Saturday, November 30, 2019

Cards from Dad, Part I

My parents live about twenty minutes away and I try to get over there when I can. My mom is very crafty and has been creating some wonderful stained glass pieces. My dad, who is also good with his hands, can usually be found down in his workshop tinkering with something mechanical. Usually, he's repairing lawnmowers, but lately he's begun overhauling a 1974 Chevy pick-up truck. Together they are quite the team, one that I have looked up to for a long, long time.

Usually before I go home I'm gifted with a newspaper clipping my mom saved for me, or maybe some leftovers, or the random piece of mail addressed to me at their address. This past time I was shocked to receive a box of cards from my dad.
I went through the box last weekend and have divided the contents into three separate posts, including a Pack War post!

Today, we'll focus on oddballs and randomness.

Up first are a couple of pogs from a 1995 Tombstone Pizza promotion. Pogs? I barely remember those! The checklist for this set is pretty stout, and I was gifted a couple of winners with Dan Marino and Emmitt Smith.
The bottom row is a bunch of cards from the 1995 Tombstone Classic Quarterbacks set of twelve cards. My dad came three cards away from completing the set, which is pretty impressive!

Here's some more random freebies. The top card is from Upper Deck's 1993 Super Bowl Showdown Series. I believe this was a Miller Lite promotion. The Emerson Fittipaldi is from the 1994 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Champions Collection.
The bottom row has a couple of Miller Lite's NFL Handbooks, which could be found in cases of beer if I recall correctly.

More pizza cards!  Actually, that's the complete 1994 set on the left and an extra Robin Yount on the right.

Here's two 1995 sets and a handful of extras including Andres Galarraga, Ruben Sierra, Lenny Dykstra, David Cone and Moises Alou.

These are awesome! The 1994 AL and NL Kraft Singles Superstars sets from 1994:
 The cards look like a traditional card at first glance, but they have a "pull" tab which allows them "pop-up."

Here are some loose cards that don't really fit his collection or mine. On the left is 1988 team set from Donruss' Baseball's Best set.
I always enjoyed Upper Deck's team checklists. I guess my dad liked them, too!

Here's a head-shaker: three 1991 Panini stickers. Dale Murphy is a decent name. All three will go into my team boxes for future PWE mailings.

A Steve Ellsworth in-person (IP) autograph. I already had one of these in my collection and now I have two!
 I think my mom met Mr. Ellsworth during one of her work trips and brought these back for us.

 A Cub to end the post! Triple Play was a fun set geared toward kids, and I liked Donruss' effort in the 90's much better than what Panini gave us earlier this decade. This Mark Grace will fill a hole in my Cubs team boxes.

Next post I'll share my dad's player collections from the late 80's and early 90's. We actually have three players in common. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

When Your Hobby Interest Shifts

This post has been in the making for quite some time. Perhaps about two years. I feel like I've been constantly talking myself down off the proverbial ledge during that time, but now I'm finally going to take the leap:

Outside of the occasional good ol' PWE for PWE swap, I'm done with trading. 
Please, no more yellow padded mailers or flat rate boxes. 

Many things have changed in the hobby since I returned in 2009, perhaps more than any prior decade. For insatnce, Topps became the only MLB license holding company and Twitter really took off. Also, YouTube channels are en vogue and big money breaks are here to stay.

I'm not adverse to change in the hobby, but my tastes have slowly grown in a different direction.

Here's where I'm at with the hobby, in bullet point fashion for easy reading:

