Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes – 1994 Upper Deck

April 13, 2011


Oh, if only card prices were published daily like the stock market prices, and archived for easy retrieval.

I wonder what the asking price for this card would have been in April, 1994?

As you remember, Rhodes hit three home runs on Opening Day in 1994, in Wrigley. Sure that wasn’t going to last, but at the end of April he was hitting .313 with a .996 OPS.

By the end of May, he was down to .249 with a .765 OPS.

He wound up at .234 with a .705 OPS and just a 0.4 WAR, having lost the starting center field job in the process in favor of Glenallen Hill. Now, an outfield of Derrick May, Hill and Sammy Sosa would probably cause the pitchers to sue the outfield for non-support on defense.

If you throw April out, Rhodes hit .201 with an OBP and SLG under .300.

Rhodes had an outstanding career in Japan afterwards, but here he is best known for that one game, and then the abject disappointment the Cubs had from May onward in 1994, all because of him.

I’m sure the speculative card collectors were buying up any Rhodes cards they could in April and by June they were unloading them. A price chart no doubt looked like the tulip bubble.

But had they done their homework, they probably would have realized that Rhodes wasn’t someone to really get excited about.

A. Rhodes had 259 at bats already in the big leagues. While not a huge sample size, there was enough of a record to see that his April would probably be anomalous.

B. Up until 1993, Rhodes hit just 14 home runs in the minor leagues after starting in rookie ball in 1986. In 1993, Rhodes hit 30 home runs in the American Association after being released by Houston. Regression to the mean was likely.

C. In 1993, while Rhodes was blasting home runs, he was involved in a three-way trade between the Yankees, Royals and Cubs. Rhodes, John Habyan and Paul Assenmacher were the principals involved. Of those, Rhodes was the only one who was a minor leaguer and he stayed a minor leaguer until September call-ups.

D. 1993 was Rhodes’ fourth year in AAA. That could explain his batting surge more than anything.

E. In 1993, Rhodes was in AAA while Kevin Roberson was called up after Candy Maldonado was deemed a failure. Maldonado was traded to Cleveland for Glenallen Hill. Meanwhile Roberson stayed up and Rhodes stayed on the farm.

Sure, it’s all hindsight. But Rhodes is why I never worry about April stats. The stats all come out in the wash in the long run.


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