You Gotta Hand It To Topps…

On the A & G set, they even make this yokel look halfway decent.

My best friend and I had a name for guys like Kent whilst we were in our small hometown in BFE Indiana, post college.

“Center parting mouth breathers with baby mustaches.”

Now Kent may have some supporters, but his attitude is pretty much universally reviled. To me, he was the only guy that made Barry Bonds look semi-decent.

Now can you imagine a team like this:

C- AJ Pierzynski

1B – Mo Vaughn

2B – Jeff Kent

SS – Garry Templeton

3B – Phil Nevin

LF – Manny Ramirez

CF – Barry Bonds

RF -Albert Belle

BENCH – Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman, Michael Barrett, Derek Bell, Juan Bell, Yuniel Escobar

P – Kenny Rogers, Kevin Brown, Roger Clemens, Carlos Zambrano, Gene Harris, Rob Dibble, Joba Chamberlain, Kyle Farnsworth, Mel Rojas, Steve Trachsel, Armando Benitez

That team would win a crap-load of games, but who could manage them? And would they burn down the clubhouse? (Mind you, this list was off-the-cuff helped with a bit of Google search.)

This Kent card is part of Smed’s Spring Cleaning, just to whet your appetite for mayhem…

Hey, Marlee Matlin Isn’t In Their Dugout!

I sometimes don’t get this whole talking through the mitt thing.

To me, baseball isn’t like football where you game plan the game plan and the execute the game plan against their game plan and adjust to the game plan by game planning the adjustments.

In basketball, there are just a few basic plays, and once you know a team’s offense it’s about execution. And once you figure out a defense, then you execute the offense around the defense. (I know there are ‘genius’ coaches, yes, but the triangle offense, the Princeton offense, the motion offense, the run-and-gun offense are all basic, really.)

In hockey and soccer, it’s more free flowing but there are set pieces. But it’s basic – find the open man and put it in the net.

Baseball is see the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball.

Bull Durham aside, I bet you can tell major league hitters what pitch is coming, and if you put the pitch where YOU want it, it’s not going to matter much in the scheme of things. I’m not a big believer that stealing signs or knowing exactly what pitch is coming is anything but psychological. That can help, but a plus fastball located precisely where the pitcher wants it, or a well-thrown curve or slider is going to get you out. And for relief pitchers, it’s even more of a proposition of not what will be thrown, but where and at what speed.

How many pitches does Mariano Rivera throw? How many pitches did Trevor Hoffman or Doug Jones throw?

I remember in Ball Four when Jim Bouton was arguing with Sal Maglie about his knuckleball. Maglie always wanted Bouton to throw another pitch, but Bouton (rightly) wanted to just concentrate on the knuckleball. Of course, the discussion then went to how Maglie pitched one of his best known games, and he replied “97 snappers”.

Maglie threw 97 curveballs. So much for disguising what he was throwing. By about the third inning, I’m sure the other dugout was going “Maglie’s just throwing curves.” And it mattered not.

It’s not 100% about deception, it’s about execution. You just look like a dork with your mitt to your mouth.

Unless you’re spitting chaw into it to break it in.

Hey, Bro, Can I Borrow Some Dough?

The Danks kids are both talented baseball players.

John, the pitcher, has been eerily consistent for the White Sox the past three seasons. After a learning curve his first season, his 2008-2010 seasons have been basically interchangeable. Because of this, he’s going to make $3.5 million this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if the White Sox avoid arbitration by signing him to a longer-term deal.

Jordan is slated to play in AAA this season. He’s been consistent as well. He plays a decent CF, and strikes out.

A lot.

Last year in AA, he whiffed 151 times, which would be OK if he hit for power or got on base. He didn’t.

I have a sneaking feeling that to fill the spots in Bowman releases, they look for siblings, sons, grandsons, etc. of major league players and just throw them a bone. Why not? Well, except for the fact that Bowman could ignore players with excellent minor league stats that don’t have the prospect pedigree.

This photo was shot at batting practice or extended spring training – where the draftees go after the draft and before assignment. Danks played just 10 games in A-ball in 2008 after he was drafted. His brother, while not a star, is a good player for a good team in the majors, and here Jordan is, hitting balls in front of a crowd of ghosts.

 

Baseball Is A Tough Game, But Let’s Get Some Perspective

I often talk about how baseball shows no mercy and gives no quarter.

