Friday, May 18, 2018

Project Durham Bulls #35 - David Justice

1986 Durham Bulls 

The Braves drafted Justice out of high school in the 4th round of the 1985 MLB Draft.  Justice played for the Bulls during his first full season in professional baseball.  Durham was one of two stops for the outfielder that summer, along with Sumter in the South Atlantic League.  Justice made the Majors at the end of the 1989 season, but maintained his rookie status heading into the 1990 season.  He ended up hitting .282/.373/.535 with 28 home runs, and 78 RBIs during that season.  The performance was good enough to win the Rookie of Year Award in the National League.  Justice would go on to spend 14 seasons in the Majors playing for the Braves, Indians, Yankees, and A's.  He ended his career with more than 1,500 hits, more than 300 home runs, and more than 1,000 RBIs.  Beyond his Rookie of The Year Award in 1990, Justice also took home the American League Championship Series MVP for his performance against the Mariners while playing for the Yankees.  He retired from baseball in 2002, but since he played with the A's that season, he managed to get into the movie Moneyball....

Well, not really David Justice.  Just some guy playing David Justice.  We're cool.  

Justice has had a lot of different autographs over the years, several from his playing years, and several since he retired.  I actually have an autograph of him from the 2004 Topps base set, it's from the World Series insert set, so I wanted something a little bit different.  At the same time, I also really wanted an autograph of Justice on the Braves.  I know he was a good player in Cleveland, New York, and Oakland, but I best remember him in Atlanta.  Plus, the Braves were the parent club of the Durham Bulls at that point in history.  I was really happy to run across a Topps Tribute card of him on the cheap.  This set has been in my last three posts, all about Durham Bulls players, like I found a huge bundle of them on Ebay.  They did not sell for much.  He's got a great signature too.  Happy to add this to the stack of Durham Bulls cards.  

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bullish On Arroyo

I am not a huge fan of the Evan Longoria trade.  I know that he is getting up there in age, I know that he has declined the last few years, but still there is value in having a face to your franchise.  There has never been a player who has done as much for the Rays.  He got them to their first, and only, World Series appearance.  Many of the franchises best moments in the brief history of the Rays happened with Longoria on the field.

There is no turning back though.  As a baseball card collector, I will still collect Longoria cards.  He is still one of my favorite Rays/Durham Bulls players.  His trade has also provided the opportunity to add a few other promising players to my list of cards that I need to find.  The easiest of the Minor Leaguers in the trade to find is infielder Christian Arroyo.  

Arroyo is ranked in several of those Top 100 prospect lists.  

He also had a stint with the Giants last season.  Arroyo basically skipped Triple A.  Considering his level of performance in the Majors, I am guessing the Rays will probably leave him in Durham for a good chunk of time this year.  Plus, he is still only 23.  

I'm going to stay positive and be bullish on Arroyo's future with the Rays.  

I have even started a small Arroyo collection.  Very small.  It's two autographed cards at this point.  

First up is a very busy Gypsy Queen autograph.  There is so much stuff on the front of these cards.  Still amazed at how they squeezed it all on there.  Arroyo has a really simple autograph.  Not sure I am really digging the C and an A with a some sort of line as his last name.  Maybe too simplistic, but at least it's not a scribble.  

Last one.  This is from Topps Tribute.  Nice product, I am sure that some case breaker or someone who spent a few hundred dollars on this box was probably pissed to see a Christian Arroyo card.  The signature on both cards is pretty consistent.  Not sure I love the blue trim on a Giants card.  

Maybe a few more Arroyo cards later this summer.  

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 32 - Jamie Moyer

Jamie Moyer was on the Cardinals in 1991.  It was horrible.  The Cardinals rarely spent money, rarely signed free agents during this period of the team's history.  I am sure I have mentioned this on other 1990s Cardinals posts, but the team's owner, August Busch the something, was not really into owning a baseball team.

Moyer was signed as a free agent in January of 1991 ahead of Spring Training.  Entering that year, Moyer had a career record of 34-49, with an ERA of 4.51 in five season with the Cubs and Rangers.  Not really great teams, so some of the numbers are a little understandable.  However, his numbers with the Cardinals were just painful.

Moyer started eight games that year, all of them were in April or May.  Four of those starts lasted less than three innings.  The Cardinals sent him down to Triple A at the end of May.  He went 1-7 with an ERA of almost 6 and a WHIP of almost 2.  Cardinals manager Joe Torre described his talk with Moyer before demoting him to Triple A with the local press, "We don't win when you pitch".

