Thursday, March 29, 2018

Opening Day 2018: Let's Get This Over With

So here's what everybody thinks is going to happen in 2018:

  • Everyone thinks the New York Yankees are going to be this unstoppable, monolithic force that's gonna come back and go for a title, and while that's an awfully nice thought, especially considering the force of two major home run hitters on the lineup, we're not exactly certain that this is gonna work quite yet. We don't know if Judge is a one-year thing, we don't know if Stanton can have another year like 2017, and we don't know if this formula is one that works, but everyone seems to think it will. So...sure, it might.
  • Everyone thinks that the Astros and Dodgers are going to make serious runs at the World Series again, possibly being successful for the latter, but we all know how hard it is for a team to get back to the World Series a year after being in it (just ask the Indians). Both teams could be great, but it's too early to say if either one will be THE GREATEST.
  • Everyone thinks that Ronald Acuna, Scott Kingery, Gleyber Torres, Ryan McMahon and Shohei Ohtani are gonna be incredible from the getgo, but it may not be that simple, and it may take a while for all of these rookie prospects to prosper in the bigs. Hell, Ohtani may end up being a failed experiment from LA. We don't know. My eyes are on Kingery and McMahon to make the most of their roster spots right now.
  • Everyone thinks that Yu Darvish in Chicago is gonna be electric. The guy's had off seasons. You've seen them. This may be one of them. But don't have a stroke if it is. Remember, it only took a year for Zack Greinke to bounce back.
  • Everyone thinks that Topps cards kinda suck this year. They do. Next
  • Everyone thinks that the aborted free agent class of this year is going to lead to insanely mad trade deadline and 2018 offseason. It might just lead to a ton of people getting traded late August, and Topps having heart attacks to try and get them all in the 2019 set. It may be another misladen free agent year like this one. Maybe free agency's going downhill for good. 
And that's what everyone thinks is gonna happen in 2018. Let's see if any of these are right.

Coming Tomorrow: Probably a custom? They need to come out with some baseball photos, and I have a feeling there might be a few of those from today. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Hanger Box of 2018 Topps Heritage

I snagged some Heritage a few weeks ago at the White Plains show, but I hadn't know...gone to a store and gotten a box or so of Heritage, like the pilgrims intended it. So, while I was at Target today, I threw in a hanger box of this. Yes, hanger boxes of Heritage don't give you too much anymore, but...I wasn't complaining. There's a snowstorm hitting New York tomorrow, I have enough to complain about.

So, here's what I got:

40- Miguel Cabrera. Not everyday you get a future Hall of Famer on literally your first card of the box. Yes, Miggy's numbers have gone down a little bit, but he's still Miguel Cabrera, and you can't really go wrong with him.
245- C.J. Cron. Now DHing for Tampa.
251- Matt Kemp. Now taking up contract space in Los Angeles.
112- Nolan Arendo AS. Still really digging these All Star cards.
220- Carlos Carrasco, still second-in-command to Corey Kluber, but still a great arm
240- Justin Smoak. Will his 2018 be as good as his 2017? Probably not?
190- Dinelson Lamet, proof of the lack of options San Diego has for pitching
235- Buster Posey AS
34- Tommy Joseph. Now vying for a bench role in Arlington.
354- Felipe Rivero, who'll probably be closing games in Pittsburgh this year.
63- Ian Happ.
159- Jay Bruce as an Indian. Already nabbed this one at the card show.
147- Jharel Cotton. Now on the DL
317- Taylor Rogers
267- Trevor Bauer, another Indians supporter
376- Manny Margot
416- Matt Harvey. This is my one-per-box SP, and not a terrible one at that.
Baseball Flashbacks of Willie McCovey, one of those 'always cool to pull' type of guys.
70- FOIL PARALLEL of JOEY VOTTO, #'D TO 569. Another cool pull of a probable future Hall of Famer.
238- Corey Kluber AS. ANOTHER INDIANS PITCHER. I'm probably gonna get the whole damn rotation here.
43- Jon Lester
375- Whit Merrifield, one of the few definite stars left in Kansas City
236- Joc Pederson. Bet he really wishes it was 2015 about now.
47- Mike Trout AS. Again, always nice to pull a Trout in a pack.
250- Trey Mancini
60- Justin Upton. Another dupe from the show
196- Evan Gattis, defending World Series champion. For a former janitor, that's kinda nice.
1- Batting Leaders
223- Caleb Joseph
228- Wilson Ramos, who needs a nice comeback year
264- Carl Edwards Jr, one of the better up-and-coming middle relievers out there
64- Johnny Cueto
29- Andrelton Simmons, finally a top defender again
270- Matt Adams, now on the Nats
397- Evan Longoria, now on the Giants

