Saturday, February 29, 2020

Spring Training Custom: Price Slightly More Right Edition

Yeah, this is probably my favorite one I've done so far this year.

Today, February 29th, is leap day, which is a day that shouldn't exist. And speaking of things that shouldn't exist, here's David Price in a Dodger uniform.

I'm honestly really intrigued by Price's inclusion in the Betts deal. I mean, yes, Mookie to LA itself is pretty great, and makes that outfield a near-classic one. But...Price to LA has some very weird inclinations.

Heck, it reminds me a little of Josh Beckett landing in LA back in 2012. By that point, Beckett had pitched some great seasons, some Championship seasons, and some weak ones. And seeing him play for the Dodgers was equally weird, because here's this guy that used to be leading rotations in Boston and Miami, and now he's like a 4th or 5th man behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. How is this supposed to make sense?

And that's kinda where I'm at with David Price. This guy was unstoppable with Tampa, he pitched into the playoffs with Detroit and Toronto, had a great year with the Red Sox despite injury and controversy, and all of the sudden he's dropped into an already-stacked Dodger rotation, and will be asked to pitch behind Kershaw and Walker Buehler.

It's honestly a matter of whether or not Price's heftier numbers show up. Because he's one of the best pitchers of the last 10 years, a major strikeout artist, and an asset for any team that has him. I can't imagine that he's done ruling the mound after a few seasons in a stadium that's bad for lefties. Dude still had a 46-24 record in Boston, which isn't bad, though the cumulative 3.84 ERA is his highest out of the four teams he's played for.

So maybe he gets back to his old tricks, supplants Clayton Kershaw in the rotation, exceeds expectations and safely pitches into the playoffs again, continuing his streak of having generally alright postseason luck. Or...maybe he pitches 10 games this year and spends the rest either benched or on the DL. I'm hoping it's the former, but I'm prepared for either outcome.

Coming Tomorrow (?): Speaking of worrying Boston pitchers, this guy was so close to being a Cy Young contender a few years ago, and is now struggling to stay consistent and healthy.

Spring Training Custom: Rendon Edition

2012: The Angels sign Albert Pujols to a mega-deal in the hopes that he takes them to the playoffs. They win 89 games, but finish in third.

2013: The Angels sign Josh Hamilton to a multi-year deal in the hopes that he takes them to the playoffs. They finish below .500 and, again, in third place.

2018: The Angels sign Shohei Ohtani to a multi-year deal in the hopes that he takes them to the playoffs. Not only do they finish in fourth, but by the end of the year, Ohtani needs Tommy John, and doesn't pitch in 2019.

2020: The Angels sign Anthony Rendon to a multi-year deal in the hopes that he takes them to the playoffs. WE ARE HERE.

I feel a little bad for the Angels. Not entirely. A little. Because at the end of the day, they still have Mike Trout, the best player in baseball, and Andrelton Simmons, one of the best shortstops in baseball. And they have a still-electric Ohtani performance in there, plus the potential for great seasons from David Fletcher and Jo Adell.

Yet...despite all they've paid for, all they've worked on in the past decade, they still can't get anything done. Things haven't panned out, and it's mostly thanks to uneven returns from subsequent pitching staffs. Since the decline of Jered Weaver's fastball, the Angels have put their faith in people like Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Parker Bridwell and Andrew Heaney, who have put up good initial numbers only to fall off the wagon the following season.

The rotation the Angels seem to be going with for 2020 is Heaney, Jaime Barria, Dillon Peters, Dylan Bundy and possibly Griffin Canning if he's healthy for the opener. This array the theme, uneven, but there could be good performances in there. Plus, there's the Ohtani factor, as he could end up starting some games eventually, even if he'll probably be used primarily as a DH. But while this is a younger, more interesting rotation than in years past, I still can't guarantee success from it.

And that's, once again, where we're at with the Angels. The lineup might be fantastic this year- Rendon is gonna hit .300 and thrive off being next to Trout in the lineup, Jo Adell's gonna be brought up midyear and come alive, Ward and Hermosillo are gonna have good rookie years, and...etc. But without a solid pitching rotation, you can't promise anything from these guys.

Coming Tonight: Not the biggest guy to land on the Dodgers this year, but...perhaps the most interesting.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Spring Training Custom: Flaherty Edition

Can everybody just...calm down about Jack Flaherty?

In years' past, I've always been seen as a cynic towards anything related to the Cardinals. What always happens is that the majority of the team is just playing alright, and a few fringe players carry this team into the playoffs, and suddenly everyone acts like they were good from the beginning.

