We are just getting to the tip of 200 right at the end of April, as far as this mega-set I made is concerned. By the end of May, we'll have hit #275. Which means I feel like we'll get to the end of this set by June. If you've been enjoying this set, which I sincerely hope you have, that would be a bad thing.
Still, here are the next 9 cards in the set.
Card #190- Matt Kemp, Colorado Rockies
I am guessing that 2020 will end up having been Matt Kemp's final season, and at the very least it is a more dignified way of going out than his 2019 season, where he was bounced after 20 games with the Reds. Here, the Rockies picked up Kemp after the Marlins had cut him prior to the season, and Kemp acted as the Rockies' primary DH during their only season [to date] with the NL utilizing a DH. In 43 games, Kemp hit .239 with 21 RBIs and 6 homers, which wasn't BAD per se, but it wasn't anywhere above replacement level. To that, no MLB teams bit on Kemp for the 2021 season, so unless he has a late audition somewhere, this would have been his last issue. And Topps, with its schedules as they were, didn't get to it.
Card #191- Nick Tropeano, Pittsburgh Pirates
Nick Tropeano was a starting success for the Angels in 2018, which made the diminishing returns of his starter numbers a little heartbreaking. However, as Tropeano missed camp with the Yankees in 2020, the Pirates had some room in the bullpen, and Tropeano couldn't pass down an opportunity. Sure enough, Tropeano was one of the best pitchers on the roster for the Bucs last year, with a 1.15 ERA in 7 appearances with 19 Ks. Note that Tropeano was used as a long-man in this period, which was close enough to starting, I guess. Tropeano tried to make camp with the Giants this season, but hasn't made the team quite yet.
Card #192- Tommy Hunter, Philadelphia Phillies
Tommy Hunter had been a mainstay in the Phillies bullpen for a few years, and after only pitching in 5 games during 2019, made a comeback in 24 games in 2020. His 4.01 ERA and 25 Ks may not look like much, but considering the dire state of the Phils bullpen that year, Hunter was one of the few consistently not-terrible performers, and brought stability to a 'pen that had anything but. Hunter is currently signed to a minor league deal with the Mets and has not made the team yet.
Card #193- Erik Kratz, New York Yankees
Erik Kratz was one of the premier backup catchers of the 2010s. After coming up with Philly as a backup for Carlos Ruiz, Kratz became a journeyman with EVERYONE, becoming a mainstream favorite as a backup catcher with the 2018 Brewers, and splitting 2019 with the Giants and Rays. He was never a huge offensive force, but he was durable and lovable. 2020, he was brought on as a backup catcher during Gary Sanchez' injury stretch in New York, and did surprisingly really well. He hit .321 with 9 hits and 4 RBIs, which is some of the most impressive performances by a catcher during the 2020 Yankees season. Kratz hung it up after the season, though, but not without a lot of Yankee fans being thankful for his work.
Card #194- Juan Soto ASG, Washington Nationals
It should not be much of a shock when I reveal that Juan Soto would have been a starting outfielder if the 2020 All Star Game had happened. He was coming off a HUGE 2019 and a monster postseason, and had some pretty impressive 2020 numbers despite missing some time to injury. Soto is currently injured, but he was hitting .300 so far this season, so I don't even think THAT will stop this guy from continuing to dominate the majors.
Card #195- Victor Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
The 2020 Dodgers bullpen comes down to two rookies- Brusdar Graterol and Victor Gonzalez. Gonzalez had been in the Dodgers' system for 7 years, and finally made the majors at 24 last year, becoming a relief favorite by just...not really allowing many runs at all. In 15 games, he had a 1.33 ERA with 23 Ks, and a 2.70 postseason ERA with 5 Ks. Gonzalez was a very stable, impressive relief option for a World Series team during his rookie season. Tomorrow the world. Right now he has a 2.57 ERA.
Card #196- Richard Bleier, Miami Marlins
I've talked during this project about the number of relievers that were summoned to Miami due to several of their relievers coming down with COVID at once. Brian Moran and James Hoyt I've already talked about, but the other big one was former Orioles reliever Richard Bleier. Bleier actually pitched in 2 games for the Os in 2020, and Topps covered that, but once he got traded to the Marlins, he was in similarly high demand. In 19 games, he had a 2.63 ERA, which wasn't bad at all. He also has a 0 ERA in 2 innings of postseason play. Bleier is waiting for his 2021 numbers to go down, but he's still on similar workload duty in Miami.
Card #197- Jacob De Grom ASG, New York Mets
Due to Yu Darvish's strong start, I don't think Jacob de Grom would have started the 2020 ASG for the National League, but can you imagine an ASG without him at this point? De Grom is one of the best pitchers in baseball right now, he's practically unhittable, and even if he has no run support, he is still incredible in big-game scenarios. He'll probably be starting this one anyway.
Card #198- Sam Selman, San Fransisco Giants
After a 10-game come-up in 2019, Sam Selman was able to be utilized a bit more regularly in 2020, becoming one of the more consistent relievers of the Giants' pen. Selman was a well-relied-upon mop-up man, finishing 8 games, and having a 3.72 ERA with 23 Ks in 24 games. Selman was only recently promoted back to the Giants, so hopefully you'll see some similar numbers from him in 2021.
Monday, you get to see who got to be card #200, as well as some decent rookies.
It took them a little bit, but the Atlanta Braves are back in first again, where they were expected to have been this entire time.
Things honestly just took a little bit to click. Cristian Pache floundered given a starting shot, so he was sent back down. Max Fried struggled in his first few starts, so he was moved to the IL and Bryse Wilson took his place. The unsung heroes of this team, like Guillermo Heredia, Pablo Sandoval and Ehire Adrianza, are getting their dues and having moments to shine. And, more importantly, the core of Freeman, Acuna, Riley, Swanson and Albies are all hitting [still waiting on Ozuna's average].
Plus, the pitching has been the great difference maker. The bullpen is in pristine shape, with A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson and Nate Jones all in great shape. Huascar Ynoa is having a breakout season as a starter, with a home run in yesterday's victory and a team-leading 34 Ks. Charlie Morton has figured out Atlanta and is getting his ERA back down, plus he already has 2 wins. And Ian Anderson has been bloodthirsty in the inevitable leadup to his 2022 Tommy John surgery.
It's also helping that the Phillies and Mets have been shaky in the last week or so, and that the Marlins and Nats haven't exactly been chasing them. The Braves may in fact be the best team in the division right now, but they're still far from perfect. It's gonna take getting Ozuna and D'Arnaud over .200, helping Drew Smyly and Kyle Wright even things out, and getting to the unstoppable energy of the last half of the 2020 season. I think the Braves can dominate the season, but it's not gonna be this easy for them to the entire time.
Coming Tomorrow- Last season he almost won an MVP, and this season he's just fighting to make sure his team is still somewhat-relevant before he leaves.
It's still a very weird year for the AL East. No one seems to be where they should be except for the Orioles. The Yanks are still circling last, the Sox are still hanging onto first, the Jays are still trying to climb back up, and the Rays...I THINK are doing alright right now.
It's honestly hard to decipher. This team is good for the AL East in April, but it's not really a good Rays team. Brandon Lowe, Kevin Kiermaier and Willy Adames, three people that made this team a contact titan last year, aren't hitting right now. The once expansive, anyone-can-make-it-here bullpen has been reduced to...Diego Castillo, Ryan Thompson, Andrew Kitteredge and anyone under contract who can stay healthy. Hunter Strickland has a job here now. That never would have happened in 2018. On the plus side, the Rays now have a reliever that's younger than the franchise in Luis Patino.
I mean, in the simplest of terms...do the Rays have a working ace? Yes, they have Tyler Glasnow and his 56 Ks. Do they have a strong power-hitter? Yes, they have Randy Arozarena with 11 RBIs while still hitting .300. Do they have some strong hitters that could propel this team forward for a bit? Yeah, Joey Wendle, Manuel Margot and Francisco Mejia are all hitting for average, even in smaller roles [again, because Mike Zunino hits for power, even if he doesn't hit for average, he'll always have a job somewhere, the pissant].
