Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Award winners

Award winners [National and American League]
NL Cy Young - CC Sabathia; Brandon Webb probably deserves much consideration, with Tim Lincecum probably having a better overall season in the National League.

On the other hand, Sabathia handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first playoff trip since 1982 - could a banged-up Ben Sheets, Dave Bush, Manny Parra done the same without Sabathia?

AL Cy Young - Francisco Rodriguez; give Cliff Lee the Pitcher of the Year Award, but K-Rod had a historical season for a closer. Say what you want about short-relievers, but ask the Mets if someone like K-Rod would have saved their season.

Lee will probably win - both the American League Cy Young and the Pitcher of the Year Award, but K-Rod had a historical season himself.

NL Most Valuable Player - Ryan Howard; he came through when the Philadelphia Phillies needed him the most. Not Pat Burrell, not Jimmy Rollins, not even Chase Utley had as much impact as Howard did in leading his team to their second National League East Crown. Talk about strikeouts all you want and his low batting average, but last I checked he didn't hold the single-season record for strikeouts by a hitter.

AL Most Valuable Player - Josh Hamilton; Dustin Pedroia maybe the people's choice and maybe Hamilton isn't all he is cracked up to be.

As we know his story and journey he took - he fought through slumps and the ups-and-downs of a Major League Baseball season to have an impressive season.

NL Rookie of the Year - Geovany Soto

AL Rookie of the Year - Alexei Ramirez; the White Sox' wunderking had the same impact Evan Longoria has had in Tampa Bay, though Ramirez started off slow and while his plate discipline leaves much to be desired, he is a hacker in the Vladimir Guerrero and/or Alfonso Soriano 'can hit it any time out' mold.

NL Manager of the Year - Jerry Manuel; the Mets choked for the second year in a row but they were a sinking ship when Willie Randolph got fired. It wasn't his fault his bullpen imploded. It seemed like he had a calming influence with just enough 'gansta' in him to bring some levity into the clubhouse which had its series of implosions.

AL Manager of the Year - Joe Maddon; maybe the Tampa Bay Rays really had enough talent to leap frog a team like the Toronto Blue Jays or even the once-playoff guaranteed New York Yankees for second or third place, but Maddon won the American League East.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Minor matters and picking up random cards

Sometimes you feel you are in your own world - I went to a sports card shop, looking for some minor league product.

You always have your usual Major League cards, but sometimes you are looking for something a little different - I was looking for the 'mass produced' cards by Tristar.

"It's not really [something that is] in demand," the man I spoke to said. "We only carry mainstream [product] like Topps and Upper Deck."

Well I guess I'd better stick with official MLB licensed and/or MLBPA licensed baseball cards - I usually try to get my rank-and-file cards autographed in-person and through the mail and perhaps if I'm looking to find a minor league card of a particular player [probably a young prospect], he probably has a first-year Bowman/Bowman Chrome card.

With the MLBPA rookie card rules - Topps and Upper Deck are probably printing cards of particular players as they make their MLB debuts.

Why bother with minor league cards?

At the shop, I found 20 random cards [$0.10 each] from the commons boxes - I'm not really enamored by cards right now, so they were not a priority.

I feel like more cards = more work I'm not willing to do when it comes to sorting - I don't care about my collecting topics as much at this point.

I did find several minor league cards- 2008 Just [unlicensed; meaning the cards can't display team logos, even of minor league teams] of Logan Morrison, Chris Davis, Bobby Parnell, Andrew McCutchen and Jordan Bachanov [Angels draft pick in 2007 who had Tommy John surgery].

2008 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes - these cards are styled after the Baseball Heroes inserts of the 1990s. Upper Deck has rolled out the Baseball Heroes graphics more than a few times.

#46 Corey Hart - a rising semistar who I probably had a chance to get, but didn't have any cards for during spring training.

