Monday, August 3, 2015

Custom Card of the Day: Marte Edition

It's a sucky feeling when you know that you'd be the top team in the NL Central, and one of the most powerful teams in the NL know, if the Cardinals didn't just go and exist.

And it's getting really hairy, too. Because both the Pirates and Cubs are realizing very quickly that only one of them can go to the playoffs, as the Giants ain't happening, and the Nats-Mets race is so close that it's likely gonna be one of them taking the last spot. So now the rivalry between the Cubs and Pirates is getting ugly, because both of them want that spot badly.

The Pirates do have more of a shot, as they purposefully refined their offense, and their bullpen, for a potential playoff run. Plus, they have people like Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Pedro Alvarez all playing pretty well. But the fact that their #1 starter just went down for the count isn't helping much.

The Cubs, meanwhile, with their five-star infield and their slowly expanding pitching staff, is prime for an upset. Their main issue involves the inconsistency of their outfield- people like Chris Coghlan and Jorge Soler can't hit all the time.

For my money, the Cubs have the better team, but the Pirates have the higher ground, and are willing to fight for it. Either way, this Wild Card battle could be one for the ages.

Coming Tonight: Speaking of the NL Wild Card, one of the rookie stars of those unsinkable Mets.

Custom Card of the Morning: Carrasco Edition

This is the year of the mega pitching staff, I think. The Mets' combo of Harvey-deGrom-Colon-Syndergaard-Matz is setting the entire NL on fire, and the Nationals rotation of Scherzer-Zimmermann-Gonzalez-Strasburg has been strong for a while. Plus, the Dodgers, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Astros are all getting together some major rotations.

Meanwhile, the Indians are sitting around in the corner, going "uh, hey? What about us?"

When you look at them up close, the Indians rotation is actually pretty impressive. They have an ace, in Corey Kluber. They have a guy like Carlos Carrasco who can throw nasty stuff. They have a fireballer like Trevor Bauer who can be the third guy, and they have Danny Salazar coming up in there. Heck, they even have a powerful rookie in Cody Anderson, who has definitely impressed this season.

However, the problem lies with the fact that the Indians have no offense.

I mean, it helped when guys like Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana and Michael Bourn were hot-hitting, like they were last season. Now...not so much. Jason Kipnis was absolutely killing it, but he can only do so much. The only guy who was hitting for power for a while back there, Brandon Moss, just got traded to a team PACKED with run support, the Cardinals.

So...the Indians rotation can be really nice, and pretty (and there are even guys like TJ House waiting in the wings), but unless they start bringing up hitters, they won't be much more than something nice to look at.

Coming Tonight: The outfielder for a team that would be way out in first if they'd be in any other division but the NL Central.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Custom Card of the Night: Hechavarria Edition

You have no idea how much practice it took for me to spell this guy's name without looking.

I mean, even if the Marlins aren't doing great, like this season, I still need to memorize player names and spelling just in case they get good enough for a custom. Hechavarria had some nice games, and is leading his team in a bunch of categories, plus he hasn't had one yet, so I figured I'd crank one out, even if it's from a team that isn't especially relevant right now.

And yes, the Marlins do have a lot of good pieces, but those pieces have to be A.) Hitting well and B.) Not injured for this team to work. Marcell Ozuna was not hitting well. Henderson Alvarez and Giancarlo Stanton are injured. Hence, the team is not doing very well. Matter of fact, it it weren't for the Phillies being...the Phillies, they'd be back in last.

The team does have some promise, but requires a lot more effort than they're currently giving. If Stanton can stay healthy, and if they bring up more young players who can stay consistent, they could have a decent enough team, but the division is still pretty tough. The Nats and Mets are hot, and the Braves may be a few years away from relevance.

So, Hechavarria is a good piece, but he can't help his team alone. Which is a little sad.

Coming Tomorrow- A pitcher for Cleveland who's been flat out dominating this season.

A '74 Traded, Just Cause

I am probably gonna make another action custom of Cueto as a Royal, but I wanted to do that one, because that picture is just too cool to pass up. That'll tide you over until the next custom.

