Thursday, June 21, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 21

Orioles Victory Number 21: 3-0 over the Washington Nationals

1982 Topps Benny Ayala

Hey, hey, hey the Orioles actually stopped a losing streak before it began. Instead of going a week and a half between victories they managed to only go one game between wins. Andrew Cashner returned to throw 4 and 2/3 innings of shutout ball (start shortened due to rain delay) and the bullpen kept putting up the zeros (even though Brad Brach made it interesting in the ninth).

The offense was provided early, compliments Mark Trumbo doing a very bad thing to a hanging curveball:

The "Trumbo Jumbo" (please never say that again Mike Bordick) was his second in three games and fifth on the year. Since coming off of the disabled list Trumbo has been a relative constant source of offense in the Orioles line-up.

Don't confuse that with him tearing up the league. He is still hitting a rather pedestrian .262 with an OBP of .318 and basically playing replacement level baseball. Yet, on the Orioles that puts him squarely in the top tier of offensive performers.

One thing that seems a little different this year is that he is driving the ball to right-field and right-center with more authority than he has in the past. While the murder he committed on the baseball last night was to left field, two of his other home runs this year were to right field. Last year, only three of his twenty-three bombs were to the opposite field.

He's also hitting a lot of balls hard. According to  his average exit velocity is 92.9 MPH which is well above the league average of 88.8.  A lot of those hard hit balls are going back up the middle or to right field.

Per Fangraphs this is his spray chart so far for 2018 (last night's game not included)

And from 2017:

Despite the much smaller sample size, there is a greater proportion of line drives (red dots) and home runs (black dots) going to right field this season.  Is this a result of a different approach to hitting or just some short term anomaly that will dissipate as the season wears on? Hopefully it's the former. If he is focused on driving the ball back through the middle or to the opposite field it will make him a better hitter. His home runs will still come, he's too strong for them not to.

The more important question is, does this change in hitting philosophy make him enticing to other teams? A club looking to add a little right-handed power to their line-up might be intrigued by Trumbo.  While he is nominally a designated hitter he does have experience in the outfield and first base. He isn't going to win any Gold Gloves in the field, he isn't going to embarrass himself either. That opens up National League teams to the pool of prospective trade partners.

In trading for him, a team does have to factor in his contract. He wouldn't be strictly a rental since he is signed through 2019 at a rather hefty $13.5 million. Still, that's not an unreasonable amount of money for a player that has averaged 32 home runs and 94 RBI throughout his career. The Orioles could also kick in some cash to help offset that price tag and sweeten the return a bit. 

Trumbo alone isn't enough to bring back a top-tier young prospect in a trade, but a team might be willing to part with a mid-tier prospect or two to bring that bat into their line-up to gear up for the stretch run. At this point, the Orioles should be all in on a rebuild with the goal of bringing in as much young talent as possible. Trading Mark Trumbo would accomplish that.

JustinG.'s Current Trade Rankings
(in order of most likely to be traded)

1. Manny Machado
2. Brad Brach
3. Zach Britton
4. Mark Trumbo
5. Darren O'Day
6. Jonathan Schoop
7. Danny Valencia
8. Craig Gentry

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 20

Orioles Victory Number 20: 10-4 over the Miami Marlins

2018 Topps Manny Machado 1983 Insert

How about an insert from one of the best designed Topps sets of all times of the most recent superstar player to wear an Orioles uniform?

So, the Orioles finally cracked the 20-win mark on Father's Day. Dylan Bundy pitched well enough to win and finally received some run support.  Baltimore avoids getting swept on the homestand and heads a short train ride south to Washington with a little more confidence in their offense.

A lot has changed since the last time I was able to post here. Chris Davis has been benched. The Orioles went from one Joseph (Caleb) to none, back to one (Corban) and now up to two (Corban and Caleb). One dominating left-handed reliever returned (Zach Britton) while another was shut down for the season (Richard Bleier). Andrew Cashner missed a start while David Hess has solidified his spot in the rotation.

Benching Davis is the biggest move that has happened in the 11 days between victories and probably the most important one. The big first baseman with the big contract was on pace for one of the worst seasons in major league history and looked completely lost at the plate no matter where Buck Showalter put him in the line-up. He's not going to get traded and will most likely refuse an assignment to the minors (a move that Minnesota just pulled with their struggling slugger Miguel Sano) as his right as a veteran player.

The organization can't trade him as his value is significantly below that of a replacement player and he's owed more than $100 million on the rest of his contract. Trying to shoehorn him into the impending Machado trade would only lower the value of the return even more. Nor will the Orioles waive him with the length and money left on his deal.

So now the only solution is to hope that the extra work he's putting in with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and jack-of-all-trades Brady Anderson pays off in some shape or form. With a natural regression back to how he's been since signing his large contract would be a boon to the offense-starved Orioles line-up. If he can get his game back to where he's hitting .230-.240 and clubbing home runs every now and then that makes there line-up better.

In the meantime, can he be a reliable off the bench pinch hitter? Showalter had a chance to use him late in Saturday's game trailing by a run and instead pinch-hit Corban Joseph. So at this point the answer seems to be no. That hamstrings an already short bench and will make for some interesting roster decisions once Tim Beckham returns from his rehab assignment.

Corban Joseph is the most likely candidate for demotion once Beckham returns to play third base, which would set Trey Mancini as the starting first baseman (his natural position) and bump Jace Peterson back to the bench. Now the Orioles would have Peterson, Davis and Pedro Alvarez, all left-handed hitters, as their primary replacements. That's not ideal.

The next few weeks will see a lot of change to the Orioles roster (hopefully) and their may be an influx of youth coming in. It would be nice if Chris Davis regains his form enough to be a presence in the line-up instead of a shadow of his former self on the bench.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 19

Orioles Victory Number 19: 1-0 over the New York Mets

2002 Topps Chris Smith

The Orioles swept a series! Sure it was just a two-game series and sure it was against the Mets. And, yeah, they only scored three runs in the entire series, but wins are wins at this point. Their ace pitched like one and their superstar drove in the only run.  It's just as it all should be.

Another thing that Dylan Bundy (the ace) and Manny Machado (the superstar) have in common? They were back-to-back first round picks for the Orioles. Not only that, but first round picks that actually panned out into every day players, unlike the previous handful of picks the organization made. Which is one of the problems that the Orioles have had in developing their system.

