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.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Best Baseball Card Story Ever

My local news station ran a story yesterday about a Tennessee card collector who needed a kidney.  When his wife found out she would be a match for a transplant, she had Topps make up a custom card for him, announcing that his wife would be donating a kidney to him.  She then presented him with a pack of cards, with the custom card as the last card in the pack.  After a moment of dumbfounded surprise, he broke down with emotion as he realized just what he was reading.  I'm attaching a link to the original CBS story (which repeatedly calls the baseball cards "playing cards"). 

It seems that good stories are rare on the news.  We all know that tragedy sells.  But even rarer than a story of selflessness is one involving baseball cards.  I'm glad to see this man receive such an act of love, gratified to see his wife put such thought into finding a special way to present him with the news, and even more pleased to see a card collector get even more pleasure from his passion.  Kudos to you, Mrs. Winfree.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Great Big, Cheesy Group Break

Last month, Nachos Grandes hosted a group break.  He broke two boxes of 2017 Archives, one box of 2017 Diamond Kings, and a box each of 2017 and 2016 Bunt.  To my surprise, nobody had taken the Cubs yet, so I pounced.  Everybody who bought into the break got the team of their choice plus a random bonus team.  When I saw that no one had claimed the Angels, I was hoping to score some Mike Trout.  Alas, my random team was . . . the Marlins.  You know, the team with like 3 cards in the entire master set.  Of any set.  Oh well, I was just in it for the Cubbies anyway.  The rest is just gravy.

When I got the results, though, the package was much heavier than I expected.  And here is why:

There was SO MUCH more than the boxes I saw him break on the video.  And this was only the Cubs portion.  He actually sent some random Marlins, too.  By the way, I'm not sure who should be thanking whom for that--I was getting free cards after all, but I'm sure he was more than happy to clear his boxes of Marlins.  Actually, there are a few Marlins I collect, so I appreciated some of those cards anyway.

We'll start with the Diamond Kings.  I don't think I can complain about any of these players.  This is my first look at 2017 DK, and like last year's version, I'm pretty impressed.  It's by far my favorite Panini baseball product.

Here are a couple of shorter printed cards.  The Addison Russell is from the SP portion of the checklist, while Chris marked "Variation" on Rizzo's penny sleeve.

Moving on to Archives, there were Cubs in all three designs this year.  I have to say, I'm not a huge fan of the 1960 design.  First of all, they're all horizontal.  Second, I don't love the yellow strip with two-toned text.  I do like the two pictures on the front, though.  Once again, I like the player selection.

On to the 1982 design.   With Zobrist, Rizzo, Bryant, Ryno, and Fergie, this is the best design of the set for the Cubs.  Plus, I have my first Wade Davis card with the Cubs.  Let's take a moment to mourn the season that is happening right now.  The team was almost without question the best team in baseball wire to wire last year is currently mired in mediocrity.  The team that won the World Series has one All-Star on its roster this year--and that is a player who wasn't even part of that championship team.  So that's enough mourning the season.  Let's celebrate Wade Davis's performance and welcome him to my collection.

And here is the 1992 portion of Archives.  I kind of expected more from this design, but it feels a bit off to me.  Maybe it has to do with these particular players being somewhat disappointing.  Sorry to lump you in there, Andre, but each of your groupmates has done something that left me shaking my head this season.

Two boxes of Archives yielding two Cubs inserts.  It seems like the inserts of Archives are never really cohesive with the rest of the set.  To me, it would have been better to include sticker sets or Topps Gold parallels like the originals had.  Why include a 1959 Bazooka design with the 1960, 1982, and 1992 redux?

Bunt is once again a fun set.  It is cheap.  It looks cheap.  And it's satisfying.   I don't like it as much I did last year, but it's still a nice little set. 

New to Bunt this year is the parallel.  The blues fall one per pack, and I picked up four Cubbies.  I have to say, the Cubs look really good on the blue parallel.

And here are the Bunt inserts.  I like the Programs insert, but I think I liked it better last year.  I've heard some people giving the Infinite set some flak, but I like it. I think I may eventually put this set together.  For the time being, I'm quite satisfied with the Cubs on the checklist.  The Perspectives set is kind of boring for me, and I'm not sure what it's meant to do.  Especially after the incredible set of the same name that appeared in Flagship last year, this set does nothing for me. 

