New Year, Old Grudges

Featured Cards: 2002 Upper Deck Ovation Diamond Futures #DF-JR, Jimmy Rollins; 2012 Topps Five Star Autgraph Relics #FSAR-MS, Mike Schmidt

It’s the start of a new year, but before I resume semi-regular posting again, I feel the need to address a couple old grudges I have with how the media treats baseball cards.

2002 Ovation DF Rollins FrontMy first beef is an old flame that ESPN’s Dave Schoenfield rekindled when he posted “Baseball card industry grows up” to his SweetSpot Blog on Christmas Eve. What annoys me about pieces like this one is that the various national media outlets run similarly written pieces with infrequent regularity to show the current state of the hobby. They all read the same, but worse than that, they are always written by hobby outsiders. Yes, Schoenfield made an effort to interview attendees of the card show he reported from, but the perspective is all wrong. Pieces like this should at a minimum incorporate in-depth views from an insider — in particular, collectors like myself and (I assume) those who read this blog. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of the articles such as Schoenfield’s rarely attempt to convey the opinions of hard-core collectors who continue to spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars a year cultivating their collections. Although I greatly respect Schoenfield’s baseball writing, his reporting on the state of the hobby really did not do properly demonstrate the hobby’s current state.

This leads to my other grudge: the sheer laziness exhibited by Beckett (supposedly, the voice of the hobby) when it comes to “real” reporting. My hackles were raised once again after reading the travesty of an interview conducted by Chris Olds in the February 2012 issue of Beckett Baseball. In it, he discusses Topps Five Star with Topps’s Director of Product Development, Clay Luraschi. I had been looking forward to it because a month ago Beckett posted on its website a teaser which stated that the chipping issue would be one of the things addressed. Sadly, this was the entirety of the interview regarding the horrible state in which so many Five Star cards emerged from their $500/pack boxes:

Q: With the chipping issue on some cards … has Topps Identified the cause?

Yes, we have received collector feedback on the quality of some of the cards and we are addressing it internally. We feel confident that it’s an issue that can be resolved moving forward.

Really, that was it; nothing2012 FIve Star Schmidt Front more is stated about it. No follow-ups regarding how Topps is going to address the issue or the potential causes. There’s not even a piece of PR fluff acknowledging just how bad the problem was and that Topps understands why this was such a huge, hoary deal. Olds’s fluff interview with Luraschi really reads more like a press release hyping the set — there’s no depth at all too it. I understand Beckett probably feels that it needs to be an industry cheerleader of sorts, but it’s also one of the few established media sources where real reporting is likely to happen regarding sports cards. Yes, they need the advertising money that comes from the dealers and manufacturers, but they also need to be responsive to the needs of the collectors. I started buying individual issues of Beckett again a few months ago, and I’m becoming more and more glad that I didn’t just purchase an annual description. Simply put, the cost of an issue of the magazine (even at discounted subscription rates) grossly exceeds the worth of the small amount of usable information in any given issue.

Blogs are great because of the voice they give so many people. However, very few of us who maintain them have the resources available to media companies such as Beckett. It would be nice to see their editors expend some time and energy engaging in something more than PR and industry cheer leading.

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2 responses to “New Year, Old Grudges

  1. That Schoenfield article is fairly tame, though largely irrelevant as well. Kids are priced out of the market, but people at this show are only interested in older stuff, so… It didn’t seem to come to any kind of conclusion, unlike that CBS News piece from last year that claimed that the sky was falling because a weekly Tuesday night card show had slowed down since the ’80s and Mr. Mint is no longer rolling in quick cash from flipping baseball card collections (I covered the piece in my Hobby in Crisis series, most of the industry heavyweights also had a few choice words). Beckett did cover that story, if asking for reader comments counts.

    I’ve only bought one issue of Beckett in the last several years, and that was only because it had Dickey on the cover. Come to think of it, I don’t think I even read the cover story. I did look up some pricing info for fun, mostly just to see how out of touch with reality their prices are. I’d imagine that their reporting works the same way: they present information that appears to be a reflection of reality, but instead it ends up being used to drive the reality, or at least the narrative. I’ve been considering getting a subscription again (mainly because of the massive discount on the subscription card in the issue I bought), but I just don’t have enough of an interest. Stories are covered better on the blogs, new release information is covered better elsewhere, and pricing is a crap shoot anyway.

    All of this is making the Times piece about two guys who collect Mike Piazza Marlins cards look like stellar journalism.

    • You’re right, the Schoenfield piece is tame, and compared to many other pieces I have seen (like the CBS News — I would’ve sworn it was 60 Minutes, in particular) it wasn’t really deserving of ridicule. In a sense I am unfairly picking on it if for no other reason than its appearance is just another in a long line of articles that does nothing to properly convey to non-collectors what the hobby is now like. At a minimum, I should’ve included links to similar (or worse) articles about the hobby written by outsiders.

      I’ll have to check out your Hobby in Crisis series. Like everyone else, I have my opinions about the various issues facing the hobby, and I always enjoy reading other perspectives.

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