Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Lynn To Named Later

I spent a little bit of time the past two two days working on cleaning up the space around my computer.  I should have probably done a before and after picture for dramatic effect, but the important thing is that my desk is actually clean.

Believe it, or not, it usually has all kinds of stacks of cards surrounding the computer and scanner.  Throw in some bubble mailers, paper work from school, and random toys my son sets on my desk, and it can be a full out disaster area.  The cleaning usually lends itself to a better work environment, but I can usually also find a few other things sitting around that I meant to put into a blog post, but just never got around to it.

Some of the highlights included an unsorted 2011 Allen Ginter set, a Max Scherzer jersey card, and this cool Lance Lynn Gypsy Queen autograph.

I spend a lot of time collecting Cardinals cards and posting them on here, but I rarely do anything with Lance Lynn cards.  In the past year and a half I have made exactly two Lance Lynn posts, both of which were the same card.  Pretty sad considering the guy has won 48 games the last three years helping the team to three National League Championship Series appearances and a World Series appearance too.  Lance Lynn was also an important member of the 2011 World Series team pitching out of the bullpen.

So, why don't I have more cards of Lance Lynn?  I am not sure exactly.  I have been thinking the matter over recently and have decided to do something to improve my Lynn collection.  Shall we review what's in the box already?   Thin in quantity, but I like the quality.

Two rookie, three on-card signatures.  It's a good start.  I was really happy to add the Lance Lynn Gypsy Queen to my collection which finished off the trade for the Matt Carpenter Postseason autograph that I picked up a few ago.  The Gypsy Queen autograph is on-card and has Lynn's simple, yet consistent autograph.  I am not sure what other Lance Lynn autographs are out floating around, but I am going to try and add a few more to the collection this year. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Farewell Juan Pierre

Not everyone gets a farewell post on my blog, but I have done a few over the past couple of years.  I think my last one was for Lance Berkman.  I was a little teary eyed this morning to see that Juan Pierre had decided to retire from baseball.  Growing up a Cardinals fan in the 1980s I had plenty of opportunity to watch the Whiteyball teams that featured loads of speed.  

There was Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Ozzie Smith, Tom Herr, and even Andy Van Slyke.  All of those players had at least one 30 stolen base season at some point when I was a kid, with Coleman frequenting 100, and McGee and Smith crossed 50 at some point.  The Cardinals were fun to watch, but after Whitey left the team in the early nineties the team stopped running and the team slowed down.  

Finding players in the Cardinals mold to watch and cheer on was a difficult task.   I moved on to home run hitters for much of the 90s, but would still glance up at the stolen base leaders from time to time.  It was just hard to watch players like Brian Hunter and Roger Cedeno on a daily basis.  Finally in 2000 the baseball word was introduced to Juan Pierre.  

I did not get to see Pierre in person until I attended the Cardinals home opener in 2001 against the Rockies.  What did I see?  I saw the first home run that Albert Pujols hit at home in his career, but I also saw Juan Pierre leading off for the Rockies.  I enjoyed watching Pierre's game and he reminded me a lot of some of the players that I grew up watching on the Cardinals.  As a card collector I went out and picked up a copy of some Pierre rookies.  This was my favorite....

I followed Pierre's career for a long time.  I checked his box scores and checked in to see if his name was at the top of the stolen base leader boards.  When Pierre moved over to the Marlins I had a great time watching the 2003 playoffs and was happy to see the young upstart Marlins team defeat the Yankees.  Pierre batted at the top of the Marlins line up batting .303 against the Cubs in the NLCS and .333 against the Yankees in the World Series.  

Off the field I still enjoyed collecting Pierre cards.  He is a player who has a somewhat limited array of cards, but still always nice to see one of his cards pop up in a pack of cards or cheap on Ebay.  I have dozens of favorites, but I have always been partial to the Rockies and Marlins cards...

I still enjoyed watching Pierre on the Cubs, Dodgers, and White Sox later in his career, but kind of drifted away from his cards.  Honestly, there were not a lot of them towards the end of his career.  Usually there was a base card in the Topps set, sometimes a Topps Heritage card, and every great once in awhile he would pop up in another Topps product like Allen & Ginter.  I guess Topps missed out on the fact that he lead the American League in steals in 2010.  