Chris Smith (pictured above) was one of those problems. From 1992 (Jeffrey Hammonds) to 2003 (Nick Markakis) the Orioles brass drafted a collection of busts and disappointments. Beau Hale, Mike Paradis, Darnell McDonald and Rick Elder all heard their names called by the Os in the first round. They all kind of sucked.

Chris Smith was drafted 7th overall in 2001 (with Casey Kotchman, Gabe Gross and Jeremy Bonderman, Dan Haren, Ryan Howard and David Wright were still available. Granted it wasn't the greatest draft of all time). Smith, a 5'11" left-hander from Cumberland Collage was a highly sought after power pitcher.

Granted he had only been pitching for a short time as a college player. He had spent two years at Florida State as a power hitting outfielder before transferring to Cumberland in order to become a pitcher.

He signed shortly after the draft and then was almost immediately injured. Over the next five years he only appeared in 24 games before retiring, never rising above A league ball. He never really recovered from a misdiagnosed rotator cuff and was soon out of professional baseball.

Lately the Orioles have been a little better at scouting talent. Machado (2010), Bundy(2011) and Kevin Gausman (2012) are all currently contributing to the big league team and the picks in the years that follow are among their highest ranked prospects. Ryan Mountcastle (2015) and Hunter Harvey (2013) are examples.

So, will their newest number one pick, Grayson Rodriguez, follow in the lines of Bundy or Smith? Unfortunately, only time will tell.

Orioles Victory Card Number 18

Orioles victory number 18: 2-1 over New York Mets

1967 Topps Pin Up Poster Brooks Robinson

Alex Cobb picked up his second win on the season by striking out seven over six innings. The victory snapped the Orioles latest multi-game losing streak (this one was seven games) and got them within one game of not being in last place. As of Wednesday morning they still trail (lead?) the White Sox by one game for the worst record in the majors.  Hoo-ray.

Today's card - a Brooks Robinson "poster" from the 1967 Topps series.  I guess it's not technically a card since it's printed on paper stock, but this is my blog and I get to set the rules.  For a card that is 51 years old it's in pretty good shape. It is creased, but good luck finding one of these that isn't, and there is a small tear just above his lip.

I picked it up on ebay with some funds left over from off-loading an Ohtani card. I'm not buying a ton of cards right now (mostly because I haven't seen anything other than Donruss in Target over the last couple of weeks) and having given up on hockey cards I'm kind of treading water in terms of acquiring more cardboard.

There is a vague idea of picking up some cards of vintage stars, maybe some Koufax and Mantle cards that won't break the bank. Also, I really have to get around to picking up a Griffey Upper Deck rookie at some point as well as a Ripken 1982 Topps Traded. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 17

Orioles Victory Number 17: 2-0 over the Tampa Bay Rays

2007 Topps Jaret Wright

Hey, hey David Hess. Have yourself a ballgame.  The rookie went 6.2 innings and didn't allow a run. He bounced back nicely from his last outing in Boston where he wasn't able to make it past the fifth inning and now has two wins in his three starts this year.  It looks like he's locked down the fifth spot in the rotation for the near future. Not bad for a fifth round draft pick.

It was a close game all night long. The Birds jumped out to the lead against Sergio Romo, the on-paper starter for the Rays, when Danny Valencia doubled in Adam Jones. From there it was all Hess as he worked his way through the Rays line-up pitching around four hits and three walks to pick up the victory.

There was one moment that it looked like the Rays might tie it up. Its one of those weird innings that always seem to go against a team stuck in a rut. In the fifth inning, with the Os up by one, Mallex Smith led off the inning with a walk.  Then Hess committed a balk. Still not quite sure what he did as his motion seemed exactly the same as every other one he did with runners on base. With Smith on second Hess tried to pick him off and Jonathan Schoop whiffed on the throw. The ball bounded into centerfield while Smith trotted down to third base.

Runner on third, no outs and some decent hitters coming up. Surely, the Rays would pick up at least one run and possibly more. Yet, Hess worked his way out. He got Daniel Robertson to ground to third with Valencia making a fantastic throw as he had to hurdle over Smith who was diving back to the bag.

Then with the infield in Jonathan Field made solid contact but drove the pitch into the ground right at Manny Machado. Rob Refsnyder followed with another ground ball and the inning was over with the Orioles still in the lead. In the top of the next inning, Schoop slammed his fifth home run of the season over the left field fence to extend the lead.

It was nice to see the Orioles work out of the jam with excellent defense and pitching. If they keep doing that, the wins will keep piling up.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 16

Orioles victory number 16: 9-3 over the Chicago White Sox

2018 Topps Opening Day Jeremy Hellickson

Why hello there dominant Dylan Bundy.  That's what Orioles fans have been waiting to see for such a long, long time. A complete game victory with 14 strikeouts (a career high) on 121 pitches (86 for strikes).  The three runs he allowed came off of one swing of the bat - a home run by Jose Rondon in the fourth inning with two runners on. It's Dylan Bundy - of course the runs are going to come via the long ball.

During the outing, Bundy picked up his 300th strikeout as a starter. He arrived at that nice round number in his 53rd career start and apparently no Orioles starter has racked up that many strikeouts in so few starts. For the record he has 333 career K's in the books with 32 of them coming during relief appearances early in his career. It's an oddly specific record to achieve, but good on him for doing it!

It is the second career complete game for the former first round pick. His first was last year, a one-hit, twelve-strikeout gem against the Seattle Mariners last season. For the record no other Baltimore pitcher has a complete game over the last two seasons.  The last player not named Bundy to go the distance was Ubaldo Jimenez of all players. He retired the final 17 batters he faced in a September start against the Rays in 2016. You would have to go all the way back to 2011 to find a pitcher with multiple complete games in a season. That hurler - Jeremy Guthrie. He worked two games start to finish.

Bundy has a ways to go if he wants to capture the the career franchise record. Jim Palmer, who else, holds the record with 211 which included four seasons that he had at least 20 complete games. Bundy has started more than 20 games just once in his career - 28 last season.  Pretty sure that Mr. Palmer will be holding on to his record for well...forever.

Since 2000 only once has a pitcher completed 10 or more games in a season. Big Game James Shields had 11 for the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays. My how times have changed for that organization as they are at the forefront of the "bullpenning" movement. They plan on starting relief pitchers in all three games against the Orioles this weekend with Sergio Romo starting both Friday and Sunday night and fellow reliever Ryan Stanek starting on Saturday. The theory behind their process is that the relievers will work through the top of the order once and set up the "primary" pitchers to only have to deal with the opponent's best hitters twice through the rest of the game.

