Saturday, June 30, 2018

No Cano? No Problem

I've been very vocal over the last few years about how the Mariners have been fouling up golden opportunities. Over the last few years, they've had the correct pieces, the right type of talent, and the right momentum...and nothing has happened. Either injuries, incorrect moves on Seattle's part (read: trading Welington Castillo), or just bad luck have stopped the Mariners from ascending to the top tier of the AL West.'s 2018...17 years after their last playoff appearance (the longest playoff drought in the MLB). And I think the Mariners finally have something...without their flagship star who's currently out for drug violations.

The smartest thing this team is doing is relying less on home runs and more on field versatility. Their best players are guys like Mitch Haniger, Jean Segura and Dee Gordon, guys who don't need to hit home runs to be powerful. Segura already has 107 hits, Haniger and Nelson Cruz already have 50+ RBI, and Kyle Seager is making positive offensive progress for once (possibly because the other Seager brother is out of commission). This lineup, while still not perfect (looking at you, Zunino...for, like, the 5th year in a row), is further along than most Mariners teams get, and are rallying behind Haniger as they head within 2 games of the Astros' lead.

The pitching might be the more surprising factor; a rotation that used to simply be Felix Hernandez and some other people has now completely restructured itself behind James Paxton, having his best season by far. Wade LeBlanc is being trusted as a starter for the first time since his run in San Diego. Marco Gonzalez and Mike Leake are providing great support. continuing his recent downslope, but still knows how to throw strikes. Even the bullpen, now bolstered by Alex Colome as a setup man, is fantastic, featuring the best closer in the AL, Edwin Diaz, and Roenis Elias and James Pazos doing impressive work in long relief.

This team has perfected so many things that have been plaguing them since the better part of the decade, and they are finally ready to contend. The Astros still have the statistical edge, but the M's damn close, and might get closer after the ASG break.

Coming Tomorrow- Well, look who's FINALLY back to playing like himself.

Another Blaster of 2018 Stadium Club

The first blaster was great; there was great base cards, awesome photography, and an ACTUAL AWESOME HIT of Darryl Strawberry.

Now, I continue my Stadium Club adventures in the second blaster. Will this one be as awesome as the first one? Will it yield as many Yankees (5) and as few Cardinals (0)? LET'S FIND OUT!

 Pack 1-
Already a nice NL East presence. I love the Spring Training Frazier, the late career Chippah, and ESPECIALLY the energy and fury of the Swanson one. I love that they made it a wide shot, too..

Well, immediately I DID get a Yankee, a nice Jeter base card...and then I got the black parallel, which are seeded 1 in 8 packs (one every blaster...but the last one evidently). So...good news is I'm up 2 Yankees...

 Pack 2-
Standard enough base- strong, dramatic Jose Quintana, gracious Moose, and two very happy World Champion Astros, with the edge going to Bregman.

And yet...
This is my favorite base card of the set so far. JUST LOOK AT IT. Not since the 90s have we seen Topps put out a card this goofy. It's absolutely wonderful, and I love how happy Dustin Pedroia seems to be in accepting this big-ass glove. Absolutely wonderful, Topps. You made me adore a Red Sox card.

 Pack 3-
Aside from Smoak, great stuff here for guys who like other guys in new uniforms. Yu Darvish seems very happy to be in Cubs colors (note that this was taken in March), and the Never Compromise insert of Giancarlo Stanton is quite awesome.

I dunno, I have a soft-spot for the purple uniforms, so these Rockies sideways cards really spoke to me. I also love the fun tone of the Blackmon card.

 Pack 4- Mostly pedestrian rookie shots, though I appreciate the Tyler Wade one.

These two, though, are worthy of the Stadium Club name. JT Realmuto leaping over a D-Backs runner, captured in the exact moment of supreme action. Plus, Dallas Keuchel furiously rearing back a pitch, even if it's lost its luster since 2015, still looks awesome here.

Pack 5-
Two guys who hit a lot of home runs and strike out a lot. At least Gallo's has some flags in the background. Canseco's is definitely from his late-90s comeback to Oakland.

These three are cool though. Schwarber's Power Zone insert is great, as it finally coincides with a year where he's hitting well AND healthy. Rendon's is a beautiful shot of National's park, with the right amount of sunlight. And Pollock's is a great batting card with a cool 2001 throwback in there.

