Tuesday, January 31, 2017

International League of Bowman Chrome Autographs

I have a bit of an off season shopping, or trading list, that I am trying to finish off over the next two months before the start of the 2017 season.  A few of the cards I have been trying to find belong to players that I saw last year in the Minors.  Whether they played for the Durham Bulls, or against them, several players from the International League stood out along the way.  

This last weekend three of these cards arrived in the mail, adding one Braves player who has moved on to the Reds this off-season, and two Durham Bulls players.  

Reds player first......

I actually have a bunch of different Tyrell Jenkins cards from his time as a Cardinals prospect back in the day.  He was in the Jason Heyward deal with the Braves, was traded again this off-season to the Rangers, and was then released and claimed by the Reds.  He had some decent numbers in the Minors, but struggled in his dozen or so appearances with the Braves.  Even though I have a handful of his Cardinals autographs, and the Heyward trade ended up being sort of painful, I am happy to have a card of Jenkins in a Braves uni.  Never saw him in person with a Cardinals minor league team.  

Two Durham Bulls....

First up is Jacob Faria who spent the last half of the 2016 season in Durham.  I actually got to see his debut with the Bulls against the Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals).  Really impressive pitcher who should have a bright future in the Majors.  He's basically at a strikeout per inning with a good K/BB ratio.  Throughout his first half a season in the Appy League, with Princeton who plays at elevation, and he keeps the ball in the yard too.  

Considering the upside here, the Faria autograph in Bowman Chrome is a bargain.  Buy a few, put them in a box, and wait a year or two.  No need to thank me later on....


First off, Schultz went to college locally at High Point University.  I haven't ever really run into High Point's baseball team, but I know they have played some of the local ACC competition over the years.   I saw their basketball team once, they almost beat NC State.  Love Cat Barber.  


Schultz strikes a lot of batters out, which is sort of his claim to fame as a prospect.  His numbers are decent, but the 11 strikeouts per 9 innings just kind of jumps off the page at you.  He could be a starter still in the future, but reminds me a lot of some of the other pitchers the Rays have converted into relievers in the high minors like Enny Romero or Colome.  

This is another inexpensive card and very easy to find.  Glad to have it in the collection along with the other two cards of Faria and Jenkins.  

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Venerable Old Card Part 43

I have really been digging the Wax Ecstatic Podcast lately.  My daughter takes good naps when I bundle her up and push her around for a couple of miles in her stroller.  I enjoy the exercise and the fresh air, but I also download an episode or two of the podcast to keep me entertained along the way...

So far the podcast has covered most of the major baseball card releases from the 1980s and the early parts of the 1990s.  The most recent podcast covered the 1992 Upper Deck set and focused on the Frank Thomas base card.  All the talk about sets from my childhood has sent me back into the older sections of my collection to dig through all my favorite junk wax era cards.  

This weekend I spent a little bit of time working on sorting out my 1990 Upper Deck set.  I know it's not as good as the 1989 set, but it was the first Upper Deck set that I actually tried to put together.  The 1989 set was more of a dalliance, a few packs in hopes of Ken Griffey Jr. 

I knew that I wanted to pick out a 1990 Upper Deck card for my weekly Monday Venerable Old post, but it took me awhile to narrow the field down.  In fact, I ended up searching through my scorecards too just to see what players I saw around that time.  Since I lived in St. Louis, and the early 1990s Cardinals teams were pretty bad, I was really looking for some cool player on another team.  

Here is who I came up with.......

Mark Langston.

If you know of Mark Langston on the Expos it's probably because of the Randy Johnson trade.  I knew of Randy Johnson in 1989, but they traded him for Mark Langston.  He spent the first years of his careers on the Mariners, who were terrible, and all he did was strike out a ton of batters every year.  My house had a subscription to the Post Dispatch and I liked that League Leader section underneath the standings.  I was really there to check out Vince Coleman's stolen base totals most days, make sure Raines and Juan Samuel weren't going to catch him, but I also perused the other players and stats on there....

Langston struck out 204 in 1984, 245 in 1986, 262 in 1987, and 235 in 1988.  He did not pitch a full season in 1985, but he basically had 1,000 strikeouts in a little more than 4 seasons with the Mariners.  He was a huge get for the Expos at the time and I went to one of his first games as an Expo.

Langston did not disappoint....

pitching a shutout against the Cardinals and Jose DeLeon.  

The 1989 Expos ended up finishing 4th in the National League East behind the Cubs, Mets, and Cardinals, but it had nothing to do with Langston who was excellent in his brief time north of the border.  Stats were nice....

with an ERA just above 2, almost a strikeout per inning, and a WAR of almost 5 in just 24 starts.  Also good for an ERA+ of 148.  After the season Langston left for the Angels, where he pitched for 8 years before short stints with the Padres and Angels.  

I actually ran into Langston 8 years later on my 21st birthday when I drove to St. Louis from college to see a Cardinals/Padres game.  It's the third home run on the video, just 20 seconds in....

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Perfect Pack Card

It's hard to believe that the college baseball season is fast approaching.  In fact, I was somewhat taken by surprise yesterday to check my Twitter feed at the end of work and see that there were dozens of pictures of local baseball teams out on the field in preparation for the upcoming season.

