Grand Cards: June 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Great Grand Cards Trade Away: Last Day--Vintage

Ok, this will be the last of the giveaways. But first, Day 5's winners:

BA Benny: Mets & Yankees
Cam: Astros & O's
Dan: Phillies
Mark's Ephemera: Dbacks
Tunguska: Cubs
Night Owl: Dodgers
Dayf: Braves
Play at the Plate: Rangers
Thorzul: Brewers
Brooklyn Met: Giants
Natscards: Nationals/Expos
mmmrhubarb: Twins
Rod (Padrographs):Padres
WickedOrteaga: A's
TiedGame: Mariners
CarlCrawfordCards: Rays
Roy: Blue Jays

Ok great. If you haven't yet, please send me your address so that I can get your cards out. Also, if you "won" a team package and would like non-Topps cards of that team and they weren't claimed last week, I would be happy to add them to your shipment.

As for the final giveaway...
Today it's vintage. I have 25 vintage cards that I pulled from the Christmas motherload Years and conditions vary, but they are from the 60's, 70's and a little bit of 1980/81. There's a lot of variation from clean and crisp:

to Hall of Famers:

to just plain wonderful:

Most are non-descript very good condition cards of nobodies, with the few exceptions I've shown, a couple other exceptions and this, which is my favorite of the whole bunch and was just so jaw dropping that I had to take it:

I mean, can you discard Frank and Willie? You really can't. That is the only one that is beat up anywhere near that bad, just so you know.

Opening Bid One vintage Detroit Tigers cards. Must be pre-1980, the older the better, and if you have a specific card that you're offering it can only help you to list it. Uncertainty is death for me here. The winner will be the one that offers me either the single best card for the lot, or the best package of cards.

Good luck!

This contest will end at 5:30 tomorrow, with a wrap up post for the whole week of giveaways to follow at 6.

Last Chance For Free Cards!

Cards of your favorite team are up for grabs for another 45 minutes. Leave a comment here to claim them.

At 6pm the FINAL giveaway will be announced. One word: Vintage.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Great Grand Cards Trade Away: Day 5

And the winner is...

The winner of the Day 4 package of a couple miscellaneous autographs is Dayf, who offered a 1995 Old Judge Dave Mysel autograph. Why? Here's why. That card comes from an era when autographs still meant something. 1995. A time when a card numbered to 5750 copies (!) was something to be impressed by. Sure, the Andrew Miller card might have been nice, but odds are it was a sticker autograph. And the Old Judge cards have a charm that no 2003 Bowman can top. As for Milt Cuyler...well, I LOVE Milt Cuyler, but I'm a weird OCD person with this sort of stuff and I don't have any in person autographs on cards and if I start now I'm afraid I'll never stop.

So, Dayf it is.

Which brings us to Day 5.

Up for Grabs A Large Package of Topps cards of your favorite team.

This is just like the non-topps giveaway from Day 2 except this time it is Topps cards. 95% of my collection falls into these years: 1982, 1986-1994, 2000, 2006-2010. Included in this giveaway will be 2009 Topps "Throwback" cards, 2009 Topps "Black" Cards (from Walmart), rookies, inserts, commemorative patches, parallels, Topps Opening Day and, of course, base cards from all the years.

I am willing to make a package for each team. They will be comparably sized to the non-topps packages.

Opening Bid A comment. If you want some of these they are yours. If there is competition for certain teams, you may feel free to start bidding with cards.

This will end TOMORROW at 5:30 pm, so get your comments in!

The Grand Scheme Is One Pitch Away From Throwing Its Last Pitch

"Oh my God, that did not just happen." That was Gerald Laird's response to last nights painful-to-watch arm explosion of Joel Zumaya. It's not fair. I don't mean for the fans who loved him, or the team that relied on him or the bullpen that he solidified. It's not fair for Joel Zumaya. For those of you who haven't seen the video you can watch it here and prepare to feel your heart sink.

I was also able to embed a bootlegged version:

Joel Zumaya is Chet Steadman's career compressed into 171 career appearances. He has the whole life cycle of a star pitcher: Emergence, Domination, Decline, Rebirth, Last Hurrah. Except that he's 25 and that apart from his unbelievable 2006, he has been hurt in each subsequent season thanks to Guitar Hero, An Evil Box, a Rogue Finger, a Finicky Shoulder and a Traitorous Elbow (it seems).

With all that said, we don't actually know what's wrong with Zumaya this time. He's having an MRI today to get things checked out. I'm not a doctor, but my guess is that it is going to look like the elbow equivalent of this:

As if the screaming, writhing and hand shaking didn't clue you in, some quotes might flesh out the presumably grim diagnosis:
Catcher Gerald Laird, whose home run in the eighth gave the Tigers a huge insurance run, said he heard a "little pop" when Zumaya threw the last pitch.

"When he let the ball go, something didn't sound good," Laird said.
That's Gerald Laird, who heard something pop from 60'6 away, in the middle of the game, on a pitch that was fouled off. A "little pop" to the catcher is a freaking atomic bomb on the mound. You may also prefer to hear Laird's prognosis of the mystery injury:
It's a little block in the road. In seven or eight months you'll be throwing again and I'm sure I'll be seeing that 96 mph fastball again.
Geez, power of positive thinking huh? We don't know what's wrong and Laird is already predicting that he won't be able to throw for another 7-8 months and that he's going to top out at a relatively pedestrian 96 MPH. I shudder when I think of what someone who actually knows about this stuff might predict.

Jim Leyland, like the rest of us, was blindsided by this and then decided to get all philosophical. From the same Detroit News article:
"There was no indication that anything was wrong (with Zumaya) before tonight," Leyland said. "I don't know that anything was wrong. But I've always said with any pitcher, you are one pitch away from throwing their last pitch."
There's obviously been a lot of news on this at this point and it is just so sad. An as unexpected as it was, especially given the situation, it wasn't that unexpected, was it? I mean, the guy throws over 100 miles per hour. He hit 99 on the fateful pitch last night! And the injuries haven't even seemed to slow him down. In 2006 he threw over 100 MPH 233 times in 2006, ahead of 2nd place Kyle Farnsworth (26 times). Jump to 2008 and it was 18 100 MPH+ pitches (2nd in the Majors) in 2008, in just 21 games. In 2009 the number leapt to 198 times, more than twice the number of Jonathan Broxton, this time in only 29 games (!) before his season ended due to injury. Then comes 2010 and everything seems all peachy keen and Zumaya is back and business and BAM!

And then you realize, that maybe it's not possible for one pitcher to pitch at a speed that is TEN STANDARD DEVIATIONS above the next fastest pitcher. That's right:
how easy is it for your Joe Average hurler to break the aforementioned 100 mph mark? The short answer is that it isn’t:
Season #of 100 mph pitches
2002 106
2003 204
2004 82
2005 134
2006 335

To give an idea of relative magnitude some 3.5 million pitches are tossed in the majors each year of which 75% or so have accurate speed measurements. Two things jump out. First, the very low number of 100+mph pitches (less than 0.01% of all balls pitched), and second, the spike in 100+mph pitches in 2006. Yup, you’ve guessed it; the 2006 spike was caused by the emergence of one man: Joel Zumaya. If we look at pitch speed leaders each year we see that Zumaya was responsible for nearly 70% of the 100+mph fastballs in 2006, and, incredibly, his individual total exceeded the league total in each of the previous four years.
That was a hardball times article written after the 2006 season. Separate injuries in four seasons later and he is still throwing just as hard. It's not possible. The body can't do it. 10 standard deviations doesn't exist in real life, especially not when you're taking a sample of people who are performing at a level that is already 3 standard deviations (or more) above what the average person is capable of doing.

Onto other things, briefly...