They just do not have the depth, the surprise factor, or even the farm system protection they had last year. Today they bring up Shane McClanahan, for real this time, and he gets bounced after 4 innings of the A's having fun with him. We're in the buffering period between the shifts of the youth movements, and we're sort of at the awkward point where we're waiting for Wander Franco's class to get a little better in the minors before they can help this team. Not that it needs a ton of help, as the Rays are doing well enough at 2nd, but...I don't think what they have now is enough, at least at the current moment.
Maybe things shift next month and the real Rays reveal themselves, but until then...I'm not sure about this team. The Red Sox look mighty, the Rays look...tired.
Coming Tomorrow- Ironically a former Ray, now working on bringing his current team back to the top after a soggy start.
The San Francisco Giants have a better record than the White Sox, Rays, Braves and Blue Jays. Four teams the pundits were thinking would be red hot now. But more importantly, they have a better record than the San Diego Padres. The Giants were not expected to be good this year, they were expected to skirt around 3rd in the West and maybe have a crack at a wild card spot. But right now, they're within a win or so from the Dodgers in first. Whoa. What happened?
Well...all the big contracts that could never be healthy at the same time finally matched up. Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt, Anthony Desclafani, and Kevin Gausman are all healthy at once, and are all playing pretty well right now. And so the team is doing well. It is that simple. Just like old times.
The only pieces right now who are hurt are Donovan Solano, Johnny Cueto, Mike Yastrzemski and Jarlin Garcia. Relatively big pieces, but with the exception of Garcia, they are all providing great numbers that will hopefully be unaffected by injury. Solano's injury has opened the door for Tommy La Stella to start more, which is always a good thing, while Cueto's injury has allowed for a call-up for Alex Wood, who has 2 wins and a 0.75 ERA in 2 starts. Heck, between Wood, Kevin Gausman and Aaron Sanchez, this team is making great starters out of people who were sort of cast off in the last few years.
Everybody else is...doing pretty well. Posey's having a killer comeback season. Longoria's leading the team like everyone thought he would when he signed here. Yaz was finally hitting again. Darin Ruf has 9 RBIs off the bench despite being pretty one-dimensional. Jake McGee's a great closer. A lot of this team is just really working.
What worries me is that this is April and Gabe Kapler is managing. We've been down this road before. Even last year, the team was great midway through and still missed the playoffs. Kapler has yet to convince anyone that his teams are made for sustainability. He could screw this up, OR the Padres could come back into the race very soon. Either way, they're gonna need to prove themselves in order to stay in 2nd in this division.
Coming Tonight: Outfielder for a team that should be doing better than it currently is.
Right. Let's talk about the 2001 Mariners for a second.
The 2001 Mariners, as it is well-noted, finished 116-46, blazing through expectations and becoming a league threat in a matter of seconds. This was also the last time they made the playoffs. They made it to an ALCS, and were bounced pretty ceremoniously by the red-hot Yankees, and they haven't been back since.
The interesting thing about the 2001 team is that they were a few years removed from three of their all-time performers leaving. Randy Johnson had left in 1998, Ken Griffey left prior to the 2000 season, and Alex Rodriguez left for Texas right before the 2001 season. And their response to the loss of three team hall of famers was to have even more wins in a season than they did with all 3 of them on the roster. Which is pretty incredible.
The other important thing about this team was how so much came together at once. 2001 was Ichiro Suzuki's rookie season, Carlos Guillen's first season as a starter, John Olerud and Bret Boone's first seasons in Seattle, and the second or third season for big pieces like Mike Cameron, Kasuhiro Sasaki and Freddy Garcia. It didn't all happen overnight, but the rollout worked, the trade pieces paid off, and the core of this team succeeded together. Until, like, it all fell apart.
So flash forward 20 years. The three heroes of these recent Mariners team, being Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano, are elsewhere. The previous year's rookie of the year is on this team, being Kyle Lewis in this case, and a number of young second or third year players are in full force right now, being J.P. Crawford, Justin Dunn, Ty France and Sam Haggerty. The pieces that have stuck around from the big teams, like Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger, are working really damn well right now. There's even a highly-touted rookie that's making waves, that being Taylor Trammell, and even a guy nobody has heard of providing excellent numbers, in this case Chris Flexen.
So, I say this earnestly- is this eerily-2001-esque tactic to make this team good again...successful? Could this actually work?
I'm not 100% convinced yet, but there's more to say about this Mariners team than there has been about the last few. This team is succeeding where a lot of big AL West teams are failing right now, and have more big-game players than most. Kyle Seager, Mitch Haniger and Ty France are absolutely killing it right now. Chris Flexen and Justin Dunn are making up for high-ERA turns from Yusei Kikuchi and Marco Gonzales. They're not perfect right now, but they've had some nice turns and could keep things going into the next month or so.
It's really only a matter of whether or not the Mariners have the strength to keep the momentum going into September. They haven't been able to for 20 years. Is this the one?
Coming Tomorrow- Second baseman for a team that's 2nd in the NL West. Not the one we were thinking, eh?
A huge start, and then a week without a win. Burning the candle at both ends is the big thing for the Reds, it seems
It's definitely not helping that two of the huge names of last year's mega-rotation, Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, aren't pitching well at all right now. It's also probably not helping that two guys who were beginning to hit really well, Aristedes Aquino and Mike Moustakas are now injured. And it most certainly doesn't help that Eugenio Suarez just isn't hitting well right now. Not that 2020 was a harbinger of things to come, but the Reds have enough of a core that losing Trevor Bauer should not have wounded them this much.
This team has quickly turned into 'a few people are doing really well and everyone else has kinda limping along'. Like, Tyler Mahle is having another excellent season in the rotation, with 36 Ks in his first 5 games, and Nick Castellanos is hitting .317 with 15 RBIs, and Jesse Winker and Tucker Barnhart are still really hitting for average, but...the rest of the pack has kinda diminished. What, Tyler Naquin was crazy good during the first few weeks and now he's back to hitting .263 despite those 19 RBIs jutting out like mad. Sean Doolittle was flawless in his first few appearance and now has a 5.19 ERA. We're clearly not all on the same page here.
Right now the Brewers have the division, and everyone else is either at .500 or below .500, and the Reds need to make up a lot of time in the divisional race. Because if not, they're gonna keep the Pirates in 2nd place, and considering that the Pirates have to start Trevor Cahill right now, that won't sit right with a lot of people. The Cardinals are gonna probably lap the Cubs and Pirates thanks to their series with Philly, so they're fighting back towards the top, but who are the Reds fighting right now? The Dodgers. One of the best teams in baseball right now. So the climb back might take a bit more time than they need.
In a few weeks, when I have to post about the Reds again, hopefully I'll have a better idea about where they stand in all of this. I thought I knew a few weeks ago, I didn't. I don't know now. Maybe they'll have made their minds up in May.
Coming Tonight: In the year of Ohtani's return and the Astros' mad start, they're sitting at 2nd place in the AL West. And pretty much everyone is confused as to why they're there.
Michael Taylor with the Nationals was always kinda weird to me, because he never really hit for average, yet he was still listed as a valuable player. He really only had 2017, where he hit .270 with 19 homers and 53 RBIs, but...that's only sort of impressive, honestly. Every other season he's either been injured or he's had a very low average. The Nats fans loved him, though. I wasn't exactly sure why until this year.
Michael Taylor isn't hiding behind anybody in this Royals lineup. He's healthy, he's in good shape, and he has the position to himself. So, naturally, he's playing really well, with a .288 average and a 1.1 WAR through the first few weeks of play. Already he's off to a pace that will land him the best numbers of his career if he keeps at it. And he's found himself in Kansas City in a season where the Royals are surging and they're accepting veteran walk-ons.
It's the weirdest breakout of the year. Oh yes, there are good teams that outdid expectations like the Red Sox and Mariners, but the Royals may have come the most out of nowhere because they seem to be built to last the rest of the season. Even without Adalberto Mondesi, they still have Nicky Lopez filling in pretty well at short. You have enough of the carry-over core, like Salvador Perez, Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier, and just some impressively-stocked veterans running around them like Taylor, Carlos Santana, Jarrod Dyson and Hanser Alberto. And there is a potential franchise piece in here in Andrew Benintendi, but his better numbers haven't showed up yet.
