Sunday, September 17, 2017

I Love The 90s Cardinals #4 - Donovan Osborne

There were a bunch of 1990s Cardinals players who were frequently injured, but they were tantalizingly good when they were actually on the field.  Donovan Osborne was one of those players. He was drafted by the Cardinals in the first round of the 1990 amateur draft out of UNLV, was rated as a top 50 prospect by Baseball America, and made it through the entire minor league system in a year and a half.

Osborne's first two years with the Cardinals, 1992 and 1993, were okay.  He was an average Major League pitcher on some teams that were really short on talent.  After 1993 he was injured frequently.  He missed 1994, but pitched half a season in 1995 and set a career high with an ERA+ of 109 and Ks per 9.  Osborne's best year was in 1996 when he helped the Cardinals get within a game of the World Series, won 13 games, and posted what would his career best ERA+ of 119.

His season ended ominously in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series after giving up a bases loaded triple to Tom Glavine, which put the game away for the Braves in the first inning.

Osborne was never the same after that game.  He pitched half a season in 1997 and 1998, only 6 games in 1999, and then missed all of 2000 and 2001.  The Cardinals actually parted ways with him after the 1999 season, but he resurfaced with the Cubs in 2002.  He made 11 relief appearances with the Cubs before he was shut down and released at the end of the year.  To get an idea of how much teams thought of Osborne's potential, one only needs to look at his transaction sheet post 2002.  Lots of teams were willing to take a chance on having him pitch.  

He did actually appear in games for the Yankees going 2-0 in 9 games, which included 2 starts.  Osborne's ERA was over 7 though.  The two wins were both against the A's within a week of each other, both as a reliever.  His starts were the last two games he pitched with the Yankees.  The first start was against the Mariners and lasted one and a third innings. Osborne gave up 6 runs on 6 hits with 2 walks.  The second start was also against the Mariners, he lasted into the fifth inning, but he still gave up 6 runs.  That was the end of his career in the Majors.  

Four teams later, with a bunch of Minor League starts, he was officially done in 2006.  

Card wise, Osborne never really had that many cards.  Especially given that he played in the 1990s and was a high draft pick, there just isn't much that's special or unique about Osborne's cards.  Flipping through my boxes of 1990s Cardinals I found a few different possible cards for tonight's post, but I picked more on the card design and brand than on finding something really cool looking.  It's just not there.  

First up is one of my under appreciated 1990s sets.  While everyone was going with foil, gloss, and anything else fancy that card companies could squeeze onto a card, Fleer went old school with their 1996 and 1997 sets with no gloss, no border, just a picture and the players name.  

I know a lot of autograph collectors who love this set.  The no gloss finish makes a nice surface to sign.  I just like the fact that it is really simple and goes against just about every other card release from 1996.  The card backs were okay......

but if you notice the card number, 552, the Fleer set was also large.  As a collector, you got a lot of different players from your favorite team, not just the usual suspects.  For the mid 90s Cardinals that was usually some combination of Lankford, Gant, Jordan, the two Benes brothers, Eck, and maybe Stottlemyre (Throttlemyre).  It skipped out on the Donovan Osborne's of the world.  The stats are a little different than the set up Fleer had when I was a kid, but I like that they put the SO/9 and H/9 on the back.  Kind of different.  Color picture at the bottom is also nice, check out the blurb about Osborne's shoulder.....

Next 1990s card is the opposite of the Fleer.  It's a 1997 Score.....

The front of the card is kind of meh, which is way different from where Score started in the late 1980s with really bold colored cards.  The mid 1990s were really when the glut of cards started, new releases every week, so many similar products.  Pinnacle, which made Score, had about four other card products that looked like this set.  Was Donovan Osborne in New Pinnacle?  Pinnacle Mint?  Pinnacle?  Donruss?  Those were all really the same set with a different border.  

The back of the card is just ridiculous. 

These cards had the busiest backs in the history of baseball cards.  There is a logo in the background and a logo in the lower left hand corner.  There are Osborne's pitching statistics in the middle of the card, fielding statistics at the bottom, and two sets of splits on the right side.  Then you have the blurb about Donovan Osborne, including a little snippet about his shoulder problems.  I feel the ADD kicking in.  