...okay I think I just described the 2019 Yankees as well, but...let me make this clearer.

The 2011 Cardinals weren't the best team in the NL, that'd be the 2011 Phillies, who deserved better. Last year's Cardinals were only better than the Braves in that their bullpen didn't have a gaping hole in it. The Cardinals are a very lucky team.

Jack a very good pitcher. He had a very good season in 2019, with an 11-8 record, 231 strikeouts, and the lowest WHIP in the leagues. Was it the fourth best pitching performance in the NL last year? I don't think I would have voted for him over Stephen Strasburg or Mike Soroka, who all arguably had deadlier seasons.

Perhaps it was Flaherty's postseason numbers, including 22 strikeouts across 2 playoff series', that garnered attention. Maybe it was the lack of a clear ace in St. Louis in that point. But as people are suddenly proclaiming Flaherty the pitching god of St. Louis, handing him the Opening Day start a month and a half in advance and calling him one of the best pitchers in baseball...I think we ought to calm down a bit.

You can't call somebody the best ANYTHING in baseball after just one season of peak material. And yes, Flaherty's 2018 was fine, but it came with an 8-9 record, due to a worse Cardinals team. Saying Flaherty is gonna tear down NL Central offenses this year after just a year of his best...isn't fair to either the Cardinals or him. We don't know if his 2019 season is the norm yet, just as we don't know if Pete Alonso can hit 50+ home runs on the norm, or if Will Smith can notch 37 saves on the norm. We can predict all we want, but we can't say anything for certain until we have a larger field of evidence.

If Flaherty has another great year in 2020, which he very well might, and gets a Cy Young and some pitching titles, then I will be fine with people calling him one of the best pitchers in baseball. But that sort of moniker has doomed Blake Snell, it's doomed Rick Porcello, and, yes, it's doomed Tim Lincecum. Sometimes certainty of a perceived future can be as dooming to someone as the future itself.

Coming Tonight: Another guy coming off a huge 2019 season, though this guy's had a bit more consistency as a league threat. Hope he'll be alright batting after Mike Trout.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Spring Training Custom: Bringer of Snow Edition

The move the Twins made to snag Josh Donaldson was very much a power move. They didn't need a third baseman, they had Marwin Gonzalez and Miguel Sano, but...he was an upgrade worth pushing Sano to 1st for.

So now, we're going into a 2020 season in Minneapolis featuring SIX players who hit more than 25 homers last year, and FIVE batters with more than 4.0 WAR. And even if CJ Cron and Jonathan Schoop will be playing for a competitor, the prospect of a lineup of Sano, Garver, Rosario, Cruz, Kepler AND Donaldson has to be horrifying for AL Central teams. Even if one of them is off, you still have the other five.

And Josh Donaldson proved in 2019 that he is still capable of monster seasons at the plate. Dude hit 37 homers last year, and easily had his best season since 2016, the heat of the Jays playoff runs. Donaldson is 34, so you have to be a wee bit worried about his production beginning to wane, but...we were worried about this two years ago as he was coming off the injuries, and that wasn't worth it. We have to assume, therefore, that Donaldson is for real, and he's probably gonna join Nelson Cruz in the 'over 35 and killing it' category.

It is interesting to note that while Donaldson hasn't shown much performance in early at bats in Fort Meyers, Nelson Cruz is already batting .667 in 3 plate appearances, including 2 RBIs and a homer. So age may be a red herring.

I am excited about these Twins in 2020, because there seems to be promise leaking out of this team at every orifice. You even have talented players like Willians Astudillo and LaMonte Wade, who might be fighting for bench spots, and talented starters like Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer who might not even factor into the starting rotation. This is a good problem to have, especially as the team felt so exhausted in their playoff series with the Yankees.

Hoping for good things from these Twins, and the Bringer of Rain.

Coming Tomorrow- I'm not exactly sure why baseball can't shut up about this guy. He had a good season last year, had some decent playoff starts, and all of St. Louis is proclaiming him the messiah?

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Spring Training Custom of the Day: Big Willie Style Edition

I feel as though I am dooming Will Smith by presenting him during the first week of Spring Training customs. Because, usually, that week is for people who look to have great seasons, or just got traded/signed to a new team, and for whatever reason I always make one...awful prediction in every year's first week, just in player selection.

Like, 2013 my first custom was Michael Bourn on the Indians. Because THAT's certainly where the Indians' rise to glory came from. I've also done customs of Jason Hammel in 2017, Barry Zito in 2015, Mark Trumbo in 2014 and...countless others. I've been wrong before.

