Sunday, July 23, 2017

Shaved Fish


So to recap- the Washington Nationals, now with a better-stocked bullpen, are still really good. Despite other placings, it's not a great idea to get too invested in any of the other four teams. Thanks to injuries, inexperience, and...well, just plain ineptitude in the case of the Philadelphia Phillies. The Marlins have fallen into the trap of having a really nice starting lineup and not having the greatest rotation. The injuries are hitting here, as well.

Edinson Volquez, Jeff Locke and Wei-Yin Chen are injured, Justin Nicolino's not playing like himself, and without Jose Fernandez, the Marlins rotation has no anchor, no leader, no consistency. It's become a free-for-all. Some people, like Jose Urena and Dan Straily, are doing pretty well, but the youth movement they tried to align last year with Fernandez at the helm is falling apart, and Tom Koehler and Adam Conley are really disappointing people. Even AJ Ramos, the closer, is suffering a bit.

The Marlins' lineup is still great- JT Realmuto, Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna are building the strong core that they were going for a few years ago when they all came up. Giancarlo Stanton's having a well-deserved comeback season. Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon are doing fairly well. There are some holes in the lineup, and the lack of roster depth is juuuust beginning to get to them.

This is a heavily flawed team, but it's one I secretly want to succeed.

Coming Tomorrow: A DH for a last-place team.

Over-Extend it Like Beckham


Yeah, that's a Daily Show-worthy title. I'm kinda proud of that one.

The Rays had me worried for a second. Yes, they're a great team, but...no, that's exactly it. They're a great team this year. For a little while, they were ahead of the Yankees in the standings. As if we needed anymore things to worry about as Yankee fans, besides the Red Sox' lead, now the Rays jump into high gear and decide to challenge us. Greeeeat.

The Rays actually have a nicely-assembled gang. The core is hard-hitters like Evan Longoria, Corey Dickerson, Logan Morrison and Steven Souza. The outskirts are filled with speedy devils like Kevin Kiermaier, Tim Beckham and Maliex Smith. Plus, people like Wilson Ramos, Adeiny Hechavarria and Trevor Plouffe are coming out of the woodwork and performing in smaller roles. The pitching staff is small but mighty. Alex Colome's pretty intimidating. This is a surprisingly great team, that's making big things come from small places.

And yes, their problem is that they have to be a good team in the AL East when two GREAT teams, the Yankees and Red Sox, are trying to establish dominance against each other. It's like Rocky vs. Drago being interrupted by a third challenge, that being Paulie. You just don't wanna see that.

Again, you can only hope for good things from the Rays, but with those big two teams on the horizon, it's hard to be too sure.

Coming Tomorrow- Hard-hitting catcher for a weak, but still fighting, NL East team.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Walker, Arizona Diamondback


Now back to the Arizona Diamondbacks show. They may not be in first, but with power like this, they don't need to be in order to make a statement.

They're 11 games behind the Dodgers, but they're still way out above 500, and they still have a pretty remarkable roster, even after the breakout of April. The rotation is still strong- Greinke-Ray-Walker works as well as it did then, now with the addition of Zack Godley to the fold (plus, Patrick Corbin is still kinda there!) Taijuan Walker is currently on the paternity list, which is a ton better than what I originally figured when I saw his name unbolded on Baseball Reference.

The lineup depth is definitely helping as well. Ketel Marte's finally come back up, Chris Iannetta and Daniel Descalso are doing well off the bench, and JD Martinez, despite being the umpteenth recent acquisition to get beaned in his first game with his new team, is a welcome presence that will make up for the absence of Yasmany Tomas. With Peralta, Goldschmidt, Lamb, Owings and Pollock all doing insanely well, this is a team that, if they stay hot, could be insanely sneaky in October.

The challenge is coming from above (the Dodgers) and below (the Rockies). It's gonna be hard for them to coexist with at least one of those other two, but with the caliber they've shown so far, it's not showing.

Coming Tonight: Infielder for the team that's somehow ahead of the Yankees in the standings.

And Now, A Really Cool Shot of Eric Young



Awesome, eh? Even if he's not really a part of the team anymore since Mike Trout's been back, you gotta love this one.

Not much else to report at the moment. Carry on.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Red Scare


I keep thinking I have a different problem about the last-place Reds to report, but it's the same exact one as the last few posts. It's just gotten exponentially worse.

Brandon Finnegan. Anthony DeSclafani. Bronson Arroyo. and now Scott Feldman. All four of those guys are established arms...and they're all injured. So the people coming into the Reds rotation are inexperienced, struggling, and...the next guy to start pitching well might join those four.

