Pickin’ & Grinnin’

When I was a kid, I didn’t take Buck Owens or Roy Clark seriously. I was first introduced to them on Hee-Haw. It wasn’t until later when I read about the influence they had on several artists (notably Owens on Dwight Yoakam and Gram Parsons) that I realized how great they were.

I also didn’t take Robin Yount seriously when I was in elementary school. I didn’t take Ozzie Smith, or Omar Vizquel seriously either when they first started. To me, they were just another slappy shortstop – a Roger Metzger, Darrell Chaney, Felix Fermin type.

But then, when they start to shine, it hits you: WOW! What did I miss?

Andrus is one of those players, except I’m not missing him.

I knew Yount was a kid, but I didn’t think about how hard it was for a teenager to play in the majors.

I thought Vizquel was just like Rafael Belliard. No, really. What I didn’t (or couldn’t) see was his defense in Seattle.

I thought the Cards got jobbed when they traded Garry (“If I Ain’t Startin’, I Ain’t Departin’) Templeton. I thought it was a rash move. Yes, at age 15 I was a better GM than Whitey Herzog. (Yeah…)

(Sidebar: Whitey Herzog was a trading machine. There was this trade, which actually turned out to be Templeton, Lezcano and DeLeon for Smith, Mura and Olmstead. Earlier, he engineered a three-way deal with Cleveland and Philly that brought him Lonnie Smith and all he gave up were Sorenson and Silvio Martinez. Then there was Dec. 8-12, 1980 which saw him give up, basically: Kennedy, Urrea, Olmstead (him again), Littlefield (he of the “Littlefield effect”), Seaman, Phillips, Swisher, Durham, Reitz, Waller, Simmons and Vuckovich for Shirley, Tenace, Geren, Sutter, Green, LaPoint, Lezcano and Sorenson.)

So, I’m not going to make the same mistake with Andrus.

Yes, I think he’s a bit over-hyped as a current star. His defensive metrics are average, and his OPS+ has been below 100 each season. His SLG went way down this past year, and that’s a concern.

But, he’ll only be 22 this season. He can run, he’s got on base skills and he’s got potential to grow.

I’ll be watching…

 

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Wait, This Isn’t Prince Fielder…

…this is every bowling league in Wisconsin tonight on Super Bowl Sunday at 9:59 CST.

It’s Too Bad He Never Played For LaRussa

If Willie played for Tony LaRussa, George Will would have written an entire chapter about the scrappiness that is Willie Bloomquist.

I like a good scrappy player, if he can play the game.

David Eckstein snowed enough writers with his scrappiness to get MVP votes when his OPS+ was 101 and 99 (though to be honest, he had more WAR than the 2002 winner Miguel Tejada). Eckstein also plays defense fairly well up the middle, can run, and hits doubles.

Willie? Well, his position codes on Baseball Reference look like someone trying to text an international cell phone. (I mean, if you’ve ever listened to World Have Your Say on NPR (it’s by the BBC) the number to send a text seems like it takes five minutes to say.)

Bloomquist has never slugged over .400. The one season he had a decent OBP, he had ONE extra base hit in 192 plate appearances. He can play everywhere, but aside from CF, not particularly well.

Sadly, for Royals fans, it was no shock when they gave Willie 468 plate appearances in 2009, with a performance that a decent AAA player could replicate. And I, myself, wasn’t shocked when Dusty Baker found room for him in late September on the Reds in 2010. Dusty loved him so Neifi Perez, and Willie’s Neifi with special scrappiness on the side.

What I don’t get, aside from the fact that Scott Boras (Willie’s agent) must have all of these GMs by the ‘nads, is that the Diamondbacks signed him for 2011, with an option for 2012.

Willie’s going to be 33 next year. That’s the time that scrappy over-achievers start their coaching career in the Pioneer League, not play for a team that’s supposed to be rebuilding. What can Willie do that Tony Abreu can’t do?

Well, Kirk Gibson isn’t messing around. There’s no more iPads in the clubhouse before games. And to heck with Drew and Upton – he’ll throw Willie in there to get his uniform dirty. I mean, when your bullpen gives up seven runs a game, you may as well look like you’ve tried.

BTW – So much for “Update” – Willie was a Red by the time these things came out. You’re telling me they couldn’t photoshop that sucker really quickly, or at least acknowledge it somewhere. Millions of kids are going to be still thinking Willie Bloomquist is a Royal.

TOPPS – WON’T YOU THINK OF THE CHILDREN? THE CHILDREN!!!

 

 

“Take That!”

In every action shot of Mike Gonzalez, his mouth is wide open.

