We Spawned A Monster…

And I’m not talking about Jesse Jefferson’s visage, or countenance, or that wonderful airbrushing (I’m sure the Topps artists were beside themselves when the Blue Jays logo was revealed). (Jesse does look like the son of a Hapsburg in the photo (and that’s not a compliment).)

I’m talking about us!

I realized it again when I went through the Rubbermaid containers that contain my binders of cards so I could mark what sets are in which container. That way, when I put them in storage in the garage when the girlfriend arrives down here I know which sets are which.

But it struck me as I went through them how many sets I’m chasing (well, not so much chasing now as in please peeps send me the cards) and I forgot how many sets I started thanks to those re-packs at Target. It’s no wonder that baseball wanted to get a handle on it because even after a lot of companies came and went Upper Deck was really diluting things with all the sub-sets that seemingly showcased the same players in different poses.

Just too much when you added that in with what Topps was doing, IMHO. Of course, us adult-type collectors clamored for it back in the day.

Now, people are grousing that there’s no competition to Topps, and well, they may be right, but there’s still a lot of product out there. And because of my financial shape, I’m only doing the base set, update, Heritage and either Gypsy Queen or A&G (or maybe neither one) as of now.

And I’m thinking of turning my Bowman, Opening Day, and a lot of those small subset type sets back to the marketplace, though I’m not a huge fan of eBaying it. I may rely on you all, but that’s an aside.

Really, though, I think we’re mostly responsible. We, as adults who are pursuing our hobby. We wanted more premiums, more shiny, more autos, more relics, more, more more and when something wasn’t right we turned internet-tough guy and wrote expletive filled blog posts to show our displeasure.

We lost our way a bit in this hobby and it hit home collating those binders and reading some of the screeds this past year about the damn squirrel and the ‘game changing’ hype. (It’s hype, and it doesn’t concern me, and it’s nothing to get all angsty about. It’s marketing. Whoop-de.)

I think we forgot something. I went back to this hobby because it reminded me of happier times as a child in a tough time personally. Jesse Jefferson was part of those happier times, warts and airbrush and inflated ERA and all. The junk wax era isn’t junk to me because it’s another happier time for me as a person and baseball fan, right out of college and into four rotiss leagues.

Yes, I think we lost the real reason this hobby grew.

It’s to make us happy. Not make money. Not race to collect bling. But to be the kids collecting mementos about your favorite player, team or sport. I really don’t have much to complain about with most all that I trade with because they’re seemingly doing it for the right reason and not trying to make a fast buck or two. You all aren’t pawing through the cards at Target, or setting the prices so they’re out of reach of the kids and fans. You collect teams and players and sets and if you like shinys or parallels or things you collect them because you LIKE them, not for profit.

It just hit me today. The industry ate itself because it lost sight of the 12-year olds. Including the 12-year olds in 46-year old bodies.

I feel good when I see this Jesse Jefferson card, and I don’t care that it doesn’t have three parallels and a purple refactor.

Of course, I think Paul Richards cared about Jesse’s ERA, which is why Jesse is airbrushed into that wonderful hat.

Jackson Todd – 1978 Topps

February 27, 2012

 

Geez, Topps!

This isn’t the SAT!

It’s not last name first on baseball cards.

Mason Tobin – 2011 Topps

February 26, 2012

Did He Get A Playoff Share Too?

Was just filing and re-arranging my doubles and I came across Mr. Tobin.

I’ll have to admit, he was a cipher to me.

Topps snagged him for a Series 2 base card when he made the Rangers out of spring training. You can tell that’s a spring training shot by the hat (those loathsome hats…).

The back of the card doesn’t offer much help. He was purchased by the Rangers from the Cubs after the Northsiders snagged him in the Rule V draft from the Angels. He didn’t play in 2010 and the card said he had Tommy John’s surgery (as Dr. James Andrews puts it) and three years of physical restrictions before the draft.

Talk about a wing and a prayer…but that’s Rule V.

Tobin (he of two last names, make it three since his middle name is Reed) had a rough go of it in the Texas bullpen. He appeared in four April games, giving up five hits, five walks and five runs (four earned) in 5 1/3 innings. He didn’t whiff anyone, either, so I guess big league hitters weren’t exactly fooled by his stuff.

