Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Card-er They Fall


I think the moment of realization for me that the Cardinals were maybe gonna be a bit of a disappointment this year was when they began the season by bringing up Jordan Walker, he had a 12-game hitting streak through the first 12 years of his career, and then...he stopped hitting entirely, then turned it around against the D-Backs and Mariners and was immediately demoted back to Memphis, where he is currently not hitting. 

And then, since demoting Walker they've only won once. Maybe twice, I'm writing this Saturday afternoon, maybe they did win again. But...knowing this Cardinals team, I'm not sure.

Even as someone who has disliked the Cardinals in the past, this is an infuriating start to the season, because all the tools are there. Goldy and Arenado are still playing extremely well, Flaherty's healthy and confident, Edman, Gorman, Nootbaar, Burleson, Donovan and Carlson are all young and working well, and pretty much every contributor to the team's strong 2022 is still intact. But a mixture of diminishing returns, early stumbles and the reality of there being five young outfielders volleying for position has led to the Cardinals, who were positioned to lead the NL Central this year, finishing the first month of the season in last, behind the Reds. 

And it's not like no one's doing well. Goldschmidt, even at 35, is still hitting .310 with 14 RBIs and 4 homers. Tommy Edman is still one of the best defenders in the NL, and has been hitting decently as well. The only problem is that there aren't a lot of overwhelming standout performances throughout the rest of this team. Willson Contreras, himself a breath of fresh air taking over for Yadier Molina, is hitting .265. It's not a gigantic statement for his first year away from Chicago. Jack Flaherty has a 3.94 ERA and 33 Ks in 32 innings. Yes, it's consistent numbers for an oft-injured ace, but it's not overwhelmingly huge. Ryan Helsley, who barely gave up any runs at all last year, has a 4.82 ERA right now, and he's closing games because Alex Reyes is gone. Even Nolan Gorman and his 22 RBIs are felled by a lower average and him not being a very adept defender.

There's just a lot of okay performances denoting this team, and if the Brewers, Cubs and Pirates are gonna be filled with great performances, 'okay' isn't going to cut it. The Cards get to play Detroit, Boston and Cincinnati in May, but the road to that is lined with tough teams like the Dodgers, Angels, Brewers and Cubs, and unless something changes dramatically, they'll need to really work hard to still be intimidating against these teams. Part of me hopes they figure it out, because this is the sort of team that's too big to sink.

Coming Tomorrow- Jose Altuve is hurt, Aledmys Diaz is in Oakland, and somehow the best player on the Astros is still a second baseman.

Cease Offering


I'm gonna be honest here, I really thought that putting Pedro Grifol in Tony LaRussa's place would solve a lot of the White Sox' problems.

As it turns out, even the people who were playing well last year have gotten off to miserable starts. Dylan Cease was doing alright and now his ERA is more like 4.15 as more people have figured him out, not really elevating himself from Giolito, Kopech or Lynn, who are both still struggling. Mike Clevinger seems to be at least doing alright, but he's being a lot more selective with how hard he's throwing and, similar to Noah Syndergaard, is much less lethal than he was. So already, with a duller rotation, a lot of the White Sox' former appeal has dissolved a bit. Cease will probably rebound and have something of a strong year, but the idea of having a consistent rotation of these guys is even further than it was when Keuchel was still there.

Even stranger is that with all this talent signed to the bullpen, it's not doing much better. Kendall Graveman came off a career year and signed with the Sox, this season he's struggled. Joe Kelly is struggling, Jake Diekman is struggling, Jimmy Lambert is struggling. They have Reynaldo Lopez working the 9th and it's not going well. It's not a bad sign when you're waiting for a cancer patient to come back in order for your bullpen to work again. 

And then, and I never thought I'd say this seeing as how the Sox have developed their young hitters in the last few years, but this lineup really is missing Jose Abreu. I know, he's not doing that well in Houston so far, but Andrew Vaughn was a bit more accurate as a DH than a 1st baseman, and without a strong lineup anchor, everybody's sort of scrambling around trying to fill holes. Jake Burger's trying to be a lot of things at once right now, and it's only working so much. Moncada and Anderson are hurt, as per usual this part of the decade. Jimenez WAS hurt, now he's back and not hitting. Colas, Sosa and Romy Gonzalez haven't cracked it yet. Grandal has at least improved but now he's 34 and around replacement level. And even Luis Robert, who IS playing well, is now at the mercy of Grifol because he wasn't hustling last night! Even with all the herculean effort to build this team up, it really hasn't worked, and they're still here, circling fourth and disappointing people.

This team could come together somewhat, like it did last August, and it could completely turn things around in the coming months. But, a lot like the Padres, this is a pretty dire start for a team that made definite improvements over the offseason, and I really hope they have something to show for it at the end.


Saturday, April 29, 2023

Let Ronnie Wear the Hat


Are we really at the point where baseball sees a fun thing happening and immediately thinks of a reason to kill it?

There's been a lot of that recently. After position players pitching became a quirky event, MLB limited teams to only using designated two-way players for this. The 2017-2019 Players' Weekend tradition was axed because Nike didn't wanna do it. Even the Freeze at Truist Park is beatable now. All these things, either from intervention or just somebody making a decision, end up changing and making the game more serious.

And that's where we're at with this oversized hat ban. Because of rules and decorum, the celebrations must end in Atlanta.

It's odd, because home run celebration items have become a staple of MLB dugouts in the past few years. Boston started it off with the cart, then the Blue Jays came up with their jacket, and now it seems like everybody has their own, from logical [a trident in Seattle] to inspired [a cheesehead in Milwaukee] to absolutely awesome [a sword in Pittsburgh and a viking helmet in Cincinnati]. And yes, some change and get phased out, like the jacket and the cart [Boston now has Masataka Yoshida's dumbbells], but mostly just because of changing whims and opinions. The Jays have basically said that they don't see themselves as flashy as they were when they had the jacket, and that's honestly fair.

But then there's the oversized Braves hat. Who is this harming? No one. It's a big goofy hat, Braves players look goofy in the big goofy hat. It's honestly the least inspired of all the home run celebrations. No ancient mythos, no Party City budget, none of that, just a really big hat. And yet that's the one that's breaking the rules. New Era basically came down and said that the Braves were only supposed to wear the smaller hats that they make rather than the big goofy one they wear whenever someone hits a home run. 

How sensitive do you have to be to say no whenever someone wears a hat that isn't yours? Even for like, a minute. It's not like Matt Olson's denouncing the Braves by not wearing a New Era Braves cap for, like, a couple seconds. "Hahaaa, I no longer play for the Braves, I now play for the Atlanta COWARDS...with a hat by OLD ERA." Who frigging cares? And it's not like the Braves are rupturing brand loyalty. Nobody's going onto the field wearing the big hat. Nobody's signing autographs in the big hat. They're only wearing it in the dugout, which has always been the safe area where you can be off-duty, take your hat off, chew gum, curse, and not have to be Captain America for all the kids watching. Who cares if you put on a big hat that isn't the company in question's when somebody hits a home run? 

The Braves should retaliate by getting an even bigger hat with a giant NEW ERA type on the back. Just to stick it to 'em. 

