Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Why I love collecting Vlad
Over the 15 years I've been collecting, I've managed to accumulate more cards of Vladimir Guerrero than any other single player in baseball history.
I haven't checked lately, but my Vlad inventory was reaching 900 different cards last time I checked. And, though I can't say for certain, there's a good chance Vlad was the subject of my very first player collection. I've been a fan of his for as long as I can remember, and there aren't many players I've enjoyed watching -- or collecting -- more than him.
Time hasn't quelled that little bubbly excitement I get whenever I land a new Vlad, and nothing showcased that more than not one, but two almost entirely Vlad-centric packages I received from none other than Wes of "Jaybarkerfan's Junk" fame a few months ago.
The cards he sent hit on pretty much every reason why I love collecting the almighty Vladimir Guerrero.
1) The trajectory of Vlad's career closely paralleled my own baseball fandom.
Vladimir Guerrero made his big-league debut in 1996, a nine-game cup-of-coffee with the Expos that year.
I was four years old at the time, which was when I was probably first getting into the consistent habit of watching baseball games on TV. Vlad would have his first of many monster years in 1998, when he posted a .324-38-109 slash line and became a force to be reckoned with.
I played my first year of tee-ball in '98, and it was probably the first year I considered myself a full-fledged baseball fan.
2) The guy was GOOD.
It's sad that the infamous "steroid era" caused many people to overlook Vlad, because the numbers really are staggering when you put them all together.
Nine-time All-Star. 2004 AL MVP. A .318-449-1,496 career stat line. And talk about consistency. The guy never hit below .300 in any year between 1997 and 2008.
He's a Hall of Famer in my book.
3) Vlad: The Last Great Montreal Expo.
Though Vlad may have been on the rise, the Expos were on the outs during his tenure in Montreal.
The Expos never made the postseason in Vlad's years with the club (1996-2003) and were often cellar-dwellers in the NL East. When Vlad walked after the '03 season and signed with the Angels, it was the end of an era. The Expos relocated to Washington after a dismal 67-95 season in 2004, making Vlad the last great Montreal Expo.
(At least until someone has the good sense to move a big-league team back to Montreal...)
4) Vlad has introduced me to many new card designs.
I always seem to be getting cards of Vlad from sets I've never seen before.
This is my very first card from the 2001 SP Game Bat Milestone Edition (deep breath) checklist. There's a good chance I would've never discovered this set had it not been for Vlad appearing in it, because God knows how hard it is to keep up with the gluttony of brands that were created during his big-league career.
Which reminds me...
5) The guy has A LOT of cards to chase.
I've gone back and forth on this issue a few times, and part of me does wish that some of those unnecessary brands released during Vlad's career would've stayed on the cutting room floor.
But all things considered, it does give me a whole lot to hunt. The Vlad market certainly won't dry up anytime soon, and I can't deny that all those cards keeps the thrill of the chase fresh.
The 900 Vlads I own probably isn't even a drop in the bucket compared to the total number of cards Vlad had issued during his career.
6) Vlad played in the most, er, innovative(?) era for baseball cards.
Only the late '90s/early 2000s years would allow an insert set called "License to Skill" to hit the market.
It's part of why I find that particular era so painfully lovable.
7) Vlad has some of the most consistently great cards of any player ever.
Sometimes greatness can't buy you a good baseball card.
If you take a look back through the archives, many of the game's superstars kind of got the shaft in terms of their cardboard careers. But not Vlad. One of the reasons I get so much joy out of collecting him is the sheer fact that he had a ton of fantastic cards.
This terrific broken bat shot is just one of Vlad's many masterpieces.
8) Vlad's just an all-around great guy.
Vlad seemed to keep a bit of a low profile during his career, but every account I've read has painted him as nothing less than a terrific human being.
If nothing else, you can look at a lot of his baseball cards for proof. He's all smiles in a high percentage of the cards I own of him.
Here's perhaps the highest compliment I can pay the guy: going through my Vlad collection has, on more than one occasion, cheered me up on a bad day.
And there's just a few of the reasons why it's such a joy to receive new cards of Vladimir Guerrero from awesome fellow collectors like Wes. I've been in this hobby for a long time now, and even 900 cards later, the thrill of the chase is still fresh to this day.
It's been an honor, Vlad.