Baseball doesn’t care who you are, or what you did yesterday. It does not care what you will do tomorrow. Baseball cares about today. And today, you could go 3-4 with 5 RBI against Roy Halladay, or go 0-4 with 3 K’s and a foul out against Charlie Morton.

It was often said that Jason Bay would be a household name if he didn’t play in Pittsburgh. Well, he played in Boston and while he played well, he wasn’t beloved, and played poorly in the ALDS. He then signed a big McLarge Huge contract with the Mets. The Mets being the Mets, Bay didn’t show the power he had in Boston (but Citi Field is a big-time pitchers park, and I swear the jets from LaGuardia do SOMETHING to the air around there), and then scrambled his brain on the wall of Chavez Ravine.

Bay has limited what the Mets can do, payroll-wise and may be damaged goods for the rest of his career. Concussions suck, and post-concussion syndrome is no laughing matter.

Yet, let’s keep the game in perspective. You may think you’re tough trying to play through a concussion, but St. Simeon Stylites doesn’t want to hear about playing a game when you are injured.

See, back in his day (5th Century CE), monks were the stars of the world. And his fans kept bugging St. Simeon Stylites while he was trying to do monk things. So, he decided to climb a pillar. He liked it and he stayed there. FOR 37 YEARS!

People brought him food, and they even erected even taller pillars for him to stand on, but he never came down from a pillar for that many years.

And I have no idea how to weave St. Simeon Stylites back into Jason Bay, except to say that they were both male human beings that lived on planet Earth at some point. Other than that, Simeon is dead, Syrian and a Roman Catholic monk. Bay is alive, Canadian, and not a Roman Catholic monk. Bay may have received votes for the MVP title, but Simeon no doubt won the MVM (Most Valuable Monk) award based on the votes from Antioch and Constantinople.

Now, If you will excuse me, I need to see about erecting a column in my back yard. I think that may be the easiest way to get away from my kids…

 

“AAAAAAH!”

The scan doesn’t allow you to really see this card.

It’s scary. I mean, really scary!

It’s Heritagized, airbrushed, and uglified, all in one.

And now they’re gonna do it again, since Garza was traded to the Cubs. He’ll be in Bowman, Heritage and Opening Day, at least, and his base card will be in Series 2 (it’s not in Series 1).

Who’s Awesome?

You’re awesome! Particularly, you, you, you and you.

(Left to right: Night Owl, Lifetime Topps, Thorzul, Dimwit).

I got quite a few packages in the mail today, though Night Owl is sending more.

And what Night Owl said to me in the note is this:

(Well, actually he said he needed a bigger box, so he had to split it up.)

Currently, I am awaiting two group breaks (one the post office snagged, for some reason) and another package or two. My want list is up to date as it stands now!

I’m currently working on paying off the winner of the Fantasy Football League (Red Sox), an Astros trade, more Braves, more Rays, and about ready to dive into Phillies and Brewers soon.

So things are happening. Just like when the Yooook! steps to the plate.

Who’s awesome? All of us – we are all awesome!

Some Decorum Please, Miguel

I think Morgan would like his family jewels intact if at all possible!

September 3, 2007 – San Diego at Arizona. Montero tags Ensberg out at home! What a play! It kept the lead from growing to 8-2 and then who knows how many more runs the Padres would have scored that inning! Holy cow!

Bill Murphy on the hill for the Diamondbacks, and with one out in the ninth Ensberg pinch hits for Doug Brocail and coaxes a walk. Brian Giles also walks and then Mike Cameron laces a single to left. Eric Byrnes rocks and fires a strike to Montero. Ensberg’s a dead duck and the score remains 7-2. The Padres tack on three more runs and the final is 10-2.

Even if the situation wasn’t a game-altering one, it’s still nice to have some action at the dish on a card.

 

 

Oliver Perez – 2008 Bowman

December 14, 2010

“Oh, No. Not HIM!”

Look at him, he can’t even high-five properly.

Oliver Perez is the wrong player on the wrong team in the wrong city at the wrong time.

If he was laboring (and I mean laboring) in Kansas City, Houston or Colorado, he wouldn’t be a ripple. He wouldn’t be looked upon with derision.

He probably wouldn’t be due $12 million this year.

What in the name of Ed Whitson happened here?