And then in the rotation, you have Danny Duffy having his best season in years, Brady Singer having a decent sophomore season, Mike Minor and Jakob Junis being relatively consistent in the back half of the rotation, and Ervin Santana peaking his head in, wanting to help even though he's a bit past his prime. He's 38, it's nice that he's still here, I just don't know what else he has to prove. Wade Davis and Greg Holland are a bit more decisive in what they want right now, even if this team isn't very decisive in who they want to close games. They'll figure it out, I reckon. Josh Staumont might have gotten the best shake of things so far.
The Royals are in a decent position right now, and are on a good enough ramp upwards, but the White Sox are catching up and could be tight competition as we head into May. Interesting to see who ends up hanging onto the division in a month's time.
Coming Tomorrow- His team has fallen a bit in the past week or so, but he certainly hasn't.
To all the sportswriters who said the Marlins would be a last place team this year I say 'HA!'. They're gonna be a FOURTH PLACE team this year!
I mean, there is a chance that they could climb higher in the standings if the Braves or Phillies screw up, but with the Nats a bottom-feeder for sure, and with the Marlins on okay shores right now...this is the way it might be this year. Apologies to all the playoff-hungry Marlins fans that showed up last year, but this may be what we're dealing with.
And yet pieces of this team seem to be indicating promise. As if this team could actually amount to something this year. Jazz Chisholm, Jesus Aguilar and Miguel Rojas are all hitting really well right now, and Rojas is doing the sort of team-leading thing that Brian Anderson was doing last year. Starling Marte, while not exactly at team-centerpiece mode as he was last September, is hitting decently [at least he was before he landed on the DL]; so is Adam Duvall. And Pablo Lopez, Trevor Rogers and Sandy Alcantara have made a pretty impressive top-3 rotation combo. In fact, through five starts, the young Rogers has the best numbers, the most strikeouts with 38, and the lowest ERA with 1.29. I bet nobody thought he'd be outdoing those other 2.
And yet aside from those highlights, this team is a little shallow. Injuries have robbed the team of Marte, Anderson, Jorge Alfaro, Elieser Hernandez, and we're getting people like Chad Wallach, Lewis Brinson and Ross Detwiler in crucial roles. The bullpen is laden with guys who can't keep runs down. Usual supplier of power Corey Dickerson just hit his first home run last night. Chisholm and Duvall are striking out like mad. The depth and sneaky versatility of 2020's team is missing, it seems.
It could definitely show up. I mean, we're really waiting for Wallach and Jon Berti to get to last year's bench averages, and for a few wild bullpen pieces to show up. But I can say with certainty right now that there are three teams better than the Marlins, and for that to change, the Marlins need a lot of pieces to come together. So it may be a tough stretch for them.
Coming Tonight: I never took him seriously with the Nationals. And now he seems to be begging me to take him seriously in Kansas City.
180 cards in and these 2020 Final Edition cards are still fun to post. Lot of interesting cases, lot of impressive stories. Lots that factors into the 2021 season as well. Onto another 9
Card #181- Dylan Floro, Los Angeles Dodgers
Dylan Floro first came to prominence as a trusty relief option in Cincinnati before being traded to the Dodgers at the deadline. Floro quickly became an under-the-radar relief talent for the Dodgers, especially during their championship season last year. During the regular season, and 25 games of play, Floro had a 2.59 ERA with 3 wins and 19 Ks, then struck out 7 in the postseason despite being a bit more hit-friendly against the Rays offense. Floro is now a relief option in Miami, and so far he's been doing extremely well.
Card #182- Andre Scrubb, Houston Astros
2020 was a year where, despite still being relied upon as a threat in the AL West, the Astros needed to rely on a lot of rookie talent. Enter rookie reliever Andre Scrubb, with a cut-and-dry delivery and an imposing stature. Through 24 innings, Scrubb had a 1.90 ERA and 24 Ks, plus a 1.0 WAR, and was similarly lights-out in the postseason. Scrubb's particular and controlling ways have been missed in the past month of Houston baseball, but Scrubb will hopefully be off the IL relatively soon.
Card #183- Tommy Milone, Baltimore Orioles
This will be a good fun fact in about ten years- Tommy Milone was the Orioles' Opening Day starter in 2020, despite the rotation having John Means, Alex Cobb and Jorge Lopez. Milone was heavily relied upon in his month of Baltimore tenure, and posted a 3.99 ERA in 6 starts, despite a 1-4 record. He was rewarded for his decent numbers with a trade to Atlanta, at which point his numbers ballooned and an injury paved the way for Bryse Wilson. Now he's pitching in relief for the Blue Jays
Card #184- John Gant, St. Louis Cardinals
John Gant has been one of those names that's been around the Cardinals pitching staff for a few years now and yet hasn't really had many huge moments yet. 2020 was something of a prelude though, as the right-hander continued his bullpen dominance from the previous year by having a 2.40 ERA in 17 games, and proving himself as a consistent option in a season of inconsistency in St. Louis. The ploy worked- Gant is now a trusted starter for the Cards, and has been strong in 4 starts so far.
Card #185- Trevor May, Minnesota Twins
I already gave you Tyler Duffey, one of the Twins' perennial relief masters of late, a few posts ago, so here's his battery partner, or former battery partner, Trevor May. 2020 was another strong season for May, with 38 Ks in 24 appearances, and a 3.86 ERA. It led to the rest of the league taking notice, and eventually the Mets had no choice but to sign him to a 2-year deal. So far he's been decent.
Card #186- Alex Claudio, Milwaukee Brewers
Two years removed from his long run as a member of the Rangers bullpen, Alex Claudio finished off his similarly-strong tenure in Milwaukee by being one of many trusted bullpen arms in a very odd yet competitive Brewers season. Claudio closed out 7 of 20 games, and had 15 Ks as well. His ERA left a bit to be desired, which explains why the Angels took Claudio on cautiously, but hopefully he'll get back to his Rangers numbers eventually.
Card #187- Jeurys Familia, New York Mets
Something about homegrown relievers in New York that breed controversy. First Jenrry Mejia, then Jeurys Familia. Edwin Diaz wasn't homegrown but he's sure been divisive as well. Familia isn't exactly forgiven for his recent control issues, and his 2018 departure in search of a playoff run, but having his best year since the return certainly helps. Familia's 25 games weren't in the closing role [again, Edwin Diaz had that], but a 3.71 ERA and 23 Ks were enough to get fans back on his side, at least a little bit. Plus, he's doing pretty well once again so far this season.
Card #188- Franchy Cordero, Kansas City Royals
Hey, a batter! One of the earliest trades of the 2020 deadline was a relatively simple one- Tim Hill to San Diego; Franchy Cordero to Kansas City. The deal worked pretty well for both parties- Hill was a great bullpen piece for the Padres, and Franchy Cordero was a major player in the race for the empty outfield spot in KC. Cordero's 16 games only yielded a .211 average and 7 RBIs, but it was enough for the Red Sox to trade for him in the Benintendi deal. Cordero is currently yielding similar results in Boston.
Card #189- Blake Snell ASG, Tampa Bay Rays
Realistically, if there had been an All Star Game last year, Blake Snell definitely would have been asked to be on the AL's pitching staff. It's just a matter or whether A.J. Hinch would have removed Snell too early or not.
Friday we get 9 more cards from this set. More hitters, thank the gods, and a few cool ignored sights people have been waiting for.
At least as far as the conventions of chronicling season highlights, a 7-inning no hitter still counts as a no-hitter. So congrats Madison Bumgarner, and the D-Backs. Still a worthy achievement, especially against a competitor like the Braves. Hope this leads to more similar dominant starts for MadBum
So, in case you haven't heard, because the Yankees have had a tumultuous April, they're apparently a bad team that has absolutely no chance of being good this year.
