Saturday, January 31, 2015

Rookie Cups

The first series of 2015 Topps is dropping in just a few days marking the 32nd time in my life that I will take on the challenge of assembling a complete set.  I have been successful the other 31 times, so little will probably stop me from successfully completing this years model of the Topps base set.  Plenty has changed over the years which, in some cases, has been good, and in other cases not so good.

During the last month there has been sort of a lull within the world of baseball cards.  There are always a few late in the year releases, like Bowman Sterling, but nothing that gets me too excited about running out and picking up a box, or working on a completing a set.  Instead I have content to sit and fill in a few holes from my 2014 Topps set.  Yes, I have the base set and update set completed, but there are some loose singles of inserts and the whatnot that I am still trying to pick up and add.

One of the sets that I missed this last year was the Rookie Cup ManuPatch set.  I am not too big on picking up blasters from retail stores, so I miss out on those sorts of things some times.  The Rookie Cup Patches came with the Series 2 cards blaster boxes with one patch in each blaster.  No, I am not getting the whole set, but I just picked up two nice looking cards from the set.

If you are a long time reader, neither choice will really surprise you.

First up is Mark McGwire.  Cool old school picture of Big Mac on the A's, but I love the Rookie Cup logo on the left hand side of the card.  The majority of the players in this Manu Patch set appeared on cards with the Rookie Cup back in the day.  Note, I said majority, not all.  For McGwire it was in 1988, which was actually his third Topps card after his 1985 and 1987 cards.  No matter, every Topps set that I have ever collected has had cards with the Rookie Cup logo.  It's a constant and one of the good things that has not changed over the years.  

My parents bought me this set for Christmas in 1988.  I opened it and sorted out into order.  I know you are supposed to leave them sealed, but I was in sixth grade and I am not sure it ultimately mattered with that set.  Not really all that valuable either way.  I still love looking at this set to this day.  Lots of great 80s players.

My other Rookie Logo card also has a Cardinals connection.....

Ozzie's first Topps appearance was in the 1979 set, but he never had a Topps Rookie Cup logo on any of his cards.  While the card company placed Smith on their All Rookie team, Topps actually did not place the small golden cups on their cards in any of their sets in between 1979 and 1986.  If I were a better photoshopper I guess I could take a scan of Ozzie's 1980 Topps card and place a little Rookie Cup logo in the corner of the card.  I guess this makes up for it.

Topps has actually made several old school Ozzie cards this year in a Padres uniform.  While I always love seeing Ozzie with the Birds on the Bat it's hard not to love old pictures of Ozzie wearing the brown and yellow Padres jerseys.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Notch Down

There are so going to be a lot of new faces next season on the Rays, which means I am also going to see a lot of change with my local team the Durham Bulls.  The biggest change will be the switch in managers after Charlie Montoyo, who managed the team for eight seasons, left the Bulls to become the new third base coach for the Rays.  Last week the Bulls named Jared Sandberg as their new manager.  Bulls fans rightly seem excited about their new leader as he has shown great skill in working with some of the Rays lower minor league teams.

With the big league roster, and the Triple A roster, somewhat of a toss up at this point I have decided to go down a notch or two in the Rays system to find a player to collect this off season.  I decided to work a little bit on last year's Rays Minor League Player of the Year Winner Johnny Field.  I actually saw Johnny Field a few years back while he was playing here for USA Baseball.

Field attended the University of Arizona and was on the College All-Star team.  While playing for the Wildcats he helped lead the team to the 2012 College World Series Championship.  Honestly, at the time Field did not stand out for me on that team which also featured Carlos Rodon, Trea Turner, Marco Gonzales, and some guy named Kris Bryant.  Pretty impressive group of players.

Last year in two stops, Bowling Green and Port Charlotte, Field hit .300/.376/.488 with 12 home runs, 8 triples, and 36 doubles.  Seems a safe bet that Field will reach the Durham Bulls sooner than later, so we are to the point where I am out looking for his cards.  I added one back in November, but picked up two more in the last month.

My two latest adds are both USA Baseball cards.....

First up is this autograph from the 2013 Panini USA Baseball set.  Kind of an interesting card since it is a rehash of the Certified Brand which was made by Pinnacle in the late 1990s.  It was actually a Leaf product at some point in the early 2000s, but Pinnacle went bankrupt and obviously someone owns the rights to all of the old products even if it is two different companies now.  The card is limited to just 299 copies, and while it is a sticker autograph, it is really well done.  

This last card is from the 2012 edition of Panini's USA Baseball autographs which were released within the Prime Cuts set.  While the Prime Cuts set was a bit of a disappointment, the USA Baseball autographs were incredible.  Pretty simple design with the player standing in front of a flag, not Rex-Kwon-Do in face flag, but a flag with an on-card signature.  Lots of other good players in this set besides Johnny Field.  

Both Field autographs were very affordable, but there are still several other autographs of this Rays Minor League Player of the Year that I would love to add to my collection.  Most of them are USA Baseball autographs, but hopefully Topps will put a few of his autographs in the 2015 products.  At least give me one in Bowman or Topps Pro Debut.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015


A really cool old school card for this week's #MyCardMonday.  The 1990s were a difficult times for Cardinals fans and it was hard to always remain interested in baseball cards when your favorite team had few star players showing up on cardboard.  In 1993 I did not even work on an Upper Deck set.  I just skipped right over it.  The only time in between 1989 and 2010 that I did not touch the Upper Deck set the year it was released.

