Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: The 2008 Sunset Seasons


Continuing with my chronicle of all the 2008 Topps cards that Topps never bothered to make, we go to a few players who finished their careers in 2008 and never got recognition from the baseball card magnate from it. 

So, uh...remember when Richie Season was one of the most powerful hitters in baseball?

The dude had 262 home runs from 1999 until 2006, making a name for himself as a premier masher in Milwaukee before spending an injury-plagued season in Arizona, then coming to Seattle in 2005 for another stellar year. By 2008, his numbers were dwindling, he was only hitting .212 for the Ms, and they decided to release him in July. The Yankees, in the pre-Tex-era, needed a steady 1st baseman, and got a month's worth of production from Sexson, where he hit .250 in 22 games with his last home run. Not a huge departure, but enough that Upper Deck would make a card of it in their 2009 set. But not Topps. 

Shannon Stewart, one of the more intriguing contact performers of the 2000s, was coming off a season in Oakland, where he hit .290 with 167 hits and 48 RBIs, not a bad 2007 for anybody. So Stewart's old team, the Toronto Blue Jays, signed him to a one year deal in the hopes that he'd continue his 2007 numbers, or even replicate his .300 seasons in the early 2000s. At this point, Stewart was 34, and had just passed his prime years, and so his .240 average and 14 RBIs in 52 games was a bit lower than expected. The Jays released him in August, and that was the end of the road for the speedster. Like Sexson, Upper Deck produced a card of him in 2009.

Going back to New York's search for a corner infielder in Jason Giambi's injury-induced absence, the team signed Morgan Ensberg to a minor league deal in Spring Training of 2008. Morgan Ensberg, for those of you unaware, hit 36 home runs in 2005 for the Astros, and 101 RBIs, but...the insane production was limited to that year, and his numbers were pedestrian every other year. Ensberg was traded to San Diego in July of 2007, and was non-tendered, therefore the Yanks could give him a shot. In 28 games with the Bombers, Ensberg hit .203 with 4 RBIs and 1 home run. A far cry from 2008. The Yanks released him.

The interesting thing is that Ensberg does technically have a sunset card in 2008, as the Cleveland Indians would sign Ensberg not long after the Yankees cut him, but Ensberg would not play a single game with Cleveland, making him the second Cleveland Indian from 2008 I have covered in this series that got a card in Update without playing a single game to warrant it. And you wonder why Topps has so many gaps.

Like Ensberg, Toby Hall is another figure of the mid-2000s that most people have forgotten about. Hall was the starting catcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays from 2002 until 2006, was a pretty impressive defensive catcher with the occasional contact hit. In 2006, he was traded to the Dodgers at the deadline, which is when Topps stopped caring about him, and from 2007 to 2008 he was the backup catcher to A.J. Pierzynski in Chicago. 2008 wasn't a bad year for him, as he hit .260 in 40 games with 7 RBI, and was used primarily as a defensive substitution. He was actually signed to a deal with Houston for 2009, but Houston voided the deal, perhaps due to a physical issue. 

I can't think of many...stranger careers than that of Esteban Loaiza. Guy peaks at 30 after toiling in obscurity for 10 years, nabs 21 wins and a strikeout title with the White Sox and nearly wins a Cy Young, losing to some guy from Toronto named Roy somethingorother. After the 2003 season, Loaiza bounced between teams like a pinball, winding up as a midseason pickup for the Yankees in 2004 [I saw him start a game at the Stadium!] , started for Washington and Oakland, and played for two straight Dodgers teams. In 2008, Loaiza was used mostly in relief, but did start 3 games. He left LA with a 5.63 ERA and 7 Ks. He'd pitch in Chicago, but that was less documented. And then...after he retires, he has a messy divorce and a cocaine bust, and we don't hear much from him anymore. 

Wish this post ended on a lighter note, but those are the 5 sunset cards I've got today. Topps should have made these, but they didn't, so I had to. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Wild Card Series' Day 1: Color Me Shocked


Not even an impressive start from Kenta Maeda could keep the true villains of the MLB at bay, with George Springer, Framber Valdez, Michael Brantley and even noted villain Jose Altuve attacking the Twins' bullpen late to score a victory in Game 1. I am devoutly rooting for Minnesota in this series, solely because I want good things for baseball, but I'd really hate for the Twins' momentum to wear off right when they're playing an under .500 team in the playoffs. Hopefully tomorrow, and Jose Berrios, will bring better luck. 

