Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sweet Ruggiano

Everyday I wake up and spend a few minutes reading the box scores.  I have four teams I check the box scores for everyday: Cardinals, Rays, Tigers, and Durham Bulls.  The order usually depends on how the box scores are arranged on the web, but those four are a daily constant.  I have a few other stops along my way through the box scores.  I still like to check out a few ex-Cardinals: Albert, Kyle Lohse, maybe Colby Rasmus.  There are a few Durham Bulls too.  I still check for Jason Hammel, B.J. Upton, and maybe James Shields.  My Durham Bulls constant though is Justin Ruggiano. 

The Rays picked up Ruggiano in a trade with the Dodgers and ended up spending parts of five seasons with the Bulls, had a cup of coffee of two with the Rays, before he left the team as a minor league free agent.  Ruggiano signed with the Astros, then the Marlins, and finally made it up to the Majors with the Fighting Fish in 2012.  Ruggiano also played last season with the Marlins before he was traded to the Cubs this past off season. 

While the Cubs happen to be one of my least favorite teams in the Majors, I still check out the Ruggiano line everyday (except he's now on the DL).  I'm excited to see what Ruggiano can do this summer in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley.  Last year he posted a team high 18 home runs for the Marlins playing in a pitcher friendly park.  He could jump over 20 this year if he gets the at-bats. 




I am still waiting for Ruggiano's first Cubs card.  All of his 2014 cards, so far, have been Marlins cards.  However, I did manage to stumble across a cool Ruggiano card recently.  During his first summer as a Durham Bull (2007) he appeared for USA Baseball in the World Cup.  The USA Baseball team ended up winning the gold medal during that event with Ruggiano patrolling the outfield.  Upper Deck included him in their USA Baseball set in 2008 with a jersey/autograph.  I recently snagged a copy:


I have a pretty big collection of Ruggiano cards and was happy to pick up this difficult to find piece as my latest addition.  The card is limited to just 50 copies and is signed in red ink.  The card features a small swatch of grey swatch of jersey from his playing time with USA Baseball.  

Instagram Helton

I am still getting the hang of Instagram, but I did open an account awhile ago and have dabbled with it here and there over the past few months.  I am using the account more for show than for trade, but I am always willing to listen.  In the few months that I have had my account open, I have been offered a chance to trade several times, but I generally try to avoid middle school and high schoolers with trades.  Nothing personal, but just I rule I have followed the past few years.  There are plenty of cards in my collection that I do blog about, so it's also a good place to showcase some of my other cards.

Anyway, I completed my first Instagram trade a few weeks ago, but never took the time to post the card.  I was really happy to find a cool old 90s card for trade on the site and was happy to swap out a few newer short prints and an inexpensive Mets autograph for this cool looking Todd Helton autograph.




I used to love the SP Authentic set and really enjoyed the run of Chirography autographed cards that Upper Deck put out during their final decade as a licensed baseball card marker.  The 1998 set is one of my favorites.  The base set looks great and the autographed set design closely follows the base set.  This card is from the land before sticker autographs too, so the very nice looking Helton autograph is signed on card.  Very happy with this card and the addition to my collection.  

While I am not going to be making a ton of trades on Instagram, it seems like a handy tool for collectors, and a great way to show off new cards.  Maybe some ballgame pictures too.  


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Flyer on Fister

Speculation is always a good thing with baseball cards.  I have always liked Doug Fister and really enjoyed watching him pitch the past few years with the Tigers.  He's not a front of the line pitcher, but he's a solid middle of the rotation guy who can eat some innings.  Mix in a few strikeouts and a heavy dose of ground balls and you have the makings of a pretty good pitcher.  I was bummed to see him traded away to the Nationals this off season, but it still gives Fister the chance to pitch for a contender when he returns from a stint on the Disabled List.  This Panini Prizm card was mine for less than $2. 