And there are a lot of signs that Will Smith in Atlanta could be a disaster. First of all, recent history- the Braves bullpen has yet to hold onto a substantial closer since Craig Kimbrel left. Lots of over-the-hill guys, or too-inexperienced guys. Then, when the Braves went to trade for people who CAN close games, like Shane Greene and Mark Melancon, both floundered in the ninth for them. The Braves can take great relievers and make them look pathetic. I don't know how, but they do this.

Then, there's the variable that Will Smith isn't the only Will Smith in town anymore. There's another guy in LA, a catcher for the Dodgers, with the exact same name, who seems to be on the up-and-up, and may have a chance to be the Dodgers' starting catcher this year. Meanwhile, this Will Smith is 30, is coming off his first successful full year as a closing pitcher, and has gained and lost momentum like any other reliever over his first decade in the bigs. The other Will Smith may gain traction and usurp this Will Smith for the title of Best Will Smith in the Bigs.

Also, and this just occurred to me, there's also a famous actor named Will Smith! SHOCK! HORROR!

So, Will Smith, despite being one of the first big signings of the offseason, and one of the biggest breakouts of 2019, has a lot to prove in Atlanta this year, and hopefully he delivers. He's definitely capable of a lot, and hopefully I'm not correct in my concerns.

Also, as a note- now that there are two Will Smiths in baseball, I've split the tag on the blog. They no longer have to share. Any posts regarding this Will Smith will be tagged 'Pitcher Will Smith'. Any posts regarding Dodger Will Smith will be tagged 'Catcher Will Smith'. The old 'Will Smith' tag will be reserved for any posts that involve the actor and star of Men in Black

Coming Tonight: The Braves wish they had this guy still. But he's chilling in Fort Meyers right now with the best slugging lineup in baseball.

Monday, February 24, 2020

The First Custom Card of the 2020s is...

....yeah, I know it's a self-indulgent pick, but...come on. One of the biggest signings of the offseason was a Yankee, and he's one of the best pitchers in baseball. AND I get an awesome photo of him early in the photo priming phase. How could I not?

2020 customs are officially here. All's right with the world.

What I'm doing this year, which I sort of started last year but the photo thing happened, is giving Spring Training customs their own design, separate from season customs, so if they end up having a good season I can make another 'actual' custom of these people, just so I don't waste their only custom of 2020 in spring training uniforms.

So, if Gerrit Cole's awesome as a Yankee, which he hopefully will be, you might see another custom of him later in the year.

I'm gonna start my two-a-day pace tomorrow, most likely, meaning...yes...I plan on outdoing last year's already-herculean total of customs.

Anyone Can Pitch: 2019

 That's right- I still have to post some of these.

In 2018, I did a recurring series called Anyone Can Pitch, where I documented examples of the growing trend of position players being brought in to pitch, and it went well enough that I decided to collect photos for it throughout 2019.

...but I was too lazy to MAKE any of these customs until last week.

Right. As 2020 customs are right around the corner, might as well finish off the last of the 2019 ones, so let's examine each of these, as well as how well they did on the mound.

Pablo Sandoval made a pitching appearance in 2018 as well, so this is not his first appearance in this subset, but his inning of work was a bit more well known this year, as it went with Pablo's scorching May and June in SF. Sandoval had a pretty immaculate frame, not allowing any hits or runs, but also letting the defense do most of the work. Hope he winds up doing another inning some time in 2020.

 Mike Brosseau was one of the many Rays rookies to grace the infield this year, and as impressive as he was at the plate, he was a little more refined on the mound. Brosseau, interestingly, had 3 appearances this year, averaging a 4.50 ERA while giving up 2 earned runs total. For the Rays, it's interesting having a guy like Brosseau as a potential two-way guy, especially considering the presence of Brendan McKay, a more pronounced two-way pitcher. Still, at least his ERA isn't too bloated.

 No, a more bloated ERA would belong to Cubs backup catcher Victor Caratini, who came in for 2 appearances as a pitcher this year, additionally giving up 2 earned runs with a 9 ERA. Surprisingly, given the team's split records, both of these snakebitten appearances came at home.

 Similarly, Chris Davis, aka the single most useless player in the major leagues right now, took a break from batting under the Mendoza line and stinking up the Orioles lineup in order to take the mound early in the season against the Twins. Given the potency of the Twins' lineup, it shouldn't shock you that Crush allowed a home run himself. Said homer he allowed over the course of an inning of play is made even more pathetic by the fact that Chris averaged 105 innings in between hitting home runs this year. He finished the year with 9.

