Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Search Continues: 2 Rack Packs & a Blaster of 2019 Archives

It worked the last time, and seeing as I'm definitely building this set, it's gonna have to work this time. Good news is pretty much every card I pulled in last week's break went into the set, so any dupes from this time around will go into my personal collection, which is nice. I'm mostly doing this for the set, though.

Pack 1-
30- Robinson Cano. We're starting off with a need.
73- Andrew McCutchen. Not only is it a need, but it's a Cutch
2- Patrick Corbin
4- Michael Chavis
67- Goose Gossage. I like that they pictured him as a Padre. Nice touch
78- Hank Aaron. The legend.
129- Joey Gallo
110- Jon Duplantier. Boy, they really banked hard on him
116- Matt Boyd
176- Bob Feller. Feller cards are ALWAYS welcome
175- Todd Helton
Topps Magazine insert of Cal Ripken. I still love these
Ichiro Retrospective of 2005. Insert dupe.
236- Miguel Cabrera
205- Yonder Alonso
241- Dansby Swanson
246- Franmil Reyes
207- Trea Turner

Pack 2-
7- Roberto Alomar AS A CLEVELAND INDIAN? That is a nice touch. I like that
31- Ramon Laureano
100- Ronald Acuna. One of the cards to get in this set, I presume
70- Jeimer Candelario
184- Danny Jansen. Out of all the rookies in Toronto, not sure why this one's so ubiquitous in Topps products.
200- Bryce Harper. Glad I got the regular version of this
146- Kyle Hendricks
131- Adalberto Mondesi
113- Max Kepler
134- Brandon Belt
Topps Magazine insert of Shohei Ohtani. I'll say this- last year I was wondering why there was so much hype about Ohtani despite his modest numbers in both categories. This year, seeing solely his hitting numbers...I can sort of understand
170- Edwin Encarnacion. YAY, A YANKEE EDWIN. Not sure why he fell at this point in the pack, usually reserved for another insert. No serial numbering or anything, nothing unusual. Hm.
258- John Smoltz, a guy who WAS in the 93 set, looking a bit older here
244- Dakota Hudson
300- Francisco Lindor. I think it's kinda cool that I pulled cards 100, 200 and 300 in the same pack. What do I win?
277- Warren Spahn. Love this photo
254- Kevin Kiermaier
253- AARON NOLA. Awesome. Note that there were no base dupes in these packs.

Now the blaster. My coins were of George Springer and Rhys Hoskins, which was a better selection than last one.

Pack 1-
66- Rod Carew. Annnnd here come the dupes
58- Ryan Borucki
25- Yusei Kikuchi. No 58 needs
153- Jeff Bagwell
145- Hideki Matsui. Thankfully I needed both 75s
Future Star insert of Vlad Jr., which definitely helps
244- Dakota Hudson. And the 93s...are back to dupes
300- Francisco Lindor

Pack 2-
42- Ian Desmond
79- Starlin Castro. No new 58s here either
160- Josh James. Again, the 75s come through
155- Michael Kopech
Ichiro retrospective of 2010. Thankfully not a dupe
277- Warren Spahn. And no new 93s. I do love retail collation
253- Kiermaier
254- Nola

Pack 3-
86- Sean Manaea. I swear, I'm not gonna find any 58s I need in this blaster, will I?
69- Yadier Molina
165- Christy Mathewson. And now the 75s are turning on me
157- Charlie Blackmon
115- Lorenzo Cain
186- George Kell...BLUE PARALLEL #'D TO 175. So it's a dupe...but it's a parallel so I can at least add it to my numbered parallels binder. And it's of a fun HOFer.
236- Miguel Cabrera
205- Yonder Alonso. Every base card was a dupe in this one.

Pack 4-
14- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. I'm not exactly complaining about pulling a Vlad Jr. dupe, as he's still one of the biggest rookies on the market.
27- Cavan Biggio. FINALLY A 58 I NEED.
51- Clayton Kershaw. ANOTHER NEED
191- Eric Hosmer. and we're back to dupes
159- Brad Keller
241- Dansby Swanson
246- Franmil Reyes

Pack 5-
95- HOYT WILHELM. Great player AND I need him.
64- Don Larsen. Slightly puzzled by his inclusion, but not complaining
150- Ichiro. 75s are dupes.
103- Scooter Gennett, currently without a job
124- Eddie Rosario
207- Trea Turner. dupe.
202- Kolby Allard. Not only is this a great card of the former Braves farmhand dealt to Texas in the Chris Martin deal, but I also need this one.
203- Ryan O'Hearn. AND this one.

Pack 6-
7- Roberto Alomar. And we're back to the top
31- Ramon Laureano
198- Colin Moran
168- Luis Severino
166- Willie Stargell, our first non-dupe of the pack
309- Freddie Freeman ASG, thankfully a subset card I need.
220- Tim Raines. Awesome card.
210- George Brett

Pack 7-
100- Ronald Acuna. And more dupe 58s.
70- Jeimer Candelario
30- Robinson Cano
179- Nolan Arenado. This one I did need
101- Shohei Ohtani, which I did not
217-Xander Bogaerts. We finish off with 3 93s I did need
294- Billy Hamilton
245- Miguel Andujar

Well, after that tomfoolery, I am 135/330, which...doesn't seem like much, but I've definitely made some headway. Might try and collect the set after all, which seems attainable. Possibly more rack packs are forthcoming, or maybe I'll try and scrounge singles at the forthcoming Philly Show?