It should be a fun year locally.  My Wolfpack are ranked 6th in the D1 Baseball poll, but the ACC also has Florida State 3rd, UNC 9th, Louisville 12th, Clemson 15th, UVa 17th, and Miami 21st.  East Carolina is also ranked 10th.  I will definitely be checking out a few games once the season officially gets underway.  In the meantime, we live in an age where college baseball players have baseball cards....

I was a little surprised to find my latest NC State baseball player on cardboard.  In the past I have posted cards of Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner while they were in school at NC State, but both players were highly regarded players who appeared for USA Baseball and were considered slam dunk high first round selections.  Guy on my new card?  He did pitch in a game or two for USA Baseball, but did not spend the whole summer with the college All-Star team.....

Here is the card.....

Even if you follow college baseball, you might still be a little lost on Tommy DeJuneas.  He is from the Charlotte area, participated in the Perfect Game program, but was never drafted out of high school ending up at NC State.  His freshman year (2015) was outstanding ending with 39.2 innings pitched, 57 K's-25 BB, and six saves for the Pack.  Last year was a little bit shaky with an ERA north of 6 and a drop in strikeout rate, and increase in walks, hits, and home runs allowed.  

Still, DeJuneas is one of my favorite players on the team and I am looking forward to seeing him pitch this year.  I have a good feeling about this guy.....

Completely surprised to find this card, but very happy to add it to my collection.  I might have to do a little more digging into some of these Perfect Game sets for some more cool college players....

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Project Durham Bulls #8: Aubrey Huff

2000-2002 Durham Bulls 

Huff was a fairly polished college player when the Devil Rays drafted him in the fifth round of the 1998 MLB Draft out of Miami.  He played half a season in Single A and a full season in Double A before he landed with the Durham Bulls out of Spring Training in 2000.  Huff last 108 games in Triple A that summer posting a .316/.394/.566 slash line with 20 home runs, 36 doubles, and 76 RBIs.  The Rays called him up towards the end of the 2000 season for 40 games, but Huff was back in Durham for the 2001 season for 17 games before being recalled to Tampa.  In all, Aubrey Huff played 111 games in the Majors that year, but was less than impressive with an average below .250, an OBP below .300, and just 8 home runs.  Huff started out the 2002 season with the Bulls, but after 32 games went back up to Tampa.  Things turned out a little better the third time around and Huff stuck with the Rays.  He stayed with the Rays until 2006 when he was traded to the Astros for Ben Zobrist.  Aubrey Huff would go on to win two World Series rings with the Giants in 2010 and 2012.  

Way back in 2005 the store owner of 1,000,000 Baseball Cards in western St. Louis County convinced me to buy a box of Upper Deck Artifacts.  The base cards in the product were okay, the relic pieces were mediocre, but the autographs were worth the price of the box.  I landed a George Brett autograph out of my box and at some point traded the card away or sold.  Something.  Even though George is gone there are still a few of these cards hanging out in my collection.  While looking for a Huff card for this post I actually narrowed my choice down to the two autographed cards from this set.  Huff also has a plain autographed card with no jersey swatch.  Both were around $5, swatch was a little over and non-swatch a little under, so I went with the nicer of the two cards.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Venerable Old Card Part 42

It's been a tough weekend around the game of baseball with the loss of both Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former uber prospect Andy Marte.  I had originally planned to write about another card in this space this week, but switched over to another card after putting some thought into the matter.  I have seen Ventura pitch games on television, but he is a player that I have never actually seen in person.  He was a very talented pitcher who had a bright future in the game.

My best memory of Ventura comes from the 2014 World Series when he pitched the Royals into Game 7.  The game came on the heels of Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras being killed in a DUI car crash in the Dominican Republic, you can see the OT18 on his hat in the highlights from the game.

Great performance by Yordano.  I know he will be missed by many.  

I actually wanted to spend a little bit more time talking about Andy Marte though.  He was a player that I knew very well from my first summer living in North Carolina watching the Durham Bulls.  At that point the Minor League experience was a new scene to me after spending 20 some years living in St. Louis watching the Cardinals.  

I figured out the players on the Durham Bulls pretty quickly during that first summer in North Carolina.  There was a lot of talent on that roster including Delmon Young (the best prospect in the Minors at the time), Elijah Dukes, B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist, Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson, and James Shields.  I also had to figure out the scenery with other teams.  What players were must see attractions?

 One of the biggest stars was Indians prospect Andy Marte, who had previously been with the Braves Triple-A affiliate the year before.  Between 2003 and 2006 Marte appeared in the top 50 prospects according to Baseball America, with three of those years being inside the top 20.  There was a lot of pop in his bat and he was just 21 when he made it to Triple A.

While I spend a lot of time on here talking about my Durham Bulls cards, I also pick up cards of players on other teams that stand out.  Those players can be old, young, and everyone in between.  They just have to stand out in my mind....

Marte stood out and made a few appearances in my card collection.  The first Marte card I added to my collection after seeing him play during the summer of 2006 was a 2003 Topps Heritage Chrome card that I picked up at a card shop in Durham.....

