Mar 31, 2010

non-HOF Profile Derby #14: Minnie Minoso

Next, is an interesting case, a mostly left fielder Saturnino Orestes Armas (Arrieta) Minoso (better known as Minnie)(1949-1980). I figured it would be a good idea considering he is now in the header in the esteemed Collective Troll.

Place on the WAR chart: : Below Enos Slaughter and Joe Gordon, above Harry Hooper and Sam Rice

Career Overview and Some Numbers: Played for Cleveland Indians (1949, 1951), Chicago White Sox (1951-1957), Cleveland Indians (1958-1959), Chicago White Sox (1960-1961), St. Louis Cardinals (1962), Washington Senators (1963), Chicago White Sox (1976, 1980). Yes, he did have a 13 year break between appearances, he was a short-lived pinch hitter at the ages of 50 and 54 and subsequently became the first (and only) player to appear in an MLB game in five decades. He eventually made appearances in professional games in 1990 and 2003, officially playing in seven decades.

More substantially, he led the league in 2B once, 3B and SB thrice, TB once, and HBP a bone-crunching 10 times. He also was a top 10 MVP votegetter 5 times, AS 7 times, and Gold Glove winner 3 times. He posted seven seasons with a >130 OPS+ and had 4 100 run and 100 RBI seasons as well

What makes him an interesting case beyond the numbers? Well, his career overlapped with the beginning of the integration of baseball. In 1951, when he first became a full-time player, he was 25 years old. He then was a regular contributor until the age of 37. Before making his MLB debut, Minoso did play in the Negro Leagues as a 3B. He was a free agent by the end of the 1948 season. I believe that most players signed by MLB clubs were ready to play at the next level within one season, depending on their age and experience. Realistically, Minoso's career probably would have started 2-3 years earlier (in the right organization) if integration had already occurred when his career began. This, of course, does not preclude that his career would have taken the same path. However, his talent level was quite high and it is likely that he could have had a slightly extended all-star/hall of fame-esque career.

Best Season:1954: Hit .320/.411/.535 (155 OPS+), led the league in TB (304) and 3B (18). Also had 19 HR, 116 RBI and 119 R with a 77/46 BB/K ratio.

The Final Numbers: Hit .298/.389/.459 (130 OPS+) with 186 HR, 1023 RBI, 1136 R, 205 SB, 814/584 BB/K ratio, and 192 HBP (10th all time)

Why He Should be Remembered:Besides the publicity stunts after his career was over (of course they were orchestrated by a Veek), he was a speedy left fielder who made his mark during the 1950s. He was one of the first Cuban born ballplayers to have a substantial career. He also was the first black player to play for the Chicago White Sox.

HOF Balloting Performance:Remained on the ballot for 15 years until 1999 with a high of 21.1%. He was on the Negro Leagues ballot in 2005, but did not have a substantial enough career there to be elected only on his performance during that time.

Rookie Card:1952 Bowman 5
Modern Cards:2001 Topps Archives, 2002 SP Legendary Cuts Jersey

Mar 29, 2010

The Gimmick that Got Me Back Collecting: 2006 Topps

With the tournament of gimmicks going on here, here, here, and here, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to what gimmicks have done for me and my re-start in collecting.

Like many people, I did not collect very much after 1999. I bought a hobby box here or there until 2002 and then practically nothing except a few packs from 2003-2005. Then, I saw the story about the Alex Gordon rookie card. Who is Alex Gordon? The second pick in the draft from the previous year. I like rookie cards. What is this card really? A gimmick, an released, "un-released" card that can only be found in Wal-mart packs. Since when did they stock cards at Wal-mart?

So I went on ebay and found 3 blaster boxes of 2006 Topps (30 packs) for $30. Alas, I did not find a Gordon. But I did discover that I liked what I saw about 2006 Topps. Unfortunately, even with a wantlist, I will never complete this set.

My favorite part was the backs of the cards with cartoons.

Look, it's a "hanging curve"
Very infomative fact about Hank Aaron
That is a sad sight. Even without a World Series title, there has to be some trophy to put in there?

I also enjoyed the design of the front. The foil was a little difficult to read in direct light (foil cards are descended from vampires), but the colors were striking, and the variety of color made the cards really easy to sort through.
There were pitching poses in Spring Training. How long did he have to stand like that?

Batting poses in games like this So Taguchi card. How many players have worn #99? (Taguchi, Mitch Williams, Manny Ramirez, others?)

And also some non-standard shots like the squinting Dan Johnson. Dan, flip down those sunglasses! Who doesn't like a rookie cup on a card?

