Sunday, May 31, 2015

#MyCardMonday

I am feeling a little bit of school pride this evening while I am sitting here awaiting the regional baseball game between NC State and TCU.  I feel asleep last night while I was watching the game and missed a little bit of magic off the bat of Chance Shepard in the ninth inning against the Horned Frogs....




The two run home run put the Pack 9 in the drivers seat for the regional.  They play TCU again tonight and possibly again tomorrow if the hosting Horned Frogs win the game this evening.  TCU had to play a game this afternoon against Stony Brook, so the Pack are definitely at an advantage.  Let's hope that they advance......

This year's Wolfpack team does not have some of the high end talent as they have had in recent years with players like Carlos Rodon, Trea Turner, and Brett Austin.  There aren't any USA Baseball cards of the current Wolfpack players floating around, so my choice for #MyCardMonday is going to come from a former Wolfpack player.  You have all seen my Rodon and Turner cards, so let's go with something different......

While Baseball-Reference lists almost 200 players from NC State appearing in an MLB or MiLB game, there have been very few players from the school who have been truly impactful.  The names of the long term Wolfpack players in the Majors include guys like Greg Briley, Mike Caldwell, Roger Craig, and Chad Orvella.  

Well, I passed all of those guy by for another former Wolfpacker.  The one, the only, Dan Plesac.  Currently he is "starring" on the MLB Network.  I think this is the highlight of his broadcasting career.....



While his best player highlight was when he punched Dave Coggin in the middle of game......



As a player Plesac actually had a losing record, but ended his career with an ERA+ of 119.  13 of his 18 seasons actually had a high ERA+ than his career number including a four year run of 147, 176, 166, and 165 for Brewers between 1986 and 1989.  His WAR for those 4 seasons was an even 10 which is really good for a relief pitcher.  Plesac made the American League All-Star team three of those four years.  In fact, JAWS rates Plesac in the top 100 relief pitchers of all-time ahead of notables like Huston Street, Rafael Soriano, Jason Isringhausen, and Ugueth Urbina.  

So, after flipping through my cards I found the perfect Dan Plesac card for #MyCardMonday.  



The card is NC State red, or really close to it, and on the back there is a shout out to the school.......



Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday Five: Best Five Sets From 1998

I have a lot of different sets from 1998 in my collection.  There are a bunch of duds, some that are perfectly mediocre, but a few have some real standout qualities.  I almost thought about doing a honorable mention section on this post, but I did not have enough time to work on this week.  Next week I am thinking that I will have a best of the rest from 1998.  In the meantime,  I have narrowed down to my favorite five sets.






5. Metal Universe- This was a fun set in 1998.  The first issues of Metal Universe featured players being grabbed by tentacles, players in outer space, and all kinds of other interesting backgrounds.  The 1998 set also featured interesting backgrounds, but they were a little bit more focused on the card's subject.  Ryne Sandberg in front of a rhinoceros, Cardinals players in front of the Gateway Arch, and Yankees players with the Statue of Liberty.  This was the best Metal Universe set in my opinion and a fun set to assemble.  The boxes are still available on Ebay, not too expensive, and are a fun open.  I remember buying a box of these from 1,000,000 Baseball Cards outside of St Louis and buying a second box a few weeks later to finish off the set.





4. Upper Deck Retro- Really cool packaging, old players, cool autographs.  Upper Deck made a lot of sets using that formula over the years and this one was a really good set.  Let me be more specific, the base set is rather meh, but the autographs are really what you want here.  I have the base set in my collection, but I also have a bunch of the autographs.   I always thought about this set as a precursor to the Upper Deck Legends set which will be on my list in a Friday or two....


The autographs in this product are on-card with tons of Hall of Famers.  I am a huge fan of the Upper Deck Legends sets as a great source for on-card Hall of Fame autographs, but this set is not bad either.  In fact, I think some of these are a tougher find than the Upper Deck Legends cards.  The best card in the set, in my opinion, is Kirby Puckett.  





3. 1998 Donruss Signature- This was one of my favorite per pack autographed products from the late 1990s.  Unfortunately this was the end of the line for the original Donruss Signature line.  Playoff bought the Donruss name and relaunched the product, with sticker autographs, in in the early 2000s.  This release of this product was highly anticipated in the fall of 1998, but due to financial problems with Pinnacle, the company that originally produced the Donruss products, the release was a bit of a debacle.  The product was delayed and there were problems with players getting paid for signing in the product.  In the end, this product was the swan song for Pinnacle.  Still the set featured more than 100 autographs including the diverse base set and inserts like Significant Signatures.


The cards in the set all feature on card autographs.  Over the years I have picked up dozens of these cards.  There are some great names that fly under the radar.  My personal favorites include any of the Significant Signatures cards and the Mariano Rivera.  Plenty of other good veteran autographs in there too.  






