Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Best of the Rest: 2018

This has become a blog-tradition that I've really enjoyed doing every year, because it's kind of fun to do superlatives for teams that nearly made the playoffs, or weren't even all that close. Because, baseball is the kind of sport that can reward 10 teams, and consistently besiege the other 20.

When making this list, of superlatives for the teams that didn't make the playoffs, it's best to keep in mind that things can turn around, even for the teams being lampooned on here. Three teams, the Brewers, Braves and A's, were on this list in 2017, with the Brewers even landing 'Most Likely to Not End Up On This List Next Year', along with the Mariners, who...well, who did.

So, here's the accolades the other 20 teams receive in 2018.

Most Likely to Succeed (According to Winter Meetings Execs): San Francisco Giants

Best Team That Peaked Way Too Early: Los Angeles Angels

Best Team That Peaked Way Too Late: Chicago White Sox

Best Squanderer of Hopes Their Fans Had in 2017: Minnesota Twins

Best Squanderer of Hopes Fans Had in July: TIE- Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies

Best Example of a Team that Completely Gave up in August: Pittsburgh Pirates

Best Example of Injuries Severely Hurting a Potentially Great Team: TIE- Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins

Best Strategy of Using Youth Movements from Other Teams So They Don't Have to Pick from Their Own One: Toronto Blue Jays

Best Pitching Staff for a team that Didn't Make the Playoffs: Philadelphia Phillies (no contest)

Worst Pitching: San Diego Padres (Which means the Reds are finally off the hook!)

Weirdest Team (and this one is no contest): Tampa Bay Rays

Most Likely to Prevent Buck Showalter's Induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame: Baltimore Orioles

Team in Most Desperate Need of Youth, For God's Sakes: San Francisco Giants

Best August Cockiness: Arizona Diamondbacks

Most Depressing Team to Talk About Every Few Weeks: Detroit Tigers (narrowly beating the Padres)

Most Fun Last Place Team: Cincinnati Reds

Best Cosmic Justice, Third Year Running: St. Louis Cardinals

Best Backfiring of 'Titanic Will Never Sink' Mentality: Washington Nationals

Most Unwilling to Recapture the Lightning in the Bottle: Texas Rangers

Best Bad Team That My Cousins Kept Trying to Convince Me Were Good: New York Mets

Team That Would Have Had a Chance if They Played in the NL: Tampa Bay Rays

Team That Has No Idea What it Wants: Miami Marlins

Best Overall Team That Didn't Make the Playoffs: Tampa Bay Rays (I did not expect this)

Team That Desperately Needs a Better Farm System: Kansas City Royals

Most Likely to Not End Up on This List Next Year: Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals

Those are the 20. It's been fun customizing them this year, but until I do Uncustomed Heroes in December, this is the last you'll be seeing of them.

Tomorrow, once we get some definite matchups, I'll go over my playoff predictions. If, by some reason, we have some tiebreakers, expect that post on Tuesday, I guess.

(EDIT, 7:30- ...well, shit...)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Once Last Ounce of Chaos in the NL

I love how it's a tale of two leagues right now. In the AL, everything's been decided, all the playoff spots have been settled and finalized, and in the NL...the Braves are in! That's pretty much it, though.

Okay, I lie...there are a few teams that are nominally IN the playoffs, like the Cubs and Brewers. They're both in the playoffs. We just don't know who they'll be playing yet. Same with the Dodgers and Rockies...and also the Cardinals if you still want to include them in the race. We have...teams, essentially, for the NL leg of the playoffs. We just don't have seeds...which is pretty important, if you wanna run playoffs.

I'll say that the NL Central one is a bit more carved out than the West. The Cubs are a game and a half ahead of the Brewers, have had the division since mid-year, and look to finish with the best record in the NL, and they're probably ending with the division. As fantastic as the Brewers have been this year, they look to be the Yankees of the NL, a team that's really good but blocked by a better team at 1st.

The NL West is where things get tricky. As I write this, the Rockies are ahead by one game, and are in position to end the year in first, setting themselves up for a series in Atlanta. The Dodgers are definitely still in it, and are in the position where they could easily jump right back into first if they wanted to. Both teams are playing middling squads- the Rox are playing Washington, while the Dodgers are playing San Francisco. They could definitely squeeze some wins out of this team, but it's just a matter of who'll lose when, and who'll end up on top. And again, either team could win, and either team could make it a tough playoff game for Milwaukee.

The fact that things are so up in the air with 2 games left is exciting as hell, and will make an intriguing end of the season. Plus, either way, fun teams will be getting playoff time...especially if the Cardinals are kept out of the proceedings.

Coming Tomorrow- My usual 'best of the rest' list.

Caving to Mediocrity

The Minnesota Twins should just change their slogan to 'Who Needs Consistency?'

2014: 5th place.
2015: 2nd place, snubbed of a playoff spot at the last second.
2016: 5th place.
2017: 2nd place, lost a Wild Card spot
2018: 2nd place...10 games under .500, and with their core dissected by September.

