Beware the Hype Demon

If you havent heard about Strasburg, you have probably been marooned in the Swiss Alps with no internet or have been held against your will in a bunker somewhere. Im not going to discuss the merits of his injury, but I do want to touch on how this lesson factors into the buying habits of the general collecting public. See, the hype machine has become a ridiculous tornado of cash surrounding a few different people in the hobby over the last few years, and so far, none of them have lived up to the billing. Starting with Reggie Bush, moving to Joba Chamberlain, and ending with Strasburg, its funny how things have worked out. Now, with Tim Tebow beginning to make an enormous hobby impact in Football, I am wondering if people will ever learn.

Lets travel back in time to 2006, speed up to 88 mph and we are off. The Texans have the first in the NFL draft pick after a pretty terrible 2005 campaign, and Reggie Bush, the franchise back of the future is sitting there for them to build their team. He has had a monster career at USC and many of the scouts are saying he could be the next Barry Sanders. No matter that he has little size to carry the ball with that frequency, and his field awareness is oft criticized, the fans don’t care. They want Reggie. In a shocking twist, the Texans pass, and go with Mario Williams, leaving Bush to fall right into the lap of the Saints. His cards start selling at crazy astronomical prices, and his Exquisite patch auto climbs above $2,000 selling on eBay when the product is released. His draft counterparts Vince Young and Matt Leinart start to ride on his coattails even, with their cards selling for crazy money as well. Now, lets jump back in the Delorian and see what’s up. Bush has done little to nothing since his rookie season, and was actually in danger of being cut before this season. The Saints did win their first title, but it had NOTHING to do with the talents of Reggie Bush. In fact, if not for Adrian Peterson’s fumble-itis, his fumble on a punt return in the first half of the NFC championship may have stopped them short altogether. His cards still generate more than the normal run of the mill back, but they are never going to be back where they were in 2006.

Similarly, Joba Chamberlain had copius amounts of hype surrounding his arrival in the Yankees’ farm system. His cards were selling for amounts that would make a Sox fan cry, and many people thought he was going to be the next Roger Clemens. When the 2007 Bowman products hit shelves, people clamored to get a hold of his autographed rookie. So much so that his 2007 Chrome superfractor sold for close to $10,000. I was literally in shock that someone would pay that much for a guy destined to be a middle reliever or a middle of the rotation starter, but none-the-less, people were freaking out. It had a lot to do with where he was playing, and I always said that if his name was Jerry and he played in Pittsburgh, no one would care about his future. In 2010, he has settled into a setup role with the Yankees, but is no where near where he was back in 2007. He has already had a few shots as a starter with the team, only to be put back into the bullpen when success was limited. Cards that were selling above $300 in 2007 are now under 50 bucks, and there is even a fabled BGS 10 on eBay with no bids at under $150.

These players were far down the page in a long list of failed top prospects, but Strasburg is on a level all his own. Although his career is far from over, its probable that he is not going to get to the spot he was expected to be come the middle of his run. Fireballers like Strasburg have a propensity to burn out, even to the point where teams are starting to go in a different direction if they have the option. However, that is not even half of the craziness surrounding his upcoming surgery. The main batch of crazy here was the prices people were paying for his cards, despite the fact that a best case scenario in Tim Lincecum was valued far below the investment they were making. Even if Stras had come to be what Lincecum is now, the prices were ten stories above the value ceiling. That didn’t stop people from paying thousands for his stuff, and now I am the one who is among the many saying “I told you so.” Even worse, those bowman autos that were once climbing above $600 dollars are now unable to sell at even half of that price.

Not stopping there, I can now say that buying Strasburg stuff far exceeds the terrible investment anyone ever spent on guys like Bush and Chamberlain, mainly because the investment people had made had no chance of ever panning out. If you were a fan, that’s fine, spend what you want, but that’s not the way many collectors approached Strasburg “prospecting.” Even at the price tag he was selling for, people were lining up to pay top dollar just in case he became the next “better than” Tim Lincecum. Instead, they ended up with a season and a half, plus rust shaking time of sitting on cards that will probably never make it back to where they paid.

Like Strasburg, Tebow is creating a hype storm in football that rivals a lot of what guys like Matt Leinart brought in 2006. Despite a lack of an NFL level skill set, and a team with that has barely any weapons at all, people are paying huge prices for cards that don’t even feature game worn swatches. Tebow has managed two TDs in the pre-season, more than any of the other QBs drafted this year, but both were “well, but” touchdowns that have a line after the initial explanation. The first TD happened during garbage time against the third stringers, and the second TD was a three yard pass against the scrubs, only after a long run from another player. These “successes” also don’t take
into consideration that his terrible throwing motion, arm and accuracy led to an interception by a player who probably will only play special teams, among other problems. If he had these types of problems against the backups, what happens when guys like Darrelle Revis have a shot at his throws on a curl route to Eddie Royal?

Many people don’t understand why I hate on Tebow as much as I do, and I will say that some of it comes from the hype machine itself. I cheer against the sand that is kicked up around guys that have potential but nothing to show for it yet, and it’s the same reason I never buy into their cards. I almost always root against the hype machine, mainly because so much of the hype stands against normal reasoning. If the hype machine actually put out what we put in, maybe my tune would change, but for right now, the results are pretty much a landslide in the opposite direction. Because America is such a please me now society, no one is willing to wait on buying cards of a guy who is being helped by his hype. Even though prices will almost surely decline rapidly once production levels out to normal expectations, no one cares. Card collectors NEVER learn their lesson, and I have a feeling that they wont stop creating hobby titans like Strasburg and company.

