Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Cards of 2013 - Part 2

8. 2001 Topps Archive Paul Blair Autograph

This card is always coming up on EBay, but it took me over two years to actually get one. Why? Because I thought I already had it.  Paul Blair shared a rookie card with Dave Johnson.  However, when Topps decided to issue sets devoted to past players, this card made several appearances. Indeed, I currently have 5 different versions of this card from Topps Archive, Team Topps Legends, and the Topps Shoebox collection.  Once I figured out I didn't actually have this card, I snapped up the first one to be had at a fair price.

 7. 1963 Fleer Roberto Clemente

If I had to choose one player that I could see play if I could, it would be Roberto Clemente. I would want this card even if  I wasn't building the 1963 Fleer set.  Indeed, someday I would like to have all of Clemente's playing days cards.

6. 1967 Topps Venezuelan Paul Blair

This particular card is not in the greatest of shape, but it is a Venezuelan.  They come available so rarely, and at such high prices, that I never realistically expected to own one. 

5. 1963 Fleer Dick Howser

This card filled two needs for me.  At the time I got it, I still needed Howser to complete my '63 Fleer set.  That I found such a nice version that was also autographed made it special. This is the second autographed card of a deceased player I acquired as part of that particular quest.  Out of 66 cards in that set, 19 are of deceased players.  This will obviously limit how many '63 Fleer I will ever get autographed.

What I am listening to:  Born to Lose by Social Distortion (Note: NSFW language.  Also, not the best quality, but the video was taken at CBGB.)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Favorite Cards of 2013 - Part 1

I started thinking about this series of posts a while back and even had all the cards identified a couple weeks back. But, I have been remiss in actually doing anything with it due to a variety of reasons.  So, instead of one post per card, I am going to break it down into three posts only.

So, in reverse order, here are 12 through 9:

12.  2012 Topps Archive 3D Babe Ruth

I got this card from the mysterious Napkin Doon.  It seems like your typical 3D insert, but what I like about it is that only background moves when you tilt it back and forth.

11. 1971 Topps #709 (Dusty Baker and Don Baylor RC)

In addition to being the rookie card of two stars of the 1970s, it is a high number card, leading it to a book value of $80.  This was the last big ticket card I needed towards completing the 1971 set.

10. 1960 Fleer Ed Barrow

This card of a rather avuncular Ed Barrow is the most unlikely entry on this list.  But, as the architect behind the Yankee dynasty of the first half of the 20th Century, surely he is a noteworthy person?  And before you answer, consider that the Hall of Fame agrees with me.

9. 2013 Topps Archive 72 Mini Lou Gehrig

I got this card from Night Owl.  This card tickles me to no end. Not only is it The Yankee Clipper, one of the best ballplayers ever, but it is done in the fun 1972 Topps design. I am looking forward to building '72 Topps.

So, there are the first four.   Stay tuned for four more tomorrow.

What I am listening to: "Long I Ride" by Robbie Fulks

Friday, December 27, 2013

Rest In Peace - Paul Blair

Paul Blair, former Orioles and Yankees outfielder, died yesterday at the age of 69.  I never met the man, who by all reports was quite popular with fans and a regular at Orioles events. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Yankees Look Ahead - Outfield

Nowhere is the Yankees tendency to pick up aged players more evident than the outfield.  After the injuries to Curtis Granderson, the  2013 Yankee outfield was Brett Gardner in center, Ichiro in right, and a combination of Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano in left.

2014 looked to be more of the same, although I would have liked to see Zoilo Almonte a crack at right field. However, the Yankees signing Jacoby Ellsbury changed all that. Although, to be honest, I am not sure if it raises more questions that it answers. 

The talk around the blogs is that Ellsbury will man center and Brett Gardner will slide back over to left field.  This leaves open what to do about right field. Neither Vernon Wells or Ichiro have much pop left offensively, even though they are still solid defenders.  Alfonso Soriano, displaced from left, still seems to have some offensive utility, but has never played right. I suppose Soriano could be the DH, although the Yankees use that spot in the lineup as a place to put aging regulars to give them a day off defensively.  So I am not really sure what they plan to do.

My suggestion is to try Soriano in right. It is a small enough field that his limited defensive skills won't be that much of a liability, particularly with Ellsbury in center.  I would also release Vernon Wells, especially since the Angels are still picking up $18.6M of his $21M salary, and keep Ichiro. Wells might bring more power and OBP to the team, but Ichiro would be good to have around if the Yankees are successful in signing Masahiro Tanaka.  Lastly, I'd look to Amonte and Melky Mesa as my back up outfielders.

