Feb 12, 2020

Placeholder for Not Blogging Enough: Various Top 10 Wantlists

It has been more than a year since I put virtual pen to paper on this fading site.  So, in that state of mind, as I continue to organize and become the collector I've always wanted to be, I'm placing a wantlist here as a placeholder.  My needs are arcane and difficult because they are mostly Phillies cards from sets that no one seems to list on-line.  I scour everywhere every week (should I increase this to every day or every hour?), and I have come up short for all these cards.

Anybody want to lend a hand?  I like to trade in general.

Top 10 Phillies Modern Cards  (non-serial numbered)

1. 2012 Archives In-Action 82IA-JK (John Kruk)
2. 2008 Documentary Update 4942: NLCS game 3 (Ryan Howard)
3. 2008 Documentary Update 4943: NLCS game 4 (Matt Stairs)
4. 2008 Documentary Update 4944: NLCS game 5 (Jimmy Rollins)
5. 2011 Topps Red Target Hangers (from series 2) THP16 (Cliff Lee)
6.2018 Stadium Club Chrome 197 (Rhys Hoskins)
7. 2009 O-Pee-Chee Retro RM17 (Ryan Howard)
8. 2018 Allen & Ginter X Mini 167 (Scott Kingery)
9. 2011 Allen & Ginter Framed Relics Jimmy Rollins
10. 2012 Allen & Ginter Framed Relics Mike Schmidt

Top 10 Phillies Modern Cards (serial-numbered)

1. 2002 Topps Heritage Chrome THC56 (Pat Burrell)
2. 2019 Topps Heritage Chrome THC-722 (Hector Neris)
3. 2012 Leaf Memories 1990 Leaf Buybacks Silver 369 (Darren Daulton)
4. 2008 Prime Cuts 75 (Richie Ashburn)
5. 2008 Topps Moments &Milestones 100 (Cole Hamels/any version)
6. 2009 Upper Deck Ballpark Collection 64 (Ryan Howard)
7. 2017 Bowman High Tek Bashers JO (Jhailyn Ortiz)
8. 2009 Topps Sterling 17 (Mike Schmidt)
9. 2009 Topps Sterling 93 (Chase Utley)
10. 2009 Topps Sterling 126 (Ryan Howard)

Top 10 Phillies Vintage Cards

1. 1961 Topps 558
2. 1961 Topps 569
3. 1960 Topps 511
4. 1960 Topps 541
5. 1960 Topps 549

6. 1967 Topps 587
7. 1967 Topps 595
8. 1963 Topps 549
9.1958 Topps 64
10. 1971 Kelloggs 21 variation (587 SO in career stat line/Dick Selma)

Top 10 Non-Phillies Cards

1. 1960 Leaf 144 (Jim Bunning)
2-4. 2007 Allen &Ginter Snakes 1 (coral), 2 (copperhead), 4 (king cobra)
5. 2012 National Treasures relics 112 (Billy Southworth)
6. 2009 Tristar Obak 102 (Rinku Singh)
7. 2009 Tristar Obak 107 (Ryne Sandberg/Josh Vitters)
8. 2009 Tristar Obak 108 (Tom Seaver/Brad Holt)
9. 1963 Fleer 42 (Sandy Koufax)
10. 2011 Topps Diamond Duos (any) from Series 1 only

Top 10 New Cards Added to WantList
1. 1977 Hostess Twinkie 43 Mike Schmidt
2. 1957 Topps 265 Harvey Haddix
3. 2020 Allen & Ginter X MINI 9 Rhys Hoskins
4. 1984 Topps Tiffany 780 Steve Carlton
5. 1993 Topps Rockies Edition 445 Dale Murphy
6. 2019 Bowman Draft Sapphire 79 Bryson Stott
7. 2020 Bowman Draft Sapphire 73 Casey Martin
8. 1969 OPC 151 Clay Dalrymple
9. 1972 Topps 310 Roberto Clemente
10.1989 Topps Traded Tiffany 27 Len Dykstra

Dec 29, 2018

Phillies Inkquest: A Re-Introduction and an Autograph Dead Zone List

The Phillies Inkquest is defined the quest to find certified autographed cards of Phillies for the following categories: World Series participant, HOFer, all-star, team leader in a pitching or hitting triple crown category, and opening day starter from 1950-present.

At the beginning it wasn't so extensive, I really only wanted to focus on the World Series participants since there have been so few.  As I started collecting, I realized that wasn't the story that needed to be told through this collection.  Any Phillies fan or card collector should be able to sift through the players and know the history of the team and the story of the card brands that was able to make this a collection worth memorializing.

