are there not things much more desirable and not in anyway artificial than this product? Let me see if you follow my logic…

Except for the redemption cards which will get you some great memoriabilia, the rest is just added fodder to an already crowded marketplace for autographs and patches and game-used equipment cards. If you are an autograph collector, what is the difference between an auto in this set and one in another? Nothing really, even if it is a 1/1 or 5/5 etc. If you want a Griffey Jr. auto, that’s what you want, Where it comes from doesn’t really matter as long as it authenticated.

Here is a Griffey Jr. auto sold on eBay for less than $60.00:

Ken Griffey Jr. Signature

Ken Griffey Jr. Signature

There are many others selling in the $50.00 to $1000.00 range. A Griffey Jr. signature is not a rare thing. I’m not sure why anyone thinks that just because the signature is put on a card that is a 1/1 or 5/5 it changes value. It is still a Griffey Jr. signature. It’s very sad yet quite humourous that people are spending money on these gimmicks. Let me give you a hypothetical example to prove my point.

Let’s say I’m a card company, and I’m thinking up a way to sell my boxes of cards for more money. Not because they will cost much more to print, but because I want to make more money per box or per card I print. Let’s say my budget is 1 million cards. And let’s say there are 500 players to print cards for. The simplest way is to print 1 million cards of 500 players. But the sales point for this set in a box might only be $30.00.

I want a higher price. Well one way is to add specialty cards inside. So let’s hire Griffey Jr. to sign 1000 of the 1 million cards. we take 1000 of his base cards and have him sign them. Now we can sell a box for $50.00. But wait, how about we change the border of 10% of the 1 million cards to a gold colour. Now we just made our cards tiered at no extra cost in printing (it’s just changing the amount of colour of the inks in the same process).

Now the Griffey Jr. auto is two-tiered as well. The gold parallel signature is now only 10% as common as the base card signature. It will be worth theoretically ten times as much, which means I can market that in the sale of my boxes: “Find the Griffey Jr. Gold Parallel signature card” and now sell the box for $100.00. Yet the gold or regular version of the card cost exactly the same to print. Now what happens if I change 1% of the 1 million cards to a border colour of platinum, now the Griffey Jr. signature is worth 100 times more that the base signature again at no extra cost.

Do you see where this is heading? Now add a print run number to the card (costs nothing as you have the different images on a computer, the printing stays the same, the image just changes). Now for a tiny tiny change where the print number is stamped… and so on and so on.

These gimmicks which in the creation of the cards cost nothing or very little, turns cards that were once worth $30.00 a box to $100.00 a box. Wow you now have a Platinum parallel Griffey Jr. signature card and I have the base signature card. Dude it’s the same card, but not even that, Dude it’s the same signature for God’s sake.

If I was rich, and wanted true memorabilia, I would hunt down signed bats, signed balls, game-used equipment and uniforms myself, I wouldn’t need Upper Deck to give me a lottery chance at getting it. Because essentially that is what this product is, a $15,000.00 lottery ticket with some cards thrown in in the process. I’m not sure of the cost of the diamonds they will be using in some of the cards, but I’m sure they aren’t going to be worth what it cost to the buyer in getting them, if they did it would be much easier to sell the diamond itself than the card with the diamond embedded in it. It’s why, back in the day, the Mint stopped minting silver and copper coins because people were melting them down to sell at a price higher than the face value of the coin itself.

Memorabilia is memorabilia, Card companies do not need to artificially create it in their cards. Players will be wearing uniforms, using bats and gloves, without card companies involvement. Card companies already have memorabilia, it’s the cards themselves. There is no need to complicate the process by mixing the two together.

 

 

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post One

1952 Bowman, The Poster

1952 Bowman, The Poster

I began collecting the 1952 Bowman cards back in 1993 when I got sick of the over-production, outrageous prices and sea of inserts that flowed from all the major producers of baseball cards at the time. It made me look elsewhere for my collecting fun. I really like art card rather than photographs, and smaller cards rather than the standard sized cards. 1952 Bowman is both. There was a shop near my place of residence which had a good amount of the cards so I saved my money and after a few months went in with an offer for all of them. I purchased over 50 cards that day at an overall cost of $5.00 a card. Soon after the purchase my financial and marital status changed and my money was better used elsewhere.

Recently I have returned to collecting and my attention was drawn back to the 1952 Bowman set. I decided I would try to finish the set. I began in November of last year and here is my progress summed up until now.