#79 Alex Gordon - he hasn't made the leap from highly touted elite prospect to all-star performer [or better].
#168 Luke Scott

2008 Topps Baseball Series I and II - you need Topps, but there is an expectation these cards are very basic and boring.

#132 Ramon Vazquez - a decent utility guy

#428 Jair Jurrjens - was he really the Atlanta Braves No. 1 pitcher in 2008?
#487 Corey Patterson - breaking his bat

#489 Joakim Soria - I try pick-up cards of such players because you are more inclined to do your homework on new faces.
#607 Ryan Spilborghs - Spilborghs is making a nice attempt to grab the ball.
#618 Pat Neshek - didn't really need this one, but he is a fan favorite.
#644 Reggie Willits - a fan favorite even though he barely played in 2008.

2008 Upper Deck II - I like these cards, but they are very boring. There isn't anything grabbing at you.

#534 Reggie Willits
#645 Yuniesky Betancourt
#647 Ramon Vazquez

2008 Upper Deck A piece of History

#43 Hunter Pence
#68 Phil Hughes

Monday, September 22, 2008

Featured pickup: 2008 Upper Deck Ballpark Idols Quad Swatch Memorabilia card #237

Don Mattingly - October 4, 2005
3-for-6 RBI with a walk in Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS

Derek Jeter - September 21, 2008
0-for-5 - despite going hitless in the last game at Yankee Stadium, he is the all-time hit leader, surpassing Lou Gehrig.

Manny Ramirez - July 6, 2008
0-for-1 - struck out by Mariano Rivera on three straight pitches in what may have been the deciding game for Boston Red Sox management and their players to come together and say 'we have to trade Manny now.'

David Ortiz
- August 24, 2008
0-for-2 with two walks

This was an appropriate card to note the last game played at Yankee Stadium Sunday night - I dug around to look for the featured players' last appearance at Yankee Stadium and to see how they did.

I don't know if the price I paid for the card was a good deal or not - but my standard saying is it is worth the price is what I paid for it, no more and maybe less. My cap is probably $10 on picking-up any 'midlevel' or strictly 'low-end' singles.

I'll look for a 'topper' to my collection - like a card or something once in a while when I have the chance and when I feel like I'm not breaking the bank.

The card is probably more common than I can imagine [it is listed as part of the base set and not an insert] - but features jersey pieces [game-used cards are oversaturated to the point of pissing off collectors looking for something worth more] from Don Mattingly [pinstripe], Derek Jeter [pinstripe], Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.

I wanted to find an 'acceptable' player combination featuring Jeter and figured two of the most prominent players [Manny and Big Papi] from the No. 1 rivals would be suitable - I don't see where Mattingly immediately fits in and can see where someone who played in the last five years being a more ideal subject for the quad card.

On the other hand, Donnie Baseball kept the Yankees relevant - through a World Series dry spell in the 1980s and is considered a franchise legend, probably more beloved [particularly by New York Yankees' fans] than many Hall of Famers enshrined in Cooperstown.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Featured cards: Various 1970s Topps cards

These cards are part of a 20-card find of 1970-mid 1980s cards from a 'scrap' common's bin - I didn't pick them up because the cards looked pretty or because the players pictured will get another opportunity to suit up in a Major League game.

Many of the players pictured look a little different the present day [circa 2008] players - I don't think you can argue with the aesthetics [because 'it was the style then'] of the period even if the players' images looked so dated.

You can only make fun of them I suppose - it seems like the 1970s, you had shaggy and gruff looking ballplayers who didn't particularly care what they looked like.

Just like it is today, anyone pictured on a 'gum card' were pretty good at some point [in their baseball lives] - it just seems like once they got to the Major Leagues, their grooming habits were lax.

Doug DeCinces has a nice handle bar mustache going - it almost looks like a rolled up cigar or something. It isn't as fancy as Rollie Fingers' but it sure looks a lot more odd.

There are more accomplished sites that do this retrospective sort of thing - but it is fun actually looking at some of these cards in-person and picking them up.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Keeping his team from choking

Carlos Beltran homered from both sides of the plate and the New York Mets held on to defeat the Washington Nationals 9-7 Wednesday night - Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado also hit home runs for a team in the thick of the playoff push.

