Thursday, September 29, 2016

For the Love of Grandy

Those of you who read the blog know I've accumulated this appreciation for players, even if they spend a millisecond on one of my favorite teams. I still collect Jayson Werth, Juan Pierre and Hunter Pence religiously, and even people like Adrian Gonzalez, just fun people, fall into this category.

And then there's someone like Curtis Granderson. He was only on the Yankees for four seasons...but oh my gosh did he make them count.

He was one of those guys that just hooked me in the second he put on the pinstripes. Like, yeah. That fits. I can get used to this. And...I did. He had a couple of HUGE home run seasons in New York, even if the Yankees didn't always do the greatest job. He just made it fun, made it worth watching, and he soon became one of my favorite players. Christmas 2012, I politely asked if I could have a Granderson jersey for Christmas.

"GRANDERSON", one of my cousins said the second he saw the uniform. "What's the use of getting a Granderson? He's not gonna be a Yankee for much longer."

I didn't care.

He's been with the Mets for a few seasons now, and I still root for him like he plays for my team. I was at a Mets game last year, and I predict that he knew I was in attendance. He smashed a home run late in the game, just for me, just for the guy who kept believing.

He's not been having quite the season he had in 2015, but I don't care- he can still hit, and he can still play the outfield, and he's still likely gonna be a huge presence in the postseason (if the Mets can squeak past the Wild Card).

Coming Tomorrow- Will the Tigers squeeze into the playoffs? Well, if this outfielder has his say...yeah.

Bourn to be Wild Cards?

It's tough to gauge. The Orioles would be my pick to be the Wild Card champs, and I'd love for them to sneak into the playoffs and try to take down the Rangers in the ALDS.'s a race that involves them taking down the Blue Jays in a playoff, or, even worse, not being taken out by the Tigers in order to GET to the playoff.

Tough stuff. But...I think the Orioles can pull this one off, just by the sheer power they've accumulated this season.

Just the home run power, even from people late in the lineup, will be enough to scare people, opponents especially. Not even Trumbo, Jones, Machado or those guys, but people like Jonathan Schoop, Michael Bourn and JJ Hardy, guys hiding out later in the lineup. They're all still having great seasons, and just adding to the slaughter.

Yes, pitching has been the problem, but enough people have been impressive, like Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman, Dylan Bundy and Wade Miley, that there's not a ton to worry about. They can definitely pull something together- plus, the bullpen's ferocious this year.

I'd really like them to not only sneak into the playoffs, but make some serious progress there as well. This is a very fun, cool team that people are underestimating...let's see 'em break some hearts and some bones.

Coming Tonight- One of my favorite players in baseball, still smacking home runs in Queens.

L.A. Story (2016 Edition)

Well...after a few straight opportunities in the postseason marred by extraneous's looking like the Dodgers are finally getting a legitimate shot at the gold.

The Dodgers were RIIIIGHT THERE, in 2013, and almost made it to the World Series against the Boston Red Sox (which, funnily enough, they could do this year). And the one force that stopped them...were those sniveling, rule-breaking Cardinals (allegedly).

This year, it's looking like they'll be facing off against the Nationals in the NLDS. Like I said a few days ago, this is a pretty evenly matched series, of two teams that haven't really gotten a break this decade, despite both being really, really good. And...part of me legitimately thinks the Dodgers can overpower them.

They have the offensive ability, they have the depth, they have the pitching, and they have this madcap ability to come up in the end, regardless of the stakes. They've had rookies hitting home runs, pitchers coming from out of nowhere to win games, and two guys that were counted out at one point, now pitching gems for them (Rich Hill and Scott Kazmir). They're the kind of never-say-die team that, while still amazing, you just want to see win, no matter what.

Plus, Adrian Gonzalez is still on the team, and he's gained my respect after nearly losing it as a Red Sox. He's got class, he's a fantastic hitter, and he's been around forever so he's got a ton of cards to collect. That's what matters.

Coming Tomorrow- He's played for THREE TEAMS this season. Two of them shit. One of them could be a Wild Card spoiler.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hey, Wow, I Actually Like the Rangers Now

Now...let me back up, because in 2010 I was LIVID. I thought the Yankees deserved to go back to the World Series and swat around the Giants for a while, but apparently it wasn't in the cards- the Rangers had built themselves a heck of a squad, and even if they didn't win, they still made it their on their own accord, and I couldn't argue with that.

