Saturday, September 30, 2023

Dangling in Theoreticals


The fate of the Marlins' season may hinge on a game that may or may not need to be finished.

The story goes that, because the Mets-Marlins game from the other night was still a one-point game going into the inning that was not finished due to the rain that eventually postponed other somewhat crucial New York-set games this week. If the Marlins can hang on to the third playoff spot, the game will be called as a Mets win, as it won't matter. But if the Marlins are still in a deadlocked situation after tomorrow night, they will definitely have to go all the way back to Queens and finish the last inning of that game, meaning that the Mets' eternal role as the spoiler of NL wild card races may come back into vogue. 

It is insane that the entirety of the NL Wild Card race could come down to one inning of one game that would have already finished anyway. But that is the game we're dealing with right now. 

The Cubs and Reds, as I write this, are a game and a half back. I cannot believe I'm saying this, but the Reds may have the higher probability of sneaking in because they've been hot lately. They absolutely killed the Cardinals, tied themselves with the Cubs, and went from a long shot to a slightly more possible playoff variable. Again, this doesn't happen if the Marlins hold on, but it could.

The Marlins still having the momentum in addition to still being prone to win games does make me think they might be alright. Even without Alcantara or Perez, the rotation is getting by, and they're really just narrowing their postseason options. That means that Edward Cabrera, who's been a great lower-tier starter for them, might get a playoff start if things to right, and being that he leads the team in Ks per 9 innings, with 10.7 [OVER ALCANTARA AND LUZARDO], he could be especially lethal given the right postseason picture. Not to say that Luzardo and Garrett won't be problems for opposing offenses either, but those two are the expected ones; Cabrera might be the wild card, and it'd be cool if he shifts into high gear.

Also, and this is a nice change of pace for the Marlins, but everybody in this lineup is healthy. Jake Burger has slid into the starting 3B position, Josh Bell is taking the majority of reps at 1B, Jazz Chisholm and Jorge Soler are healthy and surging, and you've got a 200+ hit season on your hands with Luis Arraez, who's sure to be dangerous in the postseason. Even the depth options, like Xavier Edwards, Jon Berti and Garrett Hampson, are really impressive. 

The Marlins, at their peak, have been dangerous, scrappy and hard to handle. Only issue is they've gone cold when it benefits them the least. It could happen now, as the postseason is on the line. It may come down to one inning in Queens. However this season finishes, be it now or next month, the Marlins should be very proud with how well this season went, and how they defied everyone's expectations despite the moment belonging, it seemed, to the Mets. 

Coming Tomorrow- Julian Merryweather had the job, then he got hurt. Then Rafael Dolis got the job, then he got hurt. The rest has been history in Toronto.

Friday, September 29, 2023

The Narrowest Possibility


There's a large probability that the Mariners don't make the playoffs. Their last three games are against Texas, they may not be able to catch Houston or Toronto, after everything in July and August they couldn't hold onto the momentum and are now hoping to hold onto something. 

And look, like a lot of people who missed the playoffs this year, like the Padres, Cardinals, Guardians and Giants, this isn't a death nell of their way of life. The Mariners will probably compete again next year, they still have so many great pieces, including Rodriguez, Gilbert, Castillo, Kelenic and Crawford, and it will really come down to whether or not circumstances are different next year, and if the division can withstand having three competitors or not. I think this season was still a net win, even if they fell apart towards the end, and the fact that they were able to go on the run they did midyear and sit atop the division for a bit does prove how much they have going for them. This is a very good team, it's just stuck in a division with two better ones. 

But even as a lot of Mariners fans come to terms with the fact that they probably won't be watching into October this year, there still exists the tiniest probability that the Mariners make it. A lot of it does have to do with the outcome of last night's game, and as I'm writing this last night, I'm not sure what happened. At this point, it could go either way. But if the Astros fall down another peg and make the deficit only a half-game, then the Mariners just need to win a game or so against the Mariners, and the Astros need to lose a game or so against the Diamondbacks. And then...y'know...

Look, I know it's unlikely. The Astros rarely ever do what they're supposed to, especially when the thing they're supposed to do is lose. The Mariners also have been very inconsistent and haven't gripped the moment like they had earlier in the year. That's what makes this unlikely. But if it does happen, it'll be one of the greatest baseball developments in a while. The Astros, after cockily trouncing their way back to 1st in the West, then skidding back down thanks to series' against the Yankees and Royals, would be the funniest thing ever, and the poetic justice this team has evaded for so long. They may evade it again, but the thought of it is pretty impressive.