While I am not a huge fan of the whole unlicensed card thing, I am willing to overlook the lack of logos for a $2 of a good pitcher.  This is Fister's only certified autograph, so if you are looking to add a copy of his autograph this card is your only choice.  Hopefully it will be a good year for Fister, but $2 is a low risk roll of the dice. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Jerry Sands

The Durham Bulls always do a really good job taking players with a little Major League experience and turn them into MVP candidates in the International League.  You can see it coming in spring training.  The Rays, like all Major League teams sign a few players to minor league contracts, offer them an invite to tryout during Spring Training, and end up spending their summer with the Durham Bulls.  Rather Crash Davis like. The list is long.  There was Midre Cummings, Kevin Witt, Dan Johnson, Chris Richard, Leslie Anderson, Shelley Duncan, Vince Belnome.  This year there is Jerry Sands. 

You have this feeling sometimes that players are going to play great in Durham.  You can see it a mile away.  First, Sands is from nearby Smithfield, North Carolina.  Hometown guys cannot let down the crowd.  Sands has played 70 games in the Majors with the Dodgers and was basically a .250 hitter with a few dingers.  His minor league track record has been pretty good up until last year.  Jerry Sands routinely flashed good power in the minors and also had a good knack for getting on base with an OBP routinely over .350.  Last year he batted just above the Mendoza line, with an OBP just above .300 with only 7 homers. 

The potential has always been there, but Sands is playing great so far in Durham. 



In 24 games so far this season Sands has posted a line of .329/.410/.635 with 6 home runs and 8 doubles.  I've been really impressed with his performance.  Here's a quick video I took earlier this year of Sands drawing a walk off of the Gwinnett Braves Daniel Rodriguez.  



Card wise Sands has a pretty deep checklist on cardboard.  He is in a ton of the 2010 Topps products.  High end, low end and with tons of autographs.  If you are looking for a just a plain rookie card I would highly recommend his 2010 Topps Finest card.  I love the look of these cards.  It's got a nice finish, but can easily be found for right around a dollar.  




Autographs of Sands are plentiful.  I only actually own one autograph of Sands, but I am thinking about adding a few nice looking ones.  The cheapest and easiest Sands autograph out on the market is his base Topps autograph from the 2011 set.  I found a copy a few months ago during spring training for just $2 shipped.  His end autographs are not much more expensive.  Sands is quickly becoming a fan favorite of the Bulls and I am not sure how I can pass over adding a few more Sands autographs to the collection.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Did I Mention Gypsy Queens?

I had an incredible time opening up some Gypsy Queens a few weeks back and swung back through Big D's Sports Cards during my delicious day out last week.  I did pick up a really cool Gypsy Queen patch of Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello, but I also decided to try a little more Gypsy Queen.  Here's a run down of my box, which was nice, but was not quite as good as my previous boxes.  Is the bar too high?  Maybe. 

Gypsy Queen boxes have two relics and and two autographs.  My two relics were pretty ho hum, but I was pleased to see a copy of former Durham Bulls star Alex Cobb in my pair of relics.  Elvis is okay too. The Andrus is a mini framed relic while the Cobb is just the regular relic card.  Neither card is serial numbered. 


My autographs were hit and miss with one really cool pull and another autograph that was a duplicate from my first box.  The duplicate was Jeremy Hefner who is currently not playing after undergoing Tommy John surgery and then was non-tendered by the Mets.  Heffner was a pretty good pitcher for Buffalo in the International League in 2012 posting a 2.77 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 9 starts, so maybe he will bounce back somewhere later this summer. 


My other autograph was the real prize out of this box of Gypsy Queens:


This Adam Jones autograph is limited to just 25 copies.  He also seems to be one of those players who signs a lot, but I never seem to land a card of the O's talented outfielder.  I love the darker frame and the on-card autograph is sweet.  This card is a keeper all the way.  Outside of the Jones autograph I did manage to pull two other cool cards out of the box.  Both of the same player.....


This is the regular Jose Abreu rookie card which is a short printed high number card.  If you have not checked out Abreu this year he is having a great year playing first base for the White Sox.  At this moment he is battling Albert Pujols for the American League lead in home runs.  "You can put it on the board"




I also managed to pull a copy of Jose Abreu's miniature card from the Gypsy Queen box.  This copy is the variation of the mini which features Abreu wearing the White Sox Sunday Softball Specials.  Why is there not a picture of Lamar Hoyt airbrushed into the background? 






No Hitter!

