Monday, September 29, 2014

#MyCardMonday

Second copy of this card which I picked up a few days ago....


Fight On Boxberger!

My fall break has finally arrived and I have a few weeks to spend doing the things that I want to do.  This is my second break of the year, with winter break being first.  Other schools are just starting up and I am already a quarter of the way through my school year.  I spent the weekend on total relax mode which meant no posts, but I got to spend some good time with my parents, wife, and son.  Even went to a college football game and almost saw my alma mater, NC State, pull over a huge upset against Florida State.  The NC State quarterback is awesome....




So, what to do with the rest of my break?  I am going to do a little bit of traveling, but I also have a stack of cards sitting on my desk which need to be scanned and shown a little love on this blog.  I might also open a few boxes.  Bowman Chrome just came out and I have a jumbo box sitting at my local card shop.  Stadium Club looks cool too.  So, here's the first of my cards I need to catch up on....




I am a pretty big fan of Rays pitcher Brad Boxberger.  He briefly appeared for the Durham Bulls this year, after coming over from the Padres in a trade, and was lights out.  I even saw him close out a no hitter for Mike Montgomery.  After he was called up to the Rays he continued to dominate posting a 5-2 record with a 2.37 ERA, 104 strikeouts in 64 innings of work, and ERA+ of 158.  Kind of flying under the radar.

His rookie card is apart of the 2009 Donruss Elite set which featured draft picks in their college uniforms.  These patches are really cool and have always been some of my favorite prospect cards to find.  It's too bad they do not make these anymore.  Anyway, Boxberger was a USC Trojan and is shown on his card in a Southern Cal uni with a patch and an autograph.  This is my second copy of the card and was extraordinarily cheap on COMC.  

Another one of these in a day or so, but until then if you have never seen Boxberger in action.....


Thursday, September 25, 2014

90s Coolness + NC State Player = Mind Blown

I love cards from the 90s.  Huge fan of almost anything from that era.  It does not really matter whether it's high end, low end, beginning of the decade, or end of the decade.  I just love the 90s.  One of the great products from the 1990s was the Metal Universe set.  The brand started in the mid 90s and featured a weird blend of pictures and other stuff.  All depends on the year.  Some year the players on the cards look like something out of Terminator and other year's the have odds and ends in the background.  Here is an example...



and the raised surface of the 1990s version of these cards makes them terrible to scan.  Which leads us to the newest pick up I added to my collection.  I was actually perusing a few baseball cards when I ran across a trader who had a few cards I wanted and a nice NC State basketball card too.  Baseball cards sometimes this week.  Until then I we will just have to enjoy this card:



I have added a card or two of Lorenzo Brown before.  He has some nice looking cards and they are really inexpensive.  This card has some obvious appeal to NC State fans with the red tint.  The card is numbered to 150 copies.  Not great, but did I mention it's red?  Very fitting and a nice look for a former Wolfpack favorite.  So, this is normally when I post a video to show off something cool that Lorenzo Brown did in a game.  Like that time he had 11 assists in a game against UNC, or that time he led the Pack to the Sweet 16.  Nope, something bigger is happening in Wolfpack land this weekend.  Just remember, the last 5 times Florida State has come to Raleigh and played an unranked NC State team, they have walked away with an L.  GO Pack!  Beat the Noles.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Black Diamond Belle

One of the best baseball villains of the 1990s was Indians/White Sox/Orioles outfielder Albert "Joey" Belle.  His career started with the Indians in the last 80s, when he was briefly known as Joey, and was an MVP candidate by his second full season in 1992 when he posted a .260/.320/.477 line with 34 home runs and 112 RBIs.  The next four seasons (1993-1997) saw Belle finish in the Top 10 in MVP voting and make the American League All-Star team.  Honestly, I have no idea how Belle did not win an MVP award during that time.  Actually, I know why he did not win, but still he was an awesome player.  

Starting in 1994 Belle was one of the best offensive forces in baseball.  People really underestimate his 1994 season when he posted a .357/.438/.714 with 36 home runs and 101 RBIs.  His OPS+ that season was 194, which is one of the Top 100 marks for a season in Major League Baseball.  He could have easily won an MVP, except Frank Thomas....who posted the 26th best season ever, measured by OPS+ with a .353/.487/.729 line with 38 home runs and 101 RBIs.  Is there a wrong answer?  Not really.  

In 1995, Belle posted a 50 home run season, when the number meant something, and also managed to get the hapless Indians franchise to the World Series.  MVP worthy?  Yes, probably so.  Here was the deal with Albert if you are not familiar.....



Really awesome hitter.....



Really not cool.  

So, needless to say a lot of Albert's antics failed to win him popularity contests, but he was really good in his prime.  After he left the Indians he landed with the White Sox for two good years before leaving for the Orioles.  He was still a good player on the Orioles, but a hip problem slowed him down and he ended up retiring after collecting a lot of money for not playing.  His last official season on the field was 2000, but he collected pay checks until 2003.  Which is probably a good reason why most Orioles fans are not big fans of the Albert Belle cards.......




