Jul 31, 2016

Dreaming on the #1 Pick

With the MLB Draft come and gone, and Mickey Moniak having been selected, signed, and officially debuted in the rookie league the #1 pick is never a sure thing. In many years, there are consensus first picks (think Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Alex Rodriguez). In other years, the #2 picks surpass the #1 pick even before the ink has dried on the signing (think Joe Mauer, Kris Bryant). And in some other years, the gems are hidden depending on draft depth (Kershaw at #7 in 2006, Trout at #25 in 2009 (sidenote: did you know that the Angels had both the #24 and #25 picks that year and drafted Randal Grichuk directly before?))

 There's always dreams that the #1 pick will become a Hall of Famer or multiple year all-star, but there is generally so much uncertainty in player development, that there is usually no clear path defined for that. The Phillies last foray into having the #1 pick was when they selected Pat Burrell in 1998. That worked out fairly well; only a few players have arguably had better careers from that first round (CC Sabathia) or flashed similar skills in a short time frame (Mark Mulder, JD Drew, Brad Lidge, Carlos Pena).

 Which is to say, that the perceived success of this pick is not only predicated on the success of the Moniak as a player when he makes the big leagues, but also upon his relative performance to the other picks considered for his spot. We are a relativistic society after all. Here a couple #1 picks from the past that had different circumstances around their selection as depicted by 2009 obak auto cards and a nice ice parallel from 2012 Bowman that I pulled from packs.
Ben McDonald was the #1 overall pick in the 1989 draft.  He was a star in the 1988 Olympics for the gold medal winning USA team and won the Golden Spikes award in 1989.  He made his major league debut in the September of 1989, weeks after signing.  He was a polished product and became a league average to very good starter from 1992-1997 until shoulder problems derailed and ended his career in 1997 at the age of 29.

Moniak is not really a comparison since he's at a different stage of development.
Danny Goodwin is an interesting case since he is the only player ever to be drafted #1 twice, in 1971 after finishing high school and 1975, after finishing college.  The potential is that he was a good-hitting catcher.  He eventually made the majors and ended up being only a part-time DH.  I haven't been able to find why the position conversion occurred (though even a conversion to 1B or OF would have made more sense to get value out of an asset).   He played from 1975-1982 in MLB without being able to break through to a regular starter.

Moniak also doesn't compare to Goodwin, though they both started from up the middle defensive positions.  Solid defense and a good bat from one of those positions makes for a valuable contributor to a team.
Bryce Harper (the #1 pick in 2011) we all know about since he's in the news all the time.  He has MVP level talent (he did win the  NL MVP in 2015), but has not consistently risen to that level season over season.  Even slumping, he's an all-star level outfielder; he needs more great seasons to reach this potential.  Of course, after almost five seasons, he's still only 23, younger than the ROY candidates from this year and last.

If Moniak could get to a level where he approaches Harper's down years (118 to 133 OPS+) for many years, that would be a win of a draft pick.  He's seems to be a multi-tool centerfielder with good contact skills at the outset, so there is hope.  It looks like we will see the progression by 2019.  That's a lot of time to dream.

Jul 24, 2016

Introduction to Original Treasures and OT #1: Willie Kamm

Lists, series, and countdowns are what build content in the online arena of words.  I tend to think in terms of patterns and lists, so sometimes there are no ways around it, a series must be born.

This series, in my opinion, will present a set of cards that not many people have all in one place.  The truth is not many people can have all of them since they're all numbered to 99 or less.

The particular focus is on players who have purported to not had a relic piece in a card before.  These have been all players from the past, some Hall of Famers, and some who are not always exalted among the historic pantheon of baseball players.

There is one set that introduced me to this concept, and it was the 2012 National Treasures set.  This set brought in a bevy of these old-time baseball players that had not been represented through a bat piece or jersey relic piece in previous sets.  There were also numerous other subjects of interest throughout the set.

