Thursday, July 19, 2018

Obtaining a Gray Whale: Is It Real?

Thanks to a recent ebay ebucks promotion, I was able to accumulate a few dollars in ebucks, which never really happens for me.  I just don't shop on ebay enough.  I used my ebucks to pick up some cards that I might not have purchased otherwise. 

The card I really wanted here was the Jamaal Williams, but after searching through the seller's other cards, I found a few that were cheaper than I could buy them on COMC.  The Barry Sanders is a promo card, which is kind of cool, and the Ty Law is a 2017 Panini Phoenix orange parallel numbered to 99.

What I really spent the ebay bucks on was one of my "gray whales."  This card has been sitting on the top of my wantlist since I first learned of its existence a few years ago.

 This card has needed  to be in my collection on a ton of different levels.
  1. It's a Cub.
  2. Ken Hubbs was the 1962 NL Rookie of the Year.
  3. Like me (and Daniel at It's Like Having My Own Card Shop, apparently), Ken Hubbs was a Mormon.
  4. His plane crashed in Utah Lake.  I live on the northern shore of the lake, just miles from the spot of the crash.
This particular card, however, has always been priced just a little more than I have wanted to pay.  Part of the reason, I suppose, is that it is 1964 high number.  It's not terribly expensive, but I rarely spend more than a couple of bucks on any card, so I've never pulled the trigger.  But with the ebucks and a best offer to the seller, I was able to pick up my #1 Most Wanted card for just $1.75 out of pocket.

I do have a bit a of a concern, though, because most of the copies I've seen of this card are more expensive and in worse condition.  This particular card is in really good shape for a 54 year old card.  No creases, no writing, only slightly fuzzy corners.  I gave a lowball best offer, and the seller countered with a price that wasn't much higher, which left me wondering why I got it for less than the other cards available.  I'm no expert in vintage cards, so I'm turning to the cardsphere to help alleviate my fears.  Does anything about this card appear counterfeit to any of you?

If it looks good, I'm ecstatic.  A gray whale that I've been searching for for just under $2 is great to me.  If it's not real, then I'm back to where I started.  I think it looks good, but I just want to be sure because I probably wouldn't be able to tell a fake on my own.  Let me know what it looks like to you.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Straight Outta P-Town: Welcome to the Fold

Last week I posted an overview of a large box of Cubs dupes that came my way from P-Town Tom.  There were so many cards that I had to break the posts into a few parts.  Today I'm focusing on the players who are new to my Cubs collection.

I don't collect like Tony Burbs, who pieces together his roster Jenga by trying to obtain representation of every player who has ever suited up for the Cubs.  No, that goal is a little too lofty for my Cubbie collection.  But I do like to get players that I didn't have before.  Tom helped me cross a few off the list--or at least he would have if I were as organized and determined as Tony.

Some of the oldest cards in the box were guys who are new to my collection.  Davey Johnson is probably the biggest name here.  He wrapped up his All-Star career with one season on the North Side, making this a sunset card.  Until he began managing, of course.  Tim Blackwell and his mustache are also welcome additions.

Most of these players didn't last too long with the Cubs.  Honestly, besides Rick Aguilera, Jeff Robinson, and Dan Plesac, I'm not sure I even knew these names.

My last post was based on the media guides I got from the BFG at Johnny's Trading Spot.  I came across a lot of these players often.  Jon Lieber led the pitching staff for a couple of years.  Meyers, Bowie, Barker, King, and Telemaco all made their Major League debuts in the late 1990s.  My favorite card and player in this bunch is Jeff Blauser, whom I had always admired when he was with the Braves.

Moving on to the 2000s, some more new guys to the collection include some Cubs prospects who didn't have much staying power (e.g. Garibay, Brown, and Porter) and some journeymen who made stops at Wrigley (Andrews, Nolasco).  Bob Howry was never a big name, but he pitched some good years for the Cubs.

As we get to more recent years, my memory of some of these players is better than of the guys who were on the team for one year and gone over a decade ago.  Will Ohman and Carlos Pena are big names for me, even though I had almost forgotten that Pena had manned first base for a couple of years.  I'm glad to have my first Uehara as a Cub.  He did the same thing in Chicago that he did throughout his career--pitch quietly and effectively.  My favorite thing about his signing was that it gave the Cubs the pitcher who recorded the final out of three of the previous four World Series (Montgomery, Davis, Uehara).  Too bad Bumgarner didn't join the team.  That would have been great. 

