Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tulo for Zero

Here at Mint Condition, we're rather consistent on our year-to-year events. For example, for two straight years, Mint Condition has constantly screamed at the Blue Jays for undeservedly being in first...only for them to stay in first for the rest of the run. Classic stuff.

While it's not by as steep a margin as last year, the Blue Jays are still in first going toward September, and it's going to take some impressively harsh work from Baltimore and Boston to keep them out of the playoffs.

I am still firm in my belief that the team isn't as good as it was last year, as David Price, Ben Revere and Mark Buehrle made the team truly great, and now they're all gone. Yes, more players like Michael Saunders, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada have stepped up, but Russell Martin, Roberto Osuna, Marcus Stroman and Jose Bautista aren't to their 2015 conditions.

So, yes, while it's nice that Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki are still's still not a complete team. These guys aren't close to where they were in 2015, when they, yes, in hindsight, DESERVED to scratch and claw their way to the ALCS. Here...they aren't whole. They aren't all on the same page. And while they could potentially make a run for the playoffs, I see someone like Boston, who are a lot more consistent all around, or Baltimore, who only have some rotation issues to work out, clinching the division instead. still could be Toronto. They've surprised me before.

Coming Tomorrow- Your monthly reminder that the Marlins could still potentially make the playoffs.

And now, a Derek Norris custom without context

...Yeah, this is a pretty nice one. I'll leave it at that for the morning.

I'll give a post with some more substance tonight.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Last Cleveland Detail

For a good couple years, Coco Crisp was a steady, speedy part of a consistently underwhelming Indians squad. He spent some time winning a World Series in Boston, slumming it in Kansas City, and helping the Athletics get back to the postseason. Up until recently, he was one of the few remaining members from the famed 2012 Playoff Oakland roster.

Now...he's back in Cleveland where he belongs, thanks to a trade that juuuuust went through today. And...things are pretty right with the world.

First of all, he joins the most unlikely successful outfield in baseball, with Rajai Davis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer and Tyler Naquin all floating around in the mix, all but Davis hitting over .300. It's a combination that keeps getting richer, and Crisp adds some bench depth that they've needed.

Secondly, he secures the possibility that the Indians are not only for real, but could make a serious playoff run happen. Yes, this is a team that's been ahead forever, but now they're beginning to sprout wings and head towards the finish in a huge way.

This is a move that makes me very happy, and will probably cement the status of an already-great team.

Coming Tomorrow- the Derek Norris I promised.

Not Necessarily The Best Trade of the Offseason

This is why hindsight is so powerful in this business.

This winter, two shortstops for okay teams were traded for each other. Andrelton Simmons was traded to Anaheim for Erick Aybar, who was sadly forced to play for the Braves. And at the time, everyone was enthused about how this would shake up the balance and give the Angels huge advantage in the race (remember, the Angels were pretty good last year), while still being nice enough for the Braves.

In didn't really affect anything at all. Neither one had an absolutely spectacular season, other than doing slightly okay for themselves. Erick Aybar didn't even stay in Atlanta- he's currently backing up the infield in Detroit.

Andrelton Simmons is still a great infielder and a great player, but because the Angels are so unspectacular this season, he can't really shine- and even worse for him, this is a team that has two of the biggest stars in baseball (I am of course referring to Geovany Soto and Tyler Skaggs), and he really can't stick his head into the equation very often.

So, while some deals that trade two perfectly good infielders for each other (like Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler, or Brett Lawrie for Josh Donaldson, or even Edwin Encarnacion for Scott Rolen) are pretty well remembered for giving one team in particular a surefire hit player that changed the face of the team, this one...isn't doing much for anybody for the moment. Maybe I'll give them both some time, though.

Coming Tonight- Speaking of futile teams with trades that went nowhere, one of the two remaining players from the influx of new blood from San Diego's 2015 offseason.

How is Jedd Gyorko Saving St. Louis???

...I'm actually legitimately asking.

This is a guy that came up with gutter balls for three years in San Diego, as a middle infielder who could BARELY hit. He had MODEST STUFF, at best, and was a bit more known as a fielder. And so, he was sort of shipped to St. Louis (for Jon Jay), making him a Khalil Greene type...until he came to the Cardinals this year and essentially turned into Daniel Descalso 2.0.

Like, he plays every infield position, and is hitting EXTRAORDINARILY WELL for the Cards. Like, for average, for distance, for power, for singles...he's doing everything that most of the roster couldn't do for the last 4 months. And thanks in part to Jedd Gyorko, the Cardinals are BEGINNING to come back. Like, it's still a pretty tight race for that wild card spot, between them and Pittsburgh, but the hitting is beginning to take shape. Molina's hitting again, Carpenter's coming back, Grichuk and Piscotty are still on fire. The Pirates are going to need to work extra hard to stop the uprising.

I just find it very weird that someone like Gyorko, who's had a couple of okay seasons, just completely came alive this season. I'm not sure if it's a fluke or the new normal, but it's odd, awe-inspiring and...interesting. This has been a very interesting season, to be honest.

Coming Tomorrow- Speaking of recently-traded middle-infielders, here's one that got a way worse shake of the stick than Gyorko, though...he's probably thankful he's not back where he was last year.

Monday, August 29, 2016

What Exactly Went Wrong in Comiskey?

In April, the White Sox were the best team in the AL. By July, they were one of the worst.

This actually saddened me a lot, because, as I wrote, by the end of last season the Sox had the foundations for a pretty impressive squad. They had Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia and Chris Sale all ready, with people like David Robertson, Melky Cabrera and Jose Quintana coming in incredibly smoothly. By the offseason, Brett Lawrie, Todd Frazier and Alex Avila joined. By April, they were kings...and then poof.

I'll say it had something to do with the lack of pitching depth. Aside from Sale, Quintana and Rodon, there wasn't much going on. Mat Latos was brought in early and got a ton of wins, but also gave up a ton of runs, and was released thereafter. People like Miguel Gonzalez, James Shields, John Danks, Jacob Turner and Anthony Ranuado have started games with mixed, but mostly horrible, results. There's definitely some major issues with starters, because they're all getting beaten up, with the exception of Quintana and Sale.

The lineup is, for the most part, alright, and people like Cabrera, Frazier, Abreu and newly added people like Tim Anderson and Justin Morneau have been especially helpful in keeping the home runs coming. It's not in...dire need, with the exception of some changes in center and catcher. If people stick around and keep producing, they'll be in decent enough shape.

The main problem was they peaked too early- this was not too early, and they got really lucky pretty early on. They didn't have the best team to begin with, and they just rolled off with what they had, and it didn't last very long. It's not RobbyV's fault- he should stick around. For next year, they should do some retooling and hopefully they'll outlast the Royals.

Coming Tonight: Most likely unsung hero in St. Louis

Sunday, August 28, 2016

No More Miracles in Queens

When the 2016 New York Yankees have a better record than you, it's time to throw in the towel.

It's very sad, because for a while, this was one of the most promising rosters in baseball- that is, before injuries happened. If you could just take a cumulative sweet spot so that everybody could be on and healthy at the same time, we'd be getting somewhere, can't do that. Michael Conforto lost all of his steam, Lucas Duda, David Wright and Matt Harvey are hurt, Jay Bruce isn't hitting and the pitching staff, once mighty, is beginning to slow down.

Asdrubal Cabrera is currently one of the three Mets with more than 100 hits on the season, along with Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker. Those three, along with deGrom and Familia, are definitely not sources of pain. Cabrera, aside from his injury, has actually been a nice fit in New York- Jose Reyes, while taking his place for a while, has moved over to third and is doing a pretty commendable job.

