Oct 30, 2016

World Series Team Cards from Past and Present: Which Ghosts will Continue?

At the time of this writing, the Cleveland Indians lead the Chicago Cubs in the best of 7 2016 World Series 3-1.  On the back of really strong pitching and timely hitting, Cleveland is serving notice that their time in the baseball championship wilderness might be over.

For a World Series match-up such as this, the past weighs heavily on the participants with experiences, both heartbreaking and joyous, dating back the 1940s.  Let's examine some of the participants of those historic events.
The backdrop of the 1945 World Series was the end of World War II.  Many veterans had started returning to their teams at the end of the season.  One of the most prominent was Hank Greenberg, the power-hitting first baseman of the Detroit Tigers, who returned in July of 1945. after nearly 4.5 years off due to military service.  On the first game of his return, he smashed a home run and did not look back, hitting for a .948 OPS with 13 HR in 78 games.  In the World Series, he led the Tigers in OPS, HR, RBI, tied for the lead in runs, and was 2nd in hits.
Bill Nicholson was the greatest power threat on the 1945 Cubs, hitting 13 HR, which was a downgrade from his previous 5 seasons of hitting 21-33 HR.  He had been supplanted as statistical team leader by league MVP Phil Cavarretta and flanked by long-time Cub, Stan Hack, and young gun, Andy Pafko.  Nicholson had 8 RBIs in the 1945 World Series, but had not much else to show for them as the Cubs fell in game 7 to the Tigers by the count of 9-3.

 The Cleveland Indians were led to their last championship in 1948 by 30 year old player-manager MVP, Lou Boudreau.  A 7 time All-Star in his career, he had a career year in that year with highs in OBP, SLG, OPS, HR, RBI, Hits, and Runs.  This herculean effort only allowed for a tie for the AL lead with the Boston Red Sox.  The Indians advanced to the World Series in a 1 game playoff (the first and only playoff in the AL in the pre-division era.  Strangely, the NL had different rules for playoffs with a best of 3 system as evidenced by the Giants/Dodgers clashes of 1951 and 1962).  In the World Series, they faced down the Boston Braves (of "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" fame).  All they had to do was beat one of them to win the World Series, and they took two from the elite pair.  Boudreau played his part  in the series, with the 2nd highest OPS on the team.
 Who will emerge as the hero of this year as the World Series reaches its interminable finale?  Will someone become another paragraph in the annals of baseball history as these franchises jostle for championship position?  Bryant could be Boudreau or Hal Newhouser (1945 Tigers) with an MVP/title combo, but he could also be Phil Cavarretta, an MVP with only another belated shrug of "wait 'til next year".

Oct 23, 2016

Box Break: 2015 Diamond Kings- NLCS Standout Edition

The 2015 Diamond King set (manufactured by Panini) had an interesting checklist because they could freely mix retired players and current players without the MLB license.  The checklist has 200 cards (the last 50 are rookies) with some interesting, not oft-used names like Bobby Murcer, Bobby Thomson, Bobby McGee (ok, that one's not real), Elston Howard, Roger Maris, Jim Gilliam, Carl Furillo.....and all other non-HOF players who ever played for the New York Giants, New York Yankees, or Brooklyn Dodgers.

The best part about the product (first world perspective alert) is that there are no SPs in the base set, making it easily collectible.  The worst part about the product is that there are only 12 packs per box, making it virtually uncollectible.

In terms of presentation, each card has a quasi-impressionist background with a brush stroked enhanced player superimposed.  The feeling of rifling through the cards took me back to a time when I used to play with the easel canvas in 7th grade art class.  Seriously, these cards would be works of art if they had the full trappings of licensed cards.

Let's go through the highlights, lowlights, and other types of illumination possibilities that came from the box.

The game  for this card is what makes this a parallel?  The answer is the shiny logo in the middle.  There are so much better parallels in the product than this.
These minis only fall twice per box, which means they're more like afterthoughts in the product, though I do appreciate a good mini with a large crown.
These framed parallels are what all the parallels should be (reminiscent of 2007-2008 UD Masterpieces).  I was happy to pull the O'Doul as both a Bay Area resident and Phillies collector.
Here are examples of the standard inserts that each fall 2 per box.  Some are better than others.  My favorite is the "Also Known As" as represented by Lou Gehrig.
There were two "hits" per box.  One is a relic only, and one is an auto.  I pulled this Aaron Sanchez dual relic.  There are opportunities to pull HOF relics, though they are much rarer (usually #d to 99 or less).
This was my auto pull of Javier Baez, the  newly minted co-MVP of the NLCS.    It's also a rookie card.

