Monday, July 28, 2014

My Card Monday #1

My timing on this post is a level two (below grade level), but the content is a level three (on grade level).  It's the first day of school around these parts and I was really excited to meet my class.  No time for blog posts this morning, but I had been planning this one for the better part of a week.  Just needed a little bit of extra sleep this morning to ensure that I was ready to return to work fully rested. On to the post.....

The concept of My Card Monday was actually started by Jimmy at Big D's Sports Cards.  If you have not checked his page out on Facebook or Twitter be sure to stop by and check him out.  The whole idea behind the day is to post cards that you have in your collection that you want to show off.  Jimmy has been doing this for several weeks on both his Facebook and Twitter pages and it's always cool to see what pops up.  High end, low end, old, new, and every thing in between.  Just a good time looking at cards.

My entry for My Card Monday comes from the 1998 Leaf set and features Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire.  Here is the card:


The card is from one of my favorite inserts from the late nineties.  I love this set and had actually pulled a bunch of these cards for a series of posts I am doing next month on 90s baseball cards.  Lots of good players and great looking cards in this set if you are looking for something new to add to your collection.  Each card is serial numbered, not too low, but the foil from is the real highlight.  Here's the back....

Here's the story behind the card.  I bought this in 1998.  I was a college student and a card shop guy at the time.  The card shops in St. Louis were really cool, but I went to college in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  The card scene in Cape consisted of the Wal-Mart and Target card aisle and a card shop with a short cantankerous middle aged man.  I actually originally saw this card in the card shop in Cape.  I also saw that the card had a $50 price tag.  No thank you.

So, I ventured on to the internet and tried out Ebay.  This was my first purchase.  I think I bought the card for $15 and paid $17.50 with shipping.  Of course no Paypal so I went to the Cape Girardeau Schnucks and picked up a Western Union.  Two weeks later this was in my mail box.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Best of LaRussa

Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa entered the Hall of Fame earlier this afternoon.  The majority of my life as a Cardinals fan has been covered by Whitey Herzog and Tony LaRussa.  I am a little bit spoiled.  Sorry Matheny.  Anyway, LaRussa had a great run as a manager with three teams.  Out of respect to the A's, Cardinals, and White Sox LaRussa is actually entering the Hall with a blank hat.  He's a Cardinal in book.  Here are my top five LaRussa seasons at the helm of the Cardinals

#5- 2002

While the 2002 season did not yield the Cardinals a pennant it was arguable the best managing job that LaRussa did during his time in St. Louis.  Most notably LaRussa did a remarkable job of leading the Cardinals to the National League Central pennant, and a spot in the National League Championship Series against the Giants, after the passing of star pitcher Darryl Kile.

Kile's finally start actually landed the Cardinals in first place where LaRussa kept them for the rest of the season.  The team ended the year with 97 wins while getting second half starts from Mike Timlin, Mike Crudale, Travis Smith, Bud Smith, Garrett Stephenson, Jamey Wright, and Josh Pearce.  The Cardinals eventually traded minor league outfielder Covelli (aka Coco) Crisp to the Indians for Chuck Finley and LaRussa helped get them close to the World Series.  

#4. 2000

I put the 2000 season ahead of the 2002 season which might be the only point worth arguing on this list.  For me the 2000 season was a turning point with LaRussa, the Cardinals, and St. Louis.  LaRussa's first season in St. Louis at the helm of the Cardinals brought the team to within a game of the 1996 World Series.  The 1997, 1998, and 1999 versions of the team resembled a beer league softball team.  The line-ups featured Mark McGwire, Ron Gant, Gary Gaetti, Ray Lankford, Brian Jordan and absolutely zero pitching.  LaRussa was questioned, fans were ticked, and Tony took note.  

The make-up of the team started to change in 2000.  The team brought in Darryl Kile from the Rockies, Jim Edmonds from the Angels, and featured young talent like Rick Ankiel and J.D. Drew.  Ankiel, Matt Morris, and Kile formed the front end of a good rotation.  Edmonds hit home runs, caught everything, and looked like Duke Snider playing centerfield for the Cardinals.  The only thing that went wrong during the regular season was an injury to Mark McGwire.  The team traded for Will Clark and he morphed into the late 80s version of himself and lead the team into the playoffs.  

and then the wheels fell off in the playoffs.  There was this......

and Mike Matheny could not work a knife.  After the 2000 season I am not sure many people in St. Louis made mention of getting rid of LaRussa or chasing him out of town.  

