Monday, December 23, 2019

This is how I flip cards

There are people that flip cards for profit, I flip them for personal collection cards. That's why I'm not always worried about making the most money on sales or on how much of a cut eBay or PayPal take. Let them have theirs if I can use my profits to procure a few cards that I really want.

Last year I bought a pack of 2018-19 SP Game Used and pulled absolutely zero Lightning cards. Not a big surprise since there were only something like five cards in it. One of the cards I did pick up was a Mats Zuccarello Game Net card from the Winter Classic.

A really nice card. I enjoyed owning it for a little while, but as neither a Rangers fan or a Zuccarello fan I decided to put it up on eBay and see what worth it had on the open market. The answer:  $13.50. Should it have gone for a little more? Possibly, but hey that's the fun of auctions. Someone got a good deal (hopefully I'll get one next year when the Global Series net cords are released).

With the funds safely in my PayPal account I headed over to Check Out My Cards to spend it on some Lightning cards. I figured I'd pick up a couple of rookie cards and maybe an autograph or two. Instead, I found that the pricing on Lightning cards is still a little below where it should be. The glories of a small market hockey team. Instead of three or four cards, I picked up eight. All of them from Upper Deck SP Game Used.

First up (and this was actually an eBay purchase, but it was less than $2.00). Joseph is struggling a bit this season (just had a stint in the AHL) but he still has time to figure it out. So why not pick up a serial numbered rookie card? Technically this is the "rainbow" parallel, but is more readily available than the "base"card which is serial numbered to only 7 (his jersey number).

Added some All Star Skills  Fabrics. All four players who represented the Lightning in Tampa were available for mere pocket change. Seriously, no Kucherov relic card should be available for under $3.00.

Starting the Anthony Cirelli Rookie Rainbow collection. Really hope he doesn't end up in Seattle in the next expansion. Of all the players on the Lightning, he is the one that is probably overshadowed the most by the bigger names. Cirelli is really, really good.

The most perplexing purchase - a 2016-17  Brayden Point Rookie Sweaters #d to 499. It set me back a whopping $1.19. Yes, it's a bland white swatch, but still it's a rookie card of maybe the second best player on the team. That's a travesty.

Grand total spent - $11.41. Not bad in exchange for a card I really didn't want.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Another trade in the books

We're back with another trade post from the Trading Card Database. This one involved a few 2009 Legends of the Game inserts heading out to Wisconsin in exchange for an Oriole card and a couple of needs off of the ol' want list. 

With the completion of this exchange of cardboard, I'm up to 95 on TCDB with one more pending. It'll be close, but I'll probably fall just shy of cracking the century mark by the end of the year. Still, it's been a rather productive last couple of months as I've turned a lot of dupes into cards that I actually want or need. For some reason there are a lot of folks looking for 2009 cards out there and I've freed up a lot of space in that box.

So, what did user FiresNBeers send back in exchange:

1995 Upper Deck Collector's Choice Brady Anderson

Brady Anderson is an Orioles hall of famer and possessor of the second best set of sideburns in the 1990s. He played in over 1750 games during his 14 season career in Baltimore and racked up 1614 hits and 209 home runs. Despite a .257 average he did get on base at a .364 clip making him an odd leadoff man that also hit for power.

2019 Topps Stadium Club Roberto Alomar

Alomar, pictured in a more familiar to many Blue Jays uniform, was teammate with Brady Anderson for three years in the late 1990s, which coincided with a brief run of competitiveness for the ball club. I always thought he was there for a bit longer, but it was just the one three-year contract from 1996 to 1998. That was a three year stretch that saw the Orioles win 265 games and make it to the ALCS twice.  In exchange for about $17 million the Orioles got a secondbaseman who slashed .312/.382/.480, won two Gold Gloves and had posted 12.5 WAR. That seems like a fair trade.

2016 Topps Ricky Nolasco

Nolasco has no real ties to the Orioles other than facing them five times. The Birds hit .308 off of him with 6 home runs in 35 innings. The former Cubs draft pick was traded to the Marlins as part of a package for Juan Pierre in 2005. Pierre had been previously acquired by Miami from Colorado in 2002 for a package of players including Charles Johnson. Johnson played for the Orioles in 1999 and 2000 where he was teammates with....Brady Anderson! See, it all connects.

This was, as most of my small trades are, a plain white envelope trade. Since we were exchanging base cards of negligible value there was no need to get crazy with padded envelopes and extra shipping. One thing I love about #TeamPWE is the different types of cardboard folks use to secure the cards. It ranges anything from cut-up cereal boxes to cut-up hobby boxes to beer cartons. Which leads us to today's packing material:

Everyone's favorite college/cheap beer - The Beast. I have, in my day, consumed a decent quantity of this affordable beer. Most of it at college parties (although for our non-party college drinking we were partial to Brigade Premium, which if I recall was under $8.00 for a case, including tax). 

I do reuse these cardboard sleeves, so if you have an upcoming trade, be on the lookout for a visit from Milwaukee's Best.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Trade Post! Upping the Lecavalier Collection

It's been a busy couple of weeks of trading as I try to get to my half-hearted goal of 100 trades on Trading Card Database by the end of the year. Some swapping of junk wax has netted me about 70 1991 Upper Deck cards, truly an underrated set, and a handful of other base needs.

In between baseball trades I did slide in a hockey trade with user SportsCardHunter in Ontario. In exchange for some duplicate Lightning cards I had listed he sent me a couple of Vincent Lecavalier cards.

According to TCDB they were the 272nd and 273rd unique Lecavalier cards that I have acquired. That's good enough for third among collectors at the site, but there is a bit of a gap between myself and the second place gentleman. According to their stats it also means I've acquired exactly 7.1% of the available Lecavalier cards they have listed. It may take awhile to get them all.

Here's the haul:

1999-2000 O-Pee-Chee

Look at him in all his rookie-year glory. The old-school uniform, the all-star patch, and most importantly the number 9 on his sweater. In his rookie year the now familiar number four was already occupied by Cory Cross. The defenseman would be traded after Lecavalier's first year and freed up the number and he went on to do great things with it.