So, there you have it.  The last of my looks at the Yankees 2014 season.  I'll need to check back in at the end of spring training to see whether New York took my advice.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Card Show Haul

The card show was a bit of a disappointment.  There were only a half dozen sellers there. Apparently, a fair number of sellers cancelled at the last minute, including the one I was counting on for making progress on 1973. 

That said, it wasn't a complete wash.  I did manage to find about a dozen cards I needed for 1973,  the two star cards below and an even 10 high number commons.  This leaves me 58 base cards to go, including the Mike Schmidt rookie card, and 18 of the unnumbered team checklists.

I also found 6 cards towards my 1956 set.  I am now up to 83 cards from this 340 card set.  Almost a quarter of the way there.

I think the big score of the day, though, was this card. 

I dropped $20 on this card, but it is a really nice version of card #1 from the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set.  I've now got 31 of the cards from this 80 card set.  I probably shouldn't have started this because of the presence of card 68, which was removed from circulation early on and commands prices in the hundreds of dollars. In fact, I was following an auction earlier this week for card 68, and it sold for $279. Not really sure what I will do when I get down to only needing that card. I have only spent $100 or more on a single card 3 times and it hurt every time.  Paying 2-3 times that amount is not something I see myself doing right now.

So, that is probably it for card buying for me for the year. Not a bad haul given the poor turnout of sellers today.

Card Show Day!

Today is the start of the bimonthly two day card show in OKC.  I've got some chores to deal with, and some Christmas shopping to do, but I will be going.

My goals are modest but, once again, are contingent on a specific seller being there.  They are pretty much the same as last show: 1973 Topps High Numbers and/or 1960/1961 Fleer.  I'll have some backup goals of making some progress on my 1968 Topps game cards and possibly find some cheap 1956 Topps commons.  My budget will be limited but, as always, any opportunity to pickup some classic vintage card is out there.  However, I am going to try and keep focused on 1973.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Joy of a Completed Set - 2011 Tristar Obak

Here it is.  The last card I needed to complete my 2011 Tristar Obak set.

The card celebrates Roger Connor hitting the first recorded grand slam in major league history. Connor, a 1976 Hall of Fame inductee, accomplished this on September 10, 1881.  Connor was also the MLB all-time home run leader prior to Babe Ruth. He had hit 138 round-trippers over his car. Ruth eclipsed this number on July 18, 1921 as a 26 year old.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

COMC Almost Black Friday Purchase

Like many of you, I had a COMC purchase arrive this week.  Unlike many of you, I didn't do the Black Friday thing. I wanted to make some progress on some of the various sets I am working, but wasn't planning on spending more than $25, including shipping. So it didn't seem worth it to me. I was able to finish one set, get a whisker away from another, and get within striking distance of a third. Let's look, shall we?

Last two cards I needed to finish the 1992 Conlon Collection set.  I'm going to work on the entire 5 year run of Conlon sets (1991 to 1995.)So, really, this is one down, four to go!

These are from the Forever insert set that was part of the 204 Fleer Greats of the Game.  I am slowly closing in on completion of that set.  There was a 145 card base set, with 4 insert sets totalling another 84 cards.  With these cards above, I am a mere 5 cards away from finishing.  I have to note that this does not consider the blue border parallels of the base cards or the auto/relic cards.  As I have said before, I may work on those if, and only if, I can find cheap lots of them.  But, I wil consider it done after I get these last 5 cards.

This is one of the short prints from 2009 Obak that are proving to be a problem for me. Alas, this isn't even one of the base set SPs, like I was looking for. It is actually one of the green print parallels, numbered to 75.  I must have been asleep at the wheel when I pulled the trigger on this one as I was just expecting to get the base card.  Not sure if I am going to try and replace it with a legitimate, unserialized base card or not. I realize that sounds odd, but the green print just doesn't look right in the binder.

I also picked up about 8 of the 2009 Obak T212 minis, leaving me 5 cards away from finishing that part of the set.

I picked up 3 more cards towards my 2011 Tristar Obak set (of which the Elston Howard card above was one), leaving me one measly, solitary, single card away from completion. I see the card I need out on Sportlots, but in a strange turn of events it is too cheap to get.  What, you say?  How could anyone complain about a card being too cheap?  Simple.  I cannot, in good conscience, buy a single 18 cent card from an online seller. I looked and looked, but couldn't find anything else in that seller's inventory that I needed.  So, I guess I will wait until the card shows up at COMC or someone from my vast readership finds it in their dupes box.  The card, if you must know, is #56 - Roger Connor.

