Nov 28, 2009

Phillies Project Update: Carlton and Schmidt Cards

I'm approaching the pinnacle of my pursuit for Steve Carlton cards (check the sidebar to see what I am looking for, it's not much). With Mike Schmidt, on the other hand, I have just begun the search. I'm still compiling the list. The two stars of the '70s and '80s create an interesting contrast in card images and personality. Carlton, the taciturn, standing tall and Schmidt, the communicative (post-playing days) sprawling on the diamond to stop another liner.

I'm always looking for non-mainstream releases and post-playing career cards of these players.

Here are my latest acquisitions.

1971 Pitching leaders (or really victory leaders). Fergie Jenkins led the way with 24 wins. Seaver, Downing, and Carlton tied with 20 wins. The next season, Carlton was traded from the Cardinals to the Phillies for Rick Wise (nothing like a no-hitter to boost your value)

1979 Kelloggs 3-D Carlton. He's staring right at you. Even if you look away, he will not.

A standard 1977 Topps card. Check out the maroon warm-up jacket. I'm not sure if I miss that uniform or not based on my childhood conditioning.

1983 or 1984 Topps Ralston Purina Mike Schmidt. I realize licensing is a major issue these days, but why not lend your name to other avenues for small sets to distribute cards. I miss the cards in cereal boxes and at gas stations (or in this case, dog food).

Until next time...

Nov 26, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!

I just really didn't like Travis Lee when he was in Philly.

Nov 23, 2009

1993 Triple Play Nicknames

I love insert sets from the beginning of their common use in card releases. They were so simple...and yet so desirable.....unattainable, and yet unescapable.

Triple Play was Donruss's foray into the kids market. Nicknames was a great idea (probably done previously) to give further identity to well-known players. The concept continued in other sets like 1996 Leaf Signature Notable Nicknames and even 2006 Fleer Greats of the Game.

Let's examine the nickname groupings (outside of Ryno for Ryne Sandberg) pictured above)

These three were given nicknames that you could call the players by. I mean, Gooden's Topps card called him Doc. Griffey was the only Junior (not counting Junior Felix), and Ozzie Smith was aptly called the Wizard of Oz.

Here are the two word nicknames. One given by exposure and probably himself (Prime Time), one because the nickname is too awesome (Big Hurt), and one because his last name was similar to a cartoon character (Crime Dog).

The last set are the nicknames for the Texans with a sense of excitement and with its pronouncement, knowing you had good odds to see something sensational in a ballgame.

What were some other of your favorite nicknames from this era, before, or beyond?

Nov 20, 2009

Happy Birthday to a Cleanup Hitter

(Card comes from a trade with Play at the Plate)

Ryan Howard turned 30 yesterday, meaning he's no longer a baseball young disciple with unfulfilled potential. He's already established as a legitimate baseball superstar. Let's examine his career chronologically.

2001: Drafted by the Phillies in the 5th round in the June Draft out of Missouri State University. Immediately thought that if he wanted to be drafted by a team in a city with horrible winter, it should be a team that finished above .500 more than once in the last 15 years. Set out on quest to swing heaviest bat in minor leagues.

2002: Struck out 145 times in 135 games at Single-A Lakewood. Decided he did not like riding the bus to the games, so decided to hit 19 HRs as well...all walk-offs... to beat the traffic back home.

2003: Enjoys the FL sunshine in Clearwater to the tune of 23 HRs and a .514 SLG. Teammates show him no respect by not letting him run all the way around the bases (only 67 runs despite .374 OBP) and smearing shaving cream on his face as he sleeps. Responds with the classic hot foot to every offender.

2004: Decides PA is good for him when he hits 48 HRs split between Reading and Scranton. Meets Billy Wagner for one game in Reading and decides he doesn't like him. Begins the only known burn book featuring Jim Thome, otherwise known as the nicest guy in baseball.

2005: Has to listen to trade rumors involving Kip Wells during the offseason. Elected ROY in the NL after opportunity to play surfaces, hitting 22 HR and .924 OPS in 88 games. Celebrates by running up the art museum steps 2005 times.

2006: MVP! MVP!

2007: Phillies clinch NL East division title despite his 199 strikeouts (47 HR and 136 RBI). Experiences first champagne spray, and loves it so much, creates the option in his home jacuzzi.