They're relying on people who would be good in concept, like Tim Adleman and Homer Bailey, but just can't seem to make it work this year. The farm system in Cincinnati might be pretty alright, but the number of arms that are coming up aren't the greatest ones, especially compared to what the system's been dealing into the lineup recently.

The only saving grace so far has been Luis Castillo, who has a good record, a good amount of strikeouts, and seems like he might have his stuff together, unlike most of the pitching staff. Plus, Rasiel Iglesias has been lights-out whenever he's been given the opportunity to save games, so at least 1/9th of the innings are basically taken care of. But the pitching staff is so sparse, so flawed, that they're rubbing off on a truly great lineup of players.

I want it to get better for the Reds, but I'm not thinking it will.

The Moose That Roared


For a third place team, the Royals are producing some surprisingly phenomenal stuff.

The lineup's pretty on, Mike Moustakas has 25 home runs, Jason Vargas and Danny Duffy are red-hot, Eric Hosmer's having the best season of his career, and, even better, it's not looking like they're gonna have to trade anyone away this week! Yes, they're not perfect, and yes, they might not be able to make the playoffs, but I wouldn't call them a bad team, and I certainly wouldn't call them sellers.

I feel like the Royals have come to terms with the fact that they're not World-Series-caliber as a team anymore. Yes, a lot of the core is still there, but a ton of the extraneous factors that made them great, bit players like Kendrys Morales, Jarrod Dyson and Johnny Cueto, are gone. The sense os spontaneity has left as well. Yes, rookies are coming up and taking positions, but there aren't, like, out of nowhere players that have games. They're not the everymen anymore, and they've come to terms with that. Now they're just trying to win games and be a great team, instead of trying to be the 2015 Royals, which, admittedly, was most of 2016 for them.

Ton of respect for the Royals. Hoping for good things, even if the Twins and Indians have the upper hand at this point.

Coming Tonight: Pitcher for the Reds?!!?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Summer Kemp


Last year, around this time, Matt Kemp found himself swapped from one bad team to another, in the hopes that his career wouldn't be completely doomed. Now...he's doing pretty alright for himself.

True, the Braves are still a flawed team, and even the youthful additions of Dansby Swanson and Rio Ruiz haven't exactly done jack shit for the team, but the veterans, especially Freddie Freeman and Matt Adams, are succeeding in droves. Kemp's presence on the team brings a steady bat, much steadier than the last few years, and someone who can perform in the clutch. With so much going on in Atlanta's lineup, the fact that Kemp's being relied upon less is a good thing, as he's part of a unit rather than a standout star.

The Braves are an odd case- they're doing well in the standings, but there's no chance of them catching the Nationals, and the deadlock between them, Miami and New York still stands strong, with all three teams sort of blocking each other. Calling the Braves the best of the three is a lot like saying the first Transformers movie is the best one- yeah, it's a statement, but it's barely a compliment.

With the departure of Jaime Garcia, and...maybe one or two other departures, the Braves will be given the necessary tools to finish strong, though not necessarily on top.

Coming Tomorrow- Sports Illustrated foretold the rise of this guy's success down a T- now hitting home runs left and right and bringing his once-limp team back to relevancy.

Blaster of 2017 Stadium Club: Let Down/Redemption Song

It's often discouraging to get a blaster full of a product you loved, that happens to have a ton of cards you already have. I'll present this one pretty simply, as there's a nice little treat towards the end.

Pack 1:
163- Don Mattingly. Have it
208- JA Happ. Have it.
64- AARON JUDGE...GOLD PARALLEL. I mean, it's a dupe, but it's a lovely dupe.
128- Luis Severino. NEEDED IT!
200- Dave Winfield. Have it.

Pack 2-
22- Adam Duvall. Have it
Contact Sheet insert of DANIEL MURPHY! Nice, despite the blandness of the design
50- Todd Frazier. NEEDED IT
21- Randy Johnson. NEEDED IT. I love how all the base cards I've needed so far are current/former Yankees.
71- JT Realmuto. Dupe.

Pack 3-
248- David Ortiz. Great card, but dupe.
54- Kevin Pillar...ORANGE AND SEPIA PARALLEL. Again, goes back to my luck of getting great cards from teams I hate. Also, this is a dupe.
229- Jordan Zimmerman. Needed this one
138- Renato Nunez. Dupe
149- Andrew Benintendi. Dupe

Pack 4-
2- Mike Moustakas. Dupe.
POWER ZONE insert of MIKE TROUT. So at least there's that.
161- Tyler Glasnow. Dupe
209- Hisashi Iwakuma. Needed this one.
268- Jacob DeGrom. Annnnnd needed THIS one, too.

