Saturday, October 31, 2009

2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee box break recap

There was four box-bottom cards - Alfonso Soriano, Miguel Cabrera, Derek Jeter and Grady Sizemore.

There were scratches on the box-bottom cards already because of the 'normal' wear-and-tear of handling a box perhaps - but it was fun to hand cut the cards individually with a scissor, even though the process may literally be more of a hack job, than anything remotely precise, exact or professional.

I paid $37 for the box, which is probably the equivalent of two blaster boxes and about six more packs - plus the idea of having a hobby box, instead of retail product [s] in my hands.

I'll concede this isn't a product you bust for hits or future value - it seems more like a $25 a box product which seems to be designed for beginning collectors to be able to build sets perhaps.

The non-glossy base cards [by my count I pulled 161 out of 600] are nice looking, somewhat reminiscent of the 1976 Topps/OPC design - but then the borders sort of resemble the 1989 Topps design as well.

The ink from the text on the back of some of the cards had left imprints - on top of the one-per-pack black parallel cards, usually in the middle of the pack.

1 New York, New York (30 cards, 1:36): A.J. Burnett

It would have been nice to have at least one autograph [1:216 actual odds posted on wrapper] and/or one game-used memorabilia card [1:108 actual odds posted on wrapper] inserted in the box - I'm not busting this for nostalgia and there maybe other boxes [in the $30-$40 range perhaps] where I can pull a random autograph and/or memorabilia card.

O-Pee-Chee hockey David Wright insert - only card that tangibly reminds me, that this product was supposed to be inspired by the Topps / O-Pee-Chee brand.

I pulled 35 black parallels, one blank-backed black parallel of Andy Pettitte - and one mini black parallel of Kerry Wood [1:36].

Mark McGwire - an enigma

It is not really worth griping about at this point - I just wonder why there are people feeling sorry for Mark McGwire, who has apparently joined the St. Louis Cardinals staff as their new hitting coach.

There seems to be more apologists coming out - five years after he stiffed the congress - it was pretty clear he was evasive in his statements about his PED use, "I'm not here to talk about the past."

McGwire most likely used - ask his brother [not Dan, the NFL bust, but Jay McGwire.

What about Curtis Wenslaff?

So McGwire wasn't in the Mitchell Report - that story was other can of worms involving different sets of players.

So McGwire wasn't in the 103 names who failed some kind of testing back in 2003 - Big Mac had stepped out on Major League Baseball long before there was testing.

Some experts on the sabremetrics side don't believe in the PEDs - find any performance enhancement from the use of drugs as sort of a myth.

Maybe it makes more sense for the statheads to be skeptical - they need numbers and they haven't figured out a formula whether PEDs really help you hit 15, 20 or 25 more home runs a season.

However, the point here is McGwire still comes any mainstream baseball fans as sympathetic - still reverential figure apparently persecuted unfairly by the man.

The hypocrisy shouldn't be stunning, but I guess McGwire is the new Pete Rose - when he should have more things in common with Barry Bonds, who is generally referred to as a scumbag and is persona non-grata to most Major League Baseball fans.

To hear people on the Internets commenting on how McGwire is unfairly bashed - that he got only 25 percent of the Hall of Fame vote is a joke because he made his bed.

He has lived a comfortable life, playing golf and generally no one is clamoring for him to be lynched - unlike Bonds or anyone whom we [as MLB fans] might lampoon, mock and/or deride.

Yeah, maybe McGwire will be the most scrutinized hitting coach in the Major Leagues in 2010 - though I bet not one fan challenges him or one media member asks him the questions we all really want to know.

I'm not here to talk about the past.

I'm not here to talk about the past.

I'm not here to talk about the past.

We'll understand and empathize with his plight and will watch this man wander behind the batting cage, try to do his work with Cardinals hitters and the past won't even matter - if he survives through the season, maybe the 25 percent will start creeping up and one day he'll get to the magical mark of 75 percent.

And the beat just goes on.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Philadelphia Phillies - an NLDS preview

Trying to do a position by position guide - I have no particular rooting interest for the Philadelphia Phillies and since I live in So. Cal, I'd like the Los Angeles Dodgers to make it to the World Series [provided the Angels get there first].

First base - Phillies

Ryan Howard is a beast and while James Loney's defense is great - he has a toothpick for a bat, compared to Howard.

Second base - Phillies

Chase Utley is probably the best second baseman in baseball - so no combination of Ronnie Belliard and/or Orlando Hudson can overcompensate for Utley's greatness.

Shortstop - Dodgers

I don't see much difference in Jimmy Rollins and Rafael Furcal - but I'm banking on Furcal to be a top-of-the-lineup pest.