The Mariners do have a lot of things going for them that could still land them a playoff spot. The pitching is still awesome, and the bullpen has evened out, with Andres Muñoz doing a bang-up job as closer. Rodriguez is finishing the season with a 30-30 season with 100+ RBIs, and for a season that was looking meh for a bit, it's an incredible outcome. And as the Kolten Wong experiment failed, Jose Caballero has risen to the starting 2B spot and has been an excellent defensive infielder, creating a really cool double play duo with J.P. Crawford. A lot is still great on this team, and that's what makes this possible, even if it's not the overwhelming possibility.

I'd love for the Mariners to somehow squeak in, especially in Houston's spot. I'm prepared for it to not happen...but wouldn't it be awesome if it did?

Coming Tonight: He took a year off, joined a cool competitive team, and...things didn't completely go as planned.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Still Cursed?


In 2016, everyone took the Cubs' winning of the World Series as the end of their curse. 7 years later, perhaps we were looking at it from the wrong angle. Maybe that outcome, the Cubs finally winning it all and still not being fulfilled by it, and shuttering the core 5 years later, was just...the continuation of the curse.

And I bring this up because the Cubs have rebuilt and were within inches of a playoff berth, and because of a game they should have won a few nights ago, botched by Seiya Suzuki making a boneheaded move in the outfield. And now they're sort of on the outside, fighting to stay in the race as the Marlins are neck and neck and the Reds aren't out of it yet. And of course, the week that their momentum is sputtering and the wild card spot is on the line is also the week where they have to play the Braves and Brewers, two very tough teams. The Braves have been calming down slightly in the leadup to the playoffs, but the Brewers may not be as kind.

And if this rocky finish does them in, it'll be a very disappointing and sad ending to a season that featured so much promise for the Cubs. So many of the pieces that the Cubs gambled on, like Bellinger, Stroman, Swanson, Nico Hoerner as a leading man and Adbert Alzolay in the ninth, exceeded expectations. Even with Bellinger probably leaving town after the season, the Cubs now have a working closer, a Cy Young-contending starter to build around, a really impressive lineup of people who aren't going anywhere, and faith in David Ross restored [as it should be]. And I really thought that at their height, the Cubs were a playoff team.

I think one of those indicators was Yan Gomes, who has always been helpful on competitive squads when he's surging. Gomes, who was supposed to back up Tucker Barnhart this year, had his best season since Washington, and is hitting .272 with 57 RBIs. He has been way more reliable as a starting catcher than anyone could have thought, especially in the wake of Contreras' departure. Obviously he's not the definitive answer going forward, and Miguel Amaya has been a decent backup, but Gomes thrives on teams like this, and if they somehow hold on and make it to October, he could be a big help. Same with people like Kyle Hendricks and Christopher Morel, two guys who could be dangerous this postseason.

It just comes down to whether or not the Cubs can get through this week. There's a chance they do, and prevail over Miami and Cincinnati, but it's not going to be easy for them. Still hoping they make it through though, they'll be fun in October.

Coming Tomorrow- Another team on the razor's edge of the playoff race, similarly faced with a tough final lap.

Tribe Swap

 After a season of being the logical 2nd place team in a division that the Twins essentially clinched months ago, the Cleveland Guardians are now looking at a third place finish as the Tigers have a strong surge to end it all. No wonder Francona's walking.

Clearly the 'contact above all else' plan that made the Guardians division leaders in 2022 did not carry over to this year. So many things that the Guardians relied upon last year, including a lot of rookie hitters, a well-developed rotation, and a lot of the quality of the bullpen, weren't really there for them this year. And in some respects, they could rise beyond that, like with the rookie-centric rotation they used this year, but it wasn't every aspect. Only Josh Naylor was a .300 hitter out of this lineup, meaning even Kwan, Ramirez and Gimenez, as awesome as they are, couldn't crack that average. Several players that were once crucial at that plate, including Myles Straw, have struggled to deliver similar contact. And even some of the young, multi-faceted guys, like Will Brennan and Bo Naylor, still have a ways to go til they can be relied on consistently.

The pitching depth is what kept this team afloat, but everybody kept getting injured. Even now that they've cracked a winning formula, Bibee and Allen are injured, and now they have to meld the newer starters, like Curry and Williams, with the now-activated Shane Bieber, Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie. And also Lucas Giolito is here, don't mind him he's completely screwed himself up since leaving Chicago. I reckon one of those guys will be traded for a contact bit during the offseason or something, cause if they're all healthy going into Spring Training that's 7 guys fighting for 5 spots, and even if Curry can be a long relief man like he is this year, it's not gonna be easy for one of the other 6 to settle. 