So, there it is. I think I did pretty well considering how little I spent.  Up next is one of the two day card shows in OKC.  What with the holidays, I don't have much to spend, but I did save my birthday money over from November. Hopefully, that will be enough to make some progress on the 1973 Topps and/or 1959 through 1961 Fleer sets I am working on.

Added in Edit:  I found that Roger Connor Obak card on EBay for $3.71 delivered.  More than I really should spend on a non-SP base card, but it is the last one I need to complete the set. Screw it,  I'm pulling the trigger.

What I am listening to:  Near Wild Heaven by R.E.M.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Yankees Look Ahead - Infield

2013 was a nightmare year for the Yankees infield.  We came into Spring Training expecting a solid lineup of Mark Tiexiera (1B), Robinson Cano (2B), Derek Jeter (SS) and Kevin Youkilis holding down the hot corner (at least until A-Rod came back from hip surgery.)  It turned out to be something different altogether.

Tiexiera injured himself in the World Baseball Classic before the regular season opened, came back on May 31, only to see a reinjury end his season after 15 lackluster games. Jeter never really recovered from his 2012 post season ankle injury and only got into 17 games over the second half of the season.  Youkilis started off well enough in April, went down in May, was back for the first half of June (but didn't produce) and was gone. Alex Rodriquez came back in August and played out the season at about replacement level* on the field and as a reality TV All-Star off.  The only stable presence in the Yankee infield was Robinson Cano who put up another outstanding set of numbers.

Beyond that? Flotsam and jetsam. 10 different players made a showing at first, 8 at short, and 11 at third.  I'm not even going to run it down by player.  It was like an America's Got Talent audition.  Whole lotta nuthin.  In fairness, Lyle Overbay filled in adequately and utility men Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix did what they could.  But, apart from Cano, it was a wasteland.

So, whither 2014?  Well, as you likely know, Cano is gone after signing at 10 year, $240M contract with Seattle. You might think I'd be upset, but I am all "Good riddance and don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya."  That isn't to say I wouldn't like to have him remain a Yankee, but his terms were too steep.  The contract Seattle gave him is crazy and will, in my estimation, compare favorably with contracts given to A-Rod, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

The 7 years, $175M the Yankees offered was still a year too long for my comfort level, so I am somewhat relieved that he is gone.  Honestly, he wasn't a franchise player like a Derek Jeter or a Dustin Pedroia.  He was a great player and has been injury free his entire career.  But, he lacks the charisma and fire that those others bring.  I can forgive a lack of charisma, but Cano drove me nuts when he wouldn't run out groundballs or would play the field half-heartedly. He is a more talented player (by far) than Pedroia, but I would take Pedroia every day and twice on Sunday.

So, where do we go?  Well, with any luck Tiexiera and Jeter will be back and will produce like they did in 2012. I am ambivalent about Jeter in the field. He has some flashy moves, but lacks the range of a younger man. But, I will be glad to have his bat and his leadership back. Having signed Brendan Ryan was a good move, as his defensive skills at short make up for his lack of offensive punch.

If A-Rod suspension is overturned or stayed, I would expect to see him at third. If it isn't, I'd like the Yankees to give Eduardo Nunez a crack at it. Nuney is seen as a poor fielder and, certainly, the stats bear it out.  But, my observation is that his fielding miscues come in bunches. This indicates to me that he struggles to shake off errors and tends to lose confidence in himself easily.  After an error, you can pretty much see his fearful approach to subsequent defensive chances. He did get some reps at third last year and, while he did get handcuffed a few times, he looked better playing there than he did at short.  Mark Reynolds is another option for third, although he is limited as a defender, and strikes out way too much at the plate.

So, coming full circle, what about second?  Well, the Yankees have signed Kelly Johnson, who is a decent defender and has enough pop in his bat to benefit from the short right porch in Yankee Stadium. There is talk in the blogs about going after Omar Infante, but I don't see him as enough of an upgrade over Johnson to pursue him.

For the utility men, obviously Brendan Ryan is there.  Myself, I would have kept Jayson Nix, but the Yankees non-tendered him. It wouldn't surprise me, if he doesn't catch on somewhere else, they bring him back to Spring Training on a minor league contract and, if/when he makes the major league roster, give him a salary less than he would have gotten in arbitration.

Up Next: The outfield and DH

* A-Rod did provide one of my favorite moments of the 2013 season when he took Ryan Dempster deep after Dempster threw at him.  Don't get me wrong, I'll be glad to see the last of A-Rod, but it was a bush league move on Dempster's part.  And the situation was made worse by piss-poor umpiring when Dempster got to stay in the game after the HBP, but Joe Girardi got bounced for arguing about it. But, the circus was continued, when MLB Comissioner Selig gave Dempster a suspension short enough that he didn't even miss a start.

