Cardinals Winter Warm-Up gauges player popularity

No, this isn’t a serious, in-depth article about player valuation techniques or anything like that.

Still, the other day, I received my package with the autograph details for the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up to be held next weekend and that got me to thinking.

While the prices demanded for autographs of course do not reflect true player value, they do indicate fan value in a way. At least they do to the extent that whoever in the organization sets these policies and prices has properly measured the collective pulse of the Cardinal Nation.

For those players most in demand, the only way to ensure getting an autograph is to secure a ticket via the “Early Bird” order process. That defines both the price and number of autographs allowed and ensures some order in a process that could be chaotic and frustrating without some bounds.

The first valuation point that caught my eye is the pre-imposed limit of autograph tickets per player per person is three – for most of those who will be signing, that is.

Yet, there are three players for whom a more-restrictive two-ticket limit has been imposed. They are Rick Ankiel, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.

At the top of the pecking order are not one, but two current Cardinals. Joining Albert Pujols with a limit of one autograph ticket per person is none other than Yadier Molina. Apparently based on his 2008 WWU popularity, the catcher evolved from the two-ticket limit last year to just one this time around.

The more interesting assessment is in the prices of the signatures themselves, all of which goes to charity by the way, to the fine folks at Cardinals Care.

Following are three lists of autograph prices – starting with current Cardinals and then two of past Cards. We next have the players who left the organization since last year and following is a group of old-timers signing at this WWU.

I listed the current players in pricing tiers based on their 2009 amounts. The section labels are my own. If they signed last year via the Early Bird process, their 2008 prices are also shown. My commentary follows.

Top dogs 2009 2008 Commentary
Albert Pujols $175 $175 Held prices flat despite winning every award in sight.
Yadier Molina $100 $90 Breaks the $100 barrier for the first time!
Second tier
Rick Ankiel $60 $55 Modest YTY increase in what could be his last WWU.
Chris Carpenter $60 $75 Ouch! Loses 1/5 of price after second injury-filled season.
Adam Wainwright $60 $80 Odd. I guess the World Series excitement has worn off.
Solid contributors
Troy Glaus $40 Reasonable.
Ryan Ludwick $40 $10 Up $30! You should have gotten to Ludwick 12 months ago!
Tony La Russa $30 $30 Consistent but underpriced.
Colby Rasmus $30 $30 Will definitely be looking to move up in 2009.
Skip Schumaker $30 $5 How about this jump? Six times higher than last year!
Middle of the pack
Kyle Lohse $25 Seems out of sync with four years, $41 million, doesn’t it?
Chris Duncan $20 $40 Loss of 50% in autograph price mirrors real value.
Khalil Greene $20 Newcomer can and should do better.
Brendan Ryan $15 $10 Slight increase for 2009 infield wild card.
Todd Wellemeyer $15 He will do better in arbitration than this!
Heading up or down
Ryan Franklin $10 $10 When all the ups and downs are considered, this feels right.
Kyle McClellan $10 One of three newcomers vaulting into this tier.
Jason Motte $10 Nice debut.
Chris Perez $10 Could be next year’s Ludwick in terms of autograph price.
Joel Pineiro $10 $20 Feeling the heat of inconsistency.
At least worth $5
Brian Barton $5 May be signing in Memphis soon, too.
Adam Kennedy $5 At least he is supposed to be coming to WWU.
Josh Kinney $5 $5 Who isn’t pulling for a nice 2009 comeback?
Jason LaRue $5 He and Molina average $52 between them!
Trever Miller $5 Hoping he signs with his right hand!
Brad Thompson $5 $10 Sliding down popularity ranking but was tendered a contract.

Though Albert’s signing price is flat this year, they’ve added an online auction from now through Wednesday to be guaranteed one of the first ten spots in line for the MVP’s autograph. It will be interesting to see how high these go for.

Looking at the players that signed at last year’s WWU who are no longer Cardinals, seeing Scott Spiezio on top offers another sad reminder of what he threw away. Izzy seemed to be a bargain 12 months ago, illustrating a rapid fall of a different kind.

The departed 2008 Commentary
Scott Spiezio $50 He really blew a good thing in his life and in StL.
Jason Isringhausen $40 No booing this year.
Braden Looper $25 Underappreciated trouper, Braden Looper.
Matt Clement $20 Can I have my money back?
Aaron Miles $15 I wonder if Mozeliak put in a late $10 bid?
Randy Flores $10 Had a better career than I ever expected.
Anthony Reyes $10 Do they even have a WWU in Cleveland?
Tyler Johnson $5 What could have been…

Moving to the final for-fee group, the Cardinals old-timers, it is nice to see a stronger selection of autograph opportunities here in 2009. Four Hall of Famers head the bill, headed by Bob Gibson.

Hall of Famers 2009 2008 Commentary
Bob Gibson $125 Don’t be intimidated – too much!
Bruce Sutter $100 Engine #42 is hot right now.
Lou Brock $100 An always cordial Cards hero.
Red Schoendienst $75 $60 Get it while you still can. A true great.
Almost Hall worthy
Whitey Herzog $40 $50 Guess memories are fading for some.
I remember you!
Bernard Gilkey $15 May still live in the area.
John Tudor $10 Is he still a cranky Yankee?
Jack Clark $10 As seen on FOX Sports Midwest.

Not to be forgotten are a major batch of current and former Cardinals who will be signing for free. There are some nice names in here, so don’t think you have to drop big money to snare good autographs. For example, Brett Wallace won’t be free next year.

Bryan Anderson Brett Wallace Rich Hacker Bob Sykes
Brian Barden P. J. Walters Rick Horton Scott Terry
David Freese George Altman Ron Hunt Mike Tyson
Blake Hawksworth Alan Benes Charlie James Ray Washburn
Jarrett Hoffpauir Andy Benes Mike Jorgensen Todd Worrell
John Jay John Costello Jeff Lahti
Daryl Jones Danny Cox Mark Little
Charlie Manning Chuck Diering Greg Mathews
Joe Mather Cal Eldred T.J. Mathews
Mike Parisi Neil Fiala Ed Mickelson
Royce Ring Curt Ford Ken Reitz
Nick Stavinoha Bob Forsch Jerry Reuss
Joe Thurston Phil Gagliano Stan Royer
Jess Todd David Green Ted Savage

The 12th Annual Winter Warm-Up, a three-day event, will take place on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend; Saturday, Sunday and Monday, January 19-21, 2008. Times are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Saturday and Sunday, and 9:00 am to 3:00 pm Monday.

For full WWU information, including signing schedules and ticket prices, follow this link.