Sunday, December 26, 2021

Christmas Sox

Thank you all for the well wishes, I'm feeling much better today.

I didn't get any new cards this Christmas (possibly because I was unable to visit my in-laws) but I did get some sports-related gifts: a Red Sox 2022 calendar, a Packers hat, and a Red Sox 2018 World Series champions hat from my wife - and a P.K. Subban Funko from my sister in law. It would have been nice to have a blaster or two to crack open while I was quarantined but it's okay. I honestly didn't like any of the low-end retail options anyhow (except Archives*).

The Mrs. and I gifted our girls a trip to Boston this spring. We probably won't get to see a Red Sox game even if the lockout ends in time, but I'm looking forward to it. Can't wait to tell my bosses I'll need another week off lol.

Though there were no blasters or fat packs under our tree that's not to say I didn't get any cards. Dennis delivered in the clutch with a bubble mailer full of Red Sox* (and a couple non-Sox) that arrived just as I was planning my previous post.

*this Big Papi Archives card was the only Sox single in my recent COMC order. I actually purchased more Yanks (2) than Red Sox!

Most of the cards from Dennis were mid-1990s issues - which means lots of Mo Vaughn:

Big Mo was a big reason the Red Sox reached the playoffs in 1995. He just beat out Albert Belle for AL MVP honors - but Belle's team swept Boston in the ALDS.

Mid '90s Finest! The '94 Refractor is fantastic. I have the complete set of 1999 and 2000 Finest, maybe I'll put together a career run of Mo Vaughn Finest cards? Mike Greenwell finished second to Jose Canseco in AL MVP voting in 1988. There's more cards of all three players in this stack.

There's Jose, along with some other 1996 Finest cards. I couldn't afford too many packs of those at the time but it was a thrill to pull a Silver or Gold SP. The Embossed parallels were neat, too. Donruss Press Proofs weren't quite as fun, and the die-cuts are a little odd. The Gold Press Proof has that dufex effect that Pinnacle used for the Museum Collection parallels, so I'm partial to that one.

Starting Lineup singles always bring back great memories. I loved that Talking Baseball game as a kid.

Some early career Nomar here, along with more Mike Greenwell and a Rusney Castillo relic.

One more Mo in this batch of 1996 Score brings my total to 135 total (129 different) which vaults him ahead of Roger Clemens and Robin Yount for fifth in my collection. I do have 139 total Clemens cards but only 126 unique singles.

Nearly every care package I receive from Dennis includes some Topps Pristine singles, and the tradition continues with this trio:

Hines Ward and Willis McGahee are from the 2003 Pristine set; Robinson is a numbered SP from the 2004 edition. Those low numbered rookie variations are preventing me from completing the 2003-04 Topps Pristine hockey set:

I was tempted to pick up some serial numbered short-prints during COMC's sale but in the end I settled on this 'base' Matthew Stajan RC, numbered to 1199. If I plan to complete the 'common' rookies portion of the set I'll only need two more: Dominic Moore (no problem) and Patrice Bergeron (gulp).

Dennis, thanks for the great Red Sox (and Pristine) cards!

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and thanks for reading!


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Covid and Cards

My daughter tested positive for Covid over the weekend. I started showing symptoms on Monday, the same day that my COMC order arrived. I'm going to get tested tomorrow, and I'm certain it will confirm that I have Covid as well.

I've been trying to summon enough energy to discuss some of the 57 cards I received from COMC - and just as I started writing this post I received an email from Dennis informing me that I had a package. If I'm feeling better this weekend I'll try to scan up those cards. For now, here's a few I picked out in November.

This 1971 Topps Nate Colbert is in nice enough shape that I picked it up for my All-Time Teams collection even though I have a 1970 Colbert in the binder. Even if it's not an 'upgrade' I couldn't pass it up for 57 cents.

There aren't a lot of action photos on Cleveland Barons cards, so I didn't mind spending 78 cents on this Ralph Klassen single from 1977-78 O-Pee-Chee. I made an offer on a logo card but the seller wouldn't budge.

A lot of the cards in this order were newer and shinier than Colbert and Klassen, including this pair of Rams from 2015 Panini Prizm. Eric Dickerson set me back $1.60 while Jared Cook was just $0.34.