Fast forward to college and I had to rely on the card scene around Cape Girardeau, Missouri during the school year.  Let's keep it real: There was no card scene.  The town did have a card shop for awhile, but the owner was not one of those friendly and honest card shop owners.  There was a Venture in the mall for a year or two and then there was a Target.

What the hell happened to the Target card aisle?  Now it is populated by boxes from recent releases, but fifteen years ago you could also find cool old boxes in the store.  I found boxes of 1995 Flair, old boxes of 1987 Topps, and one night I found a few boxes of 1993 Upper Deck cards.

I picked up a box of series one and series two and went back to my place to open up the box.  There were so many cool things about the set and so many cards that I loved in the set.  Besides asking what the hell happened to the Target card aisle, I should probably also be asking what happened to cards like the first few Upper Deck sets.

Onto the card.  I thought about doing a Now & Then card, but I like these team cards too.....

The Cardinals team card in 1993 featured Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, but also young upcoming stars Geronimo Pena, Ray Lankford, and Bernard Gilkey.  There were a lot of young players with the Cardinals back in the early 90s.  I am not sure why they did not put Brian Jordan or Todd Zeile on this card, but these three are pretty cool choices.  Lankford turned out to be a pretty good player.  Gilkey was traded to the Mets after the team signed Ron Gant.  After one good year with the Mets Gilkey had some issues with injuries and alcohol.  Geronimo was injured all the time too.  

The back of these cards were pretty cool featuring fun little facts about the players on the card.  We have cool plays on words like "Wizard of Ahs" and great player facts like Bernard Gilkey being a St. Louis native.  The whole card is just incredible.  Upper Deck put a card for each of the teams in the set.  If you don't own anything from the 1993 Upper Deck set you should go and check out these cards.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Lost Die Cut

I spent a lot of time today working on sorting out cards.  I put together about a dozens sets, boxed them, and started organizing all the sets that I had previously put together by year.  I came to the conclusion today that my large metal shelf in my closet is not going to work very well with the smaller boxes I am having to use with the sets.  I have pulled boxes out and have started to search for shelving unit which will better suit my needs.  I think this is the best way to summarize my work today.....

The best part of today was sorting through some little stacks of cards.  Things that needed to go in boxes.  Single cards that filled in sets, player collection cards that I had bought off of Ebay, and some other assorted cards that were hanging around my card room for whatever reason.  I could honestly make a week's worth of posts out of the cards that I found hanging out today, but probably won't share them at this point, but you can see one in a minute.  Although it would make a good countdown post:  Cool Cards That I Lost On My Own Desk

A few weeks ago my brother in law, who now blogs about the Tigers, posted a cool die-cut Nick Castallenos autograph out of Topps Supreme on his Instagram account.

A photo posted by Matt Seguin (@mseguin12) on

I had actually picked up a copy of a similar card around the same time, skipped blogging about it, then decided to go back and use it as a post after all.  Well, I pulled the card out of it's box and.......I guess it sat on my desk for basically the last month.  It was mixed in with a random pile of Topps Heritage inserts I traded for to fill in a set and a Max Scherzer jersey card that I had set aside in case the Cardinals sign him.  Guess I can scratch that idea off my list, but back to the die-cut.   It's a really nice looking card.....

I am not sure what will become of Garin Cecchini, but I saw him play last year for the Red Sox Triple A team and I really enjoyed watching him play.  He's not one of those players who wows you with his tremendous talent, but he works the pitchers and seems to have pretty good success at the plate.  If it never works out, well I have a really cool Topps Supreme card.  For the moment he would seemed blocked in Boston, so there is a really good possibility he will start out the year in Pawtucket and end the year somewhere.

I also tried watching the Hunger Movies while I was working today, but 80s music videos seemed to work out a little bit better for me today.  Why is Johnny Lydon dressed like Pee Wee Herman in this video?

Mas Souza!

The most impressive International League player I saw last summer was Nationals prospect Steven Souza.  He spent last summer playing for the Nationals Triple A team in Syracuse.  I saw them play twice in Durham last summer, but also had a chance to see Souza play for the International League All-Star too.  What impressed with Souza?  He hit for average, he hit for speed, he runs the bases well, and plays a good outfield.  

In all Souza played only 96 games in Triple A last year, but hit .350/.432/.590 with 18 home runs, 25 doubles, and 26 steals.  It ended up being good enough to win the International League MVP and a promotion up to Washington.  While he did not hit during his brief stint up in DC, Souza did help Jordan Zimmerman seal a no-hitter with an awesome catch.  Everyone has seen that play, no video clips this morning.  

So, in a decade of watching minor league baseball I cannot think of another time that I was overly impressed with a player and then saw the Rays or Cardinals trade for the player.  When I first moved to Durham I saw Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester play for Pawtucket.  Really impressive duo, but the Red Sox decided to hold onto the pair.  Worked out pretty well.  Joey Votto with the Reds, I could go on and on.  

With all of the trades and changes that happened with the Rays this off season I was really happy to see the team pick up Souza.  I understand that there is a lot of love for Will Myers around Durham and Tampa, but Souza is a really good talent.  

I am still not sure where he will start next year, I'd be open to an appearance in Durham, but if he starts in Tampa that's not a bad thing either.  In the meantime, I started picking up Souza cards last summer and have decided I should probably continue.   My latest Souza addition comes from the 2014 Panini National Treasures set.

I could not have made that scan more crooked.  Anyway, this is the second autographed card I have picked up from the set.  Like all Panini products I cringe slightly at the fact that there are no logos on the card.  The fact that Panini is using acetate slates instead of sticker autographs makes me slightly happier.  After his 2014 Topps Update card, this is Souza's second autograph of the year.  This card is not bare bones cheap the Topps autograph, but I suspect most of the slight mark up is due to the fact that the National Treasures set has been pretty well received by most collectors.  

