Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Hall of Fame Results 2019: One Insanely Satisfying Class

So...I was expecting a casually good turnout for this HOF class. But...this is unprecedented.

Not only did four people get into the Baseball Hall of Fame today, when I'd figured we'd just get a solid three, but...all four people are players I genuinely enjoyed watching, and very wholesome figures in my collection. Like, I knew we were getting into the years where i'd have a deeper connection with the inductees, but...not like this.

So let's start with the biggest surprise: Mike Mussina is now a Hall of Famer. I predicted he'd get at least like 73 percent this year, and I questioned whether he'd make it in this year, especially in a year where Halladay would probably be getting in. Apparently too much stellar pitching is never enough, and Moose got in with 76%, a close but important entry. Moose's thing was dominance, consistency, and stamina. He didn't have many down seasons, and he was very rarely injured, and he just stood there and threw fire. There's not much else to it, really. He's probably in as an Oriole, but I'd love to see him sneak in as a Yankee.

And then we have Halladay, which is one that I'm glad happened, even if I didn't think it'd be confirmed he'd be a first-ballot guy. Halladay pitched for my team and did more in four seasons than most Phillies do over an entire career (looking at you, Maikel). The no-hitters were a nice touch, but from 2000 to 2011, he was legitimately one of the most powerful pitchers in the game, and was one of the most impressive strikeout artists of his era. It's a shame he left us before he could see the results.

Edgar and Mo I saw coming, though. Edgar, because the fanbase wouldn't let him miss it this year, and because with Baines in, the era of the DH in Cooperstown had finally come. And Mo, because...dammit, he's Mariano Rivera. He's an iconic closer, and no one can dispute that. The unanimous numbers all but confirm that.

These are four names I'm happy made it to Cooperstown. An insanely deserving bunch, and a good chunk of my collection as well. I can't see the 2020 class coming especially close, even if Derek Jeter waltzes in with unanimous numbers as well.

My Unofficial Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (2019)

I've been writing this blog for ten years now. I have very few constants. End of the year posts. Over trivializing the All Star Game. Promising to consistently have content during the offseason and failing.

But I like this one the best. Because writing an unofficial Hall of Fame ballot both fulfills my duty of over-trivializing the Baseball Hall of Fame AND making disastrous predictions/opinions.

Plus, the HOF ballot now is almost entirely made up of people I've followed since getting into the hobby, though a few are slightly before my time (my cut-off is 2007). So I have a lot of personal attachment to a lot of these guys...which I have to separate.

As usual, I'll go about writing this as if I've been appointed an actual ballot by the BBWAA, and am given the right to post my ballot online right before the results of the vote. The ballot only allows 10 names, so you'll get nine names, as I didn't feel anyone deserved that tenth spot. Also, don't expect to find any steroid abusers on here, as I don't approve of their exploits, no matter how Barry their Bonds is.

Here we go, here are my nine names, in alphabetical order:

Lance Berkman:
We are starting with the toughest call of the ten for me, which is kind of nice. Berkman was initially off my ballot, but eventually replaced a different Houston Astro on my ballot (Billy Wagner). The reason, however controversial, is that Billy Wagner really doesn't stand out as Hall of Fame caliber for me, as he's basically just a steady closer. Lance Berkman had more standout seasons than Wagner, and Berkman also had a bit more of a storied career. If we're going from a statistical standpoint, Billy Wagner's highest WAR was 3.8, while Berk's was 6.9. But also, Berkman was just a solid, dangerous power corner for a ten year period, being a rock on Houston's lineup in good and bad times, and even managing to have a comeback season in 2011, leading the Cardinals to a World Series. He had 100+ hits every year from 2000 to 2011, and topped 100 RBIs 6 times. He may have the flimsiest HOF case of the ten I'm discussing today, but he was a strong player for a strong team. Yes, Bagwell may have done his job a bit better, but for the sake of this ballot...he deserves a mention.
Team of Induction: Houston Astros
Odds of 2019 Induction: 13 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 15 to 1