VOTE I finally voted my 25 times for Miguel Cabrera to the All Star game. If you don't do this you are a pox on us all. If you do vote, and don't vote for Cabrera you're just insane. Note the stats:

.335 AVG (5th), .412 OBP (3rd), .629 SLG (1st), 20 HR (1st), 66 RBI (1st)

Go Vote Now.

Write Him In Also, while you're voting, why not cast a write in vote for Brennan Boesch? Ignoring the fact that he is easily the best rookie in the major leagues thus far this year (.335/.385/.616, 12 HR, 45 RBI), how about comparing those stats to other AL Outfielders (w/200+ ABs)?

3rd, 8th, 2nd, 6th, 8th.

If that does not an AL All Star make, than what does? Write him in.

I've got to get me one of those The Baltimore Sun has a fantastic article that I read this morning while I was in the company break room waiting for the coffee to brew. It is a major, front page feature searching for the owner of a 1914 Babe Ruth Rookie Card that was loaned to the Babe Ruth Museum years ago. Here's the card, currently on display at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum:

This is from the 1914 Baltimore News, and only 11 are believed to be in existence. Forbes called this the most valuable card in the world in 2009 and it will be at the centerpiece of a "Groundbreaking" exhibit on baseball cards that the museum is putting together. I've dealt with the director of the museum in my work life in the past, so I may try to get him on the horn and see what they have planned--hopefully in time for The National in August. If not, while you're in town you might want to go and check it out anyway.

Should I sue? Probably not, considering that it makes my life so much easier. I'm talking about the page that launched yesterday on the University of Michigan Athletic Dept. site that tracks all U-M alumni in the Major and Minor Leagues. It's name? Block M In the MLB. So where do I sign up to get my royalties? On the plus side, this means that I no longer need to maintain a tedious spreadsheet and scour minor league game reports to keep up on these sorts of things. That's what unpaid student interns are for. The site is nicely done, and if they can get a Minor League stats feed the way that they have for the MLB guys (which they won't, because MiLB game stats are a pain to find), it would be awesome. If nothing else, it will keep tabs on everyone for me instead of having to do it myself.

Misc. Reminders: Allen & Ginter group CASE break, Grand Cards Trade Away Day 4: Autographs. Also, I don't know why this took me so long, but I'd like to congratulate the ol' alma mater for winning the 2010 State Championship in baseball. They beat division rival Saline, who lost in the championship game for the 3rd straight year. There were tears. I played on this team way back in the pre-championship days along with my friend Bobby, who hassled me into promising a shout out on this blog, which I then didn't give him, leading to more hassling. So take that Bobby. Your first formal e-recognition of our friendship will forever be associated with Pioneer Baseball. How does that feel? Don't mess with someone with editorial control.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Great Grand Cards Trade Away: Day 4

Day 4 of the trade away is at hand. This one is simple:

Up for Grabs Miscellaneous Autograph Cards.

Opening Bid One autograph card of a failed Detroit Tigers prospect.

I don't have much here, I think just 2-3 loose autographs, but if you've got a Tony Giarratano or Kyle Sleeth or Matt Anderson etc. lying around, then they could be yours.

This giveaway will end at 5:30 tomorrow with the winner announced at 6.

ALSO, tomorrow is going to be the last BIG giveaway, for people interested in large team lots, so be prepared. There will be a couple smaller days after that with things wrapping up on Thursday, I think.

Allen & Ginter: Get In On It!

Ok, people are about to go Ginter-crazy. Since it was announced that Strasburg is in the set, prices have gone up, up, up. I Am Joe Collector just recommended sitting back for 6 months or so until prices go back to normal. But I get it, you still want your A&G Fix.

Well how about this:

Get in on a CASE BREAK of Allen & Ginter, in which 20 teams are still available and the price has been LOCKED IN at pre-Strasburg levels. This is a great chance to load up on Ginter, and have a chance at a case hit and all the other goodies the set provides.

Time's running out. You don't want to be the last one on your block without the Ol' Planter by your side, do you? Join the break here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Special No-Hitter for "BB" Jackson

I love this new nickname that I just invented for him. BB Jackson. This is all self-congratulatory italics, but let's dissect for a moment. One: "BB" is a great nickname. There can no be argument here. Two: The cool nickname juxtaposes with the rather insulting insinuation that Jackson earned the nickname by walking so many people. Three: Yet in a great double entendre, a pitcher who is pitching excellently to the point that he is essentially impossible to hit is said to be "throwing BB's", like the little things you shoot out of a BB Gun. In all, we are left with a perfectly apt nickname that is also really cool sounding. Spread the word.

2009 Topps #AST-39 Edwin Jackson Platinum (1/1)

I'm not sure if it qualifies as "One-of-a-Kind" the way this card would, but Edwin Jackson's no-hitter last night was really...something. His no-hitter took him all of 149 pitches, something no pitcher has done since Livan Hernandez threw 150 in 2005. It also included 8 walks and a batter reaching on an error.

What's incredible to me, is that he walked all but one of the batters in the first three innings--he was at 68 pitches after three--and then went on to only allow two more baserunners for the rest of the game. That's some stamina. In the words of Joe Maddon (via Hardball Talk):
"He throws 68 pitches after just three innings and settles in and pitches like he did? You've got to give him a lot of credit. He's a horse and a great athlete. He's a great kid and he deserved to do that tonight. Hats off to him; he's a wonderful man."

I just thought that would be a nice quote to include from a former Manager. He's right though, Jackson is a horse. Even if he doesn't always pitch as well as you would like, he has that ability to come through when needed. Kind of like he did last night.

Amidst all the hulaballoo about this, the OMG 149 PITCHEZ! has been getting the most play. Ruin his arm, you will. Or, you just left him in to try and get the no hitter, even if it wasn't in the best interest of the player or the team, to which, responses abound, the best of which is from the Dbacks manager himself:
You do want to make smart decisions, but you do have a chance at history and you don't want to take it away from him. And that's for everybody involved, from the team, to the fans, to anybody that was included in this game.

And I think that's exactly the right way to look at it in most cases, including this one. But what about the pitch count that everyone's huffing and puffing about? Leave it to Sports Economist JC Bradbury to assuage our fears:
On average, every pitch thrown raises a pitcher’s ERA by 0.007 in the following game. Jackson’s ERA was 5.05 going into Friday’s game averaging 104 pitches per game; thus, based on the historical response of pitchers to pitch counts Jackson’s expected performance in his next start is about 5.37. So, Jackson can be expected to pitch worse, but not that much worse

This claim is backed up by, you know, math and stuff, but is really just a short sweet post worth checking out. However, you do wonder whether this regression (a "fractional polynomial regression"), like so many, fails at the extremes, of which 149 pitches is definitely one, so that even if it holds true in 99% of cases, it's not necessarily true in cases where there are so few modern data points available. I don't know, I'm not a doctor.

Regardless, congratulations to Edwin Jackson, who was an excellent first-half pitcher for the Tigers last year and by all accounts was an excellent teammate and first-rate Tiger. I hope his future holds continued success, perhaps in the form of a lower ERA, fewer walks and his arm not falling off. I'm not sure that any of those are likely after last night's no-hitter, but no one ever said that he's not capable of such excellence.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 3 Winner, and a Note

The winner of my relic card giveaway is none other than Wicked Orteaga, who's three mystery Tiger relics bested BA Benny, if only because of BA Benny's offer of a Cameron Maybin Relic that I already have.

As for more contests: I will wrap things up NEXT WEEK, but will not be doing anything this weekend. A taste of things to come: autographs, neat subsets, vintage cards and team lots of Topps.

Other things of interest:

An excellent preview on what to expect from Andy Oliver via Bless You Boys. He makes his major league debut in less than an hour.