From the box, I received all the required cards that were promised and 82/200 cards of the base set.  Overall, I would recommend it at a lower price point (~$50-60 if you can find it) than originally offered (which was $90 per box) because of the variety of the base set and of the possibility of getting a HOF relic exists within the realm of possibility.    Plus, I like paintings.

Sep 23, 2016

Inkquest: Bob Dernier, 1983 Phillies

Baseball Biography:  Bob Dernier was a fleet-footed mostly centerfielder who played for the Phillies (1980-1983, 1988-1989) and Cubs (1984-1987).  He had two 40+ SB seasons and 218 SB in his career.  He was mostly a backup outfielder except for 1984-1985 with the Cubs.  He won a Gold Glove in 1984 and finished 17th in NL MVP voting.  He had a career best year that year, hitting .278/.356/.362 (97 OPS+).
I remember him on the 1989 Phillies, leading off most days until Len Dykstra came along.  If my memory is correct, his only home run that year was an inside-the-park home run against the Giants....
and YouTube confirmed it in this video.

Role on the 1983 Phillies: He was a 4th outfielder/pinch runner/pinch hitter, appearing in 122 games, but with only 221 AB.  He hit .231/.288/.290 (62 OPS+) and had 35 SB in 42 attempts.

Card Facts: This is a 2005 Topps Retired Signature Edition card. This set was distributed in 5 card packs with 5 packs per box (SRP: $150) with one slabbed auto card per pack.  

Sep 19, 2016

GintaCuffs VIII Part 3: the Final Cuffs

Presented without comment, presented with aplomb.
Pack 17

52-Adam Eaton +2 FP
40-Jordan Zimmermann
73-James Shields
Auto Nancy Lieberman +7
Mini 32- Falcon 9 Rocket +1
94- Todd Frazier
309-Yasmany Toma

Pack: 10
Overall: 80.5

Pack 18

141-Colin Rea
69-Roberto Alomar
272-Troy Tulowitzki
57-Jim Rice
NW-16 Pulpit Rock +2
Mini Laureates of Peace Malala Yousafzai +2
191-Anthony Anderson
NG-65 Clayton Kershaw +2 +2 FP

Pack: 8
Overall: 88.5

Pack 19

43-Jake Odorizzi
277-Manny Machado
213-Heidi Watney
205-Carlos Santana
Mini 187 Carl Yastrzemski
256-Starling Marte
68-Dexter Fowler
343-Shelby Miller

Pack: 0
Oveall: 88.5

Pack 20

26-John Lackey
150-Eric Hosmer
180-Ryne Sandberg
237-Dustin Pedroia
Mini 2-Ryan Braun
64 Steve Schirripa +1
23-Addison Russell
NG-3 Buster Posey +2

Pack: 3
Overall: 91.5

Pack 21

4-Justin Verlander
69-Miguel Sano
59-Billy Hamilton
NW-6 Old Faithful +2
Mini 299-Clayton Kershaw +3 FP
186- Alex Gordon
295-Jose Altuve
330-Zack Godley

Pack: 5
Overall: 96.5

Pack 22

96-Jason Kipnis
179-Jen Welter
148-Kole Calhoun
121-Corey Seager
Mini 122-Andrew Heaney
138-Cord McCoy
126 Greg Bird -1
NG-59 Adam Wainwright +2

Pack: 1
Overall: 97.5

Pack 23

185-JD Martinez
249-Paul McBeth
93-Mike Piazza
7-John Lamb
Mini A&G Back 170 Max Scherzer +2
44-Miguel Castro
129-Zack Greinke
NG-20 George Springer +2

Pack: 4
Overall: 101.5

Pack 24

10-Jason Sklar
204-Drew Storen
41-Drew Smyly
BL-8 George Brett +2
Mini SP 350 Steve Carlton +3 +1 FT
142-Jake Arrieta
34-Rick Klein -1
316-Ryan Weber

Pack: 5
Overall: 106.5

Sep 18, 2016

GintaCuffs VIII Part 2: the Splintering Begins

I always think to myself what makes a box like this enjoyable to open.  If I can rank it for a Ginter box, it would be:

1)no duplicates
2) a reasonable amount of non-baseball cards
3) a non-relic hit
4) extra minis
5) a rip card
6) fun to sort through and look at

4 and 5 have only happened once ever in my life, so I can't count on that.  2 and 6 are completely subjective, and from what I can tell, this set measures up pretty well.  I think Ginter has rediscovered the balance after the quirky overload years of 2012-2014.