It's an interesting concept and will be fun to see if the Rays continue it through the rest of the season and if any other teams adopt a similar philosophy. I don't expect the Orioles, tradition bound as they are, to be one of the teams to copy Tampa's experiment.

For Bundy the complete game start was another solid effort in his wildly inconsistent season. He's mixed dominating starts in with absolute tire-fire outings en route to a 3-6 record. After starting the season off with four starts where he allowed 2 or fewer earned runs, he followed up with three starts allowing five or more including the infamous May 8th start against Kansas City where he allowed 7 runs without recording an out. Since then he's had three starts, 7 shut out innings against the Rays, four runs in six innings against the Red Sox and the complete game against the White Sox.

Home runs have been his biggest issue, allowing a total of 14 through almost 63 innings pitched this season. No longer possessing a blazing fastball (his four-seamer averages about 91.63) he gets hurt when he leaves the ball up in the zone. If he can pitch ahead in the count, as he did on Thursday, he can force his opponents to chase the slider out of the zone because it is quite a deceptive pitch.

Hopefully, for the sanity of Orioles fans, he has more starts like this throughout the rest of the season.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 15

Orioles Victory Number 16: 3-2 over the Chicago White Sox

2001 Topps Delino DeShields

Welcome to the modern baseball victory. In their 3-2 win Monday night the Orioles had 5 hits. Three of them were solo home runs. They also struck out 12 times. Mark Trumbo went 1-4 with a home run and 3 strikeouts to personify the current era of the game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau April was the first month in the history of the major leagues where more strikeouts were recorded than hits. Professional hitters struck out 6,656 times during games played in April while only recording 6,360 hits.

The Orioles are no exception. In March/April Oriole batters had 207 hits while they struck out 250 times. The most egregious player was Chris Davis (no surprise) as he had 32 strikeouts and only 15 hits throughout the month. Manny Machado was at the other end of the spectrum, accumulating 37 hits against only 15 strikeouts.

This trend isn't going anywhere. Players are striking out more and more (10 seasons in a row the strikeout totals have risen) as the "hit it far or don't hit it all" trend continues. Throw in some historically bad weather and the specialized use of bullpens it's no wonder that so many players are striking out these days.

Of course this leads to plenty of columns bemoaning the effects this has on the game. What's even better are the ones that try to tie it to the rise of analytics. Are there more strikeouts and home runs? Yes. Is it the end of baseball? No. Does it lead to some boring-ass innings where it seems like nothing happens?  Yes.  In the overall sense of the game are their still moments that are fun and exciting to watch, yes as well.

How long will this continue? Probably at least for the next few seasons.  Baseball is nothing if not cyclical. At some point a team, most likely a lower-budget team, will start amassing a bunch of players that hit it to all fields and keep it in the park. They'll score a bunch of runs and then the other teams in the league will copy them. That's just the way sports go.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 14

Orioles Victory Number 14: 7-4 over the Boston Red Sox

2017 Topps Allen & Ginter Foil Brooks Robinson

I bought three boxes of Allen & Ginter last year. That's two more boxes than normal. The reason? The first two were Foil hot boxes. Which is cool if you're into that sort of thing. All I wanted to do was put together the base set.  Which is kind of hard when every card in every pack is a foil parallel.

Luckily I was able to sell off a large portion to a master collector and was able to recoup a lot of what I spent. I actually bookended my time in Chicago with hot boxes. The first box I ever bought was a 2010-11 Panini Certified box that had all parallel cards in it.  (Another case of being able to recoup my investment.) Then I ended it with a Ginter foil hot box.  Not a bad way to finish things up, even if I didn't care for the cards.

So why Brooks? It was his birthday yesterday. The Orioles Hall of Famer turned 81 and the Orioles celebrated by snapping a 13-game road losing streak. There were quite a few positives in the victory (in addition to gaining a game in the standings!)

1. Alex Cobb picked up his first win in a Baltimore uniform. He worked into the 7th inning, gave up 3 runs and lowered his ERA to 6.56. While on the surface none of those numbers are particularly breathtaking they do present a tremendous improvement over his first couple of starts. It looks like he is starting to get back into shape, which is good since he has a couple of more years left on his contract.

2. The Os broke the game open without the benefit of a home run. They actually got a hit with runners in scoring position. Adam Jones had the key hit in the fourth inning. After a Chris Davis double (that would have been a home run in most parks) and a Danny Valencia single left runners on second and third with no outs Joey Rickard and Andrew Susac popped out. It appeared that the Orioles were going to squander a key opportunity.

Then Trey Mancini worked a walk and Adam Jones lashed a pitch into left field that scored two runs (thanks to an off-line throw or else Valencia would have been toast). Manny Machado then drove in Jones and Mancini with a booming single to left-center.

Too often this year, it's been feast or famine for the offense. If they're not hitting home runs, they aren't scoring runs. In this game at least, they were able to actually manufacture some runs.

3. The Os tacked on runs. After the Red Sox closed the gap to 5-3, Jonathan Scoop blasted a Steven Wright knuckleball into the seats on top of the Green Monster. The Red Sox picked up a run in the bottom of the eighth to narrow the score to 6-4. In the top of the 9th, Mark Trumbo drilled a run-scoring double into the gap (with two outs) to widen the lead back to three. With the Red Sox's offense, that gave closer Brad Bach some breathing room in securing the victory.

4. The Orioles took advantage of Boston's mistakes. In the first, Mookie Betts doubled with no one out. It looked like Baltimore would promptly surrender the lead they had gained in their half of the first. Then Andrew Benintendi lofted a soft line drive to second base. For some reason Betts froze and wasn't able to get back to the bag in time to avoid getting doubled off.

In the second Xander Bogaerts singled with one out. Then, on what could only have been a busted hit and run, was thrown out by six feet on an attempted steal.

During the Orioles big fourth inning Jackie Bradley, Jr. air-mailed the cut-off man on Valencia's single. There was no way Davis was scoring from second and the throw allowed Valencia to move up to second. He then scored on Jones hit to left after Benintendi's throw was five feet up the line. Seriously, a half-way decent throw gets him by two steps at least. It also allowed Mancini and Jones to move up a bag each and then score on Machado's single.