#3. 2004

The 2004 team was another remake of the team.  The Cardinals never really had enough pitching in 2002 or 2003 after the loss of Kile.  The 2004 Cardinals had Matt Morris, Woody Williams, Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis, and a cast off from the Blue Jays Chris Carpenter.  The team was also remade around the MV3 of Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds.  Tony Womack was brought in to play second and lead off.  J.D. was traded away and replaced by Reggie Sanders, and later in the summer by Larry Walker.  

The team steam rolled into the playoffs and made it quickly to the NLCS where they ran into their arch rivals the Houston Astros who featured Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Roger Clemens.  The Astros lead 3-2 with the series heading back to St. Louis for Game 6 where Jim Edmonds took care of the Astros.....

The next night Scott Rolen took care of Roger Clemens.....

and then they ran out of steam and the Red Sox fans have been annoying since.....

#2.  2006

This was looking like the end of the MV3 during the regular season.  Pujols was still Pujols, but Edmonds was hurt frequently and Scott Rolen's shoulder might have been held together by paper mache.  The team took on outcasts like Scott Speizio, David Eckstein, Preston Wilson, and Jeff Weaver and turned it into a World Series title.  The Cardinals only won 83 regular season games, but snapped into place during the Postseason.  Everyone who doubts their team can win the World Series needs to watch the 2006 Cardinals World Series movie.  It just goes to show that any team can win, it just depends what week it is....

Adam Wainwright as the closer too.

#1. 2011

I will let the videos do the talking on this one......

It started the last day of the regular season....

then the National League Playoffs.  

Game 6 of the World Series.  9th Inning.

Game 6 of the World Series.  11th Inning.  

Game 7.  

What about now?

A few years back the Yankees had this awesome young pitcher named Joba Chamberlain.  All the Yankees collectors were all over his cards, which seemed a little bit high for a guy who was pitching the seventh and eighth inning.  There were a lot of collectors who were ordaining Joba as the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera.  2007 and 2008 were good years for the reliever, but after that things went south.  Bad pitching, trampoline accidents, DUIs.  Last year, after an ERA of almost 5, the Yankees and Joba Chamberlain part ways.  He landed with the Tigers.  His cards have completely crashed in value too.  Here's my latest pick up.....

I could tell you that this card might be one of those novelty adds, like a Mark Prior 2001 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres Autograph, which used to cost an arm and a leg and now is worth a few cents.  In some ways this card could be that.  I did buy this card for $1.  Really, why would you sell this card for $1.  Are you paying attention to what Joba is doing this year?  Joba has become the pitcher he was during the 2007 and 2008 seasons for the Yankees.  He's not racking up a ton of saves with the Tigers, but he has pitched really well.

So far in 46 games this year he has almost a strikeout an inning, a WHIP right around 1, and an ERA+ of 162.  That's right in the neighborhood of his 2008 numbers that led collectors to throw tons of money at Joba Chamberlain cards.  Now, I am not saying that I would drop a ton of cash on Joba cards, but how does he not have a slight bounce back going on with his cards?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Alcantara Autograph

I missed Arismendy Alcantara at the Triple A All-Star game earlier this month because the Cubs called him up to the Majors.  Like all prospects there are players who are a little bit hyped up, but there are also those that live up to the hype.  The Cubs currently have, according to Keith Law, the best minor league system in the Majors.  Lots of big name talent right now including Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, etc, etc, etc.  Why don't people talk about Arismendy Alcantara?

During his half season in Triple A Alcantara posted a .307/.353/.537 line with 25 doubles, 11 triples, and 10 home runs.  Throw in 21 steals and it's not quite Mike Trout, but I am not sure there are many teams who would not like to have a player like Arismendy Alcantara in their system.  Or on their big league team.

So, where's the love for this guy?  Alcantara was only ranked 83rd by Baseball America before the 2014 season. has him ranked 89th.  Breaking it down amongst only the Cubs prospects Baseball America had the infielder ranked 7th and placed him 7th too.  I know that people are high on Bryant and Baez, but both of those players have some serious holes in their swings.