What I am watching:  A-Rod showing up Dempster.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Yankees Look Ahead - Bullpen

2013 was a hard year to characterize when it comes to the Yankees bullpen.  There was 21 different players that made at least one relief appearance for the Yankees. Yet, there was a core set of relievers that were the models of consistency. Overall, I think the bullpen performed admirably. Very little went wrong, though what did go wrong, did so spectacularly.

What went right? Clearly closer Mariano Rivera and setup man David Robertson.   While Mo did show some signs of fallibility (with 7 blown saves throughout the year,) he was still basically the same pitcher we have spent nearly 20 years watching. Robertson was also outstanding.  While he has something of a reputation for getting himself into jams, I am not sure it is entirely deserved.  His peripheral stats (WHIP, ERA+, BA against) are quite similar to Rivera's.  The only major concern is his walk rate, which is still pretty high at around 2.6/9 innings. Although, to be fair, that is down significantly since 2011.

Boone Logan was also solid throughout the year as the main lefty out of the pen.  He is mainly a LOOGY, but can be pressed into service as a "regular" reliever, should the need arise.  Adam Warren also had good results in a partial season as a long man.  Preston Claiborne and Shawn Kelley were fine, though not particularly noteworthy as two of the remaining three main relievers.

Which brings us to what went wrong? In short, Joba Chamberlain. Joba still has good velocity, but had troubles finding the strike zone in any consistent manner.  By the end of the season, he was relegated to low leverage, mop-up duty.  As a free agent this offseason, it is safe to say he is gone.

So, what are my recommendations for 2014?  Well, it is given that David Robertson takes over the closer role.  Some folks aren't sure he is cut out for it, given he performed poorly as the closer in early 2012, after Mo went down with an injury.  I don't buy it. First, he was thrust suddenly into an unexpected role with no time to mentally prepare. Further, he ended up injured shortly afterwards. I think, with all of 2013 to prepare and learn at the feet of the master, he will fine as a closer.  Not sure who I would give the set up role to, Although Shawn Kelley does have some flashy K/9 stats, his BB/9 is a bit worriesome and his HR/9 numbers are not good given he is a righty in a stadium that favors lefthanded hitters.

Myself, I would resign Boone Logan and give him a crack at the setup role.  He has been the main lefty out of the pen since 2010 and is still only 28. There is absolutely no talk on the Yankees blogs about resigning him and I don't get it. If Logan was setup man (and even if he wasn't) I would give Cesar Cabral a long look at being a second lefty reliever.

The rest of the pen would focus on Adam Warren as long man, Vidal Nuno as the swing man, and  Preston Claiborne as the generic middle reliever. I'd also give Dellin Betances a hard look to see what he can do. He has been singularly unimpressive in what little I have seen him, but he did put together a decent 2013 as a swing man in AAA.

There are a few other slots that need to be filled, but let's be honest, who really pays attention to the middle reliever market?  They are like groceries.  If one gallon of milk goes bad, run down to the store and get another.  I really don't have much in the way of knowledge to opine about who the Yankees should look to in order to round out the 2014 pen.

Up next: The infield.

What I am listening to: Fist City by Eilen Jewell

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Yankees Look Ahead - Starting Pitching

When 2012 opened, starting pitching appeared to be the Yankees strength.  With a starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, and Ivan Nova, GM Brian Cashman had set the team up well for success.  Further, with Michael Pineda expected to come back during the course of the season any holes that opened up seemed to have a ready solution.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way.  Sabathia, coming off an injury plagued 2012 and off-season surgery, was awful. It was the worst season of his career and barely, ever so barely, above replacement player level.  11-13 record notwithstanding, Kuroda was the ace of the staff.  At least until mid August, when fatigue got the better of him and he slumped badly.  Andy Pettitte was solid, if not flashy.  Hughes stunk, not to put too fine a point on it.  He had flashes of brilliance, but a right handed flyball pitcher is never going to play well in Yankee Stadium (he was solid on the road.)  Nova was up and down. He sucked in April, was sent down to AAA for over a month, but was nearly lights out on his return.

Also, making starting appearances for New York was David Phelps, Adam Warren, David Huff and Vidal Nuno.  Phelpsie was better during the season than his stats would imply. He had one horrendous start (9 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.)  Without that game his ERA drops from 4.98 to 4.16.  Warren and Nuno also looked good in the small handful of times they got the ball to start a game.

