Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Cain Mutiny


I feel sad that I have to remind people that the Royals won the World Series two years ago- it should be a known fact. Sadly, as the Royals have basically fallen apart, despite keeping most of the same people around, it's becoming harder to remember that they were once the best.

Alex Gordon, Brandon Moss, Alcides Escobar, Cheslor Cuthbert, Paulo Orlando, Eric Hosmer. All of those guys are currently hitting below the Mendoza line. ALL OF THEM. They're all slumping like hell. Jason Hammel and Nate Karns are struggling like heck, and the team just isn't winning games. It's a very sad sight, especially since these guys literally JUST won a World Series two years ago.

I'm not sure why the change has happened so dramatically- just taking away Ben Zobrist, Kendrys Morales, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto makes the team less amazing? Were they secretly keeping everything together? It's sad, because Alex Gordon hasn't had a good season since before his 2015 injury. He's striking out a ton.

At least Lorenzo Cain is still fantastic, hitting like hell and attempting to carry the team on his shoulders, despite being LITERALLY one of the TWO amazing players on this team (the other being a surprisingly unhittable Jason Vargas). He's already doing better than he was last year at this point...and last year at this point he was already getting ASG suggestions. Sad to say it, but Cain might need to get shipped to a team that can win games pretty soon. Same goes for Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez, who are also doing pretty well. It's just not looking good for the Royals.

Coming Tomorrow- Alright, enough hubbub's been had on this guy over the last week, so tomorrow, we're gonna talk about him? Why, exactly? Well...what the hell else about the Milwaukee Brewers are we gonna talk about? I'm not friggin' making a Keon Broxton custom.

Rest Easy, The Good Bryce Harper is Back


I think we were all worried back there that the 2015 season was a fluke for Bryce Harper.

Because yes, Harper's a fantastic athlete, and he's had some great years, but so far, his underperforming years outweigh his over performing years 3 to 2. You can only really talk about his stuff in 2012 and 2015, and he won awards both those years- there's not really a middle ground with him. It's not like Miguel Cabrera, who'll get MVP votes every year of his career for never especially having a bad season- Harper has had some down seasons.

The good news, however, is that 2017 is looking like a pretty nice season for Harper. And as one of the faces of baseball right now, and one of the best overall personalities in the game, it's about damn time he had another nice season.

It's semi-problematic, because I feel like this Nationals team has its ebbs and flows on even years, sort of like the Giants- they'll vie for a championship in even years, and struggle to stay afloat on the odd years. It's a pattern. This year, however, they have a stronger team than they've had in years, even in the years they've been going for the gold- Harper AND Zimmerman, the two centerpieces of the team since 2012, have been hitting. Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Adam Eaton and Matt Wieters are all killing it- even Adam Lind off the bench is having a nice year. Hell, even the pitching staff's been pretty solid, with nary a bad record on the starting rotation (Jeremy Guthrie notwithstanding, but we don't talk about him anymore).

So, if any year deserves a superior Bryce Harper performance, it is indeed this one. I just need all of this wonderfulness to last a long time, and without any substantial injuries (losing Trea Turner is bad enough).

Coming Tonight: Unless the rest of the box break blocks him, the patron saint of the still-slumping World Champions from two years ago.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Box Break: 2016 Panini Diamond Kings (Part 1)


I grew up with a ton of admiration for Diamond Kings.

It was Donruss' way of taking legitimate effort and sketching and saying 'these are the real stars of the show'. '03 Diamond Kings is still a very classy, very well-designed set that I still love finding singles from. Now, '04-05 DK was a bit overexposed, with a bit too much emphasis on hits and not enough emphasis on design, but it was still welcome.

The new incarnation of Diamond Kings is...interesting, to say the least. It's only really Diamond Kings nominally- all the base cards feature action shots that have just been filtered over, rather than just having well-hired artists do sketches. The effort put into the early releases, even the subsets from the 80's, is gone. Now it's just a premium, hit-based product that's just an excuse for Panini to act artsy.

I still wanted to check out last year's issue, even if I knew what was coming. Here's what I got:

 Pack 1-
Each pack comes with 2 rookies. One of these two has done pretty well for themselves so far. The other hasn't really gotten much of a chance.