You know, I don't see them all piling on when Boston ends up in last. Or when the Cardinals lose a few games in a row. Every time the Yankees lose a bunch of games, or struggle in a few series, the media starts writing 'WHAT WENT WRONG' articles. The Steinbrenner era is over, guys. The Yankees no longer hold themselves to a standard where they're not allowed to lose a few games. We were just here 6 seasons ago, we got back from it. We haven't been titanic-good in 21 years, since then we've been just as good as everyone else in baseball. So stop making news about the team losing every time they do because a good portion of the fans act like we never do.
And maybe the Yankees aren't up for it this year. Maybe that's it. That's fine. It's happened before. But so many people are writing this team off after three weeks of gameplay. Three weeks aren't indicative of an entire season, especially the first three weeks- if they were, the Mariners would have 5 rings by now.
After three weeks, the Yankees aren't doing well, but neither are the Blue Jays or Rays, all teams expected to compete this year. The Rays are literally at .500, and in second. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still in first, despite having an even record in their last 10 games. I don't exactly see people going 'oh, the Sox are headed to October'. Cause people know that a big start doesn't indicate the rest of the season. And yet...that doesn't explain why I still saw lots of 'look at the Yankees' lose articles last week.
Let's be clear- the rotation still needs work because Kluber and Taillon still aren't acclimated to pinstripes, plus German is still very human. The lineup needs work because Hicks, Stanton, Frazier and Odor aren't hitting for average, and longballs are down pretty much overall. But we still have a very impressive bullpen this year [even without Britton], good performances from Judge, LeMahieu, Urshela, Higgy and Stanton's power numbers, and have muddled out of last thanks to a decent series in Cleveland.
So we're not dead, we're not incapable of wins, and we're absolutely able to come back from this down April. And when we do, I'm sure the sportscasters will forget this whole thing ever happened.
Coming Tomorrow- One of many people under 25 doing well for the Marlins right now.
So, uh...Dodgers-Padres series' are gonna be fun this year.
How come nobody didn't predict this sooner. Two of the biggest trolls in the majors, Trevor Bauer and Fernando Tatis Jr., in the same divisional fight, being absolutely great, entertaining baseball material. Tatis hitting bombs, then clapping back at Bauer on Twitter. And look, I follow Bauer's twitter, he is an all-time trash-talker, he is sneaky as hell, and he knows how to be an ass while still looking good...but Tatis making him look small on this scale is amusing as hell. I can't wait for the next time these guys square off. Somebody's gonna get mooned or something.
Anyway, even with the antics, the NL West is kinda going the way most people thought it would- with the Dodgers well ahead, and the Padres forced to squeeze into a wild card situation. And right now, the Padres are behind the Giants in the standings, thanks, essentially, to playing more games than the Giants. To be very fair, it is April, and the Padres are without Austin Nola and Dinelson Lamet. It's gonna take them some time to get to peak 'OMG' mode, I think.
Good news is that some of them are already having insane numbers even this early. Eric Hosmer had some major RBI numbers in the first week of the season, and while he has slowed down a bit since, he still leads the team in hits, RBIs and average. Not bad for the guy who most people have been pegging lower since he left the Royals. Additionally, Mark Melancon's having a stellar year in the ninth, Musgrove and Darvish are attacking at peak capacity in the rotation, Tatis has had two consecutive 2-homer nights, and Ryan Weathers has been impressive stepping into Adrian Morejon's rotation spot.
This is AJ Preller's dream, of having a bunch of homegrown talent succeeding alongside a bunch of prospects, and having it all work because neither type feels drowned out or hackneyed. And even if some people aren't hitting for average [thank god Machado's still a five-tool player or else he'd be a lot lower in the WAR column right now], this is still a strong looking team who could get really hot in a month or so and reclaim 2nd like they're destined to. With Tatis hitting, Snell, Darvish and Musgrove hot, and everybody pitching in, this could only get deadlier as we go.
So...Trevor, you might wanna work on your comebacks.
Coming Tomorrow- Catcher for a team that the sports pages are having a good time bagging on right now.
On April 8th, the Oakland Athletics had started the season 1-7, after being swept by Houston and the Dodgers over two series. Sportswriters were panicking, fans were complaining, people were groaning about how the rumors of the Athletics' descent had been greatly exaggerated, and how the A's were nothing without Marcus Semien and Khris Davis, and blah blah blah.
Well, then the A's won 13 straight. And that shut everybody up.
Now, on one hand, it could be a schedule thing, because in this stretch the A's have had to play the Astros, Tigers, Twins, Diamondbacks and Orioles, all of whom are relatively easy to beat this year. But to beat ALL OF THEM IN ONE FELL SWOOP, including four shutouts? That's definitely something. Especially when you realize that the A's have an even run differential right now [or at least did when I wrote this last night]. Meaning as good as this team is right now, they're only good enough offensively as it is, or else they'd be exceeding their defensive numbers.
And look, this lineup isn't bad. There are a few regulars who aren't hitting, like Matt Chapman, Sean Murphy and Elvis Andrus, but Matt Olson, Mark Canha, Jed Lowrie, Ramon Laureano and Seth Brown certainly are. Olson is making up for his lopsided last few seasons by hitting 15 RBIs, 6 homers AND FOR AVERAGE. A .328 AVERAGE. USUALLY IT'S AROUND 2. It sucks that Chapman is sort of struggling right now, but if we still have an accurate Olson to rally the lineup around, I can sleep at night.
The same really goes in the rotation, as well. Jesus Luzardo and Chris Bassitt's numbers have gone down a bit since last season's impressive stuff, while Sean Manaea is finally pitching well after a few consecutive disappointing years. The A's are even getting some nice starting material from former [sigh] Phillies prospect Cole Irvin. What's more, the bullpen battery from last year is still thriving even without Liam Hendriks- they've just moved Lou Trivino to the ninth and have been getting the best out of Yusmeiro Petit, Jake Diekman and J.B. Wendelken.
So yes, this is a very good team, and I can see why they won 13 games. I just hope they'll actually get something out of this streak that lasts them the rest of the year, rather than sort of shrugging after this finishes and going 'well we did our big news making thing this year, let's go home'. This is a great team in a surprisingly cutthroat division, and i'd love to see them [or even Seattle] triumph over the Astros.
Coming Tonight: Hard-hitting first baseman for a team that will undeniably be making the playoffs as a wild card team this year, and look to dominate in the long haul. He's done this before.
The Brewers, regardless of their lineup's woes right now, at least have the distinction of being one of the most ferociously strikeout-heavy teams in baseball right now. Right now, only two teams have three players with over 25 strikeouts over 4 starts- the Dodgers, which go without saying, and the Brewers.
The Brewers are the stranger case because, of these strikeout artists, one of them, Freddy Peralta, wasn't a sure shot for the rotation this year. Peralta had been a rotation piece for the starts of the last few seasons and had struggled with control and ERA. But the one thing he could consistently be counted on for was strikeouts. Last season, in relief, he had 47. FORTY-SEVEN STRIKEOUTS IN 15 GAMES, IN RELIEF. So clearly, if Peralta could work things out, he'd be a great starter. And that's where we're at now- after 4 starts, Peralta has accumulated 38 strikeouts, along with a 2.45 ERA and 2 wins. He is definitely a worthy starter, and a great piece in this team's picture.
But Corbin Burnes not only has 2 more Ks in 4 starts...Burnes hasn't allowed any walks yet. I know. It's insane. Yes, he's allowed an earned run, which, fine, you play for the Brewers, it happens. But no walks. Zero walks in 24 innings. That is something absolutely huge, and it doesn't happen everyday. It also just sums up how masterful Burnes has been this season, a masterful season I PREDICTED, BY THE WAY. Way back in March, I said Burnes was gonna do huge things this year, and so far he totally is. He's my NL Cy Young pick, and he's definitely in the conversation right now.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Brandon Woodruff is also pitching well right now, with a 1.96 ERA and 26 Ks. It's just dwarfed slightly by the other two strikeout artists. Still...three excellent starters, plus Adrian Houser who's at least coming along, and the Brewers are in a good position. They're also in first in the NL Central, and have Josh Hader, Brent Suter and J.P. Feyereisen all killing it in relief.
