Thursday, April 18, 2013

At Long Last We Have Completion

Hey, whoa! Where did the time go?  Has it really been that long since I posted?  I’m really getting too old to let two weeks slip by almost unnoticed.  I guess I should wrap up this whole “drag out a box break” series and move on to more interesting topics like the Lightning playoff chances (excuse me while I go cry in a corner now).  Three more packs to go, let’s go get them!

Or, because I am lazy let’s not.

I’ll boil it down to one card. 

Hey there leader of Birdland!  Good ol’ Buck Showalter looking all managerial and serious. Which is exactly how managers not named Joe Maddon should look.  The O’s are lingering around .500 this season. Luckily in the AL East that still has them in contention.

There wasn’t much else lurking in the last three packs of the box.  I did get a Venezuelan variation of a pitching leaders card.  If you haven’t seen them, well they’re just like the normal cards except with a black border around the back of the card.

My thoughts on the 2013 Topps Heritage product – a definitive “meeehhh”.

Of all the Topps products on the market, Heritage really is the simplest to get a grip on.  Take a vintage design and airbrush a bunch of current players on the front and ship it out.  I like that they mimic  the inserts and foibles of the original years to keep a bit of continuity, that makes for a nice touch.  The problem is, if you’re not a fan of the base card design it’s really hard to talk yourself into investing the time and money to put a complete set together (thanks short prints!)

I will be trading away, or at least attempting to trade away, most of the cards that I pulled from this box. I’m off to a decent start having set aside the Braves for Captain Canuck and the Pirates for Staff Sergeant Real DFG.  About a week ago I pulled off a 2013-for-2012-Heritage swap on Zistle that cleaned out  about another 20 cards.

So if you are looking to put this set together or need some team needs, check out my trade list on Zistle on get in touch with me. In the meantime I think I might be looking for some Gypsy Queen cards.  I’m really digging the Dealing Aces insert set, might put that one together. After all I already got the best one out of the way.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Next To Last Heritage Post - We're almost there!

Here we go.  The first of two posts where I knock out the rest of the Heritage box that bought seemingly 3 months ago.  I’m not done opening packs and I’ve already managed to trade about 20 cards through Zistle.  I’m sure once I’m done and can focus I can get most of this set traded away.  Then I can start thinking about buying a box of Gypsy Queen.  For some reason I’m more intrigued by that set this year then I have been in the past.

Pack I

Carlos Ruiz – “Chooch” to Phillies fans.  Not a bad nickname.  Definitely better than A-Rod or S-Rod or anything like that. I’m pretty sure that “photo” was taken at the Phillies spring training stadium in Clearwater. For my money it’s the best place to watch a game in the Tampa area.

Luis Ayala – Part of a very strong bullpen for the Orioles last year that led to a 29-9 record in one-run games last season.  Critics and sabreologists scoffed at the record and decried it as “UNSUSTAINABLE!” I guess they might be right, the O’s are 0-1 in one-run games this season.

Howie Kendrick- Kendrick is a doubles machine – 195 in only 7 seasons.  Maybe the O’s can pick him up to replace their oft-injured doubles hitter Brian Roberts.

Jacoby Ellsbury – Speaking of oft-injured

Wellington Castro – I’m not going to lie, Wellington is a strong, strong first name.

Heath Bell – No Flat Breezy for Mr. Bell.  That’s an old-school grab the hat and bend it as hard as you can in the middle brim.

Jake Peavy – Anytime you can invest $29 million in a pitcher whose arm may fall off his body at anytime you gotta do it!

AL Bombers – Is Cano that short or Rodriguez that tall.  They look like Marty and Vinny celebrating a goal.

James McDonald – This is his third full year as a starter in the National League. If he was surrounded by better talent I’d say he was on the verge of a breakout season.

Best Card – Ayala – Go O’s!
Worst Card – The Yankees.