The Cubs weren't the only team I had in the break, but as I pointed out earlier, the Marlins don't have too many cards in the checklists.  I did end up with a couple of Marlins in Archives and Bunt, though.  Here are a couple of the base, the blue parallel and a Perspectives insert from Bunt.  I'm keeping the Ichiro, but the rest are available for all of those Marlins collectors who will be beating down my door for these.  First come, first serve, everybody.

All in all, I'm happy with the box break, and more than pleased with the number of extra goodies Nachos Grandes sent along in the mailer.  Thanks a lot, Chris!  It was a lot of fun.  This probably won't be the last time I buy into one of your group breaks.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Surprise Mail Day

In the back of my mind, I'm always keeping track of packages that  I'm expecting to receive in the near future.  Between ebay, blog trades and Zistle/TCDB trades, it seems that there is usually at least one thing en route every week.  Sometimes, I end up waiting longer than I expect to receive something.  And even more rarely, something show's up in the mailbox that I had no idea was even coming.  GCA treated me to one of those surprises this past month.

Included in his package was a note that said that I have an easy wantlist for him to hit.  I know why that is.  Compared to so many bloggers that have been in the game for longer, my have list is much more wide open.  Commons from the 80s and 90s?  I probably need them.  I see collectors posting about their 1000th card of a single player in their PC.  Geez, my Packers and Cubs collections are right around 1000 cards total for each team.  My largest quantity for a single player has yet to reach 100.  The point is, I'm easy to find cards for because I need so many.

In this surprise package, Greg hit mini-collections and set needs, and did a good job of hitting cards I didn't have.

First, I got a healthy stack of 1992 Fleer football.  I needed all of them.  This is a prime example of what I'm saying.  How many other people would be excited to see a bunch of this set show up in the mailbox?  I, however, was really happy.  I'm getting closer to finishing this set.

Oh look, another set from 1992 that I'm trying to complete.  This is just the highlight reel, as Greg sent me about a dozen needs from this set.  

The last set need that Greg hit was a more recent insert set.  I have to say, I really don't like the Boston Beards, but I like the set revolving around superstitions in baseball, so this set was definitely on my wantlist.

All of these cards represent All-Star MVPs or ROYs.   And they're all oddballs.  We have cards that once accompanied breakfast cereal, snack cakes, fast food, and restaurants.  This in and of itself would make this package. 

Of course, there were more than the few cards I showed here, but this is a good representation of how easy I am to please and how Greg seems to have found a welcome place to unload cards that probably nobody else wants.  Thanks for the surprise package, Greg.  I'll work on building a return package, but you might need to give me some time because I don't have much for you yet.  The favor will not go unreturned!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Free Swag From a Cutch Collector

A couple of months ago, Collecting Cutch hosted what has been the best giveaway of the year, in my opinion.  He asked everybody to show off their Top 10 cards of their favorite player.  I loved reading all the posts and seeing what other people valued most concerning the player of whom they value everything.  There was a great response to the contest, and, if I understood correctly, every entrant came away with something. 

I got my package a couple of weeks ago, along with a note apologizing for not having very many Packers cards.  The reason?  Apparently, Brian "torched" all of his Green Bay cards after they beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl a few years back.  Well, Brian, I'm sorry about that, but not really.  That didn't stop him from putting together a nice little package.

Not everything Green and Gold was ashes, fortunately, as this beauty found a spot in the package (and my collection).  Abbrederis was used sparingly during the regular, but saw some good action in the playoffs in 2015, starting a game and making six grabs for 69 yards that year.  He signed with Detroit this offseason, but this is still an awesome card, numbered to 150.

A few new Cubs came along with the big prize, including that USA Baseball Albert Almora.  I don't generally collect USA baseball cards because it feels weird to me to have cards of kids I don't know, some of whom may even be under 16.  But it is fun to see players who have made a name for themselves back when they were barely beginning to realize their dreams.

Finally, a really cool card (to me): an Andrew McCutchen oddball!  This is a 2006 Police Card, and one that I would have never even known that it existed if it hadn't been sent to me.  I may not collect Cutch, but he is one of my favorite guys in the MLB, so this card will stay put with me.  I love it.

Thanks again, Brian, for the awesome contest and great package.  I may never be able to send you a Cutch that you don't already own, but maybe someday I'll be able to get something good out to you.