Pack 5
5- Aroldis Chapman. Dupe
300- Eddie Rosario GOLD..and it's I needed
7- CJ Cron. Needed it.
87- Tony Cingrani. Dupe
44- Jacoby Ellsbury. Dupe. Damn, now I'm getting all the Yankee dupes...

Pack 6-
112- Michael Lorenzen. I've pulled 3 versions of this card. Dupe
ANNNND...I got a REDEMPTION CARD, FOLKS. This (hopefully) will redeem a Beam Team autograph insert of KYLE SCHWARBER, which is a pretty solid pull from a product that keeps giving me no-name St. Louis rookies as autos. So that's pretty nice, if Topps delivers, and if Schwarber delivers. Doesn't make up for this blaster's ineptitude, but still.
130- Jonathan Villar. Needed it.
257- Daniel Murphy. Got it
188- Reynaldo Lopez. Got it.

Pack 7-
197- Tyler Skaggs. Dupe
Scoreless Streak insert of ZACK GREINKE. Nice one, too.
57- Josh Bell. Needed it.
267- Hunter Dozier. Needed it
26- Eric Hosmer. Needed it. So, that's 3 right there. Not bad.

Pack 8-
176- Dustin Pedroia. Got it
178- Zach McAllister. Got it
227- Jose Canseco. Got it.
177- Robinson Cano. Got it
8- Yu Darvish. Okay, at least I needed this one. And it's a black parallel..

So, that was a blaster of Stadium Club. I got 12 base cards I needed, a couple nice inserts, and a redemption card that I'm PRAYING that Topps won't foul up. I got dupes, but...don't we always?

The Other Frazier


Yes, I understand who's playing third base for my team right now, but I'd like to talk about one of the other rookie Yankees who's doing really well this year. Yes, someone other than Aaron Judge and Todd Frazier.

It's this guy. Clint. He's actually really nice.

This is a guy that was brewing in the Indians' farm system for a year or so, and wound up in the Bronx thanks to a trade for Andrew Miller. People were making a stir about the fact that Clint would have to cut his trademark mullety-locks in order to become a Yankee, and I was just excited to see exactly what he'd do in the Bronx, as people were saying he'd be close to ready.

Clint Frazier, in his 13 games since coming up, has had 14 hits, 3 home runs and 8 RBIs. He's on track to have the kind of second half of the season that made Gary Sanchez a big deal last year. Plus, he's one of those characters that you want to have on your team. This is a team that's been through several characters, lots of spirit, an actual Danish knight, and an actual giant, and now Clint is adding one more character to the fold. How could you not like a team with this much fun people?

Yes, the Yanks are currently in third place, behind the building-while-we-weren't-looking Rays, and the still-in-first-place Red Sox, but they seem to be on the upswing, and with the addition of Todd Frazier and David Robertson (and possibly a certain Oakland starter), they might be building to become surprisingly amazing down the stretch.

Coming Tonight: Home-run hitter for a middling NL East team.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Well, That's One Way to Solve the Problem


The story so far: the Yankees are on the upswing, but the rotation's imperfect, and the hole at first base is so distracting that even prospects from 1st place teams are getting sucked in. Trade rumors are swirling, especially the one saying we're going after Sonny Gray, but other than a Yonder Alonso deal that I'm insisting isn't going to work out well for us, no real solution's been coming up.

Last night, before I went to bed, I read that the Yankees were looking at trading for Todd Frazier and David Robertson, and I went 'uhh...alright, sure. See if that works.'

It did.

Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle landed in New York this morning, in exchange for Tyler Clippard, Ian Clarkin, Blake Rutherford and Tito Polo. I was uneasy about the trade until I heard the full specifics.

First of all, trading Tyler Clippard for Kahnle and Robertson is a great deal, because those two are having way better seasons than Clippard is. The way it'll probably work is that Robertson will probably fit into a four-headed-monster type of thing with Adam Warren, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. Kahnle will probably go for longer relief work, and 2017 has told us he can definitely do that. So in terms of bullpen support, I definitely get the trade.

In terms of Todd Frazier...look, loved him with the Reds, love his home run ability, but...the guy's been striking out a billion times this season. We'd already just released a strikeout machine in Chris Carter, and while Frazier hit 40 home runs last season and has already hit 16, he's got 70+ strikeouts, and he's not been having his best year.