There are pieces here and there- Jeurys Familia is probably one of the best closers in baseball right now, and Yoenis Cespedes is getting right back to home-run-hitting business.'s not a full team.  A lot of people are struggling, and the momentum and energy that was there...just has left. The chances to get back to the postseason are pretty slim, as the Marlins are momentarily blocking them, which is sad.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the few perennial saviors of the still-out-of-it White Sox

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Eight Years Later

I get a lot of people down where I live telling me how the Phillies have fallen so far from their Championship year. The only remaining player left on the roster from the 2008 team is Ryan Howard, and he'll likely be done by the end of the season. The only other guy, Carlos Ruiz, was just recently dealt to the Dodgers to further their potential playoff endeavors.

However, you look to the team the Phillies played in the 2008 World Series, and you see the same thing, the same futility. The Rays are 5th place in the AL East and can't do a damned thing this year. The only guy who's stuck around from the 2008 squad is Evan Longoria, who, unlike Howard, is still the absolute best player on that team.

The Rays, like the Phillies, have tried to regroup the team with a huge, sweeping youth movement, but theirs hasn't gone 100% according to plan. Desmond Jennings, who was brought on as the potential savior outfielder, was just released after 6 seasons. Tim Beckham, the former 1st draft pick, is still behind Logan Forsythe, not even starting this year. Matt Moore, the guy who was fantastic for them in 2013, is now doing pretty damn San Francisco.

Yes, there are people like Kevin Kiermaier, Logan Forsythe and Chris Archer who are doing well, but for the most part the team is scattered, muddied and disappointing. There's some definite promise in trade compensations like Brad Miller and Matt Duffy, but I don't think it's enough for immediate success.

Plus, the division won't let up for a little bit. The youth movements in Baltimore, New York and Boston will probably have a hold on the division for a little while (the Jays aren't as young), making it kind of tricky for the Rays to make a jump in the foreseeable future.

For now...they can just rest on what they have, even if it isn't much- they're not where they were in 2008, but they're not entirely lost, either.

Coming Tomorrow- A journeyman shortstop who landed on a...not as great Mets squad.

Not Exactly What You'd Call Ready to Rock

(This custom has been waiting in the bin since May 28th. About time.)
So...while the NL West has been a race between the Dodgers and Giants, and right now the Dodgers are far ahead of the Giants...we have to remember that there are still two other teams in that division, and not all of them are terrible.

I mean...two of them are. Yeah. As you were, San Diego and Arizona. Nono, I want to talk about the Rockies, because aside from their pitching, which is hard to keep in good condition in a homer-heavy ballpark like Coors Field, they're not in the worst place.

If nobody leaves after the season, this is a pretty solid lineup. The infield is Mark Reynolds, DJ LeMahieu, Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado. Reynolds is injured right now, but hopefully the Rockies will get him back next season, as he's been pretty nice so far. The outfield WAS Gerardo Parra, Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon...but then David Dahl came along and started hitting like it was his job. So, there's even some depth if there if CarGo leaves in the offseason, or if they keep CarGo and git rid of Parra or something.

People are hitting, and if it weren't for some structural problems, the Rockies would be a lot better off. But the important thing is that the foundation for a good team is there...they just have to rework it a little.

Coming Tonight- Our monthly reminder that the Rays still exist this year.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Full Range

When the Rangers came to power back in June, there was a lot of 'hmmm', 'eeeerrghh', 'I don't knowww..' in regards to the team's chances to stay on top. I mean, this was a pretty lopsided division, with even the teams in 2nd and 3rd having to fix severe structural issues, so the Rangers were probably going to walk away with it, but they still had a few injuries, and their main problem was their lack of a strong catcher, with Robinson Chirinos struggling to stay healthy, and Bryan Holaday and Bobby Wilson unsuitable, non-hitting options.

Enter Jonathan Lucroy.

Now...with a strong catcher adding to the already-strong remainder of the lineup, and Yu Darvish and Colby Lewis shortly returning to the already-tight pitching staff...the lead's secured. The Rangers might actually waltz to the end.

Lucroy's been hitting pretty well for the team, and even the newest addition, Carlos Gomez, is actually back to his Milwaukee progress in his three games with the team. This is now a more complete, fuller, more powerful team, and even with the Mariners on a slight incline since the end of July, they may just give the Rangers the AL West title now.

This is a team that's been at the very top, and very bottom of the league...and has made the right moves to get where they are right now. This is a young team, with enough veteran players to keep the credibility high. Cole Hamels, Adrian Beltre and Ian Desmond are having some amazing seasons when nobody really thought they would. Hamels is a sleeper Cy Young candidate, Beltre just made his HOF chances a tad better, and Ian Desmond has proved he's got more depth from being a power hitter from Washington.

I'm already predicting that this will be a very heated postseason, because the Rangers will be out for blood. They may not be the fun choice like the Cubs that all the bandwagoners can get behind...but they can win games like nobody else can.

Coming Tomorrow- An outfielder who's been traveling a bit lately, and is doing some nice work in Denver.

The Unsung Hero of the Best Team in Baseball

I believe I've already talked at great length about how wonderful the Chicago Cubs have been doing this season. Several...several times. To the point where all 29 other teams have got to be sick of it by now.

But here...I need to talk about Dexter Fowler. Because this is a guy that people counted out years ago, and now he's become one of the more unlikely sources of power for the Cubs.

Keep in mind...Fowler wasn't even supposed to be playing for the Cubs this year. Thanks to the Cubbies locking up Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber (so they thought) and Jorge Soler, they really didn't need Dexter Fowler back at the top of the season, so he was left to sign somewhere else, and...he almost did. For a few weeks, we kind of assumed Fowler would be suiting up the Orioles, which would have changed that dynamic and potentially brought them a few more wins than they have right now (which is plenty).

However, at the last second, Fowler opted out in favor of going back to Chicago, where he had one of his best offensive seasons since coming up with the Rockies. And that was an amazing decision, because thanks to Fowler, the Cubs have become the best team in baseball by far. Yes, Dexter Fowler, the guy everybody took out of their binders after a quiet 2011 season, is one of the prime players in Chicago.

It's because he was finally given a proper place for his abilities, and because he had the right kind of roster to fit into and thrive with. He's obviously not the star of the show, but he can come in when you least expect it and do something really cool. He's also a nice base-stealer, and a pretty decent defensive outfielder. He's one of those five-tool guys that the Cubs weren't expecting to just have handed to them (thanks to a trade with Houston in '15).

Fowler's probably going to be a huge part of the playoff effort once September comes (in a few days), and will probably be one to watch for in some tough games. I love that he's come this far, and I love that he might go farther.

Coming Tonight- The exact person the Rangers needed to pick up.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

And Somehow the Royals Have Come Back

I don't think the Royals are going to be able to finish the season in first place this year- that ship has sadly sailed...but they're making a heck of a case for literally every other position in the divisional standings this season- they can't decide on one, really. Right now they're gaining like heck on the Tigers for 2nd place, but any other point in the season they could be circling 4th or 5th- they're an inconstant team that doesn't know what they want.

Right now they've won nine games in a row, thanks to the revival of the pitching staff, and people like Danny Duffy giving solid performances in the absence of a lot of the injured, struggling players. Billy Burns, shipped in from Oakland, is doing a pretty solid job and is giving some nice average stuff.

And this is...roughly a month after the Royals essentially threw in the towel and slumped their way underneath the White Sox to take fourth. It's a zig-zaggy kind of year for them, which is pretty sad after they had a solid, constant incline last year.

I don't know if this means they'll be vying for the Wild Card, and I honestly don't think their roster's in the proper condition for a postseason run. Honestly, I think they'll just spend the rest of the season just where they are, in third.