 Now, if you want a home-run hitter who can actually...HIT home runs, I direct you to Yankee first baseman Mike Ford, who allowed two himself, and 5 earned runs, during 2 innings on the mound. Ford finished his appearance with a 22.50 ERA. Take THAT, Luke Voit.

 These Anyone Can Pitch cards also give pictures of players who're just trying to get innings for teams that may not be their most well-known. Caleb Joseph, former Orioles catcher, was a backup for the Diamondbacks in April, and his playing time went so well that he found himself pitching to the person who took his job, Carson Kelly. In two appearances, one to Kelly and one to John Ryan Murphy, he faced four batters and allowed no hits or runs, which is all you can ask for from a position player pitching.

 Russell Martin being in this series was good, as I had a lot of photos of him to choose from on the mound, considering that he made four appearances over the course of the season. He only allowed 2 hits over the course of 13 batters, ANNNNND had two strikeouts, which is a pretty big deal not only for a position player, but for a guy who might be playing his final season (no one has signed him yet for 2020).
 As his role as an infielder in Boston continued to lessen, Eduardo Nunez found himself making his first pitching appearance last year, giving up one earned run in four batters, and earning a 9 ERA.

 Meanwhile, as he was in the midst of a come-up in Pittsburgh, Jose Osuna took time out from his solid bench work to pitch 2.1 innings over the course of the season, coming up with a relatively human ERA of 3.86, and giving up a few hits and an earned run. I was going to end this paragraph with a badly-worded Felipe Vazquez joke, but then I decided it'd be in poor taste.

 Onto happier pastures here- Gerardo Parra, deified in Washington along with the use of a truly annoying song for two-year-olds, also made a pitching appearance in 2019, though it didn't go especially well, as Parra allowed a run for each of the five batters he faced, leaving with an infinite ERA. Thankfully, things would get better for the Nationals.

 Another guy in likely his last season, Mark Reynolds distracted from his subpar hitting off the bench for the Rockies in order to try the mound again (it went alright in 2018). His 2018 numbers were way better, as Reynolds endured an 18 ERA, and 2 earned runs over an inning.

 Another Rays infielder trying his hand at pitching, Daniel Robertson had a frame IDENTICAL to a similar line of pitching from 2018. 1 inning, 3 batters, no earned runs. Only difference is he allowed a hit, but a double-play righted things.

 Before being traded midyear, Max Stassi was struggling at the plate as the backup catcher for those...formerly-lovable Astros. Also, let's face it, with a face like this, Stassi belongs as a goon in a James Cagney film.
Anyway, pitching. He did that. He faced one batter, got them out. This kind of stat won't be appearing at all in the future.
 Jared Walsh was brought up as a potential two-way successor to Shohei Ohtani and Kaleb Cowart. This being said, Walsh's five appearances bring a stat line that looks a lot like one you'd see from a  professional reliever- a 1.80 ERA, 5 strikeouts, and 3 hits over 23 batters. Not bad for a start.

Finally, Baltimore bench favorite Stevie Wilkerson also made some mound appearances in 2019, 4 to be exact. While Wilkerson was responsible for a strikeout AND a save (rare for Baltimore pitchers), he did balloon his ERA to 6.75 due to allowing 4 earned runs.

Already. That's all the 2019 content I've got. Soon enough, you will see some 2020 CUSTOMS ON THIS BLOG. SPRING TRAINING CUSTOMS. WOO-HOO.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Stars Are Out 2019: Everything Else

 Yeah, these are....VERY LATE, I know.

Look, let's be very honest, haven't been very good at the blog over the last few months. Or, years maybe. Lots of posts I need to write concerning anxiety and trading, and just my addiction to cards in general, but...I owe y'all some content.

I'll lampshade that I've recently begun collecting images for the 2020 baseball season of customs, right from spring training. Odds are, first custom of 2020 is gonna come very soon.

...which means all this stale 2019 content NEEDS to go. By any means necessary.

So we're knocking out the rest of the Stars Are Out project. These desperately need a redesign, as it's the new decade and I need to stretch some graphic design skills and find something knew for this to be without seeming amateur.

Worst team goes first, so here's HOFer Ed Reed at Camden Yards. Dude's a Ravens legend, a defensive superstar, and a face of a Super Bowl win. Not bad, Ed. Looks good here, too.

 Kal Penn left a job at a high-class FOX procedural in order to work for the Obama administration, and is one of the smartest media personalities out there, but odds are you know him best as Harold's bud Kumar. Kal's a Mets fan, because of course he is, and chucked one out in September.

