Friday, September 19, 2014

An eBay Win, with Instant Buyer's Remorse!

I've been staying away from eBay lately. Earlier this year, I spent far too much time looking at as many Brewers cards as I could find on there -- particularly Robin Yount cards -- and ended up spending a bunch of money getting cards. 

Now, I don't regret having spent that money, but I do regret that I didn't do more research before I purchased some of those cards. I probably could have saved some money by being smarter, shopping around, comparing prices, and looking a little deeper for the cards I ended up buying.

The same, though, can be said for a recent purchase. 

In the wake of the All-Star game, a number of cards that seem to have been given out or sold as a part of the Fan Fest with the game have hit eBay. One of the items that came out was a 5"x7" set of the starting lineups for the All-Star Game. I haven't gotten my hands on a Jonathan Lucroy as of yet -- I'm close, though -- but I did get one of my other PC member to start the game:

This is printed on cardboard stock -- like the Heritage cards -- with a blank back. It's a pretty damn cool looking item. I mean, my non-card-collecting wife saw this card and said, "Wow, that's pretty awesome." 

So I felt validated.

Has anyone else taken the plunge with their PCs or their team collections on these 5x7 cards?

And, another question: Topps has released a number of team-specific items this year that have been available for either a limited time, in limited numbers, or both. Has anyone gone after these - other than those Major League cards of Ricky Vaughn and Roger Dorn and Jake Taylor?

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your comments!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Another Cracking Package

The English use the word "cracking" to mean, as Merriam-Webster puts it, "Very good or impressive." So, for example, one of my favorite sources for news on European soccer is; in 2009, they had a list at the end of the 2008/2009 season called "Top Ten Cracking Games of Season..." to discuss the best, more entertaining games. 

That's the context in which this post is titled. It also doesn't hurt that the package came from Julie at A Cracked Bat. Julie's just getting her feet underneath her here in the blogosphere, but she and I have swapped envelopes twice already.  This post -- which, for everyone who sees my normal posts and switches off saying "TL;DR" -- will be mercifully short on words and long on cards. 

The only words I'll say more are "Thank you Thank you Thank you!" to Julie, because these cards were great.  Thanks again and thanks for reading.

Thanks again, Julie!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Money In the Mail!

So, is everyone over my further breakdown of the Yovani Gallardo contract situation? I hope so. I personally enjoy thinking about issues like those when contemplating baseball cards and baseball generally. 

In many respects, rotisserie baseball and fantasy football replaced card collecting as my sports hobby for many of those years that I stayed away from collecting. As a matter of fact, this fall is the first time since 1991 that I did not draft my own fantasy football team. As I just realized, I've played fantasy football for well over half of my life.

My fantasy baseball team this year suffered immediately from a terrible auction, followed by a general malaise about the team I'd gotten anyway. I pretty much tanked this year, picked up injured aces like Matt Harvey, and called it a year early in May. 

So, unlike many years, this year will not feature me getting a check in the mail for winning a fantasy baseball league.

Making up for that, though was a package I got late last week from Matt at Bob Walk the Plank. If there is such an award as "Most Active Blogger-Trader of the Year," Matt would win it hands down for 2014. I mean, how many of us would have surgery and sit there on the sofa buying things on eBay for our fellow bloggers?

Okay, a few of us would do that. Matt is definitely one of them. I was the beneficiary of one of his purchases recently.  And it featured money.

First, though, even though he's going out and buying stuff for me, he felt like he needed to write a note of apology for the condition of the card!

No, Matt -- it's not your bad on that. The card is awesome. I mean, where else would I get this card? Seriously.

It's Shaun Marcum, it's serial numbered 5 of 5, and this card is worth at least $0.25. Now, personally, I question why Topps would think it to be a good idea to put a Missouri quarter anywhere near a Brewers card -- no matter where Marcum grew up or went to college, it just seems like bad karma to me.

