Apr 25, 2015

The First 10% of 2015 or Is There Hope? (Phillies Edition)

I read something fairly depressing today at The Good Phight.  The Phillies, as a team, are hitting like Steve Jeltz.  For those of you don't keep track of light-hitting shortstops of yesteryear, he was the Phillies shortstop from 1985-1989 (more or less).  His best single season OPS was .694.  He once had a season (in 148 games) with a slugging percentage of .237.  He is now remembered for three things: his hairstyle, being born in France, and hitting a home run from each side of the plate in this crazy game in 1989.  I listened to that one on the radio since the game was probably aired on  the cable station Prism and therefore, inaccessible.

This brings us back to today's version of the Phillies....their lineup is bad and has only a slight possibility of getting better.  Their starting pitching has a duct-taped rotation and is performing reasonably well, which may or may not continue.  Their bullpen is also adequate with some breakout potential.  Unfortunately, baseball is a game of wins and losses predicated on run differentials...it is hard to win if you hardly ever outscore the opponent.  It is very difficult to rely on a 1-0 or 2-1 result every evening.  It's also hard to hit under .200 for the season with runners in scoring position, though it seems like they're going to try.

(On a side note, for all this stressing about fundamental baseball, I have not seen sloppier play on both sides of the ball in years....it looks like there's a cloud above this team, and not the cumulus kind.  It's one of those mind sucking clouds that bombards you with trivia while you go about your daily business, and then threatens to zap you if you get a question wrong....that must be it, their bodies are threatened from the astral plane and are unable to concentrate on catching the ball or deadening the bat to put a bunt down.....)

It might sound like there's no hope, but there always is.....until Memorial Day at least for this fan.  And then again until July 4....ok, I will hope until Labor Day.....irrational dreaming and all that.

Let's see what could happen with some of the major players on the team this year.  Since we're 10% of the way through the season (give or take), it's easy projection from this point out because we all know a baseball season and player performance is completely linear and will never, ever deviate from that path that started on Opening Day (not true).
Ryan Howard: 
Current Status: First baseman of record and symbol of the decline of all civilization. .526 OPS, 1 home run, 5:1 K:BB ratio.
Future Linear Projection: 10 home runs, 40 RBIs, too many Ks.
To Change the Future: Must become a platoon player at this stage of his career, though his batting splits from last year until now are worrisome. Also, breathe-right strips, lots and lots of those.
On the Card Side: This card is awesome!  I love 2012 National Treasures!  That's my next thesis topic.
Cole Hamels: 
Current Status: Embattled ace who caught a mini home run bug, needs to seek the old man by the fire in Legend of Zelda to be cured. 0-2 with 3.75 ERA, 8.63 K/9
Future Linear Projection: 0-20 with 230 K in 240 innings
To Change the Future: Pitch as you always have this year, besides W-L record, the rest can turn....also invest in cloud seeding to lower atmospheric pressure.
On the Card Side: This card is from the first set of Topps Tier One, 2011.  It is so memorable I spent the last three minutes looking up which year it was from.
Ben Revere: 
Current Status: Left fielder who makes cameos in center. Had one great outfield assist this year, matching a pre-arranged quota with the telecom industry. .472 OPS, 4 SB and 3 3B 
Future Linear Projection: .172 BA, 40 SB, 30 3B, and 60 R.
To Change the Future: Must bat in leadoff and start shoulder strengthening exercises.  Can only hit slow rollers to 3rd base to artificially inflate batting average
On the Card Side: This is a 2007 Tristar Prospects Plus auto back when he was just drafted.  It's interesting that he was one of the players from the set that made the majors.
Chase Utley: 
Current Status: 2nd baseman slumping due to the presence of the cursed necklace of Antioch. .450 OPS, 2 HR, 9 RBI
Future Linear Projection: 4 home runs, 36 RBIs, a lot of grit.
To Change the Future: He needs to rest every 5th game at this point in his career and also block out the distractions of losing.  He must channel every utterance of "Chase Utley is the man" by a fan or announcer into a double or turned double play.
On the Card Side: 2012 Bowman Ice sparked a parallel revolution in the Bowman line, portending the wave and bubble editions.  I was lucky to pull this out of a blaster.  Notice there was no necklace in this photo.
Carlos Ruiz: 
Current Status: Catcher of pitches and framer of strikes.  .482 OPS, 0 HR, 1 RBI.
Future Linear Projection: 0 home runs, 10 RBIs, 1 extra base hit by luck.
To Change the Future: Must visit the Louvre this year to practice proper framing and also needs to make more solid contact, line drive percentage is a thing.
On the Card Side: This card is from one of those confusing issues of the mid-2000s.  First look, it's a 2006 Upper Deck purple parallel....first look at a checklist says no, there are no purple parallels.  Instead it's 2006 Upper Deck Special F/X, which is a 1000 card counterpart to 2006 Upper Deck! Like Topps Chrome except impossible to collect.