Marte cards were a big deal back in those days.  I don't remember how much I paid for this card, but it was a lot more than the $1 or so that it sells for now on Ebay.  While Marte never really made it big in the Majors, as a Minor League baseball fan, I ran into him several times over my years watching baseball in Durham.  Most recently I saw him with the Indianapolis Indians (Pirates) back in 2011.  He was older, definitely not a prospect at that point, but it was good to see him again.

Over the last few years I have backed into a few really nice Marte cards in the cheapy bins at card shows or ones with no bids in the last few seconds on Ebay.  While the Topps Heritage Chrome will remain my favorite, I have found several others which would have been gems long ago that are now just cool cards to look at and reminisce.

Just to throw out a second card of Andy, this is my favorite of my card show finds....

This would have cost a pretty penny back in 2003.  Sad to have lost Andy Marte at a young age, glad I could share a few cards with all of you.  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

I'll Take A Second Beer

One of the hardest parts of the 2016 baseball season was the fact that the USA Baseball College team did not play any home games instead opting for a summer of touring Asia.  Their home stadium is about ten minutes from my house in Cary, North Carolina so they are always on my calendar at some point every summer.  They also usually tend to play a few games around other stadiums in North Carolina too, including the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Last summer the USA Baseball College team included one of the most impressive freshman in the country in the person of Clemson outfielder Seth Beer.  I am pretty sure that he is going to be a very high draft pick in the near future.  I had the chance to see him play at Duke last spring....

I also ended up with a Seth Beer autographed card.  

While the college team did not play a single home game last summer they still got some baseball cards in the Panini Elite Extra Edition product.  There are a few players from last year's team that I am hoping to find, but Seth Beer was a pretty big priority for me.  

I watched a few of his autographs on Ebay, but landed a really nice looking card off of a Facebook group page....

He has another autographed card in Elite, which just has an autograph, but I opted for this one with a jersey swatch.  I had a choice between the two cards.  Both are sticker autographs.  Overall, I just really happy to land another Seth Beer card.  Considering he was a freshman last year, I'd guess he leaves after his junior year, so we get three more chances to find some Beer cards.....

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Matheny I Actually Like....

The Cardinals are my Major League team of choice, but for the last few years they have frustrated me to no end at times.  More specifically, I cannot stand Mike Matheny.  I rarely voice this opinion in this space, but if you were to sit down and watch a Cardinals game with me, or follow me on social media my distain for the former Major League catcher would be a little bit more evident.  I could write a whole dissertation about specific reasons, but I am not going to get into that at the moment.  Here's one to think about....

Aledmys Diaz was one of the better rookies in baseball last year and one of the best offensive players on the Cardinals.  He spent a month batting eighth and played seven games batting ninth.

Which brings me to a Matheny I actually like.....

I was first introduced to Tate Matheny a few years ago while he was playing for the USA Baseball College team during the summer.  He's Mike's son and attended school at Missouri State where he was one of the better players in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Playing for USA Baseball means that he gets baseball cards.  Most of Matheny's cards are in the 2014 and 2015 products.  When these cards first came out they were a little pricey, but they have fallen back in price a little bit since Tate was drafted by the Red Sox.  Sounds a little bit backwards considering a lot of the USA Baseball College players end up being high end draft picks and pretty good prospects, however Matheny does not really fit into that category.

He was drafted in the 23rd round, but still actually appeared in the 2015 Bowman Chrome set.  The autograph is just as affordable as the USA Baseball signatures, so I picked one of those up too....

Cool airbrushing.  

Matheny is still just 22, but in a year and a half in the Minors is slashing .247/.295/.329 with 5 home runs, 4 triples, and 27 doubles.  Not likely to get promoted up the chain with those types of numbers. Still cool to pick up a pair of cards of a player I got to see play locally.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Project Durham Bulls #7: James Shields

James Shields 2005-2006 Durham Bulls 

Shields first arrvied in Durham at the end of the 2005 season, making one start for the Bulls, after spending the entire season with the Montgomery Biscuits in Double A.  He returned to Durham for the beginning of the 2006 season pitching in 10 games, all starts, for the Bulls before he was called up to the Rays at the end of May.  In his 10 games as a member of the Durham Bulls Shields went 3-2 with a 2.64 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 61 innings.  James Shields was never ranked by Baseball America, or any other sort of publication that follows the Minors, as a highly regarded prospect.  While in recent years baseball fans have seen him as sort of a dud after signing a large contract with the Padres in 2015, he was a really good pitcher for most of the first nine seasons of his career spent with the Rays (7 years) and Royals (2 games).  Most notably Shields pitched a lot of lot of innings and earned the nickname "Big Game James" for a few clutch wins along the way.  Looking at his Postseason record I never really understood where people got the idea for this nickname....