COMC's turnaround time has greatly improved; this order arrived in less than a month. Around the same time I placed an order at the Baseball Card Store. That one hasn't shipped yet and I'm not sure if it's because I didn't pay for shipping or if they've got a backlog of orders. I'll check in with Steven once I'm feeling 100% again.

I hope you are all staying safe and healthy. Merry Christmas everyone!


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Updates and Other Stuff

So I was way off on my Hall of Fame predictions. I expected Buck O'Neil, Bill Dahlen, and Dick Allen to be elected by the Eras Committee last Sunday and I was 1 for 3. O'Neil was the one every fan seemed to be happy about; I saw a lot of support for Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso as well. My late father in law used to ask me "why isn't Gil Hodges in the Hall of Fame?" quite often. I'm thrilled he finally made it.

Bummer about Dahlen and Allen though. They're going to have to wait a long time for their next chance. "Today's Game" is up next December, and that era covers 1988 to now. Just so happens that's exactly how long I've been following baseball.

Here's a way-too-early prediction of what the ballot might look like:

  • Kevin Brown
  • Will Clark
  • David Cone
  • Carlos Delgado
  • Jim Edmonds
  • Juan Gonzalez
  • Jim Leyland
  • Kenny Lofton
  • Fred McGriff
  • Lou Piniella

For reference, I'm assuming Dwight Evans, Lou Whitaker, and Keith Hernandez will be on the Modern Baseball ballot (1970-87) along with names like Luis Tiant, Thurman Munson, Dave Parker, and so forth. That era seems to have a lot more underrated stars than the present day.

In other news, here's something I found interesting...

Barry Bonds signed a record-breaking free agent contract with the San Francisco Giants 29 years ago.

At the time, it was the largest free agent contract in both average annual value and total value. The six year contract paid Bonds $43.75 million from 1993 to 1998.

Just before the 2021 lockout began, Max Scherzer signed a three-year contract with the New York Mets worth a total of $130 million. "Mad Max" will make $43.333 million dollars in 2022 alone.

For San Fran's $43+ million investment Barry Bonds compiled 49.6 WAR. 235 of his 762 home runs were hit during this six-year stretch, in which he also stole 194 bases, led the league in walks four consecutive seasons, and won his third NL MVP award (in 1993.)

Max Scherzer can't possibly produce 49.6 WAR in 2022. He can't possibly produce that much value over the life of his three-year deal, and it's highly unlikely he'll be able to compile that total from now until the day he retires.

Yes, there was far less revenue in baseball when Bonds joined the Giants. It's not meant to be an apples-to-apples comparison. There's also a little thing called inflation. However, $43.75 million in 1993 dollars is equivalent to... $78.4 million as of 2020. Still a far cry from $130 mil.

I like Scherzer. I wanted the Red Sox to sign him. I was actually hoping Chaim Bloom would throw him an offer of 3 years at $100 million with a 4th year option for $30 mil or so. And if he had, Mad Max (and/or Scott Boras) probably would have laughed at him. 

That being said, it's good to see the other New York team reel in a top free agent. And good on Dennis's Tigers for signing  Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez to (comparatively) reasonable contracts. E-Rod will make $14 million for Detroit in 2022. Boston's boy genius replaced him with these three aces: James Paxton ($10 mil), Michael Wacha ($7 mil), and the legendary Dick Mountain for $5 mil. Yikes.

Maybe this time Topps will give him a Red Sox card

You know what the Red Sox really need? A shortstop. Preferably one that's been playing in a hitter-friendly park.

Enough off-season talk, it's depressing me. Here are some cards I recently acquired via TCDB:

I added this card to my wantlist and acquired it immediately for one reason: Jon Bois. His brilliant 17776 and 20020 series was supposed to conclude(?) with 20021 this spring. But it looks like we'll have to wait a while longer for the rest of the story. If you're wondering what any of this has to do with a Topps Heritage News Flashbacks insert card... Pioneer 9 and Pioneer 10 are two of the main characters in the trilogy - along with mah boi Juice, the commissioner of football in the future:

It occurred to me recently that the last time I bought packs of current year cards was two years ago, when I purchased a couple hanger boxes of 2019 Topps Update at the local Target. Since I've completed 2019 flagship (and I already have a third of the update set) I decided to build the Update set as well.

