Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hall of Fame Postmortem: Hooray for Montreal and the 90's

Going into this HOF Results day, I had absolutely no idea which way the votes would fall. Unlike last year with Griffey, there wasn't a surefire first-ballot runaway this year, or so I thought. I worried we'd get another zero year of induction, or maybe just one guy getting in.

However, I was wrong, thankfully. We have three new Hall of Famers, and all three of them deserve the honor, at least in my opinion.

Ivan Rodriguez had the best chances of any of the newbies, and I'm guessing a great deal of the new additions aren't going to last long on the ballot anyway (poor Pat Burrell). I-Rod was a consistent catcher, a great hitter, a great centerpiece for a lineup (especially in Florida and Detroit), and an all-around great player. Plus, now my cousin Dylan can say that a Hall of Famer told him to go screw himself at a Spring Training game.

Tim Raines was the guy that I was pulling for, and have been for the past few seasons, since I began collecting him. He's a base-stealing legend, he was a versatile athlete, and managed to make the Expos relevant in the 80's, after Dawson and Carter had left. The guy was stealing bases well into his career, played into his forties, and retired as a legend. It's very nice he's finally getting into the Hall, as he deserved it.

Jeff Bagwell's induction is probably the biggest takeaway, as this is a guy that should have been inducted a few years ago, and finally got in. Along with Craig Biggio, he helped make the Houston Astros one of the more important squads of the 90's, hitting like hell and being a gold standard for the NL.

Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero should have gotten in, but they'll get there next year I think.
 Steroid guys advanced, but...ach, I dunno...

Still, this was a good HOF day all-around, and will keep me plenty satisfied until Thome and Chipper get here next year.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My Unofficial Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (2017)

I am writing this late.

Well, in two ways. I'm writing this late at night because I'll probably be sleeping in a bit this morning, as I'm still on break from school. But also...this is a post I should have written years ago, as the Baseball Hall of Fame results should have been announced in early January, instead of more than halfway through the month. That's just how it's supposed to be, sad to say. But, apparently we have to do it now, we are, I guess.

It's not too problematic. My zeal for the Hall of Fame, especially the voting results, still remains, and I'm insanely excited for the result, as there are several different outcomes, and we could be looking at a year where a nice bunch of ballplayers are gained entry.

So, as I'm not an official sportswriter, I'll have to settle for posting a ballot onto the blog, for you like-minded readers to chew on. I'm allowed ten names. Like usual, none of my names will have been associated with steroids- I don't do that sort of thing. A friend of a friend likes to keep his ballots blank for that reason, but I'm not going that far. I'm handing in a ballot (figuratively), but nobody with syringe stains will be on it.

Right...on with the ballot. This year I'm going with nine names.

Jeff Bagwell:
How many more times am I going to have to put this guy on my unofficial ballot until he finally gets in? Look, last year he only lost out on induction by 3.4%, so if something it's going to happen, it's bound to happen this year. I'm just pissed that nothing's happened in the last six years. This guy is one of the best hitters of the 1990's, won an MVP, kept a middling team in the spotlight, and nearly led said team to a World Series. He's got one short of 450 home runs, and he's got three points short of a career .300 average. The injuries are apparently keeping people from voting him in, and it's about time they didn't. He's a Hall of Famer, whether it happens this year, or within the next three.
Team of Induction: Houston Astros
Odds of 2017 Induction: 2 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 3 to 2

Vladimir Guerrero:
One of the heroes of my collecting youth is finally up for Hall of Fame induction. in 2007, Vlad was still one of the best hitters in the league, even three years after the MVP. The star power was thanks in part to that amazing hitting ethic and power numbers. Like Bagwell, he's one short of 450 home runs. He has more career hits and a higher career batting average than Manny Ramirez. From 1997 to 2008 he garnered Hall of Fame votes. He had the kind of swing that should go down in history, and probably will. A few minor details is preventing me from calling Vlad a 2017 lock, but if he's not in by the end of the decade, there's a flaw.
Team of Induction: Montreal Expos
Odds of 2017 Induction: 4 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: Even

Trevor Hoffman:
I still do not understand why several voters need to twist stats and make up reasons to not induct Trevor Hoffman. Why, again, is Trevor Hoffman Not a Hall of Famer? Because he doesn't have enough of this stat, or he has too many of this stat, or he didn't do enough of this, or he didn't look like this. Bullshit. You know what normal people measure closers in? Saves. And Trevor Hoffman has 601 of those. More than 100 more than anyone else on the ballot. Trevor Hoffman was the best closer of the 1990's, and if it wasn't for Mariano Rivera he'd have been in last year. Again, not a definite because of grumpy sportswriters, but...he SHOULD be!
Team of Induction: San Diego Padres
Odds of 2017 Induction: 6 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 4 to 1