 Yankee Stadium doesn't get many kitschy first pitches. Lot of BIG STRONG SPORTS STARS. Julius Randle, right after landing in Manhattan, got to throw one out for the Yanks with his kids, and then proceeded to be one of the few bright spots in a predictably dire Knicks lineup.

 Yep. Had to do a Big Papi.
Everything the guy's gone through since retiring, coming back from some violence last year, and he still returns to Fenway deified. Gotta love it. Sad he could throw this out in the playoffs, but the last game of the year had to do.

 Into the playoffs we go. Gotta be odd if you're the Rays, and you make the playoffs, and you wanna call upon the greats to throw out first pitches but you've only been around for 21 years. So you get people like Grant Balfour, who, while a pretty important Rays figure for a previous round of playoff appearances, is still an obscure get compared to some other people in this post. Still, Rays fans love Balfour, and what's not to love- a scrappy reliever from Oz who gets 'em looking. Liam Hendriks wishes.

The Braves were only in the playoffs for a week, but at least they had time to get PHIL NIEKRO to throw one out. Genuine Atlanta legend, and undoubtedly the greatest knuckleball pitcher of all time. Looks happy here, too.

 Cardinals got a few contemporary heroes out, including Jason Isringhausen AND Scott Rolen, who should be getting into Cooperstown one of these years. Seems to fit right in at Busch, like no time has passed.
Yep, a non-cheating Astros sports star. Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon, who relishes the applause at Minute Maid, and is still as freakishly tall as ever. Glad they got him out there, wished it was for a more lawful team.

 We end on a Yankee, because it'd be weird if I didn't with this blog. Pettitte is still a loyal Yankee hero despite the diminishing returns on his Cooperstown ballots. Still did a lot of good stuff for us, deserves respect, of course he got some nice audience response from this first pitch. Wish said playoff series went a little better for us, though.

Tomorrow...the entirety of Anyone Can Pitch from 2019. Yeah.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Two Blasters of 2020 Topps Series 1

It's become as much of a tradition for me to scour the retail shelves on the day the new flagship is released and lament upon the lack of any new product to open than it is for me to eventually find a few boxes of it sitting hidden because WalMart doesn't know how to restock their card aisles.

I was literally about to leave WalMart in sadness when I found a the 2020 Topps stuff tucked into a corner next to the yu-gi-oh cards, just taunting me. This is the thanks I get for wasting precious gasoline on trekking to numerous big box stores on my off day three days ago and coming back empty-handed, without even finding a bottle of the only flavor of conditioner I like, and then testing fates and going to the one store I think will have the stuff, not finding any, and then going back to WalMart and thinking it's a similar situation? This is how you repay my blind consumerism and baseless addiction?

...anyway here's some cards.

Blaster #1-
Guaranteed Rookie Logo Medallion Card: Ernie Banks, 54T. Very nice

Pack 1-
46- GARY SANCHEZ. A YANKEE IS MY FIRST CARD OF THE YEAR. I DID IT. I BEAT THE ODDS. I- okay, I'm not gonna be manic this whole post, let's calm down.
150- Ronald Acuña Juña. Glad this guy's the real deal
210- Mitch Garver
331- Kevin McCarthy
114- Ildemaro Vargas, who may be a bit strapped for playing time this year in AZ.
165- Matt Boyd
47- Dansby Swanson. Very cool action shot
10- Austin Meadows. I've decided that I do like the sideways shots overall, even though they illuminate the fact that this design rotated 90 degrees is just the 2018 design. Other than that, I'm fine with the design this year, even if it's not as good as 2019's.
83- Yankees team card.
87- Cardinals team card. Good and evil, back to back. Also, the team cards are just group shots and no longer sweeping stadium shots, which is definitely a move
CHROME Turkey Red of Charlie Morton. I am very happy Turkey Red is back, and even happier that they're seeded so generously
Turkey Red of Jose Ramirez. Might be chasing a bunch of these this year. They're hella fun.
296- Whit Merrifield
12- Sam Hilliard

Pack 2-
328- Chris Davis. I can name 10 Rangers who deserved a card over another one for the sub-.200 hero. WATCH I'MMA DO IT- Gallo, Choo, Pence, Minor, Lynn, KLUBER, Odor, Andrus, Mazara, RENDON. There. Eat it.
136- Amed Rosario
153- Andrew Cashner
332- Jacob de Grom. You ask me, this is the Met that should have been on the cover of the product
123- Seth Brown
24- Kenley Jansen
292- Gavin Lux, one of the few rookies I care about in this set.
31- Goodrum close call CL. Man, Niko Goodrum gets a checklist and the Rangers can't even get a non-rookie base card?
216- Scott Kingery. GREAT photo.
279- MASAHIRO TANAKA, in such a great dramatic shot.
2010s Decade's Best Teams of THE YANKEES. If they're the best team of the decade, why can't they get a ring? Answer- cause the Astros are cheaters.
Turkey Red of Ozzie Albies
135- Enrique Hernandez
130- Michael Chavis. We're still doing Future Stars, I guess?