The card itself is a direct parallel of the Topps base card from the year with the only difference being the logo on the top right corner on the front and on the bottom of the back of the card. 

2002-03 Upper Deck Vintage Green Back #88/199

Welcome to Parallel City! Honestly, I didn't even know this existed until I searched through SportsCardHunter's cards available for trade (his original offer was a generous supply of Lightning cards, but I wanted some Vinny!). I don't have the base, but I'm assuming the only differences are the serial number stamped on the front and well....the green back...hence the name.

As you can see Vinny is now wearing the four that would be retired in his honor and also has an "A" on his sweater. That's not unusual for a young player who was drafted to be the franchise's savior, but what is a bit odd is that Lecavalier had already worn the "C"  prior to this season. In March of 2000 he was named captain of the Lightning. At the time he was the youngest captain ever in NHL history (since then he's been surpassed by Sidney Crosby, Gabriel Landeskog, and Connor McDavid).

Due to a contract hold out, some public and private confrontations with head coach John Tortorella, the acquisition of Dave Andreychuk, and the realization that it was too much pressure, too early in his career Lecavalier had the "C" removed from his jersey. It wouldn't be until 2008 and the departures of Andreychuk and Tim Taylor, that the "C" would return. He would wear it until his contract was bought out in 2013.

Thanks for the trade, SportsCardHunter!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Some offseason blogging

A few days ago, Greg over at Night Owl Cards, an excellent blogger who I've traded with in the past published a post pointing out that it seems like there has been a general slow down in the trading card blog world. From people posting to people commenting things just seem to lack the frequency they did a few years ago.

He ponders a few reasons why and as I was reading, I realized that there was really no reason why I stopped posting here on a regular basis. I mean, there was a reason - I'm a lazy blogger, but there was no GOOD reason why I stopped posting. After all, I'm still writing regularly over at Raw Charge.

While my card purchases may have been down a bit, ok a lot, I haven't given up on the hobby. In fact, I've probably been more active trade-wise then I have been in a long time. A couple of months ago, my ancient version of The Card Collector finally gave up the ghost. I booted it up one morning and the file that housed my collection was gone.

Now, a smart person would have backed up the file from time to time, but what on this blog has ever led you to believe I'm a smart person?  So I finally decided to load everything into Trading Card Database. Up to this point I'd listed just my hockey stuff and anything after 2014 (the last update I had for The Card Collector). Now, it's going to be everything...eventually.

It's a slow process, but hopefully by next year everything will be in there. In the meantime, I'm kind of surprised at the amount of trade offers I've been picking up with some of the junk era sets I've loaded up already. It's almost at the point where I'll have to set a limit on shipping or else I'll be spending more at the post office then I would be at a card shop (shipping to Canada ain't cheap).

The good news is that I'm clearing out a lot of duplicates and picking up cards I actually want. So, it's my intention to get back into regular blogging by posting the occasional trade.

First up deal: I sent a bunch of 2009 Heritage to Ryan0625 in Minnesota in exchange for him knocking out a healthy chunk of my 2017 Topps Update needs and a handful of 2018 Archives.He sent a total of 45 cards and here are a few highlights:

Were there Baltimore Orioles cards?

Yes, although at first glance I didn't think there were.

After all Logan Verrett's Orioles career was brief. The Mets draft pick was selected in the 2014 Rule V pick by the Orioles. He never had the chance to make their roster and was claimed off of waivers by the Rangers in April 2015. Verrett lasted a handful of games for the Rangers in 2015 before being returned to the Mets.

The Orioles purchased Verrett in the winter of 2016 with cash considerations and made the opening day roster in 2017. He appeared in 4 games in 2017 picking up 2 wins despite a 4.22 ERA (6.53 FIP!) He was optioned to the minors in June of that year and never made it back up. He spent 2018 playing baseball in Korea.

Aww. Sad face. Manny Machado in an Orioles uniform.

The best card in the bunch:

When I put the 2017 Update set on my list of sets to complete I didn't realize that Bellinger's rookie was in there. After all, in 2017 it was all about Aaron Judge. I was lucky enough to pick up a couple of Judge's in some hanger boxes and thought I was home free as far as semi-expensive cards. Then I saw Bellinger's card.

I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to pick it up since I didn't really want to buy it. I figured I'd leave it until the end and then figure things out. So it was kind of a surprise when it was included in the trade package.

It's nice having the last of the "big" money cards off of the want list.

Best player in the bunch:

It was a pretty easy call, even with a Wade Boggs Archives also included.

So there ya go. The first in hopefully a semi-regular series of trade posts.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Busting Some Packs of Tim Horton's Hockey Cards

Ahhh...the annual fall/winter trip to Canada. For the last two years, Hall of Fame inductions have transported me north of the border in early November. With no Lightning players getting the nod this year (and a trip to Sweden happening at the same time) I wasn't sure if I'd make it up there this year. However, over the summer, friend of the blog Link suggested a trip to Winnipeg (it was the last NHL city he needed to see a live game in). Without any other plans I hastily agreed.

Not wanting to visit the broad prairies of Manitoba in the dregs of winter (i.e. January and February when we usually go on our hockey trips) we settled on late October. Not only would that get us up there before the big snow, it would also get us there in time to partake in the one Canadian tradition I am most jealous of - buying hockey cards at Tim Horton's.

I love getting cards with my slightly-to-very-unhealthy fast food. I wish vendors in the States would bring them back. Some baseball cards along with a Big Mac is as American as a Big Mac and a triple bypass. I wrote about cards and carbs earlier this year and am excited to keep buying cards from that set. So when I know the cards are for sale at Timmy's I get excited.

For $1.99 (or $0.99 with purchase of a beverage) you get an exclusive three-card pack produced by Upper Deck. Unfortunately, it's a promotion not available in the States, so picking up some cards is always a challenge. Luckily for me, Link does some business in Canada and is usually up there in time to grab a few packs before they disappear.

This year, I was excited to be able to buy my own (and possibly some Tim-bits as well). So after a nice drive from East Grand Forks, Minnesota we crossed the border into Manitoba. Roughly ten minutes later we saw our first Tim Horton's and we pulled over. I picked up a total of three more packs to add to the stack Link had bought earlier in the year.

