Whenever a Zapping shows up in my mailbox, I know I can expect great cards. For the uninitiated, my pal Kenny a/k/a Zippy Zappy a/k/a disnalldat on Twitter a/k/a the World's Ultimate Luis Torrens supercollector will, from time to time, send out fat packs of cards that he calls Zippy Zappings. They are always densely packed with cards and, befitting Kenny's nature of being a fan of minor league baseball rather than the major leagues, they usually feature a significant amount of Bowman cards.
This mini-Zapping from Kenny was not very different. It did feature a couple of random Topps inserts of *gasp* major leaguers, but I'll forgive him for that.
Powered by music provided in Kenny's "What I've Been Listening To... (Pt. 2)" post from earlier this week, let's dive into the Mini Zapping!
The Wombats -- "Emoticons"
My musical tastes since the early 1990s have tended to angle toward Anglophilia very frequently. As a result, it should not be a surprise that I have heard of the scousers known as The Wombats before, and I've listened to them some about 10 years ago.
Even then, I hadn't listened to them much, and I have not paid attention to them lately. By lately, I mean, "since about 2010." This song, "Emoticons," appeared on Glitterbug, the band's third album. It's a pretty cool song -- very much in the Britpop lexicon.
Here are those major leaguers that really threw me for a loop coming from a Zippy Zapping -- mini or otherwise. Now, the Fielder is at least in the vein of a Kenny collectible -- what with its rookie leanings and all -- but to get a K-Rod, a Braun/Koufax, or a Jason Kendall card that isn't a Japanese SEGA card is a rare day. It feels almost like a limited edition of some sort.
It's pretty cool.
The Founders 15: "I Can't Be Satisfied"
It's not often that a song gets me digging into general articles about life in a particular country to try to figure out where it came from, how it came to be, and what its context is. This song did that, though. It started just by listening to the song -- which, to be honest, is a fairly unremarkable funk tune with some guitars thrown in and vocals that would not be out of place had someone said that the song came from Jamaica. But it came from Nigeria.
I admit that I don't know anything about Nigerian pop music of any time period. Wait....I'm reading an article on Pitchfork now (reviewing a 2.5-hour magnum reissue album from 2009 called Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of the 1970's Funky Lagos) and it mentions a name I've heard: Fela Kuti. Okay. At least I've heard a name before.
But I've never heard of The Founders 15, and there's very little available online about this band.
If I'm guessing about this song's meaning, it might have something to do with the whole Biafran secession in the late 1960s and the Nigerian Civil War that followed to get Biafra back into the country. Biafra had support from France, and, odd in that Cold War context, the federal government of Nigeria had support from the Soviet Union and Great Britain.
The war was fought -- perhaps unsurprisingly -- over oil as much as it was fought over people, independence, or self-determination. Nigeria had fairly significant oil reserves, and Biafra and Nigeria were fighting for dominion over the BP-Shell oil fields and the right to the royalties being paid. Because the French were on one side and the British on the other, the US declared themselves neutral (though, in reality, their support was mostly for the Nigerian government).
The war led to a massive humanitarian crisis in Biafra as well. Millions were close to starvation. Adding to the crisis's receiving coverage was the fact that the Biafrans tended to be Christians while the Nigerians tended to be Muslim. The Nigerians blockaded ports bringing food for the Biafrans, resulting in starvation, and the Nigerian army literally murdered Biafran civilians. Arising out of this conflagration, however, came one good thing: Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).
Wow. Tough to come back to baseball cards after learning about all that.
Depressing stories of Civil War and famine followed by depressingly boring cards of guys in generic blue uniforms. It's depression on a far different level, of course, and I'm not trying to draw a direct parallel.
Tyrone Taylor was the Brewers top prospect or second-best prospect at the beginning of the 2015 season -- but only #93 overall. Since then, his star has faded. He's only 23 years old, but he's about to go into his third season at Double-A Biloxi after hitting .232/.303/.327 last year in 134 games there. Add in the fact that he pulled a hamstring in spring training so that his season won't begin until May, and there has to be genuine concern about him. Call him trade bait?
Speaking of Biloxi, Angel Ortega has started both games for the Shuckers at third base. He's still only 23 years old, but he too needs to show something this year. He doesn't have any power (minor league slugging percentage of .296 in slash line of .235/.270/.296....) or all that much speed and he doesn't have great plate discipline either. He's been a shortstop mainly before this year, but he's at third base at Biloxi thanks to the presences of Mauricio Dubon. Third base won't help him either, what with the very rapidly approaching Lucas Erceg -- who is at High-A Carolina -- and Ortega needs to develop very fast or find himself looking for a new organization or line of work.