Well, that was more depressing than I intended.  I should try to say something positive.....Cut the camera, it's time for a bagel.

Apr 19, 2015

Memories......Leaf Memories

"Memories, light the corners of my mind; misty water color memories of the way we were"



It's unfortunate that the Phillies have a look of the teams from my childhood. The 1988-1990 Phillies were not that pleasant a team to watch, but don't tell that to the younger me.  There were highlights and Leaf took it upon itself to recreate the memories of this team by foil stamping the cards from 1990 Leaf for its 2012 Leaf Memories set.

Don't get me wrong, as with any season, there are reasons to remember.  I think I got excited when Don Carman didn't walk a batter in an inning and when Juan Samuel hit a triple.

Looking back at the cards, it's remarkable how poorly that logo ages.  I do miss the maroon hats sometimes, even though the day game uniforms today trump almost any of the looks that they've had over the years.

In time, we will look back at the names of Galvis, Herrera, Buchanan, Rupp as they were in their most favorable time as a Phillie, which probably (and hopefully) isn't 2015....because that would mean improvement.  It would also mean some shrewd moves by the future front office (for example, turning Chris James into

In terms of the various foil stamping, silver means /20, gold means /5, and red means /1.....because it can.  I think I'm missing three cards to have at least one version of the team set; the curse of being a completist continues.  (This must be some type of AMA certified illness).

Let's see what the dark corners of my mind dig out when glancing at these balanced inspired and dreary memories.
Steve Lake was the backup catcher for a few seasons in there.  He mostly played on weekends probably, so I didn't catch many of his game performances.  Closest comp to the 2015 roster: Cameron Rupp
Carmelo Martinez was only the team for half a season.  I think I remember him hitting a grand slam as a Phillie.  Closest comp to the 2015 roster:  Jeff Francoeur
Terry Mulholland pitched the first ever no-hitter by a Phillie at Veterans Stadium on August 8, 1990.  He was also a key member of the 1993 Phillies.  What a great trade that was in 1989.  Closest comp to the 2015 roster: Cole Hamels (de facto ace)
Randy Ready was the progenitor of the only triple play I saw live.  I remember it was against San Diego in 1991 or 1992.  Closest comp to the 2015 roster: Cesar Hernandez
Jeff Parrett was somebody who I was confused about as a kid.  How could he have so many wins compared to the starters?  If that was the case, why didn't he pitch more so the Phillies could get more wins?  Closest comp to the 2015 roster: Luis Garcia (he has a win)
Darrel Akerfelds entered the bullpen and replaced some non-favorites like Todd Frohwirth.  I always felt like he was decent middle of the bullpen guy.  Closest comp to the 2015 roster: Justin DeFratus
Bruce Ruffin was one the wildest pitchers I remember (not counting Mitch Williams).  It must have all the wild pitches I remember happening.  Closest comp to the 2015 roster: David Buchanan

Well, I guess it could have been worse.  Memories are funny things.


Apr 12, 2015

The Battle for the Soul of 1955

Imagine being a child 60 years ago. Life could have been good in the summertime. Every day morning, you'd wake up, have a breakfast of champions, go to the general store for some candy and cards on the 5 cent weekly allowance, and then flip and trade and go tire rolling or bike riding until the sun went down.

 It's how I picture it anyway.....in sepia tones with a shadow gradient.