Edgar Martinez:
He's getting some traction this year, but it's still not well-publicized enough how much of a force Edgar was back in the day. Greatest DH of All Time, by far- he hit when it was literally his only job, and made a difference even then. Probably not a definite for 2017, but I'm keeping him on the ballot anyway.
Team of Induction: Seattle Mariners
Odds of 2017 Induction: 10 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 8 to 1

Fred McGriff:
Look, McGriff has become one of my larger collections, and just talking about him in these HOF posts has given me more and more of an appreciation for the guy. He was 6 shy of 500 home runs, which would have made him a guarantee already. He helped the 1995 Braves win the World Series, he hit like hell for the Blue Jays, Braves and Rays- he was versatile, he was consistent, and he was a powerful ballplayer that you wanted on your team. Is he a Hall of Famer to most people, including the sportswriters? Probably not. But he is to me.
Team of Induction: Atlanta Braves
Odds of 2017 Induction: 25 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 10 to 1

Jorge Posada:
I'm thinking another catcher on this ballot is going to get a bit more publicity, but I still wanted to make sure Jorge Posada got some publicity. The question that's being asked is if he was on a team other than the Yankees, would he be considered a Hall of Famer? And the answer is...maybe. Like, if he was somewhere like Texas, and played as well as he did, he'd be considered. The fact is that Jorge Posada was a great hitting defensive catcher for one of the best teams in baseball, and he won five World Series rings as a member of said team. Was he ever the best in the league...maybe once or twice. He's not gonna get in this year, if at all, but he definitely deserves recognition.
Team of Induction: New York Yankees
Odds of 2017 Induction: 13 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 9 to 1

Tim Raines:
It is Tim Raines' tenth and last year on the Hall of Fame ballot. Those ten years have been spent with sportswriters campaigning left and right to get the guy in, and it's not looking like it's going to work fully until 2017. Raines is one of the best base-stealers of all time, one of the best Montreal Expos of all time, and one of the most versatile all-around players in the game. He has two World Series rings, several base-stealing titles, and the respect of most of the baseball world. If he's kept out this year, it's a shame, one that will likely be rectified on the next Veterans Committee vote. Still, he got 69% last year. It could happen. And I hope it does.
Team of Induction: Montreal Expos
Odds of 2017 Induction: 2 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction (via the Veteran's Committee if not this year): Even

Ivan Rodriguez: 
Of all the new additions to the ballot, Ivan Rodriguez has the absolute best chance. Why? Well, he's the absolute best catcher of the 1990's, one of the most consistent backstop performers of his time, a strong hitter, a clubhouse leader, and a guy who endured all throughout his career, even serving as a leadership position in his last year of service, in Washington. I-Rod is a catching legend, and even if we just let one of those in last year, it's time. He didn't take steroids, even if people seem to claim this is the case (also like Piazza). He should get in this year. If he doesn' year definitely.
Team of Induction: Texas Rangers
Odds of 2017 Induction: 5 to 2
Odds of Eventual Induction: Even

Lee Smith:
It's his fifteenth year on the ballot. If Hoffman's getting destroyed this year, then Lee Smith has absolutely no chance. I wanted to put him on here anyway, because he was an amazing closer, and I have a pretty nice collection of his. That's all.
Team of Induction: Chicago Cubs
Odds of 2017 Induction: 100 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction, via the Veteran's Committee: 12 to 1

So, that's my nine. Mussina and Schilling I didn't have enough of a case for. Nobody else really made sense to me, even hometown favorite Pat Burrell. From my list, I'm hoping Bagwell, Raines and I-Rod make it in, while secretly pulling for Vlad.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Something is Definitely Going on in Seattle

I haven't been reporting on a ton of these, at least not since the Jean Segura trade, but there has been an insane amount of wheeling and dealing in Seattle. They've basically decide to rebuild every aspect of their team, in the wildest possible ways.

In the past month or so, the Mariners have gotten rid of Taijuan Walker, Nate Karns, Chris Iannetta, Seth Smith, Ketel Marte, Nori Aoki, Adam Lind and Dae-Ho Lee, as well as adding Jean Segura, Yovani Gallardo, Drew Smyly, Danny Valencia, Jarrod Dyson and Chris Heston. That is essentially a roster turnaround, only without the actual heart of the roster.