My first task was to find a display area for the set. Many people will just put the cards in a box or binder, but I wanted to see the cards as a whole in one area so I can view them and watch the progression. I found the perfect place in my apartment hallway. I measured the space and it was perfect. The set has 252 cards and the wall measured exactly 14 top loaders across and fit 18 top loaders down. I used blue sticky putty to attach the top loaders and filled every top loader with a card if it was available. Here is what the results look like:

1952 Bowman, The Wall

1952 Bowman, The Wall

As you can see everything fits perfectly. Here are the purchases I made since I returned to collecting the set:

Purchases, Nov. 25th, 2015

Purchases, Nov. 25th, 2015

Purchases, Dec. 5th, 2015

Purchases, Dec. 5th, 2015

Purchase, Jan. 5th, 2016

Purchase, Jan. 5th, 2016

Purchases, Jan. 7th, 2016

Purchases, Jan. 7th, 2016

Completion Percentage: 57.14% (144/252)

1952 Bowman, The Wall Updated

1952 Bowman, The Wall Updated

I will keep posting as I make purchases and update the wall.

If you would like to see all the cards and what I paid for each one just go to the 1952 Bowman page here or you can see it in the menu items on the top left of evey page/post on the site. page.

Collecting Challenge, 1952 Bowman, Post Two

The Hall of Fame, The Last Word

Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame has always been a conversation piece for fans of baseball. Especially when it comes to who deserves and does not deserve entry. Many hours have passed between friends of mine and myself arguing the merits of certain players. I am the most exclusionary, my friends, less so.

My friends argue what is, I argue what should be. They argue from the perspective of the BBWAA and VC, I argue from an elitist perspective. I find the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) and especially the VC (Veteran’s Committee) too lenient, to inclusive, not rigorous enough in its choices, my friends don’t have this arrogance.

My thoughts are quite simple, my criteria is quite easy. It still has a touch of an argument and opinion to it, but it is definitely not as lenient as the BBWAA or the VC.

BBWAA

BBWAA

In order for the reader t get a better idea of what I speak, let’s give a basic criteria of what the BBWAA thinks merits a player to enter the Hall. Although it is not an exact science, you can, if you review selections over the decades, see a tendency, a loose but still limited criteria, that the BBWAA use as a whole, to allow entry into the Hall. Here are what seems to be the minimum points:

1) Don’t cheat or gamble – See Pete Rose, Roger Clemens, and Joe Jackson on this point.

2) Become the best or thought of as the best at a particular part of the game over a long period of time (at least 7 years usually) – See Ozzie Smith, Nolan Ryan, and Rickey Henderson as examples.

3) Be good enough to stay in the game for a long period of time gaining 300 wins, 3000 hits, 500 Home Runs etc. or coming very close to it – See Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, and Bert Blyleven as examples.

Now if you include the VC you can expand that further to include the players who fit this criteria but were not thought great enough by the BBWAA. Guys like Ron Santo, Joe Gordon and Bill Mazeroski are examples of this.

Now that we have a pretty good idea of what the BBWAA and the VC consider worthy, I’s time to show what my criteria involves. Mine is much simpler. The starting point, the default point of view so to speak, is no one deserves entry. It’s like a driver’s licence, it’s a privilege, not a right.

My first point is the same as the BBWAA. If you cheat or gamble you stay out. My second point is you must be thought of as the greatest at your position in either or both leagues for your generation of ball players. If it can be argued that you were the best, then you are in.

Since about 35-40% of the league is pitchers, they fall under a different criteria. For starting pitchers, did they rise above the winning level of the teams they played on, and did they do it over a long period of time (around a decade or more). For relief pitchers, return to the criteria of the players in that if they were considered the best in their league, or both leagues, for their generation then they enter.

Hall of Fame Plaques

Hall of Fame Plaques

Different people have different opinions on what is great. What I mean by great is those abilities that directly lead to an increase in wins for the team. For example, if you steal 200 bases in a year which leads to your team scoring an extra 100 runs for the year, which created an extra 10 wins for the team but you also got caught stealing 200 times which cost your team 10 wins, then you, in this particular category, are an average player not a great player. Another example is if you won 30 games as a starting pitcher but lost 30, and your team went 81-81 then you are, in this category, an average pitcher.

With my criteria, the Hall of Fame would shrink by almost half. Borderline players would be out. Those players who have flashy stats but never really contributed to their team’s improvement would be out.

When speaking to my friends and other who have a good, if not great, knowledge of the game, about this subject, I usually have agreement for the most part up to this point in my argument. But once I show it being implemented, I lose almost everyone. Since I am writing a post not a book, I will cut to the chase and show you how quickly I lose people (and probably you as well) by using just one example. It’s the example that will show in a bright shiny light whether you are actually in agreement with my criteria or not.

Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan

The example is Nolan Ryan. If you want to draw a line in the sand and state those that think my criteria is correct, both in theory AND PRACTICE, then the line starts with Nolan Ryan. Do you think a pitcher who doesn’t contribute anything more than what an average pitcher would contribute deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? With all of Ryan’s seemingly super-human feats of baseball greatness, the man was never more than an average pitcher with a stellar fastball. Have I lost you yet?