But the best part of being a child in 1955, is that there were two card companies going all out to clamor for attention.  Bowman had staked its claim as the futuristic set in 1955 with the well-known color TV design while Topps had decided to go back to the future by turning its 1954 set 90 degrees to a horizontal presentation.

The reason why there was a choice was because players signed exclusives with each of the companies, not creating true parity in competition.  Design is only one part of the collecting experience; player collection is the other....you want to get the players you want...especially that fit your collection.

For Phillies fans and collectors, there were 19 cards in the 1955 Bowman set, including team favorites and stars, Del Ennis, Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, and Willie Jones.

By contrast, the 1955 team set had 10 cards with very little overlap.  Instead, the collectors had to be content with non-stars and less favorites such as:
Ted Kazanski: a 20 year old back-up infielder.
Thornton Kipper: a 25 year old relief pitcher with a total of 31 games pitched.
Danny Schell: a 26 year old pinch hitter extraordinaire.

Probably the best known name on the Phillies Topps checklist was Bob Miller, so what is a team collector to do?  I guess the only option really was to convert to a Topps rookie collector and try for a Clemente and Koufax.....how tragic.

Feb 16, 2015

2007 Goudey: A Set of Strangely Magnetic Appeal

Who remembers 2007 Goudey? Back in the days of multi-company licensing, this was the Upper Deck response to the Topps retro set proliferation. This was the first iteration of the set, and the design wasn't based off a Goudey design per se.

 It seemed to be more of an amalgam of Goudey designs and the Diamond Stars set from the '30s. Where it really shined was in the duplication of the card size (they weren't minis, like in later sets) and in the art deco stylings of each of the player backgrounds. In the aggregate,  it was a memorable set that had a buzz about it.

I recently opened a box of the product and was struck by how easy it was to interpret which cards came out of each pack.  There were no unnumbered variations, unannounced insert sets, or parallels upon parallels.  The only misstep (a major one) was the forced inclusion of two essentially equal and parallel sets of different colored backs, usually evenly distributed within each pack.

This causes the completist in me want to complete each 200 card set, though they're exactly the same except the ink color on the back (green and red).  And I set out to do just that.  Additionally, the insert sets were numbered as part of the base set, also making me want to complete them.  And I set out to do that as well....Fortunately, the insert sets are of retired and modern players (like Kei Igawa and Ken Griffey Jr).  The Heads-up set even parallels itself....with different numbers.....to make a long story short, there are 488 cards to collect.  I now need 19, of which only 2 are considered SPs/inserts.

Shown below are some of the other results of the box.
Sport Royalty is a boxtopper.  You get a wrapped card in every box!  I bought a box because there was an off-chance (one in 12 boxes) or receiving an original Goudey card.  Instead, I received Greg Maddux in the well-remembered threads of his halcyon Padre days.
Goudey relics are inserted one per box and have the relics in the shape of a "G".  This stands for gazillion.
Autographs are also inserted one per box and are all on-card.  They are called Goudey Graphs (without the apostrophe in front of Graphs).  I at least received a one-time AL ERA leader.

Are there any simple sets out there anymore? And do we want them to be?  What does retro mean to you?  Why is being a completist such a curse?  (Curse you, card 277, you have evaded me for too long).

