Tino Martinez – 1991 Fleer

November 30, 2010


Look At That Perfect Form!

Did he study with Tom Emanski? I love the fact that he’s actively going to use two hands to field that grounder. If there’s one thing I heard all of the time when I played as a youth – it was ‘TWO HANDS!’  Heck, I heard it when this card was out and I was playing slow-pitch.

(My fielding woes drove me to the slow-pitch pitching mound at a young age – sort of like a player who becomes a DH at age 23 or so. Later I began to hit like a pitcher – and that’s when I decided I needed another hobby.)

Tino was a great fielder in his prime. He also had 2 great seasons, 1 excellent seasons and several good years. He’s eligible for the HOF but he’s not going to make it. If Mattingly’s not going in the HOF (and he won’t), then Tino won’t get in – I doubt if he makes the next ballot. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad player – just not HOF worthy.

Of course, the HOF excluded at least one worthy player (Lou Whitaker) because of the 5% rule but it does keep the chaff off of the ballot. The entire HOF debate is pretty pointless. There are about a dozen players I’d crowbar out – and some 19th century players (like Pete Browning) who definitely deserve to be in there. Ron Santo’s exclusion is a huge stain on the Hall.

If I had a HOF vote, here is who I would vote for:

Alomar

Bagwell

Blyleven

Larkin

McGwire

Palmeiro

Raines

Trammell

Walker

But I don’t have a vote. My only concern is that some very deserving players (like Tim Raines) will get left behind because people don’t recognize the contributions he made. Ah, well.

Anyone who makes a HOF ballot is a player worthy of remembering. Even if they don’t get a vote, the played major league ball for 10+ years. That’s a dandy career at any speed.

Actually, WE can remember. We have little cardboard things of Tino fielding a ground ball with two hands. Coach Rick would have been proud!

 

Hal Lanier – 1987 Topps

November 30, 2010

“Son, I Am Disappoint”

Hey, Hal….lighten up will ya? It’s a baseball game! It’s not like you’ve busted you 15-year old for staying out until 2AM and then puking in the hostas. I mean, this was taken in 1986 – your team WON the NL West and then gave the Mets all they ever asked for in the NLCS – playing one of the most exhilarating games ever.

There are words for that expression: dour, taciturn, laconic, poopy-pants.

But at least he wasn’t laughing…

Show Him The Money, Now!

Jose Bautista was already wealthy by most accounts. He’s now eligible for arbitration, and may soon sign a contract that would come close to the GDP of Sao Tome & Principe.

Of course, the cry is ‘steroids’, but that is a knee-jerk reaction which ignores the fact that throughout history, players have dramatically increased their home run numbers year over year.

Yeah, 54 homers is a bit extreme for a guy with modest power numbers beforehand, but the park factors of the Rogers Centre were INSANE this year (105), compared to it being historically neutral. They year before, the park effect was (96), so it was a pitchers park. That’s a nine-point effect swing. What was up in Toronto anyway? They Jays hit 35 more home runs at home than on the road.

Brian Roberts went from four homers to 18 (and that was two years after he ‘juiced’), Wade Boggs went from eight to 24 in the year of the juiced ball (1987), and Bert Campaneris smashed 22 home runs in 1970, and his next highest total was eight.

Remember Cecil Fielder? Yeah, he had some power in the minors, but in 558 plate appearances before 1990 he hit 31 home runs. In 1990, he had 673 plate appearances and 51 home runs.

George Foster went from 29 home runs to 52 between 1976 and 1977. Again, not on Bautista’s scale, but that’s a big difference in dinger totals – especially in a low-scoring era.

And of course Ned Williamson went from two to 24 home runs between 1883 and 1884. Of course, the new Lake Front Park that the White Stockings played in had a HUGE factor in that. As well as the fact that there were THREE “major” leagues and 33 total ‘major league’ franchises. Talk about watering down the talent pool!

Well, anyway, I hate the steroid talk. I’m not burying my head in the sand, but I don’t think it helped McGwire, Bonds or Sosa that much. There are so many variables to home run totals – the ball (don’t think MLB doesn’t juice it up), the wind, the pitching (12-man staffs really dilute the talent), the ballparks, the strike zone (a narrow strike zone has a huge impact on the number of meatballs a batter gets because the pitcher is down 2-0 and 3-1 all the time), etc. etc. I don’t think Bautista juiced. He found a groove and it was his year.

It will be quite interesting to see Bautista’s home run totals next year. He may dip down to 25 or 30, and that would be normal. One big reason is pitchers making adjustments to him.