Meanwhile, I had to watch this guy work for a few innings, and though the perfect game bid ended in inning 7, his stuff today was NASTY. So many confusing pitches that the A's couldn't make heads nor tails of, and so many solid innings of work. It did take some bullpen assistance to put them over the top, but the White Sox looked unbeatable against one of the best teams in baseball, and I absolutely love to see it.

The token 8-1 bracket in the playoffs has known to be kind of predictable, and when your 1 seed is the Tampa Bay Rays, you kind of get what you pay for. Especially when you're dealing with a matchup between on-target Blake Snell and Matt Shoemaker during a down year. Snell was flawless today, with 9 strikeouts over 5.2 innings, and no earned runs. Not exactly shocked that Snell has become a good postseason arm, and hopefully the luck will continue for Tampa.

And...then there's this guy, who completely shut down the Indians tonight with 13 strikeouts, gave another in a long line of stellar performances, and watched as Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner and Gio Urshela aided in making a big opening victory over Cleveland for Game 1. It's an astonishing statement from a team that was beginning to peter out, and it was fun to watch. Tomorrow, with a lesser pitcher against the same lineup, it'll be interesting to see the contrast.

Tomorrow, some NL matches, and some more fun.

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Best of the Rest: 2020

 I figured it'd be easier to do a Non-Contenders Superlatives post this year, seeing as it's a shorter season and there's less teams to talk about, but there's also less time to actively gauge a lot of these teams' story. In another season, maybe a few of these teams could have made the playoffs. In another season, six more teams would be joining them. 

So while it's always fun to write one of these posts, there's still this sort of curve to it, like 'am I doing this right', or 'am I accounting for the right arc', or 'is this accurate'. Because while 2020 is gonna go down as a wild season, probably due to these may not be as accurate as a full 162-game season. And that needs to be taken into account.

Still...these are the 14 teams that didn't make the playoffs, and these are their superlatives. 

Most Likely to Succeed, According to the Sportswriters in December: Texas Rangers

Best Team That Peaked Too Early: Colorado Rockies

Best Team That Peaked Too Late: Seattle Mariners

Team That Didn't Even Begin to Give The Idea That They'd Be Good In the First Place: Pittsburgh Pirates

Best Squanderer of Hopes Their Fans Had in 2019: Second year in a row this goes to the defending World Series champs, the Washington Nationals

Most Willing to Settle: Philadelphia Phillies

Best Pitching Staff for a Team That Didn't Make the Playoffs: Kansas City Royals [I'm as shocked as you are]

Worst Pitching: Boston Red Sox

Best Farm System [Comprised of Other People's]: Seattle Mariners

Biggest Anticlimax: San Francisco Giants

Team That Should, By All Means, Be Good Yet Somehow Isn't: Los Angeles Angels

Most Anonymous Youth Movement: Detroit Tigers. Who the heck ARE most of these guys?

Most Depressing Team to Talk About Every Few Weeks: Pittsburgh Pirates

Most Comically-Timed Injuries: Arizona Diamondbacks

Most Fun Last Place Team: Kansas City Royals

Best Youth Movement: Baltimore Orioles

Best Youth Movement [That Needs Another Few Years To Adjust to the Majors]: Detroit Tigers

Team That Has No Idea What it Wants: [sigh] New York Mets

Most Likely to Not End Up on This List Next Year: Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants

So, those were my 2020 superlatives. Not as fun with 6 teams missing, but hopefully the 2021 version will be a little fuller. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Playoff Team I Did Not Expect

 I was readying my 'Best of the Rest' post, moving the Phillies in, and keeping the Brewers in, as I assumed they would miss out due to the Cardinals series. Because of how disappointing the offense has felt to me this year, the Brewers didn't seem to me like they'd be a playoff team, and I was expecting the Giants to land the last spot.

Well...they didn't. And for the second year in a row, the Milwaukee Brewers figured out a way to sneak into the playoffs. 

Which means that for the first time least some time [I wanna say ever but I'm not Tim Kurkjian], two teams under .500 will be in the playoffs. The Astros and the Brewers. And in a normal year, that's a stat we wouldn't have to worry about. Thanks to the expanded playoffs, the Brewers are a playoff team. Merry Christmas, Milwaukee!

