Saturday, October 31, 2009

Getting closer

I have no time for Halloween this year. I have a sick kid. I have a super, mega-intense night of work ahead of me, and World Series Game 3 is approaching. Can't we postpone Halloween a few days?

Somehow, I do have time to post. And just as oddly, it's a trade post. I've been falling behind again on these.

To illustrate, the cards that I'm showing arrived more than a week ago. They're from Dan of It's Like Having My Own Card Shop and Duane of Democratic Roadkill. Both arrived at my door on the same day, and it was quite a day because both of them knocked down some set needs.

In fact, they hit four of my set wants in all, and I'm very close to completing all of those sets now. So that was a very big day. Whatever day that was. Wednesday, I think. Maybe Thursday. Anyway, it was big.

First the cards from Dan. He noticed I was still foolish enough to want '08 Stadium Club cards and sent me some. I now need just 14 more of the diabolical divisible-by-three cards and then those full-price blasters that I continue to see will never enrage me again.

Here are the cards. No words:

Some cropping and aligning issues with those cards.
Dan also made sure to hit my 1993 Upper Deck set needs. I now need only 11 more cards! I better splurge on a binder, huh?

I am pretty certain that Magadan is airbrushed into his Marlins jersey and helmet. It is odd to see that on an Upper Deck card. That's pretty much a Topps thing.

Mike Scioscia as a Padre. I completely blocked that out.

Mets. Or, soon-to-be Dodgers, for the guys on each end. Poor Ho-Jo never got to know the pleasure of wearing Dodger blue.

Albert Belle is a bad man. I think that's what this painting is trying to say.

The Hawk is more my style.

And how about this? Dan sent a new Cracker Jack mini card of Zach Wheat after a blogged about how I dropped the previous one he sent down the air-return vent. Yay! Thanks, Dan!

The rest of the cards are from set-collector extraordinaire, Duane. I sent him a bunch of A&G minis that I don't really collect, and he found some key A&G stuff for me.

The two 2008 World's Greatest Victories cards that you see here complete the Greatest Victories subset for me. Yahoo! I am officially, OFFICIALLY done with '08 A&G. Well, except for one thing, as you'll see.

Duane found two of the three remaining Dodgers minis that I needed. He didn't find the third. So I am still lacking Rafael Furcal, which would then officially, officially, OFFICIALLY complete my '08 A&G wants.

He also sent a Jason Schmidt no-numbered mini, which is what kicked off the trade for me in the first place. I don't know why. It's just a missing number. Why do I care?

And he threw in three A&G back mini Dodgers.

But then the surprise. Duane sent a whole stack of 1988 Score wants. Wow! I now need just 36 cards to finish off the set.

I am showing Armas first because I have noticed that '88 Score cared about making sure the entire bat got in the photo frame more than any other set. They refused to crop part of the bat out of the photo. One of these days I'm going to show all of those cards. It is so weird of '88 Score to do that.

A key 1988 Score of rookie Tom Glavine. I like this card better than his other 1988 cards.

Remember the Raines card I showed earlier? Remember how tall he looked? Now look at him. He looks like Eric Davis' puppet.

I have owned Steve Garvey's first card for a long time. But it took me over 20 years to get his last card. Finally.

Two guys who were of better use to the Dodgers in 1988.

The first of the cards in the Reggie Tribute Score series. Not nearly as nice as Reggie in an Orioles uniform. That might be the card of the year.

The future Cardinals hitting coach. Look at McGwire in the photo. Do you think McGwire ever heard these words: "Mark, you don't have to kill it."

Lastly, a card of Ripken, just because.

Thanks, Duane for all the cards.

Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 30, 2009

My '87s and me

I've mentioned before that I don't care for the 1987 Topps set that much. I seem to be in the minority because a lot of folks kicked off their hobby careers with this set, so it naturally means a great deal to them.

But the 1987 Topps set, for me, is the only '80s Topps flagship set that does not have its own binder. It's also one of only three '80s Topps sets that I have not completed (the '81 set is about 10 cards short. The '82 set has some work to do, but I'm far enough into it that I may complete it one day). It just doesn't interest me enough to make the effort. The look of the set is just meh. I know the Captain is with me on this.

