So Many Questions…So Little Time

Ian Michael Bladergroen (that’s my name too…) was a 44th round draft pick in 2002 for the Mets. That’s a round normally reserved for friends and relatives of scouts, high school players that won’t sign, and draft-and-follow JC players. Bladergroen was the latter. Two fringe players (Tim Wood and Ty Taubenheim) were drafted in the same round, and every player drafted in that round DID play in the minors, but usually that’s a round that doesn’t normally produce a player with card in such a short time.

Ian was a first baseman at Lamar CC in Colorado. He was born in Atlanta, but I guess moved to Albuquerque at some point (though Topps said it was Albuquerque, CO on the card. I looked. Don’t think so…)

He was drafted in 2002 but was a draft and follow and signed in 2003 after one last season at Lamar CC. Sent to Brooklyn (where I hope he learned to eat a slice the proper way, unlike SOMEONE…) he led the Cyclones in home runs and RBI. Great, fine, but minor league baseball is littered with guys like that.

The next year, he played 72 games in Capital City (SC) in the Sally League. While he made the most starts at first, he may not have been a hot prospect. My guess is that he was in Extended Spring for a while and when Tyler Davidson was found wanting and sent back to Brooklyn Bladergroen was summoned. Or something.

He tore apart the Sally League in those 72 games, hitting .342 with 13 home runs and 74 RBI. He would have led the SAL in average, had he qualified. But that Cap City team could rake and they went 89-47. Of course, they were the oldest team in the league, and that means a lot in low Class A.

Because Topps is from NYC the big trend was still rookie and prospect cards, Bladergroen got a Heritage card and an Update card.

Yes, he got a Heritage card. Topps gave a Heritage card to a 44th round pick that had not played a game in the FSL, much less AA or AAA.

My questions are:

A. Why?

B. Why?

C. Why?

D. A two-parter:

D1: ARE YOU HIGH?

D2: WHY?

E. You can’t be serious, can you?

F. Why?

I don’t think there are any answers, really.

SPOILER ALERT : Bladergroen is out of baseball, retiring after one last go-round at York of the Atlantic League. He never made it past High A, playing in the Midwest, Carolina and California Leagues, as well as 3 seasons in the Atlantic League, including a stint with the infamous Road Warriors. He hit just .248 in high Class-A without power or speed or walks.

FACTOID #1: He had a pretty high OBP because he was a HBP machine. He was hit by a pitch 33 times in 252 high-A games.

FACTOID #2: Somehow, the Red Sox foisted Doug Mientkiewicz upon the Mets and got Bladergroen in return.

Ian Michael Bladergroen for Douglas Andrew Mientkiewicz.

Eye doctors everywhere rejoiced!

 

 

 

Disgustipated

First, a huge shout out to the US Special Ops. I’m a pacifist and do not like war – but the removal of OBL as a threat to humanity is justified. And I think every college student in DC is in front of the White House. I hope they keep the Metro open!

Second, Spring Cleaning is going on – sorting is fun but I have to stop and start before I go totally insane. And I’m working at Target now and that kind of drains you. Sometimes dealing with the public can make you turn into Gary Busey.

Now, why I’m disgustipated. Have you seen the Twins play this year?

When I was in junior high and early high school, the Cubs had slunk into mediocrity or worse. The 1981 Cubs, the team of the summer between my freshman and sophomore years (our junior high went to 9 – high school started at 10), was thankful they had a work stoppage that wiped out almost 60 games. When the strike happened they were 15-37. That was a pace to be 47-115.

The defense was atrocious. Jerry Morales (!) was the regular center fielder, though Bobby Bonds was around. Leon Durham stumbled around in right because Bill Buckner was at first.  Ivan DeJesus was at a -5 FRAA at short, Scot Thompson had a -10 FRAA in center and in right (more on him later). The whole freakin’ team had a DWAR of -9.

While the starting pitching wasn’t so bad (no, really, it wasn’t so bad) the bullpen was god-awful. Dick Tidrow was 3-10 with 9 saves and a 5.06 ERA as the relief ‘ace’ (until Randy Martz became the closer and did a good job). Lynn McGlothen, and Ken Kravec were ‘proven veterans’  that proved they couldn’t pitch anymore. Bill Caudill was atrocious.