  • I still very much enjoy reading the blogs and I try to comment on at least one blog everyday. 
    • We have some excellent writers in our community, many of whom I feel have I have become friends with.  
    • I appreciate reading the "takes" of others, even if they're aren't in line with mine. Added bonus: the content is free!
  • Blogging has become a "process" for me and it's no longer as enjoyable as it once was.
    • I'm not going to shut down the blog, but who knows when the next post will come.
    • I won't be doing the "Favorite Card of the Year" contest, as I've done the last three years. I'm content with allowing it to die unless someone else wants to pick it up.
  • I still purchase cards, but they're for my specific collections:
    • The current set I'm working on will always have my attention.
      • There will always be a set to build and I love the chase!
      • FYI, right now it's 1982 Topps, but I'm not posting a want list. 
    • Vogelmonster cards. (Well, duh.)
    • Cards to upgrade my HOF Binder.  
    • Cards for my Folder of Fun, which I haven't shown on the blog. It is akin to Dimebox Nick's superb FrankenSet, but with categorized themes.  
    • I'm contemplating following Wrigley Wax's model of buying Cubs team sets from Ebay sellers or a local card show.
  • Why I'm no longer looking to be a catch-all for Cubs cards:
    • My trade bait is nonexistent, because I haven't purchased any modern day product in years. 
    • I can't recall the last time I shipped out a return package where I didn't specifically shop for the other person on Ebay, Sportlots, or a card show. It shouldn't be that way. The coffers truly are bare.
That's pretty much it. I've returned to my set building roots and at this point in time I prefer sets which are 35+ years old. Not the best way to build up a cache of trade fodder. LOL 

The latest Vogelmonster addition, numbered 14/25.  Awesome!
Side Note: I'm actually in the midst of designing plans for an end table which will double as shelves for card binders. That'll be fun for sure. I love making saw dust and I think blogging about that will be something I'll want to do down the road.

In summary, if you have a stack of Cubs cards and were planning on sending them way . . . well, please don't. May I suggest Beau, from the One Million Cubs Project? He's a most excellent trader and I'd love to see him reach his goal someday. 

Thanks for reading, all the past trades, and your support.   #CollectYourWay

Monday, November 18, 2019

Pack Wars: ZZ Re-Pack vs. Topps Update

A little over a month ago Zippy Zappy sent me a personalized Gregg Olson  8"x10" inscribed photo and within the same package was one of his legendary re-packs.

I haven't been buying any modern day product for the last fourteen months or so as I have been focusing more on building Topps sets from the late 70s and early 80s. Unfortunately, that meant I didn't have any loose packs on hand.

I took a trip to my local card shop and was trying to decide on what to buy for this edition of Pack Wars, but the selection was a little too overwhelming.
Ultimately, I picked something everyone has probably already seen, but at least it should be a fair match-up . . . 14 cards in each pack.  FYI, using Google's currency converter, 108 Yen is roughly one US dollar.

Upon first opening the re-pack this Mitch Trubisky card, in a top loader, fell out.
I like Mitch Trubisky the person. He works hard, has a much better sideline demeanor than Jay Cutler, and seems to be well liked by his teammates. I am not a fan of Mitch Trubisky the quarterback. His 2019 on field performance has been very bad. Yeesh. 

Here are the four stickers mentioned on the sticky note from the re-pack wrapper.
Akiem Hicks is one of my favorite Bears. For some reason I always value the defensive players more than the offensive guys.

Inside the original wrapping there was a second wrapper. The mystery of the Zippy Zappy packs continues to grow!
Buckle up folks. It's time for another round of PACK WARS! 

Round 1
 Ryan Harvey was the Cubs #1 draft pick in 2003 and he was very one dimensional. I remember him playing in Peoria and he was an average right-fielder with a TON of power and way too much swing-and-miss in his swing.
Have you seen Ryan Harvey lately? The man can hit a softball over 500 feet. That is plain silliness.
I like the high socks on Freddy Galvis, but the man needs a haircut. 
Zippy Zappy is on the board.

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 1
2019 Topps Update = 0

Round 2
 Dioner Navarro had his best professional season with the Cubs in 2013. He played on a last place team that year, but a switch-hitting catcher with a 0.850+ OPS tends to grow on you. This Fleer Ultra card appears to be a parallel of some sort.
Alex Jackson is a rookie I have never heard of. Topps loves its rookies as do many others.  I could care less.  Dioner for the win!

Somewhat related side note: Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., a hyped up rookie, was taken in the 3rd round of my fantasy baseball draft last spring. I took Josh Donaldson in the twelfth, and I'd do it again if given the chance. You can have your rookies and I'll take my undervalued veterans.

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 2
2019 Topps Update = 0

Round 3
Touch match-up here! Here's a Zorilla card before his Cubs days and a Trevor Cahill card after his Cubs days. I like them both, but Zo is a local guy so he wins by default. 