I have been to a lot of baseball games in my life and there are a few things that you rarely get to witness as a fan.  When I first moved to North Carolina I attend a Durham Bulls game where Jason Hammel was throwing a no-hitter, but I was at the game with a group of people from work and we left early.  Bummer, but I still saw a good chunk of the game.  Yesterday was a great day for a game, and with my brother in town for work, I decided to attend yesterday's Bulls game against the Yankees Triple A team the Scranton Rail Riders. 


The Bulls had Mike Montgomery pitching who came to the Rays organization in the James Shields/Wil Myers trade.  I have seen him pitch several times before, but when the game started I was initially more excited to see Hak Ju Lee.  The Korean shortstop was one of my favorite Bulls last season, but had a season ending knee injury and missed most of last year.  He returned to the team this week.  


I had really nice seats for the game behind the visitors dugout and did manage to snap a picture of Montgomery warming up in the top of the first.  He walked former Bull Russ Canzler to lead off the second inning, but was spotless the rest of the way.  I think I noticed the no-hitter sometime around the fifth inning.  In the eighth inning the pitch count on Montgomery was getting close to 100 and the Bulls warmed up two pitchers in the bullpen.  At the end of the eighth one sat down and Brad Boxberger continued to stretch and throw in the bullpen.  Montgomery came out to start the ninth.  


 This is Montgomery warming up for the ninth inning.  He pitched to one batter in the ninth and was then pulled for Boxberger who finished off the no no with a ground out to second and a strike out.  Baseball America posted a compilation of video clips from the game.  The first out in the ninth, Montgomery's last, takes place around the 3:00 mark and the last 45 seconds is Boxberger's last two outs.  





I had to get a scoreboard shot at the end with the zeroes going across.  Awesome game to watch.  




Saturday, April 26, 2014

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Nate Karns

The Rays organization picked up Nate Karns this off-season in a trade with the Washington Nationals.  While I will miss Jose Lobaton, Karns is a little bit more intriguing than a back up catcher.  No disrespect meant for Jose, he was a cool player to watch on thecDurham Bulls. The Texas Tech grad has been good for more than a strikeout an inning throughout his minor league career including a very impressive line 2012 during two stops in the Nats farm system posting a 2.17 ERA, a WHIP of 1.00, and 148 strikeouts in 116 innings pitched. Last season Karns posted a 3.26 ERA, a WHIP of 1.18, and 155 strikeouts in 132.2 innings at Double A Harrisburg.  Karns is in his first season at the Triple A level with the Bulls and has struggled early on this year with an ERA of 8 and a WHIP of 1.73. He is still raking up the Ks however with more than 29 in 21 innings pitched. 

On cardboard, Karns has several different 2012 Topps brand releases. He appears in the Bowman set and has all of the usual variations. Karns does not have pricey cards, for the most part, so a base Bowman card is likely to set you back a quarter or two. The variations might run a dollar or two max. I managed to pick up a copy of his blue Bowman parallel shortly after his trade to the Rays for right around $2 delivered. 


Karns also appears in the 2013 Topps Heritage High Numbers set. This card is not too easy to find, but is still pretty inexpensive at less than a dollar.  I really liked the 1964 Topps design that Topps used for the Heritage design last year, so I'd have to almost give this card the nod over his Bowman rookie. 



Karns does have autographs in the 2009 Donruss Elite set, but almost all of the avaiable copies floating around on EBay are owned by the same person who is not really budging on their price which is north of $20. While I love the Durham Bulls, and am hopeful that Karns will be a productive member of the Rays, it is hard to believe that his cards will ever hold that sort of value. I will be on the lookout throughout the summer and hopefully can add a copy of a Karns autograph for something a little more reasonable. 


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Delcious Patch Leftovers




There are not enough posts involving food on my blog.  Wednesday was my first day back at work after a good three weeks off for my school's spring track out.  Love year round school schedule.  Last week, I decided to take an afternoon to soak up the final moments of my break by enjoying some good wings and a few baseball cards.  I was craving some wings and there is no better wings place in the Raleigh-Durham area then Apex Wings.  It's about ten minutes from my house.  Great spot for some good eats. 

My next stop was Big D's Sports Cards.  I did pick up a box and will be happy to share my winnings in the coming days, but until then I will share a cool single card I picked up at my favorite local card shop. 