I still like Albert and I like his cards, which is why I picked up this card recently.   This bat card is another early on bat relic card from Upper Deck out of their Black Diamond product.  Back when bat cards and jersey cards were actually pretty tough pulls.  I always really liked these cards, in terms of design, and have been able to find a bunch of them for my collection.  However, unlike some of the early Upper Deck relics some of these can be found dirt cheap depending on the variation of relic you find.  The rarer, and much more expensive versions of the Black Diamond relics, have multiple relic pieces, like this Chipper Jones. 



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I Lost Ray, but I got...Part 3

To summarize Parts 1 and 2.  I lost a Ray Lankford card on Ebay.  It sold for a lot.



I still ended up picking up a bunch of Donruss Crusade cards from the same seller, all but one cost me less than $5.  So, far I have shown off a nice Juan Encarnacion and Fernando Tatis.  Both nice additions to collections and both former Cardinals.  Today, I have a player actually pictured in a Cardinals uniform.




This is actually my second copy of this card, but the Crusade cards are nice, and for less than $5, I am happy to have two copies. Morris was one of the better pitchers on the Cardinals in the late 90s.  While the Cardinals teams from that era were brimming with offensive fire power, the rotation was headlined by Morris, the two Benes brothers, and Donovon Osborne.  There was also Kent Merker, Manny Aybar, Kent Bottenfield, and Mark Petkovsek.  Needless to say, the Cardinals did not make an postseason appearances with that rotation.

Talk amongst yourselves: Alan Benes would have been better than Matt Morris.

Morris actually ended up being a solid starter for the Cardinals and even had a few memorable seasons that few people seem to remember.  Most notable was his 22-8 season in 2001 where he finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting.  After that season, Morris slowly started to slide and left the team after the 2005 season for the Giants.  He ended his career as a Pirate.

Monday, September 22, 2014

#365DaysofCards

Just a little challenge for myself.  I am working on a little something on my Instagram page which will feature cards that are not on my blog.  I tried this before on my Facebook page and decided it was not really a great use of the space.  I pick up plenty of cards and never have time to post everything that comes in my mailbox.  I also have a lot of cool cards that are already in my collection that would be cool to show off.





My first post is up on Instagram and features former Cardinals, White Sox, and Mariners pitcher Josh Kinney.

I Lost Ray, but I got.....Part 2

Not to rehash, but I lost a Ray Lankford card last week in a big way.....


Yes, that is a really ridiculous price for a Ray Lankford card.  Luckily the seller had some other great items listed and I was able to snag a few other cool cards, all but one cost me less than $5, and I will be sharing them all week.  Last weekend I shared the first card out of the lot, which was a copy of the Juan Encarnacion Donruss Crusade card.  Really nice.  Next up.....




Another Donruss Crusade card, they all are, featuring former Cardinals player Fernando Tatis.  He played for the Cardinals for half of the 1998 season, but started the year play for the Texas Rangers, and was traded to the Cardinals for Royce Clayton and Todd Stottlemyre.  I have always been a pretty big fan of Fernando and have enjoyed his Twitter page over the last year, but recently saw that his account on was actually fake.



I was crushed and a little bit disappointed, but this happens in the world of social media.  I still Fernando, his time on the Cardinals, and still enjoy his cards.  In fact, I feel kind of bad that someone took his name and used as their own for the past year.  They had quite a following.  I will have to post more Fernando cards to make up for his absence on the web.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

#MyCardMonday




A Dollar You Say?

I am often left scratching my head at the prices of cards.  There is a lot of speculation that goes into determining the card prices of some of the younger players, but do collectors actually follow up and watch these guys play games?  I could find a ton of collectors who have spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on Kris Bryant cards, but how many of them actually have taken the time to watch him play a whole game?  

Luckily the speculation surrounding young players is a two way street.  As often as I am left scratching my head at people who spend thousands on a player like Kris Bryant, not to say he won't be good-I would not spend that sort of money on most Trout cards, I am equally as baffled when there are really good young players who don't sell at all.  

For example, I am a pretty big fan of Blue Jays prospect Aaron Sanchez.  I have heard the same tired argument about him for the past year which include:

  1. He's pitched in the Minors for five years and has only won 18 games
  2. His career ERA is almost 3.50
  3. He's on the Blue Jays
  4. Norris and Stroman are better

All of these are really silly and I do not care about any of them.  Depending on the source, Aaron Sanchez is a top 20-30 prospect in all of baseball.  Throughout his Minor League career he has almost averaged a strikeout per inning, and despite not winning many games, has pitched very well throughout his journey to the Majors.  In fact, I love Marcus Stroman, but I like Aaron Sanchez more.  Sorry Marcus.  Norris, maybe not.  

The Blue Jays currently have the talented right hander pitching out of the bullpen where he has appeared in 22 games, pitched 30 innings, and has a great ERA of 1.19.  Oh, and his ERA+ is 334, FIP is 2.70, and WHIP is 0.692.  I'm not sure he's going to make it with those numbers.  

Collectors are still sleeping on this guy.  My latest pick up is a copy of the Aaron Sanchez 2014 Topps Chrome autograph.  




The best part about getting this card, as the title suggests, is the price.  One dollar is a bargain for any autograph, but especially for a guy who has the potential to be something pretty good.  Stop sleeping on this guy, go out and pick up a copy of these for your collection.  


