Thursday, October 19, 2017

29 Years Later...

For a team that's been in the conversation a TON in the last 30 years, it's honestly kind of weird that it took them that amount of time to get back to a World Series. Plus, this is a new kind of Dodgers team, steeped in youth, rather than established dynasties. There is a Hershiser-esque figure in the rotation, and there are similar pillars of postseason success (Utley is the new Kirk Gibson?), but this is still a ferocious Dodgers team, one that EARNED its spot in the World Series, even after a September drought.

Whoever's gonna have to play them next week...goooood luck.

As for the departed...

It's sad that the Cubs couldn't muster any of their 2016 energy in this series, but for a team that was counted out for simply not being as good as last year, they came a long way, got to another NLCS against the odds, and hustled when they could have coasted. They put in effort in a year where they didn't have to, and that may help them fare better in 2018. I also hope this means Kyle Schwarber is gonna get back to hitting for average one of these days.

Tomorrow night, in Houston...hopefully we get to find out who the Dodgers are gonna be playing.

Playoffs Update: The Plot Thickens

3-2 headed back to Houston. I don't think anybody expected the Yankees to come this far.

Judge and Sanchez have come alive, even bashing on Dallas Keuchel. Masahiro Tanaka had another fantastic postseason start. The arsenal of guys like Greg Bird, Tommy Kahnle and Chase Headley is beginning to work out in droves, as well. If we win Friday night, the Yankees go to the World Series for the first time since 2009, and the Astros will have to limp home on a year the Series was basically theirs. Obviously I'm rooting for the Yankees, but either story would be cool.

And then, in the NL...

Was not expecting this one...

The Cubs won a game, yes, we all kind of saw that coming...but on a game when the Dodgers essentially had things in the bag, there was power from Javier Baez and Willson Contreras, and a nice start from Jake Arrieta. The Dodgers are going to need to end this tonight, and with Kershaw on the mound, they should hope to, unless they'd prefer to hear sportswriters bitching about it for the next few months.

Tonight, we may get a resolution, or we may get another underdog story. Let's see what we're getting.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Why 2017 Topps Update Has Royally Pissed Me Off

I don't get a ton of opportunities to write about the industry anymore, because, to be honest, I haven't had reason to. How's everything card-wise been this year? Fine. Flagship's fine, Stadium Club's amazing as usual, Heritage is fine, etc. Nothing has really warranted an angry ranting post from me.

Until now, that is.

I'd heard a few complaints this week about the 2017 Update Series checklist, mainly people like Chris Taylor that had missed the cut, which is already pretty ballsy. So today, I checked to see which Yankees had made the cut, after Todd Frazier's fantastic night last night.

No Todd Frazier.

No Sonny Gray. No Jaime Garcia. Hell, Jaime Garcia is listed with the Braves, which is three teams ago for him at this point.

I looked around. None of the players dealt at the trade deadline had any cards in Topps Update. Not even as short-prints or anything. Only Jose Quintana, who was traded a few weeks before the deadline, had Update Series presence. No one else. The rest of the checklist was made up of new uniforms for people that had been in the FLAGSHIP set, as well as a ton of rookies (like Kyle Higashioka and Lewis Brinson) that did nothing this year.

Now...back in the day, you could account for January and Offseason moves, you know, IN the flagship set. I understand how printing dates work, I understand when checklists need to be finalized, but if you're working on photos and backs for a player that has already been traded to a new team, why can't you do anything to grab a Spring Training photo or make an airbrushing (which are more impressive now)? It's not like the graphic designers are powerless.

Look, in 2009, Topps Series 2 had a TON of spring training photos of established players in new uniforms, guys that had been traded in the offseason. Trevor Hoffman, Nick Swisher, Willy Taveras, Jeff Suppan. Plus, when Stadium Club hits shelves, it has all the new uniforms, all the Spring Training shots. Stadium Club comes out a month after Series 2- there can't be a transfer of divisions or photos in that time?

What I'm trying to say is that all of this could have been avoided. We could have had half of the cards of January guys in new uniforms that are in Update SERIES 2. If somebody in Series 1 has been traded, and you don't have a new photo of their card for Series 2! Move somebody from S2 up, somebody that won't be traded! This isn't rocket science!

Which brings me to the second dilemma- the whole point of Update Series, from the BEGINNING, has been to showcase the results of trade deadline deals, so kids and collectors can see their recently-traded heroes as the playoffs are going on. If Todd Frazier is still in the playoffs, kids want to see him on a Topps card! This year, they friggin' can't! And it's mainly because the print date/checklist finalization date was WAY too early. There's no excuse. The trade deadline was later last year and they still got all the traded players in Update. Now, with an earlier trade deadline, and a WAY EARLIER finalization date...we have next to nothing.

Because of deadlines and product-rushing, we have a product that essentially means nothing.

I say this because ten years ago, my first year as a collector, I rushed to the shelves to pick up Update, and saw players I had no idea were traded, like Mark Teixeira as a Brave, or Sammy Sosa as a Ranger, or Kenny Lofton as an Indian again. It was fun to keep track of, especially as Lofton and a few others were in the playoffs. Plus, as trade-deadline deals got more important, the Update series got more stuffed and more filled with traded stars.