Coming Tomorrow- A career reclamation story years in the making...and, of course, it's happening in Chicago.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Maybe This Wasn't Such a Good Idea: Diamondbacks Edition

Last year, around this time, I was mourning the San Diego Padres, how they'd tried so hard to accumulate enough stars to compete, but still couldn't. And now...around the same time, I'm saying the same things about the Arizona Diamondbacks., there's just nothing going on there this year, man.

The guys that they brought to the team, like Shelby Miller and Zack Greinke, just aren't getting it done. Yes, the hitters like Jean Segura, Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas are perfectly fine, but this is a flawed team, one that has a ton of pieces loose. You can sign whoever the hell you want in January, but new, big contracts aren't gonna help a team with structural problems that have been running since arounnnnd 2013.

This is a team that revolves around Paul Goldschmidt, and thrived on homegrown, impressive pitching, and now that all the contracts were thrown in, it's a bit more...artificial. Goldschmidt's still powerful, but there's scattered emphasis, and a lot of guys who were trying to come up and do big things, like David Peralta and Chris Owings, are struggling.

It's a sad situation, and I do see them doing the same amount of shaving-off that the Padres have been doing this year, when it comes down for the 2017 rosters. Even worse, I don't know if they're gonna hold onto Goldschmidt.

Still...they'll win games and there'll be standouts, but it's not enough. It's a muddied team that put money on the wrong horses, and can only wait until the offseason to regroup.

Coming Tomorrow- Finally, something involving pitching in Kansas City that's worth blogging about!

Nationals vs. Orioles 8/22/16: Not Especially a Pitching Battle...

There were a few reasons why I bought tickets to my third MLB game of the year, this one back in Camden Yards, one of those parks I've been to a billion times:

1. It was a week until I went back to school, and I wanted to fit one more in- my dad and I had planned on going to Fenway this year, but it had become clear due to a few logistical factors that this wouldn't happen. So, we compromised and went to Baltimore.
2. The O's are pennant contending, it'd been 4 years and I wanted to see them, especially in a home stand against the regional rivals the Nationals.
3. The schedule said the matchup would be Stephen Strasburg against Dylan Bundy, and there was no way I was passing that shit up.

So, my dad and I made the brief, by comparison, pilgrimage to Baltimore, and were instantly reminded why we love that stadium. It's just so homey and cool and fun, and there are a ton of elements that just make it a very relaxed place to watch a game- you can see they were trying to replicate someplace like Ebbets Field when they made it.

One of the other reasons why this was such a good game for me was that today, they were doing a giveaway for essentially everybody that made it out- they gave out free Wicker-design baseball caps, with the old 80's logo (like the one on the Britton custom) on it. As a guy who cannot have enough baseball caps, I couldn't refuse.

By the time my dad and I got to our seats, which were pretty nice, especially compared to our usual 'all-the-way-up-at-the-top' seats, we realized that there had been a slight...snag in the plan. Stephen Strasburg had JUUUUUUUST been put on the DL, and in his place, the Nationals were starting a recently-called-up AAA pitcher, A.J. Cole. And...needless to say I felt a bit betrayed. Yes, I'd be seeing Harper and Werth and Trea Turner and all those guys, but...Strasburg pitching would have been so cool.

The O's were starting Dylan Bundy, and, yes, this factor was the same when the O's actually went on the field. But...after an inning of play, it seemed like people were wishing it wasn't- Bundy allowed a run in the first inning, and he was looking more like his wild, clumsy self that he was trying to perfect when he went back to the minors in '14.

And don't get me wrong, Bundy can still throw strikes and be dominant, but when he gets you a win, it's a hard win, and he'll have given up a few home runs here and there- he's not all the way there, but he can still give strikeouts and keep the team down ENOUGH.

Around me in the seats were a nice mix of Nats and O's fans. There was an incredibly excited Baltimore fan sitting next to me, female (which is refreshing), sitting next to her not-quite-as-into-it boyfriend. She said she'd called some Trumbo magic before the game, and she was just waiting for him to do something impressive. Knowing Mark Trumbo, and how he's been this year...I wasn't exactly swatting it down.

Third inning, it wasn't Trumbo that hit the home run off of the surprisingly-dominant was Jonathan Schoop, who was batting eighth in the lineup, yet this was his 20th home run of the year. My dad turned to me, and said "when your #8 guy is hitting 20 homers, you're doing pretty damn well."

It was actually a pretty close race- just when Schoop had homered to tie it, Anthony Rendon got up and hit one out himself, bringing the lead by one back.

And then...the magic that the section-mate had been referring to had begun to unfold. Machado hit a double that Ben Revere bobbled, and Chris Davis doubled himself to score Machado. And then...Mark Trumbo got up. The girl next to me already knew what was about to happen. I just didn't believe her yet.


The ball looked like it was just reaching an arc by the time it had already crossed over the fence. The entire place went wild, and I turned to the girl, who had this 'what'd I tell ya' look on her face. The score was 4-2, and things were looking pretty nice.

As the game sort of gelled into a routine, and as Bundy began to lose steam, the Nationals fan, bluntly honest with a beer in his hand, sitting in front of us began to throw this game into the routine. When Danny Espinosa hit a one-run home run to bring it to 4-3, he was astonished. 'ESPINOZA hit a homer? Espinosa SUCKS!' he exclaimed, mostly in jest. When Revere got him, he turned to me and went 'this guy's even worse than Espinosa.'

For a while, it turned into a battle of the relievers. Brad Brach did get in there and got himself out of an incredibly tight squeeze in the eighth, after Daniel Murphy fouled up the potentially tie by trying to steal on a play that...he had no business stealing on. After Brach got out of the eighth, to quote the Nats fan, now embittered, 'game's basically over now.'

And then 'For Those About to Rock' by AC/DC began to play at the top of 9...and every O's fan knew exactly what was about to happen. Zach Britton, one of the best, most horrifying closers in baseball, entered the field. And just the stuff he started shelling out when he was warming up...if I had to bat against that, I'd probably wet myself.

It was simple enough, as he shut down Espinosa and Revere pretty easily...but then Trea Turner got up, and he gave up three straight walks. 'Come on now', my Dad said optimistically, 'let's not get off on a bad foot'.

I had a similar approach. "Come on Zach. Show 'em why all those Cy Young talks mean something.'

And then...the strikes began to show up. Until it was full count, and everybody in the house was standing. They wanted to see this with their own eyes.

Strike three. Birdland explodes.

Baltimore's one of those cities where, they win a game, and everybody in your row becomes your best friend. Cleveland's like that too. But everybody around me, every O's fan around me, was slapping high fives. It felt pretty nice.

The fact is that last year, I went to four MLB games, and this year I went to three. And the home team won every single one, all seven. I like to consider myself the good luck charm.

Still...hell of a game all around, and I'm glad I went. I hope the O's can build on this one.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Nearly-Impossible Mariners Comeback

Back in July, I saw the Mariners take on another wayward middling team, the Pirates, in Pittsburgh. This was actually pretty evenly matched- two uneven teams with momentum waning and elements taking them back. That night the Pirates embarrassed them, taking their pitching yard several times throughout the night.

However...since the deadline, the Mariners have been fiercely fighting back, with Felix Hernandez back in full form, the lineup of Cano, Seager, Cruz and friends catching fire, and the Astros absolutely buckling against them. A team that started out the season with high hopes and high numbers could be getting back there sooner than we thought.

Felix Hernandez, in any hair color, is one of the best pitchers of the last ten years, and one of the most infuriating strikeout artists in baseball; what he's done by his age is pretty amazing, and the fact that he's still pretty sharp is a wonder for the M's, who are recovering from some pitching problems (and the loss of Wade Miley). Nate Karns and Hisashi Iwakuma are improving and the depth of the lineup is allowing for some clutch home runs.

I'll argue that it will be tough with the Astros fighting for it too, as the M's still have a lot of problems to attend to, but it should be fun to see them fighting for the rest of the season.