The Kid's Alright: Rick Porcello threw 8 innings of one-hit ball in his first start for Toledo. (via Hardball Talk)

Have a good weekend everybody, GO USA!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Great Grand Cards Trade Away: Day 3

That's more like it! Day 2 was a success with the following people winning a package of non-Topps cards of the team of their choice:

Thorzul - Brewers
Cam - Phillies + Royals
Dayf - Braves
TheBrooklynMet - Mets
AnthonyK - Astros
Dan - Indians
AdamE - Red Sox
mmmrhubarb - Twins
Play at the Plate - Rangers
madding - Cardinals
Wicked Orteaga - Marlins
Mariner1 - Mariners
Ryan - Orioles
FanOfReds - Reds + Pirates
Drew - Yankees
CarlCrawfordCards - Rays

Congratulations to the winners. If you wanted a team that wasn't claimed, feel free to shoot me an email and I may be able to accommodate you.

On to Day 3, in an attempt to keep the momentum going:

Up for grabs All of my extraneous Relic cards.

Opening Bid One Detroit Tigers relic card (preferably non-Granderson)

I don't have a ton of these, I'm guessing more than 5 and less than 10, all of which are from products from 2005-2010. Still, it's free relic cards which isn't much to sneeze at. So get those offers in, this contest ends at 6 pm tomorrow. Ideally, I'd like to trade these for ONE relic card, may the best one win. However, I am partial to certain brands' relics (e.g. Allen & Ginter) even though I don't have any non-Granderson's to call my own.

Clock's Ticking

Just under four hours left to get in on Day 2 of the Great Grand Cards Trade Away. The prize is as many non-Topps cards of a team of your choice as I can fit in a package to send out. There are still plenty of teams with no offers made on them, so click on over and claim a team OR beat someone else's offer for a team that is already claimed.

Day 3 of the contest will be posted tonight at 6, along with the winners for Day 2.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Reminder, Day 2 of my massive card trade away is going on until 5:30pm tomorrow. Up for grabs are a ton of cards from your team of choice. There are already some hotly contested team offers, so get in on it!

In which your author had a mini-stroke

Boy, that was awesome. Clean sheets at the half in Group D keep the US's Saturday opponent a mystery for a little longer. (Update: It's Ghana))

The analysts know best I mean, they're analysts. We're talking about professionals, right? So why am I bothered by an ESPN article that heaps praise on Miguel Cabrera? This sort of national exposure is exactly what I complain the Tigers (and Cabrera) don't get enough of. So what gives?
I had a chance to play with Cabrera when we were both with the Florida Marlins in 2007, and what really blew me away about him was how smart he was at the plate. We would talk over the course of a game and you could just tell that he had a great understanding of how a pitcher was going to attack a certain hitter. He knew what they were going to throw, how to make contact, and where to hit it. He also gave me a lot of advice on my own approach at the plate, often predicting where a particular pitcher would throw to me.

I can't quote enough of this article to really do it justice, so perhaps I'll summarize.

Step 1: Say that Cabrera has conquered his Demons
Step 2: Talk about how intelligent of a hitter he is
Step 3: Also credit his supporting cast in the lineup
Step 4: Cabrera is really great!

Uh huh. So what makes this article different from the first three random pieces of Bleacher Report garbage that comes up in a google search for "Bleacher Report Miguel Cabrera?" I mean seriously, please tell me the difference between this:
I started calling him "Albert Einstein" because that genius light went on when he was in the batter's box. The first time I used his nickname he had no idea who Einstein was. But after friend and teammate Alfredo Amezaga explained the moniker, Cabrera thought it was pretty funny.
and this:
He’s 6'2", with arms the size of Paul Bunyan’s and thighs that look like folded over sandbags. He doesn’t have a chest, he has Rhode Island, and maybe a little of Vermont.

He doesn’t walk, he advances.

One is written by and "expert," ESPN analyst Aaron Boone. Now, I have no particular problem with Boone, per se, but when I read something coming from a former major leaguer, I'm hoping for something a little more substantive than information that everybody knows and a tiny clubhouse anecdote. I want some real Todd Jones or Doug Glanville shit, ok ESPN?

One Million Dollars The Strasburggery has gotten out of hand. $100,000 for his 1/1 Red Autograph card? That's insanity. And the guy who bought his superfractor is already selling it again and has made a profit, which I guess means that he's not quite the fool that I took him for. Oh, and Topps is now selling $350 per pop autographs on Strasburg's Topps #661, of which only 300 will be offered, and only 119 have even been unlocked at this point. And the Finest redemptions and Red Hot Rookie redemptions are just adding fuel to the fire, likely withholding Strasburg's card until the bitter end.

It's all quite crazy, and to be honest I'm not sure how I feel about all of it. I'm wondering though...would anyone like to go all profit-share on a case of Bowman Chrome?

A Wolf, a Fox and an Oriole... This will be a future "M in the MLB" post if I ever get around to it, but it's worth mentioning at least that former Michigan catcher Jake Fox, after being designated for assignment last week was acquired by the Orioles yesteraday, leading to a Baltimore Sun comment section explosion of frustration, including my favorite
Would rather they picked up Edwin Encarnacion but he's not white and incompetent so he wouldn't fit into the O's plans.


It also spawned an article exploring the connection between the O's and the Cubs, which is unsurprisingly robust given Andy MacPhail's history in the Cubs organization. This is not dissimilar to Dave Dombrowski's penchant for dealing with the Marlins and former Marlins (Robertson, Willis/Cabrera, Sheffield, Pudge, etc.) and I imagine that you could uncover a similar pattern of relationships with every team in baseball.

For what it's worth, Fox flied out to the wall in his O's debut last night, but will most likely provide more power to the Orioles than their entire first base platoon has all season.

Misc. A Cardboard Problem has a great interview with the new President of Upper Deck. Well done Sooz! Stale Gum is as disappointed as I am with Topps' Red Hot Rookie #2 selection. .225 1HR 2RBI is not "Red Hot." I kind of totally want these World Cup Cards. They are fantastic.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Great Grand Cards Trade Away: Day 2

I'm changing the name of this. "Trade Down" just didn't do it for me.

First, the winner of the Day 1 offering for all of my Donruss Diamond Kings cards was Cam of the Collectable [sic] Cards blog, who happened to be the only person interested. Huh. So the winners know, I'll send all the cards once the entire contest is over so that I can consolidate shipping in case you win multiple days.

So with Day 1 just a teeny step above "total failure" from a reader interest perspective, Day 2 offers a little more in the way of mass appeal.

Up For Grabs A Large Package of non-Topps cards of your favorite team.

Just to alleviate your fears that I'd load you down with a ton of 1987 Topps or something like that, I will fill as many cards of your team of choice as I can fit into a large package, and all of them will be of a non-Topps flagship brand. We're talking Upper Deck, SP, Leaf, Studio, Collector's Choice, Starting Lineup, Bowman, Topps Big, Oddball Cards, O-Pee-Chee, Score, Donruss, Fleer etc. I have a lot of these.

The best offer for EACH TEAM will be accepted, meaning that I am up for giving away up to 30 packages.

Opening Bid: One non-Topps Detroit Tigers card of any type.

Because of the magnitude of this particular giveaway, I will leave it up for 2 days. It will end Thursday at 5:30.

Update: You may "bid" multiple times on each giveaway, so that if you are outbid, you can increase your offer.