Anthony Banda is a great highlight here. He's a very intriguing starting pitching prospect who has developed fantastically in the past couple of years. Unfortunately for Brewers fans, he's done that developing in the Diamondbacks system -- he was traded there in exchange for Gerardo Parra in 2014.
Finally, there's Zach Quintana. He was traded after the 2014 season to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for spare OF Kyle Wren. He made it to the Carolina League last year in the Braves system -- with the Carolina Mudcats -- before being released at the end of last season. An interesting sidelight: the Brewers and Braves swapped High-A outposts after last season. The Brewers got the Mudcats, and the Braves got the Brevard County Manatees -- which promptly moved to Osceola County and changed its name to the Florida Fire Frogs.
Balance and Composure: "Quake"
It's odd how some bands that got bigger in the "modern rock"/alternative scene in the past decade have eluded me. It seems especially to apply to American bands that sound like this band, Balance and Composure. Perhaps it's just the radio stations -- whether created by Pandora, Spotify, or Amazon or actual radio stations -- that I listen to seem to focus as much on 1990's alternative as they do more recent songs. I don't know.
This song, "Quake," reminds me of any number of bands from that mid-2000s timeframe that sort of emulated Nirvana while mixing in attempts at being "harder" or just yelling/screaming more while singing. It's not bad, but it's not anything unique either. I'd give this song a 5/10 -- I wouldn't skip it if it came on one of those curated stations. I probably would react with apathy.
I reacted much more positively to these two Bowman Chrome cards. Even more so than the usual Bowman offering putting minor leaguers into the big-league team's uniform, these two cards look very photoshopped. The Nottingham card would not look out of place in that Elite Extra Edition set, other than having a realistic background and actual team colors. The easy reason why these two look the way they do is that both Hader and Nottingham were either completely new (Nottingham) or still pretty new (Hader) to the Brewers organization last spring.
Nottingham was the key part of the Khris Davis trade with the Oakland Athletics before last season. GM David Stearns was familiar with him thanks to Nottingham having been drafted by the Astros in 2013 out of high school. He went to Oakland in exchange for Scott Kazmir during the trade deadline in 2015 before coming to Milwaukee just before spring training in 2016. The jury is still out on Jacob, though. He struggled to hit in Double-A Biloxi last year -- .234/.295/.347 -- and then flopped in the Arizona Fall League (.203/.221/.284). I mean, his OPS in the Arizona Fall League was below Tim Tebow for crying out loud. That's bad.
Hader, of course, was named MLB Pipeline's top left-handed pitching prospect during the 2016-2017 offseason. He's starting the year in Triple-A Colorado Springs at the age of 23. He needs to work on controlling his walks -- that's always been his bugaboo -- but I would anticipate that he will make his big-league debut this year in Milwaukee after the All-Star Break if he looks decent during the first half of the year in the thin air.
Napalm Death: "You Suffer"
It took me longer to copy and paste this into this blogpost than it does to listen to this song. So, here's another Napalm Death song:
I've said before that I'm a lyrics guy. I like to hear the lyrics to a song and get their message. "Unchallenged Hate" is the opposite of that. To be fair, if you look up the lyrics for this song, they are really deep. I challenge you to find those lyrics in this song.
Napalm Death is thrash metal taken to its nth degree. It's hardcore, dense, thick, and even a little sludgy in terms of its sound. Those issues are probably why the band isn't bigger or why it never turned into Metallica or something. There are better bands that do this same genre better too -- Megadeth, for example.
The final group of cards that Kenny sent my way are all Asia Black Refractors from the 2015 Bowman Chrome Draft set.
These cards highlight the farm system before the big trades in 2015 and 2016 that added prospects numbered 1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 12, 14, and 16 to the Brewers Top 20 on MLB Pipeline (and #11 Marcos Diplan came over in 2014 from Texas as part of the Yovani Gallardo trade). Of the guys here, though, we have #26 (Nathan Kirby), #15 (Cody Ponce), #25 (Jake Gatewood), #22 (Monte Harrison), #6 (Trent Clark) and #13 Jorge Lopez.
We've talked about Tyrone Taylor already, so let's talk about Tyler Wager. Wagner made it to the majors with Milwaukee in 2015 and got hit around some. He then was traded with Jean Segura to Arizona for Chase Anderson, Aaron Hill, and rising prospect MIL #5/MLB #63 Isan Diaz. Wagner pitched a little for Arizona in 2016 but then was waived after the season. The Rangers -- who apparently only scout the Milwaukee Brewers -- then signed him.
Kenny, thanks for the great bunch of cards. I'm going to use the rest of your songs for a post tomorrow, so don't worry -- you'll get my take on them too!