Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: The Year in Review

Yeah, I'd say it's about time for me to write this one, and kiss 2016 goodbye. While it was a good year, I don't think I'm the only one that just wants it to end.

This year, if nothing else, was kind of insane. A ton of things that should never happen period just kind of happened this year, and we all sort of assumed it was the norm now. This was a great year for baseball, a good enough year for card-collecting, and a nice enough year for this blog- while I was a bit over-reliant on customs this year, I was getting my biggest numbers in history by the end of the year, though I don't know whether to thank you or the bots for that one.

Like usual around this time of year, I'll go back and recount some of the events that happened this year, each starting with the phrase 'this was the year that...', although, knowing how infamous 2016's probably going to be, I doubt I'll really need to distinguish much.

This was the year that I collected more Stadium Club than Flagship Topps. I don't regret this, by the way- Stadium Club was the best set of the year, and possibly a more rewarding collecting experience than Flagship.

This was the year that too many famous people from the last few decades died. I think David Bowie's death hit me the hardest.

This was the year that neither of my teams made the playoffs, yet the World Series was, for the second year in a row kind of, between two teams that I particularly enjoy.

This was the year that I just started stockpiling MLB caps, just wearing one whenever I needed to wear one, keeping the rotation heavy. My most recent acquisitions are caps from the Tigers and Twins, and I'm still building.

This was the year that Marvel released two movies, and DC released two movies...and Marvel's two were just miles ahead of DC's two...and yet the pattern still remains the same for the distant future.

This was the year that football returned to Los Angeles This is quite possibly the only memorable thing about the Rams' 2016 season though.

This was the year that I attended three baseball games, in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and my hometown of Philadelphia...and all three home teams won, even if the Pirates and Phillies weren't doing great. I still think I'm the good luck charm, for the second year in a row. Yankee game and Spring Training coming next year.

This was the year that Topps FINALLY did something about Topps Archives, and made it one of the more refreshing and inspired card releases of the year.

This was the year that Radiohead, Weezer and Green Day put out really nice albums...and it somehow wasn't 1995.

This was the year that I spent two weeks working a job in Pittsburgh, and managed to make a pilgrimage to PNC Park, Heinz Field, University of Pittsburgh, the columns at Carnegie Mellon where they shot the fight scene from The Dark Knight Rises, and, most importantly, Primanti Brothers.

This was the year that I voted in my first election.

This was the year that Panini put out a few card products that didn't really garner my interest, especially after the last straggler, Matt Wieters, made his way to Topps.

This was the year that Billie Joe Armstrong, James Taylor, JK Simmons and Aubrey Plaza were on baseball cards.

This was the year that Jon Snow was alive, Glenn was alive (at least for a few months), and everyone, everywhere was obsessed with Eleven and the eggo waffles.

This was the year that, for the third time, I went to a Super Bowl, this one in San Jose. The game was pretty tense, the halftime show was pretty awesome, and Peyton Manning deserved to go out like that.

This was the year that the National was on my coast for the first time in four years...and you better believe I went. I stuck to dime boxes, but it was still a fruitful show.

This was the year that I came within one card of completing the 1990 Topps and 1992 Stadium Club sets. I blame Nolan Ryan and Jose Mesa.

This was the year that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, with Bill Murray and Craig Sager in the audience. Miracles never cease.

This was the year that the Cleveland Cavaliers FINALLY won the NBA Championship, leaving a sulking, saddened Steph Curry to go back home to his mansion and previous championship.

This was the year that I went to the Executive Building of the White House. The actual reason for it wasn't as good as the fact that I got to say that sentence.

So, that was 2016. Not so bad, eh? Lots of good amongst the bad. I guarantee that 2017 will have a ton more of the former. We'll be bragging about it all a year from now.

Have a Happy New Year, everybody. Keep writing and keep collecting.

Uncustomed Heroes of 2016: Yankees

Ah. It's December 31st, so I get to talk about the Yankees. Good times.

The Yankees started out...not doing too well. By August, the revitalization was in full swing, and the kids were making serious waves. By September...exactly what we thought was going to happen in April happened, but because of what happened in August we were a lot sadder about it.