100 Cards from a Card Show Dime Box

I hadn't been to this card show in a while, and, unbeknownst to me, it had fallen on some hard times. There were only three tables at this show, and only one of them sold, like, reasonably priced singles. Thankfully said singles were dime boxed, so I got to pick a bunch of them for a while.

I got, in total, 100, ten bucks worth, so I'll show off the highlights of what I got.

Assorted Mid-2000's Sets:

The way these dime boxes were laid out were pretty nice. He had them organized by set name, then by year, then by offshoot. All the Bowman sets were together, all the Donruss', and so on. He must have broken a ton of old hobby boxes of these products recently, just to lay out the commons. So, he had a lot of 2000's era Upper Deck, Fleer, Donruss, etc.

I didn't have a ton of 2005 Upper Deck in my collection, as it was a few years before I started collecting, but there were some in there. It seems, in terms of other UD sets. Compared to '06 UD, it's very different.

A few from the last ever licensed Donruss set. Very bland design, but still full bleed. Reminds me faintly of some of the early Panini Football designs. Also, that throwback on Torii is pretty nice.

He had a bunch of SP Authentic, too. I feel like a lot of those early sets chose a lot of boring photos.

'03 Fleer Tradition (Update). I love the design of the All Star cards. Really colorful. Also, these count as the first cards of Aramis Ramirez as a Cub, and Tom Glavine as a Met, for Fleer.

Sets I Adore:

In addition to just spit-balling for players in a number of those sets, the guy had a lot of sets I actually like, like the old '07 A&G Dick Perez Sketch Cards. In addition to this card of recently-traded Tulo...

I also got 6 more I needed. Very nicely done, too.

Yes, he even had some All-Time Fan Favorites, which I still enjoy. I didn't think I'd be picking up a Red Schoendienst card today.

Topps Total I've been getting a lot more of lately, just to get guys from before they were on ML rosters. But that Vizquel is a pretty nice one. Also, the Huff is an in-set Diamond King, rather than a Diamond King from 2005 Diamond Kings.

Lastly, as it's a guilty pleasure, I got a few singles from 2011 Topps Lineage. Top to bottom- retired power hitters, current catchers, and two guys on their last legs. I do love the Vladdie, though.

Topps Traded:

The one upside of all of these busted hobby boxes is this guy happened to bust a ton of 00's Topps Traded, especially the ones before I started collecting. This helps matters especially, as I needed a lot of these for sentimental value. This Lee Smith is from 2001 Topps' 50 Years Reprints, especially the ones they did for the traded set.

All 2005 Traded. That Huston Street one is technically his rookie card. Also, the Nelson Cruz technically counts as a card of him on the Brewers, before he was traded to the Rangers for Carlos Lee.

'04 Traded. I didn't even plan it like this, but the top row is all former/future Yankees, and the bottom row is all former/future Red Sox. Only Colon has played for both.

I believe this counts as an Edwin Encarnacion rookie, unless he popped up in a previous Topps update set I don't know about.

'02 Topps Update. Both would be on the Yankees in a matter of years. Thankfully Damon would stay longer than Kenny.
'01 Update. Top 2 are from '01 Chrome Update. It's still pretty weird to see Mark Grace in a Diamondbacks uniform. Just feels unnatural.

These aren't from Update. These are just from 1999 Topps, because he had a bunch of those. Another odd uniform from Hideo Nomo.

Speaking of odd uniforms on players, this is a card of Dwight Gooden as a Cleveland Indian. Don't see that everyday.

Players I Collect:

To finish up this post, the guy did have a lot of cards of people I collect from that era of '00-05. So, I scooped up a bunch of those cards. This card of Wade Boggs is from the 2000 Donruss subset of 2001 Donruss. pretty stupid.

Two early-career cards of Cliff Lee. I really wish he comes back to pitch for the Phils next year. We need him.

Two cards of Carlos Beltran on the Astros, a mid-career stop that not a lot of people remember. I wish there were more cards of him on the Giants, too, but I'll settle for all these Beltran-as-an-Astro issues.