Don't point your finger at the Cardinals run support.

The Cardinals released Moyer in October of 1991, and he had two job offers after being cut loose.  The Cubs offered him a job working in their Minor League system as a pitcher coach, while the Tigers thought he could mentor their younger players.

Fortunately, that one season with the Cardinals got lost in shuffle, the Orioles took a chance on him and the rest is history.

Moyer ended up having a good career after he left the Cardinals, but the one year in St. Louis was the real low point of his career.  Hard to believe that 20 years later he had 269 wins, almost 2,500 strikeouts, and almost 700 career games pitched.

I am sure that most people do not even remember him being in St. Louis for a summer.  Well, two months.  As a Cardinals fan, Moyer's dubious stint with the team was captured on cardboard twice.  Both on Topps products.  The majority of Moyer cards from 1991 featured him with the Rangers.

The two Cardinals cards were released after the Topps base set and the first series of the Upper Deck base set.  While Topps would surely have airbrushed Moyer into a Cardinals uniform nowadays, they just switched his team on his cards as soon as they could.  

Let's take a look at the two cards.  First up....

is a card from the 1991 Stadium Club set.  Not sure what kind of pitch he's throwing here, almost looks like a screwgie the way his hand is bent out, but it does not look good.  Clearly a Spring Training card with the plain green wall in the background and the red batting practice jersey.  This was the first year that Topps made a Stadium Club set.  It was their answer to the Upper Deck set, collectors loved these cards.  So many good looking cards in this product, I put together a Cardinals team set back in the day, not sure I was really all that excited about Moyer.

His other Cardinals card comes out of the 1991 Bowman set.  Always been a favorite of mine.

Similar looking picture as the Stadium Club card, just switched the color of pants. Still looks like a Spring Training game.  Really nothing very special, or noteworthy about this card.  The 1991 Bowman set was not a great one for the Cardinals.  Lots of different prospects appeared in this set, but the Cardinals had emptied the farm system at the end of 1990 to fill the holes that the Whiteyball Era players who left during free agency created.  Cards of Bernard Gilkey, Ray Lankford, and other young stars on the team at that point were early cards, but not rookies.  The veterans on the Cardinals, like Pedro Guerrero, were at the ends of their careers, not necessarily too exciting.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

I'm Just Happy To Be Here, Hope I Can Help The Ball Club

I knew from the first time that I saw Steven Souza play for the Syracuse Chiefs, the Washington Nationals Triple A team, that I needed to go out and find a few of his cards.  He was an older prospect, but absolutely one of those players who is fun to watch.  So, I went out and I found a few of his cards with the Nats.....

Next thing you know, he gets traded to the Rays, and they send him to Durham.  I got to watch a few games with Souza on the Bulls, I also had to go out and find a few cards of him in a Rays uniform.  His first two seasons in Tampa were a little rough, which made finding his cards a little easier, and a little bit easier on the old wallet.....

Then last year, Souza turned into a pretty good player for the Rays.....

which means he got traded this offseason.  It did seem like the Rays traded half of their team from last year away.  The Souza trade was pretty surprising though.  Not sure I focused on who the Rays got back from the Diamondbacks, as much as I tried to figure out who was going to be on the Rays this year.  Also, whether or not the Durham Bulls would finish higher in the American League East than the Rays.  

The Minor League baseball season has started and I got to watch pitcher Anthony Banda throw against the Gwinnett Stripers a few weeks back.   I also got to check out the Bulls new third uniforms.  

Banda is a hard throwing lefty.  Very impressed with him.  A quick look at the new Rays prospect facing Ronald Acuna.  

I have started working on a few Banda cards since seeing him make this start against Gwinnett.  He actually started his career with the Brewers, but was traded to the Diamondbacks in the Gerardo Parra deal.  He has a few Brewers cards, but they are all Panini draft type products.  Hard to really tell that they are Brewers cards.  He has had several Diamondbacks cards over the last few years, including in several of this year's Topps products.  

So far, I have added three different Anthony Banda cards.  First up.....  

The only non-2018 Banda card in this post.  The Bowman's Best cards are always a really nice looking brand.  Last year's product was no different.  On top of a nice design, I also like that this brand uses on-card autographs.  Banda always signs his first name and last name in this same top and bottom style, rather than side to side.  I have seen a few Diamondbacks and Rays collectors complain about this autograph, I do not mind it.

