Thursday, February 12, 2015

My Tino collection follows his career HR arc

Many collectors complain about the amount of card manufacturers and sets in the 1990s. But as a player collector of Tino Martinez, it's a lot of fun to go back and look at how the number of Tino Martinez cards released essentially followed his career performance arc, especially with HRs.

Tino started to get included in more sets in 1995, when he hit 31 HRs. When he was traded to the Yankees that winter, he was included in a few more. That's what being a power hitter in NY will do. In 1997, he hit a career-high 44 HRs, and found himself in a ton more sets, particularly insert sets. He was included in "power hitter" insert sets like Topps Finest "Power Zone" and Donruss "Longball Leaders." He was on the cover of Beckett. He had a cool name. His team was winning.

From 1998-2000, Tino still hit some HRs, but not quite at the level he did in 1997. His releases dropped. In 2001, he rebounded with a 34-HR season, and he did see a bit of a bump again the following year in the card sets he appeared in. However, he then moved on from the Yankees to the Cardinals, and eventually to the Rays before moonlighting with the Yanks one last time in 2005. From 2002-2005, Tino trailed off as his career wound down, both in production and card releases.

See what I mean? Perhaps this is true for any player, but it feels like it's especially true for a guy like Tino, who had a fairly normal rise to his prime and then trailed off. He didn't really hit his stride until his late 20s, when a lot of stars nowadays burst onto the scene a lot sooner.

Still, that 1998 card season was a blast for me, as I got to see Tino included in insert sets normally reserved for guys like Ken Griffey Jr and Frank Thomas.