Normally, struggling rosters do the opposite- they don't have a ton of big roster pieces, so they trade and sign some, to fit around smaller players that are already there- the Padres and Diamondbacks have done this, and it hasn't worked. But the Mariners are doing the opposite- they're keeping their core of Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma around- these five are the absolute biggest stars on the team, and the best players. They took out all the smaller, less important contracts, and switched them with equally efficient, newer parts.

Throwing Jean Segura and Danny Valencia into the roster is insanely smart, as both have had some amazing seasons lately, and both can be entered into a larger roster to work less independently and more along the lines of a unit- in Oakland, Valencia was one of the few offensive producers, and now he and Segura have a lineup that fits them well. This also gives a few players in overstuffed situations, like Jarrod Dyson and Chris Heston, some more roomy situations to fit into. Dyson was a reserve outfielder that never got a chance to start, and now, as I'm thinking Franklin Gutierrez will finally sign somewhere else, he'll get that chance.

The rotation could be slightly problematic. People seem to think that Drew Smyly is ten times better than he actually is. He'll be a solid third or fourth starter. Yovani Gallardo is probably going to bounce back after a down 2016, and probably knock James Paxton out of the rotation, as I saw the latter man start last year, and it was not pretty.

Again, like with the D-Backs and Padres, I have no idea whether or not this will actually work. I'd like it to- it's been fifteen years since the Mariners made the playoffs, and it's about time, really. Whether or not these new pieces can work is going to determine the shape of the AL West, as the Rangers may be stepping back, and the Astros and Angels may be stepping forward.

Interesting to see how it rolls out, but I'm pulling for them.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Nostalgic Box Break: 1996 Upper Deck SP (Part Three)

 10 packs of SP left. This is a pretty cool box to rip, as the base cards are cool, and the stakes aren't especially high, and there's this charm to the set, a charm that UD had for a brief period in the 90's.

Onto the last bit..

 Pack 21-
People on the Hall of Fame ballot: 3/8
Steroid Abusers: 2/8
 One of these two chuckleheads might end up in Cooperstown after next week. It's probably going to be the bloke on the left in the sweet throwback, but keep an eye out for Manny- more sportswriters have respect for him than you think he might deserve.

 I do think Jeff Bagwell has the best Hall odds out of anyone- enough balloters are pissed about his 'just a few votes shy' outcome from last year, and want to rectify it.
Robin V tried, but Chicago seems to be moving on.

 Pack 22-
Cards worth talking about: 1/8...
 ..and it's just Scott Brosius, the only card in the pack that wasn't a dupe.
 Pack 23-
Steroid Abusers: 6/8
Dupes of Steroid Abusers: 1/8
People on the Hall of Fame Ballot: 3/8

 After a while, Ken Caminiti had taken so much steroids that there was two of him.

 Rafael Palmeiro trying to pitch. Yeah, that'll go well. Edgar Martinez was also trying to pitch, I think...and it either went better or worse, as he's a better player, but a career DH.

 MOOSE. Nothing but respect, even if he's not especially HOF-worthy.
Sammy Sosa wishes he could have seen a year like 2016 while he was in Chicago. Not the case.

 Pack 24-
Hall of Famers in slightly unfamiliar uniforms: 3/8
Current Managers: 1/8

 So much class here. Andre Dawson looked awesome in a Marlins uniform, even if his best years had passed by that point. I love pulling cards of him in that uniform.
Meanwhile, any card of Rickey Henderson in a non-A's uniform looks awesome to me, and this card of him on the Padres is no exception.
 Paul Molitor had just landed in Minnesota, and would end his career in 1998 as a legend, mostly in Milwaukee but still.

 Gregg Jeffries did not take the last pizza roll, and he's getting defensive about it.

 Pack 25-

 Pack 26-
Hall of Famers: 1/8
Future Hall of Famers: 2/8
Former Managers: 2/8

 Cal Ripken got inserts all over UD products for his big 1995, and this is a pretty cool one, all glossy and nice.
Chipper Jones gets a Marquee Matchups insert, because he's that awesome.

 Matt Williams is informed by a coach that he won't be returning to Washington for the next season.

 (I didn't take a group photo for Pack 27)
Ken Hill was on the Rangers, apparently. At least he looks cool in the St. Patrick's day uniform.

 Two guys on the HOF ballot- Fred McGriff is arguably a bit more worthy of votes than Sheffield, but maybe that's because I'm biased and collect Crime Dog.

