“No one jumps when the phone rings at Todd Van Poppel’s house. It rings almost constantly, and not just because Todd is a typical high school senior. It rings because Todd just may be the next Nolan Ryan.” —Sports Illustrated
I was a baseball crazed ankle-biter when i read the above article in a 1990 issue of Sports Illustrated, but gave the zit-faced high school senior nary a second thought because my esteemed Oakland A’s had no shot at getting him with the 14th pick that year. Ol’ Todd didn’t help out the situation by saying he was going to college, in turn scaring off most teams, including the Braves who swallowed their pride and took some second-rate scrub named Larry “Chipper” Jones. The A’s, being the perpetual team of desperation took a shot on the guy and “Zitface” decided that Oakland was better than wearing flip-flops and kicking around a hacky sack once he got a taste of the oodles of greenbacks, loose women, unquestioned admiration, and the sycophantic ass-kissing big leaguers deal with in every city around the country.
Apparently, when the A’s signed Van Poppel, they signed him to a major league contract and not a minor contract. Consequently, the A’s could only use a limited number of minor league options on Van Poppel, so they had to rush him through the bush-leagues and he never really had time to develop. In scouting reports, Van Poppel was described as having a blazing fastball with no movement, which helps explain the discrepancy between scout analytics and the reality of his career. In the end, Van Poppel was a career reliever who bounced around from the Tigers, Rangers, Pirates, Cubs, and Reds; never coming close to Ryan’s 324 wins and ended his career with a paltry 40-52 record, essentially becoming one of the biggest busts in baseball history. I, like every other red-blooded American dipshit bought into the false and largely propagated by Upper Deck baseball card craze of the 90’s and hoarded “Van Pimple” cardboard –never dreaming that you could find it (with case) 22 years later for exactly 25 cents on amazon.com. (with the case being more valuable than the card.) I should have listened to my economics teacher explaining why you can’t print more of something and expect it to keep its value–and would have been better off putting the damn thing in my bicycle spokes.
Ah, bike spokes. Many of my cards became accessories for my bike…
Yep me too BB! Got a Reggie Jackson and Johnny Bench rookie card that’s cracked and frayed and worthless because I pinned them to my spokes when I was a kid. Did make a neat motorbike sound though…. Vroom-vroom… what an idiot!
but now they have a story and character and a soul.
I heard also that Hank Aaron talked the Braves into getting Jones. Oh how I wish they would have drafted Van Poppel… I really hate the braves. I had over 1000 cards…the complete 77 and 78 Topps…left them in a storage building and a mouse destroyed them… I studied those cards to death as a kid.
The baseball card industry is once again red hot, and I will patiently wait for the crash and pick up some gems going for 20 plus dollars for less than a buck. The more things change…
I totally agree.
If I remember correctly, Van Poppel pretty much let be known that he was too good to pitch for the lowly Braves, so he was going to college. I wonder if it has ever crossed his mind that had he signed with the Braves, he may have benefited from being around Leo Mazzone, Maddux, Glavine, Smotltz, etc. and learned to pitch. I think Aaron wanted Jones all along, but the rest of the Braves’ brass didn’t get on board until Van Poppel spurned them.
It’s tough to say, but I bet you’re right. He probably had a lot of people whispering in his ear, and being a high school kid probably just went with what his parents and agent told him to do.
Well at least your A’s didn’t end up with “that second-rate scrub,” Larry Jones.
Roses are red,
violets are blue.
Louis loves Larry,
Larry loves Lou.