J-Hey 10 Years Later

So I just talked about Stephen Strasburg, in his 10th season, and how far he's come from being a rookie phenom that everyone's talking about. And it looks like we have a Jason Heyward custom up today, so...let's do that again.

Jason Heyward's rookie year in 2010 was a big deal, to say the least. He came into a middling Braves team and gave them a jolt of energy, with 144 hits and 72 RBIs, and a 2nd-placing in the ROY race. Heyward was one of those guys where the name may have outweighed the stats, and even to this day he's kind of like that, but back in the day he was just this powerful, speedy Braves outfielder that buttressed this strong team. You can also make the case that Heyward's year led to the establishment of the strong youth movement that's made the team great today, as one year later Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran and Mike Minor become big Braves fixtures.

Then he has his big 2015 season in St. Louis, misses out on an ASG nomination because the baseball gods are cruel, leads the team to the postseason only to lose out to the Wild Card he joins says Wild Card team, wins a World Series with him and...has existed ever since.

The difference between Heyward and someone like Strasburg or Posey that came in 10 seasons ago is that you can point to statistical highlights with Strasburg and Posey, like a strikeout-leading year, or an MVP or something. Heyward's a pretty statistically unspectacular player, sad to say. He's never hit more than 100 RBIs, he's got a career .262 average, and he's never led the league in anything. He can be a valuable player, and has finished with a WAR over 5 four times, but...with the Cubs, he's been nothing more than fine.

This season is another example- he's had another 100+ hit season, he's gonna have his 50th RBI soon, and he's hitting .257. You can name more spectacular things about the other 2 Cubs outfielders. At least Nick Castellanos is hitting .357. At least Kyle Schwarber has 32 homers, which is a career high for him. just doing his usual modest stuff, be fair, he was even kinda doing in 2010.

Jason Heyward can be a great player, but on the whole...he's just alright. He does his job. He's a perfectly lawful player. You want pop, the Cubs have Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo.

The Cubs have a winning streak going. Consider the Cardinals have dropped a few, I pray it continues.

Coming Tonight: Let's do a change of pace from guys who've played 10 seasons. Here's a guy who's played 11. His stadium's getting torn down soon.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Please Plesac Me

You have to marvel at the Cleveland Indians' rotation. Just when you thought it was set in stone, and the Kluber-Carrasco-Bauer-Salazar-Clevinger thing was the depths it could go blink and there's a completely different awesome rotation conquering the division.

Granted, the original rotation's fragments are beginning to return- Carlos Carrasco will be returning soon, though probably as a bullpen piece. Kluber should be back mid-September. And Salazar...well, he's trying. But we now have 4 guys filling the holes left by those three and Bauer who are definitely up to the task.

First of all, Shane Bieber's one hell of an ace. He's just...been on fire this whole year, and if Kluber is done in Cleveland after this year, they'll be fine with Bieber as the No. 1 guy. Zach Plesac has been a nice surprise since coming up in May, with a 7-4 record and a 3.60 ERA in 16 starts. He's not the showiest starter out there, but he's been solid for the Indians. You also have Mike Clevinger with 10 wins and 123 strikeouts, Aaron Civale with a 1.93 ERA over 6 starts, and Adam Plutko, with a still-solid 6-3 record. Even if Kluber and Carrasco aren't here, that is still a solid rotation I'd be fine with bringing into a potential playoff scenario.

The lineup has been working as well. Granted, Franmil Reyes' average is down again, but Yasiel Puig is hitting .275 with 12 RBIs, and fitting right in with that lineup. And yes, Jose Ramirez will be missing an extended period of time, but...we have Mike Freeman, and he's pretty damn good, even if he's no Ramirez. You still have Santana, Lindor and Naquin all on, and Oscar Mercado's having a nice rookie year. So even if they're more suited to an eventual Wild Card matchup, this is still a pretty solid team.

Now...I look at the Twins, and I see...kind of the opposite of this team. Modest pitching, obnoxious home-run hitting. The Indians have awesome pitching and a quieter, but still solid, battle. So going into the last month of the division race, these two are pretty evenly matched...which should make for a fun finish.

Coming Tonight (?)- The J-Hey...30-year-old...

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Strasburg at his Peak?

Stephen Strasburg is 30 year old. This is his tenth season in the major leagues. Next year will be the 10th anniversary of his spectacular MLB debut. Since then, he's notched 109 wins, 1645 strikeouts, has has 3 200-strikeout-seasons (including this one), and has a career 3.20 ERA and a 30.9 WAR.

That is not bad, guys. Compared to other pitchers with 10 years of MLB experience, it's not horrible- MadBum has a 32.4 in that time, Jake Arrieta has a 24.3, and Carlos Carrasco has a 20.7 It's not the best WAR of a starter who debuted in 2010, but it's not the worst either.