Saturday, September 20, 2014

I Lost Ray, But I Got.... Part 1

Last week I shared the bidding insanity that I ran into in trying to win a copy of a Ray Lankford card from the 1998 Donruss Crusade set.  I was completely crushed that the card went far beyond my spending limit and was lost.  This was just way too ridiculous...



There did not seem to be much of a positive take away in the immediate moments after being completely outspent on a card that I really wanted to add to my collection.  However, I clicked on the Ebay seller profile, checked out the seller's other items, and found some really cool items floating around for not so much money.  In fact, I ended up buying six of his items, and five of them cost me less than $5.  I will share them all this week.  First up:



Like many sellers on Ebay, this person had a bunch of similar cards up for sale.  This guy had a whole slew of 1998 Donruss Crusade cards.  This card is a green version which is serial numbered out of 250.  $5 might seem like a lot for a Juan Encarnacion card that is serial numbered out of 250, but this set is extremely popular with collectors and the cards can drift high (see the Ray Lankford picture above).  Back of the card below....


  

Encarnacion does have a Cardinals connection that many people may not remember.  He was a member of the 2006 World Series Championship team, but had his time diminish towards the end of the year after the Cardinals brought up Chris Duncan and signed cast off Preston Wilson.  Sprinkle in a few innings of So Taguchi defense and you have a guy that some people forget.  Encarnacion missed the beginning of the 2007 season, but returned to play 78 games before his career ended after he was hit in the eye while standing in the on-deck circle. 



Deja Vu? Not Quite.

Yesterday was my first post featuring a card of Cardinals pitching prospect Sam Tuivailala.  I picked up a copy of his card, but in the process of tracking it down, actually found two copies of the card.  I cannot pass up a good deal and a really cool signature from a Cardinals prospect.  Here is another copy of a 2010 Donruss Elite Sam Tuivailala autograph.



The signature on this card is much larger than the copy I posted yesterday and runs off the sticker on both the bottom of the card and the right-hand side.  Just one of the many reasons that sticker autographs make me a little bit sad.  Still a cool card.

Hey, I picked up another cool card along with this autograph.  I also landed a nice copy of a 2014 Topps Pro Debut Logo Patch of a Mikie Mahtook card.  One of my favorite minor league logos.....





Friday, September 19, 2014

That's Two EE Va La La

The annual September call-ups always mean tracking down and adding a few new cards to my collection from players added to the rosters of different teams.  Let's just keep it real and say that I am looking for some new Rays and Cardinals cards.  Not far enough, since I collect a lot of Rays minor leaguers with the Durham Bulls, I am mainly looking for a few Cardinals players.  I track down most of the big name Cardinals prospects like Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk, and all of the other well known Cardinals prospects.

There are always a few names that get called up that are challenges to track down on cardboard.  Anybody have a Xavier Scruggs autograph?  He actually has a card in last year's Topps Heritage Minor League set, but no certified autographs.  Tommy Pham?  Same story.

Then there is the Cardinals newest pitcher Sam Tuivailala.  He was drafted as a shortstop out of Aragon High School in California, but the Cardinals ended up switching him over to a starting pitcher.  The right handed reliever now throws in the high 90s and was promoted up to the Cardinals directly from the team's Double A affiliate.  Here is a look at some of his high heat....



and that leaves us to discuss Tuivailala's cardboard.  He has base cards like some of the other Cardinals prospects called up to the Majors with the expanded September rosters, but he also has a certified autograph in the 2010 Donruss Elite set.  He's got a nice autograph, even though it's a sticker autograph, and it's on one of my favorite brands (even if they are not a licensed card producer).  



The card also has a pretty high run at 820 copies, but it still seems to sell pretty well on the secondary market.  The card often crosses over the $10 mark, which is pretty good, considering that he just completed his first season in Double A and changed positions recently too.  The fact that the card features Tuivailala batting is an added bonus.  Great card and I am happy to have another hard thrower in the Cardinals bullpen.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

and here's a Triple Threads card....

Triple Threads is exactly the sort of product that I avoid like the plague.  Currently the boxes of the new Topps product are selling around the internet for around $170-$180 for two mini-boxes (really packs).  You should get something really good for that much money, but it does not happen enough to justify dropping that sort of scratch on these boxes.  The fear being that I would spend almost $200 on a box and end up with an autograph of some guy like Enny Romero or Jake Odorizzi.  Their cards sell for $5 to $10.  The names on cards would be cool with me, but that's not a great return on the money invested.

So, long story short, in the past few years in typing up blog posts about baseball cards, I have made 39 posts about cards from Triple Threads and almost none of those cards came from packs of cards.  Triple Threads has been out for a week?  The cards have had a little bit of time to cool off on the secondary market?  Sounds good, let's go.  Here's my first card from this year's set......




This set has had a nice evolution over the years and I must say that I really enjoy this year's design.  I like how the traditional three pieces of relic are spread out across the card with a cool little die cut surrounding each of the swatches.  The name on the left side of the cards is a little hard to spot, but it's a pretty small detail.  The black on black is not completely bad.