Still a pretty great product. Glad I got more of it.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Bay Area Blues

I feel like both bay area teams have opposite problems. One's too young, the other's too old.

The A's do have the better problem, as most of their squad are rookies or second-years, all people who've been trusted at positions after not a lot of work, and who look like incredibly decent players. Matt Chapman, Matt Olsen, Paul Blackburn, Boog Powell, Dustin Fowler- all vying for starting positions, all technically still rookies. There is some veteran presence on the team, but it's people like Jonathan Lucroy, Jed Lowrie, and home-run hero Khris Davis, so it's not overwhelming. Yes, Stephen Piscotty is in from St. Louis, which is definitely a nice touch, but we're still determining whether or not he can hit for average.

The inexperience can be problematic- a lot of these guys aren't 100% proven yet, and could disappoint after their 2017 numbers. Plus, it may not all amount to health; Jharel Cotton is already on the DL for a little while, and Andrew Triggs may not be 100% back yet. We're not sure how well this is going to work, but it does look kind of promising from afar.

So do the Giants. Even with some over-30 stars like Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria and Austin Jackson booked into the squad, it still could go pretty well. The core of the team is still pretty strong, and people like Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon McCarthy and Joe Panik are all still playing well. Plus, the one-two of Bumgarner and Cueto (with occasional wins from Jeff Samardzija) could be lethal.

Both have enough drawbacks to keep me from being definite in saying either could succeed, but...there's definitely more than meets the eye with the Bay area teams.

Coming Tomorrow (?)- A fireballer that landed in an NL Central city...and not the one everyone thought he'd land in.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

How on Earth did the Phillies Land Jake Arrieta?

It was a possibility, but it wasn't going to happen...was it?

Jake Arrieta was definitely going to sign with someone. Nobody could have predicted it would be this late...or with a team that wasn't Milwaukee...or with a team that WAS the Philadelphia Phillies. I don't think anyone would call that, because nobody could have considered the Phillies' desire to compete.

And yet...this is what has happened. The Phils have wrapped up a Cy-Young-winning pitcher for three years, and have plugged him into a rotation that includes Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and an improving Vince Velasquez. Arrieta and Nola specifically are going to be dangerous if both of them can have on-years. We've seen them both in good form (Arrieta's 2016, Nola's 2017), and in not-so-good form (Arrieta's 2017, Nola's 2016). Hopefully both can succeed this year, because that would be pretty great if they did.

The Phils are also competing with a lineup made up of a SMORGASBORD of young talent. Nick Williams, Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery, J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Aaron Altherr. That's, like, most of the lineup, and all of them are looking to be fantastic this year. Hell, Kingery might even try and rob Maikel Franco of a starting job. With a generally open NL East this year, and with two other teams, the Braves and Mets, trying to top Washington as well, it will be hard for the Phillies to TRULY stand out, but this move proves that they might have a chance to get back to where they left off in 2011.

Beyond thrilled with the move. Hope Arrieta delivers.

Local Card Show 3/10: They'll Put Anything in a Dime Box These Days...

This is my last semester of college, and it's the last time I'll be in the general vicinity of the White Plains Sports and Memorabilia show. So I figured I'd head back there, sort things out, have a good time. And I did.

As usual, I steered towards the dime bins rather than going towards vintage or any of that stuff, and there was a nice assortment of 10 cent bins all around the venue, ranging from recent stuff to the general amount of 90s/junkwax fodder. So I chose wisely, and looked for stuff that had evaded me, like this very fun 1995 UD shot of Wade Boggs in New York. Can't really go wrong there.