Juan Pierre ended up on the Phillies for a year and then back on the Marlins for a final season in 2013.  It was cool to see Juan Pierre reach 600 steals last summer.  


Only 18 Major League players have ended their careers with more than 600 stolen bases.  Juan also picked up more than 2000 hits and scored 1000 runs.  He was a fun player to watch and collect I will miss seeing Juan play and steal bases.   

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 1980s Fleer Sets

We have worn the Durham Bulls and Cardinals out during the past few months, so I am going to go back to the whole baseball card thing for awhile.  You know, I started this blog as a baseball card blog, but wander off to food and Wes Anderson movies.  Back to my roots for the next few months on my weekly Friday Five posts.  This week I am focused on the 1980s Fleer products.  After carefully looking through all the Fleer sets produced in the 1980s, including Update sets, I have picked out the best of the best based on design, cool base set cards, and important rookies cards.

Sets are in numerical order by year.  Cue the music....

1982 Fleer 

This was the second Fleer set issued in the 1980s behind the error filled 1981 set.  The design was really simple with the white border, colored band, and player information in that oval thing at the bottom center of the card.  If you flip through the base set there are lots of good early eighties players in here: Nolan Ryan, Ozzie Smith, Reggie Jackson, etc.  The Brad Mills card is actually my favorite card out of the base set.  The set is really made by the most important rookie card in the product.

Not the best of the Cal Ripken rookie cards, but there are not really any bad ones.  Easily the best card in this set and the only reason that this set makes this list.  Hate to play you that way Brad Mills, but it's true.  If you do not own this set it worth it for the Ripken card alone.   If you own the Ripken card, but not the rest of the rest...Well, there's Brad Mills.  

1983 Fleer 

This was the first year that I collected cards and my first pack of baseball cards.  My first card was a Jim Smith.  The base set is pretty similar to the 1982 set in terms of photography, but the design of the card was changed up a bit.  The grey bordered cards were a little something different at the time and I still cannot recall many sets with just a grey border outside of this and the 1970 Topps.  Seriously, nothing too cool about most of the base set, but there were three pretty important rookie cards in this product......

All Hall of Famers.  My favorite of the group is the Sandberg card.  Love that blue pinstriped Cubs uniform.  This set is really affordable considering that it has three Hall of Fame rookie cards.  The cost of buying the whole set is not going to be too much more than buying three nice copies of the important rookie cards in the set.   

1984 Fleer Update

The only Update set on my list and one of the absolute best sets of the 1980s.  The cards are actually somewhat difficult to find and the set has two monster rookie in it.  My favorite card in the base set is the Pete Rose Expos card.  The all-time hits leader was briefly on the Expos during the 1984 season in between his stint with the Phillies and second go around with the Reds.  The two best cards belong to Roger Clemens and Kirby Puckett.  

Both players are in the Hall of Fame and these are their only 1984 issued cards.  Both have several rookie cards in 1985 products that are also considered rookie issues, but these are the top of the food pyramid as far as 1980s rookie cards in Fleer products.  Yes, I would put these two above the Ripken rookie card.  Finding this set is much more of a challenge than the other sets on my list and will cost considerably more money. 

1987 Fleer

The 1987 Fleer set should only be bought if you want some rookie cards of some pretty good baseball players.  There is Will Clark, Barry Larkin, Barry Bonds, and Rafael Palmeiro.  The rest of the 1987 Fleer set is rather boring.  The blue card design is pretty cool, but again it all comes down to the big rookie cards in this set.  

I am not going to get in too deep on the whole steroids thing right now, but there is a lot of Hall of Fame caliber talent in this set given how cheap it is on sites like Ebay.  If you can track down a copy the Tiffany version of this set looks really nice and rarely costs more than $30 and comes in a nice tin.  The high gloss finish is well worth the extra money.  