The best part about the whole card is the on card autograph.  The Triple Threads brand has flipped and flopped over the years between stickers and on-card autographs.  Some of the years are a mix, which includes this years release.  I have a couple of the Triple Threads cards on the way, but I try to stick to the on-card autographs whenever I can find them.

One of the other downfalls of this year's Triple Threads set is the fact that Topps has repeated the same usual signers for the set.  My options for Cardinals players include Matt Adams, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly, and Kolten Wong.  There is also a Matt Carpenter.  How many of those players have been in four or five other Topps set as signers?  All of them.  Well, maybe not Carpenter, but it's close.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I Still Love Oscar

I have heard so much the past few months about all of the different prospects that have moved up the ladder during the 2014 season and are now either knocking down the door to the Majors, or they have gotten the call up with expanded rosters in September.  Some of the prospects are legit talents who will be around for a long time to come.  I had a chance to see Ruseny Castillo last week with Pawtucket and was really impressed by his performance in the International League playoffs.  He should be a force for years to come along with Mookie Betts.

Other prospects have entered the Majors and have had a slow start.  Cubs shortstop Javy Baez has 9 home runs in his first 41 Major League games, but is hitting .169 and has 74 strikeouts in 178 plate appearances.  The poor initial performance out of the Cubs infielder has cooled off the values of some of his cards.  A quick search of completed items on Ebay shows that his 2011 Bowman Sterling autograph was frequently selling north of $50 at the beginning of the baseball season in April and into the middle of summer before his call up to Chicago.  Collectors can now find a copy of the Baez rookie for less than $30.

Similar to Baez, Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras saw the prices of his cards fall throughout the 2014 baseball season after he was called up to the Majors and failed to produce much beyond a .200 batting average with limited power.  While Baez's average has gone from .188 in August to .130 (with a .278 slugging) in September, Taveras has actually started to rebound and produce better numbers and results for the Cardinals.

In July, the first full month for Taveras, he posted a .176/.216/.206 line which started the fall of his card values.  Last month during August his numbers were up to .244/.292/.289.  It's an improvement, but still it was trending up.  This month?  Taveras has played a dozen games in September posting a .385/429/.538 line.  More than okay.  Of course, his card values did not magically recoup over night.  Autographs of the Cardinals right fielder are still hovering under $20.  Pretty cheap.  I am taking advantage of the current prices.....




This is the blue version of the Taveras 2014 Topps Chrome autograph which is serial numbered out of /199.  While the regular 2014 Topps Chrome card sells for less than $20 the serial numbered version of the card sells for just a few dollars more.  Five to ten dollars more get you a limited print run of a great looking card.  I am not going to put together the rainbow of this card, but I would still love to add a regular base autograph of Taveras.  I am also curious how these cards will fair if Oscar continues to improve his on the field performance.  A nice postseason run with some big hits by Taveras can only help.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Chrome Siegrist Autograph



I have added a new Kevin Siegrist autograph to my collection for super cheap.  The Cardinals hard-throwing left handed reliever has a few autographs out there now, but this is the only one I have seen with his number signed on the card, which appears in small print in between the S and the T in his last name.  Siegrist has had a few injury problems this year and has missed a chunk of the season with forearm problems.  However, he's back in the bullpen and looks really sharp.  With the Cardinals back in first place and the end of the season approaching I am hoping to see another moment like this in the next week or two.....


Sunday, September 14, 2014

#MyCardMonday



I love the looks of this card, but at the time I picked it up I was not necessarily a huge fan of Lance Lynn.  Yes, he's on the Cardinals and he's a pretty good pitcher.  The inconsistency he displayed made him a hard player to watch at times prior to this season.  He would have a good game, then a bad game.  He would pitch well for four innings, then pout over an error behind him.  Aggravating.  Things have changed for the better for Lance Lynn this year.  Better outings, more consistency, great results.



Currently Lynn is sporting a 15-9 record with an ERA of 2.73 and 163 strikeouts in almost 200 innings.  An ERA+ of 134 and a WAR of 3.3.  There is no doubt that Lance Lynn has made himself a valuable part of the rotation.  The Cardinals have risen to the top of the National League Central standings and would not be anywhere close to where they are without this guy's big improvement.  

2014 Durham Bulls Team Set

I have done this a few times with some other posts, but in order to get the right vibe to look at the cards, you need to watch the video below as you are reading the post, in order to create the proper atmosphere for look at pictures of Bulls baseball cards.  The Bulls always have some pretty good choices for pre-game music and I always walk away with a few new things for my IPod, particularly things I can listen to in the morning to get myself pepped up for school (work-same difference).




Is the video playing?  Good, the Durham Bulls card set is a standard 30 card Minor League issue.  I was a little worried about buying this set after seeing the quality of some of the All-Star cards for the International League.  These cards are excellent, however, and were produced by Choice baseball cards with photography by Brian Fleming.  He has some cool Durham Bulls related photos on his Twitter page.  I should follow him.  Here are the cards....








First off, I will say that I love the design.  Has there ever been a bad baseball card design which used a wood frame?  I cannot think of a single instance.  I like the placement of the team logo in the top corner and the simple white and black nameplate on the bottom slightly off center.  The card is dominated by the photography which is a nice mixture of live game shots and a few standing/still shots.  