I am happy to have this card in the collection and will be on the look out for some more Souza cards next year.  Hopefully we won't have to wait too long to see a Souza card with the Rays.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 Cardinals Centerfielders

5.  Terry Moore 

Terry Moore comes in fifth on my list of Cardinals centerfielders.  He played a total of 11 seasons with the Cardinals starting in 1935 and last until 1948, but he missed three years of playing time due to service in World War II.  Perhaps with a few more good seasons Moore could have ranked higher on this list.  His OPS+ in 1942 was 114, with 2.8 WAR, but only managed an OPS+ of 85 and a WAR of 0.5 in 1946 when he returned to the Cardinals.  Moore's best years were a four year span starting in 1939 when he was named to four All-Star games and helped the Cardinals win the 1942 World Series.  During the 1942 Series Moore posted a .294/.368/.353 line in helping the team defeat the Yankees.  Moore also won a ring with the 1946 Cardinals team.  

4.  Willie McGee 

Willie McGee came over to the Cardinals from the Yankees following the 1981 season for pitcher Bob Sykes.  Willie would enjoy a 18 year career which included two stints with the Cardinals totaling 13 seasons.  During his first run with the Cardinals McGee helped the team win the 1982 World Series and the 1985 and 1987 National League Championships.  In addition to the team accolades, McGee also won the 1985 National League MVP Award and the batting title.  McGee also won the 1990 National League batting title while finishing the season with the A's.  He gained enough at-bats to qualify for the award and a few people, I believe Eddie Murray, had rough Septembers.  McGee also won three Gold Gloves during this first stretch on the Cardinals.  After spending time with the A's, Giants, and Red Sox Willie McGee returned to the Cardinals in 1996 and spent his final four years with the club.  He hit above .300 in both 1996 and 1997, but was mainly help off the bench at this point during his career.

3.  Ray Lankford 

I am not sure if most Cardinals fans will agree with Lankford being ahead of McGee, but he had a lot more value then what most people give him credit.  Ray played a total of 13 years as a Cardinal, with the first twelve coming between 1990 and 2001, and a final season in 2004 after a year and a half with the Padres and a year away from baseball in 2003.  Lankford does not have the post season success that the rest of the players on the list had, but he also played for some of the worst Cardinals teams of the last 30 years.  Lankford still posted a career OPS+ of 124, higher than anyone on this list save for number one, and had an oWAR of 37.8.  Again higher than anyone else on this list minus the first spot.  While Lankford did not have the chance to play on any World Series teams, or win any major individual accolades, he did end his career high in the rankings in several important offensive categories in team history including: ninth in runs, tenth in total bases, ninth in doubles, fifth in home runs, ninth in RBIs, and eighth in steals.  Lankford ended his Cardinals career with more than 200 home runs, 200 steals, 300 doubles, and 800 RBIs.  

2. Curt Flood 

If rankings were based on the baseball cards in these posts then Flood would be higher than second.  I have always loved this card.  One of my favorite Cardinals baseball cards from this era.  Flood came to the Cardinals in a trade with the Reds in December of 1957.  He immediately started for the Cardinals in 1958 and was the team's centerfielder for a twelve year span that lasted until 1969 when he was part of a package of players the Cardinals sent to the Phillies for Dick Allen.  The trade ended up leading to free agency, but that's for another blog post.  Flood's career line as a Cardinal was .293/.343/.390 with an OPS+ right at 100, but his real value for the team was on defense.  Starting in 1963, Flood won seven straight National League Gold Gloves playing for the Cardinals.  During that same stretch he helped the team win the World Series in 1964 and 1967 and the National League Pennant in 1968.  

1.  Jim Edmonds 

I could make an argument that Edmonds belongs in the Hall of Fame with this space, but I already did that a year or so ago.  So, let's review.  Edmonds played 8 years as a Cardinal and played 17 overall.  His career was a little bit on the short side, but his peak years are right there with all of the other centerfielders that are already in the Hall of Fame.  His best season as a Cardinal was 2004 when he posted a .301/.418/.643 line with 42 home runs, 111 RBIs, and a WAR of 7.0.  Edmonds took home a Gold Glove award that year, but split the MVP vote with two other Cardinals, Rolen and Pujols, who were also deserving of the award.  In all Edmonds won 8 Gold Glove Awards, 1 World Series ring, in 2006, and a National League Pennant in 2004.  Edmonds ended his Cardinals career with a .285/.393/.555 line with 241 home runs and an OPS+ of 143.  Easily the best Cardinals centerfielder of all-time.  

Gibby Takes A Seat

Just enough time for a quick post this morning.  It's the last day of my winter break, so in the words of the immortal Ferris Bueller "I better make this one count".  I've been up since 5:30, took a 3 mile walk with my son, and ate breakfast.  A quick post then I am going to work on sanding and painting a shelf for my baseball card room.

This morning's card is something I picked up on the cheap a few days ago.  I was not even looking for it, I just happened to look through the Ebay Store of someone I was already buying a card from.  If you can save on shipping, that's always a huge bonus.  Here's the card......

This is a Stadium Seat relic card out of the 2009 Topps Heritage set.  For about the first decade that Topps produced the Heritage product there was always some sort of Grandstand or Seat card included in the set.  I know that these are the sorts of generic relics that some collectors really dislike.  I can certainly understand their reasoning.  However, I always liked the appearance of these cards.  Yes, they are generic and Bob Gibson likely never sat in, nor touched, the piece of seat from Sportsman's Park that is used on the card.  Still a cool card in terms of design.

