Jul 30, 2009

Slice of a Season: Part 11 of 18 and the trade

The trade deadline has loomed large, almost larger than the sizzling team performance through this month of July.

Slice of a Season: 2009, Slice 11
Slice Record: 6-3
Cumulative Record: 58-41
Standing at Slice's End: 6.0 games ahead of the Marlins
Opponents that hurt the Phillies: NONE
Opponents that helped the Phillies: Diamondpacks, Padres, Cardinals
Wins to Remember: Beating St. Louis 14-6 on July 25th (the full awakening of Rollins), beating Arizona 4-3 on July 28th (wearing down the ace)
Loss to spill milk over: losing 10-5 vs. the Cubs on July 22 (the end of the winning streak,nothing lasts forever
Bats do help in general: When facing Yusmeiro Petit
New Nemesis Alert:Matt Holliday, he must like the NL and Mark Reynolds
Sent back to DL heaven: Chad Durbin, JC Romero, Clay Condrey: all relief pitchers, it's a good thing they've added depth.
I'm worth more than Roy Halladay if salaries and age are included: the combined worth of JA Happ, Kyle Drabek, and Dominic Brown
There's no place like outside Philly: Still 31-15 on the road
Hitting Heroes: Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley
Need Adjustments: Carlos Ruiz, Eric Bruntlett,
Fire Starters on the Mound: Brad Lidge, JA Happ
Holding the Fort Down: Cole Hamels,Joe Blanton

The Phillies continued their winning ways without a day off during this time period, finishing off the Cubs, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks with series wins. The good thing about their setbacks is that there were no heartbreaking losses. They deserved the three losses they got. And their most impressive offensive performance (though it wasn't reflected in the number of runs) was limiting Dan Haren to 5 innings with 117 pitches, tying his season low appearance length.

The big news, of course, is the TRADE. Roy Halladay slipped through their grasp, but they did pick up the reigning 2008 Cy Young award winner. Let's break it down.

Coming to the Phillies:

Cliff Lee (LHP, formerly of the Indians): An above average pitcher from 2005-2006, he fell apart in 2007, earning a trip to the minor leagues. This is the risk the Phillies are taking with Lee. Hopefully, this 2007 version of Lee doesn't make an appearance for the rest of this year or 2010. On the plus side, they're paying him no more than they paid Adam Eaton during his horrific stint in Philly.

Since his return, Lee has turned into one of five best pitchers in baseball. In 2008, he led the AL in wins, ERA+ (175, 75% better than league average),HR/9 (0.5), and BB/9 (1.4). In 2009, though his record (7-9)has been a victim of the Indian's poor run support for him, he still has sported a 143 ERA+.

He has 4 pitches he controls: fastball, cutter, curve, and change all with varying speeds and movements. I expect he will succeed in Philly, with a slightly elevated HR rate and better won-loss record.

Ben Francisco: OF (formerly of the Indians): Francisco is a versatile outfielder who can play CF or the corners. His bat translates well, especially as a fill-in/4th outfielder role he will be having with the Phillies. He will replace John Mayberry, Jr in this role, representing an upgrade. Francisco is a league-average hitter (96 OPS+ this year) with plus power and speed, capable of hitting 15+ HRs and having 15+ SBs with regular at-bats. None of his skills are extraordinary, but a right-handed bat off the bench who can make strong contact is welcome.

More on the prospects the Phillies gave up later.

The Day the Blue Jays Fall Further Behind?

For what seems like weeks, rumors of the demise of Roy Toronto career has been flying around the media. I definitely read every single one because the Phillies were prominently involved until yesterday.

There are rumors of the involvement of the Red Sox ("no formal offer" says Buster Olney), Angels, Dodgers, Rangers. But the Phillies were the number one pursuer, so the leverage for GM JP Ricciardi has decreased to the point where he won't get 3 A-level prospects anymore unless another team really steps up.

This reminds me too much of the Schilling and Rolen trades that the Phillies made in 2000 and 2002, respectively. A team going on a treadmill who wants to cut costs with cheaper assets. Though the Blue Jays are hamstrung by Vernon Well's 7 year 126 million contract (4 years left) and other salary obligations for players no longer playing for them (Frank Thomas, BJ Ryan, etc).

What would you give up for a durable pitcher with brilliant flashes who can possibly save a bullpen?

Jul 29, 2009

Is this the Results of the Worst Trade Ever?