Pack 9

338-Stephen Piscotty
75-Mike Moustakas
202-Missy Franklin
Mini 144-Matt Holliday
BL-12 Reggie Jackson +2
245-Dwier Brown
86-Adam Jones
20-Michael Pineda -1

Pack: 1
Overall: 43.5

Pack 10

184-Mookie Betts
28-Elvis Andrus
NG-92 Andy Pettitte +2, -1
Mini A&G Back 20- Michael Pineda +2, -1
174-Frankie Montas
132-Leigh Steinberg
152-Gary Sanchez -1
172-Joe Morgan

Pack: 1
Overall: 44.5

Pack 11

234-Glenn Perkins
119-Gennady Golovkin
116-Jose Reyes
NG55-Ryan Braun +2
BL-4 Jackie Robinson +2
Mini Ferocious Felines 11 Manx Cat +2
173-Billy Burns
246-Mike Francesca

Pack: 6
Overall: 50.5

Pack 12

56-Carlos Correa
290-Andrew Faulkner
297 Corey Kluber +2 FP
Mini US Mayors 19 Andrew Ginther (Columbus, OH) +2
Relic Albert Pujols +5
169-Adrian Beltre
350-Steve Carlton +1 FT

Pack: 10
Overall: 60.5

Pack 13

221-Brian Mccann -1
118-Evan Gattis
214-Justin Bour
NG-52 Jose Altuve +2
235-Cheyenne Woods
Mini Black Border 235 Ernie Johnson +3
262-Giancarlo Stanton
255-Nomar Garciaparra

Pack: 5
Overall: 65.5

Pack 14

347-Sean Doolittle
159 Brett Gardner -1
300-Trea Turner
NW-11 Baobab Forest +2
195 Joey Votto +2 FP
Mini 277 Manny Machado
292-Marcell Ozuna
37-Dawn Spacecraft

Pack: 3
Overall: 68.5

Pack 15

266-Anthony Rendon
125-Carl Edwards Jr
77-Kevin Pillar
194-Mike Trout
Mini 100- Rob Refsnyder -1
112-Kris Bryant
45-Laurence Levy
NG-73 Nomar Garciaparra +2

Pack: 1
Overall: 69.5

Pack 16

324 Rob Refsnyder -1
157-Gerrit Cole
231-Kaleb Cowart
Mini SP 347 Sean Doolittle +3
99 Luis Severino -1
135-Luis Gonzalez
189-Buster Posey
167-Jeff Samardzija

Pack: 1
Overall: 70.5

Sep 17, 2016

GintaCuffs VIII Part 1: the Gintering Begins

(It seems this is the only thing that gets me to the old computer to type spontaneous words about this hobby that I am still actively hobbying.)

Here are some of the in-use definitions of gintering:

1. To open a box of Allen&Ginter and get buried under an avalanche of mini cards
2. To be stuck in a frame with a tropical motif
3. To travel around life with a fluorescent backsplash highlighting your movements
4. To be forced to be only write in cursive for all eternity

On to the cuffing of the ginter.


Mike Trout +4

Pack 1

115- Brad Miller
124- Jonathan Lucroy
311-Wellington Castillo
Mini 112-Kris Bryant
128-Aroldis Chapman -1
252-Cole Hamels my FP +4
Numbers Game (NG)-100 Ryne Sandberg +2

(7 cards in the 1st pack, not good)

Pack 1: 5
Overall: 9

Pack 2

208-Joe Panik
275-Jacob Degrom
140-Caleb Cotham
276-Matt Harvey
Mini 112- Kris Bryant
62-Dellin Betances -1
155-Brandon Phillips
242-DJ LeMahieu
Baseball Legends-25 Eddie Mathews +2

(same mini in back-to-back packs)

Pack 2: 1
Overall: 10

Pack 3

299-Clayton Kershaw FP+2
110-Michelle Steele
114-Randy Sklar
Mini 96-Jason Kipnis
Relic Brandon Belt +5x1.7 FP=8.5
55-Hector Rondon
327-Raul Mondesi, Jr

Pack: 10.5
Overall: 20.5
Pack 4

228-Colin Cowherd -1
287-Andre Dawson
122-Andrew Heaney
143-Adrian Gonzalez
Natural Wonders 13-Komodo Island +2
Mini A&G Back 232 Hector Olivera +2
257-Chris Archer
NG-74 Jim Rice +2

(they called Komodo Dragons gentle on the back of the card....what?)