All certified cards are fair game for this collection.  That includes issues from all the major card companies of the past (Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer, Donruss, Pinnacle) and the present (Topps, Panini).  And I've also been mining the depths of the offerings from the not as mainstream brands (Leaf, Historic Autographs). 

I will give my biased perspective from over three years of building this up; this collection at the end will be spectacular and the crown of my usually unfocused collection.  I've dug up some hard to find cards of hard to find players, mostly of the cut signature variety, and been able to secure them.  There are definitely more than ten 1/1 autograph cards here and many others numbered to 25 or less.

 I hope to share all my collection with you as I remember what it is to type on a blog (my activity has definitely been wanting here over the last few years).   For the posts that detail what has been posted so far, please follow this link.

I am now entering the phase where it is becoming more difficult.  As of this writing, I need 126 autographs of players for the core collection (yes, there are auxiliary pieces not mentioned here; it would require a flow diagram to show all the branches that intersect).  Some of them I have not yet purchased because of price considerations, others because of paralysis of choice, and others because I have not been able to find an autograph of them available to date.

Those without an autograph available (to my recollection) are players in what I would call the Autograph Dead Zone.  It's as if they haven't ever signed a card, though that may or may not be true.  There are two possible reasons to be in the Autograph Dead Zone.  One is that the player passed away prior to the influx of autograph issues (prior to 2000) and wasn't popular enough or HOFer enough to secure cut signature autographs in various sets, and the other is players that just never seemed to put pen to card even though they had their fan bases (these can now be considered prime choices for new Topps Archives issues). 

Below is a list of the top 10 players who I think are in the Autograph Dead Zone in reverse chronological order.  Any information on a checklist for these players of an autographed card would be appreciated to help narrow my search.

10. Bill "Swish" Nicholson-a perennial all-star for the Cubs in the 1940s.  He was also a member of the 1945 Cubs, the well-known next-to-last World Series team of that franchise.  I figured all major Cubs would have an autograph issued.  He played on the Phillies from 1949-1953.

9. Don Demeter-a good player over his 11 year career.  He is best known for being a principal contributor on the 1959 champion Dodgers.  He played on the Phillies from 1961-1963.

8. Bob Uecker- more known for his off-field career as an announcer/actor.  Where was his Major League-related signature?

7. Dave Cash- a durable second baseman throughout his career.  He held the record for plate appearances in a season (if my memory serves) at one point.  He also was a three time all-star and key contributor to the 1971 champion Pirates.

6. Bob Walk-remembered by Phillies fans for starting game 1 of the 1980 World Series.   He was on the Pirates for a long time, including those oh-so-close teams of 1990-1992.  This must be a bias against PA-based players then.

5. Bo Diaz- a solid two-time all-star catcher over a 13 year career.  He played for the Indians, Phillies, and Reds and was the main catcher on the 1983 Phillies pennant winners.  His inclusion is because of tragedy; he passed away from a home accident in 1989.

4. Danny Jackson- a pitcher with World Series appearances for multiple teams.  He could be considered a principal part of the 1985 champion Royals, 1990 champion Reds, or 1993 pennant winning Phillies.  He also had one recognizably great year in 1988 overshadowed by Orel Hershiser.

3. Todd Zeile-the ultimate journeyman, playing for 11 teams in 16 years.  He was a contributor for all those years, totaling over 250 HRs and 1000 RBIs.  He made the World Series in 2000 with the Mets.  Where's his Subway Series Autograph card?

2. Chan Ho Park-he was good pitcher for the Dodgers in the early 2000s and a bad pitcher for the Rangers a few years later.  He was a reliever on the 2009 Phillies pennant winners. 

1. Cesar Hernandez-he's been the opening day 2nd baseman for the Phillies from 2016-2018.   He's the only multiple year opening day starter this decade from the Phillies not to have a certified autograph.

Apr 23, 2018

Blog Bat Around: My All Autograph Team

Listed below is my all-autograph team for cards that are non-Phillies cards.  My autograph has grown exponentially over the past two years, but they have all been of the Phillies (or cut signature) variety.  (Someday, I will post them all....it may take 20 years at this rate, but it's possible)

I think this team would win the World Series.....if there were a time warp where everyone arrived from their best year and joined the field.  Some liberties were made in the selection of the team for the positions; the left side of the infield was shifted around a bit.