This was a flawed but good team, with a lot of reasons to be excited for 2017. CC Sabathia wasn't perfect, but he did manage to improve after a few seasons of futility.

Brett Gardner had another nice season, even if it wasn't really as great as his 2015. He's still working pretty hard, and he's still a great outfield option, but unless he has another 2015-caliber year, his days in New York may be numbered.

Luis Cessa came in less than halfway through the season and had a pretty nice rookie year, pitching well enough to stay on the rotation not by default. Hopefully he'll still be pretty nice next year.

Michael Pineda gave a lot of the same stuff- huge on strikeouts, not huge on wins. He's still a powerful strikeout artist, but he's nowhere near composed, and he's a bit worrying if he's the 2nd or 3rd starter and he's still wild.

Brian McCann had another really nice season at the plate, as well as still being great behind it. McCann's still a top tier catcher and still gives great material, but since Gary Sanchez has emerged, we don't especially need him anymore. Thankfully the Houston Astros do.

Dellin Betances had another nice All-Star caliber year, first as the set-up man aspect of the Three Headed Monster, then as the closer for the latter half of the year. Thanks to the reemergence of Aroldis Chapman, Betances will go back to his home in the 7th or 8th, but he's still a pretty great reliever and the Yankees are lucky to have him.

Well..those are the last customs of 2016. Until February, this is what we've got. Now, until then...expect lots of box breaks, or card prompts.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Uncustomed Heroes of 2016: White Sox

The White Sox had an insane start, so insane that several people were immediately calling for a Chicago World Series.

However...June happened. And after June happened, that wasn't really a possibility anymore.

The team, sadly, was way understaffed for a potential playoff run, with the true flaws revealing themselves pretty clearly as the year went on, chief of which being the lack of sufficient pitching. For the second year in a row, Carlos Rodon tried his damnedest, but couldn't come up with a good enough ERA. They were touting Rodon as a mega-prospect for a there still traction to that?

This is a bit of a footnote, as J-Rol was released in July, but I wanted to document the fact that Jimmy Rollins, one of my favorite players, played some games for Chicago, and even if he wasn't the MVP-winning player I once loved, he still had a decent enough run at it. The Giants signed J-Rol to a minor league deal, so my fingers are crossed that he'll get to play.

Meanwhile, once again, the White Sox had no real problems in the ninth inning; David Robertson's still a top-tier closer, and he's still making them very happy. Even if we see a drastically different ChiSox team in 2017, there's a nice chance that Robertson will at least be on it for half the year.

Coming Tomorrow- My beloved New York far they came.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Uncustomed Heroes of 2016: Twins

Byron Buzton's look kind of says it all about the Twins. Not great.

Buxton has a ton of promise, and had a bunch of nice weeks late in the season, but he's still miles away from where the Twins thought he'd be, and he'd better get to work on the grade-A prospect material.

Hector Santiago came to the Twins in a midseason trade for Ricky Nolasco. He did...well enough. He didn't post anywhere near his 2015 numbers, but he was a solid enough arm for a team GASPING for them.

Coming Tomorrow- The White Sox had an insane start...and a very sad finish.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Uncustomed Heroes of 2016: Tigers

In an alternate universe, the Tigers win the Wild Card spot over the Orioles, face the Blue Jays in the WC playoff game. Do they win, with Verlander on the mound.

Yeah. Yeah, I think they do.

Now, whether or not they get past Texas to play the Indians in the ALCS is another thing, but the 2016 Tigers were the best team not to make the playoffs. They were right there, doing a ton of things right, and teams like the Blue Jays, who had less than half the year the Tigers had, got all the glory.

Jordan Zimmermann didn't have a full season in Detroit, but he did pretty well, especially in the first half. He'll likely have a fuller 2017.

Jose Iglesias had another nice year in the infield for Detroit. Look, he doesn't have to do much at the plate except stay near .300. He's just a great defensive shortstop, and he's good for the Tigers.

Who'd have thought that K-Rod would still be shutting them down, even in 2016. Francisco Rodriguez had another really strong season, even in the AL. This is his first successful AL stint since his run with the Angels, so that was a nice enough gamble for the Tigers, who tried a similar tactic with Joe Nathan a few seasons ago.

