Saturday, January 9, 2016

Countdown to 2016 Topps #25: Technicality

I learned a long time ago not to put too much stock into prospects, at least when it comes to cardboard. In a related matter, we're counting down to the release of 2016 Topps 1...

The early to mid-90s was a period where I followed college baseball a lot more than at any other time of my life. I don't know if it was because I had a little more time to follow the game or because I had gotten back into collecting and it allowed me to try to keep a step ahead of other speculators. Whatever the case may be, there were plenty of great players to follow- and collect. In fact, at one time I had three different PCs featuring arguably the best players of the decade: Mark Kotsay, JD Drew and former San Diego State star Travis Lee.

Drafted by Minnesota with the number 2 overall pick in the 1997 draft, Lee (along with high school pitchers John Patterson, Bobby Seay and Matt White) became a free-agent through a loophole that was exploited by Jeff Moorad (Lee's agent). At that time, baseball's draft rules stipulated that teams must make a written offer to draft picks within 15 days of the draft. Minnesota failed to do so, thus setting the wheels in motion for Travis to later be ruled a free agent and eventually land with the expansion Diamondbacks- who had yet to debut. The price Arizona paid: 4 years, $10 million- including a $5 million signing bonus. Two other teams had reportedly offered Lee more money than the D-Backs, but the 1996 U.S. Olympic team member was convinced his best interest lie in signing with an expansion team and having a better chance at being their Opening Day starter during their inaugural season.

My Travis Lee collection didn't last very long. I was pretty much done collecting by 2002 and never picked back up on any of the 'Big Three' collegiate stars from the 90s. While having a decent career that spanned over 9 MLB seasons, Travis never became the star many were convinced he would become. His best season was in 2003, ironically enough, while a member of the Diamondback's expansion brethren, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

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