I had considered using an Osborne rookie card for this post, 1991 Bowman, but decided to skip over the Bowman cards since I will probably use a few on some other posts where I am limited to just that brand.  

I forgot the music on last week's post.  I guess I could go 1997 or 1996 on this post.  I hit shuffle on my Ipod, kept flipping until a song from 1997 came up, so I will go with that year.  Not a household name on this band, but Butter 08 was the two women from Cibo Matto, the drummer from Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and Mike Mills from R.E.M.  

While we are on Cibo Matto, I will stop shuffling the IPod and just run with one of their songs to make up from last week.  They were a good mid 1990s group and they had a CD out in 1996.  Do people listen to any of these 90s groups anymore, is it just me?  

Saturday, September 16, 2017

2017 Durham Bulls Team Set

I have not had much of chance to write about this year's Durham Bulls team.  My entire summer vacation, it's a month which is a short amount of time for my profession, was spent almost entirely on one giant road trip that stretched from North Carolina to Michigan to Missouri and back home.  That left very little time to visit with my favorite Minor League and the inspiration for the namesake of my little blog.

I have still followed along with the team and enjoyed checking out their games on television, listen on the radio, or just looking at the box scores online.  I decided to save posting this team set for this specific day after attending a Bulls playoff game last week against the Indianapolis Indians.

The team looked sharp.  I had a good feeling about the end of this year's season, so I waited.  I figured at worst I could make a post in a week or two and do a write up about another great season.  The team ended up finishing off Indianapolis and took care of the Scranton Yankees last night to win the Governors Cup, which is given to the International League Champion.  

 I am not sure how many baseball fans realize the success that the Durham Bulls have experienced over the past fifteen years.  One of my favorite local writers best summarized this morning.  

Needless to say I am excited about watching the Bulls play in the Triple A National Championship game this coming Tuesday night against either the Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals), or the El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres).  In the meantime, I am going to share out a few Durham Bulls posts over the next week, win or lose Tuesday night, starting with this one sharing the team set.  

The design for the set was taken from the 2016 Topps base cards.  No, this is not a base card, but it was sitting on my desk at the moment.   I also scanned the cards in groups of 3 instead of the usual groups of 9 that I put in my normal Minor League team set posts.  First group of cards.....

Pretty good trio of prospects here. 

Bauers was in the Trea Turner/Stephen Souza/Wil Myers trade.  I know many Rays fans don't like to talk about that one, but Bauers has shown some potential.  The power hasn't quite shown up the way many would like, only 13 home runs, but he still has almost 50 extra base hits this year and a strong on base percentage.  

Ames throws hard, been around for awhile.  Not a ranked prospect, but improved his strikeout rate to more than 11 K's per 9 innings this year.  

Adames is the top prospect in the Rays system. Top 20 prospect in all the Minors.  He's a really good baseball player who will be around for along time.  

Good group here too.  Faria is one of my favorite Rays prospects.  I need to make a post solely dedicated to just him.  I saw his Triple A debut last year and have been following him ever since.  

Chirinos flies under the radar.  He won 12 games for the Bulls this year in with an ERA of 2.74.  Should be a durable Major League starter somewhere.  

Casali has been up and down between Tampa and Durham the last few years.  I think at some point in the past the Rays had some high hopes that he would become their everyday catcher.  He's clearly not that anymore.  

Honeywell is the best Rays pitching prospect.  Definitely deserves a post of his own.  Guy throws a screwball.  How cool is that?  

Not sure where Hager fits in the Rays future plans.  He can play all over the field, but I am not sure if there is a place on a Major League roster for a guy who hits .250 with a .300 on base percentage.  

Goetzman has been in the Rays system for seven years.  He has limited power, doesn't hit for average, doesn't get on-base.  Strictly an organizational depth kind of player.  

Kolarek and Kittredge are both relief pitchers in their late 20s and still in Triple A.  Kittredge was up for awhile and pitched well for the Rays, so there is chance perhaps.  Kolarek has also been up, not successful, but he has a funky delivery and he is left handed.  You never know.