This past season, Jays opponents had to deal with up to eight players with double digit home run power in the lineup. You couldn’t pitch around Bautista, because Wells or Lind were behind them, or Overbay, or Buck, or…

You get the idea. In 2011, the Jays will have remodeled a bit, and it will be interesting to see how pitchers deal with Bautista if the lineup around him has a little less power.

+++++

BTW – Looky over to the right. I’ve added some trading lists. My want list will be updated soon, and I’ll add two more trading lists for post-junk cards and ye olde junk wax era.

Tim Leary – 1991 Donruss

November 29, 2010

Timothy Leary’s Dead…No, No, He’s Outside…Looking In…”

 

Did any Mets fan think of this song after watching Leary’s first start in his career and promptly hurt his arm after starting a game when it was a bit…frosty. Torre wanted him to start the game to save his job. Pop goes the elbow.

“TINSTAAPP”

Let’s resume our discussion of ‘pitching prospects, shall we?

If you are a baseball fan of some seasoning (but not all that much – I’m not talking about watching Steve Dalkowski pitch, bub…) you remember the much ballyhooed ‘Four Aces’ that Oakland selected in the 1990 draft.

They were: Todd Van Poppel (the big prize), Kirk Dressendorfer (the next Roger Clemens, from Texas), Don Peters, and Mr. Zancanaro.

Van Poppel was such the prize he was signed to a major league contract (which turned out to be a huge drawback for him), whilst the others were ‘fast tracked’. It was thought that this bunch would replace Stewart, Welch, and the others and form the next generation of Oakland starters into the mid-to-late 90’s and maintain Oakland’s place as an elite AL team.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

You know about Van Poppel. His problem was not injury, but the fact that he HAD to go up to the minors in a shortened time frame otherwise be lost to waivers thanks to the fact he signed an MLB contract out of the gate. Any time the A’s sent him down, they had to use an option.(If I can find a Van Poppel card, I will have more on him…including the fact that he holds one of the most dubious records in baseball history.)

Dressendorfer did make it to the majors at the beginning of 1991. But the coaches at UT – Austin had a nasty habit of abusing pitcher’s arms, and Dressendorfer was one of their victims. He made seven starts, was sent down, got crushed at Tacoma and was shut down. He pitched 36 2/3 the next three seasons in the low, low minors and then spent 1995 and 1996 in the minors as a reliever (or in the case of 1995 – a guy who started the game and then left  after an inning or two to get guaranteed work in) and really never recaptured any of his past glory. After a short stint in Albuquerque, he was done.

Peters had a great start in short-season ball in 1990, and pitched in Huntsville in 1991. His 4-11, 5.00 slate wasn’t great, but he was a 21-year old pitching in AA and coming from a small college in Illinois. However, the next stat line on his ledger was 1995 as a member of the Giants organization. He missed two seasons with injuries and then sat out another. He sat out 1996, and then signed with the Diamondbacks as they were allowed to build up their minor league system before starting their MLB club. He struggled at AA and AAA and finished his career pitching for Yuma in an independent league in 2000.

Zancanaro did OK in short-season ball in 1990 and also was in Huntsville in 1991. (Van Poppel also did the bulk of his pitching there – so three of the “Four Aces” entertained the families of the NASA base there during the summer of 1991.) He did OK, especially considering the rest of the team was pretty rotten. He was promoted to Tacoma in 1992 and continued his bad luck with a 2-11 record despite a 4.26 ERA.

Then, nothing until 1995, when he was rehabbing down in Class A, starting 16 games but pitching just 32 2/3 innings. He seemingly was recovered, and started out the next season in Modesto. But any hopes of being on of the “Four Aces” to actually pay off died a death back in Huntsville with a 5.61 ERA and peripheral stats that said he was throwing meatballs.

Still, he perservered, pitching in the Padres, Yankees, Cubs and Cardinals organization, hoping to justify his long-ago lofty status. But 32-year old pitchers with a 5.99 ERA in AAA don’t usually get to pitch at age 33.

About the card – it looks kind of creepy. It HAS to be retouched, either that or Oakland didn’t put logos on its workout jerseys in minor league camp. He looks more like a model for a uniform company than a pitcher.

It was not the fault of Zancanaro that he had such lofty expectations. He pitched at UCLA and had high expectations for success, sure, but he didn’t ask to be put on the Baseball America cover holding an ace from an oversize deck of cards. He certainly didn’t ask to get hurt. But that’s baseball – again there  are no guarantees.