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 3
2019 Topps Update = 0

Round 4
A sliding Zobrist on one of my least favorite Topps designs versus another rookie on one of my favorite designs. What a conundrum! Again, local guy for the win!

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 4
2019 Topps Update = 0

Round 5
Kerry Wood as a Yankee? Yep, that happened.
Another rookie? And this one appears to share a first name with my favorite Cub of all-time.
I'll Take Kid-K here.

Side note: I thought so little of this Ryne Harper card it has already been sent out in a PWE. 

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 5
2019 Topps Update = 0

Round 6
Baseball's Sad Lexicon and my first card with Tinker, Evers and Chance all on the same card. Zippy Zappy would probably take the Tanaka in this match-up, but that's the beauty of Pack Wars! To each their own. The ZZ re-pack stays undefeated!

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 6
2019 Topps Update = 0

Round 7
Steve Cishek has been a pretty effective pitcher the last couple of years for the Cubs. This black, low numbered parallel, is from his Marlins days.  Ohtani and Trout on the same card? That's pretty cool. Topps Update is finally on the board!

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 6
2019 Topps Update = 1

Round 8
 I actually had never heard of Sherry Magie, but I love Tri-Star Obak and have the master set from 2009.
The 1984 inserts are sharp looking, but why is the 35th anniversary of a set such a big deal? The Nelson Cruz is on it's way to Minnesota with the Ryne Harper card.
FWIW, that's another win for ZZ. 

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 7
2019 Topps Update = 1

Round 9
A bat relic promotional card of Tsuyoshi Nishioka versus my favorite Cleveland Indian. Tough call, but as cool as the promo card is, I have to go with the guy who has one of the best smiles in all of baseball.

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 7
2019 Topps Update = 2

Round 10
 Another rookie? Ugh.
More 2010 Obak fun!  Woo-Hoo!

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 8
2019 Topps Update = 2

Round 11
Ahhhh!  More rookies!  I'll spill the beans now... ZZ, this Ford and the Tanaka are already on their way to you.
Sammy looks to have belted a homer, and he also gives the ZZ re-pack another point.

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 9
2019 Topps Update = 2

Round 12
Wait, Nick Hundley isn't a rookie? Besides the All-Star cards and rookies, Update has cards of regular guys in it?  Crazy.
A die-cut of Kris Bryant? Huh, that's a pretty high quality card and it will definitely find its way into my Bryant binder. Very nice.

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 10
2019 Topps Update = 2

Round 13
Ahhhh! Too much awesomeness in one match-up! How do pairings like this happen without breaking the universe?
This was the closest contest within this Pack Wars, but a slight edge goes to the ZZ re-pack, because that's my first Khalil Mack card. So, very cool!

Updated Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 11
2019 Topps Update = 2

Round 14
Ha! A rookie versus and All-Star. You're probably thinking I'll go with Springer here, because he's not a rookie. See, the thing is I really overvalue Cubs rookies.
And, every good re-pack builder knows you have to play to your judge. Well done, ZZ. Well done.

Final Score:
Zippy Zappy Pack = 12
2019 Topps Update = 2

So, that brings us to the conclusion of another Pack Wars. Zippy Zappy, thank you for the re-pack. I always enjoy crafting these posts as it gives me an opportunity to write without a filter.

Thanks for joining me for another edition of Pack Wars. Have a great week!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Cards and My Take on the Astros

Marc, author of Remember the Astrodome, dropped a yellow mailer on me the other day. Marc is my favorite blogger to drop Astros cards on and he always seems to send excellent Cubs packages my way. And no, this package was not accompanied by a loud banging sound. Sorry, couldn't resist!

In regards to the alleged cheating scandal: I don't have any proof, but I have to figure every MLB team is trying to gain an advantage whenever and wherever they can. Some are just probably more brazen about it than others. Regardless, this isn't something new, and cheating and sign stealing has been a part of the sport for generations. Either way, I'd much rather read articles about "cheating in baseball" than click-bait articles of where Gerrit Cole is going to sign during the next four months. Last year's onslaught of off-season rumors surrounding Machado and Harper put me in a deep slumber.

Enough rambling. On to the cards!
Adjacent to the above stack of cards was a Kerry Wood "Action Flats" from Topps. This one went straight into the display case.