Maybe someday I'll make a checklist of All-Time Cubs Roster like Tony's, but I'll probably not get anywhere near every Cub ever.  Still, it is nice to fill that all-time roster out a little.

Friday, July 13, 2018

A Tour of Cubs History with Johnny's BFG as the Guide

I was completely satisfied with my winnings from the Big Fun Game hosted at Johnny's o Trading Spot.  I really was.  I had picked a stack of HOF players on modern cards.  However, when Bo from Baseball Cards Come to Life reached out to me about swapping prizes, it was mighty tempting.  Bo had come away with some Cubs media guides, and he was wondering if I, a Cubs fan, would be interested.  It was an intriguing proposal, as I had no idea what cards would be in the stack and what I might possibly need.  On the other hand, I had cards already.  Lots of cards, and I would undoubtedly buy more.  I didn't own any media guides and most likely never would.  So I bit.  We swapped prizes and I got the Cubs media guides.

They were much bigger than I expected.  I guess I was thinking more along the lines of a game program, but these are basically almanacs.  Very cool.  I opened up the 1970 guide and found myself looking at Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Don Kessinger on the first page I saw.  That's history!  To post them, I've been doing my research.  I could tell you all the information given in the guide, but most of that pertains to the previous season.  I want to see how the year of the media guide shook out.

1970--The Cubs finished 84-78, good for 2nd place, 5 games back.  Their best hitter was probably Jim Hickman, who posted a 155 OPS+, but Billy Williams hit 42 HR.  Fergie Jenkins led the pitching staff with 22 wins and 1.08 WHIP.   Shortstop Don Kessinger won the NL Gold Glove.

During the 1970 season, Jim Dunegan made his debut in April and played his last MLB game in September.  Larry Gura made his debut with the Cubs in 1970; he went on to play 16 seasons and was an All-Star 10 years later with Kansas City.  Roe Skidmore not only had a great name, but he had a great cuppacoffee career.  On September 7, 1970, he made his Major League debut pinch hitting against the Cardinals.  He picked up a hit and left his career average a pristine 1.000 in his only career at bat.

The Cubs drafted Rick Reuschel and Pete LaCock in 1970. Over the course of the season, they signed Steve Barber and released him.  They added players like Milt Pappas and Joe Pepitone.  In a somewhat strange transaction, Chicago claimed Hoyt Wilhelm in June off of waivers from the Braves.  After the season, the Cubs then traded Wilhelm--to Atlanta, who had put Wilhelm on waivers to begin with--for Hal Breeden.

1983--The '83 Cubs finished in 5th place, 19 games back with a 71-91 record.  Keith Moreland hit .302 for a 128 OPS+, while Ron Cey led the team with 24 HR in his first season as a Cub.  Rookie Dick Ruthven was the top starter, finishing with a 1.23 WHIP and 12 wins.  Only one other Cubs pitcher finished with a winning record.  Closer Lee Smith posted a 1.65 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP and 29 saves.  Ryne Sandberg won the NL Gold Glove for second basemen.

Thirteen years after drafting him in the first round, the Cubs signed Rick Reuschel and brought him back.  Thad Bosley also joined the team in in '83.  The Cubs selected Dave Martinez in the draft and saw Carmelo Martinez and Craig Lefferts both debut their long-lasting careers.  The biggest debut was that of 1981 2nd overall pick Joe Carter.  He played only one year for the Cubbies before being traded the next season to Cleveland for Rick Sutcliffe.  That wasn't a bad trade for either party.  Carter went on to a very solid career, that included some World Series heroics about a decade later for the Blue Jays.

1993--In 1993 the Cubs finished 94-68, but it was only good for 4th place, 13 games back.  Rick Wilkins was the surprising best hitter, posting a .303 average and 30 HR.  Mark Grace led the team in batting average at .325 and Randy Myers led the pitching staff with 53 saves and 10.5 K/9 innings.  Grace and Greg Maddux also won Gold Glove awards.

Through the season, the Cubs traded Heathcliff Slocumb for Jose Hernandez.  Hernandez spent 1993 in the Minors, but got the call-up the following season.  He was a regular in the Cubbies' infield for the next six seasons.  Another longtime pitcher, Paul Assenmacher, was sent to the Yankees in a three team deal.  The Cubs received Tuffy Rhodes from the Royals.  Rhodes, of course, would be a big story in 1994 for his Opening Day performance, but didn't contribute much in 1993.  The Cubs also picked up Glenallen Hill from the Indians in exchange for Candy Maldonado.  The 1993 draft brought two ballyhooed picks in Brooks Kieschnick and Kevin Orie.  1993 also saw the debuts of two fan favorite pitchers--Turk Wendell and Steve Trachsel.