The worst parts of opening the packs was the inclusion of the Barry Bonds Home Run History cards (1:4 packs, though I liked getting HR 661, it at least had a different foil color) and the Mickey Mantle Home Run History card. Did you know in 2006 Topps Series 1, they only inserted HR #1 at a rate of 1:6 packs? So, I received 6 of the same insert card without any difference. What a waste.

This is the other reason I will not complete this set; I do not want to buy any more packs to grow the pile of Mickey Mantle HR#1 cards.

So gimmicks do get attention and can bring back collectors, but they sure are frustrating when you can never get them without spending all that money. ( Gordon for me, not even the blank version)

Mar 26, 2010

Fantasy Baseball Musings: Wisdom is so Conventional

I'm on the cusp on fantasy baseball weekend in my world. I have a draft in a really large and competitive league (16 teams!) on Saturday morning and another draft in my first ever keeper league on Sunday morning (run by the esteemed proprietor of Goose Joak.

I've been preparing my rankings, and there are a few ideas and aspects of the rankings itself that seem to make themselves apparent.

In this modern, technological decade (unlike during the less modern decade that was around during 2003), there are fantasy baseball pundits everywhere. You can hold the words in your fist, shake them out, throw the bones on the board.....and you get very similar results. Why are the results so similar? There are probably a few reasons for this.

One is the emergence of easily accessible projection systems (i.e. PECOTA, CHONE, Marcel, etc). Notice that these are not prediction systems. They usually take into account past performance, age, present career path, ballpark environment, team situation, and a host of other things to give the most probable statistical output for that player for 2010. For fantasy, this is all that matters. Plug the statistics into your team and there are the projected standings.

The other is the proliferation of fantasy pundits. I mean, there are literally a ton of websites to qualify and quantify thoughts about fantasy performance, how to build a team, how to maintain a team, how to conduct trades, and for most people, most importantly when and where to draft players.

These articles and sites are everywhere; we are inundated with who's a sleeper, who's a bust, who's going to injure themselves while running after an ice cream truck. If you want to know anything from practically any style, the information is available to you. Whether you like the cerebral or instinctual approach to constructing your team, you can find that too. This is the good news.

The bad news and what is troubling to me is that even with all this information and all these different styles, drafts end up being virtually the same. The reasons are threefold: mock drafts since the day last season ended establish pre-conceived notions about players, the amalgation of draft data provides average draft position (ADP) data create a fear of risk draft environment, and there is a lot of groupthink in drafts (i.e. position runs or following the online ranking system only).

The biggest culprit is the ADP phenomena. Say you want one of your sleepers (let's call him Outfielder Awesome). His ADP is 150. You can possibly wait for the ADP round to take him, but others in the league may want him around the same point (because of the ADP) or you can reach a couple rounds earlier, sacrificing some potential value for the pick. At some point, the player isn't a sleeper anymore. He won't slip through the radar, especially if many teams need outfielders, so you have to decide.

The most incredible part about studying for a draft is how much what you read influences your thinking. You'd think we're all independent players here, but in reality, all players already have a perceived value according to the pundits, and we're just living in their world, trying to swim with the tide.

Mar 25, 2010

Off-Season Perspective Part III: Veterans and Position Scarcity: The Giants Perspective

Here's the NL West representative's off-season perspective: The San Francisco Giants. (Mel Ott is not really on the team, but he was a Giant).

The Giants have not consistently developed young, capable major leaguers that are not pitchers. This is a pretty well-regarded fact going back 15 years. They have two home-grown starters on their roster along with three reserves, and one Buster Posey, the hottest (non-pitcher) prospect to come out of the Giants system this side of Will Clark.

The Giants can be a good team if they were well-rounded (which they are not), and if the bulk of their resources was committed to reliable, productive players (which they are not). Let's examine the roster construction, going from the most positive to the most negative.

Starting Pitching

The undisputed strength of this roster. You begin with the 2-time defending NL Cy Young award winner in Tim Lincecum. He's a good bet for 140 ERA+, 250 K, and 220 IP; he is an elite pitcher, period. The second-best starter is Matt Cain. Typically, a hard luck pitcher in the W/L record department, he strikes out a lot, walks a lot, and is a 115-120 ERA+ range pitcher on average. Jonathan Sanchez throws fireballs, and through his myriad of injuries before 2008, does not have much mileage on his arm. His WHIP is typically high (>1.3), but he knows how to strike out batters as well (>9 K/9 in 2009). Barry Zito (who we won't belabor) and a mixture of Todd Wellemeyer and Madison Bumgarner round out the rotation. As you can see, (except for Zito), these are young commodities with plenty of potential to maintain or improve their past couple of seasons' performances.


