Monday, March 28, 2022

Let Freeman Ring


So. The top piece in the pool fell to Los Angeles. The Dodgers, with Freddie Freeman, now have four MVPs suiting up for them, along with Mookie Betts, Clayton Kershaw and I suppose Cody Bellinger. They would have had five if they had re-signed Albert Pujols before the impending St. Louis reunion. 

But now this is our reality. The Padres and Giants competing, the Rockies getting some contracts, the D-Backs not selling....annnnd the Dodgers just got Freddie Freeman and ensured their infield's gonna be incredible. Freeman-Muncy-Turner-Turner? I mean, come on. Say what you will about Muncy's defense, but the amount of power and contact energy coming from that foursome, not even beginning to mention Mookie Betts, Will Smith or Chris Taylor, is gonna be extremely hard for any defense to tackle. 

At the same time...Freddie Freeman became the hero he became thanks in part to being a small-market hero that remained in Atlanta during several purges, and stayed long enough to help win a World Series. We've had a few similar types of those in the last few years, with Ryan Zimmerman in 2019, and honestly Kershaw in 2020. The difference is that the Braves had to suffer through years of being non-competitive, dealing away Craig Kimbrel the day the season began in 2015, piecemeal rosters and tanking for draft picks before becoming a playoff threat again in the late 2010s. The Nationals were competitive all the way through 2019, and the Dodgers haven't not been competitive since Kershaw joined the team. 

So what happens when the longtime small-market hero...moves to a competitor for a paycheck? Is he the same hero?

And honestly, this would have been the same if Freeman had gone to the Bronx, or Arlington, or any of the other non-Atlanta places he was rumored to have been looking at. The genuine, aw-shucks hero quality he had in Atlanta isn't carrying over to LA, where everyone's a star, and he's just another hero in a team of many. This arguably happened to Mookie Betts a few years ago, going from the young contact hitter who could to another scary figure in a unit. And now it's happened to Freddie Freeman. I honestly think it's a heel turn, too. 

With Freddie Freeman, the Dodgers are even more of an alpha in the NL West, and that means the stakes are even higher for them. There can't be any moments of sputtering underneath the top two like last year. A team this big has to achieve exactly what it's supposed to, or else all that money will have been for nothing. This is why I'm intrigued to see how the Giants, Rockies and Padres fare against them this year, and who eventually takes first. The Dodgers may have made a huge statement going into the season, but it's all talk until the games start meaning something. 

Tomorrow, we talk about, ironically, a former Dodger looking to settle his own murky division.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Golden Globe Life


Is it shocking to you that the Rangers have won five straight Spring Training games? Should it shock you?

The Rangers ended the 2021 season by splitting up a lot of the recent squad, pawning away Joey Gallo, Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy. This is after the team had already lost team cornerstones like Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo and Lance Lynn. With the Astros, Angels and Mariners looking to compete in 2022, the team had the option to either bottom-feed for another year or go for it. 

So...the Rangers went and got Kole Calhoun, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Jon Gray, Mitch Garver and Matt Carpenter. 

Immediately, I equate this to any similar sort of contract-binging a team has done out of the blue. I point to the 2012 Marlins, the 2013 Blue Jays, the 2015 Padres, and, yes, even the 2020 Rangers rotation as examples. Pack a team with new players, best of the best on the free agent market, and hope that they're immediately congruent with the lower-budget core of the team. And they never are. Most of these last maybe a year- the 2012 Marlins essentially BECAME the 2013 Jays. There are some exceptions, like the 2019 Phillies still kicking around and building up, or the 2019 Padres team becoming a playoff threat. Mostly, it just means that teams have gotten better at shoving contracts into preexisting teams.

So what are we to make of this one?

Well, the returning Rangers that seem to be chasing starting positions are guys like Eli White, Andy Ibanez and Nate Lowe. Yes, there is a surefire threat in Adolis Garcia, but all eyes will be upon him to see if he's anywhere as dangerous as he was last season. Also, returning guys like Dane Dunning, Kolby Allard and John King seem to outnumber the contracted guys in the rotation, and while all of them had middling seasons in the past, it will be interesting to see how they do with better run support. Remember, Dunning was a sharp, impressive late-rotation arm for the White Sox before the Lynn trade.