The thing okay as this team's core has been, and as middling as the stars like Yelich, Hiura, Braun and Sogard have been...this team has heated up since September began. First of all, somehow THIS is the team that Dan Vogelbach starts hitting for, and he's at .345 with 11 RBIs and 4 homers with Milwaukee [all I can say is thank god he didn't heat up in Toronto]. You also have late standouts like Jacob Nottingham, Jedd Gyorko and Eric Yardley coming into vogue.

And plus, the unlikely Cy Young case of Corbin Burnes has been solidified, as he's been playing with a 2.11 ERA with 88 strikeouts. Granted, he's recently hit the DL, so I'm not sure if he'll be available for upcoming playoff starts, but...they have Brandon Woodruff, Brett Anderson and Adrian Houser, so they'll be alright, I think.

Again, it's gonna be very difficult for the Brewers to get by, as they'll be playing the first-seeded Dodgers, but, as the Nats learned last year, all it takes is the right momentum and you can get by the most difficult of opponents.

Coming Tomorrow- Best of the Rest post, and...maybe eventually a Predicting the Playoffs post? Contemplating whether or not I wanna do one, as these playoffs will be particularly hard to predict. 

Glory Jays

 It's been 4 years, and I can say, with all honesty, that I no longer hate the Toronto Blue Jays.

Yes, for two straight years the Jays were the bane of my existence, deciding for two straight years in mid-June that they were playoff contenders and then just waltzing to the ALCS without much of a reason otherwise. Seeing people like Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders, Justin Smoak, Russell Martin and Roberto Osuna victorious on a regular basis stirred up a hatred in me that hadn't existed since the 2011 NLDS took out Ryan Howard's achilles. 

So, this modern incarnation of the Blue Jays, starring veterans like Randal Grichuk, Taijuan Walker and Matt Shoemaker as well as young guys like Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette, Alejandro Kirk and Santiago Espinal, isn't quite as infuriating as the 2015-2016 teams.


Seeing these guys creep up over the last month or so, nearly usurp the Yankees in the standings and still take wins away from us was...still pretty infuriating. This youth movement took a year or two to fully form and turn into a playoff team. That...only usually happens in the Bronx, so it still catches me off guard. And this sort of team, where even guys like Danny Jansen, Travis Shaw and Jonathan Davis can be heroes, is...scary going into the postseason.

And yet I'm not entirely worried, because...the pitching isn't great. Robbie Ray, Ross Stripling, Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson and Matt Shoemaker aren't as reliable starting options as you might think. Yes, Taijuan Walker and Hyun-Jin Ryu certainly are, but neither have been without some human moments. The bullpen has some intriguing pieces, but also some, like Shun Yamaguchi, who could give up crucial runs in this series. much as I do want to be worried of a potential Jays all-out-war playoff season this year...I have to think realistically, and say...maybe they'll win a series...but I don't think they're a World Series team.

...this is the kind of thing that usually ends up being wrong on this blog. So I really hope it's not.

Coming Tonight: The last playoff team, probably sliding right into the final spot by the grace of Gabe Kapler, led by a first baseman having his best season in years.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Sho-Time in Cincinnati


The 2020 Reds are a playoff team. Say what you will about the expanded playoff format, but...the 2020 Reds are a playoff team.

I'll repeat the statement I had about the 2019 team, cause it still applies, but my is this team fun to talk about each week. Just so many fun players in control at once, even making cameo appearances for brief stints. This is a team with three catchers, all of whom can hit, and like 8 viable starters, and like a ton of former All Star starters doing kinda okay, and...the energy, while chaotic, is working this year. This is the first playoff Reds team we've had in 8 years.

And...although this team does have some novelty-type feelings throughout...look at the proposed starters for their wild card series. Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray. Think about that shit. Any one of those games, whoever gets the seed against the Reds is gonna have a HELL of a time trying to hit one of those guys. Plus, they can throw in Tyler Mahle for a Game 4 or 5, and still get the same results. And...they still have Lucas Sims, Archie Bradley, Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, Tejay Antone and Raisel Iglesias as viable bullpen options, all of whom are killing it right now. So...pitching-wise, this is a playoff team. No doubt about it.