This is my second Cardinals Topps Heritage card.  I picked up a cool Stan Musial Stadium Seat Relic a few years back on a trip back home to St. Louis.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Jared Sandberg

I worked on a bunch of these posts last spring just to show off the cards of some of the Durham Bulls players on last year's roster.  I am going to do something similar this spring, but we still have to go through the whole Spring Training thing and see how the roster shakes out.  Sure we can probably make some pretty good guesses on a few of the roster spots, but we are going to hope the best for everyone.  I know the Rays still only 25 spots on their roster.

We did get one part of the 2015 Durham Bulls clarified this morning...

The Sandberg hiring has been rumored for the last week or so, but seems like a really good move.  He's been managing in the Rays organization for awhile and has been very successful.  The former Rays and Bulls player has managed a total of 6 seasons posting a .547 winning percentage and helped Hudson Valley and Bowling Green to playoff appearances in 2012 and 2013.  I have a feeling we are in good shape with Sandberg who is pretty excited about the opportunity to manage his former team.

Here's my take on the Sandberg's cards:

Sandberg was a pretty well thought of prospect for the expansion Devil Rays.  The name Sandberg, he's Ryne's nephew, at least got him a little notoriety.  He was drafted by the team in 1996 and his first baseball card appearance came in the 1997 Topps set.  

I am a big fan of the 1997 Topps set and I love these cards they put in of the Rays and Diamondbacks players.  The wallpaper turns a lot of people off, but it was a good 1990s baseball card design.  Lots of cool backdrops.  Both of the players featured on this card, Sandberg and Cedric Bowers, both played several seasons for the Durham Bulls.  If you are looking for something a little tamer in early Sandberg cards,  I really like his 1998 Bowman card too.  That hat is incredible.  

Sandberg had a good run of Bowman cards that started with this 1998 Bowman card, but he also appeared in the 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002 Bowman products.  The 2002 appearances were in Bowman Heritage and Bowman Draft, but he was still there.  Appearing in Bowman sets also means that if you really want to chase down some Jared Sandberg baseball cards there are all sorts of refractors, diffractors, and serial numbered parallels.  

If I had to chase down one Sandberg card I would personally try to pick up a copy of one of his Bowman autographs.  He had a signature in the 1998 and 1999 sets.  Neither is terribly expensive, nor difficult to find.  

Both of his Bowman autographs came long before the dawn of the sticker autograph and are both really well done cards.  Speaking of sticker autographs, he also does have autographs in the 2004 Upper Deck USA Baseball set, but they are on a silver sticker on top of a white baseball card.  

The late 90s and early 2000s were great years for me as a collector and honestly I am excited to track down a few Jared Sandberg cards.  It's fan to look at old cards from an era of cardboard that you have enjoyed, but best of all Sandberg cards are really reasonable and easy to find which will make the dive into his cards both fun and inexpensive.  

A Trip to Big D's Cardshop

I spent a little bit of time in my favorite local cardsharp this weekend.  I probably really needed to buy some boxes for all of the sets, 12 of them, that I collated last Thursday and Friday.  Instead I ended up buying a few cards and a really nice autographed baseball.  Hard a great time sitting around talking to the store owner Jimmy and another customer who was putting together a few Topps sets.

So, here's what I picked up this trip:

I tried to focus in on the signature for my picture?  Any guesses?  Terry Pendleton is the correct answer.  He was one of my favorite Cardinals players from the 1980s WhiteyBall teams, but he was probably a better player after he left the team for the Braves.  Jimmy had talked to me about the ball before, but gave me a good deal on the ball that I could not refuse.  Great signature on the sweet spot of the ball, great addition.  This is going on a shelf in my card room.

The cards.....

I know this is mainly a baseball card blog, but I still love my NC State basketball.  I have dabbled in T.J. Warren autographs and am happy to finally see a few floating around.  Jimmy, the owner of Big D's, found this card for me.  It's got a nice reflective finish that did not show well on the scanner and I love the fact that the signature is on-card.

I have done a lot with the 2014 Topps set and have pretty much wrapped up my searching on this set outside of a few really hard to find acetate cards.  I did not pick up a sparkle card this year, so here is my first.  Maybe there is another sitting in the stacks of doubles on my desk, I am not the best at picking out these cards.  The sparkle on this card is to the right side of the baseball next to Longoria's hand.  Cool card, cool variation even if it sometimes feels like you're looking for this guy.....

Monday, January 19, 2015

New Redbird Graph

Every January the good people of Baseball America roll out the brand new prospect reports for each of the Major League franchises with a little bit of help from some local writers.  The Cardinals list was written up by Post-Dispatch writer, and baseball card fan, Derrick Goold.  The list included some of the usual suspects like Marco Gonzales, Stephen Piscotty, and Randal Grichuk.

I have tried to add cards of most of the players on this list at some point over the last few years.  Sometimes, like with Cooney and Grichuk, I have been successful.  Others do not have cards, like Magneuris Sierra.  Finally, there are a few that have just slipped through my fingers like Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes for whatever reasons.  Usually lack of follow through on auctions or trade partners that want to swap out cards of prospects for something pricey or proven in value.