The “Four Aces”, and all of the shenanigans around Brien Taylor threw some cold water on the notion of ‘sure thing’ prospects for a while. But we fans have short memories, and they Strasburg hype was much like the Van Poppel hype. However, at least the Nats had the sense to shut Strasburg down before there was more serious injury. And Strasburg was bright enough to not pitch when he had discomfort.

I wonder if that ever occurred to Zancanaro? Or did he just decide to ‘gut it out?’

The A’s slumped in the 90’s, but did rebound and rebounded with pitching. But it was guys like Hudson, Mulder and Zito that got them back to prominence. And in the year 2000, in Game Five of the ALDS, a time where Zancanaro could have been an established ‘ace’ – the A’s hopes rested on the right arm of…

Gil Heredia.

Future Stars? Really Upper Deck? Really?

Ever since I found these packs in the Target bargain blowouts (usually in the 8 packs for $9.99 cardboard that normally has a Heritage or A&G in it and then of course the 2007 Fleer Ultras in the back), I wondered about the name of this series.

Then, BA Benny ripped one, and in the comments I used my MST3K “Future War” line. (BTW – that episode is a must see. The movie is hideous beyond belief and the riffs by the ‘bots and Mike are sharp!)

But I really want to parse this thing out here a sec.

Let’s go with some definitions:

Future (adj.) -That is to be or come hereafter.

Star (n.) – A person who excels or performs brilliantly in a given activity, esp. a sport.

Ergo, future star is someone who will excel or perform brilliantly in the future, but is not necessarily one now.

So, who is in this series?

Well, some aging vets like Smoltz, Ortiz, Schilling, Thome, Griffey, Helton, I-Rod, Sheffield, Berkman, Guerrero, Kent, Damon, Giambi, Piazza, and Glaus. It’s now 2010, and really just Thome, Ortiz and Guerrero are active stars by the definition of stars.

Some of the future stars were guys who were in their prime or had stuff in the tank, like the Jones (Chipper and Andruw – oopsy on that one), A-Rod, Jeter, Young, etc. I can almost give them that, kinda, sorta, but to me a pack of ‘Future Stars’ should be good, young players – just getting up to arbitration eligible or just past “Super Two” status.

But the young players they DID choose, you have to wonder about the criteria.

Oh, I know they had a lot of inserts of “All-Star” Futures, numbered to 500, but those should have been the BASE of the set. Guys like Lincecum, Gordon, Cain, Verlander, de Aza. Those would have fit the criteria – yes some would miss but there is no sure thing in baseball.

But in the base set, you had guys like Conor Jackson, who had a decent 2006 as a young first baseman for Arizona. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that a first baseman with modest secondary skills (power and patience) would never be a star – especially in Arizona. Good player, yes. Star, no.

Jon Garland is another name on the checklist. He was coming off of back to back 18-win seasons. But, as for stardom he was never the ‘ace’ of the Sox. He was the third man in the rotation in the 2005 post-season, and in 2006 he led the AL in hits allowed. He never was going to be a marquee name, just a innings eater. And that’s what he is today.

Chris Duncan got on the checklist because he was on the World Series winners. But anyone who saw Duncan play the outfield knew that he was, well, um…horrific. How does -17 fielding runs above average in 2007 grab you? His numbers in the minors were rather pedestrian, and he was helped by LaRussa’s insane machinations. A ‘star’ isn’t a platoon corner outfielder, but Duncan was as a rookie and an astute observer could have seen that he was never going to be more than a platoon player. Now, were Rance Mulliniks or Gary Roenicke stars? No. Were they great platoon players? Yes. That was Duncan’s topside and it was obvious then.

And this season, while his brother Shelley is having somewhat of a renaissance in Cleveland (well, he was better than some of the other guys they trotted out there when Sizemore got hurt and they had to scramble the OF up big time), Chris was hitting .191 in Syracuse. Oof.

This leads us (FINALLY!) to the pictured card – Zach Duke, 2007 FUTURE STAR.

Do future stars get DFA’d at age 27?

Well, he is a pitcher, and you should know the rule that Baseball Prospectus put forth  (TINSTAAPP) – There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. So these things happen. People fall off the rails really quickly. For every Maddux, Smoltz or Glavine – there’s a Steve Avery waiting to happen.

But someone should have noticed this about Mr. Duke before calling him a “Future Star”:

1. He was playing for Pittsburgh. Since Schmidt and Neagle left and Francisco Cordova blew out his arm – the Pirates have ‘developed’ guys like Josh Fogg, Kip Wells, Oliver Perez and Ian Snell. Oh, Tom Gorzelanny’s OK but now he’s a Cub, and Paul Mahlom and Ross Ohlendorf could be the next Mike Maroth’s.