Strasburg could really be summed up like that- not the best, far from the worst. You look at the Nationals rotation, and two starters have better WARs, and numbers in general, then him. Max Scherzer has .8 higher, and he missed nearly a month due to injuries. Patrick Corbin has .2 higher as well. Even with the season he's having, with 201 strikeouts and a 15-5 record...Stephen Strasburg still can't be the best pitcher on the team. It's a problem he's had even without Scherzer, as Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann were always statistical rivals of his.

And yet that doesn't mean he's bad. It just means he's unlucky. If Strasburg had better luck, he'd have 3 more 200-strikeout years, and possibly a Cy Young by now. He's halfway through his career, and if he continues at the same rate he'll cross 3000 strikeouts. Slightly tricky, yes, but...doable, considering it's Strasburg.

Meanwhile, the Nats are still the Wild Card favorite now that Anthony Rendon is back to hitting at superhuman levels, and now that Soto and Robles are both playing excellently. I do think this roster is very top-heavy, and the insane talent on top is doing a lot to hide some of the less-controlled players throughout, like Matt Adams, Yan Gomes and Brian Dozier. But...they seem to be hell-bent on the playoffs, and I don't think anything can stop them, even the Phillies.

Still, I'm glad Strasburg is having another great season. He just deserves more of them.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the many young fill-in pitchers in Cleveland.

Adames Apple

I honestly would have been fine if the Rays had stayed atop the AL East. This is an incredibly fun team, with some consistent performers across the board, and a core that's strong enough to excuse its initial weirdness last year.

Unfortunately, the Rays have come down with the same excessive injury issue the Yankees came down with. Tyler Glasnow, Yonny Chirinos, Blake Snell, Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe and Jose Alvarado are on the DL. And now Kevin Kiermaier is day-to-day. As much as I usually fear a challenger to the Yanks, the Rays deserve better luck. 3/4ths of their starting pitching staff is injured.

I mean, they really only have two active tried-and-true starters working innings right now, and thank god both of them are great- Charlie Morton's having a phenomenal year, and Trevor Richards has been stellar in his first two games since the trade from Miami. Everyone else who's started games recently is either an opener, like Jalen Beeks, Andrew Kittredge or Diego Castillo, or a reliever who's starting games because he should have been anyway, like Ryan Yarbrough. The Rays are making do, but it's got to be tricky. All three are set to come back in mid-September, so...if they can hold on til then, that'll be fine.

The lineup holes left by Diaz and Lowe are easy to fill. Joey Wendle's starting games again at 2nd and 3rd, and Eric Sogard has essentially become a starter at second. And Sogard has not dropped off from his Blue Jays numbers, hitting .310 with 8 RBIs over 23 games. Even Jesus Aguilar is hitting for average again. All this added to the already great core of Kiermaier, Willy Adames, Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows, and a lineup of guys who've all hit over 10 home runs, and you've got a strong Wild Card contender.

I do think of them, Cleveland and Oakland, they have the best chance of sneaking into the playoff matchups, but Cleveland has the better record and could be dangerous. If the Rays get their starters back by September, or even if they just pitch Morton in the WC game, they could be making waves in October.

Coming Tonight: He's broken 200 strikeouts for the third time, has 15 wins, and has been strong for the umpteenth season. Yet they're probably gonna be looking at his teammate when Cy Young season comes around.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Most Interesting Inconsequential Team in Baseball are all of the teams that have more of a shot at the postseason than the Diamondbacks: Nationals, Indians, A's, Rays, Cubs, Phillies, Mets, Brewers.

...and the Red Sox have a better record.

So, needless to say...unless something spectacular happens, the Diamondbacks aren't going to the playoffs. This is an outcome the fans were expecting, but...with much less of a tumultuous journey to get there. The D-Backs have outdone expectations in their first year without Paul Goldschmidt, and despite losing Zack Greinke along the way, they're still 2nd in the NL a year where 2nd in the NL West means absolutely nothing.

It's a little odd that David Peralta didn't exactly come through as the hero figure the D-Backs needed him to be, missing a bunch of games due to injuries, and only hitting modestly when he was healthy. Thankfully the team's utilized Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, Christian Walker and Nick Ahmed similarly, to the point that the team hasn't needed a singular leadership figure. Marte is the standout, and could be the team leader in several things until his inevitable trade to a contender. Walker could have another strong season in 2020, seeming like a very 2019 name.

At least the pitching is still pretty strong. Mike Leake's allergic to the NL West, but aside from him...Robbie Ray, Merrill Kelly, Zac Gallen, Luke Weaver when he returns from the IL, Alex Young and Taylor Clarke are all great rotation assets that all could be strong options in 2020.

What I'm saying the chance that the Dodgers aren't as airtight next year as they have been, the D-Backs could be more of a playoff threat. This team, if it stays together, has a chance. And without Goldy and Greinke, that's pretty fantastic.

Coming Tomorrow- Speaking of Wild Card threats, the powerful shortstop from arguably the biggest WC team of the season.