But the other reason is I was at a weird time in my life with baseball in 1987. Collecting was only a sporadic thing. I was in college and it just wasn't something to do. College is all about -- well, you know what college is all about. I was doing that.

Also, my baseball world was turning upside down. The Dodgers sucked in 1987. After finishing fifth in 1986, they placed fourth in '87. I actually was starting to lose interest (good thing 1988 came along). And all of a sudden teams like the Twins and the Blue Jays were good. What?

I did collect some. I would stop by the drug store on my way back from class and on my way to my grandmother's and grab a rack pack or two. I collected maybe between 200 and 300 cards from the set. And that's the way it has stayed since then.

Sometimes I'll pull them out and remember where I was with baseball during that time:

I was just getting over a devastating World Series. Maybe that was the reason why I just couldn't buy that many cards the following spring.

The Indians were advertised as the next great up-and-coming team. That seemed bizarre. The Twins? The Blue Jays? OK, I could get my head around that eventually. But the Indians? That was just too weird to actually happen.

I noticed that some of the cards had an interesting back story ...

... as in no back story.

Of course, the Twins did end up winning the World Series, spawning the ideas that world titles could be won in a Dome, and homer hankies were cool to wave in the air, as long as you hadn't blown your nose in them.

Later, in 2004, Topps Fan Favorites put out a new version of the Gary Gaetti card with its '87 design. Just in case you didn't like the original.

And then the following year, Topps Fan Favorites put out another version of the Gary Gaetti card. Just in case you didn't like the 2004 version.

And, yes, I really did scan the Greg Gagne card by accident because everyone always got Greg Gagne and Gary Gaetti confused. Unless you were a die-hard Twinkie fan.

The '87 set displayed the end of an era, with Topps' final flagship card of Reggie Jackson. Sad.

Meanwhile, two youngsters had come along that would eventually change baseball forever. And not for the good. The steroid era had begun. Yes, it was a strange, new time in '87.

But the real reason for me displaying all these '87 cards is because this weekend is the 22nd anniversary of when my wife and I began dating.

I wrote about it once before. We started dating in St. Louis on a college class road trip. I took a tour of old Busch Stadium. It was a week or two after the Cardinals lost to the Twins in the World Series. The stadium was desolate, after being packed and so loud not long before. I bought a Cardinals World Series sweatshirt because I rooted for the Cardinals in that series.

So, that's mostly what I think of when I see Cardinals cards from the '87 set, that wonderful trip to St. Louis. It was definitely a year of change in '87, for baseball and for me. And I wouldn't mind collecting all the '87 Cardinals cards to remember all that.
Of course, I already have the one that counts the most. Did you know they wore pink uniforms in 1987? Me neither.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Awesome night card, pt. 57

Last year I went through all of the World Series champions of the last 20 seasons and listed the players that were traded away in the year prior to that team winning the World Series.

I always felt sympathy for those players. They were on a team bound for a World Series championship but never joined the celebration because they were deemed disposable at some point along the championship run.

For the most part, these players are fringe guys -- backups, relief pitchers. But there are some prominent examples: Pedro Guerrero traded by the 1988 Dodgers; Nomar Garciaparra, traded by the 2004 Red Sox; and Carlos Lee, traded by the 2005 White Sox.

I'll list those unfortunate souls from 1988 to 2008 again. (If you want a little more -- but not much more -- detail, it's on this post):

1988 Dodgers: Pedro Guerrero
1989 A's: Greg Cadaret, Eric Plunk, Luis Polonia
1990 Reds: John Franco, Ron Robinson
1991 Twins: none
1992 Blue Jays: Jeff Kent, Rob Ducey, Greg Myers
1993 Blue Jays: Kelly Gruber, Darrin Jackson
1995 Braves: Tony Tarasco, Roberto Kelly
1996 Yankees: Sterling Hitckcock, Bob Wickman, Gerald Williams, Ruben Sierra
1997 Marlins: Dustin Hermanson, Joe Orsulak
1998 Yankees: Kenny Rogers
1999 Yankees: David Wells, Graeme Lloyd
2000 Yankees: Chad Curtis, Jim Leyritz, Hideki Irabu
2001 Diamondbacks: none
2002 Angels: Jorge Fabregas
2003 Marlins: Charles Johnson, Preston Wilson
2004 Red Sox: Brandon Lyon, Casey Fossum, Nomar Garciaparra
2005 White Sox: Carlos Lee
2006 Cardinals: Hector Luna
2007 Red Sox: David Murphy, Kason Gabbard
008 Phillies: Michael Bourn

So, it's time to see which player(s) will be added to the list after this year's World Series is through.

