Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Insanely Lucky Travis Shaw


I feel like I've gone over this once before on the blog, but it bears repeating, especially underneath this truly great custom.

Travis Shaw was a backup utility infielder for Boston over the past two years. Eventually, as Brock Holt grew more consistent, the Sox figured out that they didn't really have a great deal left to do with him. So, this past year they traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers for reliever Tyler Thornburg.

So...let's see how the Sox have done since the trade.

Tyler Thornburg had season-ending surgery...before the season even began. So the guy they'd traded for wasn't going to be any use to them. However, third base, which had been a bit more of a foregone conclusion in March, became even worse for them.

Initially it was a two man race between Brock Holt and Pablo Sandoval. When Holt got injured, it was a foregone conclusion. When Sandoval got injured, people got scared. Now, the only third baseman left in Boston is Deven Marrero, who's hitting atrociously so far.

It's worth mentioning that an additional first baseman, Yoan Moncada, could have still been in their organization this year, but they traded him to Chicago...for someone they've certainly been using well this year.

So, Travis Shaw ends up in Milwaukee because his team doesn't realize how badly they need him yet. So Shaw becomes the starting third baseman in Milwaukee, hitting extremely well, and becoming a leader-by-example for all the young rookies and prospects who don't wanna take any advice from Ryan Braun. Right now he's one of the best hitters on the team, hitting more for average than people like Eric Thames.

The Brewers are still the inexplicable surprise team of the year, and I hope they, and Travis Shaw, keep it up.

Coming Tomorrow- The guy who might have the coolest Topps flagship card of the year.

The Royal Comeback


In April...they were absolutely atrocious.

In June...they're at .500. So it could be a lot worse than it is right now.

Thanks to the sparks of their stars, like Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain, and some people you never thought would be doing well, like Mike Minor, Jason Vargas and Whit Merrifield, the Royals are in third place, whizzing past two teams that were part of the four-man blockade in April, and are now just pitiful.

Also, a bunch of Royals, like usual, are getting a ton of ASG votes, a week or so before voting ends. All's right in the world, I guess.

I'm impressed that Salvador Perez is having an insanely good offensive season, and I'm impressed that the team didn't take a disastrous first month and hang on it. This guy has become the second coming of Ivan Rodriguez, and the Royals have been absolutely embracing him. He's 27, he's made an All Star team every year since 2013, and he's become an indispensable part of this Royals team, as they grow beyond the 2015 title.

The Royals are going to need to seriously push in order to catch up to the Indians and Twins, but they have proven that they have some momentum, and are more than a last place team.

Coming Tonight: Last year he was a a backup third baseman for a team with too many options. This year, his old team has NO options at third base...and he's the starting first baseman for a first place NL team.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Wild Bour



It's weird- last year I was saying that the Marlins were a bit too good to be a third place team. Now...they're lucky to be as high as third.

The middle bit of the NL East is just this endless cavalcade and musical chairs act. Mets, Braves, Marlins. Who's better, who's worse. And they just keep going around in circles, never really deciding which one is truly the best or the worst, and just going by a week-to-week basis of how well they've been avoiding completely falling apart.

There's probably a better way of putting this.

Right now, the order goes Braves, Marlins, Mets. We know who's going to be in first. We know who's going to be in last. But for now, it's a foot race.

The Marlins' deal is that they have a really great lineup, of people who are hitting tremendously well. Justin Bour's having his best season, Giancarlo Stanton's having a great return-to-form year, Marcell Ozuna is nearly topping last year, and the performances of JT Realmuto, Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich and Martin Prado can't be ignored.

However, like a ton of the down teams this year, the pitching is keeping them from truly succeeding. No matter how well Dan Straily's doing, no matter how many no-hitters Edinson Volquez has, no matter how good Jose Urena looks...the injuries have dealt this rotation a very bad hand, and they don't have a ton of back up plans. Plus, being in the same division as the Nationals, they not have the best chance to succeeding.

The good news is that people, in a month's time, will be caring about the Miami Marlins. The bad news is that it's probably just going to be for the All Star Game.

Coming Tomorrow- Probably the best catcher in baseball?

Because You All Wanted It, First Place Red Sox


Yeah, at the beginning of the season, there were about a hundred 'the Red Sox are gonna be in first place' articles going around, saying that the Sale-Price-Porcello thing ALONE would propel them to the top. We'd seen this a thousand times before. The Red Sox get one huge star, and everybody thinks they're gonna be amazing, as if they'd never acquired someone in the offseason before. This happened the season they got Price, and it didn't go well for them there, because of reasons not necessarily referring to David Price. So when the '1st place Sox' articles came out in March, I was going 'NO, BE REASONABLE HERE!' I'd seen the 2016 team crash in the playoffs, and there were obviously structural problems quite evident, ones that had gotten worse in the Spring, and people were still saying 'they're a first place team'.

Well...right now they are, in fact, a first place team. Sue me.

They're not by any means perfect. They have no third baseman, as both foreseeable options are hurt, and their only option is an atrocious performance by Deven Marrero. The pitching isn't as red-hot as we all thought- Rick Porcello's looking human, David Price might be headed back to the DL, and Eduardo Rodriguez, well, IS on the DL, leaving a befuddled-looking Doug Fister to try and clean things up. Yes, Chris Sale and Mookie Betts are both fantastic this year, but, as I have to explain to the sportswriters in March every year, two players alone can not make a team great.

Still, they're in first, and they're playing well enough to deserve it. The Yankees have lost a few too many games, and are sitting in second as punishment. Once they become good enough to usurp Boston, they'll be back, but for right now, the Red Sox are in first place. Yes, the Sox did get here by their own merits, and it's not turning into a 'Yankees rule' thing. But...and this goes back to the sportswriters...they're all waiting for the Yankees to get back to first as much as I am.

Coming Tonight: Hard-hitting first-baseman for a struggling NL East team.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Greg Holland's Denver Renaissance


25 saves, and it's not even the All Star Break yet.