Jimmy had a great run of pulls from the Gypsy Queen boxes.  One of the boxes opened in the store yielded a really nice Rick Porcello patch card.  It was kind of a cool looking card and caught my attention with the red patch piece on a Tigers card.  Definitely caught my eye and got my mind thinking.  I decided to buy the card from Jimmy and do a little research. 




The answer to the Porcello card was pretty easy.  I found a cool picture of the Tigers wearing some cool Detroit Stars uniforms they wore during a Negro League tribute they put on during an Inter-league match with the Pirates.  I'm not quite sure which letter the Porcello patch comes from, but a close look at the picture below shows that the bottom and edges of the lettering matches the patch piece from these uniforms. 


In fact, the patches in Gypsy Queen are really pretty cool cards.  Usually when you pull a relic card out of a pack it's really really hard to tell the exact game or dates that the relic swatch on the card was used.  There are cards that Topps has put into set that are date and game specific.  For example, Topps usually puts together a nice set of relic cards featuring All-Star Game jerseys in their Update set every fall.  Of course, a jersey can make a lot of little swatches and it appears that Topps had some tasty leftovers hanging out somewhere waiting to mix into a nice card set to make some tasty relics for collectors to chase. 



Some of the patch pieces in the set appear to be fairly innocent until you start to put the pieces of an individual player together.  Take this Yadi card above for example.  The card looks like a pretty unspectacular piece of red jersey swatch.   Yes, the Cardinals do wear red batting practice jerseys.  Let's start piecing together some more Yadier Molina cards from the Gypsy Queen set....


There are lots of patch cards the set that have little pieces of blue, red, and yellow swatches.  The cards look normal at first glance, but again patching several pieces together show that they really do not seem to fit the usual pattern of Cardinals patches.  The card below looks like a standard piece of the yellow bat piece from a Cardinals jersey.  However, the second piece below is not a standard patch piece from a Cardinals jersey. 




The jersey pieces and patches actually come from the jersey below.  The 2009 National League All-Star jersey.  While the jersey still has the yellow bat going across the front, the white lettering, red trim, and blue patch pieces fit the All-Star jersey to a tee.  Add in the fact that the good people at Topps actually used plenty of other All-Star jerseys in the set....




Only the other cards in the set coming from All-Star Game jerseys are a little bit more obvious than the Molina cards.  There are actually several really nice examples of these cards on the jumbo patches that Topps inserted into the set.  Below is a cool picture of a Chris Sale jumbo patch that came from the 2012 All-Star game in Kansas City.  Note the Royal blue jersey piece on the left hand of the swatch and the dark blue number with the stars on the number.  The Sale jumbo cards with plain blue jersey swatches have been selling for less than $10, but the patch pieces are looking a tad bit steep.  Like three digits, hundred dollar steep. 


and Sale is not even the top of the All-Star Patch heep in this set.  I really like these Big Papi patches in the set which obviously came from the All-Star game in Arizona with the snake skin print on the numbers on the left-hand side of the card.  Surprisingly the Ortiz patch sells for close to the same price as the Sale.  Hmmm.


Anyway, if you have a favorite player or team with patches in the Gypsy Queen set do your homework and see if the patch pieces might actually belong to a cool jersey that can actually be traced back to a specific event or game. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Allen "Torty" Craig Autograph

The Cardinals have an on-field mascot at Busch Stadium, but also have a mascot floating around in their locker room too.  Outfielder/First Baseman Allen Craig owns a pet turtle which is the unofficial mascot of the Cardinals.  Many Cardinals fans have missed the exploits of Torty this year, who is usually hanging around on Twitter spinning stories about Adam Wainwright and Jon Jay dancing around to Kenny Loggins classic Footloose, or talk about "Master Allen" and his love of sprinkle doughnuts.  Pictures of the doughnuts are included.  Torty last appeared to tell the story of Carlos Beltran's departure to the Yankees.

 Torty first came to prominence during the Cardinals 2011 World Series run where his "Master Allen" had a strong showing including the go ahead home run in the seventh game. 





While Allen Craig is off to a bit of a slow start during the 2014 season, Cardinals collectors are still have a good time tracking down his cards.  Craig is featured prominently in the 2014 Museum Collection release and I decided to track down a nice signature card of the Cardinals right fielder.  


