Saturday, June 30, 2018

9 Cards of #9

A longtime member of the blogging community, It's like having my own Card Shop is celebrating 9 years of blogging. In a week that's seen one of my favorite bloggers, Bob Walk the Plank, retire from the baseball card blogging world, it's very nice to see that there are still plenty of card blogs continue doing what they're doing. 

As a way to celebrate 9 years, It's like having my own Card Shop is throwing a contest to win a package of Paul Goldschmidt cards as well as at least 1 card for the winners PC, which would be Craig Kimbrel in my case. I didn't find out about the contest until late yesterday, and today is the last day to enter. This means that I will have to put off some very exciting news until tomorrow's blog post, so stay tuned for that.

For my entry, I've decided to select 9 cards of #9 for the Boston Red Sox, perhaps the greatest hitter of all-time, Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams. I knew I wanted to choose 9 cards of a player who wore #9 for my entry. There were other players I could've chosen like Roger Maris or Reggie Jackson, but I decided to go with Williams instead.

The Distinguished Service card at the top of this post is quite possibly my favorite card of Williams. It's the first of the 9 cards I'll be showcasing on this blog post. Here are the rest of them.

I remember getting this card at my very first card show that I ever attended many, many years ago with my Dad. I recall coming home with some stacks of Red Sox cards because that's all I really collected back then. Out of all the cards I brought home that day, this one is the only one I truly remember.

The 3rd card is also a card from the short-lived Ted Williams Card Company set. To my knowledge, the set lasted just 2 years. However, it's become one of my favorite sets of all-time due to the design, players included in the set, and the hand-painted cards like the one shown above of Williams himself, who was not afraid to include multiple cards of himself in the set.

Ted Williams is known for having the very first card in the 1958 Topps set, which was remade for the 2001 Topps Archives set, the 1st year of the revived brand. Not only was the card replicated pretty much to perfection, but they also kept the iconic 50's Red Sox logo rather than swapping it out, something I really appreciate due to how big a fan I am of the short-lived 50's logo.

Despite being quite possibly the greatest hitter in baseball history, Williams is often underrepresented in baseball card sets. This is likely due to the shortage of images available to use of Williams. Still, a player of his caliber deserves to be included in sets more than he currently is, though I have seen a steady rise in Ted Williams card production over the last 5 years.

Williams was a very good choice for the first-ever Topps Allen & Ginter set. They went for a lot of historic players in this set such as Mickey Mantle and Monte Irvin. There were definitely more old-time players included in the first couple A&G sets than there have been in Allen & Ginter sets over the last couple years.

Like I said, the last few years have seen a steady increase in Ted Williams cards being produced. After 2007 or so, there were very few cards of his until 2013-2014. After that, he's been fairly well-represented in sets such as Gypsy Queen. Case and point, his base card from the 2015 set. 

2016 was also a good year for Ted Williams card collectors as we saw a card of his with a brand-new modernized image included in 2016 Topps Archives, specifically in the 1991 Topps design. I suppose my favorite part of the card is something I hadn't noticed till right now, the different people all lined up in the background getting ready to take their seats and see Ted play.

The final of the 9 Ted Williams cards I've selected for this post and contest entry is the Power Alley insert from 2016 Topps Gypsy Queen. The card not only features a new image of Williams and a well-done design but also includes his career home run total, 521. Without a doubt, Williams would have surpassed 600 career dingers if not for his years of military service during his prime.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Midseason MVP Predictions

Now that most every MLB team has played or will soon play their 81st game of the 2018 season, we are officially at the halfway point of the year even though it doesn't seem like long ago when I was watching the Red Sox's opening day debacle against the Rays which, come to think of it, was nearly 3 months ago to the day.

Back in early April, I made predictions for who I thought would win certain awards, particularly the MVP award. The first 3 months of the season have certainly changed some of my picks, though certain players like Mookie Betts and Mike Trout have remained consistent. 

Considering that the MLB regular season is now officially halfway done, I thought I'd update the MVP picks for each league by selecting the 3 players most worthy of the MVP award for each league.   Additionally, I will choose 1 player for each league that I think has the best shot at winning the award, though the other 2 will be stiff competition. 