There are four Lightning players in the base set and sadly I didn't pull any of them. I did pull a red die cut insert of Stamkos in one of my last packs, but other than that my luck was as barren as the Manitoba countryside (seriously, it's a lot of flat farmland up there).

This isn't the pack with the Stamkos card in it, but is a pretty good representation of the average pack.

Crosby adorns the cover, and he usually does some commercial work for Tim Horton's.This year he and Nate Mackinnon ask some young fans how to make the game more entertaining. 

The base cards are nice and foily. They are also slightly embossed so there is a nice tactile feel to them. Nothing super fancy about the design and most feature the isolated semi-action shots that hockey collectors are familiar with.

The back. A few lines of stats and biographical information. Always nice to see French and English on the back of a card, it reminds me of the old Score Canadian sets that I used to have be the truckload. 

The back of the back shows the odds of the various insert sets. This year's release seemed to have a ton of them. I did pick up a variety of them including the red die cut inserts, a Jack Eichel Clear Cut Phenoms (which is nice an acetatey), a couple of Game Day Action cards, a couple of the Key Season Events cards, and some Golden Etchings. A fairly good representation of the inserts.

There are autograph and memorabilia cards as well, a few years ago I pulled a redemption for a Stamkos jersey card, but you have to have a Canadian address to redeem it and our ploy to make that work, didn't.

As for the insert in this pack:

A red die-cut Ovechkin with a small ding on the bottom edge. A few of the cards had dings in them, which could have been from the fact I threw them in my carry on bag before opening them or they could have come like that from the manufacturer.  Who knows?

I hope to trade out some of the base I have for the Lightning cards, and I may put a few others up for sale, but if you're interested in any of the base cards, reach out to me and we'll see if we can work something out. Also, if you're in Canada and are collecting points with the codes on the inside of the wrapper, let me know and I can send you a bunch.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 54: Topps Stadium Club Review

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 54: 9-4 over the Boston Red Sox

2019 Stadium Club Mark Trumbo

At this point in my collecting career I'm more interested in completing older sets that I've been chasing for 30 years as opposed to chasing new cards. I still put the flagship together out of habit. That's one box for Series One and one box for Series Two, some hanger boxes and then fill in the rest through trades (currently at 94.1% complete). 

There is another set that I buy just because I love it and that's Topps Stadium Club. I've loved it since I first opened a pack (with a Kodak logo on it) and pulled the Griffey card. For many years it was the go to set for great photography and premium quality cards. Then the love started to fade a little and the brand stagnated. A rebranding to an ultra high end product ($25 a pack!) in 2008 was received with lukewarm sales and the set quietly shuttered for a few years.

In 2014 Topps brought it back to it's basics - Excellent photography, a few popular inserts, and the occasional hits. Let's face it, the autographs are nice, but people aren't collecting Stadium Club for Chance Adams sigs. I've been piecing together the 2015 set for the last few years and picked up packs from 2016-2018. This year I picked up a box when it first came out and then received another for my birthday earlier this month. (shout out to the in-laws who continue to be the only ones that send cards for my birthday).

The two boxes have brought me to 60.5% completion and a couple of inserts have brought in a little cash (thanks Topps and your inability to release a set without photo variations). I will be picking up at least one more box and then hopefully can piece together the rest of of the set through trades.

It's one of the few setts that I try to avoid looking at other previews just so I don't see any cards ahead of time. That helps maintain a sense of "wow" when ripping open new packs. That being said, here are my favorite ten cards pulled from my second box of cards - the in-laws box.

10. Jack Flaherty

The behind the plate view never gets old. Love that they caught Flaherty in full extension with his focus on the hitter.

9. Didi Gregorius

With the new rules limiting contact at second base you don't see quite as many break up slides on double plays. Still, every once in a while there is a play that requires a short stop to go up and over a runner. Here Didi leaps over Ender Enciarte on the fourth of July. The patriotic socks and arm sleeves take it up a notch.

8. Pee Wee Reese

One of those wacky 1950's/60's photos that pop up every now and then. 

7. Chris Sale

The opposite of the Jack Flaherty photo works just as well, even if the game isn't being played. Sale looks even taller with the low perspective angle and is framed nicely by the Sox pennants in the background.

6. Ted Williams

Back-to-back Red Sox cards in honor of their back-to-back losses to the Orioles this weekend. The greatest hitter who ever lived stands in front of a U.S. Marine recruiting poster in 1952 when he re-enlisted to serve in the Korean Conflict. At 33-years-old he flew 39 combat missions and then returned to hit .407 in 37 games during the 1953 season. The card is great, but finding a copy of that poster would be awesome as well.

5. Jim Palmer

The card that inspired this post, it was in the first pack I ripped out of the box. Perfect representation of Palmer's extended leg kick with the classic uniform of the Orioles during their run of greatness in the 1960's and 70's. 

4. Rickey Henderson

A personal collection cameo! Eddie Murray guest stars on this card of Rickey being Rickey. 

3. Brooks Robinson

One of the iconic plays in Orioles history. In Game One of the 1970 World Series, the Reds Lee May hit a grounder down the line at third. Brooks Robinson, 33-years-old at the time, backhanded it and with his momentum carrying him into foul territory he turned a fired a one-hop bullet to first to get the runner.  The photo catches Brooks at full extension as he unleashes the throw. He would on to hit .429 in the series and easily won the MVP.

Sparky Anderson, manager of the Reds, was quoted as saying,

"I don’t see how anybody could do what this guy does. If I dropped my sandwich, he would dart in, scoop it up on one hop and throw me out."

Plus, there's bunting. Bunting always makes a photo more festive.

2. Kole Calhoun

Celebrations are almost as festive as bunting. Not only is it a fun card, but it also features two future hall of famers in Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Calhoun is getting the gum and Gatorade shower thanks to a walk-off home run against the Mariners on July 27th. If you watched the highlights you'll see Trout robbed a home run earlier in that game. That moment was also featured on a 2019 Topps card

1. Brandon Nimmo

I'm a sucker for city skyline cards and this one nails it. Nimmo is on deck at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and the photographer (Justin Berl according to Getty Images) captures the Steel City wonderfully. 

