Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Long Overdue (Trade Recaps)

I have a confession to make: I often have late fees at the local library.  I don't know what it is, but I can never seem to get a book back on time.  And the thing is, I never really realize how late they are until I see the fees when I go to check something else out and I think, "How did I rack up that much in late fees?"  It turns out that library books are not the only things that I have overdue.  I received two trade packages earlier this summer from fellow bloggers that have gone completely unmentioned on my blog.  Allow me to rectify that.

First, I completed a trade with Bo from Baseball Cards Come to Life.  Way back in January it seems, he posted about getting rid of some football cards and asked people if they wanted any.  I claimed a good amount, but then took a few months trying to put together a decent return package.  We finally finished the deal after a few months later, and now I'll finally post a little of what I got in return.

We'll start with some random set help.  I'm getting close to finishing the 1988 Topps, while the 1995 Collector's Choice is really close; I'm looking for Louis Oliver, Bam Morris, and Bryant Young to complete it after all these years.  I'm just over halfway with the 2012 Topps.

When I saw how many of the Domino's Quarterback Challenge cards Bo had, I decided to build that set, too.  I'm about 12 cards shy now, mostly thanks to the large chunk seen here.  I remember watching the Quarterback Challenge as a kid.  I remember Steve Young messing with one of the ballboys, shouting that he needed a left-handed football.  He sent the kid back for a new ball ("That's not a left-handed ball!") two or three times before he accepted one.

I've recently decided that Heisman winners should have a place in my collection.  Here are three running backs who had varying degrees of success at the pro level.

Bo had a lot of late 90s to 2010 cards that I didn't have before.  Anytime I can score a couple of great o-linemen, I'm good.

And, of course, I'll pick up Packers (say that 10 times fast) whenever I can.  What a sweet shot of Sterling Sharpe snagging a pass on the sidelines.  There's another good alliteration for you.

My second neglected trade package came from Adam at Infield Fly Rule.  Somebody pointed out to him that the Rising Stars insert set from 1996 Ultra used Coor's Field as a backdrop, and he decided to put the set together.  I had a few extras lying around, so I sent them his way.  He sent me a great package back.

Adam focused almost entirely on my All-Star MVP and Rookie of the Year mini-collections.  Most of the stuff he sent was needed.  Here we have some of the all-time greats that go in my All-Star binder.  I'm digging that Cal Ripken Gallery of Stars.  I just assumed it was a Diamond Kings card at first, but soon found out that it was produced by Donruss' Canadian counterpart, Leaf.  Nice looking card.

Jeff Conine was an All-Star Game MVP.  For some reason I can't explain, Conine is one of my favorite All-Star MVPs.  The funny thing is, if he hadn't spent most of his career with teams like the Royals and Marlins, I don't think he would have been an all-star.  As it so happened, he benefited from the rule requiring every team to have a representative.  Still, his career wasn't bad; he finished with a .285 lifetime average.  He just wasn't the type of guy to be an All-Star year in and year out.

Moving on to Rookie of the Year winners, here are three of the 80s best rookies featured on two cards.  All of them had highs and lows in their careers, and all of the them have had some problem with their names being tied to substance use of some kind.

Of course, as a Rockies fan, Adam had plenty of Rockies to send me, and I needed every one of these cards.  Walt Weiss is a cardboard hero in my book.  His cards always show him in some kind of interesting action.

Finally, Adam sent some guys that I collect in the form of one of my favorite Topps sets, 2005 flagship.  I love this design, especially the little picture in the corner that mimics the actual photograph.  It's so unnecessary and yet so cool.

Thanks for the cards, Bo and Adam.  I hope we can trade again some time.  I'll try not to let my trade post lapse in the future, but I can't guarantee it won't happen.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a library book to return.