1989 Fleer

If I had to pick out just one base set from the 1980s Fleer products this would be it.  The design leaves a little bit to be desired, but in my opinion it offers one of the best base cards of the decade and an underrated rookie card too.  The Ripken card is one of the more iconic modern baseball cards for all the wrong reasons.  This is the unedited version of the card, but some of the edits are rare and extremely pricey.  The two rookie cards worth owning.......

The Griffey rookie card is nice and is underrated in someways, but the real prize here is the Randy Johnson rookie card which is underrated in almost everyday imaginable.  Similar to the Ripken card there are different variations of the Johnson card because of a Marlboro cigarette sign over his right shoulder.  Some cards the sign is visible, others it is blocked out by different colored boxes.  Like most things 1980s Fleer the Johnson card is not too expensive and is not too difficult to track down either.  

Off Schedule Old School ManuPatch

My schedule is way far off this week.  It actually started sometime last week, but I am a creature of routine, which includes this blog.  The last two weeks I worked four hours last Monday, then did not work again until Monday this week.  I have not worked since.  My schedule gets off track and then my blogging gets off too.  Like right now it's 2:30 in the morning and I am wide awake because I took a nap yesterday.  What's going on in Raleigh right now?  This.....

Well, I may not be working again the rest of this week, but it's supposed to be 70 on Monday.  Looking forward to that.  I am also going to try and get back on track with my usual blog posts.  So many drafts right now, so let's knock out a cool card that showed up a few days ago in my mail.....

I saw this card a few weeks back on Ebay and decided to splurge a bit on picking up this cool old Upper Deck Manufactured Patch.....

I have done plenty of posts in the past about ManuPatches, but the earliest manufactured patches were actually originally in the early Upper Deck Sweet Spot products.  The first year with the patches was 2002 which had patches of player numbers.  I was not a huge fan of the design and look of those cards, but the following year Upper Deck put out cards with team logos on the cards.  I really liked these cards back in the day and pulled one of two of these back in the day.  I also quickly sold the cards.  

I really liked the look of this Big Mac card, and for less than $5, decided that this would be a fun card to add into the collection.  As a Manu card fan, I am actually going to put this out there...I am not really excited about the Manu cards in this year's Topps cards.  I pulled one out of my Series 1 box, but immediately turned it around in a trade.....

The Sweet Spot card is really simple and Upper Deck only put out ManuPatch card for a few years during the early 2000s.  Topps has now put out a ManuPatch card for the last seven or eight years.  Maybe it's time to give the ManuPatch cards a little bit of a rest...

Monday, February 23, 2015

High Tek El Duque

I am on a roll with these Topps Tek cards now.  After picking up a few Cardinals autographs I have moved on to cool 90s players who signed in this throwback Topps product.  Last week I picked up a really cool Andres Galarraga autograph and promised a few more cool signatures.  True to my word, here's another nineties great......

There is so much to love about this card.  Acetate, cool signatures, and a cool unique nineties baseball player.  We have already heard enough about the Topps Tek cards last week, so let's just skip ahead to the signature.  Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez was not the world's best signer when he was playing.  There was a 1999 SP Signature autograph and then not really anything for more than a decade.  Yes, you could find some autographed baseballs or 8x10s, but that was about it.

Last year El Duque started signing and there are now a good amount of his autographs floating around on the secondary market.  After searching his autographs on Ebay there are almost 200 items that have closed during the past 90s days, almost all of the cards are from the last two years.  By the way, that's a really cool signature too.  Hernandez is really consistent with a nice signature and almost always adds the inscription "Duque" or "El Duque" underneath the OHernandez script.

If you weren't around for El Duque's career, or you just simply remember him for throwing eephus pitches to ARod, then you should revisit the late 90s when that cool leg kick and pitches with tons of movement made hitters all over the league look silly.

Hernandez was never an overpowering pitching and he was never a true ace, but he was very good for his first couple of seasons for the Yankees.   His best season in the Majors was his first year, 1998, but he was also 32 when he made his debut for the Yankees.  He ended up starting the second game of the World Series that year against the Padres and went seven innings striking out seven en route to picking up the win for the Yankees.  

