Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Better Late Than Never

Well done, Dodgers. Another NL West title in the bag. And this one's a well deserved one, too.

Now, saddle up. you've got a date with the Mets in a week.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Another NBA Star is Out

SAO #16- Houston Rockets star and Beard Enthusiast James Harden
Quick one today, but figured I might as well throw this one out there for all the NBA fans still waiting for the season to start. Plus, Harden has the best scary look w/beard since Brian Wilson.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Discounted Blaster of 2013 Allen & Ginter

Not gonna lie, but I haven't made a consistent effort to collect, or even just pick up packs of, Allen and Ginter since 2009. THAT was a great set. The first four were excellent. Once they started trying to keep it fresh, and in turn, making it boring, I stopped.

However, a few days ago I was at Target getting Heritage High Number, and I saw a bunch of discounted blasters. Getting a Chrome one from a few years ago was enticing, but I settled on one from 2013 A&G, because I didn't really know the set, and it might be a fun break.

Here, now, the 8 packs:

Pack 1-
210- Madison Bumgarner. Always an excellent way to start the pack.
41- Hisashi Iwakuma. Other than a no-no this season, hasn't done a lot since his 2013 season.
311- SHORT PRINT of Bob Lemon. This was juuuust when they started putting legends in the base set.
Palaces & Strongholds: Schonbrunn Palace
Civilizations of Ages Past: Hittites
Inquiring Minds mini- Niccolo Machiavelli. I love the gonzo pulls in this one. Machiavelli? That's awesome!

Pack 2-
32- Aaron Hill. Has basically been replaced at 2nd by Nick Ahmed.
203- Adam Eaton. D-Backs issues of this guy are becoming rare. Has become a standout in Chi-Town.
258- Speaking of Chi-Town, Billy Williams.
294- Johnny Cueto, who's beginning to get his act together in Kansas City
29- A&G Back Mini of Jordan Zimmermann
Across the Years insert of Carlos Beltran. Makes me very happy pulling this guy.

Pack 3-
205- Justin Verlander, who's beginning to return to form
162- Ivan Nova. Hoping he still has some great starts left in him.
202- Angel Pagan. Is basically one injury away from being traded to Colorado.
301- Tommy Hanson SHORT PRINT. Not as fun to pull Hanson cards anymore.
Martial Mastery- Vikings
154- Mike Morse mini. Man, this has him on the Mariners. That was 5 teams ago for him.

Pack 4-
153- Alex Cobb
125- Matt Holliday, who's beginning to hit again after his injury
140- Tommy Lee. lol.
164- Chris Mortensen. Ah, a staple of A&G- ESPN sportscasters.
Inquiring Minds mini- Hannah Arendt
Across the Years insert of Justin Upton. Now toiling in San Diego.

Pack 5-
107- Trevor Bauer. I swear, a great season is around the corner for this guy.
183- Ryan Ludwick
76- Jim Abbott. THAT is awesome.
Palaces & Strongholds- Buckingham Palace
Civilizations of Ages Past- Greeks. I dunno, I think the Greeks are still around...
329- Kevin Youkilis MINI. Short Print mini! WOW
350- Bill Walton SHORT PRINT. This is a little insane.

Pack 6-
97- Tony Gwynn. RIP
34- Robin Roberts, Philadelphia legend
272- Josh Reddick, in an awesome sideways shot
70- CC Sabathia, who has had a few alright starts
259- Matthias Blonski mini
Across the Years of Brooks Robinson

Pack 7-
259- Matthias Blonski. Hello again.
246- Hyunjin Ryu. Very nice. Hopefully his return from the DL next year will go swimmingly.
One Little Corner- Scattered Disk
Martial Mastery- Samurai
279- A&G Back mini of Gio Gonzalez

Pack 8-
69- Jake Peavy. Jeez, he was only still on the White Sox 2 SEASONS AGO???
193- Josh Hamilton. Now back in Arlington, thankfully
73- Tim Hudson. This guy retiring is gonna be really sad.
Curious Cases- Philadelphia Experiment
296- Ekolu Kalama mini
Across the Years of CURTIS GRANDERSON!! This box knows what's up

Very quaint box. Nothing huge, but good base cards.

Early Clinchers

Oh, hell, are we in for a good postseason. And these are just the first few guys that got in.

Man, so many tough, fun teams. And only one of them can win.

More details as more get in.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

2 Hanger Boxes of 2015 Heritage High Number

I've got another month or so until Update shows up, and I'm still desperate for cards. Man, if only there was another cool set I could get cards of...oh, hello there Heritage High Numbers.

They started doing these High # sets back in 2008, and they were alright, but it kind of defeated the purpose when they just had two Topps Update commons per pack. It was a nice idea, but I didn't get too much of them, or, I'd just get good looking commons at card shows or whatever.

Now that it's back, and a lot of the kinks have been ironed seems pretty nice. So I nabbed some hanger boxes of the stuff.