Coming Tomorrow- A hard-hitting infielder that's one of the few consistent sources of power in Phoenix.

Throwback for a Homestand

Well, that was fun. Temporary, but fun.

I spent a week up in the Adirondack mountains. I had my fun, did my share of relaxing, took a trip to Cooperstown and made a potential THIRD baseball game of the year happen (film Monday). And as you read this post, I'm en route to good 'ol Jersey for the last week before I go back to college.

The summer's been nice- busy, but nice. Aside from that week in Lake George, I spent a month on the road, between North Jersey and Pittsburgh, working with a film camp for kids on the autism spectrum, as the staff writer. I was giving back to the community, a community I'd been a part of for years, and I was making a solid amount of money doing what I love, writing.

This semester at school I'm gonna be running a club, taking a number of high-intensity writing classes, and potentially going out for a few stage productions. I will definitely have a ton on my plate, blog included. However, I will make damn sure that I have enough effort to spend on this blog. I'm planning on, like last year, getting a box of Topps Update when it comes out, as well as showcasing a few other card-related things as the year goes on.

But yeah. From now til...maybe mid-September, the blog will be in some sort of flux. But it's definitely going to stay around, and I will not stop posting. I'm just gonna go from 'summer formation' to 'college formation' very soon.

Coming Tomorrow, I assume- The King.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Custom Card of the Night: Berrios Edition

I have been sitting on this custom since May, and I'd just like to say it feels absolutely amazing to finally be able to post this. That's really all I have to say tonight, sadly.

You'll get more out of me tomorrow. I swear.

Brave, Yet Still Horrible, New World

Well, the Braves are by far the worst team in baseball. And even with the addition of Matt Kemp...they're probably gonna be even worse.

Don't get me wrong, Matt Kemp's gonna hit a lot of home runs and get a lot of RBI, but...that's his schtick. He's not gonna shake the entire team up to immediately start doing well. Because...well, the Braves have ABSOLUTELY NO PITCHING right now. Julio Teheran, as well as everyone who was doing their jobs well, is injured. And the guys they're bringing up or signing for help...they're not doing any better. This is like the Dodgers' issue times 20, because the only Braves starter that's been healthy from the start is...Mike Foltynewicz.

This is a team in dire need of a revamp, and despite a lineup that's...improving...things probably won't get much better for a while. Even with the call up of Dansby Swanson, who's...doing alright, and the home run hitting antics of Matt Kemp, the Braves are still going to be the worst team in baseball this year. And it's a little sad, because Freddie Freeman is trying.

Not much else to say, which is also pretty sad. Don't worry, I'll have a happier post up tonight.

Coming Tonight- A rookie pitcher for the Twins...okay, I take back the 'happier post' thing.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Call to the Hall: 2016 Edition

A few days ago I was standing in front of Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr.'s plaques in Cooperstown. And it felt weird to me, as years before I was collecting their cards in the present tense, and they were still some of the more relevant, impressive ballplayers in the game. And here they were, finished with the ultimate ode of appreciation at their feet. That was a bit weird for me.

I'm gonna have a post up later recapping most of what the Hall's become sometime this weekend (when I get home), but for now... I wanna try something cool that I haven't done in a while.

I want to go down every MLB team and give a player who, in my opinion, has the best chance of entering the Hall of Fame. Again, not every single one of these will, because, as you can tell, I'm not a soothsayer. I'm just saying who has the best odds as of right this second, career-encompassing and everything. Some teams it will be easy...some not so much.

Alphabetical order (sorry Yanks fans):

ANGELS: Albert Pujols. Yes, Mike Trout is wonderful and amazing, but Albert Pujols has over 500 home runs and has no sign of slowing down too greatly. Besides, the thing about Mike Trout is that I have no idea if the next five years will absolutely derail the last five years of him. If I wrote this in 2011, Ryan Howard would be a shoo-in for the Hall. But yes, Albert's had a spectacular career and will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

ASTROS: Jose Altuve. I have no idea how the rest of his career will go, but the last few years have been insanely impressive for the little guy, not just as a speedy second baseman, but as one of the most consistent average-hitters in baseball. Altuve might be close to an MVP award this year, and that'd be amazing in itself. Not saying Cooperstown's a definite, because he's young, but he's a definite talent.

ATHLETICS: Ack. Uh...the closest thing to someone who will at least land on a ballot at this point is Coco Crisp. Everyone on the team is either too young to make an opinion on or too over-the-hill to be seriously considered. Crisp is really the only guy I can say that someone with a ballot will vote for right now, though if Stephen Vogt has some more dynamite seasons he could be it.

BLUE JAYS: This is a tough one, as there are four or five fantastic players with great careers on this team, but the frontrunner right now would be Jose Bautista. I was extremely close to putting Josh Donaldson here, but the youth scared me a bit. Joey Bats has been one of the most consistent power hitters of the 2010's, and has turned around what looked like a dead career. Right now he's the guy, but Donaldson could definitely build himself a case in the next five years if he has seasons like the last two on a consistent basis.
Also, Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin were all briefly considered. Tulo on any other year would be more than considered.

BRAVES: Matt Kemp, because right now he has a better Hall of Fame case than A.J. Pierzynski, and Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran need 5 more fantastic years before they get the shoo-in. Kemp was, and still is, a fantastic home run hitter and was a great outfielder for the Dodgers. Probably not a Hall of Famer, but has the best case on that team.

BREWERS: Ryan Braun, by far. Even without the steroids, Ryan Braun's had some pretty impressive seasons, even in years where people have counted him out, and he's endured a lot of crap, even coming out of both of his steroid suspensions. He's clean now, or semi-clean, and even now he's holding that entire team together.

CARDINALS: Yadier Molina, over Matt Holliday. Yadi's been one of the most consistently excellent catchers in the NL, and I'm not sure if he'll get in the Hall, as he's more of a Ted Simmons defensive type than a Mike Piazza hitting catcher. Holliday's been fantastic but Molina's had more on-years than him.

CUBS: Oof. Right now it would have to be Jon Lester, because for a little under a decade he was absolutely ruling the roost in Boston, and nabbed two World Series rings by being an INTEGRAL part of some fantastic rotations, as well as still being pretty damned impressive. Apologies to Jake Arrieta, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward, Aroldis Chapman and Kris Bryant, but it was the experience factor.

DIAMONDBACKS: Zack Greinke. One of the most dominant strikeout artists that isn't named Clayton Kershaw. The only reason that Greinke didn't get his 2nd Cy Young last year is because of Arrieta's monster 2nd-half. Greinke's on seasons should go up their with some of the greats. I guarantee he'll have 4 or 5 more huge ones, too.

DODGERS:Clayton Kershaw, and I doubt I even have to explain this one. He's one of the greatest pitchers of our generation.

GIANTS: Buster Posey, for being one of the most impressive catchers since Johnny Bench, and for being a huge part of three World Series teams. The Giants would not be where they are right now without this guy, and this I can say with only 7 seasons of experience from the guy. Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto came close.

INDIANS: I don't think anyone on the team has enough experience under their belt to be considered seriously for a potential HOF run. By default, Carlos Santana, because he has the most seasons of consistent MLB work under his belt.

MARINERS: Ooooh...since they're both equally qualified, Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano. Felix is one of the most consistent and dominating strikeout pitchers in the game, and Robby may be one of the greatest hitting second basemen of all time.

MARLINS: Last year I would have said Giancarlo Stanton, see I can't do that, because Ichiro Suzuki, someone whose entrance to Cooperstown was guaranteed 6 years ago, is on this roster and is still making serious progress in the MLB.

METS: David Wright is already heading up some of the All Time Mets leaderboards, so I have to go with him. Also, he's brought leadership to a team that was in danger of losing everything, and brought them back from the dead so many times, as well as being a solid hitter for a number or years.