Dateline: Offseason before 1982 season.

Ivan DeJesus has been a light hitting shortstop for the Cubs. This has been the norm of the time since we are still just emerging from the mindset of the dead hitter's zone of the '60s. The shortstop's first job is to catch the ball and turn the double play. DeJesus fit that mold in a manager's eye, though he had an average to below average fielding %

The Phillies have had Larry Bowa as their shortstop for many years (since 1970). He is a polarizing player, loved by fans and teammates and also hated by other teammates and opponents. He is now on the downside of his career, aged 35 years old. He is also light hitting, but his fielding % is always high.

The Phillies were forced into dealing the hotheaded Bowa after he called out the management in the papers for refusing to give him the contract he wanted. Enter the Cubs and their GM Dallas Green (coincidentally the manager of the 1980 Phillies).

He wanted the surehandedness of Bowa and in return offered the younger DeJesus. But the deal wouldn't go through without another player; after all, DeJesus was 7 years younger.

Green had an intimate knowledge of the Phillies' organization at the time. And he was the one who requested the little known third base prospect of Ryne Sandberg. With the Phillies trading Bowa, they considered Sandberg as a shortstop replacement, but they didn't think his glove would translate there. They already have Mike Schmidt at 3rd, Manny Trillo at 2nd, and Garry Maddox in center. Sandberg was sufficiently blocked from any regular playing time in Philadelphia.

Ah, but how did he become the supporting player in this deal? Even without Sandberg, considering talent and potential team contribution, the Phillies would be receiving the short end of the deal. In the Bill James 1982 baseball abstract, Bowas was the 9th ranked shortstop while DeJesus was the 22nd ranked shortstop. All the statistics at this time show this deal would favor the Cubs (AVG, RBI, Fielding %).

The Phillies are desparate to trade Bowa and pull the trigger anyway, bringing in the ineffectual DeJesus and giving away the volatile Bowa with the raw Sandberg, who at the age of 21 already had more hitting ability than either of the two shortstops.

Update:The Cubs did not realize their heist until halfway through the 1982 season when they shifted Sandberg from 3rd to 2nd, where he won a Gold Glove as early as 1983 and began his HOF career.

How did such a trade come to pass? This was not a win now trade or salary dump trade. Shouldn't there be an equal exchange of talent? Even in the metrics of the time, the Phillies would have lost the trade without Sandberg.

What trades of the present day from your team bring the same tinges of regret and "did they really see these guys play before"?

Jul 24, 2009

Set Collector vs. Team Collector

Just a quick thought for the weekend as I divorce myself from the computer world for a couple of days.

At heart, I'm a set collector, whether hand collated, bought in full, acquired by nefarious means of extortion (kidding). I like to put the cards in number order corresponding to the type and year and overall flow of the set. This includes base sets, insert sets, autograph sets, etc. Almost everything I start to collect I attempt to complete, and I would too, if not for having finite time and money.

I've also recently re-focused a lot of my efforts to the World Series Phillies Project (see the link on the sidebar for updates), and I know I've seen many of these cards before in sets I had previously completed.

How does one reconcile the overlap? I don't like accummulating doubles, but in order to keep track and display correctly, I don't see much choice. Do you hybrid team and set collectors have two of a lot of cards, but don't consider them doubles? Do you get frustrated by the doubling up of cards?

I know my manner doesn't allow me to be a team collector exclusively. Eventually pursuing one of every card from that team (within reason or at least base card) would drive me pretty batty. I would be chasing cards in sets I have no interest in even having one card of (last year's Upper Deck X and Upper Deck Documentary come to mind).

For those exclusive team collectors, what defines a card for your team? Is it solely the uniform on the card? Is there some players you will collect regardless of the uniform? I have seen some variations on these in the blogs.

Anyway, I'm sure most can relate to questions such as these because collecting in general is a never ending pursuit. There are niches and wide swaths of collectibility over the many years that cards have been around. In a lot of cases, I feel like I'm chasing ghosts that don't like to be caught.

How did you choose which ghosts to chase and which ones to leave behind?

Jul 23, 2009

2009 Topps Series 1 Retro Blaster Break Part 2

Here's the continuation of the blaster break from before.

Pack 7
115-Kevin Youkilis
45-Aubrey Huff
266-Todd Wellemeyer
286-Odalis Perez
TTT18-Miguel Cabrera ToppsTown (again)
309-Humberto Sanchez RC
23-Gerald Laird
287-Greg Maddux-last Topps base card?

