Sunday, June 29, 2008

Featured players: Jered Weaver and Jose Arredondo

A game like the Los Angeles Angels' 1-0 loss against Los Angeles Dodgers is a colossal fail - when you allow your opponent no hits, shouldn't the lineup just help out a little?

Weaver and Arredondo combined to throw an unofficial no-hitter - but the only run scored in the game was on a sacrifice fly by the Dodgers' Blake DeWitt, scoring Matt Kemp from third base.

Kemp had gotten on-base on an apparent hit - that was later changed to an error on Weaver, who pitched six innings of no-hit ball. Arredondo then took over on the mound, who struck out three in two innings of no-hit relief.

Arredondo is working on his apprenticeship - likely giving an Angels a legitimate option to set-up in 2009, in case Francisco Rodriguez leaves and Scot Shields slides into the closer's role. With Arredondo's stuff, he is probably going to close, sooner than later.

It is only one game - but on Friday, the Angels' bats made Chan Ho Park look like a dominant pitcher that he isn't. While Weaver wasn't sharp at times, he did throw no-hit ball and the Angels' bats obviously did not help him out.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Featured pickup: 1993 Upper Deck SP Derek Jeter #279 - Jeter is the most overrated player in Major League Baseball.

Though he is capable of turning his season around at any time - Mr. November is probably having his worst season in years [.345 on-base percentage/.394 slugging] so far.

Still, I picked this card up [on Ebay for around $55 shipped] - just so I can say I've got a Jeter rookie card that isn't his 1993 Topps or his 1993 Upper Deck.

Jeter isn't everyone's favorite player, but the concept of picking up singles [i.e. rookie cards] for my personal collection intrigues me - instead of doing a number of other things like:

1.) Picking up a box of a random 2008 baseball box - that isn't going to land in my mailbox for free, anytime soon. I think most boxes are put together, where the guy pulling the case hit is the only one who is going to be happy.
2.) I could go for two hobby boxes of varying quality - they are out there, but what would the assortment of cards lead to?
3.) I could pick up assorted packs - but all that is all about is having a cheap, wax orgy of cards headed for eventual storage.
4.) Picking up a $275 box of 1993 Upper Deck SP is just not an option - I'd rather get the key card from the product in an acceptable condition, instead of hoping to pull out from a box.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Featured player: Rick Ankiel
2001 Upper Deck Sweet Spot bat card - it goes without saying that nothing Ankiel will do as an outfielder will surpass what he was capable of doing as a stud pitching prospect coming up in the minor leagues a decade ago.

Hopefully the HGH concerns are in the past - far from being a curiosity, but still a project, Ankiel the position player has held his own. Despite seemingly being overmatched at times [57 strikeouts in 257 at-bats], he is providing some pop in the middle of the St. Louis Cardinals' lineup [.504 slugging percentage].

In a 8-7 Cardinals loss to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday - Ankiel went 2-for-3, hitting two home runs, driving in three and scoring three runs.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Featured player: Jim Edmonds
2006 Upper Deck #425 - After being cut by the San Diego Padres and eventually given a chance in Chicago, Jim Edmonds' bat has come alive a little bit.

These days, he is probably playing on borrowed time - but in 27 games with the Cubs so far, he has hit five home runs and driven in 19 runs in 80 at-bats. He has a slugging percentage of .588 and an on-base percentage of .352

He has has also made one vintage Edmonds catch in the outfield - against the Houston Astros.

It still remains to be seen how much he has left - earlier in the season, he looked pretty much cooked in his brief time with the Padres. Will his next injury be his last? Is his recent performance a mirage or an indication Edmonds is just getting warmed up? Hopefully he still has some staying power, so he finishes his playing career strong, when he decides to eventually hang them up.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A bump in the road
I want to collect baseball cards as a hobby [maybe the last link between a childhood activity I can still participate in today] and for a moment I can visualize idealistic ways of looking for the ideal cards, maybe blogging about it, finding a nice card for a bargain, busting packs, sorting cards for leisure and just enjoying the process of collecting. However, I've come to the conclusion that I'm bummed out because collecting sucks.