So maybe the Orioles are playing their way out of their funk by simply playing better baseball. What a novel concept!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 13

Orioles Victory Number 13: 17-1 over the Tampa Bay Rays

1995 Topps Stadium Club Cal Ripken, Jr Cause & Effect

Man, that is a cathartic win. Just a week before the Orioles were getting their brains beat in on the west coast. Now, they're taking five out of seven and putting up runs the vaunted Yankee team would be proud of. Seventeen runs - a boatload of them against a left-handed pitcher at that. 

Not only that, but their ace looked like an ace again. Dylan Bundy bounced back from a disastrous start his last time out to hold the Rays to zero runs over 7 innings. The 4 walks weren't great, but he only gave up two hits - neither which of left the park. Compare that to zero outs recorded, five hits, four of which were home runs in his last start.

When his work was done against Tampa his offense had put up 11 runs (they would add 6 more in the bottom of the seventh). Those 11 runs were one more than the team had scored in his first four starts combined. It's nice when a team fires on all cylinders.

The latest run of success has brought a small amount of sunshine to an otherwise dismal season. It should not, however, change what needs to be done. That is blow up the roster. Even with their recent winning ways there is only one team with fewer wins (the Chicago White Sox). The two teams that the Orioles beat up on combined for a record of 30-50. Not exactly playoff material.

Still, it's nice to be on the winning side for a few games. Hopefully they can keep the good times winning. If they can keep this going against Philadelphia and Boston then maybe ownership should think about keeping the team together.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 12

Orioles Victory Number 12: 6-3 over the Tampa Bay Rays

2007 Topps Generation Now Nick Markakis

Congratulations to David Hess for winning his big league debut. After surrendering a three-run home run in the first, the rookie settled down and pitched six innings (honestly he probably could have gone at least 7) to pick up the 6-3 win.  Good for him.

Also, good for Nick Markakis. The longtime Oriole, now in his fourth season with the Braves, is having a bounce-back season for the surprising Atlanta ball club. He is hitting .340 with 7 home runs (he hit 8 in 160 games last season) and has a .420 on-base percentage.

Markakis was an Oriole for nine seasons and over 1300 games. Never a true power hitter he had 141 home runs, topping out at 23 in 2007.  His flat swing was more conducive to gap-to-gap doubles and he was able to spray the ball all over the park when he was on. 

I remember sitting at an old ballpark in 2006 in Jupiter Florida with my brother-in-law's dad watching some young, skinny kid launch line drives all over the park. It was quite invigorating at the time.  The Orioles had not had a winning season since 1997 (a streak that would continue until 2012) and they weren't exactly churning out the prospects. The only position player that they had developed that had a regular spot in the line-up was Brian Roberts.

So to see this lanky outfielder with a smooth swing drill the ball all over the field with authority was refreshing. Here was a first round pick that was actually panning out, something that had not happened for the O's since...Jeffrey Hammonds? That was all the way back in 1992.  The Orioles are seriously bad at first round draft picks.

He went on to be a hell of a player for some bad teams and was still producing when the Orioles started winning. For some reason his any power he did have all but abandoned him and he was a singles hitter getting paid $15 million a year. That was a bit too rich for Orioles management and they bought out his option sending him to free agency. He signed with Atlanta, closer to where he grew up and went to college and has been a veteran presence for a rebuilding squad.

As for the Generation Now card featured above - well that was an obscene waste of cardboard. For some reason at that time Topps and Upper Deck fell in love with bloated sets featuring the same card repeated time and time again based on some random stat.  There were insert sets featuring Mickey Mantle home runs, Barry Bonds home runs and Joe DiMaggio hitting streaks.

There are 582 cards in this set. This insert set. An insert set spread over Series 1, 2 and update. For Markakis there are 10 cards featuring the 10 games he had 3 or more hits. If you are a Markakis collector that isn't too bad, but for other players there were upwards of 35 or 40 cards just in the set alone.  Not exactly the easiest thing to get your hands on.

Orioles Victory Card Number 11

Orioles Victory Number 11: 9-4 over the Tampa Bay Rays

2018 Topps Heritage Kevin Gausman

I'm going to have to find some new cards to scan if this keeps up. The Orioles are starting to find their game a little bit.  Is it enough to dig themselves out of the hole they've dug over the first month of the season? Most likely, no, but it is fun to watch.  When this team is swinging the bats at their full capacity they may be the most entertaining team in the league.

As I type this, Manny Machado and Jonathon Schoop just went back-to-back against Chris Archer and there were a bunch of smiles in that dugout (and a lot of sunflower seed tossed in the air.  Has anyone gone on the disabled list with a scratched retina due to a sunflower seed bath? That would be awesome). The nine runs against the Rays on Friday marked the fourth game in a row that they've scored five or more runs and they're 3-1 in those games.  That's what they have to do to win ball games.

It's nice when a starting pitcher mixes in a nice start every once in a while. And Kevin Gausman did that on Friday. It wasn't pretty as he "scattered" 11 hits over 7.1 innings, but he got the outs when he needed and only gave up 2 runs. It was his fifth quality start in eight starts and the seventh time he's worked into at least the sixth inning. Those are the bulldog types of starts that help save bullpens and break losing streaks. With Dylan Bundy suddenly giving up home runs on every other pitch he throws and Chris Tillman hurting, the Orioles needed someone to step up and give them some decent starts. That someone was Gausman.  Hopefully he keep it up for a few more months.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 10

Orioles Victory Number 10: 11-6 over the Kansas City Royals

1992 Donruss Leo Gomez

For the first time in a month the Baltimore Orioles managed to string two wins together. Of course, they did it while I was on a brief 24-hour visit out of town forcing me to compose this on an Amazon Fire's portable keyboard cover. Therefore I apologize for any typos. Blame it on a compressed keyboard and slightly chubby fingers.

Still, how about that O's offense! These were the types of wins I was looking forward to when the year started. A poor starting performance (5 runs allowed in 1.1 innings by Chris Tillman) that is bailed out by a pretty potent offense (11 runs, 14 hits and  home runs). In all three games against the Royals the Orioles scored at least 5 runs. Is that the offense waking up or a bad Royal pitching staff? (checks the team stats - yup. It's the Royals pitching)

Still, O's fans need to take what we get.  Snapping a few hits together and putting a couple of balls on the right side of the fence is just what this team needs to get people interested again. Besides, it might drive up the value of a couple of these players when other teams come a calling for trades.