Next up.....

is an autograph from this year's Gypsy Queen set.  This card is really busy.  Not sure that Topps could get much more on the margins of this card.  Team name, player name, playing position, a Topps Certified autograph stamp, an MLB rookie card stamp, and some sort of Gypsy Queen logo.  And you thought people liked cards because they have pictures of baseball players.  That's sort of an after thought on this one.  Still, it has a Banda autograph.  

The goggles and tattoos appear on this card too.  Fairly certain that Topps airbrushed the tattoos off of his right arm on the Bowman's Best card.  


A "high end" card of Banda.  This is why I don't spend money to open packs of high end products.  I like Anthony Banda, like his baseball cards, but I cannot imagine spending $300 on a box of cards and landing this autograph.  Thanks to whoever opened this card out of a pack.  This card was printed on nice stock, fairly thick card, and has a nice glossy finish.  

More Banda cards later.  

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Pair From The Best Columbian

There have been only twenty players from the South American county to have appeared in a Major League game.  Of the position players, there are only five with more than one thousand plate appearances.  If you ranked those five players by total plate appearances the third, fourth, and fifth ranked players would be Jackie Gutierrez, the Orioles and Red Sox infielder from the 1980s, Donovan Solano, and Jolbert Cabrera.  The other two are players have a little more name recognition and notoriety....

They actually played opposite of each other in the 2004 World Series.  The second greatest player from Columbia......

and the greatest......

which is not really a fair representation of Renteria's Postseason career.  He had several clutch moments including a series walk off hit in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.....

as well as a Series clinching hit in Game 5 of the 2010 Series for the Giants.  Edgar appeared for the Cardinals in eight different Postseason playoff series, but he never managed to end up on the winning side of a World Series with the team.

Besides being one of the best Columbian baseball players, it's not a stretch to say that he's one of the better shortstops in the history of the Cardinals franchise.  He's not Ozzie Smith, not Marty Marion, but he's probably in the running for one the spots after those two players.

So, I was happy to see Edgar pop back up on Topps cards last summer.  I know that is not a completely unusual thing to have retired players on new card releases these days, I was a little surprised at Edgar's appearance.  He was really a pretty quiet person during his playing days, never really spoke out things, did not give a ton of interviews, and really seemed to keep to himself.  I am not going to complain though.  I recently had a chance to pick up two really nice autographs of the former Cardinals shortstop.

The first card is from last year's Topps Archives Signature set.  Edgar also signed for the Topps Archives product last year, though he is pictured as a Marlin on that card.  I still picked one up shortly after the set was released.  Since Archives Signature is a buyback product, with all sorts of different older cards from throughout the different players' careers, I decided to be a little picky about the card I ended up with of Edgar.  His autographs in this set are really affordable, so I figure that I could sit back and be patient.  

I feel like I did well by waiting awhile.  This 2002 Topps Heritage card is a lot better addition than a League Leader card from a base Topps set, or a card from the second half of his career which was spent wondering the league with the Tigers, Braves, Reds, and others after he left the Cardinals.  

Last card this morning.  

The scan really does not do this card justice.  It's very modern in design, but has a little less luster posted here.  This is from the Tribute set, it's one of those products I do not actually open myself, but more than willing to trade or buy people's singles.  The card is on a thick card stock and the front of the card has a nice finish.  The line in the scan just above Renteria's signature appears to be random from this view, but actually offers a really great contrast, in person, between the half of the card with Edgar's picture and the signature area.  

A very nice card, easily the best Renteria card in my collection.  

Monday, May 7, 2018

Project Durham Bulls #34 - Andruw Jones

1996 Durham Bulls 

Andruw Jones started out the 1996 season with the Durham Bulls.  At the time the Bulls were the Braves High A Ball affiliate in the Carolina League.  By the time the season was over, Jones was starring in the 1996 World Series for the Braves against the Yankees.  He hit two home runs in Game 1 becoming the youngest player to hit multiple home runs in a World Series game.  

Jones played in the Majors for a total of 17 years.  I like to view his career in two halves:  The Braves half, which was good, and the years after the Braves, which were not so good.  I have seen arguments for and against Jones being in the Hall of Fame.  It seems like people's view point depends on how good you think the Atlanta years were versus how much his time with the Dodgers, Rangers, White Sox, and Yankees hurt his chances.  

I am going to stay neutral in this fight and stick to the numbers that Andruw Jones had at the end of his career.  He ended up hitting 434 home runs, 383 doubles, drove in almost 1,300 runs, and had a WAR of 62.8.  Jay Jaffe's JAWS ranking system has Andruw Jones as the 11th best center fielder of all-time behind Hall of Famers like Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey, Joe DiMaggio, and others.  In terms of his peers, who played during the same era, his numbers are in the same neighborhood as Jim Edmonds, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Beltran.  Plus or minus, here and there.  

