Friday, March 30, 2018

MLB Predictions

I read Bob Walk the Plank's 2018 predictions the other day and his post got the ol' wheels a turnin'. I've been pondering who I would pick for division winners and awards ever since. I've done this exercise in the past, with little success, but it's always fun to go back after the season to see how idiotic you were a mere six months prior. So, I'm doing this post now, for Future Me.

AL East - Yankees
AL Central - Indians
AL West - Astros

Wildcard 1 - Red Sox
Wildcard 2 - Mariners

Best Record in the AL - Yankees . . . This may be the year in which the number of Topps Now Yankees cards produced reaches the 20% plateau of the entire set. Thus, infuriating many collectors while also driving The Lost Collector to file for bankruptcy.

ALCS - Indians . . . I like their starting pitching, but I wonder if their offense will provide enough of a punch.

NL East - Nationals . . . I believe the Nats will be the first team to clinch their division. The NL East, at least right now, isn't very strong. Although, I think the Phillies and Braves are on the upswing.
NL Central - Cubs
NL West - Dodgers Diamondbacks . . . Yep, an upset. What if Cody Bellinger has a sophomore slump and we've already seen the best of Corey Seager? What if Kershaw has another back issue and Chris Taylor comes back down to earth? What if the Dodgers give Matt Kemp 400 plate appearances before they realize a 0.700 OPS from your left fielder isn't going to cut it?

Okay. So maybe I'm still not over the Dodgers steamrolling the Cubs in the NLCS last year? 

Wildcard 1 - Diamondbacks . . . I do believe in the Dbacks, but I don't think they have enough to overtake the Dodgers. Plus, who knows how the new humidor in Arizona will change things?
Wildcard 2 - Brewers . . . They are a young group who showed much during the first half of 2017. Now a year older and more experienced I wonder if they can challenge the Cubs?

Best Record in the NL - Nationals
NLCS - Nationals . . . it appears I'm "all in" on the Nats. If Scherzer and Strasburg can stay healthy, then they have enough pitching to get through the playoffs. Plus, what kind of crazy numbers is Bryce Harper going to put up in his walk year?

World Series - Indians over Nationals . . . The Indians end their title drought and Harper leaves the Nats just short of giving DC its first World Series title since 1924.

AL MVP - Mike Trout . . . He'll turn 27 in August, which generally means he's entering his prime. Scary.
NL MVP - Bryce Harper

AL Cy Young - Chris Sale
NL Cy Young - Noah Syndergaard

AL ROY - Dan Vogelbach
NL ROY - Ryan McMahon

Well, that was a fun exercise. I struggled with the Cy Young winners and NL ROY of the year. I figure Chris Sale is upset after losing to Corey Kluber last year. He'll come out this year and strike out the world.

Syndergaard? I don't think the Mets will be very good this year, but Syndergaard didn't throw a ton last year and that may work to his advantage in 2018. King Felix has shown in the past that you don't need a ton of wins to capture the Cy Young Award.

Ryan McMahon? I'm not sure I believe all the hype surrounding Ronald Acuna. Scott Kingery was  given consideration, too. I like McMahon's bat, but I wonder if he'll get enough plate appearances?

I know. I know. Vogelbach was a total homer pick for Rookie of the Year. Yet, he made the Opening Day roster after an off-season in which the Mariners traded for Ryon Healy to play first base.
And obviously he hit the snot out of the ball this spring:
 Here's what Vogelbach brings to the table that Healy doesn't: consistent quality at-bats. I mean the type of at-bat where the hitter makes the pitcher work. Check out the Vogelmonster's OBP. It's an unsustainable number, but the separation from the batting average is over 100 points. That's very impressive.

Healy only drew 23 walks in 600+ plate appearances last year, while posting a 0.754 OPS. He's not taking a free pass and he isn't crushing the ball. A 0.754 OPS from first base is very meh. If the Mariners truly give Vogelbach a chance, then I think they'll be kicking themselves for making the Healy deal.

So, yeah. Everyone is calling for some two-way star on the west coast to be the ROY in the AL, but I think the Vogelmonster will give him a legitimate run for his money. #VogelmonsterFanBoy

I'm glad baseball's back and I look forward to watching the 2018 season unfold, even if most of my predictions prove to be way off target.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Tag. I'm it?

Douglas sent me a nice package cards in December and three months later I've received a second bubble mailer from up north. I wasn't expecting any cards from Sportscards From The Dollar Store, but I'm always up for a game of cardboard tag. Especially when I know I can send hockey and Mets cards!