Feb 8, 2015

1951 Bowman and Me or How to Be Crease Worthy

What would the general first reaction be to someone who said "I have decided to collect a vintage set"? It would normally be along the lines of, "excellent, you will love it." And then when they mention it's to be 1951 Bowman....well, that's a whole different reaction about which secret coffers are funding such a venture. Thankfully, to me when I'm speaking to myself about such endeavors, I realize there are no secret coffers and that pipe dreams are made to be split apart into the varied tapestry that we call collecting. If there was only one focus, where would be the fun in discovery? In color? In the view of a 100 binders ready to be cured and sorted? Therefore, the team collector hat is on for most of these vintage sets, which are from a time immemorial, before 162 game seasons and before packs of greater than 5 cards. As a purveyor of Phillies history, it is mostly cathartic to be immersed in successes of the past, no matter how fleeting or previously unconnected I had been. The 1950 team is especially of interest because it's the oasis in the mid-century destitution of fortune. And baseball cards were around to document that season, with the ever-iconic 1951 Bowman issue. I do not claim to have the whole set, but it's going to happen someday. Let's examine some of that team from days of yore (that sounds like some insert set from Allen&Ginter)
Russ Meyer and his arrival from Chicago from 1949 showed that starting pitchers could once again succeed wearing the Phillies uniform.  The 17-8 record with 3.08 ERA was an inspiration to the next season.
Mike Goliat had his only full season as a starter at 2B in 1950 and provided the youthful exuberance  at the keystone position.
Andy Seminick was one of the veteran statesman of the Phillies, having been with the team since 1943.  His power potential coming to fruition (24 HR and 143 OPS+) corresponded with his prime and the pennant-winning year.
Granny Hamner was cantankerous and young and just coming into his own as an up the middle all-star and MVP candidate.  The former bonus baby lent stability to the shortstop position.
Jimmy Bloodworth was a bench hitter at this point in his career with some pinch hitting prowess and one of the few players over 30 on the team.
Bubba Church was a rookie swingman who sported a 148 ERA+ and finished 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting.

The best part of this mini collection, besides the artistic majesty of their cards, is that they are reminders of childhood and days gone by (I wasn't quite alive then though....or my parents....so almost a reminder).

Oct 28, 2014

Stat Anomaly: 20 Losses, Art Ditmar in 1956

The first thought that comes to mind when staring at this card is that "how can the 1956 World Series Yankees have a 20 loss pitcher on their team?"  Well, it turns out that he wasn't on the Yankees, but on the Kansas City Athletics, the team that traded the Yankees everybody.

From a time period of 1955-1960, the Athletics sent the Yankees in trade players such as Clete Boyer, Ralph Terry, Bob Cerv, and Roger Maris.  Art Ditmar was traded in the offseason in a massive 5 for 7 trade;  I guess they saw something in the previous season, in which he lost 22 games with a middling (98 ERA+) ERA of 4.42.  (The 1950s were actually quite a high scoring era.)  Let's see if there are any glimpses, which led to the improved performance from 1957-1960, including a league-leading WHIP in 1959?

It looks like Ditmar was partly a victim of overwork.  He had 34 starts, 44 total appearances, 14 complete games, and a save over a career-high 254 innings.   Only one of those relief appearances led to a loss, though there were a couple blown saves (note: not an official stat in 1956) thrown in there.

Ditmar had what would be considered 5 hard-luck losses.  These are classified for this purpose as pitching no less than 7 innings and allowing 2 earned runs or less.  The biggest hard luck loss by far was on August 3 when he pitched 10.1 innings and allowed 2 runs on 9 hits with 8 K......and lost.  There's no record of how many pitches were thrown, but with 41 batters faced, it probably bordered on 150 pitches, not that anyone kept track of that in 1956.

Ditmar also had a few disaster outings, 8 starts in which he did not surpass the 4th inning and one immemorable start in which he allowed 10 runs over 6.1 innings against Boston.   A couple of those disaster starts seemed like planned pulls though.  There were only 3 runs or less allowed by the 3rd inning and still he was pulled.  This was before the utilization of full bullpens, so it's curious as to what the manager (1948 pennant winner Lou Boudreau) was thinking.

Art Ditmar joined the ranks of this stat anomaly with an eclectic 1956 season.

Sep 23, 2014

Gintacuffs VI: Packs 21-24: The Grand Finale

Pack 21
94 Lou Brock
193 Tom Glavine
8 Bob Feller
307 Cliff Lee (FT) +2, +1
Fields of Yore Griffiths Stadium: home of the Senators +2
Mini 165 Brad Miller
15 Matt Williams
100 Queen Victoria

Pack Total: +5
Box Total: 138.6

Pack 22
126 Willie Stargell
253 Rickey Henderson
19 Pablo Sandoval
11 Nick Franklin
Pastime's Pastimes Dustin Pedroia +2
Mini A&G Back 289 Kyle Seager +2
143 Eddie Mathews
238 Bert Kreischer
Code Card