 Pack 6-
Some 2018 success stories here, with a [squints] UP TO DATE card of Matt Kemp as a 2018 Dodger, and Aroldis Chapman dealing in the ninth. Castillo has yet to hit the success part, though.

These two cards....dear lord.
-The Godley. A pitcher diving into a swimming pool at Chase Field. NOWHERE ELSE IN THE MLB CAN YOU SEE SOMETHING THIS GOOFY. I also love the little expression and gestures he's giving as he falls in. So good.
-And the Hanley is YET ANOTHER happy, fun card from Fenway Park. They're doing so many this year, it's unbelievable. What happened to the Doom and Gloom Red Sox. Hanley and Wally look jovial here...of course, this is before Hanley would be unceremoniously released.

 Pack 7-
Fun base stuff, with a great Rhys shot, Mookie doing his best in the outfield, and Trevor Story looking stern. It's also nice to pull a Cody Bellinger, as I don't think he and Judge are as overexposed here as they were in flagship.

And ANOTHER WINNER FROM FENWAY. This one, of a stern, exhausted David Price, sums up his 2017 season. It's also the umpteenth great Red Sox card. This is concerning.

 Pack 8-
More friendly faces here- nice to see Sonny Gray and Justin Upton in current uniforms, and Trea Turner looks very happy. Not sure who Jackson Stephens is though, but his card is well colored.

And we end this break...sigh...with yet another great card from Fenway Park. This one of the closer extraordinaire, Craig Kimbrel. Just as much drama as the Price one. Wow.

So...while not as hit-friendly as the first box, this blaster of Stadium Club still yielded a lot of nice base cards, with some great players, AMAZING PHOTOGRAPHY, and...yeah...still not a single St. Louis Cardinal. This feels fantastic.

I ordered a Hobby Box of this product, so expect a break of that eventually. I imagine I just doomed myself to two Cardinal hits from it.

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Pretty Awesome Blaster of 2018 Topps Stadium Club

You have...NO CONCEPTION...of the amount of Targets and Wal-Marts I ventured to over the last few days in order to find Stadium Club. It was nearly a nationwide search. I felt like Winona Ryder in Stranger Things, bursting into places with scraggly hair and a worried expression, scaring the hell out of employees (of course, that's also what she did after the shoplifting accusations, but I digress). found what I was looking for. 2018 Stadium Club. Undoubtedly the set TO break this year, as everything else is on autopilot. Shiny base designs, cool inserts, fun hits. It's a guaranteed win no matter what happens.

I'm opening a blaster today...and then I have another blaster planned for tomorrow. And that's not even close to the end of the 2018 Stadium Club coverage on this blog. Here now is Blaster #1. 8 packs of 5 cards, so I'm not expecting a TON, but I am expecting something fun.

Pack #1-
Initially, when this set came out, I balked at the base design, thinking it was too simple, and too easy. But, seeing it on cards, I's alright. It's definitely more minimalistic than even the last few, and the 2016 design is still my favorite, but this is still pretty clean, and I like the BIG TRANSLUCENT POSITION on there.

These base photos are standard for SC, but would be preferred to flagship. CHIPPAH is my first insert, as he NEVER COMPROMISES. Decent enough design, even if it does evoke memories of the back end of the SC original run.

These two...I absolutely adore. Not only because they count as wins for my team collection, but also because...I mean look at them! The Rivera benefits from its wide shot, and looks like the final shot of a biopic film. The Sevvy has all the intensity of a Sevvy performance, as he's about to strike out a Baltimore Oriole. These cards have all the passion and emotion you'd expect from these two players.

I'm one pack in, and I'm already won over. How about that?

Pack 2-

All three are great photos, though McGwire's is probably the weakest. I may be biased because I don't like McGwire. The Bench is extraordinary, and I love the Andrus because of the backlighting. Such an intricate photo.

No inserts in this pack, but these two photos make up for it. The Tanaka adds to my streak of pulling 3 OUTRAGEOUS Yankee pitcher photos, and I love the grace and dramatic element of this one, especially with the Yankee Stadium emblem in the background. The Dozier is equally dramatic, and exceptionally well framed. Already, from a photographer's standpoint this set already has an A+.