Why Leo Gomez today? Well he's my all second all time favorite number 10 in Orioles history. He was a middling prospect back when the O's were searching for a solution at third base. Over six seasons he managed to hit 62 home runs and drive in 203 runs in a Baltimore uniform. He also played a year for the Chicago Cubs before jumping over to the Japanese professional league for another few seasons.

He also played in some bitching glasses.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 9

Orioles Victory Number 9: 5-3 over the Kansas City Royals

1986 Topps Denny Martinex 

Welcome back to the win column, Baltimore!  Following an 0-6 west coast road swing and 7 straight losses overall, the Orioles returned to their winning ways by knocking off the Royals 5-3 to pick up their first win in the month of May.

Once again proving that the win is a nebulous stat at best, the winning pitcher was Richard Bleier. The lefty reliever now has 3 wins (a third of the the O's total victories) in 22 innings pitched.  Not bad work if you can get it. Would it be hilarious if a reliever led the Orioles in wins this season - yes, yes it would.

The big hit of the game was from Chris Davis, a three run blast that cleared the left field wall by about three rows. For the slugging first baseman it was just his fourth home run on the season, but his second in as many nights.

It seems the big man's bat is slowly waking up. While his average is still below .200 he has picked up hits in four of his last six games, with several being to the opposite field. Could the return of Mark Trumbo to the line-up be just what he needed in order to get back into the groove?

Probably not since Davis is hitting below him in the order, but the re-addition of Trumbo does make the overall line-up much, much better. In fact, the games over the last week are as close to the full roster that we've seen this year. Yes Tim Beckham is still out, but would he be that much of an improvement over Danny Valencia at third base? Probably not.

So, are the O's primed to go streaking now that their line-up is in order? More importantly, will a brief winning streak keep the ownership from doing what needs to be done (blow the roster to smithereens)? Most likely no to the first unless their pitching can average more than one decent start a week and god I hope not to the second.

They need to completely overhaul this roster from the minors to the majors. This season is lost no matter how many games they win.  Accepting it now instead of later will allow them to maximize the assets they have. Get that bidding war going between  Chicago and L.A. for the services of young Mr. Machado.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 8

Orioles Victory Number 8: 5-3 over the Detroit Tigers

2007 Upper Deck Corey Patterson

For the first time since April 11th, the Baltimore Orioles didn't lose two games in a row or more after a win. They end April with a record of 8-20 which leaves them 12.5 games behind the Red Sox. Of course, General Manager David Duquette isn't quite ready to blow the team up. He's giving them until Memorial Day (where they could be 20 games out!) to see what kind of team they are.

Their 5-3 victory over the Tigers on Sunday was their second win in three nights. It was also the second time in three nights that Pedro Alvarez hit two home runs. Alvarez now has six home runs for the season which is good for second on the team behind Manny Machado. He's done all of that in only 59 at-bats .

He also started at third base. That meant that the Os defense was:

3b - Alvarez
SS - Machado
2b - Jace Peterson
1b- Trey Mancini

That's...that's not what we were expecting when the team rolled out of Sarasota at the end of March. Injuries have played a huge factor in the changes, Jonathon Schoop and his messed-up oblique are the biggest hole that has to be filled, but Alvarez was only starting because Danny Valencia had a hamstring problem. So the back-ups are getting hurt now, which really cuts into a team's depth.

It also gives other players an opportunity.  Jace Peterson is one of those players. The former first-round pick was picked up off of waivers a week ago to fill the utility role after Schoop was hurt. He may have played his way into a permanent utility role, not by hitting a ton (he has 3 hits in 18 at-bats) but by doing pretty much everything else. Despite only having three hits he has driven in four runs and stolen three bases while playing flawless defense.

All three bases he has stolen have been third. Once on a double steal and twice off of the pitcher. With both Detroit and Tampa playing the shift against Chris Davis, Peterson gambled that he could beat the pitcher to the bag and in both cases he was correct.

Hopefully, more players take advantage of this play. If the team is going to give you a free base - take it. Heck, then maybe Davis can bunt him in on the next play and start picking up some cheap RBIs.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 7

Orioles Victory Number 7: 6-0 over the Detroit Tigers

1995 Topps Stadium Club Chris Hoiles

The Orioles snap their latest losing streak due to a brilliant performance by.....Chris Tillman?  That's right the former ace of the staff that was re-signed to a try-me one-year contract for $3 million shut down the Tigers over seven innings allowing only one hit and striking out five. In picking up his first win of the season, Tillman lowered his ERA to 7.03 and it's the first time since 2016 that he's worked 7 innings in a ballgame.

Those stats are interesting, but the stat that I enjoyed the most belonged to Adam Jones. The longtime Oriole is hitting .257 and his on-base percentage.... .265.  That is fantastic. Want an even better stat? Over the last 15 days he's hitting .288 and his OBP is... .278!  That's just...I don't know what that is. It's proof that Adam Jones is not here to take a walk. So how can a player have a lower OBP than batting average?

Apparently a sacrifice fly counts against a player's on-base percentage but not his batting average. So over a small sample size (like 15 games) a player who doesn't walk a lot can see his OBP dip below his batting average.  Jones, who had zero walks during that time frame, did have a couple of sacrifice flies.

On the season, Jones has two walks. One came during the second game of the season and the second April 4th. So he's gone almost a month without a free pass. And I have absolutely no problem with that. I love that Adam Jones is up there hacking. He's been hacking for 1500 games in the MLB and I don't think he's going to stop.

Jones is swinging no matter what the count is. More times than not he puts it into play and 255 times he's put it over the fence. So while he might not be a player that excites the advanced stats crew, he is entertaining to watch. Sometimes that's all we need out of a ballplayer.  Play hard and have a little fun.

That's who he is and he shouldn't have to change. No more than Chris Davis should change. This is the way the Orioles were built - home run happy power hitters that occasionally do something other than hit the ball out of the park. It's Buck Showalter's job to figure out how to win with the pieces he has. Until September of last year he managed to do it.

Regardless of what happens this off-season, Adam Jones is going to go down as one of the all-time best Orioles. He'll be in their Hall of Fame, hopefully his number is retired. I think he ends up re-signing with them - something along the lines of the a 3-year deal around $40 million. It'll be more than he should get based on his performance, but it'll be worth it to keep him around (after all they'll have some money left over once Manny Machado signs with the Yankees) so they Orioles should get it done.

By the time it's all time he should have 2,000 hits, 300 home runs and 1,000 runs batted in. All with less than 400 walks in his career. Not too shabby.