Update 2: You may bid on as many teams as you wish

Andy Oliver Gets The Call

2009 Upper Deck USA #USAB-AO Andrew Oliver

BIG news was brought to my attention by Bless You Boys: Andy Oliver has gotten the call to replace Rick Porcello in the Tigers' rotation. You might know Oliver as "The Tigers Best Pitching Prospect Not Named Jacob Turner"

Oliver is slated to start on Friday against the Braves. I would imagine that his stay in Detroit will be relatively short lived a la Justin Verlander circa 2005 or Andrew Miller circa 2006. Still, this is more than just a spot start, where we knew that these top pitchers were getting one start and then going back down. As far as I can tell the spot is ostensibly Oliver's until 1) Rick Porcello gets back on track or 2) Oliver sucks big time.

All of this is very exciting, as the lefty is a promising piece of the Tigers' pitching future. It will be interesting to see how he makes the leap.

Revisionist History

Don't forget, Day 1 of the Trade Away ends today at 5:30. Don't be scared away by other people's offers, you never know what might float my boat. Day 2's items will be a bit more...substantial. Check back in at 6.

With that out of the way, I want to talk about an article that popped up in the Baltimore Sun over the weekend. Perhaps you saw it. It interviews current Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel about his perception of this year's Orioles team, compared to the 2003 Tigers, for which he was also a coach. You had to figure as soon as Samuel was promoted that something like this was going to come up. It's not a surprise, nor is it in poor taste, nor is it particularly disingenuous. What jumps out at me though, are the comments flowing from Samuel himself:
"The [2003] season was not as tough as the record showed," said Samuel who worked under Detroit manager Alan Trammell. "Going into the season, there was a meeting that the staff had and they said, 'Hey guys, we have to teach. We don't expect to win. We have to teach.' We stayed positive every day and brought in guys early and saw that the guys wanted to improve. It was more about teaching. Everything — offense, defense, pitching — we had to constantly tell these guys about."

Uh, what? Are you telling me that the eye-gougingly painful baseball season that was 2003 in Detroit was "not as tough as the record showed?" If anything, it was even worse, salvaged only by winning 5 of 6 at the end of the season to stave off infamy. And don't go around telling me that there were no expectations for that team either. Granted, expectations for the Orioles this season were extremely high by comparison, but there was a lot of enthusiasm in Detroit in 2003, as Alan Trammell, Kirk Gibson and Lance Parrish all made their return to the Tigers' coaching staff. "The Oriole Way," it wasn't, but there was the thought that their collective experience could help push the Tigers back towards the realm of respectability.

The Sun article goes on to note that "three years later, the Tigers went to the World Series," and claims that the the Tigers brass credits the 2003 team for laying the groundwork. Samuel gets in it too:

"There was nothing more gratifying than to see the success even though you were not there," he said. "You know you had something to do with it. We knew that we didn't have enough to compete and we were trying to find out who were the guys that we were going to stay with when we were a championship-caliber team. What we were doing that year is we were trying to weed things out, like 'OK, we can win with this guy, we cannot win with these guys.' It was like an in-season tryout that we were doing and it paid off."

I'll let you look up exactly who was on that 2003 team, but let me just consolidate some information for you. Of the 43 players that suited up for the Tigers in 2003, Six were on the World Series team:
  • Jeremy Bonderman
  • Brandon Inge
  • Ramon Santiago (who was traded and reacquired in 2006)
  • Fernando Rodney
  • Nate Robertson
  • Jamie Walker
Mike Maroth and Dmitri Young were injured and kicked off the team mid-season, respectively, in 2006.

What I'm saying is this. The 2006 team was not successful because of the trials and tribulations of 2003. 2003 was an abject failure that did nothing but make the Tigers realize that they had no young talent in their system whatsoever and had to go out and acquire the likes of: Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen, Kenny Rogers and draft Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya and develop Curtis Granderson. 2003 wasn't growing pains. It was a death march and wake-up call for the franchise.

So don't you go revising history on this Tigers fan, Juan Samuel. Don't tell me it wasn't as bad as it looked. It was. It was that bad.

As for the Orioles vs. Tigers comparisons: This Orioles season is so much worse. The optimism in Baltimore prior to the season was palpable. Adam Jones was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner (somehow). Nick Markakis had another 100 RBI season. Matt Weiters was full time. There was a bevy of pitching prospects and young hitters that had late season success with the big league squad. People were excited. That this team has fallen so flat is inexplicable. The players with track records have failed. The highly regarded prospects have failed. Management has failed. There is a full-blown baseball crisis in Baltimore, and unlike Detroit where 80-90% of the team was not even major league caliber, these Orioles, individually at least, are actually good. That's why it is so baffling.

If things continue to not get better (or, god forbid, get worse), you'll see more and more comparisons to that 2003 Tigers team. As that happens, don't get sucked in by the revisionist history that says "3 years later they made the world series!" Comparing those two teams is like comparing Apples and Poverty.

For the record, the Orioles have too much major-league proven talent and highly regarded youth to continue losing at this clip. As horrible as their pitching is, there is no way it is worse than a team who's Number 1 was Nate Cornejo who led the team's starting pitchers with an ERA of 4.67. Or that they're team batting average is going to be .240.

Don't worry O's fans, things will turn around. You actually do have the building blocks in place to be competitive in the future. It's just too bad that everybody was convinced (myself included) that this year was supposed to be the Great Leap Forward. That's one of those claims you make after the season is over. You know, revisionist history and all.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Great Grand Cards Trade Down: Day 1

It's here.

The contest in which I take as many cards as I can and give them away. Does it tug at my heart strings? Sure, maybe a little bit. Many of these cards are the ones that I collected as a kid. At the same time, I'm treating this as a focusing of my collection. An evolution. So here's the deal:

Each day, at 6pm (Eastern), I will post a new lot of cards up for trade. You have until 5:30 the next day to make an offer for them. The offer can be whatever you like with just a few rules:
  • You must offer me a baseball card or money (e.g. "I will pay for shipping on these cards)
  • All baseball cards must be of Detroit Tigers, or otherwise fit into my collecting wants
  • The number of cards you offer must be fewer than the cards I am offering by a factor of 3. If I am giving up 9 cards, you can only offer me 3. Except...
  • 1 to 1 and 2 to 1 trades are also OK
  • You may make multiple offers per day, with each new offer nullifying your previous one
  • You don't necessarily need to offer me a specific card--you could just say "A mid-90's Score insert" and then find one later and send it if you win.
  • Contest closes at 5:30pm (Eastern) each day. I will post the winner at 6.
I will "warn" you: none of these cards are great. Some are literally worthless, others barely less so. With that in mind, there is no offer that you can make that is too small. I will start each day with an "opening bid"--a suggested minimum offer on the card--and we'll just let it build from there.  

and with that...

The Great Grand Cards Trade Down: Day 1

Up for Grabs: In honor of Heartbreaking Cards, all of the Donruss Diamond Kings I own (minus Tigers)

Starting Bid ONE Detroit Tigers Diamond Kings card.

Now, this is one of those ones where I don't know exactly what I have and I'll have to dig through the boxes to ship out. I will say this: the heyday of my collecting was from 1990-1993, and the big boxes of cards from Christmas definitely had a bunch of Diamond Kings from the mid-80s and on that I snagged before sending the rest out to pasture. I'd say that we're looking at more than 20, less than 50.

Put your bids in the comments, the contest ends tomorrow at 5:30 pm.

How To Handle A Hot Summer Day

With something really cool.
2010 Topps LLR-KC Al Kaline/Miguel Cabrera Dual Relic (#36/50)

Seeing as how the first one of these on eBay sold for $75+ I'm pretty happy to add this one to my collection for a fraction of that. Add in the Greenberg/Braun and this has been a fantastic subset for Tigers fans this year.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Grand Scheme Has A Quick Announcement To Make

I'm giving a way a metric ton of cards Yeah, that's right. You see, I live in a rowhouse in Baltimore City. For those of you not familiar, rowhouses are long, narrow and have no closets. Maximization of space is the name of the game. One thing that that is rather wasteful is a box (ahem...boxes) of cards that I don't particularly care about.