Well, I got my act together last week and finally picked up a copy of an Alex Reyes autograph.  His cards are not too difficult to find, and given his potential ceiling, seem rather inexpensive.  Here's a look at my first Reyes autograph

While I like the stylings of the Topps Heritage Minor League card, I was a little bit disappointed that the card is a sticker autograph.  The scan hid the sticker a little bit, bit this card would be awesome if Reyes had signed the actual card.  While this is a sticker autograph, it appears that the majority of Reyes autographs are actually on-card signatures.  I will get on that right away and will even put a Reyes autograph on my Void List, coming to a side bar tomorrow.


I am not a huge fan favorite type of person with baseball cards.  Hustle and grit usually do not make me want someone's cards, unless that hustle and grit are also accompanied by some level of talent.  There are a few exceptions to that rule.  What 80s Cardinals fan did not love Jose Oquendo?  In the 90s we had Rex Hudler.  Later on during the LaRussa years I really liked So Taguchi who is the subject of this week's #MyCardMonday

The Cardinals signed Taguchi in 2002 right after the Mariners brought over Ichiro.  He spent parts of his first two seasons in splitting time in between the Cardinals bench and Triple A.  Taguchi eventually stayed on the Cardinals roster full time in 2004 and actually stared frequently in 2005.  So was a very good defensive outfielder and a spray hitter.  Taguchi also interacted well with fans and had loads of personality.  He frequently gave cool interviews or good sound bites, like this one where he warned people about the mosquitoes in the Cardinals outfield.

Besides being a good defender and good personality on the team, Taguchi also had one of those hits you never quite forget.  As a Cardinals fan I remember Ozzie and Jack Clark hitting home runs off of the Dodgers in the 1985 NLCS, Pendleton's season saving blast against the Mets in 1987, Oquendo and Lawless's post season home runs that same season, Pujols off of Lidge in 2004, and this one Taguchi hit off of Billy Wager in the 2006 NLCS.  It's a long video, but the Taguchi home run happens at the 2:55 mark.  

Of course I collect Taguchi cards.  He has a couple of relic cards and a couple of autographs too.  Several of his autographs are Playoff products (Playoff Absolute, Donruss Signature), but he has a couple of on card autographs too.  In my opinion this 2002 Topps T206 card is the nicest of the group.  Best of all, most of Taguchi's autographs can be had for less than $10 with a little bit of patience.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Most Generous Mailday

I posted a Want List, I am calling it a Void List, a week and half ago as my New Years Resolution.  I still need to put it into a box on the side of blog, but I am getting there.  In the meantime, one of my blog readers, Jon Belk, generously filled in one of the holes on the list by sending me this really cool looking David Eckstein World Series Patch.

I was really happy to being able to cross off a card from my list so quickly, but there were more cards in the package.  Really nice cards including a Topps Black Parallel Numbered out of just 63, a Triple Threads card numbered out of just 250, an autograph of a Duke basketball star/Cardinals shortstop, and a chrome card of Jon's favorite player Ben Zobrist.  Here's a look at the cards.....  

Again, really generous to fill in a card on my newly created Void List and the extra cards were awesome.  All of them fit nicely into my collection and I was so excited to see all of them.  I have actually been spending my winter break from school putting together some packages of goodies for some of my blog followers, so I am going to have to throw a few extra cards into Jon's envelope.  Again, thank you for the awesome cards.   

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ninety-nine, Ninety-nine

I did not pay that much for this cool Randal Grichuk autograph out of Panani's new National Treasures product, but after picking the card out of my mailbox the other day and seeing the serial number it remind me of an awesome advertiser on Cardinals television and radio broadcasts.  First the card:

------------------------------------------Hype about the card--------------------------------------------------------

It's got that cool acetate piece in the middle which is so much nicer than the sticker autographs.  True, the card is still not signed on the actual card, but kudos to Panini for coming up with a creative and classy looking way to make off-card signatures look a little bitter better....back to the story.....


Everyone in St. Louis knows the name Ray Vinson and his awesomely obnoxious commercials.  Here is a print version of one.......

Ray's catch phrase is 99, 99.  From the last four digits of his phone number to the amount of money he donates to Cardinal Care for the team turning a double play, it's hard to spend a day listening to the radio or watching television in St. Louis without seeing a gem from Mr. Vinson.  Worse is hearing Cardinals radio announcer Mike Shannon say it after a couple of cold frosty ones.  Given Mr. Vinson's actually business history and personal history, I am always shocked when I go home for a few weeks and see that he is still in business and still advertising with the Cardinals.  Surely there is someone better, less shady, who would be more than willing to buy some airtime during Cardinals games.

In the meantime the math on this one is clear:

Grichuk 99/99 > Ray Vinson $99.99 

Redemption Blues

It's a commonly held feeling amongst card collectors that redemption cards really stink.  I have always held the philosophy that redemption cards are not good cards and therefore should be sold or traded as quickly as possibly.  For years this worked beautifully and kept me away from making posts about sitting and waiting for a card, or yelling and screaming about how the redemption went unfilled and the card company substituted several undesirable cards in place of the card I should have received.

This year I actually redeem my redemption cards.  Huge mistake.  They seemed like they would be cool cards to own at the time and it's not like they were top dollar cards either.  The first redemption I pulled this year was an autographed Postseason Relic from Anibel Sanchez.

This should be a cool card, right?  Almost a year after redeeming this card it is still sitting on the redemption dashboard on the Topps website as "Pending".  Will this card ever show up?  I am anticipating a package from Topps filled with a nice apology letter and an autograph of Mike Leake.  There is better hope for my other redemption card which came out of my Topps Update box.