So, what does 2014 look like.  Well, let's start off by acknowledging the retirement of Andy Pettitte and that Phil Hughes will not be back.  Further, Hiroki Kuroda is a free agent and it isn't entirely clear what his plans are.

That said, here is what I would do.  The elephant in the room, so to speak, is CC Sabathia.  He is under contract for three more years and we will need him to return to form. Whether his 2013 turd was due to his inability to prepare as normal during the off-season or is more indicative of wear and tear after his years eating innings (also so to speak) remains to be seen.  At the very least, I think pitching coach Larry Rothschild needs to recognize that CC may not be a power hurler any more and begin transitioning him to a more finesse pitcher (like Andy Pettitte.)  It may be worth it to enter the season not expecting Sabathia to pitch 220 to 230 innings.

I think the Yankees should try to bring Kuroda back for a third year.  As mentioned above, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball throughout most of 2013.  Bring him back, but limit his innings in order to get a full season from him.  200 innings is too many for a 39 year old pitcher.

Ivan Nova is a given as the number 2 or 3 starter.  He struggled through 2012 and in April of 2013.  From my personal observation, it was during this time he tried to become a strikeout pitcher. He has a vicious curveball and I think he does much better when he tries to be a groundball pitcher.

So, that is three (with only 2 under contract.)  What else? Well, I think it is time to bring Michael Pineda into the mix.  Maybe stretch him out a bit in AAA through April, but I think it is time to see what he can do up top.  David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno have also earned the opportunity to compete for a starting job in Spring Training. Phelps would be my odds on favorite, with Warren as the dark horse.  While I liked what little I saw of Nuno, he just hasn't ever had a serious workload thus far in his career. He probably would better fit in as the long man.

Lastly, the word on the street is that the Yankees are interested in JPPL pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka.  Without a revised posting system in place, this may never come to fruition.  But, his numbers in Japan are mindboggling.  Check it out.  I think New York should go all out in their pursuit of Tanaka. His Japanese stats are nearly as good as Yu Darvish's.

So, here it is, my 2014 starting rotation:

1. Masahiro Tanaka
2. CC Sabathia
3. Hiroki Kuroda
4. Ivan Nova
5. David Phelps
6. Adam Warren as the swing man.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Joy of a Completed Set - 1974-75 Loblaws Hockey Stickers

Here they are. The last 4 Loblaws hockey stickers I needed to finish my album.

By way of review, I grew up in the suburbs of Rochester, NY and my mother used to do her shopping at Loblaw's, a Canadian grocer that made incursions into the states.  During the 1974-1975 hockey season, Loblaw's gave away hockey stickers with each purchase. They also had an album, although I don't remember if it was free or needed to be purchased.

I did have the album and, while the promotion lasted, tried to complete it.  Of course, I didn't then.  But now I have.

I still have a fair number of duplicate stickers and will keep my eye out for another album to complete. But, for now, I am scratching this one off.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Yankees Look Ahead - Catcher

Catcher has been a position the Yankees have struggled at since Jorge Posada's move to DH and subsequent retirement.   In 2011 and 2012, Russell Martin was the main backstop and did a creditable job behind the plate.  And, while he did put up some decent power numbers, his offensive production dropped off precipitously from his days as a Dodger.

Martin moved to Pittsburgh last off-season and 2013 opened with Francisco Cervelli as the starting shortstop with Chris Stewart filling in as backup. 

Frankie started of the season well enough, but a broken hand on a HBP sent him to the DL before April was out.  A subsequent 50 game suspension due to being caught up in the Biogenesis scandal was enough to put paid to his season.

The Yankees promoted Chris Stewart to the starting catcher with Austin Romine being called up to back him up.  And there ended the offensive production.  That isn't entirely fair as both did have some game winning hits during the season.  But, for the most part, catcher was an offensive desert for the Yankees last year.  Stewart is your quintessential defense first, light hitting player.  He is fine for occasional starts and  perfect as a late inning defensive substitution.  But that is the limit of his abilities.  Romine has been a solid producer offensively and defensively in the low minors, but with a history of injury  and only 35 games at AAA before his call up, he wasn't ready to make a show of it offensively yet.

A late season call up of J.R. Murphy, just behind Romine on the organizational depth chart, didn't show us anything great. He looks to me like a carbon copy of Romine just a bit younger.  Both could use more time in the minors to season.

Waiting even further in the wings, behind Murphy, is Gary Sanchez, who appears to be a solid  defender and wields a more productive bat than anyone ahead of him on the depth chart.