The Giants' bullpen is anchored by Brian Wilson (who may have the worst celebratory gesture ever), who is not a top-tier closer, but he's been made into a serviceable, semi-dependable one. Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo are the principal set-up guys. Both are successful and have low ERAs. Interestingly, Affeldt is left-handed and has a negative split (.507 OPS allowed against righties and .683 OPS allowed against lefties). He was the most effective reliever on the team in 2009.


There is one elite hitter on the Giants, who is also one of the few cost-controlled entities on the roster. That would be Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval, who had a 142 OPS+ last year, and was the only player to exhibit above-average power (.556 SLG) at all. The next-closest was now-back up infielder Juan Uribe (.495 SLG).

This is the main problem with the lineup, after Sandoval, all the players are below-average hitters. Aaron Rowand? Not enough plate discipline to maintain success. Edgar Renteria? Past his prime, and frequently injured with nagging problems. Freddy Sanchez? A singles hitting contact hitter who doesn't draw a walk. That's the center of the diamond. It's fine to build a team with below-average hitters in the center because they gain a lot of value from fielding their position (though I'm not sure if any one of these guys can be considered elite defenders). Even so, if any of them is even average for their position on defense, they are worthy contributors.

The crux of the problem with their lineup is the corners. The Giants have injury-prone retreads and undeveloped prospects (excluding Sandoval) manning the positions that should be contributing the most offense. At left field, they have Mark DeRosa, who had a career best year at age 33, but is now 35 and coming off wrist surgery. At first base, they have Aubrey Huff, whom the Giants are hoping can bounce back to 2008 levels (137 OPS+), but that is unlikely given his age and general career pattern. At right field, they have untested Nate Schierholtz, who just does not have enough translatable power or plate discipline from his minor league stats to have a significant impact on the lineup compared to the departed Randy Winn.

The most mindboggling move they made, though, was the re-signing of Bengie Molina and handing him the starting job. He is a backup catcher at this point of his career. His K% doubled from 2008-2009, he never walked, and this is compounded by the fact that he is not a high average hitter and 34 years old. His .285 OBP was (if I recall correctly) the 2nd worst in the majors for qualifying players. But because he hit 20 HR last year, most likely, he will be placed in the middle of the order, creating a black hole for outs that should really only be present in the 7th or 8th slots (ideally). In addition to this, he is blocking the ascendance of a probably-adequate replacement in Buster Posey, who is cheaper, younger, and more likely to have a greater than .300 OBP.

The Giants scored a 13th (out of 14) 657 runs last year. I'd be surprised if they surpassed that total.

Overall Outlook

Their ceiling looks like 85 wins and 3rd place (behind the Rockies and Dodgers). They may even fall behind the Diamondbacks if either Cain or Lincecum get hurt at any point during the season.

Mar 23, 2010

1994 Flair Series 1 Box Break: Packs 13-18

The World Series of 1993 was an epic one on many levels. It was a classic defending champion (Toronto Blue Jays) vs. upstart/underdog (Philadelphia Phillies). It boasted two offenses that were 1st in the NL and 2nd in the AL. Both teams had decent pitching staffs with a couple of horses (Schilling and Greene for the Phillies, Guzman and Hentgen for the Blue Jays). Of course, the Phillies had Mitch Williams, and we all remember what happened with him and also what he did. Heart attacks in Philadelphia rose by 6000% during that season compared to the previous one.

Jim Eisenreich-Memorable Season: Formed a 4 headed platoon on the corner outfield along with Pete Incaviglia, Milt Thompson, and Wes Chamberlain and hit a sterling .318/.363/.445 with 7 HR and 54 RBI in less than 400 AB

Roberto Alomar Memorable Series: Here's an example of the back of the cards. It had a 3rd unique photo. Where did Fleer get all its source material? Well, Alomar hit .480/.519/.640 in the World Series with 12 hits of his own. Somehow this performance was overshadowed.
Scott Erickson Forgettable Season: Finished 8-19 with a 5.19 ERA (84 ERA+) and led the league with 266 hits allowed. Also, his voodoo doll was pricked repeatedly by Brian Kingman to deny him the 20th loss.

John Burkett Memorable Season: Led the league with 22 wins and had a career best 1.14 WHIP as the Giants won 103 games. Just check out his 1992 Pinnacle "Sidelines" card. He's also a great bowler.

Cecil Fielder Memorable Season: Had 4th straight 30 HR season and was officially the "Big Daddy" in Detroit. Finished with 117 RBI and 124 OPS+ as well. Unfortunately, lost his bid to win Tiger of the Year for 4th year in a row.