A couple of these are among the more memorable autos I've ever pulled. 

C: Gary Carter 2011 Topps 60, Acquired from ebay.

1B: Eddie Murray 2012 Panini Cooperstown, Acquired from box break
2B: Red Schoendienst 2012 Leaf Memories, Acquired from ebay

SS: Derek Jeter 1997 Bowman,  Acquired from box break

3B: Cal Ripken, Jr. 2005 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes, Acquired from group break

RF: Al Kaline 2012 Leaf Memories, Acquired from ebay

CF: Duke Snider 1994 Nabisco, Acquired from ebay

LF: Frank Robinson 2012 Leaf Legends of Sport, Acquired from ebay

PH/DH: Buster Posey 2013 Topps Mini, Acquired from box break

SP: Roy Halladay 2007 Goudey, acquired from ebay

CL: Dennis Eckersley 2012 Leaf Memories, acquired from ebay
RP1: Bruce Sutter 2010 Panini Century Collection, acquired from box break
RP2: Rollie Fingers, acquired from ebay

Jul 27, 2017

Phillies Inkquest: Keith Moreland, 1980 Phillies

Baseball Biography:  
Keith Moreland was a catcher/third baseman/outfielder for the Phillies from 1978-1981.  He then left the Phillies in a trade to the Cubs engineered by his former manager, Dallas Green.  He stayed on the Cubs from 1982-1987, then moved onto the Padres, Tigers, and Orioles in rapid succession in 1988-1989, finishing his career. 

During his time with the Phillies, he served as a backup to Bob Boone at catcher and made appearances at third base, first base, and right field.  He showed some potential in his few playing appearances in Philly, but wasn't able to fully realize it until he was able to fill a full-time role with the Cubs from 1983-1987.  This culminated in his only 100+ RBI season in 1985 and a 27 HR season in 1987.

Role on the 1980 Phillies: He was the backup catcher and had a great haircut.  He batted .314/.341/.440, good for a 113 OPS+ , taking his place as the second best bat off the bench after Lonnie Smith.  He hit significantly better on the road (.866 OPS vs. 712 OPS at home) and owned the month of July, hitting .447/.476/.632.  He also made his mark in the World Series, going 4-12 with an RBI.

Card Facts: This is a 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes autograph card, and he is pictured in his Chicago (Cubs not allowed to be shown) uniform.   He had his best years though, so it's understandable. 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes came in a 12 pack box with 24 cards per pack and 3 autos per box.  You can still find boxes for ~$50.

Jul 19, 2017

The Great 2017 Baseball Card Price-out: A Commentary

I am distraught.  I am distraught and dismayed.  I am distraught, dismayed, and distressed.

 I feel like a majority of collectors are being priced out of the market for new releases.  Today, would normally be a day for celebration and reveling since it is the release of the Allen & Ginter brand.  This is a set of which I have bought at least one box every year since 2007 when I found my way back to the hobby (including of the X brands from 2015 and 2016).  This year, for the first time, I am considering not buying a box.  There is one simple reason and that is cost.

A hobby box of Allen & Ginter is hovering between $115-$135/box from what I've seen while searching over the last couple days.    This is $20 more than I've ever paid for a hobby box of this brand over the past 10 years.  This price spike happened just before release day.  Initial pre-sales did start in the $88-$98 range when the brand release date was first made known, so the initial cost from factory was definitely not that high.

This is a phenomenon which has become endemic across the entire 2017 baseball card product lineup.   (Note: the following comparisons are estimated based on my memory and current listings at major online retailers) Bowman-$100/box over initial offering, Bowman Platinum-$45/box over initial offering, Topps Archives-$60/box over initial offering, Finest-$75/box over initial offering, Gypsy Queen-$80/box over initial offering, Topps Heritage-$100/box over initial offering, Topps Series 1-$30/box over initial offering, Stadium Club-$30/box over initial offering.

Rookie crazes have generally driven price increases in the past, but not this extent, with such drastic increases so soon after lunch.  It seems like every year there is a rookie that the hobby is clamoring for, but it usually takes time for the box prices to climb after supply has dried up.  As far as I can tell, supply is still being replenished for many of the 2017 brands (especially those that were launched this month).  Demand can still outstrip supply even in these cases, but as collectors, must we all rise for the Judge?