I don't even think it's Paul Molitor's fault, really. I think he's been a very steady manager, and I think he's done a good job of bringing the youth of the team to the forefront, and reorganizing the team around people that aren't Joe Mauer. Only problem is the youth didn't stay healthy this year- Buxton and Sano, the two that have been said to hold the Twins' future in their hands, couldn't stay off the DL, leaving for several replacement call-ups that only did so well. The pitching only survived for so long with only Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson. A lot was wrong with this team, especially after the better players left.

There's still a lot to hope for, like Willians Astudillo, a short, larger guy who runs like hell, and imports like Logan Forsythe and Tyler Austin, as well as the few young players who are doing well, like Jake Cave and Mitch Garver.'s not a wholly great team, and with Joe Mauer rumored to be leaving rather soon, there's going to need to be a lot of restructuring needed. A whole bunch. Because of the teams in this division who look like they can make a leap next year...I'd say the White Sox and Tigers before I'd say the Twins.

Coming Tonight: A Cubs leader type, which gives me a fantastic opportunity to talk about the NL Wild Card race.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Don't Zook Now

Another example of how strange this baseball season has been: The Atlanta Braves have the worst-record of the three division leaders in the NL...and they were the first NL division leader to have guaranteed a playoff spot. Which is odd.

Even odder? Journeyman fringe catcher Kurt Suzuki is the starter for this awesome-looking Braves team...and he's doing pretty well! He snatched the starting gig from the clutches of Tyler Flowers, and has had his best season since his ASG appearance with Minnesota.

The proof here is that this Braves team can benefit young players as well as seasoned veterans, in a way that doesn't diminish either one. Nick Markakis is having his best season in years alongside stellar rookie efforts from Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna. This rotation can benefit Sean Newcomb as well as Anibal Sanchez. This is a team that built on top of a youth movement years ago with Freddie Freeman, and built around him properly, so that now that this season's happening, it makes perfect sense.

This is a feel-good Braves team, the likes of which we haven't had in a while. They're set to play the NL West champs next week, whoever they end up being (odds are currently on Colorado, but the Dodgers could sneak back in). It will be a tough, interesting matchup no matter how it goes, and I imagine the Braves will head in there guns blazing.

Coming Tomorrow- Last year they were readying a spot in the Wild Card game. Now? They're...not doing too well. At all.

Some Depressing Orioles Stats

The Baltimore Oriole, and by that I mean the guy who's still on the Orioles right now, with the highest WAR is Miguel Castro, a reliever with a 4.00 ERA, 57 strikeouts and a 1.5 WHIP. Nobody on this frigging team can do better than that, or get higher than a 1.3 WAR. Yes, Manny Machado has a 3 WAR, but he's in LA right now headed for October.

Also depressing: Jonathan Villar has a 1.2 WAR within 2 months of being with the team, and that's the third-highest on the team. Villar did better in 2 months than 98% of this team did in 8. This includes perennial All Star Adam Jones, home-run champs Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis, and legitimately tough pitcher Dylan Bundy. None of them even have a .4 WAR.

The O's have just relied on bargain pickups like Villar and Renato Nunez to do their best to salvage the team, and make sure they don't chase the 1962 Mets for worst ever. The bulk of their positive investments this year have all been traded to teams that are worth a damn. And I remind you...this team was in the ALCS four years ago. This team could have been in the World Series in 2014. And they've fallen apart beyond repair, to the point where they need to start over as much as possible, and build a new team around people like Nunez, Villar, and Cedric Mullins. Because this year was a major embarrassment, and I'm sad to see it come from such a likable team.

I hope things get better. It just might be a while.

Coming Tonight- A fringe player of the highest caliber, finally getting his due as the starting catcher for a playoff hopeful.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

U Mad, Bum?

At this point, ya gotta feel bad for the Giants. Their season has been defined by injuries, which tends to happen if you rely on a core of people over 30, and they've been floundering for the first time since the decade began, all while the team across the bay is making a playoff run as underdogs.

The problem with being part of a multi-year playoff dynasty is that you tend to lose sight of the strength of your farm system. Yes, the Giants won a ton of rings, but by the time the draft picks from that era rolled around...they weren't great. Christian Arroyo was a major disappointment, Ty Blach has been a subpar starter, and the only rookie that actually did any substantial damage this year was Dereck Rodriguez.

People are beginning to come up lately that have some promise, like Ryder Jones, Aramis Garcia, and Austin Slater. But the Giants really do need to figure out a way to either clean house, or just revitalize the lineup in a way that benefits the veterans and the rookies. There are a ton of guys, like Hunter Pence and Jeff Samardzija, who aren't doing a damn thing but are being paid to be here, that might need to be nixed. And then there are guys like Alen Hanson who've done well but are still kinda blocked by starters. This is also a team whose epic power seasons have been reduced to Longoria leading the team with 16 home runs. So obviously things need to be prioritized.

Hopefully this offseason will involve Madison Bumgarner sticking around, as his stuff in the second half was, as usual, powerful and consistent, and the Giants need someone to be an ace and stay healthy, assuming Johnny Cueto has forgotten how to do that. This team could get back to playoff runs rather soon, but they need for their core to stay healthy, because they simply couldn't do that this year, and it's worrying.