The player selection is also excellent.  Take out the three coach cards and the mascot and the remaining 26 players were all good selections.  It's hard to account for movement on Minor League teams, but you figure most of the key contributors for the first half of a minor leagues team should be in the card set.  

I love that players like Jerry Sands and Brad Boxberger, who spent a lot of time up in Tampa, made the set.  I love that Robby Price made the set despite not appearing for the last month of the season.  The guy played everywhere and did anything he could for the team.  If I could add one player to the card set I would put in Jeremy Moore, who joined the team mid-season, and made some good contributions to the team.  If I could take away one card I would remove Braulio Lara who only appeared in nine games for the Bulls before spending most of the year in Double A Montgomery.  

Overall an excellent effort and great team set to add to my collection.  I have not put any off these up here before, but might have to add that to my offseason list of things to do.  

Farewell Summer Friend!

Yesterday evening marked the official end of the 2014 baseball season in Durham.  The Triple A National Championship Game is taking place on Tuesday night in Charlotte at the home stadium of the Charlotte Knights, so I cannot say it's over in North Carolina, but it's close.  Last evenings game was the fifth and deciding game for the Governor's Cup (International League Championship) between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Durham Bulls.

This is the second year in a row that the team's have played for the International League Championship, and through the first four games of the series, fans had witnessed a great series.  Game 4 lasted four hours Friday night with both teams making some great plays.  Tim Beckham, Bulls shortstop, had a huge two-run single, to give the Bulls a late lead.  Bryce Brentz, Paw Sox outfielder made a great throw to throw out Cole Figueroa at the plate in extra innings.  A near walk-off home run by Nick Franklin.  The Red Sox finally prevailed.

The game Saturday offered me a chance to see a deciding championship game and also gave me a glance at recent Red Sox signee Rusney Castillo.  The Cuban defector recently signed a huge seventy-some million dollar contract with the BoSox.  He is playing in Triple A right now, but is a definite for the outfield in Boston next year.  Let me give you a glance at the new Red Sox outfielder before we get to the game....


RUSNEY CASTILLO 





I had to go find Castillo and watch him for a couple of minutes before the game.  He did some really basic stretching, but nothing beyond a few wind sprints and lunges.  Then the game started.  He clearly has talent.




His first at-bat, which led off the game, lasted just two pitches and ended in a fly out.  The ball had a good sound off his bat and had good carry.  He was facing Merrill Kelly in the video.  


His second at-bat resulted in a double.  You can see in the video, again, that Rusney Castillo is swinging right away in the at-bat.  I am not sure how that is going to play in Boston, the organization seems to be all about working counts, when he arrives in the spring.  It could also be that in facing Merrill Kelly, a control pitcher who is around the plate, that Castillo was not going to wait around to fall behind in the count early.  


His third at-bat also resulted in a double on a ball pulled right down the line past the Durham Bulls third baseman Cole Figueroa.  After the double, Castillo fell asleep on the base paths and was nearly picked off by Merrill Kelly, but Figueroa was also asleep at third base and blew the run down.  



His final at-bat was perhaps his most impressive in my mind.  The Bulls had pulled Kelly at this point and had put Enny Romero into the game.  If you are not familiar with Romero from my other posts here's a basic run down: He throws in the high 90s and does not always have the greatest control.  I actually have been a little bit intrigued at the prospect of him pitching out of the bullpen and was happy to see this match-up of power versus power.  



The final pitch results in a walk.  However, if you look at his first couple of swings he actually spoils the first couple of pitches from the hard throwing left hander.  He also did a great job of laying off the high fast balls, which were all letter high, and all were going somewhere between 95 and 99 on the stadium radar gun.  

Overall, I was really impressed by Rusney Castillo.  His skill set stood out and he was clearly the most talented position player on the field last night.  He even made a couple of good plays in the outfield.  I am not going to make any predictions as to what he turns into in the Majors, but he definitely belongs.

Game 5




It was a great night for a baseball at the DBAP.  The heat of summer has started to disappear and the temperatures were sitting in the 70s for the game.  Perfect for the final night at my favorite place to be during the summer.  The Bulls started Merrill Kelly versus the Red Sox Keith Couch.  

Merill Kelly is sort of the good reliable starter on the Bulls.  Nothing flashy or fancy, the guy just wins baseball games.  Unfortunately, the Bulls were starting Merill Kelly because the Rays recalled Nate Karns to the big team.  Karns started a game Friday night against the Blue Jays and had a pretty great night out for his first Major League win.  

Keith Couch is not on the Red Sox Top 20 prospects list, but he posted an 8-2 record in Double A with an ERA of 2.96.  I was not sure what to make of Couch, but I thought the Bulls could probably get a few runs off of him in his Triple A debut.  


Well, Couch was outstanding pitching into the seventh inning, striking out four, and keeping the Bulls off of the scoreboard.  I am not sure the Red Sox could have hoped for any better out of their right handed starting pitcher.  The Red Sox offense was able to put up a few runs, aided by a few Bulls mistakes.  



