Monday, July 27, 2015

Changing Teams

Players staying with one team for their entire major league career is becoming increasingly rare and nearing impossible in baseball today. For me that's always been the dream, to have my favorite players finish their careers where they started. It's happened in the past, in multiple sports. Reggie Miller spent all 18 years of his NBA career with the Indiana Pacers. Tim Duncan will end up retiring as a Spur after spending his whole career in San Antonio.

This guy did it too, spending 21 seasons with the Orioles.

And this guy, spending 19 years with the Braves.

I've got high hopes for Freeman, but chances are he won't make it his whole career with the club.

Even rarer is a guy who goes from your favorite team to your other favorite team the following season. But that's exactly what happened with Nick Markakis. Great Heritage card, by the way.

Markakis is having a great season with Atlanta. He's not hitting for power after coming back from neck surgery, but I would expect some power to return next season. He's hitting .286 with 1 home run and 32 RBIs for the Braves so far. He's hit leadoff and is currently hitting third in a power lacking Braves lineup.

He returns to Baltimore today as the Braves take on the Orioles at Camden Yards. He and former teammates admit it'll be weird seeing him return in a Braves uniform. Hoping he has a successful series against his old team. And maybe he'll finish his career with Atlanta, only playing for my two favorite clubs. One can dream.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wallet Card at the Drive Game

I took in two minor league games last week, seeing the hometown Greenville Drive take on the Savannah Sand Gnats. One game was exciting and went to extra innings, the second I was glad to see end so we could see some fireworks.

On Thursday the Drive were playing catch up for nearly the whole game, but scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie it at 4. They went on to lose in the 11th inning 7-5, but it was an exciting game made better by great seats.

There's the Crime Dog along the first base line. I think this was around the 8th inning when things looked grim for the home team and a lot of folks were leaving. They'd miss the comeback and eventual defeat in the 11th. Can't recall who was batting in this picture, and too far away to see. Great seats though, just to the right of the home team dugout.

Friday night the Drive didn't pick up their first hit till the 7th inning. Several errors by the home team combined with a terrible effort at the plate led to a 5-1 loss, and all of us at one point wondering which would come first, a hit or the post game fireworks. Fortunately two hits and a run came in the 7th inning, but it wasn't near enough for a win. Casey Meisner, a 6 ft 7 pitcher and 3rd round pick of the Mets in 2013, dominated the Drive lineup. 

Glad to have attended four games this early in the season. It helps when the home team has some highly rated players in the organization to pull for.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mookie Mania

Mookie Betts had an excellent spring and looks like a future star. I'm excited to follow his big-league career after seeing him in Greenville in 2013. He's flown through the minor league ranks since then and started off the year as the starting center-fielder and leadoff man for the Red Sox.

The other day against the Nationals Betts robbed Bryce Harper of a home-run with a nice catch at the wall, and then homered himself. Boston loves this guy and I couldn't be happier for him.

I recently picked up some cards to add to my small Betts collection.

I could be wrong on this, but I'd imagine it's not often that a player has his first Bowman card and major league rookie cards in the same year. That's the case with Mookie Betts, though. The card on the left is his first, from Bowman Prospects. Next up is his Stadium Club rookie. Pretty close to having all the base cards I want from that set. The rest of these are from 2015. I'm a fan of the new Topps design. Great post-swing shot here.

While this isn't my favorite Gypsy Queen design, it still ranks as one of my top five base sets in a given year. I was pleased to see Mookie show up in the Glove Stories insert set. Just from seeing him play a few times this year I would expect to see him win some Gold Glove awards. The last is probably my favorite, which should surprise no one since it's from Heritage. Looks like Betts is glad to be in Boston.