 Ryne Sandberg, seen here post-retirement...and also pre-retirement, having another nice season Chicago before hanging 'em up in '97.

 Pack 28-
Steroid Abusers: 2/8
Really Good Pitchers from the 90's: 2/8

 David Cone's first season in the Bronx was 1996, and man it was a good year to come in. Meanwhile, Benito Santiago seems surprisingly excited about joining the Phillies, way after their prime.

 Kevin Appier's card is so awesome that hopefully it distracts you from Bonds' Marquee Matchups insert.

 Pack 29-
Hall of Famers: 1/8
People Who Were Supposed to be Hall of Famers in 1994: 2/8

 Tom Glavine is RUNNING. NOT PITCHING, RUNNING! Miracles never cease.
Jeff Kent is pissed because A.) the bunt didn't work, and B.) he got taken off of Survivor by Blair from the Facts of Life.

 Ron Gant spent a few seasons in St. Louis (for some reason) as his star cooled down in the late 90's. Tim Salmon was still a relatively big deal in LA, but not as big as another fish-related outfielder would come to be 20 years later.

 Pack 30-
Hall of Famers: 2/8
Guys Who were good for exactly one season: 1/8
 Javier Lopez, seen here before he learned how to hit. Mark Grace was one of the best hitters of the 90's...but since he played for the Cubs, that wasn't an especially big deal.

Two Hall of Famers to end the box- a pretty cool looking Randy Johnson, and a field shot of Craig Biggio.

So...that was 1996 SP. I have to see which Nostalgic Box Breaks haven't been done on the blog yet, and I might get to posting another archived one soon.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

And Now A Message from Mark Sweeney

Hi, Everybody!

I'm Mark Sweeney, and I used to be an MLB player. Now, playing baseball is pretty tough, as it's a stress-filled environment, and there's a lot of pressure to be great. At the same time, there's a ton of pressure to perform just as the ballfield.

That's right...I'm talking about the bedroom.

Let's take a look at me in 1998. Here, I was at the top of my game, playing with the San Diego Padres, and helping them make a run at the World Series. You'll also notice how...happy I was in this photo. And I'm not just talking about the smile on my face.

Ever since joining the Padres, I've been a proud user of Viagra. It's the number one way to keep people satisfied on and off the ball field. However...while I don't regret a single part of my usage of the miracle pill...I'll say that it didn't exactly help my career as a ballplayer.

In 2007, the same year as the Mitchell Report, analyzing a number of players who had taken performance-enhancing drugs, there was a much less publicized report about players that had taken Viagra, or any drugs that enhanced performances in the bedroom. What I found out was that this was frowned upon by many of the owners and executives, all across the MLB.

So, I, as well as several successful Major League players like Brett Tomko, Steve Trachsel, Miguel Cairo, Kip Wells and Kevin Orie (plus Manny Ramirez although we don't like to talk about that), was nearly blacklisted from the game, only because I wanted to be that area. Note that this report came out on the same day as the Mitchell Report, and was buried underneath articles about Joe Mauer's deodorant preference, and John Kruk coughing up a hairball during a live broadcast.

As a result, I never held a steady job in the MLB again. Sure, I got a great deal of playing time in 2005, again as a member of the Padres...but the Padres really didn't have many other options back then. I retired quietly, as a member of the 2008 Dodgers...while fellow viagra user Manny Ramirez got all the playing time.

So...I come here, my head in my hands, to say that while performance enhancing drugs...of that ilk...ruined my baseball career...I've been insanely successful as a husband, and as a lover. And nowadays, I look a lot like I did in that 1998 photo...happy, healthy, and proud.

Do I wish I'd have left baseball another way? Uhhh....I'll get back to you on that one. But the bottom line is I'm happy now, and still use Viagra to this day.

(I'd like to point out to Mr. Sweeney's lawyers that this was a joke, and that he sort of asked for it by posing like that on a baseball card.)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Nostalgic Box Break: 1996 Upper Deck SP (Part Two)

Previously on '96 SP...probably one of the most polished base sets of the 90's, some pretty cool rookies, and this general sense of fun and freshness despite a few doubles. This is one of those incredibly fun to rip sets.

We're covering the middle ten packs, including Pack #11, which SOMEHOW has NINE cards instead of eight...