This year is like most years: there are no real notable players. The Phillies are the defending champions, so it's natural that they didn't make many trades. The Yankees are the Yankees. They spend money, they don't trade. So the pickings are slim.

Also, I discount players who were released or waived or sent down. Although this is a blanket statement and maybe not fair, players often have had a hand in their demise if they were released/waived/optioned. Case in point: Adam Eaton.

Now, if the Phillies repeat as "World Champions," which player will be added to the list? It will be backup catcher Ronny Paulino, who didn't even play a regular-season game for the Phillies. He was acquired from the Pirates in December and traded to the Giants in March. So, I don't think Paulino will be that heartbroken if the Phillies win.

If the Yankees win, I'm sure you've figured it out already. The player is the subject of the night card at the top, Wilson Betemit, the former Dodger. After a year-and-half with the Yankees, Betemit was dealt last offseason in the Nick Swisher trade.

At least Betemit has been to the postseason before. He tore up the Mets for 4 hits in 8 at-bats with the Dodgers in 2006 and is 5-for-10 overall.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My least favorite Yankees

I am almost certain that the Yankees are going to win the World Series. I've been certain for quite awhile. During this postseason, I have always rooted for the other team, and felt real disgust when they didn't succeed, or -- like the Angels -- make dumb mistake after dumb mistake. But I always knew that the Yankees would prevail.

I'm not the greatest evaluator of talent, but I can see what the Yankees have and how they are playing. I don't think the Phillies have a real shot of winning the Series. It could go six games. But I don't see a seven-game series or a Phillies win. Don't get me wrong, I would LOVE a Phillies win and I would love to be wrong, but my gut says it ain't gonna happen.

Given that, what I'm saying here shouldn't annoy any Yankees fans, too much. Your team is going to win the World Series, so who cares about what some blogger thinks?

It's well-established that I do not like the Yankees. I come from a family of Yankee haters. There are no Yankee rooters in my immediate family or my extended family. I have hated the Yankees all my life. I have also had a couple Yankees fans say to me, "How sad for you that you have so much dislike for a team." Don't be sad for me. Part of life is knowing who the bad guy is and why. I KNOW, and I know why.

So, when Cards on Cards just posted his list of his top 10 favorite Yankees, my immediate reaction was: WHAT? WHY?????? I could never do that. (For a look at my one and only favorite Yankee, click here). But I could make a list of my top 10 least-favorite Yankees. Easily.

So that's what I did. Thanks for the idea, madding. It was fairly easy to find 10. But I had to leave a bunch off the list. Suffice it to say -- Joba Chamberlain, Gary Sheffield, Chuck Knoblauch, Reggie Jackson, Jeff Nelson, Randy Johnson, Jim Leyritz -- that just because you're not on the top 10 doesn't mean you haven't had a curse word or two thrown at you.

OK, ready to see where all my negative energy goes? Here's a hint. Two of the three guys on that dorky card up top are on the list. And I'm listing them from the guy I like the least the least to the guy I like the least the most:

10. Wade Boggs: Boggs was the pride of the Red Sox during the '80s, and my family members who were Red Sox fans enjoyed his success and his stories of chicken-eating. But then there was the whole Margo Adams cheating thing, and he just seemed to get weird. That was followed by the biggest shocker of all, signing with the Yankees as a free agent. I know players look at it as a "team is a team is a team," but fans know better. You just don't sign with the Yankees directly from the Red Sox. It's like writing a "kick me" sign and slapping it onto your own back. You're asking for trouble.