But compared to people like Seager, Gray and Semien. I don't know, man. Seager's already hitting .571 with 2 homers in 3 games. Brad Miller's already been dangerous at the plate. The good news is that White, Allard, Solak and Ibanez have all been off to decent starts as well, but the eventual mix is what's gonna really speak volumes. Will these pieces be able to perform to their highest abilities together, at the same time? Or will the bottom fall out from under these guys? More importantly, even with these new players, do they have enough to take down the Angels, Mariners and Astros? I am not entirely convinced of this year.'s only March. And a lot could happen in the next few months. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Matz More Like It


Speaking as someone who has despised the St. Louis Cardinals for over 10 years now, I can admit that the team had a pretty smart offseason. They offloaded a few contracts that were going nowhere, like Matt Carpenter and Andrew Miller, only made small acquisitions like Corey Dickerson and Steven Matz, and solidified their young core. 2022 may be the final season for team heroes like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, but it will be a formational one for younger players like Tyler O'Neill, Dylan Carlson and Lars Nootbaar.

So. The news that Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes might be out for a long period of time this year. That...must not have helped. 

One of the only things about this team that I feel bad for is the rotation never being completely what they want it to be. And this is after the 2012 rotation of Wainwright-Lynn-Lohse-Garcia-Westbrook, that stayed together amicably and made things hell for the Giants in the playoffs. They've had a series of consistent, like-minded rotations, and now they have one where Flaherty gets hurt, he comes back, then Hudson gets hurt, then Ponce de Leon gets hurt, and I guess we're starting Johan Oviedo. As a Phillies fan, it's slightly hysterical, but as a baseball fan I really hate to see it.

So with Flaherty missing games, that means the Cards' rotation is Wainwright, Steven Matz, who is coming off a middling season in Toronto, Miles Mikolas, who's been injured off and on the past few seasons, Dakota Hudson, who missed all of last year, and Jake Woodford, a rookie who's pretty untested. This is the ferocious Cardinals rotation for 2022. So even if Arenado, Goldschmidt and O'Neill hit like a storm again, the rotation is going to need to be on par with everything else, and I don't know if it can be.

Look, missing Reyes for a little while I can take, because we still have Giovanny Gallegos who can close games, plus now we have people like T.J. McFarland, Nick Wittgren and Drew VerHagen sprucing up the bullpen. So there I'm not so worried, the bullpen's never been a huge problem for the Cardinals. But if the Cubs are starting Marcus Stroman or Wade Miley, and you're putting up someone like Jake Woodford or Steven Matz, you're really rolling the dice. Even Wainwright, who's 40, and will be 41 this year, isn't a sure bet. I am aware that he won 17 games last year and delivered his strongest numbers since 2014. He's still in his 40s, and he's coming off a season where he started 32 games. Even if you're not in your 40s, you have to be very careful with that now.

So while the Cardinals could do their usual thing of becoming a surefire playoff threat [in, like, August], the pitching, especially the starting pitching, deters me from calling them a true endgame factor team. I could be wrong, and with St. Louis I usually am, but if they want to really be a force this year, they need some luck to come their way in that department.

Coming Tomorrow, or eventually if I decide to stagnate these: Ironically a former Cardinals prospect, looking at a uneasy but interesting road to a playoff spot himself.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Division Hierarchies and the Inevitable [AL Edition]

Last year, we had six division leaders. And now, here we are, heading into a playoff schematic where the division leader has less of a probability of actually making it to a World Series. So...what are we even looking at here? 

I'm gonna analyze the 3 AL teams that won divisions last year, and go over how probable a repeat is. Let's start with the White Sox, because I have an Andrew Vaughn custom here.

White Sox: What has been prone to happen with this White Sox team is that they'll be in great shape during the season, go on absolute tears, look intimidating as hell, and then once the playoffs start get absolutely nothing done. The goal, I to not have that happen this year. But we are going into year two of the LaRussa-rest of the team dissonance, with so much youth and promise being hampered by an old-school thinker. Remember, this team had the last piece in place, with Yermin Mercedes, and LaRussa essentially 'this is the way things are'd him off the team. So now they have to try again. This year they're counting on people like Gavin Sheets and Jake Burger in larger roles, have Andrew Vaughn as a starting outfielder again, and have upgrades like Josh Harrison and Kendall Graveman locked in. Their only big loss was Carlos Rodon, and they have enough going on in the rotation to supplant that.