All this to say that the Braves are still doing extremely well, and hitting a lot of home runs. If they weren't, this wouldn't have been an issue for New Era. Why couldn't the Tigers have done this? To give you an idea, Ozzie Albies has 7 homers right now. SEVEN. And he's usually a contact guy. He's hit 30 before, yeah, but he's not known for his long balls. No wonder New Era complained. If the second baseman's gonna have celebrations with the oversized hat, THEN we have to step in.

And Ronald Acuna's having another awesome season as well, hitting .352 with 14 RBIs, 4 homers and a 1.7 WAR. He's on the road to another excellent career year, and possibly his first ever MVP. I sincerely hope he keeps it up. But if there's any player right now who is tailor-made to smile widely in an oversized hat, it is, by far, Ronald Acuna Jr. Come on now. He was enjoying himself! Are you saying you don't like Ronald Acuna's JOY, New Era?? I guess you hate the Braves, then. Maybe you should do a contract for the other 29 teams, and get another company to do the Braves, and they can wear whatever oversized hat they please. 

If this means Harper's Phanatic headband is next, I'm switching to the NBA.

Coming Tomorrow- Last year he was one of the best pitchers in the AL, and this year he is struggling along with the rest of his team.

Wander Lust


I don't like the Rays. Don't like that they're winning, don't like their business strategy, don't like most of their pitchers. And yet, honestly, I don't really dislike Wander Franco. 

Look, when the Sox had Betts and Bogaerts, and Devers now, I could dislike the team doing well but with the talent those guys were working with, at the end of the day I had to respect them. Same with Ortiz, honestly. I've got the same kind of admiration for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., he plays for the enemy but the way he hits is extraordinary. And that's kinda where I am with Wander. I think he's eye-popping in the field, and that catch he made this week was incredible. I think he's a very impressive hitter with great contact abilities and the occasional long ball. Right now he's one of the more exciting young players out there, and at this rate I have like 5 or 6 different versions of his rookie card, so I'm perfectly fine with him.

There are honestly a few Rays I don't have too many qualms against. Randy Arozarena is a really nice power hitter that the Cardinals never should have parted with [or, seeing as the Cards are made up of like 10 outfielders right now, maybe they were onto something], and he's been consistently good since his rookie season in 2020 [get it right, sportswriters]. I think Shane McClanahan is a really strong pitcher who is less infuriating and more just impressive. I like seeing people like Yandy Diaz and Harold Ramirez find a niche in Tampa.

But...I mean, the rest of the team is just full of guys I don't love. Brandon Lowe, as big of a guy he is in Tampa, is so unreliable. He'll refuse to hit for 2 seasons and then spring up out of nowhere and hit accurately for power again. I really don't like players like that who are that flighty, and even if one of the prime offenders of that [Mike Zunino] is off the team, there's still even more, like Christian Bethancourt and Taylor Walls, who are infuriating me this season. Like, when did Taylor Walls learn to hit? These last few seasons he's absolutely refused to and let his defense do the talking, but NOW he's hitting .288?? 

The single most infuriating part about this team is that it's not laid out like most 'good' teams usually are, and it somehow does better than them all. The Rays, as I write this, have only lost 5 games, even with the amount of supposed replacement players they've brought together. They're winning, essentially, on the strength of management and organizational strength, and it barely has to do with most of these players' actual abilities, save for, like, Wander and Randy and McClanahan and those guys. So much of this team is happenstance, and those teams that feel like they win specifically to tick me off are the bane of my existence. The Rays are just the latest and greatest.

The bubble will pop eventually. It has to....right?

Coming Tonight: Any worry that this guy's status as one of the best players in baseball would be affected by his recent injuries has been almost immediately washed away.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Even the Haders and Losers


[I bet Josh'll approve of that one.]

Your 2023 World Series pick, everybody! Nobody has more than 14 RBIs, the Opening Day starter's 0-4, and the only guys playing well are the newbies who don't seem to have gotten the memo.

It is clear to all involved parties that the single best thing about the Padres' April has been Xander Bogaerts, and for what they're paying him he had better be. Bogie is hitting .316 with 31 hits, 12 RBIs and 5 homers, and that's a perfectly nice stat line. It stands out even more because Machado, Tatis, Nola, Soto and Grisham aren't hitting well at all. Soto's hitting below the Mendoza line, and only his defense is making him a key asset at the moment. Having people like Cronenworth and Kim doing well at the present moment is nice and all, but when most of the five-tool division of the lineup is failing on multiple levels, you kind of have to step back and reassess.

What's weird is that the Padres are getting a lot from some of their older power hitters, like Nelson Cruz and Matt Carpenter. Carpenter's been a pretty fun DH so far, leading the Padres in RBIs with the aforementioned 14, and already homering twice. I do wish some of the power on this team was a little bit more substantial, and was coming from people who are younger than 37, but hey...the Padres can have a slow start, I guess.

Also, still very weird to me that Carpenter is still a cool and interesting figure to me and not at all infuriating given that he spent 80% of his career playing for infuriating Cardinals teams.

The other thing weighing down the Padres' rotation is that it is now beginning to sink in to the Padres how risky it is to build a rotation around 5 people over 30. Not that anyone, besides Blake Snell, is doing too badly, but without the younger players like Chris Paddack, Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, MacKenzie Gore and Nick Margevicius, they just have a bunch of contracted guys rounding the second decade of MLB service. To their credit, some of these guys, like Yu Darvish and Seth Lugo, are playing well. And yes, though Joe Musgrove's first start back was dicey, he's catching up after being injured for a bit. It's people like Michael Wacha that, although good ideas at the time, are underwhelming so far, and making them question focusing less on youth. Yes, the Padres do have Ryan Weathers doing well enough, but with all the starters active at the moment, Weathers is back in the minors, which isn't...great. 

At the very least, the Padres got the old Josh Hader back. After a torrid time after coming over from Milwaukee, Hader has felt rejuvenated and revitalized, and has 9 saves and a 0.75 ERA so far. Hader is, in fact, leading both the NL and the MLB in saves, and though David Bednar, Jordan Romano and Emmanuel Clase are all creeping up, Hader makes it look the easiest, and might be one of the slickest, cut-and-dry closers left in the league. Granted, something else might throw off his mood in the next few months, you never know at this rate, but hopefully Hader continues to be one of the Padres' most stable assets.

I know it's only one month, but the Padres are off to a rocky start, and need a better May in order to retain their status as NL contenders. 

Coming Tomorrow- Yeah, uh...I think maybe all the people who priced his rookie cards so high knew what they were talking about.



I stand firm in my belief that the Jacob deGrom we have been dealing with since his mid2022 return from multiple arm injuries is a much more tangible, beatable Jacob deGrom. You look at the numbers before and after, there's a palpable difference. Not MadBum different, but still noticeable. deGrom hit his peak in 2018 and figured something out, and from then until mid-2021, his ERAs were in the 1s and 2s, and since he came back they've been above 3. We haven't seen this since long-hair deGrom. Remember long hair deGrom? Good times, right? But still, the ERAs are higher, and the WHIPs are higher, and the WAR is lower.

But let me just make one thing absolutely clear: 2023 Jacob deGrom is still awesome. I mean, look at him. Jeez Louise, he's already got 43 strikeouts. We've been back for a month, come on now.