I never bought a box of 2012 National Treasures, but soon found myself drawn to the simplistic, clean design and subject matters, accumulating singles as readily as I could.  I soon was able to amass most of these "Original Treasures".
The first on the list is part of the "base" set of 2012 National Treasures, which is a relic /99 (In this case, a bat relic) and was actually a player I had not been familiar with previously, Willie Kamm.  This is pretty uncommon since I consider myself a student of the history of baseball.  After looking at his career, I can see why.  Pennant winners have shaped the narratives of the first half of the 20th century of baseball.  He was on a mediocre or worse Chicago White Sox team from 1923-1931 and a decent Cleveland Indians team from 1931-1935.

Kamm was not a power-hitting 3rd baseman during his career, but he had a great batting eye and great strike zone control (824 BB vs. 405 K in his career).  He also ended up as fairly league average hitter (97 OPS+).  His best season was probably 1928 in which he finished 5th in AL MVP voting, hitting .308/.391/.411 with an improbable 84 RBIs with 1 HR.

Statistically, he was considered the best fielding 3B of his time.  He finished first in fielding % 8 times in his career and consistently ranked among the top 3 in range factor for a 3B.  He has the 8th most putouts all-time as a 3rd baseman and still holds the single season record for putouts.  He's also best known for pulling off the hidden ball trick twice in a season.

Willie Kamm, an original treasure.

Apr 10, 2016

Cornerstone Collection: 1965 Topps Steve Carlton Enters the Magnetic Chamber

As you can probably tell, that is a reference to the card holder that the card came in when I purchased it.

As an extremely biased Phillies collector, there are five Hall of Famers that spent a good portion of their career with the Phillies during the Topps era: Ashburn, Roberts, Bunning, Schmidt, and Carlton. In a sense, getting the rookie cards of any of these power five, would be an automatic keeper.

The Carlton rookie is an interesting card in many respects.

  • This card was issued prior to his big league debut in 1965.  
  • He's paired up with a pitcher on the card, who had already made appearances for two years and never ultimately made an appearance with the Cardinals.  
  • The Cardinals red is significantly muted on the card; it's almost a shadowy red.  Was this done to match Ackley's airbrushed White Sox uniform?  It is the opposite in feeling of most 1965 Topps cards, which were bright and swooping
  • Carlton's next issued card wouldn't be until 1967; Topps seemed to forget about the pitching prospect for awhile.
  • It is arguably the best rookie card of the 1965 set (other contenders: Joe Morgan, Tony Perez).
This now enters the pantheon of my collection awaiting the rest of its contemporaries.

Feb 10, 2016

2013 Topps Chrome Triple Box Break: Dreaming Ahead to Summer

With winter in full swing upon most of the country (except for where I am and the Southern Hemisphere), it's time to present cards that remind us of a time when sunglasses were the norm.  All baseball cards have that type of effect, but none more so than Topps Chrome because they're all about the shine.

Don some shades as we reflect and refract our way to a warmer, more bucolic location where there are no worries except making sure all the packs are ripped, the cards are sorted, and the shine blinds us from the cold reality outside.

Yasiel Puig is happy that summer is coming soon.  The refractory spirit is evident as he runs from the Mattingly-filled past.

Nov 21, 2015

Inkquest: Greg Luzinski, 1980 Phillies

Here is the first entry representing the 1980 Phillies.  I am in serious baseball withdrawal right now. Whomever said April is the cruelest month had no idea what they were talking about.  Luckily, videos have been found online with full baseball games, including a few 1980 World Series games.    I was watching game 2 of the 1980 World Series last night and what struck me most was two things: the broadcasting style and the pace of the game was very different.  For broadcasting, they used maybe 4 or 5 cameras to show the action on the field, with none of them being super close-ups of someone's face.  In terms of pace of the game, Carlton sometimes threw 3 pitches within 20 seconds.  It was explicitly stated in the broadcast that a Kansas City strategy was to make Carlton wait between pitches to try and disrupt his rhythm.

Baseball Biography:  Greg Luzinski was the 1st round pick of the Phillies in the 1968 draft and made an appearance in the majors by 1970 at the age of 19.  He established himself as a regular for the 1972 season and first displayed his prodigious power in 1973, hitting .285/.346/.484 with 29 home runs.  Through the rest of the mid-1970s, he established himself as the Robin to Schmidt's Batman in the Phillies lineup, powering the Phillies to 3 division titles in 1976-1978 and also earning two 2nd place MVP finishes and three seasons of >150 OPS+.  During that time, he also established himself as a quality offensive postseason performer, contributing a >1.000 OPS in all three NLCS losses.  Luzinski stayed with the Phillies until after the 1980 season, then moved onto the White Sox, where he finished out his career in 1984, showcasing one last 30 HR season.  He finished his career with 307 HRs and 130 OPS+.