Here's the thing I'm worried about- last year, the White Sox was the sole horse in the AL Central race. This year the Twins look to compete, the Tigers have a stronger base, and the Royals could be a sleeper favorite. Now that the White Sox' 1st place finish isn't guaranteed, do they have as compelling a story. All of the big pieces are still there, but are they all going the right direction? I feel like they have the best shot to take 1st this year, but they really need to stick the landing. I'm worried that this could fall apart right at the end for the Sox.

Rays: Okay, so...all four teams that were competitive in the AL East last year still aim to be competitive. Two out of four of them did major work to retool the roster. Three out of four did...moderate to major work to retool the roster. And then there's the Rays, the team that won the division last year, and tend to usually do so. The Tampa Bay Rays are practically going with the same roster as last year, with only Corey Kluber acting as a new face. This gives you a couple truths about the Rays- they are confident with the young, not-quite-starry load of players they do have, they don't need a lot of spending to truly improve things, and they think the smaller approach will still lead to wins.

What is also telling about this team is what they were willing to offload. Several big pieces of these recent Rays teams, like Joey Wendle and Mike Brosseau, are now on other rosters. The Rays were also trying to flip players like Austin Meadows and Kevin Kiermaier this offseason. So while they're still competitive, they also know the low-budget approach works for them, and they are still confident in how Kevin Cash runs the team. However, we now have at least three major starting options, Tyler Glasnow, Yonny Chirinos and Shane Baz, who will be missing substantial time this year due to injury. Yes, there's still plenty of young options available to start games, but going up against known names like Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, Gerrit Cole, John Means and Nate Eovaldi this year, it's going to take a lot for them to be the last starter in the game. Especially considering how these competitors are packing their rosters. 

I can't with certainty say the Rays are guaranteed to finish with a playoff ticket. But if the team's confidence pays off, maybe they could make it to another World Series.

Astros: On paper, logic dictates that the Astros should have no trouble this year. Their perennial rival for the division, the Oakland Athletics, just pawned off most of the team, and the other three teams have a history of squandering playoff hopes. with the Rays, it's important to note how little the Astros have changed from last year. There aren't a lot of truly new faces to this team, or really any that feel like they'll be perennial members of this squad. The biggest contract signing the Astros made was re-upping Justin Verlander. And, most notably, the team let Carlos Correa get away in free agency. Of all the AL West teams, the Astros made the least amount of moves. Like the Rays, this move speaks to confidence. Unlike the Rays, the Astros may not all be on the same page.

In the past few years, we've seen a decent youth movement come up and repopulate this Astros team, led by people like Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, Framber Valdez and now Jake Meyers and Jose Siri. Meanwhile, this team still has retained Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, Ryan Pressly, Yuli Gurriel and, yes, Verlander, all symbols of the old guard of this team. Can both exist simultaneously? Moreover, will the youth movement fully let this team move on from the 2017 sign-stealing debacle? Because it's certainly trying to. It's also important to note that staff ace Lance McCullers will be missing some time due to injury, so this team will need at least one strong, consistent rotation presence, and none of these people, even Valdez and Luis Garcia, have proved they can provide that. It may be down to Verlander, and when everything's coming down to a 17 year veteran who hasn't pitched in 2 seasons, it's not a good look.

Simultaneously, the Angels are looking refreshed and aim to compete, the Mariners made a ton of moves to ensure their competitive 2021 isn't a fluke, and the Rangers took on a ton of contracts to turn things around themselves. Even with the A's out of the picture, the Astros may not waltz to the end, and I have a feeling they'll have serious trouble doing so. They may still make the playoffs, because we're all apparently owed a bit more suffering, but I don't think the division will be theirs this year.

I'll do the NL teams in a few posts. That's a lot of dissecting for one day.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Tanking in a Post-CBA World


So one of the talking points the players came to the lockout meetings with was that pulling apart a roster and losing multiple seasons for draft picks was a maddening move for players still left on those teams, and that there needed to be a change in draft pick allocation to dissuade owners from tanking.

And, uh...with the quick wrap-up to the lockout and the subsequent roster dissolving in Oakland, I really don't think we ever got a true resolution to that. What, the players said 'please', the owners said 'sure', the lockout ends and Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Chris Bassitt are all traded for prospects? I don't think tanking is completely dead, guys.

When the CBA was ratified, a lot of the talking heads did wish that tanking was addressed more than just 'fine, we'll do a draft lottery like the NBA'. There were several actual measures talked about, like a salary minimum that would encourage teams to spend money and not tank for draft picks, but none of them were taken. So teams are still gonna tank for draft picks. 