Jacob deGrom may be the single closest thing we have to a second coming of Sandy Koufax. I mean that in the sense that we have a smaller career spread, a shorter yet insane peak, and some of the most absolutely insane stats in a thirty-mile radius. deGrom hasn't had his WHIP over 1 since Matt Harvey was still on the team. He only started 15 games in 2021 but still ended the year with a 4.5 WAR and finished ninth in the Cy Young voting, which is to say that one guy voted for him, and I think I can guess his zip code. 

The goal, I assume, is to get to the point where he can still have the same quality of output while also going back to starting 200 innings a year. Is it possible? The Rangers certainly hope so.

Look, so far, deGrom has 2 wins and a 3.04 ERA, and while it's not quite as showy as Martin Perez [how...odd is it that THIS is a thing I can say], he's still a very important piece of this rotation, mostly because several of the other added arms, such as Nate Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney, aren't doing well at all. I think they did get deGrom to be the level-headed captain of that rotation, and unlike with Kluber it has worked very well so far, and if deGrom stays healthy, and please let him, they should be better off as they go. I am thinking that eventually Dane Dunning will need to start games again if one of those other guys keep blowing games, but they'll figure it out eventually.

Otherwise, a ton going right in Arlington. Adolis Garcia and Nate Lowe are hitting, Seager and Semien are playing like the Rangers paid them to, Travis Jankowski's stealing a lot of bases and Josh Jung is looking like the guy. A lot of what this team's been building for the last year or so is beginning to pay off and click, and they're currently outdoing the rest of the AL East and hoping a series against the Yankees doesn't break them too much. I think the Rangers will get a lot done this year, but I'm not sure if they'll be in first forever.

Coming Tonight: Oh good heavens, he finally figured out how to close games again.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Leading, and Stunning, the NL


You know, I thought I'd seen it all. Phils going from 3rd to a World Series. Chris Davis hitting 50+ homers. The 2008 Rays coming out of nowhere and body slamming the rest of the division. But...the Pirates' April has gotta be up there with the most inexplicable baseball happenings of recent memory. Because, yes, this could be a mirage and the Pirates could end the year in third or fourth like people think they will...but what if they don't?

Cause, like, on paper, if you're going in with rotation consisting of Mitch Keller, Johan Oviedo, Roansy Contreras, Vince Velasquez and Rich Hill, it's not looking like you're gonna get a lot done. It was enough of a hit that J.T. Brubaker would be missing the season due to surgery, they're already without some homegrown rotation options like Chase de Jong, Wil Crowe and Max Kranick, and so, really with the exception of Keller and Contreras it's this weird cobbling-together of contracts and other players that were lying around. And yet it's working. It's really working. All of these people have 20+ strikeouts and 2 wins through 5 games, and everybody but the guy who's over 40 has an ERA lower than 4. And even with that said, the 43 year-old still isn't doing all that badly all things considered. Rich Hill can still remember to just not allow runs whenever he wants, and at 43 that's kinda insane. 

The biggest piece of this is Mitch Keller, who the Pirates have been trying to develop for years. Keller struggled mightily in his first 3 seasons, then finally found his control last year and, despite a 5-12 record, finished the season with a 3.91 ERA. Now, Keller's 3-0 with a 3.53 ERA and 40 Ks, 10 of which came earlier today against the Dodgers, and has the most ship-shape stats on the rotation [though Oviedo is gaining on him]. The Pirates have a long tradition of great homegrown aces, and people like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon have perpetuated that, but it's been a while since they've had a good one, and even J.T. Brubaker wasn't perfect. If Keller is able to ride this season to a career that the scouts had been promising, that'll be excellent for Pittsburgh.

Also, this week we learned that the Pirates do, in fact, have money to keep people around. Bryan Reynolds, months after asking to be traded, just signed an extension for 8 more years. After how he's started the season, he deserves it. Reynolds is only the second person on this team to get a big-time extension, behind Ke'Bryan Hayes, who admittedly deserves it. Hayes, by the way, had a very slow start to the season but is definitely making up for it on defense. Somebody like Keller would honestly be the next logical guy to extend; I'd say Oneil Cruz, but...y'know...the injury concerns people.

The Pirates are 17-8, tied for the best record in the NL, and have been shellacking the Dodgers all week. That's the other thing, these wins are coming against teams like the Dodgers, White Sox and Cardinals, in addition to the gimmes like the Rockies and Reds. It's not like a Rays thing where the schedule is rewarding them, they've had tough matches and are still on top, and that is far more than anyone thought they'd accomplish this year. I sincerely hope they keep it up, and that their April isn't just a good month.

Coming Tomorrow- Would ya like to buy an ace? It'll cost ya just a nickel...

Shane & Gain


It's very odd, considering how low-key I'd assumed Shane Bieber had been since winning his Cy Young in 2020, that in all actuality, Bieber has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the game since coming up.

It's odd because right now we have an MLB that rewards the shiniest objects. Since 2019, Justin Verlander has won a Cy Young, gotten injured for two years and then won another Cy Young, and now he is currently injured. Robbie Ray had a big year in 2021, then has sort of moped around through injuries in Seattle. Bieber, meanwhile, won the award in 2020, lost a tiny bit of playing time in 2021 but has been consistent ever since, currently sports a career 3.18 ERA and a .671 W/L%, and has yet to play a losing season. It's also funny that Bieber joined the Guardians during their mega-rotation era, soon became one of their top arms and has lasted long enough to see the Guardians' top assets in a competing year again.

I've made the joke that the Guardians were noncompetitive until the moment they changed their name to the Guardians, and they've been great ever since. And while, yes, it's more of an uphill battle for a younger, small-ball-centric contact team to retain success, they've had some nice teams in their first two years with the new name. The big names have remained, such as Jose Ramirez and Bieber himself, but fans have rallied around people like Andres Gimenez, Trevor Stephan, Steven Kwan and Josh Naylor. 

What's most amusing about the current version of these Guardians teams is that, alongside a dominant-as-usual Shane Bieber and usual hurlers like Zach Plesac and Cal Quantrill, the Guards have become auditioning people for the other rotation spots as Civale and McKenzie are hurt. Initial ones, like Hunter Gaddis and Peyton Battenfield, have delivered middling results but they've let loose two straight excellent rookie performances thanks to Logan Allen [not that one, the other one] having a remarkable debut and Tanner Bibee stymieing the Rockies in his debut yesterday. Like they have before, ironically with now-relievers like Eli Morgan and Nick Sandlin, the Guardians are cultivating a deep cache of starters to prevent against the all-too-frequent injuries, and making sure they'll never be unprepared again. Even if Civale, who was strong before the injury, and Triston McKenzie, who is...Triston McKenzie, come back strong, those guys are still tested MLB options and can be called on whenever, a lot like Bieber when he was first activated.

As always, the Guardians are doing a lot right, and even if it's not immediately paying dividends, it may eventually lead to postseason success. If Bieber remains this strong and the team has this many moving parts, it might be another contact-friendly October for these guys.

Coming Tonight: It took him a few years to come into his own, but at least he did it while his team inexplicably became great.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Lackadaisically Defending the NL


THE DEFENDING NL CHAMPIONS, EVERYBODY. No 1st baseman, barely a rotation, with the marquee guy still out and his place being taken by frigging Cristian Pache.

