Friday, December 30, 2016

Project Durham Bulls #5

Nathan Karns - 2014 Durham Bulls 

Karns originally actually went to college at NC State, but transferred to Texas Tech after his freshman year to be closer to his mother who was sick at the time.  He started out his professional career with he Nationals and was traded to the Rays for Jose Lobaton and Felipe Rivero.  His first season in the Rays organization landed the hard throwing starter in Triple A with the Bulls.  In 27 starts Karns had an ERA of 5.08, but averaged more than a strikeout per inning (153 in 145.1).  The Rays called him up at the end of the 2014 season where he made two starts.  He stayed with the Rays in 2015 before he was in the Brad Miller trade sending him to the Mariners for the 2016 season.  This past season in Seattle Karns had an ERA north of 5, but again averaged more than a strikeout per inning.  

I actually have a another Karns autograph from one of those cool Donruss college sets from aways back.  It's a pretty sweet card from his time at Texas Tech.  I didn't really need another Karns autograph I guess, but this card was nearly free on Ebay.  I was actually trying to pick up a few cards for my Bowman Autographs set project, the seller also had this card up for auction.  I know that the autographs in the base Topps products have high print runs and the whatnot, but I guess it's nice to get a Karns autograph in a Major League uni.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Set Project #5

I recently did a post on a Mark McGwire card from the 1999 Topps Gallery set.  Topps has produced a ton of rehash sets over the last decade, but the Topps Gallery Heritage set was one of the first to make those types of rehash products popular.  As I recall, they were roughly one per box and very popular at the time of the sets release.  I know that I have a bunch of them lingering around my collection, but I also know that I do not have the complete set.

Here is the McGwire card from the other week.....

Again, I know that these sorts of cards have now become commonplace, but these Gallery Heritage cards have are pretty special to me.  They really were the first insert set that I tried to fully assemble.  While I know I did not succeed, I plan on fixing that 17 years later.  In fact, I started last week by picking up a copy of the Ken Griffey Jr. card.  

I know I did not have this card......

the backs are also the same as the 1953 Topps cards.....

Very nice card.  So, here is my biggest problem with these cards at the moment.  I know that I am missing a bunch of the cards in this set, but as I have been looking through my boxes of cards the Gallery Heritage cards are not in with the rest of what I have out of the 1999 Topps Gallery set.  I do have a big box of insert cards from the 1990s and early 2000s that they are undoubtedly in.  So for the moment I am going to post the entire checklist down here at the bottom of the post, but I know that many of these will be checked off in the coming days as I sort through a few boxes of cards.....

TH1- Hank Aaron 
TH2- Ben Grieve 
TH3- Nomar Garciaparra 
TH4- Roger Clemens 
TH5- Travis Lee
TH6- Tony Gwynn
TH7- Alex Rodriguez 

TH9- Derek Jeter 
TH10- Sammy Sosa
TH11- Scott Rolen 
TH12- Chipper Jones
TH13- Cal Ripken Jr. 
TH14- Kerry Wood 
TH15-Barry Bonds
TH16- Juan Gonzalez 
TH17- Mike Piazza
TH18- Greg Maddux 
TH19- Frank Thomas 

The Griffey and McGwire cards are the 8 and 20 spots.  Off the top of my head looking at the pictures of on Ebay and COMC, I think I also have Garciaparra, Lee, ARod, Jeter, Sosa, Rolen, Ripken, Piazza, and Thomas.  I might have more, either way I am figuring I will need about 10 or so cards to finish the set.  

I will update the cards I need in a few days, but for now I have placed the entire checklist under the set projects tab at the top of the blog.....

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 International League All-Star Set

Why I am I posting this a few months after the set came out?  See the post from yesterday about the Durham Bulls set.  I picked this up at a Durham Bulls game and it features some really good talent from the International League which is Triple A level teams.  Sometimes the amount of high end talent in Triple A can be short lived, it seems that more and more teams get players past Double A and promote them very quickly.

Cards and a little snippet about one of the players, maybe two....

Out of this group I really like Josh Bell.  Berrios could be really good too, but he's been really shaky at the Major League level.  Bell made it to the Majors last year too, and while the pop in his bat did not shine through in the 40 or so games he played in Pittsburgh, he had more walks than strikeouts.  That translated into a .368 OBP.  Getting on base is always a good skill to have and a great way to stick around...