So, all that really remains is for the two stars of the team, Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, to recover from injuries, and we can really start talking about the Brewers as a competitor. I'm sorry, but everyone in this division has ebbed and flowed so far. The Cardinals, Reds, Cubs and now Brewers have had their time at the top, and it's never lasted because they're all finding their footing. The Brewers are still finding theirs, and without Yelich and Cain, they have to build the lineup around people like Omar Narvaez, Billy McKinney and Travis Shaw. Not that these guys aren't playing well, they're just not the lineup anchors this team had in mind, especially as JBJ and Wong bat around the .200 area.
The Brewers could be a really good team this year. They just need to get the lineup on the same page as the rotation.
Coming Tomorrow- I'm writing this as they're currently winning against the Orioles, and are looking to keep their winning streak going for a thirteenth consecutive game. I really hope they can.
Three of the teams that were predicted by the sportswriters to make serious runs at things in 2021, the Twins, Braves and Yankees, are currently under .500. Apologies to 1991 and 1996.
It's not really without a lack of effort on the Twins' part. Byron Buxton is having another beautiful season with 6 homers and 11 RBIs already, J.A. Happ came within 5 outs of a no-no last night against the Pirates, Cruz and Donaldson are playing to scale with their contracts and Luis Arraez is starting and playing beautifully. But the big problem with this team so far has been injuries. Andrelton Simmons, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano and bench standout Kyle Garlick have all hit the IL in the last week or so, and the Twins are trying to fill all the holes before more start sprouting.
And look, on one hand, it's easy for the infield because you just move Polanco over to short and let Donaldson start more. But the outfield is trickier because the people they're plugging into Kepler's spot, like Brent Rooker, aren't impressing so far. Apparently they just brought Alex Kirilloff back up, and hopefully he figures out to hit in the majors.
The pitching situation is beginning to sort itself out, thankfully. Berrios and Happ are finding control, and Michael Pineda has been surprisingly excellent so far [suspension pending??]. Shoemaker and Maeda are struggling so far, which is troubling, especially considering Maeda's monster 2020. Alex Colome is struggling in the ninth while Taylor Rogers flourishes in the eighth. The pen has too many wild options right now.
It also doesn't help that the Royals, Indians and White Sox are just playing better right now. The Indians are dropping [somehow the Yanks are back?] and the Tigers will be easy to lap, but this start is illuminating the fact that the Twins are falling from their 2019 stoop and might be more human than ever. They'll need to rely on a cohesive, healthy lineup, when it returns, in order to really make a run at things.
Coming Tonight: Ferocious starter for the strikeout capital of the NL Central.
With this 2020 Final Edition post, we reach our second 10-multiple, and our second grouping of 90 cards, propelling us well into the second half of the set. There are still big subjects and big omissions left to go, and there are a few in this post to say the least.
Card #172- Paul Goldschmidt ASG, St. Louis Cardinals
[I don't know why the border shading isn't on this one. Oh well]
Thanks to the stellar year by Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt would not have been the NL's starting first baseman had the 2020 All Star Game happened as planned. But he definitely would have been a reserve member of the team, considering that his 2020 was a return to form for Goldy's contact hitting. Goldschmidt hit .304 in 58 games with 21 RBIs and a 2.0 WAR, which measures out to a 5.4 if the season had gone all 162 games, right there with his Diamondbacks numbers. Goldy is off to an okay start in 2021 so far, so hopefully things pick up and he returns for another ASG nod.
Card #173- Jacob Nottingham, Milwaukee Brewers
In a season where Omar Narvaez and Manny Pina were both injured for several games, the Brewers needed a third catcher for security, and that's where Jacob Nottingham came in. Aside from being a decent defensive catcher, Nottingham was also an RBI machine, with 13 ribbies and 4 homers in a 20 game span. His lack of contact hitting ability did make him the third string option in 2021, hence his recent DFA-ing, but Nottingham has a nice amount of spark at the ready.
Card #174- Matt Harvey, Kansas City Royals
The continuing saga of Matt Harvey's disgraced fastball led him to Kansas City in 2020, after already failing in New York, Cincinnati and Anaheim. In 7 games, Harvey continued to demonstrate how far gone he's become, with an 11.57 ERA and 15 earned runs. Harvey is doing marginally better in a starting role in Baltimore thus far, but his 5.12 ERA is leaving a bit to be desired.
Card #175- Evan White, Seattle Mariners
A big deal for the Mariners by A.) making the opening day roster as a rookie, and B.) winning a gold glove as a rookie, Evan White made a name for himself as a steady defender with no bat last year. And look, as the stats will show, his numbers at first are pretty good, and worthy at merit, but he hit .170 last year, and is hitting .176 right now. I'm glad that he's good at something, but unless the Mariners are willing to be patient for his contact numbers, they've got a lot of trouble on their hands here.
Card #176- Matt Wisler, Minnesota Twins
A failed starter in Atlanta, Matt Wisler bounced around for a few seasons before finding his niche as a middle-relief weapon in Minnesota last year. In 18 appearances he banked a 1.07 ERA and 35 Ks, and felt more comfortable in relief than starting, which sort of sealed his fate for the rest of his career. Wisler has been less accurate in the first month of play in San Francisco, but hopefully things will even out over time.
Card #177- Brad Brach, New York Mets
A former All Star as a Baltimore reliever, Brad Brach has been a decent eighth inning option for competitive teams over the past few years. After being picked up by the Mets midway through 2019, Brach stuck around for the following season, and his numbers fell off slightly. In 14 games, he had a 5.84 ERA and a high WHIP, being one of the factors that gradually sank the Mets bullpen last year. He seems to still be in the Royals organization, so I'm not sure when he'll see the majors again [UPDATE: HE GOT CALLED UP TODAY!]
Card #178- Liam Hendriks ASG, Oakland Athletics
This one goes without saying. Liam Hendriks was one of the best relievers in baseball last year, was a chief factor in the Athletics making the playoffs, and made a name for himself as a go-to closer. He would have been a surefire All Star last season, and it saddens me that because of the shortened 2020 season, he's still only limited to one ASG appearance. But, as he finds his control in Chicago, he could always register for another one.
Card #179- Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels
The son of a former Phillies Cy Young winner, Cam Bedrosian had battled injuries for several years as a member of the Angels bullpen. Last year Bedrosian only made 11 starts, and he did fairly well, with a 2.45 ERA and 11 Ks. Unfortunately his numbers with the Reds in 2021 were not enough to keep him on the active roster, and he's since elected free agency.
Card #180- Isaac Paredes, Detroit Tigers
One of the bigger names to make the majors in Detroit, besides Casey Mize, Isaac Paredes has been a well-regarded infield prospect for a few years. He hit the ground running in the majors, having some great RBI days to start his season, before leveling off toward a .220 average and a negative WAR in 34 games. Paredes has yet to make the majors in 2021, but it may happen soon at this rate.
The next 9 of these post on here on Monday. Expect lots of relievers.
Okay, brief disclaimer before I go- I'm not a very trendy person when it comes to blog stuff. I often post like my blog exists in its own bubble and only occasionally finds other bloggers and things. I do read other blogs, of course, and there are necessities and prime reads, but I've never participated in a Blog Bat Around, I don't trade often because of my mounting anxiety on whether or not the receiving party will like or need anything I have sent, and I rarely comment on other blogs because I don't know if what I have to say will be relevant.
I am the old man in the cave of the blogosphere. At 25.
And yet I've seen a few bloggers now doing this A-Z Bands thing that Chris from The Collector put out there. And...what, a whole blog-wide opportunity to talk about music? Like I'm gonna pass up that opportunity.
I don't talk about it enough on here, but music is one of my other big special interests. I'm a big collector of physical media. I've got shelves upon shelves of CDs, a few whole caverned-out shelf compartments of vinyl records, and a breathtakingly large iTunes library. Music keeps me going when I write, it's a social link to a lot of my friends, and it's been a constant in my life for years. I don't write about music very often on this blog because it's about baseball cards, and there's not a lot of opportunities for both topics to mix.
But Chris just opened the floodgates. The whole blogosphere is talking about music. So I can talk about music. Huzzah.