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 53: Still on vacation

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 53: 4-1 over the Boston Red Sox

1997 Fleer Ultra Roberto Alomar Fame Game

Give me a break, I'm still on vacation. Of course, you would think I would have stockpiled some posts knowing that I was going to be in North Carolina for six days. Then again, I really didn't think the Orioles were going to win that many games while I was gone (it worked during my New York trip), but these O's are playing out the string, and doing it well.

I don't care if they're thirty games behind the Red Sox in the standings, beating them. And yes, we still got some shit from the scattering of Red Sox fans that were playing in the tournament down here (the Old Man and myself were wearing O's hats) we had fun pointing out that both teams would be playing the same amount of playoff games in October - 0.

As for as the card for Roberto Alomar - he is the best defensive second baseman I've ever seen play in my life. Not only that, he could hit as well. His career in Baltimore was brief, but it was fun and represented the reintroduction of the Orioles to the elite of baseball world. After a decade and a half of mediocrity the Orioles fought for the division lead for two of the three years Alomar was in Baltimore.

The second baseman was an all-star all three years slashed .312/.382/.480 hit 50 home runs and stole 44 bases. He picked up two gold gloves (Chuck Knoblauch of all people won in 1997, interrupting Alomar's streak of 10 gold gloves in 11 years) and a handful of MVP votes in 1996 and 1997.

Most of his time in Baltimore was overshadowed by an unfortunate situation in the playoffs that ended with Alomar spitting at umpire John Hirschbeck. That incident had an unraveling effect on the ball club. First and foremost it led to the resignation of Davey Johnson.

Despite leading the ball club to playoff appearances in each of the first two years of his three year contract their was some speculation he may not be back for the third season. Owner Peter Angelos was further irked when Johnson directed Alomar to pay his $10,500 fine for the spitting incident to a charity run by Johnson's wife. That escalated the tension and ended with Johnson resigning hours before being named the AL Manager of the year.

Alomar played his final season in Baltimore the next year before signing with Cleveland and teaming with Omar Vizquel to form one of the most dynamic double play combinations ever to grace the field. He played for another six seasons and solidified his Hall of Fame career.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 52: Hey, I'm on vacation

Baltimore Orioles Victory Card Number 52: 11-4 over the Toronto Blue Jays

1991 Topps Cal Ripken Jr.

Yeah, it's late, the next game has already started. Give me a break I'm in North Carolina on vacation. Here's a picture of a card I know I have.  Why? Because like everyone my age who collected cards I have approximately 3,345 1991 Topps cards.  Man, those were the days. Five bucks would get be 10 packs or so.  Every Sunday before church (yup, I haven't always been a dirty little heathen) I'd go to Lucky's and drop whatever cash I had on cards (yup, convenience stores used to carry cards back then) and then quietly rip them open some time between communion and the sermon.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 51: One last moment for the big guy

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 51: 2-1 over the Seattle Mariners

2016 Topps Archives Chris Davis (1991 Topps Style)

"Davis, in the air, right field. That ball is back, at the wall, and GOOD BYE HOME RUN! Chris Davis! Maybe it's the last one at home, maybe it isn't"

On Sunday, the most beleaguered Oriole of them all, Chris Davis turned on a Marco Gonzales fastball and deposited it into the sparsely populated right field bleachers. It was only his 11th home run of the year, but it provided the winning margin in an excellently pitched game. It's the lowest total of his career since 2011, his first year in Baltimore.

His two-and-a-half year decline has been well documented, but for one last moment, in the final home game of the season for the Orioles, he provided a little reminder of what it was like during the good days. The easy swing, the electric crack off the bat that leaves no doubt, and the laconic run around the bases were all so familiar for his first five-and-a-half years in Baltimore.

Will he be back next season? It's hard to say. The best thing for the team would probably be for him to not be there. That opens up first base full time for Trey Mancini, which then opens up another outfield spot for one of the young players. If Ryan Mountcastle is ready, he can back up Mancini and DH (Mark Trumbo will likely be gone as well). The line-up becomes a little more right-handed heavy, but DJ Stewart in a full season would most likely hit more than 11 home runs.

Still, there is the issue of the $51 million left on his contract. It's asking a lot of whatever Angelos is actually running the team to pay someone that much to not play for the Orioles. Yes, the Orioles are a mid-market team (that would have you believe they are a small market team) and that's a tremendous amount of money to bury, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.

I've been long of the opinion that he is penciled onto the roster to begin the season. After all, it's still a season that fans can expect them to see them lose 100 games. Mountcastle is still a prospect without a position who has yet to take a major league at bat. Management is in no hurry to rush anyone along so they may keep him in AAA for the beginning of the season.

So Davis may have another chance to show his teammates, coaches, and the fans that he can find his stroke. Unlike last season, there were times he was on a legitimate hitting streak, even when he wasn't getting hits he was still hitting the ball sharply.

He can still play an average-to-good first base and still possess light-tower power. There are also some small milestones he can still hit, even if it's just a half-season that he plays. He's six away from 300 homeruns, 49 hits away from 1200, and 22 away from 800 RBIs. That's a pretty damn good career.

There's still a week left in the season and he should get a few more at bats. There may be one more moment in the orange and black that fans remember. If not, his last at bat in Camden Yards was a pretty damn nice one.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 50: They finally broke me

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 50: 5-3 over the Seattle Mariners

2018 Topps Chrome 1983 Chance Sisco Autograph

I've been doing this for two seasons now. I've posted a total of 97 cards over that time, way less than I thought I would have to when I started this project. In between postings I've watched a lot of losses. A lot of losses. Not that was not to be expected, especially this season.

You have to gear yourself up when you know you're looking at a 100+ loss season, especially if you want to stay positive throughout most of those losses. Still, there is a breaking point. For me it was loss 103 - the 11-10 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday.

It wasn't just that they had led 7-1 midway through the game or that they went into the ninth with a 9-5 lead. It was knowing that they were going to blow it once Billy McKinney walked to load the bases. Miguel Castro is still just 24 years-old and has the pitches needed to be an effective reliever at the major league level. Yet, there are nights when he can't find the strike zone.

