Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Player collection update: Greg Maddux

Having covered updates to my Griffey and Gwynn PCs in the last couple months, tonight I'm moving on to showing off cards of Greg Maddux, my favorite pitcher from the previous generation of players.  Guys like Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson were amazing, no doubt, but to my mind nobody was more cerebral and consistently excellent than Mad Dog.  In fact, he measures a tick above the Big Unit in career bWAR at eighth overall.  Add to that four straight Cy Youngs, a World Series ring, 18(!) Gold Gloves (the most by one player), and 355 wins (eighth overall and one more than Roger Clemens), a number modern pitchers will likely never sniff at, and a record 18 straight seasons winning 15-plus games.  You guys can have whomever you want from the 90s, I'm taking Mad Dog all day every day and twice on Sundays.

So here's some favorites from the big bunch of Maddux cards I scanned over the past few months.  As a reminder, everything here comes from my collection of complete sets--base and insert--and I have plenty more to scan and post in the future in terms of purchases and trades.  As with the previous posts I've divided these into categories I think are fun and/or interesting.  Enjoy!

Maddux was featured in lots of my favorite sets:

Maddux appeared on some fun inserts too:

Maddux didn't embarrass himself at the plate or on the basepaths:

Maddux played for the Cubs, Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, Padres, and Dodgers:

Maddux won 300 games, then kept on winning:

Maddux was the portrait of a pitching legend:
I hope you enjoyed this look at a nice bump to my Maddux PC, which now stands at 239 scanned cards...and growing!  Please hit that link to see more, then stay tuned for my last post in this series as I finally show off scans from my complete sets of a player who'll likely turn out to be my largest PC, Cal Ripken Jr.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Royal "We"

When I went to a pair of Tigers games back in mid-September I thought I was done for the year, but then my work source came up with one last pair of tickets for a Friday night tilt against one of our biggest division rivals, the Royals.  With Detroit still in the thick of the Wild Card race at the time, plus wunderkind Michael Fulmer once again taking the hill, I was thrilled to be heading back to the park one more time this season.
Here's a look at my ticket, which is of the season variety and hence features Tigers players.  My two others this year were Jose Iglesias and Miguel Cabrera (both of which I kept), but needless to say I was thrilled to get Verlander on this one, which I took as a very good sign (even though he wouldn't pitch that day).

Here's a gander at my scorecard for what ended up being an 8-3 home team win:
A few notes:
  • Fulmer once again lived up to his excellent reputation by retiring the first eight batters he saw, four of them by strikeout, including striking out the side in the second.  He'd finish the game with nine, and struck out eight of the Royals' starters in seven spectacular frames
  • I get very angry when my favorite teams' pitchers walk guys.  Why?  Observe KC's Danny Duffy's first inning.  He walked three of the first four hitters, then allowed a run on a wild pitch/catcher's throwing error.  That might have been the worst of it but then Justin Upton actually came up big with a double to knock in another run.  The Tigers scored a pair on just one hit.  Throw strikes!
  • Upton was surprisingly effective in this game, and for the first time that I got to see in-person.  His two-out double in the first inning was big, and then he absolutely smoked a no-doubter into the left field seats in his next at-bat
  • Cameron Maybin and Victor Martinez joined in the homer fun as well, with the latter starting off the festivities with a solo shot in the third, and the former following up his teammates with a two-run shot the next inning
  • Mark Lowe continued to show why he was such an awful free agent signing, coming into the ninth with an 8-1 lead and allowing a pair of runs on a single, walk, and two-out, two-run triple.  The walk was the only allowed by a Tigers pitcher this game, and (B)Lowe simply wasn't throwing strikes when he needed to.  Shane Greene came on to record the final out, and by strikeout no less
  • This victory allowed me to end the year with a three-game winning streak I can take into next season!

Friday, October 7, 2016

2016 COMC purchase: this George is Gorgeous

Fresh off of bragging about my newest Charlie Gehringer cut (hey--three days is sort of fresh, right?), I'm back with another highish-end hit of a Hall of Famer who played his college ball in Ann Arbor:
George Sisler 2015 Panini National Treasures bat (#35/99)
My George Sisler collection isn't terribly large--mostly modern sets that feature some of the game's legends--plus he's a guy from a much earlier era, so his better stuff justifiably goes for a premium.  That would explain my lack of a real hit, an autograph or non-manufactured relic, up to this point.  As a matter of fact, I have three manurelics of the St. Louis/Boston legend, but that was never gonna be good enough for me.