I've become a clutterbug and collecting is really about organization - if everything is picked up for, organized and displayed on a regular basis, collecting might be fun again, but it isn't. As a kid, you can organize your cards because you more enthused [or enthralled] about it and you didn't have to worry about other things like time.

The writing is on the wall however - as I've gotten older, I've become more lazier and found, it takes more time to sort cards. My mind can't take it at times and I don't want to deal with the clutter. Who really wants to spend some time sorting cards, when you think about the other, cooler things you aren't doing in life.

It really captures how useless collecting is when I buy something and it just sits around
- I realize you have the mentality of picking up stuff, but either your plans to do something with particular cards [oh, let's see if I could send those puppies out for autograph requests] never materializes or there isn't a plan at all [great, another pack of base cards, where there might be one card I might use for a random autograph endeavor].

I can't collect them all - I want to simplify the way I collect, but does it mean dumbing it down? I am depressed over a lack of theme to build upon, whether it towards a set or an invidual player and find being too much of a 'casual collector' leaves you with nothing of significance. I really need to be committed to a theme to make collecting work.

The sad fact is does it even matter? Why bother to collect when I figure 90 percent of collecting is just a thing 'to do,' 'buy into,' et al. How much is your collection really worth?

You find there is a ceiling to what you can pick up - You feel self-conscious because everyone else can [blow their wad] from fad to fad. You want to build up a strong, regional collection for example, but it is more complicated than just picking up cheap cards here and there of your favorite team and players.

Other collectors seem to have more sophisticated interests - while you look for simple, things.

Featured pack break
2008 Upper Deck II fat pack [$4.99 each at Tarjay]
- Though it doesn't come without perceived faults [read below], I do like the Upper Deck base brand [even though I'm not a set builder] because it seems like it is designed for more sophisticated collectors.

Blister one [18 cards per blister]#422 Nick Markakis - the card kind of dinged on the back.
#468 Ryan Freel - Farney's fan favorite
#625 Adrian Gonzalez - sporting the camo uniform
#484 Garrett Atkins - a little underrated for a very productive third baseman.

#676 David Murphy - a suprising talent, somewhere between a good reserve and a guy who should be starting on a semi-regular basis.
#642 Adrian Beltre - smiling on the back of the card
#513 Lance Berkman - wearing the shades
#552 Rickie Weeks - injured a bunch, brother Jemile was drafted No. 12 overall [by Oakland] in this year's amateur draft.
#504 Dan Uggla - suddenly the top slugger in baseball
#612 Geoff Jenkins - there is really nothing [in his stats] to suggest he is anything special, but you take a look at him and say, 'yeah, he looks the part of a Major Leaguer.'
#580 Brian Scheider - smiling on the back of his card
#689 Reed Johnson - what is he growing on his goatee [on the back of the card]?

#498 Edgar Renteria - as a shortstop, he seems to get knocked down a peg, but he almost has 2,000 hits in his career.

#729 Yasuhiko Yabuta - you can't beat pulling a true rookie card, even if it is of a 35 year old middle reliever from Japan.
#784 Carl Crawford - Season Highlights subset
#742 Jimmy Rollins - Season Highlights subset; all dirty as he crosses the plate and congratulated by teammate Ryan Howard.
#778 Joe Mauer checklist - I suppose it makes no difference, but checklist cards shouldn't picture players, because it is a waste of a player's image. I'd rather have the front of the checklist feature the company's logo, like a 'header card.'
#DC-12 Manny Corpas Diamond Collection insert - Corpas was a late season hero as the closer for the Colorado Rockies in 2007, but has been a flop in 2008.

Blister two [18 cards per blister]
#440 Joey Cora

#486 Brian Fuentes
- you can see how his fingers extend after he releases the ball on his follow through.
#415 John Smoltz - I suppose the established veterans of the game are not getting younger and guys who have enjoyed 20-21 year Major League careers are are one step closer to leaving the game as active players.
#478 Asdrubal Cabrera - he was a late season hero for the Cleveland Indians in 2007, but has been a flop in 2008.
#670 Vicente Padilla
#532 Francisco Rodriguez - nice, a Halo

#695 Odalis Perez - at times has shown brief flashes of brilliance, but is now considered a journeyman.
#589 Robinson Cano - wearing the shades