What will be interesting is how the Guardians do next year without Terry Francona, who's been managing the team since 2013, before the 2016 AL Champion team. They've been working with someone who'll likely be a future Hall of Fame manager for over a decade, and next year they'll have to start over and get someone less experienced. It may go as well as Oli Marmol and Pedro Grifol did this year. However, it could also go as well as it went for Rob Thomson. I just know the kind of hole Francona's absence leaves, and I remember Boston struggling to fill it immediately before eventually finding John Farrell. 

Hopefully the right guy isn't too far away, because the Guardians aren't too far from competing again, and just need the right circumstances, and less injuries.

Coming Tonight: Ironically an ex-Guardian, someone who's always been an underrated piece of competitive teams.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Bohm Field Advantage


It is guaranteed that the Philadelphia Phillies will end the 2023 season with a better record than their National League Champion 2022 season. They've already surpassed the 87 wins, and they've doubled their players with a 3.0 WAR or higher. The Phillies look like an excellent baseball team, even moreso than they did during the last regular season. 

However. Last season they snuck into the postseason, caught fire like mad and outlasted the competition. It is insanely difficult for that to happen consecutively. If the postseason lasts the whole month with 14 teams, September momentum is only gonna keep together for certain teams. The Phillies have caught fire this year, but they've also gone cold in a snap. They've also blown games thanks to a bullpen explosion, or somebody like Dylan Covey or Craig Kimbrel deciding the game wasn't over yet. 

And yet...I just feel really good about this team, in a way I didn't even feel good about the 2022 team. 

Last year, Bohm, Marsh, Stott and Suarez weren't definites to me. They felt like placeholders. And then after a while they clicked into place. Bryson Stott has been incredible this year, both defensively and at the plate; he has over 150 hits and over 30 steals, and Trea Turner's close to joining him on the steals front. Ranger Suarez has an ERA under 4 and has continued his standard of consistency. Brandon Marsh has been an excellent starting outfielder, and he's become more of a contact option than a 'strikeout-or-nothing' type like he was his rookie year in Anaheim.

...And then there's Alec Bohm. Who is so close to greatness. Bohm is within reach of an 100-RBI season, has 150 hits, and could reach 20 home runs this year. He's proved himself offensively, and has been there for several big-game moments. Unfortunately, he's absolutely terrible defensively. He has a -11 defensive WAR figure. The only way that's not the worst defensive total on this team is that Kyle Schwarber also exists. But a bad defensive outfielder isn't as bad because the Phils have Johan Rojas and Cristian Pache on hand as defensive substitutions. Bohm is a corner infielder in a year without Rhys Hoskins. The pressure is on him to be a competent defensive position player at either corner, and he's just not good at it at all. 

The hope is that the season doesn't come down to him needing to be proficient at third, because games have come down to that before, and it's not always pretty. Same with Schwarber's strikeouts, Nola's rough year and Kimbrel's blown saves. This is a team that has flaws, and even if people like Harper, Stott, Castellanos, Wheeler and Marsh have made me very happy this year, they still exist, and still could prevent this team from truly excelling this postseason. 

I'm hoping for the best, and I think the Phillies could make another push, but it's gonna take so many things falling into place, much like they did last postseason.

Coming Tomorrow- An outfielder for a team that, if their division was a little better, would still be in the conversation.

The Rays vs. The Setbacks


The Rays winning 95 games this year is impressive enough in itself. The Rays winning 95 games with only 3 games of Jeffrey Springs, a half season of Shane McClanahan, partial seasons of Brandon Lowe, Manny Margot, Drew Rasmussen and Andrew Kittredge, and their star player who they were trying to build future iterations of the team around gone thanks to his postgame habits. 

This is the power of the Kevin Cash Rays teams. They can still be one of the best teams in the league without half the powerful assets you might think they'd need to be great. 

Honestly, the Rays' depth has kept them great this year. If they didn't have Taylor Walls to once again fill the void defensively at short after Franco's departure, I don't know what they'd do. Walls is probably the bridge to Junior Caminero, the 19-year-old shortstop prospect that just landed in the majors. Walls will get the starts until Caminero proves he's 100% ready to take the reins, and that he has no intention of dating any high-schoolers. 

