A recently received a news release from Topps promoting the June release of 2012 Topps Tier One Baseball got me thinking about Jewish baseball collectibles and truth in advertising.
The set will include "one of the most significant memorabilia inserts ever offered in a product. Inserted into packs of Topps Tier One will be 100 one-of-a-kind Bat Knob cards from the some of the most legendary names to ever step on the diamond."
Among the 100 featured players are all-time greats of the game, including Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb (pictured, left), Rod Carew (commence arguing amongst yourselves whether Carew's marriage to a Jew means he should be considered a JMLer by proxy or included in a Jewish baseball collection), Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Monte Irvin, Mickey Mantle, Willie McCovey, Stan Musial, Cal Ripken, Jr., Babe Ruth, and Carl Yazstrzemski.
There's also a host of contemporary players featured on the inserts, including Jewish Major Leaguer Ian Kinsler … and that's what got me thinking about Jewish baseball memorabilia and where I take issue with Topps' PR.
Howard Megdal named Kinsler the starting second baseman on the all-time Jewish Major Leaguers team in The Baseball Talmud: The Definitive Position-by-Position Ranking of Baseball's Chosen Players. Kinsler is an All-Star second baseman, and his $15 million annual contract deservedly puts him among the league's elite second sackers.
That said, Kinsler and his contemporaries – including Nick Swisher, Troy Tulowitzki or Justin Upton – are not yet, and may never be — some of "the most legendary names to ever step on the diamond."
Take for instance Kinsler's status as a two-time member of the 30-30 Club (30 home runs, 30 stolen bases), where he joins landsmen Shawn Green and Ryan Braun (a tip of the cap to Jewish Baseball News, which does a great job of chronicling the exploits of JMLers).
This means Kinsler can hit for power and has speed on the base paths. He's been consistent and good. Kinsler is, as Megdal argues, the best Jewish second baseman to play the game. Does this, however, make Kinsler one of baseball's all-time greats?
Consider Mickey Mantle's take on being a member of the 40-40 Club. He is quoted as saying: "Hell, if I'd known 40-40 was going to be a big deal, I'd have done it every year!"
A few years of great stats doesn't make a baseball player, Jewish or otherwise, a Hall of Famer. Want more proof? See sportswriters' Mike and Neil Shalin's book, Out by a Step: The 100 Best Players Not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Of the modern players included in the Topps Tier One bat knob inserts, I agree that A-Rod (if you can look past the steroids and egotism), Albert Pujols and Jim Thome, are among baseball's all-time greats. I prefer, however, to reserve judgement on many of the game's up-and-coming stars, including Kinsler.
Perhaps Topps could have written the new release to read: "Inserted into packs of Topps Tier One will be 100 one-of-a-kind Bat Knob cards from the some of the most legendary names to ever step on the diamond and some of the biggest names in the game today."
Does this marketing hype detract from the cool factor of the one-of-a-kind inserts? I don't think so. I would, however, prefer some truth in advertising.
What are your thoughts?
Regardless of what I think about the Topps PR, the Kinsler bat knob card is, no doubt, attractive to Jewish baseball memorabilia collectors. How much would you pay for a 1-of-1 Kinsler bat knob card?