Pack 8
251-Greg Smith
168-Mark DeRosa
TTT22-Tim Lincecum ToppsTown Gold
Gold 248-Scott Lewis RC 1539/2009
61-Berkman and Lee Bash-stros..very punny
88-Fredi Gonzalez
225-Aaron Cook
222-Mark Sweeney

Pack 9
195-Tim Lincecum
312-Ryan Sweeney
322-John Buck
325-Dustin McGowan
TTT1-Alex Rodriguez ToppsTown
TR43-Torii Hunter Turkey Red
85-Justin Verlander
25-Jon Lester

Pack 10
282-Chris Lambert RC
240-Ryan Braun
133-Brandon Jones
258-Casey Kotchman
TTT22-Tim Lincecum
TR25-Alex Rodriguez Turkey Red
148-Ty Wigginton
200-Chase Utley

Commemorative Patch Card
1989 All Star Game Nolan Ryan

Surprisingly, it makes sense. 1989 was a key year for Ryan with 300 strikeouts in his first year in Texas. He also used to be an Angel...a California Angel.

Thoughts on the retro-style Topps:
I'm sure this has been mentioned previously, but it doesn't differentiate itself enough from the normal base set enough. If they gave the fronts a more Topps Heritage-like finish and removed the foil a la Upper Deck First Edition, the set would have made a nice meant-to-be stealth alternative to the now-defunct Topps Opening Day. Also, an additional touch which really would have fully retro-cized the parallel set would be to use older type logos for the teams. I don't remember if they use this in Heritage or not.

In short, it's still a parallel, albeit a parallel distributed in box form and actually attainable....for Series 1 only. I bought this to be able to see and feel the difference first hand, and I prefer the original base set because it's not pretending to be something it's not.

And now with the news reported here, here, and here that Topps will not be distributing full blasters of this set for series 2, it makes the whole concept and endeavor pointless and utterly unsatisfying.

I am a completist at heart and there is no fair option to complete this. I have not bought much Topps series 2 yet, so I can attempt the wayward path, but the design and distribution of the cards discourages my efforts.

Suffice to say, I won't be collecting this set more than this one blaster, as fun as it was to open. Of course, I will welcome any Phillies into my collection, however they may appear.

Jul 22, 2009

Slice of a Season: Part 10 of 18

One Worth Remembering!

Slice of a Season: 2009, Slice 10
Slice Record: 9-0
Cumulative Record: 52-38
Standing at Slice's End: 6.5 games ahead of the Braves
Opponents that hurt the Phillies: NONE
Opponents that helped the Phillies: Reds, Pirates, Marlins, Cubs
Wins to Remember: Beating Pittsburgh 8-7 with a 5 run rally in the 9th, the day before the All-Star Break (Ryan Howard ties it with a 3run HR, Paul Bako hits the GW single),JA Happ shutting out the Marlins on July 19th
Losses to spill milk over: NONE
Bats do help in general: And they are potent: over .790 team OPS for the season, first in HRs and runs, there are very few complaints about the lineup
New Nemesis Alert:Garrett Jones
Phillies All-Star Report: Contributed to yet another NL loss, the only blemish of the slice...who needs home-field advantage anyway?
Welcome back from DL heaven: Scott Eyre, Clay Condrey
You have not earned a rose, go to Lehigh Valley: Tyler Walker
Team Domination: Jamie Moyer is now 13-2 in his career against Florida with a 2.83 ERA
The new K prince: Joe Blanton, now up to 7.8 K/9
Here's a random point: Raul Ibanez is diminished by no platoon advantage, showing a reverse split with 1.066 OPS against lefties, creating a false sense of security for those LOOGYs.
Welcome to the club of saves that should not be: Chad Durbin with a save in a 10-1 win
Who was that at a press conference?: That looked like Pedro Martinez to rehab back to the rotation, good move?
Hitting Heroes: Ryan Howard Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins
Need Adjustments: Jayson Werth, John Mayberry, Eric Bruntlett
Fire Starters on the Mound: Ryan Madson (against Florida), Brad Lidge (still hard to coax a perfect inning from him)...this is only quibbling this time.
Holding the Fort Down: J.A Happ, Joe Blanton , Scott Eyre, Rodrigo Lopez

9 games in a row! (Update: streak expanded to 10 as of this writing). The offense may have been fueling this streak, but it is the pitching which has really given it direction, with 6 of the games having given up less than 2 runs. This is what the team is like hitting on all cylinders, resilient, lively, and pretty bloody good. Also, kudos to Jimmy Rollins for raising his .OPS 35 points this stretch to an almost not terrible level. But seriously, he needs to get on base and score, there's a direct correlation between his success and team success. There's a tough stretch of schedule ahead (Cardinals, Giants), so let's not get too excited as the baseballs and the Roy Halladay rumors fly. Should they trade for Mr. Halladay? or not?