A lot of players to like here....Pompey is a great defensive player, should be around a long time as a good centerfielder.  Glasnow is going to be a good pitcher, Judge is going to hit, and I am still pretty high on Buxton.  Feel like people have gotten down about him, but he is still only 22 and has a lot of potential.  

Sanchez and Turner are the real standouts here, but there are others in this group who could be solid players.  My favorite here is obviously Snell, also good to see Shaffer in this set, but I think he's lost a lot of his luster as a prospect.  Severino and the two Red Sox could also be pretty good.....

Last three...

Hey, I like that Bacon USA jersey Nick Williams is wearing.....

Monday, December 26, 2016

2016 Durham Bulls Team Set

I cannot tell you how long these cards have been out, and I bought them the first week they were for sale, but for some reason they did not get posted at any point during the season.  I actually found them a few days back while I was putting away a few other cards in a box I have with different minor league team sets and minor league single cards.  For those who have seen my card room in person, you'd be hard pressed to believe this, but I actually put the cards right away when I got home from the game.

Not sure what was happening that week that would make me do such a thing.  Usually they sit on a shelf or my desk for a week or two before they are put into some sort of stack and shuffled away to a box.  Found the International League All-Star set too, that will be later in the week.  Like tomorrow.

Here are the cards with a little commentary......

There are a lot of solid names in the first batch of cards:

  • Blake Snell is one of the Rays top pitching prospects and will spend the entire 2017 season in Tampa after beginning last season with the Bulls.  
  • Motter was traded from the Rays this offseason to the Mariners along with Richie Shaffer in the second row.  The M's have Motter on their roster at the moment, it would be nice to see him get some playing time.  Shaffer went to the Mariners, was released and signed by the Phillies, and was released again and signed by the Reds.  
  • Mahtook, Franklin, and Maile have all spent time in the Majors.  Not sure what their roles will be next year, but each of them would seem to have a decent shot of being in Tampa.  At the same time, it won't shock me if all three are back in Durham.  
  • Schultz is sort of the hidden gem out of this group.  He attended college at a small school in North Carolina (High Point) and was drafted by the Rays in the 14th Round of the 2013 Draft.  Since he has struck out more than 11 batters per 9 in almost 80 starts through four different levels of Minor League ball.  His last two seasons he struck out more than 160 in 130 innings.  He's one to watch.  

There are some older players in this grouping of cards along with some fringy prospects.  Decker, Arencibia, Sappington have all seen a decent amount of playing time in the Majors.  Varona is a Cuban defector who seems like he will likely be a AAAA player, Floro has a little potential for the next level as a ground ball specialist out of the bullpen, and Belletti would also be a bullpen arm.  That really leaves two players to chat about.....

  • Robertson was a highly regarded prospect in the A's system before he was traded for Ben Zobrist.  He's just 22 and played his first season in Triple A last year.  He had a decent .259/.358/.356 line.  Obviously the OBP makes up for the average, but that slugging percentage is too low.  The Rays have another hot shortstop prospect, Willy Adames, who should be in Durham in 2017.  Curious to see what happens to Robertson.
  • Field was apart of Arizona's College World Series winner a few seasons back and has made his was through the Rays system in the past three seasons.  He has some pop in his bat for a little a guy, more than 50 extra base hits last year and a slugging percentage over .450, but his OBP has dropped significantly since getting past A Ball.  In two A ball stops Field was at .367 and .396, since he has gone .329, .301, and 338.  You can't steal first.  

This grouping of cards is all older guys with limited potential in the Majors.  The whole group is over 25, while some Rays fans consider Seitzer somewhat of a prospect, he is not.  Nope.  

Last three.  The mascot, but not the one from the movie, Wool E. Bull is one of the better sports mascots around in any sport.  Really good.  Snyder has been the pitching coach the last few seasons.  He went to UNC, so there is a local connection, and he seems to give my son a ball (we often sit near the bullpen) almost every time we are at the game.  Ozzie Timmons is Ozzie Timmons, pretty awesome.  

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Christmas Card Now

I did a few of the Topps Now cards this year, not as into the whole thing as some other collectors, but I found some nice cards that fit my collection.  I have a of the cards still on my radar at this point, mainly some of the former Durham Bulls that have ended up spread throughout the league.  Not in any rush to get them, but if they pop up and are the right price I would be happy to pick them up.

