Saturday, May 18, 2019
So yeah...haven't done a NBB in a while. And I figured I should stay away from Stadium Club and Collector's Choice, considering what happened...LAST TIME with CC.
So DACW had a box of '04 Upper Deck lying around, so I jumped at it. For a few reasons, too. I think that early 2000's Upper Deck flagship is very underrated, solely because you never see a lot of it in dime bins and in card shows. Because it doesn't really allow itself to an era of overproduction, it's become sort of lost to collecting time, and not a lot of people know about how great it is. That also means there's still a few unopened boxes of the stuff lying around holding some pretty great stuff.
I've already broken boxes of 2002 and 2003 Upper Deck, and both of those went relatively well. So I figured I'd try this one. Normally I'd be ripping 36 packs, but there's a good reason we only have 24:
Anyway, onto the first 8 packs of '04 UD's actual box:
Borderline HOFers: 1/8
Memorable 00's closers: 3/8
Finalists in the 2003 NL Cy Young race: 2/8
And then there's Eric Gagne. Proof that throwing harder than hell in 50+ ninth-inning appearances a year while being on steroids still hurts like hell.
2008 Dodgers: 2/8
Jose Hernandez' shot looks hella cool.
And Tony Batista...who had the herculean task of following Cal Ripken in Baltimore...is just kinda doing his thing. Hell, Batista didn't even play for the O's in '04: he'd spend his season in Montreal rounding out the Expos' existence.
Unsuccessful relatives of MLB heroes: 2/8
Borderline HOFers: 2/8
Personal Favorites: 2/8
2002 WS Champs: 1/8
2010 AND 1997 WS MVPs: 1/8
Guy that a lot of people think should be a HOFer: 1/8
2 perennially solid 2000s pitchers in Joel Piniero and Jeremy Bonderman.
And...a Highlights card of Barry Bonds. Thrilling.
Hall of Famers: 1/8
Future HOFers: 1/8
Guy a Lot of People Thinks Should be a HOFer: 1/8
Guy Baseball Reference dot com thinks should be a HOFer: 1/8
Postseason Heroes: 5/8
Philly Heroes: 2/8
We finish off with a 25 Salute insert of Troy Glaus. I think this is an insert set dedicated to people who wear #25? Weird choice UD, but okay.
I'll post the next third in a few days, but I'm already enjoying this set. And we've yet to hit either of our promised hits.
Nice getting to do a custom of this guy during the season again, instead of just waiting until December because he's not even gonna begin to hit for average.
Joey Gallo currently has a 2.1 WAR. Which matches his entire 2018 WAR totals, and is .9 away from his 2017 totals. He also currently has a .269 batting average, which is sixty points higher than his previous season high.
...what I am trying to say here is that Joey Gallo, for the first portion of his career, has not been especially good at all aspects of baseball. He had bad fielding numbers in 2017, has finished twice with over 190 strikeouts, and...well, is already leading the AL in strikeouts with 58. BUT Gallo is finally figuring out how to hit for contact, and for average, rather than just hitting home runs.
And it's not as if the home-run hitting has ceased. He already has 13 of those, which is a nice start, especially given his two straight 40+ homer finishes. But he's never finished a season with over 100 RBIs, which makes his 31 after the first quarter of the season a promising start. He's also doing alright with his positional change (from third to left field). I don't know what happened during the offseason, but new life has been breathed into this once-mediocre player.
And in Arlington, it's not just him. Willie Calhoun has been on fire since been called up from AAA, Danny Santana is playing better than he has since his rookie year in Minnesota, Logan Forsythe is continuing his numbers from the second half of last year, and Mike Minor and Lance Lynn are giving nasty stuff in the rotation. Hell, I thought Hunter Pence was done after last year, and he's hitting better than he has in YEARS. The people that a lot of teams had counted out are the ones leading this Rangers team to a better than expected (read: third place) standing for right now.
Now...with Elvis Andrus back on the DL, things may falter a bit heading into June, and the back half of the rotation is still pretty uneven, but this is still an impressive start for a team everyone thought was going to finish in last this year.
Coming Tonight: Will this year be the year he finally gets an MVP? Judging from the impressive start he's had so far, it's an intriguing guess.
Friday, May 17, 2019
Midway through the incredible 2019 Cardinals come-up...the pitching gave way.
