Friday, July 31, 2015

Custom Card of the Night: Escobar Edition

I haven't done a straight custom post in a while, and I need to, because there's too many customs piling up in my folder.

Yunel Escobar came to the Nationals in a trade for recent Mint Condition goat Tyler Clippard. Since landing in Washington, he's hit like a pro, covering for oft-injured Anthony Rendon, and bringing even more power to a team loaded with it.

The Nats' only problem lies with the Mets, as they're only a couple games away from eclipsing their lead. Plus, with the additions of Juan Uribe and Carlos Gomez (HA! JUST KIDDING!!), they've packed their team with enough batters to become a threat in the NL, let alone the East.

Escobar is going to need to keep his momentum going if he wants the Nationals to stay strong, and hopefully the rest of the team will follow.

Coming Tonight (?)- The perennial star of a team that simply will not stop.

Thursday, July 30, 2015



I mean...why? WHY?

I really don't understand why we needed this. Or what is supposed to come of this.


I'm not even gonna do a 'this trade makes no sense' thing for this one. I'm just so...bewildered and confused by it. We don't need any help in the outfield. And we certainly didn't need to give up minor league pitching.

I'm...I mean...WHAAAT?

No, Blue Jays, You're Still Not For Real

I can't believe I have to explain this to you now, but seriously Toronto. Get it in your head that this just isn't gonna happen this year. You're under the delusion that you're a serious contender for the playoffs, let alone the wild card. And yes, trading for Troy Tulowitzki and David Price certainly helps your case...but not by much.

Your main sources of power are three over-30 strikeout machines. And you just landed another guy who strikes out a lot. The young players you brought up early on in the season are not helping. Hutchison's disappointing, Devon Travis just got off the DL, and Dalton Pompey just fell off the face of the earth. Your top two pitchers are, again, over 35. And a lot of your roster is scattered and inconsistent. Plus, you have people like Dioner Navarro and Chris Colabello as starters.

Plus, I had a feeling that Daniel Norris would be very big if he had stuck around in Toronto, but he was just handed over in the Price deal, so now you're future could be a Detroit hero.

The biggest problem is one I was just talking about a few days ago, with the Tyler Clippard deal, and that is the fact that the Blue Jays do not have a closer. They have a ton of middle relievers who occasionally close games, and they have Brett Cecil, who isn't the closer anymore. But they do not have a surefire closer, which will hurt them in the long run. I'd say Drew Storen is available, but I don't know if the Nats would be so generous.

And the sad thing is that there is a chance of the Jays making it, but there are too many balls in the air that could prevent them. First of all, the AL West is taking one of the wild card spots, because the Angels-Astros battle is so close that they both have to go through. And also, there are three teams in the AL East with 51 wins, including the Orioles and the Rays. So, the Jays, if they lose more division series', could end up still being in third or fourth place, or simply not the wild card (you can never count on the Twins)

So, even with Tulo and Price, there is still no guarantee that the Jays have suddenly become this big, sprawling postseason behemoth. But they're pretty good at pretending they are.

Thanks again, Cole.

For everything. For the no-no. For the 2008 World Series. For hanging in there all those years. For being as consistent as you are. And for waiting this long to jump ship.

Having Matt Harrison as our #1 starter won't be the same, but we'll deal with it. We're Phillies fans. We've dealt with worse.

Have fun in Arlington. I don't know if you'll make it to October, but here's hoping you do.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Okay Mets, Now We Have Your Attention

I didn't think too much of it when the Mets grabbed Juan Uribe. Then they got Tyler Clippard, and again, didn't think a whole lot of it. I thought they'd be making little moves, tiny roster swaps just to keep busy, to refine, not completely revamp.

I figured out how wrong I was when I found out Carlos Gomez would be wearing a Mets uniform again this season.

It was the kind of thing where I knew that the Mets needed one or two pieces last night, but I didn't think they'd act, you know, the next day. And I didn't think they'd do something that made as much sense as getting Carlos Gomez. Gomez still has a lot of great stuff left, and is still one of the better, speedier outfielders in the league. Seeing him back in a Mets uniform will definitely be the piece that could tip them over the edge.