Monday, August 7, 2017

All Bump and Run Baseball, 1st Team

A few weeks ago, I posted my (secondary) all-time favorite baseball players.  Now it is time to reveal a team of my favorite baseball players of all-time.  I had two rules for myself as I made this list: first, they had to have played during my lifetime.  Second, they had to be non-Cubs.  By this, I mean that they did not make their name or will not be remembered as a Cub.  Some of them may have spent some time on the roster, but they were not primarily Cubs.  I plan to make a Cubs team at a later date.

Well, enough of that.  This is it.  On to the team . . . 

Catcher: Jason Kendall


Why don't we start out with a bit of a surprise?  Jason Kendall is one of the guys who once played for the Cubs, but he was not primarily a Cub.  Kendall became a favorite of mine for one main reason: he was a catcher who could run.  For three straight years, from 1998-2000, Kendall stole over 20 bases.  My second team catcher, recent HOF inductee Pudge Rodriguez, stole over 20 bases once in his career.  In fact, if you remove all players who started their careers before 1920, Jason Kendall stole more bases than any other catcher.  His 189 steals beats the closest competitor, Carlton Fisk, by 62.  And Fisk played in almost 500 more games than Kendall!  While his running ability caught my eye, Kendall was no slouch behind the plate, either.  He ranks 2nd all-time (behind Pudge) in putouts by a catcher.  After he left Pittsburgh at the age of 30, though, he started to fall off, as catchers are wont to do.  Still, I think for a guy who spent 15 years in the Majors, he doesn't get enough credit for being the great player he was.

1st Base: Todd Helton


Now we get to the infield, where every player would probably be a Cub if I hadn't restricted myself.  Barring Cubs, Todd Helton is my favorite first baseman of all-time.  I have a soft spot for the Rockies, as they were the closest team to my town as soon as they entered the league.  Put that together with the fact that Helton played college football, and you have a player that I will likely follow.  Helton had two of the qualities I like to see in a first baseman, power and contact.  Helton may have hit a lot of home runs, but he was also a good contact hitter.  He posted 12 seasons with an average over .300, and even flirted with .400 in 2000 while leading the league with a .372 average.  Once again, I think I gravitate toward players that I feel are a bit underrated.

2nd Base: Chase Utley


As I mentioned in my 2nd-Team post, this position was difficult for me.  In the end, I decided on Utley because I have always admired his grit and tenacity while playing at a high level.  I know that this will be a controversial decision due to Utley's reputation as a dirty player, but I think he plays hard more than he plays dirty.  I know the blogs lit up a couple of years ago over Utley and his takeout slide on Ruben Tejada, and I know of some bloggers who defended him and some who took great personal offense over his actions.  Let me just say that yes, I believe Utley crossed a line on that play.  The slide was late and hard, and he caused a serious injury.  I don't believe his intent was to injure, but he was absolutely in the wrong.  That said, 13 years of scrappiness and 6 All-Star appearances before that play had already solidified Utley in my mind as a great player.

3rd Base: Chipper Jones


Chipper was kind of a no-brainer here for me.  This position could change in time, given the tremendous amount of talent at 3rd base right now, but Chipper is a big part of my adolescence.  I remember I had a friend in junior high who was obsessed with Chipper and the Braves.  I never became a Braves fan, but he piqued my interest in the player and I always respected the way he played the game.  There was no flash and fanfare--just a consistent "do your job" mentality.  He finished his career with a .303 average and just shy of 500 homers.  He should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in a few years.

Shortstop: Cal Ripken, Jr.


Cal Ripken had the persona that was everything good about baseball to me.  As a kid, I admired his consistency and his great play.  I remember magazine articles about how he would spend more time than anybody else signing for kids before and after games, and he was always so nice about it.  I don't have any firsthand experience with this, unfortunately, but I do remember the impact it made on me to read it.  He is one of the main reasons the All-Star Game became a tradition in my family and that I decided to collect All-Star MVPs.  We were watching when he won the MVP in 1991, and it has more or less stuck since.  When Cal was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007, he received 98.5% of the vote, the third-highest percentage ever received.

