Odd year, this one.
I began 2018 literally banging pots and pans and drinking champagne, and tonight I'll end it seeing They Might be Giants at Philly's Theater of Living Arts. Obviously a lot changed in 12 months. I'll say that I never would have gotten into TMBG if it weren't for an influential card-blogger.
Then, as I went to write this, it occurred to me that this is the end of the tenth year I've had this blog, and this is the tenth consecutive year-end post I've written for it. For shits and giggles I looked back at the first one of those I wrote. It's...definitely indicative of my age, as a fourteen year old. Obviously I've gotten better at this sort of thing.
Like usual this time of year, I'll look back on the year that was, by sharing tidbits of the collecting, sporting, and living worlds, all of which beginning with 'this was the year that', as if we'd need to separate them from other years in the future.
This was the year that one of the biggest home run hitters in baseball, Giancarlo Stanton, was traded to my team. And he did pretty well for himself.
This was the year that Topps improved on their flagship set only minimally. The inserts, on the other hand, have a ways to go.
This was the year that the Raiders' gradual departure from Oakland was converted to a swift 'get the f--k out', thanks to the lovely people of Oakland. Now we appear to have a homeless football team, for the first time since arguably the '95 Browns....or the 2007 Browns, who spent most of the offseason hiding in Drew Carey's house.
This was the year that the best movie of the year was an animated Spider-Man movie, and the most buzzed about Oscar favorite was a posh costume drama directed by an absurdist Greek auteur.
This was the year that my girlfriend and I took a trip to Yankee Stadium, thanks to our college being generous to its senior class, and got to see the Bombers take down the A's in extras, thanks to a Neil Walker walk-off.
This was the year that rock and roll seemed dead, and everything new made an attempt to sound old, and the only sign of mainstream success was a cover of a Toto song by Weezer.
This was the year that I got back into card-show attending for the first time in a while, with recurring trips to the White Plains show and Philly Show. Definitely going back to the latter next year.
This was the year that I didn't go to a Phillies game. And after August, I wasn't missing much.
This was a year that my dad spent a ton of time convincing everyone that The Marvelous Ms. Maisel was the best show on television (it wasn't far off).
This was the year that Topps Stadium Club continued to be unrivaled in its excellence...though a little set called Topps Big League came very, very close. 10 packs for 10 bucks, exceedingly collectible, fun inserts, and decent collation? I want to go to there.
This was the year where my family and I undertook a MASSIVE road trip, hitting minor league affiliates of the Pirates, Tigers, Nationals and Yankees, and knocking the major league parks of the Reds, Tigers and Blue Jays off my list, bringing me to 15 overall, the halfway point. Next up? I...do not know. I might just stick to ones I've been to for now- return visits to the Bronx and possibly DC are in order.
This was the year that Wes Anderson put out an adorable movie about dogs, Steven Spielberg made a cool movie about nostalgia, and Ron Howard directed a Star Wars movie that didn't need to exist.
This was the year that Gritty.
This was the year that Panini perfected their frankenset, Chronicles, and I...should have gotten more of it. It's not an A+ product, but I enjoyed it for what it was, sort of like 08 UD Timeline.
This was the year that after years of trying, and years of failure, the Philadelphia Eagles FINALLY won a Super Bowl. And their was much rejoicing. Plus...with the sneakiness of this birds team, they may make a run at a repeat, which, while low in probability, isn't impossible.
This was the year that Andrew McCutchen got to play for my team. Next year, he'll play for my other team. Good to see his priorities are in line.
This was the year that I graduated from college and subsequently started a real, difficult job. And it's been going smoothly so far.
This was the year that the best team in baseball happened to be the Boston Red Sox. And nothing could stop them from taking it all.
This was the year that I met the voice of Batman, Kevin Conroy. And he did not disappoint.
This was the year that we lost Stan Lee, and I don't think we as a species will ever recover.
This was the year that I marked ten calendar years blogging and doing customs. Which is a nice accolade, I think.
I hope you all have a happy and healthy New Year. Keep doing what you love. I certainly will try to.
Now if you need me, I'll be belting out all the words to 'Don't Let's Start'.
Monday, December 31, 2018
Once again, for my last post of new customs of the year, I have to look at my favorite team's season. And...while they were good, and while there were definite heroes, they were never going to completely eclipse the Red Sox, so they were playing for second place and any accolades that came with it. The Yankees, in 2018, were flawed; the Sox weren't.
For the first time since 2013, Dellin Betances did not make the All Star team. But...the dude had 115 strikeouts in 66 relief appearances, and a 2.70 ERA. So...he's still one of the best middle relievers in baseball, even if the ASG didn't reflect that this year. He's 30 years old, and he's already one of the better relievers of his era. The Yanks are lucky to have him.
So...that's the end of the customs for 2018. I'll have some 'insert' additions in the next few months, more Anyone Can Pitchs and such, and some more content until Spring Training.
Sunday, December 30, 2018
This team has already accumulated Yonder Alonso and Ivan Nova, and is making a SERIOUS run at Manny Machado. So they're quickly trying to pivot from a losing year, but...this quick-pivot strategy hasn't worked the last few times. Will it in 2019?
They'll have to find out without the help of Avisail Garcia, their trusted outfield bat, who was non tendered after a disappointing year at the plate, with only 19 home runs in 93 games.
Coming Tomorrow- My team, who went far enough to make me happy, but came short enough to keep me waiting.
Saturday, December 29, 2018
The good news is that the Twins had a good July and a great September. The bad news is the other five months of the season.