I'm a little concerned about what they gave up. Wilmer Flores, in my opinion, is a better choice at shortstop than Ruben Tejada. But, apparently they don't want a choice. And Zack Wheeler, once he came back, would have been part of a landmark rotation, but apparently the Mets really, really, REALLY want to keep Jon Niese.

Still, with Gomez, the Mets make a case to be a major postseason threat. If they can make it with Carlos Gomez and Juan Uribe, they could be dangerous in October.

UPDATE: Apparently this trade never happened, according to Sandy Alderson. Honestly, I have no idea what's going on anymore. With the Hamels thing, and now this, there are just so many question marks. So for now...he's NOT a Met? Or maybe he is.

More on this later.

Mets Game 7/28: Shake Shack, Grandy and a Near No-No

Right now, I'm in Tenafly, New Jersey for the week, like usual this time of year. And seeing as we were close to New York, and I'd never been to Citifield, my dad and I took the subway into town and saw the Mets last night. And...let's just say they did not disappoint.

The stadium, by the way, is pretty nice. Really creative food, and our seats were really nice. I did indeed have Shake Shack, for the first time, and I damn near bought that place out. Good fries.

The pitching battle was an exciting one from the getgo: Noah Syndergaard, one of the many young Met arms, vs. James Shields from the Padres, who were in town to try and remind people why they were once supposed to be really good.

Syndergaard did a hell of a job, pitching six-and-a-quarter no-hit innings. He had some impressive stuff, throwing really hard, pitching into the eighth, and only giving up a few hits. Syndergaard's problem toward the end of his run was he got very tired, because he did use a lot of pitches, even when he was keeping the no-no going.

The Mets batters, surprisingly, helped a lot as well. In the first inning, Lucas Duda had a two-run home run, and later in the game Curtis Granderson, the man I came to see, hit another 2-run homer. These weren't gimmes- they were long, moonshots. Daniel Murphy had a nice game too, hitting well and playing good defense. Heck, the crowd was even behind new acquisition Juan Uribe, who also had a pretty nice game.

Tyler Clippard even showed up towards the end, making his first appearance at a Met, pitching the ninth and securing the win for Thor. He got a nice applause when he came up.

Of course the Mets won, 4-0, over the blistering, disappointing Padres. I'll say that Shields did pretty well too, having a nice amount of strikeouts late, but he did lose some steam giving up that home run.

Overall, nice game, great stadium, and, above all else, a great game for Curtis Granderson and Noah Syndergaard.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Custom Card of the Day: Grandy Edition

Tonight, I'll be knocking my eleventh major league ballpark off the list, and going to see the New York Mets at Citifield, in a game against James Shields and the Padres. Noah Syndergaard is pitching, which is a decent choice (probably my third choice of Mets pitcher)

This is my opportunity to see Curtis Granderson, who was one of my favorite players as a Yankee, back in New York, hitting bombs and playing well. I also get to see people like Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy and Juan Lagares play, as well as Michael Conforto and Kevin Plawecki, the rookies. Hell, Juan Uribe might even be in the lineup.

There are a lot of people I'm very excited to see in this Mets lineup, even if they're not especially known for their hitting (other than against the Dodgers). I'll report on how the game went when I can.


Didn't I...JUST GET DONE putting down a meaningless trade?

So...not even a full 12 hours after I ripped Sandy Alderson a new one, I get to explain exactly what is wrong with ANOTHER trade?

I guess that could only mean one thing: SOMEBODY REALLY LIKED MY POST!

Okay, where was I. Oh, yeah, Tulo-for-Reyes.

Here's the thing. I have no problem with Troy Tulowitzki. He's a great player on a great team, and he was a great leadership figure in Denver. And I have no problem with Jose Reyes. True, his numbers have slipped since leaving the Mets (usually it's the other way around), but he's been fine in Toronto.

I do, however, have a problem with them being traded for each other.

