Wednesday, August 28, 2019

All-Time Teams Test Run: The 31st Team

Major League Baseball is celebrating 150 years of professional baseball. All 30 franchises have over two decades of history and so I'm creating an All-Time Team series. Every day in September, The Collector will list the best players by position in every MLB team's history. 

The All-Time Teams will mimic a real 25-man roster: five starting pitchers, six relief pitchers, two catchers, six infielders, five outfielders, and one designated hitter. Each team will also have a (non-playing) manager.
 Players can only represent one franchise. I set a minimum of four years with one team to qualify for an All-Time Team and prioritized the franchise with whom the player served the most seasons - though that was not always feasible. 

Also I adhered to the player's natural position unless it was absolutely necessary to move him to a less familiar spot. This will explain why there are journeyman relievers ahead of some Hall of Fame starting pitchers.

All 30 rosters are set. I spent hours scrolling through stats on attempting to be as accurate as possible without agonizing over each roster decision. 

Throughout this process I found that there were many great players who couldn't fit on a team for one reason or another. Many were 19th-century greats whose primary team ceased to exist over a hundred years ago. Some recent stars were backlogged at a strong position or didn't play long enough with one franchise.

Since these players don't have a home on one of the 30 MLB All-Time Teams, let's call them the Barnstormers. Here's their starting lineup (click on each name for their baseball-reference page.)

Leading off for the Barnstormers.. the Center Fielder.. Kenny Lofton

One of the most electrifying players of the 1990's, Kenny Lofton led the league in stolen bases five consecutive seasons from 1992-1996. The six-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove award winner batted an even .300 over ten seasons with the Indians. Lofton's career WAR of 68.3 is ninth all-time among center fielders; every eligible player ahead of him on the list has been enshrined in Cooperstown.

Batting second for the 'Stormers.. the Second Baseman.. Ross Barnes

Ross Barnes is the first of many 19th-century players on this team who played for a long-defunct franchise. Though Barnes played less than 500 games more than a century ago, his numbers are staggering when stretched out over a current 162-game schedule: 227 runs, 279 hits, and a .360 batting average. The back of this card declares him "the most dominant baseball player of his time, and perhaps of all-time." Any celebration of 150 years of baseball should include 1870s stars such as Barnes.


Batting third.. the First Baseman.. Dan Brouthers

Dan Brouthers was a standout hitter for many forgotten franchises, including the Buffalo Bisons and Detroit Wolverines. The seven-time slugging champion boasts a career batting average of .342 - good for ninth on the all-time list - and his career OPS+ of 171 is eighth all-time, just behind Mickey Mantle. "Big Dan" had speed and power. He led his league in doubles three times, triples once, home runs twice and stole 30 or more bases in a season (at least) five times. Also, he's buried in Billy's hometown.

Batting fourth.. the Designated Hitter.. Jason Giambi

Every team gets a DH and the Barnstormers got themselves a great one. Jason Giambi couldn't claim a spot on the Athletics or Yankees All-Time Teams, but his impeccable power and keen eye should not be overlooked. The 2000 AL MVP led his league in walks four times and on-base percentage three times. Giambi's 440 career home runs ranks him 43rd on the all-time list and first on the Barnstormers by a country mile. His former manager in New York also has a spot in this lineup.

Batting fifth.. the Right Fielder.. Gavvy Cravath  

Our resident Guy Named Gav knows all about Cravath. The first great slugger of the dead-ball era, Gavvy led the majors in home runs four times and slugged an impressive .489 over his nine years with the Phillies. All but two of Cravath's 119 home runs were hit after his 31st birthday, yet he was the active career leader until Babe Ruth came along. His 151 OPS+ is seventh all-time among right fielders. The Phillies have an abundance of 19th-century outfield greats, and "Cactus" just missed the cut as a result.

Batting sixth.. the Third Baseman.. Joe Torre

Joe Torre is here in part because I couldn't find the right fit for him. Yankees manager? He's blocked by at least one other Hall of Famer. Cardinals third baseman? No room there, either. Braves catcher? Perhaps, but they've had some very good ones. Baseball-reference has Torre listed under First Basemen; his career WAR of 57.6 is tied for 22nd at that position with Hank Greenberg. The 1971 NL MVP would make an ideal player/manager for the Barnstormers since this non-franchise has no managerial history.

