Juan Guerrero – 1992 Fleer Ultra

October 21, 2010

“Oh, Man. Another Pop Fly”

Ah, 1992 Fleer Ultra. If I recall, they started a trend using a card stock that was fancy-schmancy, but also had a tendency to curl. While this batch wasn’t as bad, some years the curl was quite pronounced.

This picture, taken very early in the 1992 season, looks to be at San Diego. Guerrero came in for Ken Caminiti during the top of the 3rd, after a balk. This may be the at bat where he hit a flyball to center. Or it may not be.

I had a friend from college send me an almost complete set of this Fleer Ultra (among other good things) but when I first saw it I was nervous because I thought the ’tile’ effect were cracks in the card. Ah…

This was also right in the heart of the junk wax excess era. But I’m not going to put this one in that category. Guerrero deserved a base card as a rookie prospect. He was a Rule V draftee, so the Astros had to keep him or lose him back to the Giants. And when he made the team, a card was in order for any later-season sets.

Did he deserve an Ultra? Well, the Ultra sets weren’t so special then. They didn’t limit them like Upper Deck did with the Fleer Ultra brand in the late 2000’s. (Well, that’s because UD wanted their base set to be 2319 cards or so, but that’s another story in of itself.) And yes, I do make fun of some companies giving cards to almost random individuals. But I really don’t like the ‘stars and rookies’ paradigm, either.

I collect because of the Juan Guerrero’s. This is about his only record of being in the bigs, besides one line in Baseball Reference.

There was a reason he was available as a Rule V draftee. He had a great year in AA, hitting .334 with 19 home runs. He had some legit minor league power. But he was 24 when he had his breakout, and in AA for a second season. That would have been a red flag to me.

The Astros kept him all year – and he played as a pinch hitter and during garbage time, not hitting or fielding well. He missed all of 1993 (injured?), went to the minors in a couple of years, then played independent ball.

And the minor league power didn’t translate, except for one day. In a game against the Pirates, before a cozy crowd of 13,836, Guerrero drew a walk for Al Osuna as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 10th. Art Howe double switched, putting Guerrero at short. In the 12th, he crunched a 2-1 pitch from Roger Mason out of the park for a game winning home run. The next day, he got the start at short and went 2-3 with an intentional walk.

Alas, glory was fleeting, as it usually is. He went back to the bench, though he made nine starts in August replacing Casey Candaele, Raffy Ramirez, and / or Andujar Cedeno at short when all of them were hurt or struck with incompetence over and about their normal lack of effectiveness.




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