 Pack 3-

Two fun static shots of some very fun players. I love the way the light hits Thor's hair, but I'm giving Mauer the edge because of the joy that's contrasted with the grey weather.

This pack did come with an insert, a POWER ZONE of J.D. Martinez, which...yeah, that makes sense, as well as a 90s-esque shot of Matt Olson, and a uniformly great shot of Max Scherzer.

Pack 4-
I'm shelling out the base cards in one heap, and you'll understand why in a second. Billy Hamilton's is pedestrian compared to his usual SC issues, and it's great to see Lorenzo Cain in a Brewers uniform. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE that Rickey card, not only because of the great hustle photo, but because we barely get cards of Rickey as a Yankee.

Of course, that wasn't the highlight of the pack...

So...typically when I pull a hit out of this product, I get someone I've never heard of. Some prospect that's buried in Cleveland's farm system, some Cubs infielder that hasn't played since 2015, some guy who's great for a year and then never pans out.

Which is why this got a genuine reaction out of me. It's not only someone who's well-known...but it's Darryl Strawberry. One of the best players of the 80s, and a guy who won rings with the Mets AND the Yankees. Of course, his career took a downslide when Homer Simpson pinch-hit for him and hit an inside-the-parker to win the championship. 

Regardless of later real-world woes, Darryl Strawberry was a great player, and I'm genuinely pleased to have pulled an ON-CARD autograph of the man.

Woo. Okay. There is more box to get to, somehow.

 Pack 5-
Generally more commonplace photos here, but I dig the Baez.

These saved the pack. It's nice enough that I'm FINALLY getting a card of Miguel Andujar, well into his whirlwind rookie season, but the Kershaw insert isn't bad. Like the others, it doesn't really take advantage of foil or dufex or die-cutting, but it's still an inspired enough insert, and better than anything I'll pull out of flagship.

 Pack 6- A lot of camo in one pack. The Mejia is a red parallel, which comes every 7 packs, per blaster, really. Kind of a no-name, though.

These two might be our MVPs this year, so it's nice that Topps gave them both AWESOME photos for their SC base cards. Great lighting on both of them.

 Pack 7-
Two guys I don't really collect, but Doc got a really nice photo.

These guys I DO collect, and they all got nice stuff here. the Beam Team insert is cut from the same cloth as the last few years', and it DOES use foil and looks cool. Ozzie Albies and Nick Williams have great, fun rookie cards here. 

Pack 8- Not exactly a high note to end on star-wise, but the photography here is worth it for this mostly-rookie pack. Blackburn's has the most dramatic photo, but I LOVE Dillon Peters', especially since the nighttime quality of it raises the stakes. The Hays and Smith ones are pretty fun too.

That was...a pretty awesome blaster from a great product. Check back tomorrow and see what I pulled in the second blaster.

Benching Eric Thames

Yeah, that'll be a wake-up call to April 2017. The big guy that's hit a bunch of home runs after coming back from Korea...yeah, he's gonna be hitting off the bench in a year's time. But not because he's doing badly, no no....cause the other 1st baseman is doing BETTER.

This is the kind of problem we have with this Brewers team. The bench is too damned strong, and if you blink or get injured, a bench player could be taking your place in the starting lineup. Eric Thames missed a month of playing time (after getting off to a pretty nice start, too), came back, and suddenly Jesus Aguilar was hitting over .300, and playing 1st base everyday. So...with apologize to Thames and his home runs...the Brewers made the right choice there. As good as Thames is, Jesus Aguilar is having a career year, and improving on his solid bench work down the stretch last year.

Additionally, Hernan Perez has gracefully slid into an outfield spot after the injury to Lorenzo Cain, and is improving his numbers, which aren't at 2017 caliber but...he's trying. Domingo Santana has been demoted, but might wind up as a bench arm the next time someone gets injured. And Ryan Braun? He's...hanging in there. As usual.

But this isn't really Braun's team anymore; Travis Shaw carries the lineup, Lorenzo Cain is the crowdpleaser, Christian Yelich is one of the top offensive producers, and Junior Guerra is the star pitcher. Matter of fact, most of the pitching has been pretty nice this year, with Jhoulys Chacin taking a prime role, Brent Suter getting a ton more mound time, and some kid named Freddy Peralta giving a STELLAR audition to nail the last rotation spot even when Davies gets back in the picture.

