Sunday, April 29, 2018

Blog Bat Around: My All Autograph Team

I might be a little late to this party, but I've spent a good chunk of quality time thinking about my roster for what is easily the best thing to hit the cardboard blogosphere in 2018: Zippy Zappy's All Autograph Team Blog Bat Around. Decisions had to be made. Should I go all Cubs? All certified or IP autos? Best statistical roster possible? Should current players be included?  Yikes. Lots of decisions.
I wound up going with my favorite players, while trying to stay away from present day Chicago Cubs, because if I didn't, then my selected roster would pretty much resemble the 2016 World Series roster.

Oh, and I went all in. Full 25 man roster and the entire supporting cast and crew.

Owner: Pete Vonachen
Pete Vonachen saved baseball in Peoria and his family name had been tied to the Peoria Chiefs for 30+ years until his son, Rocky, decided to retire this past off season. Pete could be seen walking the concourse of the ballpark handing out baseballs to children. He didn't know a stranger.

Baseball President/General Manager: Theo Epstein
This card was my first successful TTM ever. And yes, I have a man crush on Theo.

Assistant GM: Randy Bush
Randy, the assistant GM to Jim Hendry, came down to P-town on a Cubs Caravan trip one January and he let me try on one of his World Series rings from his playing days with the Twins. Super nice dude.

Player Personnel Director: Oneri Flieta
Flieta was another member of the front office staff I met during a Cubs Caravan. He was really shocked when I presented him with a baseball card to be signed! It was fun hearing him talk about minor league players, where they would play the next season, and if they were on the fast track or not.

Manager: Don Zimmer
Zimmer was the first manager of the Cubs I ever new. I was ten years old and had just discovered the world of baseball cards. The Boys of Zimmer would go on to win the NL East in 1989. He seemed larger than life itself.

Bench Coach: Alan Trammell
Lou Piniella had a future Hall of Famer in Trammell to bounce ideas off of during a three year span in 2007-2009.

Hitting Coach: Eric Hinske
 Hinske was actually drafted by the Cubs, but he made his name as a big leaguer with the Blue Jays. Likewise, he was an assistant hitting coach with the Cubs, until recently when he was hired by the Angels to be the hitting instructor.

Pitching Coach: Chris Bosio
Bosio is given credit for taking the arms of Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop and turning them into top shelf talent. Good enough for me!

Bullpen Coach: Lester Strode
Lester was the pitching coach for the Peoria Chiefs back in the early 90's and now he manages the bullpen for Joe Maddon. I guess Lester is a current Cub, but he was a P-town Chief first so he makes the roster.

Play-by-Play Announcer: Pat Hughes
I've listened to him so often on the radio it's as though he's family. He does such a wonderful job with the play-by-play I couldn't imagine listening to anyone else.

Color Announcer #1: Ron Coomer
 Coom is very knowledgeable and seems to have an anecdote for nearly every occasion.  Plus, I caught a batting practice homer off Coomer's bat back in the day!

Color Announcer #1: Ron Santo
 Ron Santo was part of the original Pat & Ron radio tag team. He was known for being more of a fan than an announcer. Before Pat could describe the action, you could always tell how the Cubs were doing by Ronnie's "Yes!" or "Ooooooh Noooo!" in the background.

Legendary Organist: Gary Pressy
Gary has been the organist at Wrigley field for more than three decades. He gives Wrigley Field that audible old school baseball vibe which automatically puts a smile on your face when you're within earshot.

Now, on to the 25-man roster.

Lead-off Batter: Bob Dernier, CF
I've met Dernier at Cubs Caravans and at Cubs Conventions. You can tell he enjoys being with and around the fans. He received MVP votes for his 1984 season and earned a Gold Glove that year as well.

Batting 2nd: Ryne Sandberg, 2B
Ryno is my original player collection guy and a perfect table setter with Dernier. Together they formed the "Daily Double" atop the Cub's 1984 batting lineup.

Batting 3rd: Billy Williams, LF
I was always told that your best pure hitter bats third. Sweet Swingin' Billy Williams certainly qualifies!

Clean-up Hitter: Ernie Banks, SS
Mr. Cub. "Let's Play Two!" An easy choice here.

Batting 5th: Jim Thome, 1B
This is one of the oldest autos in my collection and it's of a local product. Thome is a legend in these parts and great guy to boot. He's an easy selection for this team.