The fact that someone could get 25 saves while playing in Coors Field is surprising enough. It's even weirder when you realize that that someone is Greg Holland, a guy that most of us basically counted out after 2015.

Even if the Rockies have lost a smidge of traction in the past few games, Holland is still, far and away, the best closer in baseball. Even if Craig Kimbrel and Alex Colome are slowly gaining on the number, I don't think anybody's gaining on the dominance Holland's worked up. He's right back to the numbers he posted back in 2013 and 2014, when he helped the Royals get back to the top, and had some damn-near-50-save seasons. He's acting like 2015 never existed...which is, admittedly, a good plan.

The Rockies are beginning to run a bit thin, as the ERAs of the once-trusty rotation are beginning to inflate, leaving the lineup to occasionally have to fend for themselves. They're still winning games, but they're all the way down to third, which isn't a great sign when you consider that they were in first for a few weeks. They need to figure out how to get back to 1st, or how to realign the pitching so they're not giving up as many runs.

Coming Tomorrow- That Red Sox rookie we all should be talking about.

McCann Utility and the Coastliners


(I couldn't stop myself. I'm too much of a music geek for this.)

So yeah...a year after finishing up some solid home-run-hitting years with my Yankees, Brian McCann heads to Houston and just goes back to being relevant and getting tons of ASG votes. I'd be mad...but Russell Martin did this 5 years ago, so I'm a lot stronger now.

Naw, I still have some respect for McCann, because even if he's not the defensive catcher he was, and even if he's not a Yankees anymore, he's still an offensive threat, and he's playing for one of the best teams in baseball this year. Plus, the Astros are using him! They made room by trading Jason Castro, and they have him, in his mid-30s, playing catcher every day, and it's going really well.

The Astros are still 10 games ahead of the competition, this week a surprisingly hot Seattle Mariners, and are still far and away the most powerful team in baseball, becoming the first to hit 50 wins, and getting a ton of starters into the ASG voting leaders. Normally I'd cry ballot stuffing, but these guys deserve it- Correa, Altuve, Springer and McCann are all playing beautifully.

Again, like usual, I'm hoping for the momentum to hold until the postseason, and hopefully someone like the Rangers won't sneak up in September or something.

Coming Tonight: Two years ago he lost a closing gig in the World Series. Now, he's back to being one of the best closers in baseball, for a team that essentially gambled on him.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

4 Home Runs...and that's about it...


Well, it looks like this division's finally sorted itself out. Unfortunately, that means the pitching-less Reds are in 5th place.

Look, it's sad, because the lineup's actually still pretty nice. Joey Votto's having his best season since his MVP, the infield of Votto-Peraza-Cosart-Suarez (with occasional assists from Scooter Gennett and his ability to hit 4 home runs in a game) works well as an infield, Scott Schebler and Adam Duvall are still hitting, Billy Hamilton's still one of the best base-stealers in baseball, Tucker Barnhart's doing well in the starting catcher spot, and holy crap that's the whole lineup isn't it?

That's the worst part- this is a great lineup searching for a better pitching staff. They're in last, and while they're not too far from the Pirates, at least the Pirates have Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole. The Reds have absolutely nobody. And this total lack of pitching is probably going to continue further into the season, unless Brandon Finnegan returns on a hot streak from the DL.

This pitching thing is gonna take a few years to completely rectify, which means that by the time they get a passable rotation, the Reds may have already traded away most of this lineup. No matter the outcome, it's not gonna end well.

Still, Reds fans at least have Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett to make them feel good now. It just might not last long.

Coming Tomorrow- Last year he was catching for my team until a hot rookie came along. Now he's somewhere arguably better than the Bronx, on his way to a potential starting ASG spot.

A Tribe Called Best


Now in the front seat of this musical-chairs-esque AL Central, the Cleveland Indians. Remember the last time the took a stronghold on the division in June? Yeah, this is sort of like that, but different.

Last year, people were championing how insane and consistent the rotation was. This year, they're not as lucky- Danny Salazar's been pushed to the 'pen, Josh Tomlin's slumping, Trevor Bauer, like usual, strikes a ton of people out but can't win games. Yes, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco are doing really well, but the real hero is Corey Kluber. Last year he didn't come into vogue into September. Now he's doing some amazing things in June, even after an injury, and coming back to the ace-status he flirted with in 2014.

The lineup isn't as jigsaw-y and ragtag as it was last year. No random old-age success stories like Rajai Davis or Mike Napoli- just Edwin Encarnacion doing exactly what he always does, just in a friendlier uniform. Yes, the base of the team is still its youth, but Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor aren't alone this year- Bradley Zimmer's sprung in from the minors and has put up a great average and some great abilities. Michael Brantley's back and hitting like hell, Lonnie Chisenhall's having another great season, and Austin Jackson's putting up his best numbers since Detroit.

Now, this team is a bit less imperfect than its 2016 counterpart, and a few of their core members from last year (Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana for instance) are slumping. There are a few more holes in the roster, a few more questions. But they're still winning games, they're still at the top of the division, and they're still playing like a contending team. So even if they're a different team from the one that got to the World Series, they're still fantastic, and they're still one to watch.

Coming Tonight: He hit 4 home runs in one game a week or so ago. This calls for a custom!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Phillies Game vs. Cardinals- 6/21/17, or AAAAUUUUUGGGHHHH!


(HNNNNNNNG! NNNNNNNGGGGGG! GYAAAAHHHHH!)

I've been picking one game a year to go to Citizens Bank Park for the past few seasons, mainly because I live 20 minutes away from it, and it's one of the best stadiums in baseball, and if the tix are cheap enough I shouldn't really resist. I like going to games there. The stadium's got character, there's great food, there's a nice devotion to its history, and the Phanatic is one of the best mascots in sports.

The last two seasons, when I've went to games, even if they've had the full '5th place and horrible' thing going, they've still won. This may have had to do with my 'winning streak'- from the 2015 season on, any game I've been to has ended with a victory from the home team. My presence in Chicago (both sides), Baltimore, New York (both sides), Philadelphia (twice) and Pittsburgh has led to victories, even including the Yankees-Cardinals game I went to two months ago.