#530 Torii Hunter - my first card of Hunter as a Halo
#564 Adam Everett
#453 Scott Linebrink
- sporting facial hair
#673 Milton Bradley - first card of him in a Texas Rangers' uniform.
#601 Kurt Suzuki - ripping off his mask to chase after a foul pop up.
#715 Blake DeWitt - too bad his first-year cards came out back the year when he was drafted in 2004.
#797 Magglio Ordonez - Season Highlights subset
#764 Erik Bedard checklist
#701 Randor Bierd
- another true rookie card pull, even if it features another middle reliever. At least his listed age says he is 24, not 35.
#DC-13 Mark Ellis Diamond Collection insert - has turned in a good defender at second base and an excellent player for the Oakland Athletics.

Comments - I think the minimal graphics on the front take away from the aesthetics just a little bit. I tend to think the card backs look just a little more impressive than the fronts of the card.

While the photography is top notch and generally sharp, it feels a little bit like Topps, where the images all over the place - the set is littered with great action shots, but you tend to feel no one took the time to select images showing something unique. I suppose it is more of esoteric gripe, but perhaps Upper Deck uses so many photographers or services providing them with players' images, there is no consistency.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

2008 All-Star Game - it is the fans who select the starting lineup and every year, there is a tendency to assume we the people will vote on who they we to see as opposed as who is sometimes more deserving.

On the other hand, Major League Baseball gives fans so little these days - we need something like being able to vote for the all-star game starters to make us think we are more than just paying customers.

For the National League, I want these guys to start - Catcher - Geovany Soto, First base - Lance Berkman [Houston Astros], Third base - Chipper Jones [Atlanta Braves], Shortstop - Hanley Ramirez [Florida Marlins], Outfield - Ken Griffey Jr. [Cincinnati Reds], Ryan Braun [Milwaukee Brewers] and Aaron Rowand [San Francisco Giants].

At second base, I've flip flopped - Chase Utley was having a heck of a year, but he has slumped recently. I think I'd rather see Dan Uggla start for the National League, since he's more of an 'underdog' guy playing for a surprise team in the National League East.

Junior Griffey at times has been a guy who would rather spend time with family and basically do something else than attend an all-star game as a player - yet I think he should start this year, even he pulls out, just because he's done so much.

If I was picking a starting pitcher in the NL, the nod has to go to Tim Lincecum [San Francisco Giants]- I don't get to watch him often, but I've heard all about him. While some of the other National League starting pitchers [Edinson Volquez, Brandon Webb and Carlos Zambrano] are great, Lincecum represents the future realized with an 8-1 record and a 2.21 ERA, for a mediocre Giants team. In 97 innings, he has struck out 95 and walked 38 and I'd rather see him on the mound as a young up-and-coming stud.

For the American League, I want these guys to start - Catcher - A.J. Pierzynski [even though he is an ass otherwise], First base - Justin Morneau [Minnesota Twins], Second base - Placido Polanco [Detroit Tigers], Shortstop - Derek Jeter [New York Yankees], Outfield - Josh Hamilton [Texas Rangers], Milton Bradley[Texas Rangers] and Manny Ramirez [Boston Red Sox]. As my designated hitter, I've chosen Hideki Matsui [New York Yankees].

At first base - I think Morneau has been having a solid season, though Jason Giambi [who is having a renaissance season of sorts] will probably get the nod, especially with the game in New York.

There is no way Bradley is going to start the game - but he's gone through a lot in his career and while he doesn't get the same sympathy for his own troubles as Hamilton does [for his troubles], Bradley has been killing the ball as well as anyone in the American League.

If I was picking a starting pitcher in the AL, the nod has to go to Cliff Lee [San Cleveland Indians]- I would have given the nod to Joe Saunders [Los Angeles Angels], since Saunders is from my local Major League team. On the other hand Lee has been a little better in the first half, coming back from an ineffective season in 2007. In 88 innings pitched so far, the Indians' lefthander has struck out 76 and walked only 14, giving the Tribe someone to lean on when C.C. Sabathia wasn't doing so well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Congratulations for hitting your 600th home run

Featured player: Ken Griffey Jr. - I got on the Ken Griffey Jr. bandwagon when I found out his 1989 Donruss rookie card [obviously not pictured] was worth around $8 [of course in 2008, they are still worth about $8 slabbed in a PSA '9' holder today].