The Mets are going to have to fight through - a shoddy bullpen and have lost key reserves Fernando Tatis [for the rest of the season] and Damion Easley.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Featured card: 1984 Donruss Ned Yost # 271

I was wondering, having been at Milwaukee Brewers' spring training the past two seasons - how a team goes from coming together during the spring, working out in Maryvale [bullpen sessions, pitcher's fielding practice, batting practice, position players actually taking infield] and having a regimented plan, to the part of the season, where the team is out of it.

The past few years the Brewers have steadily gotten better - players like Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, Cory Hart, Bill Hall [to a certain extent] started to blossom and a renewed sense of purpose was realized.

Under this guy's leadership, the Brewers were supposed to be in the playoffs in 2008 - now, he has been fired and my five-cent investment on this card I picked up on Sunday is kaput. I was hoping to see him during next year's spring training and possibly get his autograph. Maybe he'll be an analyst for TBS or ESPN during the playoffs during this postseason.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thank you K-Rod

As a California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels' fan, I hear and read the sentiment bantered about closer Francisco Rodriguez - he is considered one of the best in the game or terribly overrated.

There is a 'common-sense' sentiment against those who frankly do not want him in a Halos uniform past 2008 - that a closer who pitches 60 innings a year is just not worth $15 million a year. Tell that to guys like Joe Nathan or Mariano Rivera...

I like him just the way he is and it maybe sacriligious, but I think he is worth $15 million a year for the next four years to a team like the Angels - who are likely pennant contenders each year.

If you are a second division team, who cares if you have scrap heap guys closing for you - his record setting 58th save in a 5-2 over the Seattle Mariners on Sept. 13 punctuated his Angels' career as one of the greatest in the history of the franchise.

Derided for his post game celebratory antics and his 'shaky' 2008 season - K-Rod is an elite talent whose career achievements in a Halos uniform will not easily be duplicated.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Player reflections: Adrian Beltre

Adrian Beltre making a cameo as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, on a 2001 Fleer Ultra Fernando Vina card.

I'm wondering if Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre has either been bust or a sore disappointment - his 2004 season [.334 average, 48 home runs, 121 RBIs] was an anomaly which gives some credence to the term 'contract year' in professional sports.

He's not a superstar or even an all-star performer, but as a compiler - his body of work hasn't been as bad.

There are still some games to play in the 2008 season but by the time he is 30 - he will have at least 1578 hits, 242 home runs, 859 RBIs.

Beltre is more of a lunchpail-type player whom I can identify with because even though he's been consistently unspectacular - he does plays everyday.

He is a superstar on defense but a guy who tends to be streaky at the plate - you see him going through ups-and-downs but you can still pencil him in for 20-25 home runs, 80-90s RBIs and a batting average he seems to be constantly battling to keep up around the .270 mark.

Still, after signing a five-year, $64 million contract with the now decayed Seattle Mariners team expected to right itself in the past few years - his numbers lack the impact.

However, by the time he signs his second big contract, he may become a better player - in his 30s than his 20s.

Bandwagon jumping time

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were the first Major League team to clinch a playoff berth in 2008 - with a 4-2 win against the New York Yankees on Wednesday afternoon.

Hopefully they can use the rest of the regular season to heal up and deliver on a promise lacking [despite winning the American League West four times in the last six seasons and being in the playoffs] - Francisco 'K-Rod' Rodriguez is so close to the saves record of 57 and hopefully he can do something about tying [and breaking the record] before the upcoming weekend is over.

Besides watching K-Rod go for the saves record, I'm intent watching Brandon Wood, who at 23 is still evolving as a Major League Baseball player - right now, he is playing different roles from being a 5 o'Clock hitter, a windmill during games and a jumbo sized shortstop who maybe turning a corner as far as building upon his immense power potential.