Left Field: Rickey Henderson


Purely coincidentally, my top three outfielders just happen to make up a pretty good outfield without playing out of position.   Rickey will take left field for me.  I remember distinctly when I first started to learn who some baseball players were, and Rickey Henderson was one of the first that I really liked.  One of my favorite mental images from my childhood is that of Rickey Henderson holding up the bag after breaking the stolen base record.  And though I've always admired guys who look like they're just out there having fun, Rickey seemed to me like he was all business.  I admire that too.

Center Field: Mike Trout


Trout is the youngest player on this team, and one of only a handful of active players that I considered.  My honorable mention list is filled with active players, but most of them haven't overtaken the older guys yet.  I have a couple of thoughts on why this would be.  My first thought is that they haven't proven themselves yet.  They are talented, but I don't know if I've seen enough of them to call them all-time favorites.  The second thought is that it's hard to beat nostalgia.  Whether I'm considering a player who I remember fondly from those days when baseball players were more than people or from the days of my early adulthood when I started understanding the nuances of the game better than I had before, I think those players have a leg up on the guys who are younger than I and play similarly to anybody else I've ever seen.  Mike Trout transcends all those thought processes.  I grew up hearing about how there were just a special few players in history who could do everything and do it well.  Ty Cobb was one.  Willie Mays may have been the best.  From all I've seen of Mike Trout in his relatively short career thus far, I believe that he could be the best ever.  He does it all, and better than most that I've seen.  Coming in after some of the haze of the Steroid Era, and after so many of its players had left, Trout represents a new generation to me, and I'm even more impressed that he is not under suspicion for using the PEDs that helped so many players of my childhood accomplish more.  Plus, he's just having fun, doggone it.  He is currently my favorite player, apologies to all my fellow Cubbie faithful and my boys in blue.

Right Field: Tony Gwynn


When I was in 7th grade, I gave up baseball.  I wish now that I had kept playing, but at the time I was super frustrated after having played 8 years from T-ball and up and having the same problem: I couldn't hit the ball!  I was a decent fielder.  I was tall for my age, so my reach gave me some advantage at first base, especially with all the errant throws of little league.  But I struggled to make contact consistently at the plate.  I was tired of batting 8th or 9th every game, and I "retired" with exactly zero home runs.  Why do I mention this?  Because it adds to the mystique of Tony Gwynn in my mind.  How could somebody make contact almost every single time?  He was the master hitter of my childhood.  He hardly ever struck out, it seemed.  Seriously, the man spent 20 years in the Majors and only struck out 434 times.  That doesn't even put him in the Top 1000 of career strikeouts.  After two decades!  To add some perspective, the newest member of the 3000 Hit Club, Adrian Beltre, reached Tony Gwynn's career strikeout total midway through his sixth season, almost 15 years ago.  I'm not saying anything against Beltre here; rather, I'm using his stature as a pretty good hitter himself to show just how rare it was to put Gwynn out on strikes.  The card above sums up feelings for Tony Gwynn completely: RESPECT.

Right-Handed Pitcher: Nolan Ryan


By the time I started to gain an interest in baseball, Nolan Ryan's career was winding down.  He was over 40 years old, but that didn't stop him from throwing a baseball harder than just about anyone and even pitching a no-hitter.  Plus, I had a card of him wearing a cowboy hat and working a ranch.  Now, I come from a rodeo family; my mother's brothers and sons were all professional bronc and bull riders at some point.  The point of familiarity with Ryan's lifestyle solidified my fandom.  In recent years, it has been re-fortified by the documentary Fastball.  If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend checking it out on Netflix.  Nolan Ryan's longevity, durability, and toughness are mind-blowing.  As the documentary points out, Ryan was pretty much his own reliever.  For decades.  The man is almost super-human.