Pack: +5
Overall: 25.5
Pack 5

218-Masahiro Tanaka -1
19-Rollie Fingers
226-Luke Jackson +2 FP
76-Colin McHugh
Mini 289 Jose Quintana
177-Mark Teixeira -1
182-Nolan Arenado
349-Travis D'Arnaud

(it was a very long time ago when Roy Halladay was traded to the Phillies for a package that included D'Arnaud.)

Pack: 0
Overall: 25.5

Pack 6

284-Orlando Cepeda
134-Henry Owens
283-Michael Wacha
BL-23 Nolan Ryan +2
Mini Black Border Josh Reddick +3
15-Mark Trumbo
197-George Springer
NG-33 Yoenis Cespedes +2

(quick, name the players on the active A's roster left over from the 2014 team (not Reddick)....answer: Stephen Vogt (Gray and Lowrie are on the DL))

Pack: 7
Overall: 32.5
Pack 7

181- Alex Wood
151-David Ortiz
46-Ben Revere
NW-2 Great Barrier Reef +2
Mini US Mayors 3 Sam Liccardo (semi-local in San Jose, CA) +2
147-Martin Prado
296-Rickey Henderson
303-Wei-Yi Chen

(I don't know the answer to this question: after David Ortiz retires, how many players left have appeared in all A&G sets since 2006?)

Pack: 4
Overall: 36.5

Pack 8

251-Stephen Piscotty
232-Hector Olivera
225-Brandon Drury +2 FP
278-Madison Bumgarner
Mini Subways and Streetcars 11 R.V. +2
279-Paul Molitor
127-Lucas Duda
NG-75 Kyle Seager +2

Pack: 6
Overall: 42.5

Jul 31, 2016

Dreaming on the #1 Pick

With the MLB Draft come and gone, and Mickey Moniak having been selected, signed, and officially debuted in the rookie league the #1 pick is never a sure thing. In many years, there are consensus first picks (think Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Alex Rodriguez). In other years, the #2 picks surpass the #1 pick even before the ink has dried on the signing (think Joe Mauer, Kris Bryant). And in some other years, the gems are hidden depending on draft depth (Kershaw at #7 in 2006, Trout at #25 in 2009 (sidenote: did you know that the Angels had both the #24 and #25 picks that year and drafted Randal Grichuk directly before?))

 There's always dreams that the #1 pick will become a Hall of Famer or multiple year all-star, but there is generally so much uncertainty in player development, that there is usually no clear path defined for that. The Phillies last foray into having the #1 pick was when they selected Pat Burrell in 1998. That worked out fairly well; only a few players have arguably had better careers from that first round (CC Sabathia) or flashed similar skills in a short time frame (Mark Mulder, JD Drew, Brad Lidge, Carlos Pena).

 Which is to say, that the perceived success of this pick is not only predicated on the success of the Moniak as a player when he makes the big leagues, but also upon his relative performance to the other picks considered for his spot. We are a relativistic society after all. Here a couple #1 picks from the past that had different circumstances around their selection as depicted by 2009 obak auto cards and a nice ice parallel from 2012 Bowman that I pulled from packs.
Ben McDonald was the #1 overall pick in the 1989 draft.  He was a star in the 1988 Olympics for the gold medal winning USA team and won the Golden Spikes award in 1989.  He made his major league debut in the September of 1989, weeks after signing.  He was a polished product and became a league average to very good starter from 1992-1997 until shoulder problems derailed and ended his career in 1997 at the age of 29.

Moniak is not really a comparison since he's at a different stage of development.
Danny Goodwin is an interesting case since he is the only player ever to be drafted #1 twice, in 1971 after finishing high school and 1975, after finishing college.  The potential is that he was a good-hitting catcher.  He eventually made the majors and ended up being only a part-time DH.  I haven't been able to find why the position conversion occurred (though even a conversion to 1B or OF would have made more sense to get value out of an asset).   He played from 1975-1982 in MLB without being able to break through to a regular starter.

Moniak also doesn't compare to Goodwin, though they both started from up the middle defensive positions.  Solid defense and a good bat from one of those positions makes for a valuable contributor to a team.
Bryce Harper (the #1 pick in 2011) we all know about since he's in the news all the time.  He has MVP level talent (he did win the  NL MVP in 2015), but has not consistently risen to that level season over season.  Even slumping, he's an all-star level outfielder; he needs more great seasons to reach this potential.  Of course, after almost five seasons, he's still only 23, younger than the ROY candidates from this year and last.