This is my first Orlando Hernandez autograph, and at slightly under $10, I am happy I waited awhile to pick one up.  They have certainly been more in the past and seem to have lost a little bit of steam since Topps started putting him in tons of products.  I have a few more Tek autographs I am still working on, maybe next week, but overall I am really happy with this brand new card.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015


I am going with a truly awesome card this week for #MyCardMonday.  This might hurt a little bit if you're a Cardinals fan, but we all have a card like this in our collection.  You know the routine: "We took this guy in the draft" or "Do you know who we could have drafted instead of this player".  Seriously though, this card doesn't bother me too much.

Every Cardinals fan who followed the team closely in the 1990s knows the name Paul Coleman.  After a bad 1988 season the team had a great draft slot in the 1989 amateur draft.  Picking sixth in a draft that had plenty of good talent and lots of names behind the consensus first pick (Orioles) LSU pitcher Ben McDonald.  The Braves took Tyler Houston, the Mariners took Roger Salkeld, Phillies Jeff Jackson, and the Rangers Donald Harris bringing the draft to the Cardinals pick.

And they took Coleman.  After reading the back of his first baseball card I still get excited to see him make up to Busch Stadium.  Maybe he will push Gilkey or Lankford for a job in a few years, right?

Built like Bo Jackson.  Legend.  500 foot home runs.  21 strikeout game.  1000 yard season.  Ozzie Smith.  Vince Coleman.  Cannot wait for this kid to get to the Majors.

About that.  Coleman ended up spending five years in the Cardinals minor league system and only managed to play more than 100 games twice.  His career Minor League line is .250/.308/.374 with 28 home runs, 84 doubles, and 169 RBIs.  He made it as far as Double A with the Cardinals in 1993 before disappearing for the 1994 and 1995 seasons and reemerging for 94 games in an independent league in 1996.  It sounds like he was hurt a lot and did not pan out.  Further, it was a bad draft for the Cardinals.

In 56 rounds the Cardinals picked six players who reached the Majors.  20th round draft pick Bill Hurst, household name, had the highest career WAR of the group with a mark of 0.1.  He pitched 2 innings for the 1996 Florida Marlins.  You might also know Tripp "Homer" Cromer who was picked in the third round and hit 12 Major League Home Runs.  Someone had a bad day at Busch Stadium during the 1989 MLB Draft.

So, here's the part that really hurts.  I mentioned who was drafted before Paul Coleman in the draft.  McDonald had a decent career for the Orioles and Brewers and Tyler Houston made it to the Majors as a serviceable catcher, but there were other teams that had misses there too.  After Coleman, teams seemed to fair a little better.  The White Sox picked Frank Thomas, Expos Charles Johnson, Brewers Cal Eldred, Red Sox Mo Vaughn, and the Twins picked Chuck Knoblauch.  In later rounds Tim Salmon, Shane Reynolds (second mention this week), John Olerud, Denny Naegle, Jeff Bagwell, Ryan Klesko, J.T. Snow, and Trevor Hoffman all came off the board.

It's painful for Cardinals fans to remember the legend of Paul Coleman, but every team has had a big draft bust or a draft pick where they passed on someone to draft someone else that looks regrettable years later.  See Tim Beckham instead of Buster Posey, Brett Lawrie, Lance Lynn, etc.

Who is your favorite teams biggest draft bust?

Hit Bull, Win Steak Part 1

I was reading through the FanGraphs 200 prospects list last week checking out where all of our favorite future baseball stars are ranked paying special attention to the Cardinals and the Rays.  Both teams have a handful of players on the list, but neither franchise is probably where they would really like to be in terms of quantity and quality of prospects.  Which reminded me....

I needed to pick up a few baseball cards.  Yesterday they started to show up in my mailbox.

First up is Cardinals prospect Robert Kaminksy.  The Cardinals left handed pitching prospect went 8-2 with an ERA of 1.88 in 100 innings last year in the Midwest League (A Ball).  His WHIP was 1.01 and he struck out 79 on 31 walks.  Oh, and he's 19.  So, why is this pitcher not on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list, nor in the top 100 prospects on the FanGraphs list?  He's, um, you know.....