Of course Rollins can heat up at any time - he does have a little more pop than Furcal does.

Third base - Dodgers

Casey Blake is what Scott Brosius was to Joe Torre's 1998 New York Yankees - a steady guy who gives you good defense and a steady bat in the lower part of the lineup.

Pedro Feliz has been doubted before - he is a good defender himself, though his 'hack-first' approach at the plate holds him back just a little bit.

Left field - even up

Manny Ramirez is a sleeping giant, however Raul Ibanez is no slouch at the plate - though neither one has glowing reputations defensively in left field.

Center field - Dodgers

Matt Kemp vs. Shane Victorino - this is where talent just overcomes hustle, heart, grit and all the positives you can attach to a player of Victorino's ilk.

Right field - even up

While there maybe no such thing as a clutch player - Andre Ethier has delivered time and time again.

I was tempted to give the edge to the Dodgers because Ethier has enjoyed a fine year - but Jayson Werth has basically been the same player for the Phillies.

Catchers - even up

Russell Martin and Carlos Ruiz pretty much do the same things on defense - but I would have never guessed the 30-year old Ruiz had an OPS 100 points higher than Martin. Saying that may not be saying much, but I was ready to give the Dodgers an edge here.

Bench - Dodgers

It is annoying for experts to acknowledge Matt Stairs as some sort of super pinch-hitting star -when he basically decomposed on the Phillies' bench all year long.

The Dodgers had their own decomposing version [it was supposed to be Jim Thome, but...] of Stairs in Mark Loretta - until he got the game-winning hit in Game 1 of the NLDS.

I'll take Loretta [who is 135 years old], Brad Ausmus [who is 135 years old], Orlando Hudson/Ronnie Belliard and Thome - over Stairs, Miguel Cairo [who is 128 years old], Greg Dobbs, Ben Francisco and Paul Bako [he still earning a paycheck as a MLB player?].

Starting pitchers - Phillies

Cole Hamels - probably the pitcher Phils fans are pinning their hopes on as far as turning in a star performance.
Cliff Lee - probably the ace of the staff at this point.
J.A. Happ - he had a solid year as a rookie.
Joe Blanton - kind of pushed to the side, but he can come up big.
Pedro Martinez - Pedro probably has a start in him.


Clayton Kershaw
- see Hamels.
Randy Wolf - can he have a solid performance?
Vicente Padilla - can he continue his FU tour?
Hiroki Kuroda - is he healthy and pitching in the NLCS?

Bullpen - Dodgers

Torre can use Hong-Chi-Kuo, Chad Billingsley, Ramon Troncoso, George Sherrill, Ronald Bellisario as the main guys in the pen - leading up to closer Jonathan Broxton.

The Phillies have question marks - Ryan Madson is decent but what about the other guys? Broken down Scott Eyre? Is Chan Ho Park on the NLCS roster? Phillies Closer Brad Lidge maybe coming on at the right time, but he's had an abortion of a year.

The Phillies have been there before but it remains to be seen if the pieces will fall together like it did against the Dodgers.

Angels vs. Spanks - an ALCS preview

Trying to do a position by position guide - I'm rooting for the Angels to go meet the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, though it doesn't mean it is going to happen.

First base - Yankees

Mark Teixeira is a switch-hitting power hitter who is also a Gold Glover at first base - I wouldn't bet against him, but I won't be rooting for him.

Kendry Morales has proven at least for one season, he can be a prime-time player - if he can be patient and tap into his power, he can be a difference maker. While he doesn't exactly give at-bats away, he tends to hack at pitches.

Second base - Yankees

Robinson Cano may have perceived 'lack of focus' issues - is a dominant offensive players at his position.

Maicer Izturis just does about everything fundamentally sound, whether it is on defense or at the plate - he doesn't look like much, but he is solid all-around.

Howie Kendrick bounced back from an early-season slump to give the Angels a boost offensively - can he get into some games where he can contribute?

Shortstop - Yankees

Hard to go against Derek Jeter here since Jeter seems like the most conscientious guy on the field - meaning he may make an error, Teixeira may make him look better than he is, but he isn't going to make a bonehead play.

At the plate, he may not have the juice to hit for power - but he keeps the lineup going, peppering base hits all over and hitting a home run once in a while.

Erick Aybar can be a top of the lineup ignitor if he works pitchers - at times he has a tendency to overswing at pitches and he has the most success if he is a little more selective and not to take a big hack at everything.