This same depth has kept the outfield strong despite big injuries taking out Jose Siri and Manny Margot for a lot of the year. Luke Raley, before his injury, was an excellent utility option with great bench perks and decent power numbers. Josh Lowe actually became an excellent starting OF option in the wake of Margot's injury, and has held onto the position as Harold Ramirez takes the majority of the OF reps in Siri's absence. And then you look around this lineup and realize that only Lowe and the infield fill-ins [Aranda, Walls and Caminero] are actually homegrown. Everybody else was either nicked for a big piece or came over as a small free agent helper. And it's built this surprisingly useful soon-to-be-postseason lineup.

The starting is where some of the depth runs out, because while bullpen games can continue to be the Rays' specialty, they're using Taj Bradley as a starter again. Bradley has some good perks but hasn't had a wholly inspiring season, and needs to grow into himself. At the very least Eflin, Civale and Glasnow are less liable, but you're putting a lot on the bullpen, especially one that isn't as well-trusted as previous versions. The lineup has all the depth in the world, but the pitching depth is beginning to run out, and it could sink this team long-term.

The Rays will probably do some damage this postseason. I'm not sure if they really have enough to intimidate the bigger guns this year, and may need to hope some momentum comes their way, because this team pales in comparison to their last few to me. They could surprise me, as they're very good at doing that, but I'm not really seeing the 'oh no' factor from them as much this year. And after their April, that's a sad turn of events.

Coming Tonight: A hard-hitting third baseman who just helped his team get back to October.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Rise and Paul


When it became apparent that the Yankees would not be a postseason team this year, I hoped they'd play the part of the spoiler, and take down middle-of-the-pack teams that thought they could make it this year. Hilariously, the opposite happened; thanks to a 3-game series against the Yankees, the Diamondbacks now have a firmer grasp on a wild card spot than they did last week. If the Diamondbacks make the playoffs, it will be largely the Yankees' fault.

We...seem to have that effect on the franchise.

As it stands right now, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a decent foothold on a wild card spot, though only one game ahead of the Marlins, who are the closest wild card competitors outside the bubble. If the season ended today, it'd be the D-Backs and Cubs hanging onto those last two spots, meaning a wild card race would actually result in an extra team for each division, rather than just the AL East/West invasion we've had recently. And while, as I write this, both the D-Backs and Cubs are winning their games while Miami sits, it's looking better and better for Arizona.

The Diamondbacks this year were a long-shot team whose rise to prominence made more sense the more I thought about it. The pieces had been forming, and last year had an early spike for them despite a lot of work still needing to be done. This year, some of those younger pieces, like Corbin Carroll, Gerardo Perdomo and Alek Thomas, switched into place, while some wise acquisitions like Lourdes Gurriel, Gabriel Moreno and Evan Longoria added depth and confidence. It's even made past moves look good, like the then-baffling move to grab Emmanuel Rivera last year, which has given them a strong everyday third baseman to cover for Longo's usual injuries.

And some of these moves are beginning to make other GMs look foolish. The Jays' Varsho deal may have worked out well for them, but the pieces that landed in Arizona immediately paid dividends and added two crucial pieces that have helped the D-Backs compete. And while I still think the D-Backs shouldn't have traded Andrew Chapin, especially considering that Peter Strzelecki hadn't done much for them at all, convincing the Mariners to give up their closer in the midst of a wild card chase was a daring move. Now, in response, Paul Sewald has given the D-Backs his grade-A closing material, and he's notched 12 saves in 19 games. Already the fans love Sewald, as one might assume they would. 

If the Diamondbacks do, in fact, stick it out and make the playoffs, they'll be a very scrappy, underrated competitor that could take out a genuinely great team. It helps that they're up against the White Sox this week, and may finish things off with a duel with Houston, where the stakes might be higher for the Astros than they are for the D-Backs. They're looking at an eventual playoff series with Milwaukee if things fall where I think they will [or possibly Philly, who knows where they'll land], and they could surprise some people in both, even if I don't see them going all the way.

Coming Tomorrow- A handy utility piece for a team that's had to resort to a lot of backup plans this year.

Stroetic Justice


I would like to start this post by giving a round of applause to the Kansas City Royals.

The Royals played the Astros in six games during September, a month where the Astros needed to keep winning and preserve an umpteenth AL West title, and the Royals won FIVE out of those six games. The Royals are gonna finish this season with five losses, having undone a ton of the progress they made in 2022, and yet five of their 54 wins in this season came against the mighty Houston Astros. 