Let's take a look at what kind of Cubs cards can be found at the Dollar Store in Canada.

I'm still scratching my head at the decision to give Kris Bryant his own 30-card insert set in Topps Series 1.  
 Later this week Bryant will be starting only his fourth season in the majors.  Yet, he's deserving of his own insert set?  What about that Mike Trout guy?

Award Winners.  Cool.
 I'm still trying to catch up on 2017, so these inserts are most appreciated.

In my humble opinion, this is the best looking card from Douglas' package. Panini for the win.
I really enjoy the fade-to-back almost full bleed design.  I'm not sure what to think of Ian Happ at this juncture. He's done well in spring training this year, but Joe Maddon did not trust him AT ALL in the playoffs last year. We'll see what 2018 brings.

Failed Cubs prospects. Argh.
 I remember being in middle school and thinking Team 2000 was such a cool insert. For the record, Gary Scott was out of professional baseball after the 1997 season.

Who would you vote as the most underrated Chicago Cub?  It's certainly not Kris Bryant.
 My vote would be for Kyle Hendricks. The man goes about his business the right way and seems to never be in the spotlight despite being a darn good pitcher.

Brett Eldredge. I've actually started to listening to some country music the last couple of years and I really favor Eldredge's musical stylings... lively and fun to sing to.

 Ahhh. I thought Koji Fujikawa was going to light the world on fire. Boy, I missed on that one.
I think the same of Oscar De La Cruz. Maybe I'll get this one right? I believe Oscar is the Cubs' best pitching prospect who is closest to the major leagues.

Random Cubs goodness. The DLee Opening Day card is my favorite of this lot.

Hey!  A new Ryne Sandberg card for my Ryno player collection!  This one is a 1997 Leaf issue.

Lastly, we have one of those manu-relics celebrating the Players' Weekend from last season. This is my first look at these in hand and it is pretty cool.
I wish the card pictured Kyle Schwarber's back so we could see the "Schwarbs" nickname on the reverse side of his jersey. Or, if nothing else, I think the back of the card should have made mention of his nickname. No such luck. It is what it is. 

Douglas, thanks for the cardboard!  I'll be sure to add you to my list of people I owe cards, which seems to be growing by the week. Stay patient folks. This teacher/coach will play catch up this spring break and/or summer and cards will be sent. In the meantime I'll keep sorting "The Collection" into piles. Fun-fun!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Blog Bat Around: What I Collect

I was supposed to be coaching a pair of games in a tournament in Galesburg right now, but Mother Nature has decided that winter is not over, although the calendar states otherwise.
Above is a picture of our high school baseball diamond about eight hours ago and since then we've received another three or four inches of snow. <Sigh.> I should know better by now, but weather like this always shocks me once baseball season starts.

Since I have a bit of unexpected free time on my hands, I think I'll attack the latest Blog Bat Around.
Let's take a gander at what I collect in order of importance:

1. Dan Vogelmonsterbach
I'm a super collector of his concerning anything in Cub blue. But what about Mariner blue?
I went all in on Vogelbach's 2017 cardboard offerings, but I haven't decided to take the plunge on 2018 yet. 2017 sapped my budget, but I added 177 different Vogelbach cards, 66 of which were autos. Yes, 66. It was fun, but it left me very little to spend on my other collection interests.
Above is The Vogelmonster's Mariners Team Card from this year, which I plucked from Ebay. I really like the photo, and I figure I'll see this card in Series 2 at some point. If Topps doesn't overdo it on the Vogelbach autograph cards, like they did last year, then maybe I'll add as many of 2018's cards to the binder as I can.

2. Cards for My Blogging Friends
I'm not going to show off anything here, because I like things to be a surprise. I've noticed something about my purchases when I visit a card shop or show: the majority of the cards I buy are for other people. Granted, they're mostly of the dime box variety, but you can find some pretty cool stuff in dime boxes these days. I enjoy shopping for others.

3. Cubs World Series cards
Look, much of the core from 2016 is still on the roster, but that doesn't guarantee success in the playoffs. As a result, I'm still focusing on trying to track down an auto or relic from every major contributor from the 2016 team. You know, because the Cubs may not when their next one for another 108 years. Also, I've been adding any card that makes mention of the team winning the World Series to my World Series Binder.