Batting seventh.. the Left Fielder.. Jesse Burkett

Jesse Burkett batted an astounding .355 over eight seasons for the long-defunct Cleveland Spiders in the 1890s. Burkett hit over .400 in back-to-back seasons, leading the majors in 1895 and 1896. The Hall of Famer walked more than twice as often as he struck out, and his career runs scored total of 1,720 is 26th all-time. For a team of misfits and leftovers, Jesse Burkett is a heck of a player to have in the bottom third of the order.

Batting eighth.. the Catcher.. Thurman Munson   
Thurman Munson would be a starting catcher for at least a dozen All-Time teams. However the Yankees have two Hall of Fame catchers blocking him. In just nine full seasons Munson won three Gold Gloves, AL Rookie of the Year, AL MVP, and made seven all-star teams. His 46.1 career WAR ranks 16th all-time among catchers and just three players ahead of him are not in the Hall of Fame. The Yankees' captain hit .357 over 30 career playoff games and posted three consecutive seasons of 100+ RBI from 1975-1977.

Batting ninth.. the Shortstop.. Hughie Jennings  

Hughie Jennings batted an eye-popping .359 over seven seasons with the Baltimore Orioles - of the National League. Since that's a long-defunct club "Ee-yah" finds himself starting on this team (not that he would have bumped Cal Ripken out anyhow.) Jennings led the NL in WAR four consecutive seasons from 1895-1898, and he was hit by a pitch more times than any player in major league history - two more times than Craig Biggio. Jennings' 2013 Panini Cooperstown card, his most recent single, commemorates that feat.

The Starting Pitcher for the Barnstormers.. Tim Keefe  

Tim Keefe was an outstanding 19th-century starter primarily with the Giants. From 1883 to 1888 Keefe led his league in ERA twice, strikeouts twice, and WHIP three times. In the 1888 championship, the Hall of Fame hurler won all four of his starts and allowed just two earned runs across 35 innings. Keefe's 342 career wins (for those of of you who still value wins) is tenth all-time and first on this team of unaffiliated stars. The only reason he's not on the Giants' All-Time Team is their incredible starting pitcher depth.

Now let's take a look at the Barnstormers' bench and bullpen:

Catcher - Roger Bresnahan (Giants)
1st Base - Will Clark (Giants)
Infielder - Joe Gordon (Yankees)
Outfield - Lefty O'Doul (no qualifying team)
Outfield - Willie Keeler (Yankees

Bresnahan posted a .403 on-base percentage and a 139 OPS+ over seven seasons with the Giants. Clark compiled a .303 batting average and 56.5 WAR over his 15-year career. Gordon hit 20 or more home runs in seven of his eleven seasons. O'Doul won two batting titles and his lifetime .349 average is the fourth-highest in major league history. Keeler colelcted 200+ hits in seven consecutive seasons and hit an incredible .424 for the NL's Orioles in 1897.

#2 starter - Old Hoss Radbourn (Braves)
#3 starter - Tim Hudson (Braves/Athletics)
#4 starter - Don Newcombe (Dodgers)
#5 starter - Jim McCormick (defunct team)

Radbourn won 310 games over just eleven seasons, boosted by an unbelievale 1884 season in which he won 60 of his 73 starts, struck out 441 batters, and posted a 1.38 ERA - for a 19.1 WAR. Hudson made four All-Star teams and finished top-4 in Cy Young voting three times. "Newk" won Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP honors for the Dodgers - along with a World Series in 1955. McCormick's 76.2 career WAR is the third-highest of any pitcher not enshrined in Cooperstown.

LH Reliever - Arthur Rhodes (Orioles)
RH Reliever - Don McMahon (Giants/Braves)
RH Reliever - Mike Timlin (Blue Jays/Red Sox)
RH Reliever - Bob Wickman (Brewers/Indians)

RH Reliever - Fernando Rodney (Tigers)
LH Reliever - Randy Myers (Mets) 

Rhodes made 900 appearances (26th all-time) and posted a 142 ERA+ over five seasons in Seattle. McMahon compiled a 2.96 ERA over 18 seasons. Timlin is eighth on the all-time games pitched list and won four World Series. Wickman earned 267 career saves including a league-leading 45 in 2005. Rodney is 17th all-time with 327 career saves and led the majors with 48 closeouts in 2014. Myers led the league in saves three times and his career total of 347 is 12th-highest in history.  

This is a solid 31st team in my opinion. Of course if this were a real team we would need a 32nd franchise to even out the leagues. The bullpen would get pretty thin though.

Please let me know what you think of this format. If there are any tweaks to be made I'll only have a couple days to refine the first two posts before starting my four-day vacation in DC.

I hope to see you here on Sunday for our first All-Time Team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Thanks for reading! 