In fact, the more you look at the Astros' 2023 track record, the more you realize how much they struggled against sub-.500 teams. They had crucial losses, and big losses at that, against teams like the A's, Padres, Tigers, Red Sox, Mets and Pirates. And then, when you look at their first half, those losses are against GOOD teams. The Mariners, Brewers, Phillies, Twins, Blue Jays and Reds all won series' against the Astros during the first half. Even during the midyear stretch when the Astros gained ground and fought back against the Rangers, there was a human element to them that wasn't there in the past. Now there were 'good' starters and 'beatable' starters; teams consistently got the best of people like Hunter Brown, J.P. France and Cristian Javier while stomaching getting shut out by Framber Valdez. And as more and more younger players took large roles in this team's success, you began to see this team lose its identity. 

Which is why we can finally acknowledge the team's move to bring back Justin Verlander via trade with the Mets for what it is; an act of desperation to return the team, though still doing well, to its earlier dominance. They never used to stand a chance against us, but with Verlander back, that'll have to be the difference maker, right? 

Well...Verlander's been good. 5-3 record, 3.93 ERA, 50 Ks. That's not exactly a stain on his career, especially as a 40-year-old. But the team hasn't exactly reverted to their 2022 selves. The last month has been a savage crawl to the finish, with losses to the Yankees and Royals evening things and letting the Rangers back into 1st place. The pitching might honestly be to blame, with even Valdez's ERA headed towards 4, Javier nowhere near as dominant as prior years, and several options just being too inexperienced. Verlander can only help that so much.

There are still enough elements of this Astros team that worry me for this postseason, as now they have a better hitting catcher in Yainer Diaz, a healthy and surging Jose Altuve, a younger and more compact outfield and Kyle Tucker's best season to date. I want to hope that this downhill turn is the death nell of their season, but I also know these guys always overstay their welcome. Hopefully they bow out at the right time. 

It would be hilarious if the Mariners suddenly got hot and boxed them out of October entirely, even if it is unlikely. Still would make a hell of a finish. 

Coming Tonight: One of the teams the Astros have to go up against before the season's out. Specifically, their closer.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Mark of the Beast


Anyone who had 'Mark Canha being the most effective deadline acquisition' on their bingo cards can collect.

Two months removed, not all of these gambits have gone according to plan. Jack Flaherty was supposed to fill the void of John Means...but now Means is back and showing Flaherty how it's done. Max Scherzer was supposed to be the kill switch to the AL West, now he's hurt and watching them clinch from the sidelines. Lucas Giolito was supposed to keep the Angels surging, and y'all know how that ended. Even keeping in mind surprises like Josh Bell, relative successes like Michael Lorenzen and Aaron Civale, and successes with caveats like Paul Sewald, I don't think anyone has made an impact on their new team like Mark Canha.

I just think about how listless this outfield in Milwaukee was in the first half. Christian Yelich was awesome, of course, but the rest of it felt very one-dimensional. Joey Wiemer was great defensively, but his offensive struggles were his undoing, which is why he probably won't make the team's postseason roster. Tyrone Taylor finally had a chance to start, but he's only hit .233 and hasn't starred as much as he'd like to. Even with Sal Frelick creeping in towards the end of July, it felt very lopsided. Then Canha arrived, and now Yelich-Canha-Frelick is one of the stronger outfields in the postseason picture.

Since coming over from the Mets, Canha has hit .296 with 32 RBIs and 48 hits in 46 games. He also has a 1.2 WAR, which is higher than roughly half the Opening Day starters. The team is also 31-18 since he got here, not solely because of his efforts but definitely not at the detriment of them. Canha's exactly what the Brewers needed, a contact hitting outfielder with occasional power perks who could play multiple roles. He's a handy guy to have around in general, no wonder the A's and Mets loved him so much. Yes, it's nice that Carlos Santana has 10 homers, but power hitting isn't the priority here.

The Brewers' postseason gameplan involves A.) outpitching everybody, B.) outdefending everybody and C.) contact hitting when everyone least expects it. They are arguably a more refined version of the 2022 Guardians, and they are hotter than anyone could have expected right now. I'm excited to see what they'll do in October.

Coming Tomorrow- I promised I wouldn't gloat. I might gloat a little. Anyway, another former Met.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Philly Show 9/23/23 Part Two: Eyebrow Raisers


It was at this point in my Philly Show journey that I began to grow slightly despondent. Yes, there had been some good stuff, and I'd fulfilled a lot of recent needs in my year or so since actively going to shows, but there weren't any true oddball, wtf finds in any of these dime boxes I'd found. And if I know the Philly Show dime boxes, I know they've gotta really wow me.

Needless to say, these last two did the trick.