Oh, by the way, a 23-year old hard throwing rookie named Lee Smith was on the staff pitching garbage innings and a 25-year old named Jay Howell also was around. But no, Ken Kravec needed the work! Right.

The offense? Feh. Four players had offensive WAR over 1.0. One of them, Morales, was SO BAD in the field that even though he had a 1.0 WAR on offense he was a -0.8 WAR total. DeJesus was -1.5 total WAR with an OPS+ of 44. Ken Reitz .541 OPS at third gave him a -1.2 offensive WAR. The second basemen were ‘special’ – the OPS+ were all heinous. (Pat Tabler 54, Steve Dillard 70, Mike Tyson 45, Joe Strain 28, Scott Fletcher 55).

Then there’s Scot Thompson. In 57 games – over 127 plate appearances – Thompson had a -2.0 WAR. His OPS+ was 17 (.165 / .208 / .209 will do that – and how can someone have a SLG of .209 IN WRIGLEY FIELD!). I’m trying to think if that’s a Milhouse or Ralph performance.

Now why am I ranting about the 1981 Cubs on a post about a 2005 card for two Twins prospects that never made it anywhere?

A. Because I can. It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to.

B. The 2011 Twins can’t hit, can’t field and the bullpen is combining nitro with high octane gas and using flame throwers to ignite.

C. The fundamentals are just atrocious.

D. Smit and Barrett, had they developed, could have helped. But they didn’t develop. Smit was waived in 2007 to the Reds and crashed out last year with a 1-5, 9.14 mark in AA Carolina. Barrett met his Waterloo in AAA. After pitching well in A-ball in 2004, he spent 17 innings in AA before moving to AAA before ineffectiveness and injuries took their toll.

If all was sunshine and roses – Smit and Barrett could have been available for Gardy to call up to help the staff. But it’s not. Today it was freakin’ cold and windy here in Minnesota – a day more like late November than May Day. And Tuesday, against the Pale Hose, the Twins will still trot out Hughes, Hoey and the like.

When did the Twins turn into the Royals anyway?

Good Call, Topps!

First of all, thanks to BA Benny for his great group break, and much thanks to Heartbreaking Cards for a great haul of 2009 Heritage. My want list for Spring Cleaning has been updated!

Second, I’m still sorting my spring cleaning. I hope to have 6 teams shipped out soon. My job at Target has been keeping me busy.

As I sit here in the ugly, gloomy afternoon, watching what amounts to a split-squad lineup for the Twins with the realization that Anthony “Mr. 6.21″ Swarzak starting game two of the day/night DH, I have come to the sad realization that the 2011 Twins are cursed, at least right now. Already, they’ve had seven call-ups and last night had one healthy bench player, the backup catcher.

(Another reason why I hate 12-man staffs…but…)

And one player who has NOT been called up, but could realistically come up soon if Alexi Casilla continues to stank is Trevor Plouffe. If he comes up and sticks, this will be a rare dual prospect card with two ‘hits’ as it were. Jason Kubel, as you know, is a regular major league player. He’s not going to be a super-star, but he’s a good player, and excellent for a 12th round pick. (Though now he’s a bit more hirsute that he was in this photo…)

Kubel got his first taste of action in the majors in 2004, while Plouffe was the Twins’ first-round pick. The Twins didn’t think they had a need in the middle infield so Plouffe has been parked in Rochester for a long time. Frankly, he may not be a regular every day player, but still he’s got a chance to be better than Casilla, Brendan Harris or Nick Punto.

And frankly, it’s also a wonder that Topps was pretty prescient and had two players on the card that in 2005 that are still in the mix in 2011. Ever look at the “Rookie Stars” in 2009 Heritage? How many have been DFA’d?

From HOF To Mr. Hamm

Nomah!

I had the pleasure of seeing Nomar in the flesh twice.

The first time was in Fenway, when Nomar and Pedro led the Sox past the Scarborough Green-led Rangers. That was 2000, when he hit .372. He did miss a few games due to injury but played in 140. At the end of 2000, his OPS+ for his career was 140 and there was no reason to think he wasn’t destined for the HOF.