4. My Cubs FrankenSet
  Chris, The Collector, sent me this John Jay card, which filled one of the last two holes in my my 671 card Cubs FrankenSet. I'm still missing card #661 if you have one laying around. Even once I fill that hole the set won't be finished. I love updating/improving the set by adding new and unique Cubs cards.

5. Hall of Fame Binder
The players are sorted by year of induction within the binder and my goal is to add one card of every player in the Hall of Fame. I'm struggling with some of the Negro League guys, but I'll zero in on them before too long. Chris sent me the above three cards and they all have a chance to be added to the binder. Vintage trumps everything, but modern day cards serve as acceptable place holders until I win the lottery. Wait, I don't play the lottery. ... Modern day cards RULE! 
Yes, I know Ichiro isn't in The Hall yet, but the fact this card celebrates his 3,000 hits is definitely appealing. A card of him in a Mariner jersey would be nice too...  I have at least a handful of years to figure out what to do with him, but I'll hold onto this card until then.
For the record, one of my (hopeful) summer projects is to post/list my HOF binder on the blog.

6. Cubs
 Heck. Yeah.  I'll take 'em all. I love oddballs like this skinny Kyle Schwarber. The mini Cracker Jack Andre Dawson came from Chris, as did the Justin Steele card below. 

Prospects?  Yes, please.     Autos, sure!
I haven't been actively accruing cardboard as of late, but when I do it's gems like this Doug Dascenzo auto. Three bucks from Ebay for an autographed card of an outfielder pitching? Yeah, that was a steal. 

7. Other Player Collections: Ryno and Kid K
I don't seek out Ryne Sandberg and Kerry Wood cards, but they sure do have a knack for finding me.
They seem to be included in every other trade package and they are much appreciated. Again, this one came from Chris.

8. Sets
I consider myself a set builder, but I've gotten away from that lately. I'm working on adding some want lists to my Set Needs page, but it probably won't happen until the summer.

That about does it for what I collect.

I'd like to thank Chris, The Collector, for the trade package he sent me. It proved to hit many different areas of my collecting interests!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Tell Her Hot Dogs Are Bad for Her.

 So, I was taking pictures from a package of Super Cubs Mojo the other morning and my wife asked, "Which guy sent you those?"
"Well, that would be a gal. Julie."
She motions to the computer screen, "Oh. Is that her blog name?"

"Tell her hot dogs are bad for her."   My wife. 😂
 I just had to share that little conversation with you all. For whatever reason, I found it to be pretty amusing. For the record, my favorite ballpark food to consume is a hot dog, which is closely followed by a bag of peanuts.

Do I care that hot dogs are bad for you?  No.
Check out this Tools of the Trade double relic card!  Did you notice the fielding glove on the left?
How about this? The oils from the glove are coming through on the back of the card. Too cool! For the record, this my 525th different Kerry Wood card.

 Julie made a huge dent in my 2018 Heritage Cubs team set.  I love the feel of the Heritage stock.
Julie's not stingy: she even sent the Zobrist and Wade Davis short prints!  Nice!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Something about chromey Heritage cards just doesn't do it for me." The chrome treatment seems out of place on a vintage card design.
 Regardless, Willson is my favorite current Cub and this card is BEAUTIFUL.

This is my favorite Cubs Heritage card from the 2018 edition:
I have a Dillon Maples rainbow because I thought he was going to be the goods when he was drafted. There was a time where I was wondering if he would ever make it, but it looks like he just may be a late bloomer. Jen-Ho Tseng is a two-time winner of Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Taylor Davis?  He's a journeyman minor league catcher who received a cup of coffee last fall, but is probably better known for this video:
Man, I love baseball.

How about some old school minor league baseball?
These are TCMA cards from 1982 & 1983.
 Here's a shot of the backs for those who are interested. For a "Photo Fact Card" there sure aren't a lot of facts on the back!
 Here's what my wife liked the most about Julie's trade package:
 These are from the 1994 Fleer Extra Bases set and they are extra tall, about 4.5 inches.

Here's a quick shot for comparison:
 Two Brooks Kieschnick cards, which gives me a great opportunity to show off the front and back. Very nice!
 This Brooks Kieschnick card brings my player collection of him up to 82 unique Cubs cards. That's a strong total for a guy who only played sixty-four games for the Cubs.

Julie, author of A Cracked Bat: Baseball Cards and a Hot Dog, sure does know how to create one heckuva trade package. Thanks for all the sweet Cubs mojo, Julie!  I'll be sure to get something out your way before too long!