So I'm giving them away.

Kind of. Over the course of the next week or so, I will be hosting the "Grand Card Trade Down." Every day at 6pm, I will post a particular lot of cards that I will be giving away. The idea is simple: Make me an offer for them. Any offer will do and the best offer will win. I'll spell out the rules when I launch the first contest tomorrow, but I'm keeping things as simple as possible. All contests will run until 5:30pm the next day.

So, keep an eye out for this. I am literally trying to get rid of boxes of cards, some new, some old, some autographs, some relics, some oddballs etc. I need to get rid of 1000 cards AT LEAST. And all you need to do is offer me up an old Tom Brookens or something.

Day 1 of the contest will start tomorrow at 6pm!

In other news...

Demoted Rick Porcello was sent down to AAA after another rocky start yesterday. This is the right move. He's been having a rough time of it all year, with a sinker that isn't sinking and a slider that isn't sliding. He's only 21 years old and after seeing what a trip to Toledo did to Max Scherzer, it was a no-brainer. He'll be back at some point, probably after the All-Star Break. In the meantime, his fill-in is still a question mark.

Still Boesching the Ball Basho (Brennan Boesch for the uninitiated) is still punishing the baseball. He's actually played himself into being a legitimate All-Star threat, which is something that exactly zero people would have predicted at the start of the season, or even a month ago.

But I think the question of everybody's minds is, "Where does the Banana Tree stand relative to other rookies?" Well, Bless You Boys is glad you asked. They've got a complete rundown of stats that compare Jason Heyward to Basho. Guess who has a higher Batting Average, OBP, Slugging Percentage, OPS, and more Extra Base Hits in in 65 fewer at bats? Come on, guess.

Granderson makes his Pitching Debut This weekend was weird. On Friday former Tiger Dontrelle Willis pitched against the Tigers (and lost, unsurprisingly) against Armando Galarraga (his replacement). On Saturday, former Tiger Edwin Jackson took the mound. On Sunday, it was former D-back Max Scherzer...facing Ian Kenneday.

3 starters were on different teams explicitly because of the Granderson trade and one former Tiger (Willis) faced his replacement. The only pitcher to not have switched places on a roster in one way or another was Rick Porcello...who was demoted to Toledo after the game. What an odd weekend.

On Dizziness Miguel Cabrera left Friday's game with Dizziness. People were worried but Jim Leyland assuaged our fears.
"Miguel got hit where it's not very comfortable and was dizzy,"
Oh my god I've been there and it is a horrible horrible feeling. I'm not surprised that he wasn't taken out immediately, it's one of those things that just builds and builds until you just want to die. I shiver just thinking about it.

Misc. I'm giving away cards in bunches large and small every day starting tomorrow. That's all you need to know.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Grand Galleries: 2010 Topps Series 1 & 2

Topps made it easy on me, with only two Curtis Granderson cards in Series 2, after a bevy in Series 1. I decided that I would just consolidate the two releases into one post, for ease of consumption.

Topps is a tricky set, because there are a ton of parallels to the base set. To add insult to injury, Curtis had one of those super-short printed cards too. Then there are the team sets. And the inserts. And the "hits." Add it all up, and it reminds me what is simultaneously exhilarating and extremely frustrating about being a player collector. I'm going to attempt to show these off in the most logical way possible, mimicking what I would have done if these were all in my own collection.

The Base Card & Parallels #222 in the set is Curtis' last base card as a Detroit Tiger. It has parallel versions in Gold (#/2010), Black (#/59), Platinum (1/1), Throwback (from Target) and All-Black (from Walmart), plus printing plates. An alternative version, #222b shows him as a Yankee. A team set exclusive, #NYY16 is also a Yankee card.

#222 Curtis Granderson

#222 Curtis Granderson Throwback

#222 Curtis Granderson All-Black

#222 Curtis Granderson Gold (#/2010)

#222 Curtis Granderson Black (#/59)

#222b Curtis Granderson Platinum (1/1)

#222b Curtis Granderson SP

#NYY16 Curtis Granderson

The Team Card Curtis Granderson is also front and Center on the Detroit Tigers team card. Normally, I wouldn't give much credence to cards like this, but this one is so much a pseudo-Granderson that I thought it was worth counting.

#201 Curtis Granderson

#201 Curtis Granderson Throwback

#201 Curtis Granderson All-Black

#201 Curtis Granderson Gold (#/2010)

#201 Curtis Granderson Black (#/59)

#201 Curtis Granderson Platinum (1/1)

Inserts Pretty straightforward here: Two series 1 inserts (as a Tiger), including a really nice Legendary Lineage with Ty Cobb that cites both players' penchant for extra base hits as Tigers, with a Series 2 "Peak Performance" insert as a Yankee which simply says "Granderson Leaves Detroit with Team Leadoff-HR Mark." Which he did.

Also, Silk cards are technically inserts, so I've added his Series 1 silk here too.

#TR47 Curtis Granderson

#LL-5 Cobb/Granderson

#PP-77 Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson Silk (#/50)

Autographs & Relics The preliminary checklist indicated that there was a "Peak Performance Autograph" card of Curtis, but I'm convinced that it does not exist. Topps probably wanted to save their stickers for the more lucrative Yankee autos. There is an Auto/Relic card (#/50) that is very nice, though.

On top of that, Curtis has the traditional "In The Name" relics that come with an All Star appearance, which means that somewhere, each letter from the nameplate on the back of his jersey is out there for collectors. I've found a handful (and yes, I'm using the same "N" twice. Sue me.)

#PPAR-CG Curtis Granderson (#/50)

#ITN-64 Curtis Granderson "G" (1/1)

#ITN-64 Curtis Granderson "R" (1/1)

#ITN-64 Curtis Granderson "A" (1/1)

#ITN-64 Curtis Granderson "N" (1/1)

#ITN-64 Curtis Granderson "D" (1/1)

#ITN-64 Curtis Granderson "E" (1/1)

#ITN-64 Curtis Granderson "R" (1/1)

#ITN-64 Curtis Granderson "S" (1/1)

#ITN-64 Curtis Granderson "O" (1/1)

#ITN-64 Curtis Granderson "N" (1/1)

Manufactured Patches The one of these comes from Series 2. It is a Yankees card, commemorating the 4th of July.
2010 Topps #MCR-212 Curtis Granderson Cap Logo (#/99)

In all, Topps has a wealth of cards available for the Granderson collector that does a good job of spanning the tumultuous time that was the transition from Tiger to Yankee. A fitting tribute to Granderson's impact with the Tigers, as well as a taste of things to come. Can't complain about that.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Fool Revealed

I guess when you pay over $16,000 for a baseball card, you buy the 15 minutes of fame that comes with it. A Michigander was the winner of the Stephen Strasburg sweepstakes, according to this ESPN Page 2 article (written by Beckett's Chris Olds). The beautiful thing? He would have paid more
"I was expecting the last-minute bidding to go crazy, but luckily for me it didn't," he said. "I thought the winning bid would be around $22,000. My max would have been $20,000.
Amazingly, somehow this guy sets a record for modern-day card spending and he still walks away with a $4,000 consumer surplus. We should all be so lucky.

As for his motivations:
"I focused on this card because I believe Stephen Strasburg is truly the LeBron James of baseball"


"I think there has been a lot of negativity recently in sports, so someone like Strasburg coming along is just what sports needs"

I recommend reading the whole article and forming your own opinions. As for me, I like the guy's conviction and commitment to all that is right and good in the world.
But that doesn't mean he's not an idiot for spending $16,000 on a card.

