Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Beginning of the Bryzzo Brexit

I have been dreading July 30th since April. The Cubs' brass has made little secret of their desire to cut costs and start a rebuild of the team. This stings a bit because the core of the team that has been designated as too expensive to keep just happens to be the core that brought home the Cubbies' only championship in the lifetime of virtually any person currently on earth. When they won the championship, I was elated, but also surprised. It seemed that the squad of youngsters had arrived ahead of schedule. Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and Willson Contreras were all rookies or second-year players when they won it all. It seemed like that core would only grow stronger as they matured and I expected more future success as they hit their primes. Now here we are, five years later and those players have hit their primes and their contract years. They have been good enough to win a few division titles, but with no more postseason success. They have also been good enough to all get paid, and the sad reality is that the Cubs couldn't--or wouldn't--pay them all. So the decision was made to blow it up and move on. I've been less than excited about the prospect of saying goodbye to some of the most special players in the history of my fandom, but it's happening.

None of these guys are Cubs anymore.

I know it wasn't the first trade the Cubs made this season. And I know that some of the aforementioned youngsters left the team before this year. But the departure of Anthony Rizzo the day before the deadline marked the beginning of the Cub-pocalypse that I was expecting. 
Cub-pocalypse it was, as they seemed determined to raze the thing down to the final brick. Just consider this: they let Kyle Schwarber walk in free agency this winter, replaced him with Joc Pederson (who is essentially the same player), then traded Schwarber's replacement this month. In a strange twist of fate, both Schwarber-style players were traded by their respective employers. A similar situation happened with Jon Lester and Trevor Williams, though they aren't as similar as Schwarber and Pederson. This team was never meant to stay together in any way, shape, or form. I knew that. I was expecting that. It was still shocking to see them give up on retaining the entire trio of Rizzo, Baez, and Bryant.

Rizzo was the shocker to me. He's been with the team the longest and I didn't expect him to be dealt first. Perhaps as a coping mechanism in the aftermath of the trades, I took to scanning my collection of these players to share. This will be scan-heavy with little commentary beyond mentioning a few cards. I don't have any mega-hits in my collection. This is just my tribute to say, "Thank you," to the players whose achievements have meant the most to me as a fan.

My favorite card here is the rookie. It showcases Rizzo's somewhat awkward straight-up batting stance.

I think my favorites on this page are the 1990-style Archives and playful Rizzo at the Home Run Derby.

2019 Topps Tribute wins here, as I have so few Tribute cards.

I'm going with the great stadium shot on Stadium Club here.

I like the simple A&G pose here.

Now we start to get into non-base cards. My favorite here is the Heritage Chrome.

I like the 5-Tool card in this group, though Rizzo has never been a five-tool player.

In the last group, my favorite is a toss-up between the Fire En Fuego and the DK Aficionado.

Thursday's Rizzo trade marked the end of Bryzzo, the most fun baseball duo this side of Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus. We'll miss you in Wrigleyville, Anthony!

Monday, July 26, 2021

Rookie of the Year Spotlight: Albie Pearson

Some of the collections I have been working on over the years are starting to get filled out and my goals are being reached. As a result, I'm starting to slow down a little when it comes to acquiring many cards for some of my mini-collections. Now that the collection is filling more and more complete, I wanted to start showcasing the cards I have, player by player.
One such collection is my Rookie of the Year collection. I love collecting players who have won the award as the top newcomer in each league. This wasn't born of hot rookie hype and the desire to prospect. Rather, I became fascinated thinking about the careers of guys like Eric Karros, Jerome Walton, and Tim Salmon, who experienced varying degrees of success but may not have become superstars. I thought it would be fun to have a collection that chronicles the individual career journeys of rookie stars--whether they burned bright and flamed out quickly, regressed to the mean, or wended their way to Cooperstown.
My goal has been to fill a binder page for each player who won the award in my lifetime and to fill a row for older players. I may expand that later as I expand my vintage collection. The ultimate goal of my binder is to show a card from every different uniform the player wore, from fresh-faced rookie to grizzled vet. This series is to commemorate each Rookie of the Year's career and show my collection of their cards. I placed all of the past winners into and got my order. The next player up is:

Albie Pearson

So the first two top rookies called up by the randomizer are winners from the 1950s who I've never seen play. Albie Pearson won the award in 1958 while with the Washington Senators. He batted .275 in his freshman season, knocking 25 doubles and three home runs. He hit 33 RBI, walked 64 times, and struck out 31 times. As the team's regular centerfielder, he finished his rookie season second in the league in outfield putouts.