Let’s go back to 2004. After being called up in 2002 (at age 20) by the Padres, they shuffled him off to Pittsburgh in the Brian Giles trade. The Pirates also got Jason Bay in that deal. After struggles in 2003 (which, being a 21-year old lefty playing for Pittsburgh, were expected), Perez was lights out in 2004. An ERA+ of 145. 239 Ks, which was 11 K/9. A 5.1 WAR.

Nice season. And he was only 12-10 thanks to buffoons like Tike Redman, Jose Castillo, Randall Simon, Abraham Nunez, and most of the rest of the Pirates miserable offense.

Then came 2005, and the saga of Oliver Perez begins in earnest.

His ERA shot up to 5.85, his control went away, his velocity was down and he supposedly copped an attitude. He was sent down to Indy to regain his composure but went 0-3, 9.90 there.

The next year, after a promising start, was even worse. 2-10, 6.63 for Pittsburgh, and even after another mind-clearing stint in Indianapolis (complete with 5.62 ERA)  the Pirates finally gave up and shipped him to the Mets with veteran Roberto Hernandez for Xavier Nady. He was bad at Norfolk and bad with the Mets (1-3, 6.38). But the Mets had no choice. 97 win teams don’t use 13 starting pitchers and 27 pitchers total unless they have injuries, and the Mets were so desperate Perez had to start a post-season game!  The other choices were probably Geremi Gonzalez, Royce Ring or Bartolome Fortunado (I kid, but Mets fans may commence hitting themselves in the head with anvils now).

He started Game 4 of the NLCS and won 12-6 and then had to start Game 7 in place of Steve Trachsel. I remember watching that game, thinking that St. Louis would set a record for runs off of a Game 7 starting pitcher, but Perez pitched his heart out, leaving with the game tied at 1. The Mets lost 3-1 on what will always be known as the Yadier “F-N” Molina game. (Molina’s OPS that season? .595. Not even .600. .595. Mets fans are now trepanning themselves.)

Off of that great post-season, Perez had two decent seasons in the rotation. He certainly wasn’t a pariah. The only concern was that his control problems resurfaced in 2008. He also had a problem with giving up crooked numbers. But all-in-all it was an OK season. And of course, being a lefty, and only being 27 going into 2009, and being a Scott Boras client, Perez was going to cash in.

The Mets allowed him to, big time.

And that’s when the fun began.

Certainly, he was hurt a bit in 2009. Knee problems can make your delivery go all catty-whompus and patella surgery confirmed his struggles. 3-4, 6.82 and a lot of walks signal that there was something wrong.

Now, we go to 2010. Perez is supposedly cleared to go after Sept. 1 surgery. But something is amiss. After seven starts he’s 0-3 with a 5.94 ERA. He’s only pitched 33 1/3 innings in those starts. He’s taxing the bullpen. The Mets put him into the pen. He’s still…well…bad. In four appearances, his line looked like one of his starts:

5 1/3 7 5 5 5 3.

The Mets asked Perez to go to the minors, not once but twice.

He said no. His teammates would rather he be designated for assignment on Pitcairn Island.

They put him on the DL with knee problems. The NL thought it was curious that Perez was put on the DL right after he refused a minor-league assignment.

When he got healthy, and made it through minor-league rehab, they activated him. They had no choice really, or so the Mets said. Perez pitched less than a fringe Rule V player, with just six appearances in three months. Three of them were in total lost causes and the other three were extra inning games. He lost two of those – one on a walk-off homer by James Loney and the second when he walked in a run after filling the bases with two other walks and a hit batter.

The fans hate him. His teammates hate him. Management doesn’t really want him. GM Sandy Alderson said that the Perez has ‘no market’, so he’s going to go to Spring Training with the Mets.

My question is, why does he have to go? Why, when he refused a minor league assignment last year, didn’t they just DFA him and let him go. Yes, they’d be on the hook for this years salary, but wouldn’t the Mets be better if he were OFF the team anyway?

Bill James once said that every player has value – no matter how small. However, I think with the WAR metrics it’s pretty cut and dried that if you have someone like Perez, take the financial loss and call up a AAA pitcher. It hard to have a -1.5 WAR in so few innings, but Perez managed to do it.

It’s called sunk costs. It’s part of running a business. Don’t let a bad deal affect the rest of your operation. The money is gone no matter what.

Hey, This Is Easier Than Pitching!

