1991 Leaf Gold Rookies
Todd Van Poppel is one of those watershed players in player drafting and development, in much the same way as Brien Taylor. For those three people not familiar with his role, he basically advanced the cause of the “bonus baby” with a then-record signing, then turned out to be a mediocre middle reliever at the Major League level. Okay, that’s not entirely fair – the guy struggled with injuries early on, and they may have sapped the movement on his fastball. There is also a lot of thought that that record contract cost him some important seasoning in the minors.
It all sucks because I really did believe he was going to be the next Nolan Ryan; how naive I was at the time, even if I’d heard pitching prospects were notoriously difficult to project. And this card was the crown jewel of my Van Poppel collection. Look at that photograph! I still think it’s absolutely gorgeous, the different greens mixing very nicely (it helps that green is my favorite color). I thought this was fated to be a sought-after card.
Of course, I bought the entire set for less than 10 dollars, so we know how that turned out.
The next in the Gold Leaf Rookies set, Dressendorfer was one of the A’s four aces from the 1990 draft (Todd Van Poppel, Don Peters, and David Zancanaro were the others). We know how well that whole group worked out, right? Dressendorfer was a question mark from the beginning, as I recall – he had pitched for the University of Texas, which was notorious for its handling of pitchers. He looked good early on, but got injured and was never the same after that. The only one of the Aces to make an impact was Todd Van Poppel, and his impact wasn’t that great.
This is an uncharacteristically weak shot for this set. I mean, it’s decent for the action, but it’s pretty blurry, and his face is hard to see. Definitely not my favorite in the set, even if it was one of the more esoteric of the cards early on.
One of the rare players on this page that panned out, we all know what happened to Giambi. But back when this card came out, I saw no evidence that he was going to be anything other than another flameout A’s prospect (see Scott Hemond, Brent Gates, and Craig Paquette). I guess the steroids had something else to say about it.
It’s funny to look at his rookie cards these days…he looks like a skinny little runt, absolutely nothing like what he would become. Even here, though he shows some of the attitude that would later crop up, he looks like an entirely different person. I guess that’s what the steroids did to him.