Roy Halladay:
This is one of the ones where I have to filter out some of my own personal bias. Roy Halladay does happen to be one of my favorite pitchers, and I do own a Halladay Phils jersey, and I absolutely loved his material, not only for my team but also for the Jays. But...I will allow myself to let that aside just to focus on numbers. So...numerically, Roy Halladay is also a Hall of Famer. Halladay topped 200 strikeouts in a season five times, topped nineteen wins five times, pulled lower than 2.00 ERA six times, led the league in shutouts seven times, and topped a 7.0 WAR four times...and has two Cy Young awards, over 200 career wins, over 2000 career strikeouts, and threw two no-hitters during the 2010 season. The only thing that will prevent people from voting him in, and may hold him back this year, was the fact that his career was shortened due to injury, and was possibly two or three more amazing seasons (with Philly) from being a lock. But still, Halladay deserves to be included in the conversation, and may be one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation. And I'm very proud to have seen him play for my team.
Team of Induction: Toronto Blue Jays
Odds of 2019 Induction: 4 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 2 to 1

Todd Helton:
Like Berkman, this is another debatable call, but unlike Berkman, I can say with certainty that Todd Helton had a leadership position in Colorado for over a decade, and was a hero presence that nearly got the team to a World Championship. From 1998 to 2007, his batting average did not drop below 300, he never had fewer than 75 RBIs, and he never had fewer than 150 hits. That is one impressive ten year stretch. Like with Larry Walker, we should investigate the Colorado aspect, although even as a member of the visiting team he still had a .287 average. It's probably his later, more injury-prone years, that'll keep him from definite enshrinement, but as a pure offensive force he'll probably spend a few years on the ballot.
Team of Induction: Colorado Rockies
Odds of 2019 Induction: 10 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 20 to 1

Edgar Martinez: 
How weird is it that a man who's been on the ballot for the past 10 years, and was basically being called dead on arrival around then, may be one of the locks for this year's vote reveal? And the reason for that is the campaigning for Edgar Martinez has been unprecedented and glorious. Mariners fans and baseball fans alike have been showing up and talking about how powerful Edgar was, calling him the greatest DH of all time, and...doing my job for me. Suffice to say, Edgar's case is now very clear, and since Harold Baines, a worse DH than he, has been inducted, his 2018 induction is all-but-inevitable. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, either.
Team of Induction: Seattle Mariners
Odds of 2019 Induction: 5 to 3
Odds of Eventual Induction: 7 to 5

Fred McGriff:
Unlike Edgar, this is a guy I've been campaigning for since he came on the ballot that...probably will not make the Hall of Fame this year. A successful bandwagon has not popped up for McGriff, simply because besides from his home runs, nothing else statistically stands out. He's still one of my favorites, so he stays on this ballot for one final time, but...I am gonna miss him next year. Who else am I gonna jam on here undeservingly?
Team of Induction: Atlanta Braves
Odds of 2019 Induction: 10,000 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 20 to 1

Mike Mussina:
For all the people who will be upset with the lack of Edgar Martinez on the ballot in 2020, never fear- there will be someone to campaign for, and if he doesn't get in this year, it will be Mike Mussina. He is the pitching version of Edgar, and may have the same size HOF case. Moose's Orioles numbers have been propelling the discussion, but it may just be his durability, or his consistency, or his status as a strikeout artist in an era ruled by them. Plus, unlike similar cases of Bert Blyleven, you can definitely consider Moose a staff ace, as he ruled the O's, and Yanks, rotations for two decades. Also, he came in the top 6 Cy Young voting in 9 of his 18 seasons, which is an even 50/50 ratio. He also has 270 wins, and would have been possibly 2 seasons away from reaching 300, which is something we can't really say for a lot of modern pitchers. I'm not sure if there's room for him this year, but I do think the campaigning will get him in within the next 3 years.
Team of Induction: Baltimore Orioles
Odds of 2019 Induction: 7 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 4 to 1