A similar trend has followed Alcantara in the hobby.  Collectors have also been very high on Bryant, Baez, and Soler while taking a slower approach with Alcantara.  In my opinion, he is one of the better bargains out there for collectors to snatch up.  I choose to pick up a copy of his Bowman Inception last week.....

While Bryant is striking out a few hundred times in Triple A, Alcantara is hanging out in Wrigley.  His autographed rookie cards can be a little pricy, but they are not even close to the Bryant autographed cards.  For $40 to $50 you can own the Bowman autographed rookie card of Alcantara.  For about half of the price you can pick up this Bowman Inception card.  A really nice looking card with a great looking autograph.

Monday, July 21, 2014

New Ginters

I have always really liked the Allen & Ginter cards.  They are part baseball card and part mail catalog encyclopedia.  That's how the original Ginter cards were designed though and Topps always gives a really good effort with making this recreation as close to the original as possible.  Last year I spent a few posts steering my readers through my favorite non-sport Ginters which included the likes of D.B. Cooper, the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, dogs, flags, and so much more.  That's a huge link.  This year's Ginter offer much of the same as previous years.

This year's insert sets feature World's Capitals, Fighter Jets, and Parties (not shown, but they're there) ...........

There are some baseball inserts too.  I think these Pastime's Pastimes cards look sharp with the dark background and the white writing and frame around the player picture......

Of course there are hit cards too.  I did not land an autograph in my box, but I did have three relic hits.  I had two baseball hits with a Joey Votto and David Price.  My non-baseball hit belongs to Mike Pereira who was the head of the NFL's referees and then did some TV work after his career with the NFL.  I had never heard of him until I pulled his card, but he sits on some sort of Fried Chicken Sofa and gives shouts out to kids watching football....

Here are my hit cards......

and then there are the cards from the base set.  There are young players, old players, swimmers, weight lifters, comedians, ESPN personalities.  Chuck Todd.  All kinds of people.  Here's a look:  

Lastly, I would like to offer this piece of advice.  After you have opened up your packs of Allen & Ginter, sort back through your cards carefully and check through all of your cards.  You never know.......

when something that's looks ordinary, is going to turn into something that is extraordinary.......

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Blogger Walks Into A Card Store....

I am prepping for school to start back up in the next two weeks which is always a little bit stressful, but I found a little bit of down town this week to stop by Big D's Card Shop in Raleigh.  I will have another post about my favorite local card shop again at some point tomorrow.  My post this evening is going to focus a bunch of cards that the owner of Big D's, Jimmy, has found and set aside for me over the past month or so.  

Three of the cards I picked up today are really nice autographs from one of my favorite former Durham Bulls Evan Longoria.  Each card is a pretty low print run and not the easiest of finds.  Let's start with a Topps Unique autograph.  

I do not recall ever seeing this card before Jimmy showed it to me and I am a pretty big Longoria fan.    I also really like the Topps Unique set.  It's numbered to just 25 copies and there has not been a copy of this card sold on Ebay recently.  In fact, there is not one of COMC, Collector Revolution, or Amazon.  Nowhere.  I had to pick up this card.  With none around and a print run of just 25, it's likely not around because the other copies of this card are in collections and they are not going anywhere.  

Next up is a nice copy of a Tribute Longoria autograph which is just serial numbered to 20.  I have seen plenty of Longoria autographs from the Tribute sets, but I have never seen this gold card.  I love the gold color, the two bat pieces, and the Longo autograph.  Next...

The highest numbered card here, but still just 99 copies and a rookie card to boot.  This is the blue edition of the Rays third baseman's rookie card.  The scan is a little blurry and scratchy because it's in a screw down holder.  This might be my favorite card out of the lot.  Yes, I know Longoria is wearing the old style Rays uniform, but I used to love these old Bowman's Best set.  This is a great card.  I might have to take it out of the screw down and rescan it.  

While I was at Big D's I also picked up a few other items.  I had two other cards that Jimmy had set aside for me at the store.  The first was a Matt Adams Jumbo Bat/Autograph card from the 2012 Topps Finest Set.  