Taking into account what's happened to Marcum since this card was issued, he might agree with this assessment. This is a 2013 Gypsy Queen card, and it was issued early last season. By that point, Marcum had signed with the Mets.  In 14 games (12 starts) with the Mets in 2013, Marcum won one game, lost 10, had a 5.29 ERA (though a 3.64 FIP) and allowed 85 hits in 78-1/3 innings.  Then, on July 15, 2013, he underwent surgery on his pitching shoulder, ending his season. 

The Mets came to an injury settlement with him on July 23. He signed a minor league deal with the Indians in December of 2013. Then, in May of this year, Marcum was shut down for a while in extended spring training to let his shoulder heal more. He's pitched a grand total of 9 games in the minor leagues this year for the Indians. He has a 1-0 record, started one game, pitched 17-1/3 innings, and might be able to put his career back on track for perhaps one or two more seasons now that he is 32 years old. I hope for his sake he can do that.

Matt, thank you very much for this card -- you know that condition on something like this matters to a lot of folks. Of course I like nice cards. But I like cards that fellow bloggers send me -- no matter the condition -- much more!  Oh, and watch your mailbox.

Thanks again, and thanks to everyone who's reading and commenting.  I appreciate y'all.

Monday, September 15, 2014

An Envelope from the Hot Corner

On the Saturday before I went to the card show, a little white envelope showed up in my mailbox. It appeared literally a couple of days after I said that the mail had run out, and it was marked as being "From the Hot Corner."

It's always a good thing to see that mark on the envelope, and this time was no different. The envelope contained two Ryan Brauns and a Yovani Gallardo.

This card was an insert in the 2012 Topps set, and it highlights a day when Braun won the Brewers a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 25, 2008.  The Brewers were in a tight race with the New York Mets for the one and only Wild Card spot that year. The race was so tight that the Brewers had fired manager Ned Yost with the Brewers standing at 83-67 and replaced him with Dale Sveum.

The Brewers had put their chips into the middle of the table in July of that year, sending to the Indians Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson, Matt LaPorta, and a player to be named later -- which turned out to be the best player the Indians got in the deal, outfielder Michael Brantley -- in return for three months of CC Sabathia. Two weeks later, the team picked up Ray Durham from the Giants as a backup for Rickie Weeks.

Things started falling apart, leading to the Yost firing. With just 3 games left in the season, the Brewers squared off against Pittsburgh. Karmically speaking, the Pirates winning out this season as wild card really should happen, because the Brewers were just 4 games over .500 as a team in 2008 except for the fact that they got to play the Pirates.

Coming into that September 25, 2008, game, the Brewers had gone 13-1 against their whipping boys from Allegheny County. For that night's game, Yovani Gallardo came back off the DL to throw four innings -- 67 pitches, 7 strikeouts, 3 hits, one run.  After that, the Brewers threw their entire bullpen at the Dodgers -- a bullpen which sounds today like reading a list of failed closers...Carlos Villanueva, Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota, Brian Shouse, Salomon Torres, Todd Coffey, and, finally, Mitch Stetter.

For the Pirates, current Brewer Zach Duke was the starter. He threw 7 innings of 7-hit, 1-run ball against the Brewers and was followed by Tyler Yates, John Grabow, and Jesse Chavez.

The game went to the tenth inning tied at 1. Coffey and Stetter worked their way out of the 10th without any damage despite Coffey giving up a hit. In the bottom of the inning, Rickie Weeks led off and moved to second when bunted over by Jason Kendall. Durham pinch hit for Stetter and was intentionally walked. After Mike Cameron struck out swinging, Chavez walked Craig Counsell.  Up stepped Braun. He took the first two pitches for balls. He then watched as Chavez threw strike one. Braun fouled off the next ball, putting the count at 2-2.

And then, Braun crushed the 2-2 pitch to hit his first-ever career grand slam for the walk-off win. The Brewers racked up a 14-1 record against the Pirates that season. Add in the Brewers 9-0 record against the Giants and the Blue Jays that year, and the 90-72 record looks almost like overachieving. Indeed, it was 23-1 against those three teams, and 67-71 against everyone else.

This card is an insert in the Donruss packs from this year. It's the whole "background that looks like nothing" issue, matched up with the "we can't show you logos" issue that makes this card a tough one to love.