It's just gonna be a matter of will the lineup show up. This season has had impressive offensive showings from Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama, Tucker Barnhart, Eugenio Suarez, Mike Moustakas, Jesse Winker and Joey Votto...but not all at once. This playoff series is going to require this entire spotty lineup to be on the same page at the same time, and allow for maximum run support against one of the toughest teams in the NL [assuming they're getting Atlanta or Chicago]. Just having a few guys get bloop hits isn't going to cut it. They're going to need the full scope of the force, and they're gonna need peak numbers from Castellanos, Suarez and Moustakas, as those guys in even 2019 form would be helpful this year.

The Reds may seem like an easy playoff opponent, but I see some fight in them that could spoil even the toughest matchup. 

Coming Tomorrow- I got 3 years without a contending Toronto Blue Jays team. I guess that was enough. One of their veterans tomorrow.

Tribal Immunity

The good news is the Indians are going back to the playoffs. The bad news is they're the third-best AL Central team in the postseason this year.

This is the reality we have to face. If this was a normal playoff arrangement, the Indians would barely be hanging onto the second WC position over the Yankees. And they'd still have to play the White Sox in a 1-game playoff. But as it stands now, the Indians are still looking like a 5th or 6th seed, which isn't as bad as it could be. And, as evidenced by recent walkoffs, they have enough to contend with the big guns.

For instance...Jose Ramirez is having an incredible season. A lot of people are saying he deserves the MVP. I'm...not quite there yet, I feel like the AL is a tougher field for the MVP this year, and only a few candidates [Ramirez, LeMahieu, Abreu, Brandon Lowe] have really shown up. I equate him to Freddie Freeman in that Ramirez is ON FIRE right now, hitting .375 this month with TEN HOMERS and 24 RBIs. By comparison, his August was a lot more pedestrian, as he hit .202 that month, so maybe not completely RBI caliber, but for the purpose of this playoff stretch, Ramirez has been all the fire this team has needed, with multiple recent clutch moments.

And the people who've remained since the 2016 team, like Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, and Carlos Santana, have been insanely helpful during this stretch, with great moments from all of them. The new breed has also helped, and helpful moments have come from Zach Plesac, Triston McKenzie and James Karinchak. And you also have guys like Cesar Hernandez, Franmil Reyes and Oliver Perez who are popping up in different roles and keeping the team spontaneous and efficient. I'm genuinely happy Hernandez is working in Cleveland, even if we could use him in Philly right now.

But, does the number of guys not hitting mean that the bulk of the lineup will be inefficient against a higher seed? I'm worried about this. They're gonna need to find ways to get Roberto Perez, Jordan Luplow, Oscar Mercado and even Carlos Santana up in production or else they're gonna get outscored every game. So as nice as it is that an exciting Indians team like this is making the playoffs, they need to really give it everything they've got in this first series. 

Coming Tonight: He came from Japan to become this team's first ever Japanese player, and he's helping them possibly get back to the playoffs. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Bohm is Where the Heart Is

 With only three games left to play, all of which against the AL-leading Tampa Bay Rays, the Philadelphia Phillies must decide, rather quickly, if they want to be a playoff team.'s coming down to the wire and I'm not sure if they've figured it out yet.

As I write this, they're hitting well off the Rays, Harper has an RBI or two, Velasquez is keeping runs under his lid, and the team looks competent. But the fact of the matter is that the Phillies aren't always so well-put-together. They have games where they get rocked by opposing teams, or they bring out Jake Arrieta and he gives up 6 runs, or something like that. They're good enough to be in the picture, but not good enough to confidently say 'hey, we're way over .500, give us a spot'. No, they still have to fight with Milwaukee, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Miami for the last three spots, and Miami, Cincinnati and San Francisco are looking slightly better right now. a normal year, we wouldn't be having this conversation, Phillies fans would be already bitching about the Eagles, and we'd just move on at the end of the month. But because we have 8 spots, and because the Phillies are still in the top half of the division, we have to worry about this. And...I'm beginning to lose faith.

In concept, this is a cool team. Harper-Realmuto-Hoskins-McCutchen works as a core, Wheeler-Nola-Eflin is a great pitching trio, Alec Bohm has been a fantastic rookie third baseman, Jean Segura, Adam Haseley, Andrew Knapp and Didi Gregorius have improved over time, and Joe Girardi has the right idea. But because of little things, like the back half of the rotation, and especially the bullpen, they haven't been able to really convince people they're for real, and...honestly, they really aren't yet. The Phillies are good, but they may be outdone by the Giants and Reds. Right now they're .5 games back, and the Brewers won the first game of the doubleheader and are tied with them. 