Good thing he hasn’t pitched in Cleveland in the post season, otherwise he’d be still picking those midges out of his teeth.

If anyone asks why it is foolish to spend huge dollars on any relief pitcher not named Rivera or Hoffman, then point them to Gonzalez’ B-R page, especially the Player Value – Pitcher section.

Yes, he’s been hurt. That’s the point. Pitchers get hurt. Relief pitchers get hurt. But unlike starters, relief pitchers are more of a commodity.

I have to get my teeth cleaned every four months because I sleep with my mouth open and get build-up. Perhaps Gonzalez’ habit of opening his mouth every pitch gets bad air into his system which affects his muscles and bones?

Heck, I dunno. All I know is that the Orioles, who are suddenly spending like crazy when every one else is looking at the bargain racks, paid $6 million for 24 2/3 innings of work.

Hey, One Man To A Pair Of Pants Out There…

A. Yes, I know this thing called Topps 2011 is out there. But I haven’t scanned any, mainly because I don’t have many doubles thus far and what I do have is already packed in boxes awaiting shipment tomorrow to about six stalwart and patient folks.

2.  You’ve read Ball Four, right? There was a great segment where Jim Bouton is standing next to George Brunet (the man who puts the “peri” in “peripatetic”) whilst Mickey Lolich is pitching for the Tigers. Bouton quotes Brunet razzing Lolich with the “one man to a pair of pants” line. One of the funniest things I’ve ever heard, and Bouton says the true nature of the hilarity is because Brunet himself is not svelte, not at all.

iii. I am no one that should be remarking on someone’s weight, but I just did. When I graduated high school in the year of Van Halen’s last legit album (not Van Hagar with Sammy Headache), I weighed about 135. I gained 20 my freshman year of college, and kept my weight around 160 to 165 after college until I moved to Indianapolis. Out went the basketball and other athletic endeavors. And now, I am comfortably over double century. The worst thing is that I used to be 32-32 in jeans (rather much easy to remember) and now am 40-32 and need me some relaxed fit most of the time.

FOUR. Ronnie is listed at 210 pounds. Um…right.

Who’s Cool (Besides Jason?)

Well, Section 36 sent me some of his unwanted cards, and most all of them were in sets that I haven’t collected but now I am toying with a couple three. Thanks, much!

Colbey sent me his last group break stuff with some packs to rip. He’s got another group break now. I’m sitting this one out so there’s more for everyone!

Nachos Grande sent me his side of a trade, which I now need to go through my Reds parallels, etc. and also send him the two autos that I received. That makes 9 packages to go out…yikes!

So with that and some other purchases I made – it took me a while to sort out. I finally got them sorted and I was ready to put them in my storage boxes tonight when the doorbell rang.

“Scott, you have a package. It’s baseball cards from…Troll???”

Yep, the Troll sent me somethin’. A past due trade, so he made up for it. He gave me some of what I needed to complete sets, added a bunch of random packs (which knocked about seven cards off of my 1990 Score list!), some boxes that I haven’t even opened yet of random stuff…and a couple of really groovy things that I haven’t scanned.

First was a 1972 Bert Blyleven.

Second, was a 1986 Topps Phil Bradley. Big deal, right?

It’s an autographed 1986 Topps Phil Bradley.

I’m going to have to scan that and do a post on Phil Bradley (and also one on Mickey Brantley, who had one of the best APBA cards one year). All I can tell you is this about why Bradley is a special player to me (and he Troll didn’t even know it…but he’s cool like that. I mean way down in his blog he has his mug posted – he’s a sophisticated raconteur he is. However, I speak for the majority of heterosexual males in requesting more Esther photos (Esther being his roller derby queen)) because Bill James got me thinking about runs scored vs. RBI as a stat. James said that Joe Carter’s 100+ RBI was due to circumstance, and Bradley’s 100+ runs scored was skill. Especially since Bradley played for the moribund Mariners.

Bradley was quite underrated, and his career abruptly came to a halt after a poor (for him) 1990, and a trip to Japan. He played in AAA in 1992 and that was it. Kaput. Done.

Anyway, when I also hear Phil Bradley I think of Phillip Bailey…

Anyway, to all youse guys…Jason Heyward says you’re cool just like him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, Mr. Kott-er-as!

After being featured on countless update, future stars and other type of cards, Kottaras finally received some big league playing time that didn’t involve a cup-of-coffee or catching the rare backup-catcher start.

The results were mixed.

He had power. He drew some walks.

But he hit .203. He only threw out 15% of all base-runners. And his other catching metrics weren’t good. And he’ll be 28 next year.