NATIONALS: Another incredibly tough race. As of right now it would have to be Max Scherzer. The man has taken strikeouts and mound dominance to a whole new level, and has made it look like his best days were still far ahead, even in a career that's included a Cy Young award. Strasburg and Harper were considered.

ORIOLES: Adam Jones over Manny Machado. Jones has been here for nine seasons, and has transformed himself into one of the best outfielders in the game, not only in average but also in sheer outfield performance. The entire city's rallied around him as an outfielder and team hero. Manny Machado is a few years away from that status.

PADRES: Ungh. Nobody is remotely near that point yet, so, by default, Tyson Ross. That is how horrible the Padres have become.

PHILLIES: Ryan Howard. Sad as it is, Howard's achievements in Philadelphia have been legendary, and even if he hasn't been great in a while, he will probably still get some serious numbers when it comes time for his placement on the HOF ballot. For a five year period he was one of the best hitters in baseball.

PIRATES: Andrew McCutchen, without a shadow of a doubt. Without Cutch, the Pirates would still be in last. His offensive and defensive achievements have been pretty damn legendary, and his hero status has brought a whole new breed of fan back to Pittsburgh. With a few more fantastic seasons this will be a little more concrete.

RANGERS: Carlos Beltran is a definite Hall of Famer, for being a consistent power hitter and a five-tool player that helped a lot of great teams become even better. He barely edges out Adrian Beltre, who is probably also a HOFer, but Beltran has a tiny bit more of a chance than him, and will probably get in a bit sooner.

RAYS: Evan Longoria. Mainly because he's my only option, but mostly because he's been fantastic and has been the constant impressive factor in an up-and-down franchise.

REDS: Joey Votto, also pretty obviously. I don't think he's a definite Hall of Famer yet, but he's definitely capable of having a few more fantastic seasons in order to get there. The MVP should be evident of this, but a fantastic player and one that the Reds should be happy to hold onto.

RED SOX: I'm gonna give one aside from David Ortiz, because I don't think I have to tell you about his Hall of Fame case- he's one of the best DHs of all time. So instead...Dustin Pedroia, who took a 2007 Rookie of the Year season, turned it into a 2008 MVP season, and turned that into one of the most consistent runs for a 2nd baseman in years. He's defensively fantastic, he's offensively average-heavy, and he's not close to done yet- his 2016 is another fantastic season, and with a playoff run it'll be even better.

ROCKIES: Probably Carlos Gonzalez for some amazing Home Run seasons, even if he's not exactly a definite Hall choice.

ROYALS: Alex Gordon has had the most seasons of consistency, and his power in the 2014 season made this contending-Royals thing a possibility. Perez, Hosmer, Moose and Cain don't have enough experience.

TIGERS: Two definite Hall of Famers are on this team, so I'll give you Mr. Obvious- Miguel Cabrera is one of the best hitters in baseball, and will go down with some of the all-time greats. He's never had a truly bad season in his entire career, and is still very, very far from finished. Justin Verlander will also be seriously considered, especially given his huge return to form in 2016, and Francisco Rodriguez will be considered greatly.

TWINS: Joe Mauer, for being a great hitting catcher, and then becoming a great hitting first baseman. It's not too difficult. He may not be a definite, but he'll get some votes.

WHITE SOX: A lot of potential future Hall of Famers have graced the Sox' bench this year, like Jimmy Rollins and Justin Morneau, but the ultimate choice for Future HOFer is probably Chris Sale, for being one of the best pitchers of this decade, and still being young enough to have even more amazing progress ahead of him.

YANKEES: No A-Rod. No CC. would have to be Mark Teixeira, for being one of the best first baseman in the AL for most of the 2000's, and turning the potential into a World Series ring in 2009. He's not been perfect as a Yankee, but he's had some great seasons, and will definitely be considered for the Hall.

Well..that should be everybody. I doubt I forgot anybody too huge. I mean...I very well might have, and not know it, but those were the ones that stood out to me.

Coming Tomorrow- The Braves' rep.

Dodging Catastrophe

The pitching is a mess of injuries and guys who can't throw strikes, and the trade deadline imports are either on the DL or not performing to the best of their ability.

Man, it's a good thing the Dodgers still have a pretty nice team, or else they'd be absolutely screwed right now.

Josh Reddick, as good as he is, hasn't done a great deal in his few weeks as a Dodger. The new recruits like Jesse Chavez haven't done a hell of a lot, and the pitching is still scattered. But the Dodgers still have one of the best lineups in baseball, with people like Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Utley, Howie Kendrick, Joc Pederson and ESPECIALLY COREY SEAGER mashing the hell out of the ball.

Plus, even if Kershaw is out, Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir are doing a well enough job holding up the rotation, with people like Ross Stripling and Julio Urias doing a well enough job keeping the ERAs positive. It's not perfect, but the pitching is staying afloat.

What the Dodgers need to do, now that they're ahead of the Giants, is make a case for growth and more of a postseason shot with their scrappy, win-or-nothing team, over the Giants who're there every other year. They're a few moves away, but once people start coming back from the DL the answer will become clear.

Coming Tonight- A Red Sox first baseman and a musing on the Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Houston, We May in Fact Have a Problem

So...remember when we were all talking about how triumphant the Astros looked, and how they'd come from last and were looking to take over the Rangers, and all of that?

Yeah. No. Might be a snag in that. The Mariners are back.

You know? The Mariners? That team that had a HUGE start in April-May, but then absolutely lost their momentum and...just now started to get back to winning games. Like, since the trade deadline they've been absolutely wild and unstoppable. Which...does not bode well for the Astros, who have decided to just now absolutely lose momentum.

Again, great team, and I'm glad they came back, but this month is exposing the true flaws in the rotation. Dallas Keuchel isn't as good as he was last year, and last year may indeed have been a fluke (eventually to be featured in The Year in Irony 2017), as well as the complete implosion of Carlos Gomez and people like Colby Rasmus and Luis Valbuena ending up on the DL. The one rookie they brought up to save everything, Alex Bregman, has severely disappointed. The team they had last year was a ton tighter, a ton more composed, and these guys, while good, aren't great in every area, even if George Springer, Carlos Correa and ESPECIALLY Jose Altuve are impressing.

If the Astros want to compete for the Wild Card, they're gonna have to pick up the pace and get everybody on the same page, because I'd rather not see this awesome baseball story die out. Like, I want them to regroup for 2017 and still be good, even if 2016 doesn't exactly work out.

Coming Tomorrow- Well, it's mid-August, but FINALLY I'm posting a custom of one of the guys that was traded at the deadline. And it's a pretty good one, in LA.

Wait, so the Pirates Might Actually Have a Chance?

So...hear me out.

Alright, obviously the Cubs have the NL Central wrapped up, unless something catastrophic happens, and I honestly don't think the Cubs are in danger of blowing the entirety of that massive lead they have on everybody. So we're assuming, in this case, that the Cubs will be ending the season in first, and the Reds and Brewers will be ending this season in 4th and 5th. Respectively? Not respectively? Who cares.

That leaves the Pirates and Cardinals. The Cardinals have lost a shit-ton of momentum, and their best players are injured, leaving a sad husk of a team that was once great. The Pirates, meanwhile, have taken the opportunity to power up their farm system by 80000 and start infusing their team with a series of nice pitching prospects, as well as keeping the majority of their lineup on the up.

The Cardinals are 12.5 games out of first. The Pirates are 13.5. Which means it's time for a good old fashioned foot race.