So, here now are 26 Music acts I adore listening to, from A-Z [person acts are listed by last name, so Peter Gabriel would have to fight in the G section rather than the P section]. A relevant custom will head the section [relevant in relation to artist name or something], and I'll list two levels of recommendations- great hits, as in songs you might find on the radio, and deep cuts, as in songs you might need to listen to the album or b-sides to get into.
Another disclaimer, these are my 26 as of right now, April 2021. They could change. They represent what's resonating with me right now, and years of listening has been taken into account. But I could look back at this in 5 months and go 'I put THAT at W? I was listening to that all March and haven't since! I should have put this.' So this is very time-sensitive. And also, while I did grow up mainly in the 2000s and 2010s, my music tastes have always skewed older, fine-tuning towards my parents' favorites and also classic rock radio stations.
Enough Buildup. Let's start with A.
A is for...ARCADE FIRE:
The band that shocked the world at the 2011 Grammys by beating Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Eminem for Album of the Year. Did not come onto my radar until We Used to Wait and Ready to Start became staples on my Alt-Rock radio. Then their Saturday Night Live appearance in 2013 made me a fan for life. Arcade Fire is a great band because it uses the necessities to make great songs- driving guitar sounds, church organs, the guttural wail of both Win Butler and Regine Chassagne. Never too showy, although their last album, Everything Now, was a bit showier than I would have liked. Still, one of the rare current alt-rock bands who aren't afraid to tear the place down. Eagerly awaiting their next album.
Deep Cuts: Black Mirror; Rococo; Month of May; Put Your Money on Me; Generation A [it'll probably be released as a single soon but until then...]
[Other A's I considered: Aerosmith, Arctic Monkeys, Alt-J
B is for...BLUR
I got into Britpop in college. Oasis was always too whiny for me, but the other 3 of the Big Four, Blur, Pulp and Suede, were favorites of mine. Blur only really made it over here for 'Song 2' or lead singer Damon Albarn's work with Gorillaz, but there's a lot of cool stuff in Blur's back-catalog. First of all, Albarn himself sounds like a cross between David Bowie and Wakko from the Animaniacs, and sings in a compelled but also occasionally sarcastic manner. They started as a shoegaze band in the early 90s then slowly morphed into more of an alt-rock type and put out some of the best albums of the 90s [Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife, Blur]. Hell, I also really liked their 2015 comeback The Magic Whip, which is looking like a final statement unless they get back together one of these days. Just a great sound, a great cry of Londoner angst, and some really cool guitar sounds bashing against each other.
Hits: Girls and Boys; Country House; There's No Other Way; For Tomorrow
Deep Cuts: End of a Century; To the End; London Loves; Ghost Ship; Put It Back Together [Fatboy Slim, but it's a Blur song]; All Your Life
[Other B's I considered: The Beatles, David Bowie, The Black Keys]
C is for...COLDPLAY
Don't laugh. I know this band has become the butt of every joke for the last 15 years, but hear me out. Growing up in the mid-2000s and hearing Clocks for the first time is one of those experiences you can't really recreate. How on earth are they able to do all of those cool chords at once? How is that possible in a song? And it just keeps pounding, and keeps getting cooler. But really, the album that made me a Coldplay fan for life was Viva La Vida. I picked that up the summer after it came out, spent a week at the beach in Jersey and that was the soundtrack to it. Sunsets in Point Pleasant set to Strawberry Swing and Violet Hill. Can't think about it any other way.
They've gone poppier in the last decade or so, as one is prone to do, but I still really like their stuff. Their last album, Everyday Life, was a noble experiment that worked, for the most part. And they're very good at crafting a song that hits all the right places in your ears, with really rosy chords and cool guitar sound. Yes, they can be wafer-bland to some people, but I think their stuff is some of the coolest alt-rock we have right now.
Hits: Clocks; The Scientist, Violet Hill, Adventure of a Lifetime, Orphans
Deep Cuts: How You See The World Part 1; Strawberry Swing; Politik; Church
Other C's I considered: Cold War Kids
D is for....THE DIVINE COMEDY
For the first time this post, I have reached an artist that I believe absolutely none of you reading this have heard of. Hooray for me.
The Divine Comedy is an orchestral pop group out of Ireland that's been active since the early 90s, achieving some semblance of cultural accessibility in the UK with a 1998 song called National Express, which has probably been featured in a commercial over here so you've probably heard it without knowing it. Neil Hannon, the main brainchild and vocalist, has this very twee and polite manner about him but can provide heartbreak, true emotion, wry humor and class in these songs. I like his 90s albums best, like Casanova and Promenade, but he put out an excellent album with Radiohead's producer Nigel Godrich called 'Regeneration', which is probably the closest to normal alt-rock he got. It's also admittedly my favorite of his.
Hits: National Express; At the Indie Disco; Queuejumper; To the Rescue; Bad Ambassador
Deep Cuts: Soul Trader; Our Mutual Friend; Tonight We Fly; Mastermind; Dumb it Down
E is for...ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA
See, they're not just for people who actually grew up with them. I'm also not doing this pick to completely copy Night Owl. E is a tough letter, I have a ton of ELO albums, they go here.
A friend of mine growing up, his dad was into ELO. Had a few of their albums framed on the wall in the basement. Everything I knew about this band, I knew from classic rock radio- Turn to Stone, Evil Woman, Don't Bring Me Down, all that. And scrolling through their discography, I saw they did a concept album on time travel. 'The hell is this?', I audibly wondered. Pressed play.
The second the hook of 'Twilight' came in, I was wowed. They were doing this in 1981? They were doing concept albums and proggy-synths and cool shit like this the same year as Physical by Olivia Newton John??? My word!
Time is still one of my favorite albums. World class storytelling, great synths and themes, and Hold on Tight is a fantastic song. But from there I just skimmed their other stuff and found similar success. Out of the Blue or A New World Record is probably a more traditional pick for favorite, as both of those have great moments without being too weird. I also really like everything Jeff Lynne has come out with contemporarily, from his Harrison-enfused comeback Zoom in 2001, to both his new-lineup albums from 2015 on. Lynne has the right idea about music--it can be grand, it can be sweeping and orchestral, but it can still sound really good if you put the right amount of heart into it.
Hits: Mr. Blue Sky; Hold On Tight; Turn to Stone; Telephone Line; When I Was a Boy
Deep Cuts: Danger Ahead; Laredo Tornado; So Fine; Tightrope; The Bouncer; Standing in the Rain; State of Mind; Alone in the Universe
F is for...FOO FIGHTERS
Probably my favorite modern rock group. Got into them disastrously late, around the Wasting Light album, and instantly got into them as quick as I could. Not only is Dave Grohl the nicest man in rock and roll, but the songs have the heart of classic rock while also going forward and trying to keep the genre alive today. Their latest album, Medicine at Midnight, was clearly an effort to keep their sound fresh and appeal to the record execs who want to skew every rock act towards pop, but it was also very much a rock album- Cloudspotter and Making a Fire still rock as hard as any Foo I've heard. It was just a 'party album', so it was funkier. Fine. Still good shit, though.
I'll also add that I've seen the Foo Fighters twice in concert. Once with Dave on a throne with a broken foot, and the other time a few years ago where he could run around and hop behind the drum kit and do fun shit. Would recommend.
Hits: Walk; The Sky is a Neighborhood; The Pretender; Learn to Fly; Stacked Actors; Monkey Wrench; All My Life
Deep Cuts: A320; Bridge Burning; Making a Fire; Holding Poison; Make it Right; Lonely as You [Million Dollar Version]; Have It All; Generator
G is for...GENESIS
Blame my dad. My dad's go-to car ride album was Duke. That or Born to Run, but Duke was better in quality. He'd put that on, say 'listen for the themes', and I did. That bit was earlier in the album! This was at the start! This was how I learned about bookending, about how you could make an album like a movie.
And then helping him get the other Collins ones on CD, I sort of figured out about progressive rock. Phil Collins' Genesis was a commercially-friendly band, and I liked Duke and Abacab, but the further you get back, you find gems like the entire A Trick of the Tail album, Afterglow, Burning Rope, and stuff that felt like prog-rock and still moved like mainstream rock [like late-70s Yes].
