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Panini’s National Treasures baseball gets a boost from Dale Murphy

Posted Dec 15, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated Mar 27, 2013 at 10:22 PM

Card company officials like to be the first to break news about future products, but the folks at Panini America didn’t mind getting scooped last week about its upcoming 2012 National Treasures baseball set.

That’s because former Atlanta Braves center fielder Dale Murphy let the cat out of the bag through his Twitter account (@DaleMurphy3).

Here’s what he wrote, verbatim (I am not going to comment on the misspelled word and choppy punctuation; after all, this is from Twitter, right?): Sneak peak.. Signed some cards for @PaniniAmerica today ..

Nearly 35,000 of Murphy’s followers saw the tweet, and in a follow-up, Murphy confirmed that he was signing National Treasures cards.

So, Panini doesn’t mind leaking some more information about National Treasures, which is still in its development stages. Certainly, several stars, rookies and Hall of Famers have returned their on-card signatures, so Panini posted an item on its blog (The Knight’s Lance) and included some photos that depict what these cards will look like when released.

Since Panini does not have a license to produce cards depicting Major League Baseball logos (that coveted license belongs to Topps), the company has had to crop photos and airbrush when necessary for its baseball products. I’ve read some criticism about the way some photos have to be tightly cropped, but I don’t view it as a total negative. Sure, it would be nice to see a player in his full uniform, but from what I have seen so far, the National Treasure cards do not suffer from that handicap.

In fact, some of those close shots look rather nice. The “Class Of ...” autographs of Hall of Famers Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, Jim Bunning, Carlton Fisk, Jim Palmer, Fergie Jenkins, Bobby Doerr, Dennis Eckersley, Carl Yastrzemski, Robin Yount and 2012 inductee Barry Larkin are all very attractive cards. The signatures are written at the bottom of the card, right below the logo for National Baseball Hall of Fame. There is plenty of room on the card for the signers, so there are some nice examples of bold autographs that collectors should enjoy.

Back to Dale Murphy. The two-time National League MVP is in his 15th and final year of eligibility for election to the Hall of Fame. His best showing since he became eligible for enshrinement was 2000 (his second year on the ballot), when he got 23.2 percent of the vote. Last year he was named on 83 ballots (14.5 percent of the 75 percent needed for election) and finished 12th in the voting.

It’s one of those weird twists of fate that Murphy, who maintained a squeaky-clean image throughout his career, shares his final year on the ballot with the three biggest names of baseball’s steroid era — Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens — who made their ballot debut.

I am guessing that all four of those guys won’t be making acceptance speeches in Cooperstown next summer.

Murphy was saddled by playing for some fairly abysmal Atlanta teams during much of his prime; he is hampered somewhat because he fell short of 400 homers (he hit 398 during his 18-year career and averaged 30 per 162 games). But from 1980 to 1987, Murphy won two MVP awards, back-to-back NL homer titles (1984-85), back-to-back RBI crowns (1982-83) and led the league in runs scored in 1985.

One could argue that such an eight-year stretch should be enough to get Murphy into Cooperstown; after all, pitcher Sandy Koufax had “only” six great years during his 12-year career (admittedly, incredibly dominant ones) and has a plaque at the Hall of Fame.

But Murphy’s detractors say that his totals for hits (2,111), RBIs (1,266), batting average (.265) and strikeouts (1,748) make him a very good player but not an elite one. Even his spotless reputation and his exemplary role as a baseball ambassador may not be enough to tip the balance in his favor. Perhaps when contrasted with Bonds, Sosa and Clemens, voters might see Murphy in a more positive light.

If he doesn’t get voted in this season, Murphy might fare better when his name comes before the Veterans Committee. But that’s down the road.

For now, collectors can be content knowing that Murphy autographs will be included in Panini’s National Treasures set, along with a lineup of celebrated names.

More information on this product will become available soon. I will be scanning Murphy’s Twitter account just in case he breaks some more news.

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