A team that had risen to the top of the standings thanks to some crucial hitting and solid lineup capabilities crashed right back down to third thanks to the rotation's inability to keep runs from scoring. Not to say anything bad about people like Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas, who are still doing well enough in terms of pitching numbers. But guys like Michael Wacha and Dakota Hudson are giving up too many runs and blowing games, and even Wainwright has a 4.75 ERA.
It's not like there's not another pitching option to take over for Hudson, as Daniel Poncedeleon did a bang-up job in a start a few weeks back. But the Cardinals rewarded him for said start by demoting him again and keeping Hudson in the rotation. And yes, Carlos Martinez is said to be back tomorrow, but the rumors are saying that they might shift Martinez to the bullpen, which...I'm not 100% on board with, but...they're the Cardinals, and they make the playoffs nearly every year, so they seem to know what they're doing.
Right now the Cardinals are ahead of Pittsburgh in the standings, and they're honestly around the same levels of competitiveness, considering that both are coming off of two straight losses. But...the Pirates at least have some pitchers that aren't completely waterlogged by their ERAs. The Pirates are a lot more balanced, and a bit less streaky, than the Cardinals.
The Cardinals thankfully do have some late-career highlights from Yadier Molina, including some record-shifting stuff, to keep fans occupied. And this is still a relatively good team, but...they just need to figure out how to fix the rotation, because that could keep them from catching any of the top 3.
Coming Tomorrow- We knew he could hit home runs, but now he's FINALLY able to hit for average.
Miguel Cabrera is definitely going to the Hall of Fame in a few years. There's no doubt. Miggy has always been one of the most elite ballplayers, has been in MVP conversations for the majority of his career, and his only seen his productivity wane since 2017, but...he's 44 home runs away from 500, 282 hits from 3000, and has 1400 career runs. He's an all-time talent, and there's no doubt.
But...what happens when an all-time talent like Cabrera can't really help a so-so Tigers team? This is a guy who used to be the centerpiece of a burgeoning, consistent roster, and now...that honor sort of has gone to Nicholas Castellanos. Miggy, once a strong first baseman, is now the everyday DH, which...is fine, as he can still hit (.282 with 15 RBIs so far this year). But...the team no longer completely revolves around him. We've gotten to the point where Miggy missed a game, and might miss one or two more, but...the team will go on. John Hicks will play DH.
But that also chalks itself up to the...blandness of this current incarnation of the Detroit Tigers. Miggy and Castellanos are the only remnants of the playoff squads, and the remainder of the team is stacked with a youth movement without a real leadership figure. Lots of solid young players like Spencer Turnbull, Ronny Rodriguez, Christin Stewart and Niko Goodrum, but...none of them really stand out other than for practical reasons. We're a few years away from getting to Casey Mize and some of the prospects from the tanking years, but you'd think that some of these guys would be able to lift the team just a bit.
I'm not saying the Tigers are wasting the rest of Cabrera's contract, as he's definitely been worth the money, but...I just wish he was on a better team to round out his career.
Coming Tonight: Another guy who's been around forever, and another potential Hall of Famer. This one's a catcher.
Thursday, May 16, 2019
I never thought that Topps would hit one out by emulating 1999 UD Choice, and not any other Collector's Choice issue.
So, the 2019 edition came on shelves yesterday, so naturally I raced to Walmart and picked some up. For 20 bucks I got 2 blasters, which is a nice enough deal. Here are the results:
Wall Climbers is a cool-ass, SIMPLE (notice the theme?) insert set, which reminds me of a toned down version of a GQ insert. Dickerson's a good subject for it, as well.
I don't TRY to pull low-numbered stuff out of retail packs. It just ends up happening, and I'm fine with it.
Jeff McNeil's the best player in Queens right now, and this is a shiny blue foil parallel numbered to 100. So that's hella nice.
Morales' card hasn't aged well, as he's already played for two other teams since print. Last night he debuted for the Yankees. Am hoping for good things, but...I also know who we're dealing with here.
Molina's is an Award Winners subset, which...does that mean that there weren't enough players to showcase in a base set that you had to do award winners? Curious.
Great base subjects. Plus, Pujols gets a cool highlight for hitting his 3000th.
A lot of these guys are bit players, or injured, this year, but Souza's does look pretty good.
Jansen's is a nice showcase for the Jays rookie, too.
I frigging love Holt's card. Such a fun photo. 10/10.
Corbin's...if it's a photoshop job, it's a really, really good one.
Plus, Gordon and Manaea look awesome in these.
So...I still really like this product. I'd put this one on par with last year's, as there weren't many improvements, but...didn't need many either. Will probably get more before S2 and SC come out, as it's worth it.