Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Top 50 Players on Cardboard-#34 Will Clark

My Top 50 Players on Cardboard
Will Clark

1986 Topps Traded Will Clark RC

Clark has several different rookie cards in across several different 1986 and 1987 products.  I have also really liked this 1986 Topps Traded card the best.  The design on the 86 Topps set was always one of my favorites as a kid, it's just too bad that the base set from that year lacks any important rookie cards.  The Traded set is a little bit different story and the black border around the top, along with the centering make this a cool card to chase down and clean copies of this card pretty valuable.

Hobby Impact-
Clark has a large hobby following and has remained very popular more than a decade after retiring from baseball.  His cards are highly sought after, the Giants years are clearly more popular, and bidding and pricing on Clark items has always been slightly higher than similar on the field players.  His rookie cards can often be found for a few dollars if you are looking for raw copies, but high graded copies can add significant value and push the price towards $100.

By the the mid 90s Clark left the Giants for Rangers which keeps the prices on some of his low print run inserts down slightly, but only slightly.  One of his key inserts worth looking for is the refractor card in the 1993 Topps Finest set.  The Clark copy is one of the more expensive cards and they can be among the more difficult to track down.  If I had to own one Will Clark insert card and money was not an object, that would be the card.

Clark has a nice autograph and has signed a ton of cards over the years.  I have always kind of wanted a Will Clark Giants autograph, but never found one at a price I liked.  Most of his bulk 90s autographs (Leaf and Donruss Signature, SP Signature) feature The Thrill as a Ranger or Oriole.  They still sell, but I have always pictured him as a Giant.  There does see to be a premium for the Giants autographs and the Cardinals autographs.  My lone Will Clark autographs is....

2005 UD Heroes Will Clark Autograph 

On The Field-
Clark was a blue collar player.  He hustled, scrapped, and did whatever he had to.  Clark hit for power, but never lead the league in hitting.  Clark hit for average, but never won a batting title.  He was just a productive player.  His final career line of .303/.384/.497 mixed in with 284 home runs and 1,200 RBIs is nice.  Is Clark a Hall of Famer?

I think it depends on whether you are a fan of a big Hall of Fame or an exclusive Hall of Fame.  The JAWS rating system puts him as the 24th best first baseman in MLB history.  Remember that there are a lot of first baseman in the Hall.  The majority of players on the list are Hall of Famers, or will be Hall of Famers.

I know that Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda are in the Hall of Fame, but I am not sure I am a huge fan of them being in the Hall.  I guess I am more of an inclusive Hall of Fame person, but for my money Will Clark is a little bit short of being there.  When I look at some of the names surrounding Clark: Olerud, Keith Hernandez, Giambi, Lance Berkman, etc. I think he fits in well with that group of players.  I don't think any of them are deserving of the Hall though.  I think the percentage stats are in the right neighborhood for Clark, but as a corner infielder he lacked power which puts his OPS and OPS+ a good bit below the top tier of first baseman.

As a Cardinals fan, I really did not like the scrappiness of Will Clark while he was on the Giants.  There was this famous incident between Clark, current Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo, and Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith.

The Cardinals actually ended up with Clark at the end of the 2000 season to fill in for an injured Mark McGwire.  He more than exceeded expectations at put up an incredible line of .345/.426/.655 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 55 games.  The team made the playoffs that season, beat the Braves in the Division series before falling to the Mets in the League Championship.  During the NLCS that season Clark posted a .412/.500/.706 line.  Very Beltranesque.  

The performance by Clark made him a pretty popular figure around St. Louis and eased some of the hard feelings that existed between Cardinals fans and Clark from his days as a Giant.  

Favorite Card-
When I put Clark on the list I did not have to flip back through his cards are look around to find my favorite card.  I knew exactly what card was going to go in this space.  Here it is:

2001 Topps Gold Will Clark 

From the 2001 Topps set, this was one of my favorites in the entire set.  In fact, I would go so far as to say this card is one of my favorite Cardinals highlight cards of all-time.  Really cool.

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