This Bryan Reynolds RC arrived today in a PWE trade with TCDB user Gasypo30. It's my 351st completed trade on the site. Did you guys know that Reynolds is really good? I sure didn't.

Here's the rest of the trade. I'm anxiously awaiting my orders to arrive from COMC and Baseball Card Store. Steven at BBCS hooked me up with a fantastic deal that will add more than half of the 2019 Topps Update set to my collection. Blogger gifts have boosted my 2013 Topps Update set, and with one very crucial card on the way I will need less than 20 cards to complete that Update set.

I'll have a more Update-focused post once those shipments arrive. Also, I'm planning a Simpsons-themed post at The 1993 this weekend and possibly a hockey post here while I wait for my cards. 

Thanks for reading!


Friday, December 3, 2021

2022 Baseball Hall of Fame Mega-post

Major League Baseball's off-season has frozen due to the lockout, but there are lots of baseball-related topics to discuss. Hall of Fame votes are on the horizon and there are fifty players up for enshrinement across three different ballots. Let's take a look at the candidates:

Early Baseball Era (pre-1950)

Bill Dahlen
John Donaldson
Bud Fowler
Vic Harris
Grant Johnson
Lefty O'Doul
Buck O'Neil
Dick Redding
Allie Reynolds
George Scales

Bill Dahlen ranks ninth all-time among shortstops in career WAR, ahead of recent inductees Derek Jeter and Alan Trammell. His career total of 75.2 is 50th all-time among all non-pitchers. He gets my vote.

I've said before that I know next to nothing about the Negro Leagues, certainly not enough to have an educated opinion on which players do or do not deserve a plaque in Cooperstown. I'd vote for Buck O'Neil for his lifetime contributions to the game of baseball. Donaldson, Fowler, Harris, Johnson, Redding, or Scales may be every bit as deserving as any pre-integration inductee.

Lefty O'Doul won two batting titles in his six full seasons and finished his 11-year career with a batting average of .349. That's the fourth-highest mark in major league history. However he played just 970 games and his 1,140 career hits are far too low a total for even a "big Hall" ballot.

Allie Reynolds won six World Series with the Yankees in the mid-20th century, earning two top-three finishes in AL MVP voting before the Cy Young Award was a thing. His old-school stats (wins, ERA) are impressive but his strikeout to walk ratio and WAR totals are pedestrian for a Hall of Fame finalist.

Golden Days Era (1950-1969)

Dick Allen
Ken Boyer
Gil Hodges
Jim Kaat
Roger Maris
Minnie Minoso
Danny Murtaugh
Tony Oliva
Billy Pierce
Maury Wills
This is a fantastic ballot. It appears that Dick Allen has the best chance of being selected from this group. His 1,848 career hits are a low total for a Hall of Famer, but the three-time slugging champ produced plenty of power in an era that lacked the long ball. These "golden era" greats have been scrutinized for decades, but Allen has enough momentum to earn 75% of the votes this time around.

Ken Boyer has the highest career WAR of any player on this ballot. His 62.8 total ranks 14th all time among third basemen (12th if you count Paul Molitor and Edgar Martinez as designated hitters.) The 1964 NL MVP was an 11-time All-Star and 5-time Gold Glove winner, although those accolades mean less than they did 35 years ago when he was struggling to earn 20% of the BBWAA vote.

Gil Hodges was one Veterans' Committee vote away from induction (for that matter, so was Allie Reynolds). Being a standout run producer for the 1950s Dodgers helps his case, and I'd give him an extra point for managing the 1969 "miracle" Mets to a World Series victory. However his modest WAR total as a first baseman has been surpassed by modern stars from Albert Pujols to Carlos Delgado.

Jim Kaat is 31st all time in wins and one of the best fielding pitchers the game has ever seen. His strikeout to walk ratio is very good, though he averaged less than 100 whiffs per season. He also gave up a ton of hits and his ERA+ in a pitcher-friendly era is a modest 108. I am impressed that a player whose greatest contributions were classified as pre-1969 pitched effectively until 1983!

We all know Roger Maris as the single-season home run king (at least in the pre-PED era.) He won back-to-back MVP awards on a team with Mickey Mantle in his prime, and earned seven All-Star invites. However his 38.3 career WAR is the lowest of any player on this ballot and his 275 career round-trippers rank below 41 right fielders including Reggie Sanders, Tim Salmon, and Ruben Sierra.