Just this year alone, we have the Pirates, Athletics, Orioles and Reds taking definite low-budget measures in the wake of huge players leaving. While the Reds still do have Joey Votto leading the charge, and the Pirates and Orioles at least have recent all-star heroes like Bryan Reynolds and Cedric Mullins to get people in seats, a lot of these teams really do have to go, like, 'uhh...come to games...please...'. Which is not really a win for both owners or players.

But what's emerging suddenly, maybe as a result of the CBA or maybe it, is these sort of teams that I just now coined as 'rebounders'. Teams that got gutted by trades or free agency, and are still using contracts and prospects to actually go for it, in some sense, now, and thanks to there being 2 more playoff spots, actually have a shot at competing. 

Here are some of the 'rebounders' worth keeping an eye on this season:

-Washington Nationals, hence the Josiah Gray custom. The Nats were absolutely annihilated last trade deadline, but they used these trades to slowly build themselves back using prospects that were blocked behind elite players. This is how they have players like Keibert Ruiz, Lane Thomas and Josiah Gray in prime spots- they're all ready. It's not like the Marlins' 2017 trade deadline where they had to wait 3 years for a lot of them to bloom, and a large number of them didn't [no wonder the owner left]. The Nats, in addition to nice prospects, got people who can jump right in. The Athletics learned from this by asking for Kevin Smith from Toronto, and he'll probably be their starting third baseman this year. Additionally, the Nats kept buying, and procured a very nice lineup piece in Nelson Cruz. So while it's not expected that they'll be a first place team, they are putting in enough effort to not just wait for the draft picks. That is the sort of approach that I think we'll be seeing a lot more of.

-Colorado Rockies. I was convinced that the Rockies would be a tried-and-true tanking team this season, especially after they made little to no effort to keep Trevor Story or Jon Gray. At the same time, they locked up C.J. Cron, which was a very smart move, got a lower-budget replacement for Story in Jose Iglesias, and did a lot of little things to keep what was working strong. The Rockies are going with a lower-key core this year, built by people like Brendan Rodgers, Garrett Hampson, Ryan McMahon and Connor Joe, and the fact that they mostly kept the pitching staff intact is a good sign as well. Then they got Kris Bryant. And the Rockies went from a low-key bottom feeder with promise to a team willing to make long-term approaches. I was baffled by the Bryant deal, but I think they're using it to play for the future in an unconventional way. Yes, the Rockies probably will only get as far as fourth this year, but with enough foundation on this roster, they could be as good as the top 3 in a little while. And that's what you want- a healthier approach to potentially losing more games. 

-Minnesota Twins. Okay, so the Twins were godawful last year, shed some foundational players, and were booted out of the conversation. A lot of teams would use this to rebuild and start over. The Twins did not. They decided to keep Byron Buxton, which surprised a lot of people, then they really went to work, slotting in Gio Urshela, Sonny Gray and now Carlos Correa alongside a pretty impressive young lineup. Additionally, they were able to get rid of a few dead weight contracts, and sneakily pawned off Isiah Kiner-Falefa in a span of 24 hours. The most interesting part of this is that while Gray is probably going to be a big part of this rotation, the Twins have listed Joe Ryan, the former Rays farmhand, at the top of the depth chart. Joe Ryan was very impressive in 5 starts last season, but the Twins' prospectors are saying he's really ready, and could be at ace level. That is...some high praise for a guy who nobody was really talking about last year. It definitely makes you think that this team has high aspirations, and that Rocco Baldelli isn't letting the fall of the Bomba squad become his undoing. I think the Twins might be a wild card favorite this year, and could even dethrone the White Sox if they're not looking. 

-Chicago Cubs. The entire offseason, it was looking like Seiya Suzuki would sign with the Padres. It was so much of a foregone conclusion that Yu Darvish was introducing Seiya to his family. So when Suzuki signed a deal with the Cubs, eyebrows were raised. What did Seiya Suzuki know that we didn't? Was it the sort of stock-still nature of the Padres this offseason compared to the slow build the Cubs were doing with people like Marcus Stroman and Andrelton Simmons? Regardless, he saw promise, so he went to Chicago. And on paper, it's hard to see exactly what he saw. The Cubs are still starting a lot of the replacement players from last year, including Patrick Wisdom, Frank Schwindel and Rafael Ortega. At the same time, they also made some wise pickups, like a backup catcher for a potentially-leaving Contreras, a lot more help for the back of the rotation, a surefire ace in Stroman, and an infield bat that can help Madrigal and Hoerner progress in Jonathan Villar. 