Left-Handed Pitcher: Randy Johnson


I love two things about Randy Johnson.  First, I love the fact that he battled control problems early in his career and overcame them.   I like success stories like that.  Second, the bird.  Man, I don't know how many times I watched the video of The Big Unit just smoking that poor bird in one of the most bizarre cosmic coincidences I've ever seen occur on the baseball diamond.  By that time, I already recognized him as one of the top pitchers of my era, but a memory like that will stick in the mind of an adolescent boy.

Relief Pitcher: Dennis Eckersley


Eckersley was a Cub, but I never knew him as a Cub.  I don't think the Cubs are the first team many people think of when they think of Eckersley.  He was also a good starter.  But that was before I knew Dennis Eckersley.  When I first became aware of Eck, he was a dominant closer for the A's.  I loved watching him pitch.  He had that intimidating "don't mess with me" glare and a distinctive throwing motion that I really liked.  For me, he was the first closer that I knew, and he was good one to know.

Designated Hitter: Jim Thome


I mentioned before that I'm a National League guy.  I don't care much for the DH.  But, just as I decided to use it on this team so I could fit Frank Thomas on the team, I couldn't leave off one of the players that I respect the most.  Jim Thome was a model of consistency and quiet greatness.  For years he just did his thing and never garnered the accolades he probably deserved.  I remember in 2011 win he hit his 600th home run, and I couldn't believe that he had hit that many.  His final total of 612 currently sits at 7th all-time.  All the while, I would have never guessed that Jim Thome would have ended up in the top 10 by the end of his career.  Quiet greatness is an attribute I greatly admire.

So, there you have it.  The All Bump and Run Baseball 1st Team.  These may not be the best players ever, but they are all guys that I have seen play in my lifetime and admired for some reason or another.  Now it's your turn.  Who are your favorite players from your lifetime?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Huge TCDB Trade

I just finished a trade with TCDB user jlcre2003.  He approached me about a monster trade involving hundreds of cards, and I was interested.  He wanted mostly recent Topps inserts from me.  In return, I got, well, a little bit of everything.  Baseball and football mini-colletions and PCs, set help, Cubs and loads of cool new Packers.  I’ll just hit you with the highlights.

Let’s start with some baseball.  I apologize in advance for the picture quality.  I've been without a scanner for some months now, and my phone has recently started taking really washed out pictures.  I don't know what is wrong, but I'm going to go out on a limb and point the finger at my one year-old toddler, who loves to suck on whatever she finds, including smart phones.

Here we have our All-Star MVPs.

Extra points for Bobby Bonds as a Cub.

Speaking of Cubs, I got some Cubs from all eras

Vintage.  (1982 is vintage right?  I consider it vintage.  I think it predates junk wax.)

Junk wax of a couple of Cubbie legends.

The lost years for me.  Remlinger and Wellemeyer are new to my Cubs collection.

This comes from an insert set that I had no idea existed.  I like the concept, but I don't think I'll be chasing the set just yet.  Right now this will just have to be filed under "Miscellaneous Baseball Cards that I Kind of Like."

I only got one card to help a baseball set build, but it feels like an appropriate card to display this week.  Congrats to Pudge and the other new Hall of Fame inductees.

Set help for football came in more abundance.  Here is a selection of (mostly) Hall of Fame players from that set, along with the reigning Super Bowl MVP when the set was made.  The picture at the top of the post is a stack made entirely of 1988 Topps.  A mere 4 months after deciding I was going to complete the set, I've completed 80% of it.  Not too shabby.

A few other sets got some miscellaneous help, as well.

On to the All-Decades.  Here are some 80s greats.  I love the 1987 Topps Jerry Rice.  He appears to be getting ready to throw the football from the Jack Murphy infield.  

All 90s.  I know they may not have a ton of monetary value, but the Bruce Matthews and Randall McDaniel are Hall of Fame rookie cards.

And the 2000s team.  Kevin Mawae and Walter Jones are really hard to find.  Thank goodness for Topps Total and offensive lineman cards.

Like the Cubs, I got some Packers from all eras, too.

70s vintage.

Junk wax.

Late 90s.

Lost years.  Love the KGB.  I don't have much of him.