Batting 6th: Vladimir Guerrero, DH/RF
"Vlad the Impaler" is how I affectionately refer to Guerrero. I loved his style of play and that fact that he could hit any pitch from his nose to his toes.

Batting 7th: Andre Dawson, RF/DH
I can't believe I have The Hawk batting this low. I guess that speaks to the power in this line-up. He had thirteen seasons of 20+ homers and seven seasons with 20+ stolen bases. He was a true five-tool guy before the Astro-turf in Montreal ruined his knees.

Batting 8th: Bill Madlock, 3B
If Zippy would have started this Blog Bat Around five months ago I probably would have taken Aramis Ramirez for my team. But, I met Madlock at the Cubs Convention and he made a nice impression on me. Plus, he won two batting titles with the Cubs, so yeah, he's good at baseball, too!

Batting 9th: Randy Hundely, C
One of the best Cubs catchers of all-time is still involved with Cubs baseball. He runs a Cubs fantasy camp for "regular" people. My friend has gone a few times to Arizona to participate in the camp and he speaks very highly of Mr. Hundley.

Bench, Back-Up Catcher: David Ross
Every team needs a defensive oriented back-up catcher. Mine just happens to be a terrific leader and my favorite player from the 2016 World Series team.

Bench, 1st Pinch Hitter & Back-Up OF:
Matt Murton, a fan favorite, set the season single hit record in Japan. Yeah, sounds like a fine pinch-hitting choice.

Bench, Pinch Runner & Back-UP OF:
Pierre only lasted one year with the Cubs, but he recorded 200+ hits that season and stole 58 bases. Plus, I met him at the Cubs Convention this past January and he was really good with the fans.

Bench, Utility Infielder: Augie Ojeda
A diminutive, switch-hitting middle infielder, which means he was a natural fan favorite. Checks all the boxes!

Bench, Prodigious Home Run Power: Dan Vogelbach
 Another non-Cub, but there was no way I could leave THE VOGELMONSTER off this team!

Starting Rotation, Pitcher #1: Fergie Jenkins
Fergie is a great guy who still is connected to baseball and does charity work. He's a Cubs HOFer who I've shaken hands with on a couple of occasions. Yeah. That's my ace.

Starting Pitcher #2: Bob Feller
 No Cub ties, but he makes the roster. I fell in love with his story very early on and have been to the Bob Feller museum in Van Meter, IA. He played his rookie campaign with the Indians before graduating from high school. His graduation was actually picked up by NBC radio. When was the last time a graduation ceremony was played over a major radio station? Feller was also the first MLB player to enlist in World War II. He easily would have won 300+ games if he didn't give up almost four full seasons in his mid-20's.  The Heater from Van Meter forms a very formidable 1-2 punch with Fergie.

 Starting Pitcher #3: Kerry Wood
I've spoken before of my fandom for Kerry Wood. He's one of my PC guys, a terrific humanitarian and an excellent ambassador for baseball and the Cubs. Kerry had his health problems during his playing days, but if I could get the 1998 or 2003 version of Kid K, then I'd happily slot him into the number three position in the rotation.

 Starting Pitcher #4: Carlos Zambrano
Big Z was a bit of a hot head and I get the feeling he was one of those types that you hated if he played for the other team. But, he suited up for my Cubs and boy was he ever emotional and entertaining. He was fun to watch pitch and perhaps just as fun to watch swing the bat. Zambrano was a switching-hitting pitcher who liked to hit BP home runs!  FWIW, if I were to take this roster into battle, then Big Z would be the pitcher most likely to pinch hit if the situation ever arose. 

 Starting Pitcher #5: Jon Lieber
In 2001, Lieber was an All-Star, 20 game winner, and an innings eater. Yeah, I'll take that from 5-spot any day of the week.

The Bullpen, Swing-man: Ryan Dempster
Dempster, baseball's funny man and practical jokester, started 154 games for the Cubs and finished 183, including 87 saves. I think he could be called on for an emergency start or get a crucial out in the late innings if needed.

Bullpen, Middle Relief: Pat Venditte
Venditte is one of only two active players to make my team. I tried to stay away from guys who were still playing, but I don't feel Venditte has been given a fair shot in The Bigs. Here's a guy who switch-pitches. Yes, you read that right. I'm going with an 11-man pitching staff, and you better believe Venditte will see tons of action to help maximize the use of the pen. 