Help me out, am I the only one following this guy outside of Red Sox fans? Where is he in the hype-scale, compared to a Bryce Harper in his first season, or Abreu or Puig. Probably below all of those, I'd expect, but how far below?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Drive Me to the Ballpark

While opening day in the majors is a big deal, for sure, I'm even more excited with the start of minor league baseball, the Greenville Drive, in particular. The Drive, of the South Atlantic League, are the low A affiliates of the Red Sox. Since I moved to the Greenville area I've found myself following the Red Sox system pretty closely, including the major league team. While I've been an Orioles and Braves fan most of my life, I've become a fan of certain Red Sox players as well as they've moved through the minor league system.

The Drive are supposed to have a good group this year if you follow what the experts are saying. Several of the Red Sox top prospects play for the Drive, and one more, Yoan Moncada, should be joining the team in the early part of the season. He could be the best of the group.

Two of the top prospects on the team were picked in the first round of the 2014 draft. Third-baseman Michael Chavis, pick 26, is 9th on's list, while right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech, the 33rd pick, is 10th. Rafael Devers, another third-baseman and other best hitting prospect for the Drive, is 5th on the list. Devers and Chavis have been alternating between playing 3B and DH so they both get some work in the field. Nick Longhi is off to a great start to the season, as well, a 30th round selection in 2013.

April 9th couldn't get here soon enough. The Drive started off the season at home against the Augusta Greenjackets, affiliates of the Giants.

Rafael Devers started off the scoring with a sac-fly in the 3rd, while Chavis homered in the 7th. And then in the bottom of the 9th inning he broke a 2-2 tie and smacked a double off the mini-Green Monster to win the game for the Drive 3-2. Chavis has struggled a bit since that game, as he's batting just 5-30 on the season, but if I had to bet I'd say he's going to have a good career.

Recently I've picked up some cards of new Drive players and ones from last year's team.

The first is Michael Kopech's Bowman Draft card from 2014. He's off to a great start with a 1-1 records, 1.98 era and 11 strikeouts to just 2 walks in Greenville. Trey Ball was picked 7th overall by the Red Sox in 2013. After spending 2014 in Greenville he's moved up to A-Advanced Salem this year. So far he's had one great start, one ok start, and one poor start after a strong second half in 2014.

Here's the first card I've added of Michael Chavis. As mentioned above, I think this is a guy to keep an eye on as he progresses through the minor leagues.

Great way to start the season. Glad you're back, baseball.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Introducing my 2015 Fantasy Baseball Team

Over the weekend I drafted a fantasy baseball team in a yahoo public head-to-head league. I have at least one team a year and in recent years I've tried to limit it to just one. I definitely drafted based on guys that are on my favorite teams, but I don't feel like I reached too much for any of those players. Here's how my team looks with the round I drafted them in. It's a 12 team league.

Round 1 - Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
Could have gone with some higher rated players here, but Adam is off to a fantastic start to the season and is definitely worth being taken in round one. 

Round 2 - Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
Wanted to get a solid ace for my pitcher staff and I certainly got that with Felix. He struck out 12 over the weekend to move his record to 2-0.

Round 3 - Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
Was going to take Chris Sale if he was available, but he was picked right before my turn. It still felt like a steal getting Freeman here, but that might be the fan in me talking. Hopefully he picks up the Braves offense this year. So with two out of my first three picks I've taken guys on my favorite squads. At least I'll have fun cheering for my fantasy team this year. 

Round 4 - Corey Dickerson, OF, Rockies
The Rockies are off to a great start, and that includes Dickerson. I've had him on my team in the past, previously as a free-agent pickup, but if he produces like he's expected to, he's worth a 4th round pick.

Round 5 - Mookie Betts, 2B, Red Sox 
Although he's playing in center field to start the season, I'm playing Mookie at second. This is where I may have reached a little, but I expect Mookie to have a great season doing a little bit of everything. He's not hitting well to start the year, so we'll see how this pick pans out, but again, I'm a fan and will enjoy cheering him on either way.

Round 6 - Julio Teheran, SP, Braves
So through 4 out of 6 rounds I've picked guys that I collect. But really, outside of Betts I picked these guys where they were valued by ESPN and Yahoo experts. Teheran will lead the Braves pitching staff this year and if he produces as he has in recent years, he'll be a big help as the second pitcher on my team. If I had to do it again, I'd probably take Adam Wainwright. Injury concerns bumped him down in the order and he was taken just after I took Teheran. I was debating on those two but the injury worries led me to take Teheran.