Heading to the game Wednesday night, for Father's Day, I was hoping for the streak to stay alive, especially considering the Cardinals, whom I'd seen so pathetic and depleted back in April, were in town to play the Phillies.

Oh...how wrong I was.

I settled in my seats, crabbed a thing of Chickie and Pete's crab fries, and joined my folks, in for the game, as this was my Father's Day present for my dad. The rain had passed, and it was Star Wars night, as dozens of costumed characters were running around the field, the announcer had an Obi-Wan cloak on, and all the visiting photos had Star Wars villain photos.

The first inning went rather well- a mixture of some nice turns from the Phillies lineup and some snafus from St. Louis' defense led to a few runs scoring, and putting them up 3-0 against Michael Wacha. This was all well and good, but I had to hope our defense would hold their own. Intially, they did- Nick Pivetta gave some lights-out innings on the mound, bringing some life to a mostly weighty rotation. Cameron Perkins was making his debut, and did well enough in the outfield with a still-hot Aaron Altherr, who made an astonishing catch early on.

This sort of slowly went on for a little while, with hits from both sides, solid defense, great base running, and proof that Howie Kendrick was an ABSOLUTE STEAL for Philly. The Cards were making a ton of errors in the field, as the Phillies' lead grew to 5-0. My dad was already saying my good-luck streak was embodying the team.

Then, things started getting hairy:

The guy you see above was the Cardinals' answer to Darth Vader on this particular Star Wars night.

He hit a home run off of Nick Pivetta, a simple one-runner, in the 5th. He'd opened the floodgates, as Jedd Gyorko and the rest of the team woke up and started pounding the team mercilessly as the game went on.

The Phillies, as one would do, decided to leave this game to the bullpen. This, however, proved to be a supreme misjudgment from Pete Mackanin's part, as the Phillies' bullpen this year is the absolute worst in baseball. Nobody can even remotely keep a side down. Everyone's either over-the-hill or out of their element. One by one, they came up, then went back to the bullpen after the deficit got worse. Jose Martinez, a pinch-hitter none of us had heard of, hit another home run, bringing the total to 5-4.

Top of the ninth, one out. I'm already packing my shit up, we're all ready to leave, we just want it to end. Hector Neris is on the mound, he's the closer, he's supposed to shut people down, we should be fine.

And Tommy Pham decides now's the absolute best time to hit a home run. Tie game. The Phillies fans start booing, not just the Cardinals, but their own team. The ineptitude of the bullpen had single-handedly caused this. And now they were going to extras over some BS.

After a half-inning of extras that didn't get any better, with even more Cardinals runs, this time on Philadelphia errors, my folks decided it wasn't worth it. We left mid-10, as the Cards had two up on the Phils with a do-or-die inning coming up (and the Phillies, at this point, had become rather inept at the whole 'doing' part).

The Phils lost, 7-6, in extras. It was honestly one of the most infuriating things I've ever witnessed firsthand at a baseball game. However, my dad still says it was a great game, and a wonderful Father's Day gift, so I'm calling this a draw.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the best strikeout artists in baseball, pitching his AL Defending Champs back into first.

Stop Pointing at me, Ezequiel Carrera


Allow me to explain my disappearance.

A week or so ago I started a summer job. A really, really nice one, with beer on tap, in a great part of Philadelphia, that used my graphic design skills to the best of my ability and appreciated my work effort. It's a wonderful job, a job I enjoy. The downside is that it took a ton of time away from the blog this week.

There'd be one or two nights where I'd be home, and I'd be so drained by the day that I wouldn't have the energy to write a post. The other night I went to a Phillies game, and usually I write those up right after I'm there, but I was too exhausted, from the job and the ineptitude of the Phillies' bullpen, to write. And then last night I got home late from a happy hour.

So, like the Toronto Blue Jays, I've been too exhausted to even give a shit about baseball.

I'm gonna try to set up a system where I can pre-plan posts, or figure out a way to write that doesn't involve me writing incredibly tired, broken posts of bizarre amalgamations of the english language that just ends up finishing off in a Blue Jays or Cardinals slam. The last thing I want from this job is for the quality of this blog to suffer. I've been doing this for eight years, and I'm not gonna let even something as cool as this job finish this blog off.

More posts are gonna happen. More frigging box breaks and non-custom posts as well, because having just the two custom posts per day is honestly cheating. I wanna get back to quality writing. I wanna get back to where Mint Condition was when I wasn't mentally fried.

To quote Joel Embiid, it's the process. And speaking of, hey, wow, the Sixers got a really nice pick the other night.

Coming Tonight: That long-awaited recap of the Phillies game I went to Wednesday night.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Still the Dodgers


It's not enough that the best pitcher in baseball is on the Dodgers.

It's not enough that they best rookie in the NL is on the Dodgers.

It's not enough that one of the best hitters in baseball right now is on the Dodgers.

The Dodgers might secretly be one of the most consistently solid teams in baseball. And you only get to realize it whenever the Rockies or Diamondbacks have a lapse.

On one pitching staff, you have Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Brandon McCarthy and Rich Hill. And all of them are pitching really well right now. Corey Seager's stronger than ever. Yasmani Grandal's topping his 2015 ASG season. Chris Taylor took the 2nd baseman job from two all stars and has absolutely ran with it. Kenley Jansen's still an outstanding closer.

Regardless of Adrian Gonzalez' injury, and a few other lower-key ones, this is still an insanely strong team, one that's capable of doing a lot of damage in the NL this year. And if you count them out because the Rockies and D-Backs are also good, you're making a mistake.

Coming Tomorrow- An outfielder for a last place AL East team.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

At Least They're a Fun Mess


Look, I'm not gonna say that the Athletics don't deserve to be in last. The farm system that led to those amazing seasons in the early 2000s has since dissolved a bit, and this seasons team is a mish-mosh of cheap contracts and overtired prospects. However...of the six last place teams right now, I do think that the A's are probably the most fun to watch. There's doom and despair, yes, but at the same time...there's 3 guys hitting near 20 home runs, and there's two guys most of baseball counted out who are doing really well.