Could that be a problem?  Perhaps, but it seems like being 5'11 isn't hurting Kaminsky too much with that ERA under 2.  In the meantime, the Cardinals pitching prospect has several nice baseball cards floating around from both the 2013 and 2014 card products.  None of them are overly expensive and given Kaminsky's numbers and age, I would guess that the odds of him appearing in a Major League at this point are above average.  This beautiful on-card autograph of Kaminsky out of the 2014 Bowman Inception product cost me right at $5 delivered.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Coolness of Pacific Autographs

Over the past few years of blogging I have heaped plenty of love on Pacific Trading Cards.  If you collected baseball cards in the 90s it was hard not to love the flashy and innovative card producer.  Over the last three years I have written pieces about die their die cuts cards:

I have done pieces about how cool their checklists were:

and those other cool cards that were just special to Pacific like the dugout net card:

However, I amazed to find that I had never done a write up on any Pacific autographs.  I was shocked.  Back in the day I really loved Pacific autographs and had dozens of them in my collection.  They are still there, but they are just 15-16 years old now.  The Pacific autographs have aged great and look better than many of the autographs that companies like Topps and Panini are cranking out now.  What made them great?  Let me show off an old card from the autograph box:

This card is just awesome.  On card signature, die cut, cool design, and a great player.  This was the world of Pacific autographs back in the day.  There are numerous sets that Pacific cracked out in the late 90s and early 2000s that gave us cool cards like this Sheffield autograph out of the 2000 Pacific Omega set and again, this card is cool than 3/4 of the new autographs that are floating around on the market from new releases.

I also really like the Crowne Royale autographs which were also a 2000 calendar year release:

Again, this card has all of the same appealing characteristics of the Sheffield card above: on card signature, die cut, cool design, and really cool player.  Not to say that all Pacific autographs are All-Star caliber or die cuts, but there is a lot of love here in the making of this card.

The best part of collecting Pacific autographs is the fact that there are still tons of them floating around on Ebay and COMC and they are all pretty affordable.  Ebay currently has more than 200 Pacific autographs up on their site and COMC has almost 50.  There are some great looking cards in the lot ranging from an on-card Chipper Jones autograph for just over $30 to autographs of late 90s prospect legend Travis "Gookie" Dawkins for around $2.

I recently landed a brand new Pacific autograph as a throw in for a trade I completed on Facebook.  I love throw-ins, but found this card really cool......

Not a die cut, but this was a really cool and innovative set for the time from the Pacific Revolution set.  The card actually features a piece of game used ball (slightly blah), but they are signed by a Major League player.  It's not quite the Upper Deck Sweet Spot set, but it came out about a year and a half before the popular Upper Deck product first hit the shelves during the summer of 2001.  Loads of great names in this set too from Greg Maddux, Barry Bonds, and ARod to players like Shane Reynolds.  While this autograph was a throw-in, and might be one of the worst autographs in the set, the card features a guy who won 35 games in the two years leading up to the release of this product.

I probably should sit down and do a bigger post on Pacific autographs, but this should give you a good idea about the basics.  If you're an autograph collector and looking for a good, fun, collecting challenge, putting together one of these Pacific sets would be a lot of fun.

Friday, February 20, 2015

I'm Going To Say Yes

Tonight we are going to talk about a player who makes fans of a certain southeastern Major League franchise slightly unhappy, but that should not stop you from going out and picking up some of this players baseball cards.  We are going to spend a little bit of time talking about Braves catching prospect Christian Bethencourt.  You know, Evan Gattis gone.  McCann gone.  Who's the Braves catcher?  Christian Bethencourt is the correct answer.  For those unfamiliar, I will let this snippet from a FanGraphs article catch you up a bit on one of my favorite players from Triple A last season.....

Bethancourt has still not hit since this article was written almost exactly two years ago, but yet the Braves are clearly ready to move forward with the young catcher as their everyday starter.  Defensive first catchers are not all bad.  The Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina started out as a defense only catcher when he was first called up, but has progressed significantly with the bat over the past decade.  Time will tell whether Bethancourt will ever hit in the Majors, but he is one of the few players I would sit down and watch just to see him field.  It won't be long before opposing teams stop running on the strong armed catcher.....