I am just thinking back to the can't miss prospects of the past few years when the present rookie craze really took hold.   In 2010, Stephen Strasburg sent 2010 Bowman boxes to approximately $200/box.  In 2011, Bryce Harper impacted Bowman branded products (Mike Trout was not recognized until the end of 2012).  In 2012, Bryce Harper came back with a Yu Darvish buddy, but even Topps Chrome was affordable for a time.   In 2013, Yasiel Puig became the face of that year's sets; there were some steep rises until Puig cards were available in all sets.  In 2014, Jose Abreu set the world on fire for half a season, and George Springer and Kyle Schwarber also became prominent.  In 2015, Kris Bryant was the rookie to chase and Carlos Correa joined the fray, but even then prices didn't rise to the stratosphere until a year later.  In 2016, Corey Seager hit the forefront of the hobby consciousness, and Gary Sanchez and Andrew Benintendi soon followed.

As you can see from this brief survey, there's always the next shiny thing to chase in this hobby, and it hasn't impacted the overall market like this until 2017.  Before as supply dried up and people realized that prices were rising, certain sets really caught the imagination at much later dates compared to release such as 2011 Topps Update (Trout, Altuve), 2008 Topps Update (Kershaw), 2008 Bowman Draft (Posey), 2009 Bowman Draft (Trout), 2011 Bowman Draft  (many), 2015 Topps Heritage High (Bryant, Correa), 2015 Topps Chrome (Bryant), etc.

There were just a few sets that I remember that rose in price almost immediately over the years.  The most prominent were 2011 Gypsy Queen (supply issue) and 2014 Topps Archives (Major League, the movie, autos).  These seemed to be isolated cases and did not cause all sets around them to rise in price in their wake.

This year, however, has no wake, instead, nearly every set has been caught in the rising tide.  Every set is seen as a boom or mega boom proposition when this is clearly not the case.  At these present price points, if you don't hit a mega star or Aaron Judge auto, the value of the box will likely not come close to matching what you paid.

As a collector, value is not my primary concern when ripping open a hobby box, but I also don't want to feel like I was getting shorted because of market forces.  Buying a box of a set like National Treasures or Museum Collection or Dynasty is a completely different bundle of circumstances because those brands are meant to be high risk, high reward.  The problem with the current state of the market is that everything becomes high risk, instead of only collectible, and it is hard to justify a box purchase from a brand from 2017.  I am a so-called "first world" collector, and I am unwilling to take on that risk.

It was once well understood that there existed such a thing as low-end, mid-end, high-end, and higher than high-end.  Box price ranges for each level were generally gauged to be $35-50, $65-95, $120-$250,  and $250+, respectively.  Each level offered a certain expectation for what you would get for that price point.  Now that expectation is muddled as the mid-end (where I would assume most "first-world" card collectors including myself feel comfortable for the majority of their purchases) has moved into the high-end and as a consequence, the stable of products in the high-end has increased, leaving many collectors behind to not be able to buy their favorite products to which they've developed loyalty and affinity over the years.

I have found alternate routes to satisfy my new card buying wants and needs.  I have bought the complete set of 2017 Allen & Ginter because the set cost more than 50% less than a box.  I will buy a few retail packs to round out the collection; I do like to get a sampling of the minis and for the first time in a while, I am forced to forgo collecting all the full-size inserts from this year's offering.  Stadium Club is another clear example where retail packs are the only affordable option.

Retail is good for casual collectors, those without access to a hobby retailer, and for sampling a brand, but it does not replace being able to rip open a hobby box of your favorite brand.  The expectation and the results vary greatly from hobby to retail with respect to guaranteed "hits", insert odds, and cards per pack or cards per box.

And so here I sit lamenting the state of the current hobby because I am invested in it.  It is an infinite quest to find and discover.  It is a journey to connect to the present, past, and future.  It is an accumulation of knowledge of baseball and its players.

I am not leaving the hobby, but because of the Great Baseball Card Price-out, my parameters for what I may want to collect in a given year have changed.  I am no longer a  frequent customer of current product.  Instead, there is a sense that I am adrift and I would like to be tethered back to this hobby in the same way, which has been a part of most of my life, again.

Jul 2, 2017

2008 Topps Heritage High Numbers (and Updates and Highlights) Two Pack Break

I like to call this pack break "The Unsuccessful Search for Kershaw" (spoiler alert).  Remember back in the days of multiple card companies with licenses (after 2005) that there was a limit on how many sets a company could produce each year?