Pack II

Pat Neshek – He’s probably the best TTM signer in the league and after a couple of years dealing with arm injuries it looks like he found a place in Oakland. Good for him

Garrett Jones – I wonder how often his name will pop up in trade rumors this season.

Chris Perez – They couldn’t have memorialized Perez getting sick on the field? Who knows, maybe there is a super short print variation of that awesome moment!

Tyler Pastornicky – Chalk up another name I have no idea of who it is. Into the pile for Captain Canuck it goes!

Jeremy Hellickson – With James Shields off to Kansas City it is time for Hellickson to step up his game a bit. He won’t be the ace, but needs to be a strong number two.

Jay Bruce – He seems to be the pure slugger compared to Joey Votto’s more cerebral approach.

David Ortiz Memorable Moments – Whatever.  I really don’t care.  Just retire already.

James Loney – Tampa Bay might have another reclamation project on their hands. 

Mike Leake – He’s 28-22 in his career while giving up over 4 runs a game.  Should be in line for a $75 million contract.

Best Card – Pat Neshek
Worst Card – Ortiz

Pack III

A.J. Pierzynski – A royal portrait for a royal asshole

Brendan Ryan – Shortstop or crazed meth addict biker?

Tommy Milone – Proof that you don’t have to be a flamethrower to be successful.  I have a theory that the next undervalued market are pitchers who throw strikes but don’t light up the radar gun.  Even the new age scouts seem to be enamored with hard throwers.

Daniel Nava – After 7 at bats this year Nava is hitting .429 – could be the next superstar!

Pitching Leaders AL – Good for them.

Darwin Barney – The Cubs are quietly putting together a decent infield with Barney, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and eventually Javier Baez.  Who knows, maybe Theo Epstein will put a winner on the field eventually.

Koufax and Kershaw – Another awesome card in this set. At some point I will own a Koufax card (you know one from when he actually played). 

Royals/Rays Prospects – This would have been an all Royals prospects card if Andrew Friedman didn’t get Odorizzi included in the James Shields trade.  That’s why Friedman is one of the best in the business.

Best Card – Koufax and Kershaw
Worst Card - Hudson

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Time To Speed This Break Up

Alright.  I’ve obviously lost count of what pack I’m busting right now.  That was bound to happen, because I’m really bad at numbers.  That’s why I’m not an accountant, or good at gambling. This project is dragging on a lot longer than I wanted it to so from here on out we’re busting multiple packs at a time. Today there will be two and the next two days will have three packs.  Frankly there is more I want to write about (thems creative juices be flowin’ again), kind of like the post about the Lightning.

Yes, it defeats the original idea of the project – opening a box one pack, one day at a time.  Well, there was actually another reason behind it.  That was to get me in a place where I can write every day, or at least almost every day.  I think I’m in that place right now so I’m taking the training wheels off and going for it.
Without further adieu today’s packs:

Andrelton Simmons – “Yo baby, why don’t you drop that zero and get with a hero?”

Joel Hanrahan – “I was told there would be chicken and beer.”

Victor Martinez – “My knee looks like what?”

Ryan Cook – “I’m totally Vadaring this ball”.

Frank Francisco – “You said look serious”

Alfonso Soriano – “I swear I will waive my no-trade this year, please trade me”

Albert Pujols (action variation) – “Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.”

Alex Presley – “If one more person mentions Elvis I will crush their head with this bat.”

Matt Cain/Buster Posey – “So my guy was saying I need to diversify my portfolio.  I don’t know what that means but I did buy a lot of gold and bury it in my back yard.”

Best Card – Simmons
Worst Card – Francisco

Pack Two!

Rockies Future Stars – Ortega hit .500 in spring training this year with an OPS of 1.405.  Not too shabby. Topps might be onto something.

NL Pitching Leaders – Of everyone pictured here I think only Johnny Cueto makes it back.

Matt Moore – Those are some thick eyebrows you got there, Matty Moore.

Justin Smoak – In the land of failed prospects, he shall be their king.

Omar Infante – Ummm.. I got nothing.