(Side note: I first thought of Dave Tobik when I saw his name, then seeing his first and middle name I also thought of Mike Mason and Ron Reed. Then I thought of Tobin Sprout, who was Robin to Robert Pollard’s Batman in the early-to-middle days of Guided By Voices. And now I just thought of ye olde QB Tobin Rote. Wow, my brain is a scramble of sports and pop-culture tonight…)

Looking at his minor league stats, he definitely was on ‘restricted duty’ after being drafted in the 16th round by the Angels in 2007.

He roared through the Arizona League and then pitched well in the Pioneer League. He threw 56 1/3 innings with a 2.08 ERA and 55 whiffs. That was the most he’s ever pitched as a pro.

In 2008 he threw 37 1/3 innings for Cedar Rapids before shutting down.

In 2009 he threw 2 2/3 innings (two hits, two walks, four unearned runs) for Rancho Cucamonga. Total.

He didn’t pitch in 2010, as stated before.

And it turns out, those 5 1/3 innings were all that he threw in 2011 before going on the 60-day DL. The Rangers outrighted him in November after the Angels decided to let the Rangers keep him.

But he got a card in the base Topps set and he was ‘part’ of the Rangers WS team, even though in pro ball he’s thrown only 101 2/3 innings.

And he went through another TJ surgery to boot! I wonder if he got a two-for-one deal?

 

 

 

Anthony Young – 1993 Topps

February 25, 2012

Value

First, I value traders such as Nachos and Dimwit, as I received some great cards that allowed me to complete two sets (well, as complete as I want ‘em). Hurray!

Second, I had a lesson in value. I auctioned off the 2011 set that I received from Topps as a redemption for the Diamond Giveway. The price I received wasn’t that great. Now, I didn’t publicize it with you all, just slipped it on eBay, but I wonder if the set was really as exclusive as you would think or that a 2011 set isn’t so valued anymore.

Third, some collectors wonder why I don’t get into shiny, autos, relics, etc. Well, I don’t value them enough to chase them. I value trying to collect base sets (and a few others that look kind of neat) with a big mass of every day ordinary players. Like major league baseball players are truly every day and ordinary.

Again, it’s all about value.

I’m sure that kidlets and others that pulled this card in their packs in 1993 we’re going, “Anthony Young? BUM! No value!”

Well, his perceived value was low, mainly due to his 1916 Philadelphia A’s-esque record In 1992, he went 2-14 and while this card was out in stores he was on his way to a 1-16 record in 1993, leaving his ML record at 5-35 for his career.

Holy Jack Nabors and Tom Sheehan!

Of course, W/L record for pitchers is a very skewed way in looking at a player’s value. Young’s career ERA at the end of 1993 was 3.82. His ERA+ was 98. He did give up 20 un-earned runs in 1993 so his WAR was negative. However, he wasn’t as hapless as 5-35 would seem.

You have to have some value to a team, some talent, something, to allow you to go 5-35 over a 2 1/2 seasons. The Mets were pretty awful on many levels, so Young was the least of their worries, bad record and all.

His 5-35 mark was a symptom, sort of like a runny nose. And those Mets didn’t have many Kleenex much less antibiotics.

 

 

Expansion Explosion!

Ah, I remember the 1993 expansion. I remember watching the coverage of the expansion draft on ESPN with Keith Olbermann hosting. It was much like the NFL Draft…”Developing! Sources say that the drafting of Kevin Reimer was as a request of the Brewers to trade him for Dante Bichette…”

While I wasn’t collecting at the time, I see the aftermath of the draft in my current collection. Chuck sent me some 1993 cards to help me out, and this was one of them.

These guys weren’t in the draft – they were signed by the Marlins before they were an official major league team. MLB did these expansion teams right by allowing them to build a farm system before becoming a major league team after seeing how long it took some expansion teams (notably the Mariners and Padres) to get their collective stuff together.

Topps expanded their card set from 792 to 825 cards. Well, these cards gotta feature someone. So why not a couple of Marlins farmhands?

Well, that’s all well and good, but the Marlins’ farmhands were from rookie league and short-season A ball, not AA or even high-A teams where they could have been readily identified.

Christian played for the GCL Marlins and Stafford for the Erie Sailors in the venerable NY-Penn league. They did ‘a’ight’ – Christian led his squad in RBI. Stafford compiled a 2.49 ERA in 43 1/3 innings. Not bad, but these are guys down in the low minors. Normally they wouldn’t get cards at all, not even in Bowman, as they weren’t high draft picks. Christian was a 16th round pick from Long Beach St. and Stafford a 13th rounder from San Diego State. But here they are.