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Flagship Roll Call!

Before I start my All-Time Teams project I have one more recent purchase to discuss.


The 2019 Topps cards were in the toy aisle, away from all of the other sports cards. I was not a fan of this year's design when it was released, but I got a good head start on the series 1 set in the surplus box I bought on eBay. Supplementing that with trades helped push me over 82% completion without buying one single pack (the downside is that many of the cards have corner dings.) 

I had just 22 cards from series 2 before my Target purchase. There was a metal sign at the top of the end cap with the price list for each type of box : $2.99/pack, $9.99/hanger box, $19.99/blaster box. 

My gut reaction was to pick up a blaster - and I did. But then I did the math in my head. For $20 I'd get 99 cards - and one of those would be a 150th Anniversary manu-patch thing. There would probably be an insert in every pack, and so now we're down to maybe 90 cards for my set.

I put down the blaster. I picked up those two beat-up hanger boxes. All of the hanger boxes were dented. But there's 67 cards in each (and no manu-patch) for a total of 132 cards. Even if 16 of them are inserts that means I'm getting 116 base cards - assuming there aren't any dupes between the two boxes. 

Let's see how I did..

My favorite thing about this year's set has to be the ballpark cards. Look at that sky above Citi Field! (Bonus - the names are in proper order.)

Some more horizontal cards, including an Andrew McCutchen cameo. I don't mind horizontal cards in flagship sets because I end up sleeving every card and stashing them in boxes anyhow. Topps sets are too big to display in binders (especially now that Ultra Pro shrunk the f*cking D-ring)

Some throwback threads here. Which one is your favorite?

More notable cards, including an Ohtani rookie cup. I guess that's Tulo's sunset card.

And if Dustin Pedroia really can't play anymore then I hope this is his sunset card. I know how annoyed collectors get when someone like Jacoby Ellsbury or Scott Kazmir keep popping up in sets when they haven't played in two years. I don't want them saying that about my guy.

Another reason I bought hanger packs instead of a blaster was to try and pull a Legends variation. I don't know that they're not inserted into blaster packs, but I thought the odds might be better with a hanger pack.

No such luck. 

Here are the inserts I did pull - minus a Steven Brault rainbow parallel that didn't fit in the scan.

I have no idea who Nick Martini is but the rest of the pack is solid. I've wanted this Yount for my PC and Koufax is an unofficial PC player. Scherzer is a blue parallel.


The second pack only had seven inserts - which gave me false hope for a Legend or other photo variation. The Judges and Larsen will go in a stack of Yankees/vintage I'm building for Bo.

This break was a bit of letdown considering the value I got from the Score Football fat packs, but the point was to get as many set fillers as possible. On that front, I succeeded.

Of the 117 base cards in these packs I needed 110. Anything over 98 would have made me happy. I've still got a long way to go to complete this set, but series 2 is off to a good start.

While I'm at it, here's a quick roll call of my progress with the last five Topps sets, which I'll call the Flagship Five.

2019 Topps
417 haves
283 needs
700 card set

variations: none


2018 Topps
698 haves
2 needs* (#540 Mitch Garver, #653 Jorge Soler)
700 card set

variations: 2 (#439b Dustin Pedroia, #550b Jackie Robinson)

*plus the corrected versions of #364 (Dodgers) and #565 (Mets) 


2017 Topps
614 haves
86 needs
700 card set

variations: none


2016 Topps
set complete

variations: 1 (#478 Cody Asche 42 jersey)


2015 Topps
set complete

variations: 1 (#302 Martin Prado Gatorade shower)

I'd like to complete at least one more of these before 2020 Topps comes out In five months. 

Are any of you (still) working on these sets? Let me know what you need, I have hundreds of dupes.

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Stranger Stuff

I ordered more stuff from Blowout Cards around my birthday, mostly because I was out of penny sleeves. Of course I ordered some cards, too. 

Earlier this year I saw a blaster box of Stranger Things cards at Target. I didn't buy them because $20 seemed just a little steep and/or I was being cheap. In the meanwhile, my wife and I finished watching season 2 and watched all of season 3. Andso I added this blaster to my cart for just $12.

This summer she did something she hasn't done in fifteen years. She started a collection!

If these don't stick to our fridge I will freak

We stopped into a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins on our way home from the Silversun Pickups show. The Stranger Things promo was still up, which was a pleasant surprise. She had grabbed the last sheet of magnets in a previous visit but that BR didn't have the special edition Funko figure.