Wednesday was one of those nights. It was painful watching him miss with slider after slider. Even after he struck out Bo Bichette, there was no relief in tension. The Orioles had arms in the bullpen (even if Hunter Harvey had been shut down for the year). It might have been Brandon Hyde seeing how his young right-hander would react to a stressful situation. Or, he just didn't manage it correctly.

Whatever it was, it was just a bit too much for me. Even the comeback attempt in the bottom of the inning rang hollow (yes there was a slight, split second of hope that DJ Stewart's drive to right was going to leave the yard).

I still ended up watching parts of games the last two nights, but my heart isn't really in it. I'm at the point where I'm watching other games to see who I want to root for in the playoffs (probably the Rays and Dodgers) and to see if St. Louis can hold on to the division so that I can cash another bet (my Pirates bet is already good to go).

Hockey season is right around the corner as well so my attention is starting to head in that direction (nice to see the Lightning finally show up for a pre-season game). With a little over a week to go, I have enough cards loaded up to finish out this season (maybe we'll end with an even 100), but I'm not sure if I want to do this again next season.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 49: Who will be hurling the ball for the Birds next season?

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 49: 8-2 over the Detroit Tigers

2018 Bowman Prospects Hunter Harvey Sky Blue Parallel #214/499

The dream of 60 wins is starting to fade. Without a dramatic push to end the season it's unlikely the O's are going to hit the magic number of 60 wins (or even 59) which would allow me to cash a ticket in Las Vegas. That's sad. So sad. The good news is that every win puts them one better than last year which should be seen as an improvement. Some of the wins are coming with players who are going to be a part of the next year's continuing rebuild.

It's fun seeing an outfield of Anthony Santander, Austin Hays, and D.J. Stewart knowing that next year that trio could spend most of the season together. The infield is still a question mark, Jonathan Villar. Did he have a solid enough of a year to generate some interest on the trade market during the off-season? Are the O's going to sell high on Hanser Alberto or Renato Nunez? Is Rio Ruiz an everyday player?  So much fun!

The biggest question marks, and the biggest obstacle to the rebuild, is going to be the pitching staff. The Orioles need to find five or six pitchers to start games next year and another seven or eight to fill out the bullpen. There should be plenty of competition for those spots.

The first three spots in the rotation should be:

John Means
Dylan Bundy
Alex Cobb

Means has had a breakout rookie season and gives the Orioles an actual left-handed starter that can win games. Bundy may have been usurped by Means as the ace of the staff, but he does seem to be adjusting to life without a 96MPH heater. Cobb has made 31 starts in the first two years of his four year contract with the Orioles. That's not great. They need him to average that many over the final two to even come close to making that deal tolerable. (I'm kidding, even if he wins the Cy Young that contract will remain brutal).

So who fills in the other two spots? Unfortunately for the fans, it's unlikely to be any of the top prospects. Keegan Aiken and Dean Kramer may get a chance with a strong spring training, but the O's don't seem to be in a hurry to rush anyone along. They may join the kids in Bowie (Zac Lowther, Michael Baumann, and Alex Wells) as mid-season call-ups. Grayson Rodriguez is a September call-up at best, well unless he treats AA and AAA batters with the same disdain as he has everyone else he's faced so far in his pro career.

It'll be interesting to see if they keep any of their waiver claims/international money trades starters that they picked up along the way this season. Asher Wojciechowski and Aaron Brooks have had moments this summer. They haven't had the consistency that I'm sure manager Brandon Hyde would like to see, but they've pitched well enough to at least have a shot next season at making the rotation.

As for the bullpen, their collective performance this season wasn't good enough. That might not be a bad thing. If Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens had continued their progression they might have been with the team after the trade deadline. They have a chance to rebuild their value next season and fill out some late inning roles.

The man pictured above (pre-glorious mullet) has injected a little fun into the bullpen late in the season. Flashing a 100 mph heater and some top-shelf breaking pitches, Harvey has shown the stuff of a future closer. Eleven strikeouts in 6.1 innings is a fun stat. The big question mark will be if his arm can hold up to an entire season's worth of pitches. So far the answer is no (87.2 innings is the most he's thrown in a season and that was way back in 2014).

He's only been a reliever for a short time, so it is possible that the move to the bullpen may keep him healthy. Harvey did go 10 days between appearances recently as the team was cautious with some forearm discomfort he was feeling. No need to risk a major injury in a lost season, but it would be nice to see him finish the season strongly.

It will be interesting to see which of the lefty relievers make the squad next year. Paul Fry has struggled recently and Richard Blier has had a blah kind of season. Tanner Scott is young and throws really hard, but he doesn't always know where it's going. He's walking 7.2 hitters per nine innings. That's not great when you're coming in for high-pressure situations.

As for the righties? Who the hell knows? The Orioles have a lot of prospects that need to be added to the 40-man roster or risk being exposed in the Rule V draft. Some of those spots will most likely come from the Chandler Stephenson's and David Hess' of the roster. Mike Elias will have a busy winter and it will be interesting to see what kind of roster he puts together in 2020.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 48: More than last year.

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 48: 6-2 over the Detroit Tigers

1985 Topps Eddie Murray All Star

Another day and I run out of time to post. Will have something after the next win.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 47: They beat the Dodgers!

Baltimore Oriole Victory Number 47:7-3 over the Los Angeles Dodgers

1981 Topps Al Bumbry

Yeah, wow. So the day kind of got away from me and I wasn't able to get a post written in time. Oh well, here's an Al Bumbry card for ya.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 46: A Hall of Fame Last Name

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 46: 2-1 over the Tampa Bay Rays

2003 Bowman Dustin Yount

After three series, the O's record stands at 3-5 just like I predicted! Granted they took a slightly different route, but the main thing is that they are still on pace for 60 wins. With an unexpected day off they head back to Baltimore to take on the Rangers. To some fans disappointment, the roster isn't loaded with prospects named Mountcastle, Aiken and Hays. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's been a long, and mostly successful summer for a lot of the kids in the organization, why end it with the possibility of struggling in the majors?