Mariano Rivera:
Do I even need to explain myself? No? Moving on.
Team of Induction: New York Yankees
Odds of 2019 Induction: The Absolute Most Even
Odds of Eventual Induction: Evener Than That, If You Can Believe It

Scott Rolen:
Look, of these nine names, five of them are people who've played for one of my teams. Let's just emphasize that I have a SLIGHT bias. BUT STILL...a lot of Scott Rolen's best output was with St. Louis and Cincinnati. He did some good stuff with Philly, but he didn't get to many playoff outings, or even a World Series, with those scrawny little Phils teams of the 2000s. And yes, a ROY award is fine, but Rolen's 2004 season was fantastic, and one of the deciding factors in the Cards' electric run in the playoffs that year. He's an 8-time Gold Glover, a 7-time All Star, and someone who was the 'better end of the deal' in trades for Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Glaus and Placido Polanco. Scott Rolen was a formidable talent of the 2000s, and although he may not get in for a bit, I think his case may grow exponentially this year.
Team of Induction: St. Louis Cardinals
Odds of 2019 Induction: 12 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 11 to 1

Omar Vizquel:
I stand firm in my belief that Vizquel is the single most important defensive player of his era, and a throwback to players like Luis Aparicio, back to a time when defense was almost as important as offense. Once again, it's going to be Omar's bat that separates him from most Hall of Famers, as while he is less than 200 away from 3000 hits, he never got higher than 100 RBIs, only made 3 All-Star teams, and despite the 11 Gold Gloves, belongs more to the 'Hall of Very Good' to a lot of people. Honestly, if we keep out Vizquel and continue to award great defensive catchers and closers who are good at mostly one thing, we're being contradictory. Mariano Rivera threw one pitch and he's a lock. Omar Vizquel was a master defender and sneaky little hitter, and he's only getting a little bit of traction for votes. It's very sad, and I may be trying for this case for the next 8 years.
Team of Induction: Cleveland Indians
Odds of 2019 Induction: 18 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 14 to 1

So, those are my picks. At the very least, Rivera, Edgar and Halladay will get in, but there's a chance for Mike Mussina. I'll be happy with however it goes, though.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Keep On Smilin', Garrett


This is Garrett Atkins, perennial infield standout for the Rockies teams of the 2000s. And he sure is happy.

Now, I'm not gonna speak for him in terms of general mood. He wasn't breaking out into giggles or cartwheeling or anything. But on all of his Topps cards in the 2000s, he just seemed...very smiley.

We have his debut turn, in 2005...

And his sophomore card in 2006. Even if you zoom in, you can still see those pearly-whites.

And in 2007, on an Opening Day issue that seemed to dwarf the whiteness of Atkins' own teeth. Let's see, via a super-zoom, whether he is in fact still smiling:

YOU CAN SEE IT! THERE IS DEFINITELY TEETH THERE!

And you'll even note here, this isn't an especially happy pose or posture for Atkins. It might even be straining. But there he is...STILL SMILING.

2008 Topps. No question here. He's overjoyed.

2009 Topps, his last Topps issue. Even if he can see the end in sight, he's still using the correct amount of toothpaste for the job. And that is hella admirable.

Now...a postscript to this is that Atkins played his last MLB season in 2010, with the Orioles, and it was a whimper from a guy who used to be steady and fun. But that's not important.

The real question is...did Garrett Atkins smile as a member of the Baltimore Orioles?

...YOU'RE DAMN RIGHT HE DID.

Garrett Atkins: Even in the dregs of despair and hopelessness, he just keeps on smiling. Let that be a lesson to you all.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Hobby Box of 2018 Topps Gold Label


Little more high-end than you'd expect from me, eh?

I went into a D&A run knowing I needed to get Chronicles, but I had a little extra paycheck to cover this. So I saw that Gold Label was on sale, realized that I kinda enjoyed the older Gold Label sets Topps put out in the 2000s, and...went with it. Like, what's the worst that could happen? I get some base cards and a shit hit?

That was...inevitably what happened, but...I still don't think I did badly here.