90s/00s Stuff: 

There's something about 1995 Fleer Emotion that just strikes me every time I see it. Maybe it's the wide zoom. Maybe it's the clear filter. Maybe it's the minimalistic design and BIG TEXT. I didn't have this one of Barry Larkin, so I nabbed it in a particular dime box that had some 90s stuff in it.

 These were some pieces of proof that Topps was doing pretty well in the late-90s. The sideways shots could be pretty dynamic, even with Frank Thomas only taking up a good 1/3 of the middle card (reminiscent of a 70s Topps card)

 Didn't have these 3 from 1998 Topps, so I threw them in, even if they're all pretty iconic players...and now all of them are in the Hall of Fame. How about that?

More 96-97s. The Mo and Pettitte are early career releases, the Rickey is from his short-lived stint in San Diego, and the Griffey is proof that the Kid's Topps cards are very elusive...mostly because they're rarely ever in 10 cent bins.

 Some 2007 Turkey Reds, because that set's a nice one. Highlights include an Andrew Miller rookie and a Chien-Ming Wang card.

 One brand that I hadn't accumulated much from was the 1990s Topps Archives reproductions, sets that reimagined 50s Tops sets with players and shots that didn't originally make the cut, in glossy fashion. I nabbed a Hoy Wilhelm, because how often do you find Hoyt cards?

 A few 54 reproductions. The Ashburn stands out, solely because I'm glad that Topps paid tribute to him more and more.

Annnnd here's a crap-ton of 53s. There's a smattering of reprints mixed with mockups of cards that should have been, like most of the bottom row, which look odd but are still welcome.

 Also, and this is a rarity for 10-cent bins these days, but 2005 TOPPS! YOU NEVER SEE ANYTHING FROM 2005 IN ANY BINS ANYMORE! Here are two of the top rookies from the set, both for a dime.

 Incredibly Recent Needs:

I know it hasn't worked as well this year, but the 1987 Topps subset worked really well last year, with the grain, card-stock and design all feeling right. I figured this Ian Desmond would be a nice get, along with several other recent sets that wound up in these bins.

 Yes, there was some recent Stadium Club, because of course there was. The Molina photo was new to me, and I really enjoyed it.

 And some 2017s, complete with a VERY NICE Warren Spahn, and an even cooler Trea Turner. I don't remember much about the 2018 design, but I remember being very minimalistic, and I'm not sure how much I dig it yet.

Some 2017 Gallery, which...was alright, I think. It could have been a lot worse. Some guys I collect, plus some rookies, including probable Marlins outfield starter Lewis Brinson.

 Some 2010/12 Update base cards that I somehow did not have. The Arrieta's a great one nowadays, as is the Reddick. The Beltre...I don't know how I didn't have that one yet.

 More cards of Pat Neshek as a Phillie are always welcome, especially since he's back in Philly this year.

A few of these inserts were mixed in with the base cards of 2017/18 Topps that you're gonna see later, but I don't blame these guys for not knowing the difference.

 Some Gypsy Queen inserts, literally my favorite part of that product.  Donaldson! Iglesias! Rizzo! Ortiz! All your favorites!

 I NEEDED ALL OF THESE CARDS FOR MY ARCHIVES SET-BUILDING. Most are from the 2016 set, but there's 4 in here from the 2012 set. That honestly leaves just 2 or 3 base cards and a shit-ton of short prints for 2012.

 There was a specific dealer that had a bunch of 2017 Update. Since I didn't buy a ton of packs of that one (on account of Topps not including traded players), this helped a ton, as it gave a ton of the really fun ASG photography.


 Players traded in the pre-season that didn't make it into flagship. Nicely rectified. Though Maybin was already in Houston when this was released.

This was the sharpest find. Yes, it's a St. Louis Cardinal, and that alone is bad, but this is a short print of Luke Weaver's S2 Rookie Card...and it made its way into Update...and it MADE ITS WAY INTO A DIME BOX. SO I get a pricy-ass SP for 10 cents as well.

There was also a bunch of 2017 Heritage, which I hadn't extensively bought, which was a nice touch. I love the fact that literally none of these people are currently employed by the team that they're pictured with. Literally none. Not even Bartolo Colon. He's in friggin Texas right now.