Meanwhile the new Braves catcher has a few baseball cards that you should be sure to check out.  I know that collectors avoid one tool prospects, unless that tool is hitting home runs, but I am going to go ahead and say yes for collecting Bethancourt cards.  Here are a few reasons why....

1.  A Plethora of Affordable/Attractive On-Card Autographs

Say that's a nice looking card up there.  It cost me less than $5 shipped and features an on-card autograph of a starting player for a Major League Baseball team.  Bethancourt actually has about half a dozen autographs in all, the majority are on-card autographs and rarely cost more than $10.  The vast majority of these cards are similar in price to this copy of a Topps Finest autograph I picked up around the new year.  What's not to like?  Say Yes.

2.  Loads of Cool Rookie Cards

Bethancourt's first year on cardboard was 2012.  He's in the usual sets for a young guy in the minors: Bowman, Bowman Chrome, Bowman Platinum, Topps Heritage Minors, Pro Debut, etc.  If you go on Ebay and search the completed items for Bethancourt rookie cards the most expensive items are around $30 and that is for a Triple Threads White Whale Autograph/Patch thing.  So, everything else slides down from there.  If you just want a cool looking Heritage Minors card of a defense first catcher wearing his gear it's going to cost you one dollar.  Again, a great reason to say yes to collecting Christian Bethancourt.

3.  Collect Someone for a Different Reason 

Yes, the ratio of baseball cards to baseball videos is equal in this blog post, but watch that throw again.  Incredible.  Some of the funnest players to collect are the guys that do not hit for the most power, take home MVP trophies, or have cards that cost $200.  Sometimes it's cool to just say:

"Hey, I saw that guy when he was a minor leaguer"

"This guy has a cannon of an arm, let's buy his cards"

"You want to trade for _________ (insert expensive player), I am looking for a good Bethancourt"

Let's face it, I have plenty of players in my collection I collect just because....Ray Lankford, Justin Ruggiano, and loads of other guys.  Bethancourt is just going to be the latest.  Yes.  

High Tek Big Cat

I feel like I have been moving in slow motion this month on cards.  I have had four snow days now this week and am finally using one today to catch up on things that I want to do, like baseball cards.  I have scanned about a dozen cards this morning, uploaded some pictures, sorted out a few stacks of cards, and even put a few things into boxes.  My wife is happy about that last one.  After I was finished I had my choice of cards to write about and decided to go with this cool Andres Galarraga card.  

The Topps High Tek set was right up my alley and I have done so little with picking up much from this 90s inspired product.  When I first started this blog, it's almost been three years now, one of my first projects I undertook was to complete a Topps Tek set.  It was not too difficult to accomplish outside of one pain in rear Jason Kendall card....

Topps released other version of the Topps Tek set, but none of them held a candle to the original 1998 version which featured 90 cards with 90 variations of each card.  Seems ridiculous, but I love them.  The latest version of the Tek product is really similar to the 1998 set in appearance and features loads of cool on card autographs.  I have picked up several autographs from the set already including a Jason Heyward and Oscar Taveras, but I am also want to work a little bit on some of the cool 90s names in the set too.  The Big Cat definitely fits that category.....

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 Cardinals Relief Pitchers

5. Al Hrabosky 

Cardinals relief pitcher during the seventies, current television broadcaster, and bar owner.  The Mad Hungarian saved 59 games for the Cardinals over 8 years.  His best year in St Louis took place in 1975 when he went 13-3 pitching in 65 games, but also led the National League in saves with 22.   He had a WAR of 4.0 that year and an ERA+ of 228 finishing third in Cy Young voting.  Overall he posted a 40-20 record with the Cardinals in 329 games with a WAR of 7.2 and an ERA+ of 127.  Hraboksy finished up his career with stints in Kansas City and Atlanta.  

