Monday, January 26, 2015

A Notch Down

There are so going to be a lot of new faces next season on the Rays, which means I am also going to see a lot of change with my local team the Durham Bulls.  The biggest change will be the switch in managers after Charlie Montoyo, who managed the team for eight seasons, left the Bulls to become the new third base coach for the Rays.  Last week the Bulls named Jared Sandberg as their new manager.  Bulls fans rightly seem excited about their new leader as he has shown great skill in working with some of the Rays lower minor league teams.

With the big league roster, and the Triple A roster, somewhat of a toss up at this point I have decided to go down a notch or two in the Rays system to find a player to collect this off season.  I decided to work a little bit on last year's Rays Minor League Player of the Year Winner Johnny Field.  I actually saw Johnny Field a few years back while he was playing here for USA Baseball.

Field attended the University of Arizona and was on the College All-Star team.  While playing for the Wildcats he helped lead the team to the 2012 College World Series Championship.  Honestly, at the time Field did not stand out for me on that team which also featured Carlos Rodon, Trea Turner, Marco Gonzales, and some guy named Kris Bryant.  Pretty impressive group of players.

Last year in two stops, Bowling Green and Port Charlotte, Field hit .300/.376/.488 with 12 home runs, 8 triples, and 36 doubles.  Seems a safe bet that Field will reach the Durham Bulls sooner than later, so we are to the point where I am out looking for his cards.  I added one back in November, but picked up two more in the last month.

My two latest adds are both USA Baseball cards.....

First up is this autograph from the 2013 Panini USA Baseball set.  Kind of an interesting card since it is a rehash of the Certified Brand which was made by Pinnacle in the late 1990s.  It was actually a Leaf product at some point in the early 2000s, but Pinnacle went bankrupt and obviously someone owns the rights to all of the old products even if it is two different companies now.  The card is limited to just 299 copies, and while it is a sticker autograph, it is really well done.  

This last card is from the 2012 edition of Panini's USA Baseball autographs which were released within the Prime Cuts set.  While the Prime Cuts set was a bit of a disappointment, the USA Baseball autographs were incredible.  Pretty simple design with the player standing in front of a flag, not Rex-Kwon-Do in face flag, but a flag with an on-card signature.  Lots of other good players in this set besides Johnny Field.  

Both Field autographs were very affordable, but there are still several other autographs of this Rays Minor League Player of the Year that I would love to add to my collection.  Most of them are USA Baseball autographs, but hopefully Topps will put a few of his autographs in the 2015 products.  At least give me one in Bowman or Topps Pro Debut.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015


A really cool old school card for this week's #MyCardMonday.  The 1990s were a difficult times for Cardinals fans and it was hard to always remain interested in baseball cards when your favorite team had few star players showing up on cardboard.  In 1993 I did not even work on an Upper Deck set.  I just skipped right over it.  The only time in between 1989 and 2010 that I did not touch the Upper Deck set the year it was released.

Fast forward to college and I had to rely on the card scene around Cape Girardeau, Missouri during the school year.  Let's keep it real: There was no card scene.  The town did have a card shop for awhile, but the owner was not one of those friendly and honest card shop owners.  There was a Venture in the mall for a year or two and then there was a Target.

What the hell happened to the Target card aisle?  Now it is populated by boxes from recent releases, but fifteen years ago you could also find cool old boxes in the store.  I found boxes of 1995 Flair, old boxes of 1987 Topps, and one night I found a few boxes of 1993 Upper Deck cards.

I picked up a box of series one and series two and went back to my place to open up the box.  There were so many cool things about the set and so many cards that I loved in the set.  Besides asking what the hell happened to the Target card aisle, I should probably also be asking what happened to cards like the first few Upper Deck sets.

Onto the card.  I thought about doing a Now & Then card, but I like these team cards too.....

The Cardinals team card in 1993 featured Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, but also young upcoming stars Geronimo Pena, Ray Lankford, and Bernard Gilkey.  There were a lot of young players with the Cardinals back in the early 90s.  I am not sure why they did not put Brian Jordan or Todd Zeile on this card, but these three are pretty cool choices.  Lankford turned out to be a pretty good player.  Gilkey was traded to the Mets after the team signed Ron Gant.  After one good year with the Mets Gilkey had some issues with injuries and alcohol.  Geronimo was injured all the time too.  