Ryan Healy had a great rookie year last year, and as he started 2017 with a down average I got pretty worried. I thought he wouldn't be able to recapture the magic, and fall short like the rest of the A's. But now he's racked up 17 home runs, and he'd providing A's games with a nice amount of suspense.

I feel like the A's could build a team around this guy, like Anthony Rizzo in Chicago, and stack some heftier prospects and players around him to form a contender. I'm guessing that won't be for a while, but still.

Look, the A's may be dire, but there's some charm to them.

Coming Tonight- I'll be watching one of the other last place teams play ball tonight, so expect some sort of recap afterwards.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Surprise Blaster of 2017 Topps Series 2

Didn't see this one coming.

Lately, I've been hitting Wal-Mart for my week-of-release card needs, because the local Target never seems to have products until two weeks after they're out. Tonight, I was there to get socks and toothpaste...but my curiosity was piqued. I sauntered over to the card aisle, and sure enough...Series 2. Right there.

So I bought a blaster. And since my scanner's not working with my new laptop, I'm gonna just log it cold.

By the way, my box came with a guaranteed american flag manufactured thing...of Masahiro Tanaka, a Japanese pitcher. So, while it's nice to get a Yankee, there's still that famous Topps flavor of pathetic irony.

Pack 1-
554- Jason Castro. The photoshop job to start off is actually pretty nice. They're definitely improving.
664- Blake Swihart
572- Braves team card. Look, I'll give Topps credit- the team cards they've brought back into the set have been pretty great shots.
426- Mets team card- AND ANOTHER ONE!
559- Jason Motte GOLD #'D TO 2017. Nice shot for it, too.
Memorable Moments insert of Carlton Fisk's walk off. This design's a little better than the boring insert designs of late, but it's still a bit too white.
Topps Salute- an Independence Day card of Matt Carpenter.
372- Ryan Schimpf. The Padres throwback helps a bit.
516- Tony Wolters
684- Jorge Polanco, a member of the battalion of Twins rookies.

Pack 2-
647- Jose Reyes. Great card, even if he's back to tanking this year.
393- Koji Uehara. I still don't like the truncated stats on the back.
564- Nationals team card.Ooooh, this one's another amazing one.
368- Jhonny Peralta, who's been airlifted from the Cardinals infield.
'87 Topps insert of ROBINSON CANO.
377- Adam Rosales SHINY??? I don't get these.
FIRST PITCH of Bonnie Hunt, which is a pretty nice name.
546- Addison Reed
377- Adam Rosales...again.
434- Tyler Saladino

Pack 3-
406- Stephen Vogt. Yeah, the increase in good photography is DEFINITELY evident this series.
436- Cody Allen, one of the best closers nobody's heard of.
504- Austin Hedges
396- JT Realmuto. Again, aside from the over-abudant border usage, the horizontals are still great.
Topps Salute of Josh Donaldson...commemorating Spring Training...for some reason.
ID4 insert of Miguel Cabrera, which is pretty cool.
609- Adalberto Media
614- Shawn O'Malley
510- Kelby Tomlinson
489- Jarrod Dyson. Again, zoomed back, interesting photo.

Pack 4-
501- Ian Kinsler
496- Mike Fiers
389- George Springer. Again, really nice horizontal photography.
611- Victor Martinez
All Time All Stars insert of Hank Aaron. This, however, we didn't particularly need.
ASG MVP insert of Roberto Alomar. These, on the other hand, I do like.
493- Hunter Dozier
676- Eric Hosmer, whose on-ness is getting the Royals back into the picture this season.
446- Dexter Fowler. Still a favorite, no matter what uniform.
550- Mikie Mahtook

Pack 5-
388- Yasmani Grandal. Something else I've noticed is that there are a ton of great shots of catchers in this set.
605- Michael Brantley
417- Darren O'Day
Memorable Moments of Nolan Ryan signing with Houston.
665- Yu Darvish SHORT PRINT VARIATION!!! This has a different image of him fielding warm up balls, and I'm so happy I pulled a variation.
ID4 insert of Mookie Betts
413- Rob Segedin
556- STARLIN CASTRO. the best.
473- Eugenio Suarez and his gum-blowing fixation.
507- Matt Garza

Pack 6-
521- Brandon Phillips. Nice that they got a shot of him in a Braves uniform.
534- Cody Asche. Man, I'm glad we got rid of him when we did..
549- Miguel Gonzalez
470- Brandon Drury
87T Johnny Damon..SOX. ARGH.
Major League Milestones of Trevor Story. And back to the lazy insert designs Topps is used to.
514- Jeremy Jeffress
555- Noah Syndergaard!!
694- Matt Wieters, looking commanding in a Nats uniform
462- Rich Hill

Pack 7-
431- TOMMY JOSEPH
695- Jon Jay
576- Russell Martin. Don't love him, but I love this shot.
608- Dodgers team card
Topps Salute of Kenny Lofton
ID4 insert of Francisco Lindor
415- Pat Valaika. Man, they picked the wrong Rockies rookie..
600- YOENIS CESPEDES.
653- Cam Bedrosian
422- Andrew Miller, best set-up man in baseball.

Pack 8-
482- SIR DIDI GREGORIUS.
391- Jonathan Schoop
430- Rangers tc
636- Pirates combo
485- GREG BIRD...GOLD #D TO 2017. Wish he was doing better, but it's still a gold Yankee.
All Time ASG of Juan Marichal
ASG MVP of Melky Cabrera
689- Jason Vargas, back to pitching really well for Kansas City.
505- Seung Hwan Oh
441- Jose Iglesias

Pack 9-
428- Jay Bruce
355- Shelby Miller, burning all his former credibility
630- Edwin Encarnacion, with another great shot
499- Danny Valencia
Memorable Moments of YAZ
ID4 of Giancarlo Stanton
519- Dan Fogelbach
425- Carlos Gonzalez, in a Stadium Club-worthy shot.
567- Devon Travis
376- Chase Anderson, slowly becoming an ace on this Brewers team

Pack 10-
579- Taylor Jungmann
444- Andrew Heaney
452- Travis Shaw
424- Derek Dietrich
565- JD Martinez, with a pretty great horizontal shot
87T Omar Vizquel
First Pitch of Luke Donald, one of the many unnecessary golfers in this set
672- Luke Maile
620- Sam Dyson
383- Adam Frazier


That was a pretty nice blaster, and proof that Topps is improving flagship with Series 2.