Now, let's get started with the 3 players most qualified for the American League MVP award which I originally thought would go to Francisco Lindor. He's off to a stellar start thus far, but he has fallen just shy of an MVP caliber player.

It was a close call between Martinez and Altuve for one of the AL MVP spots, but I'm certain I made the correct choice. Not only does J.D. lead all of baseball in home runs and RBI, but he's also 5th in batting average in all of baseball as well. J.D. is more than just a slugger, he's one of the best hitters in baseball right now, something he proves every single day. Not only do I think J.D. should be a finalist for MVP, but he's my current pick to win the award. That is if he can keep going at the rate he's currently going at.

J.D. Martinez may be truly superb, but one cannot forget about Mookie Betts and what he has done so far this year. His right side injury saw him miss over 10 games, thus causing him to fall further behind J.D. Martinez and his impressive stats. However, not only has Mookie remained consistent and strong all season, but he provides something that J.D. does not; Gold Glove-caliber defense. As of now, I think Betts will fall short of J.D. for the award. But, let's say Mookie matches Martinez's level and remains one of the best defensive players in the game. Then, I could definitely see Betts winning the award.

A sure-thing AL MVP finalist every single season, Mike Trout currently finds himself slightly above Mookie Betts' level yet slightly below J.D. Martinez's level. Trout is tied for the 2nd most dingers in baseball and is top 10 in batting average. Like Mookie Betts, Trout is capable of walking away with a Gold Glove award in addition to MVP. Also, due to the impact of his name and how popular he is, his stats, as well as his name, could eventually carry him to his 3rd career AL MVP award and if he wins, it will certainly be deserved due to the tight competition among those competing for the honor.

Moving onto the NL MVP award which I originally thought would go to Bryce Harper. Unfortunately for him, his deplorable .219 batting average is making a terrible case, especially during his much-anticipated contract year. Instead, here are the 3 guys who have the best chance at taking home the award.

My personal pick for the NL MVP award is superstar 3rd baseman for the Colorado Rockies, Nolan Arenado. He is the definition of a 5-tool player and has consistently been one of the best in the game. Not only is he 6th in all of baseball in RBI, but he's also hitting a stellar .310 with 18 home runs. Nolan has been incredible for years now and is currently in his prime after turning 27 in April. He's come up short over the last couple years, but I'm convinced that, if he keeps this up, 2018 will be different for Arenado.

Arenado's biggest competition for the NL MVP award is a fellow defensive phenom, Atlanta Braves star 1st baseman, Freddie Freeman. He and Arenado are basically neck-and-neck in a variety of categories, including batting average and RBI. However, Nolan has a slight advantage when it comes to power hitting which will certainly play into factor as the season progresses. While I certainly give Freeman the world of credit for leading the Braves to a .570 win percentage as of today, Arenado's talent speaks for itself, and it usually improves as the season draws to a close.

Javier Baez may be a surprising pick if you don't know what he's been doing this season. Not only has he been one of the best defensive players in the game, including his MVP competitors, but he has more RBI than Arenado and Freeman as well. Additionally, he has 16 home runs which are more than Freddie and almost as many as Nolan. It's simply the .280 batting average holding him back. Don't get me wrong, it's still very good. But to be the NL MVP, it simply has to be better. Therefore, all it takes is for Baez to hit .295 or better. Then, he has the best shot out of all 3 of these guys to take home the award.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Frankenset Page 12

One thing that differentiates baseball from other sports is the lack of truly terrible teams which is certainly one of the positive and more desirable aspects of the sport. 

For example, the Minnesota Twins were the only team in 2016 with a win percentage below .400. Similarly, the Tigers and Giants were the only clubs in 2017 to have a winning percentage below that mark. It's likely due to the sheer number of games played, making it harder to lose at the rate that some NFL or NBA teams lose.

This year, however, appears to be different. Not only are there currently 3 teams with a win percentage below .400 and one team with a win percentage of exactly .400, but the Orioles currently have a win percentage of .295 while the Royals are on the verge of reaching that mark as well. The 2018 Orioles are on pace for one of the worst seasons in MLB history, and that's before the expected trading of superstar Manny Machado.