I wasn't happy with them, and I'd be a bit happier the next year when they had a shot of beating the Cardinals, but...I dealt.

Now, the Rangers have built themselves an impressive offensive machine. The guys that were babies in 2010, like Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland and Colby Lewis, are leading the charge. The guys they traded for to hit, like Adrian Beltre, Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez, are hitting like mad. Their top ace is Cole Hamels and he's on fire. They aren't doing a ton of things wrong.

Plus, unlike the 2010 team, I LIKE a great deal of the players. Beltre, Andrus, Hamels, Beltran...granted, a great deal of them have played for teams I like, but these are fun, good-natured players that work hard.

They probably have a nice chance at making the Series, though I'm not counting out Boston at this point.

Coming Today: A guy I used to despise, now one of my more favored collections and the first baseman of a surprise playoff threat.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

One Last Reds Custom for the Season

Okay, I'll have more in December for 'Uncustomed Heroes', but, to wrap up the season, here's Eugenio Suarez and a gum bubble, for your viewing pleasure.

Coming Tomorrow- He hit home runs for my team. Now, he hits home runs for a team that actually has a chance at the World Series.

All the Little Kids Growing Up on the Skids Go...

The last time the Cleveland Indians clinched the AL Central was the first year I got into the hobby. And they weren't even expected to do it then, either...

A lot of similarities, too. The 2007 team had a killer rotation, featuring CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona. The 2007 team had a great DH in peak position (Travis Hafner), a fringe player that suddenly had a really nice season (Franklin Gutierrez), a returning hero (Kenny Lofton), and lots and lots of young players doing some killer things.

The 2016 team has all of those things going for them. This is a team that everyone counted out, and now they're wiping the floor with everyone. Heck, I don't even think the Tigers are going to make the playoffs, since they're not even close to the Indians, or the Orioles, in the standings. The Indians have taken a lot of players that weren't thought to make a difference, like home-run hammerer Mike Napoli and bench aficionado Rajai Davis, as well as people like Tyler Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez, who nobody really thought anything of before the season.

However...with the recent spur of injuries hitting the team, I'm not exactly sure how it's going to go once they hit the postseason, with Carrasco and Salazar down. I can hope that they'll still make an impact, playing someone that will likely be Boston but could be Texas. I just can't help but pull for them- they're the underdogs, the guys that you wouldn't guess would end up here.

So...wouldn't it be great if they did?

Coming Today: An infielder for a depleted NL Central roster.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Even Year Magic...Somewhere Other than San Francisco

The Giants have won a World Series every even year. But you all know that. So let's talk about someone else who's been really good every even year, and shit every odd year. The Washington Nationals.

Yeah, it's just clicking- 2012, they clinch, 2013 they relent and the Braves take it. 2014 they clinch, 2015 they crack wide open and let the Mets in. And now, here they are in 2016, absolutely killing it and making 2nd place a foresight. This is a team that's possibly more put-together than the last few, and more powerful, even without their star player, Bryce Harper, and their other star player, Stephen Strasburg, in Grade A conditions.

People like Anthony Rendon, Wilson Ramos and Tanner Roark, guys that were extra hands essentially last year, are leading the charge this year, which is fantastic, and also says a lot about the roster depth this year. Plus, throwing guys like Joe Ross and Trea Turner in there is working EXTREMELY well this year. The youth is working, but not taking over the team like in the Bronx.

Now that they're in the playoffs, they should be gearing up for how tough the race is gonna be. They're likely gonna play the 2/3 seed (whichever one they aren't, really), so that's gonna entail a date with the Dodgers, which is nice- these are the two 'always a bridesmaid, never a bride' teams when it comes to recent postseason match ups. These are they guys that usually are out in the first round. And one of them will DEFINITELY be going to the NLCS, and playing someone that very well may be the Chicago Cubs to play in the World Series. ( could be the Mets, Giants or Cardinals...I just wanted to put this there just in case).

It'll be interesting to see them and the Dodgers squaring off, as they've been similar in the last few seasons, although both are MONSTERS now. So...I'm already looking forward to that NLDS, as literally either winner will make a great CS.

Coming Tomorrow- Injuries, schminjuries. They're the last AL 1st place team that hasn't clinched, and dammit it's gonna happen this year, mainly thanks to the 1st baseman that nobody wanted.

It Probably Wasn't Going to Happen: Yankees Edition

Yeah, it's time for me to eulogize my own beloved Yankees. Not especially excited to do this, but it needs to be done.