My dad has made the argument that Yankee Stadium will be better suited to his needs, and the balls that are just barely missing the wall at Comiskey are gonna travel further in the Bronx. So hopefully my dad is right, and Todd Frazier's really gonna benefit from Yankee stadium. I hope he does, too, because he's a Toms River kid, and the folks in Toms River could use a local hero.

Right now I could be a little happier with the trade, but I'm hoping Frazier can outdo my expectations.

How Have the Padres Won 40 Games?


There isn't much else to this post other than this- the Padres have no lineup, they barely have a pitching staff, they have no depth, and they just aren't fun to watch, at least from an outsider's perspective.

I'm just puzzled as to how they've won 40 games...and not, like, 29. I imagine there are some great players on this team, but...I have no idea how they're in fourth, and I have no idea how they're better than the Reds. Yes, they have players that hit home runs, but they have bad averages. Yes, they have pitchers that win games, but the ERAs are inflated as all hell. It's just not adding up for me.

Coming Tonight: Just when you thought the Yankees were fading back into irrelevancy...here comes an outfielder who's been toiling in the minors for a bit, ready to bring them back to the top.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The A's Are Gonna Be Just Fine


I'm guessing that next week, we're gonna hear about how gutted the A's are gonna be. Ryan Madson, Trevor Plouffe and Sean Doolittle have already been traded, I imagine that Yonder Alonso and Sonny Gray will have been traded, and there's a chance that Khris Davis and Kendall Graveman might also be on the way out.

So...what does that leave for the A's for the rest of 2017? Well, for one thing, it leaves Sean Manaea.

Sean Manaea's pitching even better than the guy that everybody seems to be after. He's been in the leagues for two seasons, came over for Ben Zobrist, and has been pitching beautifully this year. What makes him great is his ability to work strikeouts and pummel offenses. It's difficult to have a nice record on a last place team, but Manaea's working it, and he's coming off not just 'good for 5th place', but 'good period.'

When Gray and Graveman and all those people end up leaving, Sean Manaea's still gonna start games. Additionally, the A's are still gonna have Ryon Healy, and unless something goes wrong they're still gonna have Jed Lowrie. They won't be complete...but they won't be hopeless either.

Coming Tomorrow- Someone who's allegedly doing well for the Padres.

The Narrative Shift


Well, in the four games since the break, it looks like the Cubs of 2016 might be making an attempt to come back...which is nice, as I was getting tired of talking about how pathetic they looked.

After an All Star Game featuring only one actual Cub, the real Cubs came back, thanks to some quick work from the lineup, and a KILLER DEBUT from Jose Quintana. I mean it, this guy hadn't been this electric all year with the White Sox.

The momentum's been set in place for a much more impressive second half, and as they're about to start a series with the Atlanta Braves, and that might be pretty easy.

Still, the pressure to repeat is still on, and the fans, the baseball world, and everyone wants the Cubs to be this unstoppable, unmovable force this year, even though they're just a pretty good baseball team at this point. Yes, they won a World Series, but repeating might not happen, and right now they're just trying to make it to the playoffs.

Hopefully the pressure will subside, and the momentum will keep going.

Coming Tonight: Not the A's pitcher everyone's after, but a really good, strong pitcher for the A's...that probably won't be traded.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Nothing Has Changed


A year later, and the Cleveland Indians are still one of the best teams in the AL. True, they've lost a lot of ground thanks to, you know, making it to the World Series last year, and their team isn't exactly what you'd call perfect, but a lot is working, and a lot is making a case for a postseason reprise.

Bradley Zimmer's been having a really nice rookie season, coming up in smaller places, and contributing to the team-wise pursuits of hits and runs, rather than home runs. Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez are having great seasons, while Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis, usually relied on for long-ball power, are contributing less. This is a changed team, a team who've discovered the main problem and are still trying to compete.

The pitching staff is still fantastic, even though things aren't as picture perfect as they were in 2016. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger are pitching beautifully, and Trevor Bauer while, as per usual, lacking in the wins category, still has racked up a ton of strikeouts. Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt are disappointing, while Danny Salazar's disappointing AND injured. It's a mixed bag, but the top three are still winning games.

This is still a team capable of winning games later down the stretch, and this is a team that could still be a postseason threat. We just need to figure out how things are going to go.

Coming Tomorrow- The Cubs' closer.

The Collector Finally Gets His Due


Pat Neshek's one of the most legendary card-collectors in baseball right now, and I didn't get to make a custom card of him until he joined my hometown team. Man, if he actually knew about my blog he'd be really, really pissed.

