Friday, April 24, 2015

More cards from All Cardinals

Thanks for indulging my fatalistic swirlings on Wednesday regarding the state of the Milwaukee Brewers.  I know it's a long season, and it's only 16 games into the season -- less than 10% of the games have been played -- but it is shaping up statistically to be a long season.  Fangraphs puts the Brewers overall playoff odds at just 1%.  It's not the worst odds in baseball -- the Phillies and their 5-11 record project to having a 0.1% chance -- but it's not a warm and fuzzy feeling to see a 3-13 record at this point in the year.

But that's enough negativity for one week.  Today's post is about good things.  

Just a few weeks after the first envelope arrived from All Cardinals All the Time, a second one appeared.  This one had a lot fewer cards than the first envelope did, but the exceptional quality of the cards definitely made up for relatively lower numbers.

First, I feel the need to make a confession.  In the early 1990s, while I was in college, I joined a fantasy baseball league run by a friend of mine.  In that league's second season, the owners decided to go from an AL-only league to an NL-only league and start over.  That was a good thing for most of us because most of us had no clue what we were doing at the time.  

Anyway, that first NL season was 1992.  It was the first time I'd really followed the NL closely, and my team was good due to some great auction success -- a very cheap Greg Maddux and picking up Bob Tewksbury for $4 at the auction (season stats: 16-5, 2.16 ERA, 233 innings, 1.017 WHIP) will do that.  My offense, though, was generated by the mid-level stars of the day, and three of them were Cardinals outfielders:  Bernard Gilkey, Felix Jose, and Ray Lankford.  

Lankford in particular became a personal favorite fantasy guy of mine -- a guy I would get in most leagues for many years until about 2000.  I mention this because the proprietor of All Cardinals All the Time is a Lankford Supercollector.  His handle for blogging is CardinalsFan16 (Lankford's number with the Cards), his Blogger photo is Lankford, and even the site on which he keeps his want lists is emblazoned with the title "Ray Lankford Collector."

I still have a soft spot in my heart for Lankford for those years of great production in the 1990s.  Now, I have another reason to like Ray.

I still don't know what the shame about Ray was, though.

Here are the three Brewers cards that came my way in the envelope:

Big Ben McDonald lasted only two seasons in Milwaukee -- his age-28 and age-29 seasons. After that second season, he was done.  He went to Louisiana State University on a basketball scholarship (he is 6'7" tall, so...) despite being an all-District football player -- as a kicker and punter.  He left LSU's basketball team after two seasons and focused on baseball.  He started his junior season in baseball with 44-2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, and the Baltimore Orioles made him the first overall pick in the 1989 draft. McDonald is now a broadcaster for the SEC Network.

Matt Mieske is one of the 10 best players ever in Western Michigan University's history.  In terms of year of major league service, his 8 seasons in the league tie him with current Ranger Adam Rosales for 8th all time, behind Charlie Maxwell (a two-time all-star with the Detroit Tigers in 1956 and 1957), John VanderWal, Phil Regan, Mike Squires, Stubby Overmire, Jim Bouton, and Wayne Terwilliger. He came to Milwaukee as part of the Gary Sheffield trade. His major league exploits saw him inducted into the Great Lakes Hardball Hall of Fame in 2013.

Scott Karl was the Brewers 6th Round pick in 1992 out of the University of Hawaii-Manoa. I'm guessing that Milwaukee scouts must have loved finding reasons to go to Hawaii in the mid-to-late 1980s.  The three guys with the move service time in the major leagues from Hawaii-Manoa are: (1) 8-year veteran (and former Brewer) Chuck Crim; (2) 7-year veteran (and former Brewer) Glenn Braggs, and (3) Karl (who tied with Mike Campbell with playing in 6 seasons, but who far outshined Campbell).

Hey, any excuse to get out of Wisconsin's weather to Hawaii, I suppose!

Now, those three cards are all nice, but they don't compare to the other two cards I received:

Gary Carter Game-Used Bat cards? Absolutely! These are fantastic relic cards from Upper Deck in 2001.  These two cards just blew me away.

Massive thanks go out to CardinalsFan16 -- both for the Lankford trip down memory lane and for these great cards!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Starting Over From Scratch?

In case your favorite team has not had the pleasure of getting to play the Milwaukee Brewers in the early part of this season, you may not have noticed how absolutely dire the team is already this year.  After two weeks of the season, the Brewers were simply terrible offensively and defensively -- the hitters were last in runs scored, last in OBP, last in SLG, first in swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, last in home runs, and last in runs created.  In the field, the team had made 12 errors in 13 games and was 24th in double plays turned.  On the mound, the team was tied for second in runs allowed, had the second worst opponent's batting average, the worst batting average on balls in play, and had the third-worst ERA.