Again, a cool card, but not a top dollar card.  Teheran seems like a goos signer too, so I hold out hope that this card might one day find its way into my mailbox.  After pulling these two cards I have decided that any 2015 redemption cards I pull will be traded or sold.  I am not sure what I was thinking this year, but it probably has not worked out for the best.  To illustrate how poorly the redemption system at Topps works, I actually ended up with a third redemption card this year that I did not post.

I picked this redemption card up from a frequent trade partner on Facebook knowing that the cards had been signed and were already out on the market.  That was sometime early in December.  Almost a month and a half later we have.......

A nice card of Rays second baseman Nick Franklin.  The fact that there have been several of these on Ebay for the last couple of months, but it took weeks to fill a redemption speaks to the fact that the problem with redemption cards goes beyond the fact that players sometimes simply do not honor their promises to sign and return cards.  Processing cards that are clearly in stock and signed should not take weeks and just adds to the frustration of collectors who are already trying to wait patiently for their cards.  Redemption cards, no thank you.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Five: Durham Bulls Outfielders

The title of this post says five, but I am actually going to make it six this week, plus another ten players beyond that.  Confusing I know.  These are really fun posts to research, but choosing the best minor league players from a franchise is rather difficult when they do not hang around for too long.  I was thinking the outfielders would be some combination of Desmond Jennings, Justin Ruggiano, and a few guys from the 50s and 60s.

It was a really really tough call on this position.  Also, note that the older Bulls rosters just simply lumped the players into the category of outfield, there was no breakdown on left, right, or center.  To some degree you might be able to take an educated guess based on where they ended up playing in the Majors, but that's not always the case.  So, all outfielders are in one post, and I broke them into multi-year players and great single seasons.  There are six outfielders who posted multiple good seasons for the Bulls and another ten with great single seasons.

Multi-Year Performers

Willie Duke (1947-1948)

Duke was a local kid from Raleigh and a minor league legend.  His minor league career started in 1934, last 10 years until he left for World War II, and then continued again in 1946 lasting until 1950.  His 1947, 48, 49, and 50 seasons were all spent in the Carolina League.  During his first season as a Bull in 1947 Duke hit .385 with a .588 slugging percentage, 13 homers, 4 triples, and 42 doubles.   He returned to the Bulls in 1948 and hit .355 with a .604 slugging percentage, 36 doubles, 7 triples, and 12 home runs.  Definitely one of the better two year runs in the history of the team.  

Malcolm Stevens (1947-1948)

Stevens played fro the Durham Bulls for two season starting in 1947.  His professional career actually started with the White Sox in the Texas League in 1938 as a 16 year old, but was interrupted by World War II in 1942.  After returning from the War Stevens bounced around the minors and was actually released off of the Dodgers Double A team before finding a home with the Bulls, who were the Tigers C League (equivalent of A Ball) team in 1947.  He had a solid 40 game run for the Bulls that first year and posted a nice .285 batting average.  During the 1948 season Stevens hit .317 with a .528 slugging percentage, 22 home runs, and 31 doubles.  

Jim McManus (1955-1956)

The Tigers farmhand first appeared for the 1955 Durham Bulls at the age of 18.  In his second season of professional baseball the left handed hitting outfielder batted .294 with a .481 slugging percentage, 15 home runs, 9 triples, and 34 doubles.  He returned for 105 games in 1956 and hit 16 home runs, 5 triples, 27 doubles, with a .208 batting average and .520 slugging percentage before the Tigers promoted him up to Augusta in the South Atlantic League.  After eating Double A McManus seemed to miss a lot of games, no records of injuries or disabled list visits, but his career fizzled.  McManus reached the Majors for a 5 game appearance with the A's in 1960 where he hit .308/.357/.538 with a home run.  After leaving the A's McManus played two seasons in Japan.  

Matt Diaz (2003-2004)

Diaz was drafted by the Devil Rays out of Florida State in 1999.  He first appeared for the Durham Bulls in 2003 when he only played in 67 games for the Bulls, but hit .328/.382/.518 with 8 home runs, 3 triples, 18 doubles, and 45 RBIs.  Diaz returned to the Bulls the following season in 2004 and played in 134 games hitting .332/..377/.571 with 21 home runs, 5 triples, 47 doubles, and 93 RBIs.  Diaz's numbers were amongst the best in the International League that season, but he lost out on the MVP Award to Jhonny Peralta who's OPS was almost 70 points lower.  Of course, Diaz made it to the Majors spending 11 years with mainly the Braves. 

Justin Ruggiano (2007-2011)

Ruggiano holds a lot of the counting number records for the team simply because of the amount of time that he spent in Durham.  Two of the seasons, 2011 and 2008, were really partial years.  Still Ruggiano has more than 400 games in a Bulls uniform.  His partial seasons were both very good years with an OPS of .911 in 2008, which earned him a trip up to Tampa, and an OPS of .896 in 2011 which eventually helped him get into the Majors with the Marlins after a brief stop over with the Astros Triple A team.  His best whole season with the Bulls came in 2007 with a .309/.386/.502 line with 20 home runs, 29 doubles, and 73 RBIs.  He is currently on the Mariners 25 man roster after spending the past two years with the Chicago Cubs.  

Desmond Jennings (2009-2012)

That should probably say 2011, since 2012 was a rehab appearance, but Jennings was in Durham for about two and half years before the Rays called him up in 2011.  In 233 minor league games for the Bulls Jennings has hit .282/.372/.428 with 18 home runs, 92 RBIs, and 69 steals.  Jennings first half season with the Bulls was spectacular at .325/.419/.491, but even after falling off slightly in 2010 and 2011 was a consistent .275 hitter with an on base percentage above .350, a little bit of pop, and some speed to boot.  I know that Jennings has not lived up to his ranking as a Top 10 MLB prospect, but he is still a solid player.  

