Friday, April 20, 2018

Killer Queens


(Music Pun #5. Bit more obvious)

Last year, we were reaching 'all is loss' levels for the Mets. The team was falling apart because a third of the team was too old, a third of the team was too young, and the other third was injured. There was dissonance in style of play, quality of play, etc. Only a few people, like Jacob deGrom and Michael Conforto, managed to stay healthy and consistent.

This year...suffice to say, they've been given a slightly better shake.

[Oh my gosh I didn't even mean for that to be a Shake Shack pun, but that's incredible]

First of all, the pitching is wholly improved from last year, with deGrom, Syndergaard, Zach Wheeler and Steven Matz all showing improvement and dominance. Yes, Matt Harvey's starts are leaving a bit to be desired, but with Seth Lugo waiting in the wings, it's not a huge loss. Also, Jeurys Familia, a year or so post-domestic-violence, is back to his usual, dominant self.

Also, in the lineup, some things are working when they really shouldn't be, like Asdrubal Cabrera at second base and Adrian Gonzalez at first. Todd Frazier's having a comeback year at third, and Amed Rosario's slowly warming up at short. There are some elements, like Jay Bruce's Batting Average, that aren't great yet, but the ferocity is there, as is the win percentage.

This team is definitely off to a nice start, but the Braves and Phillies are slowly catching up, and the Nationals probably plan on competing as well, so it could be dangerous for the Mets in the coming months.

Coming Tomorrow- Former Mets first baseman, current DH for a slumping AL Central squad.

Brand New Jay


(Music Pun #4. Sorry if this one stings a bit.)

The Blue Jays are 12-6 right now. Second in the AL East. This...is not good. Not at all.

The thing is, this is definitely a team in flux. Jose Bautista is gone--that's the most important bit. Russell Martin, one of the other symbols of the older guard, is nearly done, as Luke Maile is doing a MUCH BETTER job as catcher than he is. People like Kevin Pillar, Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz are picking up the roots of this team and trying to save it. Now, granted, there are a ton of people in this lineup, like Randal Grichuk, Devon Travis, Kendrys Morales, and the aforementioned Martin. And...Josh Donaldson, the team's star, is injured. Additionally, the rotation is a bit weightier than usual, with higher ERAs than usual from Marcus Stroman and Marco Estrada.

So, while this is not a perfect team, this is a team that knows how to win. And judging from the fact that Roberto Osuna already has 5 saves, this team is winning a ton when it shouldn't be. A ton of clutch aspects here. So yes, while the Yankees were able to put the Jays away tonight, they might not be as lucky. The Blue Jays aren't...nominally what I'd call 'good' per se, but they're sneaky, and they can hide the fact that they're not wall-to-wall amazing by stealing games and walking off. This is what they did towards the last half of 2015 and 2016, so it's worrying me a great deal that they're looking to be good at this now.

Things will even out, but...the Blue Jays could still remain a figure in the division. So I'll be hoping that they don't.

Coming Today: One of the more impressive veterans still producing right now, suiting up for a red-hot NL East team.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

JustRebranding


I've posted several times on here about JustCommons, mostly because it's been aiding me in several of my set-building endeavors, as well as being a nice source of cards that are impossible to find at any old 10 cent bin. It's a nice little utility to have as a collector with social anxiety who sucks at doing trade requests (MORE ON THAT ANOTHER DAY!)

JustCommons, however, is not a thing anymore. It's a figment of the imaginations of every like-minded collector. Good news is the JustCommons guys are now doing the exact same thing that they were doing before, only with a COMPLETELY NEW NAME, 'CardBarrel', which is slightly more accessible but has less combinations in terms of snappy blog post titles.

Needless to say, I stocked a cart from CardBarrel recently, and...it went well. It went as well as any JustCommons order I've done, only now that JustCommons has vanished into the ether indefinitely and legitimately, it was...nominally different?

I'm monologuing. You don't want to see me monologuing, you wanna see the bloody cards. I can show those. I nabbed a Jim Thome from A&G 2007 specifically because I thought it'd be a good title image. Because nothing catches the eyes of scrolling collectors like a smiling Jim Thome card.