I actually do have a ton of respect for Neshek. The guy'd done a ton of work in odd places, making an All-Star team as a Cardinal but still getting all of Minneapolis to applaud, and being among the unsung heroes of the 2012-2013 Athletics. He's been one of the most unlikely heroes of baseball, and the fact that he's made two All Star Games is a great sign for baseball, in that it doesn't always have to favor overpaid stars.

Neshek's been one of the best players on the Phillies, and one of the insanely bright spots on one of the worst bullpens in baseball. The guy's got a low era, a ton of strikeouts, and already has a fan following in Philly, which proves that even doing well for a few months can get you one there.

I imagine Neshek's probably gonna get traded in a week or so, because...I mean, he's one of the few great things about the worst team in baseball, and someone's gonna have to want something of his. I hope he's traded somewhere really nice (like maybe back to Houston), and I hope his star can stay semi-high for a little while.

(Part of me thinks he's gonna get a kick out of having a custom. Just a part of me, though.)

Coming Tomorrow- A hard-hitting rookie for the well-faring defending AL champs.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Rivalry Goes On


Wouldn't be a Yankees-Red Sox series without some shenanigans going on.

Last night, the game in Boston lasted 16 innings. Normal rivalries can figure something out at 10 or 11, but the Yanks and Sox went all 16, and they were furious. It only took some divine intervention for the Yankees to come out on top. Today they took a game away from Boston, thanks to some sharp stuff from Clint Frazier and CC Sabathia, and right now it's looking dire for them on the second leg of the double-header.

Yanks-Sox is an incredible rivalry right now because both teams are good, both teams are competing, and modern legends are being formed in Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts. This is a year where the Yankees started strong, and the Red Sox became even stronger, and now every matchup is a chance for either team to prove themselves.

I'm not delusional. Right now, the Red Sox ARE indeed better than the Yankees. Some of the wheels have fallen off in the Bronx, and some of the pitchers haven't been performing as well as we'd like them to. The Sox are shaping up, though- Kimbrel's been tight, the outfield is just as legendary as usual, and Chris Sale is undoubtedly the best pitcher in the AL right now. All of the Cy Youngs he deserved in Chicago might be coming in Boston.

The rivalry's probably gonna heat up as we get closer to September, and as we figure out who's actually going to win the division (I know who it's looking like it's gonna be, but baseball is thankfully fickle). It'll be interesting to see how it evolves.

Coming Tomorrow- My hometown team's so terrible that only a middle reliever made it to the ASG.

The Air's Thinner Than The Lead


There was a Sports Illustrated article recently about pitching in Denver, and how they've tried everything in recent years to keep pitchers from getting chewed up. This year, they decided to try raw talent- Kyle Freeland, Jeff Hoffman, Antonio Senzatela, German Marquez, Tyler Chatwood and Jon Gray are all doing pretty damned well in Denver this year. True, Chatwood and Gray's ERAs are leaving a bit to be desired, and Senzatela's spending some time in AAA to spruce things up, but this is the first time in years that a legitimate collection of talent has been thrown into one Colorado rotation.

The Rockies have the interesting position of being right there with most of the competing NL teams...but still being 10 and a half games out of first. It's an odd position, because they're a great team, and are doing awesome things this season, but aren't even close to catching the Dodgers. They're already just working for a Wild Card spot, which...again, they basically have, unless the grand Cubs comeback that we're all secretly hoping to happen just shows up and clobbers them in September.

Freeland, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Mark Reynolds and a host of others are making the Rockies watchable in a season where they didn't have to be. I'm just happy that there's at least some progress.

Coming Tonight: The Red Sox closer.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Back to our Regularly Scheduled Trainwreck


Right. That was a nice little siesta we had back there. Now, here we are, back to the rest of the 2017 season. The Astros and Dodgers are still hot, and the 'why the Yankees won't make the postseason' articles are spilling out like wildfire. Back to the norm.

The Astros have managed to cobble together so many on-players at one time, combining a few contracts with one of the mightiest building farm systems in baseball. Carlos Beltran, though a few steps down from last year, is still playing like a Hall of Famer, and is doing a bit more than his previous legacy in Houston. And that's just a pebble compared to the exploits of Carlos Correa, George Springer, Dallas Keuchel and Jose Altuve, all of whom homegrown, and all of whom are among the most powerful players in baseball right now.

They're all 15 games ahead from the nearest competition, and seeing as it's the Angels 15 games behind them, the word 'competition' can be used loosely. Their only downsides right now are the lack of substantial pitching depth in the wake of Keuchel's injury and David Paulino's suspension, and the lack of classic production from Nori Aoki, but those are slim downsides, and they barely take away from how ferocious this team is.