Erick Aybar came to Detroit in a late-season waiver deal, after doing his best in Atlanta. He mostly stuck to a backup role for the Tigers, but he still did a pretty nice job in that.

Meanwhile, this guy won the Rookie of the Year.

Michael Fulmer may have won because he got in early and Gary Sanchez didn't get in early enough, but he still had a fantastic season, and made himself a pretty formidable 2nd-in-command to Justin Verlander. Hopefully he'll continue to have some nice seasons.

Coming Tomorrow- The last-place Minnesota Twins.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Uncustomed Heroes of 2016: Royals

Good year for the AL Central, not so good year for the Royals.

I'll give them credit for trying, but without Zobrist and Cueto, without a healthy core, without most of the pitching staff and without a real definitive squad focus for the year...the Royals couldn't get it done, and wound up in third, missing out on the playoffs...right where they were three years ago.

Alex Gordon had a down season, which...he has from time to time. He'll probably be back in 2017 when the pressure's off.

Ian Kennedy's first, and only, season in Kansas City went...relatively well. Not his best season, obviously, but he did a considerably better job than the rest of the staff, so well that he's got a contract to help revive the grieving Marlins rotation.

Paulo Orlando had a much bigger 2016 season, after a few partial-season gigs in the championship teams. He was one of the few positive offensive performers, and turned in some nice moments towards the end of the season.

Mike Moustakas was on the way to another really nice season...and then the injury hit and ruined everything. It's sad, because Moose has become a treasure to that squad, and he thankfully didn't miss out on a wonderful season like Kyle Schwarber (almost) did. He'll be back in full force next year.

Coming Tomorrow- The Tigers team that NEARLY cracked the playoffs.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Stocking Stuffers: 2016 Topps Chrome and Heritage High Number

Not sure if many of you heard, but yesterday was Christmas.

While I did get some baseball-related stuff, like some hats and merch and...Yankee tickets, my dad was nice enough to throw in a few packs just to whet my appetite. One of them was a racker of Topps Update, and since I've shown enough of that on this blog, I'll let you all imagine what I received. Instead, I'll be showing the other packs, a racker of 2016 Topps Chrome and a hanger box of Heritage High Number. This will be my first taste of Chrome this year, and likely my only taste, as well as being a subsequent addition of Heritage High #.

Chrome goes first. Three packs, one special 'pinks only' pack

Pack 1-
192- Felix Hernandez. Again, Chrome is pretty simple, but at least this year's slightly improves the '16 design. They're also not as jadedly bent as past years.
Perspectives insert of Bryce Harper, which is not only a nice insert pull, but a reminder that Perspectives was made more for Chrome than for flagship.
98- Seung-Hwan Oh. Nice shot of the Cards' closer, but...still a Cardinals card.
23- JACOBY ELLSBURY. Takes the Cardinal sting out of it. Look, Ellsbury hasn't been perfect as a Yankee, but he's been good enough, and I hope he can go even bigger for 2017.

Pack 2-
78- Dustin Pedroia. Lots of respect for him, but still a Red Sox.
53- Giancarlo Stanton. He's 26 and already has 200 home runs. Not too bad, Giancarlo.
Future Stars insert of Roberto Osuna. I dig the stained-glass look on this set, but...wish it was a team I liked.
62- Billy Hamilton. This shot, smoke look and all, works well on chrome.

Pack 3-
26- Adrian Gonzalez. Always a joy to pull an A-Gon.
Perspectives of KYLE SCHWARBER. Heck of a pull, and a heck of a shot.
108- Maliex Smith. Eh.
153- David Ortiz. I believe this is a photo variation from the flagship one, and it's a pretty great one at that.

100- Josh Donaldson, still among the best
188- Sonny Gray, hoping to get back up to the top.
93- Ross Stripling. No-no attempt aside, eh.