I have a copy of this card, but it has a jersey relic instead of a bat relic.  I think I bought the jersey relic version of this card the first week the set was out and gave up on even looking for the bat relic or just did not look for it at all.  Either way, this card has found a happy home in my collection.  

Lastly, I picked up this nice in-person autograph of Cardinals prospect Stephen Piscotty.  He played here this week during the Triple A All-Star game.  The Durham Bulls had an autograph meet and greet on Tuesday, but I did not get to attend.  This Piscotty was in the shop and too hard for me to pass on.  Really cool picture and a nice autograph.  

Bonus items?  Yes.  

I picked up a card from a customer in the store.  Sent over a little bit of Paypal and landed this cool looking Longoria autograph.  You can't have too many.....

Jimmy also had a cool Jeremy Hellickson Durham Bulls program he had in the back of his shop.  Pretty sweet item.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New Tier One Redbirds

I have already picked up a pair of Tier One Cardinals autographs, but there are still a few more Cardinals cards out there floating around that I would love to add to my card collection.  I picked up two of them a few weeks ago and never got around to posting anything about either card.  The first card I actually picked up at Big D's Sports Cards in Raleigh.

This beautiful Yadier Molina relic is numbered to 399, which sounds like a lot, but Yadi always has a limited number of relic cards every year.  Some of the Molina relics have a pretty good sized print run, but in the end he still has a pretty small number of items out on the market.  He is also, surprisingly, one of the pricier Cardinals players to collect.  Jimmy, the owner at Big D's, gave me a good deal on this card.  Next up, another good Cardinals player.....

The McGwire is my second Big Mac of the month after I picked up a sweet jumbo patch of the slugging first baseman a few weeks ago.   The McGwire out of Tier One is numbered to just 99 and I found it in an auction room on Facebook and paid less than $10 for the card.

The Triple A All-Star Game

The day that all baseball fans around the Triangle had been waiting for finally arrived last night at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  The Durham Bulls hosted the mid summer classic between the International and Pacific Coast Leagues and they did not disappoint.  I arrived early and the atmosphere was great from the get go.  The gates opened a half hour early for the event.  Here's a look from the outside of the park in the front courtyard before the game.  

Batting practice was still underway when the crowd entered the stadium.  It seems like that can be a rare occurrence at the DBAP sometimes, so it was cool to hang out and watch the Pacific Coast players take their hacks.   I grabbed a drink, sat back, and watched a batting practice group with Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson and Cardinals prospect Stephen Piscotty.  

Shortly before the game the festivities kicked off with the player introductions.  The Pacific Coast Coast All-Stars were announced first, as the visiting team, followed by the International League.  The biggest applause was a toss up between several Durham Bulls players.  I'd go with Mike Montgomery or Mikie Mahtook as the loudest, or perhaps the Bulls manager, Charlie Montoyo when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.  

I was happy to see the Bulls recognize Montoyo before the game last night.  He really flies under the radar around here, but after being hired by the team to manage the club in 2007 Montoyo has managed to win six division titles, two Governor's Cups (International League Championship), a Triple National Championship, two Manager of the Year awards, and a Mike Coolbaugh award.  Why don't more people talk about the awesome work this guy does?  I am glad he got his moment in the sun in front of a large crowd.   

Here are the two squads lined up right before the National Anthem.  

After the National Anthem there was a fly over, but the planes used for the flyover were older planes. Maybe World War 2 era planes?  I am not an aviation expert, but it was a pretty cool scene and quieter than having the stadium buzzed by an F-16.  

Which brings us to the game.  The International League started Liam Hendricks from the Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays).  Here what the scene looked like right before the first batter.  

During the first inning I was excited to see Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson.  Watching an International League means that I miss out on talent from the Pacific Coast League.  Pederson seems like a legit prospect, so I watched him closely.  His first at-bat resulted in a strikeout.  

While Pederson did not do much damage at the plate in the first inning, the International League jumped out to an early lead, which proved to be more than enough, on a Wilson Betimet single and a Jhonatan Solano home run.  Here's a Betimet hit, which was nearly caught by Reno first baseman Mike Jacobs....

and the Solano blast.  In my opinion it was a bit of shame that this guy did not win the Outstanding Player Award.  