My sense is that baseball is incapable of having a Lebron-esque star, simply because one player cannot have that level of impact in a game (or for a team). Especially if that player only plays in 1/5 of the team's games. Also, is there that much of a sportsmanship and ethics issue in baseball that Strasburg is the answer? Are baseball players so unlikeable that we are all secretly clamoring for a flamethrowing messiah to rescue us from our ethical wasteland? Last time I checked, there are a bunch of wholesome, or at least unassuming, stars out there in the likes of Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, Evan Longoria etc. I guess you can add Strasburg to the list if you'd like.

I don't mean to just out and out hate on this guy, so I'll stop there. He doesn't seem like a jerk or some profit whore or what have you. If this card makes him happy, then he's a winner in my book. Well, that and the fact that his wife didn't leave him for this.

The Grand Scheme Loses Faith in the Invisible Hand

Hold On To Your Loonies First, let me proclaim this: ATTENTION ALL TEAM COLLECTORS, the veritable Tunguska is hosting a 2010 Allen & Ginter CASE BREAK on his blog and as of right now, most teams are still available. I jumped on board as soon as I found out last night, and if you've got the cash to spare, I highly recommend that you do so as well. It's a case, for goodness sake. Think of the minis!

Also, Tunguska is a Canadian, and is charging just $45 Canadian per slot, which means that you can take advantage of our northern brother's favorable exchang...wait, WHAT?!?!

The Canadian dollar is currently worth more than it's American counterpart. $.97 to the Looney. It was as low as $.92 in May. In fact, monthly averages haven't shown a favorable exchange rate since February 2008 (when $1.00146 would buy us a Canadian buck). I knew things were bad in the US, but geez. This really puts things in perspective.

Even so, I recommend that you sign up for the group break if you're still looking for a way to get your A&G fix.

I think in Philly, you're considered a bad parent if you don't let your kids drink beer

Sweet mother of God, Philadelphia. You embarrass us all.

Big Potato Day Yesterday was the anniversary of Dan Quayle infamously telling a spelling bee contender that his Potato was "missing a little something on the end" (it was the E). To celebrate this, I was going to show a fancy new baseball card of the Tigers' own Big Potato, Jose Valverde. So, I went to my Series 2 pile to pull him out only to Potato. Here's a pitcher who currently has an ERA under 0.70 for the Tigers and is as dominant a closer as exists in the AL and I don't have a Series 2 card of him? Considering that he was in Series 1 (as an Astro), I guess I can't complain too much, but if you're going to give me Phil Coke, why not go the extra mile with the Tigers' big free agent signing?

Still not an All-Star The latest All Star ballot results came out Monday and Miguel Cabrera is still in 3rd place among AL first basemen. This is the player that is leading the league in Home Runs. And RBIs. and has a .330 batting average. And a 1.062 OPS!

The silver light is that Justin Morneau (who, I begrudgingly admit, is also extremely deserving of All Star status) has overtaken Mark Teixeira. The worry was that the undeserving Teixeira would win the fans' vote, with Morneau selected by the players and Cabrera out in the cold...again. This is essentially what happened last year, but would be far more criminal in this season, aka "the best individual season by a Tigers player in history."

But don't take my word for it:
"You have to be careful when you talk about personal things, but like I said, if Miguel Cabrera's not on the All-Star team, then you might as well not have an All-Star team."

That's Jim Leyland, who is actually notoriously stingy with praise for his own players. But he also doesn't pull punches and he's saying what we're all thinking. If Miguel Cabrera isn't an All Star, they might as well not even play the game.

Johnny Damon goes a step further:
"He's in a class by himself. I haven't got to see (Albert) Pujols play too often, but what he's doing, especially in this ballpark ... this ballpark could be the only thing that keeps him from winning the Triple Crown. He's that good. The thing is, he still has a chance to be that Triple Crown candidate."
This is his direct response to a question about how Cabrera compares to ARod and David Ortiz. Yeah, I'd say that's pretty good praise.

Also, Cabrera is 26. You may now pick your jaws up off the floor.

It's worth noting that this isn't the first time that Damon has praised Cabrera. A Bless You Boys post from back in February includes this snippet (from Jason Beck initially):
[Cabrera] is going to win an MVP before he's done. Magglio is on his contract year."
Cabrera's eyes widened as he looked over attentively. Damon smiled back.
"That's right, MVP, baby," Damon said. "And then you take me to dinner."
And he's right. Cabrera is having an MVP-caliber season, and Magglio Ordonez has performed like Magglio Ordonez always has save for the first half of last year. There's something to say for track records, I suppose. Although he's not actually in a contract year as much as he's in an "I better play well enough for the Tigers not to bench me so that I am automatically re-upped to another elephant-caravan load of money" year. Still, no complaints from this end.

Cooling down Austin Jackson was benched last night with some back troubles, which comes in the midst of a dramatic cool-down, in which he is batting a weak .220/.235/.280 in June and is 4-41 since his 4-hit came on June 3. This is probably just a regular slump, albeit one that drags him down to the general levels he should have been in all along (.300 hitter, good XBH power), and isn't too much to be worried about. He's no Bashó after all...
I will say this about Jackson, which I may have said at other points so far this season. I am really impressed with what he has done, especially defensively. I think that he is going to be an excellent player for the Tigers for years to come and may become the career Tiger fan-favorite fans lost when Granderson was traded.

Speaking of Bashó The Free Press today makes the case for Brennan Boesch over Austin Jackson has rookie of the year:
The Tigers first baseman is having a season to end all seasons. He finally will make the All-Star Game as a Tiger. He will be invited to take part in the Home Run Derby. And he’ll take his rightful place in the conversation that starts with, “Who is the best player in the game not named Albert Pujols?”

What's that you say? That quote was all about Miguel Cabrera? Hmm...maybe because that's the basis of Samuelson's argument for The Banana Tree to win the ROY. Protection. He even calls himself out on it:
Sometimes, a little too much credit is given to “protection” in the lineup. Ultimately, it’s still Cabrera doing the damage. He’s the stud. Boesch is the supporting player. But the bottom of the Tigers' lineup is so offensively challenged that the rookie has been the key to keep it going.
Indeed, sometimes too much credit is given to protection, sometimes not enough. The fact is, Boesch has excelled in his role and has both provided protection for Cabrera and inflicted a bunch of damage on his own. At the same time, just as Jackson has hit a cool streak, it is only a matter of time before Boesch--a .250 hitter in the minors--comes down somewhat as well. Bashó has surprised and impressed all of us, and if, come the end of the season, he has outperformed Jackson, and the rest of the AL rookie class, then he deserves the award for sure. I'm just not sure that a month and a half of production is enough to make the distinction yet, although it's certainly enough to put him at the forefront of the conversation.

Rookie Redemptions Which brings me back to something that I brought up yesterday: Are we going to get a Jackson or Boesch rookie redemption card of some sort? I certainly hope so and here's why:

This is the Tigers' lone rookie redemption card from the last few years--a Rick Porcello refractor (#/199) from 2009 Finest. It is a fabulous card which is an excellent addition to the team set. I would absolutely love to see Jackson or Boesch have a similar offering in 2010 Finest. It is worth noting, by the way, that though Porcello was the top of the class in 2009, he was the 9th (of 10) redemption, announced towards the end of the year. I guess there's no arguing with the hype machine, especially in this day and age.

As I write this, the Indians' Carlos Santana was announced as Topps Red Hot Rookie #1, meaning that everyone with redemptions 2 and above just saw the value of their cards increase incrementally.

