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