Because of this, this strange hybrid packing system was created where there was a Topps Heritage High Number series (the first of its kind) packaged with two cards from the Update and Highlights series, even though there was already a separate Update and Highlights series.  This was ostensibly done so that the Heritage High Numbers series wasn't counted as a separate release, but rather a "supplementary" release to keep those license limits numbers down.  Of course, that whole story might be wrong.....

Because of this weird hybrid system, there was a double opportunity for a rookie pull of the top pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw.  I dove in eagerly and awaited the ultimate disappointment.

Pack 1
The Pack 1 highlights for me both had Phillies connections.  The Brad Lidge is a nice memory of the halcyon days of the team.  Matt Harrison was traded to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels deal for salary purposes and has retired due to ongoing injuries.  He did have a great 2012, though.   The Harrison is an SP and the Thames is a chrome parallel /1959 (Remember when the chrome parallels were numbered to the year of the Heritage homage rather than /999?).

Pack 2
When I opened pack 2 and saw the "star rookie" design, my hopes did rise a little.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  Carlos Gonzalez was briefly an Athletic and then traded to the Rockies in the deal for Matt Holliday (anyone remember that?).  Justin Masterson is best remembered for being the Indians Opening Day starter for three straight years.

The Mike Jacobs is another chrome parallel card /1959, and I got the "hit" of the box with a Curtis Granderson Clubhouse Collection jersey card.  This was back when Granderson was known for joining the 20-20-20-20 club rather than being a power hitter on the New York teams.  Did you know that he is now a member of the 300 HR club?

This also shows the perils of chasing hits for a brand not known for it.  I was satisfied to chase a base card (or two), and instead was pleasantly surprised by the results even with ultimate prize not attained.

Jun 18, 2017

Five Players of Their Time: A Random Card Perspective

Baseball players and their actions and accomplishments on the field are products of their own time. That is to say, that everything they have done and do have a context and fit within the interwoven narrative of that particular timeframe of baseball history.  With the study out there that the the ball may be juiced, player performances and their relative value can really only be compared within the present day.  How players are viewed through the lens of baseball history has to do with how they either rise above or are overshadowed by their peers.  Historical comparisons across eras and decades are difficult because the playing field of baseball is constantly shifting.

Let's examine some random players.
For some reason, I tend to get the careers of Don Hoak (depicted here on his 1963 Topps card) and Dick Groat mixed up.  I think the confusion stems from the fact that they both spent some of their final years with the Phillies in the '60s and also played together on the champion 1960 Pirates in the infield.  During that 1960 season, they finished 1-2 in MVP voting.  A breakdown of their stats shows:

Hoak-3rd baseman-.282/.366/.445 (120 OPS+) with 16 HR, 79 RBI, 97 Runs, 5.4 WAR, 2nd place
Groat-shortstop-.325 (league-leading)/.371/.394 (110 OPS+) with 2 HR, 50 RBI, 85 Runs, 6.2 WAR, 1st place.

It's interesting that even though the WAR stat didn't exist, the one with higher WAR still won. I wonder if it was an argument of intangibles during that time?  Shortstops have won a lot of MVP awards.
Tony Conigliaro (pictured here on his 1969 Topps card) is probably most remembered for getting hit in the eye with a pitch during the Red Sox "Impossible Dream" season of 1967 at the age of 22.  He was on his way to  a spectacular career until that injury.  He has the most home runs recorded before the age of 20 and the 4th most before the age of 23 (behind Mel Ott, Eddie Mathews, and Alex Rodriguez).  He did hit 36 home runs  3 years after the injury, but his eyesight became permanently impaired and had to retire by the age of 30.
I feel that Sal Bando (pictured here in his 1973 Topps card) is a historically under-appreciated player.  He was three time World Series champion and was an integral part of those teams, finishing top 5 in MVP voting 3 times.  He had 7 seasons in the top ten in WAR, 5 seasons in the top 10 in RBI, and 8 seasons in the top 10 in BB.  If one was to name members of those Athletic teams, most people wouldn't name Bando as the top 3 names off the top of their head (my guess is Jackson, Campaneris, Hunter, Blue, Fingers in some order would be first).  That's what I mean by under-appreciated.