Unless somebody gets real cold, the Phils may be left out of the race. It may be another Phils heartbreak. I'm prepared for either outcome, but...we should have been able to avoid this. 

Coming Tomorrow- They have the Cy Young winner, and a serious MVP candidate, on their team. They're also looking at a lower-but-still-formidable seed in the playoffs. They're gonna need all the help they can get, and thankfully they still have this all-star shortstop.

Luke Alive

 21 home runs in a 60-game season. Perhaps one or two more, but as I write this, 21, which still isn't bad. 

Gotta be nice to be Luke Voit right now. Dude hasn't been this hot since August 2018, when he came up in the Bronx, and now he's the starting 1st baseman [Mike Ford has been demoted], has the most home runs in baseball, is a MVP CANDIDATE, and is part of a now-strong Yankee battery along with DJ LeMabieu, Gio Urshela, Clint Frazier and...yeah, and Judge and Stanton. But this season has proved that the Yankees can still be a playoff team with spotty reception from their two marquee stars, as well as Gleyber Torres. LeMahieu and Voit have MVP campaigns, and LeMahieu actually has a nice shot at the award. 

The pitching has also strengthened a great deal, and the core of Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and Deivi Garcia is one I'd trust in playoff formation. Yes, Garcia and Tanaka have been rocked lately, but they've still had fine seasons. Happ has engineered a solid comeback after a slow start, and now has a 3.25 ERA with 39 Ks. And Gerrit Cole is...Gerrit Cole. If it weren't for Shane Bieber I'd say he has a shot for a Cy Young. 

However, this is still a 2nd-place Yankee team, who likely will only be 4th or 5th seed, going up against someone like the Twins who, while not 1st place either, still could be tough. Like usual over the last few years, it's not gonna be easy for them to get to the end, and they have some flaws that could inevitably keep them back a few rungs. But if they end the season with the right momentum, they could take off this October. I'm not 100% certain, would certainly be nice.

Coming Tonight: Rookie for a team that is desperately hanging onto slim playoff chances.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Meet the Lamets

Two MVP candidates, a Cy young candidate, a Manager of the Year candidate and a Rookie of the Year candidate. The Padres are back.

First of all, Dinelson Lamet. Last season, after his return from a few seasons of relative obscurity, I thought he fit well into the youth-driven core of Paddack-Lauer-Lucchesi-Strahm. This year, Lamet came alive, with a 2.07 ERA, 89 strikeouts, a 3-1 record in 11 games, and a .872 WHIP. Lamet has been one of the most reliable starters in San Diego, even as Chris Paddack has lowered his ERA, Zach Davies has won 7 games, and Mike Clevinger has come in with a vengeance. Lamet has some serious abilities, and has been stymieing opposing batters all season. I can't see why he won't be a huge weapon in the postseason, especially after a lower-seeded team. have Jayce Tingler making quick decisions in his first year, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis FINALLY becoming a killer 1-2 combo, and Jake Cronenworth looking like a pretty good choice for Rookie of the Year, essentially being a better version of Cory Spangenberg. Plus, Will Myers, Eric Hosmer, Garrett Richards, Drew Pomeranz and Trent Grisham are all playing really well.

This is one of the first times where every little move the Padres made has just paid off in unison like this...except maybe for Tommy Pham, but he's doing his best. 

The colossal power of the Padres as a potential playoff team is a wonderful thing, and like I said they'll be seeded higher than most wild card teams, so they could square off against a lower-tier team, perhaps one of the teams vying for spots right now [Cincinnati, Philly, San Francisco, St. Louis, Miami]. It'll be fun to see how they do in this arrangement, even if there's a chance it may end kinda quickly. Just nice to see them back in October.

Coming Tomorrow- A New York Yankee has the most home runs in baseball right now. How awesome is that?

Houston Dethroned

 It finally happened. The villains of baseball, the Houston Astros, have been unseated as leaders of the AL West thanks to the clinch by the Oakland Athletics. The Astros will be spending the postseason as a lower seed, and likely having to play the White Sox or Rays. 

Rather sticky situation, it seems.

Honestly, it seems as though the Astros just...aren't as good as the last three incarnations. Just a string of bad luck has led to this, including Justin Verlander's injury, slumps from Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Lance McCullers, and, oh, I dunno, GETTING CAUGHT CHEATING IN 2017. I still can't believe we're expected to just forget about that. You cheat on a nationwide scale and get away with it, don't be shocked when people bring it up. 