I have been sitting on this one for awhile, but it is good to finally get around to putting it into a post.  This summer I came up with the idea of doing some sort of Durham Bulls posts like this and picked up a few cards.  A few of them have lingered around, I will get around to all of them.  Mostly players from the early 2000s and 1990s.  Shields has a couple of Rays autographs, I even own a few, but I really like the Triple Threads cards.  Can't say no to these, well most of the time.  The Padres version of Shields is not going to be a good memory for most, but I like the brown pinstripe on this card's jersey swatch.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Venerable Old Card Part 41

The Cardinals had a rough year in 1990.  There were several players who had nice seasons.  Willie McGee won the National League batting title and Vince Coleman stole 77 bases to lead the National League for his sixth straight season in that category.  Ozzie Smith was still a force on defense.  Pedro Guerrero, many forget he ended his career with the Cardinals, had a decent season just not a lot of power left in his bat.

Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog quit his manager's post in the middle of the year, was briefly replaced by Red Schoendienst, who eventually gave way for a permanent manager in the person of Joe Torre.  The vets lost playing time in favor of young players like Ray Lankford, Geronimo Pena, Bernard Gilkey, Felix Jose, and Todd Zeile.

Lankford turned out to be the best of that group, but Zeile was actually a much more highly regarded prospect.  Hard to believe, but Zeile was actually ranked as a Top 10 prospect entering the 1990 season by Baseball America.

Kiki Jones?

The Cardinals actually had four players on the Top 100 with Zeile, Lankford (19), John Ericks (32), and Brian Jordan (98).  By the end of the year the team ended up with Felix Jose (54) who was in the Willie McGee trade with the A's.

Zeile was a big deal with Cardinals fans when he first came up at the end of the 1989 season and there were some pretty high hopes for him after he took over the starting catchers job in 1990.  The Cardinals even let Tony Pena walk to give him the starting catcher's job.

As a baseball card loving middle schooler there living in St. Louis Zeile cards were really popular.  There are a bunch of them, but his 1990 Topps cards had to be the most popular.  I pulled my first copy out of a pack of cards from the Webster Groves Ben Franklin.....

Love the Future Stars label at the bottom of the card.  This card was not as cool as a Ken Griffey Jr. card, but was probably easily the most popular current Cardinals card at this point in time.  For a team that was really lacking star power, Zeile offered hope.  Plus, as a card collector, it's always nice when one of those really good players is on your team.  Makes opening the packs of cards a little bit more fun.  

This is my actual original Zeile card which had one glaring problem, which is why I know this is the original card.....

The faded back was a crusher at the time I pulled this card.  Sure, the back is a little off center too, but the faded ink always really pissed me off.  Luckily the angry feeling did not last too long.  That and the card is worth about $0.02.  I am pretty sure that there are five of these in my card closet.  

Ultimately Zeile became sort of a scapegoat for Cardinals fans in the mid 1990s.  He never hit for the power that was promised, he was moved from catcher to third to first, and had some pretty rough years.  Eventually he was traded to the Cubs in the middle of 1995 and then wandered the league for the better part of a decade playing for the Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Marlins, Rangers, Mets, Rockies, Yankees, and Expos.  

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Is That You Junior?

We are a few weeks out now from Spring Training.  Last summer I did a little bit of work on collecting Cardinals prospect Alex Reyes, however he has no graduated to the Majors and will be in the starting rotation in St. Louis this summer.  That means that I need to find a new Cardinals prospect to follow around this year.  There are some good options for Cardinals fans in the lower Minors, so after a little research, and card searching I am going to pick Junior.....

Actually, Junior Fernandez, but every time I hear his name I think about Sean Connery saying something like "Is that you Junior?".  Maybe it's just me.  The Cardinals pitching prospect was in Bowman Chrome, Leaf, and Dornuss Elite.   I went ahead and picked up the Bowman Chrome card recently....

Fernandez pitched for the Cardinals at their High A and Low A affiliates, and at just 19 years old, is a little ways off from being in St. Louis.  He universally appears in Cardinals top prospects lists, but his placement on the list greatly varies.  Junior throws almost 100, but needs a lot of polish.  We will see if he can put it together.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Rehash, Rehash Again

I was out and about a few days back completing some errands at the local Wally World when I ran across one of those boxes of Topps Archives 65th Anniversary Set.  I believe they are only sold at Wal-Mart and each box has an autograph and a buyback card.  I have seen a few different collectors say some nice things about the boxes, so I figured I would take a chance.

If nothing else, I like the Archives autographs.  The base cards and remakes of Archives cards are a little bit stale.  Maybe more than a little stale.

The base cards in this version of Archives all have the original fronts on the cards.....

and for some reason the backs of the cards are all based on the design of the 1975 Topps card backs.  I have no idea why 1975 was picked....

Perhaps to distinguish this version of Archives from all the other versions of Archives that have been put out over the last few years, or maybe something other reason I am not think of at the moment.  Just a little lost on the choice.

My buyback out of the box is related to the Durham Bulls, which is cool in some ways, but....

didn't the Bull Durham cards come out of this year's Archives set?  The answer is yes, meaning that my buyback is just merely a few months old.  Not sure if this is much of a buyback.  Hey, Durham Bulls, right?  

Last card is my autograph which is, as you can see, former Expos second baseman Jose Vidro.  I am not sure how picky you can be about an autograph out of a $20 box of cards from Wal-Mart.  Always nice to see Expos cards, so I am going to consider this card a winner.  Plus, Jose was a pretty nice player back in the day.  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Minor Coinage

I have done a few posts about coin cards in the past.  Topps has placed them in all sorts of different products over the years.  This year was no different and I managed to pull one out of a pack of cards.  The only problem is that the card kind of sat on a shelf in my card closet for the last month or two.  Maybe three.  The best part of the card is that it actually came out of a Minor League product, always a big fan of those.....