When the season started, I was kind of optimistic. The two imports, Chapman and Castro, were playing well, the Three Headed Monster in relief was working, and Carlos Beltran was surprisingly hitting. I mean, the rest of the team wasn't very impressive, but those parts were making me optimistic.

Now, the rest of the division reared its ugly head eventually, and we figured out that the Orioles and Red Sox were going to be the real competitors this season. Yes, the Jays should be in there too, but they don't decide that until July usually, and it usually never gets them anywhere.

I came to terms with the fact that they were likely gonna be a non-factor this season. Yes, they'd win games and have some good players every once and a while, but this obviously wasn't their year. The Sox had it, they were much better, and I was waiting for them to clinch in, like, July.

And then...the kids came up. And the picture changed.

Once Gary Sanchez, Luis Cessa, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge entered the picture, so did the momentum. Sanchez has hit 20 home runs faster than practically anybody in history, even that guy that everybody applauded in April for hitting 10 in record time (who's injured now). The youth refueled the team, so that even the guys that were here started playing better- Tanaka improved, Ellsbury stayed healthy, Didi and Starlin rocked it, and the team started playing better as a unit, which was weird.

I, unlike a lot of Yankees fans, didn't get too excited. I knew that this wasn't their year, and to not get my hopes up because I knew what would happen. First of all, I knew that they'd never catch up to Baltimore and Toronto, and I knew the Wild Card race was already hella tough. Also, I knew the momentum would be finite, and it was- Judge landed on the DL, and the team, whose youth once defined them, suddenly was being called 'TOO young' by the media.

So, the Yankees aren't going to make the playoffs. It wasn't their year, and it's still not their year. year, when they get Judge and Bird back...that's looking pretty damn good.

Coming Tonight: Infielder for the team that just clinched the NL East.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Nostalgic Box Break: 1995 Stadium Club Series Two (Part Three)

16 packs down, 8 left to go. For a Stadium Club set, this is a very well-shot, well-designed, very clean and spiffy set, sort of inching towards the future. Some people, including myself, refer to this one as the last great Stadium Club set, or the last one you could really collect, as the 1996 release on had less packs-per-box, and you couldn't yield a full set from all of that.

Still, we came relatively close with the '95 one, so let's round out the box:

 Pack 17-
Cards I needed: 7/14
Dupes: 7/14
Guys That Would Have Been Great Pulls in 1995: 2/14

 On the left is a reminder that Denny Neagle was on the Pirates before he spontaneously snuck onto a Braves roster that could make him look cool. The Cover Story is the 2nd Marlin in that subset, and it's Chuck Carr, though this one is pretty damn cool.

 Tim Salmon was Mr. Angel this time in 1995, which doesn't bode well for Mike Trout. Also, Mark McGwire, pre-St. Louis career boost.

 Pack 18-
Cards I needed: 4/14
Dupes: 10/14
Philadelphia Legends: 1/14

 Devo recats to a strikeout, Wayne Kirby goofs off while warming up, and John Kruk rounds the bases. By this point in the actual 1995 season, Kruk was rounding out his career in Chicago.

 Pack 19-
Cards I needed: 6/14
Dupes: 8/14
Hall of Famers: 2/14
Stars of Liar, Liar (not really): 1/14

 Tom Pagnozzi is our last (I think) Best Seat in the House subset subject, and it's a pretty nice one. Plus, here Jose Canseco is threatening to beat up the cameraman, a practice that eventually got him kicked off of Celebrity Apprentice.

 Rickey Henderson is just sitting down, waiting to steal another base. Meanwhile, Frank Thomas, in a BEAUTIFUL SHOT, signs some autographs.

 Pack 20-
Cards I needed: 5/14
Dupes: 9/14
Hall of Famers: 1/14

 Aside from Tim Raines', who I didn't pull in this box, Barry Larkin is the one Cover Story insert that still matters 21 years later.
Meanwhile, Wally Joyner's happy to still be a relevant player, even on the Royals.

 Pack 21-
Cards I needed: 7/14
Hall of Extremely Good-ers: 2/14

 Mike Deveraux, who was still an O in '95, holds onto a camera, costing that poor cameraman a few hundred dollars. Mattingly takes a bow for the crowd in one of his last few seasons on the team.

 Valentin I already pulled the Virtual Reality version of, but it's still sooooo cool. Grace's is just as awesome of a close-up shot.