The other player I really enjoyed watching on the International League was National outfield prospect Stephen Souza.  He's got pop, he's got speed, he can catch, he's hitting .370 something.  Lat night he made a good catch and had some quality hits including a double.  

Back to Pederson.  Somewhere in between the International League scoring a ton of runs Joc did this, which was pretty impressive.

With the game in hand and a Joc Pederson blast on the books the last thing on my to do list was to watch Cardinals outfield prospect Stephen Piscotty.  He had a sharp single to left field during his first at-bat.

and also came up again in the ninth with the Pacific Coast League down to their last at-bat.

Liam Hendricks was named the Outstanding Player for the International League for his two spotless innings, while UVA product Chris Taylor, from the Mariners organization, was named Outstanding Player for the Pacific Coast League for his 3-4 effort.  

Overall, it was a spectacular evening of baseball.  The Durham Bulls did a great job of hosting this event.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Triple A All-Star Game Durham

I am just about two and half hours away from attending the Triple A All-Star which is being hosted by the Durham Bulls this year. I attended the Home Run Derby on Monday night and am excited about seeing the actual game tonight. 

I had to work today, but was could not wait for the end of my meeting. There are already a ton of people in downtown Durham for the game already and the gates of the Durham Bulls Atheltic Park are opening thirty minutes early for the All-Star game. The lineups are posted: 

I am probably most excited to see some of the Pacific Coast League players who I do not see in the International League, Pederson and Piscotty come to mind, but I will still be pulling for the home International League with the Durham Bulls and a few other personal favorites from other teams, like Steven Souza.  Should be fun and I will share more pictures tomorrow. 

Two New Rays

So much to do today.  I have a professional development seminar this morning and then the Triple A All-Star game this evening.  I am also still behind on cards from the last two weeks, so let's knock two out of the way this morning.  I picked up both of these cards at Big D's Card Shop, my favorite local card shop, about a week and half ago.  Jimmy, the owner of the store, found both of these cards for me and set them aside.  

Up first is a cool Hak Ju Lee from last year's Bowman Inception set:

In my opinion this was the best set that Topps put out last year and I have picked up a slew of these cards during the past year.  While I already own a copy or two of the Hak Ju Lee card, I did not own a copy of the blue parallel.  Add in the fact that this card is number one and you have the makings of a great card.  Hak Ju Lee is having a rough year at the plate, but he is still playing defense at an elite level and think he should make his Rays debut shortly.....

Last card for this morning belongs to Leslie Anderson.  The former Cuban baseball star spent several years in Durham playing for the Bulls.  While Anderson never made it to Tampa, he was still a fan favorite of Bulls fans.  This past off season Anderson left the Rays organization and the U.S. to play ball in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Triple A All-Star Baseball Card Sets

Besides attending the Triple A All-Star Home Run Derby last night I also took a trip to the Bulls Ballpark Store.  I have a good collection of Durham Bulls shirts in my dresser, so I opted to check out the baseball card rack last night looking for a set of All-Star cards from both the International and Pacific Coast Leagues.  I was met with success.  Here's a look at the two sets with the International League first....

The biggest thing I noticed about the International League set is the photo quality.  The cards are blurry, and while I do not think they are photoshopped, something is definitely off with the pictures.  If I knew more about photography I could probably tell you something more about what is wrong with these cards, but I cannot.  Here's a look at the 34 International League All-Stars.  

Of course I love the Durham Bulls cards in the set, but I have a few other cards I enjoyed adding to my collection.  The Steven Souza card is a nice add.  In my opinion the Syracuse outfielder (Nationals) is the mid season MVP of the International League.  I always like the Mike Hessmann card.  The Toledo Mud Hens star has been in Triple A since I moved to Durham in 2005 and has always been one of the most feared power hitters in the International League.  Hessmann was originally scheduled to appear in the Triple A Home Run Derby, but did not participate after he injured his knee last week.  Here is Hessmann hitting his 400th career home run last year in a Louisville Bats uniform.  


The Pacific Coast League cards have better pictures and there are some great prospects in this too.  Here's a look at the check list......