Both shortstops fit each other's infields pretty well. You can't just chance trying to fit them into another infield in the middle of a season, especially when replacing each other. This is why trading Scott Rolen for Troy Glaus only worked a tiny bit. And let me be clear- I have no problem with doing something like that at the beginning of the season, like how they got Donaldson- there you have Spring Training to break them into the system. You have to give these players time to fit into each other's infields, instead of thrusting them right in there.

Plus, now the Blue Jays have to pay the rest of Tulowitzki's contract. Which is another addition to the LONG LIST of contracts they have to pay off. So, really, it didn't make a ton of sense. The Blue Jays didn't need another contract, at least not with the requisite results (i.e.- not ending up in third every year).

I mean, Tulo in Toronto could definitely work, offense wise. But, getting him there could have taken far fewer steps, and a trade a shit-ton less stupid.

I'm gonna be at a Mets game tonight, so I don't know if I'll get a post up tonight, but I'll try to squeeze one in tomorrow morning.

Monday, July 27, 2015

And now, a special trade deadline edition of...THIS TRADE MAKES NO SENSE!

(In Today's Mint Condition post, the role of Jordan will be played by HBO's John Oliver.)

Today's baffling trade? Well, we're in for a rather perplexing one.

Jeurys Familia is one of the best closers in the NL. He has given the Mets 27 saves, and has given the Mets definite security in the ninth inning.

Which is why it confuses the living HELL out of me that the Mets just traded for another closer.

Tyler Clippard, who has given the Athletics a not-perfect-but-still-modest 17 saves, has just been traded to the New York Mets, in exchange for minor league prospect and RHP Casey Meisner. 

I'll give you a little backstory on Clippard. Tyler Clippard came up in the Yankees organization, and was used as a middle-reliever during his lone season as a Yankee, in 2007. The following year he was traded to the Nationals, in exchange for Jonathan Albaladejo. I repeat: the Yankees traded Clippard away for absolutely nothing.

In Washington, Clippard made the most of his middle-relief job, making TWO All-Star teams. Hell, in 2012 he was so entrusted that he was given the ninth-inning job, in the place of ailing Drew Storen. 

So he's capable of closing games, as evident by the 17 games he's closed for Oakland this year. And, in this respect, Clippard has taken a step forward from relief work to full-on closing games. Which is why it seems like an absolute slap in the face that the Mets have traded for Clippard to work as a middle reliever again. It's like saying to Peyton Manning, "ooh, sorry, but the only place we can fit you is at defensive end."

Plus, if the Mets needed help in the bullpen, there are plenty of other middle-relievers they could have chosen, and by middle relievers, I mean 'people who are currently being employed as middle-relievers.' For instance, they could have gone to the same Oakland well and picked Ryan Cook, another perennial All Star. They could have picked the shambling corpse of Joe Nathan out of Detroit. Hell, I'd even be okay with them trading for Jason Motte before he has a chance to become the Cubs closer. Rob the Chicago fans of their joy, it's not like it's the first time (don't hate me, hate this character I'm writing in, Cubs fans.)

The absolute worst part of this trade is what it does to Oakland. Prior to this season, the Athletics' closer has been Sean Doolittle. However, since Sean Doolittle is a big scary closer with a beard, you may not be surprised to find out that he's currently on the disabled list. As a matter of fact, Sean Doolittle is out for the rest of the season. This was the whole impetus of making Tyler Clippard the closer in the first place.

Now that Clippard is no longer with the team...the Athletics have approximately ZERO relievers with consistent ninth-inning experience. The only two people who have closed games for the A's this season, other than Tyler Clippard, are Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz. Right now, neither of those people are classified as closers. They're not even classified as relievers- they're both currently in the starting rotation.

So, let's recap. So far this season, the person entrusted to close games is injured, the backup closer has just been traded, and ABSOLUTELY NOBODY ELSE has ANY EXPERIENCE closing games. It would not shock me if, during the ninth inning at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, they just put an announcement on the PA system, saying "OH, UH, BY THE WAY, DOES ANYBODY IN ATTENDANCE KNOW HOW TO THROW 100 MILES PER HOUR?"

