Back in 1998, Bowman Chrome’s sophomore effort was looming. Collectors were still going ape shit over Chrome’s debut the previous year thanks to big (and big is an understatement) MLB performances by Kerry Wood and Jose Cruz Jr. With a week before ’98 Bowman Chrome was to be released, all anyone could talk about is “El Duque” and what would likely be the BEST card to own of the future Yankees legend. A few weeks after its release, as expected, the card was on fire with base versions selling for $40-$50, ungraded. When I walked into my favorite card shop, the owner had a special card he held aside for me that no one knew about. In the back, as he went to retrieve it, was a 1998 Bowman Chrome Refractor of #26, surefire Hall of Famer, Orlando Hernandez.
Ten minutes later I was $55 dollars in the hole, but hey at least he gave me a free screwdown holder. I felt proud as I walked out of that card store, now completely broke. This guy was going to make me rich and would make up for my lack of ’97 Bowman Chrome stars I failed to pick up in a timely fashion. I wanted those two ’97 Chrome stars more than anything but surely this card would triple, no quadruple in value in the next couple of years after El Duque’s Rookie of the Year season, followed by his 30-win 1999 year, multiple MVP awards, etc. How could this end ANY.OTHER.WAY?
Well, it did. I can’t say Hernandez wasn’t a good pitcher because he sort of was. He did win 90 games over 9 seasons but he was no phenom and that card below, which left my collection sometime during 2001, has very little value now. Surely nothing close to what Beckett Media’s price tag will have you believe. Copies of the card, in non-parallel form sell for under $5 dollars, with parallels sometimes hitting close to $10 dollars on eBay. So why am I writing about this Cuban defector and former Hobby sweetheart? Because now there is another hot Cuban defector making all sorts of waves and his cards don’t sell for anything close to $55, if you’re looking for a rookie card that will be considered among his best cards.
His name is Jose Abreu and in his rookie season he hit .317, with 36 home runs, and 107 RBI. In these prospect-obsessed times, his cards big cards, including low-numbered parallels would be pushing $5,000 or more but the guy is 27 years old now and even that is questionable. For now, let the prospectors lurk minor league games and I will sit back and see what this big, Cuban slugger can do in his second season. With Steroids out of the picture thanks to another former Cuban, seasons like the one Abreu had are not common but even if he is something special, he is entering his prime years and in a few years will likely be heading downhill.
Hey, at least I can finally gloat over the fact that “El Duque” had a better career than Kerry Woods and Cruz, Jr, well, kinda. As for how his career will compare with Abreu, only time will tell but for now, I will hold off on Jose’s Chrome cards. It may be a gamble that will cost me in the long run but I’ve already learned my lesson. I’ll leave the prospecting to the pros.