There is obviously a Steven Piscotty card in this set, but there are other great prospects in the PCL All-Star card set too.  Probably my two favorites are Cubs shortstop Arismendy Alcantara and Dodgers outfield prospect Joc Pederson.  Both should be on collectors radar.  Here is the rest of the Pacific Coast League All-Star team.....  

Monday, July 14, 2014

#TripleAHRDerby and the winner is......

This was the scene of the Triple A Home Run Derby in Durham, North Carolina.  I had issued my prediction of Francisco Pena before the derby, but was honestly looking forward to seeing the six contestants duke it out for the championship belt.  The three International League players were Matt Hague of the Indianapolis Indians (Pirates), Jesus Aguilar of the Columbus Clippers (Indians), and Mikie Mahtook of the Durham Bulls (Rays).  The three Pacific League players were Allan Dykstra of the Las Vegas 51s (Mets), Francisco Pena of the Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals), and Mike Jacobs of the Reno Aces (Diamondbacks).  I captured the first round in several short video clips:

Francisco Pena- Omaha Storm Chasers 

Matt Hague- Indianapolis Indians

Allan Dykstra- Las Vegas 51s

Jesus Aguilar- Columbus Clippers 

Mike Jacobs- Reno Aces 

Mikie Mahtook- Durham Bulls 

After the first round Pena, Dykstra, Hague, and Aguilar all advanced to the second round.  My pre-Derby pick of Pena was looking really solid at this point.  I was surprised that Jacobs did not advance, but also did not manage a home run in the first round.  Jacobs was the most experienced hitter in the group.  I was also disappointed that Mahtook missed out on the 2nd round and also missed out on hitting a home run.  On to the second round......

Francisco Pena
With the first two round scores being composite, Pena did not have to do much to advance to the finals.  He hit a few home runs in the second round to end the first two rounds with a total of 8 and a place in the finals....

Jesus Aguilar
The Indians had a good showing in the second round, but failed to advance to the finals.  Tribe fans should be excited for the future with Aguilar.  He's got good pop.  

I missed Allan Dykstra and Matt Hague in the second round, but Hague was eliminated and Dykstra cranked out a couple of home runs to put himself into the finals.  Francisco Pena won the coin toss and went first.  The pressure was a bit much for the young Royals catcher....

His PCL teammates tried cooling him off and brought out a chair and a drink after Pena went through two outs without a home run.  However, it did not help the Storm Chasers slugger hit a home run....

Which brought up Allan Dykstra needing one home run for a win......

Looks like the Triple A Home Run Championship Belt is headed to Las Vegas with the Mets AAA first baseman.  

It was a fun event to attend and I really enjoyed seeing the players swing for the fences.  With all of the minor league teams around North Carolina, hopefully someone else will host an All-Star game one of these days.  It would be worth a drive.  

#TripleAHRDerby Live Blog- And The Winner Will Be...

The winner of the Triple A Home Run Derby will be taking home this awesome Championship Belt.  I am going out on a limb a bit and am going to take Omaha Storm Chasers catcher Francisco Pena in a surprise upset.  With that being said, I am still rooting for the Durham Bulls own Mikie Mahtook.

#TripleAHRDerby Live Blog

I am looking forward to tonight's Triple A Home Run Derby in Durham, North Carolina and will be live blogging this event.  This is my second attempt at live blogging an event.  I also tried to live blog a Durham Bulls game earlier in the year, but it ended up being a pretty non-competitive affair.  Tonight's Triple A Home Run Derby features 6 Triple A players: three from the Pacific Coast League and three from the International League.  Here's a look at the six players:

Mikie Mahtook- Durham Bulls 

Mahtook was a late addition to the home run derby after Toledo Mud Hens slugger Mike Hessman bowed out of the derby because of an injury.  Mahtook is the hometown guy and will be the crowd favorite to win the home run derby.  I am a big Mahtook fan, but this is a home run derby and Mahtook has a grand total of 24 career minor league home runs in three years of minor league play.  He also has 80 doubles and 21 triples during that same time.  If this were the extra base hit derby or the double derby I would give Mahtook good odds, home run derby..... Believe me I would love to see Mahtook win, and could easily pick him to win for the sake of feeling good, but I am also going to be fair.  Mahtook's one advantage, since he is not a true power hitter, is that he knows the ballpark and is right-handed.  I think that a right-handed batter will do better in Durham since the left field fence is shorter.  Here's a look at a Mahtook home run in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Jesus Aguilar- Columbus Clippers

The Indians catching prospect has shown good pop this year blasting 12 home runs in the International League.  He has also had a few good years hitting home runs during his minor league career.  Last season he posted 16, in 2012 it was 15, and in 2011 hit a career high 23 playing in A ball.  Aguilar seems like he could be a legit contender for the home run derby crown, but he has been ice cold with the home runs of late.