Coming Tomorrow- A member of the worst team in his former team heads to the playoffs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Believe the Hype in Oakland

Just on a whim, I was looking at what I wrote about this team before the All Star break. A lot about the lack of consistent pitching, some averages that couldn't stay up, and the fact that, once again, a bunch of people named Matt were holding the team together. Even then, I could tell, in fleeting moments, that there was some promise hiding in this team. And through August and December, this team took off like a bullet.

I don't really know what happened, it's just that everything came together. The deadline acquisitions, and bullpen additions, made this team even tougher in the pitching department. The promotion of Ramon Laureano to platoon the outfield with Chad Pinder, Mark Canha and Stephen Piscotty has been a smashing success, as his rookie numbers have been indicative of his potential as a flagship star. Plus, people who were doing simply alright before, like Marcus Semien and Blake Treinen, are now conquering the numbers, and people the leagues counted out, like Edwin Jackson, are heading up the rotation.

And now, this breathtaking A's team, having won the Wild Card spot, now has to play the exact opposite of the underdog heroes...the goliath with every home run hitter in the book, the New York Yankees. Ironically I am writing this post while watching the newest season of Survivor, which is themed after David vs. Goliath, because Survivor seems to really be needing numbers from the Southernmost states apparently.

This Yanks/A's matchup is literally the David v. Goliath thing, only with less slingshots and more pine tar. I'm still thinking the A's have more of a leg up, because unlike the Yankees they're great at pulling hits and doubles when you don't expect it, even if the Yankees are the better power team. Plus...the A's arguably have the more consistent pitching staff. Which is odd.

I'm obviously still rooting for the Yankees here, but...I can't deny how tough to beat the A's are gonna be next week, for one game. So...whoever wins is gonna deserve every inch of their playoff run.

Coming Tomorrow- Meanwhile, on the other side of the bay, a powerful pitcher brushes off his team's disappointing failure.

Brewers/Rockies 2018

This week is the last chance for any team to break into the playoffs, especially in the NL, where all but one race is out in the open, and teams are close enough in division series' that the Wild Card spots are still very much live. Which...brings me to my current chagrin.

The Cardinals are still in playoff contention. They're currently holding onto the second Wild Card spot, and if the season would end today (or...last night, which is when I wrote this post) then the Cardinals would be in. Which wouldn't be that much of a problem, as the Brewers haven't had too much trouble defeating them tonight.

But...I just worry about allowing the Cardinals to sneak into the postseason. They're one of those teams that, regardless of team prowess and what they've done in the regular season, could quickly turn into a behemoth and claw their way to the end. And even though they look kind of meek right now...I am still very scared. So scared that I am officially, for this week, becoming a fan of both the Milwaukee Brewers and the Colorado Rockies. Yeah. That's not a joke.

It's not too far off, if we're being honest- both are fun teams that have had serious highlights this year, and have come back from 2017 disappointment. The Brewers have been lights-out for most of the year, retooled at the deadline and became even stronger, and could be deadly in the playoffs. The Rockies have added power, and fine-tuned their pitching staff, to the point where October is definitely possible for them. Plus, the Brewers have Curtis Granderson and the Rockies have Matt Holliday. So they definitely have people for me to root for.

So, if the Brewers and Rockies keep winning games, and the Cardinals keep losing games, then I have no problems. Right now, the Brewers are doing a nice job against St. Louis in the playoffs, while the Rockies are (or, were last night) within one-half game of catching the Cardinals for the Wild Card spot. The Brewers-Cards matchup is going on at the same time as the Rockies face the Philadelphia Phillies, who are out of playoff contention and completely failing at baseball right now.

So yes...this means I am rooting against my hometown Philadelphia Phillies. But it's for the greater good, I swear.

If the Rockies sweep this series, THEY catch momentum in time for their series with the Nationals, and they might be able to clean the plate and settle into that last WC spot. If the Brewers sweep this Cards series, they go on to play the Tigers, another easily-won series. The Cardinals' next opponents are the Chicago Cubs, who will have already clinched the NL Central by the time they play them (I imagine), and will hopefully have no trouble sending them home for the month.

So...we just need the Cardinals, Rockies, and Cubs to stay hot for the next week, and the Cardinals' playoff hopes are all but shot. And for those of you thinking that I'm a bit petty in seeking defeat on a team like this, I refer you to the 2011 NLDS. That should answer all the questions you have.

Go Brewers, and Go Rockies! I believe in you!

Coming Tomorrow- Speaking of Wild Cards, a rookie for the team that has to play my Yankees.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Greene River

The Tigers may be the single most blah team of 2018. Nothing was particularly good or bad about these Tigers, but...everything was so inoffensively in the middle that it was hard to keep writing blog posts about them.

The two award-winning talents left on this team, Miguel Cabrera and Michael Fulmer, spent the year either injured or injured and disappointing (respectively). And that left us with some guys like Nick Castellanos and Jose Iglesias, who are used to bringing up the back half of the lineup, having to lead it. This was also a very Lost-ish situation where anyone who began playing well for this team, like Mike Fiers and Leonys Martin, was promptly traded.

Except for Shane Greene, who did a surprisingly bang-up job as closer this year, a year after the job was essentially thrown at him after the dissolution of Francisco Rodriguez' numbers, and the trade of Justin Wilson and his dissolving chin to Chicago. The guy got 31 saves, and this was from pitching for the Tigers, a team that didn't win too many games this year. True, things weren't, but he was a consistent closer for a team that was anything but consistent.