Pack 3-
311- David Bote
59- Chris Archer
287- Jose Peraza. As awesome as this uniform is...OUTDATED CARD #1. YEP, I'M DOING THIS AGAIN. Peraza's on the Red Sox right now.
81- Ryan Yarbrough
42- Lewis Brinson. Another guy Topps keeps giving a chance rather than letting the Rangers have base cards.
242- Alex Young
268- Ian Desmond. I'll give the horizontal cards this- they're very good at letting photos that'd normally be truncated on a vertical breathe, and giving more depth into a simple shot
107- Luis Castillo. This one as well
91- Yolmer Sanchez. Outdated Card #2, he's now with the Giants
208- Zack Collins
228- Logan Allen GOLD #'D TO 2020. Man, the gold denotation on these cards is too minimalistic.
Turkey Red of Shohei Ohtani. Nice
41- Brian Anderson
189- Mike Moustakas. Outdated Card #3, now on the Reds.

Pack 4-
25- Kirby Yates
288- Jon Gray
133- Michael Brosseau. Pretty sure he goes by Mike, Topps
320- Austin Hedges
252- Aaron Hicks. VERY cool card.
5- JaCoby Jones
113- Matt Carpenter. Again, the photography is definitely improved over usual releases.
177- Craig Kimbrel. Yeah, they give him a horizontal to do his full hunched over pre-pitch pose. That's pretty great
27- Brewers TC
HOSKINS insert, because I got these at WalMart and they spoke right to my Philly-ness
85T insert of CAL RIPKEN. A guy who was ACTUALLY IN THE 85 SET. FINE THEN.
Turkey Red of Pete Alonso. Nice that I pulled this one instead of having to overpay for it at a show.
112- Max Stassi
358- Adrian Morejon

Pack 5-
323- Tyler White. Something something Rangers.
235- Dustin May rookie, so at least that's pretty nice
54- Hunter Dozier
70- Nico Hoerner, one of the other big rookies I was hoping for in this set
214- Trea Turner
139- Jose Quintana
68- JAMES PAXTON. Sucks he'll be out for a bit, but still a powerful Yankee weapon
160- Arenado/Yelich TC
61- Biggio/Bichette TC
327- Cavan Biggio. Nice timing there
Home Run Challenge of GIANCARLO STANTON.
Turkey Red of Rafael Devers
307- Daniel Palka
34- Ian Kinsler. Glad he got a sendoff card. Also, FULL STATS ON THE BACK, GUYS. WE GOT IT BACK.

Pack 6-
316- Justin Turner
225- Oscar Mercado
247- Garrett Cooper. Glad someone finally gave him a starting gig
326- Dylan Cease RC, another necessary find
318- Omar Narvaez. Outdated Card #4, now on the Brewers
109- Reese McGuire
52- Yasmani Grandal. LOT of catchers in this pack. Great shot here. Also, Outdated Card #5, now on the White Sox
291- Tyler Naquin
175- Lucas Giolito
207- Zac Gallen RC. As nice as this is, it's a shame Topps couldn't document Gallen's equally-stellar tenure on the Marlins
Decade of Dominance Die-Cut of ICHIRO. This, at least, is a nice insert
Turkey Red of Anthony Rendon, still on the Nats, so Outdated Card #6
60- Matt Barnes
144- Jake Arrieta, who better have a comeback year with the Phils this year.