1991 Fleer. This design gets such a bad rap, but I would bet that 95% of collectors could name the brand and date of this set from twenty feet away. To me, that makes it a winner.
 I'd much rather it be this way than '98 and '99 Topps, which I always confuse because they're borders are the same color. Actually, I just discovered these are not '91 Fleer. They're '91 Fleer Update.

Ever since the Cubs won the World Series I haven't been following the Cubs' prospects as closely.
I used to know who was at what level and how their season was progressing. I liked what I saw out of Hoerner this fall, and Amaya is supposedly one of the top catching prospects in the game. Keegan Thompson was not on my radar. Then again, after checking I found Thompson only pitched in three games during the regular season. Maybe I'm not as far out of touch as I thought.

Woo-Hoo!  A young Kieschnick! 

I'm getting closer to completing my Cubs Topps Fire team set.
 This one is my first insert from the brand. David Bote is insert worthy?
 Huh, David Bote was second overall in average exit velocity in 2018. I had no idea.  And neither did you until a couple of seconds ago.

Topps Stickers. Very cool.

 More stickers! These are from 1991 Panini and are small. I prefer my stickers to be normal card size.
The Schwarber card is from this year's Archives and is so brightly colored that no one would ever confuse it for a card from 1958

A Jose Quintana insert? There's something I didn't know I needed!
The 2019 Panini Leather and Lumber product is way out of my price range, but I'm loving the Maple & Ash insert!  This is one is my 937th different Sandberg card in my collection. I've been thinking about going to a second binder for my Sandberg cards . . . for the last year or so. I'll pull that trigger eventually. 

Sammy is on cardboard again?
 Zobrist is the type of player who definitely belongs in an old-timey set like A&G. Very nice.

Horizontal Cubs cards, and some beautiful ones at that!
Three of the four present us with unique photos. Only the Hendricks, a refractor from Topps Chrome, is a "common" photo selection. I was never a horizontal cardboard fan, but it's growing on me.

Thanks for the Cubs cards, Marc. I especially appreciate the ones from 2019 as I haven't purchased much new product this year.  A return package is on its way.  All the best!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The SPs That Got Away

My last post looked back at the Cubs' drafts international signings since 1995. In short, the Cubs have been downright awful at developing starting pitching through their minor league system, especially if one considers Kerry Wood (joined the organization in 1995), Carlos Zambrano ('97), and Mark Prior ('01) to be the last three big impact arms to come up through the system.

My favorite Bleacher Tweeter had me pondering after a comment:
PKS, good question. I could name a few off the top of my head, but I had largely forgotten most from this list.

To qualify for the discussion, a pitcher must have had 20+ starts during one season. The last post revealed just seven players who had done this with the Cubs from the 1995 draft to present. What about the ones who got away?

Kyle Lohse - 29th round draft pick in 1996
 I always forget Lohse was drafted by the Cubs. He is probably the most accomplished pitcher on this list, but I'll let you be the judge. His career record was 147-143 with a 4.40 ERA and he made 418 starts during his 16 year career. Lohse was part of a 2-for-2 deal with the Twins in 1999 that brought the Cubs Rick Aguilera.
Verdict: Lohse was a 29th round draft in Single-A when this trade happened. Anytime you can get an established bullpen arm for a lottery ticket I think you have to take it. I would say the Twins won this trade, because the Cubs didn't go anywhere with Aguilera and he retired after the 2000 season.

Jon Garland - 1st round draft pick in 1997
 Jon Garland was traded to the White Sox during the Cubs' playoff push in 1998 for reliever Matt Karchner, who posted a 5.14 ERA after the trade. The Cubs made it to the post season for the first time since 1984 (despite Karchner), but the White Sox found themselves a fixture for their rotation. In all, Garland went 136-125 with an ERA of 4.37 and 342 starts during his thirteen year career.
Verdict: Big L for the Cubs here. Maybe one of the top five most regrettable trades in Chicago Cubs history?