The Cubs, a lot like the Twins, are making a lot of smart moves, and they're not taking a low finish and a dismantling as a cue to start losing games intentionally. And that should be the surest sign for other teams that maybe tanking won't be what it was in the past.

Then again, the Athletics still do exist. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Onset of 2022


It's almost psychological in a sense.

Like, you can look into external factors into why people act a certain way. Oh, they did this for too long as a child, and because of that they do this habitually. Oh, because this happened when they were 4 they have anxiety when they try and do this other thing. 

Perhaps all of these strange, impulsive moves are happening because the 98 day lockout completely removed the buffering period of 'is this a good idea?', and smushed the entire rest of an offseason into two weeks. Perhaps all of that time spent doing nothing has made this one of the most curious offseasons of recent memory, and could lead to one of the most fascinating seasons in a while. 

Like, take it from this angle- going into this season, we already know that Ronald Acuna Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Chris Sale, Jack Flaherty, Lance McCullers, Stephen Strasburg and, knowing my luck, Sixto Sanchez, will be missing a large portion of the season. We're going in KNOWING that we're gonna be without a lot of this star power. We also know that a lot of people who've been considered team heroes for the past decade or so, like Freddie Freeman, Kenley Jansen, Matt Carpenter, Corey Seager, Matt Chapman and Carlos Correa will all be suiting up for different teams. So...2022 is going to look very strange, and very interesting. 

For instance. My first custom of the year is of Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Twin for a day, Yankee for a lifetime. I think Jaime Garcia did something similar a few years ago. Isiah Kiner-Falefa was not the kind of Yankee by trade I was expecting this year. When the Twins traded Mitch Garver for him last week, I thought 'well there goes the Mitch Garver deal I thought Cashman would be handling'. You know, upgrade a catcher, let Jeffers start in Minneapolis. But Cashman had a better idea, which was making sure we didn't get Garver OR Sanchez this season. I'm still a bit boggled from that one. 

But Isiah Kiner-Falefa is a strong piece in an infield that at any point could feature any one of Anthony Rizzo, D.J. LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Josh Donaldson, Miguel Andujar, Philip Evans, Ronald Guzman, or even Anthony Volpe if things really go south. Voit's gone, Urshela's gone, and those were some of the pieces that were actually working. And yet the Yankees have bolstered things, and are looking to be a surprise smash, in a division that also features the well-oiled machine in Tampa, contract-a-palooza in Toronto and the probable 1st place Boston Red Sox. Why do I see this team coming in fourth somehow? Why do I see this team blowing a series to the Orioles on the shoulders of Keegan Akin and a farmhand no one's heard of?

It's more curious still looking out at the teams that were counted out last season and are still aiming to compete. The Twins have Carlos Correa now, they're after Chicago's head. The Cubs got Seiya Suzuki and Marcus Stroman, they wanna cut off the Cardinals for the wild card spot. In my opinion, the single most underestimated team right now is the Kansas City Royals. Remember how they came out of Spring Training like a bat out of hell last year, and only slowed down once some of their larger pieces lost steam? The Royals made no real pawning-off moves, kept their core intact, and only got a few supplementary pieces, like Amir Garrett and Zack Greinke. If no one's looking, the Royals could make a run. 

Clearly, though, the big dogs going into the season will be the overlords. The Dodgers made the biggest move of the offseason in signing Freddie Freeman, they want another World Series, and while supposed heirs apparent San Diego didn't do ANYTHING this offseason to try and stop them, the Giants are making the right moves to have to cut them off. The AL East is obviously not a done deal for the Yankees this year. The Mets may have done their usual overspending and getting huge pieces to supplement their core, but the Braves, Phillies, and even Marlins aren't going to allow them to waltz all the way to September with them. And while the Rangers were the most interesting buyers of the season, it's yet to be seen whether or not the rubber will actually hit the road with these contracts, or if the West will go to someone sensible like the Astros or Angels, or even someone trying their damndest like the Mariners.

There are so many wild, interesting storylines heading into this season. The absolute worst case scenario would be another obvious ending, like another Dodgers-Astros or Dodgers-Rays World Series. The kind of promising news is that with the 12-team playoff schematic, there's less of a chance of that happening, and more of a chance for someone to squeeze in. Yes, that someone who squeezes in could be the Astros again, but we need to see if they're a first place team or not this year first. 