Round 7 - Sonny Gray, SP, Athletics
Here's where I think I got great value. This guy was fantastic last year and was surprised he fell this far in the draft. Nelson Cruz for some reason was rated really low in the default rankings and I was hoping to steal him here, but he was picked two picks before I picked Gray. 

Round 8 - Jeff Samardzija, SP, White Sox
Here's where I think my team really started to come together. The four starting pitchers I would think rival any other top starts in my league. I'm thinking at this point I've got a great chance to win most of the pitching categories on a weekly basis.

Round 9 - Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers
If Lucroy starts hitting I think he's a steal at this point in the draft. Surely he'll come around after an awesome season in 2014.

Round 10 - Matt Carpenter, 3B, Cardinals
Was pleased to get Carpenter here, and he's off to a great start to the season hitting .401 with 10 RBIs. Obviously that won't hold but right now he's the 3rd rated third-baseman.

Round 11 - Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals
Well I didn't take Adam Wainwright, but I did end up taking Wacha. I'm thinking he'll have a fine season and will add to my starting pitching depth, which I think is best in the league.

Round 12 - Koji Uehara, RP, Red Sox
First relief pitcher for my squad, and I think I got him a little later because of his injury to start the year. He already has a save and a win since his first appearance on April 14th. Lots of closers were already off the board at this point so I left like I needed to take one of my own.

Round 13 - Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers
Took a chance here on Pederson having a great season, but at this point in the draft I'm good with it. Brings a bit of excitement to my team. Chris Archer was still available leading up to my pick but was picked a few picks before. I was hoping to steal him here. At this point I still needed a few relievers, a shortstop and some utility and bench players to round out the squad.

Round 14 - Xander Bogaerts. SS, Red Sox
Though Xander plays third these days, he has eligibility at short, and that's where I'll slot him. He's off to a great start, but if he doesn't pan out I may have to look at the free-agent list/waiver wire. I don't think that'll be the case though and I feel like this is pretty good value for Bogaerts.

Round 15 - Michael Pineda, SP, Yankees
Definitely an injury risk but in round 15 if he holds up I would consider this a great value pick. He's 2-0 so far on the season with one rough outing against the Orioles. He doesn't pitch deep into games but he's definitely got upside.

Round 16 - Neftali Feliz, RP, Rangers
At this point the pickings for closers were pretty slim so I took one of the remaining guys. Not much to say other than I need the saves, even if there may not be as many opportunities for the Rangers.

Round 17 - Luke Gregorson, RP, Astros
Again I was thinking I needed another closer before there weren't any left. He does have 2 saves in 6 appearances and no runs given up so far, so maybe he'll pan out. Even though I needed a closer, Will Myers went two picks before mine and I was hoping to add him as a utility player.

Round 18 - Lucas Duda, 1B, Mets
Seemed to be a value pick as he was rated higher than this draft position on every set of player rankings I saw. Definitely adds some power to my team.

Round 19 - Dallas Keuchel - SP, Astros
Another pick I feel could be a pretty big steal at this point in the draft.

Round 20 - Gregory Polanco - OF, Pirates
Low risk pick on a high-upside player. Don't have a ton of speed either and he could add that.

Round 21 - Chris Tillman - SP, Orioles
Another pitcher I will be cheering for all year. Ace of the Orioles staff and the O's will win a lot of games.

Round 22 - Jason Grilli - RP, Braves
Was pleased when I noticed the Braves closer still available. He was rated pretty low because Kimbrel was expected to be the closer until he was traded. Probably would have taken him earlier if I had noticed he was there.

Round 23 - Drew Pomeranz - SP, Athletics
This pick was supposed to be Jesse Hahn but I ended up mis-clicking and selecting another A's starter instead. I think I may actually hang onto him and see how he does in his next few starts. Looks like he has a chance to have a solid year for the A's.