In the meantime, I picked up an unexpected Topps Now card a few days back in the mail.  I like classy gestures, and it was nice to see Topps send out a bonus card to all of the collectors who bought a Topps Now card at some point this past summer.  Or at least that's what I think they did based on a few different discussions around Twitter and Facebook.

Here is the card which is two sided....

The front has Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant and Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez.  The Topps Now cards usually have a specific event attached to them, but nothing is mentioned on here as to why they are being celebrated.  The Bryant side looks like the final play from the World Series, the Sanchez?  I must admit though that I did not follow along with the Yankees too closely this year.  He hit a bushel of home runs....

The back has Ichiro, 3000th hit, and David Ortiz, who was retiring.  I must say that this was a really cool free card to pick up from Topps and a nice way to thank collectors.  It even has a cool snowflake print around the edges to give it that holiday feel.

The card was enclosed in a holiday card from Topps.  The front of the card.....

and the inside of the card.....

Again, very appreciative of the cool holiday card.  Great way to reward collectors at the end of the year.  

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Five: Feats of Strength

The second half of the Festivus posts for today.  I am not going to pick up something heavy, or do some really challenging task.  Instead I am going to focus on some of the tasks and feats of strength that I have witnessed in my journey through 2016.

Now, the Feats of Strength.....

5. So Many Great Cards.....

In the past I have done a bunch of awards and the whatnot at the end of the year, which I am not doing this year.  I took some down time the first part of this year and refocused myself a little bit in terms of collecting.  I have made less posts this year than in previous years, but I have enjoyed spending time here and am always amazed at how many people show up and read my ramblings on baseball cards.

I don't post for traffic, I don't have ads on my page.  I just post because I like cards and enjoy sharing what I love with others.  Yet, I am always amazed from time to time when I glance at that little stat tab and see how many people show up and read this blog.  I thank you all for taking time out of your day to stop by.

This was hard to do, but I flipped through the few hundred posts I made this year and picked out one cool card and one cool other item I added to my collection to be my favorites for the year.


I picked this up from the Topps Vault back in May.  It's the photo proof from Vince Coleman's Topps Super rookie card.  He was one of my favorite Cardinals players when I was a kid.  His 1986 Topps card was a personal favorite, so I was really excited to add this unique item to my collection.  There are a lot of other cool cards that have come into my life this year, but this is my sentimental favorite.

Other item would have to be my Taylor Motter bat...

Looks really nice in my redecorated baseball card room.  Not sure that got a post, but it used to be red with old furniture that I was slightly attached to and a television that I would not throw out.  It's a little nicer now, the Motter bat looks nice on the wall.  

4. A New Wolfpack Hope 

The first half of 2016 was a little disappointing for hoops in Raleigh.  My Wolfpack had Cat Barber on the roster last year who pulled his best Allen Iverson imitation for most of the year, but it was not enough to get the Pack far in the ACC, nor into the NCAA Tournament.  Still fun to watch....

Really fun player to watch, but this year the Pack actually look like a team.  Might even have more than one player on their team.  I am hopeful.  

They have one of the best incoming freshman classes in the country with point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and Omar Yurtseven.  Throw in some good returning players and I think NC State will be in the Tourney and could do a little damage while they are there.  

The last time they were there, State gave us the crying piccolo girl....

3. Carlos Martinez, Baby Pedro 

For many years now Cardinals fans have been told all about how Carlos Martinez was another version of Pedro Martinez.  I have patiently watched Carlos the last few years and was thoroughly impressed by his pitching this past year.  He's quietly turned into the staff ace of the Cardinals and one of the better pitchers in the National League.  Last year, he was the best reason to watch the Cardinals.

2.  The Durham Bulls win the World Series 

If you read the Airing of the Grievances post earlier this evening you'd know that one of my problems with this year was the World Series.  I don't like the Indians, nor do I like the Cubs.  Instead, I decided to root for the Durham Bulls.  There were four former players in the series: Jason Hammel, Mike Montgomery, Ben Zobrist, and Brandon Guyer.

Montgomery recorded the final out, Zobrist won the MVP Award.

1.  Highlight of the Year 

My wife and I welcomed our second child in August.  Four months and she is awesome. 

Friday Five: The Airing of Grievences

I am making a Festivus inspired post this evening.  If you are not a fan of Seinfeld, check out the video below, and then go ahead and read the list below.  There will be another cool Festivus post a little bit later this evening.

The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievences.....I've got a lot of problems with you people.....