High #:
679- josh Tomlin, one of the heroes behind Cleveland's WS run
554- Matt Joyce
688- Tony Barnette, Japan-league standout
501- Hank Conger
698- Jose Ramirez, ANOTHER Indians WS hero.
553- Joe Blanton, former Phillies 5th rotation man.
645- Pat Dean
551- Tyler Clippard
639- Mike Clevinger
595- Jimmy Nelson
611- Yovani Gallardo, hoping to have a better season in 2017.
589- Josh Phegley
617- Jose Quintana, surprisingly one of the best pitchers of 2016.
542- Chris Coghlan, who surprisingly didn't make much of an impact upon his return to Chicago.
613- Fernando Abad
my short print is...715- VINCE VELASQUEZ, Philly hero. Hope he has another big year next year.
716- Christian Vazquez MINI #'D TO 100. Another nice pull, but...sadly a Red Sox.
Now and Then insert of Victor Martinez
Eaton- Frazier insert: "Chicago Clubbers", which leads me to wonder how big these post-game parties get.
683- Whit Merrifield.
several doubles to end the box.

Some nice enough stocking-stuffers, good enough packs.

Uncustomed Heroes of 2016: Rockies

For third place, the Rockies had a pretty productive year.

Numerous starters had positive averages and a good amount of home runs, Trevor Story had a start to remember, Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez cemented their statuses as Rockies to remember, and DJ LeMahieu had another start so nice that I forgot to make a custom of him this year. It's weird.

This was a year where the pitching staff was made up of a few surprisingly nice arms, like Tylers Chatwood and Anderson, as well as a great rookie year from Jon Gray. With some re-tooling and consistency, the Rockies could be a lot better on that front than they've been in years.

David Dahl's rookie run, starting midway through the season, is a nice sign of what's to come, as there's clearly got to be a shirt to give Dahl room. He had a great streak during the season, giving the Rockies a sign than Dahl could be the future, after CarGo's assumed trade and some other moves. That's a nice bet to make.

Coming Tomorrow- The Royals did not repeat...but they didn't exactly tank either.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Uncustomed Heroes of 2016: Reds

With the exception of someone coming next post, Joey Votto is probably my most-embarassing omission from the 2016 season of customs.

He was one of those guys where an idea came into my head that I'd made one already, and instead of just picking him to customize when I needed a Red, I'd have to dig deep and get someone like Dan Straily or Eugenio Suarez. But now, finally, I have a Joey Votto custom from 2016...and it's a pretty nice one.

The Reds weren't great this year. Sure, there was this weird feeling of 'we could actually be great soon' coming from the tail end of the season, and the team seems to be shifting into 'youth movement plus one really good veteran' mode, wasn't especially the most pleasant affair, Votto aside.

Brandon Finnegan came to Cincinnati in the trade that gave the Royals their WS-winning ace Johnny Cueto (for a few months). This year, while pitching was a low-point for the team, Finnegan did a pretty nice job, and was efficient enough that he's one of the few 2016 options being set for the 2017 rotation.

Coming Tomorrow- Unless I get cards, nothing because it's Christmas. I'll post the next one of these on Monday, and that'll be players from another surprisingly optimistic middling squad.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Good Guys Got Edwin

In 2009, the Reds and Blue Jays pulled off the old 'trade a third baseman for another third baseman' deal, by trading Scott Rolen to Cincinnati for Edwin Encarnacion and unlike most of them it worked out pretty well for both parties. Although, when I saw the deal being made, I thought 'yeah, Reds stole this one'.

Rolen got a few ASG-nods, and ended his career in Cincy a few years later. Edwin went from a small-time third baseman to one of the best DHs in baseball, racking ASG after ASG, nearly getting an MVP, and becoming one of the defining forces of this current Blue Jays squad.

He had amazing seasons, well-hit ones, but they were so good that I regretted having to root against him. The Jays were annoying, pesky, and even if Edwin was doing amazing stuff, I had to ignore him. I couldn't root for him if he was fueling a mediocre team's playoff efforts year after year.'s pretty fitting that Edwin joins a legitimately great team for 2017. The Cleveland Indians signed Edwin for 3 years, a ton of money, and it's gonna be fun to see Edwin play for a team I'll openly root for.

This also works for the Indians, as they probably weren't gonna bring back Mike Napoli (and i imagine he'll be returning to Boston any day now), and they also need some lineup restructuring, to work toward another title, and for more of a dynasty appeal. Edwin will be a solid mid-lineup bat, and will add to the nice amount of depth the roster already has.

Pretty happy with this deal. Hope it goes well for the Indians.