Overall I think my team stacks up well with any other in my league. My starting pitching is deep, and hopefully that will carry me and allow me to win most weeks. I will need to drop a pitcher and add a hitter at some point in the early season.

How did I do? Does anyone here play fantasy? If anyone has an opening in a keeper league, that's what I'm really interested in.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Diggin' the Donruss

Reading a post from The Junior Junkie on 2015 Donruss inspired me to pick up 3 of the 30-card packs at a recent trip to target. I wouldn't rank either the 2014 or 2015 sets among my favorite base sets, but they're new baseball cards and chances to pick up some of my favorite players on the cheap. The 2015 set design is definitely a step up from the 2014 design. To me, these 30-card packs for $4.99 are a bargain, with all the inserts you get.

I was pleased with the mix of young stars, veterans, and legends.

The McCutchen to me is the best looking card in this group. Was pleased to pull a Yasiel Puig, as well.

Some of the star base. Panini did a nice job on the Ortiz as far as hiding the absence of logos.

Can't go wrong with cards of these three. Really like the Bo Jackson, in particular.

And of course I had to show what I pulled of Orioles, Braves (not one base!), and Kershaw.

The inserts, though, are where this product really shines. The Diamond kings scan great and might be my favorite of the bunch.

Nice to pull these of some exciting young players. I expect Michael Taylor to have a great big-league career once he is able to stay in Washington. It appears he might be heading back to AAA when Denard Span returns for the Nats. But his guy will get his shot and I expect him to do well.

These didn't scan well for me, but again it's hard to go wrong with the number of inserts you get in these 30-card packs. These look a whole lot better in person than in the scan. Always exciting to see some of the more sought after guys in the hobby show up in your packs- Abreu in this case.

Can't go wrong with inserts of these three All-Timers.

This was one of my favorite type of inserts, but again they didn't scan too well for me. I really like the colors on the Altuve. My biggest mistake in my fantasy baseball league was cutting this guy early last season (I'm ashamed to admit it). He started off slow and to be honest I hadn't heard of him, and I had Robinson Cano as well at 2nd. Probably my biggest mistake of the fantasy baseball season.

Excited to see how Rusney Castillo does for the Red Sox, and was surprised to see him included in the set, but glad to have pulled his 'The Rookies' card. He'll start off his season in AAA when he returns from injury.

Here's a random mix of the remaining inserts. All three of these are sharp, and I always appreciate shiny cards. The first two are definitely that. Upton's started off the season strong for the Padres. Was sad to see him traded but the Braves starting off better than expected have made me feel a lot better about the rebuild.

And I was pumped to see a relic appear in my last pack! Jake finished 8th in Rookie of the Year voting last year and has started off well through 3 starts for the Rays in 2015. 

While I didn't pick up too many of my player collection guys, hopefully I added some cards that other collectors will want. These inserts are awesome and look even better in person than the scans show. Was glad to pull several young stars in these breaks, and as always, there's nothing like opening a fresh pack of cards.

Anyone got any inserts from this set of my guys?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Delayed Wallet Card - Blizzard of 2015

Back around Christmas, I requested two tickets to the Late Show with David Letterman. My wife is a fan of Letterman and has always wanted to go see him live in New York. I had pretty much forgotten about it when my wife got a call on a Thursday in January about tickets for the following Monday's show. When she got the call, she looked at me and asked- can we really just go to New York this weekend? I said if we could get the time off work then why not? So we booked a flight and hotel and were off the next day on our first ever trip to New York City. At this point there wasn't much snow in the forecast.

Here's McGriff's view from our hotel room, looking over Central Park:

I definitely missed a lot of #WalletCard opportunities on this trip, but I was more focused on seeing the sights on our first trip to New York. Maybe next time the Crime Dog will get into more mischief.

After we arrived in New York, the amount of snow in the forecast jumped to the point that a blizzard was being called for. We added another night to our reservation and pushed our return flight back a day.