Pack 7-
101- Brad Hand
322- Dario Agrazal. Outdated Card #7, now on the Tigers
197- Raisel Iglesias. I kind of love the zoom in on this one.
115- Matt Thaiss
99- Dan Vogelbach. Cool, fun picture here.
86- Hyun-Jin Ryu LEADERS
169- Jacob Waguespack
19- Angels TC
298- Hollywood Heroes TC
HOSKINS insert, flashing back to Players Weekend 2017
Turkey Red of Buster Posey, which is a nice one
63- Christian Vazquez
92- Blake Treinen. Outdated Card #8, now on the Dodgers

Box #2
Guaranteed Rookie Logo Medallon- Rhys Hoskins 2018T. A very Rhys-centric break, which I'm fine with

Will do highlights from here on out, as there's a few dupes in each pack because Topps sucks

Pack 1-
171- Kole Calhoun. Outdated Card #9, now on the D-Backs
110- Jesus Luzardo
349- Carlos Correa
36- Sean Doolittle in a VERY COOL closer shot.
176- Brandon Belt
Decade's Next insert of Rafael Devers
Turkey Red of GERRIT COLE. Outdated Card #10, now on the Yankees. However, this is a cool card, so I'll deal

Pack 2-
80- VERY COOL SHOT of Austin Barnes
273- Bryan Abreu
336- Miguel Cabrera
53- Pete Alonso Leaders. Card 53, because 53 homers. Not bad
137- Merrill Kelly
84- Ken Giles
305- Tyler Glasnow
HOSKINS insert. I'm still fine with these
Decade's Best Award Winners of Aaron Judge. I'm fine with the Judge love, but this is a lazy photo
Turkey Red of Cody Bellinger, which looks AWESOME

Pack 3-
217- Amir Garrett
321- Eduardo Rodriguez
163- Ryan Pressly. One of the best bullpen assets in the league
116- Daniel Murphy
66- Andrew Heaney
192- Yusei Kikuchi. I really hope he has a better sophomore season
324- Mike Soroka
315- Adam Frazier
184- Mychal Givens SHINY
Turkey Red of Charlie Blackmon

Pack 4-
9- Trent Grisham. Cool card, but outdated card #11, traded to San Diego
89- Kurt Suzuki. Tagging out a Phillie at the plate here, which is the 2nd most infuriating thing Zuk was documented doing last year.
200- Christian Yelich. Glad he got a hero card
251- AJ Puk rookie
71- Sandy Alcantara. Led the league in losses and still had a solid year. That's Miami for ya
201- Francisco Lindor
44- Tommy Edman. Sneaky little player right here.
102- Josh Phegley. Good to see we're embracing catcher's gear cards again
286- Blake Parker. One of the many Phillies that somehow didn't get updated cards last year
85T JD Martinez
Turkey Red of Eloy Jimenez

Pack 5-
57- A VERY COOL SHOT OF Travis Demeritte. That's how I want my rookie card to look.Detroit Stars uniform and everything
185- Johnny Cueto
124- Jose Berrios
215- Luke Jackson
21- Shane Greene, who looks good in a Braves uniform
55- Jose Martinez, Outdated Card #12, now on the Rays
231- Randal Grichuk. I wonder how much longer the Jays will need to keep him around until the youth movement is ready
343- Carson Kelly
HOSKINS insert
Home Run Challenge of 'rookie' Yordan Alvarez. Friggin Topps...
Turkey Red of Willson Contreras

Pack 6-
309- Robbie Grossman
259- Jaylin Davis RC. I'm so glad Topps is NAILING landscape shots again
299- David Price. Outdated C-...well, the deal technically hasn't gone through yet, and how could they have known, so this doesn't count
256- Roman Quinn in SUCH A COOL 80S THROWBACK
93- Alex Colome keeps the throwback train going
143- Christian Yelich Leaders
145- Paul Goldschmidt
263- JP Crawford looking great in the field
Topps Choice of Babe Ruth on the 1956 design. Not bad!

Pack 7-
206- Tommy Pham. Outdated Card #13, now on the Padres
11- Anthony Rendon Leaders. Outdated Card #14
222- Andrew Chafin
159- Jorge Soler. Still cannot believe he led the AL in homers.
257- Joey Lucchesi
243- Jeimer Candelario
69- Brendan McKay
334- Kevin Pillar. How has nobody signed him yet?
64- KYLE LEWIS RC. Very cool.
74- Bubba Starling RC
65- Indians TC GOLD NUMBERED TO 2020
Turkey Red of Justin Verlander. 3 Astros pitchers in Turkey Reds in one box. Good thing they weren't in on the cheating...

So, that's 2020 Series 1. It's...fine. Not as good as this years. Better inserts, better photography, but same general monotony to it. I'm definitely gonna get more, because I wanna chase the Turkey Reds, but it's...nothing TOO spectacular.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Mook Before You Leap

11 or so years of doing this blog, following baseball...I'm still so gullible.

The past week, I've been hearing rumors of the Red Sox trying to trade Mookie Betts to LA, and the whole time I'm just going '...yeah, RIGHT.' Like, from a logical standpoint, there's no way you trade your star player to a team with an unbeatable lineup. But from a financial standpoint, sometimes you have to do that sort of thing, and this is the second time in the past eight years the Sox have been forced to do something like this to clear payroll.