I hope it stays interesting the whole way through, and that it never bores me. May this be a compliment and not a death sentence. 

Monday, March 14, 2022

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: 2008 Mark Prior


Spring Training is finally underway, and it's the time where we get to see players working out and trying to make spots on teams, brushing off fears of injuries or age. Anyone can be a hero in Spring Training. And it's fun to see people like Robinson Chirinos, Kirby Yates, Ender Inciarte and James Paxton all trying to make it on odd teams. 

It brings me to the memory of another case of this from 2008, of a guy who at one point was one of the best pitchers in baseball. Former Cubs hero Mark Prior.

From 2002 until 2005, Mark Prior had a combined 16.6 WAR, including a huge season in 2003, with 256 Ks and a 7.4 WAR, helping his Cubs contend for a World Series [and thanks again to Steve Bartman for foiling that]. Like most true hurlers in this era, or any, Prior was felled by injuries, and by 2006 he was too injured to really succeed in Chicago, leading to an entirely dark 2007 season, and the Cubs releasing him.

The Padres, however, took a chance on Prior after recovering from more arm surgeries, and signed him to a minor league deal for the 2008 season. Upper Deck even produced a card of him, posed, as a Padre, but Topps did not. Prior looked to be a shaky but interesting bet for the Padres, already working with Jake Peavy and Greg Maddux in their rotation that year. Ultimately, the same issues that befell Prior in Chicago struck here as well, and Prior didn't make the team, or the majors again.

There's a lot of great articles out there about Prior's multiple comebacks with Pawtucket and Louisville, and how he never truly gave up even after losing the majority of his promise. I won't try to step on their toes.

This is the sort of spring training stint I think about a lot. Maybe there's a chance. Maybe not. Still good to give it a shot, warm up, see if there's anything worthy. I hope a lot of these guys in the same position Prior was in back in '08 are able to make things work this year. 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

What The Hell Am I To Make of This Twins Deal?


So, the season is on, the transaction bar was lifted, and now we are, in fact, getting transactions that feel like people just want to do trades because they haven't for 97 days.

Isiah Kiner Falefa for Mitch Garver I can understand, because it gave Minnesota infield flexibility and opened the door for Ryan Jeffers to start, and it gave Texas another offensive upgrade. But...this just knocked me on my ass, this Yankees one. Kiner-Falefa moves again, along with contract burden Josh Donaldson and backup to the backup Ben Rortvedt, in exchange for Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela.

After regaining my breath, I have a lot of thoughts.

1. We are replacing Gary Sanchez in two separate factions. We are replacing him as an overpaid, one-dimensional hitter with Donaldson, and we are replacing him as a catcher with Rortvedt. Rortvedt is, at long last, a decent defensive catcher that just has no offensive edge, so really the opposite of Higgy and Gary. However, I do think Donaldson and Rortvedt have more combined upsides than Sanchez. Gary is probably gonna DH in Minneapolis and maybe hit .230. I don't know if the fans there are into that sort of thing anymore. 

2. Josh Donaldson. Okay. If he DHs, that means Giancarlo Stanton has to start in the outfield, which isn't great. If Stanton starts at DH, Donaldson would need to play third. To the Bringer of Rain's credit, he didn't have the worst defensive numbers in the world last year. But, he's also 36, and not at MVP caliber anymore. So having an infield of Voit, LeMahieu, Kiner-Falefa and Donaldson...defensively it doesn't sound incredible on paper. I wanna be proved wrong, but...I'm not reassured there. And again, Donaldson's at the point in his career where he just hits .240 or .250 and everyone's just okay with it.

3. Josh Donaldson blew the whistle on Gerrit Cole's tack-usage. And now they're sharing a locker room. Uhm...let's see how this goes.

4. Kiner-Falefa actually is a pretty nice fit for the infield, could be an awesome double play combo with D.J. LeMahieu, is an upgrade in several categories over Gleyber Torres, and is far and away the best part of this trade. I am gonna miss the hell out of Gio, though, he won me over after a little bit. 

5. I recall Aaron Boone, or somebody in the trades, saying yesterday that he foresaw Gio Urshela as the team's starting shortstop. ....OOPS.

6. Gleyber Torres should be feeling the heat. We just picked up two more infielders to make the current schematic more flexible solely because he hasn't delivered since 2019. I want this to drive him to have a better season, or even to drive Donaldson from proposed starter ship to getting tossed or dealt. The hopes were so high for Torres, and now it's not seeming like he's the answer anymore. Either this is the beginning of a new era of dominance for him, or it's his death nell. He gets to decide. 