The worst teams in baseball right now are worse than they've been in a while. However, my 12th frankenset page is one of the best ones yet. It features cards 100-108 and includes cards from Stadium Club and even a card from the early 60's. Now, let's get started with the 100th card in the set.

#100 2015 Topps Stadium Club Alex Cobb
Many are quick to point out the inaccuracies in these Rays throwback jerseys since they never, in fact, wore them until they were used as throwbacks. However, they happen to be some of my favorite 70's style jerseys still worn as throwbacks occasionally today despite not being true and authentic throwback uniforms.

#101 2002 Donruss Diamond Kings Marlon Byrd
Whether it be the original Diamond Kings in their 80's sets or the actual set produced in the 2000's, Donruss was able to make the Diamond Kings brand iconic for over 20 years. I'm indifferent towards the current Diamond Kings set by Panini, but the DK cards in the Panini Donruss set is what I mainly have an issue with.

#102 1966 Topps Ed Kirkpatrick Buyback
I'm not a huge buyback fan myself, but I do very much like the Topps Heritage 50th anniversary buybacks that are included as box toppers in Heritage hobby boxes. I just think it's pretty cool to be able to get a vintage card to add to your collection even if the player isn't super well-known. It's much better than getting dozens of stamped 1987 cards from the 2017 giveaway promo. 

#103 1961 Topps Ruben Amaro
Speaking of vintage cards, the next card is from the 1961 Topps set which I am in the process of adding to my want list. Therefore, I should definitely look for a new card #103 so I can put Ruben Amaro's card with the other 1961 Topps cards in the '61 Topps binder. 

#104 2003 Upper Deck Vintage Larry Doby
I've never been a huge fan of the Upper Deck Vintage set due to how they base their set designs of various Topps sets like 1971 and in this case, 1965. Still, I always appreciate when a company goes the extra mile for a card which is exactly what Upper Deck did here by choosing a black and white image for Larry Doby's card.

#105 2006 Topps Victor Martinez
The set design for Victor Martinez's 2006 Topps card makes it one of the simplest cards on the page in terms of design alone. However, I chose this card due to the action-image of Martinez getting ready to swing which helps make the card stand out a bit more.

#106 2004 Topps Opening Day Benito Santiago
There was a time in years such as 2004 (shown above) and 2008 when Topps' Opening Day set featured different colored borders than the base Flagship set. In 2004, the borders were gray as opposed to white while the in 2008, Topps went with red borders that stood out quite a bit. I know for a fact these 2 years were different, though I'm not sure about any others.

#107 2015 Topps Stadium Club Gold Parallel Ron Gant
The 2nd 2015 Topps Stadium Club card of the page is a gold parallel of the 7-year veteran of the Atlanta Braves, Ron Gant. I must say that out of all the Stadium Club sets, the parallels of the 2015 set are by far the hardest to notice. If not for the Stadium Club logo in the bottom right, I'd probably not notice any of them at all.

#108 2016 Topps Gypsy Queen Richie Shaffer
I chose this Richie Shaffer card as the last card of the page due to how much I love the alternate powdered blue Rays jersey. I'm not quite certain what Richie Shaffer has done since this card was made in 2016, but I do know what Gypsy Queen has done and I do not like it. I really wish they'd go back to how their sets were from 2011-2016.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Some of My Favorite Pirates Cards For Bob Walk the Plank

By now, many of the members of the baseball card blogging community, as well as the viewers, have learned that Matthew Scott of Bob Walk the Plank is retiring after over 4 years of blogging about all things Pirates.

It's always sad to see a good blogger retire. I know I'm not alone when I say that I thoroughly enjoyed
catching up with Matt as well as the Pirates franchise through his blog despite not being an avid Pirates fan myself. It's quite easy to tell that the blog is run by someone who is extremely passionate about the entire Pirates organization. The blog is focused on one main thing in particular and Matthew has done an excellent job at making the Pirates appealing to everyone, no matter who they typically root for.