The Brewers are dealing with overflow right now, which is a really good problem to have. Everybody's just pretty great this year, and everyone's just building the lead right into the All Star break, because as long as they can hold off the Cubs, they'll be clear. They might be the most dangerous team in the NL Central...and they will stay that way if everyone resumes being on.

Coming Tonight: The big power hitter for the #1 rivals to the defending champions.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Rally Goose Crap

Okay, so...the Tigers aren't THAT bad...but without their star hitter Miguel Cabrera, and with most of their big stars like Michael Fulmer and Victor Martinez in down years...they could be a lot better.

I'm not sure if 'lifeless' is the correct word for a roster without any starters throwing over a 5.00 ERA, but there's not a TON of life in this roster. Nobody's wowing the country on this team. The rotation is good enough to get by, as Matt Boyd is a serviceable ace, but 'serviceable' seems to be the extent of everyone on that staff. The same sort of goes for the lineup; I'll admit that there is some definite bench versatility going on, as Niko Goodrum is a nice spare arm for the outfield, but...other than Nick Castellanos and Jeimer Candelario, nobody's numbers are really ringing a bell.

The good news is that the Tigers have picked the right year to be okay in the AL Central. Aside from the Indians, everybody's doing okay and worse. The Twins have crept up to second place, but are still well under .500. The White Sox and Royals are downright atrocious, with only a few notable performances each. The Tigers do have some players doing their jobs well, but the majority of the roster is either untested or past their prime. They're lacking in players who all surge at once, which is probably why they've dropped to third.

I don't know if this team is even worth being split up at the deadline? Who would be targeted? Jose Iglesias, for his defensive abilities? Nick Castellanos, for his home run hitting? Victor Martinez, to cleanse the team of a contract? It's too early to say.

Still, I do hope they can reclaim second place eventually, as they can be fun in fleeting moments, but...they do have some serious work to do.

Coming Tomorrow- I think I made this custom back in April or May, so its nice to finally be getting it out there. He's big, strong, hits home runs, and plays for one of the best teams in the NL.

The Stars Are Out: As Seen On TV Edition

SAO18 #7- Weatherman and TV Personality Al Roker
My subset dedicated to famous people throwing out the first pitch at ballgames continues with these three, all people who have been on television in some capacity. Somehow all three of these favor east coast teams, but...I don't plan 'em, I just customize 'em.

We'll start with Al Roker, because why not. He's always been a generally jovial guy, purveyor of good morning energy, and he's been one of the more constant presences on the Today Show. Even if you despise morning television, you know Al Roker. And having Al Roker throw out a pitch in a Mets uniform...kind of fits, to be perfectly honest. The Mets, like Roker, are affable, inoffensive, and quaint enough to be enjoyed.

SAO18 #8- Food Network Star At Home Giada De Laurentiis

Moving from morning shows to cooking shows, we have Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network's flagship non-Flay star, and one of my mom's go-to chefs whenever she wants to just have something on in the background while she's cooking better food. Here she is, either enthusiastically throwing out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game or performing some sort of ritual or something.

Speaking of Baltimore...

SAO18 #9- Frank Underwood's Lackey and Friend of Superman Michael Kelly
Another guy who's been on TV a bit less prevalently than the other two, but if you've watched a lot of things, you know Michael Kelly. He's one of the premier 'that guy's' on film. Also, he's one of the more popular supporting characters on House of Cards, and I imagine he'll be getting a ton more screen time on this final, Spacey-less season of the show.

He falls into the category that I'm trying to showcase a bit more on this series: guys who are 'take-it-or-leave-it' sort of famous, who you really wouldn't think of otherwise, who'd be a nice little surprise if they showed up and threw out a first pitch. Michael Kelly's probably the chief one of these.

I'll post another few of these this weekend, I'm guessing. Expect some MLB-ers to show up.

Marlins Update: [Exhausted, Embarrassed Sigh] Edition

On one hand, I was expecting worse from the Miami Marlins. On the other hand, UUUUNNNGHHHHHHHH...