Albert Belle Memorable Season: Led the league in RBIs, SFs, and won a Silver Slugger. Did not get into any documented altercations on the field.

Carlos Delgado Wave of the Future Insert: Carlos is still riding the wave.

Rick White Wave of the Future Insert: Rick rode the wave until 2007.

Kirby Puckett Outfield Power Insert: Kirby is at the height of his smiling powers.

Other notable cards from these packs: Bob Hamelin, Don Mattingly, Will Clark, Carlos Delgado, Matt Williams, Raul Mondesi, Jeff Kent, Trevor Hoffman, Pedro Martinez

As always, if you want to see further images, let me know. Next time, the conclusion of the box.

Mar 19, 2010

Friday Thoughts: What Keeps your Collection Going?

I realize for the most part that most of the people reading this are zealous (and sometimes overzealous) participants of the art of card collecting. So you can empathize with the art of the never-ending chase to accumulate all the cardboard and the foil in the (insert sport(s) here) universe.

So the general question is.....what keeps you going?

Is it the thrill of the hunt for that one rare card you've always wanted? But what happens after the hunt? How do you determine what to pursue next?

Is it the set completion itch that keeps you going?

Is it the discovery a looked-over set that sparks your interest?

In other words, what thoughts go into shaping your collection?

I am at a point where I am actually getting closer to many of the goals I set at the beginning of 2009. I can see myself finishing them in the next few months. I also have a lot of cards that don't fit into the general scope of my collection. It's not that I want to cull them (because I like having at least examples of most card sets), it's that I'm running out of room.

After I finish this "Phillies project" and the Bowman sets I'm working on, what will keep me going...besides the effervescent harmony of nostalgia and thrill-chasing?

Don't misunderstand, I will always be a collector. How does one reduce and expand focus at the same time?

Feel free to discuss.

Mar 17, 2010

2009 Topps Heritage Wantlist Post

28 remaining

Everyone has dived headlong into the 2010 Topps Heritage pool, but I'm stuck wading in the 2009 Topps Heritage shallow end. Not that I don't enjoy being there; it sure simplifies things at the end of the day.

I'm only collecting the set from 1-425.

Any shortprints are a bonus.

I don't want to have this thing hanging over my proverbial collection head for years. I enjoyed the 1960 horizontal design, but I don't want to be stressed about it.

Here's what's remaining as of this writing.

73, 83, 240, 243, 254, 255, 257, 273, 274, 277, 285, 288, 289, 297, 318, 320, 329, 330, 336, 342, 356, 365, 377, 394, 404, 405, 410, 412,

SPs I have (just in case): 450, 473, 496

Not bad for only having bought one pack.

Join the Group Break at Nachos Grande

There are a lot of teams available for this group break. He's opening 1998 Collector's Choice, 1999 Collector's Choice, and 2005 Upper Deck Classics.

Get some of your favorite team with brands that you don't normally open! And have fun!

Check it out here

Mar 16, 2010

1994 Flair Series 1 Box Break: Packs 7-12

Let's continue the time warp to 1993. Remember how exciting it was to get cards of expansion team players in packs at that time? I used to have dedicated pages in my binder to Rockies and Marlins cards. It was a novelty that I just couldn't get enough of. Plus, the Rockies hat looked very similar to the hat of my high school's (except in a different color). So even in a Phillies fan world, a lot of people were wearing Rockies hats during 1993-1994.

Gary Sheffield: Memorable Season: After having the baseball pundits talk about a chase for the Triple Crown in 1992 as a member of the Padres, Sheffield joined the newly minted, teal-sporting Marlins at midseason and gave the team a cleanup hitter, hitting 10 HR in 72 games. One bad moment is when he was hit by a ball while running the bases and was called out against the Phillies August 7, 1993.
Cal Ripken- Memorable Moments: Had a below-average season offensively (97 OPS+), but reached his 2000th career hit, won a Silver Slugger, and played in the all-star game in Camden Yards.

Alex Fernandez-Memorable Season: Went 18-9 with a 3.13 ERA (134 ERA+) for the division winning White Sox. He hit some hard luck in the ALCS, allowing 3 runs in 15 innings, but still received two losses.

Ken Griffey Jr.- Memorable Moments: At the home run derby, hit the warehouse behind Camden Yards, the first one ever to do so. Also, hit eight home runs in eight consecutive games, tying the record held by Don Mattingly and Dale Long. The Kid cemented his place as a superstar in 1993 with his first 40+ HR season.