As a way to pay homage to Matt and the Bob Walk the Plank blog, I've searched through my Pirates cards to find 10 of my own favorite Pirates cards, a decision usually based on the uniform being worn by the player on each card. The Pirates' black and gold colors have caused them to become quite synonymous and prominent on cardboard and thus, it was difficult to choose just 10 Pirates cards since the classic jerseys gave me hundreds of options to choose from.

The first one being the 1972 Topps Jackie Hernandez card at the top of the page, here is the rest of the 10 Pirates cards I have selected in honor of Bob Walk the Plank.

This Bob Veale card seems to represent the exact opposite of what we expect to see from 2010's baseball cards. Pink is the primary border color, Veale is wearing big glasses that made it on the card, I could go on. However, it really works because the 60's made it work. The card is simply just everything I love about not just the 60's, but the Pirates in general.

1971 Topps is one of the best, if not the best set to feature Pirates players in. The gold and black team colors combined with the black borders are a perfect combination. I knew there would be a ton of colorful borders coming after the 70's, so I went with Jose Martinez's more simple 1971 Topps card for the list.

If I had to list my top 10 favorite baseball cards of all-time, I'm pretty certain the 1978 Grant Jackson card shown above would be an honorable mention at the very least. I have no clue what ballpark this is from or what Jackson is even wearing. All I know is that I'm a huge fan of the entire card, especially the crazy workout jacket he's wearing.

Of all the different combinations the Pirates have done over the years for their jerseys, the all-gold shirt and pants would have to rank as one of my all-time favorites. It's just so eye-catching that the one doesn't really notice the fact that the player isn't wearing much black on his jersey.

Mike Easler appears to be wearing the same jersey on this card that Omar Moreno is wearing on the 1982 Donruss card shown above. The main difference is the hair that is visible on this card while not visible on the Moreno card, and it truly symbolizes not just the era he's playing in, but everything the Pirates were all about at that time.

I actually had to narrow down my choices for the 1983 Topps card I wanted to include down from 18 to 1 as I found 1 sheets worth of options. In the end, I knew I wanted to include a catcher's card which is why this card beat out all the other options. The black catcher's gear is just an added bonus for a card that is already very well-done.

Kent Tekulve remains one of the most interesting players to ever play the game of baseball. He was incredibly skinny and tall and wore such 80's glasses that you wouldn't expect him to have the successful career that he had for the Pirates and Phillies along with a very brief time with the Reds towards the end of the relief pitcher's career.

It's one thing to be able to encapsulate what an era of baseball history was like while it's happening. But for a card company like the Ted Williams company to perfectly recreate what the 70's was all about for the Pirates through a Dock Ellis card 20 years after his best seasons is a totally different, and very impressive feat.

If only Fleer had gone with an accurate Pirates logo to reflect the time period for their 2000 Fleer Greats of the Game card of Phil Garner. If they had done that instead of the 2000's Pirates logo which, I must say, is not my favorite, we would've somehow had an even more impressive card than the one shown above.

I have countless Pirates cards that I could've chosen from with dozens of incredible uniforms that make up everything that I like about the Bob Walk the Plank blog and the Pirates in general. However, I like the cards I chose so much because they range from the 60's all the way to the 2000's. It shows the change in not just baseball, but the Pirates as well. However, the bright uniforms were one of the things that, no matter what, stayed the same.

Thanks for all the great posts Bob Walk the Plank. It's been a pleasure.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Top 5 Cards: Jon Lester

One of the most consistent pitchers for most of his 13-year career thus far, Lester is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to take the field for both of my favorite teams of all-time (Red Sox and Cubs). If he continues at the rate he's on currently, Lester could become a member of the 3000 strikeout club and if he accomplishes that, Cooperstown could come soon after.

Lester still has a good 3-5 seasons left in him if he stays healthy with the Cubs. He's proven himself year after year even through the years he struggled. He's on a roll to start 2018 and the 4-time All-Star appears to be pitching at his best time and time again. After all, his 3 World Series rings can speak for themselves. Lester has been a star for over a decade and has overcome cancer to become one of the MLB's finest starters.