Quite clearly this isn't the Phillies team we thought we'd be going in with. Yes, Harper we knew would be a factor, but having no 1st baseman and making people like Bohm and Kody Clemens cover the position, then planning on having HARPER play first when he comes back...and then on top of that, Nola, Wheeler and Walker can't keep runs down as well anymore so it's up to, like Matt Strahm? This is too much. Not that this team was particularly tidy before the WS run last year, but so much more feels like it's in disarray, and now the Mariners, a particularly good team, are in town and I don't see us matching very well against them at all.

How the hell are the Phillies supposed to compare to a team that has Julio, Kelenic, France and Castillo all playing well right now? Our best assets are Brandon Marsh and Bryson Stott, two guys that played towards the end of the lineup in October. 

The single most reassuring element of this frosty start is that finally, FINALLY, Nick Castellanos has figured out how to hit well in Philly. Dude's hitting .315 with 13 RBIs and 29 hits, and he's getting very close to where he was in Cincinnati. The fans are, thankfully, rewarding him for it, and giving him the props he deserves in the center of that lineup with Realmuto and Turner. And even with my gripes against Marsh and Stott having to carry the load, once Harper gets back and Schwarber starts hitting again, it'll be all forgiven. We haven't even hit June yet, that's Schwarber's time.

It just sucks that the starting pitching has been such an issue. Yes, batters getting the better of Aaron Nola is not a new development, but this is his worst start since 2016, his 'maybe we put him back in Reading' season. I am beginning to worry that Nola's one of those guys who begins to trail off after reaching 30, which...look, if he ends up sucking this year, maybe letting him test free agency is a good thing? Wheeler's accuracy is off but he's still striking people out, same with Walker really. I don't like that Strahm is our most successful starter so far, but at least he's doing well. And Falter is the Phils' version of Clarke Schmidt: occasionally he strikes gold, mostly he doesn't. It's not ideal. Hopefully the activations of Ranger Suarez and, eventually, Andrew Painter will do something, but as evidenced by Cristopher Sanchez's, it's not a foregone conclusion that this will work.

Until mid-May, the Phils have to play either competitive teams or teams that know how to exploit weak pitching [like the Red Sox, ft. Masataka Yoshida and his hot bat]. Maybe around then they'll start getting people back, but as so many other NL East teams have the majority of their core healthy and rolling, they're gonna need new sources of energy to really stand out in the coming weeks.

Coming Tomorrow- Just like how in 2020 the MLB gave MVP awards to strong veterans that had been great for a while, in 2020 the AL gave the Cy Young to just...a really strong pitcher. And that's what he's been ever since. 

What Went Down Friday Night


or I Got Handed Yankee Tickets with 24 Hours' Notice and All I Got Was This Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Home Run.

The thing about being a Yankee fan and yet living 2 hours from New York is that when you only have the occasional opportunity to go to a game, the outcome doesn't really matter. You're honestly just grateful to be there. It's Yankee Stadium, toughest ticket in the area, decent seats courtesy of a colleague that has been thanked and given reciprocal enjoyment. It's just nice to get the opportunity, y'know? 

And the opportunity that night was...nice. I'm not gonna mince words, it was very cool. Apparently season ticket holders, for their troubles, get an extra game up in a suite every so often, and this colleague went 'shit, I can't make that night, how about Jordan and his dad', and so we went and there we were in a smaller space, no chance of getting beer spilt at our feet, easy access to popcorn and chicken fingers and the like, whatever sodas we wanted and a choice between three beers that the Yankees were willing to give out willy-nilly. It was one of those 'we may never be this way again' sort of things. And so with all of that, and a very nice view from right field, the game could have gone any which way.

Ultimately, though, this was the third Yankees-Blue Jays game I'd caught in the last 365 days, and the second one in regular season play. Like the last one, it was a loss for the home team, and very much like the last one, the Yankee bats refused to show up. It was like getting a throne's view of the most obvious lion chow in the coliseum. Oswaldo Cabrera hit a home run. Not any of the people that usually hit home runs, not Judge or Rizzo or Gleyber or any of them, but Oswaldo Cabrera had one. So that was nice I guess.

But really, the game was about the Jays' just outplaying us on so many levels. They outhit us obviously, as Vlad Jr. and, surprisingly, Brandon Belt made quick work of the pitching. They outpitched us, as Yusei Kikuchi was surprisingly sharp on the mound against a power-friendly Yankee team. And they outplayed us in the field, which...if you pay Kevin Kiermaier, you had better be. Kiermaier is still as dangerous in center field as he always was, and he robbed us of a few near-triumphs, as he's prone to. 

It was really as simple as that. The Jays showed up, the Yanks didn't. Ya figure if we'd come all that way they would have maybe done something cool during the game but, hey, beggars can't be choosers. It was still an excellent night at the ballpark, and now that we're 5 days from it I can 100% confirm it didn't get me sick. 

It's looking like I'll be back at the Stadium in a couple months. It will, refreshingly, not be against the Blue Jays. Moreover, it'll be an NL team that's a little bit more of an exciting matchup, with no offense meant towards Vlad Jr. 

Coming Tonight: Look who finally decided to start hitting in Philly?

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

How the West was Stunned


Okay, so...I can see the school of thought that one might see as plausible here.

So the Dodgers are a trimmer team with more injuries going into the season and less tried-and-true homegrown hitters, people were thinking they'd have a slower start. And then the Diamondbacks made a lot of nice moves going into the season, nearly competed last year and looked strong in the Spring, so people thought they might at least circle third. 

But, like...I think the main idea here was supposed to be the Padres leading the division nearly a month in. Not the D-Backs towering over everybody.

Not that this is a bad thing, it's really not. Having an underdog outdo expectations is always a good thing in baseball, except a below .500 Astros team being the underdog in the 2020 Playoffs and doing well anyway. The D-Backs have built steadily for the past few seasons, mostly around Ketel Marte and Zac Gallen, and now in the stage where they can stack preexisting players atop them as the big contracts come up and come to prominence. For instance, last season Josh Rojas had a big come-up, and now he's trusted at third as even Evan Longoria has to work around him. Corbin Carroll is coming into his own now, hitting .282 with 4 homers, 8 RBIs and 8 steals. Geraldo Perdomo, who had a modest start last year at 22, is the team's best player right now and a defensive machine. And meanwhile, yes, Marte, Gallen and Merrill Kelly are still the centerpieces of the team and playing well right now.

I think the biggest indicator of a move towards full competition was the release of Madison Bumgarner last week after torrid stuff so far. MadBum clearly wasn't the same after the quadding accident, and while the first few years of the contract were meant as another centerpiece placement measure, it's clear that they're getting better stuff out of Kelly, Gallen and Drey Jameson than from MadBum, so they just released him. It's very much an 'off training wheels moment' for this team, a lot like the Red Sox trading Nomar before winning their World Series, the Giants trading Bengie Molina and going with Posey in 2010, and the Phils cutting Didi, Odubel and Familia before going for October last year. 

The real question is how long the D-Backs' rise can last. They've had some rocky games as of late, but as the Dodgers and Padres have to play somewhat competitive teams like the Pirates [what a wild year this is] and the Cubs, the D-Backs are dealing with easier conquests like the Rockies and Royals right now, and might continue their run if they remain as focused as they are now. I see a little trouble with the back half of their rotation, a large chunk of the outfield, and the middle bit of their bullpen, but enough is working that those pieces aren't weighing the team down at the moment. 