There is some sense of the elder members of the Astros teams still clinging to past numbers, especially more recent additions like Michael Brantley and Zack Greinke, but...the main core of the WS team is beginning to peter off, with only Carlos Correa and George Springer making a real impact from it. 

The heroes of this year for Houston have been rookies, honestly. Framber Valdez and Kyle Tucker have kicked around for a few years, but 2020 is the fullest picture of their real potential, and both of them, especially Tucker, have impressed. You also have true rookies like Cristian Javier, Andre Scrubb, Blake Taylor and Enoli Paredes being really consistent in terms of pitching. It's a year where Greinke doesn't have to hold up the rotation by himself- Valdez and Javier have been just has consistent.

There is enough upward momentum that I do still think the Astros could be a sleeper hit this postseason, even when facing a 1 or 2 seed. The last thing you want to do is underestimate the Houston Astros, because they will find a way to win even if you don't want them to.

Coming Tonight: A hot-as-hell pitcher for a team that has an MVP candidate, a Rookie of the Year candidate, and a Manager of the Year candidate...and could get even more than that as a high-seeded WC team.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Waino or Shine

 While it's not as strong a position as last year, the St. Louis Cardinals will, in fact, be headed to the postseason this year, which is still a big deal, considering how for several weeks they weren't allowed to play due to COVID positives. 

And considering how many initial replacement members seemed to not fit in the majors, I'm surprised the Cardinals could make it back. You have them grabbing players out of every corner, even if some or untested or some give up four home runs in a row. Occasionally a replacement works, like Brad Miller, who's been a staple of the lineup thanks to his clutch ability, and Austin Gomber, who's been making big starts thanks to injuries to Dakota Hudson. But a lot of them didn't.

Once the rest of this team returned, and once centerpieces like Yadier Molina, Paul deJong and Dexter Fowler could come back, the playoff case heightened. You also can see the youth taking over, and newer players like Kwang-Hyun Kim, Tommy Edman and Dylan Carlson getting playing time along with veterans like Molina, Fowler and Adam Wainwright, and while the mix may not be as potent as in 2019, it's working. 

Not only is Kolten Wong having another strong year, but the young outfield duo of Tyler O'Neill and Harrison Bader is making waves with strong WAR numbers and good offensive production. Them and Edman have made a truly impressive outfield that could be tricky to go up against this postseason.

Are they the best team in this formation? No. But they're capable of insanely good luck and great big game moments, so they could sneak back to the further rungs of the playoffs without us thinking they will. 

Coming Tomorrow- For the first time in four years, they're not leading the AL West. Which, while joyous for the rest of the league, is sad news for this still-consistent outfield bat.

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: The Matt Wieters Chronicles

From 2009 until 2015, Matt Wieters had an exclusive contract with Upper Deck to produce his cards, and eventually Panini. Which means from that time period, Matt Wieters has no Topps cards.

This pissed off a lot of collectors in that era, especially in the era where the Orioles were competitive and Wieters was one of the best catchers in baseball. So restoring these years to his Topps legacy is one of the things I wanted to truly get right if I were to ever finally do this project. Well...the time has come. Here is every Topps card that should have happened for Wieters from this period.

2009, his rookie year: 96 games, a .288 average, 43 RBIs and a 1.4 WAR. Not a bad rookie start, and a real wonder as to why he didn't get any ROY votes.

2010: 130 games, .248 average, 111 hits, 53 RBIs, 2.6 WAR. He's the starter, he's a big piece of the lineup, and he's getting the hang of things. 

2011: 139 games, .262 average, 131 hits, 68 RBIs, a career high 5.2 WAR, and...

An All-Star nomination in Arizona. He didn't do much in the game, if I remember correctly, but it was nice to be there. 

2012: 144 games, a .249 average, 131 hits, 83 RBIs, a career-high 23 home runs, a 4.1 WAR, and...

His second ASG nomination, in Kansas City. Here he did have some hits and definite game action, which was nice. 

2013: 148 games, a .235 average, 123 hits, 79 RBIs, and a 1.2 WAR. Not his best numbers, and so he didn't get the ASG invite that year. 

2014: An injury-shortened 26 games, a .308 average, 18 RBIs and a .9 WAR. He gets an ASG nomination, but due to the injury, cannot fulfill it. 