The back of these cards were pretty cool featuring fun little facts about the players on the card.  We have cool plays on words like "Wizard of Ahs" and great player facts like Bernard Gilkey being a St. Louis native.  The whole card is just incredible.  Upper Deck put a card for each of the teams in the set.  If you don't own anything from the 1993 Upper Deck set you should go and check out these cards.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Lost Die Cut

I spent a lot of time today working on sorting out cards.  I put together about a dozens sets, boxed them, and started organizing all the sets that I had previously put together by year.  I came to the conclusion today that my large metal shelf in my closet is not going to work very well with the smaller boxes I am having to use with the sets.  I have pulled boxes out and have started to search for shelving unit which will better suit my needs.  I think this is the best way to summarize my work today.....

The best part of today was sorting through some little stacks of cards.  Things that needed to go in boxes.  Single cards that filled in sets, player collection cards that I had bought off of Ebay, and some other assorted cards that were hanging around my card room for whatever reason.  I could honestly make a week's worth of posts out of the cards that I found hanging out today, but probably won't share them at this point, but you can see one in a minute.  Although it would make a good countdown post:  Cool Cards That I Lost On My Own Desk

A few weeks ago my brother in law, who now blogs about the Tigers, posted a cool die-cut Nick Castallenos autograph out of Topps Supreme on his Instagram account.

A photo posted by Matt Seguin (@mseguin12) on

I had actually picked up a copy of a similar card around the same time, skipped blogging about it, then decided to go back and use it as a post after all.  Well, I pulled the card out of it's box and.......I guess it sat on my desk for basically the last month.  It was mixed in with a random pile of Topps Heritage inserts I traded for to fill in a set and a Max Scherzer jersey card that I had set aside in case the Cardinals sign him.  Guess I can scratch that idea off my list, but back to the die-cut.   It's a really nice looking card.....

I am not sure what will become of Garin Cecchini, but I saw him play last year for the Red Sox Triple A team and I really enjoyed watching him play.  He's not one of those players who wows you with his tremendous talent, but he works the pitchers and seems to have pretty good success at the plate.  If it never works out, well I have a really cool Topps Supreme card.  For the moment he would seemed blocked in Boston, so there is a really good possibility he will start out the year in Pawtucket and end the year somewhere.

I also tried watching the Hunger Movies while I was working today, but 80s music videos seemed to work out a little bit better for me today.  Why is Johnny Lydon dressed like Pee Wee Herman in this video?

Mas Souza!

The most impressive International League player I saw last summer was Nationals prospect Steven Souza.  He spent last summer playing for the Nationals Triple A team in Syracuse.  I saw them play twice in Durham last summer, but also had a chance to see Souza play for the International League All-Star too.  What impressed with Souza?  He hit for average, he hit for speed, he runs the bases well, and plays a good outfield.  

In all Souza played only 96 games in Triple A last year, but hit .350/.432/.590 with 18 home runs, 25 doubles, and 26 steals.  It ended up being good enough to win the International League MVP and a promotion up to Washington.  While he did not hit during his brief stint up in DC, Souza did help Jordan Zimmerman seal a no-hitter with an awesome catch.  Everyone has seen that play, no video clips this morning.  

So, in a decade of watching minor league baseball I cannot think of another time that I was overly impressed with a player and then saw the Rays or Cardinals trade for the player.  When I first moved to Durham I saw Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester play for Pawtucket.  Really impressive duo, but the Red Sox decided to hold onto the pair.  Worked out pretty well.  Joey Votto with the Reds, I could go on and on.  

With all of the trades and changes that happened with the Rays this off season I was really happy to see the team pick up Souza.  I understand that there is a lot of love for Will Myers around Durham and Tampa, but Souza is a really good talent.  

I am still not sure where he will start next year, I'd be open to an appearance in Durham, but if he starts in Tampa that's not a bad thing either.  In the meantime, I started picking up Souza cards last summer and have decided I should probably continue.   My latest Souza addition comes from the 2014 Panini National Treasures set.

I could not have made that scan more crooked.  Anyway, this is the second autographed card I have picked up from the set.  Like all Panini products I cringe slightly at the fact that there are no logos on the card.  The fact that Panini is using acetate slates instead of sticker autographs makes me slightly happier.  After his 2014 Topps Update card, this is Souza's second autograph of the year.  This card is not bare bones cheap the Topps autograph, but I suspect most of the slight mark up is due to the fact that the National Treasures set has been pretty well received by most collectors.  