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Dominating PWE

Modest as I try to be, I like to think I have a pretty extensive Cubs collection. I mean, it pales in comparison to Wrigley Wax', but it does require quite a few binders and four 3200-count boxes to house all of my Cub cards. So yeah, I'm doin' alright.
Matt, from the Sports Card Collectors blog, sent me a recent six-card PWE the other day and was it ever a winner! Each of the cards were new to my collection, which is not an easy feat for any trade package. His secret? Hit my collection where I've been most negligent: cards from the last couple of years.
I know, I know. Timing. It's my own fault, I decided to become a Dan Vogelbach supercollector and then the Cubs Win the World Series. I only have so much budgeted for cardboard in a given year and I had to make a tough decision. I actually went over budget in 2017 on my Vogelmonster pursuit, while nearly completely ignoring my Cubs collection.
I don't regret my decision to focus my funds on a player collection, because I know my blogging buddies. Blogger are generous folk, who pull lots of Cubs and send them my way. Eventually Cubs collection for 2016 and 2017 would get up to speed and through the best way possible: trades.
My main fear generated by solely focusing on Vogelbach was that I would miss cards like this Kyle Hendricks Dominator card. The front is nice, and I like the Donruss Optic product, but the back of the card is where it's at.

 Yep, I have a World Series binder and this one will find its final resting spot there. I like how the back mentions "waiting 'til next year." It's as though the card was made with me in mind!  Ha!

Matt, thanks for the surprise cards. Even though I'm short on time as of late, the cards were truly a nice surprise to break up the rabbit race I've been running. FYI, I have a box of multi-sport cards that I plan on sending your way. I'm still going through the sorting process though. 😏

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Baseball On My Mind

It's been a good ten days since I posted. That bothers me, but I knew with my high school baseball season starting up that I wouldn't be able to churn out material as often as I would like. There are only so many hours in the day.

Even so, my mind has been swimming with baseball related content as of late. So, let's ramble a little bit here.

  • I was watching the Cubs play the Indians the other night and it took nearly 45 minutes for the two teams to get seven outs. I know it's spring training and I happened to catch an inning (plus) with some scoring action, but WOW that's slow.
  • You know what else is slow going? Sorting 14,000+ baseball cards from The Collection. It's fun though!
  • I'm getting ready for fantasy baseball drafts and I'm slightly frustrated by Yahoo's system for automatic drafts. You can pre-rank your players, which is nice, but their rankings are constantly changing. For some reason I thought their pre-season rankings would be stagnant. I set up my draft order thinking that if I moved Kyle Hendricks up a round or so in my rankings that I would surely snag him, but then his Yahoo player ranking moved up as well. It seems Yahoo's pre-season rankings change based upon average draft position, which in many cases is fueled by spring training performance. My couple of hours tinkering seems to all be for not. Yet, oddly enough, I'm looking forward to going back in and playing around with my draft order even more. 
  • Shohei Ohtani is good for baseball. I'm not sure if he's good for the small time baseball card collector like myself (higher box/pack prices), but I think he's helping the hobby, too. I hear he has some flaws in his swing. Yet, if he's the pitcher everyone thinks he is, then his cards will still command a premium, much like Yu Darvish's did when he came over from Japan. 
  • I realized I enjoy hitting fly balls to my players and watching them chase them down just as much as I enjoyed catching them 20+ years ago. So much fun!
  • I heard that MLB has put strict guidelines on how teams must store their game baseballs. Some are angered by this because they think MLB is trying to lower the number of homeruns, but I don't see that as the case. Yes, by asking each team to store their baseballs in a climate controlled environment the homerun totals may drop from 2017. But honestly, it would be hard to top the homer output from last season. I see it as MLB eliminating one variable that causes offensive fluctuation from ballpark to ballpark and season to season. My question is, "Will MLB try to eliminate other such variables down the road?"
  • Someday I will wise up and move to a warmer state where, as a coach, I don't have to worry about not getting on our field before the first game. We've had two weeks of practice and I our first game is in one week. Our field is still a marsh. Thank goodness we have an artificial turf football field we can spend time on!
And one more point to make:  DAN VOGELBACH IS GOOD AT BASEBALL.
Yeah. It's spring training, but check out the batting average and the walk to strikeout ratio. The Vogelmonster is relaxed and having fun again.  I believe he is ticketed for Tacoma to start the season, but if he keeps hitting like this he may force Seattle's hand. 

That's it for today, but I have received a PWE (SCC) and a yellow mailer (ACB) that I'll try to get up in the near future. 

Thanks for stopping by!