2008: Practices fielding during spring training with oven mitts to soften hands. Powers the Phillies to World Series title! Enjoys the championship parade, has Chase Utley's speech set as his ringtone.

2009: Continues stellar play in the field, helping lead Phillies to NL pennant (45 HR, 141 RBI, 140 OPS+). Decides to boycott cheesecake and pastrami after World Series.

(Note: Not everything presented here was true or based on any evidence)

Nov 19, 2009

World Series Post-Mortem

This was a lot more relevant two weeks ago when it happened, but I want to say it anyway. I finally was able to wear a red shirt again's been hard because they were so close. Even so, what a great 2009 season!

I hate to say it, but congrats to the Yankees for winning the World Series. They played better in more games, and that was the difference. Also congrats to the Phillies for a season well-done (a full season wrap-up will come at some point later), I enjoyed and suffered through every agonizingly pleasurable minute of it.

Now for some superficial analysis.

First, Why did the Yankees beat the Phillies?

1. Mariano Rivera and game-shortening: The first and most obvious reason. The Yankees only had to get through the 7th inning with the lead. Rivera was usually shaky in the 8th, but in the 9th, he didn't allow anything. Slam the door shut, ballgame.

2. Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon: They both had OBPs above .400 and Damon fouled off more pitches than I care to remember. There was also that double steal in game 4 that I will not mention.

3. Hideki Matsui:6 RBI's in game 6, vastly superior to Ben Francisco as the extra hitter in the lineup at Yankee Stadium, World Series MVP.

4. Not trusting unreliable pitchers: The only pitchers who pitched more than 2 innings: Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte, Rivera, Marte, Chamberlain. They weren't all stellar appearances, but that's trusting the top of the pitching staff

5. Very few mental errors: Except for the failed Jeter bunt, I don't recall any significant errors by the Yankees. They also allowed zero unearned runs.

Second, Why did the Phillies lose to the Yankees

1. Lack of starting pitching depth: After Lee, there really wasn't anyone to fill the void. Martinez had one great performance, Blanton was his usual self in game 4, and Hamels flamed out.

2. Strange bullpen decisions: Chad Durbin pitched almost as much as Scott Eyre. No one was warming up for Lidge in game 4. JA Happ was used as a short man. THere was very little matching up going on by Manuel in this series after going overboard with it in the NLCS and NLDS.

3. Mental Errors: Utley gave up a run with an errant flip to 2nd instead of getting the sure out at first, the double steal in game 4, of course.

4. In-game batting strategy and approach: Facing Burnett was the prime example. Why was there no in-game adjustment in game 2? Something like 21 of 23 1st pitch strikes with 10 of the 1st 11 on fastballs. Victorino really was hacking up there and Feliz was a black hole in the lineup except for one game. Ryan Howard was turned into a flailer against the parade of lefties. If he never swings, he would walk 50% of the time.

5. Trust and loyalty over performance: Pull Hamels before he gives up 5 runs. Pull Pedro in game 6 after it is 2-1 when the game is still in striking distance in the 3rd inning to have Happ face Matsui (it didn't work later, but it was the right call). Lidge should have only faced righties, if that. Why didn't Ruiz move up in the order? Why didn't Rollins or Victorino move down? Manuel, sometimes you must separate the lefties.

There's more reasons out there, but it's tiring and depressing to think of them all. Now it's time to be positioned to reach the postseason in 2010. It's hot stove fever coming up!

Nov 17, 2009

Catching Up: 2008 Upper Deck Premier Group Break

I'm finally getting around to scanning cards again. It's a more time consuming exercise than I care to remember.

This is from yet another group break hosted by the esteemed Mr. I Am Joe Collector. This one happened, I believe, two months ago.

2008 Upper Deck Premier (as in awesome, not as in the first showing of a movie) is another high end brand with thick cards and attitude exemplified by Exquisite, UD Black, and the like. This was a break based on hit order with each slot getting a memorabilia or auto card. I also lucked into getting a base card.

Here is the card:

A Chase Utley/Delmon Young dual patch card numbered out of 25. The card is really striking. The dark marbleized background serves as the backdrop for the patches to take center stage. I'm thrilled because it's of one of my favorite players on my favorite team. The choice by Upper Deck to pair Utley with Delmon Young is puzzling since he is neither a second baseman, in the NL, or an all-star. He also wasn't on the Rays at the time of the 2008 World Series. It doesn't matter because Young's patch contribution completes the card vision.