Dealer #4: The Guy Who Must Have Known I Was Coming

Seriously. Some of the stuff in here, I was doing double-takes. I definitely scrounged the most stuff out of this one vs. the other dime boxes I'd went towards, a good 140 cards from this one alone. What impressed me about this dealer was just the unrelenting variety of stuff. Not just recent stuff, but products from my collecting blindspots. A Sweet Spot Classic Dave Winfield, for instance.

A lot of the stuff in these dime bins probably should have been priced higher. All four of these impressed me. Crucial rookies from 2022 Heritage, and a sunset card of an MLB legend.

This dealer also had, at LAST, my first real taste of 2022 Archives, a set that seemed to avoid me at every turn. This is another set where I applaud the extensive legends selection, as seeing Satchel Paige and Thurman Munson here really impressed me.

A few early-2010s inserts I didn't have. Breaking Out is such a cool design.

This guy also had a surprising amount of numbered Topps cards. Maybe a few odd corners here and there, but these are always fun dime box finds. Especially of great players like these three.

These two, though, were numbered to 399 and were copper parallels, which I'd never seen with my own eyes before. I admittedly didn't know they existed til I found these two, including newly-minted HOFer Scott Rolen. 

But the real fun was in all the 90s and 00s stuff that was in here. Finding a 1995 Leaf Hideo Nomo rookie was just the beginning.
Two sets I'd never seen in the wild: 1999 Fleer Sports Illustrated, and the 1992 Fleer Ultra awards subset. Both cool player selections.

Both ends of Donruss's initial Studio run. I think 1997 Studio is underrated. Again, Bobby Abreu's Houston tenure showed up a lot at this show. I also love Larkin's. Who's he looking at? Is he auditioning for a Bangles video?

92 Studios I somehow didn't have yet. What a fun set.

Here's what amazed me: 1998 Pinnacle Inside cards. SANS CAN. The edges weren't even too screwed up.  This is an intriguing set, and I like the close-up static photos we have here.

Both these sets, '93 SP and '93 Flair, used to be very hard to come by, but I've found more and more of them in recent years. I love Rickey's. 

1996 Circa! Man, these sets were wild. I kinda dig' em though, just as a timely sort of glimpse into what graphic design was back then.

1997 Finest! There was a BUNCH of these.

Assorted early-2000s picture-centric sets. Lots of 2001 SC, somehow.

Assorted mid-2000s sets. Again, dime-box peak Albert, used to be WAY rarer. And it's always cool to find a new 2004 Skybox Autographis, I have a lot of sentimentality towards that set.

But here's where I emphasize that this guy MUST HAVE known I was coming:

...cause there were a TON of Yankees in there. Yankee hero cards. Guys I collect. A bunch of Pettittes.

A good amount of Jorge Posadas, including 2004 Fleer Splendid Splinters, a set I'd never seen before.

A bunch of Mos, which, again, used to be way rarer in dime boxes. 

A WHOLE MESS OF MIKE MUSSINAS. I'm so glad it's become cool to like Mussina again in recent years.

And, of course, too many Bernie Williams cards. I didn't even scan all of 'em. I love that 2000 SC one.

Dealer #5: The One That Almost Got Away

When I came into the Philly Show yesterday, and did my initial scouting, there was a dime box not too far from the entrance that looked really nice. The only issue was when I passed by at 11ish, it was mobbed. Absolutely mobbed. So I had to bookmark it and come back later. Sure enough, on my way out I passed it, and it was...slightly clearer. Still mobbed, but I could find a space to slide in.

It was tricky, because in order to get a good vantage point on some of these bins, and there were MANY, I had to sort of trickle along the edge of the vender next door, who wasn't getting half as much business. I'm in mid-sift and the guy next door tells me to move. I motion to the packed front of the table; "to where?". Eventually the dealer I was buying from muttered 'he's been like this all weekend', and his perennial sifter was able to move inside of the booth to accommodate my perusing. 

I am very glad I came back for these bins, because, like the 4th dealer, this guy had a lot of stuff that really should have been worth more. And it's funny, because he had large 50 cent bins as well, and they were lined with stuff I'd expect in dollar bins. I think he just wanted to get rid of a lot of this stuff. Which is fine by me. 

I somehow had never come across this 1996 Bowman Kirby Puckett. Beautiful card.

There was some requisite recent stuff, but even this felt better. An actual Kelenic rookie in one of these. A star card of a Philly hero. Something was up.

Same goes for these Ginters. Maybe he wasn't from around here, because a Stott or Marsh rookie for 10 cents here is a steal. 