Box #1-

662- Marcus Semien. Apparently he had a nice defensive season in Oakland, but the problem in Oakland was definitely not offense this season.
613- Tyler Olson
617- Micah Johnson. I think they had this guy at 3rd when I was in Chicago. I forget if he did anything.
612- Hansel Robles. How is this the first thing that came to mind?
664- Tyler Flowers, who's apparently starting this year.
564- Delmon Young, who returned to just sucking this season.
595- Trevor Cahill. Everybody's been talking about this one, as Cahill didn't even play a game with the Dodgers.
508- Angel Nesbitt
512- Ruben Tejada. Has been deemed obsolete by Wilmer Flores.
660- Michael 'The Pufferfish' Lorenzen
506- David Buchanan
527- Eduardo Rodriguez, one of the few things that went right for the Red Sox this year.
510- Justin Nicolino
630- STEVEN MATZ ROOKIE. This is a pretty nice one.
574- Sean Rodriguez
516- Vincent Velazquez. Fun Fact: I saw this guy's Major League Debut
Now and Then insert of Bryce Harper.
Combo Card of Cubs Cornerstones Addison Russell and Kris Bryant. Great card, too.
712- Blake Swihart CHROME #'D TO 566. That is actually a really nice pull
629- Shane Victorino. Now on the Angels.
643- Alex Torres. Okay, you do not make a card of Alex Torres and decline to add his Incredible Hulk cap.
614- Tyler Moore
646- AJ Ramos
571- Odrisamer Despaigne, who was one of the many disappointments of the Padres' season.
691- Slade Heathcott rookie, which is pretty nice.
578- Ryan Flaherty
586- Billy Burns, who's been playing really well for the A's.
559- Joba Chamberlain
623- Sam Fuld
696- Brett Anderson, who's had a nice rebound with the Dodgers
531- Mike Aviles, who's gotten a lot of support from the Indians.
640- Steven Souza Jr., another rookie standout
547- JR Graham
522- Anthony Ranuado
650- Anthony DeSclafani.

Box #2-
675- Jace Peterson, who went from a Padres farmhand to a starter in Atlanta
667- Gregorio Petit, who's already been released
596- Freddy Galvis, who better be clean this year.
682- Wilmer Difo
570- Dixon Machado
606- Alex Meyer
555- James Shields, looking horrified to be in a Padres uniform.
641- DJ LeMahieu. This has gotta be a nice pull.
698- John Jaso
528- Taylor Featherston
585- Yasmani Grandal, who had a very nice season
697- Orlando Calixte
552- Desmond Jennings, who was on the DL I think for most of the season
610- Everth Cabrera
567- Tommy Pham
517- Colby Rasmus, who had a career renaissance in Houston this year.
Now and Then insert of Adrian Beltre hitting his 400th
723- SHORT PRINT of Yovani Gallardo
Combo of Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista
576- Tim Beckham, about time.
557- Danny Muno
514- Grant Balfour, the ex-closer in Tampa
513- Brad Boxberger, the closer in Tampa
638- Eddie Butler
608- Paulo Orlando, an extra outfielder in the Royals behemoth
611- Jed Lowrie, who just got off the DL
526- Jordan Lyles
622- Will Middlebrooks, who lost his chance
644- Rene Rivera
626- Mike Olt, who lost his chance too
615- Nick Franklin
684- Jose Ramirez, who hasn't lost his chance yet, but give him time
581- Chris Capuano, who was also released by the Yankees
628- Matt den Dekker
678- Tim Cooney

Great boxes with a lot of nice base cards, and a nice Blake Swihart parallel. Solid product, Topps.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Best of the Rest: 2015

I'm using this post, and the fact that we've got a few days until the playoff arrangements are going to become painfully clear, to celebrate all the teams that put up valiant efforts, but just fell short of being cared-about in October.

So, to sum up the strengths, and weaknesses (but really, mostly weaknesses) of the teams that didn't do so well this year, we here at Mint Condition have arranged some 2015 season Superlatives for them. And these are pretty specific ones, too. Almost as specific as Jimmy Fallon's, except less weed-soaked.

Here we go, folks. The 2015 Playoff-Missers Superlatives:

Most Likely to Succeed (according to the sportswriters back in February): San Diego Padres

Best One Horse Team that Somehow Wound up in Third: Arizona Diamondbacks

Least Productive Use of Offseason Free Agent Signings: Boston Red Sox.

Best Way Exemplifying Why You Simply Do Not Just Trade your Third Baseman for another third baseman: Oakland Athletics.
Close, Brett, but no cigar.
Worst Pitching: Colorado Rockies (gasp!)

Best Pitching (for a team that didn't make the playoffs): Cleveland Indians.

Team that just decided to mail it in after the All Star Break: Detroit Tigers.

Team that got amazing after the All Star Break but didn't make the playoffs: Cleveland Indians

Best Way of Tarnishing the Hopes and Dreams of a Dedicated Fanbase: Philadelphia Phillies.
When Jeff Francoeur is your main offensive producer, you're doing something wrong.
Best Way to Remind Fans of a team that made the ALCS last year that 2007 existed, especially in August: Baltimore Orioles.

Team that did in fact make third place...but didn't do as well as people thought: Miami Marlins

Most Likely to do the exact same thing they did last year: Tampa Bay Rays

Best Show of Effort: San Francisco Giants.

Team that decided to break their fans' hearts in April, rather than in September or June like the last few years: Milwaukee Brewers.

Most Helpful Reminder that Injuries can Really Screw up a Team: Washington Nationals.

Team that has every justifiable reason to be bitter right now: Chicago White Sox

#1 Reason Why You Don't Simply Give Away All Your Good Pitchers in July: Cincinnati Reds

Team That Cannot Seem to Figure Out The Problem: Seattle Mariners.

Team that did marginally better than everyone thought, though that isn't really saying much: Atlanta Braves
Biggest All-Around Disaster: San Diego Padres

Team that has a legitimate shot to succeed next year if they don't screw up: San Francisco Giants or Cleveland Indians.

That about does it. Tomorrow I'll get to talking about the teams that actually made it in.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How I wound up with Yogi

This is gonna be a bit of a sentimental post, because I'm gonna talk about two guys that are pretty close to my heart, and as of this morning, both of them have passed.