Role on the 1980 Phillies: Luzinski was the starting left fielder for the team that year, and somehow he had his career worst year for the championship Phillies.  He slumped to .228/.342/.440 with 19 HR and 56 RBI.  He was a key contributor in the intense NLCS victory over the Astros, hitting the only tater of the series and extended his playoff hitting streak to 13 games.  

Card Facts: This is a 2004 Topps Retired Signature Edition card. This set was distributed in 5 card packs with 5 packs per box (SRP: $150) with one slabbed auto card per pack.  The signature is on-card, and the photo is a classic photo of the old Phillies baby blues.

Nov 14, 2015

Inkquest: Dick Sisler, 1950 Phillies

The 1950 Phillies.  The Whiz Kids.  The mid-point of the century.    This part of the project will probably be the most challenging.  This was not a championship team, so they're not as well-remembered among the general baseball public like the Gashouse Gang or the Yankees or the Boys of Summer.   After all, it was 65 years ago, finding autographs of players from this era (especially the non-stars) will be a challenge.  

Baseball Biography:  Dick Sisler was the son of a MLB HOFer himself (George Sisler, he of the season of 257 hits, which stood as a record until Ichiro came along).    He was signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1939 during his age 18 season.  He progressed through the minor leagues until after the 1942 season, when he joined the Navy for World War II, missing the 1943-1945 seasons.  He came back to the Cardinals for the 1946-1947 seasons, winning a championship in 1946, and striking up a friendship with Ernest Hemingway.  He was traded to the Phillies before the 1948 season, and established himself as a starting first baseman in 1949.  He played in the majors until 1953 for the Phillies, Reds, and Cardinals, and continued playing in the minors until 1958.

Role on the 1950 Phillies: Dick Sisler was the starting left fielder on the 1950 Phillies, hitting .296/.373/.442, a 115 OPS+.  It was the best year of his career, earning him his only all-star game nod.  He also set or tied career highs in home runs, RBIs, runs, BB, 2B, hits, total bases, etc.  His moment in the sun was on the last day of the season.  The Phillies were 1 game up on the Dodgers.   With the game tied 1-1 in the top of the 10th inning, he hit a 3-run home run off Don Newcombe and sent the Phillies to their first pennant in 35 years.

Card Facts: This is a 2012 Leaf History of Baseball card.  This set was a pure cut signature set, with cut auto per pack/box.  The checklist was enormous, so it had a variety of players from the greatest of the great to all-stars to team favorites.  The SRP of this set was $40 per card, a value product.  Many of the harder to find players could probably be found through this set.

Oct 25, 2015

What Comes Out of a 2013 Bowman Retail Rack Pack? Pack Breaking and Ruminating

The answer is......"cards of mostly unrecognizable figures in the major leagues as card companies continuously to inundate us with a checklist of prospects to cash in on the next big thing."  Xth Round Draft Picks and Top 100 prospects are all the rage and have been for some time in this hobby.  As one of many different kinds of collectors, I can tell you one thing, it is always tantalizing to invest in the upside of the little known and well regarded rather than the well known with varying degrees of being regarded

I was an avid Bowman collector for years because there's nothing more satisfying than discovering a player and making him a part of your collection for the most inane and irrational of reasons, you pulled the first card of that player out of a pack.  Usually though, there were other explanations, that gave you the need to collect a player and seek out their cards, maybe something normal like team association or something visceral like photo selection or something greedy like value in the monthly Beckett's of old.

Let's see where these cards rank on the scale of collectability; all cards scanned are from a 2013 Bowman retail pack, the peak of buying a set for one player, Yasiel Puig (spoiler: none were Yasiel Puig).

Oct 22, 2015

Blog Flashback to 2012: Cole Hamels Can Now Be a Long-Time Phillie: Top 10 Reasons Why This is Good

NOTE:  I've decided to publish all my thoughts from the past as I reboot this blog to one with actual thoughts.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how many posts I have in the draft folder, so a lot may not be as current as I like.  This post was mostly written in July 2012.  I've finished it up now.  So the perspective is a little skewed.