And his expression is, shall we say, dorky, on this card. I think that’s the technical term.

If he wants not to be know as “My Big Fat Greek Backup Catcher” (though he’s not really big nor fat at all), then he’s gotta get it done this year.

Or at the very least, his 2011 card should be less dork-like and more fitting a proud Greek-Canadian. Have some gyros and ouzo, eh?

 

What If He Were In New York? Heck, What If He Were In St. Louis Or Frisco?

The ink-stained wretches are all a-tizzy about Jeter’s contract.  Of course.

But what about this guy? What kind of buzz would be be getting if he played in a market that promoted its players and didn’t try to rebuild every other season because the owner doesn’t want to spend any money on his toy?

He had a sub-par season, FOR HIM. I’ll take a .300 hitting shortstop that cranks out 21 home runs.

The one thing that concerns me is the fact that his defense is slipping. It could be a one-year anomaly.

The Marlins have continually bungled what could have been a great situation down there in South Florida. Yes, it’s a tough market with transplants, but it’s also got a great Latino base that could have flocked to the games if they were promoted properly, played in a proper stadium, and not been so miserly.

I don’t like domes that much – but if any team needs a retractable roof, it’s Florida. The daily thunderstorms wreak havoc with walk-up sales.

People talk about what is a ‘baseball town’ and what isn’t. But almost every franchise has had periods where no one went to games and no one cared. Yes, even the Yankees, Cubs, Cardinals and Red Sox. Ever since they moved to LA, the Dodgers have been a bit immune, but in 1968 they drew less than 20,000 per game.

The 1981 Cubs averaged less than 10,000 per game.

The 1983 Red Sox were 9th in the AL in attendance.

The 1972 Yankees didn’t draw 1,000,000 fans.

The 1978 Cardinals were 8th in the NL in attendance, drawing just 15,000+ per game.

It can happen anywhere, at any time.

Florida fan(s), be happy you have Hanley. He’s a special player, and you get to keep him as a little secret!

Bowman Ran Out Of Prospects?

Hello. In response to some viewer mail I’ve received (well, the mail I can safely read without calling in the bomb squad and or the legal notices from Skip Pitlock’s attorney) I’d like to take this time to give you a behind the scenes tour of how a post comes to fruition on Smed’s Baseball Card Blog.

A. First, a crack photo team goes through the ‘spare’ cards accumulated here at Smed HQ. Each card is examined for relevance, fit, and marketability. It’s all about the brand image here.

B. The selection of cards by the photo team are scanned, and then passed along to the research staff. This hard working group of low-paid coffee nerds pours through all of the relevant on-line baseball sites, as well as the voluminous tomes here in the Smed HQ library. An intra-net wiki is created during the research process, which is then edited, corroborated, approved by the head researcher. The wiki link is then sent to writing.

C. Here’s where the magic happens. Taking the scan of the card and the research, the writing staff spends hours diagramming the flow of the entry, making sure to reference not only the photo, but the research and any nuances between the player on the card and the information that is on the intra-net Wiki. Several drafts are compiled, combining history, information, comedy, and pathos – the kinds of things you expect in a posting from Smed’s Baseball Card Blog.

D. The drafts are then sent to the site editor – who seamlessly weaves the various drafts into a compelling narrative that will make you laugh, or think, or react. The editor then adds the pithy headline for each post.

E. Finally, the post is sent to Smed, who deliberates long and hard on each post, making sure that it is worthy of the name Smed’s Baseball Card Blog. It can’t be posted until Smed says, “Hit it!”

Right now, the staff is hard at work with Mr. Pellegrini. They found that:

1. He was a 12th round pick from St. Bonaventure and was drafted as a senior.

2. He’s 6’1, 240, but played baseball instead of football in College.

3. That bad looks like a whiffle ball bat in his hands.

4. At age 25, he’s still in Class A.

5. An Irving Pellegrini pitched for the Big Spring / Odessa franchise in the Class D West Texas / New Mexico League in 1940. Irving Pellegrini? Jewish mother, italian father? Oh, think of the family dinners!

6. PELLEGRINI SMASH!

7. His twitter feed  is BigPellyStyle.

You can imagine the informative post that will be crafted by the team for Mr. Pellegrini. I think everyone needs to stay tuned…

(Pssst…Wikileaks has revealed that the above is false. Smed writes these posts on breaks from his job and his parenting duties, usually hepped up on Mountain Dew and listening to the crazy psychedelic sounds of 1968-era Pink Floyd and the Moody Blues. )

(CLARIFICATION: The facts about Pellegrini are true, though…)

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…