Stafford was done with the Marlins after 1994 and spent one year in St. Paul in independent ball before living his life. Christian made it to AA in 1994 before washing out, played independent ball in Long Beach in 1995, then became an organizational soldier for the Angels and Mariners. He put up high batting averages in AA and AAA but didn’t have another secondary skill for those teams to get excited about and left the game after 2000 after another stint in independent ball.

Topps didn’t do that great of a job with the other Marlins’ prospect cards – of course projecting rookie league and short season players is always risky. But Florida did have some guys that made the bigs that were in the GCL in 1992. (No one on the 1992 Erie team made the bigs.)

So besides Stafford and Christian, Topps waxed up Todd Pridy, Don Lemon, Willie Brown, Matt Petersen, Mark Skeels, Ryan Whitman, Daniel Robinson, Clemente Nunez, Gavin Baugh, Pat Leahy (not the old Jets kicker), Ken Kendrena, Mike Veneziale, Dan Roman and Reynol Mendoza in its 1993 set as two-image prospect cards for the Marlins.

None of ‘em made it.

But five of Christian’s teammates in the GCL did make it – Andy Larkin, Vic Darensbourg, Tony Saunders, Chris Clapinski…and…

Edgar Renteria. Gavin Baugh got a card, but Renteria did not. This was even after Baugh hit .249 with a .614 OPS at age 18 in the GCL and Renteria hit .288 with a .679 OPS at age 15. Yes, age 15.

Prospecting is hard for everyone, but especially for baseball card companies.

You don’t need a better example than that.

 

Bill Schroeder – 1986 Fleer

February 22, 2012

 

Forget Chuck Norris…

No one messes with Bill Schroeder behind the dish…

Just look at him. You wanna piece of him?

Well do ya?

Thought so.

 

Ken Brett – 1978 Topps

February 20, 2012

Airbrushed! Again!

One thing that I noticed in collecting again is the wonder that is airbrushing.

Some sets are rife with it, such as 1972 (when they basically plastered over any traces of the old Washington Senators) and 1977 (where they had the double whammy of expansion and free agency to deal with). Some players, though, seemed to get airbrushed more often than not.

Case in point, Ken Brett.

He was a well-traveled vagabond who seemed to be good enough for teams to trade for, but not quite good enough to hold onto once a club got him in a trade. And he moved quite a bit. It wasn’t that he was a bad teammate or an attitude problem. He was just one of those guys that teams used as a pawn.

He was traded six times between October 1971 and June 1977, starting with the huge Boston / Milwaukee trade that saw George Scott and Tommy Harper change teams. He then moved to Philly as part of the Don Money deal, was dealt to Pittsburgh for Dave Cash, sent to New York for Doc Medich, then packed to Chicago for Carlos May. His last deal was to the Angels for spare parts, and soon he was to become one of those spare parts – being released and signed three times before his ultimate pink slip with KC in 1982.

In looking at Brett’s cards, I count seven of his 12 Topps base cards that are airbrushed. Two of them (1980 and 1981) seem to be from the same photo shoot. His last card in 1982 is one I’m counting as airbrushed though it may not be. It looks odd, but then I do look at things odd.

I wonder if someone who has over 10 base cards in a Topps set has more cards that have been ‘altered’ as a percentage of their total cards? I think Brett’s era would be the era, with larger base sets, expansion and free agency.

It’s nice to be wanted, but I bet Brett would have rather had baseball cards with less paint and more photo.

The Perils Of Being Poor At Pitching

You may not realize this, but John D’Acquisto had one of the fastest fastballs in the 1970’s. Bill James claimed he was the runner up to Nolan Ryan on an official radar gun reading for MPH in the 70’s.

I can believe that.

He wasn’t Nolan Ryan because while Ryan had control issues, D’Acquisto had full-on control maladies. The combination of the heat and wildness made for some fun stats.

In 1970, at Great Falls, at age 18,  in 55 innings he walked 74.

In 1971,  at Class A Clinton, he whiffed 244 and walked 124 in 233 innings.

In 1972, at Fresno, he whiffed 245 and walked 102 in 209 innings.

After a pretty nifty year in 1973 at Phoenix, he was in the bigs in 1974. It was a pretty nifty year, too. 215 innings, 167 whiffs, 2.5 WAR. Oh, and 124 walks.

“Man, if he could harness that heat, he was going to be great,” the wags thought.

It didn’t happen. He had elbow problems, but his wildness problem became out of control (as it were).