Speaking of prospects, the O's have a pretty good track record of having sons of major league players wind through their system. Dwight Smith Jr. is currently on the big league roster, his pop played for the O's back in 1994. Currently Preston Palmeiro and Ryan Ripken, two family names Baltimore fans should be readily familiar with, are getting ready to hit the playoffs for Bowie along with Jesmuel Valentin, son of former major league infielder Jose Valentin.

Not all offspring succeed. The Orioles drafted the offspring of one of the greatest hitters ever, Pete Rose, only to see Jr. flounder in their minors before they dealt him to the White Sox. Pete, Jr. eventually had a brief cup of coffee in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds where he picked up two hits in fourteen at-bats during the 1997 season.

One son of a hall of famer that I forgot the Orioles drafted was Dustin Yount. In fact I spent most of the summer thinking this was a Larry Bigbie card.  The son of lifelong Brewer Robin, Dustin was born in October of 1982 less than a month after his dad had gone 3-for-4 with home run and two runs batted in on the last day of the season to hold off the Orioles for the AL East pennant.

The Orioles drafted Dustin in the ninth round of the 2001 draft. He banged around the minors for a few years, getting as high as AA Bowie in 2006. He struggled in 2007 and played the next few years in independent ball before getting another shot with the Dodgers organization. Again he struggled to find his consistency and topped out in AA. He was done playing after 2010 and moved into a role with the Dodgers as an area scout.

In 2012 he scouted he a lanky first baseman from Arizona who made great contact but showed little power. That player - Cody Bellinger. Not a bad signing for an area scout on the job less than two years. He's also the scout that brought Alex Verdugo and Willie Calhoun (part of the Yu Darvish trade with the Rangers) into the Dodgers' organization. That's pretty good work.

Bellinger is an interesting case. Is he the type of player who may not get drafted as more and more clubs rely heavier on analytics as opposed to in-the-field scouting. The Orioles are the latest to gut their scouting staff (something that has happened in previous teams Mike Elias has been part of). Would a 6'4", 170lb first baseman who hit all of one home run in high school show up on a team's radar (even if he's the son of a major leaguer)?

Old-fashioned scouting seems to be passe these days.As the information age continues to spread to college and high-school players more and more teams are relying on analysts to decide their drafts instead of scouts in the field. One of the more memorable clips of the movie Moneyball was the pre-draft scene where Brad Pitt's Billy Beane looks increasingly frustrated as his scouts (including one guy with a hearing aid and another with bifocals) discuss various players with gems such as:

"An ugly girlfriend means no self-confidence"
"Clean cut, good face"

It's a visual and verbal scene showing that the old ways are out of touch.In order to be competitive, teams (especially low-budget teams) have to look at players in a different way. The main point in that scene and others is that teams didn't understand what went into winning games and therefore spent money on players (Johnny Damon in this case) that didn't necessarily contribute as much as people thought to wins.

As "Peter Brand" (a stand in for Paul DePodesta) states later in the movie,

"There is an epidemic failure within the game to understand what's really happening. And it leads people who run major league teams to misjudge their players and mismanage their teams. They're still asking the wrong questions."

Teams shouldn't be buying players, they should be buying wins. That kicked off an analytics revolution that spent the better part of the next decade trying to determine how to find players that can contribute to more wins. What leads a team to wins? Is it on-base percentage or launch angles? Range factors or WAR? It's a process that's still evolving, but it's involving a lot of things that don't appeal to some folks who have been around the game a long time. Some think the "computer boys" are ruining the way the game is played.

Yet, a player like Bellinger could be an argument that there is still value for physical scouts out in the field.An argument that an experienced scout or ex-player can see something in his 17-year-old swing and how he moves on the field that allows him to project how he will develop as as a 21-year-old? Something that an algorithm won't detect.

The answer, as it usually does for such arguments, lies in some happy middle place. Yes, the information that is out there is valuable and should be used by clubs to scout out their prospects, but there is still room for the people that drive from backwater town to backwater town and watch the games.

People seem to think it has to be one or the other and that's just not true. A team that relies solely on the old way of doing things is going to struggle just as much as a team that only relies on analytics to determine who will play for them.  The most successful clubs are able to blend the two together and pick out the players that not only look good to the eye, but also produce in a way that satisfies the analytics and allows teams to project out their future to a reasonable degree.

A team that trains it's scouts to look for more than radar gun readings and home run totals is going to find the diamonds in the rough as well as the players that stand out via the eye test and the analytics readings.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 45: A Look at Topps Living Set

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 45: 14-2 over the Kansas City Royals

2019 Topps Living Set John Means (print run 2477)

The latest Baltimore Orioles entry into Topps grand experiment picked up the win Friday night in Kansas City. After falling behind early due to a Jorge Solar home run Means sat back and watched his offense take over. By the time he exited the game after seven innings of work he had a nifty 10-2 lead. The O's added four more over the next two innings to finish off one of their more lopsided wins of the season.

It's Mean's second win in a row and the second game in a row that he's worked seven innings. It appears that he has put aside whatever was troubling him on the mound after the All Star Break. He becomes the eighth Orioles in franchise history to win ten games as a rookie and the second Oriole rookie to be featured in Topps open-ended Living Set series.

For those not familiar with the concept, last season Topps decided to start an online-only set that would feature every player to ever suit up for a major league team. The cards are released three at a time every week. Once the week is up they no longer make any more of the cards, which results in fairly limited print runs. The weekly release usually features a current veteran player, a rookie, and a retired player. So far, over the two years, seven Orioles have been featured over all. They are, in order and with their print runs:

Manny Machado (6516)
Joey Rickard (5791)
Cal Ripken, Jr. (6423)
Trey Mancini (3490)
Cedric Mullins (3190)
Jim Palmer (3252)
John Means (2477)

Two rookies, three current veterans, and two retired players is a pretty even mix and leaves plenty of more options for future releases. Having seven players already featured puts the O's pretty much in the middle of the pack when it comes to team representation.