Pack Total: +4
Box Total: 142.6

Pack 23
246 Dwight Gooden
41 Lou Gehrig -1
147 Mark McGwire
155 Yogi Berra -1
327 Brett Lawrie +2
Mini Athletic Endeavors Shovel Racing +5
Air Supremacy EA-18G Growler +2
50 Orlando Hernandez -1

Pack Total:+6
Box Total: 148.6

Pack 24
215 Johnny Bench
92 Ernie Banks
Pastime's Pastimes Albert Pujols +2
Mini Black Border 295 Ryan Braun +3
221 Adam Eaton
259 Jim Calhoun
Fields of Yore Relic Griffith Stadium 011/250 +30

Pack Total: +35
Box Total: 183.6
Bonus: Here's a selfie of me with the high point card, which is my favorite.  It;s a piece of a stadium that no longer exists, and I'm ok with holding ghosts most of the time.  Did you know it's hard to take a selfie without a smart phone or tablet?

Final Total: 188.6

Sep 22, 2014

GintaCuffs VI: Packs 17-20: I Like Bats and Paul Bunyan

Pack 17
202 Jim Rice
20 Babe Ruth -1
257 Adrian Beltre
190 Kolten Wong
341 Barbed Wire +2
Natural Wonder Iguazu Falls +2
Into the Unknown Francisco Pizarro +3
152 Vince Gilligan

Pack Total: +6
Box Total: 116.6

Pack 18
132 Ted Williams
2 Don Mattingly -1
86 Randy Johnson
300 RA Dickey
Pastime's Pastimes Julio Teheran +2
Mini 147 Mark McGwire
277 Trevor Rosenthal
45 Nomar Garciaparra

Pack Total: +1
Box Total: 117.6

Pack 19
29 Shelby Miller
201 Paul ONeill -1
44 Ty Cobb
309 Hunter Pence +2
World Capitals Berlin, Germany +2
Larger than Life Paul Bunyan +3
289 Jose Abreu
89 Chuck Todd

Pack Total: +6
Box Total: 123.6

Pack 20
76 Cal Ripken Jr
299 Enny Romero
60 Ryan Zimmerman
Pastime's Pastimes Clay Buchholz +2
Full Size Relic Matt Adams +8
Mini 180 Ryan Reiss
169 Dale Murphy

Pack Total: 10
Box Total: 133.6

Sep 21, 2014

GintaCuffs VI Packs 13-16: Where are the Phillies cards? Not here.

Pack 13
163 Paul Molitor +2 (FP)
292 Andre Dawson
174 Ben Zobrist
318 Jason Kipnis +2
Air Supremacy AC-47 Spooky +2
Mini 265 Sam Calagione
23 Snoop Lion -1
176 Anthony Robles

Pack Total: +5
Box Total: 99.6

Pack 14
19 Pablo Sandoval
11 Nick Franklin
170 Matt Holliday
140 Matt Moore
Pastime's Pastimes Paul Goldschmidt +2
World's Deadliest Predators Hippopotamus +3
188 Jordan Oliver
25 Joe DiMaggio -1
Code Card

Pack Total: +4
Box Total: 103.6

Pack 15
148 Bryce Harper
208 Al Kaline
2 Don Mattingly -1
202 Jim Rice
304 Matt Cain +2
Worlds Capitals Moscow, Russia +2
Mini A&G Back 300 RA Dickey +2
Desmond Jennings

Pack Total: +5
Box Total: 108.6

Pack 16
34 Felix Hernandez
12 Jed Gyorko
94 Lou Brock
132 Ted Williams
Pastime's Pastimes David Ortiz +2
Mini 70 James Andrews
191 Jordan Burroughs
118 Adam Schefter

Pack Total : +2
Box Total: 110.6


Sep 20, 2014

Gint-a-Cuffs VI Packs 9-12: Midway Blues

Pack 9
53 Sandy Koufax
298 Deion Sanders
123 Matt Carpenter
339 Jeff Samardzija +2
Fields of Yore Sportsman's Park: Home of the Browns +2
Mini SP 304 Matt Cain +3
122 Craig Biggio (FP) +2
234 Roberto Clemente

Pack Total: +9
Box Total: 80.6

Pack 10
90 Roy Halladay
151 James Paxton
108 Nolan Ryan
129 Hank Aaron
Pastime's Pastimes Chris Davis +2
Mini Black Border 282 Salvador Perez +3
24 Jorge Posada -1
33 Alex Avila