Now...we don't have any of that at all. The sole reason I had to collect the product 10 years ago is gone, because they wanted to make an EFFICIENT product, not a TIMELY one. I'm gonna have to wait until 2018 Topps to see most of these players in new uniforms, and half of them by THAT point will have already been traded, starting the entire cycle anew again.

The bottom line here is that there is definitely a problem, and Topps either doesn't know how to solve it, or KNOWS how to solve it and doesn't want to do the work necessary to.

The last few years I've gotten a hobby box of Update. Not doing that this year. Might get a blaster or something.

Playoffs Update: 1978 Rematch Looming Edition?

My dad seems to think that Todd Frazier is a franchise fit for the Yankees, and I'm not inclined to disagree. The guy's been playing fantastically, has his own trademark symbol, and has been a North Jersey legend since the 90s. He's a Yankee through and through, and we should definitely re-sign the guy for a few years, because he's a bit more consistent than Chase Headley. (Keep Toe, though)

The Yanks have evened the series, behind a MARGINALLY BETTER Sonny Gray performance, with some help from Frazier, Sanchez and Judge. Tomorrow's Game 5, another Yankee Stadium performance, where they'll rally behind Masahiro Tanaka against Dallas Keuchel to hopefully continue the streak of fantastic performances and...not lead to a disappointing trip back from Houston.


Are we back to 2015 with a sweep of the Cubs? I mean, as great as the Cubs have been to root for, the Dodgers are making this pretty damned easy, with some more work from Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes to give a 3-0 lead with at least one more game to play in Chicago. Unless the Cubs can really spark some momentum tomorrow, we're looking at a World Series in Chavez Ravine for the first time since 1988. Which...actually might be cool, no matter who wins in the AL.

More exciting stuff tomorrow. Hoping for some 1978-esque outcomes.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Playoffs Update: Inevitability Edition

Astros up 2-0. Yeah, despite the potency of my Yankees, can't say I didn't see it coming.

I mean, sometimes in the playoffs, being the better team actually works out well for you. The Astros had been incredible since, like, April, and the Yankees had moments of humanity...and a few of them have been happening in Games 1 and 2. It's not even the starting pitching, though losing Severino could be pretty horrifying. There's not run support, and the Astros are just able to get through the cracks. Carlos Correa had a great game last night, fueling both his team's runs. They're in the Bronx on Monday night, and that should probably fuel some sort of a comeback?

Meanwhile, in LA...

...Remind me again why this guy isn't in friggin' Update series??

I mean it. Chris Taylor came in in a big way for the Dodgers. He may not have been as showy as someone like Cody Bellinger, but he could play multiple positions, and he was hitting over .300 for most of the season. Putting Chris Taylor in the playoffs was a scary idea for competitors, and last night he, Yasiel Puig and Charlie Culberson were battering down the Cubs. It was a surprisingly close game thanks to Albert Almora, but the Dodgers pulled it out behind a FINALLY-PLAYOFF-DOMINANT Clayton Kershaw.

Tonight, they play Rich Hill against Jon Lester. Ten years ago, Lester was pitching in the World Series, and Hill was pitching for the Cubs. How time flies.

Friday, October 13, 2017

ALCS Preview: Heavy Favorites vs Eternal Heavy Favorites

Yankees-Astros ALCS. You know, as vain as I am, I would have never called that in April. I would have said something silly like Astros-Indians.

I remember the Yanks-Astros matchups during the season being pretty evenly matched, and I imagine this one's gonna be no exception. I'm expecting Hinch to reach into the rotation and use Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers in addition to the surprisingly awesome blockade of Keuchel-Verlander-Peacock-Morton. They have depth, and they'll use it. The Yankees, meanwhile, are gonna batter these guys done with their core four starters (Tanaka, Gray, Severino and Sabathia), with maaaayyyybe an appearance from Jordan Montgomery?

Either way, I'm excited, and, like the Indians-Yanks series, I'm perfectly fine with either team winning, though, of course, I'd prefer it to be the Yankees.

Also excited to see how the NLCS rolls out, though I'm guessing the winner will be the team that didn't have an airborne sickness go around their club airplane.

NLDS: That Settles It Edition

That...wasn't the outcome I was expecting, but...I guess this is happening again. Dodgers-Cubs NLCS, round 2.

The Cubs, as they do, managed to sneak through, not with an obvious assault but with some surprise attacks. After a year of being out in front, the Cubs got their biggest wins when nobody expected them to, and tonight was no exception- this could have been a game that ended after Michael Taylor's big move, but the Cubs fought back, and made it into the NLCS for the THIRD...THIRD YEAR IN A ROW. That is some Philadelphia-esque stuff right there.

And, as for the departed..

I...I don't know what the problem is.

I have no idea why the Washington Nationals can't win an NLDS. I have NO IDEA why this keeps happening. They've had consistently great teams, with great performances, and not a ton of changes. They deserve to get there, and this year they deserved to win, and...somehow...they STILL couldn't make it through. What is the meaning of this? Is there a curse? Is this a Montreal thing still?

Still, they had a great season, and should not be discouraged. Knowing the Nationals, they'll probably be a few steps down in 2018 but be back in full force in 2019, as they go by an every-other-year strategy (sort of like Cam Newton).

So, the matches are set, and tomorrow night...showdown in Houston. I can't wait.