Hu has been up and pitched in a few games for the Rays.  Seems like he has potential to be a rotation guy somewhere.  Not a front line guy, but he'd be something along the lines of Matt Andriese.

McKenry and Marjama are both backup catcher material.  Marjama played a few games with the Mariners.  McKenry has made appearances with the Rockies, Pirates, and Cardinals.  Patrick Leonard was apart of the Wil Myers trade with the Royals.  He was in the lower minors when the trade took place, so all these years later he has made it to Triple A.  He's got some pop, not sure how/where he fits in with the Rays in the future.

Snell was back in Durham this year.  A little disappointed that he ended up back in Triple A, but it seems like he made a positive step forward after returning to Tampa.

Mallex Smith is a really cool player to watch.  Reminds me of one of the old 1980s Cardinals players.  Speed, good defense, and an electric feel when he gets into games.  Seems to make things happen when he plays.  The Rays have a crowded outfield, but he offers something different.

Shane Peterson is the old guy on the team.  The Rays called him up to play in Tampa this year, but I like to point out that he was once traded from the Cardinals to the A's for Matt Holliday.  He's got to be pretty good, right?

A little faster pace.  Kean Wong is Kolten's brother.  I like Kolten better, so does the stat page.  Neil Wagner has been around the Minors for more than a decade.  He's pitched games for the A's and Blue Jays.  Wagner is 33 and is Triple A.  Stanek played college baseball at Arkansas, throws 100, and has an incredible mullet.  I saw him a few years back with the USA Baseball team.

Ryan Yarbrough was the best pitcher on the Bulls this year.  I was hurt and pained for several days last off season when the Rays traded Taylor Motter to the Mariners, but they got Yarbrough back in return.  Jared Sandberg is the manager and Ryne's nephew.  He started coaching from the bench this year instead of working the game from third base.  Seemed to do well.  Albernaz is a former Bulls player.  Fan favorite, worked hard, not in the cards for him to be in Majors.  He did this though....

He actually ended up coaching the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Rays New York-Penn League short season team, and lead them to the league championship.  

Wool E. Bull is the world's greatest baseball mascot.  Ozzie Timmons is a former Cub.  Kyle Snyder went to UNC and pitched for the 2007 Red Sox World Series winning team.  There are at least ten International League baseballs in my house and 9 of them were given to my son by Kyle Snyder, who sorts out the baseballs in the bullpen before the game, and gives the discards to anyone who is nearby.  The other baseball was one Tim Beckham gave to me to spite a bunch of middle school kids.  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Set Project #1 Update- Thanks Pedro

Back in 2016 I said I was going to work on a few set projects and post them on my blog.  I made a few handy little pages at the top of the page and started out pretty well.  I found cards, I posted the cards, and I crossed them off my checklist.  Seemed like a great idea that was going well.  There are actually a few finished sets up that tab, but probably not nearly as many as there should be.  

So far I have finished the 2001 Archives base set, an insert set from the 2000 Skybox EX-Century set, and the 1990 Upper Deck set.  I have a cool Topps Gallery Heritage project going that is actually just about ready for a completed project post and a Bowman Autograph set that is almost also done.  

My most frustrating set has actually been the first set project, that I started back in April of 2016, which was the 1999 Skybox Molten Metal Xplosion cards.  Also known as the metal card set.  

As of late 2016 I was done to just a handful of cards.  I actually found them really quickly and then I was down to just one card.  I hate when this happens.  One card means that you are going to sit and watch all the different card sites.....waiting......waiting......

A few years ago I put together a 1998 Topps Tek set and I got down to just needing Jason Kendall.  It took forever and that was for Jason Kendall.....

for the Molten Metal set I was missing one Pedro Martinez card.  There were literally none up for sale on Ebay, COMC, and Sport Lots which are my usual shopping destinations.  I went to a card show, in Raleigh, and that felt like a wild goose chase trying to find one baseball card in a really big exhibition hall.  It might have been there, but I kind of gave up at a certain point.  Not a great idea.  