Not sure if Topps has ever put coin cards into a Minor League product before, but I was happy to land this out of a box of Topps Heritage Minors.  Also nice to land a player like Benintendi.  I have a few base cards of the top Red Sox prospect, but nothing as cool as this card.  Of course, if you are going to check out a coin card you have to look at the back....always one of the coolest parts of these...

The back view of the coin in the card is always awesome.  I like the connection between the card year and coin year, but I am not quite sure why the highlight on the back of a Red Sox card is about a game between the Cardinals and Reds.  I get that it's his birthday, but the Red Sox made the World Series that year.   I am sure that they had a few highlights that year, say their left fielder winning the Triple Crown...something.

Overall, a really cool card and a welcome addition to the collection.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

OT- Reynolds Coliseum

A little bit of a non-baseball, non-baseball card post for today, but if you read down far enough there is a brief mention of some MLB types like Trea Turner, Carlos Rodon, and Mike Caldwell.  If you are a regular reader of this space you no doubt know that I am a graduate of NC State and reside in the Raleigh-Durham metro area.  College sports are king here and there is a tremendous opportunity as a sports fan to see some great athletes, in many sports, before they reach the pros.

Beyond seeing athletes there are also some really cool stadiums and arenas in the area.  Everyone knows Cameron Indoor, but other places like Wallace Wade Stadium (Duke Football) and Carmichael Arena (UNC Basketball) also have historical significance in college sports.  As an NC State grad/fan the Wolfpack faithful has Reynolds Coliseum.

The arena was built in the late 1940s and has been home to many great Wolfpack basketball teams, but also has some significance in terms of NCAA Postseason play.  It was the original home to the ACC Basketball Tournament, as well as the Dixie Classic, which was an important basketball event back in the 1950s.

Here is the marker outside of the arena which has a little brief synopsis of the building's signficance beyond what I have stated above....

The NC State Men's Basketball team moved out of Reynolds long ago, but the old building still hosted one Men's game every year along with being the regular home to the NC State's Women's Basketball team and a few other Olympic sports programs at State such as Volleyball, Wrestling, and Gymnastics.  I was actually able to attend one the last Men's games at Reynolds two years ago before the school decided that the building was dated and needed a major overhaul....

The original configuration of the arena was actually very similar to Duke's Cameron Stadium, same architect, but it was a larger arena with deeper end zones.  It was also a very tough place to play due to the fact that the seats in the arena are rather vertical.  If you sit in the last row of the arena, you still aren't far from the court, and those in the lower seats are basically above the court.  Note the seats on the far side are elevated and close to the scorer's table.  

Former Duke player and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas described playing at Reynolds:

"To me, the toughest places to play had more to do with the quality of the opposing team than anything else, but Reynolds Coliseum at NC State was the toughest place I played while in college. Reynolds was configured much the same way as Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the end zones were much deeper and the sides were right on top of you. Reynolds was loud, edgy and intense. The Wolfpack under Jim Valvano were a tough out and the games were always fistfights, but the thing I remember most is coming back to a huddle and seeing lips move, but not being able to hear what was said. It was so hot and loud that your head would spin. Of course, having to guard guys like Thurl Bailey, Lorenzo Charles, Cozell McQueen and Chris Washburn probably had something to do with my head spinning." 

Recently I had the chance to visit Reynolds again to see the remodeled version of the historic building.  I was really excited to see the changes that were made to the building.  Besides remodeling the seating area, State also added a Hall of Fame component to the building which is very nice.  Let's look at the Hall of Fame first.  When you walk into the building.....

this is the main hall.  Previously there was a wall right here and the seating bowl inside of the arena book up most of this space.  The sides of this space have offices for the basketball and volleyball teams as well as all sorts of cool displays about some of the successful teams in the school's history, as well as some memorabilia from some of the name players.  

The majority of this space is used to recognize basketball teams and players with the two biggest items in this space being the National Championship trophies from the 1974 and 1983 Men's Basketball teams.  

The 1974 trophy is on the left and the 1983 trophy is on the right.  Back to the picture above for one second...The quotes on the wall at the end of the hallway are from Jim Valvano - "Never give up..." - and the one on the right side of the picture is from The Jungle Book -The strength of the wolf is the pack -

Look back the opposite direction this is the view looking towards the front doors of Reynolds....

The giants GO PACK! sign can be seen from inside the seat bowl as well as the original Reynolds Noise Meter which is hanging on the ceiling to the left of the G.  Up close.....

If you look at the top picture of the arena in it's original state, the noise meter was at the end of the scorer's table.  It was a fixture of games when Reynolds first open, apparently went away for a time, and then came back refurbished recently.

The NC State Hall of Fame also extends down the sides of the concourses leading to the seating areas.  Each of the sports has a display case on the inside the hallway....

