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 John Kruk).

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.