The Marlins lineup has surprisingly rebounded over time, with Derek Dietrich becoming a starter AND a power hitter, Starlin Castro picking up where he left off in the Bronx, and Brian Anderson becoming a starter like we all thought he would. They also seem to have found their everyday shortstop in Miguel Rojas, though JT Riddle has been playing some games as a way of security.

Other than that...dear lord this team is bad.

The pitching? I have not found a silver lining here. Nobody is pitching well, and everybody who was is now injured. Kyle Barraclough is doing his best to hold up the closing pitching, but it's hard to close games for a last place team. The youth isn't really working as well as the team would like.

It's not fun to watch, it's not fun to report on,'s not fun to be a Miami Marlin right now. J.T. Realmuto is playing really well right now, and the Red Sox need a catcher. Put two and two together.

Coming Tonight: Reliable defensive shortstop for a second place, but by no means contending, team.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

More From the Inexplicably Weird Rays

I'm gonna start this post about the Tampa Bay Rays by talking about...the Washington Nationals. I swear this will all make sense in a moment.

The Washington Nationals have overcome a slow start and sharing a division with the Braves to get right back into the mix of the NL race, winning a ton of games in early June and going up against the Phillies for 2nd. Their pitching is strong, their lineup is pretty well-rounded and capable of power, and they're still a force to be reckoned with in the MLB right now.

...the third place Rays just shut them out over a two-game series. While scoring 12 runs on them in 2 games.

I've already talked at length about the sheer strangeness of this Rays team, the kind of team that doesn't want to pick a side and be good or bad, rebuilding or threats, but I figure I'll update the masses on the situation as the new developments arise.

First of all, since the trade of closer Alex Colome to Seattle (where the best closer in baseball currently resides, so R.I.P to his playing time), the Rays have had to work on cementing a new closer. So, who have they decided on? Former Giants closer Sergio Romo of course, who had already nailed a few 'opens' as part of Kevin Cash's new strategy. As such, Romo has saved 6 games and started 5, like the 5th-weirdest part of this team at this point. He's doing alright as closer, but his backlog of blown saves from his early-April setup days are preventing his big numbers from shining through.

To this end, thanks to the injuries to Chirinos, Archer and Faria, there are only two cemented starters healthy right now: Blake Snell and Nate Eovaldi. Everyone else who has started games is either primarily a reliever, a call-up working an 'open' on Cash's orders, or...perhaps a starter who is also used in relief? It's very confusing the way Cash is working this; I really can't tell who he intends to be perceived as starters. There are people, like Ryan Yarbrough and Ryne Stanek, who have appeared in a ton of games but still have relief stats despite starting games. I don't know what to make of this pitching staff, but it seems to be working.

The lineup, carried by a bunch of veteran utility men like Johnny Field, Daniel Robertson and Joey Wendle, as well as a few rookies who seem to be doing well like Willy Adames and Jake Bauers, seems to be doing...well enough. I mean, it's as unfocused as a team who just lost their marquee star can be. Their other marquee star, Kevin Kiermaier, just got back from the DL and he's...not exactly playing like himself. Mallex Smith might be the new big star carrier, but he may have one or two more seasons playing like hell in a Rays uniform to go before he can confirm that. Or, judging by the season so far, it could be Matt Duffy, but I don't know how hell-bent he is about staying in Tampa.

There are a ton of questions, a ton of confusing aspects of the team, and...things are working to an extent, right now. Besides, the Rays are very close to having their catcher, Wilson Ramos, start the All-Star Game. Curiouser and curiouser.

Coming Tomorrow- Speaking of catchers, here's one that...if things go well, won't be wearing his current uniform for much longer.

Always Be Closing: Brad Hand Edition

This is another installment in my recurring series on closing pitching.

Right now, in the NL, there's a standstill for leaders in saves. Three guys are tied at 21 saves, which...while dwarfed by the saves accumulations of the closers of the top two AL East well as Edwin Diaz, who's killing it this year, is still a pretty nice achievement for June.

Two of the NL leaders can be understood if one is familiar with recent trends; Wade Davis is coming off of a fantastic season, and is following in the footsteps of another guy who led the league in saves last year, while Sean Doolittle is coming off of a comeback season, as well as being a prime figure in the A's teams of the early 2010s.