9. Dave Winfield: It really is true that you mellow out as you grow older. Winfield would have been a lot higher on this list 25 years ago. But since the time that he signed for what was then an obnoxious amount of cash to play for an obnoxious franchise, a few things happened that we didn't see coming. Winfield never won a World Series for the Yankees. He played for a number of teams after the Yankees. And he never seemed all that obnoxious. So Dave is on here based on the outrage we felt on Dec. 15, 1980.

8. Jorge Posada: For a Yankee hater, it is hard to put into words why Posada is annoying. Yankees fans look at the guy and see a harmless, quiet guy. But I see more. And I know other fans -- especially Red Sox fans -- see more. He appears to be a perpetual whiner. In a very quiet, underhanded way. It's almost imperceptible, like his elbowing of the Blue Jays' Jesse Carlson that sparked a brawl this past season. But Pedro Martinez is on to him. I am looking forward to Martinez facing Posada in the Series -- that is if Posada plays in Game 2.

7. Thurman Munson: I was a child when I saw Munson play, but he was easy to dislike. He was so cranky and ornery. And while he was probably just being overly aggressive, he always seemed like he was trying to kill the opponent during base-running plays. I can't prove it, but I'm thinking he paid off home plate umpire Nestor Chylak to call out Steve Garvey in Game 1 of the 1977 World Series. Munson knew Garvey was safe.

6. Paul O'Neill: The baby. I don't like babies who are grown-ups. If you strike out, don't redecorate the dugout. Sit your ass down. Throwing a fit doesn't show that you care, it shows that you're still 15 years old. Also:


I think everyone forgets that. Sometimes I think even O'Neill forgets that. Eight years he played for the Reds.

5. Bucky Dent: See that All-Star insignia on Dent's card? It was an injustice that Dent was voted the starter to the All-Star Game in 1980 (in Dodger Stadium of all places). Some 1980 figures for AL shortstops for you:

Bucky Dent: 5 HR, 52 RBI, .262 AVG, .327 OBP, .354 SLG, .681 OPS
Robin Yount: 23 HR, 87 RBI, .293 AVG, .321 OBP, .519 SLG, .840 OPS
Alan Trammell: 9 HR, 65 RBI, .300 AVG, .376 OBP, .404 SLG, .779 OPS

Tell me who the All-Star is. It is that kind of "might makes right" occurrence, that so many people were clueless in the voting or just liked their darling Yankee, that drove me and others crazy in 1980. Dent was an average shortstop who hit a barely-fair home run in a special playoff game. Not an All-Star.

4. Lou Piniella: Again, he would have been higher on the hate scale when I was younger. He has kind of distanced himself from the Yankees over the years. But his flipping temper tantrums in pinstripes made him the target for all kinds of derision from my brothers and I. Settle down, Lou. You play for a team with more championships than anyone else. Appreciate what you have.

3. Mark Teixeira: The worst face in major league baseball. There is no question about that. And it took him all of one year to get to No. 3. It just drives me batty that he seems to think he was destined to be a Yankee. First of all, I have an issue with the concept that this is a desirable goal. Second of all, Mark, you're a RanBraAngkee. Not a Yankee.

2. Roger Clemens: Another ex-Red Sox who showed his true stripes by donning pinstripes. And then it just got ugly: whipping a bat at Piazza, retiring and receiving a car then unretiring, steroid accusations, an "unhealthy relationship" with an underage country singer. He is not a likable guy. In fact, I'd have to run the numbers, but Barry Bonds might be more likable than Clemens. ... nah, they're equally unlikable.

1. Alex Rodriguez: The guy has tons of issues. I've been told all my life, "Money and fame cannot buy happiness," and he's a walking example. A crazy amount of money. A steroid past. Marital problems. A "please like me" personality. I am not suddenly happy for him because he appears to be over some of these issues. The guy is dating Kate Hudson, for crying out loud.

(Have I ever mentioned that I can connect myself to Kate Hudson using the six degrees of separation? I can. Using just five degrees, actually. And one of them is NOT that I have watched a Kate Hudson movie)

So, yeah, not happy about watching the Yankees in the World Series. Or seeing them celebrate.

But, sometimes in life, the bad guy wins every once in awhile. Not everything has to go my way. Isn't that right, Steinbrenner?