 Dudes I Collect:

Jack Morris is officially a Hall of Famer! That means I don't need to feel bad about collecting his cards. I mean...I never really FELT bad about collecting his cards, but I'm guilty about random things for the sake of snappy blog posts.

One thing I AM....genuinely guilty about is not having a ton of Morris post-dufex-era Tigers issues. My binders have a ton of Blue Jays, Twins and EVEN INDIANS cards of Morris, so I need to replenish the post-retirement Tigers supply...as well as quench my meandering thirst for UD Goudey, which was a very nice set. This card accomplishes both.

 Three late-career Morris'. Mostly Indians issues, but one rad '93 Leaf Jays one in there, solely because I also really like that set.

 Also, seeing as I should collect at least one 1993 Philadelphia Phillie that isn't a pompous ass on ESPN...or a pompous ass on Twitter, I might as well nab some Darren Daulton cards, because not only is he a great hitter and player, but there's no possible way he can disappoint me with his post-career inclinations (except for dying).

I dig the 1997 UD one, because it mentions that he's changed position from catcher to outfield, in an endearing and not-at-all 'your career is nearly over' kind of way.

Collecting Dutch means enduring his more unfamiliar moments, such as his ring-winning but dignity-sacrificing turn as the 1997 Marlins' backup catcher and first baseman. I do really like the 1998 Topps card, because it's an example of the several instances of great photography in there.

 Another collection I'm trying to spruce up is Kenny Lofton, because he's one of the more fun players of his time, and one of the more prominent base-stealers of an era. Yes, he's not a Hall of Famer, but...neither is Daulton and I still collect him.

Some evidence of Lofton's year-long stay in Atlanta here, especially the well-thought-out 98T one.

 Lofton also played for both sides of Chicago in the span of a year, with several other uniforms in the middle. Both cards show instances of bunting, which reminds me of Juan Pierre....another guy who wore both Chicago uniforms and bunted.

 Late career Lofton. I think around this time, ESPN or somebody did an ad about Kenny Lofton changing teams every five seconds, which was a nice touch.

 Of course, thanks to the recent HOF vote, I figured I needed to let some more Vlad Guerrero into the book. I obviously have a ton of Angels issues of his in my collection, because he was huge in Anaheim by the time I started collecting. This 2010 A&G release of Vladdy in his sole, but still memorable, year in Arlington, was one of the many, including...

PENSIVE, STATIC EXPOS MOMENTS!

FUN, AUTO-SIGNING EXPOS MOMENTS!

And SPRING TRAINING SHOTS IN 2010 PRODUCTS!

I mostly did this to bolster my Expos collection of his, as he's probably going in as an Expo (right?? RIGHT??) but still.

 Random Needs:

The one thing you can do on JustCo- UH, I MEAN...UHHHH... CARDBARREL...is you can look in sets you don't hear about very often and find cards you didn't know were awesome, like this 1997 Pinnacle issue of Jim Edmonds.

These two legends also had 97 Pinnacle issues, and they're both pretty cool as well, with emphasis on the Eck.

 Also, here are some from (GASP) 2003 TOPPS TRADED??? Some random guys I collect from that set, including the rare sight of Roberto Alomar in a ChiSox uniform, and Juan Pierre and Aramis Ramirez' first cards in classic uniforms.

 Also, they had some First Pitch cards I didn't have, and...eh, might as well. Jim Caviezel is best known for...wait, shit he's done a TON of things. He was in The Count of Monte Cristo, the Passion of the Christ, Person of Interest. Veteran, respected character actor. Also, he was in Frequency, which is a really cool movie that you should see.

 Mariners had a ton of good ones last year,  including Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard (a must-have), and Iron Chef Morimoto.

These Chicagoans were the high points. Anthony Rapp is, and forever will be, Mark from Rent. And Ty Pennington will forever be that goofball that ran around a construction site yelling "WE'VE GOT TWENTY-FOUR HOURS! TWENTY-FOUR HOURS!" on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for 7 years.