Enter two positive aspects of the hobby:  Panini and COMC.  The former produces some fun cards, and sans MLB license said cards tend to be more affordable if you can get over the lack of logos.  The latter was my (even more) affordable source for this game-used (remember those?!) bat relic out of Panini's classy National Treasures product.  I'm not kidding when I say the price was right--I paid  ridiculous $4.85 for this guy.  I consider that more than fair even as someone who's become skeptical of and less interested in relic cards.

That'll do it for the COMC cards I'll be showing off on this here blog, but I have a nice little handful of more baseball PC guys over on TMM this evening, so if that piques your interest, please head on over!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

2016 eBay purchase: Charlie ain't home

It's been a slow couple months for me purchase-wise for a number of reasons--COMC isn't featuring any big sales, eBay has been a bit quiet in terms of my PCs, and I missed a few shows for other obligations.  Then I tried to go to the usual show on Sunday and it was so dead there that I don't think I'll be going for quite a while, but hope to find another to take its place.

However, I did make a pair of eBay buys, one each in August and September, that made for some nice high-end additions to a couple player collections.  Both are Michigan guys, but one of them fits well right here, and you'll get to see him in just a minute.  The other is Rich Hill, whom I'm excited to watch in the playoffs for the first time, even if it's with the Dodgers.  Go check him out over on TMM this evening if that interests you at all.

And now, on to today's card!
Charlie Gehringer 2006 Exquisite Collection Cuts auto (#06/65)
I said high-end, didn't I?  This sweet Charlie Gehringer cut auto is my fifth such card of the Mechanical Man, and fourth from an Upper Deck brand.  While the '05 Legendary Cuts card remains my favorite, I'm very happy with this entry from the following year's Exquisite Collection product.  As I've said before, I prefer these cuts to have an image of the player if possible, and that's something UD has been able to do on all four of those.

The cut obviously comes from a Hall of Fame postcard, and I'm sure I have Charlie's around somewhere as I purchased the set around 15 years ago (which means I have some catching up to do!), so maybe I'll post that sometime.  In this case the cut portion wasn't large enough to take up the half of the card used to hold it, but overall I still give the design a thumbs up.  Interestingly enough I have one other cut auto with a postcard signature like this one, and that's the Panini Limited Cuts version in the group.

Now that I'm up to five cut signatures of Gehringer here's a look at the quintet:
And now, the beautiful and extremely talented ZZ Ward, the inspiration of this post's title, will send us off with a song:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

On Jose Fernandez

There have been many tributes to late pitcher Jose Fernandez this week, in various sports media and on blogs.  I thought I would chip in because Fernandez was clearly a guy who deserved every positive word that came his way.

I've never considered myself a Marlins fan as they've barely been relevant during my baseball fandom, which includes the entire existence of the team.  Outside of a pair of surprising World Series wins, the most recent of which was 13 years ago, they just haven't done anything to garner my interest.  Part of that is a relative lack of exciting players over the last decade or so, with a guy like Giancarlo Stanton being a rare bright spot.

But then along came Jose Fernandez.  Here was a pitcher that was so amazing he caused folks to pay attention to Marlins games!

However, the reason I appreciate what little time we got to enjoy his presence so much has less to do with the dominant numbers he put up and more with how he approached the game.  Much has been made the last few years of baseball being "boring" or less "fun" than other major sports, and these sentiments came from both fans and players--a worrying trend.

Jose was an extremely rare find:  a supremely talented player who clearly had fun being around the game.  That attitude brought out great things in teammates, opponents, and perhaps most importantly, the paying customers:  fans.  That's no small effect when you consider how important to the sport's future it is to get kids hooked on the sport and keep the talent pipeline flowing.  Even more importantly, Fernandez was a non-white player influencing fans of a sport that's increasingly had issues with the perception of whitewashing, on the field, in the dugout, and up in the front office.

Fernandez's story is one of courage and perseverance--just read his harrowing story of defection and try to prove you could live through the same.  It's about talent and ambition--a guy that lived the American Dream in lifting himself up on skills and hard work.  And though it proved to be too short, it's about the legacy of a pitcher who leaves the sport better than he found it, not only now, thanks to the way he raised his peers up, but in the future, when the next generations produce kids longing to be the next Jose Fernandez.

All we need to do is make sure his effect lives on in passing down stories of the superstar who played the game the way it was intended to be played:  for fun.

I was gratified to see so many heartwarming stories and headlines to come out of something so horrific as his death, and several of those--each most certainly worth a read--came from the fantastic writers at Fangraphs:

Cameron's piece really stood out to me as a nice story about why he'd like his son to know about this player the boy will never get to watch make hitters look silly.