I think my favorite thing about this particular media guide was the back, though.  Every other guide featured an ad for beer on the back, but not 1993.  No, 1993 was

 Donruss baseball cards!  Much more relevant to me.

1999--The late 90s were the days of Sammy Sosa for the North Siders.  1999 was no different.  Sosa hit 63 HRs en route to an NL Silver Slugger award.  The big name of the pitching staff was Kerry Wood, who was coming off a ROY season that included a 20 K game in 1998.  However, 1999's top hurler was probably newcomer Jon Lieber, who led Chicago starters with a 4.07 ERA.  And that is the 1999 season in a nutshell.  No starter finished with a winning record or posted an ERA below 4.00.  The team finished in last place, 67-95 and 30 games back.

Before the season began, the Cubs signed a bunch of veterans, probably going all in after finishing 2nd in the division the season before.  Benito Santiago, Henry Rodriguez, Gary Gaetti, and Terry Mulholland all joined as free agents, and the club traded for pitchers Mike Morgan and the aforementioned Lieber.  Even Hideo Nomo was signed for spring training, but released before the season began.  Unfortunately, the experience didn't help the team unseat the Astros.  The movement continued during the season.  Prospect Kyle Lohse was traded for Rick Aguilera.  At the deadline, the Cubs shifted gears a bit and sent Terry Mulholland and Jose Hernandez to Atlanta for prospects who were meant to be helpful later: Joey Nation, Ruben Quevedo, and Micah Bowie.  Rod Beck was sent to Boston after the deadline in return for Mark Guthrie and Cole Liniak.  In retrospect, the Cubs the prospects they received didn't pan out.  But then again, the club wasn't going anywhere with the vets they traded, so maybe everything just evened out in the end.  A lot of prospects were called up and tried, most of whom just got their coffee and left, like Steve Rain and Richie Barker.  Kyle Farnsworth made his debut, and he stayed with the team for a good while.  Jose Molina became the second Molina brother to catch in the Majors, but his time with Chicago was short-lived.

2000--The 2000 season looked similar to 1999.  Sosa hit 50 HR--this time while batting .320--and received another Silver Slugger.  Jon Lieber once again led the pitchers with a 1.20 WHIP and 4.40 ERA, and the team finished 14th in the NL in ERA.  It all added up to a dismal 65-97 record, another last place finish 30 games behind the Cardinals.

No big names came to Chicago in 2000; the team was in selling mode again.  Glenallen Hill, Henry Rodriguez, Scott Downs, and Ismael Valdes were sent packing for prospects who never really panned out.  My all-time favorite Cub, Mark Grace, spent his last season in Chicago and for Arizona as a free agent afterward.  The biggest pickup was draft pick Dontrelle Willis, who never pitched for the Cubs, but was later traded for Matt Clement.  This wasn't a great time to be a Cubs fan.  A couple players made their debut for Chicago this year and went on to Major League careers that spanned almost a decade: Scott Downs (traded later in the year) and Corey Patterson.  Two guys debuted with the team for a very short time.  Danny Young spent one week in the Majors and Tarrik Brock was done before April was over.

2006--Fast forward six years and the results look the same as 1999-2000.  Of course, there were better years in between, but I don't have their media guides.  The 2006 Cubs finished in last place, 66-96, but only 17.5 games back this time.   Aramis Ramirez was the team's best hitter, posting a 126 OPS+ and launching 38 homers.  Carlos Zambrano was the leader on the mound, posting a 16-7 record, 3.41 ERA, and 8.8 K/9.  Zambrano also won the NL Silver Slugger for pitchers, and Greg Maddux (back in Chicago!) took home the Gold Glove.

Before the season began, the Cubs brought in Juan Pierre, John Mabry, Neifi Perez, Phil Nevin, and Bob Howry.  They traded away Corey Patterson.  During the season they brought in and released Tony Womack and traded away Perez and Nevin.  No one seemed to be lasting.  Well, almost no one.  A few players made their MLB debuts and stayed with the team for a while: Sean Marshall, Angel Pagan, and Carlos Marmol.  The draft brought in Tyler Colvin and Jeff Samardzija.