7 packs per box, 5 cards per pack. Three types of base cards, and one guaranteed framed autograph per box. Here we go:

 Pack 1- These three are all Class 1 base cards, and they all look pretty cool. It is very...Modern Topps, to say the least, in its emasculation and modernizing of a classic set, but it's not bad. It's definitely Gold Label. It's just a bit too rudimental in design. Plus, all three classes have the same format, as you'll soon see.

Wil Myers' card is a black parallel, which aren't numbered, but are seeded 1:2 packs. The black stripe isn't shiny or anything, but it's subtle enough to not undermine the card.

These two Madduxes illuminate the main issue of the Classes not having too many differences. The one on the left is a Class 2, and the one on the right is a Class 1. Just different pictures. Old Gold Label would just have variations of design, steps up, etc. This is...too slight.

 Pack 2- Fun base choices here. Aaron Judge is another black parallel.

We reach the hit early...and....

....yeeeeahhh...

Look, if Luis Castillo had some better numbers (other than strikeouts) I'd feel a little bit better about this. But...he's a third-starter for a team that's had notorious rotation issues. He's had a lot of potential, but has yet to have a winning season. His best year, 2018, was a 10-12 season with a 4.30 ERA and 165 strikeouts. He's...a very meh hit. And thankfully I do have a trusted place to send this to.

 Pack 3-
New York heroes in Class 1s. Sevvy does look cool in a set like this. And I dig the Conforto alt-uni.

 Our Class 2 is Nolan Arenado here. I don't know how different this is from the Class 1 photo, but...we'll find out a few packs later.

And these are our Class 3s, the rarest of the three. I don't know...what in each photo would indicate that it's the rarest of the three. I mean, if I'm set designer, I'd do something like 'Class 1 is home uni, Class 2 is away uni, Class 3 is throwback/alt uni'. So there'd be a clear evolution.
Verlander's, which does at least have an alt-uni, is a black parallel. Which...in Class 3 is apparently pretty rare. Not bad.

 Pack 4-
I don't really see why Mark McGwire needs to be in modern Topps sets, but fine. The Stanton makes up for him.

Your class 2s. You saw the Class 1 Koufax a few packs ago...and I kinda like this one better. And the Sale, the black parallel...reminds me why it was a cool idea to bring Gold Label back. Though concept > execution here.

 Pack 5-
Again, I prefer Verlander's C3 one, but it's nice to get three of the best pitchers in baseball in the same pack.

Mancini is a Class 3, Conforto is a Class 2.

 Pack 6- All these guys are Class 1s. Interesting to note how big everyone thought Ian Happ would be in 2018. Good Cubs presence here.

And a solid Class 2 of Luis Severino, complete with an awesome choice of photo.

 Pack 7-
Buxton has the best main photo of the three, yet has the least amount of reason to be in this set. Still, solid enough base.

Hosmer's is a Class 2, and Ernie Banks' is a Class 3. Even if it's a little odd, having a legend like Ernie Banks in this set is...kind of cool? I dunno, I think so at least.

This is an odd set. Not a complete hit for me, especially considering how it blandifies the original versions. But there are good moments, they're just...fleeting. Topps could have done a bit better here, though the rip could have been a ton worse.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Triangle of 2017 Panini Chronicles Blasters


It's been a while since we've had a box break on here, so how about some Panini tomfoolery?

2018 Panini Chronicles was a pleasant surprise, giving me some frankenset flashbacks to 2008 UD Timeline, and making itself known as an interesting, if fundamentally flawed, set. So, when Dave an Adams had themselves a sale on THREE blasters of the 2017 version of the product, for a very low price, I jumped at it. I know, it's Panini...poor, logoless Panini, but they can put out good stuff if given the right ideas.

So...we have three 4-pack blasters...or, essentially, a 12-pack mega-blaster. Woo.