More lost years from Topps Total.

The inimitable Brett Favre.  The four on the left are a subset from the 1994 Roger Staubach brand.  I'd never known they existed.

Some additions to my BYU collectioin.  Dennis Pitta just joined Austin Collie as a career-ending injury casualty.  Both of them showed real talent and the ability to succeed and even stand out in the NFL, but both had insane bad luck when it came to injuries.  Collie was on the receiving end of some particularly vicious hits and ended up with a few concussions, while Pitta just kept breaking his hip.  

And finally, one more addition to my Brad Sorensen collection.  It's growing slowly, but there isn't a proliferation of cards to be had.  I pick them up one at a time here and there.

This trade was huge, and even with all the pictures I shared, this barely scratched the surface.  A big thanks to jlcre2003 for the trade.

Friday, July 14, 2017

2nd Team All-Bump and Run Baseball

I recently read a post by on one of my new favorite blogs, Dub Mentality, in which Dub presented his favorite baseball players ever.  There was one restriction, though; he could only select players who had played in his lifetime.  I enjoyed reading his list, then thought, "Hey, I enjoy making lists, too!  Why don't I do the same?"  So here I am, making a list.  But in typical fashion for me, I must have lots of lists.  As a result, I have expanded the lists to create an All-Bump and Run Baseball Team, with a 1st and 2nd Team.

I have 2 stipulations for myself in the creation of this list.  First, these must be players that have played in my lifetime.  I can't say that Willie Mays is my all-time favorite player here, because he was done before my time.  Second, I am striking Cubs from my list.  I don't want a list made of a bunch of hometown heroes just because they made their living on the Northside.  That said, I'm not eliminating everybody who ever donned a Cub uniform.  I'm making judgment calls between those who made a name for themselves as a Cub versus those who spent some time with the team.  I plan creating an All-Cubs team later.  There are no other set criteria.  I just reached into my memory banks and pulled out the players who I just truly enjoyed watching, collecting, following, etc.  For some of these players, I can't even explain why.  This is 100% subjective.  I realize that in many cases, my favorite does not equal the best.  This is just my personal preference.

Without further ado, I present to you my favorite baseball players, 2nd Tier.  I'll also give my honorable mentions here, to give you an idea of who just missed the cut.  Maybe you'll be able to guess some of my first-teamers by looking at the names who are already here.

Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez

"Pudge" was The Man at catcher for most of the time I was growing up baseball. A lot of this list was based on my experiences playing backyard baseball.  We would create lineups and keep score with batting averages, keeping ghost runners, and all the works.  Ivan Rodriguez was always the catcher.  I can't think of another catcher we ever used.

1st Base: Miguel Cabrera

I really like using the newfangled SABRmetrics to analyze player value and evaluate their play.  I'll admit that I don't always understand the numbers, but they seem to grade out well to me.  There's a large part of me that is an old soul, however.  I always admired Miggy's play and positive attitude, but his old-fashioned Triple Crown in 2012 cemented his place in my mind as one of my favorite players ever.
Honorable Mention: Jeff Bagwell, Andres Galarraga

2nd Base: Craig Biggio

I found that second base was a difficult decision for me.  All of my favorite second basemen have been Cubs for significant amounts of time.  I had to go with Biggio almost by default.  As I made these lists, I realized just how much more attention I've paid to the NL Central than any other division in baseball.  I may be a closet Pirates and Astros fan (from their pre-AL days).  The Killer B's were awesome to me, as Biggio made the 2nd team and Bagwell brought home honorable mention.

Honorable Mention: Neil Walker, Roberto Alomar

3rd Base: David Wright

There is a glut of talent at third base in the Majors these days.  There is a lot of youth at the position who will probably someday supplant David Wright here.  Right now, Wright gets it for his longevity and all-around solid career.  I feel for the guy with his back problems, too.  We are just months apart in age, so I get the back thing.  It seems like this is too young an age to have any back trouble, but I assure you it can happen, and it is not fun.