Olson Wins

Once again, the Oakland Athletics are the feel-good team in baseball right now. They're repeated their 2018 strategy of going worst to first, but with a stronger core from the getgo. That way, instead of making huge structural changes late in the season, they can make smaller changes in order to perfect a Wild-Card-ready roster.

And that's basically what we're looking at. The only midseason additions were pitchers, like Tanner Roark, Jake Diekman and Homer Bailey. All have been pretty successful, but unlike last year it's not a complete and total rehaul of the bullpen, or an addition of a prime lead starter like Mike Fiers. We're getting to the 'modest reinforcements' era of Oakland's latest moneyball era, and I like that.

I also like how homegrown this core has become. It's just guys like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Mark Canha, Josh Phegley and Chad Pinder, as well as guys who came over as unknowns and have made careers here, like Khris Davis, Marcus Semien and Robbie Grossman. I love how even without Sean Manaea, the rotation has been strong, and even without Blake Treinen's better numbers, Liam Hendriks has taken over as closer.

So many little things are making me very excited about this A's team, and look at the other 2 teams in the Wild Card race, and you've got the Indians and the Rays. Both would be extremely tough to beat in a Wild Card game, and they're not even the three immovable division leaders. So as fun as the A's are, like last year, we have to ask ourselves how legitimate these guys could be in a playoff scenario. And while they are open to late-inning extravaganzas, I have no idea how they'll compare against better pitching matchups.

Still...they're fun now, and that's all that matters.

Coming Tonight: They're out of the race entirely, so...they can just do whatever they want. And 'winning games' occasionally counts as whatever they want.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Yet Another Late-Season Cardinals Playoff Push

The Cardinals are 14-3 since August 9th. So...good job letting that one happen, Cubs and Brewers.

When it comes down to it, the Cardinals of recent years will be known as the feistiest in MLB history.  The Cardinals have, in one way or another, been involved with the playoff conversation in every year of the 2010s. Either they were embroiled in the Wild Card race, leading the division and vying for/winning a World Series, or...their current incarnation, which is coming in about halfway through the year, getting hot as hell in August, and electrifying the conversation when their NL Central counterparts start to lose momentum.

First of all, thanks to the Cardinals, the Brewers are out of the playoff picture. No more division series highlights for Christian Yelich. Also, the bad-away-from-home Cubs have now slumped to second place, and are struggling to keep hold of the 2nd wild card spot, with the Phillies one game away from lapping them. The amount of chaos the Cardinals' sudden rise has caused in the rest of the NL is extreme...and generally normal for them.

I'm not gonna act like the Cardinals don't deserve the come-up. Everything's starting to click. Flaherty's pitching like an ace. Goldschmidt's bat is heating up. Marcell Ozuna's healthy and getting back to dominance. Carlos Martinez figured out how to close games. Dakota Hudson has 13 wins. So many bizarre, extravagant things have happened in order to turn this...admittedly simple team into a 1st place team and playoff contender.

I'm kinda hoping they spend all their batshit insane luck while we're here in August, an avid critic of Cardinals teams...I'm really not looking forward to another perfectly alright one getting playoff wins.

Coming Tomorrow- I'm a hypocrite; a perennial wild-card contender that I love because they're not the Cardinals, and their powerful 1st baseman.

All They Do is Marwin

More fun with those hard-hitting Minnesota Twins. SIX GUYS WITH OVER 20 HOME RUNS. SEVEN GUYS WITH OVER 50 RBIs. And honestly I was expecting more batters with over 100 strikeouts (only two).

It's another one of those teams that's kinda injury-proof, too. Byron Buxton's out for a few days? Get Marwin to play some games in the outfield. He's hitting .262 with 100 hits and 14 homers. He'll be fine. This is also a team where the backup catcher is just as competent as the starting catcher, the backup infielders could honestly be starting and I wouldn't be worried, and the fun rookie is injured and nobody's especially counting the days til he comes back (unlike San Diego).

It's even rubbed off on the pitching. 3 guys, including Kyle Gibson, have 10+ wins. All five starters have over 100 strikeouts. Everyone has an ERA under 5. Even guys like Martin Perez and Michael Pineda, both of whom were afterthoughts at the beginning of the year, are doing pretty well, with Pineda having his...what, 12th comeback year? Berrios and Odorizzi get to fight over who gets the ace designation, but both are pretty great assets to have. And then you have Taylor Rogers as a strong closer, and Sergio Romo as an impressive bullpen guy. So from a distance, I don't have a ton of concerns.

But...this is a very broad team. They hit home runs, and their pitching doesn't have to stand out AS MUCH solely because they hit home runs. You put them against the best rosters in baseball (Houston, Bronx, even Tampa), and they might not get by on just boilerplate pitching. I'm worried that they may not go terribly far into the playoffs because of their lack of complexity. I could be very wrong, and I'd be perfectly fine if I was, but...I worry. I worry they lack real depth.

Still...they're awfully entertaining, aren't they? Isn't that what Manfred wants?

Coming Tonight: [loud sigh] ace from the team leading the NL Central.