Supernova


Let's get this out of the way first. If I could just have everyone's attention for a second.

(loudspeaker feedback)

ATTENTION: ANDREW MCCUTCHEN IS FINALLY HITTING AGAIN.

Okay, you can go back to what you were doing.

I figured I'd start with that. The Pirates are towards the end of the NL Central, but they're still relevant enough, especially with Cutch coming back, and Ivan Nova having another truly great season on the mound. The guy had a ton of jitters and inconsistency as a Yankee, so to see him dominant again in Pittsburgh is a marvel.

The team's still working on some things, though the addition of Josh Bell as a consistent, hard-hitting first baseman is noted, as well as David Freese playing a full-time position, Adam Frazier filling in for Starling Marte, and the still-fearsome tactics of Jameson Taillon. There are some holes in the rotation, there's not a great deal of roster depth, and there are a few injuries and just plain down seasons. This isn't a perfect team, but it's rebuilding.

Right now they're essentially tied for third with the Cardinals. The Cardinals have a series with the Phillies this week. I think it would be absolutely hysterical if the Phils took 3 from them. Mainly because I'll be in attendance for one, but also because the Pirates could jump back into a prime position, to potentially chase the Cubs for seconds. Don't know if it's possible this year, but...you never know.

Coming Tonight: After an impressive rookie season, he's back to hitting like hell and conquering my Yankees on the west coast.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Twins vs. June


It's sad...we started the season knowing the Twins were red-hot, and changed, and a different team...and how did they spend June? By losing a bunch of games by wide margins. It's like the old Twins never left after all!

I mean, I have a ton of respect for this Twins team, and how they've improved, but if they're gonna lose games like that, they're asking for it. Aside from Jose Berrios and Ervin Santana, the whole pitching staff is drying up. Everyone is either giving up far too many runs or getting injured...WHILE giving up far too many runs. And again, even if Berrios and Santana are red-hot, two guys can hold up a whole rotation. It doesn't work like that.

The lineup's still pretty hot, too. I mean, a lot of them are calming down, but nobody's problematic. They're just having a sorry month. Miguel Sano, Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco are still having great seasons.

I don't think they're down for the count yet, but the Royals are surging and the Indians are in first, so it's going to be tough.

Coming Tomorrow- He pitched for my team, he got even better the second he left. Now, even as his team's finally improving, he's still somehow an ace.

God Save the Queens


...sad to say, but we might approaching 'trash-fire' levels of play in Flushing Meadows.

I don't know how it happened. The pitching was tight a year ago. The lineup was solid in 2015. The production was even constant when the team wasn't great. I didn't think it'd flow into this absolute mess of a roster this year. It's just become heartbreaking, even if they're still technically in that three-way deadlock for second place.

The pitching, sadly, just looks dire this year. deGrom, Harvey, Gsellman and Wheeler just aren't as dominant as usual- deGrom's got a ton of strikeouts, but NEEDS to keep his ERA down. Steven Matz and Seth Lugo are just now adding their stuff, but how long's it gonna take until they start falling to what the rest of the rotation's fallen to.

The lineup's filled with a ton of holes due to injuries, but Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto are doing the best they can, and Yoenis Cespedes is catching up. On the flip side...Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are injured, Jose Reyes and Curtis Granderson are cold, and none of the guys that are being brought up are really adding anything. So, for right now, they're just stuck in this little three-way rut, no real way of getting out.

I don't know what else they have to do, but I at least hope things get better.

Coming Tonight: He had a disappointing rookie year, but he's back on top, helping his team stay on first.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sir Didi


So, we had a bad west-coast road trip. So what?

To be honest, I'm not worried. The Yankees have more momentum than most of the AL, and they just happened to have a bad road trip. They haven't lost their mojo. They still have some of the best players in the major leagues right at their fingertips. The only problem is that without C.C. Sabathia, the pitching is sliding down a bit. They're not completely bad now, they just all had a bad week. They're gonna be at home for a week, and hopefully that will change things a bit.

The lineup, by the way, is still in pristine condition. Aaron Hicks might be headed to the DL, but at the same time, Mason Williams is finally healthy, and we're using him now for all he's worth until the inevitable trade in the next 12 months. Yes, Chris Carter's still problematic, but he's better than he was. Yes, Chase Headley's been cold, but there's a certain someone waiting in the wings, ready to strike within the next month.

Didi Gregorius has had a spectacular month, hitting like wild and making up for his month on the DL. This is a guy we got for absolutely nothing from Arizona, and we thought would just be a steady defensive player that'd get us by for a while, but Didi has impressed big time, becoming a fan favorite and one of the most fun players on the team. He and Starlin Castro make a terrific, hard-hitting double play duo, and it'd be wonderful to see them both in the ASG.

Despite the botched road trip, the Yankees are still looking fantastic, and the hopes are still high.

Coming Tomorrow- A less composed New York team, where their first baseman is somehow still uninjured, and doing relatively well.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Brad Hand Dealt a Bad Hand



So...I don't think there's anything at all worth talking about in terms of the San Diego Padres.

Look, even if there have been rookies and misfits, and people like Franchy Cordero and Jose Pirela hitting like animals, this is still the absolute most pathetic team in baseball. Nobody on the starting roster is hitting. None of the pitching is polished, and everybody's over the hill. Wil Myers is back to disappointing us (slightly). It's just a mess of a team, even if the little shreds of youth are trying to save them.

Brad Hand's one of the few noteworthy players on this team. Literally...he's just a middle reliever, and he's the only guy worth talking about. That's something.