Misc. I don't have much to say about other things at the moment, so I'll relegate them to here. Ooh! Except this: The custom-designed Infinite Baseball Card set, which I regrettably missed out on before it was pulled for legal reasons, has an update set available with new players! This should avoid the legal messiness that he faced before. These cards are really nice looking and I think I'm going to pick them up, although the OCD in me now wants to seek out the other 10 cards that he discontinued. Topps Attax has a follow-up set called "Battle of the Ages" in which Verlander and Cobb both have cards. They will be added to the Topps Attax gallery. Speaking of Galleries: I'm waiting on a few more cards to trickle in, but a Topps S2 gallery is in the offing. Following up on my Michigan draft posts, the Michigan Daily has a good rundown of the five 2010 draftees. Also, an excellent story on the best home-field advantage in sports. More Michigan stuff? How about the fact that realignment is what made Michigan a Big-10 power in the first place. Fingers crossed that the new realignment does the same thing. Tigers go for the sweep tonight with Verlander on the mound in a series in which they didn't have to face Stephen Strasburg, which is probably a bad thing given the ticket sales it could have brought.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Topps Finest Redemption #5 is...Not Strasburg

Sorry folks, not get Marlins top prospect Mike Stanton instead. I've got $20 that says that Strasburg is either redemption #9 or #10 so that the value of these redemption cards and unsold boxes keeps getting higher and higher as more cards are eliminated and the Strasburg remains a mystery. Think about it, if they announce him as #6, then the aftermarket value of 7-10 plummets. When it's still a mystery, they stay high up until the moment his card is announced. They maximize the value of that mystery at card #9 or #10 (it doesn't matter which).

Not that I particularly care, I just hadn't seen anybody post about this yet. Personally, I'm still holding out for an Austin Jackson or Brennan Boesch to make the cut, but it's looking less and less likely that it will happen, what with Strasburg, Carlos Santana, Pedro Alvarez (coming soon...) and other call-ups to be still in the mix for the 10 card set.

Actually, I'm much more interested in the regular Topps "Red Hot Rookies" campaign, which has already eliminated Jackson as a candidate because of his inclusion in the regular Topps Series 2 set. In the two years that they've run this redemption program there have been a grand total of ZERO Tigers, despite a Top-5 ROY finisher in 2008 (Armando Galarraga) and 2009 (Rick Porcello) and a flamethrowing righthander that Topps seems to be enamored with (Ryan Perry). Is this the year that the Tigers can break through into the set?

If it didn't happen for the players I've already mentioned, what is it going to take?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Beauty (?) of the Sticker Autograph

Topps Series 2, like all the Topps series since 2006, I think, maybe 2005, has sticker autographs. I erroneously stated that I thought the tide had turned, however, with a Ryan Perry autograph that appeared, somewhat awkwardly, to be on-card:

I had mixed, but skewed positive feelings on this. On the one hand: ON CARD AUTOGRAPHS WOOOO!, on the other, this is the aesthetic equivalent of a sticker, almost looking worse, as though they ran out of stickers and just went "oh, just sign in this huge white box instead." Still, I was excited for the future, with the appearance that on-card autographs were in the offing. Nope:

Indeed, this is a clear sticker, which means that Topps has officially caught up with early 00's technology. Still, the clear sticker is an improvement, in that it gives you the ability to design a card in which the autograph enhances the design, or at least unobtrusively comes into play, instead of yelling "BAM! I'M AN AUTOGRAPH" the way the old cards did. As Upper Deck proved time and time again, stickers can be done nicely:

The plus side, of course, is that stickers do give the flexibility to more easily produce cards of stars without having to worry about signing schedules and production dates and the like. The downside is that they are still stickers and help contribute to the overpopulation of autograph cards as a whole, foster laziness of design and pigeonhole a company to use the same players over and over again to get their money's worth.

But there is one other upside to stickers that made itself apparent in Topps Series 2:

Some might say that this is everything that is wrong with stickers, I mean, the signature is completely crooked for goodness sake. Well give George Kell a break. He is dead after all.

Seriously though, I like that we are graced with a George Kell autograph--an unexpected surprise from beyond the grave. There is a certain beauty in this. The clear stickers are also an unambiguously good move and can only lead to better things. However, Topps needs to make sure that they don't treat these new stickers as "The Answer." They are not. They are an improvement--a low-end card solution--but should be used only when necessary. I think that everybody agrees that collectors would be happy with fewer autograph cards if the ones that were out there were nicely designed and signed on-card. Topps Chrome (2009), 206, A&G, Chicle, Bowman and Heritage have already gotten the memo. Let's just hope that they stay the course.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Open and Shut Case

How often do you have a chance to take a card and make it better?

Much better.

This card came from a Nachos Grande group break a long long time ago. I debated on whether to open it up (it had a 10 year old sticker keeping it closed) and am certainly glad I did. Happy Friday everybody--World Cup game tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Putting the "M" in MLB: The Soldiers and the Showmen

Putting and Putting are different words spelled the same. This has my time-zone confused mind well...confused. I tried puting, but it looked really weird and seemed like it should be pronounced "pew-ting," which it probably would be because puting is not a word. So I went back to putting, but now can't read it as anything else but putting, aka the act of striking a golf ball on the green with a putter in an attempt to knock it into a hole. That's not what these posts are about though.

Earlier today I intended to run down the Michigan alumni in Major League systems. Unfortunately, time flew on me and I had to do my job and arbitrarily cut my post off with the class of 2007. Now I'm finishing up with Part 2, and notice something that makes my 2007 cut-off less arbitrary. Michigan's lone 2006 pick is out of baseball, and by jumping to 2005 we're able to actually get an alumni in the Major Leagues. That's five years ago now, which pretty much means one of three things. If you were drafted five or more years ago, you are either 1. Out of baseball, 2. In the Majors or 3. An organizational soldier who might get a cup of coffee if you're really, really lucky. These are those players.

Chris Getz, 2B (2005, 4th, White Sox) I wrote about Getz when he was traded to the Royals this offseason. Since then he went from a solid rookie with impressive speed to a struggling sophomore with impressive speed that is underutilized. He has battled an injury this year, but is hitting only .213 on the season. In KC he'll have room for his struggles to work themselves out, and still appears to have a future as a major league player, but doesn't seems like a utility infielder role may not be unlikely in the years to come. Speed is enough to ensure him that, at least.

Clayton Richard, P (2005, 8th, White Sox) Former Michigan Quarterback and Econ 101 classmate Clayton Richard was traded last season, from the U-M jettisoning White Sox to the Padres, where he has developed as a promising MLB starter. He hasn't disappointed so far this year. In his 11 starts this year, Richard sports a 2.87 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with a nice 6.7 K/9 and an ok but not-so-nice 1.89 K/BB. Nevertheless, Richard has emerged as a real-deal MLB pitcher.

After this point, there are a lot of draftee who just wash out and go on with their lives. Some who are still around are in the majors:

Jake Fox, A's Fox was traded from the Cubs to the A's in the offseason after emerging as a utility player with bench power (11 HR, 44 RBI). After blasting a HR on Monday night, he maintains that role on the A's, where he has the added ability of serving as a DH for the team. He's at .220/.273/.341 and needs all of those numbers to rise if he's going to be able to stick in his 3rd big league season.

JJ Putz, White Sox We all know Putz. He was an elite closer for a number of years, before heading to the Mets, losing his mojo and rediscovering his stuff as a set-up man for the White Sox this season. He's got a 2.75 ERA and 0.966 WHIP this season, with a K/9 at the highest level of his career (12.4!) and a killer K/BB of 6.75. By the numbers, he is pitching more like his former All-Star self, and less like a washed out bullpen filler. Putz is still solid.