5.  Rams Move To Los Angeles 

When I was a kid growing up in St. Louis the Cardinals were also a football team.  They never won, the city of St. Louis refused to build them a stadium, and they moved to Phoenix.  At some point while I was in high school/college the Rams moved to town.  For a few years everyone was excited.  They won the Super Bowl.  Then cheap ass Stan Kroenke took over the team, hired Jeff Fisher as the coach, and they have been losers ever since.  Last year they got into some lease dispute with the city of St. Louis and the team moved.  

The Rams still stink.  Many people have chimed in to help me find a new NFL team, but I am not really interested.  Sundays are wide open.  

4. The World Series 

I am not going to say that I root against teams to win championships, but as a Cardinals fan I went through several stages of something on the way to the Cubs winning the World Series.  Rizzo and Bryant are no Strawberry and Gooden, or other villainous teams that the Cardinals have run across since I have been following along.   Little known fact about the writer, I also cannot stand the Indians.  Long story.  Who to root for?   Who to root against?  In the end, I felt like I was just going to be annoyed.  It turned out that I was, so for the Cubs and Indians readers, a few moments of pain...

Tribe fans first....

and Cubs fans.  All good Cubs fans know it was really Alex Gonzalez's fault.  

3.  College Football Season 

My main two rooting interests had rough seasons.  NC State is still going to a bowl game, but after beating Notre Dame in the middle of Hurricane Matthew, the team missed a late field goal that would have knocked off Clemson, lost by a bazillion points to Louisville, blew the game against Florida State, and then (cringe)....

lost to Boston College giving the Eagles their first conference win since 2014.  It was a horrendous game and completely embarrassing.  

Meanwhile, back in my home state of Missouri, things were even worse.  Mizzou had a new coach this year, but they had some returning talent on defense.  They didn't make a bowl and their season can best be summed up by the fact that they lost their Homecoming Game to Middle Tennessee State.  


2. We've Lost Too Many Awesome People 

The list is really, really long.  I will share a couple that hit me hardest.  

David Bowie 

W.P. Kinsella 

Wrote "Shoeless Joe" which was the inspiration for the movie Field of Dreams.  

Gene Wilder 


Harper Lee

1. No Playoff Baseball 

In a normal year the baseball playoffs would be more in the Feats of Strength category.  My Cardinals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.  The team was led by inept manager Mike Matheny. His in game strategy is horrible and he plays favorites with the line up card.  Awful.  If Matheny had been tossed out of a few more games...

they might have made the playoffs.  Except then you'd have to watch Matheny manage against some really good team and lose.  

The Durham Bulls are a little bit harder to pin point.  They are kind of beholden to whatever the Rays are doing, which has been a lot of nothing lately.  The roster doesn't have it's usual talent and many will note that the Rays have given players in Durham chances in the Majors, but they also frequently shuttle them back and forth.  The playing time is inconsistent and the performance suffers.  

It was nice to see a few nice highlights out of Motter.....

Project Durham Bulls #4

Jhan Marinez 2015-2016 Durham Bulls 

Marinez arrived in Durham after bouncing around between the Marlins, Tigers, and Dodgers between 2006 and the start of the 2015 season.  Marinez was actually involved in the Ozzie Guillen trade between the Marlins and White Sox moving to Chicago in exchange for the fiery manager.  Jhan actually started the 2015 season with the Double A Montgomery Biscuits before the Rays promoted him up to the Bulls at the end of April.  Marinez ended up having a great 2015 season with the Bulls making the Triple A All-Star Game.  He ended the season with a 1.92 ERA, 65 strikeouts in 61 innings, and five saves.  Marinez returned to the Bulls to start the 2016 season, appeared in six games and was called up to Tampa, but he was lost to the Brewers when they purchased his contract in early May.  While I never like to see players leave the Bulls, the Brewers allowed Jhan to pitch in 43 Major League games last year where he sported a 3.22 ERA and a 133 ERA+.  

The second 2010 Bowman Chrome card that I have had in my Project Durham Bulls posts, this card looks a lot better in person than the scan.  The reflective surface of the card makes for a poor scan, but you can see the autograph on this card a little bit better than the Robinson Chirinos card I posted a few weeks back.  Marinez actually has two autographed cards with this Chrome and another signature in the 2011 Bowman Platinum set.  The Platinum is a sticker autograph though, which made this an easy choice between the Marinez autographs.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Jeteresque Aledmys

Topps is never afraid to go back into their past and borrow an old design.  In my quest to find a few more Aledmys Diaz cards for my collection I ran into a Topps card whose design was borrowed from a popular card from my teenage years.  Kind of make me feel like an old man.