Welp, I finally found Pedro.  Not expensive, but I ended up with 10 others cards from the set that are dupes.  Can't complain to finally cross this set off after a year and half in the works.  Here is the card.

I will do another set project post in the next week or two.  Thinking about doing a few more junk wax type sets similar to what I did with the 1990 Upper Deck set a few months ago.  1990s large set with a big whole where I can find a cheap box or wax packs.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

It's Not Jon Jay Nice, Still......

I have really enjoyed some of the cards Topps has made over the past several years using acetate, some people prefer the term plastic, over card stock.  I think plastic and acetate are pretty interchangeable.  In some ways the whole acetate/plastic card media start long ago.  Topps has just picked the idea up in recent years and ran with it.  I think my first "plastic" set of cards that I really enjoyed collecting were the 1998 Skybox EX-2001 set.  These weren't specifically deemed acetate cards, plus the silver part and player picture is actually made out of cardboard on these cards.

These are a modern classic.  If you do not own one, I would highly recommend it.  I still take the cards out of from this set and look at them from time to time.  Fast forward nearly twenty years and we still have some nice acetate/plastic cards that are being produced. 

My favorite current patch of acetate cards are the Topps clear parallels that have been appearing in the base set for the past few years.  They are limited to a print run of just 10, so they can be a little hard to find, but they are really well done.  My favorite was the 2014 Jon Jay card.    

The colors on the front of these cards really pop out on the acetate media and the card backs are spectacular with the reverse image of the players done in black and gray.  

Just a really nice look.  Topps has had other acetate card products that haven't been as nice as the clear parallels, but still I have enjoyed collecting.  The Strata cards come to mind.  Nice looking set, not everything was acetate or plastic, but still very fun to collect.  

Not an obvious acetate card at first spot, but the backs of these cards have some of the same cool features of the Topps base card parallel.  Again, not quite as nice as the clear parallel.   

Here you can see the signature on the front of the card showing through to the back.  Which brings us to our newest entry into the world of acetate cards.  I was initially worried about this product.  Nothing would be more disappointing than promising collectors an all acetate set and then making it somehow really mediocre.  I seriously feared this when I saw the previews for Topps Clearly.  

It has it's plus and it's minuses.  Here is my first card from the set, there are more on the way.

First off, this is one of those products that you want someone else to open.  50 some dollars for one autograph?  Open away, I will buy your $5 Luke Weaver cards off of Ebay.  I am also a little disappointed that the cards are in magnet cases with a seal over the top.  What is so cool about these cards that they have to be in a case?  I get that Topps has done this with Archives Signatures and a few other products recently.  Let me hold the card in my hand.  Seriously thinking about taking this out of the one-touch.

and the best thing?  If you read my other acetate card posts you'd know it's always these cool looking card backs.....

Same basic idea as the acetate cards in the Topps base set, but I love that you can see the player's autograph showing through on the back of the card.  This card doesn't have a very clear background, but there is a color background with a Cubs player standing behind Weaver.  It's just not totally obvious at first glance... My other Topps Clearly card will be here in a day or two, looks like it has a clean card front aside from the player photo, curious how it will compare to this card.....

Still waiting to find a nicer acetate card than the Jon Jay.  This card is not Jon Jay, but still, it's nice.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

I Love The 90s Cardinals #3 - Tripp Cromer

Tripp Cromer. or Homer Cromer, was mainly a fixture on the 1995 Cardinals as the team's shortstop, but also appeared in a few games during the 1993 and 1994 seasons.  I am not sure what the backstory on his nickname, but I am going to assume it is just there simply due to the fact that the words rhyme, or perhaps out of sarcasm.  He managed just 5 in almost 400 plate appearances for the Cardinals over three seasons.  A better question is how in the world did Tripp Cromer even get that many plate appearances with a .226/.261/.325 batting line?

Things couldn't have been that bad.  Could they?  I will flip through some 1995 Cardinals cards, let's discuss.  First card.....