Jose Rijo: Memorable Season: He led the NL in Ks with 227 and pitched to a 2.48 ERA (163 ERA+) with a 14-9 record. Marked the 6th consecutive season with a sub-3 ERA.

Greg Maddux: Memorable Season: In his first season with the Braves, Maddux led the league in ERA (2.36), CG (8), IP (267), ERA+ (171), and WHIP (1.05) to go with a 20-10 record and second consecutive Cy Young award. His season inauspiciously ended in game 6 of the NLCS after Mickey Morandini hit him on the leg with a line drive, limiting his effectiveness.

Armando Reynoso: Memorable Season: Amazingly, on an expansion team at high altitude, had a 12-11 record with a 4.00 ERA in his first full season. I'm in awe that he almost had a sub 4 ERA in Colorado pre-humidor.

David Justice and Tim Salmon Outfield Power Inserts: David Justice hit 40 HRs in 1993 for the division winning Braves and Tim Salmon burst on the scene with a rookie season to remember.

Other notable cards(because of design or player): Chris Hoiles, Andre Dawson, Jim Edmonds, Manny Ramirez (before being Manny), Jim Thome, Mark McGwire, Ryne Sandberg

Mar 15, 2010

Phillies Project Update: As the Clock Turns

Progress continues on the ever-advancing Phillies project detailed in this space about one year ago. Soon, I shall need another shelf in the bookcase just for Phillies cards. Here are some examples of recent pickups.

1984 Topps John Denny: How many times did a Phillie win the Cy Young award in the 1980s? If you guessed four, you would be correct. Two by Hall of Famer Steve Carlton (1980, 1982), one by beard hall of fame member Steve Bedrosian (1987), and one by John Denny in 1983. It was an unlikely career year. He had a career high in wins (19), ERA (2.37), ERA+ (152), K (139), and cut his BB/9 in half from his career average up to that point.

1978 Topps Jay Johnstone: A sometimes-overlooked member of the division winning Phillies of the 1976-1977. He hit 15 HR in only 363 AB in 1977. He also went 7-9 (.778 AVG, seriously) in the 1976 NLCS in the 3 game sweep at the hands of the Big Red Machine.
1984 Topps Tony Perez and Joe Morgan: Speaking of the Big Red Machine, the 1983 "Wheeze Kids" of the Phillies decided to have a virtual reunion, bringing in Perez and Morgan to join with the already present Pete Rose. Morgan wasn't a star anymore, but he was still a useful player at this point of his career (116 OPS+ mostly due to 89 BB and 16 HR). Perez was a non-power hitting bench first baseman and was clearly reaching the end of his career.
1984 Topps Al Holland: He was the closer of the 1983 pennant winning team with 25 saves, 100 K in 91 IP and a 1.01 WHIP. He was one of three Phillies relievers with >90 IP in 1983 (Willie Hernandez and Ron Reed). Would that ever happen in today's game?
1982 Topps Gary Matthews: He replaced Greg Luzinski in LF after the departure of the Bull. He was a different type of player: average fielding stats and a #2/#6 hitter's profile who could draw walks and and hit the occasional HR.

The journey continues...

Mar 12, 2010

non-HOF Profile Derby #13: Buddy Bell

Next, a third baseman who's known for his glove, Buddy Bell(1972-1989)

Place on the WAR chart: : Below Harmon Killebrew and Ryne Sandberg, above Dave Winfield and Bobby Wallace.

Career Overview and Some Numbers:Played for Cleveland(72-78), Texas (79-85,89), Houston (88) and Cincinnati(85-88). Like many 3rd baseman, he's overlooked in the HOF debate. Could have been considered an elite 3rd baseman from 1977-1984. He was not an overpowering, imposing hitter, but he posted two seasons of >130 OPS+. He had one 20 HR season and one 100 RBI season. He was a 5 time all star, one tiem silver slugger and 6 time Gold Glove winner. The fielding stats back this award up. His range factor for his career was 3.19 (vs. a league range factor of 2.96). He also had enough fielding skill to hold his own at SS in 1979. Most similar career path is Brooks Robinson, most similar overall batting stats are BJ Surhoff and Julio Franco.

Best Season:1980: Hit .329/.379/.498 (142 OPS+) wtih 17 HR and 83 RBIs

The Final Numbers: Hit .279/.341/.406 (109 OPS+) with 201 HR, 1106 RBI, 1151 R and 836/776 BB/K ratio.