Aguilar started off the 2014 season with a bang posting a .356/.440/.667 line in April with 7 home runs and 16 RBIs.  In May, Aguilar hit less than .200 before he regained his form in June hitting 5 home runs with a .259/.351/.459 line.  Then in July Aguilar is back down to hitting with little power, though his average has rebounded.  He is just inconsistent, but he is a right handed bat.

Matt Hague- Indianapolis Indians

Hague was a late addition to the home run derby after the Blue Jays called up former Durham Bull, and International League MVP, to the majors.  Hague seems a lot like Mahtook, a little more power, but tons of doubles.  During his seven seasons in the minors Hague has a high of 15 home runs and currently has 13 on the season.  Hague's double totals have been consistently over 30 with two seasons of 30 and two seasons of 37.  Hague is also a righty, which makes him a contender.  Here's a look at the swing and the power.  Pretty impressive shot.  Might be my dark horse.  

Allan Dykstra- Las Vegas 51s

Dykstra has a local connection to Durham as a former Wake Forest baseball player.  While Wake Forest is a little bit of drive from Durham, he still visited the Triangle often to play Duke, State, and Carolina.  Currently Dykstra has 12 home runs playing in the hitting friendly Pacific Coast League.  Last season he won the Eastern League MVP award playing for the Mets Double A team in Binghampton.  His career high in home runs is 21, but Dykstra seems to be a pretty consistent power threat.  He's a lefty, but he has good opposite field pop.  

Mike Jacobs- Reno Aces 

I think that Mike Jacobs is the favorite now that Mike Hessman is going to be out of the Home Run Derby.  Jacobs has a significant amount of playing time in the Majors with exactly 100 career home runs.  Jacobs has also shown off some good power in the Pacific Coast League this season with 12 home runs.  Last year he blasted a total of 28.  He is a lefty, but those Major League home runs make him the favorite in my book.  

Francisco Pena- Omaha Storm Chasers 

Pena is the hardest Home Run Derby contestant to measure.  On one hand he is about the hottest hitter in Triple A baseball right now and has been an absolute monster during the past month or so.  For those dismissing his performance as a simple function of the Pacific Coast League being a hitters league, know that it's not like he's been on a twenty game road trip through Salt Lake, Tucson, and Colorado Springs.   The home runs have come in places like Iowa, Oklahoma City, and at home in Omaha (a pitcher's park).  Before this season, however, Pena did not show a lot of power.  His career high for home runs entering this season was nine.  He is a right-handed bat and he is also Tony Pena's son, bonus point.  The swing:

I will post my predicted winner shortly....Who do you think will win?  

Tribute Rock

I found a pretty nice spot to auction off a few cards two weeks ago on Facebook and even managed to snag a few cards for myself on the page.  Seems pretty legit, but I am always pretty careful with everything and everyone on Facebook and Twitter.  One lot that caught my eye featured a nice autograph of 80s/90s great Tim Raines.  I have posted a rant or two about The Rock being a Hall of Famer,   Apparently running a blog and teaching fourth grade does not qualify you for a Hall of Fame ballot.  Maybe someday.....

In the meantime, I can enjoy the Rock's autograph on my latest addition to my collection.  Topps has put out a fair number of new Raines cards out this year, several of which feature him in an Expos uniform.  Raines was still a good, productive player as a White Sox, but still I remember him best for his Expos days.  Raines also has a nice signature which looks great on this Tribute card.  This was a really good looking product.  As a bonus I also picked up a card of White Sox prospect Jacob May.

May is most likely an organizational guy.  He's currently playing in the Carolina League for the Winston-Salem Dash with a .259/.321/.399 line.  Not too impressive, but I saw him once while he was at Coastal Carolina and thought he was a nice college player.