And once I got as far back as A Trick of the Tail, when I was in college, I had to decide if I wanted to go even further back and risk getting weirded out by Gabriel. And I went for it. Foxtrot and Nursery Cryme are great, and the Lamb is brilliant even if it is rather long-winded. I still prefer Collins cause he's the more natural prog vocalist, but Gabriel's stuff is cool. I also could have put Gabriel solo for the G slot, but...Genesis had more stuff I could pick from.
I adore what this band could do with melody, with theming, with chords, with long pieces. I adore how even as they became a pop-rock act in the 80s they still did great stuff like the Domino suite and Land of Confusion. And I hope they bring the tour to the US once concerts happen again.
Hits: No Reply at All; Misunderstanding; Follow You Follow Me; Land of Confusion; I Know What I Like
Deep Cuts: Firth of Fifth, Mad Man Moon, Dance on a Volcano, Afterglow, Behind the Lines, Me and Sarah Jane, Fading Lights
Other G artists I considered: Peter Gabriel, Green Day, Greta Van Fleet, The Glorious Sons
H is for...GEORGE HARRISON
This is my consolation for not putting the Beatles in B. Y'all have to deal with this now.
I was tempted to put McCartney in at my M slot, but he's blocked there. So Harrison goes here for having the best Beatles solo career by not being too experimental, not being a horrible person, not compromising to any label desires, and just putting out excellent music for 20 years. I'll admit that some of his more spiritual stuff, like most of the Living in the Material World album, is not for me, but almost all of All Things Must Pass, the late-70s creative boom, and even his commercially-successful Cloud Nine album in 87 are all favorites of mine. You have to admit that George was an excellent songwriter, and could be thoughtful as well as playful while crafting some really interesting guitar tracks.
Hits: What is Life; Beware of Darkness; Crackerbox Palace; Got My Mind Set On You; When We was Fab
Deep Cuts: I Live for You, Art of Dying, Not Guilty, Soft Hearted Hana, Cloud Nine, Any Road, Mystical One
Other H artists I considered: The Hives, Hozier
I is for...I DON'T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME
I is a tricky one. Not a lot of bands I have a ton of connection to under this letter. So here's a recent favorite. IDKHOW is Dallon Weeks, who was in Panic at the Disco from 2011 until 2015, so the period where they made two of their best albums and one of their worst. He left the band, teamed up with a former collaborator and made IDKHOW, whose whole gimmick is that they're an unearthed synth-pop group from the 80s. They finally broke semi-mainstream last year and are a solid indie-rock act right now. Not much else to say about them, but I like what I've heard so far.
Deep Cuts: Absinthe, Nobody Likes the Opening Band, Debra,
J is for...JAMIROQUAI
Another letter where it was hard for me to pick an artist I really like, so I'll go with someone I have some favorite songs from. Jamiroquai bridged the gap between R&B and electronic music in the 90s, kept at it for a while, and is still putting out decent stuff. Most people know him from either Virtual Insanity, or Canned Heat, which Napoleon Dynamite dances to at the election assembly.
Deep Cuts: 7 Days in Sunny June; Cloud 9; Automaton
K is for...THE KILLERS.
Again, Night Owl, I swear I'm not copying yours.
The Killers got big when I was like 9. 'Somebody Told Me' and 'Mr. Brightside' were everywhere. I was always partial to 'When You Were Young' and 'Read My Mind', though. The Killers are great because they're also one of the sole purveyors of mainstream rock to this day, they keep altering their sound, and they're apparently a great live band. Brandon Flowers is channeling Springsteen more and more these days [if 'Caution' and 'My Own Soul's Warning' didn't make this obvious], but he wears his influences on his sleeves, and I respect that.
Hits: Caution; All These Things That I've Done; Jenny Was a Friend of Mine; Smile Like You Mean It; When You Were Young; Runaways
Deep Cuts: Dying Breed; Spaceman
Other K artists I considered: Kongos, King Gizzard, Klaatu
L is for...LED ZEPPELIN
I got into Zeppelin out of rebellion. My mom wasn't a fan because her sister used to blast their albums loudly. Zeppelin was good from what I heard on the radio, but I could sense the disdain from the car. I got Zeppelin IV for like 10 bucks my freshman year of college, heck of a bargain considering it still plays pretty well. Their inclusion in this list is because I really enjoyed their earlier works, the bluesier moments, and the points where they would just riff and jam around for a bit. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, How Many More Times, Your Time is Gonna Come and You Shook Me are all career-making moments and they aren't even the ones people collectively point to them for.
The run from their debut all the way to Houses of the Holy is unrivaled by any rock groups. Bonzo's the greatest rock drummer of all time. They're legends. Come on.
Deep Cuts: Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, How Many More Times, Friends, Tangerine, Misty Mountain Hop, Hey Hey What Can I Do, Ten Years Gone
M is for...MUSE
Another product of growing up in the late 2000s. The second Uprising hit my alt-rock stations, I triple taked. What was this? How is this new music? What is going on? I didn't have the Twilight-related introduction to Muse that a lot of people my age did, but that 2009 album definitely made me dig into their earlier stuff, and made me appreciate 2001's Origin of Symmetry [aka the one they did on shrooms] and 2006's Black Holes and Revelations [still their best albums]. They've gone full retro-rock in the past ten years, which is fine if you like that sort of thing, but I'm still a sucker for their 1999-2006 period. And I guess their Twilight soundtrack fodder as well.
Hits: Uprising; Time is Running Out; Madness; Supermassive Black Hole; Feelin Good; Map of the Problematique
Deep Cuts: Exo-Politics, Hyper Music [and the slower Hyper Chondriac Music], Neutron Star Collision, Supremacy, Uno, Glorious
Other M artists I considered: Manic Street Preachers, Paul McCartney, My Chemical Romance, Midnight Oil, Moody Blues
N is for...NIRVANA
Again, basic as hell, but I didn't have a lot of Ns. I shouldn't have to say much about Nirvana, they revolutionized the alternative rock scene, their Nevermind album is one of the best albums of the 90s while In Utero is one of the best hard rock albums of its era, it influenced the last 30 years of rock and roll and gave Dave Grohl a career.
Hits: Lithium; Heart Shaped Box; R-Me [I'm not saying that on here]; About a Girl
Deep Cuts: Pennyroyal Tea; Lounge Act; Stay Away; Blew; You Know You're Right; Marigold
O is for...THE OFFSPRING
The alphabet structure of this list is odd, because Green Day and Bowie aren't on here but The Offspring are, and I have far more of their stuff on my iTunes than I do The Offspring. But sure, The Offspring are cool too, warping from grunge-era angst to punk-rock carelessness. Dexter Holland is a wild but engaging lead, their singles rank with some of the best rock songs of the 90s, and their new album isn't bad.
Deep Cuts: Defy You; Gotta Get Away; Let The Bad Times Roll
P is for...PEARL JAM
We've inadvertently entered a grunge theme with these last two. Whatever. We had a copy of Ten growing up, that I was usually too young to listen to. Once I heard it all the way through, I got the appeal. It's grunge, surely, but there was something about the songwriting, the emotion, the production levels and the vocals from Eddie Vedder that felt like more than grunge. Hell, after Vs, they sort of stepped away from being a Seattle grunge band and just focused on making good rock music, and that's kinda why No Code, Yield and Binaural are some of my favorites of theirs. Insignificance isn't a grunge song, but it's a great Pearl Jam song. Neither is World Wide Suicide, but it's one of the best rock songs of 2006. Dance of the Clairvoyants is FAR FROM grunge, but it's a great showcase for Eddie Vedder at his weirdest.
I have almost all of their CDs [Lightning Bolt keeps evading me, not that it's a particularly thrilling final conquest], and can name great tracks off of all their albums. I have friends who've seen them live and say I need to before I die, so they're on the list.
