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Predicting the future (part 2)

Last month I took a look at the 1987 Topps Future Stars. Today we’ll consider the 1988 choices and see how Topps fared in their stargazing efforts.

#8 Kevin Elster. A second round draft pick in 1984, Elster was a decent fielding shortstop but never could get his bat going. In 1988-89 he set a record for consecutive games without an error (88), but that was broken by Cal Ripken in 1990. His real claim to fame was a role in the 1994 movie, Little Big League, in which he played Pat Corning. Topps missed the mark on this “Future Star.” Current Beckett value: $0.05.

#18 Al Leiter. Wait a minute, that’s not Al Leiter! It’s Steve George. He never played in the majors. He doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, poor guy. According to the real Al Leiter, the mix-up was due to the “SG” on Steve’s glove; Topps thought it was “56,” the uniform number assigned to Leiter. Topps decided to correct their mistake, making this one of the first mis-identified player cards corrected. Current Beckett value: $0.50.

#18 Al Leiter. Now that is Al Leiter. It took him a while, but Leiter finally started winning games around 1996 with Florida. That year he made the All-Star team and finished 9th in Cy Young voting. In 1998 with the Mets, Leiter again pitched well and received enough votes to finish 6th in Cy Young voting, and in 2000 was named to the All-Star team for a second time. Leiter’s star really shone in the postseason, with a career 8-3 record despite a 4.63 ERA with the Blue Jays, Marlins, Mets and Yankees. Definitley a minor star, so Topps didn’t completely whiff on this one. Current Beckett value: $0.50.

#246 Mike Campbell. In six seasons, Campbell finished with a 12-19 record with the Mariners, Rangers, Padres and Cubs. Ten of those losses came in 1988, along with a 5.89 ERA. No one would have predicted such a poor performance, though, considering Campbell was the 7th overall pick in 1985 and MVP of the Pacific Coast League in 1987. A good choice for a “Future Star,” but he never lived up to the hype. Current Beckett value: $0.05.

#312 Joey Meyer. Billed by some as the next Rob Deer (who wasn’t that good to begin with), Meyer burst onto the MLB scene in 1988 with 11 homers and 45 RBI in 103 games, but failed to receive any votes for Rookie of the Year. 1989 would be his last year in the bigs, with just 7 homers and 29 RBI in 53 games. Current Beckett value: $0.05.

#767 Jose Lind. Chico was not known for his bat, but his glove was fantastic. He won the 1992 Gold Glove for second base, committing only 6 errors. He was playful in the clubhouse, a jokester of sorts. But he had off-field problems, including drug abuse and domestic violence. One of the most embarrassing incidents may have been when he was caught driving without pants after leaving the scene of an accident. But on the field, he was a reliable defensive asset, and his glove helped him stick around the bigs for nine seasons. Current Beckett value: $0.25.

Overall, Topps didn’t fare too well in 1988. Leiter is the only real saving grace of this crop, but even his card is only a half-dollar. The players missed by Topps but picked up by others include Mark Grace and Ron Gant (hey, his first couple of years was pretty good at least). Tom Glavine was in the 1988 Topps set, sans the “Future Stars” banner. The whole set of prospects, including the error and corrected Leiter cards, can be had for less that most packs of cards today. Current Beckett value: $1.40.

Predicting the future (part 1)

In 1987, Topps brought back one of the greatest subsets called “Future Stars.” Fleer had some success with their “Prospects” cards and “Rated Rookies” were a staple of the Donruss set. Add to that the beginning of the rookie card craze (Topps also brought back the All-Star Rookie trophy on the cards in 1987) and the “Future Stars” concept was a no-brainer. But how much psychic fortitude did Topps display? Let’s take a look back at 1987 and see how they did…

#170 Bo Jackson. Bo knows baseball. Well, he knew baseball back in the 1980s. He also knew football, and that was to the detriment of his baseball mightiness. An injury sustained in a 1990 Raiders-Bengals game ended his gridiron career, and hindered his baseball success. But during his first five seasons in Kansas City, Bo hit 109 dingers for the Royals. In 1989, he blasted a lead-off home run against Rick Reuschel in the All-Star game. In an amazing comeback with the White Sox and Angels after his football injury, Bo racked up another 32 round-trippers in three seasons. Future star? You bet, although that star dimmed far too soon. Current Beckett value: $3.00.

#216 B.J. Surhoff. Surhoff was a consistent and durable player for the Brewers, Orioles, and Braves, but not sure how much of a “star” he was. He did make the All-Star team in 1999 while in Baltimore, en route to 28 homers and 107 RBIs. He finished his career with a respectable .282 average while playing every field position except center field and pitcher. I would call him a “minor star” at best. Current Beckett value: $.40.

#429 Tim Pyznarski. A first-round draft pick for the Oakland A’s in 1981, Pyznarski was traded to the Padres in 1985 for Jody Lansford. Yeah, I’ve never heard of him either. Pyznarski had a good year in the minors in 1986, hitting 23 home runs with 119 RBI on his way to winning the Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year and the MVP of the Pacific Coast League. He played 15 games for San Diego in late 1986, with 10 hits (9 of them singles) in 42 at-bats for a .238 batting average. In October of 1986, the Padres shipped him off to Milwaukee to complete an earlier trade for Randy Ready. Tim never played for the big league club, and was traded again in 1988 to the Baltimore Orioles for a couple of minor leaguers. Poor Pyznarski never got back to the bigs after his brief cup of coffee in 1986, but Topps called him a “Future Star” in 1987. Current Beckett value: $.05.

#449 Pat Dodson. Not sure who was a bigger bust, Pyznarski or Dodson. Pat was drafted in the 6th round in 1980 by the Red Sox and won the 1986 MVP of the International League with Pawtucket, but his time in the majors was short and not very sweet. Dodson only played 52 games over three seasons in Boston, hitting .202 with 4 homers and 10 RBI. What I can’t figure out is why his card is worth more than Pyznarski’s. Current Beckett value: $.10.

#512 Dave Magadan. Lou Piniella’s cousin had a decent major league career. 1990 was his big year, finishing third in the NL with a .328 batting average, second with a .417 on-base percentage, and a career-high 72 RBI. His performance was enough to pull down a few low votes for the MVP award that year, finishing 22nd in balloting with 4 points. After leaving the Mets, Magadan was more of a role player than anything, playing with the Marlins, Mariners, Astros, Cubs, A’s, and Padres. He was a “minor star” for one year. Current Beckett value: $.25.

#634 Rafael Palmeiro. The final “Future Star” for the 1987 Topps set was one of the best hitters in baseball during the 1990s. He made his first All-Star appearance in 1988 with the Cubs, but surprisingly only made the team 3 other times in his career (1991, 1998, and 1999). That’s a pretty low number for a guy with 569 career round-trippers, good for tenth on the all-time list (just behind Harmon Killebrew, right ahead of Reggie Jackson). He had 10 seasons with over 30 homers, four of those over 40. Unfortunately there was that whole steroid scandal that put a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and puts his chances for Cooperstown in question. Star? Sure, albeit a juiced one. Current Beckett value: $1.50.

Two major stars, two minor stars, and two no-names. Not a terrible year for Topps, but they missed a couple of big names that could have been dubbed “Future Stars”: Greg Maddux (a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer) and Mark McGwire (who did have a 1987 Topps card, but without the colorful banner). There were a couple minor stars that were also overlooked: the 1987 NL Rookie of the Year Benito Santiago and Oakland catcher Terry Steinbach.

But you can’t complain about a set that has Bo Jackson in it, regardless of who else may or may not be there. Current Beckett value: $5.80.

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