Frank Robinson (pictured in a 2010 Topps variation card), on the other hand, was a star.  His triple crown in 1966 looms large in the baseball history consciousness.  He is also overlooked because he had the misfortune of being peers with other stars such as Mays, Mantle, Aaron, and Clemente.  Twelve all-star seasons seems small for a player of his caliber and longevity.  His 586 HRs are also overlooked since they came at the same time as Aaron and Mays record-setting paces for the time.  Sometimes it's not enough to be historically great if there are even greater ones playing as your peers.
And finally, Frank "Home Run" Baker (pictured here in a 1961 Fleer card), managed to have that nickname while leading the league in home runs four times (with a high of 12 in a season in 1913.  It was really given because of his postseason home run prowess in 1911 and 1913.   An impressive postseason player, he averaged over 1.050 OPS over three consecutive World Series appearances. He is rightly viewed as a superstar of the 1910s.  He also sat out a season due to a contract dispute, something that only happened during that time ( due to the rise of the Federal League).

May 23, 2017

Inkquest: Dave Hollins, 1993 Phillies

Baseball Biography:  
Dave Hollins was a third baseman who played from 1990-2002 with the Phillies, Red Sox, Twins, Mariners, Angels, Blue Jays, and Indians.  The majority of his career was spent with the Phillies (1990-1995, 2002).   In my memory, he was one of the first successful Rule 5 selections by the Phillies in 1990.  His skills didn't really develop until 1992 when he received his first opportunity to start full-time after the departure of Charlies Hayes. 

He then embarked on a 2 year stretch, in which he had >.800 OPS, while hitting a combined 45 HR from 1992-1993.  He led the league in getting hit by pitch in 1992.   He did not match those two years over the rest of his career, though he did have good seasons in 1996 and 1997 with 16 HR each season with OPS+ ~100.  After that, he moved from team to team and eventually retired in 2002 after getting bitten by a spider, which exacerbated conditions of his diabetes.

Unfortunately, he is probably best known outside of Philadelphia fans for being the other side of the trade that sent David Ortiz from the Twins to the Red Sox in 1996.  

Role on the 1993 Phillies: He was the primary third baseman and a staple in the middle of the lineup, batting cleanup for his starts.  He batted .273/.372/.442, good for a 119 OPS+ , with 18 HR (4th on the team), 93 RBI (2nd on the team), and 104 Runs (2nd on the team(.  He also made his lone all-star appearance.  Hollins was the quiet intensity representative of that roster, standing in the batter's box with his bat straight up in the air before unleashing his swing.  He had a .910 OPS in the 1993 NLCS with 2 HR, but only managed one extra base hit in the World Series, though he maintained a .414 OBP.

Card Facts: This is a 1996 Leaf Signature  autograph series card. This set was distributed in four card packs with 1 auto per pack, the first brand with an autograph in every pack (SRP $9.99).  I remember scouring the internet for these in 1996; packs averaged between $20-25 and most common bronze autographs were easily sold for $3-5.    

Apr 23, 2017

Stat Anomaly: 20 Losses, Roger Craig in 1963

This decade is passing quickly, as we are in 2017, without an appearance from the always elusive 20 game loser.  In 2016, for the first time since 2004, there was at least one 19 game loser, both respected pitchers, "Big Game" James Shields and Chris Archer.  Chris Archer was even drafted in the top 65 of my last fantasy draft, so the expectations for repeating his record are not really being considered.

There is one pitcher in the annals of modern (modern= since Topps existed) baseball, that turned convention on its head and excelled at accomplishing this most elusive accomplishment....of sorts.

Roger Craig was a league average pitcher for his career, yet ended up with two of the most spectacularly horrible W-L records back-to-back.  Such is the fate of one who toiled for the Amazins' in those formative years.

The awfulness of the 1963 Mets is never noted because it was only the 3rd worst team of those early Mets years with 111 losses.  The team had one eventual HOFer (Duke Snider), and ended up being outscored by ~250 runs.  Roger Craig pitched a team-leading 236 innings that year with a 92 ERA+ and somehow finished 5-22.  Was there any conceivable way that he could have avoided this fate?

In a word....yes.

How's this for run support?  He had 5 starts, in which he allowed 1 run over 8 innings or more and that resulted in a loss.  He had 4 more  quality starts, allowing 2 runs or less, with greater than 6 innings pitched that also resulted in a loss.  There were five 1-0 losses and two 2-1 losses in total.

On a league average team (that would have scored 117 runs than the 1963 Mets), a 5-22 record definitely would not have happened.    This even didn't happen on the 1963 Colt 45s, who scored even less than the Mets (Ken Johnson had 17 losses with a 119 ERA+).

Based on the evidence, the most likely reason for his record with the Mets is that Roger Craig was cursed by a fortune teller in Queens after losing his luggage and going into the wrong storefront.  Another mystery solved.

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.