Jerry Stafford / Eddie Christian – 1993 Topps

February 23, 2012

Expansion Explosion!

Ah, I remember the 1993 expansion. I remember watching the coverage of the expansion draft on ESPN with Keith Olbermann hosting. It was much like the NFL Draft…”Developing! Sources say that the drafting of Kevin Reimer was as a request of the Brewers to trade him for Dante Bichette…”

While I wasn’t collecting at the time, I see the aftermath of the draft in my current collection. Chuck sent me some 1993 cards to help me out, and this was one of them.

These guys weren’t in the draft – they were signed by the Marlins before they were an official major league team. MLB did these expansion teams right by allowing them to build a farm system before becoming a major league team after seeing how long it took some expansion teams (notably the Mariners and Padres) to get their collective stuff together.

Topps expanded their card set from 792 to 825 cards. Well, these cards gotta feature someone. So why not a couple of Marlins farmhands?

Well, that’s all well and good, but the Marlins’ farmhands were from rookie league and short-season A ball, not AA or even high-A teams where they could have been readily identified.

Christian played for the GCL Marlins and Stafford for the Erie Sailors in the venerable NY-Penn league. They did ‘a’ight’ – Christian led his squad in RBI. Stafford compiled a 2.49 ERA in 43 1/3 innings. Not bad, but these are guys down in the low minors. Normally they wouldn’t get cards at all, not even in Bowman, as they weren’t high draft picks. Christian was a 16th round pick from Long Beach St. and Stafford a 13th rounder from San Diego State. But here they are.

Stafford was done with the Marlins after 1994 and spent one year in St. Paul in independent ball before living his life. Christian made it to AA in 1994 before washing out, played independent ball in Long Beach in 1995, then became an organizational soldier for the Angels and Mariners. He put up high batting averages in AA and AAA but didn’t have another secondary skill for those teams to get excited about and left the game after 2000 after another stint in independent ball.

Topps didn’t do that great of a job with the other Marlins’ prospect cards – of course projecting rookie league and short season players is always risky. But Florida did have some guys that made the bigs that were in the GCL in 1992. (No one on the 1992 Erie team made the bigs.)

So besides Stafford and Christian, Topps waxed up Todd Pridy, Don Lemon, Willie Brown, Matt Petersen, Mark Skeels, Ryan Whitman, Daniel Robinson, Clemente Nunez, Gavin Baugh, Pat Leahy (not the old Jets kicker), Ken Kendrena, Mike Veneziale, Dan Roman and Reynol Mendoza in its 1993 set as two-image prospect cards for the Marlins.

None of ’em made it.

But five of Christian’s teammates in the GCL did make it – Andy Larkin, Vic Darensbourg, Tony Saunders, Chris Clapinski…and…

Edgar Renteria. Gavin Baugh got a card, but Renteria did not. This was even after Baugh hit .249 with a .614 OPS at age 18 in the GCL and Renteria hit .288 with a .679 OPS at age 15. Yes, age 15.

Prospecting is hard for everyone, but especially for baseball card companies.

You don’t need a better example than that.


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