 These are the base cards, and while they're pretty cool, and well-textured, it's not really Diamond-King-esque. It's kind of the same photos Topps would use for Flagship, just with more filters and less logos. I do, however, dig the inclusion of Frank Chance, of 'Tinker to Evers to Chance' fame. Nice unusual HOFer creeds. Xander Bogaerts, however, looks like he's pitching.

 The Expressionists inserts are still some of the best in this set, because they're pretty original, and have some great photos- this one is no exception, as it's a fun shot of Addison Russell sporting some Rated Rookie creds..
 Parallels are still a thing in DK, and thankfully I got one of the base parallels TO GET in this set, the all-powerful Ichiro, probably in his last MLB season but still one of the greats. Even better...

 This one's numbered to 99. Which is pretty nice.

 Pack 2- Two rookies, two guys who still kinda classified as rookie-esque figures...I mean, to be fair, Piscotty didn't deserve the RC logo distinction as much as Joey Gallo did...

 Proper base. I dig the throwback uniform on Abreu, I just wish that Panini had licenses so we could see it completely. Backed by Goldschmidt and Upton, somehow both slumping so far this year.

 I think the Donruss-ness of it all makes it so refreshing to see non-Hall-of-Famers showcased like this. Pete Rose gets a nice spotlight in this DK Originals insert...can't say I won't be throwing it in my binder.

 Pack 3-
Two rookies who haven't made it yet.

 NL Central moment. Kang hasn't been playing due to personal issues. Adam Wainwright hasn't been pitching like himself in a while, which would be sadder if he wasn't a member of the Cardinals.

 Three insanely relevant MLB stars. I think so far, the guy in the middle is having the best season.

 Again with the non-HOFers rocking the 'retired' portion of this set- Memorable Feats insert of the great Gil Hodges, a true power-hitter and a guy that led the New York Mets to their first World Series.

 Pack 4-
Two semi-unknown rookies. Also, some packs come with Minis because Panini's trying to rip off Allen and Ginter. This one's of Carlos Correa.

 Keuchel won an Cy Young, Harper won an MVP...both are currently on pace to repeat, even if the season's not even a month over yet.

 Two legendary, likable Hall of Famers. Griffey's is pretty gorgeous. Rickey's is a bit too blurry, though.
 Proof that maybe the guys who put this box together were mocking me- I get an insert of a St. Louis Cardinal...alright, even if it's Adam Wainwright, it's still a Cardinal.
Sidenote...why couldn't this be the base design???
Pack 5-
Two Rockies rookies...both are injured currently. Gray's probably gonna have some more nice seasons.

 Two AL standouts- Chris Archer needs to land on a roster that can win games. Correa, meanwhile, has been on fire so far.

 Retired Yankee moment: Huggins and Turley are nice, unusual picks. Of course, the DiMaggio can't be ignored, especially how cool the uniform looks in the colorization.

 And, a pretty sweet Heritage Collection insert of Greg Maddux. Can't not make a good card of him.

 Pack 6-
Two pretty underwhelming rookies.

 ...And some pretty unusual retired players. Averill I almost never see in sets these days.

 Two personal favorites- cover boy and MLB Icon Roberto Clemente...next to hometown hero and power-hitter Maikel Franco.

And now...we've gotten to our first hit. And it's a surprisingly nice one. Again, Hodges is a New York legend, great hitter and all-around great ballplayer.

(clears throat)

HOWEVER...

That swatch is suspect. Hodges never played for a team that used a full-on orange color scheme. He played for, and managed, the Mets, but they never used orange as a base color. Soo...unless Hodges wore a orange uniform at some other point, I'm not entirely sure this swatch belongs to him. So...I'm not sure what to think about this.

I'll post the last half of this tomorrow, with a less suspect hit in there.

Aftermath


As if this year couldn't get any worse for the Giants, their ace had a bad run-in with a dirt-bike. Absolutely dreadful.

MadBum's a fantastic pitcher, great athlete, and I'm really fearing that his throwing shoulder's gonna be affected by this biking accident. Of all people to fall into 'never the same after the accident' category, Madison Bumgarner was in the category of 'NO NO PLEASE NOT HIM'. Jose Fernandez was in the same category, and he had an even worse fate.