For 2019...the Tigers should think about consulting their farm system, recycling some unneeded contracts, and going for as much of a clean slate as humanly possible (and yes, the retirement of Victor Martinez does help this). If Miggy's healthy, Fulmer can pitch, and the team breathes life, we may be in business.

Coming Tomorrow- Since we're on a closing pitching tear right now, a reliever for a team that...BETTER...keep winning games this week. Especially this specific series. You know the one.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Toddfather Part III (aka, the one that's not as good as the others)

I wonder aloud what would have happened here if this Mets team had stayed healthy throughout the year, or if players who had been so strong in 2017 had stayed hot this year. If Cespedes, Bruce, Frazier and Lagares had all stayed healthy and consistent and given us a red-hot core of the lineup, or if we hadn't had Thor and Matz peek in and out of the rotation like usual.

And...maybe that would have been enough to stop the Braves. But even then, I'm not sure.

This Mets team, without David Wright (now indefinitely), or without Daniel Murphy, is scattered in terms of priority. This year it was simply young and old players fighting for a spotlight, taking turns, and just playing more of a selfish game rather than a unified one. If Cespedes were healthy, maybe it would have been different.

Look, the one silver lining of this team was Jacob deGrom. People everywhere are calling for a Cy Young for his dominant, strikeout-heavy season. I'd personally suggest really crunching his numbers with Max Scherzer's, as this is clearly another Felix vs. CC kind of 'should the guy with more wins get it, or should the guy on the shittier team who just dominated get it?' matchup. But regardless of whatever happens during awards week, Jacob deGrom was phenomenal this year, and had arguably his best season to date, even with his trademark long hair. I hope he keeps playing this well for the rest of his career.

I don't know where this leaves the 2019 Mets. If the team will heal in time to be an integral piece of the division. It's not clear. It could happen, but...that would mean the Mets would need to do a lot of work this offseason. Especially on safety nets, in case of more injuries, because they were not ready. Not even remotely.

But...they can be.

Coming Tonight: He closed games for a team that was good enough to be in 2nd, but not good enough to be anywhere near the 1st place team.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Top Seeded Sox (And Why That Might Not be a Good Thing)

The Red Sox are the absolute team to beat right now, a week away from the playoffs. They are well over 100 wins, they have a stellar lineup, a fantastic pitching rotation, and they have enough bench and bullpen support to ensure security for the foreseeable future.'s the problem. They're seeded first overall in the AL. In recent history, only a few teams seeded first have managed to win the whole thing. Several, like the 2016 Rangers, the 2017 Indians and the 2014 Angels, couldn't get out of the first round. Why? Because the upward momentum of a Wild Card champion is sometimes enough to withstand a surging #1 team with a bye.

So, the Red Sox are either looking at a five-game series with either the New York Yankees, who they've easily beaten a few times this year, and the Oakland Athletics, who they've played less but still lost to four times out of six. I feel like they'd prefer the Yankees at this point. But even now, they don't know what kind of momentum the Yankees could show up with? Perhaps enough to act as karma for the 2004 ALCS? Or am I getting ahead of myself?

Look, the Red Sox, in order to ensure that somebody like Oakland or New York...or even, like, Houston, doesn't embarrass them next month, they NEED to lock down on their momentum. Because they've dropped a few matchups lately to teams they could be facing off against, like Houston, Cleveland and the Yankees. And while other teams, like the Astros, are ZOOMING into the playoff season, the Red Sox are stuttering. And a team that's been as powerful as the Sox this year can't be stuttering now. Especially since they've lost in the ALDS the past two years.

The Sox have three more series' left. One against Cleveland, one against the Yankees, and one against Baltimore. It would be wise to win more than just the Baltimore one.

Coming Tomorrow- A guy who figured it'd be a wise idea to return to New York this year, except he picked the wrong borough.

Defying the Odds (but not Inevitability)

So, the Dodgers are a few games away from winning the NL West. If this was March, it wouldn't be a shock. If this was May, it definitely would be.

The Dodgers had one of those unlucky stretches where all their viable pitching options got injured, most of their lineup was slumping, and the teams that they kept to Wild Card threats last year, the Rockies and Diamondbacks, took hold of the division, leaving them to sort of mope around in third and fourth for most of the year. And that was kind of depressing, especially considering that these guys nearly won the World Series last year.

But once this team reconfigured, got healthy, and found the strike zone...things immediately got better. I don't know how it all turned around at once, but seeing this team rise from third and become a true contender was pretty damned nice, even grabbing Manny Machado out of the claws of Philadelphia (for now), and getting bit players like Brian Dozier, Ryan Madson and David Freese to help with the playoff push. And the lineup went from just Matt Kemp doing well to the rest of the offensive, like Chris Taylor, Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig and Cody Bellinger, springing back to life.

And yes...once Clayton Kershaw stepped off the DL, he was back to his normal, unhittable self. Which definitely helps.