1990s Cardinals team?  Shortstop?  Where is Ozzie?  Batting .199/.282/.244 and just playing 44 games.  Bascially, Ozzie's shoulder had fallen off at this point.  Pretty sure this was his only 1995 highlight.

No problems, because they had Jose Oquendo on that team too.

Only he was terrible too, not because he was injured or anything.  Just terrible.  It was Jose's last year as a player, and with a slash line of .209/.316/.300, it's hard to say that he walking away at 31 was a bad idea.  After all, Jose did go on to have a really good coaching career.  

I know I can speak for 99.9% of all Cardinals fans when I say that we miss Jose Oquendo coaching third base.  He understood that slow runners and outfielders with good arms were a bad combination.  The current coaching staff does not.  

Back to shortstops.  No Ozzie, no Jose Oquendo, so that's when Joe Torre had to turn to Tripp Cromer.  No other choice.  Here's what Joe looked like in 1995.....

and the Tripp Cromer decision, along with a bunch of other choices between bad players and worse players, led to Torre being fired.  It also led to the 1996 Joe Torre....

which seemed to work out fine for fine for him.  As a Cardinals fan, we were just left with a few baseball cards of Tripp Cromer.  A few of my favorites.....

The first Major League Tripp Cromer card in my collection is from the 1994 Topps set.  I always liked the prospect cards in the Topps base sets, this was something different with the pixelated look around the player.  It's like we are looking up Tripp Cromer on Yahoo with a Netscape browser....

The back of the card is kind of cool and has some neat Homer Cromer info......

Looks like he did very little to get promoted all the way up to Triple A.  One partial season above .250, everything else below in the Minors with no power and no speed.  I will admit that he looks like he had a good 1993 with the Louisville Redbirds in Triple A.  I also did not know that D.T. was his brother.  I do not know Burke or Brandon.  D.T. had a bunch of baseball cards in the late 1990s with the A's and the Reds.  

Two more Tripps.  Next up is a cool little insert set from the 1994 Fleer set.  Fleer went with the mega-sets in the mid to late 1990s, which also included some easy to find inserts.  One of them featured prospects.  The only two really good prospects in the set were Chipper Jones and Carlos Delgado, but there are other names in there that you'd recognize too like: Steve Trachsel, Darren Oliver, and Mike Lieberthal.  

Here's what the Tripp Cromer card looks like.....

I like the old circular Cardinals logo in the background.  I like the blue batting practice jersey.  The Cardinals rarely wear any of their blue road hats anymore and the road blue batting practice jerseys have been gone since the late 1990s.  Wrigley also always makes for a cool card background.  Even when there is no ivy, the grandstand is nice too.  

Last one from later in his Cardinals career and has a nice action shot.  

This is from the 1996 Pacific Crown Collection set.  This was from the days when Pacific was the Spanish language card set.  In the Fleer card above, Wrigley does make a more appealing card background, but as a Cardinals fan who grew up with the cookie cutter version of Busch Stadium, it's easy to like this card.   The blue walls, the team logos on the outfield walls, that Mabry standing in the background?  

Here's a wider view of the wall and astroturf in the 1966-2005 version of Busch Stadium from the 1985 playoffs.  

Kind of cool to have the Cardinals logo in the background of the Cromer card.  The National League East teams were in left field and the Western teams were in right.  Overall, just a really nice card.  

Friday, September 8, 2017

Project Durham Bulls #21 - Adam Kennedy

2009 Durham Bulls 

Kennedy passed through Durham during the middle of career.  He started out with the Cardinals as a first round draft pick out of Cal State Northridge in 1997.  The Cardinals traded him to the Angels during Spring Training in 2000 for Jim Edmonds.  His career highlight came in 2002, while helping the Angels win the World Series, he hit three home runs in a game against the Twins in an American League Championship Game.  