There were a lot of cool 1990s shortstops, especially the latter half of the decade, but one of the most popular and affordable cards belongs to former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

There are flashier Jeter rookie cards, but this one is still really nice.  No foil or premium brand name attached to the card, just a nice card featuring the future Hall of Famer.  If you were going to make a set, using an old Topps design, and feature a set of young and upcoming shortstops this card design would be a pretty good choice.  

There are actually six cards in the set, but I decided to just pick up the Aledmys Diaz card.  The other five cards are Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, and Xander Bogaerts.  Nice group of players.  

Here is the Aledmys.  

The mark on the side of the card is from my scanner.  Not sure what's going on there, but it's not on the card.  Kind of bothering me, but I scanned the card, put it away, walked back in the room and saw it there.  A little lazy I know.  

The general design is the same as the Jeter with a few differences.  Of course there is the ridiculous RC badge in the bottom left hand corner.  Not really a big fan of the rookie card logos since they have started.  There is also the header on the card.  Since you can't slap a draft pick label on the players in the set I am cool with the new title.  Overall a really cool card.  

I picked up one other Diaz card while I was tracking down this one, really inexpensive, but I like it a lot.  

Bunt, the actually physical card set and not the app, was a really inexpensive box of cards.  I have seen the boxes floating around for next to nothing, but I skipped this product.  The cards look okay, but you can't buy a box of everything.  I'd rather take the $25 I could use to buy a box of Bunt and get a nice single card instead.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Perfect Wolfpack Card

We have evolved to the point where high school kids are now getting baseball cards.  To some degree I understand some of them, like the USA Baseball cards.  We now also have AFLAC cards in Bowman and Leaf's Perfect Game product.  Some of the players in these sets end up in the MLB Draft and there is not much distance between there appearance in the high school card products and their first MLB cards in Bowman products.  

As a college baseball fan I am always curious to see if any players from NC State end up in these sets either as a college or high school player.  Last year I picked up a few cards of Xavier LeGrant from Panini's USA Baseball set who is now a member of their baseball team.  Of course, more well known instances of NC State players appearing in these products happened a few years back when the team was led by Trea Turner and Carlos Rodon.  

Both players were featured prominently in the USA Baseball sets.  

State still has a good baseball team even though the average fan may not know the names as well as they did when Rodon and Turner were starring on the diamond for the Wolfpack.  One of my favorite players is infielder Joe Dunand.  Incidentally, he was featured in Leaf's Perfect Game set a few year's back.  While I have generally stuck with the USA Baseball cards in the past for my amateur baseball fix, I do branch out every once in awhile.  

Having a Dunand card made my week.  Here is the card.  

Last year Dunand hit seven home runs, 12 doubles, and drove in 40 runs.  At the end of the season he participated in the College Home Run Derby in Omaha at the College World Series.  Made for a good year and made me happy to own this nice card featuring his signature with a nice piece of green jersey swatch.  I have actually seen a few copies of this card with white patch pieces, but they have been a little out of my price range.  

Besides being a really good college baseball player Dunand also has a little bit of good baseball blood running through his veins.  He is actually the nephew of one Alex Rodriguez.  If you follow ARod on social media Dunand actually occasionally makes an appearance or two.  A few weeks back Dunand and ARod showed up at the NC State/Miami football game where the baseball team was recognized on the field in between quarters.  

I heard ARod is a pretty big fan of the U.  Probably good he went neutral.  

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Venerable Old Card Part 38

In June of 1998 the Cardinals made Florida State outfielder J.D. Drew their first round pick.  The guy had been drafted by the Phillies the previous summer, but refused to sign because the team would not give him some ridiculous amount of money to sign.  He re-entered the draft and he fell to the Cardinals with the fifth pick behind Pat Burrell, Mark Mulder, Corey Patterson, and Jeff Austin.  It took Drew half of a summer to blow through the Cardinals Minor League system and reach the Majors.

Drew was supposed to be the next Micky Mantle or something like that.  In 36 at bats with the Cardinals in 1998 he had a slash line of .417/.463/.972 with 5 home runs, a triple, and 3 doubles.  The hype heading into the 1999 season was unreal.  Drew also started to appear on baseball cards during the fall of 1998.  They were slightly crazy.