I don't get a lot of opportunities to talk about my grandfather, and I think that is a shame. I think my grandfather inspired my love for baseball, especially some of the old players, more than anyone else. And, as you're gonna read here, my grandfather, unwittingly, inspired my drive to collect.

In the 1940's, there were no hobby shops. No card collectors. No Topps. In 1948, the Bowman company got the bright idea to start putting little squares of baseball players inside those little penny arcades, so that kids could get a different one every time, and the pastime of picking up little cards of players could be started with the youth. I don't think they sold '48 Bowmans in packs. It had to have been solely from those little toy machines. And you'd get one card for a nickel.

My grandfather had to have been ten or eleven around the time that these came out, and without going into too many details, he found his time out of the house, and searching for these little machines, quite often. For a kid in his situation, without a ton of money, or a ton of hope, getting a card of a New York Yankee could be a great thing.

After a while, my grandfather found myself with a whole collection of these little square cards, mostly from '48 and '49 Bowman. Most people who had cards back then tell me that they'd stick them in the spokes of their bicycle and screw them up pretty well. I don't think my grandfather did that, at least not to the extent of other people.

After a while, he'd recognize some of the players. Some of them, like 'Babe' Young or 'Snuffy' Stirnweiss, would fade into obscurity, but there was a Bob Lemon rookie that he held onto, and there were cards of Hank Bauer and Pee-Wee Reese that he'd cherish.

And also, most people from that era didn't hold onto those cards, they let their mothers throw them out when they went to live their own lives. Not my grandfather. He managed to hold onto them, kept them in a place where he knew they'd be, and managed to keep them in his house, especially when my dad came around.

My dad collected cards too. I mean, of course, because how the hell else would I have a blog if he didn't?

My dad had it easier, though. He'd take his bike down to the 7-11 and get a few packs of cards. And he also had it pretty cheap, but he'd get more cards for a tiny bit more money. And he'd take 'em home, look at them, sort them, and occasionally run into his father's room and say 'hey, look who I got!'

We've all been there. We've all felt that.

The difference here is that my grandfather had a trump card. Every once and a while, when my dad would flaunt pulling a Vida Blue, or a Reggie Jackson, or a Goose Gossage, my grandfather would pull something out of a drawer and say 'c'mere', and he'd have, in top-loaders i presume, those '48 and '49 Bowmans, right beside all the coins he'd collected, and there were a ton of them, after those Bowman sets had been long finished.

And as he'd flip through the players that my dad vaguely knew, like Bob Lemon and Pee-Wee Reese, he'd come to the one guy that he KNEW my dad would gasp at.

It was Yogi Berra, from 1948 Bowman. And it was his rookie card.

My dad must have leapt.

Flash forward a few more decades. Now I'm in the picture. I've taken the reins of my father's collection, or at least what I knew of it that existed, and I'm sorting it by team, by year, by position (that one did not go very well. I had a very big pitcher pile). I didn't really have a sense of good or bad players yet, I just liked what looked cool. And then 2007 comes around, and I start buying packs, and I start really getting into it.

Around this time, my grandfather's health is failing. He'd been on a slope for a few years, and things, sadly, weren't looking too good. He was still himself, at times, and he still loved the hell out of seeing me, but a lot had changed.

We found out he had a gigantic cavalcade of cards still in his basement. Some were my dad's. So, one day in July 2007, I'll never forget it, we get there, and there's a whole mess of everything on the dining room table. Wax boxes. Top-loaders. 40-counters. There was a ton of cards there, and because my uncle collected some, he got a few boxes out of it, and the rest would go to us.

And as I was sifting through some of the really good stuff, I got to those top-loaders my dad had seen those years before. He didn't tell me. He didn't tell me the caliber of that kind of stuff. I knew there would be some sort of '48 line, but not who'd be there.

I got past the second Stirnweiss when I saw him.

It was a black-and-white card, but it had a hint of sepia. There he was, swinging his bat, looking at the camera, with a focused expression and a curled brow. He was a baseball legend, and he was staring my through this cardboard portal, through this square that could transcend time.

He was Yogi Berra. And he was mine.

My grandfather died a year later. It was heartbreakingly sad. Even at a young, semi-naive age I was very broken up about it. I spoke at his funeral and everything, and I had this optimistic tone. Like he'd be up there, chatting with Billy Martin and Casey Stengel about the game, or something.

Well, now Yogi's up there with him too. And he must be in joy, my grandfather. I can imagine them going on for hours.

I still have the Yogi card, by the way. I never planned on parting with it, and I don't think I ever will. It's a very important card to me, monetary value aside. Whenever I see that card, I think of my grandfather's young eyes, watching it as it tumbled down the machine and into the hand-slot. I think of his eyes when he realized how much it would mean to me to have it.

As long as I live, I will never forget that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

And now, a Steven Souza custom that's been sitting in my 'finished' box for two months

Of course, you could also argue that the Rays have been finished for two months, but that's too easy.

Besides, this custom is really nice.

...and then there's the Rockies...

This is actually a really cool Charlie Blackmon custom. I'm glad I made it.

The sad part is that this is probably one of the few really good things about the Rockies' 2015 season.

I've made a lot of really nice Rockies customs this year, because I'm trying to help people recognize the fact that, while there's a lot of awful going on, the team's not all bad, and there are a lot of really great performances going on this year, especially in the middle infield. Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez have had a great second half of the season.

But the sad reality is that it's impossible for this team to have a good pitching staff. I don't care if Clayton Kershaw played for the Rockies. He's getting hit and his quality's decreasing. The entire pitching staff looked awful this year, with maybe one or two exceptions, maybe a few middle relievers that didn't entirely screw up.

I honestly have no idea how the Colorado Rockies can turn things around. If I can suggest a place which is a bit more pitcher-friendly, I heard the Montreal stadium's been vacant for a decade or so...