2015: Another injury, which limits him to 75 games, a .267 average, 25 RBIs and a .9 WAR. 

In 2016, he returns to form, gets another ASG nod, and Topps finally picks him up. But this period of Wieters' career, obviously his peak, could have used some Topps recognition, even if contracts can be annoying sometimes. 

Eddie Unsteady

 So. The Twins won't be going into the playoffs as a high seed. Which is an adjustment.

Right now they're fighting for the fourth seed along with the Yankees, who are still in the midst of slapping the shit out of Toronto for a few more games. Honestly, no matter how the next few games go, they may still be headed for the same matchup as last October- Yankees-Twins, 5 games for advancement. And even if the Twins were the better team last year, hit more home runs, had more health, pitched better, and were seen as favorites...the Yankees still won. 

So how do they get past a dangerous, if tangible, Yankees team this year? By modifying the strategy a bit.

The home runs aren't lifting this team this year, so contact hitting is beginning to win out again thanks to people like Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez and Ryan Jeffers. Buxton is having his best season and while he DOES have 12 home runs, he's also got the highest WAR on the team, so he's playing the best all-around baseball on the team, despite competition from Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz and Eddie Rosario. Those three are still hitting well and big parts of this team, but they're skewing more towards power at the moment. 

Also...even if Randy Dobnak has skidded himself out of the picture, the rotation combo of Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Rich Hill and Michael Pineda has been surprisingly awesome. Hill is 40 years old and has a 3.27 ERA in 7 starts. Pineda has 2 wins in 4 starts. Maeda's 71-K season is the comeback he so desperately needed, and Berrios is doing his usual thing. Matt Wisler may start some games to end the regular season, but I doubt he'll be utilized as such during the playoffs.

Also, this bullpen is a very tight-knit group, with the same repertory group of fireballers, a great closing performance from Taylor Rogers, and Sergio Romo's peak material in-between his usual brashness. This is not the 2019 team, but it's far from a bad squad to take into October.

If the Twins do, in fact, end up playing the Yankees in the postseason, I'm expecting a very close, very tight battle. And whoever wins is gonna deserve it.

Coming Tonight: 14 years ago he pitched his rookie year into a World Series win. Now he's hoping his team can squeeze back into the conversation again for 2020. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Sixto Kid

 Months after being too inundated with COVID to even play, the Miami Marlins are looking at their first playoff berth since winning the World Series in 2003.

...hey, how's about that statistic? The Marlins have only been to the playoffs twice, and both times they've won the World Series. How weird is that, right? far into the playoffs is this team thinking of going?

Look, the first round is likely going to be against a higher seed like the Braves or Cubs, so already the Marlins will be on a lower ground. In a five-game series, can they take someone like a 1st place team? Well...their core right now is red hot. Rojas, Anderson, Berti and Cooper are all playing well, Dickerson and Aguilar are producing a great deal, and Starling Marte is feeling pretty at home here. 

But...the pitching is going to be frustrating a lot of NL competitors this year. The relief pitching somehow turned into a cohesive veteran unit before our eyes, thanks to late additions by Nick Vincent, James Hoyt, Richard Bleier and [albeit injured] Pat Venditte, Brian Moran and Mike Morin. The bullpen nearly dissolved in July and now it's kicking the pants off the NL, complete with Brandon Kintzler closing games and notching 10 saves. 

Even better, the rotation has withstood the absences of the better numbers of Robert Duggar and Jordan Yamamoto. Jose Urena has returned, and is doing alright. Daniel Castano has delivered a few good starts. Pablo Lopez and Sandy Alcantara have been strong, reliable starters that will likely actually GET starts in the postseason....and then there's Sixto Sanchez, brought up in August and owner of one of the best WARs on the team. Sanchez in 6 starts, has a 2.75 ERA with 31 strikeouts. Any indication that he WOULDN'T be the real deal was a miscalculation. If he were still in Philly, they'd have messed things up with him by now.

The Marlins have the pitching, the depth, and the talent, to make it through at least one round of the playoffs, and potentially be a spoiler for several supposed feel-good stories lasting the whole season. I'm not saying they're definitely gonna go 3 for 3 in terms of playoff appearances, but...I'm not NOT saying that either.

Coming Tomorrow- His team lost out on first last month...but he and his power bat aren't gonna let another October slip away this time.