MLB pitchers need to be far-more careful operating extreme modes of transportation. Hopefully MadBum will heal properly from this, and be back to his old, fireballing self rather soon.

Friday, April 21, 2017

About Freaking Time: Blue Jays Edition


For two straight postseasons, the Toronto Blue Jays managed to put together a team of aging position players, utility players that shouldn't be starting, guys that other teams didn't want that are somehow hitting, and one or two legitimate superstars...and got to the ALCS with them. Two years in a row they tried the tactic of losing games until June, and then somehow becoming amazing overnight.

2017...at long last...the Blue Jays are starting out losing games, and it looks like they're gonna finish that way too.

I mean...they just do not have the team this year. Three people who could have saved them, like Josh Donaldson, Aaron Sanchez and JA Happ, are currently injured. This leaves us with a weak Jose Bautista performance, a weaker Russell Martin performance, some guys who usually hit like Troy Tulowitzki and Steve Pearce who aren't doing a great deal, and some pitchers who throw strikes but can't win games. So...not a very good team whatsoever.

As someone who's been hating on the Jays for a few years now, this delights me. It's great when so much effort is put into something that ends up so terribly (sort of like The Fate of the Furious). But...forget the fact that it's the Blue Jays- seeing a team where everything clicked from nothing last year go immediately back to nothing, in any other situation, would be a sob story. Like the Royals last year.

I mean, because it's the Blue Jays, I can't really feel sorry for them. I'd rather them just be a non-factor this season, and not even have them get any positive or negative attention from anybody, like the Brewers last year. That's a worse fate for them.

Coming Tomorrow- Biggest Personality in Baseball, back to what he does best.

A Pretty Hard-Looking Third Place


Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager, Logan Forsythe and Adrian Gonzalez are all hitting. Clayton Kershaw, Brandon McCarthy and Alex Wood are all pitching well. The team, generally, is in pretty good shape...yet the Dodgers are still in third place.

It's thanks in part to two factors- the most prominent of which being injuries. Forsythe and Turner are with smaller injuries, Rich Hill's got a blister, and Andre Ethier and Scott Kazmir have been reeling since the start of the season. These aren't even sensible injuries, they're silly injuries that popped up randomly and now are costing players substantial time on the field. Plus, injuries that didn't even happen this season are affecting players- Hyun-Jin Ryu can't find the strike zone, and his surgery was 2 years ago!

Even worse, the Diamondbacks and Rockies have caught up, and are volleying for the division. Sure, the Rox have a few injuries to deal with (like, gee, I dunno, one of the few dominant strikeout artists on the team, Jon Gray?), but they're not especially hurting the team.

The Dodgers need to reclaim their core, and engineer a roster that either can withstand injuries, or win despite them. It may take more than a season to pull this off, but it needs to happen- too many World Series opportunities have been squandered.

Coming Tonight: A pitcher for a team that is FINALLY staying in last place.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Arlington Roadkill


Last fall they were menacing, unstoppable, formidable.

Now, none of them can friggin' hit.

I don't know how it happened. Maybe Adrian Beltre was the catalyst of it all, but none of the Texas Rangers, save for an unstoppable Nomar Mazara, are doing very well at ALL. Mike Napoli, Joey Gallo and Carlos Gomez are striking out a ton, Jonathan Lucroy and Rougned Odor are hitting but underwhelming, and people like Jurickson Profar and Shin-Soo Choo aren't doing very well now that they're back to starting games. It's a very messy lineup, one that even some pretty-on Yu Darvish and AJ Griffin performances can't save.

It's very sad- I was sort of rooting for this team to get far last October, and was thinking they'd build on the 2016 squad, but the momentum's gotten lost and nobody's really doing as well as they should be. Right now the Astros are pretty much unanimously running away with the division, and the Rangers are stuck in the dirt with the other three teams.

I'm not sure if this is indicative of the entire season, though I certainly hope not. There's got to be something that clicks in a little while, makes all of this worthwhile. We'll see, I guess.

Coming Tomorrow?: Recently re-signed third baseman for a strong, varied team that needs to stop a surprise threat from running away with the division.