If the D-Backs end the season with a better record than the Dodgers, how weird will that be? It'll be like we're back in the early 2010s. 

Coming Tomorrow- A guy who I thought would be headed out of the AL East, only to stay in the same division and just go north.

Halo Again


A good sequel must raise the stakes.

'The Angels Fail to Make the Playoffs' series has been going on for a while and it's getting stale. Thowing in Shohei Ohtani made things fresh for a while, but Anthony Rendon wasn't the mood-booster the franchise had been looking for, and the series needs a new element to mix up the monotony. Other film franchises know how to raise the stakes; the Fast and Furious saga had a family drama play out with Charlize Theron, John Wick raised the runtime and brought in Donnie Yen, and Mission Impossible kept upping the height that Tom Cruise would fall from. The Angels need that kind of raised stakes to keep people from walking away and make this installment even more exciting.

What's that? Shohei Ohtani's gonna leave if they don't make the playoffs this year? Now we're talking.

You see now, this team has a reason to not fall apart like they do every year. Cause usually it's 'well, we didn't make the playoffs...BUT WE WILL NEXT YEAR', and that's like if there were 7 Bad News Bears sequels and none of them ended in a win. But this time, they lose, Ohtani walks, and possibly other players, even Trout, will want to walk too. And it's not like it's a rumored thing, Ohtani has said this on record, and it's echoed through every move the Angels have made. Bringing up Zach Neto now. Finally activating Griffin Canning. Keeping Adell, Livan Soto and Andrew Velasquez as depth pieces. They're thinking methodically because they do not want the same outcome to happen.

And that's why it's equally as cinematic when something tragic happens, like Logan O'Hoppe, after having an incredible start since coming over from the Phillies as a fill-in for Max Stassi, gets injured and is out for several months. That's yet another way our heroes get knocked down that they have to overcome. I don't know how much longer Stassi's out, because Matt Thaiss and Chad Wallach don't look to me like confident solutions to the problem, and the next-best catcher in the organization is a 20-year-old in double-A that, as well as he's hitting right now, isn't ready yet [future readers of the blog, I am referring to Edgar Quero, which will make this very funny if he ends up being huge]. 

At the very least the rotation is looking better than it was. Ohtani, Sandoval, Canning and Detmers are providing the most confident work, and while it's upsetting that Tyler Anderson is taking this long to come around, he's still got a lot of starts ahead of him. Ohtani has 38 Ks, 3 wins and a 0.64 ERA, and Sandoval, though coming off some rocky starts, is still a valued innings eater. It's also nice that Jose Quijada, Carlos Estevez, Matt Moore, Tucker Davidson and Andrew Wantz have been such strong relief options for the Angels.

There's enough here to give me some hope of the Angels sneaking in this year, but we're still in April and Trout's still healthy, so I know not to hold my breath.

Coming Tonight: Third baseman for a team that was looking hot about a week ago and has now come back to earth a little.

Monday, April 24, 2023

One Yoshida-ing Later


What else can one say but 'oof'?

Even great teams can have a bad time once in a while. The Phillies got no-hit twice last year on the way to being NL Champs. The 2009 Yankees began their championship season as a beat-up mess of a team. It is perfectly alright to show weakness even in a time of great strength, which is why I do not think the Milwaukee Brewers have much to be embarrassed about after giving up 2 home runs to the same guy in the same inning and finishing the game with a 12-5 loss to a last place team.

And look, a lot of this has less to do with 'oh no, the Brewers suck' or whatever and more with the reality of Masataka Yoshida just being extremely good at baseball. You saw what he was doing in the WBC. He may still be acclimating to US pitching, but he's still an excellent smack hitter and if the Sox were better right now he'd be succeeding a bit more, I think. And both home runs were off different pitchers, both of whom seeming like weak links in an otherwise strong bullpen. 

So yesterday's game doesn't mean the Brewers are bad. It just means that they may still need some work, and it's a good thing it's still April.

What's odd to me is that, even without Luis Urias, everyone in the Brewers' infield is performing well. Rowdy Tellez is hitting up a storm. Brice Turang's having a great rookie year. Brian Anderson's having the comeback of the century and already has 5 homers and a team-leading 18 RBIs. And Willy Adames is once again making the Rays regret dealing him with some multi-tool games, excellent defense and satisfying contact energy. Even on a team with Christian Yelich, Adames might be the most fulfilling athlete on the team, and is perfectly safe to build things around. 

While it is still a bit frightening that Wade Miley is having the best season of anyone in the rotation, even weaker Corbin Burnes can still strike you out looking, and even slightly-bigger-ERA Freddy Peralta still leads the team in Ks with 23. I just find it funny that with all these hard-throwing homegrown guys, the one who's doing the best is the craftier, older journeyman. Wade Miley deserves good things, he's succeeded so many times when people have counted him out and I love it. I hope he becomes the next Rich Hill. 

Even with the Sox debacle, the Brewers still have 15 wins and are circling the top of the NL Central. They are, even with the wild Pirates, the favorite in the NL Central and are looking at some more nice wins against Detroit and Colorado coming up. Not sure if anything as wild as the Yoshida inning will occur, but the Brewers still have enough to rise above it.

Coming Tomorrow- A pitcher for the Angels not named Ohtani.

Sonny Afternoon


Man, dropping two games to the Nationals is not a way to cement yourselves as the prevailing voice in the AL Central. At the very least they put up Patrick Corbin yesterday so it wouldn't be a full sweep, but...really not the statement the Twins wanted to make going into a series against the New York Yankees. Yeah, fear us, we're so intimidating that C.J. Abrams can have 3 RBIs against us WAIT COME BACK I SWEAR WE'RE SCARY.

The single best thing the Twins have going for them right now is their rotation, and while it's a little upsetting that the guys who are succeeding aren't the homegrown guys, it's at least something. Sonny Gray's off to a truly excellent start, only allowing 2 runs in 22 innings. Pablo Lopez is looking like a worthy trade return, striking out 39 in 30 innings. Joe Ryan is still a well-loved young come-up, and has won all 4 of his starts. Tyler Mahle, at the very least, has a 3.32 ERA and a mustache. And Kenta Maeda, even if he does go on the IL, has been strong his first 3 starts, and has only a 1 WHIP. I'm intrigued how Bailey Ober factors into things, especially against the Yankees. 

Having a solid enough, durable rotation is a step in the right direction, and makes up for the fact that, ultimately, a lot of the main pieces of this lineup aren't where they should be. Joey Gallo has the best WAR of anyone in the lineup, and that's really not a compliment. Buxton's only doing alright, Correa's only doing alright, Polanco's had a slow start from being activated, Kepler's not hitting and Larnach and Taylor are striking out more than they're getting on-base. Christian Vazquez is, at the very least, a worthy pickup so far, but when people like Donovan Solano, Willi Castro and, yes, Joey Gallo are your bright sides, you can't really feel wholly good about it.

