Vladimir Guerrero Takes His Rightful Place in Baseball Hall of Fame

Vladimir Guerrero’s approach to the plate was simple: See the ball, hit the ball.  The nine-time All-Star for the Expos, Angels, and Rangers (he also played for the Orioles) rarely saw a pitch that he didn’t like.  With an aim toward mashing the ball every time he stepped to the plate, Guerrero swung freely and from the heels. The Dominican native used his powerful 6’-3”, 235-pound frame to produce a .553 career slugging percentage, which ranks 21st all-time and now ranks 14th among Hall of Famers between recently elected Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey, Jr.

After falling just short of election last year, Guerrero was rightfully elected for enshrinement in January.  His career numbers place him in obvious HOF company. Guerrero’s 449 home runs place him 23rd among HOFers between Carl Yastrzemski and Andre Dawson. His 2,590 hits rank 60th, just ahead of Reggie Jackson, and his 1,496 RBI place him 39th, behind Mickey Mantle.

Despite hVladGuerreroExpsis indiscriminate strike zone, Guerrero’s amazing hand-eye coordination translated to a .318 lifetime batting average.  In the modern baseball era, there are only 18 players with as many plate appearances as Guerrero (9,059) to retire with a higher batting average — all 18 are HOFers.  He batted .324 or higher seven times with a high of .345 (in the year 2000 with the Expos). He was also adept at sending runners home, reaching the 100-RBI total 10 times.

Guerrero was also one of the most feared hitters of his time, as pitchers often refused to pitch to him in key situations.  He led the league in intentional walks five times and drew 250 automatic base on balls, ranking fifth on the all time list.

He took American League MVP honors in 2004 (his first season with the Angels), batting .337 with 39 home runs and 126 RBI while slugging at a .598 clip.  Guerrero also led the league in runs, hits, and total bases at one time or another, while claiming for straight Silver Slugger awards and top 10 MVP finishes from 2004-2007.  He also displayed a cannon of an arm as a right fielder known for keeping runners at bay. Although sometimes erratic on the base paths, Guerrero stole 181 bases during his career, including a high of 40 in 2002.

Rather than joining Dawson, Gary Carter, and Tim Raines enshrined as Montreal Expos, Guerrero becomes the first to enter Cooperstown with an Angels cap.

Mookie Betts: MVP Candidate, Red Sox Great

Five years into his career, Mookie Betts has emerged as an annual MVP candidate and is on track to become one of the best players in Red Sox history.  As a result, the 25-year-old face of the Red Sox is the talk of the sports collectibles hobby.

Although his rookie cards are extremely popular today, there were very few Betts cards released in the years leading up to his major league debut, which is somewhat of an anomaly in today’s prospect-rich hobby.  In fact, the first major Betts card didn’t arrive until a few months before his major league debut in 2014. The 2013 Panini Prizm Perennial Draft Picks series, celebrating Betts’ 5th round selection in the 2011 MLB Draft, is the only set to feature Betts that year.  The silvery, high-gloss pre-rookie card is a nice by for under $8.

The most sought-after Betts card was issued while the highly-touted prospect was transitioning from second base to the outfield for the Pawtucket Red Sox.  The 2014 Bowman Chrome Prospect subset, which includes Kris Bryant, Jose Abreu, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka in addition to Betts, has proven to be one of the best prospect sets ever.  The chrome version of the Betts card is selling for $10, doubling in price since the start of the season. Limited autograph versions are selling for $375, while highly-graded autographed versions are selling in excess of $600.

Because he made his major league debut mid-way into the season, Betts rookie cards did not appear until the  late-season releases. The most popular Betts rookie is from the high-end 2014 Topps Update Set. Because the Update series is an extension of the Topps flagship line, the rookie cards are readily available.  Although the Betts card, currently selling for $20. has doubled in value since the beginning of the season, supply has kept the price in check.

One of the most limited Betts rookie cards is from the 2014 Topps Heritage high number series.  The card was issued only as part of a factory set and not released in packs. In the two previous years, the Heritage factory sets were online exclusives.  In 2014, the sets were also offered to hobby shops, making them a bit more accessible. However, many collectors are not willing to break up factory sets, so the Betts Heritage rookie is not scarce, but somewhat limited.  The Topps Heritage Betts rookie is selling for $80 with highly-graded versions selling for $200.

Baseball’s top sluggers dominate today’s hobby. The popularity and value of memorabilia cards are largely driven by player’s home runs and run production.  Betts bats leadoff and is relatively small in stature, but is among the league leaders in batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, RBI, and runs scored.  The 2015 Topps Tier One Game Worn Jersey card celebrates the 21-year-old Betts becoming becoming the youngest Red Sox player since 1965 to hit a grand slam during his rookie season.  Limited to a production run of 399, the Betts memorabilia card is a nice addition to any Red Sox collection for under $15.

Being compared to Ted Williams has also enhanced the popularity of Mookie Betts.  Earlier this season, Betts became the first Red Sox player to hit three home runs in a game on four separate occasions.  Williams accomplished the feat three times over a 19-year Hall of Fame career. Last year, Betts joined Tony Conigliaro as the only players other than Williams to hit 30 homers in a season before their 24th birthday.  Certified autographed cards of baseball’s top sluggers are the hobby’s most coveted cards. The Betts 2014 Bowman Sterling Rookie Autograph is selling for $150. Because of the high-silver gloss and full-bleed photos, finding this card in truly mint condition is a difficult task.  Highly-graded versions sell in excess of $200.