New Guys From New York*
*Excludes all players named Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, or Mariano Rivera (different post)
This might take a little while, but the players in this post definitely deserve a little bit of credit for their impact on the baseball card hobby during my thirty years collecting cards. I have heard all the garbage arguments about how the Yankees and Red Sox buy their teams and assemble a lot of high end talent with little consideration for home grown talent, but there is so much more to putting together a championship team than just opening up the wallet.
Just look at the Dodgers the past two years, or the Phillies from a few years ago. Angels could go into that category too. Spending money on random players does not equal wins. The late 90s Yankees were a rather pricey bunch of ball players, but they were also a great team. Players set aside some of their own personal glory and stats to form, what I would argue to be, the greatest team of the past thirty years.
Between 1996 and 2001 the Yankees made a total of 5 World Series appearances bringing home a grand total of 4 World Series rings to the Bronx. The success on the field by the Yankees translated into success and popularity for the Yankees players in the baseball card industry. None of the players in the post are slam dunk Hall of Famers. In fact, most should not be at all. However, the players in this post were all very good and played a key role in helping the Yankees to at least one, or several, of their four late 90s/early 2000s World Championships.
The Yankees will take a few posts, so here's part one, which features four regular faces from the 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 World Series winners.
1990 Score Bernie Williams RC
Bernie Williams was a homegrown talent, they did exist, who appeared on all four of the World Series winners for the Yankees. In my opinion, Bernie is not a Hall of Famer, but he was a good player and a great member of the Yankees teams. He was a solid .300 hitter in his prime with pretty good pop, but Bernie's dWAR was negative for much of his career and he only hit .200 in the World Series including an .063 line against the Padres in 1998 and a .167 mark against the Braves in 1996. The Bernie Williams rookie cards are all in 1990 products and can be found in abundance for little money. Autographs and relics are pricy and he's not been a huge signer. He does have a very nice autograph though if you can find a copy of one.
1994 Bowman Jorge Posada
Posada fits into many of the same categories as Bernie Williams. Very good player, appeared on all four World Series teams (only briefly in 1996 and also for the 2009 WS winner), but he is not a Hall of Fame player. Posada might have been a more important player in some regards than Bernie Williams since he gave the team a plus offensive player while offering above average defense during his prime. Posada also did a good job of helping to run the pitching staff, which always seemed to pull through when it needed to. Posada did a decent job of hitting during the postseason too posted 11 career home runs during the playoffs. Cardboard wise, Posada's rookie card is from the 1994 Bowman set which is one of the cheaper mid 90s products from that line. The cards are pretty condition sensetive, so high grades can fetch big bucks. Autographs aren't really plentiful, so again, they fetch a premium.
1986 Donruss Paul O'Neill RC
Paul O'Neill was not a homegrown Yankees talent, but the prime of career was definitely while he was on the Yankees. I would even argue that he was actually better his first few years on the Yankees (1994-1995) then the years he helped the team win four World Series titles. O'Neill tailed off significantly during the 1999, 2000, and 2001 seasons and retired after the team lost the 2001 World Series to the Diamondbacks. Again, not a Hall of Famer, but a very good player. I like his 1986 Donruss rookie which is a pretty good set. Cool card with the polyester Reds jersey. O'Neill has signed a lot after his retirement, especially the last few years. Much easier and cheaper to find than Williams and Posada.
1988 Topps Traded Tino Martinez
This is difficult player for me to write about. My most profound memories of Tino Martinez the player were formed around his brief time in St. Louis where he performed poorly and complained constantly until the team banished him to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He seemed like a pretty uncool person which was only confirmed this past season when the Marlins fired him as their hitting coach after it was revealed he was abusive towards the players. Now, for his time with the Yankees.
Tino is a perfect example of why the Yankees won often during the late 90s. The Yankees actually did not sign Martinez as an expensive free agent, but rather traded for him and then kept him around New York. Honestly, he was a great player for the Yankees. Not Hall of Fame good, but he was the perfect hitter for the short porch out in right field. During his career he played about 550 games in Yankee Stadium and hit almost 100 home runs and 100 doubles while slugging nearly .500 in that ballpark. Other parks? He hit .239 in Fenway with 6 home runs in 86 career games.
His best year was actually 1997 when he finished second in the American League in MVP voting and also a career high 44 home runs. Tino's rookie cards are 1988 and 1989 releases and are valued much like the Bernie Williams rookie cards. Autographs can be a little bit tricky, but he has signed for a few larger print run sets, like the 2004 Upper Deck USA Baseball autographs. Tino in a Devil Rays or Cardinals uniform has little value, but Yankees cards are pretty competitive.