Don Mattingly – The Hit Man. One of the great “What ifs” of the modern era. As in, “What if his back had actually held up for his entire career.”

Chris Sale Chrome – Love the herky-jerky windup.  There are too many cookie cutter windups in the league these days.  Nice to see something different (especially since I don’t have to hit against it).

Andy Pettitte – “You Mad Bro?”

Hitting Area – Who would have though Bryce Harper wouldn’t be the asshole in this picture?

Best Card – Pettitte
Worst Card –Infante, just cause I couldn’t come up with anything remotely clever.

Fan Favorite Conacher Traded For A Really Tall Guy

Cory Conacher is the new points leader for the Ottawa Senators

When I started writing this blog, well actually the other blog, I told myself that I would follow a couple of rules.  One of them being, “Never write anything when you’re angry.”  More than likely if I didn’t follow that rule I would go off on some rage-fueled rant about something or another and then feel embarrassed about it the next day.  Not that I don’t feel embarrassed about half the things I post anyways, but that’s just because I don’t really edit my work. So that is why I didn’t write anything about the move the Tampa Bay Lightning made during the trade deadline yesterday.

I love the NHL trade deadline.  I love it even more when I have the day off and can fully enjoy it without interruption.  I love it especially now in the twitter/24-hour coverage/live-streaming world that we live in. You literally cannot get enough NHL talk on Hockey Christmas.

So I was doing my thing (sitting on the couch refreshing twitter and surfing the web while listening to TSN radio) for most of the day and it looked like it would be a quiet day for the Lightning.  After all, they weren’t really in a position to go all in, and it didn’t seem like there was much demand for the players they had (although with the price being paid for defensemen I’m surprised Sami Salo didn’t draw any interest). There were some rumors floating around that the Lightning were one of six teams interested in Ben Bishop, but nothing concrete from any of the insiders (or insiderrrrrs).

Overall there wasn’t much going on overall in the morning, in fact, the most entertaining aspect was watching the guys for The Score get increasingly drunk as the day went on thanks to their Deadline Day drinking game. So at about 1pm CST The Duchess and I went out to lunch.  While we were at Kuma’s Too (brand new sister location of Chicago’s legendary burger bar/hard rock shrine Kuma’s Korner) I couldn’t resist occasionally checking my phone to see what was going on.  Needless to say, my better half wasn’t amused by that.

As we were finishing up our beers (Three Floyds Robert the Bruce for me) Bob McKenzie sent out the tweet heard ‘round the Tampa Bay area, “Ben Bishop informed he’s been traded to Tampa.”  My initial thought, “Ehhh.  They finally got him, wonder who they gave up for him.”  I figured it would be some combination of a pick and a B-level prospect (or in my wildest dreams a semi-healthy Ryan Malone).

Then the follow-up tweets began.  First it was Darren Millard and then Bruce “Not many fans in Tampa” Garrioch.  They both had the same name – Cory Conacher. I was not pleased.  In fact, I was quite agitated, one might even say angry.  That’s despite the fact that I am at the age where anger shouldn’t really be an emotion associated with sports.  Disappointment, yes.  Jubilation, yes.  But anger, never anger, after all it’s only a game.  Why let it hijack my emotions to the point of being physically upset?

However, there it was - anger.  How could the Lightning trade one of their new fan favorites, the five-foot-nothin, one-hundred-and-nothin’, undrafted scrapper who clawed his way into the NHL by outworking and outscoring everyone else? He is a rookie-of-the-year candidate for goodness sake! The online fan base will no longer be able to use the #DeathTaxesConacher on out tweets anymore. The undersized line of Conacher, Tyler Johnson and Martin St. Louis would never exist again.  All for another oversized goalie with potential?