With the news that all Phillies fans were waiting for in some fashion (either for or against the extension), the wait is over.  Cole Hamels has signed a 6 year contract extension with the Fightins' for a cool $144 mil.   The  Phillies team that Hamels grew up with has not grown up with him.  There are vestiges of the old team left behind.  The "four aces and Blanton" of 2011 have become 2 aces, a broken Halladay, and a Blanton.  Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are hurting, Jimmy Rollins is slumping, and for some reason, Hunter Pence's socks continue playing and pretending to be a cleanup hitter.

It may sound like an expensive investment, but Hamels is 28 with a talent level at about a 135 ERA+ (after the pitching adjustment after the 2009 season), which is one step below elite.  For comparison purposes, Halladay had an ERA+ average of 160 the last four years before his breakdown.  In other words, Hamels would be an ace on many a team.  And now, he's cost controlled at a just below market value.  They'll get him for $19.5 million for 2013 and then $22.5 million per year through 2018 with an option for 2019.

Free agent prices are on the rise, so market value now is essentially the same as below market value in 4 years.  As it is, he will be the 8th highest paid pitcher in the league, and can be as good as the 3rd best pitcher (in my humbly humble opinion) of the league.

Here are 10 reasons why this is good for the Phillies, me, and Phillies fans.

10.  Hamels is at the tail end of his prime, and can be expected to have at least 3 more years of quality ace-like pitching.

Sep 22, 2015

Gint-a-Cuffs VII Packs 21-24-The Finale

And so this journey ends as it begins, with a pile of wrappers staring up at the sky, filled with cards, and taking on the world.  It has been a fun march to mediocrity: there were laughs, tears, and the occasional sportswriter penning odes to the sport.  Join me now as we say farewell to the 7th incarnation of Gint-a-Cuffs.  May you haunt me forevermore.

Pack 21

Mini SP 312 Cole +3
Starting Points 87 Beltre +2 +2 FP
203-Wright +2 FP
108-Fielder +2 FP

This box had more Adrian Beltre cards than of any other player.....
Pack Total: 11

Pack 22

Full Size Relic Frank Caliendo +6
Mini A&G Back 215 Votto +2 +3 FP
Ancient Armory 11 Claymore +2

I like the non-sport relics, but I like to mix it up in the box......
Pack Total: 13

Pack 23

162-Rizzo +2 FP
What Once Would Be 9 Vacuum Tube Trains +2
Mini 10 Granderson

I had a vacuum tube train at my old job; it didn't work......
Pack Total: 4

Pack 24

Mini 124 Peterson
Starting Points 13 H.Ramirez +2
245-Howard +1 FT +2 FP

Hanley Ramirez has come full circle in his career as has this competition around the drain......
Pack Total: 5

Total Total: 147

Sep 20, 2015

Gint-a-Cuffs VII Packs 17-20

Here we are, reaching the dog days of the competition.  At this point, there is a sort of fatigue as the hot weather wears down even the best on my roster.  They look up at the standings and see that they're barely in the wild card race and can stay in only if they come up with a credible enough musical montage.  With less than 100 points through 2/3 of the box, they may be singing Muddy Waters.  We need a new injection of talent, a new way of thinking in the Gint-a-Cuffs owner's box to get through the season of quirkiness.  Is it possible to get the influence of 19th century players to help out?

Pack 17

293-Ar. Ramirez
Framed Mini Autograph Archie Bradley +7
Mini A&G Back 154 Castillo +2
Great Scott 9 Fingerprints +2

Framed autographs are always a special pull: on-card, nicely presented......

Pack Total: 11

Pack 18

Starting Points 100 Werth +2
Full Size Buyback 2012 Heath Bell +3
Mini 45 C.Owings
119-Scheer -1

Jayson Werth started on Toronto, I did not know that.....I also didn't know what a Paul Scheer was....

Pack Total: 4

Pack 19

Mini 222-Polanco
Menagerie of the Mind 6 Pegasus +2

Do you know what I miss?  Gint-a-cuffs point inflation?  Why are there no more base set SPs, just for the game....