Uncustomed Heroes of 2016: Red Sox

It's funny...the Red Sox were the team I was expecting to make and win the World Series, and I was fine with this...and then the team that actually won the AL title was a lot better and a lot easier to root for and I was fine with that.

Don't get me wrong, the Sox were wonderful this year, and the bats were explosive. It's a Yankee fan, I can only like them for so long without coming up for air.

Drew Pomeranz was a late-season trade that...quite frankly, should have worked better than he did. But, again...lefties in Fenway don't do too well, and...why has it taken so long for the Red Sox to realize this? Because they keep trading for them...and they're all gonna stop doing well.

Ah, anyway. Should stop ranting. GOOD THINGS, Jordan, GOOD THINGS.

Right. Brock Holt. He had a decent enough post-breakout season, though it didn't pack the punch his 2015 season did. The Sox have just gotten rid of Travis Shaw, so maybe Holt is next? Hard to say, but...Pablo Sandoval's comeback is intriguing enough to make me anxious about his job stability.

Brad Ziegler's one of the more intriguing relievers in the game, and after doing well for my fantasy team on the D-Backs, he was traded to the Sox and worked the eighth for the most part, doing a nice enough job.

Andrew Benintendi's a rookie that made his debut late in the season, and did a nice enough job. Meanwhile, Yoan Moncada, who did a less-than-perfect job in his debut, is now wearing different colored sox. So, first impressions count, definitely. Maybe Benintendi will be vying for a starting job next year.

Meanwhile...this guy had a Grade-A season when absolutely no one thought he would.

Porcello's been nice, he's had a few good seasons, but this was his first major, I-made-the-grade season since 2014. This is something that's gonna mean a lot to the Red Sox in the next phase of their evolution from 'David Ortiz' team' to a new, young-blooded roster. If he has more seasons like this one, the Sox will be DANGEROUS.

Coming Tomorrow- A much weaker shade of Red.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Uncustomed Heroes of 2016: Rays

...Not a great year for the Rays, eh?

Look, lately things have been pretty murky for the Tampa Bay Rays. They were banking on a youth movement last year that barely made that much of a difference in 2016. The veterans that stuck around were inefficient or injured, and when they were DFA'd they ended up having MONSTER seasons elsewhere. It was just sad.

Brad Miller at least did a decent enough job at short, replacing Asdrubal Cabrera, and building on his solid 2015.

Alex Colome took over for an injured Brad Boxberger and...did an even better job than the one that got him an ASG nod last year. He was ferocious, and made a case for the permanent gig in Tampa. least that happened this year.

Coming Tomorrow- A much better AL East team, this one coming short of a World Series.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Uncustomed Heroes of 2016: Rangers

It's weird- for the majority of the season, the Rangers were the toughest, most-powerful team in the AL. Most of the year, they were the ones holding the momentum.

It's a pity they don't have much to show for it, because they were great in 2016. If it wasn't for the annoyingly pesky Toronto Blue Jays, they'd have gone ahead to play the Indians...which would have, at least, been interesting.

A lot of the leftover customs I have today are pitchers, including Yu Darvish, who came back from a year on the DL and did his best to snap back into it, though it took a while.

AJ Griffin's last great season was with those ragtag Athletics teams of the early part of the decade. He finally had another productive season in Arlington, even if an injury sort of cut out the middle of it.

Another reclamation project by the Rangers, Matt Bush was a draft pick burnout that found new life as a middle-reliever, a decade after being drafted by San Diego. He had a nice season of relief work this year, and hopefully the progress will continue.

It's kind of fitting that a guy named Dyson took over for another guy who sucked.


Shawn Tolleson had a bad follow-up season, so they brought in Dyson to be an even better closer than he was. Hopefully he'll...not do the same thing that Tolleson did.

Alas, with every bit of hopefulness for 2017, we have to discuss Prince Fielder, who sadly won't be returning to the field next year, or any year, thanks to a pretty nasty neck injury. Great player, had some amazing seasons with Milwaukee, and it's sad he had to end it this way, wasn't looking great for him for a couple years.

Coming Tomorrow- The few salvageable remains of the 2016 Rays.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Holz in the Plan

Once again, the Philadelphia Phillies are being handed an item that nobody seems to want- first it was Howie Kendrick, and now it's Clay Buchholz, traded from Boston for some prospect.