There were several popular cards, but my favorite was his 1998 Fleer Update.

Loved the 1990s Fleer cards.  Borderless, nice pictures, etc.  The Fleer Update set was only sold as a complete set.  I bought my first copy of the set at some point during the fall of 1998 at a small card show at the mall in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  It was kind of a small pathetic show, but it was really about all that little town had in the way of decent baseball cards.  There was a card shop in the town, but the owner was an ass.  I don't remember how much I paid for the set at the time, but I am pretty sure it's way more than what it sells for now.....

Shipping costs more than the set....

Anyway, I was pretty sure that J.D. Drew was going to be awesome so at some point that fall I decided to try to find another copy of the set.  Probably not a great idea around St. Louis since half of the collectors in town wanted a copy of the set and I am sure most of the card shops in the area added a little bit extra onto the price.

Here's a look at the back of the card before I tell you what became of my two 1998 Fleer Update sets....

I have always loved the backs of the 1998 Fleer cards.  Stats and the little bio line is cool, but I like the jersey background and color picture of the player on the side.  Nice touch.  

So, out of the two sets I originally owned, I trade one to a junior high kid I used to mentor in the summers back in college.  He had a few cool Ray Lankford cards, so what equals a bunch of quarter box cards?  A set filled with quarter box cards.  The second set, maybe the first, stayed in my collection and is still there today.  At some point about ten years ago, I decided to open the box.  Usually a huge sealed set no no, but at this point it's not like the set is ever going to be worth anything.  

While J.D. Drew just went on to be a decent right fielder who made a few fan bases angry, he was never Mickey Mantle.  Might as well take the cards out and enjoy looking at them.  

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Redbird Randomness

I helped a fellow collector from one of the Facebook card groups I belong to fill a few holes in an a late 1990s set and got a few random Cardinals autographs back in return for a the help.  I actually do not have any of these cards, so in some way they filled some holes in my collection too.  Although I do not expressly have some outrageous goal of getting every Cardinals autograph card or anything, I do try to get as many of the players as I possibly can.

Keeps the amount of money and quantity of cards within reason.  So, here are the three new cards....

First up is Cardinals pitching prospect Jake Woodford.  He's in the top 20 prospects for the team, but he seems like he's not going to be on the fast track to St. Louis or anything.  The Cardinals are usually pretty big on taking college pitchers at the top of the draft, but used a sandwich pick on Woodford.  He big, he throws pretty hard, but for everything out there on him he has a ways to go to get to the Majors.  Could be a Lance Lynn type of innings eater or a middle reliever.  Pretty wide range of opinion there.  Regardless, I like his autograph.  Very nice signature.  

Not a Cardinals card, or even a player who was on the Cardinals for very long.  However, most Cardinals fan have a pretty fond opinion of Spiezio after his performance in the 2006 Postseason helped the team defeat the Mets in the NLCS and the Tigers in the World Series.  He also had this gem for the Angels in 2002 against the Giants.  

Last one.  

I was happy to see Hazelbaker get a shot with the Cardinals at the beginning of the 2016 season and it was nice to see him play well for awhile.  I had seen him play several times over the past few seasons with the Paw Sox.  Not a serious prospect, but the guy gave a lot of effort and was an enjoyable player to watch.  Some Cardinals collectors went crazy for some of his cards during the first half of the baseball season.  I simply could not bring myself to spend the money or trade the cards to land one of these during that time.  

Hazelbaker ended up shuttling between Memphis and St Louis during the back half of the season and his autographs cooled a bit.  Glad to have landed one at the right price.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Project Durham Bulls #3: Mark Malaska

Mark Malaska - 2003 Durham Bulls

Malaska appeared in 15 games for the 2003 Durham Bulls team all as a left handed relief pitcher.  He pitched 23 innings in those 15 games, so obviously more than a LOOGY pitcher.  The 2003 Bulls won the International League South Division and also went on to win the Governors Cup (IL Championship), but Malaska got called up to the Devil Rays in the middle of July and was not around for the team's playoff run.  Malaska made his Major League Debut against the Texas Rangers on the 17th of that month in a 12-6 loss.  He ended up being selected off of waivers by the Red Sox at the end of the 2003 season and he ended his professional baseball career after pitching with the Red Sox and Pawtucket in 2004 and 2005.  