(For the record Chris Hoiles 435 times in his 10 year career with the Orioles)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 6

Orioles Victory Number 6: 3-1 over the Cleveland Indians

2001 Topps Opening Day Mike Mussina

Finally, the O's are back in the win column and, despite being one of the best pitchers in the AL, Dylan Bundy finally picks up his first win of the season. So far in 2018 Bundy has made 5 starts, thrown 31.2 innings, struck out 40 while only walking 9, WHIP of 1.105, ERA+ of 286 and a FIP of 1.98.  And his record: 1-2.

I'm not sure I'm ready to go full Brian Kelly yet and call for the abolishment of the win as a statistic, but it's obvious that it's value is quickly diminishing. Richard Bleier has two wins on the season and has thrown a total of 14.1 innings. He's been good, but he hasn't been as good as Bundy. Hopefully, baseball writers (especially those that vote on awards) are starting to come around to the fact that wins aren't the be all, end all stat for pitchers, especially starters.

Would I like to see Bundy or any other Orioles pitcher win 20 games in a season? Hell, at this point I'm hoping the Orioles get to 20 wins as a team.  Seeing how no Baltimore pitcher has done it since Mike Boddicker in 1984 it would be nice to celebrate that arbitrary stat. Mainly because it means the team is successful.

The last Oriole to come close was the man pictured above. Mike Mussina got to 19 wins in 1996. He also won 19 in 1995. Mussina also had three seasons with the Orioles that he won 18 games. He never got to the magic mark in black and orange, waiting until his final season in New York to hit the 20 win plateau. No one in their right mind would argue that the 2008 version of Mike Mussina was better than the 1996 version. He just happened to play for a better team that scored him more runs.

This was the last season Mussina was featured in an Orioles uniform on a Topps card. He didn't sign early enough in the off season for Topps to airbrush him into a Yankees uniform so Baltimore fans had to suffer seeing him in the home whites one more time when they were opening packs that year. His debut in Yankee threads would come in Series Two Topps.

Since then the O's have been looking for a dominant right-hander that can take the mound once a week and shut down their opponents. It wasn't Erik Bedard or Chris Tillman. Zach Britton looked like he may take the honor, but couldn't transition to starting in the majors. Now it's hopefully Bundy.. At some point the Orioles are going to start scoring runs for him. Hopefully at some point the Orioles are going to start scoring runs for anyone. Once that happens his wins will start piling up.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 5

Orioles victory number 5: 5-3 over the Toronto Blue Jays

2007 Upper Deck Chris Britton

The Orioles picked up their first win at home since Opening Day and didn't need extra innings to do so. That was nice. Kevin Gausman was the winning pitcher as he went 6 innings allowing 3 runs and striking out 7. It was his longest start of the season and lowered his ERA to 6.60 That might not be an impressive number, but considering it was at 13.50 after his first start, it's a good sign.

Honestly, the pitching really hasn't been the problem this season. While I'm not ready to throw this rotation out against the 1971 Baltimore rotation, they haven't been horrible. Dylan Bundy is on his way to becoming the first Cy Young finalist to not win a game in a season, Andrew Cashner has turned in a couple of decent starts and Gausman has improved. Now Chris Tillman and Mike Wright, Jr have been gas cans in their first couple of starts, but one of them should be booted to the bullpen once Alex Cobb makes his debut on Saturday.

If only they could get the offense rolling on a consistent basis. The team is near the bottom in average and on-base percentage and middle of the road when it comes to runs (but a top-5 team in home runs). They've been held to 2 or fewer runs in 6 of their 12 games, including just one run in each of he previous two games against Toronto.

Their bullpen, normally a strength of the team, hasn't exactly been lights out either having blown four save opportunities out of seven and walking a ton of hitters. Hopefully, with Cobb in the rotation the starters can begin pitching deeper into the games and lighten the workload for the bullpen.  Of course, that's something we hope for every year and have yet to see it happen.  But it's still April so we can still dream.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 4

Orioles Victory Number 4: 8-7 over the New York Yankees in 12 innings

2007 Topps Turkey Red Nick Markakis

When I left for work today I didn't think I'd have to write one of these after the game. As I turned off the T.V. and grabbed my heavy coat (serious snow flakes on April 9th? It's getting a bit out of hand) the Birds were down 5-1 and digging into a bullpen that had seen a lot of work over the last week.

Yet they chipped away and won, taking three out of four from the Yankees and showing signs of hope for the season. While not yet at the level of the 1989 Why Not? team, at least they've risen above the 1988 0-21 team.  It's nice to see the offense finding their footing a little bit, even if a lot of the offense was produced by Anthony Santander and Craig Gentry, not exactly the key cogs to the line-up.

Still, good teams have everyone chip in and while I'm not quite ready to label the Orioles as a good team, they at least are showing some heart.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 3

Orioles Victory Number 3: 7-3 over the New York Yankees in 14 innings

2018 Topps Gypsy Queen Kevin Gausman

Yeah, yeah I know. It's only three wins into the season and I already failed to post a victory card before the next game. What can I say, a 14-inning game coupled with a 5:30 a.m. alarm conspired to make this post a little late.  It didn't help that the O's followed their late night victory with a 1:00pm start on Saturday (checking that score to see if I have to do a double post.  Nope. we're good.)

While all due credit goes to Pedro Alvarez for the dramatic extra-inning grand slam, how about another decent start from the rotation. The above pictured Gausman pitched 5 innings, struck out 3 and only gave up 2 runs to lower his ERA to 8.00 on the season. The fact that Gausman kept the new Murder's Row in the ballpark was impressive after the home run fest he had during his last start.
 That's the third decent start turned in by the rotation and gives some hope that they aren't going to repeat the tire fire that they were last year.

More offense from Manny Machado has he hit two home runs (quiet down with the talk of him taking a shine to his soon-to-be-future-home-stadium) and the beleaguered Chris Davis mashed his first tater of the season.

Three wins on the season now for the Birds, including two over the rival Yankees. They did drop Saturday's game, but have the chance to take the series on Sunday as Mike Wright, Jr. is scheduled to make his second start of the season.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 2

Victory Number 2 - 5-2 over the New York Yankees 

2018 Topps Gypsy Queen Chance Cisco

When you start a project like this there are two things you worry about. First, that you won't be able to keep up and will drift behind and eventually give up. Luckily, that hasn't happened yet. My goal of posting a card following every Orioles victory before they start the next game is still intact after two wins.