The Pirates have a lot more going for them with a lot of impressive clutch hitters like Starling Marte, Josh Harrison, John Jaso and Sean Rodriguez, just off the top of my head, as well as one of the most impressive big game pitchers that nobody talks about, Gerrit Cole, and people like Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and newly added Ivan Nova holding up the back of the rotation. The organization suddenly has a CRAP TON of depth, and a lot of great players hiding behind players that are already there. So if they need to make a move for a potential Wild Card run, which could be tricky seeing as the Marlins and Dodgers are already making great cases for it, they'll need to buckle up and start winning for right this very second.

The Cardinals, for the first time in years, are easy to beat, and the Pirates NEED to take full advantage of this if they want to be taken seriously, not only as a wild card sleeper, but as a team that could regroup and potentially take down the Cubs next year and the years afterward.

So yeah...the Bucs have a chance. Whether they take advantage of it is their decision.

Coming Tonight- One of the many young pitchers for an improved Astros squad.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Please Oh Please Oh Please Let the Indians Happen This Year

I know, I may be belaboring the point with all of these posts about how fun the Indians are and how badly I want them to succeed this postseason, but...if you saw an amazing baseball story waiting to happen about a team that's been at the heels of glory for years and years and was just about to strike gold, you wouldn't want it to die before it got good. The same thing happened with the Astros last year when it looked like the Rangers were digging them out of the race.

And now the Indians are far ahead enough that the story isn't over yet, but the Tigers are worrying me. I know what they can do in September, and I know how many nasty little hits guys they have this year- they could be dangerous if given the chance.

However, in my opinion the Indians have the more complete team. With the exception of catcher, every position is being filled by someone who's succeeding big time this year. The infield of Napoli-Kipnis-Lindor-Ramirez. The outfield of Naquin-Chisenhall-Davis. Santana DHing. The pitching staff of Salazar-Kluber-Carrasco-Bauer-Tomlin. The bullpen of people like Dan Otero, Cody Allen and now Andrew Miller. Everybody is absolutely killing it this season, and this was a combination that was a few years coming. All it took was this little push, and they're here. They're deadly.

And I want the momentum to keep going into October and not stop. This is a pretty spectacular story, and even without Michael Brantley they are doing this amazing job. Yes, the road ahead might be tough, with people like the Rangers, Orioles and Red Sox wanting it just as bad, but the Indians have this sort of special underdogness to them, and I can't ignore that.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the many arms trying to keep the Pirates above .500 this year.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hellickson and (Probably Not) Back

Jeremy Hellickson is one of those guys that's had one absolutely outstanding season...which happened to be his rookie year...which happened to get him a Rookie of the Year award. I'm not saying he's a Bob Hamelin type, but he's been...serviceable the last few years. At least he's been doing well enough in Philadelphia that he came close to being traded last month.

However, as this is Philadelphia in the mid-2010's, he's obviously not doing especially well in the wins category. Yeah, he's a great pitcher and still has some really nice stuff, especially in the same rotation as a lot of really nice young arms,'s the Phillies. Not great stuff in general, even if you're pitching well.

There's still some buzz about whether or not Hellickson is going to end up being waived somewhere that needs arms (like, uh, maaayyybe the Dodgers?). And here's how I picture that- yeah, Hellickson leaves, boo hoo, but we still have Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez to be good this season, as well as Aaron Nola, Zach Elfin, and Jake Thompson to be better next year- if everyone's on in the future, we'll be fine. Hellickson was a last minute 'we at least need someone who knows who he's doing (that isn't Aaron Harang)' pickup, and while he's done well, he's an import- he's not the priority, and no matter how well he's doing, he's still not the impenetrable piece of the pitching staff that someone homegrown like Jerad Eickhoff or Aaron Nola is.

Still, every game he pitches for the Phillies will likely be a pretty nice one, so hopefully he'll make sure they all count for something.

Coming Tonight- A position player for the Indians that nobody thought anything of...until he started blasting the crap out of the ball.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Edwin Encarnacion Cannot Stop Hitting

In 2009, the Toronto Blue Jays traded their star third baseman Scott Rolen to the Reds, for their third baseman, a young, power-hitting guy named Edwin Encarnacion. Initially, the Reds were deemed the victors, as Rolen had several All Star seasons in Cincinnati, and put a nice little ribbon on his pretty excellent career. However, after Rolen retired in the early 2010's...Edwin went to work to become one of the most underrated power hitters in baseball.

The man just recently hit his 300th home run, and at 33 and still having a career season, is far from finished. His 95 Home Runs is an MLB best, and isn't too far off from his personal best- besides, he's already got 32 home runs by August, which is pretty difficult to do (especially this season). The fact that since the 2012 season, Edwin Encarnacion's bat has not stopped doing amazing things proves how integral he is to the Blue Jays lineup, arguably moreso than their flagship star Jose Bautista.

To be fair, Joey Bats and Edwin got to the Jays around the same time, 2009. And they didn't just start mashing the ball overnight- Bautista's success began arooooound 2010, and Edwin, as I said, started hitting big in 2012. But Edwin has had way more consistency in numbers than Bautista, probably because of his status as a DH. Edwin hasn't exactly had any down seasons in a while, as opposed to Bautista who, like most players, ebbs and flows season per season. Edwin's a rock that has held the team down through numerous identity crises.

Now...I'm not saying I want the Blue Jays to keep ruling the AL East because, again, this isn't really their year. Edwin, Donaldson and Saunders are some of the few consistent offensive suppliers on the team- they're not whole. But I do think Edwin's a fantastic hitter and he's probably on his way to a few accolades by the end of the year.

Coming Tonight- After the August 1st dust had cleared...he was still pitching in Philadelphia, somehow.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Not Exactly as Inevitable as the Giants Thought

It's August, so the picture for the end of the season should become a bit clearer for everyone. However, in the NL East...the once strongholding Giants are now fighting to stay afloat against the surging, battling Dodgers.

It's actually a very fun race, because both teams have opposite strengths and weaknesses. The Dodgers have a brisk, fun lineup with hitters coming from everywhere and some definite stacking in terms of sheer power, but they don't have a ton of pitching this year. The Giants have one of the strongest pitching staffs in their history, with Cueto, Bumgarner, Samardzija, Matt Moore and Matt Cain all surging right now, and their infield is equally strong with the addition of Eduardo Nunez, but their outfield is a bit too inconsistent and injury-prone to be considered legitimate. They're imperfect teams, both of them, and it's actually kind of gratifying that both have sort have entered a stalemate at this point.

And I don't even know who to root for, as they're both great teams that could do really well in the postseason. The Dodgers are sort of underdogs here, but the Giants could potentially win another World Series if they get the proper September momentum. At the same time though, it might be too obvious to assume they can win another one- they've one three on the 'even year' streak, but asking for four, especially after the streak has been made so public, might be too much.

it's still pretty interesting to watch all of this go down, and there's still a month or so left of this.

Coming Tomorrow- He's in his late thirties, and won't...stop...hitting...

In Transit

Right now, I'm enduring a 5 hour car ride toward my usual August vacation destination, a sunny cabin on Lake George. I just figured it'd be a good opportunity to post this custom of Kole Calhoun and his I'm likely going to be taking a ton of pictures this trip.

Yes, I'm gonna do a crap-ton of blogging this week, no less than usual. And given where I'll be headed sometime this week (my only hint was my last journey there was 3 years ago), I kind of HAVE to be blogging. It should be my god-given right.

But yeah, I'm on the lake for a week, I'm home for a week, and then I'm back at college. And the blog's gonna hopefully stay updated through all of this chaos.

But for now...enjoy a goofy custom that looks like it belongs in the '93 Stadium Club set.

I've Played All My Cardinals

The Cubs, last I checked, are 12 games ahead of the Cardinals.

...I love baseball so much. You couldn't have called something like this 4 years ago. No chance.