So what is the plan for 2014?  Well, I guess I don't have to opine on that one as the Yankees have already revealed their plan when they signed Brian McCann to a 5 year, $85M contract.  I am torn on the contract.  I am glad to see New York sign a potent left handed bat, what with the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium.  But, I am also concerned some about McCann's durability given that his games caught has dropped off the last few years.  I also am not happy about the length of the contract.  With the anticipated talent down on the farm, I'd rather see McCann signed for 3 to 4 years.  But, I get that they probably needed to give him 5 years to get him to sign.  Further, the speculation is that McCann could move to 1B or DH in the latter years, which would open up the catching position for Murphy or Sanchez.

But, what about the backup?  I don't know what the Yankees will do. They seem high on Chris Stewart (having signed him as a free agent in 2008 and trading for him in 2009 and again in 2012.)  But the lack of offensive punch is hard to overcome.  The better bet, and my preference, is to make Cervelli the backup.  As it stands, Frankie has good offensive splits against left handed pitching. Good enough that I would platoon him with McCann behind the plate. McCann catches against right handed pitchers, which would be good for about 100-110 games. When the Yankees face a left handed starter, move McCann to DH and let Cervelli catch.  It keeps Mac's bat in the line up while limiting the wear and tear he would suffer behind the dish.

I'd release Stewart, or offer him a minor league coaching position, depending on whether he wants to try to continue playing or not. Further, I'd shop Romine and continue to groom JR Murphy and Gary Sanchez to take over catching duties in 3-4 years.

So there you have it, my brilliant plan for catcher for 2014.

Next up:  The starting rotation

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Yankees Look Ahead - Strategy

I had hoped to have this done before the Yankees started their offseason moves, but with work being busy I have delayed too long.Alas, the Bombers decided not to wait for my advice and went ahead and signed Brian McCann (more on that later.)

The Yankees overall strategy is always win this year.  Certainly, it was always like that during the George Steinbrenner era because George wanted to win.  I am not sure what the impetus is since the team was taken over by his heirs, who seem a bit more business oriented.   It may be honoring their fathers strategy and the franchise history, or it may be just that due to the fickleness of the teams fans that they have to contend to fill the seats.  I don't see any macro trends in their attendance history, but would note that home attendance in 2013, when they didn't make the post-season, was 7.5% lower than 2012, when they did.

That being said, the franchise strategy can be summarized thusly: sign premium players to big dollar, long term contracts and fill out roster  mainly with over the hill role players in the hopes of catching lightning in a bottle.  It is a strategy that works in the short term (see 2009) but not in the long run (see post 2009.)

I get the notion that you have to sign premium players and those players are going to demand long term, high dollar contracts.  I don't like it, but I at least acknowledge there is a logic to it. The problem is that most of the premium players are hovering around 30 years of age and the contract is only going to pay off for a while at the outset of the term.

Case 1 Mark Teixeira - At the time Tex signed with New York, he sported a .290 BA, .377 OBP, and.541 slugging average.  He achieved about that same level of performance in 2009, but has had a steady decline every year since.

Case 2 Alex Rodriguez - Coming off his 2007 MVP year, the Yankees signed him to a 10 year contract averaging 27.5M a year.  He has neither produced at the same level since nor had an injury free year. While you could argue that his 2008 and 2009 seasons were worthy of the contract, since then his production has declined precipitously and he certainly hasn't been worth the money since 2011.  Yet the Yankees are stuck with him for 4 more seasons.

I also question the idea of taking on formerly star players long term to fill out specific roles on the team.  The idea is to bring some maturity to the team in a pennant race and, hopefully some good production.  There has been some good examples of this (Andruw Jones in 2011 and Ichiro in 2012.)  The problem is that the Yankees tend to bring them back and subsequent production can be minimal (Andruw Jones in 2012 and Ichiro in 2013.)

I think the net result here is an under-developed farm system.  Certainly, there have been key players that have come up through the system. Robinson Cano is the best example today, but you can also add Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Brett Gardner, and Ivan Nova to the list. The problem, of course, is for the 2013 team, that is the list.

I would like to see the Yankees spend more time developing young talent. Not only down on the farm, but with the big club.  There was a fair number of rookies that got into games this year, but that was mainly due to the injury situation, and none of them really got to stay in a role of any significance.  The Yankees need to drop the notion that they need a proven major leaguer at every position and bring along some of the talent they have waiting in the wings.

I would also like to see them, if they chose to sign a marquee player to not go beyond 5 of 6 years, and maybe less in some circumstances.  And for goodness sake, please stop trawling the scrap heap for reclamation projects.  Sure you get a mature player for cheap, but you only get marginal production in return.  If you are going to get mediocre performance from a role player, why not use the role to develop a young player rather than giving some over-the-hill warhorse a last season (or, God help us, two) in the sun?