Does this mean that we need to adjust the way WE collect? No, it just means that we have to be more careful when the hype machine comes knocking at our door. Let the others live and die by their dollars spent on unproven “pre-superstars,” and instead take the bird in hand every time. Remember, its not “prospecting” when you are buying high and selling low.

Harper Superfractor Hits Ebay

The Bryce Harper Superfractor is up on eBay, and has already been bid up to quite a considerable amount of money. Harper has generated equal hype as Strasburg did at this point in his career, and most likely will reach the same level next year when Washington inevitably calls him up. This card should easily hit 10K, even with the reserve, and it just goes to show you what people think about the crop of cards from this year’s Bowman. Its odd, because this is the first time that MULTIPLE cards from a product have/will break the modern card ceiling that I have talked about on numerous occasions, as his red refractor, a few Strasburgs, and one or two others should hit that number if auctioned.

I stand behind the fact that Harper is more likely to end up on a level similar to Ryan Braun than Albert Pujols, and though Braun is no slouch by any means, the upward mobility of this card is definitely limited. I commented before that even if his hype counterpart Strasburg performs at Tim Lincecum’s ridiculous level, the team they play for will limit how much his cards will eventually be worth in comparison. Outside of that unlikely possibility of playing at a ginormous success rate, its still not out of the question that either will play to a long and great career outcome. However, does that mean that their inevitable production will necessitate prices like this, even when Harper’s card is a USA card and generally considered to be an XRC or whatever by those standards?

Im actually frightened as to what happens when the Strasburg Bowman Chrome Auto Superfractor surfaces once Bowman Chrome is released. It may not be able to be sold because the expected value will far exceed the money people have to pay for it.

Cue the upcoming facepalm, no doubt.

Strasburg Still Blowing It Up In Ginter, Just Not As Much

Remember those first Strasburg minis that popped up on eBay? They sold for ridiculous prices just like every other gift from Topps’ epic Stras-mas haul. Among reports that the minis were ridiculously short printed and may not even be a part of the main set, prices went wild. Of course, once people started pulling them a little more frequently, prices dropped dramatically, but still remain high for some reason.

They are obviously short printed, but not to the point that would normally lead to prices as astronomical as they are. Strasburg is Strasburg however, and despite performances that really havent really blown people away more or less than Lincecum did in his rookie year, his cards are like napalm in the morning.
Then, when you see the price that the autos are selling for, you begin to question what people actually see in buying cards at these prices. Even if my favorite player had rookie cards that cost this much, ones that weren’t more special than any other rookie cards, I would still be saying the same thing about people who think that spending thousands on these autos is a good idea. Its just crazy.
Check out some of these prices:
Strasburg Base Mini – This is one of the originals. Note the price.
Strasburg Base Mini – Here is one that sold recently via auction. Note this price too. Funny what message board comments are capable of at the beginning.
Strasburg Auto Redemption – Really? Seriously? That much? Think of the other STRAS items this person could buy. He doesnt even know what these cards look like yet!
Listen, dont get me wrong, I see why Stras is popular. However, Ginter is a product that is meant for people who dont really spend thousands the way these cards dictate. The popularity of Ginter is widespread but it is usually a result of set collectors trying to build sets rather than high end collectors buying autos. Just an interesting situation that I STILL do not understand.

First Strasburg Ginter Auto is Up

Let the bidding wars begin! The first Strasburg auto from 2010 Allen and Ginter is up on eBay and it is ALREADY at a ridiculous price. With the perceived rarity probably matching the actual rarity now, this card may top 3K or higher, depending on the willingness of bad bidders to let it run.

This card should be one of Strasburg’s rarest base autographs, if information from certain case breakers holds true for the whole print run. With the minis expected to top 1000 at first shot, it may mean that the prices of these redemptions may never drop to a reasonable level – even if Strasburg comes down to earth. With A&G being a set collector’s goal every single year, its not long before the set collectors file in behind the mentally challenged prospectors who still think they can make money on him.

I have never been a Ginter fan, mainly because I have never cared about set collecting, but I can see where people freaking go ape shit over it. We are in the midst of the biggest year of baseball cards in the last few decades, and its only going to get crazier once sets like Bowman Chrome hit shelves.

Prepare yourselves…

A “Super” Great Superfractor Auction

Im confused. Why in god’s name would anyone want to grade a superfractor? I just don’t understand the point, especially when the card is not available anywhere else. People often argue protection, but if that is the case, why even get it with a grade? When you factor in that the guy who graded the Stras superfractor needed a little “help” to get the 9.5, its really not worth the risk, when all you can do is damange the value of the card rather than help it, in most cases. That is all after the inherant risk of sending a card like that through the mail to begin with.

This auction is a great and hilarious example of that. The Jason Heyward superfractor 1/1 out of 2010 Bowman was one of the biggest pulls of the entire print run and this is the second time its been posted for sale. Despite the fact that its his THIRD chrome card and SECOND auto, people out there still want to pay thousands for it for some god forsaken reason. In the auction mentioned above, the buyer is also going to get a Strasburg Auto which looks to be graded a 9.5 legit instead of a “9.5,” something that looks to be driving this auction even higher than it normally would. That isnt the funny part though.

The funny part is that the Heyward was stupidly submitted for grading and came back with a 9. That’s what you deserve when you try to use a system that shouldn’t be used. It was almost an 8.5 from what it looks like on the auction description, so maybe the seller got a little “lucky” with this card as well.

Guys, I seriously hate the grading system to begin with, as stated numerous times on this site, but I do think its even more ridiculous when someone thinks that a grade on a superfractor adds more to the card than just an ugly slab. That’s where line should be drawn.