Why He Should be Remembered:A strong fielding third baseman who can basically be considered as a poorman's version of Brooks Robinson, though he was a better and more consistent hitter. He had a purportedly strong arm and toiled in cities with not exposure during the prime of his career. As I mentioned before, 3rd base is a severely underrepresented group in baseball halldom. The demands of the position are such that a great fielder with above average hitting stats is a great player.

HOF Balloting Performance:Received 1.7% of the vote in 1995.

Rookie Card:1973 Topps 31
Modern Cards:2004 Topps Fan Favorites Auto, 2003 Flair Greats Relic

Mar 11, 2010

Let's Travel Back in Time:1994 Flair Series 1 Box Break Packs 1-6

I would like to transport us back to the halcyon days of the 1993 season. This was when the Yankees were a struggling franchise, Toronto was the defending World Series champions, there were many curses left to be broken, and the Brewers were still in the American League. This was before the wild card, interleague play, and not made before hat sizes. This was the time to celebrate Griffey, Thomas, Bagwell, Bonds, Gwynn, and Ripken (to name a few).

Baseball cards were evolving as well. Just that year was the introduction of the "superpremium" sets (could you imagine a SRP of $4.99 per pack?). This was before the strike and inserts were all the rage. I heard a 1992 Fleer Team Leader Frank Thomas was a pretty good card to own, but everyone wanted a refractor (if you could find them) to get caught on the wave...of the future.

Here's the first of a 4 part series, trying to recall memorable players and faces from the 1993 season built around the breaking of a 1994 Flair Series 1 box.

John Olerud: Memorable Season The chase for .400 was on! He finished at only .363, but he ended up leading the league in AVG, OBP, OPS, OPS+, doubles, and intentional walks. He also had a 114/65 BB ratio and a career-high 24 HR. And he was at .400 on August 2!

Paul Molitor: Memorable Series: He had a great season (2nd in the MVP voting), but he took home World Series MVP honors by hitting .500/.571/1.000 in the 6 games and tied the World Series record with 12 hits.
Juan Gonzalez- Memorable Season: Led the league in HRs with 46 and .SLG with .632. He also won the home run derby before it was popular with a mind shattering 7.
Dennis Eckersley-Forgettable Season: The defending AL MVP and Cy Young award had 10 blown saves and a 4.16 ERA. His WHIP increased 30% from the previous year.
Darren Daulton Memorable Season: Had 2nd straight 100 RBI season and had 135 OPS+ as Phillies won the division title for the first time in 10 years (also hit 2 HRs on my birthday)

Mike Piazza Memorable Season: Easily won the NL Rookie of the Year award with a very impressive .318/.370/.561 season (152 OPS+) with 35 HR and 112 RBI. Anyone seen his 1992 Fleer Update card yet?
Solomon Torres Forgettable Moment: Started and lost the final game of the season in which the Giants were left out of the playoffs with 103 wins.
Barry Bonds Outfield Power Insert:The power of cash, 6 years, $43 million and an MVP award.
Chan Ho Park Wave of the Future Insert: The first Korean player was signed before the 1994 season. He is still playing today.

Other notable cards from these packs (based on photo and/or player): Kevin Appier, Kirby Puckett (2x), Bryan Harvey, Scott Servais, Kevin Stocker, Ozzie Smith, Steve Karsay Wave of the Future.

If you want to see these cards or any others, let me know.

And yes, I did get both Pucketts in the same pack.

Mar 8, 2010

Phillies Project Update: 1970s Phillies

The Phillies project has really made great progress in the last couple months. I'm nearly 80% of the way to my goal with 1980 Phillies, Carlton, and Schmidt cards (check out the sidebar for the links to what I'm missing if you're curious). The 2008 Phillies are a little harder to organize and limit what I want to get for the purpose of this project. Any suggestions?

Here are some 1970s Phillies.

1973 Topps Carlton/Tiant Wins Leaders Steve Carlton led the world in everything in 1972. Dare I say it was one of the top 10 most dominant pitching seasons since 1920?

1977 Topps Jonny Oates: Johnny Oates I remember more as the manager of the Orioles and Rangers. It must have been boring to play spring training in the '70s without any crowds
1977 Topps Gene Garber: The steadily great reliever made a go-round with the Phillies at the middle of his career.
1976 Topps Tom Underwood: A Phillies all-star rookie in 1975? 14-13 with a 4.14 ERA can get you something, at least a virtual trophy.
1976 Topps Traded Jim Kaat: Finally, a gold glove winning pitcher.
1978 Topps Jim Lonborg: He's most remembered for winning the Cy Young award during the 1967 Red Sox Impossible Dream season.
1973 Topps Willie Montanez: I just like to see action shots on '70s cards. It reminds us how far photography has come.
1973 Topps Greg Luzinski: The Bull back when power hitters hit with power.
1973 Topps Ken Brett: George's brother might have an imaginary hat on his head.