The second thing you fear is that you have some sort of cosmic control over the outcome of ballgames happening a few hundred miles away. That, in some way, by celebrating every win with a cardboard image you are jinxing the team despite the fact that you are 40-some-odd years old and know better than to believe in things like jinxes or curses.

Yet here we are, or more precisely, he we were a few days ago with the Orioles suffering their fourth straight loss and honestly not being remotely competitive in any of the losses. At that point I wondered if this exercise in cardboard creativity was having some adverse affect on their play. We all knew the pitching would be suspect at best, but at least they'd be able to hit, right? Not so much as first the Twins pitching and then the Astros pitching shut their bats off.

With the Yankees and their line-up looming for the next four games, the likelihood of a 1-9 start to the season was not out of the realm of possibility. I also began to ponder if a 21 game losing streak following an Opening Day victory was just as bad as a 21 game losing streak to start the season (hello team of my youth the 1988 Orioles). The answer I came up with was no, but not by much.

Luckily one of the three late Spring Training signings and first man to rock a beard in a Baltimore uniform under the Showalter administration, Andrew Cashner, pitched six strong innings and the bats woke up enough to propel the team to a 5-2 win over Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees.  So good for them. Cashner picks up the first win for an Orioles starting pitcher on the season (despite Dylan Bundy's best efforts) and Chris Davis is hitting a respectable (for him) .250 when he's not leading off.

So, good job Orioles.  Let's see if you can make it two in a row and send Yankee fans into an early season meltdown.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Os Victory Card Number 1

After every Baltimore Orioles victory this season, I will be posting a photo of a card from my collection.  Yes, this is a blatant attempt to boost the number of posts I make this spring/summer. Yes, I will most likely not make it past 10 wins before I miss one or two.  Still, it's worth an attempt.  The cards will not have anything to do with the game itself (much like Upper Deck's Documentary series from 2008!). Some posts will be longer than others. 

Victory Number 1 - 3-2 over the Twins.

2018 Topps Opening Day Chris Davis.

The newest lead-off hitter for the Os didn't get any hits and walked once, but he only struck out once as well and saw a lot of pitches. So that's good.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Busting a pack on Opening Day!

Happy Opening Day! For the first time in history, or a really long time (I’m not going to look it up), almost all of the teams in the league are playing. There are no overseas openers that start at four in the morning four days before the rest of the league. It’s just wall-to-wall baseball starting at 12 eastern time and running late into the night.

To celebrate the return of our national past-time, I took the bus up to the local Target to get some new cardboard (and toothpaste. We were almost out of toothpaste). Not only did the store have some 2018 Topps fat packs (which I bought) they also had some Gypsy Queen. I think I’m going to like this Target a bit more than the one in Chicago.

Did I mention that I’m not in Chicago any longer? No?  Whoops, sorry about that. About a month ago The Duchess and I relocated to Pittsburgh. Why? Because we can. She works from home and I’m in the hotel business. So we’ve settled in to a much larger place for a lot less rent money and I’m looking forward to spending a lot of money at Pirates games this season.

And, based on what I’ve seen in one visit to Target I’ll be spending some money are cards there. To celebrate Opening Day, let’s take a look at one of the packs of Gypsy Queen. Target was selling them in packs of three with three exclusive green-bordered cards. It also came with a coupon for a free pack of Topps Opening Day which seems appropriate for today.

Card #1 - Gerrit Cole Pittsburgh Pirates

Well now. This a bit awkward. The former ace of the Pirates is still pictured in his Pittsburgh uniform despite his January trade to the Houston Astros for four unheralded players.  The Pirates rotation is currently listed as Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl and Joe Musgrove (one of the unheralded players that came back from Houston). Is that good enough to compete with the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals? Most likely no.

Card #2 - Melky Cabrera Kansas City Royals

Cabrera has now been in the league for 13 seasons. It seems like just yesterday he was a young prospect playing for the Yankees. Did he ever live up to his potential? Maybe not, but he was consistent throughout his career. He’s currently a free agent despite a 2017 season where he hit .285 with 17 home runs. Will he find an organization in 2018?

Card #3 - Sean Newcomb Atlanta Braves

Newcomb is part of the youth movement taking over in Atlanta. He had a bit of a wild start last season as he walked 57 batters in 100 innings. He also struck out 108 so there is a lot of potential in his left arm. So, the one design issue that is driving me crazy with Gypsy Queen - the position lettering in the top right corner. Every single pitcher card I’ve got I’ve thought has had the Pirates logo on it. I’d rather have the team logo there with the position in script below it, but that’s just a personal taste

Card #4 - Logan Forsythe Los Angeles Dodgers

Former Tampa Bay Ray alert! He was traded to the Dodgers last off-season for Jose De Leon and found himself in the World Series. Not a bad deal for the second baseman.

Card #5 - Corey Knebel Milwaukee Brewers

Knebel is apparently the Brewers’ closer. I did not know that. He saved 39 (3rd best in NL) games last season and made $538,900. Once again I don’t understand why teams pay closers more than $6 million a year. No I’m not bitter that the Orioles are paying Zach Britton $12 million to rehab his blown Achilles just because he can be a dominating closer. Knebel did get a nice raise to $3.65 million and then promptly tweaked his knee in spring training.

Card #6 - Andrew McCutchen - Pittsburgh Pirates

Oh wow. Topps is apparently seeking to actively hurt Pirates fans. Am I glad I got this pack instead of some 10-year-old Pirates fan who would have been crushed to see two popular players that were traded away for a pile of magic beans. That would have been like me busting a pack of 1991 Topps and seeing Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch in it. Let me tell you, Pirates fans are not exactly please with the roster moves that Neal Huntington made this offseason.

The Cole trade is understandable, at 26-years-old he is entering the prime earning years of his career. He was signed to a $6.75 million contract this season and that number was only going up next season and then he would be a free agent in 2020. Might as well deal him for something because they weren’t going to be able to afford to keep him.

Dealing McCutchen is different. Much like Evan Longoria in Tampa, “Cutch” was a fixture in this town. He had one more season left at $14 million and had earned the right to finish the contract out in a Pirates uniform. If he wants to stay, then work out a new deal. Trading him away for two prospects and international money is almost an insult.

And that's the end of the pack. The Os won in extra innings so all is good in the world for at least one day.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Signs of spring - A look at 2018 Series 1 Topps.