Pack Total: +4
Box Total: 84.6

Pack 11
174 Ben Zobrist
60 Ryan Zimmerman
68 Gio Gonzalez
316 Ken Griffey Jr +2
Air Supremacy Sopwith Camel +2, +2
Mini 259 Jim Calhoun
217 Jose Iglesias
128 Bill Rancic -1

Pack Total: +5
Box Total: 89.6

Pack 12
226 Bob Gibson
71 Wade Boggs
20 Babe Ruth -1
181 Jose Reyes
Pasttime's Pastimes Starlin Castro +2
Mini Black Border 284 Will Clark +3
267 Kevin Clancy
271 Chuck Klosterman +1

Pack Total: +5
Box Total: 94.6


Sep 19, 2014

Gint-a-Cuffs VI: Packs 5-8: The Hits Keep Coming

Pack 5
117 Yu Darvish +2 (FP)
134 Jordan Zimmermann
215 Johnny Bench
Pastime's Pastimes Adam Jones +2
Mini 37 Wil Myers
124 Jonathan Schoop
Printing Plate Paul ONeill +14/2=+7 (Yankee plate)
Note: This plate is of number 389, which is only found in rip cards, so even with the point docking, it's a pretty nice card.

Pack Total: +11
Box Total: 51.6

Pack 6
36 Yadier Molina (again) +2
77 Stan Musial
223 Tony Gwynn
332 Victor Martinez +2
Air Supremacy F-15 Eagle +2
Mini Where Nature Ends Raphael +3
209 Vlad Guerrero
46 John Sullivan +1

Pack Total: +10
Box Total: 61.6

Pack 7
232 Ozzie Smith
18 Ryne Sandberg
64 Taijuan Walker
90 Roy Halladay
Pastime's Pastimes Anthony Rizzo +2
World's Deadliest Predators Honey Badger +3
272 Tim Raines
158 Carlton Fisk

Pack Total: +5
Box Total: 66.6

Pack 8
201 Paul Oneill -1
44 Ty Cobb
111 Frank Robinson
183 Jim Palmer
Pastime's Pastimes Freddie Freeman (FP) +2, +2
Mini A&G Back 220 Josh Hamilton +2
287 Chuck Zito
228 Orlando Cepeda

Pack Total: +5
Box Total: 71.6


Sep 18, 2014

Gint-a-Cuffs VI: Packs 1-4 and BoxTopper: The Hits Begin

It's time to join the party that has passed me by about a month.  What's the old saying?  A Ginter saved is a Ginter earned?  Or for all those about to Ginter, we salute you?  It has to be something like that....on to the packagings of wrappers and cardboard and other strange things.

Box Loader Pack

Oversized Base Card of Yasiel Puig +8

Pack 1

123 Matt Carpenter
64 Taijuan Walker
35 Brooks Robinson
345 Yasiel Puig +2
Festivals and Fairs La Tomatina +2
9 Koji Uehara
164 Jenny Dell
Mini A&G Back 278 CC Sabathia +2, -1

Pack Total: +5
Box Total: 13


Pack 2
147 Mark McGwire
155 Yogi Berra -1
93 Willie Mays
105 Cole Hamels +1 (FT)
324 Adam Wainwright +2
World Capitals Athens +2
Mini 66 Roger Clemens
52 Kevin Smith

Pack Total: +4
Box Total: 17

Pack 3
181 Jose Reyes
96 Madison Bumgarner
182 Starling Marte
Pastime's Pastimes Manny Machado +2
Full Size Relic Joey Votto (FP) +13.6
Mini SP 333 Stephen Strasburg +3
Austin Wierschke -1

Pack Total: +17.6
Box Total: 34.6

Pack 4
295 Ryan Braun
151 James Paxton
36 Yadier Molina +2 (FP)
330 Joe Kelly +2
Natural Wonder Socotra Archipelago +2
Mini 63 Bill Buckner
125 Glen Waggoner
6 Laura Phelps Sweatt

Pack Total: +6
Box Total: 40.6