Does it mean that the April Twins come-up was overbaked? Maybe a tad. Maybe they do end up being a 1st place team by September, but in a division where both contenders are just doing alright so far, much like last year, it's gonna take more than just being passable. It can't just be the pitching that gets this team over the line, and when facing the Yankees, who've been accused of the same thing, the hitters are gonna need to show up or else they'll leave embarrassed yet again.

I had high hopes for this Twins team, and they're doing a lot well, but they really need to commit to it unless they want a repeat of 2022.

Coming Tonight: Speaking of central division teams trying not to get too embarrassed, a shortstop for a team that may have just been walloped by Masataka Yoshida. 

Sunday, April 23, 2023

13 Rosins Why


It's rare for me to be shy about a baseball opinion. Especially on here.

I've come of age while blogging, and while when I started my influences were bawdy and pissing on the ESPN broadcasters and slagging off Berman, now everybody's kind of fine with how things are. Pretty much every blogger seems to be pro-pitch clock. I'm...a little closer to neutral on it than most of them, but yeah, I was at a game the other night and I got out of there after 2 and a half hours basically, so that tends to help. 

All of these rules are, inherently, fine. But they seem to slowly be pointing towards an alarming trend in baseball that, honestly, might put me in my usual position of griping while a lot of other people nod and stay silent. And that trend is the following: with the monitoring of pitch timing, constant screening of pitchers for tack, and the heyday of call challenging, umpires right now have more power over the game than they've ever had, and that's not a good thing.

Right now, the New York Mets are eating a roster spot because Phil Cuzzi, the only umpire that seems to be ejecting people for substance usage on the mound seems to think one of the greatest pitchers of his generation was too sticky for his liking one time. If it had been another umpire, this may not have happened. If it had been another night, another circumstance, this may not have happened. But because Cuzzi wanted to be a hardass, and because every added rule in the last five years has given him every opportunity to do so without being reprimanded, Max Scherzer is missing 10 games over a tack usage claim that is, as far as I'm aware, completely unsubstantiated. 

David Cone was trending on Twitter earlier, and I was worried he'd gotten canceled or gotten sick, and the latter of which alarmed me considering I was near where he was Friday night [I' about it eventually], but it was only because he went in depth about the science of stickiness, and that it was a combination of sweat and rosin that did Scherzer in and came off as an illegal substance to Cuzzi. Meanwhile, I think it's legal to sweat on the ballfield. Lord knows Mark Kotsay's been doing a lot of that lately. And it's definitely legal to use rosin on the ballfield. 

So it's really just an ump making an unsubstantiated claim and knowing that because he's an umpire, it doesn't matter whether or not it's confirmed or not. And that's your big issue. The umpire, in general, has had the same purpose as a weatherman. You know, it's not really based 100% in logic and reality, and it's mostly just an educated guess that is purely in their perspective. The difference is that the entirety of the local news doesn't come down to the actions of the weatherman. 

The weatherman is just a piece of a large, functioning team. Meanwhile, the umpire can add strikes to a count if they think a player's taken a second too long figuring things out, and throw a pitcher out of the game despite a banner night if they think their sweat is off.

This is not the first time I've called for automated umps on this blog. I've done it a lot. I don't care if it's an unpopular opinion, if Phil Cuzzi can potentially taint a Hall of Fame case over an opinion he had, then I'm allowed to have this opinion as well. I know why we don't have them, and it's solely because the umpires have a really good union and Rob Manfred is more scared of the umpire's union than he is of the player's union. Think about that for a second. It's clear that the level of umpiring hasn't improved lately, as people like C.B. Bucknor, Phil Cuzzi and, yes, Angel Hernandez have a subconscious bias that makes them unable to properly call a game, and they still call games and nobody reprimands them. There is a clear problem, in the degree of umpiring, and there is a clear solution, in using automated umps, and yet because of egos and politics and, ultimately, the only union I'm not a fan of, nothing's gonna happen, and if anything, the players are gonna continue to get screwed over while the umps continue to control too much of the game.

And you'd think that officiating in general would be called into question all over sports this year after a Super Bowl literally was ended by a referee essentially deciding to end the game rather than risk a Philadelphia victory, but that's not the case. And I don't think enough people are noticing what's happening. Seasons are literally being decided by officiant bias, and ownership is letting it happen because they're afraid to intervene. 

I think Max Scherzer was wrongfully ejected, and while there has been some nice hubbub that's popped up surrounding this, I don't think it'll actually lead to any reform, and the umps will probably keep doing things like this. So I guess we have to be okay with it. Right?

Okay, it's unfair to David Robertson and the Mets that I do a whole post and don't even mention them despite the custom at the top. The Mets are doing alright, better than one would think given the disappointing factors of this season. Nimmo and Lindor are having awesome years, Pete Alonso has 10 home runs, and even with the depleted rotation [thanks a lot again, Phil], people like Kodai Senga, David Peterson and, SOMEHOW JOEY LUCCHESI are mowing batters down at a nice rate.

D-Rob, by the way, is having an excellent start in the ninth, only giving up 1 run so far and notching four saves. I know that having a closing platoon of David Robertson and Adam Ottavino isn't ideal for Mets fans, especially since both are better known as Yankee setup men, but both men have been excellent so far, and D-Rob has had a second consecutive season with a truly excellent start in the ninth. I sincerely hope he can leg it out all year, I think he's earned a nice, competitive, healthy year.

But yeah, the Mets are doing well enough, I just wish they weren't being screwed over by this Scherzer thing. At the very least they get him back in a week or so, shouldn't have happened to begin with, man.

Coming Tomorrow- A pitcher whose tour of low-market cities that are safe for him to pitch in continues. 

A Jumbo Break of 2022 Panini Chronicles [Part 2]


Yesterday I started a box break of a product I decided to break for the sole purpose of finding Julio Rodriguez rookies. I found some, as well as a numbered Matt Manning card after pulling him like 30 times. This is a fun set with a lot of perks, even if it is, at the end of the day, a rookie-based Panini product. I'm honestly gonna miss this version of the set as Panini goes on hedging the new regulations.

We've got 6 more packs left and, yes, a hit to get to, so let's crack on:

Pack 7- Kind of a wild bunch of rookies to start us out. By the time the product would release, Detmers would, at the very least, have a no-no under his belt. Williams, meanwhile, is now a bench guy for the Dodgers, while Seabold is now in the Rockies system. That, uh, that fourth guy is doing alright for himself though. Keep it up, Bryson, we love ya! T-Mobile you're allowed to show but logos are a no-go? Ah, whatever.
Basic picks here. Ronnie and Mike. A Threads of Sean Murphy, now playing with Ronnie. A Classics of Gil, still recovering from surgery.

My umpteenth Jarren Duran is a look at the Essentials subset, which I really like because it feels like a combination between Fleer Emotion and Topps Gold Label. I like it a lot.
Vilade is yet another Rockies infielder that hasn't made it. Bobby Witt is Bobby Witt.

Our pink parallel, courtesy of Contenders Optic, is Patrick Mazeika, again, proving that even one-year-old products can not age well. Good news is I got another Marsh and a well-deserved Bryce, and a very cool Jazz Chisholm Revolution. 

Pack 8- Two excellent veteran picks, two meh rookie picks. Santillan might still be recovering from injuries, I think.

...yeah I think I did pretty well in this section of the pack. Two top 2022 rookies and two of the best players in baseball. No complaints here.