I was shocked that she paid $20 for this thing, though they apparently sell for twice that on eBay. I've also tried to entice her to visit the comic book shop I used to frequent because I know they have Funko there (and penny sleeves, and packs of Topps baseball..)

Back to the blaster..each box contains ten packs of seven cards plus a commemorative patch card.

My wife opened this last and declared this a Steve (hot) box. Looks like it broke the tie:

 The top two are Scenes Stickers, the bottom two are Character Cards...

...and these are Character Stickers. D was baffled by this - why are there two sets of stickers? I will never understand non-sports sets myself, but then I'm sure a non-sports collector would wonder why we stick-and-ball fans need fifteen versions of the same card.

As proof of my lack of experience in and understanding of non-sports sets.. I posted the hits first. I wouldn't do that for a sports card set. Anyway, here's a sampling of the base set:

Nearly all of the cards are horizontal. This is not ideal for nine-pocket storage. Or maybe I'm just not thinking like a non-sports collector.

Of the 58 base cards in the box, only seven were right-side up. 

Lots of Eleven in this set, natch. I hope the Duffer brothers reveal more about her origin story in season 4.

I thought there would be more cards of the boys. The lack of Dustin in this box is a bit of a bummer.

A surprising amount of Nancy/Steve/Jonathan. I'm bewildered by her.

Throwback to when Steve was a douche. He might be my favorite character now #dadSteve

Believe it or not, I have owned a Winona Ryder card before. However this Dracula character card (also made by Topps) is long gone from my collection.  

We stick together because we're stronger together.

Topps did an excellent job with this set.100 cards is a good size and the backs describe each scene with just the right amount of detail. I sure hope they keep this up for their Season 2 and 3 sets. While I've been very disappointed in the quality and inconsistency of non-sports sets by other companies (NECA especially) Topps knows what they're doing. 

I haven't seen blasters of ST2 yet (Blowout had hobby boxes for $50+) but I'm hoping there's some kind of continuity with the design. Also I have to find someone with the 42 ST1 singles we're missing...

Do you have a favorite Stranger Things character? Least favorite? 

Thanks for reading!


Friday, August 23, 2019

A Repack and a Pancake Stack

I had planned to post part two of my Target break today... until I got Stacked!

I've seen this calling card before on the blogs, and until yesterday I did not know the identity of the Pancake King. Based on the generosity of a certain blogging legend I should not have been surprised.

Before I reveal what Wes sent my way, here are the highlights from the basketball repack I picked up. I shy away from baseball and hockey repacks since there's a greater chance I end up with a stack of dupes (although if I ever see those long-ass 200 card repack cubes again I'll pick one up because they are awesome.) The Walgreens by my last job had football repacks and it's probably a good thing I changed jobs or I would have bought them at least once a week.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that basketball repacks are my safest bet. Let's see what $5 got me: 

A couple of Charlotte Hornets (including Grandmama) and a couple of Craig Hodges cards, plus a Tim Hardaway RC get this repack started.

Reign man! Was Shawn Kemp fun to watch or what? The two cards from 1992-93 Ultra will help my set build, and the Frank Johnson Topps card makes me want to order a retro Suns jersey.

More star power here, including an Olajuwon for my PC, another Coleman, a red-haired Rodman, and a C-Webb with a Shaq cameo. 

I can add these three to my PC stacks as well. 

Best of the rest, including a pair of Blazers. The Zach Collins card was in the window; I picked this over a Dwayne Bacon Optic RC incase Kerry can use it. 


Here's the guaranteed pack. What could I possibly pull out of this product?

Yup. Bland AF. But hold on...there's one more card in here:

Nice! I'm not sure if this is a $1 card or a $10 card. Either way it's probably the best card I could have pulled from a 5-card pack of Panini Complete

Now let's see what Wes hit me with...

A bounty of Brett Favre cards! 4 of these are needs and 4 of these are dupes. 

Three more, including two serial numbered cards. The Bowman Chrome is SN'd to 500. I'm now at 739 different Favre cards, with another five sitting in my COMC inventory. Doesn't look like I'll get to 1,000 by the end of the year unless I buy a big lot off eBay or make a ton of trades in the fall. 800 looks doable though. 

There was one other card in the bubble mailer... 

Hello, Shanny! My wife and I have a binder full of Brendan Shanahan cards, but we don't have any autographed singles. National Treasures cards are some of the nicest looking Panini releases in their too-brief time as an NHL licensee.

Wes, thank you again for the fantastic additions to my PC! It's great to know you're still lurking 'round the blogosphere.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!