You can never tell what's gonna pop up within the next few months. I feel like all the Astros need is one more solid starting pitcher, and they'll be set for October.

Coming Tomorrow- The day before the All Star Break, he flirted with a no-hitter. And that's just the tip of the iceberg that is his suddenly-amazing rotation.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Box Break: 2017 Topps Stadium Club (Part Two)


Last night I posted the first part of this box of 2017 Stadium Club. Like usual, I adore the photography, design, ripping experience. Like usual, I'm pretty underwhelmed by the hits, and there's probably some Cardinals fan somewhere rolling his eyes at pulling an Aaron Judge autograph or something.

Tonight, you'll see part two. The hits are gone, so it's all base and inserts from here on out. It's Stadium Club, so that's kinda what we're all here for.

 Pack 9- The mixed bag portion of the eight-card pack. Two cards, the Skaggs and Mauer, that I've already pulled, a pitcher that's barely even relevant this year, a sophomore that's barely played this year, and a rookie that's sort of done alright so far.

 These base cards are a bit better- Elvis Andrus' card has a cameo from third-baseman and pop-up rival Adrian Beltre.
Meanwhile, Aroldis Chapman is pictured as a New York Yankee again and I'm so happy.

And, a rather awesome insert, too. Power Zone was a great set from the late 90s renditions of SC, and this year's version is a rather fitting homage to the original one. Plus, unlike the 90s Power Zones, this set has subjects that haven't taken steroids, plus ones I adore like Miguel Cabrera.

 Pack 10-
Slumping heroes. At least Seager and Cano are enjoying their fun little leg thing there.
And, of course, Arrieta looks intimidating as hell on that mound.

 AL West heroes. Nothing insanely special about these two cards, but the way they're cropped and zoomed is a ton more interesting than most Topps flagship ones.

 Mitch Moreland seems happy to be in a Sox uniform, and the Spring Training setting is a beautiful one. Adam Conley's card is the antithesis- darkness, blackness instead of light.

These two were my favorites. The angle of this Max Kepler card made this one cool, especially the look on his face, and the distance from his 'devil horns' sign to the camera. Just really friggin' cool.
Plus, you get one of the most poignant shots in a Topps product in a very long time, of Willie McCovey. Absolutely gorgeous.

 Pack 11- Pair of catchers. Contreras gets a nice postseason card with Aroldis Chapman, and Jason Varitek...while, like Derrek Lee, is an odder inclusion, is a bit more welcome thanks to his Sox captain status.

 A quartet of sideways shots. My favorite of the bunch is probably Grandpa Rossy, but the Werth belongs to the Stadium Club school of making Jayson Werth look absolutely awesome on cards.
Inciarte's photo I used in a custom last year. How about that.

 Absolutely gorgeous backstage shot of Albert Pujols. Kinda similar to a CJ Cron shot they used last year, though this one's a ton more dramatic. It's Albert Pujols, so the mystique comes with it.

Plus, here's another really cool Power Zone insert of Josh Donaldson. If you're counting, I've pulled two inserts of Blue Jays, and an autograph of a Cardinal. I also despise both teams, if you're not keeping score of that.

 Pack 12-
A gold dupe of a Yankee, and a base card of a guy who's been injured for two seasons.

 Aqua-uniformed goodness. Cano's is a basic, 2008 UD-esque shot. Matt Duffy's is really nice, kinda poignant, even he's barely played any games in Tampa.

 Retired Stars! CHIPPAH looks pretty great, and young, in this shot. The Jose Canseco card is from the perspective of either a very frightened reporter or, you know, Trevor Hoffman
All star starters. Arenado's is a terrific behind the plate shot, and Murph's is a nice BP shot.

 Pack 13- 3 dupes. Lovely.

 This is better. Odubel Herrera's is a picture of one of the few offensive highlights in Philadelphia in 2016, while Michael Conforto's is a shot of one of the few non-strikeouts of HIS 2016 season. Hernan Perez, like this year, is just there for moral support.

Killebrew's is pretty damned cool, and Duda's is very dramatic, made even better by the behind-the-back aspect.

 Pack 14- A trio of 'meh'. Colome's is a good enough posed shot, Almora's is a standard outfield shot, and Piscotty...is a Cardinal.

 A moment with some legends. I love the late-70s-early-80s A's uniform on Rickey, and I love the grainy B/W Duke. Making his a Brooklyn card rather than an LA one is just as classy.

 Belt's auto shot is pretty damned cool, with the helmet-hat and everything. Plus, I'm glad Tommy Joseph finally got a card in Stadium Club. Way to go!