The Cardinals don't have half the team they usually do at this point, because the pitching's not close to ready, a lot of the main offensive producers are injured, and the two guys who delivered the spark last season, Jason Heyward and John Lackey, are...playing for the team that's 12 games ahead of them.

And yes, there are some nuggets of good offensive production, like Stephen Piscotty, Matt Carpenter and the guy at the top of the post, Randal Grichuk. There are some great, young players on that team, and guys who are doing things right, but the core is aging, and the guys who are being brought back to be great...aren't doing their best.

As one of the resident Cardinal haters on the blogs, I should be laughing in their faces, and I am...a little bit. But I didn't think they'd be THAT far behind. I didn't think it'd be that much of a landslide. I'm...happy they're not right there with it, but...I'm kinda shocked they went that far.

Coming Tonight: The catcher for one of the best teams in the NL.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Custom Card of the Night: Fulmer Edition

Heck of a year in the AL Central. Started with a Royals-WhiteSox those two are out of it. And it's become the Indians trying to fend off the Tigers. I...honestly like that a little better.

There's more suspense, and there are underdogs to root for. The Indians have been through so much that I can't help but at least be interested in the Tigers. Their priorities are completely different than the 2012 World Series team. Now there are more hit-average-friendly people like Ian Kinsler and Jose Iglesias leading the roster, though home runs still are hit there occasionally. The pitching staff isn't an overstocked haven for arms, but there are people like Michael Fulmer and Matt Boyd who are coming up and doing little things.

The rotation, which is coming back from injuries, is essentially just Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer just pounding the shit out of batters, and then waiting 3 days to get another go at it. The back end of the rotation, when it is there, doesn't have a ton of depth, as Anibal Sanchez is having a down year, and Jordan Zimmermann was playing well before the DL stint.

Even though I'm rooting for the Indians in this equation, I can't help but root for the Tigers, as they're pretty inoffensive this year, and actually have a lot of fun players there.

Coming Tomorrow- An outfielder for the...increasingly pathetic St. Louis Cardinals.

At Least The Marlins Are Fun Again

I'd like to apologize for my angry rant from last night. It's just...this whole 'Blue Jays being in first for no reason' thing just really...just really ticks me off. And I hate the fact that I have to write posts like 'why is this happening'...and then posts like 'why is this still happening' a month later.

So what I'd like to do for this morning's post is none of that.

For instance...right now the Miami Marlins are in second place, and they've somehow become a pretty cool little team. Not exactly a threat for first place, but...they're doing a lot right.

Look at Martin Prado- the guy's 32 and playing like he's 22. He's hitting for average and getting a ton of hits, and he's making Brian Cashman even madder that he traded him for Garrett Jones. Just hits guys like him, Ichiro, Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich are fueling this team. It's not exactly a home-run haven- Giancarlo Stanton's hit 24 so far, but that's low for him.

Between Yelich, Prado, Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto, there's a lot of positive bat momentum going on in a roster that had little-to-no movement a few seasons ago. Plus, Jose Fernandez is back to familiar numbers, and he's leading a reformed, modest enough pitching staff. Things are looking pretty damn good for the Marlins...which is weird.

I'm not expecting them to take first away from Washington, because...I think they kind of have that wrapped up, but they could be a nice little sleeper threat for September/October. And I love saying that about a hard-luck team like the Marlins.

Coming Tonight- A Tigers pitcher that is not Justin Verlander.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Dammit, Not This Again, ft. the Baltimore Orioles

Rrrrr, why can't we have nice things in the AL East anymore?

The Orioles were doing a great job keeping down the Red Sox and shoving them out of the AL East race, and they were building a nice amount of momentum with the new acquisitions and additions to the pitching staff.

And yet...ONCE AGAIN...the nasty, stinking Toronto Blue Jays decided, this late in the season, that they're going to compete again, and have made their way back into first. So now the Orioles have to deal with swatting them away and moving back into first, as WELL AS the Red Sox beginning to regain momentum (thanks to a series with the Yankees). It's...annoying.

(The following is a relatively angry rant that has been bubbling for two summers now)

The way I see it, nobody decides that they're going to be good halfway through the season. You work on that shit from day one- you either play to win, or you play to win next year. No takeouts. None of that shit. No 'oh, we're gonna be okay for a while and then around June or July we're actually gonna start trying'. That's for pansies. That's for the goddamned NBA. Yes, it's cute that the Blue Jays can just win some games around June or July, but taking a pretty even record by July 31st and saying 'yeah, we can build a playoff team from that', despite the fact that a majority of the roster is hitting around .230...that's just not thinking right.

The Blue Jays right now are, ONCE AGAIN, a generally okay team that is trying to convince everyone that they're a playoff team. They're not. Aside from Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders, and some nice starts from Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez, this is not a full roster. This is not complete. Last year's...while still dealing with a lot of the same problems, was more complete- at least a majority of those guys were on.

The ORIOLES...THEY'RE COMPLETE. The outfield of Jones, Trumbo and Rickard is working. The infield of Davis-Schoop-Hardy-Machado is working. Matt Wieters is having a great season. Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Yovani Gallardo and Wade Miley make a pretty damn impressive rotation, the bullpen's strong as usual, and Zach Britton's one of the best closers in baseball. That is complete. That is worthy of the playoffs. Not this 'fill in the blanks and it's there' bullcrap the Blue Jays have been forcing on us for the past few years.

So yeah. Let's Go O's. And I mean that, this time. A few years ago I got no sleep and wrote a post about how the Orioles were winning the division by default, and got tons of O's fan hate from that. This year, they're the best team in this division by a longshot. The Red Sox tried to fix things but have the same problems with their left-hand pitching. The Blue Jays are a broken team pretending to be fixed. The O's...deserve this.

Coming Tomorrow- Hopefully a happier post. Veteran third baseman working with a surprisingly potent NL East team.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Notes from the National- Part Two: Appels and Archives

Before we get into the rest of my finds from the National, I want to talk about something very important to me that occurred while I was there.

I got into blogging in 2009, and before I got into blogging I made it a point to read my share of the blogs, including Night Owl, Dayf, JayBee, gcrl and all the guys that were big in...early 2009. However, the impetus for all that was this one guy...who doesn't even blog anymore, but was one of the most opinionated, character-driven bloggers I remembered. When I started writing, especially pieces about things that infuriated me, I was trying to emulate this guy.

He doesn't blog anymore, he mainly tweets, but I knew he lived in the same state as me (for a time), and took that to heart whenever I was at a Philly Show or a National. I always wanted to run into him just to say 'hey, thanks for everything you do'. My dad would always say 'well why don't you go up and talk to him, or do something for your blog?' I'm a very shy person, and I'm not great with talking to people that inspire/intimidate me.

Yesterday at the National, I was just walking toward the first row of tables and I saw him.

He was in an old school Fleer cap, and I could tell he was already thinking of something sarcastic to write about the event. Some people just have their mouth open, ready to say something cynical, and he's one of them. And I observed him for a second, passing a few tables and browsing what they held. I didn't say hello or anything, because I'm shy as all hell, but I was at least glad I ran into him in some capacity.

Nevertheless, on with the recap:

#3- 20 Cent Bins, or In Which Jordan Grabs All the 2016 Stadium Club he Possibly Can

I may not have been entirely subtle with this, but I think 2016 Stadium Club is the strongest SC release since the 1995 issue. The photography's at an All Time high, the design is pretty slick and pretty cool (and fits well in parallel form). So I decided to just get as many cards of players I collect (that looked amazing) as I could. And here...are the highlights.

A few action shots. Gosh, this set is amazing when these are only the first few cards I post. Kemp's has all the shadow necessary for awesomeness.

A trio of posed shots, proving that if they're gonna be in Stadium Club products, at least they're gonna be pretty damn cool. Also, I appreciate that Topps still makes cards of Ken Giles despite his inadequacy this season.