Beyond the basketball stuff, I had to stop by the football case to check out the Torry Holt display.  I don't do a ton of football stuff on here, but I do like Torry.  The Greatest Show on Turf teams were fun to watch and showed that St. Louis can support football, even if the NFL keeps moving teams out of the city.  Tory Holt and his brother Torrence actually helped with the remodel of this building.  They do construction work.  

Also stopped by to see the baseball case.  There are some cool ACC Championship Trophies and they do a good job of recognizing a few of the great players at State like Carlos Rodon, Mike Caldwell, etc.   The Hall of Fame in section in Reynolds just opened, and I probably have a more critically eye for the baseball area, but I thought they could have a little bit more about guys like Trea Turner and Dan Plesac.  Again, just opened and I am sure that the school will continue to work on the displays.

There is also a cool display of All-American performers at the school.....

on red and grey tiles on the outside wall of the concourse.  It's not organized by sport, nor by year, but I kind of like that they mixed up the well known athletes from the school along with those who may not be household names.  As I looked at these I went and found three big names: David Thompson, Trea Turner, and Torry Holt.  I learned about all kinds of track athletes, volleyball players, gymnasts, and wrestler who starred in their craft along the way.  

and what about the actual basketball arena inside of the historic building?  It's incredible.  

This is the view of the court from the end zone.  I actually went to two different NC State games at Reynolds.  If you compare this picture with the pre-renovation building at the top of the page, the area you are looking at is the left hand side of the court.  The game in this picture is against Notre Dame.  State won the game, which was a huge upset......

I went last week too and saw the Pack take on Miami.  They did not do as well against the Canes, but it was still fun to see another game in one of the great historic basketball arenas.  This is the view of the court from the side....

This gives you a little better idea of how much the inside of the arena has changed.  It was truly a fun experience that I will repeat again in the near future and I would encourage all of my basketball loving readers to check out this building if you ever happen to be in Raleigh.  Since the Hall of Fame is in the building, the arena is actually open during the day for visitors.  Not sure they will let you take a few shots...  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Project Durham Bulls #6: Blake Snell

Blake Snell 2015-2016 Durham Bulls 

Snell first arrived in Durham during the middle of the 2015 season after a dominating first half of the season in Double A and High A.  In Durham Snell made 9 starts for the Bulls going 6-2 with 57 strikeouts in 44 innings and an ERA of 1.83.  For the season, Snell went 15-4 with a 1.41 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 134 innings.  Snell started out the 2016 season with the Durham Bulls.  I actually got to see his first start of the season on opening night.....

Snell pitched well in Durham last year.  He made a few starts with the Bulls before he was called up by the Rays to make a spot start against the Yankees in April.  Snell was then returned to Durham where he stayed until the middle of June when the Rays called him up for good.  In 19 starts with the Rays last year Snell went 6-8 with a 3.54 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 89 innings.  I'm bullish on Snell's future....

for good reason.  I know a lot of other baseball fans are also high on the Rays hurler.  Snell misses a lot of bats and has several great pitches in his arsenal.  It would be nice if Tampa could get some traction going and build a team around some of the young pitchers on their staff like Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Snell.  

This is my first Project Durham Bulls post where the baseball card has actually featured the player in a Durham Bulls uniform.  It's a hard task, but I am going to try to find as many of the former/current Durham Bulls as possible actually wearing a Bulls uniform.  That generally leaves me with the Pro Debut and Heritage Minor League sets for current products, although some of the sets from the early 2000s and 1990s make it a little easier.  I dig almost everything about this Pro Debut card from last year's set.  It's a great looking action shot of Snell pitching in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  The Snell autograph is a sticker autograph, but I am more than willing to get past it in this case.  

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Venerable Old Card Part 40

I had a great week off last week hanging out with the wife and kids.  I got a lot done around my house and got to do some cool things with the fam.  I am back to baseball cards this week, but I am going to stick with the whole Hall of Fame thing again today.  I know my last post was about the players on this year's Hall of Fame ballot that I would vote for, assuming I actually got to vote for the Hall.  I don't.  

Today is going to be more of a rant though, but it will feature a cool old baseball card from the 1980s.  While I was hanging out, not writing, I ran into this ESPN article about who the next Hall of Famer on each team will be, and when they will get into the Hall.  Some of the picks were slam dunks and easy to choose.  For example, picking Jeff Bagwell as the next Hall of Famer for the Astros is an easy assumption to make, or Mariano Rivera being the next Yankees player is also an easy choice.  Other players on the list kind of annoy me.  

More or less, I never understood why articles, and baseball fans who speculate on future Hall of Fame players, always throw in players who have two or three years worth of experience and are south of 25 years old.  I love Giancarlo Stanton, fun player to watch, but at 26 and 200 home runs speculating on the Hall of Fame is a bit of stretch.  Same with Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, Robbie Ray, Mauricio Dubon, and Yordano Ventura.  

and it's a two way street too.  I also saw a Cardinals blog declaring that Stephen Piscotty will not reach the Hall of Fame.  

I am not going to say that we won't look back in twenty years at articles like these two and see that everything that was written has come true.  All of the players on that list are very talented and could very well put up the type of numbers over time that land players in Cooperstown.  However, there have been a lot of players who have been speculative Hall of Famers at a young age and never made it.  Putting up Hall Worthy numbers for one season is tough, let alone producing at a high level for a decade or more.  