But then there's Brad Hand. And other than an impressive showing as a middle reliever for the last two seasons in San Diego, only taking the closing job after the trade of Brandon Maurer to the Royals, there's not a lot that would lead people to believe that he'd work as an effective closer. Remember, the transition from middle relief to closing isn't always as seamless as one might think; for every Kelvin Herrera who adjusts to the learning curve and figures out how to close games, there's someone like Dellin Betances, who flounders whenever he's given the ninth.

However, Brad Hand's second half in 2017 was indicative of the fact that he was more than ready to close if given the opportunity. And the Padres are nothing if they don't have a ton of opportunities this year.

Now, I should make it clear that Brad Hand has blown 4 saves already this season, which should put his blown lead over the rest of the division into perspective, as well as illuminating why the NL's mark isn't as high as the AL's. But...what's most important here is that the Padres have only won 35 games, and Brad Hand has saved 60 percent of them. To put that into perspective, Aroldis Chapman has only saved 45% of the Yankees' wins.

Brad Hand is not only good at what he does, but he can be good at this when the Padres need him most. You look at the other last place teams, and only Keone Kela has this ability to be rock-solid when nothing else on the team is able to be. Brad Hand has 56 strikeouts, which right now is more than Joey Lucchesi has, and he's started 13 games with a decent ERA.

Unlike Edwin Diaz, who is great as his team is also great, Brad Hand's abilities eclipse those of his team, to the point where he's been considered one of the chief trade targets for the July trade deadline. I would love to see Hand closing games for a truly great team, even's more likely that someone will scoop him up just to do middle relief duties.

Coming Tonight: He's speedy, he's great at hits, and he's a charter member of a team whose weirdness is becoming the stuff of legend.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Bunch of Guys in Green Hitting .250

Never thought a team with a win percentage over .500 could feel so 'meh'.

Nobody's doing too poorly on the A's right now, which is nice, but...nobody's doing terribly well, either. Jed Lowrie, once again, leads in average, and Khris Davis, once again, leads in homers, but...this isn't an especially varied lineup we have here. People are either playing great defensive ball and only hitting .250, or hitting like hell and sucking at defense. There aren't a ton of multi-dimensional players here, save maybe for Lowrie.

The only thing the A's have going for them is improvement at this point. Stephen Piscotty is finally hitting around .250, after skirting .200 for a while, Mark Canha has blossomed into a durable everyday outfielder, and Matt Olsen is reminding everyone that he can hit for power as well as playing great 1st base. Yes, the poster child of this A's team, Matt Chapman, is currently injured, but the team is still alright enough without him, as they've thrown Franklin Barreto into the mix to cover for him.

Might I also add that the pitching rotation has been inexplicably fantastic given the glut of injuries to established players. The amount of talent they've been piping in from odd places, like Frankie Montas from the depths of injuries, and Edwin Jackson, from the Nationals, is worthy of attention, especially considering that those two would never have been predicted to be doing WELL for a team at the start of this season. Jackson was lights-out in his debut, and has been helping the A's to a pretty nice week or so.

I'm not sure if this nice week the A's have had will lead to a long-standing coup in a fairly packed AL West, but it's sure fun to theorize how a fourth-place team like the A's could pull one off.

Coming Tomorrow- A guy named after a body part. Only the finest in San Diego.

The Stars Are Out: Football Edition

SAO18 #4 - Former Redskin and Current Vikings QB Kirk Cousins

I'm trying to group the various Stars Are Out customs I have made already (which, by now, is several), by common themes, or common thread lines. This one's kinda obvious- all three guys I'm showcasing here are either former or current football players.

This guy has every right to be happy: the Minnesota Vikings just signed him to a nice contract after only doing a slightly-above-serviceable job in quarterbacking the Redskins for 6 years. True, Kirk Cousins has had some good numbers over the years, but he does fall into the Chad Pennington school of one-dimensional quota filler. Which isn't to say the Vikings have made a mistake, although...would that be too uncharacteristic of the Vikings?

Whatever, he looks happy in a Twins uniform. Not too many people have this season.

SAO18 #5 - San Diego Legend LaDanian Tomlinson
Let's move onto other matters, like how odd LaDanian Tomlinson looks on one of these that isn't a San Diego Padres card.

I mean, the guy never played for Dallas, so his only business in Arlington has to do with golf...I think? I'm not entirely sure. Whatever, he looks happy to be there, and even if he doesn't have a ton of reasons to be in Texas, other than...possibly living there (I have literally no idea), this is still a nice card of an NFL legend.