Okay, this isn't EXACTLY a posed shot, but this definitely happened during Photo Day, and this may be one of the coolest, most fun shots in this year's set. Just something so fun about the whole thing.

Two more cool posed shots. One is cool because most cards of Jayson Werth are incredibly cool. The other is like something out of the 90's sets- Ramirez is a pitcher waiting with a bat on top of the bench. So much awesome in that one, especially with the lighting.

Four really cool spring training shots- Kinsler gets the edge, but all four are pretty amazing, especially the now-distant reminder that Aroldis Chapman used to close for my team.

Two more Spring Training shots- Yu's has a ton more attention to detail and filtering, but it's also pretty nice to get a photo of Johnny Cueto as a Giant.

Two dugout shots- Swihart is zoomed back enough, but Moreland, as per the trend with this set, has the cooler, more dramatic card. His cousin must work at Topps or something.

Two more dugout shots- Blake Snell's (which somehow was there in the 20 cent bin despite the fact that he's been pretty okay this season) is a nice, well zoomed high-five pic, but there is no stopping the coolness of that Maikel Franco card. SERIOUSLY! THAT'S OUSTANDING!

Two black and white photos of Hall of Famers. Irvin's is the clearer one, and actually the better of the two, not to disparage the Feller.

This is probably the best of the greyscale ones, because you have Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda goofing around together in SanFran. It's just so easy to love.

Four celebration shots. Donaldson's is probably the best one for basically topping his already-awesome '15 issue, but the Prado is something to behold, as it has the entire picture, the second before the picture changes. I love the Duda, in full celebration formation, and the Soler in a classically lit game-winner.

Two more expanded ones. The Arrieta is probably one of the best cards of the year, but the Cano, complete with Ackley and Cruz lifting the guy up, can't be ignored.

Frank Thomas standing next to a statue of Frank Thomas. The awesomeness of this cannot be ignored.

Plus, here are two Hall of Famers being presented at their stadium. Biggio's is all class and prestige, but Johnson's just eating it up, coming on to bask in his awesomeness, with a really cool painting in the background. Just can't be topped.

Two more highlights. I love how, not only did I find a black parallel in the 20 cent bins, but it was a black Blackmon. Also, that Billy Hamilton is a fantastic batter's box shot that I wish I could replicate.

Three legends on really cool sideways shots. Vizquel's is a cool Spring Training shot, but Bench's is probably the highlight.

And here...we have my favorite card in the set.

Robin Yount, a motorcycle, and a cactus. Just...just absolutely perfect. Nobody can put into words how awesome this card is. It's just that good.

Dime Box #2- A Scorching Case of (Arc)hives

I believe I made a point of the fact that I am planning on collecting Archives this year. So...of course, I managed to find a ton of it hiding in a dime bin. I nabbed a TON of the product, and I'm obviously not going to post everything, so I'll just do highlights by design, like this Paul Molitor as a Twin card from '79.

The 52s are probably the weakest of the set, because it's very hard to rate face shots as good or bad, though the Newhouser and Eck are pretty good. I also am showing Colon because it's quite silly.

The 79s as a unit are actually pretty strong, and they're pretty good on keeping the photos true to the original design's form. There's a smattering of good ones here, including the dated 80's uni on Fisk, Bruce Sutter's beard, Enos Slaughter and Early winn appearing on current Topps releases, and Kole Calhoun's bat barrel.

This Robbie is probably my favorite of the 79's, as it's definitely from his mid-90's headband and jacket era in Toronto. Fantastically dated.

Like the 79s, the '91s are also pretty shot on, and there are a lot of really nice cards in here. McCann, both Expos, Cespedes and Rizzo stand out to me.

3 highlights- Hoyt Wilhelm being on a baseball card, Edgar Martinez in a design that actually fits the time period, and a really cool, dynamic Freddie Freeman card.

Dime Box #3- Scattered Showers

This dime box, which was the first yet most accomplished one I went to, yielded the old-fashioned 'literally any set you can think of' mentality that old dime boxes used to. For instance, this Billy Wagner, a shot I'd been looking for for years (as one of the leading firemen), was there, and it's the Minted in Cooperstown version. A lot of really cool stuff hiding in this one.

I still needed a few First Pitches from last season, including this one of teen heartthrob Austin Mahone at a Braves game. Still looking for Eddie Vedder and Jack White.

These two I had been looking for for quite a while. Bad News Bears is one of my favorite baseball movies, and the fact that Panini made these a few years ago in Golden Age was a pretty cool move. So, nabbing the two best cards you could get in the subset felt pretty good.

Three base cards from 2005 UD Update, a very obscure set, including something resembling a Scott Kazmir rookie.

Sosa I needed for my 1990 Topps set, which should bring me one card closer to the end of the line. Perry as a Mariner is a sight that looks odd, from 1982 Topps Traded, and one I needed for my Hall of Fame collection.

Topps Marquee, which is a thick, relic-based set, has a base set that must have been one of the forerunners of Stadium Club, because the photography, attention to detail and minimalistic design are all there. Food for thought.

Insert from 2013 Archives. Only Phillips is still on that team, and only Phillips got a flattering comparison, I think.

Four cards from the always cool hobby-exclusive Spring Fever set, this one from 2013. A-Gon's the only one still in that same uniform.

A bunch of retired guys from 2014 A&G. Posada's pretty plain, Pudge is the coolest.

A bunch of cards from 2015 Heritage, which I had a great deal of cards from already, but somehow not these.


2014 Heritage was something I didn't have a great deal of. And, subsequently, this dealer happened to have a crap-ton of.

So, I basically got most of the players I collect that I didn't have already.

All of these guys are no longer on the teams they're pictured with, even randomly mohawked Didi. The guys on the bottom only lasted a season with 'em. Still...gotta love Juan Pierre cards.

All three of these guys have already retired, but still look cool here. Konerko's is probably the best here.

All of these guys are still playing, and I collect all of them. I do think '14 Heritage was a pretty damn strong release, even after some pretty strong ones since.

This dealer also, somehow, had a ton of 2002 Staidum Club, which is one of my collection weaknesses. So, I nabbed a bunch. Not all are here, but a bunch are.

Bottom row is already in the Hall of Fame. The two on the left will probably get in, while Nomo probably won't. Still collecting him though.

A few sideways ones. The photography, while not at 90's caliber, was still pretty nice for SC.

We'll end that one on an Ichiro, mostly because of his recent 3000th hit, but also because it's not everyday you see an Ichiro card in a dime box.

The guy also had a bunch of '07 Flashback Fridays inserts, and these were the highlights. Top 3 are all still playing. Middle 3 aren't playing anymore (technically Howard counts). Bottom three are retired future legends.

Now we've reached the Rookies portion of this dime box. As in, I'm very surprised I found cards of these guys in dime boxes. This is pretty close to Shin-Soo Choo's rookie, and this is a surprisingly mainstream card of Anibal Sanchez as a Red Sox from 05 UD Update.

These are legitimate rookies of two of the ridiculously powerful starters for the Indians this year. The Kluber is a pretty cool one, as not only is it his rookie, not only is he a Padre...but they spelled his name wrong.

Yes, he may not be as huge as he was, but it's still a Shane Victorino rookie that I kind of needed to have.

I think the biggest rookie of the day was something else relating to Philadelphia...

Mark Appel was the #1 pick for the Astros in 2013. This year he was traded to the Phillies for Ken Giles. So in a few years this guy might be starting for Philadelphia. This, by the way, is his Pro Debut rookie card. So...this could be a pretty hefty card in a few years. And I got it for ten cents.

That's the cherry on top of what was a pretty fantastic day at the National. It probably won't be on my coast for another 4 years, but I'm not taking this year for granted. I got a lot of really nice stuff, and had a hell of an experience.