Normally, the first sign that it's almost time for spring training is the annual picking of the free agency carcass by Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette. In a normal year, most of the big names are gone leaving the Os GM to sign the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez or Yovani Gallardo. This year is a bit different as it seems no one is signing any free agents so there are no bones to pick over.  That means it's time to move on to sign number two that baseball is almost here - the release of Topps Series 1.

Looking through a few hundred cards of summer baseball action makes the foot of snow on the ground here in Chicago a little easier to bear. Buying a box of cards a few weeks before moving, probably isn't the smartest thing to do, but in the over all scheme of things, a hobby box worth of cards isn't adding that much to the grand scheme of things. So I wandered over to Elite Sportscards and picked up a box.

Let's get down to the cards....

The first card of the season was....

For the second year in a row, it's a Philadelphia Phillies position player. That doesn't bode well for the Phillies who finished 66-96 after I pulled Freddy Galvis  as my first card last year.  I will say that I like the Herrera card a lot. The layout is perfect for a horizontal card fits nicely with the placement of the logo and the nameplate.

I don't have any problem with the design itself. It's another full-bleed photo, which is nice. The logo may be a bit big, but not obnoxiously so. It's nice to be able to read the name and there is no unnecessary hard-to-read glittery typeface.

The back of the card...

I know people care more about the photos on the front than the stats on the back. I just wish that there would be more stats. My old man rant is they've gotten away from the full career stats on the back. I grew up with the ability to see an entire career on the back of a player's baseball card. It was impressive to see the numbers of someone who had been in the league for 10-15 years. I suppose it's nice to see what a player's Twitter handle is, but honestly, I'd rather have the stats, both new and old

The photography continues to be top notch. Honestly, the photos used for the base set rival what used to be used for Stadium Club. There are a lot of action shots, a good mix of horizontal and vertical cards. There is the usual mix of team cards, future stars, and checklists. The checklists feature odd pairings of players such as:

My least favorite card....

There are several reasons why I'm not a huge fan of this card. One, as a resident of Chicago, I've heard the "Bryce Harper is signing with the Cubs as soon as he's a free agent" story 1,001 times since since they've been in the majors. Yes, they are both from Las Vegas and are friends.   (Thank you to Scott for pointing out I'm an idiot. It's Kris Bryant that is from Vegas, not Rizzo. Still, that makes the card even dumber. Put Harper and Bryant on the card.) That's great.

The "Rizzarper" portmanteau makes my brain hurt. It just doesn't look right. Doesn't "Harpizzo" sound so much better? Hopefully Topps trademarked that term, because if Harper does join the Cubs, it's going to be plastered across a million bootleg t-shirts.

My favorite card...

A nice close-up of Travis D'Arnaud reaching fruitlessly for a foul ball in the stands. The impromptu nature of the card, the fact that it's one of the few day cards and the fan pictured under his glove recoiling from the action really appeal to me.

As usual, due to the early release of the set, there are some cards picturing players in their old uniforms. Which leads to:

Card that makes me sad....

I'm glad that Longo got one more card in a Rays uniform. It would have been a shame to see him airbrushed into a San Francisco Giants uniform. The trade really signified the end of an era for the Tampa Bay franchise. He was the last member of the 2008 team that marked the beginning of the Rays being a relevant team. He will be missed.

Card that makes me happy:

How can you not be happy seeing the best player in the game with a bid ol' smile on his face. This is not his base card. For the first time in a few years I managed to pull a short-print out of a hobby box. Apparently, one of the themes for the short-prints is showing the players in batting practice jerseys or sweatshirts.  As for the use of alternate photos in the set...I'm kind of over it. I liked it when the alternate cards were retired veterans, heck one of my cards of the year was a vintage alternative. Now, much like outdoor hockey games, there just seems to be too many of them.  Dial it down a notch, Topps.

Card that signals a new trend:

Last year, for the first time in two decades, Topps didn't leave out card #7 in honor of Mickey Mantle. Gary Sanchez got the honor of being the first non-Mantle player to feature on the #7 card since the Yankee legend passed away in 1995.

This year the card belongs to Clint Frazier, another young Yankee prospect. I liked Topps either leaving the card out of the set or printing a Mantle-memorial card. It was an interesting quirk that made sense, even if it did occasionally leave a blank slot in a card binder. However, it evolves into another quirk if Topps continues to use that spot for a younger Yankee player.  Could Justus Sheffield or Justus Sheffield take that place of honor in the future? It would be a nice way to continue to honor the history of the Yankees without going over the top.

Other hits and inserts from the box:

The relic or autograph promised by the front of the box is a simple white jersey of Michael Conforto. That's alright I guess. No need to get super-excited or super-depressed about it.

I knew I was going to like this insert as soon as it was announced. After all the 1983 set was one of my favorites, so seeing current players and veterans mixed in was great. Will I try and complete it? I don't know. We'll see how the year goes.

The parallels. A couple of golds (numbered to 2018) and a few foils.  Another insert that I can take or leave. I really don't see the appeal of the foil versions, they just seem a bit pointless.

The "advertisement disguised as an insert" card. Topps is promoting their daily, print-on-demand Topps Now product by showing their top selling cards from last year. I will do what I usually do and purchase any Orioles-related cards that come along.

The insert that looks really familiar. Superstar Sensations.  When I pulled the first one of these inserts I instantly associated them with last year's Five Tool inserts. Again, I'm neither over or underwhelmed by them.

Honestly I haven't even taken the time to look up what these two inserts are.  I'll get around to it at some point.

When I saw the sell-sheet for 2018 Topps and they mentioned this promotion I knew it was going to piss me off. Not because of anything Topps has done. In fact, I love it. The premise is simple: Get a card of a player and then pick the day he will hit a home run and then win a prize.  It's fantastic and I love everything about it except for one thing - I know that I will pick the wrong day.

Aaron Judge will most likely hit between 35-45 home runs this year.  He will not hit one on the day I pick him to.  I will put way too much research into figuring out a good day to pick and it will be pointless. If anything happens, he will most likely suffer a season-ending injury on the day I pick instead of hitting a home run. So, Yankees' fans, I apologize upfront for ending his season. Good thing you have 75 other players in your line-up that can hit 40 home runs.

Overall, I'm happy with the 2018 Topps Baseball set. I'm a few cards short of completion and will buy a couple of packs or hanger packs along the way before trying to trade my way to a complete set.

What do you all think about this year's release?