 Pack 11-
Marquee Men Inserts: 1.85/9
Hall of Famers: 1/9
Guys Who COULD get into the Hall of Fame This Month: 2/9
Guys Who SHOULD get into the Hall of Fame this Month: 1/9

 In honor of a nice little snowfall we just got in Jersey, here's a card of Mo Vaughn bundling up in early April.
 Plus, our one Hall of Famer is an ABSOLUTELY ASTONISHING card of Roberto Alomar's first leap in the Orioles' Spring Training stadium. This is an amazing card, made even better by the foil and raised image.
 I got two Marquee Men inserts this pack. One of them was Jeff Bagwell, someone I genuinely enjoy, and someone who I'd rather like to see in the Hall of Fame. The other is a die-cut of Roger Clemens. Oh well.

 Here is Bagwell's matched up with Mike Piazza's MM card, to show that these are insanely puzzle-esque cards, and are kind of therapeutic in a way.
Pack 12-
Products of Nomo-Mania: 2/8
1987 Rookies: 2/8
Hall of Famers: 1/8
 Jose Canseco was still a semi-relevant player in 1996, one of his last few seasons in Boston. John Smiley's card is pretty damn cool, even in SP format.

 Two amazing pitching stories from 1995, both ends of the age spectrum. Nomo was a rookie, and absolutely killing it in LA. Dennis Martinez was well into his 40's, and still one of the most impressive pitchers in the AL.

 Ken Griffey's base card picked a pretty cool photo there. That's a nice touch.  Also, another Hideo Nomo, this one a Marquee Matchups insert.

 Pack 13-
Dupes: 6/8
Big Cats: 1/8
 Not a ton going on this pack, but a Rey Ordonez rookie that picked a great shot, and a Big Cat base card, so at least they're something to report.

 Pack 14-
Hall of Famers: 1/7
1996 World Series Heroes: 1/7
1997 World Series Heroes: 1/7

 I think it's a cool little detail that they threw both Benes Brothers onto one card, especially since they were both playing for St. Louis at the time. Also, this counts as a quasi-rookie card for Pettitte, who was just starting out.
 Piazza's base card is...pretty standard to be honest, Renteria's Premier Prospects is a nice enough pull, even if he won't get a ton of votes this month.

 Pack 15-
Hall of Famers: 1/8
Future Hall of Famers: 1/8
Reds: 2/8

A few signs of the times- Chan Ho Park was the Dodgers' first East Asian pitching reclamation project until Hideo Nomo came along- consider him the Hyun-Jin Ryu to Nomo's Kenta Maeda. Meanwhile, Reggie Sanders was a great asset for Cincinnati for a while until the rest of the league played hot potato with him until 2006.

Two legends. Jim Thome should get into the Hall of Fame next year. I sincerely hope this happens. Meanwhile, Barry Larkin is using some difficult little running apparatus here, and he looks like he's acing it.

Jeff Fassero's 1995-era camera is probably one of the best shots in the set. Meanwhile, even after having a rookie card in 1993 Topps, Jason Kendall was still considered a rookie in 1996.

Pack 16-
Dupes: 6/8
Awesome Inserts of HOFers: 1/8

Vinny Castilla's card is just a garnish, but the Special FX insert of Tony Gwynn is a pretty nice pull.

Pack 17-
Hall of Famers: 2/8
NL West Heroes Who'd be out of the league by 2004: 2/8
Our Hall of Famers for this pack- Ozzie Smith was just rounding his last season, and looks pretty humble here on this semi-posed card, one that works well with SP. Meanwhile, Pedro's is pretty 90's, right down to the backwards cap in the inset.

Eric Karros was still a pretty big asset in LA back in 1996. Matt Williams, subject of this pack's Special FX insert, was rounding his last year in San Francisco before hitting big in Cleveland in 1997.

Pack 18-
Steroid Abusers: 2/8
Hall of Famers: 1/8
Present/Future A's: 3/8
Traded for Each Other: 2/8
Shawn Green was still kind of quiet in Toronto, pre-trade, while Mark McGwire was trying to gain steam before the trade to St. Louis.

Frank Thomas is our Special FX for the pack, and a pretty nice on at that. Raul Mondesi has a towel, and he seems pretty happy about that.

Pack 19-
Dupes: 7/8
Only card of note is this bizarre card of Jack McDowell on the Indians (!!!!) batting (!!!!!!) Weird.

 Pack 20-
Hall of Famers: 1/8
Guys Who Joined the Cubs for Playoff Runs: 2/8
 Moises Alou, looking COOOOOL, with his shades and Expos jacket. Cooool 90's.

Cal Ripken Jr. was JUUUST claiming his GOAT status after the 1995 season, and was just coasting from here on out. Jim Edmonds was just beginning to get good.

I'll have the last 10 packs up soon, but this box is hella fun to rip.