Monday, August 26, 2019

8 Straight and No Love

So. To recap. The past 8 games, the Braves have been without Nick Markakis, Austin Riley, Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson. The past 5, they've been without Brian McCann.

...all of those games have been wins. Their next 5 games are against Colorado, Toronto and the White Sox. So maybe we should start paying attention to these guys, seeing as we're gonna be spending some of October with them anyway.

The Braves have developed a sort of unstoppable mentality that kinda has to be respected. The main lineup pieces get injured, and the rest of the lineup gets even better- Josh Donaldson moves his home run total to 32, easily having his best season since 2015. Acuna and Albies continue annihilating the ball. Freddie Freeman notches his 105th RBI, which is the most in baseball. And then the bench comes alive making up for the injured guys- Tyler Flowers gets some nice reps in starting for McCann, Matt Joyce and Adam Duvall FINALLY start doing consistent things starting in the outfield, and a mixture of Johan Camargo, Charlie Culberson and Adeiny Hechavarria have been subbing in for Swanson. Hecha was probably the most consistent backup, but now that Swanson's back it doesn't matter as much.

Even better, the fact that the Braves could yank anyone they wanted from free agency, stick them into the mix and act like it was the plan all along. Hechavarria was an earlier try, but Billy Hamilton came over last week from KC and has actually been hitting for average. Francisco Cervelli looked like his career was over after leaving Pittsburgh, but he's plugged into the lineup as a starting catcher and he hits 3 RBIs, including 2 doubles. I had no idea the Braves lineup would have this sort of 'anybody can succeed here' mentality to it, but here we are.

Hell, even Mike Foltynewicz, after bringing up the rear of the rotation for weeks, is FINALLY pitching better, and is working to get his ERA below 5 again. I think he can do it, as his last few starts have been alright. The other four (Soroka, Teheran, Fried and Keuchel) we don't need to worry about. And despite a higher ERA than promised, Mike Melancon is getting back to his 9th inning greatness in Atlanta, even if they'd traded for Shane Greene thinking HE'D be the closer. I'll take a consistent Melancon, though.

All these things are coming together as we head into September. Once again, even if LA is the showier NL team, we may be overlooking a serious postseason threat in the Braves. They could honestly upset the Dodgers and make a World Series this year. That's how good they look right now.

Coming Tomorrow- His team had a brief scare, but...they hit like 90 more home runs and now they're back on track.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Two Rack Packs & A Blaster of 2019 Topps Archives

As the blogosphere's resident putter-of-modern-players-in-older-designs, this was inevitable.

I kinda think it's wild that Archives has been going on for 8 years, 9 if you count Lineage, which was a more homogenous trial run at this sort of set. And the fact that they've gotten to the point where they've done versions of 1981, 1977 and now 1975 Topps, some of my favorites, proves that the set's longevity was good for a few things.

Also interesting- the insanely 90s-centric theme the set is going for, down to the wrappers, the inserts, and the Expos-centric theme going through the set. I am all for this, and it's the kind of tonal risk I wish flagship would take.

I nabbed 2 rack packs and a blaster, so for dramatic effect the rackers go first:

Pack 1- These are what the 1958 Topps ones look like. As someone who collected a few packs of 2007 Heritage back in the day, I'm only slightly impressed. I feel like 07 Heritage washed out the photos more, to give more of an old-timey feel to it. These look...very produced, like they would be for a Turn Back the Clock thing on Topps dot com. I find it even weirder that Yadi actually had a card in 2007 Heritage. I thought they'd try to avoid that.

Other signs of the times- a needed-RC of the mighty Vlad Jr., who's DAD was in 07 Heritage, and a final sendoff for the great Ichiro in the 75 design.

Let's talk about the 75s for a second. First of all, that awful habit of saying 'outfieldER' or '3rd BaseMAN' is done.The position balls look the same as they did in 75. Now, the team font is definitely a bit more processed, and generally blockier, than in 75. I'm also a bit too broad of a collector to notice color combinations that weren't there in 75, but...some, like Rosario's, look slightly off.

Onto the pack inserts. a base card variation, seeded 1 in 92 packs. It's a photo variation, because his usual photo is shown on the box copy. So...I got a photo variation of one of the single best players TO GET in modern products...on my first try. And if you like that luck, wait til we hit the blaster.
The Altuve is one of the Topps Magazine inserts. I really like these. They're the glossiest cards in the set, and they're pretty cool.

 And here are the 93s. Of the designs, I have the least to say about them, but I like the card-stock being awful similar to the early eras of Topps in the 90s. Also, the legends cards in this set are better than ever. A 60s-era Sutton photo? A really cool Steve Carlton photo? Plus, a lot of these are new for Topps, unlike the first few years of Archives, where photo selection felt like an afterthought

Pack 2-
Pretty simple 58s here. I love the Brooklyn Dodgers love, even if that Jackie photo is pretty prevalent. And the Carew is pretty nice, too.

 75s. What you'll notice is the Padres posed shots are very flagrant, as they're all just against a boring background in a studio. Kinda thought we were trying to get away from those. At least Blackmon's is cool.

