Friday, October 11, 2019

Cliff Floyd Autographed Card

I've been hearing rumours of the existence of a sport I once thought was extinct: baseball. Apparently, not only is it still going on, but we would be in the midst of their playoffs, and an imaginary team called the Washington Nationals would be a part of it; I can't wait for the New York Yankees to win the World Series so things get back to normal and I can focus on hockey and football again without having the sports highlights be interrupted by bat-glove.

In a former life, I used to go to the Olympic Stadium in the East end of Montréal to watch the Montréal Expos keep pace with the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies until early September, then just crumble like dead leaves as hockey training camps got underway.

One player I had a love/hate relationship with was Cliff Floyd, who was essentially there to replace my favourite player of all time, Hall of Famer Tim Raines, which was a no-no and a no-win, in my book - and that was just in his first stint with the team, back when it actually still was one.

You see, after the fire sale following the 1994 players' strike which possibly cost the Expos a World Series berth, fans stopped going to the games in protest against an administration it felt was just out to collect money without trying to field a winning team, essentially just developing players until they're good enough to be traded for more prospects, and eventually the team was sold to an American con man, who bought low, sold high, collected millions by the boatload in the years in between while not selling local TV or radio rights and went on to scam the good people of Florida out of money for a stadium and yearly guaranteed millions in revenue without having to field a competitive Florida Marlins team, all because MLB passed him over as owner of the Boston Red Sox for someone who wouldn't ruin their legacy. Sound familiar?

Well, while Jeffrey Loria moved on from the Expos and set his sights on the Marlins, MLB was operating the Montréal team, handcuffing its GM into not hiring or re-signing free agents, actually over-fulfilling the fan prophecy of the team being more or less the development farm team for the other franchises.

Then came the trade that sent Floyd back to the Expos - with utility pitcher Claudio Vargas, Wilton Guerrero, and cash - for workhorse reliever Graeme Lloyd, pinch hitter with two seasons batting at .280 or better in Montréal Mike Mordecai, Carl Pavano, prospect Justin Wayne, and Donald Levinski. The Marlins re-loaded two-for-one on equal or better talent than what they gave away.

Also: cash. The Expos didn't need cash, they were operated by the league. They could have printed money; instead, the owners of all other teams decided they just wanted a cut of what was left of that team, had them acquire cash and refused to let them use it.

But wait, there's more!

Floyd was back in town for just 15 games before moving on... to the Red Sox, with whom he batted for a .317 average in 47 games. In return, Montréal received Korean pitchers Seung Song (never played in MLB) and Sun-woo Kim, who appeared in a total of 118 games with four different teams in a six-year span. Another fleece in a series of questionable deals made that summer, the second involving the same power-hitting All-Star Floyd.

Here he is on card #154 from Fleer/Skybox's 1997 Metal Universe set, which he signed in black sharpie in 2003 or 2004:
At the time, Skybox was owned by Marvel, and many of its comic book artists had a say in the set's design, which incorporated comic book-type elements into the all-foil graphics. This card is not as "black" to the naked eye but remains quite dark, representing a stormy sky that ranges from purple to dark blue.

I have to say Mr. Floyd was very nice and gracious when I met him. We talked about the politics and economics of the sport, and he was both lucid and engaging the entire time.

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