SAO18 #6 - Multiple Super Bowl Winner and San Francisco Icon Joe Montana
Biggest one last, and despite looking as though he dressed to cat burgle somebody's house, which is a task reserved for a DIFFERENT NFL hall of famer, perhaps someone who played most of his games in Buffalo and appeared in a couple Naked Gun films, Joe Montana does seem absolutely thrilled to be back in San Francisco. And why shouldn't he be? He made his career there, winning a few Super Bowl rings and MVPs and making it look easy.

I'll end on Joe, and tease that my next post of these involves people who, for some reason or another, have been on television.

The Cardinals Are Gonna Be (.500 Miles)

(Music Pun Streak #13- I couldn't resist)

It's June. Now, typically, around June is when the St. Louis Cardinals make their way up the standings for an unfathomable amount of time despite the lack of talent. However...right now, the Cardinals are in third place, 5 games behind the Brewers, in the midst of a dull week. They're a few games over .500, and looking as okay as you can get. However, they might even subscribe to the Tampa Bay Rays sort of 'strange mediocrity'.

Case in point: their top starter hasn't pitched in the MLB since 2014, and not in a cool Lance Lynn way. Miles Mikolas started a handful of games for the 2014 Rangers, did a poor job, and wasn't re-signed, so he decided to spend a few years in Japan, pitching for the Yomiuri Giants. To say this Japanese excursion saved his career is an understatement, averaging a 2.30 ERA over 3 seasons, his best of which coming last year, with an impressive 14-8 record with 187 strikeouts.

So far in 2018, Mikolas has been channeling said 2017 year with St. Louis, with a current record of 8 and 2, with a 2.69 ERA, funnily enough his lowest since 2014, and 77 strikeouts. And in a year where Wainwright and Wacha are injured, and Carlos Martinez' walks are catching up to him, the Cardinals NEED a guy like Miles Mikolas to head up the rotation. He and rookie Jack Flaherty have been putting up the best numbers of the rotation, while Luke Weaver's beginning to catch up.

The sad part is the strength of arms like Mikolas and Flaherty can't really save the general ineptitude of the lineup. Guys like Kolten Wong and Dexter Fowler are batting below .200, and Paul DeJong's out for another 3 or 4 weeks. The guys who are leading the charge either strike out too much, like Matt Carpenter, or aren't in the lineup enough, like Harrison Bader and Jedd Gyorko. Thankfully there are people like Yadier Molina and Marcell Ozuna who are playing really well, but it's spread a bit too thin. There's too much that's simply 'alright', and all of that is dragging the team down to third.

The Cardinals might make an attempt to take advantage of the Cubs' recent losing skid, but I'm not sure how far they'll get, even with someone like Miles Mikolas.

Coming Tonight- Shortstop for a low-in-the-standings team that's surprisingly over .500

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Artist Formerly Known as Carlos

(Music Pun #12)

I'll explain the Prince connection here. If you go on Baseball Reference dot com, as I usually do to research prospective custom recipients and general statistical nonsense, you'll find that the WAR leader on the South Side of Chicago is some guy named Carlos Sanchez. This player does not exist, and is a very boring name for a guy who's leading the White Sox in something.

No, turns out Baseball Reference fouled this up, as this is a glitch in the general management of the site; everywhere else, Yolmer Sanchez' name has been changed to, well, Yolmer, as he started going by his birth name rather by his middle name Carlos prior to his breakout season in 2017. And EVEN LAST YEAR it had his name as Yolmer on the White Sox page. But now, and I have no idea why it's now rather than immediately after the name change, the site is still calling him Carlos again. And it's an issue that hasn't been a thing in over a year.

So...yes, his name is still Yolmer, but I was very confused while making this custom. You click on the player page, boom, his name's Yolmer again. But on the team page...there's an outdated name going on. So that was my little conundrum this week.

Yolmer, by the way, is one of the few reasons to still go to White Sox games. He's a great infielder, he leads the league in triples, and he's having some all-around upward momentum that a lot of people can't seem to catch onto. This team does have a pretty alright core of Yolmer, Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu, all three of whom are mashing the ball this year. Heck, even Matt Davidson and Yoan Moncada are having on seasons, and it has taken a while for me to say that. The only problem this team has is that it can't hit for average to save its life. This team strikes out a ton, though you would too if you had to play in the same division as the Indians.