He won the ALCS MVP that year.  Kennedy played with the Angels until 2006 when he returned to the Cardinals.  It didn't go well.  He played the 2007 and 2008 seasons in St. Louis and spent the entire time in Tony LaRussa's dog house.  The Cardinals cut him loose after the 2008 season and Kennedy ended up with the Rays who assigned him to Durham.  He last 23 games in Durham and posted a .280/.366/.439 slash line.  The A's rescued him from the Minors when they traded for him early in May of 2009.  He spent the rest of the season with the A's and actually had a decent season.  He played 3 more seasons after 2009 spending a single season with the Nationals, Mariners, and Dodgers before retiring in 2012.

I actually have a fair number of Kennedy autographs since he was a member of the Cardinals.  I am not even sure he signed much of anything after 2001 outside of a card in the 2004 UD Etchings set.  I know I have never made a post about that set, but if I did it would not be kind.  So, I was really left with trying to find a late 1990s or early 2000s card of the long time Major League second baseman.  I had thought long and hard about picking up a 2001 Topps Finest card for this post, after all those were really his best years, but the conditions of the cards were less than ideal.  If you've never checked out the autographs from that set, they fade very easily.  So, that left me to track down a Cardinals autograph that I did not own.  So, here we are with a 2000 Skybox Autographics.  It's a giant cross product 90s autograph set, but the design is nice and there were no such things as sticker autographs at this point, so.....

Monday, September 4, 2017

Panini's Imaginary Cat Story

Back to basketball tonight and Cat Barber cards.  They have been a little bit on the high side for the past year and half since he left college after his junior season at NC State.  While he was in Raleigh he became one of the best point guards in the ACC.  His main weapon on the basketball court is his extraordinary quickness.  Some would say he's shifty.  If you are unfamiliar with Cat here's a quick look....

I have already picked up one of his cards earlier this summer....

Based strictly on appearance I could understand why some of the sellers on Ebay are looking to get a little bit of money out of these cards, but at this point Cat was a really good all-conference college player who is going to end up having a nice long career playing basketball over in Europe.  I keep a close eye on things over on Ebay, and every once in awhile one of these cards ends up in an auction and they sell for $5 or less.  Sounds like a better price for someone I really liked watching while they were in college.  

Luckily, I was able to recently pick up another Cat Barber autograph.  Who wouldn't want a card that is just simply signed "Cat"?  Plus it features him in an NC State uniform and has a white, red, and black jersey swatch I would guess comes from a home jersey.

I love the design of this Immaculate Collection cards.  I know that Panini also makes college baseball cards with similar designs.  I have a few of guys like Trea Turner and Carlos Rodon, but I did not pull them out for comparison.  The signature is on-card too, which is just the icing on the cake for this card.  Well, that was until I turned the card over to the back......

and we get some suggestion about how Anthony Barber gained his "Cat" nickname due to his agility and quickness on the basketball court.  Please.  It takes about a thirty second internet search to find half a dozen stories explaining the origins of Anthony's "Cat" nickname.....

Apparently the story revolves around a 4 year old Cat Barber's love of Oatmeal Cream Pies, not basketball quickness.  

A box of Little Debbie's has more of a place on the back of these cards than whatever drivel Panini wrote.  From ACC Media Day in 2015:

"When I was little, I used to climb on a lot of stuff to get into cabinets for snacks and stuff,'' Barber said. One day, he was going after some oatmeal cream pies located in a cabinet over the stove. He stepped on the stove, burning his foot.
"My mom was like 'Stop climbing around like a little cat','' he said. "My sister started calling me that and it blew up.''

And there you have it, nothing to do with basketball.  Even Cat's Wikipedia biography has the nickname origins correct.  When you're more inaccurate than Wikipedia, well....I am sure that the back of the Cat Barber card wasn't a huge priority for whatever employee writes the little blurbs on the backs of the cards, but it would be nice to at least make them somewhat accurate.  
Interestingly enough, Cat does have a basketball nickname he picked up from his time at NC State which he uses in his Instagram user name.....

Honest.  Former NC State coach Mark Gottfried explains the origins of that nickname.....
“There’s nothing fake or phony about Cat.  He is who he is. What you get every day is the real Cat.”
Honestly, this is still a very nice looking card even if Panini is unwilling to put in a little leg work to find some interesting facts out about a Cat.   For example, he hates being called Anthony.  He also hates made up stories....

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