Let's flashback to when I was in late elementary school.  One of the coolest collection of sets were put out in 1987.  Tons of great players had rookie cards in those sets: Greg Maddux, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Raffy Palmeiro, Will Clark.  Great names.   

One of my favorite players from the 1987 sets was Wally Joyner.  I traded for a ton of his cards back in the late 1980s.  I was mainly a Topps guy at that point, dabbled with Donruss and Fleer, but I found what I did not pull out of packs with other kids at school and around the neighborhood.  

What wasn't to like?  

The Angels first baseman lost out on the 1986 Rookie of the Year to A's outfielder Jose Canseco, but actually had better numbers.  Canseco hit .240/.318/.457 and Joyner hit .290/.348/.457, sure Canseco had more home runs and RBIs, but Wally had a higher OPS and WAR.  In fact, during his first two seasons Joyner put up seasons with 22 and 34 home runs, 100 and 117 RBIS, his OPS was .805 and .894, and OPS+ was 119 and 137.  

Being all in on Wally cards, this 1987 Topps League Leaders card was my favorite....

I blew up the card in the scanner, but it is actually a mini card.  Kind of wish Topps had used this design the other year when the stuck the 1987 designed cards in their base set as minis.  I know the production run on 1987 baseball card was astronomical, but this card felt special because not many people seemed to have the little Topps cards.  I would later come to find out that it was more likely that my little corner of St Louis County did not have many, or at least the kids in my little corner of the world did not.  

I am not even going to post the exact numbers, but after 1987 Wally was not quite the same.  Not to say he was a bad player, in fact he did a great job of getting on-base with several seasons over .370, but his power slipped and was in stark contrast to his other first base peers in the live ball/steroid era.  I still enjoyed seeing Wally Joyner cards pop up during his time with the Royals, Padres, Braves, and oft forgotten return to the Angels.  

Beyond the cool mini card above, I have a few other favorite Joyner cards.  My two favorite being his Upper Deck Demo card, which I think I have already shared in a previous post, so I will share one more favorite from late in Wally's career:  

I believe I found this card at a show sometime in the last year or two for a few dollars.  I know that Wally also has a few reprint type cards in some of the Archives products, but I honestly like having the Padres card.  While enjoying Wally Joyner, I did it mostly from afar.  Angels games were on late, and rarely in St. Louis, the Royals were terrible and never on television.  I checked box scores, watched SportsCenter, etc to keep up with him from time to time.  However, the Padres years of Joyner's career were my chance to see him in person.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

If I Had A Hall of Fame Ballot I'd Vote with Baseball Cards

I have done this type of post a few times in the past, trying it again this year.  The Hall of Fame ballots are out and everyone on Twitter, Facebook, or baseball fans elsewhere has some sort of opinion about who belongs in Cooperstown.  I like a good argument as long as it doesn't go too far.

The Hall of Fame voters are allowed to vote for up to 10 players on the ballot, which has become sort of a problem recently with the backlog of steroid users.  So, while normal Hall of Fame voters are restricted to ten, I am going past that number since I am not an actual voter.  A few other things here before he begin.

If I did have a Hall of Fame vote....

  • I would not be the moral police.  
  • It still takes talent to hit or throw a baseball even if you are taking steroids
  • There are not many relief pitchers that I value.  In case you were wondering, since I am not going to bring it up down below: Wagner > Hoffman.  

Here are my 10 (+2) in no particular order.  I'd be happy to see any of these players in the Hall of Fame, but only a few will actually make it.  

Tim Raines - Raines has more than 2,600 hits, 800 stolen bases, and an on base percentage of .385.  There is not a lot of hardware in the trophy case, but he did spend the end of his career with the Yankees and won a World Series ring in 1996.  The Expos had some good players at different points during his time in Montreal, but I wonder if Raines would have stuck around on the ballot this long if he had played somewhere else during the first half of his career. He led the National League in stolen base in his first four seasons, probably would have run the streak to seven or eight if it weren't for Vince Coleman, and scored more than 90 runs 6 of his first 7 full seasons.  Slam dunk this year.  

Manny Ramirez - Ignore all of the behaviors that people took exception to, and the steroid stuff, Manny could hit.  I first saw Manny at an Interleague Game the Cardinals played against the Indians in 1997.  The Tribe were loaded, but Manny Ramirez was really impressive.  I dabbled in his cards over the years and always enjoyed watching him play.  Maybe not the 2004 World Series, but the rest of the time was good.  He ended his career with more than 550 home runs, 1,800 RBIs, and a .312/.411/.585 slash line.  Again, ignore the drama, just look at the numbers.  The guy should be a no doubter.  I think there is little chance he gets in this year.  

Jeff Bagwell - There was no hitter in the NL Central I feared the Cardinals playing more than Jeff Bagwell.  The guy could hit, and if he did not play in the steroid era, would have been in the Hall long ago.  He's not in the Hall for all the same stupid reasons that Piazza sat around for a few years.  Bagwell ended his career with more than 400 home runs, 400 doubles, and 1,500 RBIs.  His overall slash line was .297/.408/.540 with an OPS+ of 149.  He took home the 1994 NL MVP.  I have seen a few people complain about the length of his career, 15 years, but he was really good throughout those years.  I have high hopes he gets in this year.  