Now, last time...the Sox gave away Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. All 3 of them are currently out of baseball. Beckett has already been booted off the HOF ballot. With the exception of maybe A-Gon, none of them made huge impacts on the Dodgers.

So now we have this entire flurry of moves, and at the end of it, I'm gonna ask if it's any better than that firesafe deal that LA relieved Boston of in 2012.

So...the initial deal, which is pretty simple in itself, is Mookie Betts and David Price, two very large contracts, in exchange for Alex Verdugo. Betts for Verdugo alone works because there's no vacancy in the outfield, and they just take each other's place. Betts fits in pretty well with Bellinger and Pollock in that outfield, and Betts and Bellinger together is a pretty insane high-WAR combo. Also, having Betts alongside Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Max Muncy and Will Smith will make for a hella intimidating lineup in 2020.

Then there's the Price question. Since landing in Boston, Price has been hit and miss. On one hand, he's gotten a high of 17 wins and 228 strikeouts, but on the other, his 3.84 ERA is his highest team ERA. Either Price is losing his luster, OR he's just not suited for Fenway, which is something we've been suspecting since that deal was made. Price in Dodger Stadium is an intriguing prospect, and it'll be nice to see what he has left in the tank. I do think it's a Josh Beckett situation where they'll use him late in the rotation and he'll have occasional sparks of his former self, but he could surprise the shit out of me and have a 20-game year.

And then Verdugo in Boston is something that could definitely work. It's a little odd now because the youth movement has sort of grown up, and now fitting Verdugo, himself a product of a different youth movement, in there beside Benny and Bradley (unless they trade him too) might make for a interesting dynamic. I definitely think Verdugo will have a fuller, more fleshed out year now that he's not pushed into either starting or a bench role in the crowded Dodger climate. But again, what will he perform like outside of LA? Will he fit into this roster? I think the two team dynamics are very different.

After this, the deal got a little trickier, as a third team was added to the mix, and the Twins pitched in Brusdar Graterol to go to Boston in exchange for Kenta Maeda. Maeda in Minneapolis is interesting, as, again, there's a less crowded rotation picture, and Maeda could fit behind Berrios and Odo. However, you also have to think about Rich Hill, Randy Dobnak, Homer Bailey, Michael Pineda and Devin Smeltzer, all of whom want rotation spots. AND you have to remember that Maeda is the kind of guy who'll be pushed to the bullpen come September due to being the sole rotation asset to have an ERA over 4 or something like that. Hopefully he'll regain a bit of control in Minnesota?

Graterol in Boston works because Graterol is probably gonna compete for a rotation spot in Boston, now that there are so many, and because the Twins have been touting Graterol for the last few years.

AND THEN, the Dodgers decided to clear up the outfield picture a little by trading Joc Pederson to the Angels in exchange for Luis Rengifo. Both pieces of this deal are gonna be crucial, by the way, so it's kinda funny that this aspect has kinda been minimized,

So, Pederson in Anaheim means he'll be essentially taking Kole Calhoun's place, and sharing an outfield with Justin Upton, Mike Trout, and occasionally Brian Goodwin. Trout-Pederson-Upton is actually a pretty great outfield, and if all three hit over 30 homers in 2020, that'll be insane for the Angels. Pederson seems to be finding his way again after a few middling seasons, and had career highs in homers (36) and average (.249). Maybe he keeps the momentum going as a starter in Anaheim.

Rengifo, meanwhile, is another interesting piece of the Dodger infield picture. Rengifo is a factor at 2nd base and shortstop, and clearly is a rival for Chris Taylor at both of those positions. He's also a rival to Enrique Hernandez, whose average has been flighty ever since getting the starting job. Rengifo is going to jumpstart a bloodthirsty Spring Training battle for those positions. It might end kind of bloody- I'm predicting that Chris Taylor might not be a Dodger for much longer after the dust settles. That or Rengifo gets waived or demoted. But it's gonna make things interesting.

At the end of this, I honestly do think it's bigger than the 2012 deal. The 2012 deal was simply 'we have the payroll, we'll take 'em', and then fitting them into a preexisting picture. Now, the Dodgers are reforming their entire team around this deal, getting rid of Kenta Maeda, Joc Pederson and Alex Verdugo to make way for Price and Betts, which is a pretty big statement.

A very huge move by LA. I'm interested to see the ramifications of this throughout the year.