But honestly, not all of the blame goes to Oakland here. The Mets saw a hole in their roster that needed to be filled by a reliever. So what do they do? They go and sign a reliever that is literally the only closer in the village in Oakland, leaving the A's with absolutely no options in the ninth. This was Sandy Alderson's CHOICE. Sandy Alderson WANTED THIS.

Now, I'm not too familiar with philosophy, but if I recall correctly, I think the famous Greek philosopher Plato would call this choice, uhm...a "dick move", if you will. 

He also would be rooting for the A's. Because the Greek Philosopher Plato can root for whoever he goddamn wants to.

I'll end with this thought. If Sandy Alderson, GM of the New York Mets, thinks the move that will improve his team the most is taking a closer from another team and paying him to work the eighth inning, even when it has already been established that pitching IS NOT THE METS' PROBLEM... you don't get to ask yourself, come September 30th, why the Mets didn't make the playoffs. The answer has been given. 

And it involves Tyler Clippard, and the Greek Philosopher Plato.

Custom Card of the Day: Tulo Edition

I'd like to talk about the NL West for a moment.

You see, the NL West, on a few different fronts, is a very disappointing division. There are TWO disappointments going on in that division. There's the Giants, who were expected, like every odd year, to do well enough to stay afloat, and they're currently in second, falling out of that divisional race every day.

There's the Padres, who were expected to conquer the world with their newly imported lineup, but now they're likely gonna be trading away James Shields, Andrew Cashner and Justin Upton, because it didn't quite work.

In addition to those two disappointments, there's the Diamondbacks, a team that is basically being carried by Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. And those are TWO GUYS. They aren't even pitchers.

So I just listed three teams that would be last in any other division. Yet, because this is the NL West, the most disappointing division in baseball, they are all listed higher in the standings than the Colorado Rockies.

NOT THAT I AM PROUD SHARING THIS INFORMATION. I still think the Rockies have a ton of huge pieces that require attention. Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez a little bit. But the fact of the matter is that it's such a crappy park for pitchers that it's impossible to sustain a stellar core rotation. Even Ubaldo Jimenez was getting chewed up by the thinner air at the end of his Rockies run. So, even with great hitting, and great fielding from Tulo, it can't happen if they don't have a great pitching staff, and this season they definitely don't. You can argue that Jorge de la Rosa is lifting his weight, but...he always does. He's Jorge de la Rosa.

So really, I am not saying all of this as a 'ha, ha, this team stinks' kind of thing (you know, the kind of thing that alienated 50% of my Baltimore audience last year, which I still haven't recovered from no matter how many times I apologize). I'm very sad for Rockies fans. A lot of offensive pieces are working this season. DJ LeMahieu started the All-Star game this year. But, again, it's not coming together for the Rockies because they have no pitching whatsoever.

It's sad how a team like the Rockies can consistently outweigh these bigger disappointments.

Coming Tonight: Hopefully, a much happier post. The catcher for a team that I literally just got done apologizing to.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Really Really Huge Trade Deadline Move #1

Everybody knew it was coming. Cincinnati knew it was coming. Kansas City basically knew it was coming. Hell, thanks to a premature slip from Michael Lorenzen last night,  even Johnny Cueto knew it was coming.

This was the move that both the Reds and the Royals desperately NEEDED to make. The Royals needed a sure ace. The Reds needed to get rid of a contract, and maybe piss off a few fans along the way.

This is kind of nice. So far both the Royals, Pirates and Astros have been buyers, rather than the guys getting picked clean for the umpteenth year. And all three are adding pieces they desperately need. Plus, I'm not 100% sure that any of them are done yet.

Still, this was a great move for the Royals, who will be even more of a force now that they've got a stronger pitching rotation. I still haven't exactly figured out who the Reds are getting in this deal. I'm kind of hoping that the Royals get to keep Jarrod Dyson, but still, maybe they'll use him better in Cincy.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Attaboy, Cole

You figure out that the eyes of the MLB are gonna be on you, that this might be your last games as a Philadelphia Phillie, and that this game might determine who picks you up in a few days. So, what do you do?

You give 'em all a show worth watching.