The Twins are just this Jekyll and Hyde type of team lately, where one season they'll be fantastic and the next season they'll be terrible. It's honestly just a question of when their big stars are on. Miguel Sano, one of the defining presences of their great 2017 team, was sidelined for a lot of the year, only hitting .199 in his 71 games this year. I doubt Sano's best days are done, but I do think the Twins should be concerned.
Coming Tomorrow- A team that lost 100 games, yet is somehow still in the race for Machado.
Friday, December 28, 2018
I'll note that I did get to see Miguel Cabrera play one of his few 2018 games, and I was very impressed, especially by his defensive abilities. To be honest, a lot of the rest of his career is just the frosting on his surefire Hall of Fame case, but it's nice to see he can still play pretty damn well. The guy's 35, and he's signed for 5 more years, so...in theory he may have one or two good years left, and it may not be a Pujols thing where you're just waiting for the contract to give out, but...it was sad to see a great like Cabrera sidelined for most of the year.
Coming Tomorrow- A team that came in with great expectations, floundered for 4 months, then somehow got really good at the end of the year.
Thursday, December 27, 2018
One of three teams with 100 losses, and one of two teams in the AL Central with 100 losses. Their remaining stars from the 2016 run either stuck around in injury-shortened years, or left in July. The few remaining veterans, such as Ian Kennedy, came up with paltry numbers like a 3-9 record and a 4.55 ERA. Far from the D-Backs runs, are we Ian?
Coming Tomorrow- Another AL Central squad, and a marginally better one at that, with some signs of a future.
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
The Colorado Rockies...a year after just missing the playoffs, managed to sneak in, and go up against the Brewers for a little bit. Granted, they weren't going to win, seeing as the Brewers became unstoppable at that exact moment, but they managed to chase them for a little bit.
And oddly enough, it was a year that their core was a little less consistent than in 2017, despite better years from Trevor Story and Tyler Anderson. Plus, there was a slight improvement from Ian Desmond, whose average was a bit higher over .200 than it was last year. The guy's still far from his Nationals numbers, but he's still a fine first baseman.
Coming Tomorrow- Three years ago they won a World Series. Now...ugh.
Monday, December 24, 2018
Between nabbing Tanner Roark, letting go of Homer Bailey, and netting Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Yasiel Puig...the Reds are making a go at 2019, and making things in the NL Central even more competitive. They're one or two starters away from a full fledged run, which is a nice thing to say about such a fun, breezy team like the Reds.
Yes, they spent most of 2018 in last place, but...as I witnessed during a game against Colorado, it's a fun last place, and there are several fantastic, bootable players on that roster. Tucker Barnhart, who only came in as a pinch hitter, is a fantastic defensive catcher with a few trusty offensive tools. In a season where catching was many teams' weak point, he was solid in the face of chaos. His backup, Curt Casali, was pretty good too.
Coming Tomorrow- Nothing, since it's Christmas. But the day after, expect some talk about a Wild Card sleeper that became a formidable playoff piece.
Sunday, December 23, 2018
...So yeah. The Red Sox won the World Series this year. Which really says all that needs to be said about my mood.
Look, I'll agree that this was a ferocious, exciting Sox team, with a lot of standouts, a ton of dominance, and so many great postseason moments. But...it'd have been nice if it wasn't the Red Sox. They've won almost as many titles in my lifetime as the Yankees have (Yanks still win 5 to 4). It'd be nice to see some other teams get a title...and yes, I see the irony of being a Yankee fan and saying that. But still.
Even as the designated fifth starter, Eduardo Rodriguez was still hella sharp for regulation. A 13-5 rotation and a 3.82 ERA is nothing to shake a stick at. But, with the impending playoffs, and the Price-Sale-Eovaldi-Porcello combo looking unbeatable, I can see why the comparatively-tame Rodriguez spent the postseason on the bullpen staff.
Hector Velazquez was the primary setup man, with a 3.18 ERA and a 7-2 record. He was also an impressive long reliever, getting a pen-most 85 innings of work.
In summation...I didn't love that it had to be a Boston team to win it all...but this team was pretty damn spectacular. If anybody was gonna win it all this year, it had to have been Boston, and I'm kinda glad they did.
Coming Tomorrow- A midwestern team that even made last place look fun.
Saturday, December 22, 2018
Pop quiz: out of all 20 teams that missed the playoffs this year, which one had the best record?
...Okay, having this being a Rays post is kind of a giveaway, but...say you didn't have the title as a clue? You could have guessed Colorado, or Seattle, or the Cardinals or Nationals...but the Rays, with their mega-September, and their...incredibly strange tactics, finished with 90 wins, which would be impressive in a division that didn't have the Yankees or Red Sox.
Again, this is thanks to Kevin Cash's impressive managing, the homegrown oddball quality of the roster, the team's ace winning a Cy Young, and the pitching staff embracing the 'opener' concept after losing two of their strongest starting pitchers.
And the guy that was thought to be the star of the show this year, Kevin Kiermaier, was...not really a factor. In missing a few months to injury, he effectively handed the reins to the team to...okay, first to Denard Span, but then to Matt Duffy, who's trying to Travis Shaw his way to a leadership thing in Tampa. Kiermaier is still a sharp player, but his .217 average doesn't bode well.
Daniel Robertson was a utility infielder/outfielder that had been stewing in the minors, waiting for a chance to start, and thanks to the rise of the rookies he got his chance, and did fairly well. He notched 34 RBIs in 87 games before an injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year.
Coming Tomorrow- They're big, bad, and they won the whole thing.