I think it was in a stack of scrap cards my cousin had and I had to have it - it was probably the greatest thing that a baseball card that I had in-hand could be worth some money. This was probably after handling all those worthless commons found in random packs, starter collecting sets, et al through the late 1980s.

Though pretty much what I had was worth nothing to start with - I came into collecting during an era where this card could be worth something, this card probably isn't worth anything and this card maybe worth something.

It was probably handled a few times, so it wasn't in great condition. It also wasn't the 1989 Upper Deck, but I think it was the first time I'd objectified Junior Griffey as someone to collect otherwise - I also remember going to a card shop [maybe the same day, but who knows] and getting a 1989 Donruss rack pack. I ended up pulling a 'pack fresh' version of the card I got from my cousin and probably look back upon the pull as why this collecting thing was so great for me.

Also, I think it was my sister had bought a poster [again, not pictured] of Junior Griffey from a bookfair type deal and it hung on my wall for a while through the late 1990s - I think I still have the poster somewhere, showing Junior Griffey swinging the ball.

Around 600 home runs and 20 years later, Junior is a shadow of what he once was, and what he never could be again - yet he still has the majestic swing and maybe for mere moments at a time, the ability to capture our imaginations as baseball fans.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The scowl isn't going away anytime soon

Featured player: Milton Bradley

2001 Fleer Platinum #121 - Bradley is fighting in every single at-bat fighting in each at-bat and one of the constants in his Major League career is he's bound to go postal on any umpire whom Bradley feels is squeezing him behind home plate.

He's the living, breathing emotional outburst and while he's always been able to hit with some pop and get on-base to boot, he comes with a lot of baggage - he is sort of hard to figure out, hard to root for as a far and easier to pick apart. Most of the time he isn't going to get the benefit of the doubt from the fans, the umpires and maybe people in the game who thinks most of what he does is 'Bush league.'

Time will tell if Bradley can have his best season as a professional ballplayer - but in the shadow of the meteoric season Josh Hamilton is put together for the Texas Rangers, Bradley has been doing his part to at least keep the team close to .500.

After ending the 2007 with a season ending injury, Bradley's bounced back through 54 games in 2008 - he has hit 13 home runs and driven in 41 RBIs in 193 at-bats. His slugging percentage is sitting at .627 with his on-base percentage sitting at .449.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Database work
hen you are supposed to put a priority on what you are collecting, it seems I'm trying to do the opposite, trying to find unique features in the thousands of commons out there. I think what makes the experience worth it is when I'm actually looking at the cards in-hand and see there is a theme, an oracle among cards from different years and different brands.

I'm trying to list all the applicable collection topic cards in a database on Excel - the task keeps me sane and gives my collecting endeavors a purpose, but it gets tedious and sometimes you have to take a step back.

These are merely the collecting topics subjects I'd like to work on as far as putting into the database I created - I probably listed over 1,500 cards already as far as cards from other collection topics are concerned, but need to list some more.

He's hitting over .400, just collected his 400th home run with a 4-for-5 performance Thursday, in a 7-5 Atlanta Braves win against the Florida Marlins. Chipper, wanna go to Hooters?

I'm trying to work on a collection of 'infamous' players - from public urination to murder and everything in-between]. I'm not glorifying these athletes, but keeping a note on what they did that maybe a 'no-no' among society.

There are also other topics such as a collection of cards - featuring players from different nations, featuring players involved in the steroid era, featuring pitchers showing the type of grips they are using during their pitching motion, uncorrected error cards and cards featuring interesting facts on the back.

Edit: I just found a binder of cards featuring players 'inking it up' for the fans and also 'bonus babies,' where star players make cameos on common players' cards - more stuff to work on and keep me busy.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

1998 Leaf 50th Anniversary # 32

2008 Trading Card Day UD 9

Featured players: Manny Ramirez and Ken Griffey Jr.

Manny Ramirez connected for his 500th home run against Chad Bradford of the Baltimore Orioles on May 31 and Ken Griffey Jr. is one shy of hitting his 600th home run after hitting his 599th off Jair Jurrjens of the Atlanta Braves on the same day.