Pack Total: 2

Pack 20

250-Tanaka -1
Ancient Armory 12 Shuriken +2
Mini Black Border 185 Malzahn +3
1-Bumgarner +2 FP

Shuriken is not from shuri or ken, discuss amongst yourselves......

Pack Total:6

Pack Total: 114

Sep 19, 2015

Gint-a-Cuffs VII Packs 13-16

Gint-a-Cuffs is like the weather.  It can run hot, it can run cold, it can run you ragged.  As each card peeks out from behind the next, its visage taunts you with each recognition that it will not yield you points.  Those smiles are mischievous, ironic, and altogether unwelcome set against the anticipatory joy of ripping open packs.  But sometimes, sometimes, there are moments when you think to yourself that it is all worth it as the points pile up and the personal collection is burgeoning with plenty.  Do not judge me lest Gint-a-cuffs judges us all.

Pack 13

273-Hamels +4 My FP! +1 FT
111-Betances -1
What Once Was Believed 4 The Four Classical Elements +2
Mini Black Border 176 Niese +3

Mixed emotions as the Hamels card made an appearance, but 5 point base card wins the emotionals balance!

Pack Total: 9

Pack 14

Starting Points 30 Price +2
Mini A&G Back 96 Hudson +2
138-Pineda -1

There are some years where I think it would be fun to try my hand at the code and then I read the solutions and realize that I work with liquids (and as my brother would tell me a giant spoon) and not cyphers.

Pack Total: 3

Pack 15

Starting Points 39 Kershaw +2
Mini Flag Back 318-Gattis 25/25 +8

First #/25 mini ever from Allen&Ginter in 9 years of opening boxes!

Pack Total: 10

Pack 16

135-Teixeira -1
What Once Would Be 8 Mail Via Parachute +2
112- Buck 65
Mini First Ladies 15 Mary Lincoln +2

What ever happened to Joe Mauer?  Didn't he used to be a favorite player of someone?

Pack Total: 3

Total Total: 91

Sep 10, 2015

Gint-a-Cuffs VII: Packs 9-12: Halftime

I realize you read the title and probably thought that I would provide a halftime show.  I did contract out a marching band followed by a Beatles cover band, but then I realized that blogs don't have microphones.  I also only have enough instruments at home for a 3 person marching band, and that wouldn't be any fun to watch.  So, instead we get some commentary from "The Other World's Talking Heads" as recorded at the conclusion of this pack opening.

Talking Head 1 (TH1):  After 12 packs of intense opening, sorting, and point checking, Dan is coming up short in many facets of the game.

Talking Head (TH2): I agree with you, TH1, he is clearly struggling, especially in the mini card area.  The points are just not there to be had.

TH1:  Also, where are these so-called hits that he keeps on promising the viewers.  The only hits I see are to his chances as he falls further down the scoreboard. Am I right or am I right?

TH2: You are right, and even moreso, you are right.  What can Dan do to turn this thing around?

TH1:  Well, I see only one recourse.  He must be more accepting of his fate.

I think I should fire these guys........

Pack 9

Mini First Ladies 8 Letitia Tyler +2
Starting Points 94 Jose Reyes +2
144-Belt +2 FP

Letitia Tyler was one of three first ladies to pass away while her husband was President.......

Pack Total: 6

Pack 10

Mini 234 Cuddyer
Starting Points 65 Franco +1 FT +2
297-Magna Carta +1
27-Franco +1 FT

Two Franco cards in one pack made me feel like the world is my oyster and Gint-a-Cuffs is my gummy bear....whatever that means.
Pack Total: 5

Pack 11

Mini 125-Aoki
Great Scott 1 X-Ray Diffraction +2
Relic Zach Lowe +6

That is not at all what X-ray diffraction looks like from what I've experienced.....

Pack Total: 8

Pack 12

Starting Points 21 Chapman +2
Mythological Menaces 6 Wisakedjak +2

I was first introduced to Wisakedjak as Whiskey Jack in one of my favorite books ever, American Gods by Neil Gaiman.....
Pack Total: 4

Total Total: 66

Do I get to offer up my gauntlet in submission yet?