THIS...is a chrome refractor, seeded every one in four BOXES. The fact that I pulled this is pretty amazing, as it's a rare hit, and it comes off pretty cool in this photo.

HOWEVER...you all know what I'm gonna say.

Now I'm CERTAIN there's some Cardinals fan pulling an Aaron Judge hot box of this product. This is just karma, man.

 Pack 15- A pair of rookie/prospect types that...really haven't factored into this season.

 Lots of cool stuff here. I love how far they've zoomed back Harvey's card, I love the angle on Buxton, I appreciate the inclusion of Johnny Damon (and understand why he's wearing that wretched uniform), and love the lighting on that orange uniform of Yuli Gurriel's. Cool stuff all around.

 Heh, yeah, it's Bryce Harper holding a bunch of awards! Man, it's a shame we're never gonna see that visual again.

(That was sarcasm, Sheldon).

Ooooh, as if this set didn't already have my attention, they give a REALLY, REALLY, REALLY COOL BEAM TEAM DESIGN. Like, CHRIST this thing is awesome. Plus, it's an insert of Corey Seager, who I have a ton of respect for, and who's having another great season.

 Pack 16-
That is a fantastic shot of Reynaldo Lopez. Absolutely awesome.
Mark Melancon's is kinda commonplace, made even weaker by his non-presence in San Fran this year.

 David Peralta's shot is the best of the three, and probably the more relevant player, too.

 Two retired legends. Topps keeps pumping up Omar Vizquel in these products, which...is fine I guess.
They can pump up Yaz as much as they'd like, though. The man was a legend in Boston, and I do have some respect for him, even as a Yankee fan.

We end this really nice box with a Scoreless Streak insert of the best pitcher in baseball. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

So...that's 2017 Stadium Club. This set keeps getting better and better, though I would put a few aspects of the 2016 set above this one. The photography, filtering and inserts are still top notch, and this is still a Grade-A, incredibly original set from a company whose originality has been lacking lately.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Box Break: 2017 Topps Stadium Club (Part 1)


Round Four of the biggest, baddest brand revival of them all.

I'm kinda surprised that I haven't seen a ton of SC on the blogs, so I figured that, as the blogosphere's chief Stadium Club anthologist, I should probably open the floodgates. Plus, it's the tail end of the All Star Break, no sports are in session...this box break might be nice bit of levity, a jolt to the system.

Plus, I had some PayPay money burning a hole, so there's that. 16 packs, 8 cards a pop. 2 on-card autographs in every box, and my luck with SC has ranged from fantastic (Julio Teheran, Chase Anderson) to middling (Tony Cingrani, Matt Adams) to...who the hell are you? (Trevor May, Carson Smith). So I'm not really in it for the hits.

Enough talk, let's dive in.

 Pack 1-
I dig the design. It's very 00's Fleer Ultra, but in a way that isn't a complete ripoff. In terms of the four post-revival designs, I feel like this one tops the 2014 design and the 2015 design...maybe not last year's.
The photos are still really cool and full-bleed. There's a way of even making commonplace photos look cool by making you see the full picture.

 JA Happ's card would be commonplace if it wasn't for the huge blur of the baseball in the foreground.
Mattingly's is a very cool, very casual shot. Reminds me of Erasmo Ramirez' card from last year's set.

 Okay, first of all, ZOMG AARON JUDGE AAAAAH MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. It's a really cool card, too.
Justin Upton's is a nice, zoomed-in bubble gum card, reminiscent of 90's-era SC

And the two inserts-esque things.
Jeff Bagwell's, which is a frigging AWESOME card, is a CHROME VARIATION, which falls one-per-box. Nice we got that out of the way early, and even nicer that it's a HOFer like Bagwell.
My Scoreless Streak insert is hometown hero Aaron Nola, one of the few reasons remaining to go and see the Phillies. Also, the Scoreless Streak inserts are cool, and look like they're shot against the architecture of the Fortress of Solitude.

 Pack 2-
Brad Ziegler's posed in an incredibly awkward photo day shot. AJ Reed and Renato Nunez are still kinda mulling around in the minors. Robert Gsellman, the one-per-pack gold parallel,

 Two impressive shots- Adam Duvall's reminds me a great deal of 2007 Ultra, which, again, isn't a bad comparison. MOOSE has a great one, complete with a helmet case background. There's some character in there.

This is getting some 'card of the set' claims from people, because A.) It's a great sunset shot for Big Papi, and B.) THERE IS A FLAVA FLAV CLOCK AROUND PAPI'S NECK. Plus, Robbie and Nellie look like they're having so much fun. Maybe not as much as Nellie was having with the ump last  night, but still.