Jones also had a good repuatation as a defensive center fielder....

taking home 10 Gold Gloves during his twelve year career as a member of the Braves.  

Andruw Jones has a ton of certified autographs that have been put out throughout his career.  He has also been a generous signer for different card companies in the years since he retired from the sport.  I decided that I was going to try to track down a copy of Jones as a Minor Leaguer.  He has several autographs from different Best products.  Not the nicest, nor the most expensive, but I liked the idea of seeing Jones in a Minor League uniform.  

I actually already have a really nice autograph of Jones in a Durham Bulls uniform.....

This was in Heritage Minors a few years ago.  I figured it would be tough to track another copy of this card, and if I did I figured it would probably be pretty pricy.  The Best autograph I found of Jones cost me little, but my goal was met, and I found a card where Jones is pictured as a Bull.  There is a Best card with Jones pictured solely as a member of the Bulls, but the card at the top of the post celebrates him winning the Minor League Player of the Year.  

I know it does not say that anywhere on the front of the card.....

it is on the back.  It's got a few design flaws, but I am still happy.  Not sure about that Player Of The Year logo in the middle of the card.  Seems a little suspect.  

Sunday, May 6, 2018

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 31 - Terry Francona

It's hard to believe, I know, but Terry Francona was on the Cardinals during the 1990s as a player.  This post has nothing to do with coaching, or managing until the very end.  There is even a baseball card to prove that he was a Cardinal.  

During his playing career, Terry Francona was a first baseman/outfielder for several different teams, probably best remembered as an Expo.  He made his debut with Montreal mid way through 1981, and the team thought enough of him as a player that they shifted Tim Raines to second base.  During the first part of the 1982 season he was batting .321, but his season ended when he tore up his knee catching a fly ball on the warning track at Busch Stadium.

Not his only connection to the Cardinals as a player.  

As a kid who collected baseball cards in the 1980s, Terry Francona appeared in sets all the time.  Back in the day even fourth outfield, utility types still got baseball cards.  They still do today, but just not as often.  After tearing up his knee, Francona spent most of the next decade sitting on the bench, pinch hitting, giving players a breather from time to time.  

After the Expos dumped him in 1985, he bounced around to a bunch of different teams.  There was a year in Chicago.....

a season as a Red, another with the Indians, before he reached the Brewers.  A cursory glance at his baseball card stats show that the 1989 season in Milwaukee, appears to be his last.  He actually also showed up for a few games with the Brewers in 1990 before he was released.  

He actually signed with the Cardinals after the Brewers released him a few weeks into the 1990 season, but he never actually appeared in a game with the Major League team.  For whatever reason, it did not stop Topps from making one 1990 card with Francona in a Cardinals uniform.  His entire 1990 season was spent with the Louisville Redbirds after the Cardinals signed him.  He was never added to the 40 man roster, managing only a .263 average with the Triple A team.  Not surprisingly, Francona does have a Redbirds card......

I do not actually own a copy of the Francona card with Louisville, so I am borrowing one.  I will put it back when I am done.  

Again, I really have no idea why he got a Topps card that year, but here is the card.....

It's from the 1990 Topps TV set.  Before last week, I only had single cards from the set.  I actually finally got around to getting the entire sealed product, which Topps sold through ads on television.  Hence the set name Topps TV.  Why didn't I get the whole set before last week?  I am 100% certain that my parents would not let me buy stuff off of a TV ad in 1990. 

I am leaving my complete set sealed, but the checklist is on the outside of the box.  Pretty incredible list of players.  I am not sure that the current rules by which the card manufacturers play would permit them to make a set with almost 70 players in Major League uniforms.  I do not remember all of the rules that Topps has to follow with Minor Leaguers, but I know that they exist.  

The back of the Francona card.....

which ends at 1989 with the Brewers.  His 86 games in 1990 with Louisville were the end of his playing career, but he would end up latching with the White Sox as a minor league manager.  He worked his way up through their system, coached Michael Jordan while he was in Double A, and then ended up in the Majors as a third base coach for Tigers in 1996.  Francona managed the Phillies from 1997 through 2000, did a little coach for a few teams, before landing a gig with the Boston Red Sox.  

Heard he had a pretty good run.  

Francona has two World Series rings.  As a Cardinals fan, not touching the other one.