I loved this card when I saw it and was quick to pick up a copy of this card.  Craig also has an autographed jersey card in the Museum set, but the signature is on a sticker and several of the autographs have the last loop at the end of Craig's autograph cut off.  This card is also a pretty affordable pick up.  These cards have been come off of Ebay for right around ten dollars shipped.  Really cool card for the price.  Free Torty. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Museum Jumbos

I am still spending some time tracking down some more Museum cards.  The price of some of the jumbos has fallen slightly since product released a few weeks.  The prices for Museum cards are already a little bit low this year, so there are some really good bargains floating around out there for collectors.  This past week I managed to find two really nice jumbo Museum cards for my collection. 



First up is one of my favorite former Durham Bulls pitcher Chris Archer.  This Archer card is one of two variations he has in the Museum Collection on his jumbo cards.  This card is a swatch of his home jersey, but there is also a copy floating around with a nice piece of his alternate light blue jersey.  This piece of jersey is numbered to 50 which is one of the higher print runs of Museum Jumbo cards in the set.  Still trying to find a copy of that one.  Next...


The Matt Holliday jumbo card is numbered out of just 35.  There is also a copy of this card with a print run of 10 and a print run of 50, but I am not sure if he has any other colors or variations on his Museum Jumbo cards.  Just big pieces of white home Cardinals jersey. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kevin Pillar, Not Admiral Ackbar

I love the Inception autographs from last year and recently ran across one of International League favorite Kevin Pillar.  Pillar is a prospect in the Blue Jays organization and spent last year in Buffalo.  He also spent a little bit of time up in the Majors with the Blue Jays.  Bowman included the 2011 draftee out of Cal State-Dominguez Hills in an on card autograph in the set.  Really a nice looking card. 




I might be a little partial to this set, but this is a really good looking card.  Nice close up action picture with an on-card autograph.  Can't be beat.  I still have not seen Pillar in person, but started paying attention to him last year when the Durham Bulls tweeted out this scoreboard shot of, then Buffalo Bisons outfielder, Kevin Pillar. 

 
I'm a big fan of Admiral Ackbar.  I thought Ole Miss should have probably used him as their new mascot.  They really missed the boat. 



I was happy to see Pillar get promoted up to the bigs after a great showing in the International League.  Hopefully I will get to see a game with the Buffalo Bisons this year (seeing Marcus Stroman would be a bonus too).  If Pillar is up again then I guess I cannot complain.  He struggled a bit in his first trip up, but did end up hitting the longest (time wise) first home run in the history of Major League Baseball (record is not official)


it's a tar heel card

It's too bad that Blogger does not let you change the font size for just one post because the Tar Heel in the title would be a size 3 font if I had my way.  Last spring as college baseball was winding down there was a lot of speculation about Colin Moran, the UNC third baseman, being the top overall draft pick in the MLB amateur draft.  There were a group of people who were pretty sure if he was not the first pick, he would be in the top five for sure.  ESPN's Keith Law issued a video scouting report of the Tar Heels third baseman which confirmed this common notion.




After Moran was drafted his cards went crazy, like most top draft prospects, and collectors spent plenty of time and money scooping up cards of the future Marlins third baseman.  However, I decided to let a little time go by before picking up too many Moran cards.  I got a few, but not much time or money was sunk into the effort.  The main reason being that I am not drinking the Kool-Aid on Colin Moran being a good Major League player.  I know that certain individuals might attribute my opinion to my degree and sports loyalty belonging to the red North Carolina school, but it goes far beyond that.

First, in the Keith Law scouting report he makes light of the fact that Colin Moran might have a slow first step.  Let's correct that and say that the second, third, fourth, and so forth are also slow steps with Colin Moran.  He's slow.  Molina brother, Vinny Castilla slow.  Let's take a look:




Moran is on second when the ball is hit and is a good ten to fifteen feet off the base.  When the ball gets past the pitcher he's running "full speed", the outfielder for NC State throws the ball with on several bounces, and Moran is still out by feet.  Does he get within five feet of the plate even?  I don't think so.  In watching Moran his lack of speed really hurts his defense.  I know he has a good arm over at third base base, but his fielding stats in Single A last year showed his range factor is somewhere around David Freese (Cardinals fan cringe) and he has a lower fielding percentage.  Yikes.  