2. Topps Tek- This is one of the more unique sets that was ever put out.  90 cards with 90 variations of each cards means that this set is a grand total of 8100 cards.  A lot of collectors love these cards and have tried to collect either a player, or a pattern, or something in between.  I picked up the cards I needed to complete this set a year or two ago.  The cards are acetate with the patterns printed over color pictures of the players.  Topps simplified this product in subsequent years after this version of the set, but the ceased making the Tek product after 2000 until a relaunch last year.  The original product had no inserts and no autographs.  Just 90 cards with 90 variations.  Not sure something that sounds that simple could be so complex.  Still, a great product.  



1.  Skybox EX-2001- One of my favorite all-time 90s sets.  This product actually started in 1997, but I never touched it that year.  I have gone back and put together the set, but this was the first EX set that I put together.  Half acetate and half textured pictured with some sort of reflective surface thing going on over on the side of the card.  These were awesome.  I started out with a pack or two, picked up a box somewhere along the way, then some lots.  I have a ton of these and have not missed on issue of these cards since.  




Wednesday, May 27, 2015

2015 Topps Pro Debut Hit Cards

I delved into my two Topps Pro Debut cards last night.  If you follow my Instagram page you have probably already seen some of these cards, but if not you're in luck.  Each box of Pro Debut features two autographs and two memorabilia cards.  The term "memorabilia" has a fairly liberal application in this product as you will see below.......


First Box (Drum Roll)



My two autographed cards came from Braves outfield prospect Robby Hefflinger and Cardinals corner infielder Patrick Wisdom.  Both players have some big power potential.  Hefflinger and Wisdom are both currently in AA.  A little bit of a slow start for both, but hopefully they can pick up the pace as the season goes along.  


My first "memorabilia" hit out of my box was a more traditional hit.  This patch piece from Reds prospect Michael Lorenzen is a pretty nice piece, but it seems to be a rarity in this product.  Most of the hits I have seen coming out of this product seem to fit more closely with the other three memorabilia cards I pulled out of my boxes.  

This Lucas Giolito Pennant card seems to be a little bit closer to what comes out of a lot of the Pro Debut boxes.  While I really like the Pro Debut product, I am not quite sure how I feel about these cards yet.  I have picked up several of these logo type cards over the past two or three years, but I think I liked them a little bit better when the logo was more free standing and not incorporated into a pennant, or other object on the card.  Like this one.....


On a side note I was a little bit sad to also see my Durham Bulls get shut out of the logo patch set for the first time in several years.  I guess maybe they were short on player candidates this year.  Although a Taylor Motter card with a Bulls patch would be sweet.  Just a thought.


Second Box

Yep, it's Robby Hefflinger again.  He is easily the MVP of my Pro Debut boxes.  This is a gold parallel autograph which is numbered out of just 50 copies.  My other autograph is Mike Papi from the Indians A ball team.  Papi is hitting below .200 for his minor league career which is disappointing for a former first round pick.  However, I got to see him play in college for Virigina and can tell you he was a pretty good college player.  Definitely a fun person to watch and he played on some good teams with other good players.


Derek Hill was a first round draft pick of the Tigers last year and this is another logo pennant card.  It's hard to say for sure, but it seems like almost everyone I have seen open a box of Pro Debut has pulled one of these cards.  I am guessing they are one per box.  Which brings us to one of the most bizarre/unique cards I have ever pulled out of a box.

I have no words for this outside of the fact that I now own a part of the Lake County Captains mascot costume.  His name is Skippy.  I'm done here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Hobby Equivalent of Hitting A Home Run

I was really excited to get home this evening, empty my mailbox, and make a few scans of what I picked up over the weekend.  On the surface the cards I picked up are pretty nice cards, but the are the completion of a project that I took up recently and polished off quickly.  Let's take a look at my three new cards which are all from the Bowman Flashback Autograph set....








I traded for the Baerga and Olerud and bought the Gonzalez.  All three cards helped me complete the seven card Bowman Flashback autograph set.  Here's a quick look at the four other cards which have been picked up over the previous two weeks weeks since the release of the 2015 Bowman product.










It has been a long time since I put together an autograph set.  While it's a smaller set, I feel really great about this accomplishment and love looking at all of these cards all together.  Thanks to everyone who helped by trading me some of these cards.  I couldn't have done it without the generosity of a few awesome collectors.  Thank you!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Richie Shaffer

Two days in a row with a Richie Shaffer post.  I will leave him along the rest of this week, most likely.  A little bit of repeated information:  Shaffer was the Rays first round draft pick in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of Clemson.  He has played in the Rays minor league system the past two and half years for the teams A, high A, and Double A teams.  The third baseman has increased his home runs totals each season in the minors and he seems poised to do that again this year with 9 in his first 40 games (last year he hit 19).