 Pack 22-
Cards I needed: 6/14
Dupes: 8/14
Legitimate Stars in '95: 1/14

 Justice's is a great shot, and this is right before his star began to deflate. Meares' is a really cool field tag shot.

 Pack 23-
Cards I needed: 6/14
Dupes: 8/14
Absolutely Amazing Cards: 1/14
Hall of Famers: 1/14

 Roberto Kelly and Chris Gomez have some nice, well lit shots, but I wanna get to these last two...

 JAIME NAVARRO'S CARD IS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. HE IS RIDING...A MOTORCYCLE...ON A BASEBALL CARD. What did I tell you about all the Brewers cards being spontaneously amazing? Do you think I would lie about that? This is legitimately artwork.
Also, nice appearance by HOFer John Smoltz to give a last glimmer of hope to this box.

Pack 24- Only Henry and Baines were ones that I needed, so the box goes out with a whimper.

Still, I got a great deal of the set, and I'll only have to pilfer one or two from other sources, which will probably lead to a want list going up at some point.

Another Nostalgic Box Break is coming in a few days, when this one has some time to breathe. It's...not too different from this one.

Custom Card of the Morning: Schimpf Edition

I really don't have much to say about the Padres, other than the fact that their main choice at second base was a guy named Schimpf.

I mean, yeah, great player, how this team has fallen.

Coming Today: Another Box Break post, and a custom with more substance.

Put the Ketel On

The Mariners' story just keeps changing on me. First they're great, then they're terrible, then they're trying, then they have a shot at the playoffs, then they're nothing. This was a team that kept having the picture change on them just as they finished installing the newest one.

It's been a scattered team- the lineup was mostly ineffective, save for the usual array of bats like Cruz, Cano and Seager, plus some rookies like Dae-Ho Lee and Ketel Marte. The pitching staff started out strong, but the better arms got injured and couldn't come back as healthy, save for the usual ferocity from Felix Hernandez.

They had this way of fighting back and forth from second and third over the course of the season, contending with the Astros for 2nd place while both weren't great enough on their own. And while it looked like one of them would enter into the Wild Card, not really. The Tigers, Orioles and Jays took that away from them.

Still, at least the Mariners had a season they can be proud of, as well as work towards topping for next year.

Coming Tomorrow- One last sorry look at the San Diego Padres.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Kang Lives?

On paper, the Pirates' season achieved everything it set out to be. We knew, thanks to the departures of AJ Burnett, Pedro Alvarez, J.A. Happ and Neil Walker, that they weren't going to be half the team they were in 2015, and by the end of the season...yeah, they were in third.

But...throughout the season there were moments where the Pirates were making some serious progress with whatever they had lying around, and bringing up the new youth like Jameson Tallion and Chad Kuhl.  Plus, with Andrew McCutchen slumping, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco stepped up big time, and performed pretty damned well.

Yes, this team still has a ways to go before they can full-on compete with someone like the Cubs, and they're probably going to make a lot of progress this offseason, but enough was there this season that they weren't absolutely embarrassed. Gerrit Cole, Jeff Locke and Ivan Nova did pretty well in the rotation, and people like Sean Rodriguez, John Jaso and Jung Ho Kang hit pretty well off the bench, and eventually in the lineup.

The Pirates aren't out of it yet, and hopefully they'll be back in a big way next year (so that someone other than St. Louis can take 2nd).

Coming Tonight: After an up-and-down season, the Mariners are going for the Wild Card, with help for their trusty rookie shortstop.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Custom Card of the Night: Morneau Edition

This isn't exactly a sight I expected to see, but okay.

A few years ago, thanks to a waiver deal, Justin Morneau ended up leaving his beloved Minnesota Twins to join the pennant-contending Pirates. It was a move met with anguish from Twins fans, and surprise from most baseball fans.

It's a few years later, and now that Justin Morneau is now a member of the White Sox, the novelty has faded. He's been bopping along ever since, and while he hasn't exactly been effete, you can tell that the end of his career is coming zoo. Yes, a few years ago he had a career season in Colorado, and he hasn't done too badly for himself as a DH/bench player in Chicago. But you can tell that his best days are behind him, mostly because his best days were hitting for average in Minnesota and robbing Derek Jeter of an MVP.

I'm still happy to see he's still hitting, even if it's for a team like the White Sox who won't be contributing anything to the playoff race. I'm glad Ken Williams gave him a chance, or more of a chance than Jimmy Rollins at least. I don't know what the future holds for the guy, but I'm glad he did this much.