Some are falling stars

Rich Hill Hill is a sad story. He was the promising young starter that appeared poised to lock down the back-end of the Cubs rotation with a breakout 2007 season. Before you knew it, he got hurt, fell apart, got traded to the O's, completely fell apart, got released and signed with the Cardinals this season, where he has been playing in Memphis (AAA) and performing adequately but unimpressively. He has recently switched to the bullpen and had his contract opt-out date pushed back from the end of May to the end of June as he attempts a comeback.

And some are just soldiering on...

Jeff Kunkel Kunkel has been organizational depth at C for the Tigers since he was drafted in 2006 and has been the recent beneficiary of roster musical chairs in the organization. He was just promoted to Toledo (AAA) where he is making the most of his shot. In 2 games he is 5/9 with a double. Not bad for a career .227 hitter with a .585 OPS. Kunkel hasn't put in quite enough service time for you to really want to pull for him to make it to the show, but if he can stick with it for a couple more years (or until a Gerald Laird DFA?) he might yet get that cup of coffee.

Bobby Korecky After spending two years in the majors with the Twins (2008) and D-backs (2009), Korecky was stricken with elbow problems that knocked him out of the ranks of affiliated ball. Never fear, the Winnipeg Goldeyes are here!
It’s bad enough when a promising pitcher is told he needs any surgery before he is able to break into the big time.

It’s even worse when you’re told you need Tommy John surgery for a second time.

The Winnipeg Goldeyes’ newest relief pitcher, Bobby Korecky, is trying to come back for a second time after having a ligament replaced in his elbow once again 10 months ago.

Korecky thought long and hard about his future when he was informed he needed surgery for a second time.

He's officially on the comeback trail in the independent leagues. We wish him the best.

Bobby Scales Bobby is back at AAA this season, but he got his call up last year and made quite the impression on everybody. Just a feel-good story all around, he returns to toil in his 11th minor league season.

Mike Cervenak Another Scales-esque story, Cervenak got his shot with the Phillies in 2008, where he played in 10 games, had 2 hits and an RBI. If nothing else, he can retire having made it. However, he's not ready to give up quite yet. He was released by the Phillies in 2009, signed a deal with the Mets and tore it up in the Mexican league, batting .330 (3rd) with 48 RBI (3rd) and is now with Buffalo (AAA) waiting for one more shot.

And I believe that does the trick. Michigan has a small presence now, with nary a Barry Larkin or George Sisler in the bunch, but a bevy of minor leaguers who might yet get their shot to make an impact at the highest level. To them I say, good luck and Go Blue!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Putting the "M" in MLB: Classes of 2007-2009

I'm on the west coast today which means that I woke up at the crack of dawn and had some time to spare, but apparently not enough, as I can only get back to 2007 before my day had to start. Treat this as a "Part 1," then.

A long time ago, I started a feature on this blog that was going to trace the University of Michigan's baseball alumni as they made their way through the ranks of the minors and emerged in the Major Leagues. It was going to be a regular thing. It lasted one post. Oops.

Well, with the first day of the MLB draft over (and all of the Michigan players still on the board), I feel as though I've been given one more shot. To re-start this feature, I'm going to do a quick rundown of Michigan's major league players and hopefuls. This time though, I'll keep up it. I promise.

Chris Fetter, P
image from formerlyanonymous' stellar 2009 baseball season recap

Michigan's 2009 bright spot and lone 2009 draftee was pulled into the Padres system and had a very nice 2009, posting a 1.66 ERA between his stops with the Eugene Emeralds (A-) and the Fort Wayne Tin Caps (A). He posted a stellar .985 WHIP and 75 Strikeouts over 65 innings with only 14 walks. That was good enough to earn a promotion...

...which hasn't worked out so well so far. In only 4 games this season his K/BB ratio has plummeted from 5.36 to 1.56 for the Lake Elsinore Storm (A+) That probably explains the ERA of 6.00 and the WHIP of 1.714. Since this is still A-ball Fetter will have a chance to work things out over the season, but he's going to need to make a big impression in a hitter-happy league to continue his progression through the ranks.

As for the fantastic 2008 draft class:

Jason Christian, SS A fellow Cal leaguer, the 2008 draftee (5th round) is playing this season for the Stockton Ports (A+) in the Oakland A's system. The shortstop that never really had a prolific bat to begin with benefited from a stellar 2008 Michigan team that likely raised the profile of the whole group. He had a .261/.341/.385 slash line for the Kane County Cougars (A) last season, but has struggled so far at the next level, .162/.295/.162 so far in 2010. To his credit, Christian has a good eye and pretty good speed, which may keep him progressing through the minors if he can just sneak that batting average up a bit.

Zach Putnam, P
image via Boston Wolverine's flickr stream
Zach is the man. He was the rock of the 2007 and 2008 Michigan teams and is the player who's career I'm most interested in, by far. Heck, I've posted about him one way or another thrice and officially collect his cards, despite not actually owning any of his cards. Zach was a player that was projected (1st-2nd rd.)to be drafted much higher than he actually was (5th round), but was the first of the Michigan class to make the leap to AA after only 8 games at the lower levels. Still with the Akron Aeros (AA), he has been converted back into a starter (he started in College, was converted to reliever when he made the leap to AA and is now back in a starting role), and has a 4.02 ERA in 11 games so far this season.

It's hard to see exactly how Zach projects out right now. The hard-throwing righty with a very heavy sinker has seen his K/9 fall from roughly 9 to around 6 from this year to last, but that is something that is likely explained by a switch out of the bullpen. His K/BB ratio has been consistent and good at 3.86, although you'd like to see him get his WHIP (1.339) down a touch further if he's going to be able to take advantage of an Indians franchise that is in need of pitching, and badly.

Adam Abraham, 1B/3B The 13th Rounder (2008, Indians) was a heck of a hitter, but it hasn't translated so far. Currently battling for the Lake County Captains (A) he was .257/.334/.389 last season and .171/.224/.291 so far this year. An uncertain place in the field 1B/3B/DH makes me wonder whether his progress has stalled.

Nate Recknagel, 1B Boy the Indians love themselves some Wolverines. The 2008 Big Ten Player of the year was drafted in the 19th and is in his first full season with the Kinston Indians (A+) of the Carolina League after a late-season promotion last year. He's not mashing the ball the way you might hope (.746 OPS), but he's hanging in there.

Michael Powers, P Powers was picked in the 31st round of the 2008 draft by the Mets and is currently pitching pretty well for the Savannah Sand Gnats. Small sample sizes being what they are, his 2.59 ERA, 1.068 WHIP, 3.38 K/BB and 10.0(!) K/9 looks real nice on the season so far. And it may be the case that he can keep it up. Since 2008 his composite numbers show a 3.21 ERA, 1.173 WHIP, 3.17 K/BB and an 8.4 K/9 indicating that, if nothing else, Powers may have the stuff to make the leap to the next level of the minors.

That's it for the big 2008 draft class. Putnam is your closest to the show, but nobody is really on the fast track at this point. As for 2007...

Andrew Hess, P (2007, 19th, Detroit Tigers) Sitting down in Lakeland (A+) is not a place you want to be in your 3rd professional season and usually means the end of the road. Sure enough, Hess hasn't pitched in 2010 and apparently wrapped up his career with an 8-inning gem which isn't too bad of a way to go.

Doug Pickens, C/1B (2007, 50th, Cleveland Indians) Another Indian (A+, Kinston), Pickens looks to be little more than organizational depth at this point. Not a whole lot of progression and consistent struggles at the plate (.245/.325/.341 over his career) makes him an organizational soldier for one more season at least.

Tonight (or tomorrow morning), I'll wrap up the rest of Michigan's active draftees--including, yes, some that are actually in the Major Leagues--and hopefully be able to include some newbees from today's draft round, as well as highlight some of those "feel good" stories you might remember from the past.