So, in a matter of days, I can only imagine they'll be grabbing the third seed, and securing a spot in the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. And now that they're here, they need to prove that they're better than a team that's been good all year. The Braves have only improved once they figured out the winning combination, and while the Dodgers' pitching may outweigh the Braves', they have some crafty elements that may still stymie LA during this series.

A Dodgers run could definitely happen, even if it's a bit less likely than last year. But seeing as Jansen's back to his old tricks, and Puig's hot as hell...I'm certainly not ruling it out.

Coming Tonight: This year, the Red Sox have relied on three veterans to fill the shoes of the injured Dustin Pedroia. Here's the best of the three.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

That's No Bull

The Astros of this era are so fantastic, and so eclectic, that they even have room for simply just a big guy that just hits home runs. And they're still a good team.

The Astros managed to notch their playoff spot today, and confirm that they'll be squaring off against the Indians in a few weeks, which will definitely be an interesting matchup. Two former AL champions enter, only one exits. And the winner plays either the best team in baseball, or the Wild Card winner. Judging by how the Indians-Red Sox matchups have been going, and how their August went with Oakland, I think the Astros will be better off going up against someone like the Yankees.

It's slightly evident that the Astros may not be as wholly dominant as their 2017 team, even if they do have an insanely potent rotation. Their bullpen is spottier, their lineup is less consistent, the bench has a few more holes, and one of the marquee stars, Carlos Correa, is feeling back stiffness. This is also a team that's relying more on pitching, and less on big stars like Springer and Altuve, with more emphasis on Alex Bregman as the team batting leader. I'm not saying this shift in priority is bad, I'm just saying it's different, and it's the kind of tactic that may not get them as far.

Plus, to say the Astros and Indians are kind of evenly matched is pretty apt. Both have the same types of pitching staffs, both have similarly re-organized lineups, and both could be a threat to the Red Sox for the AL spot.

What will separate the Astros from anyone else is how hard they're willing to go, and how much they want to batter down on opponents going into the playoffs. Because if they want to win their second in a row, they need to build some major momentum now, because the A's currently have more. I do think they can do some serious damage this postseason, but they need to work towards it.

Coming Tomorrow- He's had a rocky season, but his team's about to clinch the NL West, so...there's that.

Two More Rack Packs of 2018 Topps Archives

Yeah. More. I'm still trying to complete the set. Expect a wantlist to go up soon after this is posted.

Pack 1-
88- Paul DeJong. Dupe, sadly
38- Marcus Stroman. As is this
100- Kris Bryant. And this one, which at least I get to keep for my binders
29- Dansby Swanson
18- Ozzie Albies. This one's also a dupe, so I've been having good luck with Braves rookies lately
78- Red Schoendienst. All of my 59s were dupes, but there's all still good cards.
175- Ryan McMahon. Now THIS ONE I need..
157- Alcides Escobar. Now we've hit a stride
158- Travis D'Arnaud, the oft-injured one
155- Hunter Pence. Glad we're obliterating my 150s needs here.
113- Robin Yount. This one's sadly a dupe though
Dodgers Future Stars- Verdugo, Buehler, Farmer. Buehler's the best of the three
1993 Coming Attractions of MIGUEL ANDUJAR. GREAT ONE.
297- Willie Stargell. Not too far off photographically from his actual 81T issue.
299- Mike Trout. Needed this one, and thank god I pulled it rather than having to pay 5 bucks for it.
222- Jose Ramirez, a great season so far
209- Starlin Castro. The 81 Marlins ones are odd, but I'm fine with them.
296- Gregory Polanco. So this pack, I needed all the 81s, and all but one of the 77s. Not bad.

Pack 2-
34- Anthony Rendon. More 59 dupes
62- Addison Russell. This one too
36- Adam Jones
74- Anthony Banda
49- Bobby Doerr. Like the other 59s, a dupe, but at least this one goes into the binder, next to all the rare Bobby Doerr modern issues.
108- Amed Rosario. AND WE'RE BACK WITH NEEDS
182- Lou Boudreau, another rarity for modern releases
145- Willie McCovey, which I did have
178- Satchel Paige, another dupe for the rarely-Topps-carded legend
172- James McCann
118- Jacob deGrom. Only 2 77 needs, and...
123- Joey Lucchesi SILVER BORDER PARALLEL NUMBERED TO 99. So, while this is a cool low-numbered card of the Padres rookie...I also need the non-parallel version of this card.
Coming Attractions of Walker Buehler. Which I have already
207- Luiz Gohara. And back to 81 needs to the rescue.
211- Chance Sisco. The rest of these are also needs
262- A happy looking Ralph Kiner
248- An even happier-looking Wade Boggs.
201- Roberto Clemente. Great card, too.

So I did get a bunch of cards for the set, but...not many of them were 59s. Which isn't bad per se, just...I'd appreciate some 59 needs show up in packs one of these days.

So, You Let the Cardinals into the Playoffs (Possibly)

Now, I can't exactly confirm that this is happening, but...seeing the direction the Cards are going, and also seeing the direction the Rockies are going...I can only imagine this is how it's going to go.