4.  Lee Smith 

Lee Smith pitched four seasons in St. Louis and is someone I watched frequently in middle school and into high school.  When the Cardinals first traded for the imposing relief pitcher he was one of the best in the game.  I think of Smith as being one of the first strictly one inning, strictly ninth inning relief pitchers.  He was big, threw really hard, and walked in from the bullpen really really really slowly.  Smith's first season with the Cardinals was in 1990 after the team traded Tom Brunansky to the Red Sox on May 4th.  That season Lee pitched in 45 games, saved 27 of them, and posted an ERA+ of 182.  The next two seasons, 1991 and 1992, Smith led the National League in saves with 47 and 43 and made two National League All-Star teams.  The 47 saves in 1991 were the National League single season saves record until Randy Myers broke the mark with the Cubs in 1993.  He is still the record holder (along with Jason Isringhausen) for saves in a season by a Cardinal.  The end of Lee Smith's time in St. Louis was pretty ugly.  In 1993 Smith made the National League All-Star team somehow, but his ERA doubled and he was barely an average player as measured by ERA+ (103) and below average with WAR (-0.1).  Somehow he bounced back and saved another hundred games or so with the Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds, and Expos.  

3.  Todd Worrell 

Worrell came up with the Cardinals in 1985 and was immediately put into the closer's role by Whitey Herzog.  He finished out 5 games late in the season for the Cardinals and appeared in 7 NLCS and World Series games that year.  His first full year, 1986, resulted in 9 wins, 36 saves, and ERA+ of 176, with a WAR of 2.6, and a National League Rookie of the Year.  Worrell would go on to save more than 30 games in each the next two seasons, but ran into arm problems towards the end of 1988 and into 1989.  He would eventually miss the last months of the 1989 season and all of the 1990 and 1991 seasons.  Worrell bounced back nicely in 1992 winning five games with an ERA of 2.11 and an ERA+ of 162.  However, he lost his closers job to Lee Smith and moved on to the Dodgers at the end of the year.  The Dodgers eventually moved him into the stoppers role in their bullpen where Worrell made two All-Star games and led the National League in saves during the 1996 season.  He and Smith were close on my list, but I give Worrell a slight nod since he won a major award and was on a National League Championship team.  

2.  Bruce Sutter

Sutter pitched four years as a Cardinal and was one of the most important players on the early WhiteyBall teams in St. Louis.  The Cardinals briefly ended up with both Sutter and Rollie Fingers during the 1980 offseason.  Herzog, the General Manager of the team, decided to keep Sutter and trade Fingers.  The former Cub would go on to led the National League in saves three of his four years in St. Louis, won 26 games, made two All-Star teams, and sealed the 1982 World Series.  

Sutter is the only player on the list this week who is in the Hall of Fame, he's even a Cardinal, because of his work with the split fingered fast baseball.  Still a great player and one of the last "closers" who would pitch more than one inning.  

1. Jason Isringhausen 

Counting numbers have to count for something and nobody in Cardinals history can touch the relief numbers posted by Isringhausen.  The team signed Izzy, a native to the St. Louis area, after the 2001 season.  He spent a total of 7 seasons with the Cardinals and racked up for than 200 saves while posting a 143 ERA+.  A modern closer, Isringhausen mainly pitched the ninth inning for the 2000s Tony LaRussa led Cardinals teams.  He was good for 30 saves most seasons and recorded as many as 47 in 2004.  In my opinion his best year was actually 2005 when he recorded 39 saves, posted an ERA+ of 199, a WAR of 2.0, and led the Cardinals to the National League Championship Series against the Astros.  Besides being the franchise leader in saves, Izzy also helped the Cardinals to playoff appearances in 2002, 2004, and 2005.  The most successful run of any closer on this list.  He was also on the 2006 World Series winner, but did not pitch in the Postseason that year.  I am also going to mention that he was briefly a Durham Bull, but that does not carry any actual weight, just a cool fact.  

Pitchers (Catchers too)!!!

The baseball season officially started this morning for my Cardinals when camp officially opened up to pitchers and catchers.  Considering I have seen dozens of pictures this week of pitchers pitching, the Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist looking like Kenny Powers, and Jason Heyward shagging fly balls it seems like it would be more appropriate to call today the last day for pitchers and catchers to report.  Either way, I am happy for baseball.  