Nolan Ryan, Angels

Nolan Ryan, Angels

Ryan is in the Hall for two main reasons: his strikeouts and his no-hitters, neither of which contributed to his teams winning anymore than they would’ve if Ryan wasn’t there and an average .500 pitcher was there instead. With all of Ryan’s flash, the man was the most famous .500 pitcher in history. When Ryan won 20 games he lost 17, when he struck out 300 he walked 150. For every shutout, no hitter, one or two hitter he threw, he also would lose because of a home run or walk given up in places where the great pitchers of the game would get the out.

Nolan Ryan, Astros

Nolan Ryan, Astros

You might say, as dozens have said to me before, “Ryan was always on bad teams so no wonder he lost so many games.” This is the lamest argument I have ever heard. A great pitcher, one who is Hall-worthy, takes his team, puts it on his back, and carries it to the post-season, or at minimum wins at a better average than the team does generally. Ryan saw this first hand as a rookie back in 1969 when Tom Seaver brought the Mets to the World Series. If Ryan was a great pitcher his teams would have done better when he was pitching for them. They didn’t. In fact with Ryan being a strikeout pitcher, his reliance on his teammates is reduced. More strikeouts means less ground balls and fly balls that bad defensive teams might misplay into errors or extra hits.

Tom Seaver

Tom Seaver

When Ryan played he was never thought of as the greatest pitcher of his generation. Men like Seaver, Palmer, Carlton, Jenkins, Hunter, Blue, Richards, were thought of as better, and only the first three deserve Hall entry using my criteria, with Jenkins at the borderline. Lets compare what a typical season for the great pitchers of the ’70s and compare that to Ryan’s:

Compare with Nolan Ryan

PlayerW-LIP/HK/BBE.R.A.
Nolan Ryan14-13232/169246/1203.19
Tom Seaver16-11250/207190/732.86
Jim Palmer17-10249/211139/832.86
Steve Carlton15-11245/219194/863.22
Fergie Jenkins15-12243/224173/543.34
Catfish Hunter16-12240/206140/663.26
Jim Palmer

Jim Palmer

As you can see all the pitchers stats are comparable, but only Palmer and Seaver stand out. But Ryan, with a better strikeout count, a better hits to innings pitch percentage than all the others still couldn’t rise above those pitchers in wins. It was the walks and untimely home runs. Even Jenkins, also on a bad team, pitching in an offensive park (Wrigley) managed to win on a more frequent basis. It was because of his lower walk total and tenacity. Ryan, with his 3.19 E.R.A. should’ve won many more games than he did, if he is a great pitcher. If his team scored 1 run He should find a way to pitch a shut out. If his team scored 2 runs then he should find a way to give up one. The greats do this with much more frequency.

Ryan is on a level below these pitchers. Here are four more Hall of Fame pitchers:

Compare with Nolan Ryan II

PlayerW-LIP/HK/BBE.R.A.
Nolan Ryan14-13232/169246/1203.19
Gaylord Perry15-12248/229164/643.11
Don Sutton14-11235/209159/603.26
Phil Niekro14-12233/217144/783.35
Bert Blyleven14-12245/229183/653.31

Again Ryan fails to achieve what they achieved, although he is coming closer.

How about some non Hall of Famers:

Compare with Nolan Ryan III

PlayerW-LIP/HK/BBE.R.A.
Nolan Ryan14-13232/169246/1203.19
Luis Tiant15-11224/198155/713.30
Mickey Lolich14-12229/212178/693.44
Jim Kaat13-11202/206110/483.45
Vida Blue15-11233/205152/833.27
Tommy John13-11219/223105/593.34

All the pitchers above had had some Hall of Fame interest from the VC, some may make it in the future. But even these pitchers looked over and rejected by the BBWAA win at a better rate than Ryan. We didn’t even include comparisons to many other pitchers during the ’70s who were considered better than Ryan but did not last long enough to reach the Hall. Pitchers like J.R. Richard, who played on an awful Astros team yet won 60% of his games for a decade. Ryan couldn’t do that with the Angels or the Astros.

Nolan Ryan, Rangers

Nolan Ryan, Rangers

Ryan was a fan favourite, his longevity was amazing, especially because he didn’t need to change from a power pitcher to a control pitcher later in his career (he was unique in this). His strike out totals and number of no-hitters is also great (better than every pitcher mentioned in this post, better than every pitcher in the history of baseball). But those feats are meaningless if they don’t translate into an improved team winning percentage. Ryan was the Vince Coleman of pitchers (if Coleman lasted another decade). If Coleman stayed in the league longer, was less injured, and stole 100 bases each year for 15 years, it still wouldn’t merit Hall entry because his lack of hitting skill and low walk totals always more often than not cost his team as much or more than the stolen bases added.

Vince Coleman

Vince Coleman

In the end, who would you rather have pitching on your team for a pennant run, Seaver, Palmer, Koufax, Gibson, Marichal, Drysdale, Ford, Spahn, and the list goes on and on, or Ryan? It’s a simple and obvious answer and makes what I said in my criteria have merit. If I still haven’t lost you anyway.