In the end the Paw Sox won the game 4-1 as the only Bull who could dent the scoreboard was outfielder Jeremy Moore who hit a long home run to right in the ninth inning.  The Red Sox were the better team, all the way around, Saturday night and deserved the W.  




Catcher Ryan Lavarnway was named the MVP and had a long home run off the Tobacco Road resturant above the left-field wall.  In the eight playoff games played by the Paw Sox this year, the catcher his .324 with six RBIs.  A very deserving choice.  Here's a picture of the catcher accepting the MVP award from the International League Commissioner.  



The Red Sox had a great time celebrating on the field.  This is the Paw Sox second championship in the last three years and third consecutive appearance in the Governor's Cup Championship.  






Final Thoughts On The Bulls

1.  This was Charlie Montoyo's finest season as the Bulls manager.

He's the winningest manager in franchise history.  He's won seven division crowns in eight season with two International League Championships and a Triple A National Championship.  People always point out that the Rays have players in their minor league system and there is always a good deal of talent on the Durham roster.  Very true, but where are the five star prospects on this year's team?  I love the players on the roster this year, but there is no Evan Longoria, David Price, Delmon Young, or Ben Zobrist on the team.  The offense of the Bulls struggled at times posting a .248 team average.  Through it all, Montoyo guided the team to first place in the International League's Southern Division and into the League Championship round.  

2. The players with Major League careers ahead of them on this year's roster include:

Kevin Kiermaier- "The Bandit" spent a good chunk of the first half of the season with the Bulls and excelled on defense and at the plate.  I saw plenty of games of Jim Edmonds in his prime and can tell you that Kiermaier is in that neighborhood of players with the glove.  He has hit in Tampa this year, but could still use some improvement at the plate.  Kiermaier is a legit outfielder and never sees Durham again, unless he's on a rehab assignment.  



Mikie Mahtook- Perhaps the fan favorite this year in Durham.  I think he needs a little bit more time in Triple A for consistency.  The 24 year old outfielder out of LSU looked good during the first half of the season, but he had a really rough July hitting just .226/.280/.560.  Not good.  He had a good bounce back during August, but I think the Rays still do not quite have a finished product here.  I still think he's a Major League outfielder at some point.  No worse than say a Brandon Guyer type of player, but I think the ceiling is there for him to be better than that.  


Curt Casali- There is always room for an extra catcher or two, but especially for one who has a career .381 OBP in the Minors.  There is not a great average or tons of power here, but he is a good defensive option and he gets on-base.  Even if he hits at the bottom of a batting order, he will get on base and turn over the line up.  Casali is a solid catching option and the Rays could use him instead of Jose Molina next year behind Ryan Hanigan.  

Hak Ju Lee- The guy can field.  

 

I am not sure he can hit at the big league level, but neither can guys like Brendan Ryan.  Yet, they are still up and taking up a roster spot, because catching the ball and throwing people out is still a really important aspect to the game.  Lee has some offensive pluses, like his base running, but he needs to become much more consistent. A .200 batting average and .280 OBP is not going to get you far in the Majors, but a .250 average and an OBP of .320 with Gold Glove D might be worth playing time in Tampa.  

Tim Beckham- Stop blaming Tim Beckham for being the 1st overall draft pick.  He might not be a slam dunk super star player you envision when a team uses the number one overall pick on you, but the guy can play and I would not mind seeing him as a Ray.  In fact, he also better than Daniel Descalso, who is my least favorite player on the Cardinals, my other team of interest.  After blowing out his knee in the off season, the shortstop only picked up 65 plate appearances this year.  Limited window, but something is different about Beckham since his return.  Here's the short list: 

1. He cares a lot and has worked hard.  I know this sounds like the "grit" argument, which it is, but he has worked hard to get to Triple A, then rehab, and come back to Triple A.  The last weeks of the season have seen Beckham out early working on ground balls, stretching, and running.  

2.  He's emotional and wants to win.  Last night when I saw the Bulls playing the whole team looked flat with the exception of Beckham.  He looked faster than every player on the field not named Rusney Castillo.  He made several really good defensive plays, and the only one not made, was all on Wilson Betimet looking scared of a one hop throw over to first.  

3. You used the first overall draft pick on him and he's in Durham because you love Sean Rodriguez and his .212/.264/.442 line?  Seriously.  Give him a few weeks and give the man some at-bats.  

Nick Franklin- He was there best player down the stretch and was already promoted after last night's game.  He should be given a chance to play regularly next year in Tampa.  

Brad Boxberger- Why was he ever in Durham this year?  Lueke got a roster spot ahead of him.  Silly.

Alex Colome- He's already been promoted and is starting Monday against the Yankees.  Should be a solid starter for years to come in Tampa.  

Mike Montgomery- Threw a no-hitter this year and is a left handed starting pitcher.  He should get a few spot starts for the Rays next year, but I think there is another year in Durham left for the former Royals farm hand.  

C.J. Riefenhauser- Should be in Tampa next year along.  

Nate Karns- I think he could use another season in Durham for polish, but his first Major League win the other night in Toronto offered a glimpse into the potential.  Karns has a big arm, throws hard, its always a matter of control.  I think he could also be a really good relief pitcher at some point.  