Bullpen, Middle Relief: Turk Wendell
Turk put together a pretty decent campaign in 1996, but he was better known for being superstitious and taking it to the extremes. He wanted to look more intimidating while pitching, and he thought chewing tobacco would help him in that regard. Tobacco, obviously, has it's drawbacks, so he thought black licorice would be a nice substitute. Turns out, he didn't like the taste of licorice and would brush his teeth between innings. Dempster, a switch pitcher, and Turk the Quirk in the same bullpen. Oh boy!

Bullpen, Righty Set-Up Man: Gregg Olson
I collect guys with my surname. And Greg Olson, the former ROY and Oriole closer, is the best of the lot.

Bullpen, Lefty Set-Up Man: Mitch Williams
Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams. He pitched like his hair was on fire... especially when he would walk the bases loaded and the strikeout the next three hitters.  I'm fairly certain he's responsible for knocking a year off of Don Zimmer's life.

Bullpen, Righty Closer: Lee Smith
 I've met Big Lee a couple of times and his hand simply engulfs mine. Not only is he a most imposing figure on the mound, but in mind he deserves a spot in Cooperstown. Stellar career.

This was the most fun I've had prepping and writing a blog post in quite some time. A big thanks to Zippy Zappy for the Blog Bat Around suggestion!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A 2 PWE Post

Thanks to all the well-wishers from my 7th blogiversary post last week. This cardboard community of ours is great and it's the main reason I've stuck around as I have.

Cardboard. Cardboard is nice, too!
Matt, from Once a Cub, busted some Topps Opening Day and he sent me a boatload in a pair of PWEs along with some other high quality Cub offerings.
 I still haven't bought any new product from the 2018 cardboard season.
 Yet, I'm doing okay.  I don't have the shakes and I'm not hyperventilating.  So, yeah... we'll just see how long I can keep this crazy little streak of mine going.
 I was desperately hoping someone would hook me up with the above two cards. The lead page in all of my Cubs binders are full of cards like this that try to capture the sights, sounds and smells of Wrigley.  These two will be terrific additions.
 Clark! Clark is on a couple of those lead pages himself...  and it looks like he'll be found on another now!
 Spring training cards? These are pretty cool. Bryant is from Las Vegas so that card is pretty neat. The St. Patty's Day green hat is something different to add to my Rizzo collection.
 Some Topps Series 1 made it into the two PWEs as well. Baez has been on a tear as of late and he's so entertaining to watch.
 These are my first looks at the 1983 insert sets and I must admit that I like them very much. The one on the right mentions Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg all having rookie cards in the 1983 set.
 My first Gypsy Queen card of the year is none other than Jose Quintana. I wonder if Matt bought a spot in a player break hoping to snag a couple of variations on the cheap. That's totally something I would have done if The Vogelmonster was in GQ.

 Yu Darvish is NOT pitching well. His face in that card kind of mirrors mine when I look at his stat line in the box score the morning after he pitches. Ugh.

Ryno!  This first one is from Panini Chronicles, which I though was a very unique concept for a set.
 The next two are from this year's 2018 Donruss main set.
 That big ol' white swoosh looks in need of some lettering. Very odd. Ozzie looks like a bug with those sun glasses on.  No matter... we're not here for Ozzie...  RYNO! RYNO! RYNO!
Last card of the PWEs sports another addition to my Sandberg player collection. Very nice.
I'm now up to 869 different Rynos. The 900 milestone is within reach if I want to pursue it.
We'll see though, because I have other ideas on how I'm going to spend all my card money this year. For example: I need to save some dough for when The Vogelmonster goes on his inevitable homerun tear and hitting streaks. Vogelbach will be the poster child for Topps NOW before the season is over. You heard it hear first!

Matt, thanks for the nice cardboard surprise in my mailbox last week. It was very much appreciated and I'll see what I can do about evening the score before too long.

Quick Update: I'm still not back to full blogging strength because school and my baseball coaching duties are demanding much of my time. Seniors graduate three weeks from today, which means the end of the school year isn't far behind. Baseball?  Well, I'm hoping that goes into late May and/or early June. We're on a nice little winning streak right now and gave an undefeated team their first loss of the season yesterday. It was a good day. Overall, our record is 15-2 at the halfway point of the regular season. I'm hoping the second half of the season and the playoffs go as well as the first half!

Happy spring, everyone!