In 1975, he made six starts before hitting the DL. It was uggggly. 1-4, 11.19, 23 1/3 innings, 23 hits, 31 walks, 20 strikeouts.

He made some relief appearances at the end of 1975, and then pitched the entire year in 1976 for the Giants.

Oof.

Splitting time between starting and relieving, he had a 5.35 ERA and walked 102 in 106 innings while striking out just 53.  Through May, his ERA was 9.00.

As you can bet, the Giants said, ‘enough with you’ at the end of the season and included him in deal that send Mike Caldwell and Dave Rader to the Cards for Willie Crawford, Vic Harris and John Curtis. Detrius for detrius (though Caldwell had some great years for the Brewers, he wasn’t much of a commodity at that point).

Then the Cards sent him to the Padres for the burned out shell of Butch Metzger.

After another rough 1977 (6.54 ERA, 44 innings, 49 walks, 47 K’s), he somehow found it and more in 1978. 4-3, 10 saves, 2.13 ERA, 93 innings, 104 whiffs and only 56 walks.

He regressed in 1979, recovered to replacement level in 1980, and was done after pitching poorly in 1981 and 1982. He was just another burned out phenom.

Now, you would think the Giants would have moved him to the bullpen full-time after his elbow injury. That’s not how they rolled back then. But his performance in 1978 showed that he could have been pretty well served throwing his BB’s in the late innings. Why the Padres moved him to the rotation in 1979 for a bit is a question, but as I noted in the Bob Shirley post they didn’t have that many options and his splits were equally poor as both a starter and a reliever.

No matter what, the classic axiom holds for D’Acquisto:

“Oh, those bases on balls…”

Enzo Hernandez – 1972 Topps

February 16, 2012

RBI’s Don’t Tell The Whole Story

Lovers of baseball minutae seem to point to Enzo’s 1971 season as one of the hallmarks of futility, mainly because over the course of 549 at bats (618 plate appearances) he collected a grand total of 12 RBI.

Yes, you read that right. 12 RBI.

Now, those of us who are hip to the new metrics realize that Enzo’s 12 RBIs aren’t any kind of measure of a player’s effectiveness because they are so team related. This is quite true, since if 1971 Enzo hit clean-up for the 1927 Yankees he’d definitely have more than 12 RBI, and if 1920 Babe Ruth replaced Leon Roberts in the 1978 Mariners he’d struggle to accumulate 100 RBI.

Enzo’s 12 RBI is a symptom of his suckitude and of the overall awfulness of the 1971 Padres, not the disease in of itself.

Enzo arrived as the Padres shortstop of the future after Baltimore traded a pu-pu platter o’ prospects to the Padres for Tom Dukes and Pat Dobson. Baseball teams always jumped when the Orioles traded prospects since they were so good at developing them – of course if Earl Weaver and the O’s were willing to trade them then they may know something that others in baseball didn’t know. Time and again Baltimore hornswaggled teams by peddling ‘prospects’.

Hernandez was one of those ‘prospects’. He allegedly could pick it and he had wheels. By the end of his career, he was fortunate that Johnny LeMaster came into the league to replace him as the poster child of no-field, no-hit middle infielders.

Preston Gomez installed Enzo as the lead-off hitter and shortstop for the 1971 Padres early in the season when Tommy Dean was found wanting. Gomez had Enzo lead off 137 times, and Hernandez rewarded his manager and the Padres with a sub .300 OBP and a .255 SLG. As a leadoff man his OBP was .289 and he scored just 55 runs in those 137 games.

That’s a measure of stink that the 12 RBIs can’t match. The 12 RBI, though, are a reflection on the rest of those wretched Padres. Sure, his OPS was .395 with runners in scoring position, but he had just 105 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.

No one got on base in front of him either. The pitchers were, well, pitchers. The seventh place hitters had an OPS+ of 73. The eighth place hitters had an OPS+ of 101.

Wait, what?

That was 81 games of Bob Barton, who was at least competent with the bat. But he was dreadfully slow and didn’t have that much power, either. So he needed to be on third for Enzo to score him.

So no one on was on base for Enzo, and when they were, they needed to be on third base. Ergo, the 12 RBI’s are a reflection of both the individual and collective ineptitude on display in San Diego in 1971.

A convergence of stank, as it were.

 

 

Hey Steve…

It’s Hector Villanova. Villanuva. Viloneva. Vilaneva. Villonuevo. Viyaneva.

How do you say it backwards anyway?

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