Two cards of Roberto Alomar on the White Sox, a stop that basically nobody remembers, even if he just ended up going back the next season.

Two Marlins cards of Juan Pierre. Even if he was only there for a few seasons, most people say Pierre's Marlins years count as the peak of his career.

Four very-early career cards of Mark Buehrle. The ones on the bottom are my favorites. I love the sly little sunglasses look Buehrle has, and I also love the throwback.

Because I'm me, four cards of Fred McGriff, on a bunch of different teams, but mostly the Dodgers. I still think he should at least be considered for the Hall of Fame.

A final salute by Donruss to Rickey Henderson, showing him in a Dodgers uniform.

And finally, a card of Tim Raines on the Orioles, one of his last cards in one of his final seasons, which is pretty sentimental.

I'm glad I at least found this dime box guy, even if he was the only real guy at the card show that had good, cheap stuff. Still, at least they had something good.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Top 10 Trade Deadline Deals of 2015

This year had more competition than any other year for this annual trade deadline list I make. And let it be known that this deadline had more HUGE, FANTASTIC MOVES than a lot of the other years. So, putting this list together until the day AFTER the deadline was all I could manage, as it took that long to figure out a solid list of ten. Shane Victorino, Ben Zobrist, Juan Uribe and Dan Haren all missed the cut.

Jonathan Papelbon gets the head of the post, not because he comes up later, or because he's #1, but because he's...

#10- Jonathan Papelbon to the Nationals, a prospect to the Phillies
Who Wins? Phillies. You'd think the Nats would win here, as they landed one of the best modern closers, and can move into the playoffs with a guy used to October tension. But while the Nats will succeed with Papelbon, it's really the Phillies getting the W here, as they got rid of a guy who was not a great guy for the team dynamic. Papelbon hated it in Philly, and talked about it nonstop. So don't you think your team's a little better now that the shit-talker's gone? Plus, they got a pitching prospect in return, so they can eventually be sort of good again, sometime in the future.

#9- Ben Revere to the Blue Jays, prospects to the Phillies
Who Wins? Blue Jays. Yep, second deal in a row that hurts my dear Phils. And this one...stings. I was just getting used to Ben Revere in Philly. I was gonna put a custom of him on my wall. I certainly wasn't expecting him to get traded. So, this one really hurts. But, sad to say, this does indeed help the Blue Jays, as they needed young outfield help, and they also could definitely use an average- heavy guy like Revere. So, somehow, it works.

#8- Mat Latos, Alex Wood and Bronson Arroyo to the Dodgers, prospects to the Marlins and Braves.
Who Wins? Dodgers. They needed pitching help with Ryu and McCarthy gone, and they got two guys who can definitely supplement the rotation. A Kershaw-Greinke-Anderson-Latos-Wood rotation will definitely work, especially given the powerful run support.  It can be said that the Braves also benefitted, because they got one of the big cuban prospects the Dodgers took time in lassoing.

#7- Mike Leake to the Giants, prospects to the Reds
Who Wins: Giants. Thanks to injuries and inconsistency, the Giants' rotation hasn't been as much of a sure thing as usual, but Mike Leake can be a solid third man. There is a lot of potential in that rotation, even if the postseason isn't exactly a sure thing in SanFran. Bottom line is that the Giants fixed the one problem they've ben having, and that is rotation security. I don't know if this move, which is basically the only big move they made this year besides breaking Travis Ishikawa's heart again, will make the postseason favorites again, but it'll at least help their cause.

#6- Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Mets  Astros, prospects to the Brewers
Who Wins: Astros. Remember, the Mets were INCHES away from landing Gomez, but because Sandy Alderson couldn't seal the deal, he ended up back on the board, and the Astros needed another outfield bat, to relegate Preston "Who Am I And What Am I Doing on the 2015 Astros" Tucker to the bench (where he belongs). So, Gomez and Mike Fiers were traded to the Astros. Fiers will be a decent fourth-or-fifth starter for Houston, but the real star is Gomez, as he's showed no sign of slowing down the past few years, even in a shitty year for Milwaukee. He's gonna be a big piece of the Astros' postseason bid.