The last time was last year, 2009. I was in Baltimore for meetings and I grabbed a cheap ducat to watch Oakland play the Orioles. Oakland won 6-3. I saw Nomar warm up, and I think he did a bit of shagging but he didn’t see action.

Future HOFers aren’t a scrub for a mediocre team at age 35.

We all know what happened to Nomar. Injuries. Yes, the end of his time in Boston was not pleasant, but look at Manny, look at Clemens, look at Ted Williams – not many leave Boston venerated as Gods as they exit.

Injuries forced him to miss a bundle of games, and change positions. And now, he’s Mr. Hamm, baseball broadcaster and seemingly nice guy. Yes, I kid about the Mr. Hamm part, but Mia definitely had more impact on her sport and on the nation as a whole.

At any rate, as a recovering Cubs fan, this is a bittersweet card. There was optimism in 2004 as the Cubs were in the Wild Card race during the second half of the year, and Nomar replaced Alex (Dropped DP Cost Us The NLCS) Gonzalez and Ramon (No Where Near Like His Namesake) Martinez at short. They fell just short, 3 games behind Houston.

The next year, Nomar started out slow, and then got hurt. That killed the Cubs season basically, since then they had to run Neifi Freakin’ Perez out there at short every day. I’d rather watch yaks mating than watch Neifi Freakin’ Perez. And Dusty, of course, was afraid of ‘base clogging’ so he had Patterson, Hairston and Perez in the 1 or 2 hole most of the year. Can’t clog ‘em if you’re not on ‘em.

So I say goodbye, sadly, to Nomar. He could have been a HOFer. He could have been jumping in the pile for Boston. He could have helped the Cubs get to the WS. But now he’s helping the MLB Network and helping Mia raising the twins.

That last one is probably harder than getting the Cubs to the World Series.

 

In honor of Cards On Cards, who sent me a great big box o’ stuff from my want list (since I’ve only started collecting since May, and I have a soft spot for the junk wax era, my want list is easy to fill now. And boy, did he fill it (and I guess more is coming).

I am going to look through more want lists to help some people out, but I’m afraid the veteran collectors need more esoteric things than I have. However, I have a lot of extra 2010 Heritage, some good inserts, and some parallels and relics (I don’t collect them), a fair amount of 1974, 1976 and 1978 Topps commons and a fair amount of le junk wax if you want. I also have boatloads of 2007 Fleer Ultra and Upper Deck Series 2, and 2008 Topps Series 2 and Updates (thanks to those ‘bargains’ at Target – but I have got some good parallels and relics in them!) So contact me fer details if need be.

Mr. Rolen, a Hoosier (from Jasper) and a steady 3B for his entire career (with some minor glitches). I thought he was on the downward slope after 2007 and his exile to Toronto, but he’s been a good leader and a steadying influence for the surprising Reds this year. That’s also a bit surprising, since he had his knickers in a bunch in St. Louis (or maybe that was just LaRussa being LaRussa and Rolen not dealing with it well…).

What will Rolen’s legacy be? Right now he has as his accomplishments:

Rookie Of The Year

7 Gold Gloves

1 Silver Slugger

6 All Star Game Appearances

MVP votes in three seasons.

302 career home runs, with no steroid accusations (not that I care about that – but some do…)

Lifetime OPS+ of 125.

2 World Series appearances with 1 win.

Is that enough to get him into the Hall? Well, his HOF monitor shows him short. And while a fine player, he’s not better than Ron Santo was.

Of course, I used to be called “Crowbar” at an online forum because I wanted to yank some folks out of the HOF, so my esteem for some of the selections is not great.

For now, Rolen’s going to the post season again. He’ll get some good air time. He’s made a boat load of money in his career, played on winning teams, put up good stats AND has a ring. So whatever the ink-stained wretches think of him 5 years after retirement, I bet he’d feel pretty good about his career anyway. He can then go back to Jasper and eat at the Schnitzelbank (warning, obnoxious German music will play when you click!)

PS  – This is from an Upper Deck series separate from their base series. What’s maddening about collecting Upper Deck is all of the various series they had. It has taken me a long time to figure out what’s part of the base set and the other sets in UD from about 1995 to now.

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