Nicely done, Cole. If this is the end of the road for you in Philly, then I applaud your efforts. I had a nice time rooting for you, and I appreciate you ending it all with a no-hitter, appropriately enough in a city that you might be pitching in for the rest of the season.

Thanks again, Cole. For knowing how to go out with a bang.

Custom Card of the Day: Plouffe Edition

Last night, the Twins, who have become the most inexplicably good team this season, beat my Yankees 10-1, battering down Ivan Nova endlessly. I'm still trying to figure out how it happened.

Not that the Twins don't have a lot of hitting firepower, because they do. Trevor Plouffe, Torii Hunter and Brian Dozier are all hitting wonderfully, and there's a lot of nice young stars doing great things. It's just inexplicable that a team this inconsistent, a team with this many starters with not a ton of experience, is doing so much better than the Tigers.

Maybe it's the pitching, which has suddenly sprung to life this season, led by Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson, and supplemented by once-again surging Ervin Santana, that has done a lot of the heavy lifting. Maybe it's the team unity, jump-started by the reunion of Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer.

I honestly have no idea why they're doing this well, but I'm happy for it. I would just like them to cool down for the rest of this series against the Yankees.

Coming Tonight (?)- The shortstop for a still-tanking Rockies squad.

Semi-Nostalgic Box Break: 2014 Stadium Club

I broke a TON of hobby boxes of cards while I was at college. Just getting around to posting most of them. This one yielded some really nice results, so I'll do this one today.

I know it's a stretch to call a set that was released less than a year ago 'nostalgic', but dammit, I'm doing it anyway! Besides, this set is very 90's-at-heart, with unconventional pack-grouping and full-bleed photos. It's a very young set that wants more than else to hang out at the adults table. So, I will treat it as such.

To any newcomers to this time period, let's remind us all how this fun lil' product worked in 2014. Instead of getting 18 packs, you get 3 mini-boxes containing 6 packs a pop, with 5 cards per back. If you do the math properly, which I am not in the mood to do, you can justify a single base card in this set being worth more than a single base card in the 2015 edition. Because technically, 2014 Stadium Club is a PREMIUM product. As in 'one autographed card per mini box and priced quite a bit higher than your average 1990's SC hobby box. So, all of y'all complaining about really bad pricing and card-per-pack ratios in this year's set, be thankful, at least, that they're selling it retail this year.

Anyway, 3 mini-boxes, one auto per, 6 packs per. Yada yada yada. Let's dive into the first mini box.

Pack One- Base cards are fairly straightforward. It is, however, nice to see Yoenis Cespedes in his brief appearance in a Red Sox uniform.

Pack highlight is this base card of Jackie Robinson, regarded by many bloggers as one of the best cards of last year.

Pack 2 started with these two stars, one a legend, the other a modern legend.

Also, it had these two rookies. One of which has been doing really well for Boston, the other hasn't had too much time above the minors this season.

Our insert in this case was a Legends insert, which is probably one of the more boring inserts in SC that year. I mean, you don't really need a set showcasing legends when you pepper them into the base set. Anyway, it's of George Brett, who's still a great pull. Besides, it's a die cut. I can't be too mad about die-cuts.

Pack 3 had these nice shots. My favorite is the Pence. Just the right angle. The Gwynn is pretty nice too.

This pack, however, had a bit of a steroid addiction, as I received both a base card and a Field Access insert of Mark McGwire.  Again, the photography on both is crisp, but...I don't collect McGwire. He cheated his way out of my books awhile ago.

Pack 4- I think all five of these were doubles for me.

Pack 5- Fairly simple base cards. Castro's is probably the highlight, for that throwback.

Funny, the more I rip of this set, the more I realize that the 2015 version kicks the pants off it.

Now THIS is more like it. This is an insert I can get around, a Luminous insert of Yadier Molina, looking pretty awesome, and die-cut as a puzzle piece, probably waiting for Matt Holliday and Adam Wainwright to join him.

Pack 6- three base cards I have already, though the Mays is still pretty nice.

Definitely a picture highlight. Wide enough that it works, especially with the filtering. It works too because it's Jordan Zimmermann.