Following up his Rookie of the Year performance, Pearson dropped off a bit. He was traded to Baltimore halfway through his second season. After hitting .264 in 128 games for the Orioles, Pearson was taken with the fourth pick in the 1960 expansion draft, joining the Angels for their inaugural season.

He played the best seasons of his career in California. In six seasons, he compiled a 13.1 WAR and made one All-Star appearance, in 1963. In his All-Star season, he batted a career-high .304, good for third in the league. The same year, he finished second in putouts as an outfielder. He also led the league in runs scored the year before.

After the 1966 season, his career came to an end. In all, he played 988 games over nine seasons for three teams. The 1961 Topps card above is my only Pearson card. I still need one each representing the Senators and the Orioles.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Paying It Forward Again

A couple of weeks ago, I made a post expressing my gratitude for the benevolence found among card bloggers and the TCDB community. I put up what I had hoped to be the first of several card giveaways. Thank you to all who claimed some! (Sidebar: John Sharp, if you're reading, I still need your address to send you your claim.) Afterward, the card community showed what they were all about once again.

Reader Randy claimed some cards from my post. About a week later I received a RAK from him, out of the blue. He sent a note saying he had found these cards on my TCDB wantlist.

We have Rookie of the Year Pat Zachry, All-Star Frankenset filler Dan Petry, and former BYU Cougar Wally Ritchie. Thanks, Randy!

Then one of my TCDB trades came in last week. Among other cards were these three awesome college cards.
The trade was packaged in a 9-pocket page in PWE. The bottom row of the page had a sticky note saying these cards were extras from my wantlist. The note ended with "PIF."
So I'm going to keep paying it forward. The same deal as last time: make a claim in the comments and make sure I have your mailing address.
We'll start with some football.
Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Group 4
Group 5

And we'll end with some baseball.

Group 6

Group 7

Group 8

Group 9

Group 10

Also, any unclaimed cards from the last giveaway are still available. Just let me know if you want anything. If I don't have your current address, please email it to me at tntcardsstg at gmail. Hope you find something you like!

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Baseball at Its Best

Last night was a beautiful night for baseball in the Mountain West. In the middle of an unprecedented heat wave, yesterday was overcast and cooler. The smoke drifting over from Oregon and California, while tragic, actually helped set the atmosphere. The smoke-filled skies helped cool things down and made for some beautiful colors as the sun set. Against this backdrop, baseball's best met at Coor's Field in the annual All-Star Game. The Midsummer Classic has been a tradition for me since I was a kid, and the reason behind one of my biggest collection focuses, All-Star Game MVPs. The All-Star Game is the single biggest MLB game of the year to me.

Except last night, for the third straight All-Star Game, I wasn't watching.

Since my boys got to be old enough to play Little League, their state tournaments have coincided with the All-Star Game every year. So while the MLB All-Stars played, I was watching this game, also played in the Rocky Mountains.

Didn't I tell you it was a perfect night for baseball? This is my second son, Gavin, who singled, scored, lined out to third, and grounded out to shortstop on the night. His team advanced to the semi-finals, so they have two games tonight to play for the Utah Mustang League (3rd & 4th grade) state title. I may have missed the All-Star Game, but there was nowhere I would have rather been.

But congrats to Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., who took home MVP honors and joined my list of PC players. He hit a solo home run and an RBI ground out to help the AL win (again).

Unfortunately for me, I haven't held on to every Vlad Jr. I've pulled, so these three cards are all I have outside of set builds to start my ASG MVP PC. But welcome to the club, Vlad!

Meanwhile tonight, while the professional baseball world remains quiet, I'll be cheering on the Salem Mets. It doesn't get any better than that.