2018 Stuff:

Yeah. This is what we've got. Piles and piles and piles of 2018 products, because ALL OF THIS WAS IN THESE DIME BOXES. One specific one, to be honest, just had 2018 Heritage. And not just commons. LEGITIMATE STAR CARDS, TOO. Posey. Kershaw. Sale. Actual people that guys spend money on were in this box for 10 cents. The world has gone MAD!

 Yankees and Phillies first. The Frazier is sadly a time capsule now, while the Tanaka is a legitimately great card.

 Really nice photos here. Throwbacks, stadium lights, dramatic shots, and Brandon Phillips in an Angels uniform.

Annnnd awesome sideways shots. The D'Arnaud is a legitimately amazing photograph. I'm glad Topps used it. Same with the Hosmer.

 As for the Heritage, we once again start with the Yankees and Phillies. Lots of really good shit here. Yes, a lot of posed shots, but that was 1969 Topps for ya.

 All players I collect. Thames' beard is nice, as is Cespedes' bat and Pence's smile.

 A final tribute for Carlos Beltran, which is awfully nice of Topps.

 PLAYERS IN UNIFORMS THEY HAVEN'T EVEN WORN YET. Of all of these, Dee Gordon's is the best photoshop job. Kinsler's is the worst, though, to be fair, it is very, very hard to airbrush in red coloring.

 ALL OF THESE ARE NEW UNIFORMS AS OF JULY 2017. All people that were traded that didn't get Update Series cards. Only Verlander, Vogt, Upton, Kendrick, Doolittle and Quintana are still with these teams.

Annnnd the two more important grabs. Sonny Gray in pinstripes, and a look at Pat Neshek's short-lived tenure in Denver.


This is...legitimately Michael Fulmer's rookie card. It is very legit, very cool, and I got it for 10 cents. It's from 2011 Bowman, and it's a zero-year card because Fulmer didn't get to play for the Mets before being traded for Yoenis Cespedes. It's a great card, and the first of many Bowman rookies I found at one specific dealer's table.

 ALL OF THESE. LEGIT ROOKIES, ALL OF THESE. Almora's even an XRC because he was a team USA guy. But LeMahieu and Arenado's rookies were in this box, from 2010 Bowman. Good shit.

 As an added bonus, a rookie card of one of the best third baseman in baseball...then a catcher. 10 cents for Donaldson rookie. Either prospecting has gone down or Donaldson's stock has.

 These are all from 2014 Bowman: Jesse Winker, Lewis Brinson, Lucas Giolito, Byron Buxton, Josh Bell, Luke Weaver, Christian Arroyo. AKA pretty much every great rookie prospect from last year.

 ALL OF THESE PEOPLE ARE CURRENTLY PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES. Williams, Crawford and Alfaro are all probably going to be starting this year. Ben Lively has a spot in the rotation. Only Crawford actually originated in the team's farm system- Williams and Alfaro were snagged for Cole Hamels, while Lively was snagged for Marlon Byrd.
 And here are some Yankee rookies. Gumby had a great rookie year last year, while Frazier had a great come-up, before his pre-2018 concussion.

 As an added bonus, 2017 Bowman stuff. None of these people have played an MLB game yet, though Ryan McMahon will be playing one next month, probably right before Scott Kingery does. Jason Groome's a local prospect, and Dillon Tate had a great season in the minors.

And, as an added bonus, a card of Gleyber Torres from Spring Training. Can't get much better than that, especially if he lives up to the hype.

Overall...not a bad card show, and not a bad way of signing off my cardshow-based tenure in the White Plains general area.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Reds Will Roll

Seven years ago, I went on a road trip for the sole purpose of knocking three ballparks off my list. I went to Washington, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Had good food, spun good stories, got Ian Desmond's autograph, watched Travis Hafner walk off against the Jays. It was a nice trip.

This summer's the sequel. My dad and I are going to be doing a road trip across the western leg of the east coast, in search of, well, baseball. Some details are still kind of tentative, but the only team I can absolutely confirm that we're gonna see this year is the Cincinnati Reds.

Oh, joy.

Yes, the Reds have one of the best ballparks out there, Cincinnati is a fun city, and Joey Votto is a few more amazing seasons away from definite enshrinement, but...this Reds team might not be a terribly great team to go see live.