The Cardinals, who began this season flirting with last, have decided ONCE AGAIN to spring into the playoff conversation halfway through the year. I don't know why they do it this way, they just seem to think it's the right idea. Anyway, they've developed a really nice young rotation/cavalry of arms, they've developed a ton of rookie position players who are starting, and they've managed to completely revitalize the team without being overshouted by veterans and contracts. Granted, not everything has worked, like the acquisitions of Matt Adams and Tyson Ross, and the back half of the bullpen, but this is a fine, sturdy team.

Now...I don't really know if they're a playoff team. But that's just what they want you to think. They're likely going to be facing off against the Brewers for the WC spot, and that's one that I'd rather go to Milwaukee, solely because they've had a phenomenal year, and I'd hate for dumb luck to keep them from a playoff run for the UMPTEENTH TIME. The Brewers have only gone so far as winning the NLDS in recent years...and then going up against the Cardinals in the playoffs and frigging losing. It would be nice for a team that never really catchers a break, like the Brewers, to defeat a team that always gets really lucky, like the Cardinals.

And yes, I'll admit there is legitimate talent in this Cardinals team...but all four other NL playoff teams have more talent, and deserve the playoff spot more than they do. The Brewers deserve the right to square off against the Cubs in the NLDS for supremacy, and potentially take down Atlanta or LA for the right for full MLB supremacy. I can't really say the Cards deserve that this year.

Coming Tonight: He's big, strong, and hits home runs. And his team's seeded second.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Show of Hand

Well, not only are the Cleveland Indians headed to the playoffs for the third straight year, but they're doing so with more than one viable bullpen option. Because along with Oliver Perez's scarily consistent work, they also have the return of Andrew Miller, and Brad Hand as their new closer. Yes, Dan Otero can occasionally relieve a game without giving up 20 runs, but as long as they have that solid core, they're better off than they were in June.

Oh yeah, and they also still have one of the toughest pitching rotations in baseball. All four of the Kluber-Bauer-Clevinger-Carrasco combo have been churning out amazing numbers this year (with Clevinger the only one under 200 strikeouts, though he'll rectify that in his next start). And even if the fifth man has to be Shane Bieber or Adam Plutko, it's not likely they'll need to start them in the playoffs.

And yes, the lineup is still pretty great. The Indians have surprised me in that even if most of their outfield options have gotten injured, they've still gotten by on using Greg Allen, Rajai Davis and Melky Cabrera. To that end, this team has a pseudo-2016 feel to it- guys you wouldn't expect to help a playoff team being integral parts. And still, there's a 40-home run DP combo, an MVP on the bench, and some genuine talent pulling walk-offs. There's some under-the-radar dominant qualities to this team that may bring them a lot of good luck in their eventual series with the Astros.

Could the Tribe go further than last year? Possibly. The 'Stros series could be tough, but I'm not ruling it out. Could they go further than 2016? ...I'm not ruling that out either.

Coming Tomorrow- It's looking like he may get the last Wild Card spot, which may or not spell doom for the rest of the league.

Two Hanger Boxes of 2018 Topps Heritage High Numbers

As usual, Topps has managed to put out an Update version of Heritage that would have been timely in about June. Not that it's a bad set, it's just...similar to Topps Update (at least last year's set, though I'm fearing this will apply to this year's as well), it doesn't mean much if it's trying to update uniforms that have themselves already been updated. Plus, not every rookie here is timely, and there are some that have lost relevance months ago that are here.

Nevertheless, I got two Hanger Boxes. I'm going to try and review this set as fairly as I can, though, that said, I'm going to have a running tally of players who've been traded since release. Because I can only be so kind.

Box #1-
580- Ronald Acuna. LITERALLY THE FIRST CARD I PULL is probably the only card worth pulling according to most of the blogosphere. I guess I've peaked.
517- Jonathan Lucroy, the sole A's starter not hitting over 10 home runs.
551- Tyler Clippard. Kinda done with him, tbh. He hasn't been consistent in a while.
545- Preston Tucker
634- Dylan Cozens. A rare Phillies rookie that didn't do much this year.
526- Steven Souza Jr.
590- Dereck Rodriguez, one of the only other non-Yankee rookies I cared about pulling.
591- Kevin Plawecki
550- Leonys Martin. Outdated Update #1- Martin is not only on the Indians, but also on the DL.
671- Carlos Gomez. A shame this guy really couldn't perform well outside of Milwaukee.
569- Greg Holland
572- Tyler Skaggs, the Angels best non-Ohtani arm this year
687- Roberto Perez
587- Brandon McCarthy, a better Twitter presence than ballplayer at this point, sadly.
680- Cheslor Cuthbert
701- Stephen Piscotty
69 Yellow insert of ICHIRO, which is nice
Now and Then insert of Shohei Ohtani, which is also nice
Deckle Edge of Scott Kingery. Nice to pull a Phillie one of these.
639- Anibal Sanchez
613- Christian Arroyo, who sort of lost his use after the Rays called up Willy Adames
573- Max Stassi, who sort of lost his use after the Astros traded for Martin Maldonado
689- Wade Davis
679- Carson Smith
595- FREDDY GALVIS. Kinda disappointed in SD, but still pretty cool.
676- Keynan Middleton, who needs to stay healthy in order to be a great reliever
507- Jacob Barnes
625- Mitch Moreland
645- Tyson Ross. Outdated Update #2- Now on the Cardinals, but I appreciate that we got one last Padres issue of him.
593- Jaime Barria
678- Drew Robinson
566- Adam Ottavino, one of the few decent relievers in Colorado this year
552- Adeiny Hechavarria. Outdated Update #3- Traded to Pittsburgh, then to the Bronx
516- Hector Velazquez
597- Luis Valbuena