I don't have much else, guys. They're the 2017 Padres. They don't give you much.

Coming Tonight: He's royalty in his home country...and he's certainly become royalty in the Bronx.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Former Yankee Farmhands in Danger!


Sorry about the slight hiatus, everybody! The board of my laptop broke, so I had to spend the week trying to fix, and then replacing, said laptop. Additionally, I started a really cool summer job, so a lot of my day-posting has been near-nonexistent. Luckily I'm taking a moment now and posting a custom I should have posted 3 days ago.

Anyway, where were we? Ah, yes, Ben Gamel and the Mariners. Lovely.

The M's are 'round fourth in a division whose outcome is almost inevitable by mid-June. Yes, the Astros are still very much ahead of the game, and yes, anybody else in the division at this point is basically just an also-ran, but the M's have a nice amount of guys who are actually playing well. Ben  Gamel, who they snatched from the Bronx for literally nothing, is one of the best rookie performers on the team. Guillermo Heredia's never had a starting gig before and he's thriving. Mitch Haniger had an amazing start, Jarrod Dyson, Jean Segura and Danny Valencia are impressing in new uniforms, the one-two-three of Cano-Seager-Cruz is still potent, and James Paxton's still having one of the more impressive breakout seasons of anyone.

The problem, however...is injuries. Their entire starting rotation was felled with injuries at some point this year. King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma bowed out early, Drew Smyly, as he seems to do lately, got injured, and the only guys left are inexperienced rookies, most of which (with the exception of Ariel Miranda) aren't doing great.

So, sort of like Cincinnati, this is a great team being ruined by a lack of starting pitching. And it's pretty sad, because you can see someone like Ben Gamel or Mitch Haniger leading this team to a postseason. The pitching just got very unlucky this year.

Coming Tomorrow- So, true story, for this team I literally had to go through everybody I hadn't customized yet that was doing relatively well, and I got literally no cool photos for anybody. So I had to settle on a guy who's likely gonna be their only All Star Game representative, a middle reliever and closer who'll likely be working in middle relief or closing for someone else in a month and a half's time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Curse Strikes Back?

To be honest, I shouldn't have a ton to complain about.

The Cubs are in second place, only a hair under .500, with most of their prime players healthy and their anchors, like Kris Bryant, Jon Lester and Jason Heyward, surging.

It's only because they won the World Series last year that causes this season to look unspectacular. They'd barely looked human for even a slightest moment in 2016, so now that they're actually having a human season, it's hard not to feel frightened.

Even still, it's not the worst season to come from a team that's just won a World Series. Last season the Royals plummeted near fourth, the year after capping off a title. In 2014, the Red Sox completely collapsed, only a year after their breath-taking 2013 victory. So it's been done to deeper depths before, but the reason people are going insane about this merely okay Cubs season is the fact that this exact same team was able to do so much with a ton of the same players last year, and the fact that what worked so well last year hasn't been working this year doesn't connect in people's minds.

At least Kris Bryant is still having a nice season, albeit a step down from his MVP year last year. It's also nice that they're peppering the youth movement, including bench players from last year like Albert Almora and Javier Baez, and rookies like Ian Happ, into the main roster. So there is some evidence that the roster depth that helped the team so well last year is working. Yes, some of last year's all-important starters, like Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber, are disappointing this season, and the pitching is letting a ton more runs go by than they should, but this isn't a DIRE-looking team. They're in second, and they're a game and half behind the Brewers. That's not necessarily a down-and-out team.

There's still some life in this Cubs team, I swear. But it's hard to see it, especially after last season.

Coming Tomorrow- Last year he was a Yankee farmhand, now he's starting in Seattle.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Chicago White Flag


Leave it to the White Sox to screw up a perfectly solid lead....again.

It was bad enough last year, when the White Sox were a first place team for a month, had some amazing April momentum, and then completely fell apart by the beginning of June. Sure, it was an embarrassing fall, but the Twins were still there in last to cushion them.

2017, they start relatively high in the standings, and the fall-apart thing happens again. No Twins to cushion them. The Royals are the last place team this year, and the second the Sox become absolutely horrendous again, the Royals decide that the BEST IDEA is to suddenly start playing well. So who's the last place team now? You guessed it- the Chicago White Sox. Because it's bad enough to start on first and end in fourth. It's even worse to start the season as a competitor and end up in last. That's a role reversal you just don't want.

The only guys who are holding up the team are guys most people have never heard of. Avisail Garcia, Leury Garcia, Yolmer Sanchez, Derek Holland. Yes, Abreu and now Todd Frazier are hitting home runs and keeping the team noteworthy, but this is a depleted, injured, forgettable roster, and they're gonna have to deal with this for the next few months.

Coming Tomorrow-

More Murph


When Daniel Murphy had his amazing start to last year's season, posting an incredible average and hitting even better than he had for the Mets, the sportswriters were wondering when he'd come down. When the fluke would run out.

...It's a year later, and it's not a fluke. Murph is still one of the best offensive providers in Washington, regardless of his skills on defense. He's got a similarly high average to his 2016 season, and he's one of the MANY Nationals starters who are on fire right now. He, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Trea Turner are all playing beautifully- wait, hell, that's the ENTIRE INFIELD. I used to go crazy about the original infield formation of LaRoche-Desmond-Rendon-Zim, but this is arguably even better. Here, there's not a strikeout-heavy guy in the infield, and everyone's going for average as well as power. Yes, the infield has a combined 43 home runs, but they're still hitting for average in addition to all of the power work.

Additionally, the core four of Scherzer-Strasburg-Gonzalez-Roark is deadlier than it's ever been. Scherzer's having a season that's already rivaling his Cy Young seasons, and Strasburg's back to his old strikeout-wielding tricks, with some better control and less earned runs. The only weak link in the rotation is Joe Ross, but when the fifth guy's the only problem, you're doing pretty well.