Minnie Minoso could be a dark horse candidate to earn enshrinement. One of the greatest players in White Sox history, Minoso's career spanned an astounding five decades. His career .387 on-base % is the highest of any player on this ballot and his 53.8 WAR ranks 20th all-time among left fielders.

Danny Murtaugh managed the Pirates for fifteen seasons, leading the team to World Series titles in 1960 and 1971. I'd mistakenly assumed he already was a Hall of Famer before researching my All-Time Teams series. Murtaugh's .540 (regular season) winning percentage isn't eye-popping, but it is equal to that of Terry Francona - who also has two rings.

Tony Oliva won three batting titles in his eleven full seasons with the Twins. He led the AL in hits five times from 1964-1970 and his career .304 batting average is the highest of any player on this ballot. His overall career totals are more impressive than Maris - even with 55 fewer home runs, their career slugging averages are dead even. That said, his 43 WAR ranks well below several non-HOFers at his position including Dwight Evans, Reggie Smith, and Rocky Colavito.

If Billy Pierce pitched for the Yankees, he'd have been enshrined long ago. The White Sox ace finished his career with a near-equal amount of strikeouts in a near-equal amount of starts as New York's legendary lefty Whitey Ford, and he's not far behind in wins or WAR. While his contemporary has six World Series rings and a plaque in Cooperstown, Pierce's lack of accolades hurts his candidacy.

Maury Wills brought back the stolen base, which had been dormant since the dead-ball era. No National Leaguer swiped 50 bags in a season from 1924 to 1959. Wills topped the half-century mark in 1960, then set a modern-era record with 104 steals two years later. His base-running earned him NL MVP honors that season, but his lack of power resulted in nearly identical on-base and slugging averages (.330/.331)

I'm personally pulling for Hodges, Oliva and Boyer to get in - though I wouldn't mind Minoso or Pierce. Since it's so hard to separate one or two of them from the rest of the pack I'd be surprised if anyone other than Dick Allen earns enough votes from the committee.

Now for the BBWAA Ballot. There are thirty names on this year's list, and unlike in past years there aren't a lot of average players who hung around for the requisite ten years. Nearly all of these players were stars at some point in their careers. Let's look at each player position by position:
Starting Pitchers: Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Andy Pettitte, Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, Tim Lincecum

! Three rings, two Cy Young Awards, four All-Star nods.. has it really been five years since Lincecum last pitched? Wow, time flies. He sure looked like a Hall of Famer those first few years. Peavy has some hardware, too: a Cy Young, two rings, and the pitching triple crown in 2007. Hudson won more games than John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez - but he never won a Cy Young or a World Series. Buehrle somehow has more WAR than David Ortiz and Sammy Sosa. If he'd pitched into his forties he'd have a real shot as a Jim Kaat/Tommy John kind of candidate for the 21st century. Pettitte has the postseason pedigree, but he's probably on the bubble even if you overlook his admission of PED use.

Fun fact about Curt Schilling - while many (including Schill himself) believe that the BBWAA writers are punishing him for espousing extreme political views.. his vote totals have gone up in each of the last four elections. He could easily get the "final ballot bump" this winter if he didn't insist on giving writers a reason to exclude him.
Roger Clemens will get in on the same day that 75% of the voters decide to ignore steroid use, lying about steroid use in front of Congress, and blaming one's spouse/friend/teammate for said steroid use.

Relief Pitchers: Billy Wagner, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon
Wagner's vote totals in his first four years were stuck in the teens. Last year, his sixth on the ballot, he earned 46.4% of the vote. His 187 ERA+ (fifth all-time among relievers) and 422 saves (sixth all-time) have him on track to becoming the first left-handed closer enshrined in Cooperstown. Joe Nathan's ERA, WAR, and save totals compare favorably to Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers. Papelbon is tenth all-time in saves, made six All-Star teams, and closed out the 2007 World Series for the Red Sox.