First, muchas gracias to SpastikMoose for some needed cards for my sets. I will be updating my on-line want list soon for your dining and dancing pleasure.

I assume you’ve not been living on a rock, or in the bottom of Mono Lake (which, if so, means that you’re filled with arsenic, so…go away!) so you know about Ankiel and his conversion from pitcher to hitter. What’s surprising is that there is usually a few players in each generation who do this, but most are minor players in the whole scheme of things.  Bobby Darwin or Mel Queen weren’t stars or anything close to that. Scott Ruskin converted in the minors. I already covered Adam Loewen as he tries to make it back to the bigs.

There are those who go the other way, such as Kenley Jansen and Tony Pena, Jr. Players will do anything to stay in the game. But Jansen aside, most of those guys were pretty much fringe players.

Ankiel, though, became huge news due to his very public meltdown (and subsequent incurable Steve Blass disease) and his re-emergence as a slugger of some repute. His hype is probably larger than his actual ability, but he’s a decent enough player for a platoon / fourth OF role for a while.

But I liked this shot because you can see that he has some joy in playing the game. Much like here:

Did he know that he’d be in the bigs the season after this shot was taken?

I think he does!

 


“Chicken One Year; Feathers The Next”

I remember that line spoken by Johnny Rutherford one year at the Indianapolis 500 Victory Banquet, on the occasion of finishing last in the race the year after he won it.

And that certainly is apropos for Navarro. He made the All-Star team (as illustrated in this card) on the back of a torrid start to the 2008 season. As late as June 10, he was hitting .342. At the break he was at .310 with a .785 OPS. He slipped down to .295 with a .757 OPS, but looked to be like a rising star.

He was a bit lucky, as he had a .318 BAbip. (Batting Average for balls in play), but still, Navarro seemed to be the infamous ‘backstop of the future’.

Except he wasn’t.

He didn’t just careen off of a cliff – he poured gasoline on himself and held a match. In 2009, he hit .218 with a .583 OPS, and that was a contributing factor in the Rays’ fizzle. He was ‘unlucky’ with a .231 BAbip, though.

This year, the Rays gave him another shot. No dice.

OBP and SLG under .300 – 41 OPS+. He played in 14 of the 17 games in April, and rewarded the Rays with a .136 AVG and one double. At the end of May, he was sharing time with Jaso. By mid-June, he was an afterthought behind Shoppach and Jaso. By July, he was in Durham. He did get called up in September, and started three games but still Jaso and Shoppach are the main catchers. Jaso DH’s some as well – he even leads off sometimes. Shoppach’s BA is fugly but he’s a good defender and has some pop and patience.

I would gather that Navarro’s a non-tender candidate.

But he’s not the only 2008 All-Star to be found wanting in 2010. While Kosoke Fukudome has his moments, the Cubs would be quite pleased if another team took his salary and you could have Alfonso Soriano as well. Milton Bradley is…well…Milton Bradley. There’s talk the Dodgers may want to non-tender Russell Martin. Nate McLouth has been a mess all season. Cristian Guzman is now an after-thought in Texas. Joe Crede’s back has precluded him from finding work.

And of course there’s Brad Hawpe – All-Star in 2009, DFA in 2010. You wonder why they give multi-year contracts to anyone!

Then there was the All-Star game starter for the NL on July 10, 1990. At the time of the start he was 11-3 with a 2.28 ERA.

He wound up 12-9 with a 3.42 ERA. His team made the Series, but the All-Star game starting pitcher didn’t make the playoff rotation and pitched just once, in long relief, in the post-season.

The next year, he went 7-13 with a 5.48. He was traded with Scott Scudder for Greg Swindell. After one year in the AL (6-15, 4.64), he was drafted by the Marlins in the expansion draft, with the 39th pick. After one season in Florida (9-17, 4.49) and a cameo in 1994 for Texas, he was done.

Now, records aren’t the best measure of a pitcher, but it’s telling. Before the All – Star game start he was 17-13 in his career and and as a 25-year old looked to have the world at his feet. Post All-Star start he was 23-52. Yick.

That pitcher, of course was Jack Armstrong. Not saying that Navarro will be a total flame out, but two years in a row isn’t a good sign. There were concerns last year about Geovany Soto for the Cubs and he’s rebounded nicely.

I guess the moral of the story is – All-Stars aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

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