I know he's more of a power/hitting prospect, but I even have my doubts there.  Last year Moran' overall offensive production in college looks great.  He posted a .357/.485/.579 line with 13 home runs and 84 RBIs.  Good enough to win the ACC Player of the Year.  However, it should be noted that their was a drop off in both power and batting average from Moran once UNC reached ACC play last year.  I am not sure he ever got a hit off of Luke Weaver or Carlos Rodon, who are the two best pitchers in the ACC.  

After being drafted last year, Moran hit .296 in Single A Greensboro and also managed an On Base Percentage of .354.  However, he only had 4 home runs and 8 doubles in almost 200 at bats for a slugging percentage of .442.  Moran still has not appeared in a minor league game and seems destined for a short season A ball team this year.  Not a great thing for a top 5 draft pick who's supposed to be a polished college bat.  

Moran started this season in the Baseball America Top 100 prospects, but down the line a bit at 74.  I'm not going to doubt Moran's ability to reach the Majors, he will get there, but I am calling into question how big of an impact he will have once he reaches that level.  Card collectors seem to have figured out Moran quickly and his card prices have dived south sharply.  


The drop in prices has put many of Moran's autographed cards below $5.  Sure, if it's short printed or serial numbered to something really low you are still going to pay for it.  If you are looking for a good risk on a $4 or $5 autograph this a good risk.  I could be right about Moran and he could be a ho hum third baseman for your favorite team for the next five to ten years in which case $5ish is a good price for an on-card autograph.  If I am completely wrong about Moran and he ends up being the National League starter at third base for the next decade I will write another post saying I am wrong and you will have scored a major bargain on a nice piece of cardboard. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Some Big Mac Dirt

The 2001 Stadium Club "Dirt Cards" have always been one of those really unique ideas that a card company tried out and then quickly never ever tried it again.  Many collectors do not the communal cards, such as game used base cards, the Stadium Club pitchers mound and batter's box cards have remained pretty popular over the past decade plus since Topps first introduced them to collectors.  I am sure that if card companies had continued to make these they would all be $2.00 shipped on Ebay, like game used base cards are, but having only one run of cards like this has actually helped their value and popularity.




There are a few cards in this set which can be found for less than $5, but the cards generally float somewhere closer to the $10 mark, and at times, can even approach $20.  I had picked up a copy of the Big Mac card way back around the time the 2001 Stadium Club set was first released, but ran across another copy last week while making a few trades to work on my thread about the Durham Bulls.  I needed to take on another card to even out the trade and had a hard time saying no to this old friend. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How Could I Forget You Evan Longoria?

I had a really good day opening Gypsy Queen cards the other day at Big D's Cards.  Two boxes and all kinds of cool hits came out of my box.  You know what happens when you get something cool.  There are pictures and posts, time looking at your cool hits.  I have been in love with my Gypsy Queen cards the past few days and neglected some of my other cards.  Sadly.  I still love this button card.....

 

 It's somewhat understandable to lose track of other cards with all the excitement of the Gypsy Queen hits, but still I actually had a few other cards I probably should have posted earlier this week.  Before going in to Big D's for my pair of Gypsy Queen boxes I had been offered a few other cards by the store owner Jimmy who always takes time to look out for me.  I found me two really sweet cards.

The first card I picked up was a short printed Yadier Molina card from last year's Topps Heritage set.  Really cool short-printed card that I was missing from last year.  I also picked up another really cool autographed card from Jimmy too....


I absolutely love this Evan Longoria Tribute autograph card.  Jimmy had originally posted the card on his Facebook page and I glanced over it one day.  I was busy doing something and did not have a chance to flag the card.  When the Molina card came up a day or two later I asked about the Longoria card and was happy that Jimmy was able to set the card aside from me.  I picked this card up last weekend when I was picking up my two boxes of Gypsy Queen, but set it on the side of my desk the past few days.  I am sorry I forgot about Evan Longoria, it won't happen again. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Mike Fontenot

Fontenot is easily the most experienced Durham Bulls since the Rays purchased the contract of Erik Bedard last week.   Mike Fontenot played seven seasons in the Majors spending time with the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Philadelphia Phillies.   This is the veteran infielder's second season in Durham after he spent the 2013 season here too.  In 120 games last summer Fontenot posted a .264/.335/.379 line for the Bulls.  He spent most of his time playing second base last summer, but Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo did play him at third and short as well. 