More updates to come

Mar 5, 2010

I am Joe Collector February Group Break Results

If you have not yet partaken in any of the group breaks put on by I Am Joe Collector, consider yourself having been missing out. There are standard group breaks by team for baseball usually, and then there are also specialty breaks centering around one product (such as SPA football, Finest baseball, Masterpieces baseball, Ultimate baseball, etc). Check it out and sign up at the beginning of each month and claim your favorite team....for life. Here's a small sampling of what I received from last month.

Cliff Lee row of 2009 Topps Unique: Gold /99, Red /1199, Base.
2009 Topps Unique Tim Lincecum (very popular here in the Bay Area), 2009 Topps Unique Unique Unis David Wright (a very nice insert idea reminiscent of 1994 Score Dream Team cards in concept) and one of the numbered rookies /2699, Fernando Martinez, apparently the next Mets savior?
Here's the daily dose of 2009 Topps Heritage High Series: two Phillies chrome of Cliff Lee and John Mayberry Jr, and a shortprint of the still-scowling, now retired Randy Johnson.

Surprisingly, I now have a lot of Cliff Lee cards in a Phillies uniform for a half season's time.

This short post is brought to you by office moving, where papers meet the floor (seriously, I'm moving to my 4th office in 5 years at work).

Mar 4, 2010

Upper Deck Got Left in the Bleachers

I've already offered my opinion on what an exclusive license would mean for collectors when the Topps license was initially announced. If you're so inclined, you can reprise those thoughts here and here.

In short, I think the short-term effect will be positive and not dampen the collectors' love of collecting nor the fun of sets that are on the marketplace. We always have choices as collectors, and its our role to petition the companies with our voices or wallets to show them what we like or don't like.

However, these three passages were chilling in how blunt the settlement was for Upper Deck.

– Upper Deck agreed it will not make any new sets of cards using MLB logos, uniforms, trade dress, or Club color combinations.

– Upper Deck also agreed it will not airbrush, alter or block MLB marks in future products.

– Upper Deck must receive approval from MLB for the use of baseball jerseys, pants, jackets, caps, helmets or catcher’s equipment in future products featuring players

The first statement, though expected in a licensing settlement/agreement such as this, has one innocuous feature that will stifle Upper Deck's card-making abilities more than generally thought, in my opinion. The fact that they can't use club color combinations with the player photos. Even if they wanted to do a portrait style or painting style set, this severely limits in what settings players can be depicted. Without that clause, Upper Deck still could use a plain black hat for a Yankee or a plain red hat for a Phillie. Now, it seems they can not.

The second statement, really throws any future card creation operation to the destruction wolves. No airbrushing, no glorious logoless uniforms, no altered shots of players. This means that even players from the past can't get the stylized treatment.

The third statement pretty much rules out the use of relic and auto inserts.

Upper Deck, instead of biding its time for a few years and receiving some perspective on the market in a Topps-dominated world, decided to release products that obviously did not fall under their MLBPA license. Their argument as a "fair use" arrangement was a pretty specious one, especially since not many people would regard trading cards as journalistic in nature. Instead, they could have released a few well-done unlicensed products each year (actually obscuring logos and not mentioning team names, using color combinations only) to keep collector's interested in their products. The trend of exclusivity can probably end in the near future and then Upper Deck would have an upper hand on Topps because they would not have been subjected to typical collector ennui with year to year offerings.

It's too bad it had to end this way. In the long-term, the knowledgeable collector will not get everything they desire.

Mar 2, 2010

Off-Season Perspective Part II: How Far Can Young Pitching Carry You? The Athletics Perspective

I started this with the Phillies (of course, my NL East pick). Here's my AL West pick, the Oakland Athletics.

The Athletics are a young, fairly unexciting team on the whole. I've tried to watch their games locally here, and there's really no player on the roster who would be considered a game-changer. For years, they've been painted as the "Moneyball" franchise for no small reason being the actual subject of the book. It seems like, though, that other teams with a larger pools of resources have adapted or implemented at least some of the methods of regarding inefficiencies.

This year the A's have put together a one note team. Again, they are lacking in offensive production. It won't be a stretch to predict that they will easily score a quantity of runs that places them in the bottom 3rd of the league. They play in a pitcher's park, and the only regulars returning with a greater than 100 OPS+ are Jack Cust, Rajai Davis, and Ryan Sweeney. Their payroll will also be in this region as well. The question to be explored is whether they have enough strength in talent to overcome this roster deficiency.