I am happy to have this card in the collection and will be on the look out for some more Souza cards next year.  Hopefully we won't have to wait too long to see a Souza card with the Rays.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 Cardinals Centerfielders

5.  Terry Moore 

Terry Moore comes in fifth on my list of Cardinals centerfielders.  He played a total of 11 seasons with the Cardinals starting in 1935 and last until 1948, but he missed three years of playing time due to service in World War II.  Perhaps with a few more good seasons Moore could have ranked higher on this list.  His OPS+ in 1942 was 114, with 2.8 WAR, but only managed an OPS+ of 85 and a WAR of 0.5 in 1946 when he returned to the Cardinals.  Moore's best years were a four year span starting in 1939 when he was named to four All-Star games and helped the Cardinals win the 1942 World Series.  During the 1942 Series Moore posted a .294/.368/.353 line in helping the team defeat the Yankees.  Moore also won a ring with the 1946 Cardinals team.  

4.  Willie McGee 

Willie McGee came over to the Cardinals from the Yankees following the 1981 season for pitcher Bob Sykes.  Willie would enjoy a 18 year career which included two stints with the Cardinals totaling 13 seasons.  During his first run with the Cardinals McGee helped the team win the 1982 World Series and the 1985 and 1987 National League Championships.  In addition to the team accolades, McGee also won the 1985 National League MVP Award and the batting title.  McGee also won the 1990 National League batting title while finishing the season with the A's.  He gained enough at-bats to qualify for the award and a few people, I believe Eddie Murray, had rough Septembers.  McGee also won three Gold Gloves during this first stretch on the Cardinals.  After spending time with the A's, Giants, and Red Sox Willie McGee returned to the Cardinals in 1996 and spent his final four years with the club.  He hit above .300 in both 1996 and 1997, but was mainly help off the bench at this point during his career.

3.  Ray Lankford 

I am not sure if most Cardinals fans will agree with Lankford being ahead of McGee, but he had a lot more value then what most people give him credit.  Ray played a total of 13 years as a Cardinal, with the first twelve coming between 1990 and 2001, and a final season in 2004 after a year and a half with the Padres and a year away from baseball in 2003.  Lankford does not have the post season success that the rest of the players on the list had, but he also played for some of the worst Cardinals teams of the last 30 years.  Lankford still posted a career OPS+ of 124, higher than anyone on this list save for number one, and had an oWAR of 37.8.  Again higher than anyone else on this list minus the first spot.  While Lankford did not have the chance to play on any World Series teams, or win any major individual accolades, he did end his career high in the rankings in several important offensive categories in team history including: ninth in runs, tenth in total bases, ninth in doubles, fifth in home runs, ninth in RBIs, and eighth in steals.  Lankford ended his Cardinals career with more than 200 home runs, 200 steals, 300 doubles, and 800 RBIs.  

2. Curt Flood 

If rankings were based on the baseball cards in these posts then Flood would be higher than second.  I have always loved this card.  One of my favorite Cardinals baseball cards from this era.  Flood came to the Cardinals in a trade with the Reds in December of 1957.  He immediately started for the Cardinals in 1958 and was the team's centerfielder for a twelve year span that lasted until 1969 when he was part of a package of players the Cardinals sent to the Phillies for Dick Allen.  The trade ended up leading to free agency, but that's for another blog post.  Flood's career line as a Cardinal was .293/.343/.390 with an OPS+ right at 100, but his real value for the team was on defense.  Starting in 1963, Flood won seven straight National League Gold Gloves playing for the Cardinals.  During that same stretch he helped the team win the World Series in 1964 and 1967 and the National League Pennant in 1968.  

1.  Jim Edmonds 

I could make an argument that Edmonds belongs in the Hall of Fame with this space, but I already did that a year or so ago.  So, let's review.  Edmonds played 8 years as a Cardinal and played 17 overall.  His career was a little bit on the short side, but his peak years are right there with all of the other centerfielders that are already in the Hall of Fame.  His best season as a Cardinal was 2004 when he posted a .301/.418/.643 line with 42 home runs, 111 RBIs, and a WAR of 7.0.  Edmonds took home a Gold Glove award that year, but split the MVP vote with two other Cardinals, Rolen and Pujols, who were also deserving of the award.  In all Edmonds won 8 Gold Glove Awards, 1 World Series ring, in 2006, and a National League Pennant in 2004.  Edmonds ended his Cardinals career with a .285/.393/.555 line with 241 home runs and an OPS+ of 143.  Easily the best Cardinals centerfielder of all-time.  