2007--The following year the team appeared to turn things around.  They went worst to first, posting a 85-77 record before being swept out of the NLDS by the D-Backs.  Derrek Lee led the team with a .317 average and adding 23 HR.  Alfonso Soriano led the team with 33 HR in his first year with the Cubs.  Another player contributed in his first year at Wrigley: Ted Lilly paced the pitching staff with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.  Greg Maddux (again) and Derrek Lee took home Gold Glove awards.

Some prominent players who came to Chicago for 2007 included Soriano, Jason Marquis, and Cliff Floyd.  Through the season the Cubs traded for Jason Kendall and brought Steve Trachsel back to the fold.  Unfortunately, Trachsel pitched only four games in his return, going 1-3 with an ERA of 8.31!  Billy Petrick got a cuppacoffee, pitching 9 innings in August for his career.  Sam Fuld and Felix Pie both made their debuts and stuck around a little longer.  Interestingly, Pie managed to carve out a career that spanned a few seasons, but his career WAR is actually below zero.  Fuld fared better; his WAR was 5.0.  In the 2007 draft, the Cubs drafted a certain Bringer of Rain in the first round: Josh Donaldson.  He was traded the following year, along with three other prospects, for Rich Harden.  I'm going to pretend that didn't happen.  Anyway, we have Kris Bryant manning the hot corner now, so I can't complain.

So there you go.  I learned some interesting things from perusing the media guides, but I was really interested in the years the guides prepared us for.  Seven guides, one postseason appearance, and three really ugly seasons.  But there were some great names of Cubbie lore in there, so I'm happy with my piece of history.  Thanks for the BFG, John!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Straight Outta P-Town: An Overview

When P-Town Tom offered some free cards so he could purge his collection, I jumped on the chance to pick up some Cubs.  What I did not expect was the volume of cards coming my way.  The packaged I received looked something like this:

That's an 800-count box full of all unique Cubs cards.  Actually, I think there might have been one card duplicated in there.  What was Tom thinking?

He was even kind enough to have all the cards sorted by year and brand, which made things much easier for me.  I decided to look at a timeline to see where the majority of cards were coming from.

Here we have the 70's (a few) and the 80s (which only went until 1987).  Each stack represents one year of cards.

After a 1987-1991 hiatus, the cards pick up again for the rest of the 90s.  1993 and 1994 were hit hardest in this box.

Here are the 2000s.  There should be some goodies in here, since I collected exactly zero cards that decade and am still catching up.

And here are the 2010's.  The biggest takeaway for me from this picture is how close this decade is to ending already.  Seriously, 2012 cards still feel like yesterday to me.

So, for all of those cards, I had to have a bunch of them already, right?  Well, let's take a look at the numbers.  I don't have them all organized my way and put away yet, but since they were organized by year and set, it made it easy for me to put them into TCDB.  Here is my collection before:

On the right, you can see that I had 1764 unique Cubbies when this package arrived.  After a few days of entering cards into the collection, this is what it looked like:

I'm now at 2340.  That means that from that big old box Tom sent me, there were 576 cards I didn't have already.  Wow!  I didn't expect a number nearly that big.  Using TCDB, learned that Tom sent me .05% of all known Cubs cards.  That is really above and beyond in his generosity.

I'm still scanning, sorting, and storing all of these cards.  There were so many that it made me rethink my sorting of my Cubs collection anyway.  I'll be posting more from this package as I work my way through the cards.  Thanks a million, Tom!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

My 2018 All-Star Ballot: NL Style

Last week, I posted my All-Star ballot for the AL as my 9-card post.  I'm primarily an NL fan, though, so I can't leave them out.  As with my AL ballot, I tried to be as objective as possible.  No Anthony Rizzo here; he just started out the year in too big of a slump to be a legitimate candidate this year.  If I wanted to be a little less fair-minded, I could probably make a case for an all Cubs outfield, but I didn't and I won't.  Here are my actual votes.

NL Catcher: J.R. Realmuto, Marlins

Part of me really wants to put in Willson Contreras, but Realmuto deserves this 100%.  He's been good at the plate and behind the plate.

NL 1st Base: Freddie Freeman, Braves

This one is easy.  Freeman is batting .318 with 15 HR.  He's looking like an MVP candidate this year.

NL 2nd Base: Javier Baez, Cubs

This is a close one.  I almost had Scooter Gennett here, and Ozzie Albies looks good, too.  But Javy is an RBI machine and his glove is magical.  He's also a better baserunner than the other two, so I'll fit my Cub in here.