2. His fantastic 2005 was promising, but 2006 threw cold water on that. The NL hitters adjusted and he gave up 255 hits and 116 runs.

3. Did I say he was playing for Pittsburgh?

Anyway, unless Upper Deck really needed a Pirate in the set, Duke wasn’t anyone’s idea of a ‘future star’. He was perhaps a ‘future All-Star representative for a crappy team that has no one else even remotely resembling a representative.’  Or perhaps a ‘future innings eater that can throw 200 innings of league average baseball if he’s got a good defense behind him’.

Well, in 2007, the NL hit .359 against him. He was hurt, you say. But in his CAREER the NL has hit .305 against him. When he was named a “Future Star” by Upper Deck, he was coming off of a season where opposing batters hit .302 against him.

He’s not really blowing it past ‘em, is he?

At any rate, while I am collecting this set (it looks cool, why not?) Duke is everything that is wrong with the name “Future Star”.

And now, he’s a Diamondback, fresh off a 8-15, 5.72 season. Going to the Diamondbacks, though, means that he’ll play for a 70-win team, not a 50-win team.

That may perk up his spirits.

 

 

 

Al Pedrique – 1988 Donruss

November 27, 2010

The Pirates’ (Shortstop) Tale

This is why a franchise stanks….

Name great Pirates shortstops: Honus Wagner, Arky Vaughn, Dick Groat. I MAY give you Jay Bell for his age-27 year, but he didn’t become Jay Bell until he got to Arizona.

In most of the 2000’s, the Pirates settled on Jack Wilson – a fair field no hit guy. They SETTLED. Wilson’s a good guy to have on a team with a bunch of great players. But he’s not a decade long player for a building young team.

When the Pirates were the Lumber Company and the Fam-I-Lee, they had guys like Gene Alley, Frank Taveras, Tim Foli, and Dale Berra out there at short. Wilson would have been just as good for those teams, but no better really.

So I give you Al Pedrique. No, he’s not Sammy Khalifa. He hit better than Rafael Belliard and Felix Fermin.He hit .301 in 1987 for Pittsburgh, but it was an empty .301. The next year, he hit .180 and so Belliard was back at short. Fermin was dispatched to Cleveland to get Bell.

Pedrique is a baseball lifer with a capital “L”. By all accounts a nice guy and a great teacher. He spent 4 full seasons at Jackson in the Southern League, THEN played 10 years in AAA before and after major league stints. You have to have something else in your docket if you spend that much time in the minors.

But he’s a symbol of the Pirates problems. They couldn’t find a shortstop, and then when they find one, they SETTLE. Except for one season Jay Bell was settling (and bunting…wow…). Wilson was settling.

Between Bell and Wilson there was Kevin Polcovich, Lou Collier, Mike Benjamin, Abraham Nunez and Pat Meares. When Wilson was traded they got Ronny Cedeno to handle short.

Ronny Cedeno. Career OPS+ of 66. A WAR of -0.9 for his career. And he compounds his lack of hitting for sub-standard defense per the metrics.

Al Pedrique is 50 years old. He’s the bench coach of the Astros. And I bet he could do as well as Ronny Cedeno at short, right now. And if Cedeno is playing shortstop for the Pirates in 2012 and 2013, you know they’ve just settled…

Good Deal, Bad Deal?

The last post was of Matt Capps, who is definitely in the mix for the Twins’ staff in 2011 as the backup closer for Joe Nathan. I don’t know if Jon Rauch will be back, or Matt Guerrier, or Jessie Crain, or Pat Neshek, or…etc. etc. Most of the Twins relief core were either up for free agency or non-tender candidates.

Capps was acquired because conventional wisdom said they needed a ‘closer’ – though Jon Rauch was doing a heck of a job earlier in the season. It turned out the Twins got Capps AND Brian Fuentes. Rauch may have been miffed – heck I would have been a bit miffed.

But the Twins gave up one of their trading chits – highly rated catching prospect Wilson Ramos. Of course, the Twins have Joe “Jesus Of Cretin / Derham Hall” Mauer locked up for a long time. Also in the catching mix is Drew “I Hit Like My Old Man” Butera – who was Pavano’s personal catcher and Jose “No, Not Related To The Pinch Hitting Legend” Morales. Morales may resemble more of Matt LeCroy with better defensive skills, but Gardenhire loves defense (hence the Nick Punto fascination) and so Morales may need to learn to play the corners in infield and outfield.

So Ramos was facing a stacked deck in front of him. But at age 22 he was definitely valuable.