 Inserts. This ScottyJetpax insert is cooler now that I know he's doing better, though that background block effect can be easily replicated in Photoshop. And that Griffey is awesome.

 And our 93s. Sorry if this rack-pack wasn't as interesting as the other one. The blaster will make up for that...

 Each blaster comes with 2 exclusive coins. They're usually pretty cool...

And while these are cool, I would have appreciated them to come from teams I enjoy slightly more.

 Pack 1- Some obvious highlights. I'm glad this set isn't like other Topps set, where the stars and legends are very attainable, and the only SPs are pullable-inserts.
 75s. Two second-year heroes, and one guy who cursed out a beloved member of my family, for which I will never forgive him.
...Say, isn't it funny that the Red Sock is the one I don't hate the most here? Hell, Devers is pretty cool. So's Ohtani.

...and now for the OMG moment:

This...made my jaw drop.

I don't have good hit luck in retail. Usually I pull either a Cardinal, or some second-year flameout, or someone I've never heard of. I almost NEVER pull autos out of Archives, because they're seeded so rarely in Archives. This year, they're 1:87, and since I already pulled a 1:92 photo variation that doesn't seem so bad, but...I'd only pulled one auto out of Archives before, and it was a very cool John Mayberry.

So this, an auto of someone who played for my team...that I've heard of, and was also very good for said team...out of Archives? I beat so many odds of pulling, like Jose Oquendo or Deion or someone I despite in order to get Mr. Pepitone here, a hero for the Yankees in multiple All-Star Games, and eventually a hero for the Cubs. This was unbelievable, and one of my personal favorite autographs I've ever pulled.

 And we finish off with two more cool 93s- a McNeil rookie and a genuinely awesome Yaz photo. Kinda surprised his grandkid's not here with him.

 Pack 2- This juxtaposition makes me laugh. Two of the GREATEST CATCHERS OF ALL TIME...and Alex Avila. I like Avila, but this is too funny.

75s. Two TIGER LEGENDS in the same pack, next to each other. I kinda love that. I also love that guys like George Kell can end up in this set. Just classy enough, Topps.
 3 93s close out. I love Fergie, and how commonplace that one feels among other 93s. Urias' is a shorter-printed card, making up one of the subsets that give us the last 30 cards of the set. Again, at least I have a chance to pull these.

 Pack 3- Rookies.
Again, loving the 75s here. Bryant's is a short-printed subset, the Highlights one, which...I'm glad they brought that one back. And I'm glad they kept the ASG star, but...the BaseMAN thing is in that one. Perhaps the designer forgot.

I kinda love all 3 93s in this pack. Story and Anderson remind me of the infancy of both teams in that set, even with Anderson's teal. And Davis' just fits with that set, even if he's forgotten how to hit.

Pack 4- Three legends...actually, make that four. Trout belongs with these three. Trout's is a 58 All Star insert, the third of the three subsets. This one's cool too.

Rest of the pack. Martinez' is pretty cool, and I like how low-key Senzel's rookie season ended up being.

Pack 5- Pujols is the only hitter here, and he looks great. Iglesias deserves to be in a set like this, however fringe-y he's become. I also love Catfish's Yankee-ness here, as it was an element his original 75T issue lacked.

This pack also came with a silver parallel, which I usually have nice luck with in Archives. This one, of all-star and home run hero Jose Abreu, is numbered to 99 copies. Not bad.

93s. Kinda standard, but I love that Monte Irvin wound up in this set. Even NY Giants-era Irvin. That's even cooler.

Pack 6- Standard base/common stuff here.

 Solid legends. A lot of people are of the opinion that Andy Pettitte shouldn't be in modern sets, and I don't...disagree, but it's nice to see him every once in a while.
Gwynn, however, BELONGS in legends-friendly releases.

Kyle Wright is our SP. And he's between two of the best defenders in the game's history. Kinda cool that Smith actually has a 93T card, and the picture here is a little cooler than the other one.

Pack 7- Better player selection, and that Tatis is a nice card, too. Also nice to pull a deGrom, as he'll probably Bill-James himself into another Cy Young this year.

 This is part of the Ichiro retrospective insert set. I remember finding this card in my old friend's factory set. Remind me to write about my exposure to 2005 Topps one of these days.

And we end on some highlights- a Nomar, a rookie card of La Tortuga looking awesome, and a rookie card of Polar Bear Pete smacking one out.

So...not only was that a great rip, but this is a solid product. Not seeing that many problems with this year's set, and though I wished I'd pulled an Expospective (ha) card, I loved everything I got here. Might try to build the set, like I have pretty much every year.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Notes on a Yankees-Dodgers Series

So this is one of those cool matchups that only happens once in a while, and it sort of came out of nowhere for me. The Yankees just dropped a few games to the A's, and I looked at the schedule and went 'hope someone easier's up next', and who's up next but...of course, the best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Yanks can't catch a break, man

This has been a very interesting series so far, especially considering it's against the backdrop of Players' Weekend, with black/white uniforms that...I'm not sure what I think about. Every elder-statesman type hates them, but while I prefer the usual colored-but-stylized uniforms, these don't infuriate me too much. I wish everybody did what the Cubs and Pirates did for the Little League Classic and just had stylized, cute-ish variations on their regular uniforms.