Actually, I do appreciate the Rockies being in Denver, and I don't want a backlash, but there has to be a way to make pitching work without moving the stadium out of Denver. They need to get good pitching, guys that can outdo the elevation problem, if that's even possible. Because if they don't succeed in that, that Expos joke I made last par? Might not be a joke.

Coming Tonight- A relatively big Tampa rookie who had a decent start this year, and whose custom I've been saving since roughly July.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Somebody Save this Amazing Baseball Story! Quick!

When the Astros crept up to the top of the AL West and fought off all competitors, the audience was thrilled. Nobody thought they'd be able to do it, let alone at this caliber, and to see people like Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel playing amazing baseball for a first place team...that was astounding.

Even more astounding was the fact that, for a short period of time, the Astros were the best team in baseball. The Royals had less wins than the Astros at one point, and they had a ton of momentum this year.

That's why it's really sad that the Rangers have overtaken the Astros for control of the AL West. For a while the Astros were THE baseball story this year...and now they've fallen to second place, where, unless they retake 1st, they'll likely have to square off against whoever loses this AL East battle (so most likely the Yankees) for the Wild Card spot. And a team that had a year like this one should not simply have a wild card attempt to show for their efforts.

The Astros need to pick things up, and potentially catch up to the Rangers, or else this great story doesn't especially matter. They have enough pitching, and enough young bats, that they could potentially be a nice postseason threat, kind of like the Royals last year. It can definitely happen, but only if the Astros can make it happen for themselves.

Coming Tomorrow- His team may be in last, but at least he has really nice facial hair.

The Feel-Good Team of 2015

in 2008, Sports Illustrated ran a cover with Kosuke Fukudome on it. They put some fancy little Japanese characters on that cover, which translates to 'It's Gonna Happen.' The 2008 Cubs were so promising, thanks to people like Derrek Lee, Geovany Soto and even KosFu, that people thought they were a legitimate World Series threat in 2008. In reality, the Dodgers kicked their ass in the NLDS.

In 2003...people thought the same thing. SI had another cover, with Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, saying, basically, 'these guys could be pitching in the World Series'. And they got extremely close, I might add. That team very well might have been a great WS team. Sure, they would have gotten shellacked by the 2003 Yankees, but they could have made a wonderful matchup. Instead, they got screwed by one of their own fans, and lost that critical NLCS game to the Marlins, who ended up winning the whole thing.

It's been seven years. And the Cubs, while not the out-and-out overall favorite, and not the top seed, are getting the same comparisons. They're amazing. They're fun. They've got depth. They could win it all.

I mean, I'd honestly love for the Cubs to win it all this year. They're so much fun to watch, and they have enough talent for that to be considered a very nice possibility. Only problem is they're going in, most likely, as a Wild Card optional, and will have to play either the Cardinals or the Pirates (if the Cardinals hold onto their lead), and then will have to play the other one anyway. Any way you look at it, it's going to be tough for them to get around this.

However...they have a lot of opportunities to be truly great this season. I'm not sure if they're gonna get all the way, but I think they'll get very close. It would be really nice if they made a strong run this year, and get far enough that their presence is known. I think they can do it. I'd love for them to.

I may just be very sentimental because I saw these guys play really well when I saw them in July, but this is a team that deserves great things to happen to them.

Coming Tonight- Oh, no! The Astros are in danger! If only there was some awesome pitching that could do something about that!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Well, at least the Indians tried...

The Indians are a team that got very, very close to being memorable, very close to being a legit playoff contender, but just lost too many games.

There was a lot of progress going on this season, especially in the pitching staff. Plus, they got rid of some contracts around the deadline and became an even stronger, more cohesive unit. So there was a ton of progress going on, especially during the second half. When the Tigers completely collapsed, the Indians took full advantage of that, and came close to lapping the Twins.

I just feel like they just didn't have enough to completely dominate a division, or a WC spot. They were really good this year, but can retool their team into a playoff contender for 2016.

Francisco Lindor will likely be leading that charge, as he had a breakout season, and brought his A game to nab the starting shortstop spot, which he deserves. Him and Kipnis make a really nice middle infield, too.

Something good will happen in Cleveland, and it will likely happen very soon.

Coming Tomorrow- The outfielder who we all thought was the next Bob Hamelin...until he joined the 2015 Cubs.

Where did the 2015 Phillies go Right?

In order to fully articulate how awful the Philadelphia Phillies have been this season, look no further than this custom. Amazing, right? I had to take a photo from LAST YEAR in order to make it. As in, nothing this cool happened to Carlos Ruiz this year.

The Phillies have been atrocious this year, trading away their talented players, getting their replacements injured, and relying on unreliable players, especially in the pitching staff. Plus, they've had to call up a TON of people that might not have been ready. It's a good thing that Aaron Altherr, Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco were all ready, because that hasn't been the case for everyone.

The one Phillies game I went to this year, they beat the Blue Jays, which was pretty damn miraculous, especially considering that this was during the second half, when the Blue Jays were unstoppable. I don't know happened, but they pulled out. It was one of the few times that actually happened.

I have no idea what the Phillies can do to pick this up, because they're gonna have to rely on youth for a WHILE until this whole thing cements itself, so that they don't have to trade all their big guns. They're probably getting the #1 draft pick next year, and they're likely gonna get somebody huge, so they will need to build their foundation NOW so that by the time this kid comes up, he'll fit right in and not flop hard.

The Phillies being good again won't happen for another few years. But I'm not saying it can't happen. It just won't happen in 2016.