Here's the base card of Jeff Francoeur. I really like base cards from these high end sets. They're almost like the forgotten collectible. Limited in number and really easy to discard.

I don't remember what other people received, so I can't comment on the intense goodness of the set in general. However, I am pleased with what I received in the break.

Nov 13, 2009

Friday Thoughts: Sets and Their Numbers

I have been primarily a set collector (I'm sure I've mentioned this before.) One of the principal aspects of putting together a set is collating the set. And how does one collate a set released by the card manufacturers? You collate them by number.

This is to say that each part of the set had an identity and the main way to distinguish a card's place in the collation was through the card number.

Embellishments of the card number also occur. When Topps began its Topps Traded run, the numbers were suffixed with a T. Score also suffixed theirs with a T and Fleer prefixed theirs with a U (for Update). This practice is still continued in certain sets to this day (witness: Topps Update and Highlights). These were only distinguishing numbers. Many insert sets continued this practice and still do presently.

The practice of numbering, then, is quite ubiquitous for all manner of sets. There are exceptions, though. One example (if I'm not mistaken) is the 2003 Bowman's Best set. The cards are numbered BB-player initials. This makes it feel as if it's not a set and instead, is a random collection. How would one collate this? By first initial? last name? ones without and without a middle initial? team? To me, it disrupts the natural order of collation.

Another common occurrence is with Relic and Auto sets; these are more understandable because, to an extent, the cards are more stand-alone. However, the initial don't always make sense either. RO for Rodriguez? or They are not a product unto themselves and are inserts.

However, even with insert sets, the trend is tiresome. My least favorite example is the 2009 Topps Legends of the Game insert set. The first series is numbered LG1-LG25, the second series is numbered by player initials or something, and the updates and highlights series is number LGU1-LGU25. Where's the continuity for sets with the same design continuity would allow for completeness. Topps Heritage High Numbers is a continuation of the first series in concept and numbering. I have no idea what Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects continues except schizophrenic order.

What are your thoughts on collation and numbering? Even if you're not a set collector, what identifiers do you look for in a card?

Nov 7, 2009

Rip Card Results

Remember that rip card I pulled from the Allen & Ginter box during Gint-a-Cuffs? Well, I finally got around to ripping the Yadier Molina open (without any precision whatsoever) and revealing the mini treasure inside.

The result is shown here:

a mini exclusive Carlos Beltran. The mini exclusive has a slightly darker color palette compared to the normal mini and the number of the card is greater than 350 on the back. It's a nice card overall.

My response, to say the least, was underwhelming. It could be worse. He's an all-star player at least. Of course, it had to be a Met. I was really looking forward to seeing a red auto or wood parallel or something less commonplace. Oh well, the anticipation ended.

One interesting aspect was that there was a black film over both sides of the card inside the rip card. I had no idea what was coming out; I tried in vain to peek with a flashlight. That doesn't work this year for those ripping open these cards.

Hopefully, some better luck next time. I was still psyched to pull the card out of my box.

And so the Allen and Ginter tale reaches it denouement.

Nov 2, 2009

These two cards make me happy...

...and the World Series did not yesterday. Brad Lidge...again. That's all I have to say besides I'm looking forward to games 5-7.

Quote of the night (from me) during the debacle: "Don't try to make me happy. I don't want to be happy."

Then I remembered there are cards of Phillies that could do the trick.

This is a sideways 1975 Topps Wayne Twitchell. I have never heard of this gentleman before. He does however, have the maroon and powder blue uniforms of my youth and has just finished a followthrough without a ball in an empty stadium. Plus, this is abright and colorful and cheerful 1975 Topps card. I love this set (maybe not as much as others, but it is a groovy green and yellow smorgasbord of color explosion.

This is a 2005 Turkey Red...Red Dooin. A long-time Phillie, he missed being in their first postseason by one year, leaving after the 1914 season. Never a great player, he mostly played catcher. I was just taking a look at his fielding stats, and he had a 40 error/15 passed ball season. Was this common in his era? Did he not accept those new-fangled catcher's masks and shinguards as proper tools of ignorance? I'd like to picture him as one of the last to not wear anything except a glove and finger splints (I have no basis in fact for this claim). Plus, this is Turkey Red in the orginial form. Note the borders. Vintage.

I almost feel better now.
Cards courtesy of Stats on the Back