I think that this set's emphasis on Edward Cabrera made a ton of sense immediately following last season, and now that Cabrera's having a tougher time is a little less welcome.
Harper, however, is always welcome here. Even if that is the same photo they used in the Contenders card from last pack.
Brash is...well, he's Matt Brash.

My pink was the Vilade Crusade, which, along with Deichmann, means the Crusades this pack may not be very good. Randy's Revolution looks cool, and hopefully Ashby will blossom like the Brewers would like him to.

Pack 9-
Would ya believe that we're halfway through the box and this is my first Jeremy Pena? Kinda wild if you ask me. Meanwhile, yet another Oneil Cruz and another Burger, who I believe we're about to see a lot more of.

The A's get thrown a bone with Kevin Smith, who, given his 2022 Opening Day callup, I'm shocked isn't in more of this box. Same with Cal Raleigh, though at least that's a rookie card that's aged better. And then there's Manny.

Recon is an insanely cool design for a set, but I figured out around here that their checklist was a bit more hit/miss. Ronnie Dawson is pretty much out of baseball at the current moment, which, again, ages your product even a year later. Roansy Contreras had a great end to the 2022 season and is just figuring out how to get back there this season. Ohtani pitching is all over this set, and I love that.

See, more Ohtani pitching! And a decent pink parallel, because at the very least Yordan Alvarez is a safe choice that won't age poorly immediately. Mookie on Spectra looks awesome, Seager on Revolution is clearly in a Dodgers uniform but I'll allow it.

Pack 10- Heck of a start. First of the Steven Kwan cards, which are welcome after his exceptional 2022 season. Another Wander, another Julio, a Torkelson for when he decides to start hitting well.

Some base types, including more excellent selections. A Trout, a Bobby Witt and a Steven Kwan. All welcome.

And then, uh, I saw there was a hit in this pack, and I tried my best to not see what it was til I got to it, but the way the pack was positioned, I could see the card number, and they're done by initials so it was like APR-MT.

...MT. There's not a ton of MTs in baseball right now, so I got excited. Oh man, what if this is a relic or auto of the best player in the bigs?

And then I turned it over, and...

...and I laughed. 

Oh yeah, it's a Michael T alright, but uh...not Mike Trout. Of course not. 

Michael Taylor is a fine player, I've had some issues with his WAR not reflecting his spotty averages, but he's figured it out with KC and Minnesota. There was a rumor the Yanks wanted him at the deadline, and arguably that would have gone better than Benintendi, but I still think we dodged a bullet.

This is a...serviceable hit. It's a hit of a good veteran I've heard of, yes,'s Michael Taylor. Sometimes this is your hit. It's a good thing I don't break products for the hit.

Continuing this excellent pack, we've got another Essentials with Nick Lodolo, who I'm happy to keep pulling rookies of. 
That Wander is a subset I have not seen yet, as it's a much-rarer Clear Vision, which has an acetate background. I think it is very cool, and pulling a rare Wander is a very good thing right now.

There's Burger and Edward again. And, subsequently, Judge and Ohtani, who squared off earlier this week. 

Pack 11- Even with the fairly standard pulls here, would you believe this is the only Hunter Greene I pulled out of this box? Especially with all the Lodolos I got.

Nothing too special about a lot of these. Another Marsh, a Tylor Megill rookie, which I think is a good pull considering how good he's been every time he's been up.

Another Marquee of Seth Beer, and more rookie educated guesses like Romy Gonzalez and Luis Gil. Cards look cool though.

More of the pack of educated guess rookies, even if Luis Gil could be something if he ever comes back alright, and a Tigers premiere for Javier Baez.

Pack 12- A nice mishmash of decent prospects starts us off. I do think Joe Ryan could be great if he stays on target.

One more Burger, and a Vlad Jr. I feel like Vlad Jr. has eaten a few burgers in his lifetime.

Again, like I was saying about Recon, the cards look extremely cool but not all the rookies pay off. Payton Henry lost the Miami catching race to Nick Fortes and is now a third-string in Milwaukee.
Manny Machado's still cool though.

One more numbered parallel for the road, this being a red Elite parallel of C.J. Abrams, still with the Padres at this point but later shipped to Washington for Juan Soto. Abrams is doing alright for the Nats, though not at peak performance, a lot like his 2022 Padres numbers. Still, cool pick for a card numbered to 199.

And four decent guesses at rookies, including one last Matt Manning and a Pink Contenders Optic of Jake McCarthy, who did, to Panini's credit, look good last year, finish us off.

Yeah, I enjoyed this break a lot. A lot of the rookies come off like stabs in the dark, but the ones that pay off make it worth it, I'm happy with all the Julios I got from this. Hits were middling but that's not the point. This is a very cool set, and I'll be sad to see this iteration of it go. 

Saturday, April 22, 2023

A Jumbo Break of 2022 Panini Chronicles [Part 1]


It's been a while since I've done a pure, tried-and-true box break on here. And as things are looking a little brighter here at Mint Condition HQ, I figured I'd celebrate with something cool. In lieu of, well, a discounted hobby box of Big League [which Fanatics had for a shining window that I just missed], I went with this, an unassuming-looking jumbo box of 2022 Panini Chronicles.

I did this for a few reasons.

1. I've broken boxes of Chronicles in the past on here, and they've always been fun breaks. I do really like the Frankenset quality of the product, and the amount of different cards that can be pulled makes it A.) unlikely to find dupes and B.) likely to find really cool cards all throughout. 

2. As Panini no longer has a full MLB players license, and is now solely doing prospects and legends, this is a sort of send off for Panini's glory period from 2013 to 2022. While the lack of logos did deter me on several occasions, I did appreciate Panini's originality when it came to inserts and design, as well as their way of taking risks, which was sorely missed with Topps' output in the last 13 years. 

3. Because I did not buy a lot of products in the last quarter of last year, I am sorely lacking in 2022 rookies. Yes, I've found Hunter Greenes and Nick Lodolos and Bobby Witts and Spencer Torkelsons but uh...those aren't the ones I'm looking for. You know there's this, uh, there's this guy out of Seattle whose cards are going for a lot right now, and uh...I still know next to nothing about eBay selling but man that would do it for me, I think.

So yeah. Reason enough, I think. And also Dave & Adams had a retail box of jumbo packs on sale. Not a ton of chance for true mojo and hits, but I'm not really getting this for HITS per se, just uh...a variety of base and rookies, I suppose.

12 packs, 15 cards per, we'll do 6 packs this post. 

Pack 1-

Otto's is a Luminance one, kinda similar to something Donruss would put out in like 2004 or 2005 or so. It's fine.
Ashby's is a Leaf Limited, I do like the design of this one, it's right in line with where SP Authentic was going when it stopped.
Morgan's is a new one called Vertex, and I like this one a lot. It's simple, uses a lot of space, but is textured like early-2000s SP Authentic and knows to minimize the player cutout a bit.

Pinnacle is another regularly-seeded one, it's a takeoff mostly on the 1992 Pinnacle design, and I think they recreate it exceptionally well, and-yeah, I know, literally one pack into the break and there's a Julio. I feel fulfilled. This expenditure was worth it. Huzzah.