Single Season Performers 

Tom Wright (1946)

Another young prospect who returned home from the War in 1946 to star for the Durham Bulls.  Wright had one of the better seasons in team history that year collecting 200 hits in just 135 games while also picking up 36 doubles, 11 triples, and 14 home runs.  Wright also won the Carolina League Batting Crown that season with a .380 batting average.  He did end up making it up to the Major Leagues in the early 1950s, but returned to the Minors by the mid 1950s after washing out as a fourth outfielder for the Red Sox, White Sox, and Senators.  

George Wilson (1946)

George Wilson was another local baseball player who starred for the Durham Bulls in the mid to late 1940s after returning home from World War II.  Similar to Malcolm Stevens, Tom Wright, and Willie Duke, Wilson's career began as a Red Sox farmhand in the early 1940s.  After returning from the war he starred for the 1946 Durham Bulls hitting .327 with a .561 slugging percentage, 16 home runs, 12 triples, and 34 doubles.  Wilson made a few appearances in the Majors for the Giants, Yankees, and White Sox, but also had two pretty good years playing in Japan in the early sixties at the end of his career.  

Carl Linhart (1949)

There have only been three Major League players born in the Czech Republic with Linhart being the last of the three.  Since the other two did not play for the Durham Bulls, Linhart also owns the distinction of being the only Czech born Durham Bulls player ever.  His only season for the Bulls was in 1949 in his first full season with the Tigers organization.  Linhart batted .311 with a .537 slugging percentage, 23 home runs., 9 triples, and 28 doubles.  Linhart ended up playing in 3 games for the 1952 Tigers taking 2 at bats, but never recording a hit.  

Gates Brown (1961)

Gates Brown had a pretty interesting career.  He was mainly a reserve player for the Tigers through the 1960s and 1970s spending his entire 13 year career with the team.  His career line of .257/.330/.420 is rather ordinary, but he had a few season where he simply caught fire.  One of those hot streaks came in 1968 when Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline was limited to just 101 games.  Brown filled in and only hit .370/.442/.685.  Not a bad fill in.  Gates Brown did this several other times for the Tigers, but many Tigers fans and players from the era credit his hot streak with helping the team get to the 1968 World Series where they upset the heavily favored Cardinals.  Before arriving in Detroit, Brown had a hot season like that for the Durham Bulls.  Brown played for the 1961 team and hit .324/.408/.519 with 15 home runs, 33 doubles, 72 RBIs, and 33 stolen bases.  

Sam Parrilla (1969)

Parrilla appeared in just 95 games for the 1969 Raleigh-Durham Phillies, but had a pretty spectacular partial season.  While I could have put some other players with good half seasons for the Bulls, like Brett Butler or Will Myers, they cannot touch the numbers of Parrilla.  In just 321 at-bats the Phillies prospect hit .383/.469/.723 with 28 home runs, 21 doubles, and 85 RBIs.  Parrilla won the batting title  and finished in the top three in both home runs and RBIs, meaning he would have easily won the Triple Crown had he played the whole season.  Parrilla somehow lost the Carolina League MVP to Pirates prospect Lou Quinn, who played for Salem, despite hitting more home runs, driving in more runs, and hitting almost 70 points higher in about 20 less games.  

Albert Hall (1980) 

Albert Hall had a brief Major League career with the Atlanta Braves, but was a pretty accomplished stolen base artist in the Minors.  His finest season took place with the 1980 Durham Bulls.  In 125 games with the Bulls that summer the speedy outfielder swiped 100 bases while hitting .283/.389/.369.  I cannot find another Durham Bulls player with 100 steals in a season, so this appears to be the single season record for the franchise.  

Brad Komminsk (1981)

Komminsk was drafted by the Bulls as the fourth overall pick in the 1979 Amateur Draft out of Lima, Ohio.  The Bulls were his third stop in the Minors after stints in the Appalachian League and South Atlantic League.  Komminsk never made it as a Major League player, but did have two really good years in the minors for the Braves.  One in 1981 for the Durham Bulls and another in 1983 for the Richmond Braves.  I lived in Richmond at the time and probably saw Komminsk play for the Braves.  I just do not remember it.  In 132 games that summer Komminsk hit .332/.458/.606 with 33 home runs, 27 doubles, and 104 RBIs.  Komminsk was awarded the 1981 Carolina League MVP for his efforts in Durham.  

Ozzie Timmons (2000)

Ozzie Timmons was a highly touted Cubs prospect in the mid 90s, but never quite made it with the Cubs.  After falling out with the Cubs, Timmons spent several years playing for different International League teams including an appearance with the Bulls in 2000.  In his lone season in Durham Ozzie hit .300/.393/.540 with 29 home runs, 32 doubles, and 104 RBIs.  He lost out on the International League MVP to future Bulls player Chad Mottola, but did earn a successful trip up to Tampa to close out his season. 

Midre Cummings (2004)

Midre had an 11 year run in the Majors as a reserve outfielder, but also had a great year season at the end of his career playing for the Bulls.  In 2004, Cummings appeared for the Bulls as a 32 year old outfielder who had been out of the Majors since 2001.  In 119 games that summer with the Bulls the outfielder hit .285/.408/.558 with 27 home runs, 26 doubles, and 87 RBIs.  The one-time top prospect for the Pirates earned a call up to the Majors with the Devil Rays at the end of the season where he hit .278/.361/.463 with 2 home runs and 4 doubles in 22 games.  Cummings had a really good year, but was not even the best outfielder on his team that season.  See Matt Diaz.  