Jul 20, 2009

2009 Topps Series 1 Retro Blaster Break Part 1

I was venturing through uncharted territory lately in places off the beaten track, where as in many places, a Target was located. This Target was different than others that I have seen. It had a fully stocked card aisle, reaching back into the yesteryear of...2008. And I also felt the pull to go back in time....I wanted a 1979 Topps pack, but all I had to soothe this itch was a Topps retro blaster: (UPC code 1-825-50-12-9). Set the wayback machine to March when Series 1 was still around.

Thanks to those who cracked the UPC code code before, otherwise I would not have known to pick this one out, to experience the faux retro goodness of changed Topps logo and a gray cardboard stock on the back. Silver foil is not retro, so these are really half retro....let's say they're from 1994 instead of reminiscent of 1979.

Pack 1
94-Adam Lind
177-Eric Hinske
138-Ubaldo Jimenez
299-Cole Hamels postseason highlights

TTT20-Lance Berkman ToppsTown
66-Dustin Pedroia MVP
126-Orlando Hudson
31-Ian Stewart

Pack 2
59-Eric Gagne
41-Mike Mussina
100-David Wright
105-Francisco Liriano

TTT11-Nick Markakis ToppsTown
292-Francisco Cervelli RC
84-Rod Barajas
131-Joe Torre

Pack 3
82-Miguel Cairo
135-Carlos Delgado
290-Albert Pujols
LG3-Christy Mathewson
TTT21-Chipper Jones
22-Longoria and Price Classic Combo
91-Cody Ross
7-Mickey Mantle

Pack 4
269-Hunter Pence
185-Randy Johnson

197-Ronnie Belliard
12-Andrew Carpenter RC
TTT18-Miguel Cabrera ToppsTown
65-Mike Pelfrey
257-George Kotteras RC
192-Collin Balester

Pack 5
160-Evan Longoria (trophy)
305-Ivan Rodriguez

54-Dusty Baker
9-Dallas McPherson
10-Dan Uggla
TTT7-Hanley Ramirez ToppsTown
307-Burnett/Santana/Halladay AL Strikeout Leaders
89-Lester and Bay Postseason Highlights

Pack 6
179-Rafael Furcal
63-Josh Outman RC (and out for the season)
330-Daisuke Matsuzaka
323-Vicente Padilla
TTT19-Carlos Quentin
104-Brandon Moss
96-Dexter Fowler RC
293-Brian Bixler

Stay tuned for Part 2 with some final thoughts.

Jul 17, 2009

The World Series Phillies Project: Update 4

Here's a quick update for one of the objectives of the ubiquitous World Series Phillies project. Basically, almost everything I'm collecting is dedicated to this at the present time, but I'm always interested in other things. Anyone have any suggestions on the best way to sort this? By player? By year? In binders? Wall display?

Here's an update, Steve Carlton '70s style.

Here's a 1978 Topps Carlton with a not very flattering portrait; it seems to have been bright spring day.

Here is a commemoration of Carlton leading the league in victories with a ridiculous 27 wins for a 59 win team, almost 46% of the total team victories! Also pictured is the spitball master and one of the original knuckle masters. Don't the White Sox look strange with red hats?

A mustached Carlton (along with a miniature doppelganger) is hurling the cowhide in a 1976 Topps representation. It's a good expression of the old Phillies 'P' that I remember growing up with.

Here's a grimacing Carlton in a 1974 Topps card as he reflects on a 20 loss season.

My Carlton collection for the '70s is nearly complete; I will be putting together a definitive list in the near future. If only I were left-handed....then I wouldn't be an engineer.