Coming up:  The Backstop

What I am listening to:  Antiphon by Midlake

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Fleer Autograph Project - Part 26

It is 10:30 PM and I just got home from a business dinner. Since I am not a certain Night Owl, and it is way past my bedtime, this will be a quick post. 

Waiting for me at home is the 26th card in my quest to get as many of my 1963 Fleer cards autographed.

This is one I have been waiting on a while.  I had just missed a Yaz signing when I decided to undertake this quest a year ago. I have dutifully watched for another such signing and one finally came around again this past weekend.  I've identified one more organized signing for this project and several TTM opportunities.  Hopefully, next year I will hit the 50% level (33 cards of the 66 card set).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Best Mail Day Ever!

My 21st wedding anniversary was at the end of September.  I asked my wife for Anthony Causi's iconic photograph "Mariano Entering the Game" as a gift.  Not surprisingly, as Mo was winding down his final season, it was back ordered.

Well, it arrived today.

I love this photograph as I think, as a (very) amateur photographer, that it stands on it's own merits as art.

But, the story gets better.  My wife asked for, and I got her, tickets for the Pearl Jam concert when they played OKC.  And, in quite the coincidence, that concert is tonight.

What I am listening to: Better Man by Pearl Jam

Friday, November 15, 2013


I haven't been too active lately and it has been a while since I made any progress on any of the modern sets I am working.  I've been sitting at 5 cards to complete 2011 Tristar Obak for just about a year.  By chance last week, I made a few searches on Ebay for cards I needed and was happy to find a 5 card lot of 2010 and 2011 Obak Cal Ripken cards, including this one:

This is the last short print I needed towards completing 2011 and I got it for about $6 delivered.  This was quite the steal because I had never seen it on EBay other than as a Buy it Now, or on any of the retail websites like COMC, for less than $12.  With only 4 base cards to go to finish that set, I am going to try and knock it off before the end of the year.

What I am listening to: Nightbook by Ludovico Einaudi

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Redemption.....of a sort

After the complete washout at last week's OKC show, I decided to head up to the monthly mini-show at Al's Sports Cards in Edmond.  Al had mentioned in one of his email notifications that there was a new vintage vendor, so I decided to check it out.  There was indeed a new vendor and he did indeed have vintage.  But only stars and minor stars. No commons.  Another regular seller had a really nice 1973 Mike Schmidt rookie card, but he wanted $125 and I wouldn't go over $75 for that card.  That guy doesn't bargain much, so I didn't even bother making an offer I knew he wouldn't accept.

So, I ended up talking a bit with Bill from Wichita and (believe it or not) Roger from Sports Memories of Oklahoma.  Roger is the fellow I was hoping was going to be at the show last weekend but, as it turns out, he was doing a show up in St. Louis. He wasn't selling today. Rather, he was buying and I watched him close a deal with Bill for a lot of around 100 1954 Bowman cards (including the Mantle) for somewhat over $600.  It was a pretty sweet deal that Bill had offered me last weekend, but I passed on since I don't have that kind of scratch laying around.

Bill did cut me a pretty sweet deal, though. I got 55 1955 Topps and 30 1956 Topps cards for around $100.

That was money I was planning on using towards the 1973 Schmidt rookie, but the opportunity to get a stack of cards from two sets I really like was too good to pass up.  Of the 30 1956's, only 3 were duplicates for me.  This puts me at 76 cards, out of 340 total, from that set.  

There were 48 unique cards in the 1955s I bought and only 1 duplicate against the 9 I already had.  That brings me to a total of 56 cards out of the 206 card set.

So, this will likely push completion of 1973 into 2014, but I think that is worth it.  To get so many cards from these two awesome sets for a little more than a dollar each was awesome!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Surprise Pickup

Sigh.  The perils of living in the country.......

October Card Show Haul

I wouldn't say the show was a complete bust.....

...but I am not sure mankind has invented a device to measure the distance between my card show experience and a complete bust.  You are looking at the sum total of my purchases.

And to top it off, the roads were so clogged up from game day traffic, I didn't even bother going to the LCS and look at that Schmidt rookie card. 

Added in Edit:  And, the final insult?  The Aaron card above I spent $12 on?  Already had it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Card Show Weekend!

This weekend there is a two day card show up in OKC.

It has been a while since I've done much hobby activity.  In the last two months, I have completed one trade and spent a grand total of  $2.25 on one Ebay purchase.