Gibby Takes A Seat

Just enough time for a quick post this morning.  It's the last day of my winter break, so in the words of the immortal Ferris Bueller "I better make this one count".  I've been up since 5:30, took a 3 mile walk with my son, and ate breakfast.  A quick post then I am going to work on sanding and painting a shelf for my baseball card room.

This morning's card is something I picked up on the cheap a few days ago.  I was not even looking for it, I just happened to look through the Ebay Store of someone I was already buying a card from.  If you can save on shipping, that's always a huge bonus.  Here's the card......

This is a Stadium Seat relic card out of the 2009 Topps Heritage set.  For about the first decade that Topps produced the Heritage product there was always some sort of Grandstand or Seat card included in the set.  I know that these are the sorts of generic relics that some collectors really dislike.  I can certainly understand their reasoning.  However, I always liked the appearance of these cards.  Yes, they are generic and Bob Gibson likely never sat in, nor touched, the piece of seat from Sportsman's Park that is used on the card.  Still a cool card in terms of design.

This is my second Cardinals Topps Heritage card.  I picked up a cool Stan Musial Stadium Seat Relic a few years back on a trip back home to St. Louis.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Jared Sandberg

I worked on a bunch of these posts last spring just to show off the cards of some of the Durham Bulls players on last year's roster.  I am going to do something similar this spring, but we still have to go through the whole Spring Training thing and see how the roster shakes out.  Sure we can probably make some pretty good guesses on a few of the roster spots, but we are going to hope the best for everyone.  I know the Rays still only 25 spots on their roster.

We did get one part of the 2015 Durham Bulls clarified this morning...

The Sandberg hiring has been rumored for the last week or so, but seems like a really good move.  He's been managing in the Rays organization for awhile and has been very successful.  The former Rays and Bulls player has managed a total of 6 seasons posting a .547 winning percentage and helped Hudson Valley and Bowling Green to playoff appearances in 2012 and 2013.  I have a feeling we are in good shape with Sandberg who is pretty excited about the opportunity to manage his former team.

Here's my take on the Sandberg's cards:

Sandberg was a pretty well thought of prospect for the expansion Devil Rays.  The name Sandberg, he's Ryne's nephew, at least got him a little notoriety.  He was drafted by the team in 1996 and his first baseball card appearance came in the 1997 Topps set.  

I am a big fan of the 1997 Topps set and I love these cards they put in of the Rays and Diamondbacks players.  The wallpaper turns a lot of people off, but it was a good 1990s baseball card design.  Lots of cool backdrops.  Both of the players featured on this card, Sandberg and Cedric Bowers, both played several seasons for the Durham Bulls.  If you are looking for something a little tamer in early Sandberg cards,  I really like his 1998 Bowman card too.  That hat is incredible.  

Sandberg had a good run of Bowman cards that started with this 1998 Bowman card, but he also appeared in the 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002 Bowman products.  The 2002 appearances were in Bowman Heritage and Bowman Draft, but he was still there.  Appearing in Bowman sets also means that if you really want to chase down some Jared Sandberg baseball cards there are all sorts of refractors, diffractors, and serial numbered parallels.  

If I had to chase down one Sandberg card I would personally try to pick up a copy of one of his Bowman autographs.  He had a signature in the 1998 and 1999 sets.  Neither is terribly expensive, nor difficult to find.  

Both of his Bowman autographs came long before the dawn of the sticker autograph and are both really well done cards.  Speaking of sticker autographs, he also does have autographs in the 2004 Upper Deck USA Baseball set, but they are on a silver sticker on top of a white baseball card.  

The late 90s and early 2000s were great years for me as a collector and honestly I am excited to track down a few Jared Sandberg cards.  It's fan to look at old cards from an era of cardboard that you have enjoyed, but best of all Sandberg cards are really reasonable and easy to find which will make the dive into his cards both fun and inexpensive.