Thursday, March 1, 2012

Zero-Year Cards, Part 23

2005 Topps #594 Ben Grieve (Pirates)

Remember him?

Until I got this card, I had no idea that Ben Grieve was still active in 2005. He signed a minor-league deal with the Pirates before the 2005 season, but was cut before ever appearing in a game in Pittsburgh.

Every time I think of Grieve, I think of my Beckett magazines.

One day, I decided to flip through a bunch of my old Becketts just for fun. Each issue has the "hot list" with the 20 "hottest" cards on the market right now. (Whatever that means.)

For a while, Beckett showed what the #1 "hottest" item was at that time of the previous year, and what the #1 item was ten years ago.

A couple of my 2004 and 2005 issues had Grieve's 1994 Topps Traded rookie card as the #1 item from ten years prior. I imagine that card was trading hands for quite a bit of money in those days, as Greive was the #2 overall pick in the 1994 draft by the A's.

For a while, it looked like the people that "invested" in Ben Grieve cards might have hit a goldmine. In his first full season in 1997, Grieve hit .288 with 18 homers and 89 RBI, good enough to net him an All-Star appearance as well as the AL Rookie of the Year award.

He'd hit 55 homers in the next two years in Oakland. The A's sold high on him, dealing Grieve to the Devil Rays as part of a three-team trade that brought Johnny Damon to Oakland.

In hindsight, the A's made a really smart move.

Grieve's career derailed in Tampa Bay, his best season for them coming in '02 when he hit .251 with 19 homers and 64 RBI. He was hampered by injuries in '03, appearing in just 55 games for the Devil Rays that year. He'd have short stints with the Brewers and Cubs in the years following.

His last year in the majors came in 2005, when he made 25 plate appearances for the Cubs in a pinch-hitting role.

Stories like Ben Grieve's are the exact reason while I will never delve into "prospecting" in baseball cards.

It's too risky. Most of all, it takes all the fun away from collecting.

I'd bet that the success rates of draft picks in baseball is by far the lowest of any sport. Not a lot of former #1 picks have lived up to their potential in the previous twenty years or so. Sure, there's busts in the other sports as well, but I can't imagine that it even comes close to the amount of baseball draft picks that didn't quite pan out.

The term "can't-miss prospect" doesn't mean much to me anymore.

Just look at what happened to Ben Grieve.

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