Russ Canzler (2011)

Russ Canzler is always somewhere around the International League.  He started in the league in 2011 with the Bulls and was still playing last year with the Scranton Railriders (Yankees AAA).  In fact, I believe he drew the only walk in the Mike Montgomery no-hitter denying the Bulls pitcher a perfect game.  In his only season as a Durham Bull Canzler managed to put together a season worthy of the International League MVP award hitting .314/.401/.530 with 18 home runs, 40 doubles, and 83 RBIs.  In his 5 International League since his MVP award Russ has still maintained a solid level of play usually posting double digit home runs, a good on-base percentage, and plenty of doubles.  A good guy and a fan favorite around the league.  He ended last season with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies) and the Pennsylvania native resigned with the team for the 2015 season in November.  

Friday Five: Top 5 Cardinals Left Fielders

5.  Vince Coleman 

Coleman spent six years with Cardinals from 1985 through 1990.  He was original called up to join the Cardinals to fill in for an injured Lonnie Smith, but his great play forced the Cardinals to deal Smith to the Royals in order to open up left field for Coleman.  During the 1985 Coleman hit .267/.320/.335 with a rookie record of 110 stolen bases.  He was awarded the National League Rookie of the Year and helped the Cardinals reach the playoffs that season.  While the Cardinals made it to the World Series, Coleman missed the playoffs that season after his leg got caught up in the automatic tarp at Busch Stadium.  Coleman stole 100 bases each of his first three season and would lead the National League all six seasons he played for the Cardinals.  Between September 1988 and July of 1989 he stole 50 consecutive bases breaking the old mark of 38 which was held by Davey Lopes.   He signed with the Mets after the 1990 season, but ended his Cardinals career with 628 steals.  Coleman is 6th all-time in Major League history and ended his 752 steals.  

4.  Matt Holliday 

The current left fielder ranks 4th all-time at a pretty position for the Cardinals.  Holliday has 6 years with the Cardinals under his belt and has posted a .300/.386/.505 line with 132 home runs, 201 doubles, and 519 RBIs.  He also helped the Cardinals to the 2011 World Series pennant, 2013 National League pennant, and 3 other playoff appearances for a total of 5 in six years.  Holliday is generally under appreciated player, by both Cardinals fans and non-Cardinals fans, but has been a very good and very consistent player for more than a decade.  His best season with the Cardinals probably came in 2010 when he hit .312/.390/.532 with 28 home runs, 103 RBIs, an OPS+ of 149, and a WAR of 5.2.  Holliday is still under contract with the Cardinals for two more years, but at 35 Holliday's best years are probably past him.  Still a great Cardinal.  

3.  Lou Brock 

Top 3 on my list is all Hall of Famers.  Pretty tough to put Lou Brock as the third best left fielder in Cardinals history, but I believe this is where he belongs on this list.  Brock came over to the Cardinals in a lopsided trade with the Cubs, an attempt to counter the Dodgers and Maury Wills, and immediately helped the Cardinals win the 1964 World Series.  Lou went on to spend 16 years as a Cardinals where he crossed the 3,000 hit mark and retired as the all-time stolen base leader with 938 thefts.  His best season came in 1968 when led the National League in triples, doubles, and steals and helped the team reach the 7th game of the World Series.  Brock also would set the single season mark, which has since been broken, in 1974 with 118 steals.  In all Brock led the Cardinals to two World Series titles (1964 and 1967) and a National League Crown (1968).  While Brock has a lot of hits and a lot of steals, there are not a lot of other numbers to his career stats.  While he was primarily a lead off hitter his career OBP was only .343.  Jay Jaffe rates him as the 35th best left fielder of all-time using his JAWS rating system right behind Matt Holliday.  

2.  Joe Medwick 

Medwick was a key cog on the 1930s Cardinals teams and a really underrated player in Cardinals history.  Why hasn't the team retired his number?  Medwick was a Cardinal was 11 seasons, 9 years to start his career, then 2 more at the very end.  We are mainly going to deal with the first 9.  The last two seasons totaled 95 games and just 186 plate appearances.  So, back to those first nine years.  It's not quite Albert Pujols, but it's not that far away either.  His best years with the Cardinals were probably 1936 and 1937.  In 1936 Medwick led the National League in hits (223), doubles (64), RBIs (138), while hitting .351/.387/.577.  He also had 13 triples and 18 home runs that season.  In 1937 Medwick led the NL in runs (111), hits (237), doubles (56), home runs (31), RBIs (154), batting average (.374), slugging .641), OPS (1.056), OPS+ (182), and total bases (406).  Medwick won the Triple Crown and the MVP that season and is the last National League player to accomplish the feat.    Easily one of the best offensive seasons in team history.  Medwick's numbers with the Cardinals declined after his Triple Crown run, but he still hit above .300 for the last 3 years of his good years with the club.  He spent a few years with the Dodgers and Giants and a half a year with the Braves before finishing his career back with the Cardinals.  Joe Medick was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1968.  

1.  Stan Musial 

I thought the answer was right field, but Stan actually played more games in left field than any other place on the field.  I was surprised, but if Stan is on a bunch of these countdowns nobody is really going to complain.  It's not like I put on the pitchers list (1 game) or center fielder list (331 games).  What has not been said about Stan on previous posts?  Greatest Cardinals ever, World Series winner, MVP awards, harmonicas, and just generally awesomeness as a baseball player.  If you want a rehash of the numbers, consult my first base post here, which also includes an awesome Seinfeld video with Keith Hernandez.