Coming Tonight (?)- The hard-hitting shortstop for a team that probably won't be making the playoffs this year.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

2015 Topps Football: A Going Away Present

I find it incredibly sad that Panini, starting next year, will become the only card company to release football cards, meaning that Topps football will be no more starting next year. That's horrible. The football cards I collected were all Topps, and I stuck with them until they gave me a reason not to. The last few years of Topps cards have been overstuffed, frenzied, and I barely collected any of it.

So when I picked up a hanger-box of 2015 Topps today, I did it out of respect, and because this may be one of the last times I buy Topps football cards.

However...the product pleasantly surprised me, and I'm going to share, as I rip the box, reasons why I think Topps should stick around, ones only pertaining to this year's product. Things they're doing right, really.

190- Derek Carr
Reason #1- The design is a lot more simplistic than the last few years. True, they follow the scoreboard-ish route that 2015 Baseball sort of hinted at, and the bordering is the same type as last year's, but it's still very classy, and very light.
Reason #2- The emphasis is back on the photo, not the design. Perhaps they learned this from Panini.
Reason #3- Minimal foil. Only the Topps logo is in foil, and that makes sense.
48- Marvin Jones
210- Philip Rivers.
Reason #4- I can pull two starting quarterbacks in the first 3 cards. And they're both pretty good cards.
106- DeAndre Hopkins
205- Mike Evans. Apparently he's one of the better things about Tampa Bay right now.
139- Dwayne Allen
261- Giants Team Card
276- Seahawks Team Card
262- Steelers Team Card
Reason #5- The photography on those team cards? Top notch.
353- Ben Roethlisberger Topps 60 insert. Apparently they're ranking the Top 60 current players throughout the set. Stealing NFL Net's niche.
44- Troy Polamalu. Man, this final tribute would really be fitting if I COULD SEE CAREER STATS OR SOMETHING
301- JJ Watt DPOTY. And he deserved it, too.
53- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Nelson Muntz' favorite player
108- Riley Cooper. BEAUTIFUL SHOT
271- Elvis Dumervil All Pro. I love how this photo has a purple tint. That's cool.
99- Vontaze Burfict
340- DeMarco Murray
Reason #6- Actually trying to photoshop players into new uniforms, rather than just putting the new team logo in the design, but keeping them in their old uni in the photo like a lazy ass.
333- Kam Chancellor.
179- Jeremy Kerley
284- John Kuhn All Pro.
346- CJ Anderson 60, a Broncos standout
479- Leonard Williams RC. 6th overall pick, which is pretty nice.
424- Landon Collins RC
414- Phillip Dorsett RC
488- Kenny Hillard RC. At least the photo is better here
490- Tevin Coleman RC
459- Bryce Petty RC, a Jets QB who could end up starting this year if Fitzpatrick blows some games.
462- Tyler Lockett RC
470- Jalen Collins RC
500- Jameis Winston RC. Always nice to pull a card of the first round pick.
223- DeSean Jackson. Currently injured. That's what he gets.
39- Rolando McClain
178- Jace Amaro
35- Dez Bryant. Maybe NOW he'll shut his mouth for a while...
133- Chris Ivory, Jets standout
47- Andy Dalton. Always nice to pull cards of him.
156- Brandin Cooks
267- Cardinals TC
290- Chiefs TC
217- Markus Wheaton, which is a great shot
263- Rob Gronkowski All Pro. Uggghhhhh
373- Brandon Marshall 60
339- TY Hilton 60
121- Andre Williams
356- Patrick Peterson 60. HE'S ONLY #35???
135- Jordan Matthews. YAY EAGLES
470- Jalen Collins GOLD #'D TO 2015
All Time Fantasy Legends insert of Steve Young
Fantasy Focus of Dez Bryant. Urrrrghhh
1000 Yard Club of Antonio Brown
4000 Yard of Club of Drew Brees
1986T insert of Bryce Petty
1986T insert of Tyler Lockett
Past and Present Performers of Odell Beckham and LT
A shiny 50's Topps reprint of DeVante Parker
27- Golden Tate
273- Marshall Yanda All Pro
360- Joe Flacco Topp 60
297- Justin Houston All Pro
282- Pat McAfee All Pro
464- Jeff Heurman RC
461- Jesse James RC
437- Bo Wallace RC
498- Josh Robinson RC
493- Keith Mumphery RC
487- Denzel Perryman RC
495- Rashad Greene RC
448- Duke Johnson RC
393- Michael Bennett RC
497- Ameer Abdullah RC. Finally someone I've heard of!

So, while I can see why Topps is on its way out of football, there is a lot in this set that it did right. The photography, inserts and effort are all there. It just gets tiresome as the pack goes on and there's nothing really new. There's a reason why Panini is keeping their license, because they're keeping it fresh.

I may buy one or two more packs eventually, but I'm not 100% won over.

Severino of the Universe

(Yeah, I'll admit that the pun there was a bit of a stretch.)

So the Yankees, and i'll even admit this, aren't necessarily the team to beat this playoff season. Assuming they get in, which is pretty likely, they will have to play in the Wild Card game, which is pretty high-stakes enough. Then, if they win that, they'll have to play five games with the Kansas City Royals, one of the most lethal teams in the AL.

So what I'm trying to say right now is unless the Yankees become inexplicably hot...they're pretty screwed.

Sad, too, because a lot of things about this team really work. A-Rod's had a spectacular season, Didi Gregorius has managed to have a pretty great season at shortstop, the outfield is hitting, and the pitching is pretty strong. Plus, Luis Severino and Greg Bird's call ups were the smartest things the Yankees did this year, because both of them have been absolutely astounding.