Matt Andriese- I think he's back in Durham next year, but really deserves a shot at pitching in Tampa.  I think he will get some spot starts in Tampa next year and maybe a shot in the rotation at some point in the near future.  I was really surprised at how well he pitched this year.  

Enny Romero- I got my wish of seeing Romero as a relief pitcher last night.  He looked really good coming out of the pen and he throws hard.  He's in Tampa in the future, please say he's a relief pitcher?  Please!

 


3.  Favorite Moments of the Year

Mike Montgomery's No-Hitter It was already a post, but still the best of the year can get mentioned many times and never get old.  Thinking of something cool to do with my ticket stub.  




Hmmm....Seriously, any ideas?  


The All-Star Game and Home Run Derby



Awesome Promotions
There were t-shirts and hats too, but my two favorites were the Will Myers bobble and the International League Championship ring.  Really cool items.  




Last game and item of the post.  I caught a ball!  



Thank you Nick Franklin!  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose, Sometimes It Rains Part 3

One of my primary player collections is former Cardinals outfielder Ray Lankford.  I have shared my love of Lankford cards on this blog before and am always on the lookout for new cards.  The problem is that after twenty some years of collecting a minor star I am at a point where I am mainly looking for things like printing plates and parallels with extremely low print runs.  Printing plates and low prints runs are usually pricey gets, but one of the great parts of collecting a player like Ray Lankford is that I have never spent more than 50 to add a card of his to my collection.  Ever.

The highest I ever went on a card of his was $43 for a copy of his Essential Credentials card from the 1998 Skybox EX-2001 set.



This set is highly collected and the Essential Credentials parallels often sell pretty high.  A star player out of the set might easily reach triple digits in price and could go for multiple hundreds.  It's just the price you sometimes pay if you want to collect a specific player.

Have you ever asked yourself where your line is on a single card of your favorite player?  Being a Ray Lankford fan, I really never thought I would have to answer that question until this week when a copy of his 1998 Donruss Crusade came up for auction on Ebay.  There are two copies of the Crusade cards, the green copies numbered to 100 and the red copies numbered to 25.  I already have the green copy.



Which left the red copy.  I always watch cards on Ebay and then bid at the last minute.  No need to bid five days ahead of time.  Many theories on this, but that's for a different post.  The seller of the card had several Crusade cards up for auction and the pricing quickly escalated with the Lankford card.  The morning of the end of the auction the card was sitting in the high 30s.  I was more than willing to go into the forties and even push it into the 50s if I needed to go there.

I came home from work, ate dinner, and checked the auction.  I was crushed....



Fifty dollars for a Lankford card?  Sure.  I think I could have convinced myself to go higher still, but I could not look at the screen and honestly justify spending $172 on a Ray Lankford card.  The card ended up at $182.  Needless to say, I did not put in the winning bid.  I am sure at some point another copy of this card while pop up and I will have a chance to add it to my collection.  Hopefully for less than $182.  In the meanwhile, I picked up some other cool Crusade cards.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Catchy Title About Evan Longoria

I picked up another card of Rays third baseman, and former/favorite Durham Bull, Evan Longoria.  I picked this card up off of Twitter early this week from a collector looking to part with a few Rays cards.  There is always room in my collection for a new Longo card, especially one as nice as this Topps Tribute card.



It's been a long and disappointing year for the face of the Tampa Rays which has caused a steady slide in the price of his cards over the course of the summer.  I still love collecting him though and he will always be a player I try to add to my collection now matter how he is playing, or where he is playing.  Hopefully Tampa, by the way.  So many good memories of Longo and hopefully a good bounce back season next year.  I'd love to see the Rays back in the playoffs.....I miss this.....





Thursday, September 11, 2014

Finest Ventura Highway Autograph



I spent a little bit of time last week working on a few trades and backed into a copy of a 2014 Topps Finest Yordano Ventura autograph. The twenty-three year Royals pitcher is an exciting young pitcher and has certainly been a key contributor to the teams raise to the top of the American League Central this season.  His fastball sits in the high nineties and occasionally tops out at 100 mph or more.  I'm not sure the results always matter when you throw that hard, but Ventura does see good results as the hardest throwing starter in Major League Baseball.

Ventura's ERA+ currently sits at 124, making him a very nice pitcher, and his FIP is currently 3.69 which puts him just outside of the American League Top 10.  Assuming that Ventura continues to grow and progress, the Royals should have a great pitcher for a long time.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Inkredible Holliday

One of the really underrated mega-sets of all-time is the 2006 Upper Deck set.  It's over 1000 cards and featured tons of goodies for collectors.  Lots of relics, autographs, and inserts.  High end, low end, and everything in between.  It's just a really cool product and might be my favorite Upper Deck set after the original 1989 set.  Definitely top three at worst.

The autograph list is quite impressive and their are a lot of big names out there for collectors to find.  Go on a big secondary market site like Ebay or COMC and you scan scroll through and get a good idea.  My latest edition is a pretty good name......




Holliday has been a really good player for the Cardinals the last five years, but at the time of this set's release he was maybe even better than he was at his Cardinals peak.  2006 was a really good year for the Rockies left-fielder as he posted a .326/.387/.586 line with 34 home runs 45 doubles and 114 RBIs.  He followed his 2006 performance up with a .340/.405/.607 line in 2007 with 36 hoers, 50 doubles, and 137 RBIs.  Holliday won two of the three legs of the Triple Crown that year, missing out on the home run title by 14 to Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder.