Aybar is probably a little more athletic on defense and maybe the biggest difference from the beginning of the year to now is his confidence - is he isn't afraid to make the acrobatic play, the do-or-die play or come up with some insane play, only the true athletes on the field can be capable of.

Third base - Yankees

Alex Rodriguez is putting his Yankees postseason ghosts in the rearview mirror just by being one of the guys and maybe it helps his psyche - the fact he can enjoy himself without a circus in tow, allows him to focus one at-bat at a time.

Chone Figgins is a different player all together - Figgins hasn't hit, but he can help the Angels by playing Gold Glove defense at third base. He needs to continue to be patient enough to take his walks and be aggressive on the base paths.

Left field - even up

Juan Rivera provides much power - though at times tends to be overlooked.

Johnny Damon has enjoyed a resurgent season - though he might be showing some rust.

Center field - Angels

Torii Hunter pretty much does it all on defense and has refined his batting stroke
- he makes adjustments depending on the situation, seemingly wearing pitchers out by fouling off pitches he can't quite handle. He doesn't always take his walks and seems like a 'swing first' type of batter.

Melky Cabrera is not as good as Hunter is - though a better player than fans have given credit for in the past.

Right field - Angels

Bobby Abreu just gives the Halos professional at-bats- he may not hit for power anymore, but he can take pitches, take walks and get base hits.

He has gotten a bad rap on defense, but it seems he is just a little bit more conscientious with the Angels - playing for a team that values fundamentals instead of merely letting the veteran guys play on their own.

Nick Swisher is a rah-rah type of guy in the dugout - but he has power/patience combination working at the plate this past year, so he isn't just some class clown to laugh at.

Catchers - Yankees

Jorge Posada is underrated somewhat - there were grumblings about his deficiences on defense, especially when A.J. Burnett prefers Jose Molina to be his personal catcher. However, the most important thing is Posada is still a proven professional who can still hit. It isn't like he turned into Jason Varitek and can't do anything to help a team anymore.

Jeff Mathis - good athlete, supposedly good handler of pitchers, but he hasn't played enough to really produce decent offensive numbers.

Mike Napoli - supposedly has sealed up some of his deficiencies behind the plate, but his power at the plate defines him as a player. If he doesn't hit, he shouldn't play.

Designated hitter - Yankees

Hideki Matsui is still a dangerous bat lurking on the bench - guy capable of giving you solid at-bats and delivering key hits.

Vladimir Guerrero - consistently give him pitches to hit over the plate and he can still turn on them, but he doesn't seem to catch up with the junk he likes so much from his nose to his toes.

Bench - Angels

Angels have many options off the bench - Napoli maybe a more valuable guy coming off the bench because he has some patience and can hit for power. Then you have the possibility of Izturis/Kendrick, depending on who sits, Robb Quinlan, Gary Matthews Jr. and Reggie Willits.

Do the Yankees really need a bench [?] - Brett Gardner is probably their No. 1 guy off it, as more of a top-of-the-lineup kind of hitter. Other than that, who else is there? Jerry Hairston Jr. or Francisco Cervelli? Jorge Posada if he isn't playing when Burnett starts?

Starting pitchers - Angels

John Lackey - ace of the staff with the bulldog attitude to match.
Joe Saunders - he can't be anymore worse than Andy Pettitte
Jered Weaver - he was the ace of the staff in 2009.
Scott Kazmir - he didn't do too well in his ALDS start against the Boston Red Sox, but he has great stuff.

The Yankees counter with three guys and a question mark.

C.C. Sabathia - he wants to desperately prove he is a money guy in October and the fate of the Yankees in the ALCS depends on how good he does on Friday.
A.J. Burnett - probably the best stuff on the Yankees' pitching staff, he can be unhittable, but also out of control.
Andy Pettitte - never been impressed with him, though he doesn't seem like the stiff I assume he's been for the last several years. He is a guy who is going to win games because he plays for a winner, but who throws slop and has an ERA of 4 and up.
Joba or Chad Gaudin ? - seems like the Yankees are one competent starter too short.

Bullpen - Yankees

Anytime you have Mariano Rivera as a back-of-the game anchor - you take the Yankees team that has him.

Phil Hughes has enjoyed a breakout season as Rivera's set-up man - though it might be in the short-term.

Who else will be able to trot out [?] - Joba? Gaudin? Phil Coke? Connor Robertson?

For the Angels, Darren Oliver solidifies the bullpen - but at times even closer Brian Fuentes is shaky, leaving little room for error in the late innings.


The Yankees seem like a machine and it remains to be seen if the Angels can match up game-per-game - with their brand of baseball, which is good starting pitching, good defense, aggressive baserunning and just the right number of run-scoring hits here and there.