If Moniak could get to a level where he approaches Harper's down years (118 to 133 OPS+) for many years, that would be a win of a draft pick.  He's seems to be a multi-tool centerfielder with good contact skills at the outset, so there is hope.  It looks like we will see the progression by 2019.  That's a lot of time to dream.

Jul 24, 2016

Introduction to Original Treasures and OT #1: Willie Kamm

Lists, series, and countdowns are what build content in the online arena of words.  I tend to think in terms of patterns and lists, so sometimes there are no ways around it, a series must be born.

This series, in my opinion, will present a set of cards that not many people have all in one place.  The truth is not many people can have all of them since they're all numbered to 99 or less.

The particular focus is on players who have purported to not had a relic piece in a card before.  These have been all players from the past, some Hall of Famers, and some who are not always exalted among the historic pantheon of baseball players.

There is one set that introduced me to this concept, and it was the 2012 National Treasures set.  This set brought in a bevy of these old-time baseball players that had not been represented through a bat piece or jersey relic piece in previous sets.  There were also numerous other subjects of interest throughout the set.

I never bought a box of 2012 National Treasures, but soon found myself drawn to the simplistic, clean design and subject matters, accumulating singles as readily as I could.  I soon was able to amass most of these "Original Treasures".
The first on the list is part of the "base" set of 2012 National Treasures, which is a relic /99 (In this case, a bat relic) and was actually a player I had not been familiar with previously, Willie Kamm.  This is pretty uncommon since I consider myself a student of the history of baseball.  After looking at his career, I can see why.  Pennant winners have shaped the narratives of the first half of the 20th century of baseball.  He was on a mediocre or worse Chicago White Sox team from 1923-1931 and a decent Cleveland Indians team from 1931-1935.

Kamm was not a power-hitting 3rd baseman during his career, but he had a great batting eye and great strike zone control (824 BB vs. 405 K in his career).  He also ended up as fairly league average hitter (97 OPS+).  His best season was probably 1928 in which he finished 5th in AL MVP voting, hitting .308/.391/.411 with an improbable 84 RBIs with 1 HR.

Statistically, he was considered the best fielding 3B of his time.  He finished first in fielding % 8 times in his career and consistently ranked among the top 3 in range factor for a 3B.  He has the 8th most putouts all-time as a 3rd baseman and still holds the single season record for putouts.  He's also best known for pulling off the hidden ball trick twice in a season.

Willie Kamm, an original treasure.

Apr 10, 2016

Cornerstone Collection: 1965 Topps Steve Carlton Enters the Magnetic Chamber

As you can probably tell, that is a reference to the card holder that the card came in when I purchased it.

As an extremely biased Phillies collector, there are five Hall of Famers that spent a good portion of their career with the Phillies during the Topps era: Ashburn, Roberts, Bunning, Schmidt, and Carlton. In a sense, getting the rookie cards of any of these power five, would be an automatic keeper.

The Carlton rookie is an interesting card in many respects.

  • This card was issued prior to his big league debut in 1965.  
  • He's paired up with a pitcher on the card, who had already made appearances for two years and never ultimately made an appearance with the Cardinals.  
  • The Cardinals red is significantly muted on the card; it's almost a shadowy red.  Was this done to match Ackley's airbrushed White Sox uniform?  It is the opposite in feeling of most 1965 Topps cards, which were bright and swooping
  • Carlton's next issued card wouldn't be until 1967; Topps seemed to forget about the pitching prospect for awhile.
  • It is arguably the best rookie card of the 1965 set (other contenders: Joe Morgan, Tony Perez).
This now enters the pantheon of my collection awaiting the rest of its contemporaries.

Feb 10, 2016

2013 Topps Chrome Triple Box Break: Dreaming Ahead to Summer

With winter in full swing upon most of the country (except for where I am and the Southern Hemisphere), it's time to present cards that remind us of a time when sunglasses were the norm.  All baseball cards have that type of effect, but none more so than Topps Chrome because they're all about the shine.

Don some shades as we reflect and refract our way to a warmer, more bucolic location where there are no worries except making sure all the packs are ripped, the cards are sorted, and the shine blinds us from the cold reality outside.

Yasiel Puig is happy that summer is coming soon.  The refractory spirit is evident as he runs from the Mattingly-filled past.