 Set Needs:

These two Yankee pitchers marked off two more set needs for the 2008 Topps Trading Card History insert set, a classic by all means. Getting down to the wire on that one.

 These two knocked off some 2014 Stadium Club base needs, as i'm still building that one, as it's surprisingly manageable (rookies notwithstanding)

 And these four, minus the Buxton which I already had, go toward the 2016 Archives set, which is slowly coming along.

And these three head towards the 1994 Stadium Club set. Now, if you think that's a minuscule amount of Stadium Club...

...THEN GET A LOAD OF THIS CRAP!

I needed ALL OF THESE for my 1995 Stadium Club set. Most of these came from Series 1 of the set, which has now balanced itself to looking more manageable, like the Series 2 set. Here are the highlights:

 Curt Schilling in a 90's-era-alt-uni
A super-cool dirt-facing shot of Carlos Sanchez

 Two INSANELY COOL POSED SHOTS. The Brewers had a TON OF awesome posed shots in this set, rivaling the Diamondbacks of current years. This Spiers is definitely a highlight, right next to the Pat Listach from this set.

 Two team heroes- squatting Biggio, pile-driving John Franco.

 Assorted static shots. Arocha and Delgado are in stadium moments, while Klesko, and his background, are pretty awesome.

 From the Statistical X-TREME subset, Bret Saberhagen and Carlos Baerga.

 Another insanely cool posed Brewer, and a nicely-zoomed shot of Derek Bell sliding.

 Lots of blue sky here. The Bones and Merced are great, as those two had some great cards, but the Lopez is the classiest of the bunch.

And, as is tradition, we end on one last Darren Daulton to bring this post full circle.

That was my CardBarrel haul. Might do another one in a little while, as they're still very helpful.

Diamondback to Black


(Music Puns #3. This one's a little classier)

Like last year, the NL West has delved into a fierce battle between two 90's expansion teams, the Diamondbacks and Rockies. Also like last year, the Dodgers are currently staying out of the race. But unlike last year, the early edge is going to the Diamondbacks, and for good reason.

The D-Backs have compiled a ton of really nice, homegrown talent onto one roster, to the point where the only accoutrements, like Jarrod Dyson and Alex Avila, are being used to bolster the core. And the core is essentially the killer A.J. Pollock/Paul Goldschmidt combo, with occasional assists from Chris Owings and David Peralta. Yes, the rest of the lineup needs to catch up a bit, and yes, Jake Lamb is currently on the DL, leaving the team with such an embarrassing hole at 3rd base that it evokes the Red Sox' from last year, right down to the inexplicable Deven Marrero presence.

The pitching is slightly down from last year, but still fine. Patrick Corbin and Zack Godley are off to the best starts, while Robbie Ray needs to keep his ERA down. Zack Greinke is...well, he's not off to the best start, but he's still dealing strikeouts when he can. Taijuan Walker just went on the DL for Tommy John surgery, but there seems to be someone else waiting in the wings (and if that doesn't work out, might I suggest trading for one of the many underused pitchers in Houston? Come on, they can throw in a third base prospect or something)

The D-Backs are off to a nice start, even if they don't look perfect, and even as the Rockies are beginning to catch up.

Coming Tomorrow- [angry Elmer Fudd noises] Guess who's trying to compete again??

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Morning Beltre


(Music Pun #2. Yes, I am planning on keeping this going, though I'll try to pick from happier albums)

On the outside, the Rangers look basically the same. Adrian Beltre's having another nice season, Nomar Mazara's hitting for average, Joey Gallo's already hit 20+ strikeouts. But on the inside, there's a lot in disarray. A ton of crucial pieces have gotten injured, including Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor, and the pitching staff is almost completely falling apart, with Matt Moore and Martin Perez limping along, and Cole Hamels and Mike Minor trying to stay afloat with high ERAs.

Literally the only good thing to say about this season for the Rangers is that Bartolo Colon is doing incredible things in the rotation, taking a perfect game into the eighth inning the other day, and immersing himself into his world-famous Dominican Mystery Cream that shaves ten years off of his pitching arm. He's literally the only reason to watch Rangers games, and he only shows up every 5 or so days. And even so, if he's up against somebody like Shohei Ohtani or Justin Verlander, you know which way it's gonna go. He may be Bartolo Colon, but he's not Superman (he's more like the Hulk).