A few SC legends I forget if I had or not. I'd seen the Boggs on some blog, I just forget if I pulled it. That Maddux is great though.

A few Pro Debuts from last year. All but Luisangel are up in the majors. 

10 cent inserts of players worth a damn. Bieber and Soto, 10 cent Stadium Club inserts. Yeah, I was impressed.

A smattering of recent Topps inserts. I absolutely love these All Aces ones, they're genuinely awesome. I had no idea Topps even did WBC inserts this year. More inserts need to embrace the shiny like All Aces and the Oneil one do.

Speaking of embracing the shiny, a pair of Panini inserts. Those Unleashed ones are usually hard to find, so getting one for 10 cents was pretty cool. And though Keuchel's kinda cooked, getting a low-numbered card of his was a nice perk.

Like the last box, there was a wonderful amount of 90s stuff. And not just usual finds. 90s Topps Gallery star cards. And yet another Bernie as well.

Hall of Famers from 90s Topps base. Surprised I didn't have that Randy already.

Pinnacle was underrated at just putting out solid base cards. That Ripken's a beaut. 

SKYBOX METAL UNIVERSE. SURE, MAN. All of these are absolutely wild, and I'm kinda shocked I was able to find some.

Two cards that used to be worth more than 10 cents. Weaver's rookie used to be high on my wantlist, but he sort of fell apart over time. Nomo's SC RC I already have, but I needed one for my player collection.

VINTAGE FOR 10 CENTS. I was floored. Even a 1981 Topps Traded card for a dime. Awesome!

This one appealed to me on a number of levels. I was recently down in Ocean City, Maryland for a few days, me and the family like it there. On a drive, it dawned on me that the Delmarva Shorebirds, an Orioles A-affiliate, are down there, and that could be an option if we ever go back again. So seeing a minor league issue from the 1998s with a Delmarva Shorebird was cool. Even cooler that it was a minor league rookie issue of Jayson Werth, who'd become one of my favorite players as a Phillie. I thought this was a cool find, and it's a nice addition to my small collection of minor league cards of players I love.

All in all, a very nice Philly show. Just enough 'omg' pulls, and a lot of variety among the dime boxes. Not sure if I'll go to the one in December, but I'm glad I went to this one.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Philly Show 9/23/23 Part One: Conventionality

In this period of career limbo I've found myself, I haven't quite had a lot of time or resources to devote to buying new cards. I'd been enjoying newer products through the Online Dime Box, which has now completely reinvented itself [and me in mid-order as well]. But I haven't exactly been going out to Target or whatever and getting new product, mostly because either it isn't there or there's not a lot that wows me that's out right now.

I did find myself in a good place this week, and with the Philly Show this weekend, it was perfect timing. I hadn't been in over a year, and owed myself a stroll down the dime boxes. 

The show seems to have settled in Oaks. I'm still a purist for the Valley Forge location, mostly because it's easier to grab a bite afterwards, but the Oaks convention center does have its charm, and it's a lot easier to demark where you've been and where you're headed. I'm fine if it stays there, honestly. 

I didn't pay more than 13 cents for a card all day, and came home with hundreds of spoils from throughout the show. There was a varied output from recent stuff to the sort of wild dime box fodder I've come to expect.

[Apologies if the scans are in poor quality for the first part of this, I had the scanner on the wrong setting for several of these].

Dealer #1: The Latest and Greatest [?]

I didn't get a ton from this first dealer, but there was a lot of recent product. There was an entire sleeve of 2023 Topps Chrome, and everything else spanned anywhere from 2018 to 2021. Lots of Bowman. I'm not really a Bowman guy, so I had to wedge around that and find the stuff that was more my speed. I forget if I had this Fernando Rodney A's card from 2019 Heritage or not, but it just seemed like something I needed either way.

A lot of the Heritage in these were from late-2010s High Numbers, which is nice, because I only got so much of those sets. This included some quick stops for Rich Hill and Wade Miley, and a very early Connor Joe. 

I'm not really a Topps Fire collector, but if it comes my way and there's guys I collect, I'll bite. This was the 2020 design, it's pretty cool I guess.

This was the first I'd seen of the 2021 Finest tribute set, which threw it back to the early 90s. I mostly stuck to team collections here. Even if Didi Gregorius didn't really pan out in Philly, I still love finding cards of him from there.

I'm not really a Bowman guy, but occasionally Bowman inserts catch my eye. It helps that all 3 of these guys did make the majors. 

And some Bowman rookie selections- many of these were either zero-year or teams that were documented ever-so-briefly before a trade; Soderstrom's here because he may pan out eventually.