Honorable Mention: Kyle Seager, Nolan Arenado

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki

Shortstop was so difficult to find a second-teamer.  Throughout this exercise, I realized that I like shortstops.  There were so many to choose from that my honorable mention list could go on forever.  Tulo gets the nod here because I have a soft spot for the Rockies.  When they came into the league in 1993, they were by far the closest thing I had to a hometown team.  I love the way Tulowitzki plays, and having an uncommonly good bat at the position doesn't hurt.

Honorable Mention: Barry Larkin, Alan Trammel (and many others I had to cut down)

Outfield: Hunter Pence

Hunter Pence is the Major League oddball.  He is so goofy that I have no choice but to love him.  His slap swing looks like a throwback to the 1920s.  His throwing motion leaves me in astounded that he can get the ball to the infield, let alone have the cannon that he does.  If I didn't love him before, the season of "Hunter Pence Signs" a few years back pushed me to it.  I mean, who doesn't love a baseball player who can't parallel park?  And his responses always matched goof for goof.

Just awesome.

Outfield: Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen is a superstar the way I think superstars should be.  First, his super talent helped raise his team from years of sitting on the trash heap to the top of the division.  Second, he is good-natured and seems to genuinely love playing the game.  I can't think of a time when McCutchen was in the news and I thought, "What is he thinking?"  He just seems like a stand-up guy to me.

Outfield: Ichiro

If I like Pence's slap swing, I have to consider Ichiro for the list.  I consider Ichiro to be one of the top 3 hitters of my lifetime, and I don't think too many people could argue with his inclusion on the list.  No, he doesn't pack much power, but he is a contact machine.

Honorable Mention: Torii Hunter, Jim Edmonds, Dante Bichette

RHP: Orel Hershiser

Right handed pitcher was the hardest position to narrow down for me.  There have just been too many good righties.  Every time I thought of one, I immediately thought of another who would take his place.  I actually had about four different people in this spot before I remembered Orel Hershiser.  I was just starting to pay attention to baseball when he had his scoreless inning streak.  I doubt I truly understood what that meant at the time, but I knew it was big and that Orel Hershiser was the coolest guy ever.

Honorable Mention: Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Brandon Webb, Felix Hernandez. . . and I'll stop there.  This list doesn't even include every guy that I had in my second team until I thought of another.  I would need an entire pitching staff.

LHP: Jim Abbott

What kid growing up in the late 80s and early 90s didn't love Jim Abbott?  A hotshot prospect out of college, an immediate All-Star, and a no-hitter under his belt makes for a great pitcher.  But then you add the made-for-TV story that he is, and you have an instant hero.  Really, between the greatness that is my first-teamer and Jim Abbott, I didn't even have a consideration for left-handed honorable mention.

RP: Trevor Hoffman

Trevor Hoffman dominated the National League.  That is pretty much it.  At the time when Mariano Rivera was setting all kinds of records for closers in the AL, Trevor Hoffman was more quietly doing it in the NL in a smaller market.  I'm an NL guy, so I will go with Hoffman over Rivera any day.  I appreciate his league affiliation and the lack of fanfare that accompanied all-time greatness.

DH: Frank Thomas

Am I cheating a bit here?  Possibly.  But, as I just mentioned before, I'm an NL guy.  The inclusion of a DH on this list doesn't sit too well with me.  So I put a guy who I respected throughout his entire career and who just happened to take the DH role toward the end.  Frank Thomas was a hitter, and that about sums him up.

Well, that does it for my 2nd Team All-Bump and Run Baseball Team.  Again, these are just players that I have rooted for in my lifetime.  No one before my time counts, and there is no expectation that these guys are the best.  Just my favorites.  Now you've seen my 2nd-teamers and the Honorable Mentions who came ohsoclose, who do you think is on my 1st team?  Let's see some guesses in the comments below.  Remember, I may be a Cubs fan, but I'm not allowing Cubs on this team.