Four cards into the last pack means we've gotten to the first hit.'s a good one.

The guy who saved the Braves rotation from crumbling, the only thing that's keeping it standing right now. This is a pretty nice auto, and I'm glad I pulled it.

Onto Pack 1 of mini box 2, and it's a great start. Two hall of famers, a near-HOFer, and a knuckleballer that I love collecting.  I love the detail on the Schmidt one.

Pack highlight is another Hall of Famer, one of the best ones to pull, a Field Access insert of a really crisp, cool looking Hank Aaron. great card.

Pack 2- Two awesome Mets arms, and a stellar shot of Carl Crawford looking for a catch.

Onto the 'black-and-white' portion of the pack, two legendary stars, Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio. I think, in the case of Cobb, the black-and-white photography really suits it.

Pack 3- The big mojo pull of Jose Abreu's rookie card, as well as an awesome double play shot of Jose Altuve.

AWESOME SHOT! Roy Halladay throwing out the first pitch at a Jays game. Mounties in the background and everything. THAT is how Stadium Club is done.

And another nice insert, a Beam Team insert of Miguel Cabrera, always a nice player to pull.

Pack 4- A really nice throwback-rookie, and a really well-filtered Carlos Santana card.

I love this shot. Especially the decision to focus on Napoli, and sort of semi-blur everything else around. The jubilation on his face, and the shine on the trophy, is pretty great. A shame that Napoli might get traded in the next few days.

We end the packs with two Puigs, a base Puig and a Future Stars die-cut Puig, both of which are pretty cool.

Pack 5- Love the Molina. That is a pretty awesome slide.

And of course, the two most famous sideways shots in the entire set. I still love both of them, and I might give a tiny edge to the Ortiz, for the jovial expression on both Papi's and Obama's faces.

Pack 6- Two more awesome shots. Again, I still think the 2015 set trumps this one, because there are too many photos that seem plain and boring by comparison, as cool as they are.

Two sideways shots.

And, of course, the auto.

Sure, it's a Cardinal, but it's a pretty nice Cardinal, in Matt Adams. He's been injured for a bit this year, but he's still a great bat, and will be a big piece of what will inevitably be the 2015 Cardinals playoff run.

Again, not as good as Teheran, but it could have been worse.

Onto the third and final mini-box:

Pack 1- Kind of hard to compare these two, one being a guy just starting out, the other being one of the greatest ballplayers of the last 30 years. But...they both, uh, wear orange?

Two awesome shots. The Clemente must be a classic. The black-and-white, the wide shot, the stands. It just seems so cool.

Annnd our Field Access is another nice one, of a very young looking Stan Musial. I think here the B/W is a little off-putting, but I can definitely deal with it.

Pack 2- The Sale is the only one I didn't have. And that's a really nice one, too, throwback and all.

Two sideways shots. The Pujols is the better of the two, as it gets the catcher and the umpire in there too.

Pack 3- A guy that might be traded this week, Johnny Cueto.

Three really cool horizontal shots. The Victorino is the best one, as it's got a whole ton of happy Red Sox celebrating with Shane.

Nice, another Luminescent insert of Andrew McCutchen, a guy who I love pulling cards of. Excellent stuff.

Pack 4- A trio of rather subdued base cards.

Two highlights, including an incredible shot of Johnny Bench, and a foil parallel of Mike Piazza.

Pack 5- The Choo does the job better here, not to discount the Myers.

Annnd three hall of famers, including a gold parallel of Willie Mays. The Banks is a really good one.

Pack 6- As this is the auto pack, it is a bad omen for it to begin with a Cardinal.

Three more great shots. The Kinsler is the best, as there's a ton of depth in that crowd of Tigers. The Johnson is a nice one too.

And now...the auto:

Junior Lake.

Eh. If he was hitting better, I'd react with more confidence. Not a lot of appeal to this one. I would have preferred a Jorge Soler.

Anyway, that's the box. Two decent autographs, and one Junior Lake. Plus, a host of great base cards and inserts. Not as good as the 2015 version, but still a fun rip altogether.

One of these days I'll post a box that actually counts as nostalgic.