So far, the Yanks have taken one in an offensive blowout, and the Dodgers have taken one in a defensive stalemate. It's not going the way I'd have expected, as Hyun-Jin Ryu gave up all those runs yesterday and Tony Gonsolin was solid today. It's also interesting that James Paxton held the best team in baseball to 2 runs in 7 innings, with 11 strikeouts- the guy's been very Jekyll/Hyde this season, and will only show his 2018 dominance in spurts. I still think he's a worthy arm, but...more starts like this one would help a lot.

Overall, though, I'm not seeing a ton of fundamental errors in either team. The Dodgers' bullpen held the force for the most part, with only Casey Sadler letting multiple runs go by. The Yankees' starters are also the ones giving up the only runs, but in both cases it's been only 2. Both of these teams look like they could take playoff action, even amidst the Yankees' starting pitching woes. And seeing these two square off is one of the reasons why I'm glad we still have interleague play.

Is it a World Series preview? I have no idea. But it's definitely entertaining.

Coming Tomorrow- Just when you thought the Braves were out of surprises, they start pulling them out of other rosters.

The Climb (ft. Wade Miley)

[ could I NOT go there?]

The benefit of pitching for the Astros, or perhaps the curse, is that you can have the best season of your career and not be too far into the spotlight. That's what happened with Charlie Morton last year, and now he's still an under-the-radar threat in Tampa. And it's what's happened with Wade Miley, the once-strong...then inconsistent Louisiana starter who spent a few years in limbo before making an impressive comeback with the Brewers last year, pitching into the postseason for the first (and not the last) time in his career.

And now that he's in Houston, behind Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke, Miley is pitching a 12-4 record, a career high W/L percentage, with a 3.18 ERA and 125 strikeouts. Compared to the big two, it doesn't look like much, but it's still a phenomenal run from Miley, who's having the best numbers of his career at 32, and is having a career renaissance years after people had written him off.

The one thing I can't tell with this season is whether it's the environment or the arm that's doing this. Miley's always been capable of good things, but are the less spectacular aspects of him not showing up because he's on a red-hot 1st place team? I mean, for a period, Gerrit Cole was giving up too many runs, but not he's got some amazing strikeout numbers and a better ERA, so they've all shut up. It'll be interesting to see if Miley pulls a Charlie Morton and takes this success to a smaller market with good results.

Meanwhile...the Astros are just gonna coast on til October. I'm not seeing many bad aspects of this team. Yes, Maldonado's slumping, but they have Robinson Chirinos so I'm not worried. Correa's injured again, but Myles Straw is fine. Sanchez is out for a while, but Brad Peacock is still a fine 5th starter. It's the Astros, for crying out loud! You want structural issues, go to San Diego!

I'm just glad that a journeyman veteran like Wade Miley gets to be in on the success.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Frazier Strain

I was not prepared for how many games the Pirates were going to lose this year.

Like, I knew they'd be disappointing and be a 4th-5th level talent that wouldn't come close to the big 3 in the NL Central, but...this is just humiliating for them. Even with some genuinely good pieces, an intact lineup, and some great arms...this Pirates team has lost 75 games.

I'll give the Pirates this: only one member of the team has more than 100 strikeouts, and it's Josh Bell, who's still having a star-making, 100-RBI/31-homer season that will get the rest of the league to pay attention to him. This is also the last season of Starling Marte's contract, and he's had a pretty good year, with 22 homers and a .288 average. Plus, Jose Osuna's been hot off the bench, the Reynolds/Newman combo has been wonderful in keeping the rookie class strong this year, And you still have guys like Adam Frazier and Colin Moran who can quietly get hits and RBIs without people saying much about them.

The pitching is...alright now. There have been some injuries, but Joe Musgrove, Steven Brault, Dario Agrazal and Trevor Williams are still pretty reliable. Felipe Vazquez has 22 saves and Francisco Liriano has a 3.64 ERA off the pen, so that's gotta count for something. No, the pitching's kinda tanking because it's too spotty, and there are too many holes left by injuries and inefficiency. They've been saving space for this kid Mitch Keller, who's yet to really prove why he's such a beloved prospect. There still seems to be a ton of problems that a year-end clean sweep might not even solve.

I don't think the Bucs are at the point where it'll be like the mid-2000s where they'll just be in 5th every year without trying. I honestly think they have a shot to try and compete if the bulk of this team returns, and if the rest is refurbished. There's a lot that could succeed with this team, and I just hope everything does in Pittsburgh.

Coming Tomorrow- I think we thought he'd be out of baseball by last June, but...after a comeback with Milwaukee and a HUGE return to form in Houston, he's here to stay.

Flying the Coop

More fun with the Marlins! Though...I feel as though it's a little less fun than it was before the deadline.

The once-ironclad rotation of youth has fallen apart since losing Trevor Richards and Zac Gallen to fellow 90s expansion teams. The only survivors are Caleb Smith, Jordan Yamamoto and Sandy Alcantara, and all three have seen their ERAs drop and their losses rise. Alcantara, even with his ASG nod, now has 11 losses. Nowhere near Richards' 12 losses with the Marlins, but still concerning.