7. Again, unless Cashman makes another move, we're going with Kyle Higashioka as our starting catcher and Ben Rortvedt as our backup. Like with the defensive infield, I really wanna be proven wrong. If Cashman wants to swing another trade, or maybe get somebody cheap, go for it. 

8. I feel like this could have been a simple Kiner-Falefa for Urshela deal, and they wanted to get rid of some contracts. Which is why this is a bit more complicated than it needs to be.

I...imagine I'll learn to make sense of this. And there are good parts here. But a lot of this feels extraneous, especially with Donaldson. I don't know what this means for what the Yankees are gonna look like this year, especially with the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rays all looking to compete.

Maybe it'll smooth itself out over time, but...this was just a big bomb to throw my way. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Spring Philly Show 3/6/22: Part Two- The Expected and the Unexpected


So. I had already been through some jacked quarter bins and some rookie-centric nickel bins. And I still had some ground to cover in Valley Forge.

There were lots of tables of big mojo sales, lots of vintage collectors, lots more appraisal people. It's clear that the hobby is changing still and benefitting more and more younger people, and that's kinda what this show is beginning to gear towards. Lots of overpriced product across numerous tables. Hell, even Pokemon cards are getting sold here, cause they're spiking now. 

There is still a place for the fringe collector like myself, which is why I keep going. On with the next table.

Dealer #3: 8 for a Dollar Guy Returns

Last Philly show there was a guy who brought a shelving unit with a few sleeves of 8 for a buck bins. I think this was that same dealer, but the guy who was there last time wasn't there this time. So I think it's the same guy, just...he wasn't there one of the times. But these were definitely his bins. They went along the same type of logic- some new stuff, some REALLY new stuff, and a lot of 00s stuff hiding between them. Also, there was a Bartolo Colon I didn't have. This was somewhat of a theme on Sunday.

The assorted other stuff I mentioned included 90s inserts and subsets, as well as...2003 Leaf. Yeah. A 2003 Leaf pre-Sox Ortiz. How about that?

Usual suspects. All welcome. 

A few Panini inserts from 2021 products. Overdrive is apparently a Chronicles subset, and it looks very cool. 

Another 2030 insert, and what is becoming a nice little page of Pujols Dodgers cards.

Fledgling numbered cards. You could tell that Upper Deck was new to numbering cards in 1999, as they serial numbered this Roberto Alomar card to 4225. That's...a pretty normal print run, guys. Not sure what's so great about it. And while he's been streaky as hell, 100 Miles Giles on a 2021 gold card felt like it was worth 12 cents.
A few PRCs too. Kyle Gibson's wasn't his Pro Debut rookie [that would be 2010], but it's a welcome one. Ironically playing for Fort Myers, and ironic because I got his autograph at a Spring Training game in Fort Myers about 5 years ago. Hader's is a Bowman PRC, and also a zero-year card, from before the Carlos Gomez trade would send him to Milwaukee.

The big thing about this dealer is that they had a lot of 2022 Topps.

A LOT of 2022 Topps. So I indulged. I haven't found any on shelves, he had a ton of commons, I bought a bunch. Here are some of the highlights:

Rookies. I don't know if any of these guys are gonna be worth something in a year or two, but they definitely could be. Especially Jake Meyers. 

Star Cards. All welcome, especially the Wheeler. Posey's is a fitting sunset card.

Guys I don't think I expected to find for 12 cents. How is that Arozarena affordable? How is the Kelenic affordable? Those two are gonna be running the league. 

City Connect uniforms. A lot of people don't like these, I think they're cool. I think Topps does too.

-Great Photography. I like a lot of their photo choices this year.  Gurriel's reminds me of the...somebody on the A's card from 2003 Topps. Bobby Crosby maybe? Mark Ellis? It had the American flag in the back. That gives me the same feel. You don't always see those top 4 stripes in there, and it's important. 

-2021 trade deadline guys. These all should have been in 2021 Update, but I'll take 'em here. I love Kimbrel's Field of Dreams uniform. 

2021 Waiver deal guys. These are stints I never thought Topps would document, and here they are. Bravo.

Finally, two guys I needed to find in these uniforms: another Dodgers Pujols, and Anthony Rizzo in pinstripes. Looks great, too.