Coming Tomorrow- They played valiantly but they're being mourned, not celebrated. Tomorrow, a member of those battling Pittsburgh Pirates.

Nostalgic Box Break: 1995 Stadium Club Series Two (Part Two)

In the first eight packs of this incredibly 1995 box of Stadium Club, we saw some great photography, some not-so-great collation, and one of the most ridiculous inserts I've ever pulled out of a pack.

And of course I go back for more. Packs 9 thru 16, coming right up.

 Pack 9-
Dupes: 4/14
Cards I needed: 10/14
Hall of Famers: 1/14
Guys Who Were Really Big in the Mid-90's: 2/14

 Genuinely nice static photography- Eddie Zambrano reminds me how cool the 90's Cubs alts were. Willie Greene shows off the white Reds caps, which is always nice, against an even whiter background.

 Our 'Best Seat' subset is of HOFer Kirby Puckett, which is always nice.

 Our quartet of awesome horizontal shots. Mo Vaughn probably has the best one, just for that angle, but Morandini and Kelly have some great in-field-scuffle shots. Juan Gone's is a standard, and plainer by comparison, Cover Story card.

 Pack 10-
Cards I needed: 8/14
Dupes: 5/14
Cover Story Subsets: 2/14
Guys I'll Collect 'Til the Day I Die: 1/14

 DeShields and Alou have some pretty nice behind-the-scenes shots, and Jobias Manza...something has a nice tip-of-the-cap shot.

 Dykstra is our Virtual Reality insert, and maybe in that reality Dykstra would have saved his career. E-Mart, one of the greatest DHs of all time, seen here hitting one out for sure.

 Ken Hill and Rick Aguilera are the Cover Story inserts here. That is all.

 Pack 11-
Cards I needed: 9/14
Dupes: 4/14

 Not a ton of flair in this pack, so Tom Gordon, Brad Radke and VR Tommy Greene were some of my few highlights.

 Also, 90's superstar Albert Belle even gets the 'league leader' emblem.

 Pack 12
Dupes: 8/14
Cards I needed: 6/14
LA heroes: 2/14
 Chuck Finley was still a huge standout in LA back then- heck, HE even gets a League Leader emblem. Also, Karl Rhodes was still trying to stick with a squad in '95.

 Karros' is a great shot, even if it's a bit close. Greg Vaughn adds more traction to my theory that the Brewers just got the best photos in this set.

 I evidently didn't do a Group Shot for Pack 13, so here's two photography icons, Geronimo Pena and Bip Roberts, with some pretty bland photos.

 These two will make up for it- that Conine Cover Story is a pretty great one, and Bernie Williams always livens up a pack.

 Pack 14-
Cards I needed: 9/14
Dupes: 3/14
Generally Cool Inserts of Players That Haven't Aged Well: 1/14
Hall of Famers: 1/14

 Some pretty cool batting shots from Seitzer and Lankford.

 Though the landscapes are where this set is at- Brian Hunter's card goes behind the plate, and Mike Lansing's catches him just evading the tag. Just some really cool, well-zoomed stuff.

 Subset time! Hentgen's is our VR insert, right around the time he popped up big time in just about every product.
 Our Clear Cut Insert, which is indeed one of the most fun inserts in the set, is of Sammy Sosa, so there goes the joy. At least there's Almost-HOF-er Alan Trammell and Actual-HOFer Frank Thomas at Comiskey to make the pack work it.

 Pack 15-
Dupes: 6/14
Cards I needed: 8/14
Cards I already pulled but I can add to the set now: 2/14

 Sluggo's back there, in the middle of a backstop foul ball. Also, there's a very cool shot of Ellis Burks waiting for the call to the plate.

 These two you have already seen, but these are the NON-VR versions. Into the set they go.

 Matt Williams is this pack's Best Seat, trying to say good things about Candlestick Park (and failing). Kenny Lofton was the league leader in saves from 1994, which is always a nice little stat.

 Pack 16-
Dupes: 6/14
Cards I needed: 8/14
Guys I already pulled but can actually add to the set: 2/14
Guys Who Should be in the Hall of Fame: 1/14

 You've seen them, but now they go into the set.

 And to end this post, here are two really nice sideways shots, one of Tim Raines sliding, what he does best, and one of Greg Gagne fielding. Good stuff.

The last eight packs will go up...soon. Relatively soon.