The middle bit of the pack is where all the sensible designs are. That includes the base Chronicles, which gave us two relatively omnipresent 2022 rookies, Classics, which has a fun design [as per usual] depicting Edward Cabrera, and Threads, which...I guess resembles a 2000s Donruss design in a sense. Whit isn't in KC anymore, and it's a wonder he wasn't in the lineup last night [I will...eventually be able to talk about last night].

And here we have some nicer subsets:
Marquee, which is a rarer one, is very shiny and must have originated in the basketball range. And, yes, that's a Wander Franco rookie. Not sure if his cards are still OMG sellers.
I always love pulling Magnitude cards, that little acetate bit is great. Duran is...beginning to pick up I think.
And an Elite card of Bryce Elder. I like this as the logical progression of Donruss Elite 20 years later. I also like that people may not have known what to do with Bryce Elder cards last year but they're definitely saving them now.

Each pack comes with an unnumbered pink parallel. This one, which is a pink version of the very busy Phoenix design, is of Brandon Marsh. And can I just say how happy I am that there are a lot of Brandon Marsh cards in this set? Absolutely overjoyed. Love this guy.

Your standard glossier Chronicles cards.
Crusade looks alright this year, not my favorite of its iterations but cool. Reiss Knehr is, I think, a rare 2022 rookie that's already kinda worthless.
Titan is alright, the black-and-white photo is a little odd. Seager is Seager.
And Revolution I'm always gonna love because it reminds me of Pacific cards of the late-90s. Waino is welcome in a rookie-based set like this.

Pack 2-
All sets we've seen. Castillo is already on another team. Baz is still hurt. This is a very nice Seiya Suzuki rookie, I still don't have a ton of those.

The usual suspects of 2022 rookies here, though Bryan de la Cruz isn't is as many of these as the other two, and Acuna is a welcome star card.

So uhhhh may have made noises at this one.

Getting a Pinnacle Julio, well yeah that's fine, that's a 1-per-pack, but Recon is not only a rarer subset but this thing looks SO COOL. This only goes for a slight hike on the 'bay, but I think this is the nicest of the Julio rookies I pulled in this box [not really a spoiler, could you imagine how I'd be writing this had I pulled a numbered one?]. Hopefully I can figure out something to do with it.

Magnitude of Luis Gil, a guy who was excellent in 2021 and has not pitched since. And a look at what Leaf Certified is this year, and I approve, with Robert Suarez, who's already gotten a ton of money from San Diego.

My pink parallel was a Joe Ryan rookie from Titan, this is a pretty cool one with the parallel.

Requisite beefier cards, including another Wander, which...I mean, I'll take it I suppose. And a Revolution of Albert as a Cardinal, which is always welcome.

Pack 3- Rookies and Stars tags in for Pinnacle, it certainly looks like a Rookies and Stars card. Lodolo is a welcome pull here, I think he's gonna have a great career. And Soto cards are always nice, even if this is pre-Padres Soto.

Another Lodolo, another Wander, more Brandon Marshes, and a sendoff for Yadier Molina. Even with Willson Contreras in his place, it is still insanely weird to me that Yadi is not behind the plate in St. Louis.

Zenith is Spencer Torkelson's, and I am a big fan of this design because it reminds me of everything big and bawdy about 90s Zenith sets. 
LouBob's is a Clearly Donruss, which is the base set but done on acetate. I'm a fan of that, clear-type cards are always welcome because they look cool.
Manning's is another Leaf Certified, I still think these look cool.

My pink is a Jarren Duran Crusade, I have pulled a LOT of Duran cards and while it's better than, say, Jeffrey Springs cards or Jose Altuve cards, it's beginning to grate on me. Maybe if the Yankees had better rookies last year...
Also, Connor Wong isn't much better because he's like the third string catcher at this point. Contenders Optic, meanwhile, is your standard Panini design
Abreu's Revolution is awesome, that Pujols is a Spectra, and those have a lot of cool bells and whistles on them, boosted by, well, being another end-of-career Pujols card.

Pack 4- Usual suspects subset-wise, and also base-set wise. Another Julio, good to see ya. Freddie as a Dodger, always a good sight. Colton Welker is, like, 3 3rd base prospects ago for Colorado, which is something. 

More usual suspects here, but this does have the first of MANY Oneil Cruz cards I would pull in this box. Again, not that I'm complaining. I really hope he heals up alright.

I think these three are among my favorites subset-wise, I really like how Marquee stands out. I think Joe Barlow is still closing in Arlington? [he isn't, he didn't even make the team this year].

Rodolfo Castro, the Pittsburgh SS prospect that hasn't gotten injured [yet], though word is still out on his cell phone case, is our pink this pack. I think the border on Contenders goes really well with these parallels, especially the Pirates' gold. Another Cruz alongside him.
Jimenez is still a fringe enough young star to be welcome in these sets, which says a lot about how often he gets injured.
Gleyber is Gleyber, and despite what you may think he is, in fact, way cool.

Pack 5- Another Oneil [I wasn't kidding!] a Tatis, right as he's been activated, and two Houston rookies that are beginning to piss me off.

Standards here. I do like that the Chronicles main set also focused on guys in new-for-2022 uniforms, like Gausman in Toronto. Also, the first of many Ohtanis in this box, again, no complaints there.

That extremely cool-looking Trout is an XR subset, another rarer one. I like when Panini goes over the top with dufex and shine, it's the kind of risk-taking I wish Topps would do more often. 
So many Matt Manning cards in this set. And he's currently hurt as well.
Alternatively, I believe this Elite is my only Spencer Strider card I pulled in this box, which is kinda funny considering.

My pink Titan is a Matt Vierling, sorely missed [even with Sosa, Harrison and Cave as depth pieces] but doing well in Detroit. Matt Brash was a Ms rookie everyone banked on that, honestly, wasn't worth it, especially considering that George Kirby kinda rendered him obsolete anyhow. And someone that Crusade is the only Lars Nootbaar I pulled in this box.

And, again, alternatively,

Yes, another Matt Manning. I kinda have to laugh, as I did a few times in this. Not only is this a super-cool blue parallel of the Revolution set,

But it's, surprisingly, our first numbered parallel of the box. And check out that print run, we're very close to the end. I'll take a card of a decent Tigers pitching prospect numbered to 99, that's not bad at all.

Pack 6- Despite some usual suspects, a few cool sights, like an early card of Marcus Stroman on the Cubs, and our first Bobby Witt Jr. card of the box.

Again, I do like that Panini went for traded players as well as just star cards, which is how we get Mariners Robbie Ray alongside just Devers and Judge.

Another nice Brandon Marsh from Zenith. This is how odd this break is, it's getting me excited for Angels cards. I mean, yes, I kinda get excited about those anyway because Trout and Ohtani are nice pulls, but I'm slowly building a formidable Brandon Marsh Angels collection, which is odd considering he barely even has many Phillies issues yet.
Wander Clearly Donruss, the first of many Jake Burgers. We've got a Burger and a Beer in the same pack, yet no sign of Max Fried, Phil Coke or Felix Pie.

Our pink parallel is a Francisco Lindor, from Phoenix, alongside another Trout, another Oneil, and a Jonathan Heasley rookie. 

That's half the box, look for the other half to go up tomorrow afternoon. To give you a tease, I pull something funnier than a numbered card of a guy I've already pulled like 5 cards of.