In 2006, the Major League Players Association (MLBPA) created new rules in regards to what baseball cards would be considered a "Rookie Card". Prior to 2006, it was fair game for card companies to make a card of a player not on a Major League 40 man roster. Or more simply put, a guy in the minor leagues. The new rule now prohibits a card being deemed a "Rookie Card" unless the player is on the 40 man roster. Popular sets such as Bowman Chrome Draft, Just Minors, and USA Baseball still can make cards of minor league players, but these cards are no longer, in the eyes of the MLBPA, considered Rookie Cards.
The intent of the MLBPA was to lessen the confusion over what cards were considered rookies. I believe they have missed the mark for several reasons.
Take a look at a list of Evan Longoria Rookies. Notice that he has cards issued in both 2006 and 2008. If you have an Evan Longoria 2006 Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor Autograph that card is considered an 'insert'. Not a Rookie Card. I have to scratch my head as to why the MLB would not want to capitalize on the hype surrounding new players. Imagine if Upper Deck and Topps could create Rookie Cards for signed draft picks. The buzz around, say, a National Treasures Steven Strasburg would be huge.
Another example as to why it hurts collecting is the fact that most players do not get put on the 40 Man Roster for many years after signing with a MLB Club. Some never make it at all. Collecting Rookies in other sports is very simple. If you know the year a player was drafted, then 99.9% of the time his Rookie Card is going to be from that year. Now with the new MLPA rule, you'll have to know what year a player was called up to the 40 Man Roster in order to know what year his Rookie Cards are in. Tim Beckham, the number 1 pick in the 2008 MLB draft, is going to have a different year for his Rookie Card, then the number 5 pick, Buster Posey. All because Posey made it to the 40 Man Roster during 2009, and Beckham did not. That to me is very confusing.
At what time a player is called up to the 40 Man Roster is up to his team. Often times, it is late in the season when rosters expand and teams can carry more players on their bench. This creates a very difficult situation for card companies who now have to scramble to issue cards during a players first year of service. Buster Posey was called up to the San Francisco Giants 40 Man Roster in September 2009. Meaning only products that came out after that date could issue Posey Rookie Cards for that year. Many great sets missed out on the chance to have a 2009 Rookie Card of Posey simply because he made the 40 Man Roster after the set had already hit the shelves.
The MLBPA was attempting to make collecting Baseball Rookies more simple. Instead, they made it a whole lot more confusing.
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