Jul 15, 2009

Fanfest Flashback: 2007 Redemption Sets

Here are the images of the redemption sets obtained at the 2007 Fanfest in San Francisco. It took a lot of wrappers of sets I didn't necessarily collect plus some time on ebay (because I only attended one day of the Fanfest) to obtain these.

Here is the Topps 7 card set (during 07/07 no less) plus an extra A-Rod for no particular reason. The set checklist is Tim Lincecum, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, Ryan Howard, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Mickey Mantle.

Here is the Upper Deck 12 card set; I was only able to obtain the first 6 during that day. The "veteran" pack checklist is Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey, Jr, Cal Ripken, Jr, Albert Pujols, Barry Zito, and Ichiro. The "rookie" pack checklist is Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kei Igawa, Akinori Iwamura, Josh Hamilton, Phil Hughes, and Tim Lincecum. The Upper Deck packs also had randomly inserted Grand Slam inserts, of which I received none.

For those who went or are going to the Fanfest, these are the type of exclusive cards to expect. Some are worthwhile, but they are definitely unique. Try not to go too pack crazy while trying to complete them.

Jul 14, 2009

Fanfest Flashback: 1997 Jackie Robinson

I have been fortunate enough to attend two fanfests in my life; Philadelphia in 1996 and San Francisco in 2007. The exclusive card sets offered at each fanfest were markedly different.

In 1996, if you bought 5 packs of cards from a company, you turned in the wrappers to get one of a five card tribute set for a certain player (in 1996, it was Steve Carlton; I'm still trying to locate them all). This practice lasted until the 2000 Fanfest if I'm not mistaken. There was also a 30 card Pinnacle set (remember them?) which was given out in 2 card packs with every ticket to get in. I am still pursuing that set.

In 2007, Topps and Upper Deck ran separate redemption programs. For Topps, 3 packs of cards got you one of seven redemption cards. The catch was there was only 250 of each card available for each day. For Upper Deck, 10 wrappers (if I recall correctly), got you a 6 card pack of either rookies or stars, depending on the day. So, if you only went one day, you couldn't complete the whole set without outside help.

During the all-star break, I will share the images of these hard-won redemptions. But first, a favorite set...this one was from the 1997 Fanfest in Cleveland. As part of the MLB retiring of Jackie Robinson's number on the 50th anniversary of his debut, the card companies followed suit with their own tribute. I purchased this some time ago because it's not every day you get the chance for five Jackie Robinson cards.

1. The Pinnacle/Score tribute card. (Too much foil for proper scanning)

2. The Topps card in the style of 1952 Topps with complete career stats on the back.

3. The standard (at the time) Upper Deck tribute card.

4. The Leaf/Donruss card in the style of 1949 Leaf (picture the size of 2007 Goudey)

5. The Fleer card in the style of 1997 Ultra

Other years of tributes followed similar formats. Anyone know since it was in Cleveland in 1997 if Larry Doby had a card that year?

If you have a chance, check out a Fanfest; it's way more than a card show, that is the smallest part.

Jul 12, 2009

Allen and Ginter Gallery: 2007 N43 Boxtopper Set

My 2009 box is not here yet, so let's go retro with the retro set.

Presented here is the N43 boxtopper set from 2007 Topps Allen and Ginter. I really liked the background and overall look of the cards, they're almost playful in a way. Some of the non-sport subjects are definitely varied. Anyone remember the pawprint card for the dog show champion? And how is Ryan Zimmerman grouped here? He's a good player, but doesn't have the same type of star power (or potential star power like Matsuzaka at the time) as the rest of the checklist. Enjoy the images.

Jul 10, 2009

Slice of a Season: Part 9 of 18 and Mid-Season Summary

Slice of a Season: 2009, Slice 9
Slice Record: 5-4
Cumulative Record: 43-38
Standing at Slice's End: 2 games ahead of the Marlins
Opponents that hurt the Phillies: Braves
Opponents that helped the Phillies: Mets
Wins to Remember: Beating Cincinnati 22-1 on July 6th, beating the Mets and Santana 2-0 on July 5th
Losses to spill milk over: Losing to Atlanta
Bats do help in general: When facing Jair Jurrjens
New Nemesis Alert, i.e. the new Mark Lemke?: Martin Prado
Welcome to the team: Rodrigo Lopez
Hitting Heroes: Jayson Werth, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins (his first appearance, all he needed was NY pitching)
Charlie Manuel needs to re-define contact sometimes: Is Eric Bruntlett the best right-handed contact hitter on the bench? If so, a search must be conducted.
Need Adjustments: Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz
Fire Starters on the Mound: Ryan Madson
Holding the Fort Down: J.A Happ, Joe Blanton

Midseason Grades

Phillies as a team: B-; all hitting for the most part, a starting pitching staff that has worn out the bullpen, and a bullpen whose anchor is not reliable, amazingly they are in first place.