People knew how good these guys were, and it was the kind of thing where they've been waiting in the wings for a few years, and people were just waiting them to get up there and be amazing. And so far, they've been pretty excellent. Granted, there have been a few call ups, like Slade Heathcott, Rob Refsnyder and Mason Williams, that haven't amounted to much, but they'll be a lot better down the road (hopefully).

Bottom line is that the Yankees have a lot of potential, and a lot of good left in them. The predictable assumption is that they'll have a very short playoff run this year. I, however, am hoping they have enough momentum going to be a truly great team, and run as fas as they can go into October. It's risky, it'll be tough...but wouldn't it be nice if it happened?

Coming Tonight- A formal funeral for the 2015 Phillies.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Giants Sprung a Leake (but actually did pretty okay!)

Was tempted to title this one "There's a Leake, There's a Leake, in the Boiler Room", but, you know, nobody would get it.

I feel like all of today was dedicated to hailing dead teams. First the Reds. Then the Angels. Now the Giants. These guys are the most alive of these dead teams, because if it weren't for the Cubs being WAAAYYY out in front, they'd have a shot at a Wild Card. But nope. Such is not the case.

I do applaud los gigantes for their valiant effort, getting people like Mike Leake, Marlon Byrd and Alejandro de Aza from other teams for a potential playoff that probably isn't happening. And it's a shame, because the Giants actually had a really nice team this year. Their infield is a pretty amazing one, too. Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Matt Duffy and Brandon Crawford are all young and really good, and if they stay together they'll be amazing. Plus, Buster Posey's had another MVP-caliber season, and Nori Aoki is making a case to actually stay on a team for more than one season.

So why did the Giants end up in the 'juuuuuuust missed it' position in the NL? Well...the momentum that they had this season could not last for the whole season. They lost some pretty important matches, and couldn't take advantage of a lead on the division. The Dodgers, meanwhile, are overall stronger than then this season in a lot of the important categories.

The Giants would also be a wild card team ANY OTHER YEAR...just not this one. The Pirates and Cubs are just too good to miss the cut.

Matter of fact...and this is controversial, but i'm goin' ahead with it anyway...the 2015 Giants are a better team, a tighter team, and a better playoff team...than the one that just squeaked into the playoffs last year.

So yes. A team that is missing the playoffs this year is, in my opinion, a better overall team that one that snuck into the playoffs and won a World Series.

Baseball is a crazy sport. Being good and winning one year...being better and losing the next. It's all so cruel. But it's worth it. year's an even year. The Giants must love that promise.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the two rookies that are currently making me think the Yankees might actually have a shot this postseason.

Anaheim Waits for No Man (except maybe Scioscia)

I feel really bad for the Angels. Because they were there. They were right there!

For most of the year it was the Astros and the Angels fighting for first, and it got pretty heated, too. The Angels took a lead for a while, and then the Astros got back ahead, and for a while the Angels weren't very far behind, hanging on and staying right there in it.

So what happened to break them into third place? Well, in a word...August.

Their record in August was atrocious, as they lost CJ Wilson and David Freese, which is actually hysterical because they were both the big stars of the 2011 World Series, a World Series that disappointed me...and now they go and disappoint all of Anaheim. Also, their trade deadline additions didn't really make a difference, and the guys that were hitting before the All Star break...began to slow down a bit. Even Mike Trout has been working semi-average (for the rest of the MLB, not for Mike Trout) numbers. You know, other than his 38 homers.

I am not sure if the Angels will end up clinching the final Wild Card spot, because they'd really have to catch the Astros there, and that's looking like it's not especially going to happen, unless they completely lose momentum. So while 2015 was a valiant effort, the focus now is going to be towards making sure this exact same thing does not happen in 2016.

Coming Tonight- The Giants may be inching out of the playoff race, but the guy they plucked from Cincinnati is still doing pretty well.

The Reds Aren't Exactly Dead...

I mean, in terms of the 2015 season, yeah, they're dead. They're deader than JFK.

But in terms of their future...naw, far from it.

The Cincinnati Reds have a ton more than most last place teams are boasting right now. They have people like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Todd Frazier and Billy Hamilton, all of whom are playing pretty damn well. Their offense needs some retooling, for sure, but they are the guys doing things right. Votto is gonna end the year with a ton of home runs, like he should. Frazier's gonna go high in the MVP voting, that's for sure.

What they need to work on, however, is their pitching. Their surefire arms are gone. All they have left is a couple of young guys who give up runs, and Raisel Iglesias, who has been wonderful his last few starts, and could definitely be the next Johnny Cueto. They need to either refine the guys they have, or bring up some new blood and work with them, because the pitching is going to keep them in last.

The Reds, if they hold onto what they have, have the makings to be a potentially great team sometime soon. They just need to build on their stuff, or else Aroldis Chapman could be pitching for the Rangers by this time next year.

Coming Today/Tonight- His Angels may be something resembling dead, but he's still had another great season as their ace.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How Alex Gordon Saved a Franchise

Flash back with me, if you will, to 2006. The White Sox were the defending World Series champions, Johan Santana was still a legitimate threat, and Upper Deck still had an MLB license.

The Kansas City Royals were also a completely different team. First and foremost, with the exception of Zack Greinke, they had no pitching. They were emphasizing on younger stars like Angel Berroa and Mark Teahen who wouldn't really pan out, while still holding onto aging stars like Mike Sweeney and Mark Grudzielanek. The Royals' priorities were in all the wrong places in 2006, and they were getting into their rut of landing at the bottom of the AL Central (or near the bottom thanks to the Tigers).

However, the only good thing that happened to the Royals in 2006 was documented on a baseball card that barely anybody got to see.