The other end of the roster is known as the pitching and defense side. We've all heard the mantra: "Pitching and defense wins ballgames." The A's have infused their roster with an especially young pitching staff.

Their staff ace from last year was 21 year old Brett Anderson; he will return and has a lot of room for improvement. He had a 3.33 K/BB ratio, 7.7 K/9 ratio, and in the 2nd half he had a 6-4 record with a 3.48 ERA after struggling in the 1st half. He will be the defacto ace.

The struggling rookie last year was 21 year old Trevor Cahill. He was much wilder (3.6 BB/9) and did not have much success to build upon for this coming year (10-13, 4.63 ERA).

Other young pitchers include 23 year old Gio Gonzalez (9.9 K/9, 5.1 BB/9), 22 year old Vin Mazzarro (5.8 K/9, 3.8 BB/9), and probable swingman 25 year old Dallas Braden, who had flashes of success last season in the 1st half before being injured.

Their bullpen is anchored by reigning rookie of the year, 25 year old Andrew Bailey with two 30 year old set-up guys, Michael Wuertz and Brad Ziegler. Wuertz was especially effective last year (11.7 K/9, 0.96 WHIP).

So in effect, the Athletics have a lot of young pitchers that have the potential to carry the team or at least give improvement to the team. This is especially possible because of their ballpark (98 Park Factor where over 100 favors batters) and because they;ve assembled an outfield of essentially three centerfielders to track down flyballs (Coco Crisp, Rajai Davis, and Ryan Sweeney).

There are also two wildcards in the piching mix that will determine whether the A's can compete with the other very much above average AL West teams, Justin Duchscherer and Ben Sheets.

Duchscherer was a reliever turned starter in 2008 who became an all-star built upon a 1.00 WHIP and 2.45 ERA in 22 games. That was until he got hurt, missed the end of 2008 and all of 2009. It remains to be seen if his arm will hold up over an entire season.

The real question mark that has the team buzzing is the return of Ben Sheets to the mound. He signed a 1 year-$10 million "prove yourself" deal to give some veteran presence to this rotation. IF he regains the form of 2008, the A's received a potential top 10 starting pitcher. As they say, the proof will be in the pudding as the season goes along. Sheets will need a lot of trials to ensure his curveball has returned to form from his layoff, surgeries, and rehab. Realistically, the A's can expect great control and some strikeouts from Sheets (7.6 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 for his career). Can he endure an entire season this time around? How many surgeries are too much on an arm?

This is essentially the A's strategy: take one high risk high reward ace, use him as a mentor and a vritual shield for the young pitchers to develop them further. This can be done because even with Sheets, the starting rotation's cost is only $17 million. Of course, this does nothing about the hitting inefficiencies that are present up and down the lineup, which will probably be this team's downfall.

Prediction: A's struggle to reach .500, you can't win a division with half a team (though the Mariners tried that last year), 79-83

Mar 1, 2010

non-HOF Profile Derby #12: Darrell Evans

Next, a third baseman in a similar stats mold as Bobby Grich,Darrell Evans(1969-1989)

Place on the WAR chart: : Below Billy Williams and Willie Stargell and above Joe Medwick and Hank Greenberg

Career Overview and Some Numbers:Played for Atlanta(69-76,89), San Francisco (76-83), and Detroit(84-88). Like many 3rd baseman, he's overlooked in the HOF debate. He's one of the few players from the pitching era(1970s and 1980s) with 400+ HRs who is not under further consideration. Led the league in HRs once (at the age of 38) and BB twice. Had 4 30+ HR seasons, 8 90+ BB seasons, and 4 135 OPS+ seasons. Also was a 3 time all-star.
Best Season: 1973: Hit .281/.403/.556 (156 OPS+) with 41 HR, 104 RBI, 114 runs, and a league-leading 124 BB.

The Final Numbers::Hit .248/.361/.431(119 OPS+) with 414 HR, 1354 RBI, 1344 R with a 1605 BB (12th all time)/1410 K ratio

Why He Should be Remembered:A strong player for many not-so-good teams. There weren't many players whose prime spanned the 70s that had multiple 40 HR seasons. He's underrated because of his low batting averages,including a couple years in his late 20s. A strong all-around player who had some star quality years, and was also above average 17 out of 19 full seasons.

HOF Balloting Performance:Received 1.7% of the vote in 1995.

Rookie Card:1970 Topps 621
Modern Cards:2003 and 2004 Topps Retired Signature Auto, 2001 Upper Deck Decade 70s Bat Card, 1999 Fleer Greats of the Game Auto