I really liked the Bowman's Best cards in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but as the product moved past 2001 it became less likable in my opinion.  There were 130 cards of rookies with lots of autographs and some game used relics in the 2003 set.  There are some decent names like Ryan Howard, Hanley Ramirez, and Kevin Youkilis, but the list gets thin fast.  Malaska has a few rookie cards beyond this Bowman's Best card, but this is his only certified autograph.  Since I am trying to load up on as many autographs for these Durham Bulls posts as possible, this was an easy choice.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

I'm Going To Build These Different Frames, With Gold Colored Metal...."

So what's the deal with all of these cards having gold frames these days?  This all started a few years back when Topps put a bunch of these gold framed inserts into their 2014 Topps Update set?  Did we need a gold frame around Joe Morgan?  He's a great second baseman and all, former Durham Bulls player too, but why can't we just have a baseball card with him on it.....

I mean is the frame holding the card together or is it a decorative thing?  If I pull the corner apart will the whole card just crumble, or will it look like a baseball card without a gold frame?  I rather like Joe Morgan, so it's not like I am going to pull the frame on this card apart.  Just when you thought they were going to leave the gold frames here, nope here come even more gold frames.

If Topps had known they were going to have this many cards with gold frames they should have called up Eric Sogard back when he was in contention for the "Face of MLB Award", and gotten him to switch to gold framed glasses, it would have been the perfect marketing campaign for a brilliant idea.  

Maybe just as good as selling just the tops of muffins.  What do you do with the bottom of the muffins?  The same thing could be asked about all of the baseball cards Topps makes without gold frames.  


Topps also had these guys in Museum Collection with the gold frames.  Do you think a card with a gold frame, but signed in silver ink is sort of like wearing a black shirt, black shoes, but you are wearing a brown belt?  I personally don't like the combination.  but I don't mind breaking some of those fashion rules at times.  White shoes with black jeans seems like a good idea.....

So after all of these other gold frames someone over at Topps had this great idea to put some more gold frames baseball cards.  When these cards came out I was thinking maybe Topps really likes this look, or maybe they got some bulk deal on gold card frames.  I don't really look around when I go to places like Costco, maybe the gold baseball card frames are sitting up on one of those top shelves with all of the shipping crates with the plastic wrap...

Since Topps is saving money by buying the gold frames bulk at Costco it means that this time around they had the chance to get a few different Major League Players to sign the cards inside the gold frame.  It's not Keith Hernandez or anything, but this is one of the cards.....

This guy is supposed to be baby Pedro Martinez, who was on the Mets for awhile, but he couldn't win a World Series.  He's not Dwight Gooden.  Either of them.  

Since when did they have baseball in Tampa?  

People go to Florida to die, not to play baseball.  This guy is kind of young, probably not making any money yet, so he's probably eating dinner at 4:30 so he gets the Early Bird Special.  

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Venerable Old Card Part 37

I usually put up some sort of Hall of Fame post around this time of year advocating for the players that I believe should be voted into Cooperstown.  I plan on still doing that here in the next two weeks, but for the moment I am going to just focus on one of the players on the ballot.

The ballot has gotten crowded in recent years and there are a lot of different voters who are playing moral police about who should and shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame based on whether or not they have been linked to steroids or not.  In some cases, like Bagwell and Piazza, just the mere suspicion has been enough to keep them outside of the Hall.

It's the final year that former Expos outfielder Tim Raines can make Hall via the regular writers ballot.  If I had a ballot I would vote for him in a second.  I will go over some of the reasons a little further down the page, but first lets look at a Raines card from long ago.....

the often ignored 1981 Topps Expos Future Stars card.  These have always sort of been a staple in Topps sets, I know they aren't in at the moment, but have taken on many different forms over the years.  The 1980s ones always seemed to have some decent/noteworthy player on the card along with two players who were completely missable.  See the Cal Ripken rookie card.  

Both Ramos and Pate played less than 100 games in the Majors.  I did not try to find either player to ask them their feelings about this card, but I am guessing they think it's pretty cool to have a card with a great player.  

I found it interesting that Raines was listed as a second baseman on this card.  I actually found it on his other rookie cards too. After a little researching on Baseball Reference it appears that Raines played second base throughout his Minor League career, but was placed in the outfield in favor of Doug Flynn and Rodney Scott when he reached the Majors.  

Maybe the only part of this card that I am not thrilled about is.....

is the back.  Sure, there is that cool vintage Topps logo next to each of the players names, but they could have done more with this space outside of just putting down the players vitals.  Still, I like this look better than some of the more modern prospect cards that are overly busy on the back.  