There are still some problems, though- Bryce Harper's the greatest, but the outfield without either Adam Eaton or Jayson Werth is pretty blank. The bullpen is ailing, as not only is the suggested closer Blake Treinen tanking, but Koda Glover, the new and improved closer, might be heading to the DL. They need to secure a closer, whether by converting some middle reliever or trading for one, insanely soon, or else the ninth inning instability is gonna KILL them come September.

Still, the Nationals, and Daniel Murphy, are impressing a ton of people so far. Let's hope it keeps going.

Coming Tonight: A rookie infielder for an ailing Chicago team.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Unfortunate Timing for an Orioles Custom


I feel like it's a bit mean-spirited to post a custom from a team immediately after your team has just swept the hell out of them by scoring a combined THIRTY EIGHT RUNS against them.

And even worse- I like the Orioles! I've been to a bunch of their games, and I have a ton of respect for the organization and this current roster. But I don't care how good you are- if the Yankees are scoring THAT MANY runs off of you, you need to look deep down into the roster and see if it's less of a referendum on them on more of a referendum on YOU.

The lineup is at 'good enough' levels currently, which is kind of sad. Mark Trumbo hit 47 home runs last year. So far he's hit 8. Nobody's really wowing people, and the big starts that some of the new additions had are beginning to cool off. The pitching staff, with the exception of Wade Miley and Dylan Bundy, is atrocious. Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, and now Kevin Gausman are all giving up too many runs, and if it took the Yankees taking them for spins the last two games to make that abundantly clear to the front desk, then so be it.

The Rays are getting to the point where they're about to lap the O's, and as a guy whose indifference towards the Rays knows no bounds, I'd prefer that not to happen. The Orioles need to figure out how to fix their pitching staff, and inspire some life in their lineup, and maybe, just maybe, they won't get absolutely mutilated by the Yankees' offense next time.

Coming Tomorrow: Having just as good a season as last year, only with the rest of his team pitching in a bit more.

Not the Worst Place to be


I'd like to point out first of all that, after losing A.J. Pollock for the second year in a row, David Peralta has stepped up in a big way, driving in a ton of hits and playing better than he ever has. I just wanted to say that I'm happy he's finally having a good year, because, for a while, he looked like he'd be the one member of the Arizona youth movement that wouldn't make it...though, currently, it's looking like that's gonna be Chris Herrmann.

The Diamondbacks are in third place in the NL West, but...to be honest, they have the best outlook of any third place team in baseball right now. They are twelve games in front of the competition, the fourth-place San Francisco Giants, and only three games out of first. So, while every other division has at least some tug between the top positions and the bottom ones, the Diamondbacks, unless they completely fall apart, don't seem like they're going to go any lower than third place. It's very likely, though, that they could go higher.

Since the top of the season, those three spots have been an ongoing game of musical chairs between the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies. Look back every week and a different one's on first. They're all equally good, and they want it equally badly. The team that ends this season in first is gonna be the one that, honestly, gets the luckiest. Because all three of these teams are really good, and it's going to take the other two to have unlucky turns for the third one to come out on top. And I have no conception as to which one that's gonna be.

Still...even as a third place team, the Diamondbacks picked a pretty nice position to be in, two months after the start of the season.

Coming Tonight: Last year he hit 50 home runs. This year? He's not exactly hitting 50 home runs.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Choo Cares?


And after a good month or so in the spotlight, it's back to patheticness for the Rangers.

For a team that had so much going for it in 2016, it's equally heartbreaking that next-to-nothing is clicking for the Rangers. Right when it looked like they'd be getting Adrian Beltre back, he sprains his ankle again. Pretty much everyone with positive momentum on this team, including Cole Hamels, Adrian Beltre, AJ Griffin, Carlos Gomez and Mike Napoli, is now injured.

We're left with a few good performances, and Elvis Andrus trying his best to keep the team together, but now nobody's on. Nobody's fired up and up to their 2016 selves. Honestly, the only non-Andrus people that are doing any good work this year are people that didn't really excel last year- Joey Gallo, Andrew Cashner, Yu Darvish and Delino DeShields are putting up good numbers, almost as if everyone on the roster that had a good 2016 was doomed.

At this point, even the Mariners have lapped them in the standings, and while the middle bit of this division is still up in the air, at this point the Angels have more of a case for relevance than the Rangers do. At the very least though, Shin-Soo Choo is having his first good season since joining the Rangers. So at least that's happening.

Still a pretty sad sight all-around in Texas, though.

Coming Tomorrow- Formerly the weak third entry in an outfield of AJ Pollock and Ender Inciarte, now he's breaking out in a big way.

The Unprecedented Surprise of the Brewers' Rotation


Yes, another post about how well the Brewers are doing. Man, 2017 is just turning into one Twilight Zone episode of a year, isn't it?

I've already talked about the success of the youth movement in the lineup, how homegrown guys like Domingo Santana, Jesus Aguilar, Hernan Perez and Orlando Arcia are excelling this season, in addition to loaners like Jonathan Villar and Eric Thames. But I wanna talk about the pitching for a moment, because I don't think anybody saw the insane success of this pitching staff coming.

Look, we had a brief window into it last season with Chase Anderson, Junior Guerra and Zach Davies doing well towards the end of the season, but they put up weaker, losing-team numbers. Now that they're behind a better lineup, they're all winning a ton more games and becoming even more impressive presences. Anderson I kinda knew would be nice, as he had some impressive starts back in Arizona, but Davies and Guerra came out of nowhere and started mowing people down. This year, for all three, the positive progress has continues. Guerra just got off the DL and is succeeding in getting back the rotation.

It'd be nice enough if they stopped there, but they don't. Jimmy Nelson, who was essentially the Zach Davies of the 2015 season, is back to posting nice numbers and high strikeouts, giving a slightly more experienced presence in the rotation, and a FOURTH really nice arm. Matt Garza was putting up nice enough numbers before he went on the DL, and while he's not at the caliber of his Rays days, he's still a nice enough arm, and is probably gonna be the 5th starter in this equation. Wily Peralta's not great this year, but he works well enough.

