Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Top 50 Players On Cardboard-#35 Jose Canseco

My Top 50 Players on Cardboard
Jose Canseco

Before I get into my Canseco write up, I will preface my write up with this: I am not a fan of Jose Canseco.  In fact, he is my least favorite player on this list by far.  When I post material on my blog I always write my own articles and post pictures of cards in my collection.  This is one article where I sought some outside input on ranking fairness, not sounding too biased against Canseco, etc.

When I came up with the idea of this countdown and started making a list he naturally appeared on the initial planning list which consisted of more than 100 players who have appeared on a baseball card during my thirty years in the hobby.  Despite the fact that I am a little bit grossed out by Canseco, there can be little doubt for those involved in the hobby over the last 30 years that Canseco has had a huge impact both on and off the field.  Let's start out with a rookie card.

1986 Donruss Jose Canseco RC 

Canseco has several rookie cards that appear in 1986 releases.  The regular Topps base set from that year was lean in terms of any rookies, but he did appear in the regular Donruss and Fleer sets from that year.  Canseco would also make an appearance in the 1986 Topps Traded set.  The three rookie cards, Donruss, Fleer, and Topps Traded, are all kind of iconic 80s baseball cards.  The Donruss has always been my favorite.  I like the Rated Rookie sign in the corner, the yellow A's jersey, and the mullet and bad mustache.  There all pretty inexpensive, unless they grade high, and fairly easy to find.

Hobby Impact-
Canseco cards have always been extraordinarily popular with collectors.  It was kind of a mark against your collection in the late eighties/early nineties if you did not have a Canseco rookie somewhere.  The beginning of his career in Oakland was phenomenal and his popularity in the hobby swelled when a reached the 40/40 milestone and also helped the A's become one of the dominate forces of baseball in the late 80s.  He was later traded to the Rangers and Red Sox, back to A's, throw in sometime in Toronto, Yankees, White Sox, Angels, and maybe a try-out with the Expos during spring training.  Through it all, Canseco maintained a core of collectors who were loyal to his cards.

It always surprises me how popular his cards have stayed throughout the years.  In many ways he was one of the villains (or a hero-depends on your perspective) of the steroid era, but unlike other players caught up in the mix, Canseco's cards have remained popular and valuable.  He has a few relics floating around and a few autographs too.  One of the biggest downfalls of Canseco relics and autographs has always been the fact that many of these cards are from the end of Canseco's career.  That means you aren't getting Canseco as an A's player, how most remember him, but rather a Devil Ray or White Sox.

2000 UD Ionix Authentics Jose Canseco Autograph 

The autographs easily sell for $20 and short-printed, low serial number autographs can often drift towards $50 or higher.  Find an autograph of Canseco in an A's uniform and you will pay a premium on those prices: base autograph will be closer to 30 and serial numbered low will be north of 50 no problem.  For many Canseco fans, these cards are nice to add to their collection, but many just like the cards from his days in Oakland.  It doesn't matter whether it was his first stop, or second stop, nothing beats seeing Canseco in the green and gold.

On The Field Impact-
Sometimes I forget how good Canseco was his first few years in the game.  He won the 1986 American League Rookie of the Year, the 1988 American League MVP, the first player in MLB history to record a 40 steal/40 home run season, and was a World Champion on the 1989 Oakland A's. Really, it would be easy to make a huge list from Canseco's first few seasons in the Majors.  Canseco's numbers slid slightly his last two or three years in Oakland and I remember being really surprised when he was traded from the A's to the Rangers at the end of the 1992 season.

Just strictly looking at his home runs and other surface stats the level of Canseco's fall is not totally clear, but his oWAR went from 6.1 in 1991 to 1.9 in 1992.  Mix in that his OPS+ had fallen from a high of 170 all the way down to 128.  Canseco was definitely an above average offensive player after leaving Oakland, but he was pretty much a DH most of the rest of his career, and his real value was hitting home runs.  His end of career high notes were hitting 46 home runs for the Blue Jays in 1998 and following that up with a season of 34 for the Devil Rays in 1999.  Canseco also picked up a World Series ring in 2000 with the Yankees.

Canseco's real impact on the game since his retirement, Canseco insists that he was blacklisted, has been his whistle-blowing surrounding the steroids.  In 2005, Canseco wrote a book, Juiced, which detailed his steroid use throughout his career.  While penning the book he managed to throw a few other players under the bus including: Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi.  Most of the names on this list, minus Pudge, have all been caught or admitted their steroid use.

Canseco also appeared in the Mitchell Report as a source and also wrote a follow-up book which named ARod as a steroid user, along with Albert Belle and Magglio Ordonez.

Favorite Card-

1987 Topps Mini Jose Canseco 

Is this considered a rookie card?  No?  The 1987 cards have always been some of my favorites and the mini version is also really cool.  The cards still feature the trademark wood frame of the regular 1987 Topps cards, but they don't have the same name box at the bottom and lack the team logo at the top.  In someways, these cards are similar to the 1986 Topps mini cards, but they just changed the border.  Either which way, a really cool set and the Canseco card features him with his mullet and polyester A's uniform.

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