#5- Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets, prospects to the Tigers.
Who Wins: Mets. This, I think, more than makes up for losing out on Gomez. Because, as a bonus, the Mets get to keep Zack Wheeler, and they get an awesome outfielder who can hit home runs. Cespedes had a really nice start with Detroit, and I didn't think he'd be traded this soon, but the Mets needed power, and they could potentially be a postseason threat. Cespedes could be their ace in the hole, because Lucas Duda can only strike out so many times.

#4- David Price to the Blue Jays, Daniel Norris and prospects to the Tigers.
Who Wins: Jays. The fact that this trade, as huge as it is, is this low, proves how huge this deadline was. Price is still one of the best pitchers in the game, and has played some awesome baseball for the Tigers. However, the Jays need some serious pitching help, and Price is the ace that they desperately needed. A combo of Price-Dickey-Buehrle-Hutchison could be pretty nasty down the stretch. Now, their only issue is that they're in a tough division, and they might not be able to hang on for that wild card spot. So they may have just given up Daniel Norris, a great pitcher, for no reason. We'll find out what this eventually does for them.

#3- Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins to the Blue Jays, Jose Reyes and prospects to the Rockies.
Who Wins: Jays again. It'd become obvious that Jose Reyes wasn't the greatest fit in Toronto, so shipping him to a park where it might be a bit easier for him to return to streaking could be a good idea. However, the Jays landing a solid hitting shortstop, and a guy who can close games (especially considering the Jays have no closer) was the best part of this. They still have a flawed team, but they now have two people, in Tulo and Donaldson, who are young, can hit, and can shape the future of that roster, instead of those two aging bats Bautista and Encarnacion. This is a promising trade, if not for 2015, then for the future.

#2- Cole Hamels to the Rangers, Matt Harrison and a ton of prospects to the Phillies
Who Wins: Rangers. I bet you all thought this would be #1. Well, while this is a huge move for Texas, and it moves a powerful pitcher to a very run-support-heavy team, it still doesn't guarantee the Rangers to get to the postseason. The Rangers are still a flawed, semi-injured team, and getting Cole Hamels does not remedy that. Plus, they're third in a division of two teams who are both sure fires for the wild card. They have to contend with Minnesota and Toronto for that last spot. They are FAR from a sure thing. So that's why they're not #1. However..this is still a good move for both teams, as it gives the Phillies a lot more to work with for their future, and the Rangers a new ace, and a great one-two combo once Darvish comes back.

#1- Johnny Cueto to the Royals, Brandon Finnegan and prospects to the Reds. 
Who Wins: Royals. The whole season, their main problem has been their rotation. They have good pitching, but they don't have an ace. They have people like Edinson Volquez and Jeremy Guthrie, who pitch games but are way past their prime. And they have Yordano Ventura, who's been dealing with serious control issues this season. Cueto is their best move, and can definitely hold a rotation, and lead a team into the postseason. Plus, judging by his first start, he loves it in Kansas City. This move is #1 because it could determine how far the Royals go into the postseason.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Custom Card of the Night: Escobar Edition

I haven't done a straight custom post in a while, and I need to, because there's too many customs piling up in my folder.

Yunel Escobar came to the Nationals in a trade for recent Mint Condition goat Tyler Clippard. Since landing in Washington, he's hit like a pro, covering for oft-injured Anthony Rendon, and bringing even more power to a team loaded with it.

The Nats' only problem lies with the Mets, as they're only a couple games away from eclipsing their lead. Plus, with the additions of Juan Uribe and Carlos Gomez (HA! JUST KIDDING!!), they've packed their team with enough batters to become a threat in the NL, let alone the East.

Escobar is going to need to keep his momentum going if he wants the Nationals to stay strong, and hopefully the rest of the team will follow.

Coming Tonight (?)- The perennial star of a team that simply will not stop.