Shaffer's first cards appear in the late 2012 releases.  His key rookie is in the dreadfully super airbrushed Bowman Draft set.  At some point in the future Topps should write an apology letter to all of the players included in the set and reissue a new rookie card.  What pains me about the Shaffer rookie card?  The jersey airbrushing is not terrible, but the helmet is not cool, and if you are going to go ahead and change out the jersey and helmet why leave the little things untouched?  Shaffer has two wrist bands, one orange and one purple.  The crowd in background is also wearing orange shirts, and if you squint, you can even make out the C for Clemson on the guy's hat to the right of Shaffer's wrist in the picture.  Charles Barkley says......


Shaffer also has rookie cards in Panini and Leaf products which show him in a Clemson uniform, but the logos are just blanked out on the cards.....


All three rookie cards, the Leaf, Panini, and Bowman Draft, all feature an autographed version which all can be found for less than $5.  In my opinion, I like the Panini and Leaf cards better than the Bowman issues.  I'd rather see him in a Clemson uni with no logos, then a Rays uniform haphazardly placed over a Clemson one.

Since entering the Rays system in 2012 there have been plenty of Shaffer cards in Bowman products and some of the other Topps Minor League products like Pro Debut and Heritage Minor League.  The cards are readily available and really inexpensive.  I like his Stone Crabs card from last year's Pro Debut product.  I am guessing he will have a card in this year's product as a Montgomery Biscuit.



Shaffer also has a handful of autographs out on the secondary market all of them were issued in either 2012 or 2013.  I have already talked a little bit about his 2012 signatures, but I am going to throw out one from that year which is, in my opinion, his best autograph.


I am sure the photograph is probably photoshopped, but the fact that Topps made an on card signature of Shaffer is the important thing here.  The Leaf cards from 2012 are also on card, but this is Shaffer's only licensed on card autograph.  If you wanted to add a Shaffer autograph to your collection this is my 1A pick.  There is one other good one, but mainly because of the product....


 Share's Bowman Inception autograph is a sticker, but this is from a really nice product with real, non-airbrushed pictures, of players in their uniforms.  I like Shaffer's signature and he has been really consistent throughout his time signing for card manufacturers.

#MyCardMonday

I had a few ideas for #MyCardMonday this week, but I was won over by a roster move by the Durham Bulls and the performance that followed on the field.  Sunday morning on my way to the ACC Championship game I saw an interesting tweet cross my feed.......


I am not sure how much I have, or have not talked about, Shaffer in this space over the past three or four years.  I am really intrigued by him as a player and was wondering at what point this season we would see the powerful third baseman make his first appearance in Durham.  Well, yesterday was the day.  We'll get into the specifics of his first day in a few minutes.  First some housekeeping.

I first encountered Shaffer while he was in college playing for Clemson.  The Charlotte native definitely stood out for the Tigers and enjoyed a great college career.  I found a cool old video of him from Baseball America facing off against, then Duke pitcher, Marcus Stroman.


The Rays took Shaffer with the 25th pick in the first round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft.  He has been through stops with the Rays A and AA teams before his promotion to the Durham Bulls on Sunday.  During the past two and half years his home run totals have slowly started to tick upwards.  From 4 in 2012, to 11 in 2013, and then up to 19 last year.  So far this year he is already at 9 with just 40 games played.  Two of which came yesterday in his first Triple A game with the Bulls.  


Shaffer makes his home debut for the Bulls later today against the Rochester Red Wings.  So, after a great debut the choice for #MyCardMonday is easy........



Sunday, May 24, 2015

ACC Baseball Championship: Florida State vs NC State

                       

I spent my Sunday afternoon taking in the ACC Baseball Championship at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  The game featured the 16th ranked Florida State Seminoles versus the NC State Wolfpack.  Obviously, I have a pony in this race, so I was a little disappointed in the end result.  Nonetheless, it's always great to take in a game in Durham.  Here's a look at the sight and sounds of the ACC Championship.....

A video posted by The Snorting Bull (@thesnortingbull) on


There have been several NC State baseball games in Durham over the years and they are always really well attended.  Today's game had almost 10,000 in attendance which set the record for the ACC Conference Championship game.  Florida State traveled well too, plus they have a good deal of alumni in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) area.  Their fan base tends to show up for a lot of their sporting events against State, Duke, Carolina, and Wake Forest.  Still, the crowd was heavily slanted in favor of my Wolfpack.  