Every team needs a player like Fontenot around.  He's not a spectacular player, but if the Rays were short an infielder there is no reason why Fonenot could not fill the void for a short time.  In the meantime, he can be a good mentor to young infielders in Durham like Hak Ju Lee and Cole Figueroa.  Fontenot also seems to have a really good relationship with the Bulls coaching staff.  On to the cards....


The first Fontenot cards appeared in 2003 while he was in the Baltimore Orioles organization.  His cards did not have that official rookie card stamp thing in the corner when they were issued that year, so he also appears to have a few rookie cards floating around in 2007.  Do not let the shiny rookie card badge distract you.  If you want a Fontenot rookie he appears in 2003 Topps, Bowman, Topps Total, and Topps Bazooka.  Of course there are nicer Fontenot cards then these....


Fontenot has a whole bunch of autographed cards out on the secondary market.  Most of the cards feature the infielder as a Cub, which makes me a little queasy, but I love the Bulls so I do own one.  Fontenot seems to have a ton of dual or triple autographed cards.  Lots of players have a few, Fontenot seems to have a ton.  I am not completely against dual signature cards, but it is hard to buy a dual autograph when the players on the card have a pretty wide gap in talent, or the players are of equal talent and the price of the card is ridiculous.  Fontenot dual signature cards fit both of these problems. 

Low talent with a high price:


Shockingly as the price seems you have to remember that some of the really cool Fontenot autographs with the Cubs were issued during the 2007 season, which seems a little bit high for Cubs cards.  I guess they won their division that year, but I am not sure why that year (along with 2008) drifts high.  Surely a division title is not the only reason.  What am I missing?


Fontenot also has a bunch of dual signature cards where he kind of drags the card down.  Mike Fontenot and Pablo Sandoval?  So, that the starting third baseman for a two World Series champion and his backup?  I think this would be cool if you had Sandoval and Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, someone else besides Fontenot.  Of course, if you really like Mike Fontenot there are some really cool cards out there were he does not share the card with other players. 


Being a part of two World Series winners in San Francisco means that Fontenot has been in two of these sets which Topps puts out every year to commemorate the winning team.  Fontenot was a part of the 2010 team which beat the Rangers and the 2012 team which beat the Tigers.  The cards are usually numbered to less than 100 and are highly sought after.  While the last card of Fontenot's to sell of Ebay does not have it's exact completion price, I would have a hard time believing it went too far below the original asking price.  Pretty steep price to ask for a utility infielder. 

Memphis Redbirds Hat Logo

I have been working on my Collecting the Durham Bulls thread the during the past week which took a little bit of guess work during spring training to prepare for some of the perspective players on this year's roster.  Besides having a good head start on getting some of the cards for this year's Durham Bulls team, I also have been able to go back and pick up some minor league cards for that other team I follow: the Cardinals.  

In my last Durham Bulls post I showed off a cool patch card of Rays prospect Mikie Mahtook which came out of Topps Heritage.  While I now have several of these cards from the Durham Bulls, Montgomery Biscuits, and Charlotte Stone Crabs I do not own any of these cards from Cardinals minor league teams.  I changed that a few weeks ago when I picked up a copy of the Kolten Wong card from last year's Topps Heritage Minor League's set. 


Wong was actually called up by the Cardinals at the end of the last year and appeared on the Cardinals World Series roster.  While he seemed to struggle at times during his cup of coffee, and was picked off of first base to end a World Series game, the Cardinals felt good enough about Wong's skill set to turn over the starting second base job to his this season.  That meant that All-Star second baseman Matt Carpenter was moved back to his natural starting position at third base and native St Louisan, and 2011 Postseason hero, David Freese was shipped out to Anaheim.  Wong has done pretty well for himself to start the season.  




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Mikie Mahtook

I have been waiting for Mikie Mahtook to show up in Durham the last few years.  I have caught glimpses of him on different highlights and liked what I saw.  Mahtook was a great college player at LSU and was selected by the Rays in the first round of the 2011 draft.  If you read most scouting reports of Mahtook they will rate his skills above average across the board, but he does not have one stand out skill.  Here are his career minor league stats including his first week and a half of play at Triple A. 