First Basemen: Todd Helton, David Ortiz, Mark Teixeira, Justin Morneau, Prince Fielder,
Ryan Howard

That's a lot of star power at one position. Howard hit more home runs than all but twenty first basemen. However his 14.7 WAR ranks 30th out of the 30 players on this ballot. Fielder had better on-base and WAR numbers than Howard but still falls far short of Hall standards. Morneau has an MVP award and a slightly higher WAR than Fielder, but fewer base hits. Teixeira was the best defensive first baseman of the bunch, and his 409 home runs are a higher total than every non-DH in this group.

"Big Papi" ranks 17th all-time in home runs with 541 - five more than Mickey Mantle - and won three World Series with the Red Sox. However he was primarily a DH and tested positive for... something? .. according to the New York Times.
PED rumors swirled around Helton at one point, though his declining power could have (also?) been the result of chronic back pain. That and the "Coors Field effect"could slow his efforts for enshrinement - though he earned roughly 45% of the votes cast in last year's election.

Other infielders: Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Jeff Kent, Jimmy Rollins, Omar Vizquel,
A.J. Pierzynski

I said nearly all of these players were stars of the sport - and Pierzynski is one exception. The two-time All-Star caught more games than all but eight players in MLB history. And he won a World Series with the 2005 White Sox. His 94 OPS+ is the second lowest of any position player on the ballot, ahead of only Omar Viqzuel. With 11 Gold Gloves and more career hits than any eligible non-HOFer not connected to PEDs, Vizquel's candidacy is unique - and it may have already peaked at 52.6% of the vote in 2020.

Rollins and Kent have nearly the same amount of hits in nearly the same amount of games. Both middle infielders have earned NL MVP honors. Kent is the all-time leader in home runs by a second baseman. Rollins stole 470 bases and was a far superior fielder. Rolen won eight Gold Gloves at third base, and his 70.1 WAR is the highest total of any player on this ballot who doesn't trigger the "character clause".

A-Rod has more positive PED tests and suspensions than Bonds and Clemens combined - which leads me to believe his vote totals will be lower than theirs (at least this year.) If one gets in, they'll all get in. Then the question becomes: what about Manny Ramirez? Rafael Palmeiro? Sammy Sosa? Mark McGwire? It's a Pandora's Box for sure - and one that may arguably open if David Ortiz is elected. Or, if you believe Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, and/or Ivan Rodrguez cheated, it already has.

I've always been strictly against rewarding cheaters. However I wasn't convinced that Piazza, Bagwell, or Pudge were in that class. I'm not convinced Ortiz is, either. Not because I'm a biased Red Sox fan (there's no denying Manny popped PEDs) but because the commissioner himself cleared Papi.

Outfielders: Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Abreu, Sammy Sosa, Torii Hunter, Carl Crawford

Carl Crawford led the league in stolen bases four times and swiped more bags than anybody on this ballot except Barry Bonds. He also started a record label that produced Megan Thee Stallion, so you can thank/blame him for that. Remember what I said about Billy Pierce? It doesn't work for Torii Hunter, whose Yankee comparable Bernie Williams earned the same percentage of Hall votes. Bobby Abreu is the Rick Reuschel of position players - an 'advanced stats' stud with a high WAR who doesn't quite fit the "fame" criteria of the Hall.

Sosa and Sheffield are strongly linked to PEDs. Sheffield got more than twice as many votes as Sosa last year because he was a better pure hitter. Both players quit on their team at one point in their careers, and both were mediocre fielders at best. "Slammin Sammy" slammed a hundred more homers than Sheff. Sheff walked 500 more times than Sammy. Manny Ramirez was a better hitter than both of them. Barry Bonds was a far better hitter than Sosa, significantly better than Sheffield, Ramirez, and nearly every other player you can think of - roids or not.

And then there's Andruw Jones, who produced like a first-ballot Hall of Fame lock in his twenties. Once he turned 30, he suddenly devolved into a lumbering part-time DH with zero speed or defensive value. And he still amassed 62.7 career WAR, the second highest total of any non-cheater on the ballot. I have two questions regarding Jones: can you put a guy in the Hall for half a legendary career? And if we're inducting Braves center fielders with 400 home runs and a mediocre batting average.. does that mean Dale Murphy deserves a plaque in Cooperstown?

BBWAA members can vote for up to ten of these thirty players. I would vote for four:

Scott Rolen
David Ortiz
Todd Helton
Billy Wagner

Who gets your vote for the Hall of Fame, on the BBWAA ballot or the Veterans Eras Committee?



Thanks for reading!