This team looks terrible.

Oh, and did I mention that the team's top two run producers from last season -- Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy -- are each on the disabled list? Gomez is out with a pulled right hamstring, and Lucroy had his toe broken on a foul ball against Pittsburgh:

Then, after the game, starting second baseman Scooter Gennett cut his hand on a wire rack in the shower reaching for his soap.  He cut himself badly enough to need stitches and he, too, finds himself on the DL.  Add in the fact that Aramis Ramirez looks to be about one year past his "Best Before date" (it's only 47 at bats, but it's also 47 plate walks, two doubles, 7 hits, 10 strikeouts, and a slash line of .149/.149/.191).

The team is off to their worst start ever -- one game worse than their 3-11 start in 2002 after 14 games.  That 2002 team was the worst team ever to disgrace the field in Milwaukee, finishing 56-106 under Davey Lopes (who was fired after 15 games and a 3-12 start) and Jerry Royster.

The question I saw posed on Twitter today by one Brewers fan was this: Is it time to break up the current iteration of the Brewers and start over?  And, if so, who should be kept?

It's a tough question.  On one hand, owner Mark Attanasio has had opportunities to blow it all up and start over, but has never shown an inclination to do so.  Pretty much every year since he's been an owner, the Brewers seemingly settle for decent mediocrity without sliding into awfulness and with a few pops into the playoffs.

This Brewers team, though, might be the one that breaks that streak.  Looking at the team in place, perhaps it's time to break everything up.

Here are some salaries and ages of guys who are likely to be gone if such a break up occurs:

Matt Garza: 31 years old, has this year plus two more years left on a four-year contract he signed last year, and there is a vesting option for 2018

Aramis Ramirez: 37 years old and has said this is his last year.

Kyle Lohse: 36 years old, in the last year of his contract

Adam Lind: 31 years old, in the last year of his contract , has a team option for 2016

Carlos Gomez: 29 years old, has this year and next year left on his very team friendly contract (making just $17M over next two years)...but his agent is Scott Boras

Jonathan Broxton: 31 years old, in the last year of his contract

Francisco Rodriguez: 33 years old, inexplicably given a two-year contract this spring

Jonathan Lucroy: 29 years old, has this year and next year left on his contract with a team option for 2017.

Neal Cotts: 35 years old, on a one-year deal

Brandon Kintzler: 30 years old, on a one-year deal

Those are the guys who qualify for free agency at this point or at the end of their current contract.  The rest of the team are pre-arbitration or are eligible for arbitration after this season.  

Notice that I left out Ryan Braun.  His contract extension for five years and $105 million does not even kick in until after this season.  Like it or not, unless the Brewers make a Kimbrel/Melvin Upton type trade, Braun isn't going anywhere for several years.

Of the remainder of the players, guys most likely to find themselves nontendered would be Mike Fiers (age 30, no one trusts his stuff despite decent results here and there), Jim Henderson (age 32, not healthy this year or last), Logan Schafer (age 28, on the team by the grace of God and lack of organizational depth), and any or all of the fungible bullpen arms that grace the Brewers pen currently. 

Basically, the Brewers may be at the point that they need to start over.  

The first step should be to get rid of Ron Roenicke.  I mean, after the 6-22 collapse at the end of the season last year and this year's 2-12 start, we are talking about a 0.174 winning percentage over his last 46 games as Brewers manager.  I'm trying not to overreact, but it's time for a change.

Cards will return tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Vintage Card Show Buys

Being a trial lawyer is a difficult job in many respects.  The standard to which trial lawyers are held are lawyers on criminal justice shows -- everyone expects flash, bravado, Perry-Mason-like intuitiveness, and quivering witnesses on the stand.  

The reality is much different.  Things are rarely as smooth as they appear on television. Indeed, being a trial lawyer is a craft and an art all at once.  Law students take courses in trial practice, and those courses are much like teaching a baby how to walk -- it's basic building foot in front of the other...that begins the process of honing talent in the courtroom.

One lecturer from the early 1970s that continues to influence trial lawyers today is Irving Younger. He staked his claim in the realm of trial practice by setting forth his "Ten Commandments of Cross Examination."

That's an excerpt.  A 43-minute excerpt, mind you, but still an excerpt.  One of the key commandments he has is "Limit Questioning."  In this regard, the point is that lawyers should not ask too many questions.  Directly from his outline: "Don't ask the one question too many! Stop when you have made your point. Leave the argument for the jury."