The Angels bats have to give their pitchers the opportunities to fight through up-and-down, back-and-forth games - if they find themselves trailing, then the Angels' speed and aggressiveness doesn't work as well.

With the Yankees' ability to put a bunch of runs up at any point - the Angels pitchers have to avoid the big inning and hopefully the Angels bats can come through.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Enjoying the ride

I'm relieved the Angels were able to dispose of the Boston Red Sox in three games in the American League Division Series - I honestly felt like the Boston Red Sox were going to win at least one game and if the Angels lost Game 3, then the series gets to be more prolonged.

Now, the Angels look to battle the New York Yankees in the American League Championship series - for the right to play the National League pennant champion in this little round of games called the World Series.

In rooting for my team, I'd better show some guts - it is going to be an epic battle between the class of the American League West and the class of the American League East.

The Angels surely showed some nuts in the Division Series clinching 7-6 win in Game 3 - when it looked like the Red Sox were going to win at least a game.

I was asleep on couch with the TV on most of Sunday morning - Angels were down, but was still cautiously optimistic, when I started rising out my slumber.

Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, who once stole 29 laptops at the high school his mother worked at and once dated a men's magazine Pet of the Year - had actually pitched better than his Halo counterpart Scott Kazmir.

I didn't get to watch the earlier parts of the game, but Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbum had picked off Reggie Willits at first base to end the eighth inning - what happened there?

In the ninth inning - as a fan I'll share what was going on in my mind.

Erick Aybar singles - little dude has been a player, coming up big all-season and he comes through with a hit. A rally has to start somewhere, though with Maicer Izturis and Gary Matthews Jr. making outs already.

Chone Figgins walked - keep wondering if the Angels could keep it going. The worst thing for the Angels would be to give up an at-bat by hacking away or looking at strike three. Thankfully Figgy got on-base.

Bobby Abreu opposite field double off the wall - all I heard was he was a stat padder, a neglible figure in Philadelphia and a guy who did everything well, but was afraid of laying out on the line. However, the bargain of the off-season, came through with another professional at-bat and really changed his image in one season in Anaheim this year.

Was there an opportunity where Figgins could have scored - when Bay fielded Abreu's hit and threw the ball in with no cut-off man.

Torii Hunter - he is up at the plate to swing the bat, but he knows how to hit in situations and unscientifically speaking, maybe the Angels equivalent to Derek Jeter as far as having a quality at-bat in pressure situations.

With the way he has come through, he might have been dangerous - but he was intentionally walked.

The Red Sox walked Hunter to get to Vladdy - square something up; his bat had slowed, but then Papelbum gave him a fat pitch and Vladdy drove it to centerfield. At the moment, I thought Jacoby Ellsbury was going to catch it, but he was playing pretty deep.

After the events unfolded, I was quiet but was clapping and telling myself to calm down - any other years, I would have been loud, jumping up-and-down infront of the TV. However, the Angels still had to get through the bottom of the ninth inning.

Brian Fuentes came in the bottom of the ninth to shut the door down - the Angels had to prove something in the last several years against the Boston Red Sox and I'm as glad as anyone, the Angels were able to really do something.

Thinking of all the success the Angels have enjoyed this decade - I am reminded of what once former Red Sox great Mo Vaughn said about playing for the Angels.

"They ain't got no flags hanging at friggin' Edison Field [now Angel Stadium], so the hell with them."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

My Angels postseason post

As a fan, I'm watching the Angels with a sense of renewed optimism, even though it seems like I'm more cautiously optimistic than confident - in the last several years, the team I root for through 162 games in the regular season hasn't had much luck with the Boston Red Sox during the playoffs.

It seems like for the Angels pitchers, the strike zone gets tighter and as a group - the Angels staff has to work twice as hard to get outs.

Hopefully someone like Scott Kazmir can give the team the shot in the arm - his acquisition was an under-the-radar move, that might prove to be the biggest deal this past year.

He is young, a lefty and throws real hard - what more can I ask for?

Of course, the guys starting ahead of him against the Red Sox aren't too shabby either - John Lackey and Jered Weaver.

Besides the pitching - the Angels hitters can't be wiffing at air or looking at strike three. They obviously have to find ways to consistently put runs on the board, even better if they can do it while showing some power.

At point during the season, nearly [if not all] the Angels' starting nine - was hitting .300 for the year. The Angels need guys coming up with the big hits and if at all means possible, blow the Red Sox pitchers out of the water before they even have a chance to score one run.

Will the Angels get the best of the Red Sox this time around [?] - who really knows, but then I'll be watching, just like the rest of the hopeful Halo fans.