There was one more card in this pack, and it happens to be our first hit.

Well, I'm conflicted.

On one hand, Luke Weaver's been called one of the best prospects in the Cardinals' farm system, and has been prime for a call-up recently. On the other hand...I pulled an autograph of a Cardinal, a member of my least favorite team. So while Luke Weaver, who's only spent a bit of time in the majors so far this year, may be a decent pull if you're a Cards fan...I'm not loving it. Like yeah, it's someone I've heard of, and it's a great on-card auto, but...it's a Cardinal.

Anyway, on with the rip..

 Pack 3-
Three of the best pitching prospects in baseball, none of whom have actually done anything substantial at the ML level. Rodon has a chance to be great this year, though.

 Again, the attention to detail in this set is brilliant. The Kiermaier's great because it zooms you in, and you get all the minute details.
The Donaldson is great because, hey, RED CANADA DAY UNIFORM!


Teddy Ballgame, black and white, stealing. How do I not love that one?
And the Zo is great because it represents a really cool moment, probably in the postseason.

Contact Sheet, to be honest, is underwhelming this year. It looks more like a Topps Flagship insert, with no real flashy touches or design elements. Even worse, it's a card of Jose Bautista.

Pack 4-
Another awkward Zeigler, and three awesome pitchers. Nola's a welcome pull, the Smoltz is a really nice mid-90's shot, and the Cole Train keeps on rolling. Cole's reminds me a bit of late-00s Upper Deck, too.

 Benintendi reaches over a wall in...I'm gonna guess the Rays' Spring Training stadium? I don't think that's Tropicana Field.
Stroman's is great, but...again, Blue Jays stigma.

THIS SUMMER: JASON KIPNIS IS...ROCKY BALBOA.
LUIS PERDOMO IS...APOLLO CREED.

(Seriously, that Perdomo card is really, really cool.)

 Pack 5-
Jorge Soler looks really happy to be hitting below the Mendoza line.
Zach McAllister looks really happy to not be that big of a part of this Indians team.

 Love both of these, the shadows and mound aspect. Gray's might have the edge, though.

 Nothing too flashy about these, but the SC-ness of it boosts it a bit.

 AWESOME CARD #1- OH MY GOD THIS PHOTO CHILLS ME.

AWESOME CARD #2- Perfect. A full view, an amazing perspective, and...oh gosh that's incredible. 
 Pack 6-
Kinda odd that Derrek Lee has a card in this set, but okay.
Yelich's is just really cool, and really fun.

 Putting the Carter card in greyscale makes it even more powerful, even more emotional.
Mark McGwire...at least he's wearing a really cool throwback.

 Two fairly middle-of-the-road shots, but it's SC, so they're still cool.

 Another unmemorable contact sheet insert, but Carlos Correa is a far more favorable pull than Joey Bats.

NOW, LET'S TALK ABOUT THIS...

This is a Scoreless Streak BLACK PARALLEL (I believe), that is numbered to 99 copies...and it's of Jake Arrieta, one of the best pitchers in baseball. Plus, even better, it's a nice numbered card of a Cub...and NOT A CARDINAL.

 Pack 7-
A gold dupe, an A's rookie, and Scooter Gennett. Talk about a grab bag.

 Two hard-hitters. Stephen Vogt's now backing up Manny Pina in Milwaukee, and Joe Mauer's still a really nice hitter in Minnesota.

 Two Yankees. Austin's still struggling to hit his stride, but Ellsbury's having another fantastic year in the Bronx.

And we've hit our second and final hit, annnnnnddd...




...WHO?

So here's the story. Tim Cooney was a fantastic prospect in...sigh...the CARDINALS organization. He missed all of 2016 with a shoulder injury, and was dropped by them. The Indians picked him up, and he's been in their minor league system ever since. 

So Topps thought it a wise idea to package an auto of this guy and send it my way. I mean, unless the Indians eventually bring him up...this is kind of a shitty hit.

 Pack 8-
Commonplace base cards ahoy.

 Two jubilant guys named Gordon who...to put it frankly, didn't have terrific 2016s.

 Some tastes of the 70s- Braun's uniform is a terrific throwback, and Winfield in a Padres uniform is a sight I rarely get to see these days.

Jonathan Lucroy's shot is truly awe-inspiring. So much going on in the background.
In addition, Cutch's card is a BLACK parallel, and a pretty cool shot, at that.

I'll post the other 8 packs soon, but fun stuff still awaits.