One of the little quirks of the series is that Topps plans on releasing only one card of each player. So, for instance, Nick Markakis has a card as an Atlanta Brave. That means Topps will not release a version of him in an Orioles uniform. The one exception is if a current player is traded. That's how Manny Machado ended up in an Orioles uniform and a Dodgers uniform.

Now that's it's almost two years in, I'm torn on the set. I really like the idea of a never ending set that will continue long after I'm dead. I'm also intrigued by the fact that at some point in 2034 Topps is going to have to release an Orioles Rocky Coppinger card.

Overall it appears that interest is leveling out from collectors. It seems the average print run is between 2,500 and 3,000 this season when last year it was closer to 3,500-4,000. Even the peak cards aren't peaking quite as high. Last year Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto were the big rookies and they sold 46,809 and 28,572 respectively. This year Vlad, Jr. peaked out at 27,749 and Fernando Tatis only sold 10,099.

Don't feel too bad for Topps. Even if everyone who bought a Means card, one of the lowest print runs they've had, spent the bare minimum ($4.99 as part of the three card bundle at $14.99, if you buy them one at a time they're $7.99) they still raked in about $12,000 just for that card. Even with some of the profit skimmed out due to free shipping, they're still making money.  So much so they expanded the idea to Star Wars and Champions League cards.

Initially I was buying the three card bundle with the hopes of selling off the two non-Oriole cards and at least breaking even. That hasn't exactly been the way it's worked out. The non-star cards aren't really moving that well in the secondary market, at least at higher prices. I'm at the point where I'm ready to post them at .99 cents in auction and take whatever comes.

Now I just pick up one Oriole card when they're released and ignore the others. I may pick up a couple of Adley cards once they come out in 2022 (he may be the one Orioles to crack the 10,000 mark if he continues to progress), and probably two Eddie Murray cards when they're released, but other than that I'll keep trudging along. And yes I will be personally offended if they release Murray in a Dodgers or Indians uniform.

I imagine there are some people out there trying to collect the entire set (currently up to 231 cards) but that is a rather expensive endeavor. I imagine that the bulk of the buyers are team collectors like myself that are just buying when their favorite team has a player represented. That's boosted by the flippers and prospectors that swoop in when a big name rookie is featured.

It'll be interesting how the set moves forward (will Topps start printing variations to drum up business) or will they keep trucking along? Who will be featured in their 00 cards (300, 400, 500, etc)? So far Babe Ruth was 100 (14,976) and Mike Trout was 200 (22,017).

What are your thoughts on Topps Living Set? Do you collect?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 44: Ahead of the pace already

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 44: 2-0 over the Washington Nationals

2001 Cal Ripken, Jr. Topps Noteworthy

Whelp. That didn't take long. Less than 10 hours after I published the road map to success, the Orioles threw it out of whack.  They did it in the best possible way, by shutting down, and shutting out the Washington Nationals, 2-0 on Tuesday night.

After guessing that they would get swept by one of the hottest teams in the major leagues, the Orioles guaranteed at least a split of the season series by pitching one of their best games of the season. Aaron Brooks started things off by going six innings and striking out six Nationals. He lived on the outside corner, painting it like Monet painted fuzzy lily ponds. Brooks, who is fighting for a spot on next year's roster, has strung together two strong outings (1 run allowed and 10 strikeouts over 11 innings).

The bullpen continued its recent run of success by shutting Washington out over the last three innings, highlighted by Hunter Harvey striking out Asdrubal Cabrera in the eighth inning with the bases loader. Harvey has yet to allow a run in his four innings of major league work this season. With a 99+ MPH fastball and a healthy arm (finally) he may be in line for a closer role next year.

Current closer Mychal Givens closed the game out for his 11 save of the season (it doesn't sound like a lot, but he's closed out 1/4 of all the Orioles victories so that's something).

They're down to needing three wins to match last year and sixteen to beat Vegas.  Good times!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Orioles Victory Card Number 43: The Road to Victory (at least a victory in Vegas)

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 43: 8-3 over the Tampa Bay Rays

2002 Topps Chris Singleton

The Orioles smacked Jaleen Beeks around on Sunday en route to an 8-3 victory over the Rays. Anthony Santander became the second Oriole in two weeks to collect five hits in a game (Renato Nunez did it against the Yankees) and Dylan Bundy pitched an effective, if not overwhelming, five innings to pick up his sixth win of the season.

With the victory the Orioles moved within four wins of matching last year's total and within seventeen wins of covering the 59.5 wins over/under bet I placed earlier this year in Vegas. I did not put a lot of money on this bet, and I stand to win even less it seems, but still, cashing the ticket would be fun because it means that they outperformed what the sharps in Vegas thought they would.

They head into Washington with a 43-88 record. Not great, but light years ahead of where they were last year. With 31 games to go, they need to go 17-14 in order to get to that magic 60 win mark. There aren't many stretches this season where the Orioles have had an above average record, but in looking over the next month, there is, as the political pundits like to say, a path to victory.

The Washington Nationals (73-57 record, 8-2 in their last 10 games, season series tied 1-1)

One of the hottest teams in the league, the Nationals are 8-2 in the field and 1-0 in the courtroom. With their recent winning ways they've vaulted into a 4 game lead for the first wild card spot in the National League and have an outside chance of catching the Braves for the NL East title. The two teams split their previous series in Baltimore with the Nationals winning the first game 8-1 and the Orioles bouncing back to win 9-2 in the second matchup.

The O's will have to beat their two aces as Patrick Corbin goes in game one and Max Scherzer goes in game two. I don't like those odds.  Orioles get swept.

Prediction Record (0-2)

The Kansas City Royals (46-85, 3-7 in their last 10 games, O's lead season series 2-1)

Last week the Orioles righted their ship a bit by taking two of three against the Royals. It's hard to imagine, but just four years ago these two teams met in the ALCS. Depending on how the two clubs do prior to their match-up, the Orioles have a chance of leap frogging them in the standings. While it would hurt their chances for the first over all pick, they still should get a pretty quality player even if they're drafting third or fourth overall.