The 51 Jon Lester cards I have are basically split between Red Sox and Cubs cards, though I likely have a few more of him on the Cubs due to the surge in new cards bought in 2016 and 2017 during his time in Chicago. There were some hard choices, but I ended up with a top 5 of 3 Red Sox cards and 2 Cubs cards; here they are.

#5 2009 Topps Heritage
Lester's card from 2009 Topps Heritage is 1 of just a handful of cards that I have from that set, but I didn't just choose it because it's modeled after one of my favorite sets ever in 1960 Topps. I very much like both of the pictures chosen for the card, the one on the left is my favorite in particular. I assume that the photo on the right was taken during spring training given the trees and bushes in the background and surprisingly, the card works. In a card that already has so much going on, I can't say that I mind another interesting detail to help the card stand out even more.

#4 2015 Topps
I'm not usually a big fan of cards like this where the photo that was chosen is from the conference where the organization introduces their new free agent signing. There's a David Price one from 2016 Bowman, but the card has Dunkin Donuts printed all over the backdrop which takes away from the card. I'm sure there are more examples, but the Lester one is the only one I've seen that I like. I much prefer seeing the Cubs logo on the back instead of some advertisement. After all, the card is supposed to be symbolic of this new player joining the team, so it's nice to see the card being well-done like Lester's 2015 card is.

#3 2013 Topps Chrome Blue Refractor
The scanned version of this card, like many chrome parallels that I scan, appears way different than the actual card looks like in real life. In reality, this card is a blue refractor numbered to 199 from the 2013 Topps Chrome set. I know it doesn't look that way, but the actual card does an excellent job of contrasting the red of Lester's jersey with a shiny blue color. I also really like the photo that is chosen, especially the black glove which adds even more color as well as the look on his face right when he gets ready to throw the pitch.

#2 2016 Topps Archives
I'm pretty certain I had more Cubs cards to choose from than Red Sox cards, so I wanted to choose only the best of the best for this list. For the final Cubs card, I went with his 2016 Topps Archives card, showing Lester in the 1953 Topps design. There are quite a few things to like about this card, but the blue sky and the clouds in the background is easily my favorite part, though I also like when black is included on a card which is why I like the part of the card where his name, position, and team name are printed.

#1 2006 Topps Update Rookie Debut
Lester's rookie card photo on the 2006 Topps Update Rookie Debut insert is the same photo used on his 2007 Topps base card, but I ended up going with this card as the #1 card on the list instead of the '07 card. Sometimes, a card may not be quite as eye-catching, but it does enough to become one's personal favorite. I'm a huge fan of the red and black background used on this card as well as many of the 2007 Topps Red Sox cards, though I don't know what it is. It does a stellar job commemorating the start of Lester's career. A career that could, in turn, end up with a plaque in Cooperstown.

Now, if he gets in, what team's cap will he wear on the plaque?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Worst of the Worst Red Sox Lineup

Perhaps one of the most notorious teams for making bad signings and trades, the Boston Red Sox have had dozens of mediocre players in their organization throughout their team history, the last 20 or so years in particular. In fact, they've made such terrible moves that I've decided to do what Dime Box Nick and Bob Walk The Plank did by creating my team of the worst Red Sox players ever.

For some positions such as pitcher and shortstop, there were many players to choose from so I did cheat a little bit by putting a guy who primarily played shortstop at the 2nd base position. On the other hand, positions like catcher and first base were a bit harder for me to fill, but if any Red Sox fans out there know somebody who would work better at those positions or any position, please let me know. 

Starting with the heavily-contested pitcher position here is my worst of the worst Red Sox team.

Pitcher; Brad Penny
1 season in Boston was all Brad Penny needed to be one of the worst starting pitchers in Red Sox history, and definitely the worst of the modern era. While some pitchers like Ryan Dempster were bad over a couple seasons, Penny's disastrous 2009 season with the Sox cemented his legacy as one of the worst Sox starters ever. Penny had a 5.61 ERA over 130+ innings pitched. His 7 wins must've come off some impressive offense because of how hard it must be to pull off a victory when your starting pitcher is allowing close to 6 runs. Penny actually spent some of '09 with the Giants where he was very solid, so I guess he was only deplorable for Boston.

Catcher; George Kottaras
As I stated earlier, the catcher position was a very difficult position for me to decide on since I truly can't remember a terrible Red Sox catcher. I didn't find much when I attempted to Google the worst catchers in Red Sox history, so I went with a guy who I knew was bad just not terrible. George Kottaras didn't even have 100 at-bats in Boston, but his time in Boston set the tone for what would eventually be a dismal MLB career. He hit .235 in Boston which is his highest total batting average out of the 7 teams he played for (his 21 at-bats in Cleveland notwithstanding). After that, he went on to struggle for multiple teams, ending his 7-year career as a .215 hitter. 

First Baseman; Bill Buckner
I do have cards of Bill Buckner on the Red Sox, but I chose this one to highlight why Buckner made the team. Let me be clear, I doubt Buckner is the worst 1st baseman in Red Sox history, but like the catcher position, I had trouble deciding on a player for 1st base. So, I ended up going with the guy that made the infamous and costly error in the 1986 World Series. As soon as Buckner made that error, the entire World Series went south for the Red Sox to a point that they could not bounce-back from, and even though the fans, including myself, have forgiven him, he still made one of the most costly errors in baseball history.

Second Baseman; Edgar Renteria
Renteria played shortstop while he was in Boston, but I had to move him to 2nd base in order for this lineup to work. Anyway, there's no denying how much Edgar Renteria struggled after joining the Red Sox in 2005, immediately following their World Series championship season. I truly believe Renteria did not like playing in Boston at all and that he only joined because he thought he could win a World Series ring after being on the losing end in '04. He was an All-Star in 2004 and 2006, but not in 2005. His .276 average was not terrible, but his 100 strikeouts certainly were pretty bad, especially for 2005 standards.

Shortstop; Julio Lugo
Once Edgar Renteria finished up his 1st and only season with the Red Sox, Julio Lugo seemed to find his way to Boston pretty soon after. Unfortunately, he didn't fare much better than his predecessor at shortstop. In 3 seasons and nearly 1,000 at-bats with the Red Sox, Lugo had a dismal .251 batting average and was a defensive liability. Furthermore, I've heard on multiple occasions that he wasn't the best teammate in the world as well. I don't necessarily blame Lugo for his struggles, but the least he could do is be a good teammate if you're going to hit .251 for the team.

Third Baseman; Pablo Sandoval
Do I really need to go into this? He was awful in 2015 when he hit just .245 and proved the contract to be a mistake from the beginning. He had just 6 at-bats in 2016 and missed the rest of the season with an injury. Finally, he hit just .212 in 99 at-bats in 2017 before being designated for assignment in July. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, the "Panda" proved to be not just a mistake for getting a 5-year contract worth around $90 million dollars, but ultimately, the worst contract in Red Sox history and that's saying a lot.

Outfield; Carl Crawford, Allen Craig, and Rusney Castillo
Maybe it's the fact that I've been most into the Red Sox throughout the 2010's, or maybe it's the fact that they made so many of their terrible signings and trades this decade. Either way, these 3 deplorable outfielders are certainly the right choices for the worst of the worst team. Firstly, Carl Crawford was a bad player in 2011 with an even worse attitude about playing in Boston, hitting .255 that season and .260 total as a Red Sox outfielder with just 23 total stolen bases despite stealing 60 in the 2009 season alone.

Moving on to Allen Craig, a player who can't even hit well in Pawtucket Triple-A, let alone in the big leagues. I believe he's still with the Paw Sox which is likely where he'll spend the rest of his career unless the Cardinals want him back for old time's sake which I doubt will happen. He was great for their 2011 World Champion team, but that was 7 years ago. Craig just isn't what he once was.

Finally, I've heard that Rusney has done very well in Pawtucket as of late. But Boston's abundance of outfielders and utility players, plus the addition of J.D. Martinez, allows no space for Castillo or his contract. Rusney hit .262 with 35 RBI in just north of 300 Red Sox at-bats. It's not terrible, but it certainly isn't worth the gigantic contract the Red Sox gave him to join their team in 2015.