Now, about Raines being in the Hall.  

Two biggest things that Raines had going against him during his career were:

1.  He spent his best years playing on the Expos

2.  He played at the same time as Rickey Henderson who was a better similar player.  

Now the positives.  Raines is rated the seventh best left fielder in baseball history according to Jay Jaffe.  His WAR is 69.1 which is higher than modern Hall of Famers/Hall of Fame candidates such as Jim Rice, Lou Brock, Billy Williams, and 0.1 lower than Manny Ramirez.  If you use his WAR7, best seven seasons, he is 2 WAR ahead of Manny and 2 WAR below Pete Rose.  Pretty good company.  

Looking at counting numbers, it true that Raines never reached 3,000 hits, but his on-base percentage is .385, with 6 seasons above .400.  He has four hundred more walks than strikeouts over his 23 year career.  Raines also has more than 400 doubles and 800 stolen bases.  The stolen base mark places him fifth on the all-time list.  

In summation, I have no problem saying that Tim Raines was not the best lead off hitter of his generation.  That distinction easily goes to Rickey Henderson.  However, I would argue that Raines was the second greatest lead off hitter of his generation and rates better than other speedster in the Hall such as Lou Brock.  I'd vote Raines into the Hall if I had a vote, and hopefully this year enough baseball writers will finally agree with the numbers and put him in Cooperstown.    

Motter's Magenta Hair Flow

The Rays recently traded one of my favorite former Durham Bulls to the Mariners.  It always makes me sad to see players leave and go elsewhere, but at the same time this move will likely result in Motter getting some more consistent playing time.  As a baseball fan in Durham, it has been fun to watch Motter play here the last few years.  

Taylor plays all over the field with a high level of effort and energy.  I enjoyed getting to see him get in some time with the Rays this year and was more disappointed when they sent him back down to Triple A without giving him much of a chance to stick.  The hitting hadn't come around yet at the Major League level, but a lot of other Taylor Motter goodness happened for the Rays with him in the game....

not to say that he did nothing on offense.  He is definitely a capable hitter.  This was one of my favorite moments from his time in the Majors....

hitting a home run against the Marlins which were his favorite team growing up.  Really cool.  

Even though he has moved on to the West Coast I am still excited to collect more cards of this former Durham Bulls favorite.  My most recent card, his Topps Update Magenta Printing Plate, is something I picked up last week.  I have been on the lookout for some non-base Motter cards, but with no relics or autographs, I have been focused on finding some different parallel cards.  The plate is obviously the rarest one I have, but there are a few other low numbered cards out there that I want....

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Big Mac's Stamp of Approval

I have boxes of autographs, boxes of game used/relic cards, boxes of serial numbered cards, and rookie cards.  Then there are those cards that companies have put together over the years that have all sorts of things attached to them that are supposed to fit with a player or event.  Some of these types of cards have started to grow stale in recent years......

like manu patches and pin cards.  I like Fredbird, I like Allen Craig, but I am not sure that the two of them belong on a Wal-Mart exclusive patch card.  I know you can search my blog and find a post from almost three years ago when I was excited about this card, but these sorts of things have been done too often.  

On the flip side, there are cards that are sort of in that weird relic card category that I really enjoy look at and collecting.  For example, I really like quarter cards in Gypsy Queen.  This is one of my favorite Cardinals cards I have picked up over the last couple of years.....

Very nice card.  I actually picked up another coin card recently, haven't posted it yet, but I will get around to it soon.  

Recently I had the chance to pick up another odd relic card featuring one of my favorite Cardinals players.  It's not the first card that I have ever landed with a stamp on the card, but I have generally either ignored these cards in the past or just turned them around quickly in trades.  

Somewhere in one of those boxes of autographs I think there is a mid 2000s Harold Baines card with a stamp, but I did not go find it for this post.  It's the only stamp card I can think of off the top of my head that is in my collection.  

So, here is the new card...

Topps has actually had a few different stamp cards in recent years, even a few Cardinals cards in there, but I have just generally ignore these cards.  In fact, I was not even really looking for this card, But I did stumble across it when I was trying to track down an autographed card of a former Durham Bulls player when I checked out the other items an Ebay user had up for sale.  

I like saving money on shipping.  This seemed like a cool card and the price was reasonable.  Why not a stamp?