In other words, the card is a lot like Braun has become. As much as the heroic retelling from days of yore makes a Brewers' fan's heart flutter, one look at Braun's contract and his chronic thumb issue this year makes the Brewers' GM and ownership have heart palpitations. Soon, Brewers fans (well, okay, at least one fan, probably me) will start making Samuel Taylor Coleridge references when discussing Braun.

Trust me, that's not good.

Finally, it's Yovani Gallardo. The one thing I appreciate about the Donruss/Panini efforts in this year's set is that they didn't go with those bizarre pajama-looking uniforms that dominated the Panini Hometown Heroes set from last year. While this card is suboptimal due to the logo-less hat, it's not as bad as it could be.

In my card-show purchases post, I mentioned that Gallardo has a team option for next year at $13 million. When that contract was signed, team officials were exultant about "having what we consider an ace of a staff, a No. 1 guy, tied up" (contractually speaking, I trust). It looked like a good deal in 2010, when Gallardo made the All-Star game. Frankly, it hasn't looked all that bad during the life of the contract.

What is very disconcerting, though, is the decline in strikeouts over the past two seasons.  From 2007 through 2012, Gallardo struck out 9.2 batters per nine innings -- pretty much one an inning. Over the past two years, that number has dropped to 6.9 K/9. Perhaps it's just the accumulation of innings on his arm; between 2009 to 2012, when Gallardo was 23 to 26 years old, Gallardo threw nearly 800 innings. 

Some guys can take that workload, and some guys cannot. Perhaps Gallardo will go on to pitch for another 10 seasons after this year without any problems. After all, he emerged from that injury nexus between the ages of 20 and 26 without getting hurt. But the declining dominance is disconcerting. Even in season, Gallardo's K/9 has dipped by another 0.5 K/9 between the first half and second half. 

So, do I want the Brewers to pick up his option at $13 million? It's a close call. The team has six guys who started this season other than Gallardo -- Lohse, Peralta, Garza, Estrada, Nelson, and Fiers. Marco Estrada turned into a batting practice pitcher, giving up homers at a crazy rate (1.8 HR/9 innings even after being relatively unscarred as a reliever). Mike Fiers alternates between being Bob Gibson (African-American of the 1960s) and Bob Gibson (awful white dude who pitched for the Brewers in the 1980s) -- and I keep waiting for the bullpen car to turn into a pumpkin again with him.

I think a lot will depend on what the Brewers think their outlook is for 2015. If they believe they can contend again, I think they pick up his option or work out a 2-year deal at a slightly lower salary. If not, then we might see Tyler Thornburg in the rotation next year.

Thanks for the cards, Pat. I hope that this post does not dissuade you from sending more cards for fear of another 750-word wishy-washy dissertation on whether the Brewers should pick up Yovani Gallardo's option. I'm pretty sure I'll change my mind again in a few weeks.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Card Show Purchases: Minding the Gaps

As I mentioned on Monday, I bought a lot of cards at last weekend's card show. It's taken me all week to post all of the cards I bought, and that's even with breaking them into pretty large groups. Today's post is the final one from the show.

It's sort of an Island of Misfit Brewers, I suppose -- guys whose cards I believed that I needed for my team sets. I haven't sorted through these yet to see if I really needed them or not.  Fingers crossed.

So, here are those Misfit toys.

Jimmy Nelson

Nelson is an interesting pitcher, even if he is someone who might wear rolls of toilet paper attached to a Tide detergent box on his head to football games. 

His K/BB ratio this year is good -- 2.89 -- and he is under 1.0 HR/9 innings. Both of these are good indicators that he might be a useful pitcher -- or better -- going forward.  The good news on one level is that Nelson tends to need a year of adjustment to master the level at which he is pitching. 

And, if Nelson fails at that, perhaps I'll have trade bait to send to Jay Barker Fan"Roll Tide!"

Aramis Ramirez

Ramirez is an interesting player. Some view him as a potential Hall of Famer.  I personally do not; his contemporaries Chipper Jones, Adrian Beltre, and Scott Rolen have far better cases for enshrinement than Aramis does; when you have that many guys at your same position who played at the same time ahead of you, I just don't see it for him. 