This pitching staff has outdone everyone's expectations, and is making a great team even better. And this is the Milwaukee Brewers I'm talking about. It's crazy enough already, and it'll be even crazier if they STAY this good past the break.

Coming Tonight: A hard-hitting veteran for a youth-emphasizing team in Texas.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Still the Best


It's been 4 years since Miguel Cabrera had his big '2 MVPs in a Row' breakout, commanding his team to a World Series and reigning as the best player in baseball for several seasons. We're 4 years removed, and Miguel Cabrera is just as relevant now as he was back then. It's not a Pujols situation where the numbers decline and people stop caring. There's just as much interest in Miguel Cabrera's batting performance as there was a few seasons ago. He's a legend. You can't turn that down.

Cabrera's been getting ASG votes again this season, even if he's not posting INCREDIBLE numbers. You could arguably say that this is the beginning of the point where he's giving the reins of the team to someone else, arguably Justin Upton or Michael Fulmer, and staying slightly back, still the same presence but with slightly less pressure.

The Tigers themselves are doing...alright. The main race is between Cleveland and Minnesota, but the Tigers have wedged themselves right near Cleveland, and are fighting hard, despite having some holes and imperfections they need to deal with. Man, it's a good thing their other time-tested anchor, Justin Verlander, has a worthy successor like Michael Fulmer to jump in and absolutely nail some starts. I swear, he's becoming even better than Verlander.

For right now, the Tigers need to iron out their flaws and keep fighting, even if it might not lead them to much. As for Miggy...I'd love to see him start another All Star Game. It'd be fantastic.

Coming Tomorrow- A pitcher for the most unexpected first place team in baseball.

Nostalgic Box Break: 1999 UD Choice (Part Three)


Previously on 'Boxes that make Jordan want to jump out of a window', we were blazing through this badly-collated, badly designed, and just plain BAD box of 1999 UD Choice. Today we go through the next 9 packs, and hope to god that Jordan can make it through.

 Pack 19-
Hall of Famers: 2/10
Jim Thomes: 2/10
Hall of 'Good in the 90's': 3/10

 A common version of the Cal Ripken Starquest, and a base card of ubiquitous 1998 strikeout artist Kerry Wood.

 NOMAH...the Red Sock so huge in the late 90's that Jimmy Fallon made a career out of basically yelling his name.
Jim Thome is our YARD WORK insert for this pack. Again, those ones are pretty cool, and deserved a better set.

 Piazza, Thome, Tino. Three guys who hit a ton of home runs in the 90s.

 Pack 20-
Hall of Famers: 3/10
Tony Gwynn: 2/10
California Team Legends: 3/10
 Double the Gwynn, double the fun. Starquest AND base!

 Tim Salmon was still relatively relevant in 1999, despite not especially recapturing his rookie year. Greg Maddux was still riding high though.

 Our 'Heads Up' insert this pack is Philly corner Scott Rolen. I'm glad he got a full career out of playing the infield, but I do wish more of it was spent in Philly.

 Pack 21-
Hall of Famers: 1/10
Yankee Heroes: 1/10

 Not much to report about in this pack, so here are base cards of Frank Thomas and Bernie Williams. You get bored of this set less than halfway through the rip.

 Pack 22-
Borderline Hall of Fame Infielders: 3/10
Borderline Hall of Fame catchers: 1/10

 Another Rolen, and a Tejada. Sums up the state of infielders in the 2000s.

 Omar Vizquel, one of the better defensive infielders of his time, and Jason Varitek, one of the greatest catchers ever to barely have any Topps cards...like the Matt Wieters of his time, only slightly more infuriating.

 Pack 23-
Hall of Famers: 1/10
Boston Scum: 2/10

 NOMAHH Starquest. Additionally, a card of Manny Ramirez right before joining the Sox and becoming MANNY. They added a Griffey in this pack to balance out the infuriation.

 Pack 24-
Extremely Rare Parallels of players I can't stand: 1/10
Yankees: 2/10
 My RED!!! Starquest, which would have been amazing in 1999, is of Mark McGwire. Sadly, post-Steroids, I don't really collect the guy, nor do I have a ton of respect for him. So...no real use for it.
Mike Lowell came up with the Yankees, made All Star teams with Miami and Boston. Didn't particularly miss him though, WS rings notwithstanding. And David Wells, regardless of his instability, is a guilty pleasure of mine.

 Pack 25-
Clemens, Nomar, Clemens. As if I couldn't dislike a pack any more.

 Pack 26-
A ton of dupes, and a lot of people I simply don't collect or care about. Which...essentially sums up this entire product.

 Pack 27- Even more dupes and discards than before!

This one at least came with a Heads Up insert of Alex Rodriguez, but...again, post-steroids, I don't really have a use for it.

Very weak section of the box. I'm doubting Part 4 will be any more exciting though.

After the No-No


I think that nobody, aside from Bartolo Colon, has had a stranger career than Edinson Volquez. Just when you think he's done being relevant, he spins back into the fold.

The guy has the distinction of being traded for an MVP back in 2007, when the Reds grabbed him in exchange for some has-been named Josh Hamilton. He has an unbelievable season in 2008, then just sinks into obscurity for 6 seasons. Then he comes back in 2014 because the Pirates make a run at the playoffs, and he does a fair job, then he hands in Kansas City and wins a World Series...followed by another 'back into the gutter' season that lands him in Miami.

I was not expecting a no-hitter to be the next thing I heard about Edinson Volquez. I was kinda figuring they'd DFA him by June, and here he is, leading the team and posting a pretty nice record, despite playing for a lackluster team, with a 'Me and Dan Straily vs. the world' rotation configuration. Heck, he even managed to no-hit the Diamondbacks, who've built up a ton of momentum recently.

I honestly don't know what's next for Volquez. I know that Stanton and Ozuna are trying to jump the team back into the race, but I don't know how successful that'll be.

Coming Tonight: He's gotten MVP votes in every year of his career, and he's 49 home runs away from the big 5-0-0. You can honestly just give him his plaque in Cooperstown NOW if you want.