Now imagine that paragraph spread out over a thousand words.  That’s what you would have read yesterday had I taken to keyboard as soon as I had gotten home from the burger place.  Instead, I waited. I waited through the final flurry of deals, through Bobby Luongo’s “My Contract Sucks” press conference, through the endless speculation involving the Washington/Nashville deal and finally through the knee-jerk-who-won-who-lost analysis of the day. I watched some TV (The West Wing) and went to sleep.

Now I’m writing.  I still don’t like the deal, but I’m not so upset about it.  Non-partisan reviews have made me feel a little better about the move. Yes, it was a steep price for Mr. Yzerman to pay, especially given the exorbitant price he paid in the off-season for Anders Lindback.  If you’re following along at home the current price tag for the future in the Lightning net stands at Cory Conacher, a 4th round pick, Sebastien Caron, two 2nd round picks and a 3rd round pick. Oh and neither one is signed past next season.

While the reports on Bishop are positive, like Lindback before him, he hasn’t been tested as a true number one. I wonder if Mr. Yzerman is that blackjack player who, after being dealt a few losing hands, starts doubling his bets in order to make his money back.   He’s been able to build a young, solid team in front of the net, but inconsistent goaltending has plagued his regime and already cost one coach his job. 

If Bishop struggles in Hockey Paradise I willing to wager the next coach collecting unemployment will be Frantz John. The relatively under-the-radar goaltending consultant has been with the organization since 2010, joining the team after spending many years in the QMJHL. During his tenure only Dwayne Roloson in 2010-11 played anywhere near an acceptable level in net while two players (Mike Smith and Dan Ellis) have gone on to play much better with their new teams. 

Mr. Yzerman’s legacy is going to hinge on the two deals he made for goaltenders.  The luster of the Eastern Conference Finals run has worn off.  The sellout streak has ended. Next season is going to be interesting as the team already has $61 million committed to the roster and still has to get Bishop and at least five other players signed with less than $4 million to play with (actually closer to $7 million if they put Mattias Ohlund on Long Term Injury Relief). Couple that with moving to a tougher division and the questions really start to pile up.

In the end the deal does, at least on paper, make the team better. Does it make the fans happier?  Well, that depends on Ben Bishop and how many wins he gets.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fifteen Packs? That Means Less Than Ten To Go

As I listened to the Orioles game today (pitching and the long ball – Earl Weaver was smilin’ in heaven today) it struck me that they’re pretty much rolling out the same team they did last year.  Which, in today’s game is really, really odd.  Thanks to free agency, salary “caps” and rapid change in management it seems like players are almost always on the move. 

To put this thought to test let us take a look at my most recent Heritage pack and see if there are any players who are still with the team that drafted them.

Tyler Colvin – Nope. He was a Cub.

Mitch Moreland – Drafted by the Rangers. Still with the Rangers. Thanks for screwing this up so early, Mitch.

Nathan Eovaldi – Was in the Dodgers organization and came over in the Hanley Ramirez deal.

Justin Ruggiano – Former Ray

Gavin Floyd – Former Phillie

Brandon Phillips – Drafted by the Expos (remember them?) debuted with the Indians

The Beatles – Former Quarrymen

Jose Bautista – Who didn’t he play for?

Tommy Hanson – Former Brave

So, seven out of eight players in this pack have changed organizations. Seems about right.  Even a team like the Rays who are notorious for developing their own talent are dipping into the free agent pool more and more. In one of those jaw dropping stats, Roberto Hernandez (you may remember him as Fausto Carmona) will start for the Rays on Thursday. While his comeback is story enough, he will also become the first free agent pitcher to start for the Rays since Hideo Nomo in 2005; that’s a streak of 1,207 games. Amazing.

Best Card – The Beatles.  After the Bunchado card this was the card I really wanted the most. Love the Beatles.
Worst Card – Tommy Hanson.  He should have been a Brave for life.

Monday, April 1, 2013

One Card, One Card Only

BUN-CHADO Acquired!

Happy True Opening Day.

Cubs up 2-0 early, local residents planning victory parade routes.

O’s start tomorrow – I will be at a bar begging someone to turn it on.

That is all.