And in the absence of those two and (still) Jose Urena and Pablo Lopez, the Marlins have worked in the relatively solid Elieser Hernandez and the...still inconsistent Hector Noesi. And now closing games for the Marlins is Adam Conley...I think. There haven't been many save opportunities.

The lineup is...marginally better? I mean, they brought up Isan Diaz to try and rejuvenate the lineup, but he's hitting below the Mendoza line. The stars of this team are people like Garrett Cooper, Jon Berti and Harold Ramirez, journeyman minor league pieces who've finally managed to stay in the majors long enough to make impacts. Cooper is one of the power-hitting highlights of the team, though he only has 12 homers and 42 RBIs...but then again, Brian Anderson is leading the team in RBIs with 65, and in home runs with 20. So...the highs of this team won't necessarily match up to the highs of any other. This isn't the Rockies.

The Marlins will probably use the next few seasons to rebuild as well, because I don't see this particular youth movement rising up and saving the team. Two years ago, prospects like Lewis Brinson, Magneuris Sierra and, yes, Isan Diaz were supposed to inherit this team. Now we're waiting for Sixto Sanchez to inherit this one.

Coming Tonight: One of the few offensive standouts left in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Crappy Team Round-Up: Orioles & Tigers

Not much left to talk about with these two teams, so here's some brief updates:

The Orioles just broke the all-time record for most home runs allowed. This either says a lot about how bad the O's are, OR it says a lot about how juiced today's baseballs are.

But it doesn't say great things about the Orioles' pitching, which even WITH a solid Dylan Bundy and AS-caliber John Means is still a mess, with Asher Wojciechowski, Gabriel Ynoa, Ty Blach and Aaron Brooks all doing torrid jobs in the rotation, and the bullpen filled with guys with ERAs over 4.50.

The lineup's only marginally better: Anthony Santander is having the come-up that could have been used during his rookie year last year. Hanser Alberto, Renato Nunez and Jonathan Villar are definitely fixtures. Trey Mancini is having a great year, but I wouldn't know because my source hasn't given me any good photos of him! Everyone else is disappointing.

Next year will probably be more of the same for Baltimore. Maybe slightly classier, but...this doesn't look like a team crying out for immediate improvement.

The Tigers...have somehow found a way to be worse than the Orioles.

There is...ZERO star power left on this team. Zilch. I mean, Miguel Cabrera is still playing, but people aren't going to games to see Miguel Cabrera play anymore. He's the DH. He doesn't dazzle.

Like, who's the defensive/offensive standout here? Niko Goodrum? He's hitting .250, and leads the team in strikeouts. Brandon Dixon has 14 homers, which is a team high, and...look, I barely even know who he is. Matt Boyd's the staff ace, and even HE has a 4.24 ERA. Thankfully he's only out momentarily on paternity leave, but...the team with him/without him isn't terribly different.

I mean, usually a failing team like this brings in a rookie or somebody late who brings a little hope. The Tigers didn't do that, but they brought up 35-year-old Edwin Jackson, and somehow HE'S brought a spark to the rotation. Oh yeah, and they brought up Travis Demerette and Jake Rogers, and at least the former has been giving some hope for future non-competitive Tigers rosters.

Not fun, and probably won't be fun for a while.

Coming Tomorrow- Former Yankee 1st base auditionee, current Marlins outfield bat.

For Those About to Beat the Rockies...

'Snakebitten' would be a good way to describe this Rockies team.

The two best pitchers in this roster, Scott Oberg and Jon Gray, are now out for the rest of the season. The best pitcher from 2018, Kyle Freeland, has a 3-11 record with a 6.98 ERA. The hot closer, Wade Davis, has a 7.43 ERA and 15 saves. The big rookie pitcher, Peter Lambert, has a 6.55 ERA with a 2-3 record. And even the staff ace, German Marquez, has a 4.71 ERA, even if his numbers are actually pretty great.

It's not 2018 anymore for the Rockies. There's no comeback, no chance to finish over .500, no chance to snatch their first ever 1st place title in the NL West (which, fun fact, I thought was happening last year). They're not the team they were, even with Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon doing their usual dominance, and even with Ryan McMahon having a great season at 2nd, and Tony Wolters FINALLY having his come-up and taking the starting catching position.

The Rox have to admit that they're just not as good as the other guys, even as they get remarkably close to lapping San Diego. The Giants have oddball-momentum, the D-Backs have a stronger lineup, and the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. It's just not happening this year, and I wish it wasn't this depressing, especially considering how hot they were in May.

Is there hope for the future? I mean...maybe? If Freeland and Gray get back to 100%, there's a chance? But the Rockies are banking on a farm system that isn't spitting out a ton of winners, and may float around the 4th-5th area for a little while. Which sucks for Arenado, as I know he wants to win a Championship with this team. That may not happen.

Wish there were happier things to talk about in Denver, but...not here.

Coming Tonight: A hard-hitting slugger from...the team that just broke the record for home runs allowed.