I cannot tell you the amount of times I said 'oh my god' under my breath while thumbing through these. This guy had a TON of dime boxes, all strewn about, and they were very popular, lots of people around me looking through them. It was right near the autograph lines, so I could hear the frenzy of LeSean McCoy fans lining up. But the real show, with apologies to shady, was in these boxes. 

93 SP for 10 cents? Even for a Hall of Famer? That's just the tip of it.

1998 Ultra is so underrated. This Kerry Wood is a rookie card! And he's already getting a great shot. That Piazza has been on some blogs before.

1996 TOPPS LASER. This was a big double-take for me. How in blazes did this end up in there. What an odd set. I'd never had any of these before, and these three are welcome in all their weird glory.

Miscellaneous 90s/00s randomness. A 2001 Topps insert of Rickey Henderson ON THE MARINERS. Early Hideo Nomo Bowman's Best. A 1997 Score rookie of Astros Bobby Abreu. Madness.

A lot of these boxes skewed 2000s. These were from one of Upper Deck's Yankee-centric sets. I don't think I had any Bill Dickey cards before this. Not many people make Bill Dickey cards.

Both of those 2008 Ring of Honors were new to me, as were these 2009 Bowman WBCs.


Even stranger was the appearance of pre-2009 Heritage, rarer than hell these days. Especially 2007 Heritage, which I rarely see anymore. Bagwell's is a sunset card.

And some 2001 Heritage showed up here as well, which I'm cool with as long as it fills some collection needs. Harold Baines got a card in 2001 Heritage. That's...pretty insane.

Also some new-to-me Panini stuff in these. I dig the Beltre insert.

Some donruss classic subsets. These are always winners with me. That Killebrew is awesome.

Multiple Masahiro Tanaka inserts. Again, these boxes were just crying out for me at this point. 

Some retired GQ issues. Bob Lemon peeping his head in, along with Reds-era Frank Robinson.

I didn't need any of these for my Archives sets, they're strictly for the collection at this point. 

Most startling development- this dealer had TONS of Fleer Greats sets. Like...tons. 

All of these were from the 2002 set, including Lefty Grove and Dizzy Dean, because why not?

All of these are from the 2000 set, which is admittedly the most rudimentary of them all.

All of these are from the 2003 set. Like...Mickey Cochrane and Carl Hubbell cards. That's the kind of stuff I prioritize in dime boxes.

And these are all from 2003 Flair Greats, which I've encountered quite a bit of at card shows. Also, a surprising amount of Jimmie Foxx Red Sox cards in these posts.

All of these from 2003 Upper Deck A Piece of History. There's another Mathews as well.

And these are from 2003 Sweet Spot Classic, a set that was new to me. Podres I love finding cards of, and Jim Bunning barely gets Tigers cards anymore.

Some more niche ones- Foxx is from a Fleer set for the 100th Anniversary of the Red Sox, while Stargell was from a Front Row semi-oddball type issue. 

Onto the cool, mojo-ish things. Some 2000s Bowman rookies. Wang's isn't the true rookie, but Lucroy's and D'Arnaud's totally are, which is cool. I think D'Arnaud's is worth more than Lucroy's at this point. And also, zero-year card.

Some 2003 Traded rookies that had invaded me, including a Dodgers Victorino, a Rangers A-Gon, and a gold numbered LaRoche rookie. Cool stuff all around.

Slightly more niche, but...this guy had an Aaron Rowand card numbered to 500 in there. I don't care if I don't collect him anymore, that's pretty cool. 

Pro Debut stuff. Kaprielian's wasn't the Pro Debut rookie but it is a Yankee issue of the guy pre-Sonny trade. Dunn's is a pro debut XRC, and a zero-year Mets issue. Urias's is a Pro Debut XRC, which is welcome at this point. Bell's isn't a Pro Debut XRC, but it's still pretty cool.

This is a pretty cool one, a 2002 Bowman rookie XRC of Francisco Liriano, back the he was with the Giants, so yet another XRC. Rookie card of a great player, too. 

and then...
We started with Bart, we'll end with him. A 1996 Fleer Excel minor league issue of Bart, looking young and thin. I've become a major Bartolo Colon collector, and this is a pretty cool piece of it now. I do have his 1996 Topps rookie, and this, a minor league card, is a nice companion to that. And for 10 cents as well.

I don't think anything else could top that 10 cent bin, so I left after that. Overall, some pretty incredible stuff from this show. Makes me excited for the next one...which might just be the National, actually.