It's a three game series on Kansas City's turf, and Dylan Bundy will be starting their for the first time since his May 8th debacle last season that saw him surrender 7 earned runs on 4 home runs without recording an out. He would most definitely like to go back and extract a little revenge on them with a strong outing. I think the O's take two out of three.

Prediction Record (2-3)

The Tampa Bay Rays (76-56, 5-5 in their last 10 games, Rays lead season series 10-6)

Despite having a losing record against the Rays, the Orioles have been a bit of a thorn in their side. As one of the few teams left down the stretch with something to fight for, the Rays will need every win they can muster and if the O's can play spoiler (as they did this weekend) panic may set in down in the Sunshine State.

The good news for the Orioles is that the Rays may not be getting some of their arms back in time for the series. As of right now rookie sensation Tyler Glasnow is throwing bullpen sessions but isn't scheduled to return until the second week of September. Reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell is also on the shelf until at least mid-September. Still, the Rays find ways to win and will take two out of three in this series.

Prediction Record (3-5)

The Texas Rangers (64-68, 4-6 in their last 10 games, Rangers lead season series 2-1)

When the two teams met back in early June, Texas was still well within the hunt or the wild card. Since then they've fallen off (12 games back as of publication) and unlikely to make a run with Boston and Oakland in front of them for the final spot in the playoffs. In that June series the two teams played three close games with the O's hanging on to win game one 12-11, then Texas winning game two 2-1 in twelve innings, and game three 4-3.

This series should be a bit of a toss up, and it will be interesting to see how many young Orioles will be making their Camden Yards debut (it'll be the first home series after the minor league regular seasons wrap up). It doesn't sound like the O's are in a rush to bring up a lot of their prospects, even the ones that need to be added to the 40-man roster this off-season. I fully expect them to give their pitching prospects a bit of a break before possibly sending them to the Arizona fall league or shutting them down for the season for good. There really isn't much positive that can be achieved by having them pitch in Baltimore at the end of this season.

O's take three of four in a home-run filled series. Nomar Mazara provides some excitement as he comes within 2 feet of hitting an Asher Wojciechowski pitch off of the warehouse.

Prediction Record (6-6)

The Los Angeles Dodgers (86-46, 5-5 in their last 10 games, first meeting of the series)

I'm not going to lie. If the Orioles score more than six runs in this series I'll be surprised. Dodgers, despite not having anything to play for should sweep the series.

Prediction Record (6-9)

The Detroit Tigers (39-89, 3-7 in their last 10 games, Detroit leads series 2-1)

The Orioles head back out on the road for a quick four games series against the only team with a worse record than they have. Most likely this will be a battle between two teams trying to avoid being the first team to lose 100 games in the season. Frustrated by a lack of power against the Dodgers the O's bats should have a better chance against the Tigers.

This is the stretch of games where the O's will make a run to beat the record. If all breaks according to my predictions they will still need 11 wins in their final sixteen games. They will get three of them here as they spray the ball all over the vast outfield of Comerica park. Trey Mancini hits four doubles in the series as he punishes the right-center gap.

Prediction Record (9-10)

The Toronto Blue Jays (53-80, 2-8 in their last 10 games, Baltimore leads series 7-6)

Toronto is the only team the Orioles face twice in their final month of the season and it should hopefully be preview of two teams on the rise over the next few years. With their call-ups this season the Jays are probably two years ahead of the Orioles in their rebuild and could provide a nice road map of the future. Their pitching is a bit shaky, but the offense is going to be a blast. Vlad Guerrero, Jr. may be the most exciting player to watch that's not named Mike Trout while Bo Bichette is an extra-base machine ( he has 40 hits on the season with 14 doubles and 8 home runs).

Still, the O's are playing with confidence and they take advantage of the Toronto pitching staff to take two of three.

Prediction Record (11-10)

The Seattle Mariners (56-76, 7-3 in their last 10 games, Seattle leads series 3-1)

It was a rough trip to Seattle earlier in the year that had the Orioles losing three out of four while giving up 32 runs in the four game series. Things will be a little better when they face off against their fellow cellar dwellers. The O's conclude the home portion of their schedule by taking three of four from the Mariners.

Prediction Record (14-11)

The Toronto Blue Jays (53-80, 2-8 in their last 10 games, Baltimore leads series 7-6)

The final road trip of the season starts in Toronto where the locals are more worried about Mitch Marner's lack of a contract than an early week three-game series with the Orioles. Still, Toronto takes two of three against the Birds.

Prediction Record (15-13)

The Boston Red Sox (70-62, 7-3 in their last 10 games, Boston leads series 10-5)

As well as the Orioles are (hypothetically) playing down the stretch, it's nothing compared to the Red Sox. They've finally found their groove and are making a mad dash for the playoffs having made up their six game deficit in the Wild Card race. With the Rays just barely clinging on and facing a frisky upstart in Toronto to end their season, the Red Sox are looking for a sweep.

Things go well in game one as Eduardo Rodriguez twirls a 7-inning gem against his former team and the Red Sox bats pound Aaron Brooks in his final start in an O's uniform. The 9-1 final coupled with a Rays loss to Toronto puts the Red Sox in a virtual tie for the second wild card spot.

Game two features a rejuvenated Chris Sale on the mound against Dylan Bundy. A pitcher's duel plays out with the O's finally taking the lead on Renato Nunez's 30th home run of the year. Hunter Harvey closes out the ninth and Baltimore wins 4-3. Tampa also loses so Boston heads into the final game of the season with a chance to make the playoffs with a win.

In game 3 David Price is mowing down O's left and right. He racks up 12 strikeouts in the first six innings. However, Dillon Tate, making his first start of the year matches him with six strikeouts of his own. The game is tied 1-1 heading into the top of the ninth when Hanser Alberto doubles into the left field gap off of   Darwinzon Hernandez (Alberto finishes with a .417 average against lefties). D.J. Stewart then drives him in with a two-run shot off of old friend Andrew Cashner that hooks around Pesky's pole. Harvey strikes out three in the bottom of the ninth while in Toronto the Rays win on an inside the park home run by Eric Sogard. Tampa is in and the Red Sox are out.

I jump in my car and drive to Vegas to cash my ticket.

(Final Prediction 17-14)