But trading him for a relief pitcher? Is that getting the full value for him, especially since the Twins staff was Pavano and four guys who could either pitch a shutout or give up 7 runs in 3 2/3 innings – and seemingly nothing in between.

It made total sense for the Nats – they have the Zombie Corpse of I-Rod propped up behind the dish, teaching everyone that if you don’t have power and hit .260, if you don’t walk you’re a millstone for the offense. The other catchers for Washington were also over 30, and they make I-Rod seem like Mauer.

Of course, the Nats plugged holes by signing guys like Kevin Mench and Willie Taveras. Pete Orr and Eric Bruntlett were in ready reserve in AAA! Oy….

However, one of the better prospects in the Washington system is a catcher (Derek Norris). However, none of the catchers in AAA or AA were more than organizational soldiers, so Ramos will probably have a major league job for quite some time for Washington unless he hits the buffet line too many times.

This is a trade that could turn out poorly for the Twins. Capps hasn’t been a paragon of consistency year over year, and as a set up man he may have issues since he has allowed 36% if his inherited runners to score.

Ramos, of course, could tank. Nothing is baseball is a given. But for me, I’d rather have a young catcher as a trading chit for a true need, than waste him on a trade for a position where there is always a surplus.

If, in five years, Capps becomes Goose Gossage circa-1978 and Ramos becomes Jim Essian from the same era, then I never said this, because my blog will be deleted and I’ll have erased all traces of it and moved to the Yukon, or Yakutsk, or Yerevan…

“Now Be Thankful!”

Matt Capps was probably thankful to be traded to a contender.

I am thankful by a big package that I received from Ryan. I finished Donruss Big Red!!! Thanks, dude! (Updated want list coming soon – and check out my new for trade list!)

But mostly, I’m thankful for my friends and family, especially in these hard times. Starting a business in this climate is fun!

Here’s some Fairport Convention to express what I am trying to say.

 

 

 

Peace, love, and cranberry sauce my friends…

I Am Remiss

A. I forgot to add this photo to my McElroy post the other day. D’oh! I usually have a system, but:

(If you’re not familiar, that’s famed Jamaican poet / toaster Mutabaruka doing “De System” – where the money line is that “De System is a fraud!” So now you know…)

B. I forgot to thank those who have contributed to my collection of late. Thanks to Crinkly Wrappers, Reds & More (dude, post again!) and Project Baseball 1976 / A Giant Blog. I gave ‘em a few, they gave me many.

I have a few more coming my way, I am sure. And I’ll probably retrench and make more trades after the first of the year after I send out three more boxes and one small little package.

 

C. I am remiss in thanking everyone who I have “met” during my short time here, and wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving. But you know, I’m having one of these days…

 

 

D. I am remiss in writing about the back of Chuck’s card.  I don’t know if this fits into someone’s love for batting pitchers, but McElroy’s wearing a batting glove (while blowing bubbles like LL Cool J would). He did start his career 7-16 as a batter before ending it with a 2-26 slump. While he had a decent year at the plate in 1991 (3-10, but he had a CS during an appearance as a pinch runner. (He ran for Hector Villanueva who hit for Les Lancaster – and he was caught stealing with Chico Walker at the plate. McElroy did get the save in the game – so the question now is how many pitchers got a save AND a caught stealing in the same game?)

In 1992, the year collectors were pulling DMC…er…Chuck…he was 4-6 with two doubles and a triple at the dish. He had an OPS of 2.000! Yes, a triple!

On April 11, McElroy entered a contest against the Cards at Wrigley. Shawn Boskie was staked to a 2-1 lead but gave up a double to Tom Pagnozzi. McElroy came in and whiffed Craig Wilson. (No, not the long time Pirate, the scrub who somehow kept his job while having an OPS+ of 19 in 1991. Did he know where Torre buried the bodies?)

Jose DeLeon was still toeing the slab in the bottom of the seventh. Joe Girardi flew out, and McElroy was allowed to bat. (Why not, the Cubs pen wasn’t exactly the Nasty Boys!) He hit a “line drive to short RF line” for a triple, which means it probably went over the bag at first and then went into the pen and hit the brick wall, caroming wildly. while Brian Jordan chased it around like an errant punt. That keyed a rally against DeLeon, Bob McClure and Mike Perez and the Cubs won 5-1. McElroy smacked an 8th inning single against Perez that indirectly led to another run as Doug Dacsenzo plated Girardi right after that. And you know Girardi couldn’t have scored from second on a hit to shallow left!

McElroy got the save in this one too. So could he be one of the rare pitchers who got a save while being caught stealing AND a save while hitting a triple?

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