We didn't get blizzard conditions, more like 8 inches of snow. So we just enjoyed a longer trip.

Some of the highlights:

  • Winning $100 on the Today Show by answering a trivia question about the Super Bowl.
  • Seeing David Letterman twice (and meeting Rupert Gee)
  • Going to two Broadway shows
  • Playing in the snow in Central Park
  • Seeing one of The Original Soup Man restaurants

We took a trip on the Staten Island Ferry and passed by the Statue of Liberty.

We went to the Top of the Rock and got some great pictures and views.

Here I am outside of Radio City Music Hall.

We wanted to go to a New York Rangers game but the schedule didn't work out for that.

We had an excellent trip and actually ended up lucking out as the weather allowed us to do way more than we would have otherwise!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

High Heritage

Before this season I didn't know that Topps releases an Update set for Heritage, called Heritage High Number. This year's High Number set is 100 cards, and each set purchased comes with an on-card autograph. Of course being a Heritage lover, particularly of this year's set, I was pleased to see that this product exists. While I didn't purchase an entire set, I did pick up a handful of cards.

Obviously I had to add a group of Orioles from the set. Schoop I've talked about several times already on this blog. Excited to see how he develops.

Steve Pearce had by far the best season of his career in 2014, proving to be a steady contributor on a team that had gaps throughout due to injury. Pearce, capable of playing multiple positions, ended up playing a career high 102 games, hitting 21 home runs while hitting .293. Glad to pick up my first card of this guy.

Zach Britton pitched in 71 games for the Orioles in 2014, notching 37 saves while keeping a 1.65 era. He struck out 62 batters compared to 23 walks. What a nice transition from starter to closer. Another case of adding my first card of a player to my collection.

Here's the back of the Schoop card. I appreciate how the back combines minor and major league stats.

Here's the likely Braves starter at catcher on opening day, Christian Bethancourt. Even though Evan Gattis was likely to move to left field, trading him confirmed what we already knew, that Bethancourt is going to get consistent playing time to start the 2015 season. Bethancourt looks the part of Braves catcher of the future, but it will take some time for him to get polished. I would think getting regular playing time will only help there.

Mookie Betts made the jump to Boston in 2014 to complete his quick rise to the majors. He played in 52 games for the Red Sox, batting a very solid .291 with 5 home runs and 18 runs batted in. Betts will get regular playing time in 2015, and it's amazing how far he has come in such a short time since I saw him play for the Greenville Drive in 2013. Excited to see how he will perform in 2015. This guy is only 22 years old.

And I'll finish this post up with a Virginia Tech Hokie, Jesse Hahn. I was thrilled to see Hahn show up in the set. He looked to be in a pretty good position with the Padres, where he was likely to get regular starts in 2015. The Padres traded Hahn to the Oakland A's in December. We'll see if he can find a spot in the A's pretty solid rotation. So glad Topps included Hahn in this set since he was left out of Topps Update. 

Did you know that Hahn played basketball in high school too? Makes me even more of a fan.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Finest Additions

When 2014 Finest first came out and started appearing on blogs, I wanted to run out and pick these up. I showed some restraint, though, and waited until I had enough on my Just Commons order so I could get free shipping. And so several months after everyone else it seems, I've got a few singles from the set to add to my collection. Considering how beautiful these cards are, I'd say it was worth the wait.

We'll start off with the National League MVP. Several reasons why I like this guy, in addition to the obvious, that he is a dominant pitcher: he's left handed, gotta support the lefties. And he's 6'3", same height as me. He also seems to be a pretty level headed guy. As for my collection, this card makes Kershaw  number 14.

Freddie Freeman will be carrying the offensive load for the Braves for the next few seasons, it appears, after the Braves have now traded three of the team's best hitters this offseason. You can include Evan Gattis in that list as of Wednesday.

I think my favorite is the Machado, ready to fire off a throw to first or second, I am thinking. I'm trying to be positive about his injury problems. Maybe he will be able to move on from these and have a full season. All reports say he's feeling good.