Norichika Aoki

Aoki came over to the US after 8 very successful seasons with the Yakult Swallows in Japan (.329/.402/.454 slash line). He picked right up from there with Milwaukee in 2012 and hit entirely consistently with his Japanese numbers for two years. But, Khris Davis's emergence seemed to make Aoki surplus to requirements. Plus, with Aoki turning 32 in January of this year, it seemed to make sense to trade him away for a bullpen arm in Will Smith.

Whether Ron Roenicke knows what to do with Will Smith's arm in the bullpen other than try to make it fall off -- he has pitched literally in 1 of every 2 Brewer games -- is another question.

The Prospects

Are these guys Prospects? 

1.  Roache has yet to hit higher than .248 in Single-A since being drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 draft out of Georgia Southern. You can have all the tools in the world, but a college player should do better in either the Midwest League or the Florida State League than that. At this point, not a prospect. A better pick at that point in the draft? Alex Wood from the University of Georgia was selected in the second round -- 60 picks later -- by the Braves.

2.  Alfredo Rodriguez was drafted twice by Milwaukee out of the University of Maryland -- in the 32nd round in 2011 and in the 17th round in 2012. He's been old for his league at every stop, he finished the 2014 season in the Florida State League at the age of 24, and he ended up playing 40 of his 82 games as the Brevard County designated hitter. When you're the DH in High-A ball at 24 years old for an NL team and you hit .255/.341/.319, you're not a prospect. You're organizational fodder.  

3.  Rogers got a September call-up this year. He's not much of a prospect to be honest -- he's a bit too old for that at age 26 -- but he only reached Triple-A this year. He's huge (6'6" tall, 245 pounds) but his best season featured just 22 homers (last year at Double-A). He could be a decent role player/platoon player at first and as an emergency outfielder -- sort of a cheaper (though as of yet unproven) version of Mark Reynolds without striking out once every three at-bats. Not a prospect but now a major leaguer.

4.  Ratterree was a 10th round pick in 2013 out of Rice after his senior year of college. He's 23 and hit .235/.350/.452 in the Midwest League. He has some pop, but he also has trouble making contact. If that's the case at the lower levels, his power needs to develop quickly. Borderline Prospect, but only because the Brewers' system is not filled with great prospects. He needs to be in Double-A next season and hit well there to have a chance at a career.

5.  Gibbard is already out of the Milwaukee system after seasons in rookie ball and Single-A in which his ERA was not below 5.27. The reason his ERA was that high was simple -- he gives up so many hits that it appears he is pitching batting practice. He had signed with the Normal CornBelters presented by Illinois Corn Farmers in the Frontier League in January of 2014, and, from there, the Rockies bought his contract. Not a prospect with a Capital N.

6.  McFarland has spent the last two seasons in the Midwest League. He hit far better this year than last, but his batting eye is not good at all -- in each of his three seasons, he has walked between 22 and 24 times and struck out between 79 and 90 times. He's still young, but he will have to show a lot next year to move up higher than the Florida State League. At best, he's a borderline prospect based on his ability to make good contact when he does hit the ball.

Richie Sexson

Sexson spent four seasons in Milwaukee, and they were four of his best years. He came to Milwaukee when the Brewers were in full-sell mode in 2000, and he was traded away after the 2003 season to the Diamondbacks at just about the point in time that he was about to become very expensive (just as the Mariners, which paid him $50 million for four seasons; during that fourth season, the Mariners cut Sexson and his $15.5 million salary).

He just was not a long-enough term Brewer for me to get too attached.

Other Random Brewers
Because otherwise, this post will never end.

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Like I said, I could keep writing and writing about each of these guys, but this post would turn into two posts.

In all, I think I picked up something around 150 to 200 cards total at the card show last weekend and spent about $100. In light of all the cards I got -- including the hits, the stars, the vintage, the parallels, and the Hall of Famers -- I think that was a pretty good haul over all.  

Now, it's time to start worrying about Georgia's game against South Carolina today.