It is going to be a festive time for Angels' baseball fans [whether you are a 2002 fan, 1986 fan, 1982 fan, 1979 fan or a 'somewhere in-between' fan] - as long as the team finds itself the only team standing during the postseason.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Trading card reflections

I'm afraid I'm suffering from a 'trading card coma -' where I can't get excited about stacks of cards I already have no use for.

I get excited to buy cards here and there but sometimes I get disconnected from trading card endeavors
- busting a few packs, maybe a blaster, maybe buying some singles may signal I'm still a collector and I'm going to be here in the long run.

At times, I get so excited about a stack of commons I dug out card by card - only to realize it is all crap.

Every other 'break' of something just adds to the misery - seeing cards pile up makes me think twice.

On the other hand, I tend to think everything has a caveat and I tend to realize nothing matters
- most of my collecting endeavors are impulsively based on simplistic means [i.e. like picking up common cards to get randomly autographed]. I don't know if there is a bigger picture for me to pursue and while I know it is just isn't true, my earth is flat.

You visit blogs, forums and you want to be like everyone else, but who in real life shares your delight [?] - I am more like a pack rat instead of a dedicated collector.

What do I do with all my stuff? If I was such a great collector, every I pick up has both a place and a purpose - unfortunately it seems my collections are a little fractured.

Various purchases here and there in my room, but nothing every showcased into a particular theme - I think I talk a good game about collecting cards, but do I take a moment to seriously blog about my endeavors? Do I show the world what I'm doing, in a positive way?

For the most part, I'm not as attached to the hip to strictly collecting cards here and there - my interest tends to wane and I just get a little frustrated because my enthusiasm for collecting is just for show.

I have to find a way to make collecting fun again - where I'm not grousing about excessive stacks of cards I can't deal with and other dysfunctions related to my collecting endeavors.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Signed at the draft deadline - NOT

Pedro Alvarez - No. 2 overall pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates

Eric Hosmer - No.3 overall pick by the Kansas City Royals

This isn't breaking news, but are you kidding me [?] - apparently after having been signed by the Major League teams that drafted them, both Alvarez and Hosmer's professional careers are in limbo.

Scott Boras, the infamous super agent representing Alvarez wanted more money - and claimed the No. 2 overall pick was signed after the draft deadline and therefore the contract Alvarez agreed to is void.

Having been pulled from a professional game in reaction, Hosmer is affected - because he apparently signed his contract after Alvarez did.

This is a kind of situation where people have to play their part i.e. particularly the agents - as a baseball fan, the reaction should be Boras' should stop posturing and screwing around. On the other hand, who is to say what he can and cannot do for his client?

So much of a professional player's career rests on what he can do on the field, but you have a lot of labels and hype surrounding what should be an impressive player in Alvarez - people are always going to say, 'he's going to get his money,' or 'why hold out, just to stall your professional career?' It is radical for baseball fans, even in today's big money era, for someone to reject millions of dollars to play a game.

However no one is saying Alvarez is going to be a bust or even a disappointment - Alvarez may be the best position player in this year's draft, but his maverick agent sees no obligation for Alvarez to be indentured to the 'way it has been or the way it is.' It is kind of like when a Major League team raises ticket prices or does something seemingly for the love of the money instead of appreciating the fan.

Forget about biding your time, toiling for what is a losing organization, while probably wanting to leave the first opportunity you get - on the other hand doesn't Alvarez have to sign the first contract getting him into his first professional uniform?

What Boras seems to want for Alvarez is to secure his present as well as his future -in a twisted way, if Boras gets what he wants for his client, then his client doesn't have to worry about anything but playing baseball.

Alvarez is a first round pick and it is obvious, Boras is taking it one step further - to make whomever he ends up signing with pays up front for a first round talent.

On a personal note - I go watch Los Angeles Angels' games and always see Boras on TV because he has season seats behind home plate. I wonder if if it is Alvarez who I've seen him with [just several times in-person] over the year when Boras comes into the ballpark with a couple of his associates.