NL 3rd Base: Nolan Arenado, Rockies

He hits.  He fields.  He's a great 3rd baseman.  Arenado and Kris Bryant will be battling out this position for years to come.

NL Shortstop: Brandon Crawford, Giants
 I've always known Crawford for having a pretty slick glove.  This year he is hitting well, too.  I think he's playing the best shortstop in the National League right now.

NL Outfield: Matt Kemp, Dodgers

The NL outfield is insane.  I don't think that I would ever have predicted the three starters that I have going in here.  Kemp is having a career renaissance (or at least a late-career high point) this year.  He's batting above .300 and showing a little pop with 13 HR.

NL Outfield: Nick Markakis, Braves

Markakis the most surprising of the three names here.  Like Kemp, he's having a great season in a career that looked like it had peaked long ago.  Now he's batting .326 and has driven in 50 runs.

NL Outfield: Albert Almora, Cubs

There are a number of guys with very similar numbers who could all fit in this spot--right around  .300 and double digit homers.  I originally went with Odubel Herrera on this one, but I settled on Almora, who may be better in the field.  He has less power than the other guys I considered, but a significantly higher average.  The clincher was Almora's OPS+, which is just slightly higher than Herrera.

So there you have it: my 2018 All-Star Ballot.  Going by the strength of the starters, I think that the AL has the edge.  We'll have to see which pitchers are chosen.  Maybe it will help balance the teams a bit.  Who would you have in the NL starting lineup?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Group Break, Part 2

Our Stadium Club has arrived!  We can now finish our group break.  Here's a little spoiler for you.  This is my favorite card from the two Stadium Club boxes:

Chris, from The Collector blog, will get this gem.

Now, on to the breaks!

Video 1:

Video 2:

Friday, June 29, 2018

My 2018 All-Star Ballot, American League: A 9 Card Post

I was going to save this post for about another week, but the 9 card contest at It's Like Having My Own Card Shop caused me to move it up.  It just makes sense that my AL All-Star Ballot had 9 players, who can be my 9 cards for the contest.

I don't have a whole lot of power over a lot of things.  But I do have a vote for the MLB All-Star Game.  Some people may argue that I, Mr. Joe Fan, shouldn't have a say, but it is a responsibility that I take seriously.  Sure, I could just vote a straight party ticket of Cubs, but I think carefully about the issues and select individual candidates based on merit.  So, as the voting deadline nears, I have selected my ballot.

AL Catcher: Salvador Perez, Royals

The choices aren't great here for AL catcher.  Wilson Ramos is having a good year at the plate, but he is a little suspect behind the plate.  Gary Sanchez has struggled below the Mendoza line, and now he's hurt.  Perez may not have enough at-bats to qualify for a batting title, but he is still the most solid AL backstop I can see.

AL 1st Base: Mitch Moreland, Red Sox

Batting right around .300 and near the AL 1st basemen lead for HR, Moreland is having a great season late in his career.

AL 2nd Base: Jose Altuve, Astros

Let's just say this spot is Altuve's until otherwise determined.  Oh, and he's leading the lead in batting average, just in case you need some justification.

AL 3rd Base: Jose Ramirez, Indians

Ramirez is having an MVP caliber season right now.  23 HR, 12 SB, and almost .300 average.

AL Shortstop: Manny Machado, Orioles

Speaking of MVP caliber, Manny has to be in the conversation, too.  For as long as he is in the AL, at least.  Who knows where he'll finish the season?

AL Outfield: Mike Trout, Angels

And here we have an MVP having possibly the best season of his career.  This was a no-brainer.

AL Outfield: Mookie Betts, Red Sox

The top players in the AL are just lights out this year.  Mookie is hitting for average and power and swiping a lot of bags.

AL Outfield: Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox

I was surprised at myself for making this choice.  I hadn't given much thought to Benintendi as an All-Star, but he too is showing good hitting (.290), decent power (13 HR), and good base-running (12 SB).

AL Designated Hitter: J.D. Martinez, Red Sox

This one wasn't too difficult of a decision.  He's batting .326 with 23 home runs.  Sounds like just what I want a DH to do.

So there are nine cards for the nine AL All-Star starters on my ballot.  There are a few other players who probably deserve spots.  Jose Abreu, Andrelton Simmons, and Eddie Rosario immediately come to mind, but I think I've used my voting powers well here.  Who are you voting for?