Bloggers can ask one question too many, in a manner of speaking.  By this, I mean that you can ask too much of your audience -- whether it is because the post is too long, does too many deep dives into minutiae, or just tries to be too cute.  I fall victim to this all the time, I fear -- many long, deep dives into minutiae that only a baseball card collecting Brewers fan alive in 1982 could appreciate.  In other words, it's a post only I can appreciate.

In the interest of avoiding this in today's post, I am going to put up the cards I bought at my last card show a couple of weeks ago that are the vintage cards.  Lately, I have spent more and more and more on the vintage Braves cards and less and less on newer cards of the Brewers.  That is a reflection, in part, on what is available to be purchased from the dealers at the show, what cards Topps is making, and what cards I've bought and focused on buying in the past.  

So, to cure my overly long bloviations, here are the vintage cards I bought with very little commentary.

Hank Aaron

I love the look of those 1958 All-Star cards.  I can understand why Topps brought it back for the special onsite All-Star game giveaways at last year's All-Star game.

Ed Mathews

The "Fence Buster" cards being repeated from 1958 to 1959 seems as unimaginative as the "Then-and-Now" cards that populate inserts in Topps Heritage every year.  But I do like the 1958 version -- with Joe Adcock and Del Crandall added in.

Warren Spahn

That "newspaper" All-Star card is in rough shape -- it cost me just $2 -- but the front of the card is great.  It's the back that looks bad.  The guy selling the cards explained that he got a ton of 1960 Topps cheap -- pasted into a scrapbook.  But it looks good to me.  Not as good as that "1958 All-Star Selection" card, though.  That may be one of my favorite cards of all time. It just looks awesome to me.

Joe Adcock

Only one addition to the Joe Adcock collection this time, but it's a beautiful 1959 Topps card. 

Other Vintage, Newest to Oldest

1964 Topps
1961 Topps

Quick note: I had no idea that Billy Martin ever played for the Braves. The Braves bought his contract from the Cincinnati Reds on December 3, 1960. He played a grand total of six games -- 6 at bats -- for the Braves without getting on base before the Braves shipped him to the Minnesota Twins on June 1, 1961, in exchange for Billy Consolo.  

And yet, he got a card on the Braves.

1960 Leaf

And, I'll close with cards from two sets that I never had held in my hands before.  The first is this 1960 Leaf card of Juan Pizarro.  I am not sure that I even knew Leaf made any cards in the 1960s prior to buying this card.  Now I own one.

And finally....

1953 Topps

I bought all five of these from the same guy who was selling the Spahn All-Star.  We had a good laugh about Topps taking its best guess about what the Braves hat would look like in Milwaukee -- black brim or red? Blocky M, thin M, Straight sides or crooked?  And then there is the nice touch of Murray Wall apparently doing his own artwork and creating scoreboards in the background that would have had his named spelled out in lights if we saw the whole thing.  

It's unclear why Wall got a card in the first place -- he hadn't played for the Braves since 1950 -- and then for just one start -- and would not make the major leagues again until 1957 with the Boston Red Sox...other than, perhaps, Topps had a contract for the right to use his face on a card.

But seriously, these cards are 1953 Topps cards, and they are in wonderful shape.  It certainly made my card show.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Card Show, post 2: Gary Carter and TCMA

I'm back from Boca Raton, Florida, after attending a meeting of the American Bar Association Forum on Construction Law. That's what I do for a living, by the way -- I am a construction lawyer with a focus on litigation.  I have been an attorney for nearly 18 years now, and on most days I am happy that I followed my dream from high school and went to law school.

Just like all professions and careers, though, there are days when it's not very much fun. Thankfully, though, those days have been fewer and further between in recent times.

Being in Palm Beach County again after about a decade away reminded me of a few things -- my past jobs and cases in that county, for one thing.  The other is that Palm Beach Gardens, which is located a little over 35 miles north of Boca, is the final resting place of my favorite catcher as a kid: Gary Edmund Carter.

With my blog's focus on the Brewers and Milwaukee Braves, my childhood hero sometimes gets lost in the shuffle here.  To be fair, as a child, I would not have considered myself a Brewers collector or a Yount collector or a Molitor collector.  Yes, I liked those guys a lot, sought out their autographs, and collected their cards.  But, the one player I collected heavily as a kid was Gary Carter.