I decided to venture around the ballpark a little bit more today then normal.  Usually I get my seat and I sit in it and my pictures are from that perspective.  Today, I traveled a bit.  Before the game started I watched the warm ups and the first half inning from the first base side of the field.  State was the visiting team, by seeding not proximity, so they were on that side of the field.  Here are some pictures.......


FROM 1st Base.......

Not to be too biased here is picture of Florida State warming up before the game.  Neither team took BP, but both teams took infield practice and the pitchers and outfielders were working on various drills.  I went and watched outfielder D.J. Stewart for a few minutes.  I saw him last summer playing for USA Baseball.  While much of his acclaim (projected first round pick) is for his bat he has a nice throwing arm too.  He made several throws during warm ups that were strong to the plate and accurate.  More on the batting down the page....


The NC State players were also working on a few drills when I arrived at the ballpark.  I had a few players on the team I wanted to watch today.


First up there is Joe Dunand.  He is the freshman third baseman on the team and decided to attend State after he slid to the Indians in the 35th round out of high school in the Miami area.  He's also ARod's nephew.  It should not really mean that much, but for some reason it does.  He's a fun player to watch and I think he's going to be good in time, but he definitely has a few things he needs to fix.   State has been batting him in the middle of the order and he has hit 7 home runs, 12 doubles, and a triple in starting almost every game as a freshman.


I also wanted to watch sweet swinging first baseman Preston Palmeiro.  He is a sophomore at State and I think he had a great year with a .316/.393/.471 line to go with 7 home runs, 12 doubles, and a triple.  He seems to have trouble laying off of breaking balls out of the zone, so I am eager to see what he can do when he figures out how to lay off of those pitches.  While, he does also get some love for being Raffy's kid, at the moment he is more famous for doing this to Miami Friday night.....



Here's one more picture of State taking infield practice.........


I watched State bat from the first base side during the first inning.  Their first two batters, Logan Ratledge and Ryne Willard both reached, but the Florida State pitcher Bryant Holtmann pitched out the jam.  Here is Ratledge on first.  This was his only hit of the day.  He has been really instrumental in helping State get into the ACC Tournament, improve their seeding, and advance to the Championship game.  Florida State did a great job of keeping him off of base today.



FROM 3rd Base....

For the bottom of the first I moved and sat on the third base side of home plate specifically to get a good view of D.J. Stewart.  There was a section that was mostly empty too.  Here is Stewart on deck. I was trying to get a picture of him next to someone, but failed.  He's not a really tall player, but he is muscled.  Also of note, John Sansone is batting in this picture for the Seminoles.  His third inning home run made it 3-0 for Florida State and was the ballgame in my opinion......

Here's a close look at Stewart's first at bat in pictures.....



Stewart's stance, style, and stature remind me a lot of Jeff Bagwell.  Bagwell did not have a leg kick, as shown in the bottom picture, but the squatting and explosion up are certainly reminiscent.  Stewart ended the year with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs.  Besides being a big guy with a big swing he also showed off a little speed by stealing a base in the first inning.  He had ten entering the game.   Some forget, but Bagwell had surprising speed too....


While I was on the third base side I also spent a little bit of time watching Preston Palmeiro bat.  The Wolfpack first baseman had a quiet day with an 0-3 with 2 Ks.  That swing looks familiar though....

Sansone's homer and a 3-0 Seminole lead took me to another location in the park......


From Left Field

Hello friend.  I decided the name sake of my blog would be a cool place to watch for awhile.  State did end up picking up two runs to narrow the lead.  The play which lead to their first run was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen.  I think this tweet best explains the play....

 

or in summation: an NC State batter popped up a pitch with the bases loaded.  The Florida State infielders let the ball drop, no one called it, and they then threw home and forced out the runner on third.  The ball went back to the pitcher, everyone was returning to their places on the field when the Florida State coach pops out of the dugout to argue the fact that the infield fly rule should have been called.  Well, he won the argument (see highlight video at the end of the post), but allowed an NC State run in winning the argument because their catcher tagged home and not the runner.  On an infield fly rule the runners advance at their own risk and must be tagged, not forced out....

That was wordy.  FSU got out of trouble and brought in this guy........


Boomer Biegalski who slammed the door on NC State.  His 4 2/3 innings got Florida State through the 8th inning.  He struck out 5 Wolfpack batters and only allowed one hit.   He also took home the hardware as the Championship games MVP.  Nice.

From Behind Home.....

I was slightly off center.  Mainly I was trying to avoid a big glob of Seminoles fans.  Here's that D.J. Stewart at bat I promised earlier in the post.  This was a ground out, but you can see the whole squatting batting stance in motion......

A video posted by The Snorting Bull (@thesnortingbull) on


 Here are a couple other cool pictures from the bottom of the eighth and the ninth innings......





and the video highlights including the weird infield fly rule play and a really cool catch by a Florida State outfielder.