Charlie Manuel as a manager: B+; he has managed hitting slumps pretty well and tends to give his players confidence even when they don't always succeed. Sometimes loyal to a fault. He doesn't have many head-scratching moves that I can recall (please enlighten me if you can)

Ruben Amaro Jr as a GM: B; still needs to replenish the bench on the right side, needs to stop listening to his players with how they would like to be used (case in point, Chan Ho Park). If the possibility is there for a blockbuster, he should jump on it. Raul Ibanez, when healthy, has been the signing of the offseason.

Player Review

There are only 5 categories: exceeded expectations, met expectations, below expectations, newcomers, no longer around to criticize because we always think we know who will and should do well and there are always surprises in both directions. If the surprises outnumber the disappointments, the team will usually be on their way up.

Exceeded Expectations

Chase Utley: Has returned from hip injury to post strongest numbers of his career thus far.
Pedro Feliz: He can walk! and his fielding has been steadily great.
Raul Ibanez: Before his injury, second to Pujols on the NL MVP charts.
Jayson Werth: July power surge has lent his numbers all-star oomph.
Shane Victorino: Team leader in runs and doubles, not just a fast singles hitter.
Matt Stairs: has turned into main option off bench, exhibiting power and patience.
JA Happ: Thrust into starting rotation and has been stellar in most starts.
Scott Eyre: More than a LOOGY, replaced Romero as a set-up guy nicely.
Clay Condrey: Everyday Clay held the fort down in April and May

Met Expectations
Carlos Ruiz: Good fielding, not great hitting catcher as his career suggests, has a hot streak in him somewhere.
Greg Dobbs: Not a top of the world pinch hitter like last year, but still a worthy one.
Chad Durbin: middle reliever who serviceably eats innings.
Ryan Madson: Settled into set-up role...not perfect, but who is?
Chan Ho Park: Expected to have +5 ERA, but not this way, another reliever ace?
Joe Blanton: league average, but his Ks portend more success
JC Romero: Back in his role after his suspension.

Below Expectations

Ryan Howard: His stats are trending the wrong direction. Should be .OPSing above .950
Jimmy Rollins: Worst leadoff hitter in the league so far, showed signs of snapping back to life
Eric Bruntlett: less than .150...not good enough to hit.
Jaime Moyer: sometimes time catches up, but he can be a 5th starter.
Cole Hamels: where's the backbreaking changeup? Inconsistent this year
Brad Lidge: 7+ ERA, >5 BB/9...closing is not easy

Newcomers (or too soon to have expectations)

John Mayberry: will be a good 4th outfielder with Ibanez back
Paul Bako: good fielding, no hit, veteran catcher
Antonio Bastardo:pleasant surprise before getting hurt
Rodrigo Lopez: can be a serviceable spot starter.
Tyler Walker: back of the pen guy, no more
Sergio Escalona: he rides the Lehigh Valley express too often to get a good read on him.

No longer around to criticize

Chris Coste (sadly)
Lou Marson:waiting for an opportunity
Miguel Cairo: didn;t offer enough
Kyle Kendrick
Andrew Carpenter
Brett Myers: injured and missed, but so mercurial he drove me nuts.
Jack Taschner: cut for better options

Here's to a successful 2nd half!

Jul 7, 2009

The Problem with Obsessions....

..is that you can't stop thinking about them. As I mentioned previously, 2007 Allen and Ginter was truly an obsessive card collecting moment. Not only was it a pursuit for the complete everything that existed, it also shadowed every movement I took during those few months. In the some of the next few posts (as I await my 2009 box to arrive), I'll go through what I collected then and how it correlates with what I hope to collect (funds allowing) for 2009. Hang onto your hats...because it's coming!

Mr. Planter will again show his happy face for all collectors on the rear of many mini-cards as well as in randomly inserted advertisements.

Icons will be honored, even mythical and unexpected ones.

The same faces will grace the card fronts with presence and the trappings of retro style.