I had scaled back because, as I have related elsewhere, we discovered that one of our mares was pregnant and I had to build a whole bunch of foal safe fencing in a short time.  I had about 1000 feet to build and quickly knocked 200 feet off.  All that time,I had something nagging at me.  The pregnancy diagnosis was done via a blood test performed by an assistant vet fresh out of school.  I just wasn't comfortable with the diagnosis (particularly since she was an assistant to a vet that we only use when our regular guy is unavailable), so I loaded the mare up in the trailer and took her in to our regular vet for a proper pregnancy check (don't ask, suffice it to say that it involves a shoulder length rubber glove.)  Well, good news, she wasn't pregnant after all! The fencing project needed to continue, but the time pressure was off.

Of course, it was at about that time our dishwasher decided to die and, since there must always be complications, we had to pony up a small fortune to get an ADA compliant dishwasher because our kitchen counter was 3/4" too low for us to get a standard sized dishwasher installed.  So, to make a short story long, I am still broke.  With the holidays coming up, this weekend is probably my only hobby related activity until January.  So, I am going to need to make it count.

My goal will be to knock off at least half of the remaining cards I need for my 1973 set (70 base cards and 18 unnumbered checklists.)  This will depend on Roger Nuefeldt, from Sports Memories of Oklahoma, being there.  I am hoping he will be, since it is a two day show and he hasn't done a local show since early spring.  If he is there, it is likely I can knock off most of the high number commons I need and maybe one of the higher value cards. 

If he isn't there tomorrow, my intent will be to pocket my cash so that I can 1) stop off at one of the local card shops on my way home, pick up the Mike Schmidt rookie card they had in the display case the last time I was there, and 2) have a bit left over for filling some 1973 needs cheaply on EBay.   Whether that happens or not is always questionable, since I have a tendency to get all Tommy Boy at a card show and never leave empty handed.  But, given the upcoming holiday lull, I am going to to do my darndest to stay focused on 1973.

What I am listening to: Rogers Park by Justin Townes Earle

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

A New Blair PC Addition

1971 Topps Tattoo

This is the 104th unique "card" in my Paul Blair player collection.

I don't have much to say at the moment.  A combination of insomnia and being in the middle of a big business decision at work, I am too tired to write much.  I have been thinking of doing a look at the Yankees and how I think they should move forward from this season.  But, I haven't had the energy to get going on it.  

In short, don't hold your breath.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Waiting Until Next Year

The title of this post is something of a double entendre.  I have mostly completed a trade with Tom over at Waiting 'til Next Year.  I say mostly because I got his half of the trade in the mail today, but won't actually ship off my half until this weekend.  In short, I helped him out with a couple of his player collections and in return I got some huge help with my 2009 Tristar Obak set. 

 He sent one base card, the short print J-Hey and Dale Murphy card above.  He also sent 12 of the T212 minis.  2009 Obak overdid the minis, with 60 total (not counting variations).  With this trade, Tom basically cut my want list on the T212 in half.

I haven't made any progress on this Obak set in many, many months, so this trade was most welcome. Your cards will go out tomorrow, Tom.

So, getting back to my opening, why does "Waiting until next year" have two meanings?  Well, I am going on hobby hiatus for pretty much the rest of this year. 

See, last year we were in the midst of a drought and a friend of ours lost her horse boarding business to a wild fire.  Since we were one of the few people who had appropriate fencing, we took in three of the horses she boarded: two Clydesdale mares, and a Drum Horse stallion.  They were here about 6 months and, one day in January, the stallion managed to get out of his pen and, to make a long story short, appears to have bred one of our mares.  With a due date in December, I need to upgrade about 1000 feet of fence to be foal safe.  Then we need to deal with the vet bills associated with the delivery.  So, money is going to be tight for a while.  I have a little bit of money set aside for the October OKC show, but that is probably about it until January/February.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Fleer Autograph Project - Part 25

A little longer than 4 months after I shipped them out, three cards from my 1963 Fleer set are back in my hands.  By way of review, I had sent them out to Chris Potter Sports to be autographed in their May/June signings.  Unfortunately, in the end, only one ended up being signed.

Don Lee here is the 25th 1963 Fleer card I have had autographed.  Jerry Kindall and Art Mahaffey came back unsigned.  That is a disappointment, but with many of these players in their 70s and 80s, it probably isn't surprising that health or family issues may interfere. I do see that they are going to try to reschedule Mahaffey early next year.  So, there is still hope there.

This project has pretty much ground to a halt.  I have been keeping an eye out for more signing opportunities, but I haven't seen any since the signing this card was sent to.  Even Sandy Koufax hasn't seemed to have his annual private signing.  Ah well, it is still pretty cool having nearly 40% of the cards signed.