I have high expectations for the Cardinals this season and am hoping for big things out of a few players.  So, for today I am going to focus in on a pitcher that I am excited to see this year: Carlos Martinez.  Currently Martinez is slated to be the Cardinals fifth starter behind Wainwright, Lynn, Lackey, and Wacha.  If you have never seen Martinez pitch you are missing out on something....

"Tsunami" throws in the high 90s, has a nasty change-up, and is frequently compared to Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez.  Of course, looking like Pedro Martinez in terms of pitches and physical appearance is one thing, it's another to actually put up numbers like him.  Carlos Martinez only has eight career starts under this belt and his career ERA+ is under 100.  Plenty of strikeouts during those starts, but he rarely pitches deep into games and needs to be more consistent.  I am hopefully we will see good things out of Carlos.  

Besides being hopefully on the field, I am also going to put a little time and effort into looking out for some Carlos Martinez baseball cards this year.  I picked up a really cool one last week.  The snow and ice slowed down this posting a bit, but I am really excited to add this card to my collection.  

I am pretty sure that I had barely touched the Topps Supreme Die Cuts this past year, save for a Garin Cecchini autograph, so it's nice to finally add a Cardinals version into the collection.  This is the purple version, Prince would be proud, and is serial numbered to just 25 copies.  You can kind of see it in the picture, but I am impressed at the thickness of card stock that Topps used for these autographs.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Collecting the Durham Bulls: Kyle Snyder

Spring Training is starting up and we are just a few weeks out from seeing who is on the Durham Bulls roster to start the season.  While it easy to guess some of the names that might appear at this point, I am trying not to get ahead of myself, make a bunch of posts, and then end up not seeing that player end up in Durham.  So, I am going to do a few safe bets over the next months.  I already did a Jared Sandberg at the end of January.

Next up in my Collecting the Durham Bulls series is the pitching coach for Bulls this year Kyle Snyder.  Snyder pitched for UNC in the late 90s after being drafted by the Devil Rays in the 1996 amateur draft and opting for college instead.  His second time around in the draft he went seventh overall to the Kansas City Royals.

Snyder's early cards are right in my collector wheelhouse in the late 90s and early 2000s, but after spending an hour or so sifting through some boxes of Royals cards, my collecting of Snyder cards honestly stinks.  He has a card in the 1999 Topps Traded set, which is his true rookie card, but if you are looking for something cool I would try to find a nice parallel or serial numbered card from the era.  My two best Snyder cards are a Topps Finest Refractor, which is numbered to just 500 copies, and a Bowman Chrome refractor.

Now, here is where my Snyder collection falls surprisingly falls off.  He has autographed cards, but I do not own one.  I know it's pretty shocking because I always have autographs of these guys from the late 90s.  Snyder?  I am not sure why I never went there.  He was a high draft pick and a good prospect, but I just never got around to it I guess.  They are dirt cheap, so if you are in the market there are plenty of them out there for just the right price.

This is the pricing breakdown at COMC on his 1999 Topps Traded Autograph....

I might have to pick one of these up after I am done typing.  In the meantime, let's talk a bit about Snyder's cards outside of his early years.  Snyder reached the Majors in 2003 and started 15 games for the Royals going 1-6.  He spent a lot of time on the disabled list with the Royals and ended up tearing his labrum and missed the entire 2004 season.  In spite of the injuries Snyder was rated as the 7th best prospect by Baseball America in 2003.  During this stretch, he did miss a lot of time, there are plenty of nice base cards of Snyder pitching for the Royals.

If you were going to add just one Snyder base card to your collection I would recommend something from 2006 or 2007 while Snyder was pitching for the Red Sox.  It's true that much of Snyder's career was limited by injuries he did have one good season in 2007.  The cards prove he was there.....

The Red Sox used Snyder as a spot starter on the 2006 squad and brought him back to work in the bullpen in 2007.  He ended the 2007 season with an ERA+ of 125, the best mark of his career.  More importantly he earned a World Series ring with the team after the Red Sox beat the Rockies in the fall classic that year.

I'm going to get to work on buying one of those autographs of COMC.  In the meantime, I am also looking forward to seeing Snyder's work this season with the Durham Bulls pitchers.  He's done well with Bowling Green and Hudson Valley in past years.