Really the thing that stands out the most to me is the OBP.  I always try to think of .350 as being the ideal floor for an outfielder which Mahtook is below.  This year he is at .396 so far, but he only has 2 walks in almost 50 plate appearances.  It's something to work on, but I still think that Mahtook will be on the Rays sooner rather than later and he will contribute to the team.  In someways he reminds me a little bit of Jon Jay, but he can actually cover the outfield. 



Mahtook has a ton of cardboard.  High draft choices always get a decent share of baseball cards, but Mahtook was one of the best college players in the game entering the draft and has a pretty good fan following which always helps the cause.  His first few cards actually are in a USA Baseball uniform from his time with the college all-star team including autographs.  At times these autographed cards can be a little bit pricey, given the type of player he is likely to become at the next level, but can found for less than $10 if you are patient. Of course, you can always opt for unsigned too.  Panini has a few nice base Mahtook cards that can be found for a dollar or two. 


Let's get back to the autographs.  Mahtook has been a great signer.  His USA Baseball autographs can drift a little bit higher than some of his other certified autographs.  Particularly his Bowman Platinum USA Baseball autograph which is in a great 2010 set.  You are paying for a Mahtook autograph, but you are also paying for the fact that it's in the same set as lots of other great autographs (including a very nice Steven Strasburg card).  His other autographs are almost always less than $5 on Ebay.  


His Bowman Platinum autograph from the 2012 set is one of my favorites.  It features a really nice on-card signature and is readily available several different places around the secondary card market cheap.  Mahtook also had a nice autograph in the 2013 Topps Heritage Minor League set.  It's a sticker autograph, but...


really you are getting an autograph for less than $5 and let's be honest about something.  Mahtook has a cool signature and he's not one of these guys who signs his 250 cards in 10 minutes.  All of his autographs look neat, nice, and actually look like he spent time and effort to sign.  Thank you.  One more really cool card.. 


 
There are relic cards of Mahtook and they are inexpensive.  Whose relic cards aren't inexpensive these days?  Collectors are a little bit bored with relic cards and it shows in the pricing.  However, I love these minor league manufactured patch cards that Topps has put out in the past few years.  I know that I have had a great time tracking down copies of the Durham Bulls cards like this and think this Charlotte Stone Crabs card of Mikie Mahtook is a cool find too.  

Overall, if you are a fan of the Rays, or Durham Bulls, and are looking for a player with loads of cards to collect this is a good player to look into.  While Mahtook has a lot of different cards for a Minor League most are very affordable and look pretty cool too.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Break Spring Fever Joe Kelly

I love the beginning of the baseball season.  More importantly, I love that the beginning of baseball season always falls into my spring track out.  If you are not familiar with the concept of Year Round Schools (teach for 9-10 weeks, off for 3-4 weeks) it's similiar to having a Spring Break, but it just lasts a few weeks longer.  I spend time focusing on writing lesson plans for the next quarter and getting myself organized, but also leave plenty of time for baseball. 

I have been able to see a few Durham Bulls games during the past few weeks, watch plenty of the Cardinals and Rays, and also spend time working on my baseball cards.  Sometimes I miss having time to track down cards once I am in school.  Alright, I make time, but it's a small window.  Breaks, track out, Spring Break, whatever you want to call it gives me ample time to search and plan.  So, here's a Spring Break kind of card for my last full week of vacation.


Topps put these Spring Fever cards out last year too.  Something with wrapper redemptions or something.  I am not a fan of mailing things to Topps.  It should be an unwritten rule of baseball cards: Mailing things to Topps does not mean they are mailing something back to you (in a timely manner).  Or Something like that.  I like redeem redemptions or whatever you would categorize this card.  I sent Topps nothing, but I still own the card.

I am a pretty big fan of Joe Kelly and am happy to see him in the Cardinals starting rotation instead of the bullpen this season.  Recently, Peter Gammons offered a flattering comparison for the Cardinals hard throwing righty.



So far this year Kelly has done pretty well in his two starts, but there is a long way to go in the season.