Todd Wellemeyer - 4th round draft pick in 2000
 Wellemeyer didn't become a started until his fifth MLB season, and then had 53 starts for the Cardinals in two years toward the tail end of his career. Overall, he finished his career a 32-34 record, a 4.83 ERA, and 75 starts. Wellemeyer was sent to the Marlins in 2006 for two minor league pitchers who never became much.
Verdict: Wellemeyer had a 6.19 ERA in three seasons as a reliever before being traded. The Cubs gambled on their return, a former 7th rounder and 11th rounder, but neither panned out. The Cardinals found gold with Wellemeyer in 2008, but I don't think anyone would have predicted that. This one is a draw for me.

Dontrelle Willis - 8th round draft pick in 2000
 Willis, and three other players, were traded to the Marlins in 2002 for Antonio Alfonseca and Matt Clement. Willis made his MLB debut the next season and rattled off 162 started in five years. He finished his career with a 4.17 ERA and 72 wins to 69 losses.
Verdict: Willis was electric and all of baseball was watching his smile and crazy windup when he burst on the season as a 21-year-old in 2003. Clement and Alfonseca helped the Cubs to the playoffs in 2003, and Clement gave the Cubs the three best seasons of his career. I'll give a slight edge to the Marlins on this one, but only because Willis was making league minimum and Clement was in his arbitration eligible years.

Ricky Nolasco - 4th round draft pick in 2001
 Nolasco started 312 games in his twelve year career. During that time he posted a 4.56 ERA and had a career record of 114 wins and 118 losses. Nolasco was packaged with two other young arms, in 2005, for the Marlins' Juan Pierre.
Verdict: Juan Pierre spent one season of his prime atop the Cubs batting order before signing a free agent deal with the Dodgers the next winter. The Cubs finished 6th in the old NL Central and didn't need to lose an arm like Nolasco for one year of Pierre. The Marlins won this deal.

Andrew Cashner - 1st round draft pick in 2008
 Cashner has a 57-87 win-loss record in 188 starts, with a 4.10 ERA for six teams in his career. He has spent more than his fair share of time on the injured list. He netted the Cubs Anthony Rizzo in a 2-for-2 trade in January of 2012.
Verdict: There was lots of debate around this trade when it was completed. I'm a pitching guy and I wasn't sold on the move by Theo Epstein at the time. Fast forward eight seasons and a World Series Championship later and I think it's easy to say the Cubs made the right call on this deal!

Chris Rusin - 4th round draft pick in 2009
 Rusin made 22 starts for the Rockies in 2015 and like most Rockies pitchers he did not fair well. Colorado claimed Rusin off waivers from the Cubs in 2014.
Verdict: Losing a young lefty arm to waivers?  Hmmm.  Rusin has pitched in part of eight seasons and has a career 4.62 ERA. Meh. I can live with this.

Zack Godley - 10th round draft pick in 2013
 In 2017 Godley had 25 starts for the Diamondbacks and posted a 3.37 ERA. Hey, that's pretty good! The next season he made 32 starts to the tune of a 4.74 ERA. Not great. Godley was packaged with another minor leaguer to land the Cubs Miguel Montero in 2014.
Verdict: Godley had a real nice 2017 and Montero gave the Cubs an insurance run (which they needed) in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series. The edge goes to the Cubs on this one.

Dylan Cease - 6th round draft pick in 2014
Cease, once considered a 1st round talent out of high school, slipped to the 6th round in the draft because of Tommy John Surgery. The Cubs helped him rehab, and babied his arm for a couple of years, and then sent him and Eloy Jimenez to the White Sox for Jose Quintana in 2017. Cease had his first crack at pitching in the big leagues last season and made fourteen starts. I think he'll easily top 20 this coming season.
Verdict: I did not like this trade for the Cubs in 2017 and I don't like it even more now. Eloy is going to be a stud and I still think Cease is the best arm Theo Epstein's front office has drafted during his tenure. Quintana has been a solid starter, but quite unspectacular during his stay on the north side.

In summary, the Cubs have traded away more pitching prospects (8) in the last 25 years who have become serviceable starters than they have brought to the majors (7). Dylan Cease could easily be the 9th pitcher to make the discussion a little bit more lopsided. In all, I think the Cubs did pretty average in the trades above. They lost a few (Lohse, Garland & Nolasco), but they also won a couple (Rizzo & Montero), and then there were a couple that didn't amount to much.

When it's all said and done . . . #tinstaapp. There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.

Thanks for reading!