Of course, the Rockies also ended up in the World Series in 2007, due in large part to Holliday's efforts, but they came up short against the Red Sox.  Holliday played well for the Rockies that Postseason and had won of their only highlights from the series when he hit this late inning home run in game three.




Holliday eventually ended up with the A's and was then traded to the Cardinals.  Throughout his career Holliday has been a pretty good signer and has a fair number of autographs out on the market.  I am always amazed at how cheap his autographs as a Rockie are sometimes.  This card cost me less than $5.  Yes, it's a sticker autograph, but Matt Holliday, $5.....It's a good deal.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

Old School Junior



I know that not many people hold much value in ordinary looking relic cards, but this is actually a really cool card that I picked up really cheaply this past week.  The card comes from the 1999 Upper Deck MVP set, which was a low end retail set back in the day.  The packs were a little bit more than a dollar and were mainly just a source of an inexpensive set.  There were some cool relic cards in this set every year starting with this set of bat cards in 1999.  These cards actually sell really well Ebay.  Sure, common cards of players like Mo Vaughn can be found for a few dollars, but some of the bigger names in the set can easily go north of $10.  High end they are not, but they have also held their value much better than their modern equivalent.  

Governor's Cup Preview: Durham Bulls vs. Pawtucket Red Sox Game 1

The International League is down to it's final two teams and once again the Durham Bulls and Pawtucket Red Sox have risen to the top.  The same two teams played for the cup last year and the two squads can boast the last two cup wins.  This feels a lot like it's the deciding game of a best of three the two franchises have been playing over the past couple of years.  So, let's get down to the matchup between this year's version of the Triple A Red Sox versus the Triple A version of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Pitching Matchups 

Game 1: Edwin Escobar vs Alex Colome
Game 2: Matt Barnes vs Enny Romero
Game 3: Henry Owens vs Matt Andriese
Game 4: TBD vs Nate Karns
Game 5: TBD vs Mike Montgomery


Game 1: Escobar versus Colome
The Red Sox start the series by throwing Edwin Escobar who came over to the Boston organization in the Jake Peavy trade.  He is currently rated as the 10th best prospect for the Red Sox and was at the back end of the Baseball American Top 100 prospects list sitting at 94 before the season.

He has made five starts since coming over from the Giants and has pitched pretty well up until his last outing against the Syracuse Chiefs.  The left-hander last a little more than 2 innings giving up 9 runs (8 earned) and taking the loss for the Red Sox.  I have seen that Chiefs line up this year and know it can be tough, but some of the core hitters like Steven Souza and Tyler Moore have been called up to Washington which has watered down that team a bit.

Really the problem with Escobar this year is the fact that he is not missing many bats.  Last year his Ks/9 were right around 10, but have sunk to almost 7 this year in two Triple A stops.  The number has actually been around six in Pawtucket and his WHIP is sit right at 1.500.  Basically he's allowed 41 base runners in 27 innings with only 20 strikeouts.  That's a whole lot of trouble.



Alex Colome has not faired much better than Escobar recently.  He did make a start against the Columbus Clippers in the first round of the playoffs for the Bulls and did not fair so well.  Colome only lasted 5 innings and gave up a few long balls.  Further, his August was a little bit rough.  After have a pretty good first half of the season, the Durham hurler posted a 2-2 with an ERA right around 5.  Same story as Escobar, lots of hits and walks, not many missed bats.  

Colome does have a very good outing this year against Pawtucket back in June.  He lasted 8 innings, struck out 7, and held the Red Sox to just 4 hits.  I would love to believe that Colome has turned the corner on his season and is ready to pitch lights out against the Red Sox, but I cannot honestly say that will happen.  

To me, much of this series is going to boil down to the offense of both teams.  The Bulls looked pretty sharp last series especially newcomer Nick Franklin and Jeremy Moore.   


Throw in the fact that the Bulls have also been getting positive contributions from Tim Beckham and Cole Figueroa and it's hard not to like the line up of the defending champs.  

Meanwhile, the Red Sox looked like they were hitting a beach ball against the Syracuse Chiefs.  I do attribute some of the result of that series to the fact that the Nationals have raided the Chiefs roster a bit, but you still have to go out and play the games.  Travis Shaw and Bryce Brentz led the way for Pawtucket.  

So, here are my keys and prediction for game 1.  I think the Durham Bulls, being the defending champions, steal this first game in Pawtucket.  However, there are two keys in my mind to that outcome:

1.  Colome has to pitch like he is capable of throwing.  He needs to keep the Red Sox off the bases.  When Colome is good, there are very few walks, and he strikeouts about a batter per inning.  

2.  Limit the damage done by Brentz.  I know the .243 average is not impressive, but the guy has a dozen home runs in 63 Triple A games this year.  Last year he hit 17 in 83 games.  There is swinging and missing with Brentz and there are home runs.  Let's make sure he's walking back to the dugout after strikeouts and not home runs.  Bulls win Game 1: