Sunday, July 24, 2016

Simply Amazed

There have been several good cards this year that I have thoroughly enjoyed adding to my collection.  However, this past week I added, what has become, easily my favorite card that any company has put out in any set this year.  Here is a look at my newest baseball card of Durham Bulls, and Rays prospect, infielder Richie Shaffer....

The reason that this card is great is the fact that it can be tied to a specific memorable event from Shaffer's career.  Last year, Shaffer the majority of the season with the Durham Bulls, but he had a chance to play a little with the Rays in September.  Shaffer's first hit came in the form of a home run against the White Sox.  The dugout was great and is the subject of this Richie Shaffer card.

In a season where the Durham Bulls and the Rays missed the playoffs, in my opinion this was one of the best moments of last season.  I am glad that Topps chose this picture and moment to use on Shaffer's card in this year's Stadium Club set.  

Beyond the Shaffer autograph, I also picked up the Stadium Club autograph of former Durham Bulls pitcher Alex Colome.  


Colome had been looking for a role the past few years, but has fit into a nice groove as the team's closer.  It's good to see him settle down and find a little bit of success at the Major League level.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Simply Disappointed

As a lifelong Cardinals collector I have been eagerly awaiting the first Aledmys Diaz card.  The rookie shortstop, who was originally called up to be a stop gap for the injured Jhonny Peralta, has turned in a magnificent rookie season.  He's not quite Corey Seager, but he's essentially in the conversation with him for the National League Rookie of the Year.

The big difference between the two as a collector is the fact that Corey Seager has had cards out for several years, while Aledmys Diaz has a few team issued cards from his time in the Cardinals farm system.  Well, a few weeks ago Topps put up the first Diaz rookie card as a part of their Throwback Thursday sets.  The cards are sold in their online store and feature a design from a past Topps product.

Here's a look at the set for sale after it had been pulled down.  The cards are only for sale for one week.

I was honestly a little bit apprehensive about buying these cards.  First, they were $19.99 for 6 cards.  Second, the only other time I have bought something off of the Topps site I was sent two poorly packaged cards.  My post about the two cards is here, or you can check out my scan of the Bryce Harper card that was mailed in a flimsy Ultra Pro top loader with no penny sleeve.

This evening after dinner my son and I walked out to the mailbox to pick up the mail.  He's not really interested in the baseball cards that come in the mail, but he's interested in letters that are addressed to him.  Letters from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even statements from his bank are reason to celebrate.  Similarly, I get excited when the mailbox opens and there is any sort of padded envelope inside which might be holding some cards.

When the mailbox door opened there were two items in the mail today.  A letter from my son's great grandparents in Michigan and a package from Topps.  He was excited, I was not happy just looking at the package.

It was in a hard cardboard envelope, which isn't terrible, but it just had a big lump in the middle of the package.  I opened the tab on the end of the envelope and my six card set, which cost me $19.99 was jammed into a plastic snap case with a piece of bubble wrap and no other protection for the cards....

Everyone has been mailed cards in a snap container before, but this is not the way to package them and have the cards arrive safely.  Bad things happen.  Here are my cards out of the case....

Which don't look terrible, until you turn them to the side.  This is where the disappointment sets in for a collector who was excited to get their first card of a player they enjoy watching......

or if that's not clear you can try this angle...

I tried, but I should have taken my own advice the first time that I bought cards directly Topps and stopped right then and there.  We will chalk this one up in the loss column and find some other Aledmys Diaz cards to post some other day...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Bowman Cardinal With A Yankee. Twice.

I kind of skipped over the whole Bowman thing this year which is really unusual for me since I really like following along with the Minor Leagues.  I ended up not completely skipping the set outright, I did end up with a copy of the set, I just didn't bust open any packs to put together.  Just helped out by the generosity of a case breaker.  It's a little late to the party, but I have put together a few autographs from Bowman over the past few weeks.

My first Bowman autograph is a Cardinals prospect.  I bought the card and the seller threw in a Yankees autograph really cheap, so I couldn't pass it up....

This Piscotty autograph was one of the first cards I wanted to find out of Bowman.  I have been looking for a new Cardinals player to collect and have enjoyed picking up some Piscotty cards the last few months.  The right fielder is also having a great season with a .299/.374/.497 slash line, 13 home runs, 23 doubles, and 53 RBIs.  Looks a lot better than whatever Jason Heyward is batting at the moment.

My cheap Yankees autograph.....

Luis Severino was a really highly touted prospect back in 2015, but has not really done well in the Majors.  This year he is winless and has an ERA of 7.46.  At the same time he has pitched really well for Scranton in the International League.  I guess if he does not pan out this can go in my good Minor Leaguers box, but hopefully he can put it together for the Yankees.

So, my next two Bowman cards are similar to the first two autographs: One Cardinals autograph that I wanted and a Yankees card that was sort of put into the trade.  Cardinals autograph first:

Little bit of a gamble here, but DeJong has been one of the Cardinals better power prospects.  The team is not really great at developing power hitters, but this former Illinois State star might break the mold.  Last year DeJong hit 9 home runs in just 66 games in Rookie and A Ball.  This year he's on the Cardinals Double A affiliate in Springfield, Missouri where he has 17 home runs, 17 doubles, and 59 doubles.  Sounds good until you look at the 104 strikeouts and .314 OBP.  The Cardinals already have Randal Grichuk.....

My Yankees more or less throw in.....

Feel like Refsnyder is somewhat similar to Severino in some regards.  He's been good in the Minors, played better in the Majors than Severino, but not sure if the Yankees are going to give him much of a chance with Starlin Castro playing second.  I keep waiting for him to be traded......either of them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Everyone Loves Ray. At Least I Do.

In my never ending quest to find Ray Lankford cards I stumbled across a really cool late 1990s card on the old internet.  One of the most popular early parallel sets that was put out around that time was the Circa Rave cards.  They were roughly two or three per case as I recall, but not one per box.  The cards were numbered to 150, which seems like a large number these days, but they were a good chase back then.

The cards were often pricey, so at the time the Circa cards came out, I skipped over this Ray Lankford card.  I found one copy about five years ago on a trip back to St. Louis and I probably overpaid for the card.  I hadn't seen one in a long time, so I figured I was probably running out of chances to find one.

Fast forward to now.  Look what I found.....

There is not a lot of difference between the base card version and the Rave versions of these cards.  The front has no identifiable marker outside of the foil color of the word Circa 97 and the player name being purple instead of silver.  The card back has the serial number.......

The best part of finding this card was the fact that it cost me less a shade over $5.  Far cheaper than the cost of my other copy.  While I would like to say, in retrospect, that I should have been more patient, I am just going to think of this has having two really cool Circa Rave cards.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Venerable Old Card Part 22

So there is this really good Dodgers prospect named Jose DeLeon.  He has a bunch of cards out, he's been rated in the Top 100 Prospects almost universally across the board, and he seems well liked.  So,  this weekend I was working on finishing up a trade when the other party asked me about Jose DeLeon cards.  He was a Pirates fan, but naturally I pulled out a few cards of the Dodgers kid....

Welp, wrong Jose DeLeon and I probably should have known better as a Cardinals fan.  After all, for a few years in the late 1980s, Jose DeLeon was a pretty good pitcher for the Cardinals.  I was really surprised that someone was asking me for the 1980s version of Jose DeLeon.  Maybe, I was a little unprepared, but it was fun to look back through some of my old late 1980s and 1990s Cardinals cards when DeLeon pitched in St. Louis.  

Apparently, the guy I was trading with met him once as a kid in Pittsburgh and has collected his cards for more than 30 years.  Sounded like a cool and unique collection.  In the end, I ended up finding a few oddball DeLeon cards to pass along to the first ever Jose DeLeon collector I have encountered.  

My favorite out of the group of cards traded was a duplicate of a 1991 St. Louis Police Cardinals Stadium Giveaway.  

While the old Cardinals team set giveaways are not too difficult to find, they were given away in essentially wrapped in a plain white envelope with the cards loose inside.  I found this picture off of an Ebay auction showing the cards in their original envelope....

The majority of the baseball card giveaways that I picked up from Busch Stadium as a kid are definitely in rough shape, but about fifteen years ago I found almost all of the sets, in great condition, at a little card shop outside of St. Louis.  I was happy that a little purchase from a card shop fifteen years ago could help out a fellow collector and help me pick out an old card for my weekly Monday post.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Gaggle of Great Graphs

I had posted a Scott Rolen autograph a few days back.  I had actually ended up with that Topps Heritage autograph through a fellow collector who was also trying to get rid of a few old Fleer Greats of the Game autographs.  I really enjoyed collecting those sets way back in the day, liked the autographs that were in the lot, so I decided to jump at the chance to pick up these cards.  I ended up with five in all.  Here's a look at the cards, all from the 2001 Great of the Game set...

I have a bunch of Enos Slaughter autographs, but I had never picked this one before now.  Slaughter had a really nice autograph and this one is generally his roughest signature on a certified card.  At the time this set came out the Roxboro, North Carolina native was fighting Lymphoma.  While it's not his best signature, it's one of his last.  I like the black and white photo on the card too.  These were the simplest design of the Greats of the Game set, but I think the simplicity works well. 

So this is where I am a little bit lost on the design of this set.  The Mazeroski autograph above has a color picture.  The card still looks really nice.  I thought perhaps the color/black and white pictures were based on when they played, but Orlando Cepeda's career lined up almost exactly with Mazeroski and he had a bacl and white photo.  Same with Killebrew at the bottom.  Let's just enjoy the autographs.  Prior to this card, I did not have a Mazeroski autograph.  His signatures are never expensive, nor hard to find, just never got around to picking one up.  

I have other Cepeda autographs, with the Cardinals, but I liked the look of this card.  Obviously a younger version of Cha Cha at the beginning of his career with the Giants.  

This is my only duplicate out of the lot.  Roger Craig is a Durham native, so I have picked up a few of his autographs over the years.  I remember Roger Craig best as the manager of the Giants when I was a kid, but as I have gotten older I have run into him as sort of local sports legend around central North Carolina.  I am pretty sure that three different high school's in Durham try to claim him, he went to NC State, and every baseball fan I have ever met from North Carolina over the age of 65 saw him pitch locally in the minor leagues.  

Not my first autograph of the Twins Hall of Famer, but Harmon always has a nice autograph.  Great looking card.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday Five: Top 5 Greensboro Minor Leaguers

I spent a little bit of last Sunday checking out a game in Greensboro.  It's the second straight year that I have made the trek west to visit NewBridge Bank Ballpark, which is the home to the Marlins entry in the South Atlantic League.  If you live within driving distance of Greensboro, or are going to be in North Carolina at some point during the baseball season, it is worth a few hours of your time to catch a game at this stadium.

It was a rough afternoon for the Grasshoppers, the current name of the team, who were taking on the Kannapolis Intimidators.  The Intimidators are a White Sox affiliate.  Instead of writing a post on the current squad, I am going to take a little bit of time and write about some of the great players who have passed through Greensboro over the years.

There are some teams that do a great job of recognizing their past teams and players inside of their stadiums, and for this, the Grasshoppers definitely get strong marks.  Around the concourse of the field the team has banners that are broken down by decade that recognize different teams and players.  The banners are very well done.

There has been organized professional baseball in Greensboro for more than 100 years, but with a short ten walk, and a little bit of reading, baseball fans can soak in all of the greatness that has happened in the city's baseball history.  I took some notes, did a little supplemental research at home, and have assembled my top five Greensboro Minor Leaguers.  

The list is deep and told in baseball cards as always.....

Honorable Mention-

Jorge Posada - 1992 Greensboro Hornets 

Posada played on the 1992 Greensboro entry along with fellow future Yankees Derek Jeter and Shane Spencer.  In 101 games, Posada posted a .277/.389./472 line with 12 home runs, 22 doubles, 58 RBIs, and a surprising 11 stolen bases.  Posada went on to play 17 seasons in the Majors, all with the Yankees, collecting more than 1,500 hits, 275 home runs, 1000 RBIs while helping the team win the World Series in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009.  Jay Jaffe's JAWS system rates him as the 16th best catcher of all-time just behind Thurman Munson.  

Don Mattingly - 1980 Greensboro Hornets 

Mattingly's appearance in Greensboro marked his first full season in professional baseball after spending 1979 in the short-seasoned New York-Penn League.  The Hornets boasted an infield with Donny Ballgame, future Twins fixture Greg Gagne, and Rex "Wonderdog" Hudler.  Otis Nixon was also an infielder on the team and future Twins and Phillies pitcher Fred Toliver anchored the rotation.  Overall a really deep team for the low minors.  Mattingly managed to post a .358/.422/.498 line with 9 home runs, 32 doubles, and 105 RBIs.  Overall, Mattingly would go on to play 14 seasons with the Yankees collecting 2,153 hits, 222 home runs, and 1099 RBIs.  He won the 1984 American League Batting Title with a .343 mark and also won the 1985 AL MVP Award.  

and now for the Top 5

5. Andy Pettitte - 1992 Greensboro Hornets 

Pettitte pitched for the Greensboro Hornets during his second year in the Minors.  After being drafted in the 22nd Round of the 1990 draft, Pettitte started his professional career the next summer with stops in the GCL and the New York-Penn League.  For the Hornets, Pettite went 10-4 in 27 starts with a 2.20 ERA. Andy Pettitte would go on to pitch 18 years with the Yankees and Astros.  Overall, he won 256 games and ended his career with 2,448 strikeouts.  Pettitte was also an important part of the Yankees winning the World Series in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009 ending his career with a total of 19 postseason wins.  5 of those victories occurred in the World Series.  

4. Robinson Cano - 2002 Greensboro Bats 

Cano appeared on the 2002 squad along with Shelley Duncan and Dioner Navarro.  The year marked a sort of a break out for Cano who was just 19 at the time, making him one of the younger players on the squad.  In 2001, Cano's first season in the Yankees system, he posted a .231/.328/.361 line with just 3 home runs and 14 doubles in almost 250 at bats.  In his lone season for the Bats, Cano hit .276/.321/.445 with 14 home runs, 9 triples, and 20 doubles.  Cano is the lone active player on this list, but has put in 12 seasons so far with the Yankees and Mariners.  He is 33 and already over 2,000 hits, 250 home runs, and is approaching 500 doubles.  Jaffe's JAWS system already rates him as the 14th best second baseman of all-time and his peak 7 years of WAR already exceed the average Hall of Fame second baseman.  His best seven years have already past Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg, Craig Biggio, and Roberto Alomar measured by WAR.  Should be in Cooperstown at some point in the future.  

3. Curt Schilling - 1987 Greensboro Hornets 

Schilling actually started out his career as a Red Sox, later traded to the Orioles for Brady Anderson.  Schilling started 28 games for the Hornets that year and posted an 8-15 record.  His 3.82 ERA wasn't terrible, but he also struck out 189 batters in 184 innings.  The Hornets finished 30 games under .500 that season, so I am going to go ahead and overlook the 15 loses.  The beginning of Schilling's Major League career also got off to a bit of a slow start.  He ended up playing a total of 20 years, but only won 105 games during his first 12 years.  His last 8 seasons, split between the Diamondbacks and Red Sox, netted him 111 wins.  Schilling also surpassed 3,000 strikeouts, 11 postseason wins, and 3 World Series rings.  Schilling is not in the Hall of Fame yet, but should get there one of these days...

2. Mariano Rivera - 1991 Greensboro Hornets and 1993 Greensboro Hornets 

Rivera passed through Greensboro twice on his way up to the Yankees.  However, he was a starting pitcher almost the entire time he was in the Minors.  Overall, Rivera pitched 39 games for the Hornets during the two stops with 25 starts.  His combined won-loss record of 5-9 is not great, but during his first appearance in the South Atlantic League he pitched 114 innings and struck out 123 hitters.  His second time through he started ten games, only one once, and again had an excellent strikeout rate.  Rivera is the first of three Hall of Famers on this list, or he will be soon, after a great 19 year career as the Yankees closer.  He's MLBs all-time save leader with 652, but more importantly he was one of the greatest postseason pitchers in the history of the game.  Rivera ended his career with 42 postseason saves and a 0.70 ERA.  

1. Derek Jeter - 1992 Greensboro Hornets and 1993 Greensboro Hornets 

Jeter also appeared twice for the Hornets and is by far the most popular former Greensboro player out there.  Jeter first appeared for the team in 1992 closing out the year.  Jeter actually spent part of the season with the GCL Yankees before playing 11 games with the Hornets.  His .243/.378/.324 line was nothing to write home about, but it's also a really small sample size.  In 1993 Jeter returned to Greensboro, but stayed the entire season posting a .295/.376/.394 line with 5 home runs, 11 triples, 14 doubles, and 18 steals.  Jeter went on to play 20 seasons with the Yankees recording 3,465 hits, 260 home runs, 358 stolen bases, and won four rings.