Hits: Dissident; Black; Do the Evolution; Corduroy; World Wide Suicide; Sirens
Deep Cuts: Once; In my Tree; Habit; No Way; Insignificance; Cropduster; Life Wasted; River Cross; Who Ever Said
Other P Artists I Considered: Panic at the Disco, Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Pixies, The Police
Q is for....QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
There's an easy Q, but I'm not taking it. So instead, here's a group I got into in 2013 when their rock snarl Like Clockwork was huge. QOTSA is one of those bands that has like 3 all-timer albums, at least to me. Songs for the Deaf, their 2002 smash taking place over the course of a car radio's dial-switching in California; Like Clockwork, the 2013 comeback that pounded and throttled and wowed me from the start; and Villains, their 2017 concept album that might be one of my favorites of the last decade. This band is loud, and at times unforgiving, but their demented, melodic nature sucks me in every time. Their music would probably be the soundtrack of a sock hop for mass murderers, and I mean that as a complement.
Hits: No One Knows; Go With the Flow; My God is the Sun; The Way You Used to Do; Little Sister
Deep Cuts: Domesticated Animals, Fairweather Friends, Kalopsia, Smooth Sailing, Un-reborn Again, Head Like a Haunted House, Feet Don't Fail Me, The Sky is Fallin, In My Head, Burn the Witch
R is for...RADIOHEAD
Stiff competition here, but going with the relatively basic alt-rock one cause they are that good. High school was spent listening to OK Computer and Kid A, the crowdpleasers in a sense; college I discovered how good the Bends was, and got to be a part of the promotion and release of Moon Shaped Pool, which I still love. And contemporarily I've gotten into the shit-ton of b-sides and I finally understand the love for Amnesiac.
Radiohead is weird in a way that makes sense. Thom Yorke wails, Ed O'Brien and Johnny Greenwood screech, Godrich orchestrates the sad art, and it all just fits together perfectly. You could say any of their albums is the best and I'd understand why. Mine is The Bends, but In Rainbows is close. Understanding Radiohead isn't easy, but it's something I got the hang of early on, so the weirdness doesn't seem as weird to me anymore.
Hits: Just; Paranoid Android; Burn the Witch; You and Whose Army; Street Spirit; Karma Police
Deep Cuts: Nude, Jigsaw Falling Into Place, The Numbers, Daily Mail, Dollars and Cents, There There, 2+2=5; Polyethylene Parts 1&2
Other R Artists I Considered: Rolling Stones, Rush, R.E.M., Royal Blood
S is for...SMASHING PUMPKINS
Another band I got into out of rebellion. The near-whine that Billy Corgan gives off is not for everyone, but paired with that immortal guitar sound and one of my favorite rock and roll drummers, Jimmy Chamberlin, it's very palatable. I was always more partial to Mellon Collie until I really listened to Siamese Dream and got a sense of how wall-to-wall perfect it was. I'm also pretty alright with the post-reformation work the band has done- Zeitgeist and Oceania are good albums, and I like the last two they've done with James again. I also saw them live a few summers ago, and they're a pretty cool live act. the trick with them is letting the sort of self-indulgent pomp of some of their albums by and just enjoying the music and melodic work.
Hits: Cherub Rock; Perfect; Thirty-Three; Zero; Stand Inside Your Love
Deep Cuts: End is the Beginning is the End; Soma; Mayonnaise; Porcelina of the Vast Oceans; Age of Innocence; That's The Way; Quasar; Solara; Colour of Love
Other S Artists I Considered: Saint Motel, Bruce Springsteen, Soundgarden, The Strokes, Sparks, Spoon
T is for...a TIE...THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS & TALKING HEADS
I wasn't gonna decide between these two, so I'm doing 'em both. Fight me.
They Might be Giants I got into thanks to this very blogosphere. Dayf from Cardboard Junkie had a post about the 64 World's Fair, and he linked TMBG's Ana Ng, cause it lyrically references it, and that song was so weird that it hooked me in. I had to review one of their kids' albums for a high school journalism project, and that intro'd me to the singles. Then once I got to college I just...started listening to as much of their stuff as I could. And it all appealed to me in the weirdest way possible. Sometimes a drum machine, sometimes accordions, sometimes a backing band, either one of the Johns in play on lead vocals. Their 'so sweet it's sad' and 'so funny it's heartbreaking' moods appealed to me, and their continued breadth of work has resulted in me seeing them live. I'll be seeing them again next March. It's always worth it.
Hits: Dr. Worm; Birdhouse in Your Soul; Istanbul; Don't Let's Start; The Guitar; Ana Ng
Deep Cuts: A Self Called Nowhere, They'll Need a Crane, Narrow Your Eyes, Rhythm Section Want Ad, Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes, She's An Angel, Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love, Let's Get This Over With, You're On Fire
And as for the other band. Talking Heads. Another one I got into in college. David Byrne and I share a diagnosis suffice to say, so a lot of the very weird, very anti-establishment sound of those songs appealed to me. Nothing else sounds like Talking Heads, and the wildness and anti-commercialism of it is draped over surprisingly great melody and striking chords and new-world beats. Remain in Light is a perfect album, Fear of Music has an epic first side, Burning Down the House is a coke-fueled triumph, and the Stop Making Sense movie is iconic for a reason. Byrne I have also seen live. He does not disappoint.
Hits: Life During Wartime; Take Me to the River; Once in a Lifetime; Naive Melody; Wild Wild Life
Deep Cuts: The Big Country; Pulled Up; Cities; Crosseyed and Painless; Love for Sale; Blind
U is for...U2
Another easy one given the letter. My mom's a gigantic U2 fan, had all their albums and everything, seen 'em live a million times, so I got into them by osmosis. I always appealed to the more commercial albums, like Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby and All That You Can't Leave Behind, but I'm also a big fan of the Innocence and Experience back-to-back saga. I know people are still pissed at Bono for putting that on every iPhone in America, but it's a great album with great songs throughout, and Experience is even better. Yes, they can be full of shit sometimes, but they're still great at crafting pop-rock songs that resonate with me, to this day.
Deep Cuts: Breathe; Holy Joe; Levitate; Last Night on Earth; Seconds; Running to Stand Still; In God's Country; Red Hill Mining Town; God Part II
V is for...VAMPIRE WEEKEND
A rare band that was big when I was in high school that actually got bigger afterwards. As big as a smash Modern Vampires of the City was, Father of the Bride seemed to be even bigger. I gravitated to those albums over the more traditional folk-rock of the first two. Ezra Koenig is the new Paul Simon, for better or for worse, and the slick-but-dogeared production has a charm to it. I also liked the amount of guests on the last album, from Steve Lacy to most of Haim. Not sure if or when they'll be back, due to controversy or whatever, but their sound made the 2010s a great alt-rock decade.
Deep Cuts: Cousins; Oxford Comma; Ya Hey; Flower Moon
W is for...STEVEN WILSON
More weird prog. My roommate senior year of college was big into postmodern progressive rock, and was trying to convince me that Porcupine Tree singer Steven Wilson's latest solo album, To the Bone, was the best of the year. I listened to it, and he wasn't far off. Wilson believes in a lot of the same long melodic views as Gabriel and Yes and such, but he also followed those artists when they went commercial and knows how to make a good pop song here and there, as evidenced by his latest album. He can do weird and spacey shit whenever he wants, and still can, but the fact that he can be suitably sweet for the masses as well is endearing.
Hits: Permanating; To the Bone; Drive Home; 12 Things I Forgot; Harmony Korine
Deep Cuts: Routine; The Raven Who Refused to Sing; Same Asylum as Before; People Who Eat Darkness; Follower; King Ghost; Hand Cannot Erase
Other W artists I considered: The Who, Weezer, World Party, Jack White
X is for...XTC
Probably the hardest to come up with one of all the letters. From what I've heard, I like these guys- Andy Partridge is just satirical enough, it's jangle-pop with an edge, and Senses Working Overtime is awesome. Same genre as Talking Heads, I think
A mid-2010s alt-rock favorite, while I was listening to Walk the Moon and Foster the People. Young the Giant got a lot of radio-play in 2011 and petered off right when they were getting really good in the latter part of the decade. A shame, cause I really enjoyed their last few albums. The guitar sound crunches, Sameer has a commanding lead voice, and even the shift towards a poppier genre has sort of worked.
This post took me longer than I would have liked, but hopefully y'all got something out of it. I have eclectic tastes in both baseball cards and music. I like a lot of weird stuff, a lot of old stuff, but I keep my ear to the sky to make sure I don't miss anything.