This is actually kinda similar to the D-Backs trading us Jeremy Hellickson last year- we didn't especially think Hellickson would get us anywhere, but he became such an item that it was a wonder he didn't get traded. The difference is that Hellickson's only taken a slight drop since his ROY season.

Clay Buchholz will have good seasons, and just a bunch of strategically placed shit ones around it. He follows the Francisco Liriano or, let's face it, the Cam Newton tactic of only being good every other season. Last season he was so alarmingly bad that the Sox were quick to use an 0-10 Eduardo Rodriguez performance instead...and we all know how well that went.

So...Buchholz in Philly. How's this gonna go, exactly?

Again, like with Hellickson, I'm not sure. He could be alright, he could have a good season...but he could also do the exact same shit he did last year and get himself DFA'd by June. He works in absolutes, not stuff. It could go either way, and we're all hoping he has a nice season, but at the same time...this is a relatively incomplete Phillies team, and I'm not sure if they can back him up, or if he can back THEM up.

Too soon to say, but I'm skeptical, and I think I have a right to be.

Uncustomed Heroes of 2016: Pirates

The Pirates did not have a bad season...they just didn't show up when they needed to.

This was a nice team, one that didn't deserve to get a bit broken up in July, and the bats were a bit more potent than they'd been in a while, thanks to some bench players that made it big, such as John Jaso, coming up in a big way this year.

Hopefully they'll be able to compete in 2017, though the Cardinals' acquisition of Dexter Fowler will make this difficult.

Francisco Cervelli's 2016 season wasn't full, or as good as his 2015, but he's still a prime member of the team, and he still has a ton of promise, as a backstop and as a hitter.

David Freese used to be my ultimate least-favorite player, for just having this air of awfulness around him after the 2011 World Series. Now? I can take him or leave him, though I'd prefer not to. He had a decent season off the bench, and did better offensively than he did for Anaheim.

Chad Kuhl was one of the many rookie pitching call-ups the Pirates made, after it was becoming clear that their best arms would be lost to either trades or injuries. He did a nice job, and will likely be a bit better next year.

Sean Rodriguez, yet another bench player that got a ton of hits, did a pretty nice job, and will likely get a starting gig in Atlanta next year.

Coming Tomorrow- The Rangers had some amazing momentum over the course of the season, so here are a few of the guys worth thanking.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Dueling Photographers

Try...not to move, Trev. This could be the shot of your lifetime. This could get you the cover of LIFE magazine, up on somebody's wall and all that. Just still...let it all out there.

That's it. 

That's a beaut.

Just zoom in a bit...

HeeelllllO-HELLO. What do we happen to have here?

Aw, that is amazing. Truly worthy of some space on the ol' memory card. Might as well zero in, make sure nobody else is...

Aw, shit.

That doggoned Trev Hoffman's on the other side, in't he? That short-sighted hack thinks he's all apples and pears, doesn't he? 

I'll show him. I'LL SHOW 'EM ALL! 

I ain't some fourth-rate starter for a team nobody likes. I'm Willie Adams, and I'm the best photographer in the damned world. And they're gonna know my name. They're gonna know it by heart. 

...dammit, Trev, you've got yourself some competition. 

Ah, it's just Willie Adams, you've got nothing to worry about. He's not even cool enough to have a black lens like me...just some white lens he probably got for 5 bucks at B&H. That's really, cute, that's...

wait, shit, that's a stronger lens than the one I've got. It's magnified by...gosh, I dunno how many more. I'm gonna have to make this shot count if I want to keep this closing gig. 

Hot damn, we've got ten minutes until warm-ups and he hasn't moved. If I don't work quickly, then I'm gonna let this shot go to waste, and I...can't...let that happen. I'mma have to move fast here. And hope that Trev doesn't move in 'fore I do.

Hey...hey, isn't anybody back there happy for me? Y'all are Oakland A's, just like me. At least be supportive.


Fine. Just you wait. 

Just a few...inches more...there. That's it. That's the shot. That's what I've been looking for. 

Good gracious, Trevor. You've done it. That's the photo of a lifetime. I bet Willie Adams is shaking in his trunks over there. That is beautiful.

...why do I get the feeling I'm being watched?