Dealer #2: Literally a Stone's Throw Away

A lot of dime boxes were spread out, like I'd have to mine aisles of vintage and overpriced wax and dollar bins just to get to a dime box. This one was only a few feet from Dealer #1. So that was awfully convenient. 

It kind of made sense, because the output at this one was relatively similar to the first- lots of recent product, lots of modern commons, things like that. Some of the products were more unusual, though; you got your share of A&G inserts, like a very cool Ginter Greats of Rickey Henderson from a few years ago.

There were only one or two real deep pulls out of the last 5 or so years, and so I had to go for 'em. Always down for a new Larry Walker.

But yes, I did mostly use this box to catch up on a lot of the sets I'd only gotten choice cards from in recent years. That Verdugo is a great card, and that Banks is a beautiful shot we haven't seen before.

A smattering of Panini products in there, including a rare glimpse at Kyle Schwarber's Boston months, an insert of Ryne Sandberg, and some of those DK Team Heroes inserts I always enjoy.

A good number of 2022 Heritage ones that stuck out to me, including a bunch of the Braves WS highlights, which now reads like a list of ex-Braves mostly. I love the shots that both the Cease and Castillo cards use. 

I hadn't seen a lick of 2022 Gallery yet. Honestly, I'm not wild about this one, because the filtering and texture that made these cards true to the original Gallery series is gone, and now it's just closely cropped photographs. As you can see, I'm building a small 'Trea Turner pre-Philly collection'.

Two other sets that were new to me, both from 2022. The top row is the return of Topps Pristine. It feels a ton less special than the original Pristine. The bottom row is Topps Cosmic Chrome I believe. Yeah, not sure why we needed it, but it looks cool.

I also filled up on a ton of 2021 Chrome Heritage, which, I assume, is just a recurring thing now and is gonna keep going for far too long. Fine adding these Yanks though.

These were my favorite legends ones I found. These checklists are perhaps too big, but there's a ton of room for out-of-the-box picks like Maz, Sutter and Kell.

Dealer #3: Return of the 8 for a Buck Boxes:

This guy I'd encountered before. I think once at a White Plains show? Don't quote me on that, it's all kind of a blur, but definitely at multiple Philly shows. His 8-for-1 boxes are legendary because they're filled with all sorts of unfiltered spoils from just-released product, with some odder classic stuff thrown in. A 2023 Finest card from this box gave me my first glimpse, on cardboard, of Mets hero Michael Conforto in Giants colors.

Like the last box, only a fleeting instance of older stuff, but I was fine with all 3 of these. I like whenever I get to find 2000 Ultra in the wild.

There were some sensible finds here and there, like a NTCD card of the reigning Cy Young winner, and a Chrome version of Luis Castillo's 88T insert.

Some 2022 Update stuff I didn't have. Diaz and Kwan's rookies are important finds.

Two 2023 Topps base cards I hadn't happened upon, and two very important ones. Look how happy Cutch is to be back home.

Last year's Heritage. Kinda awful that we're rounding what could be the last curve of Joey Votto's career. Part of me kinda hopes he keeps going.

A few from this year's Heritage that I didn't have. That Nimmo card is awesome.

Now to the stuff I'd barely seen any of: 2023 Big League, which never made it to my shelves. I think this set's honestly run its course, and they clearly don't know what made it great to start, but it is occasionally capable of cool things.

Three extremely cool recent Mosaic inserts. You never see Larry Doby and Monte Irvin inserts often at all.

This guy had a TON of 2022 Chrome Heritage, which just came out [I know, Topps...could be doing things a lot better right now]. Hoyt Wilhelm, man! You know they're doing something right when Hoyt Wilhelm shows up!

I'd already seen some 2023 Donruss thanks to a Nachos Grande group break, but I wanted to get some other stuff that didn't correspond to my teams. Jack Leiter's maybe 2 years away from MLB action at this point, but he's probably gonna be awesome. PCAjust came up and is probably gonna blow everybody away. Plus, now I can say someone actually made a PCA card during his 2023 rookie season.

Like Chrome Heritage, an excellent selection of legends. Joe Morgan as an Astro! 1992-era Gary Carter! Even without current players, Donruss still does a lot right.

And a smattering from my upbringing, including two different Randy Johnsons and an Astros Bobby Abreu, which would ultimately be a theme this show.

That's a good amount for one post. The other two dealers I visited today made for a lot stranger stuff than some of the more conventional stuff in this post. So check that out tomorrow!