Let's get to the packs:

 Pack 1-
So right away, you can see the difference between the 2017 and 2018 versions of Chronicles. In 2017, there was a definite, tangible base set. It looks like this. It's inspired, but slightly wordy. Like Flair meets Fleer Emotion, multiplied by a calculus textbook. Not that the paragraphs are out of place, just...I don't see why they couldn't have gone on the backs. Design-wise, the base set is cool enough, though.
Also, even if this is a one-year-old product, nobody in this pack is still on their listed team.

Don't think the Frankenset-esque quality is completely lost in 2017 Chronicles. No sir. There are still inserts worth of them. Granted, they're not seeded as well as in 2018, but...there's still a good number of them, like this here Rated Rookie of former Oakland, and now Baltimore, farmhand Franklin Barreto.

 Pack 2-
All Red teams. Or just...3 Reds and a Phillie. Good to see Pete Rose in this set. Topps doesn't like him.
This Absolute insert, which looks very awesome and very 2004, is of Ian Happ, who does look good on this one.

 Pack 3- More base. I do like how the left corner triangle changes color with teams. Jones' is a gold parallel, which is #'d to 999. Nice subject for one, too.

 This Prizm insert, which does look kinda cool but a bit too 2000s Finest, is of Adrian Beltre, so I'm glad we got that one in pre-retirement.

 Pack 4- Yankees on left, Yankee killers on right.

A rookie pick that hasn't aged especially well, but this design is cool enough.

 Pack 5- The second box begins with three fairly unspectacular base cards. Don't worry, this pack gets much better.

 I still adore this Absolute Memorabilia design, even if Jorge Bonifacio isn't THE greatest subject for it.

Oh yeah, there was a hit in this pack. And it was not a bad one.

Miguel Sano, who had a FANTASTIC 2017 season...or at least a really good first half, is the subject of this jersey relic, which fortunately does have a navy pinstripe in it. This is definitely a cool enough relic, and it's #'d to 99, which is pretty cool as well.

...Surprisingly it'll get better than that in this break.

 Pack 6-
Generally standard base stuff here. Freeman's the only one still with that team. Reynolds' looks pretty cool, tbh. It's one of those that'd be better as a full vertical card.

 Toles gets the rated rookie here. I really wish he'd eventually end up playing a full season, cause he seems to be a pretty great bat.

 Pack 7-
Standard base here, though it was nice to see the poster boy, Anthony Rizzo, as well as fringe player Ben Gamel and legend Ryne Sandberg.

The Prism insert here was Josh Bell, an awfully nice subject for one of these.

 Pack 8- Two great base cards, one shit one, and a gold parallel of Todd Frazier...AS A YANKEE. Which is nice.

 And a Rated Rookie of Brock Stewart, one of the few RRs I've pulled that hasn't really made the majors for too long yet.

 Pack 9-
Rose and El Torito are dupes. Solarte and Harper aren't. Nice to see Harper, pre-inevitable contract.
As cool as this card does look, Magneuris Sierra would end up heading to Miami...to get, like, no playing time.

 Pack 10- Carpenter is the only non-dupe here.

 Trey Mancini is our Absolute subject, and...gosh I love this one.

...and then...
...this hit happened.

I just happened upon a bat card of Mike Piazza, one of the best hitting catchers of all time. A BAT CARD. Numbered to 99.

Like...I don't have the kind of luck to pull something like this, even if it is out of a blaster from Dave and Adam's. This is just nice.

 Pack 11- Pujols and Altuve are new. Kraken is a dupe. Edwin is a gold, #'d to 999.

 Rated Rookie of Yandy Diaz, who'll be getting a lot more playing time this year.

 Pack 12- All of these are new for me, and I especially like the Mauer and Molina.

And one last Prism insert of Ryan Zimmerman, who...managed to outlast Bryce Harper on the Nats. Which I can't believe.

So...those were a bunch of 2017 Chronicles blasters. I still prefer the 2018 version, for its frankenset-ness, but...this version had some cool inserts, that AWESOME Absolute Memorabilia design, and two really nice hits. So I'd say that break was a net-win.

I did manage to get another box from D&A's...and it'll go up within the week. I did...sort of well on that one as well.