Other faces, newly minted from the minor leagues, will lend their image to be splashed with background color.

All champions from all walks of sport and life shall have their day in the Allen and Ginter sun.

And historical figures will be remembered as well.

Can you not feel the excitement? So many reasons to anticipate, so little time to wait.

Jul 6, 2009

Masterpiece Moments Monday: Roger Maris

Presented here is Roger Maris in a moment of true baseball glory, shadowed by his surrounding circumstances and the vagaries of the events of future time. This, of course, is a depiction of the launching of the 61st home run in 1961, breaking Babe Ruth's record.

Picture the home run chases of the '90s. Remember the media fawning over Ken Griffey,Jr, Matt Williams, and any other player that came within shouting distance or on pace to break the record? The record was held from 1961-1998 (37 years), which was longer than Ruth holding the 60 HR record (34 years). But Maris was not Ruth, and his detractors constantly reminded him of it.

Mickey Mantle was the beloved Yankee, who underwent a home run chase of his own that year, finishing with 54 HR. Maris was not comfortable in New York, preferring the Midwestern sensibilities and less harsh demeanor of the Kansas City fans. His taciturn personality was seen as a detremit; he was not bigger than life like Ruth was when he was setting the standard for home runs in a season. His hair fell out as the pressure mounted for him to not pass the Babe.

He tied Ruth in the 158th game of the season and passed him in the 162nd. In a move of utter disrespect for the feat, Commissioner Ford Frick placed an asterisk in the record books next to the number because it had not come in less than 154 games, the previous length of a regular season until 1961. The asterisk then became the symbol of illegitimate records.

Maris never approached the heights of that season, losing his power by the age of 30 due to injuries. Maybe he would have been more satisfied if he knew how much his record meant to baseball fans in later years.

The question is raised then, what record deserves an asterisk? Is there such a thing as an illegitimate record? How long will Maris hold the non-steroid suspicious single season home run record and does it still matter?

Jul 5, 2009

The Allen and Ginter Obsession

Like many out there, I strive to collect Topps Allen and Ginter practically every year. I was not in the collecting game when it made its debut in 2006, but since then I have pursued these cards with a zeal not seen since the Goonies.

I have the 2008 set, but only through simple, non-obsessive means. I purchased the 350 base set for only $19.97 a few weeks ago. For some reason, I didn't want to buy a hobby box. Besides the Baseball Icons and Ancient Icons mini inserts, I wasn't really interested in the other sets (Crack the Code, World Leaders) enough to buy a hobby box. Buying a couple blasters and a hand collated set satisfied me in 2008.

2007 was the obsession peak. I was newly back in the game of the collecting world, and it caught my eye as interesting and collectible. I bought a hobby box, I completed the base set, I completed two of the Dick Perez sketch set, I completed the many of the insert sets...every day was an ebay search for new and interesting cards.

2009 looks even better and varied than 2008 and just as interesting as 2007. I fear I will get lost again. Air will not matter as much as acquring the latest shortprint.

Jul 3, 2009

My All-Star Ballot...Without Looking

I am now submitting my blind all-star ballot. I doing this without stats in front of me like I normally do or even a list of box scores from the previous night's game. This is based on a set of criteria I will now call "the want factor". I want to see the most enjoyable, best players for a competitive game (during the first three innings).

In short, my ballot:


C: Joe Mauer: simply amazing defensively and offensively
1B: Kevin Youkilis: Only because he shaved his goatee (I think)
2B: Ian Kinsler: It's all about the mop of hair
3B: Evan Longoria: But only with two healthy hamstrings
SS: Derek Jeter: I don't like him, most don't like him, but he is an all-star
OF1: Ichiro: he brings panache, the best quotes, and a rocket arm
OF2: Carl Crawford: Can we say speed demon?
OF3: Jason Bay: For the power

C: Brian McCann: He's good and annoying
1B: Albert Pujols: Poised for an inner circle HOF career
2B: Chase Utley: is the man
3B: Mark Reynolds: David Wright is a Met and therefore, can not be first on my ballot
SS: Hanley Ramirez: his steals have gone down, but his impact has not
OF1: Ryan Braun: all hail the Hebrew Hammer
OF2: Justin Upton: he has flair and still has not reached his full potential
OF3: Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth: here's to hometown ballot stuffing and stacking the field so the NL might win a game if they had 10 men on the field.

Any disagreements or comments? Bring them my way.