Each of the last two years, we have had horrible tragedies that have taken the life of a baseball player within the confines of the existing season. Not only are these tragedies national news, but they represent one of the worst situations that happens in sports. I would go so far as saying baseball has been impacted by these types of situations more times than any of the other sports that I can remember, going back to players like Roberto Clemente’s death in 1972.
Last year, Oscar Taveras, a widely collected prospect and major league star for the Cardinals was killed in an auto accident, and this year, Jose Fernandez lost his life in a boating accident earlier this week. For both players it has left collectors with very tough choices to make in how to proceed with personal collections, especially because both players were so early in their careers. When Clemente died, his legacy was already cemented as a HOFer with over 3000 hits to his name. These two were far from cementing their careers as stars, but were beloved for their potential as futures of their respective franchises.
The question is what do you do when the player you collect passes away suddenly, even if they are no longer playing? I remember Sean Taylor in the NFL was a huge story because like Hernandez, his future was incredibly bright. Same thing could be said about Steve McNair on the other end of things, as his career was already relatively over when he was murdered. Both times, collectors were left with a choice, and I still dont know the right answer to this question. Do you sell off and profit from a TERRIBLE situation, or wait as the demand for their cards drop?
For some, like Reggie White and Walter Payton, their lives ended prematurely too, but well after their playing days were over. Health issues for football players are common, and both White and Payton died early because of sad circumstances from diseases out of their control. Yet like Clemente, their cards have only increased in value because they are no longer around to participate in the collecting game. Im curious if players like Fernandez and Taveras, who had massive but short lived success will have a similar approach, especially because they are both players whose heritage is part of what made them fan favorites. Taveras I would guess will be a stretch to hold any type of long term value, but Fernandez could be different. He was such a huge part of the Marlins’ organization, and as a Cuban player, many collectors gravitated towards his accomplishments as a parallel to their own nationality.
Bottom line, no one wants to deal with a time after a player has died, especially if its not anything related to drugs, alcohol or other self inflicted means. It can be heartbreaking, and for many people who have poured money into stashes of cards, it can be debilitating to one’s confidence of ever really getting back into the hobby the same way. Im not sure I could sell off cards just to profit off a situation like this, and sometimes eBay prevents it from happening like we saw with Junior Seau. At some point, the collection question will come up, and I do not envy anyone that has to go through it.
Hopefully peace has come to Jose Fernandez, as its clear his death is one that many will have a hard time moving on from.