I don't know if a lot of current bloggers/collectors remember the infamous Alex Gordon incident of 2006, but Topps took Alex Gordon's rookie card, which was a pretty big deal, and gimmicked the hell out of it so that the odds of finding one were lower than the odds of the 2015 Phillies winning a game (without Aaron Nola on the mound). So Alex Gordon's REAL Topps rookie from 2006 was lost to time, and stupidity.

Yet at least Topps was right in basically nudging collectors and going "HEY! THIS GUY COULD BE PRETTY BIG!" Because once the Royals were able to build a team around Gordon, which happened a little after Mike Sweeney left in 2007, the team got so much better. I mean, yeah, they still had some years in last, which was bound to happen, but after a while they became a third place team, and then a wild card standout, and now...the #1 team in the AL.

It helps that Alex Gordon didn't make the mistake that Bryce Harper is making, which is that he's coming off way too strong at the beginning, so that once Harper has, you know, normal seasons, the fans are going to turn on him (wait for it, I guarantee it's comin'). Alex Gordon had a slow build, having some good seasons before eventually having great seasons, and spreading them out. Plus, even though he was really the centerpiece of the team, Gordon hasn't done all the work, letting Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales and Mike Moustakas do some major hitting this year.

Bottom line is that Alex Gordon is capable of carrying a team, even if he's not always the team's standout. He's more like an authority figure, or a role model, for everyone else. He's had some great seasons, and will have a few more, but he's gonna be known for turning this team into a huge-time success story, and that's a pretty big thing to be known for.

Coming Tomorrow- The Reds cleaned most of their pitching staff this July. which means they had room in the rotation for this fireballer, who's become the toast of their pitching.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Custom Card of the Day: Zimmermann Edition

The Nationals, I think got very unlucky at the exact wrong time. Yeah, they had a really nice season, and are one of the standouts in the NL east, but they only made one move at the trade deadline, and it was for a position that was already filled. So the Mets had every right to take advantage of that.

The Nats, even if they fell apart, still had some definite highlights. Their pitching staff was, as usual, awesome this year, thanks to performances from Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and the guy above, giving another really nice performance, and proving that he's been the real ace of the Nats, not Strasburg.

I think that, in 2016, the Nationals need to have a huge year, because the pieces are there. They need to refine what's already strong, and maybe make a few supplements, because they have a cohesive unit. The problem is people either get cold or get injured at the wrong time. If they all stay together, and healthy, we could be talking about a big team in 2016.

Jordan Zimmermann could be a big part of this if he has another great season, which he definitely could, given his success over the last few seasons.

Coming Tomorrow- The outfielder for the Royals who, despite an injury, has helped this team become the offensive behemoth it is now.

I Can't Stay Mad at Ben Revere

Who could stay mad at somebody as awesome as THAT GUY?

This guy was one of my favorite Phillies for a good year or so back there. He was fun, he was quick, he hit for average, and he did his job. And BECAUSE he did his job...Amaro traded his ass to the Blue Jays.

Which is why I'm happy Amaro is gone.

Ben Revere has, so far, been doing really well for the Jays, being an outfield standout and getting a nice amount of hits. I can't really hate the guy, because he'll be a Phillie in my heart forever. I just hope his team does well enough this year that he can be happy about it.

Coming Tonight- The Nats may be out of it, but at least they have this guy pitching pretty well.

Keep an Eye on the Dodgers

(I considered at one point calling this post 'My Pennant Winner with Andre'. I also considered not calling it that. Be thankful I went with the latter consideration)

Every year the Dodgers make it to the playoffs, which has been several of the last few, there's always been talk of them getting very far in, and then nothing ever really materializes, which is sad, because they've been a perennially great team.

Well, even on the eve a potential Mets-Dodgers NLDS...I am saying, confidently, that the Dodgers can actually accomplish something anymore.

(All the Yoenis-lovers promptly leave the post)

Now, let me explain.

You see, I do think that Mets-Dodgers will be an incredibly tough matchup. However, there is a way that it doesn't have to be Mets-Dodgers.

Say, for instance, that the Dodgers can get hot enough to be within reach of the first seed. Right now they're at 83-60. The Cardinals are at 89-54. The Pirates could be there soon. If the Dodgers stay hot, and the Cardinals stay cold, they could be remarkably close to a first seed.

I'm not even whistling. It could happen. This team has enough offensive power that it's not too much of a stretch. Look at what Andre Ethier's been doing this season. Look at Adrian Gonzalez. Look at the bench players. This team could actually get places, and this is a team that doesn't deserve a very predictable Mets-Dodgers matchup.

I really want the Dodgers to get somewhere this season. By any means necessary.

Coming Today- I was supposed to post a Tulo custom today, but, you know, he went and got injured again. So I get to post a player on the Jays that I actually like.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Every Pennant Race is Bigger in Texas

Not everyday when '4th and 5th place' one year is the same matchup as 'two teams who want the division title' the next year.

The Astros have had a hold on the AL West all year. The Rangers have been volleying for third all year with Anaheim, and broke out into second in a big way. Now both teams are volleying for first over the course of this four-game series that could determine...well, who the Blue Jays get to play (and that works whether or not they stay atop the AL East) in the playoffs.

The easy money would go to the Astros, as they've been leading for most of the year, and have had the mother of all youth movements swoop up and carry their team. Plus, the guys they've traded for have been doing pretty well, especially Scott Kazmir and Carlos Gomez. Meanwhile, the Rangers didn't need a youth movement, as the guys they've already had are doing most of the heavy lifting. Derek Holland's having an incredible return to form, Colby Lewis has been phenomenal, and Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre have been moving the ball like old pros.