And I'm not saying anything against the lineup. The lineup is wonderful. I think this lineup could actually combine for a ton of power numbers, especially with Jesse Winker in the mix. The only problem is that the Reds, once again, don't seem to have a great deal of pitching. What they had pre-2017 has depleted even more. Who's their ace? Homer Bailey? People like Brandon Finnegan and Luis Castillo could do great things, but this is an untested, injury-prone rotation, something not even closer Raisel Iglesias can save. So they're legitimately gonna need to PRAY this pitching staff can step up, because if not, they're gonna land below the Pirates in the standings, and they don't want that.

Joey Votto, meanwhile, is still one of the best average hitters in the game, and is coming off of a season where, if it hadn't been for someone currently wearing pinstripes, he COULD have won the MVP. It was a very strong possibility. And now he has to go back to this same team and try to lift spirits again. I know it must be tough for him, but this is also someone with legitimate talent who might be a Reds legend in 20 years time. He's capable of great things, and he's already accomplished a ton in his first 10 seasons in the game. A little more strong work from the big guy couldn't hurt.

So yeah...the Reds could be a disaster this year, but at the same time...maybe something big could happen. They might be the sleeper hit of the year.

Coming Tomorrow- An outfielder for another lower-tier team that is banking on another 35+ home run season.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Tribe of One

So...what's left for the Indians to do?

In 2016 they nearly win a World Series but lose to the Cubs. In 2017 they nearly advance to the ALCS but lose to the Yankees. I feel like they've got to be tired of losing big games.

The thing is, they always HAVE had the team for it. They've just been unlucky in the final moments of these games. It was never a matter of whether or not they were ready, it was a matter of the other team having one more tool up their sleeves than they did.

There haven't been especially many changes to the formula this year, despite the loss of Carlos Santana and the probable move of Jason Kipnis to the outfield (so Geovany Urshela or Jose Ramirez can play at 2nd). Yonder Alonso is now at first, and he's a more durable, average-friendly choice. Plus, there's a whole youth movement that could be repopulating the infield soon, around the titans like Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, who are on track for fantastic seasons in 2018.

The rotation hasn't changed much either, still going with the five-man combination that worked so well last year, and keeping Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt in the back just in case something bad happens. There's still a 2-time Cy Young winner on the rotation, so I'm not especially worried about pitching, and with Andrew Miller working eighths, i'm even less worried.

This isn't a bad team, and it's one that could succeed more than the other iterations have, but they need to stay lucky, stay healthy, and stay elite, or else that big title that Cleveland hasn't gotten in years (and two other never-won teams have recently gotten) will be a little while.

Coming Tomorrow- A legend in the making, whose lineup presence needs to power a sure-to-be-last-place team past their expectations.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Matt Kemp Question

If the offseason hadn't have begun with Matt Kemp being traded back to Los Angeles for a bevy of Dodger contracts...would we still have as many stalemates as we do right now?

I'm serious. It's very weird that, in 2018, one of the biggest causes of job insecurity and frustration in the MLB is a power-hitting Matt Kemp. You'd think it would be somebody else. But not really.

Matt Kemp prevented the Dodgers from making any moves for pitching or lineup protection, which in turn prevented anyone from seriously considering Yu Darvish, which then led people to think 'Oh, then maybe Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn' are off the table. The last month or so has just been a series of stalemates. Teams looking around, waiting for another team to do something, waiting for someone else to sign another player. It's mostly been the Brewers doing the waiting, as well- they've wanted to jump on Arrieta or Lynn for a while, but now it seems like they're either waiting for a move to pass, or they've just reached rotation capacity.

And meanwhile, Kemp was barely even worth imbibing the contract over to begin with. Sure, he hits home runs, but that's essentially all he does these days. He's not the five-tool player he was when he made a big MVP run in 2011, and he's not as versatile as he was the last time he wore a Dodgers uniform. I'm not sure how often the Dodgers are going to use him as well, considering they have a much younger outfield, as well as having the return of Andrew Toles to work with as well. This may just end with Kemp being traded yet again, what started this entire thing up.

It's a flawed system, and one that may lead to some truly great players being left unsigned when the season starts. And it may just go immediately back to Matt Kemp and his .276 average.

Coming Tomorrow- The Indians' main hero figure, hoping to bring the team back to October for a third consecutive year.