2014 Finest ranks third of my sets of the year, behind Heritage and Stadium Club. I'd love to bust some packs of this stuff but I'll refrain with it being a hobby only release, and settle for adding these three to my player collections. Eventually I'll go after some of the parallels as they are too good looking not to.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Crime Dog Stacks

As you may know, I chose a Fred McGriff mini as my #WalletCard, and while I'll share a number of posts on what the Crime Dog is up to, I wanted to share some recent McGriff additions to my collection.

While I prefer to see McGriff in a Braves uniform, I'm not going to exclude pre and post-Brave cards from my collection, especially when they are sweet minis like these from 1989 Topps. The first above and last below (oops), is his Mini Leaders card.

Just looking at Fred's stats from his years in Toronto, it's amazing that he didn't make an All-Star team in any of his last three seasons there, considering he hit over 30 home runs and his lowest season batting average was .269. In 1989 he even finished 6th in MVP voting for the AL. I guess it makes more sense when you look at who was at first base for the American League that year, Mark McGwire and Don Mattingly. Luckily his All-Star seasons were coming in San Diego, Atlanta, and even Tampa Bay.

The second mini is from 1989 Topps UK minis, and I really like the design on this one. Wouldn't mind seeing a modern set designed off of this. If this has been done and I've missed it, somebody tell me!

We're hitting almost everywhere the Crime Dog played in the post, as we start off with a Padres card from 1992 Donruss, of the McDonald's MVP variety. McGriff is one of 26 that make up this checklist. Cal Ripken Jr. also has a card in this set, which I'm now adding to my wantlist. I'm finding that acquiring cards like these is becoming one of my favorite parts of collecting. The back of this card is pretty sharp, too.

I was pleased to see McGriff show up on the 2014 A&G checklist, too.

Now that I've gotten started here with McGriff I just don't want to stop, so I'll hit some of his later other career stops.

In 2001 Fred was coming off an All-Star appearance in 2000. He was traded mid-season to the Cubs. Here we have a gold parallel from 2001 Topps that shows Fred's signature swing. 

In 2001 at 37 years old, McGriff combined for 31 homers and 102 runs batted in while hitting .306. This is my only McGriff relic, from 2001 Topps Traded & Rookies 

Part of what inspired this post was seeing some discussion on McGriff's Hall of Fame credentials. For now, he'll continue to Await the Call. 

And now that I'm over 10 cards of McGriff in hand, I think I can call it a player collection.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Better Late Than Never- to the Stadium Club Party

We all have changes we would make to the card industry if we were in charge. Make fewer sets, make less expensive products, make larger sets, put out more on-card autographs and get rid of stickers, these are a few things I wouldn't mind seeing. For all the things I'd like to change, there are several sets a year that card companies knock out of the park. Heritage for example. Come on, you knew that was coming. Even if it's hobby-only, Stadium Club is another one of those sets.

First the non-Orioles. Love this Freeman card with the team celebrating... a walk off hit, perhaps? With some other Braves stars being traded, I'm so glad Freeman is the one sticking around.

The best pitcher in the game, or that's what I'll argue, at least. 

Good luck on the Mariners, Nelson. They can certainly use the bat!

I've seen this one posted on several blogs, has to be one of the best photos in the set.

With losses of some outfield bats, the O's need Chris Davis to have a bounceback 2015.

Looking forward to seeing how Schoop develops over the next several years. Surely he can improve on his .209 batting average from 2014.

And this guy can't get back on the diamond soon enough. Need a big season from Manny to make up for some of the roster changes going into 2015. Hopefully he's back for opening day!

This is the real Iron Man, not some guy in a metal suit.

I'm close to an Orioles team set, only missing #83 Brooks Robinson and #177 Eddie Murray.

Stadium Club finishes 2nd in my 2014 set rankings, just behind 2014 Topps Heritage and in front of 2014 Finest. The card backs on Stadium Club aren't that exciting to me, but the photography is good enough to carry it to the 2nd spot.