Box 2-
691- Brock Holt, now kinda back to being an impressive bench bat
620- Jordan Hicks RC, which is nice.
577- Jesse Biddle
638- Logan Forsythe. Outdated Update #4- now killing it in Minneapolis.
693- Daniel Palka
640- Anthony Santander, who's 3 rookie outfielders ago for Baltimore.
682- Lance Lynn. Outdated Update #5- now on the Yankees
661- Darren O'Day. Outdated Update #6- Now injured for the Braves
635- Austin Romine. RO. WELL DONE, TOPPS.
652- Seung-Hwan Oh. Outdated Update #7- now with the Rockies
584- Jurickson Profar, who had a nice comeback this year
578- Victor Caratini
586- Mike Gerber
666- Alex Avila. Yeah, that card number says it all for Avila's 2018 season
540- David Bote, who seems like a fun Chicago bench player
Rookie Performers insert of Christian Villanueva
704- Yonder Alonso SP.
502- JUAN SOTO...MINI NUMBERED TO 100. THAT IS A COOL PULL. The future NL ROY (probably) in a cool, low-numbered insert. Very nice.
Award Winners insert of Jose Altuve
674- Isiah Kiner Falefa, one of the more intriguing rookies of the year
622- Jake Odorizzi
502- Juan Soto RC. And even better, now I get the real thing.
514- Matt Duffy
617- Shane Greene, who had a nice year as the Tigers' closer
532- JD Davis
521- Seth Lugo
601- Matt Albers
585- Brian Goodwin. Outdated Update #8, now with Kansas City
695- David Peralta. He...wasn't in Low-Numbered Heritage???
605- Marcus Walden
632- Sergio Romo, who did well as closer for the Rays this year
615- Matt Koch
700- Dan Vogelbach
688- Fernando Romero
648- Austin Jackson. Outdated update #9-traded to Texas, then signed by the Mets, who've been using him insanely well.

Overall...yeah, it's fine. I don't have a ton of problems here, it's just more Heritage, which is always nice. Just...ya gotta be more careful with releasing this in September after a lot of these guys have been traded.

Nat's Life

I'd like to start this post on those...insanely unlucky Washington talking about the New Orleans Saints. Because they're the closest parallel I can think of with these teams.

The Saints were a 60s expansion team, and they were more focused on wild publicity stunts like throwing Carol Channing on an ostrich or something than actually creating good football. It took them two decades until they were finally able to craft a playoff team, and it took them another decade or so to actually get their first playoff win. And then, nine years after that, they finally won a Super Bowl, established a playoff dynasty, and made their fans happy. took 40 or so years for anything big to happen. Which is where I bring in the Nationals. They've never won a playoff series, even since Montreal. They only went to the playoffs once as the Expos, in the strike-shortened 1981 season; ironically, during the other strike-shortened year, 1994, the Expos finished in 1st place, and would have been a favorite to win the World Series, had one happened that year. The Nats have only made it as far as the NLDS, even with these fantastic teams with Harper, Scherzer and Rendon.

Next's very likely that Bryce Harper will be leaving, after some fantastic peak seasons with the team. He's probably gonna search for a team with a future who can give him money, and...I'm not sure if the Nats have much of a future without him. Heck, Scherzer only has a few more seasons left himself. The Nats, even with Scherzer pitching to Cy Young perfection every year, could be headed for a major downslope without Harper. Their farm system can only produce so much, and with the disappointing morsels of talent I saw at their AAA squad this year, I can only hope there's better players waiting in earlier rungs of the minors.

The Nationals are a great team. Right now, I can name four team legends on this current squad- Harper, Scherzer, Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman. All four are team HOFers for sure. But I'm just worried that that's all they'll have to show for this leg of the team's history.

Coming Tonight: He's already a lock for the playoffs, which is more than I could have said for him when he was still in San Diego.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The 2018 Rays in Summation

I've talked at great detail about the Tampa Bay Rays this year, solely because they're one of the strangest teams ever to be 20 wins over .500. They only have three designated starting pitchers, a gaggle of craftily-used relievers, and their flagship player has taken a backseat to a bunch of rookies. There's no sense baked in here.

First of all, this is a very young team. Only one current starter, Carlos Gomez, is older than 30, and he's probably gone next year. A lot of the heftier pieces of this team were either rookies or really young players: Daniel Robertson, Joey Wendle, Willy Adames, Jake Bauers: all did a nice amount at the plate this year, and have cemented themselves in next year's lineup. Duffy in particular has become the Travis Shaw of this team, commanding things post-trade and making it his own.