So I have no idea who's gonna leave this series on top, because it could be either one. It's likely going to be the Astros, yet I think the Rangers can do more damage in the playoffs. So either way, you're getting someone who can be a major postseason force.

Coming Tomorrow- The Dodgers' outfielder whose bat has finally returned, and has been hitting like a pro again.

The NL Central Revolution

Man, you have no idea how long people have waited to see this.

And no, I'm not talking about Aramis Ramirez back on the Buccos.

You see, the entire year the St. Louis Cardinals have been on top, not only of the NL Central, but on top of the MLB. They have hoisted themselves up to the very top rung of this ladder, and for all this time they have refused to come down.

Yet now...they're just beginning to run out of steam, having a very down week. And it's just in time, because the Pirates, a team that has become stronger with every passing week, are just 2 and a half games out of first place.

The Pirates have all started hitting at the same time, especially Aramis Ramirez, back for his final semester in the bigs. But Josh Harrison, Frankie Cervelli, Andrew McCutchen, Jung-Ho Kang and Starling Marte are ALL hitting, and the team is moving mountains right now. They're even getting Michael Morse to hit pretty damn well off the bench.

Bottom line is if the Pirates overtake the Cardinals for the NL Central lead, the entire league would explode. Dethroning the Cardinals, especially now, is a pretty big deal. Which is why the Pirates need to do it in a big way. They're about to start a 4-game series with the Cubs, and that's gonna be pretty tough on its own. So they really need to out hit the Cubs, because this is an opportunity that might not come around again. And they need to take advantage of it before it slips away and wins another world series. If the Pirates take the first seed, that means the Cardinals will have to play the Cubs, and that could be a pretty tough matchup. But something tells me this will come down to a Cardinals-Pirates NLDS, and whoever has kept the most momentum will be the team to beat, which is why the Pirates need to stay hot.

I know the Pirates can pull this off. Which is why they absolutely need to.

Coming Today or Tonight- One of the commanding arms currently facing off in the Battle of Texas this week.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Nostalgic Box Break: 2004 Topps Total (Part 2)

Last week I gave you Part 1 of this box. Now we're onto the second third. Remember, kiddies, we've already pulled a pretty nice rookie card in King Felix Hernandez, yet there are a few more to look for that we might hit soon.

Here goes another 12 packs:

Pack 13- Ah, those Expos logos bring me back to a time when they still existed...good times...

I'm beginning to think that Eric Young just never retired. He just played for a few decades, took some years in the minors, and transferred his consciousness into his son's body so he could keep playing for more random teams.

Scott Stewart is trying to bean the cameraman. How rude.

Our highlights. A still-somewhat-young Adam Dunn, and a year-or-so-before-finally-retiring Rafael Palmeiro.

Pack 14- Hey guys, remember when Ryan Wagner was supposed to be really good??

Three excellent pitchers. Westbrook has retired, but Marquis and K-Rod are still at it. Marquis had some games with the Reds this year, and K-Rod is still an elite closer with Milwaukee.

Pack 15- this pack was taken over by Pirates. Aaaaaaghh.

Other than being a Matt Capps rookie, this is also a really awesome card.
Preston Wilson had ONE really good season. This was the year AFTER that good season.

Ervin Santana is an excellent pitcher, and still has some good stuff even a few seasons after becoming a standout in LA. This, that being said, is still a pretty nice pull.

Pack 16- THIS PACK reminds me how 2004 this was. Man, Nomar on the sox? Rodrigo Lopez is the Orioles' ace? Man, what a year.

A reminded that Joaquin Benoit has been around forever.

Nomar gets the insert, and he'd be traded to the Cubs by July. Johan, it's just sad what happened to him.

Pack 17- A much more successful pack, and one I forgot to de-blur.

Always nice to pull a card of the starting third baseman for my 2008 Champion Phillies.

D'you think this guy's a fan of Pat Venditte? Maybe they both get coffee together on off days. Then they try to see who can throw their cup into the trash in the weirdest way.

Magglio. Torii. Ichiro. Three first names that defined baseball in the early 2000's. Torii and Ichiro are still around, although signs are saying this could be their last month in the majors.

Pack 18- I still adore this set, even if the rip's half over. Even its greyness is charming to me.

I had no idea either of these guys were on either of these teams.

Michael Young, an Arlington fan favorite, and Rafael Soriano, one of the most durable closers in baseball.

Pack 19- There's an alarming amount of closers in this pack.

Three guys who were very indicative of the fact that it was 2004. David Bell as the Phillies' third baseman? Aw, man, what a time.

Do you think that these guys would be horrified if they realized they were on the Padres NOW instead of 2004?

A-Rod gets a shiny Total Production insert, and two cards of awesome closing pitchers.

Pack 20- Another kind of blurry group shot.

Closest possible things to highlights.

Pack 21...did not have a group shot.
Two Yankees who I forgot we still had in 2004.

Our Total Topps insert is of a guy who totally wouldn't be on Topps cards in a span of six years.

Two sort-of-rookies, of Grady Sizemore and Jose Reyes, which is still pretty nice.

Pack 22- The first of three very one-note packs.

A guy who was juuuust fading into obscurity, and a guy who had faded into obscurity almost instantly.

Pack 23- At least the inserts stand out in this set.

Garret Anderson, as people seem to forget, was a great hitter for a long time. Carlos Beltran, as absolutely no one forgets, has a bat that seems to transcend time and space.

Pack 24- A blurry group shot, but you can see some talent in there.

Eddie Alfonzo! Wow! Forgot he was still around in '04.

Tex and J-Rol in the same pack. That's pretty awesome. Also, another Garret Anderson.

I will post the last third of this sometime soon, but it's still a very fresh box.