Roger Clemens - I am not even going into numbers here.  I don't care about steroids, put him in the Hall.  I had my doubts about Clemens ever making it into the Hall, but I am starting to think that there is hope.  I am going to say he does not make it this year, but is in within the next year or two.  

Bonds - Just reread the Clemens paragraph, but substitute in Bonds where it says Clemens.  

Curt Schilling - Schilling seems like one of the really heated deabtes around the Hall candidates at the moment.  I don't do politics on this space, but again I am not a moral police kind of a person. When I look at Schilling's career the biggest problem is that there are a lot of lost years.  He had a few good years in chunks, missed time and games with injuries, and then would bounce back and have a few more good years.  216 wins is not very many, but if you are going to argue counting numbers, he did cross 3000 strikeouts.  Schilling also had four really good postseasons with the Phillies in 1993, DBacks in 2001, and Red Sox in 2004 and 2007.  I'd put him in, but I also know there are people who are down on him for baseball reasons and non-baseball reasons.  His vote totals are shrinking, no chance for awhile.  

Larry Walker - I have heard people talk about Walker as a Coors Field hitter, but that's a pretty weak argument.  Before he ended up on the Rockies, Walker was a really good player on the Expos.  In his 6 years in Montreal Walker had an OPS+ of 128 and was a true five star talent.  Walker hit for power, was an elite fielder and won Gold Gloves, and also had speed and stole bases.  By the time his career had ended Walker won three batting titles and ended with a .313/.400/.565 slash line.  I saw Walker several times throughout his career in person, but I watched his final two years with the Cardinals closely.  He was old, and his neck didn't allow him to hit for power anymore, but in two seasons in St Louis he had a 134 OPS+ and almost put up a 3 WAR season in 2005.  Busch Stadium is not a nice place for hitters, so that tells you a lot about the "Coors Field Hitter" argument.  Walker gets into the Hall at some point, but its at least a few years away.  

Mike Mussina - I am not always a huge costing numbers person, but lets start out with 270 wins and almost 3,000 strikeouts in 18 years all pitching in the American League East which was a tough division throughout Messina's career.  Also remember that 10 of those seasons were played in Camden Yards, which is a pretty stadium, but also a band box.  Similar to Raines, Mussina does not have a lot of hardware, but unlike Raines, Mussina did not get a World Series ring out of his time with the Yankees.  Here's where I put Mussina into the Hall: If you follow the WAR7 stat with Jay Jaffe, Mussina is a little short for peak years compared to pitchers like Schilling, but he's still ahead of a few of the 1990s Braves who are in the Hall like Glavine and Smoltz.  His overall career WAR is actually higher than Nolan Ryan, as well as his ERA+.  Mussina makes it at some point, wait a few more years.  

Sammy Sosa - Sammy never failed a drug test.  Sammy has 600 home runs.  Sammy hit more than 60 home runs 3 times.  Sammy belongs in the Hall, put him in.  Sammy gets in after Bonds and Clemens, but that's not far away.  

Edgar Martinez - I know a lot of people who feel the same way about DHs as I do about relief pitchers.  First, let me start by saying that I don't care about being just past 2,000 hits when the player has a career .418 on-base percentage.  That's one argument I have read multiple times about Edgar.  Walks, hits, whatever.  When Edgar did swing the bat though good stuff happened.  His career slash line was .312/.418/.515 with more than 300 home runs and 500 doubles.  The JAWS rankings on Gar are a little bit off since Jaffe lists him as a third baseman, but the last time he played more than 50 games there in a season was 1994.  No comparable really, just a good hitter with some great stats.  

Vladimir Guerrero - Not a really long career, but Vlad was good almost the entire time.  He was an incredible player in Montreal, but I am not sure that very many people saw him while he was playing there.  I first saw him during the summer of 1997 and was really impressed by his defense at the time, but he was also a great hitter.  I think it's the 50 Cent gif where he swings at the bad first pitch and gets a double, but there is this really bad vibe that he swung at everything and was not on base often.  Not true.  Vlad's career OBP is .379 with a .553 SLG and more than 450 home runs and doubles.  Loads of Silver Sluggers and All-Star Appearances, as well as the 2004 American League MVP Award help make up for the fact that he did not get any postseason hardware.  Not a difficult argument here, Vlad is in not in this year, but will be very soon.  

Ivan Rodriguez - As a Cardinals fan I really enjoy watching Yadier Molina.  I did not get to see Pudge very often, but he had that same sort of defensive dynamic to the game.  Teams did not run on him, he called a good game, and he also did a good job handling the bat.  Not always true of Yadier, but Rodriguez has about seven or eight years with a .300+ batting average, pretty good on-base numbers, and good extra base hit totals.  For his career he ended with a .296/.334/.464 slash line, more than 300 home runs, and almost 600 doubles.  He's the all-time dWAR leader for catchers and should be a no brainer for the Hall.  There are some steroid rumblings here, he still should get in soon.