And also...Blake Snell had an absolutely incredible season, despite being one of the ugliest successful pitchers since Aaron Harang. I really hope he keeps these numbers up throughout his career, because so far this season, compared to his come-up years, feels either flukey or like it's the new normal (remember, Max Scherzer took a few years to hit his stride, too)

So many intriguing things hiding on this team- Ji-Man Choi hiding behind CJ Cron as backup DH, but not needing to be in the lineup much anyway since Cron has over 30 home runs. Tyler Glasnow's insanely sharp performance on the mound. The resurgence of several former bit players, like Adeiny Hechavarria, Nate Eovaldi, Wilson Ramos and Jonny Venters, before subsequent trades. The use of four different position players as pitchers. Weird stuff.

Weirder still- they finished with a winning record, third in the AL East, after a spectacular last 2 months of the season. They proved that you can still do well in a season where you don't have a ton to work with. Perhaps they could sneak into the race next year, if they keep these strange tactics going.

Coming Tomorrow- Speaking of third place teams, a perennial hitter for one that...quite frankly, is pretty confused as to why THEY didn't make the playoffs.

Holz in the Plan

The Arizona Diamondbacks nearly had it this year. Strong performances from the lineup, a new ace emergence, some really scrappy wins. It felt like this would be the year that someone other than the Dodgers would win the NL West.

And then September happened.

And then it was kind of all downhill from there.

Look, I'm not exactly sure what happened, but all I know is that Clay Buchholz got injured, and when that happens, the bottom falls out of the rest of the team, I think. Funny thing is he was doing pretty well this year, which he hasn't really done in a while. He just needs to work on staying healthy and he'll be fine, but...then again, so does Robbie Ray. And Jake Lamb, while we're here.

This D-Backs season comes down to three players, really: Paul Goldschmidt, Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin. All three were fantastic. Everyone else...for the most part, just sort of carried on behind them. Aside from David Peralta, there weren't that many other people hitting over .250 or playing terrifically. It was just a generally okay team after a while, lifted by one or two standouts. And by September, you saw other teams, like Colorado and the Dodgers, strengthening themselves fully and ascending the standings. At that point, the D-Backs were going the opposite direction.

The once-promising youth core of Lamb-Owings-Ahmed hasn't really amounted to much except a supporting cast. AJ Pollock had a fantastic start and dropped off in the second half. Eduardo Escobar was a fine pickup but only did so much.

Next year, I imagine they'll be able to rebound, but it's going to take getting everyone on the same page, because a lot of usually-reliable people just weren't on this year. And...if they keep Buchholz, they have to avoid what happened with Boston, and keep him healthy and consistent.

Coming Tonight- DH for the single strangest team in the bigs this year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

LeBlanc Slate

Wade LeBlanc pitching for a team over .500. Who'd have thought?

Wade LeBlanc was one of those rookies for the 2010 Padres that everyone thought would end up panning out, along with the rest of that team. Him and Kyle Blanks. And we all know that Kyle Blanks certainly ended up winning batting titles and not as a perennial bench player for the Giants for a few years.

LeBlanc had us all worried there as well, taking a couple of seasons as a reliever ping-ponging between teams that didn't need him. Eventually he wound up in Seattle, on a Mariners team that had way too few starting options. And so...they used LeBlanc as a starter, and he did pretty damned well for them, providing a constant, powerful presence that nobody else that wasn't Marco Gonzales could seem to supply this year.

The Mariners have tried to develop a team that could withstand injury, slumps, and general bullshit this decade, and it hasn't really happened. Even with Cruz hitting homers, and the one-two of Jean Segura and Dee Gordon, there's still been the James Paxton injuries, Robinson Cano's suspension, and the July skid. It hasn't really been fun since the A's took hold of the WC spot, and while I'd like to say I didn't see it coming...I kinda did. This team's imperfections have sort of been there since April, and it was only a matter of time until the bottom fell out.

Next year should be an improvement...I hope...

Coming Tonight: Another 'got injured while his custom was backlogged' guy...also kinda indicative of his team's plight.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The 2018 Reds Could Have Been Worse

When I went to the Great American Ball Park this summer to see the Reds, I was not expecting much. The team was in last, the pitching was floundering, and it didn't feel like there would be a lot of life in this team.

And...I was sort of right. There's not a ton of life in this Reds team. If there was more life, they'd be chasing the offensive. But there is a ton of charm in this team. Especially in its lineup, where Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez and Jose Peraza all sported some phenomenal numbers. Even defensive specialists, like Tucker Barnhart and Billy Hamilton, did a bang-up job throughout. And even though walkoff hero Jesse Winker hit the DL halfway through the year, Phil Ervin and Mason Williams did well enough as home run-producing bench players, the latter proving that there is indeed life after being a bench player in the bronx.

The pitching was still pretty bad, but there were some exceptions: Matt Harvey managed to recapture his better numbers after a mid-season trade from New York, Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle have kept serviceable numbers, and Raisel Iglesias and Jared Hughes have been fun to watch in the bullpen. They just need to work on...literally everything else about pitching. And then they'll be in better shape.

Looking to 2019, with the likelihood of some NL Central contenders regressing a little bit, we could see the Reds squirm out of fifth. It's a nice thing to hope for, even if it may not happen, but...I dunno, if they keep the right people around, I'm not calling it impossible.

Coming Tomorrow- A journeyman starter-turned-reliever-turned-starter-again, doing his best to finish out the season for a playoff hopeful that didn't exactly pan out.