Every so often at my local card show, I find a few Gary Carter cards that have not yet made their way into my collection.  This time around, there were just three of them:

All of these cards came out of a quarter-card box.  The first was this 1988 Fleer "Tried & True Sluggers" card.  Those powder-blue away jerseys -- like Schmidt's jersey -- were nearly ubiquitous in the 1980s.  Off the top of my head, I think something like half the teams in baseball wore those.  I think Carter is wearing his away jersey as well, which leads me to believe that this might have been an All-Star Game photo from the 1987 game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.  

Am I the only one who sees these Topps Tribute cards rolling out the same photos as we've seen dozens of times before and starts humming Tenacious D?

"This is the greatest and best card in the world...Tribute."

But this is not the Greatest card in the world, no.  This is just a tribute.

The final Carter card I found in the quarter box was this "Legends of New York" from Upper Deck.  Yet another strange word association game gets played in my head with this set:

Perhaps the most depressing and yet best Christmas song ever.  If you ask someone from the UK, they will tell you that it is definitely the best Christmas song ever.  Shane MacGowan's typical growl with the late Kirsty MacColl's upbeat voice slagging him off is tough to top for a contemporary Christmas song.  My favorite back and forth?

MacGowan: "I could have been someone."
MacColl: "Well so could anyone!"

Makes me feel Christmasy all over just hearing that.

Okay, on to the remainder of today's post.  Back a few months ago, I got a start on the cards that TCMA put out in the late 1970s celebrating the lesser lights of 1960s baseball -- and a few brighter lights too.  This time, I loaded up at Frank Moiger's table with a bunch more of those Braves.  Someday soon, I'll figure out if I need more of them.  

Here are those TCMAs:

For as much as I like the TCMA cards, they just don't have me waxing lyrical.  The closest thing to a music vibe I get is the horribly overplayed, overwrought, and overdone Village People saw "YMCA", and I won't be putting that song up here today.  

This is close, though:

But man, Oscar's gotten soft these days.  

Thanks for reading, y'all -- vintage comes next!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Back to the Card Show: The Brewers Cards

Last weekend, I spent a few hours at my usual monthly card show.  The cheap items in dime boxes were fewer in number this time than even the last time I went, but I still came home with a lot of great cards for less money than I would have otherwise expected to pay. Today's post is going to highlight the Brewers cards.  I have two more posts from the show yet to come -- one to cover the Milwaukee Braves cards from after 1965 combined with the Gary Carter cards and another to cover the truly vintage Milwaukee cards.

But today, let's celebrate the newer cards.  As always, some of these finished off team sets while others go directly into the player collections.

The first table I stopped at was manned by a guy from South Carolina.  I have talked to this gentleman at two past shows -- both the one in Roswell/North Fulton and the one in McDonough -- and each time I was able to pull some great cards from his dime boxes.  This time was no different, so let's go to the cheap seats first!

How about a dime for a Topps Chrome Refractor, to start?

And a couple of Opening Day PC Parallel types too:

I finished off my Topps Chrome Brewers team set too.  I didn't scan them, but they were all dimeboxers as well.  

He also had a great $0.25 box that turned into 6 for $1.  From that box, I snagged a couple of Brewers from Bowman Chrome:
Refractor, SN500

Refractor, SN500

Regular chrome...I think this was a dime card
My memory gets a little fuzzy here, but I think that these other three cards were in the dollar bin or were sold for $1 to me:  

SN8/150 -- an eBay 1/1 for being
his uniform number!

Purple Paper Parallel

The Garza is also an eBay 1/1 for being serial numbered 72/75 -- the same as his ERA!

My next stop were the quarter-boxes of another seller whose table I stop at frequently.  The box yielded a few Brewers I needed and some that I'm not sure if I needed or not...I guessed that for a quarter I wouldn't mind having a double:

Yes, Molitor is a Blue Jay looking skyward to a Twin on that Pinnacle Card, but I needed it for his player collection.

My last stop at which I purchased Brewers was Frank Moiger's table.  Frank is the guy who organizes and promotes the two shows on the north side of Atlanta near where I live -- the North Fulton Sports Collectibles Show and the East Cobb Sports Collectibles Show.  I have been meaning to get to the other show in Marietta, but this month that was not going to happen.  

Despite the fact that Frank is a big-time Tennessee Volunteer fan, I like him anyway.  He always has vintage boxes with commons and some stars set up for set builders, and this time he had a binder with some random relics in them.  In addition to a bunch of older Braves cards, this time I got a few Brewers cards from him:

The most expensive of the Brewers I got

And, for $3 (or, rather, as part of the transaction with a represented cost of $3) I picked up this fashionable swatch.

This is just the appetizer, though.  

Thanks for reading!