The only thing the Sox can do at this point is hold on, and protect Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Covey and Carlos Rodon, or else the fifth place spot that they've been staying out of might be theirs after all.

Coming Tomorrow- Out of the Japanese league he came, and he's currently heading up a rotation of established veterans with more experience than he. Only in St. Louis.

Rhys of My Heart

(Music Pun #11. And Janis helps me set a new consecutive record)

The Philadelphia Phillies are a game and a half out of first, and have spent the last few days kicking the shit out of the Nationals. And yes, the last time I checked it is, in fact, 2018, and not 2007.

This...feels really good. I don't know how this is happening, but I love it.

...Okay, I sort of do. All of the prospects and young kids we've been stockpiling since 2015 have all started playing really well. Aaron Nola and Odubel Herrera have been on fire, Maikel Franco is more on than he's ever been, Rhys Hoskins is back to hitting home runs, and even the new recruits, like Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta, are beginning to subscribe to the Philly way, and are starting to supplant the youth movement.

Also, the Nola-Pivetta-Arrieta-Velasquez-Elfin rotation, while slightly laughable in concept, has been working like clockwork for Philly, as all four have had positive numbers coming their way this year. Which is pretty surprising, because, last I checked, Vince 'What Do You Mean I'm Supposed to Keep Down Runs' Velasquez was a part of that rotation. Hell, even the BULLPEN, which was truly atrocious last year, is surging, with rookies Victor Arano and Seranthony Dominguez, the latter of which is doing a bang-up job closing games, and veteran Edubray Ramos all surging in relief work. After a season of people blowing leads in the eighth, this is very refreshing.

The goal has to be catching the Braves, and said goal will be tough, because the lineup is a bit more well-rounded, and they do have a few more tricks up their sleeve on the bench and such, but...if the Phillies keep playing as well as they are this week, complete with Nat-bashing, they might be a formidable match for Atlanta.

Coming Tonight- Middle infielder for an insanely dire AL Central team.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Stink Panther (by Trey Mancini)

(Music Pun #10. YES, IT COUNTS.)

THE GOOD that the Baltimore Orioles are no longer the worst team in baseball. The Royals have accumulated one more loss than they have. The BAD NEWS is...the Orioles currently are the most games behind first. So even if the Royals are are the Indians.

The Orioles are not only really bad this year, but they're really bad in a year where A.) the teams in first and second are among the best in the league, and B.) their star shortstop might only be THEIR star shortstop for another month. Things were bad in 2006 and 2007, but at least their big stars, Nick Markakis and Miguel Tejada, weren't at the point where they could be snatched and all the momentum could be lost. HERE? Uhhh...that may be where we're at.

Matter of fact, let's do this right now. Let's see what kind of Baltimore Orioles team we'll have once Manny Machado leaves:

Their offensive leader would be...Danny Valencia, who leads in average. Adam Jones would ultimately be the source of publicity/'star' bill, and while he's got a .293 average at the moment, he's also pulling some awful fielding numbers, bringing an end to his career as a landmark defensive outfielder. The other sources of power, Jonathan Schoop, Mark Trumbo, Tim Beckham and Chris Davis, are either injured or positively limp. The only member of the recent youth movement who can hit for power is Trey Mancini, and he strikes out way too much.

There's not a ton of bench help, and the starting shortstop in Machado's absence would have to be either Jace Peterson or some dire callup from Norfolk. So, offensively, the Orioles without Machado would be S.O.L.

Even their pitching would only be able to hold them for so long. Yes, the duo of Bundy and Gausman is still pretty good, and there's been a small amount of ripe bullpen arms forming, especially Miguel Castro and Darren O'Day, but...the further back you go, the more disappointed you become.

The Orioles, once they trade or lose Manny Machado, will become even worse than they already are. I don't know if they'll let him go in July, or just in November, but...they need to figure out what kind of team they want to be without him, because...if it goes according to those paragraphs, it's not gonna be pleasant.

Coming Tomorrow- His rookie numbers were so wild that anything that followed would have to be a disappointment. Especially this.