In closing, I picked out the baseball card I'll forever associate with Fernandez as it embodies so much of what I've written above:

RIP, Jose, and thank you for all you gave us in your short life.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A wild weekend of wins

Last weekend I was treated to free tickets to a pair of Tigers night games from two different work colleagues--Friday against the Orioles, then Monday vs. the Twins.  This year's team has been an inconsistent squad that doesn't look likely to make the playoffs, but it's still fun to get down to Comerica Park for a game or two, especially when it's free!

Friday night's affair had me in the seats behind the right field wall just a few rows back.  I'd sat there thanks to the same work friend back in July for a tilt with the Twins, which unfortunately didn't go Detroit's way.

It was a beautiful night for baseball, plus I was excited to see likely AL Rookie-of-the-Year Michael Fulmer on the hill for Detroit.  He definitely didn't disappoint.

Here's a look at my scorecard:
A few notes:
  • Fulmer went a strong 7 IP while giving up just 2 ER, a.k.a. a quality start.  Naturally the bullpen, in this case Alex Wilson, hung him out to dry in terms of a decision, then vultured the win when Detroit came back.  Anyway, it was a treat seeing a guy who has future ace written all over him
  • See that little "7!" for Hyun Soo Kim's at-bat in the 3rd?  I like to use a "!" when I see a big play I'd like to remember.  In this case, LF Justin "Mendoza" Upton made a nice grab to take away a homer from the Orioles LF, though he made it look effortless.  Not unlike Upton's plate appearances--three strikeouts as part of an 0-4 day
  • Baltimore scored their three runs on just five hits, with Adam Jones leading the way with a pair of singles and a walk.  Surprisingly, Detroit held big star Manny Machado in check with an 0-4 day I didn't see coming
  • Miguel Cabrera had a similarly rough day with three Ks; his rough day along with a typical Upton performance and not much (until late) from Victor Martinez stalled the offense
  • Not J.D. "Every day I'm hustlin'" Martinez, though--he singled in three straight ABs and walked, scoring Detroit's first run
  • V-Mart hit a dramatic eighth inning blast to break the tie, and that was more than enough for closer Francisco Rodriguez to send us home happy
With a new winning streak on the line I headed back after work Monday evening for another beautiful night, this time to watch a divisional matchup against Minnesota.  This time I was sitting behind home a bit towards the visitors' dugout, WAY the hell up, which was a lot of fun thanks to the view:
One of Fuji's favorite players, Kurt Suzuki, was in the lineup for the Twins, so I took a few shots.  Here he is before his second inning AB:
Stepping up to the plate:
And taking a hack:
He went on to strike out, but I can't imagine he felt that bad--Tigers starter Daniel Norris finished with a crazy 11 in 6+ IP.  Norris had himself a night, striking out every Minnesota starter at least once except SS/3B Eduardo Escobar.

More scorecard goodness:

  • Suzuki managed just one hit but it was a big one:  a solo homer, one of two allowed by Norris.  2015 All-Star 2B Brian Dozier hit his 40th in this game as well
  • Detroit's own 2B, Ian Kinsler, started things off with a solo homer, and unlike the previously-mentioned Twins game from July, I didn't miss it!  The Tigers came close to scoring another run on a J.D. Martinez grounder, but after the umpires originally ruled him safe, the Twins challenged and the call was correctly overturned
  • Norris was cruising for a while, but as with two of the three pitchers out of the bullpen that night he gave up a pair of walks, which made things more difficult than necessary
  • Still, the pen locked things down for 2 2/3 innings and this time Shane Green swiped himself a win
  • Tyler Collins took over for Upton in left after the latter injured his leg, possibly on an attempt to snag Dozier's eventual homer.  Collins performed exactly as Upton would have at the dish (for a fraction of the cost) by going 0-3 with a strikeout
  • Fill-in 3B Andrew Romine surprised me by having a pretty nice game, going 1-1 with a double, HBP, and walk, the latter of which tied the game back up in the bottom of the 7th
  • That was a fun rally, as SS Jose Iglesias followed with a double that scored Romine.  The Twins challenged the very close play at the plate and lost.  The very next play was an Ian Kinsler sac fly that featured another bang-bang play at the dish, and this one went the Tigers' way as well
  • Cabrera was having another off night when he decided to give the Tigers a bit of insurance with a moon shot to right-center to make it 4-2
  • Rodriguez made things much more interesting in the bottom of the 9th this time after getting two outs.  He walked Byron Buxton and Dozier, then got OF Robbie Grossman to ground out to short
I'm going to guess these are the last games I'll end up attending this year, but at least I finished on a high note with a pair of wins, one of which was secured by a late homer!

On a closing note, if you're still reading this, Fuji, I kept a small souvenir for you that I'll send at some point in the future.