By CHRIS OLDS| Beckett Baseball Editor
Unlike previous seasons, this year’s World Series might have the makings of a true fall classic on the field as well as in hobby shops.
There are several reasons, but most notably you have the fact that one team has the look of a dynasty in the making — the Philadelphia Phillies — appearing in its second straight Series vs. “The Evil Empire” in the New York Yankees, the 26-time world champions who bought their way into yet another postseason.
To be fair, both teams have their fair share of free agent acquisitions or key players gained in trades. And, sure, both teams spend money, too — the Phillies at $113 million this year and the Yankees at $201 million. And, sure, they do have to play the games after writing the checks — but it’s tough for anyone to discount with a straight face the buying power that totaled $420 million spent this off-season for CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett.
It’s this great matchup of big bats, strong arms and good cardboard that should generate interest in the markets that run parallel to the action on the field.
Hobby-wise several of the key stars for Philadelphia appear as Phillies on their Rookie Cards because they are home-grown talents — and that’s a plus when it comes to success in the card shop. There’s the name and team recognition when beginning collectors (and others) want to land the RCs of their Series MVP and he’s wearing the same uniform on his card as he was on your television screen.
And the Yankees? Well, they’re nearly all established stars — to some a lesser degree than others as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez obviously lead the way on cardboard — that are known in the hobby, too. But, even then, there isn’t a lot in the hobby that can compete with the huge Yankees fan base’s postseason buying habits when there’s a World Series title involved.
We’ve already previously made our picks for postseason impact players who are underappreciated to varying degrees in the hobby — some have delivered (Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, Sabathia) while one has struggled mightily (Nick Swisher) this postseason. One key play in the World Series, though, and that might all be forgotten — and that’s just one of the things that makes the postseason great.
Throw in the fact that the Fall Classic will be played out in, hands down, two of the most sports-rabid cities in the country — with two of the most vocal fan bases — and played out on the newest and most expensive stage of them all in the new Yankee Stadium? It’s what Bud Selig‘s dreams are made of.
But in several ways, this Series is what collectors and hobby shop owners should dream of, too.
For the Phillies, Lee is an inexpensive established star who should be selling better than he had been. Cole Hamels is one of a handful of pitchers tabbed for greatness in the past who has delivered and has the chance to do so once again. J.A. Happ is another home-grown talent who has emerged as a key player this season, while there’s a veteran named Pedro Martinez who might find his way out of storage boxes for one last surge in sales.
As for the Phillies’ bats? It’s tough to find a better combination of power, gloves and undervalued cards than Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Howard is an established slugger, but isn’t far and a away a hobby king just yet. The other guys are much more than just glove men, but not many collectors see it that way based on demand for their earlier cards. Throw in some scrappy veterans making their marks — most notably Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino — and you have a good mix of collector-friendly options.
For the Yankees, it’s a bit tougher to start a new collection — guys like Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira are well-known as are Johnny Damon, Mariano Rivera and Hideki Matsui among others. But just because some of their cards might be expensive that doesn’t mean that there aren’t affordable cards to be found. (Most of the bigger names have cheap RC options to go along with the pricier ones from the days of overproduction and base cards for nearly all of these players aren’t too bad, either.)
And there’s nothing that says those players with cards with hyped, inflated card values (read: Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes RCs for starters) can’t also be hot sellers if the team is successful. That’s that whole power of the Yankees fan base if there’s a World Series title involved. (Throw logic out the window at that point — at least for a short time following a title.)
Ultimately, collecting the Yankees is just a bit tougher — especially for autographs — if a collector is on a budget. The Phillies? They’re a more affordable, more blue-collar collecting option and a franchise that just might be in the Series next year and beyond — even if they don’t spend as much to field what you see on the field.
Regardless of the outcome, this Series should be a good one — both on the field and for the hobby. My prediction? Yankees in six games.
Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Graded Card Investor. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.