Not sure about the turnaround here, as the Rangers, while healthy, have more to write home about than the A's, but the A's do have the better pitching staff, as well as a better number of people on the lineup who are hitting well, so maybe the Rangers are destined for last? It's kind of sad to see another Adrian Beltre squad fall apart, but...seeing as the fellow already is destined for Cooperstown, I don't really feel AS bad...

Coming Tonight: An outfielder for a team that, contextually, should not be in first place, but definitely is, and is definitely earning the distinction.

Chase the Music


(Real talk: I'm gonna try to have more consistent music puns as titles for these Custom of the Day posts. Stuff like 'Jays Are Gone', 'Shaved Fish' and 'Strange Rays'. Keep an eye out. Might get more obscure than ELO, which is like a 4 out of 10 on the obscurity scale.)

Right. So the Milwaukee Brewers...may not have been all that we thought they'd be.

True, they're not doing terribly, but...they're just kind of okay. Very, very okay. And from what we'd been seeing pre-season, we were expecting more than okay. And yes, the guys who were huge last year, like Chase Anderson, Zach Davies and Travis Shaw, are still doing some incredible work, and Eric Thames is submitting a more well-rounded but still-HR-heavy performance off the bat, but...the two hired guns they brought in to help the outfield are either injured or ineffective. Yelich comes back this week, but Lorenzo Cain hasn't been terrific, leaving Domingo Santana to try to mop up the rest of things.

Still, a lot of mainstays, like Orlando Arcia and Ryan Braun, are back-pedaling right off the bat, while the back end of the rotation, including Jhoulys Chacin, isn't wowing people. And yes, getting Junior Guerra back in there to balance things out is very smart, but there's still too many high ERAs and not enough consistency in this early stretch. There's a lot that's not as polished as we thought, and that's sad for a team that was supposed to take down Chicago this year.

To be fair, both Milwaukee and Chicago are currently in underdog status, as the main threat in the NL Central is now the inexplicably powerful Pittsburgh Pirates (I love this trend by the way). Getting back up will mean having to surpass the dangerous Cardinals and (more easily) the Reds, but the Brewers have more depth than they're currently letting off, and could outrun their sloppy start very soon.

Coming Tomorrow- Most of his team is going down with injuries, but he, as well as a certain 44-year-old pitcher, is keeping the fort strong.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Another Veteran in a Tigers' Uniform Named Francisco


You all could have guessed this, but the Tigers aren't doing especially well right now.

Only four starters have hit home runs. ONLY FOUR. And they've all hit just one single home run. Not among those four? Victor Martinez, the guy whose home-run-hitting ability used to be the big thing in Detroit. Saying that this Tigers' team has completely fallen apart would be the understatement of the century. as even their long-tenured rock Miguel Cabrera isn't off to the best start.

They no longer have Ian Kinsler, Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, Cameron Maybin, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, or LITERALLY ANY of the people that made the 2012-3 squads truly great. Yes, there are some hangers on like Nicholas Castellanos and Michael Fulmer who are doing pretty well, and Francisco Liriano is giving some surprisingly sweet stuff from out of the rotation. There are a ton of imperfections, and a ton of people on the lineup that haven't been hitting, but the pitching has been a surprisingly bright spot, and Matt Boyd has been showing improvement from his bloated 2017 season.

All isn't COMPLETELY lost...but this doesn't even remotely look like a good team. And this might be the year where the biggest competition of the 2018 season in the AL Central will be the race for last. The Twins and Indians are gonna have the first two spots locked up, so the Royals, Tigers and White Sox will all be fighting over who gets to suck the most. My money is kind-of on Detroit there, but seeing as I *WILL* be watching the Tigers play live this year, I'd like them to keep a smidge of their dignity intact.

Coming Tomorrow- Last year, he had an impressive breakthrough season as a strikeout artist for a team that nearly made the playoffs. Now? He's picking up exactly where he left off.