Monday, July 17, 2017

A Big Stack of Arbitrary Brewers

I've traded in the past with Brian from the Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary blog in the past. I was recently pleased and surprised to get a package in the mail from him that contained a ton of Brewers cards. I've been neglecting my Brewers cards lately, opting instead for actually watching the team's performance -- which has continued to impress -- and spending more time binge-watching shows on Hulu and Netflix.

But that's really just excuses being made. Nothing in current cards is grabbing me today. I'm burned out on hearing about the latest stratospheric price that Aaron Judge cards have reached. To top things off, I tried to go out a couple of weekends ago to buy some packs of cards. I could not even find a single pack of cards in my local Walmart. Hell, they may not even carry them any more. And the Target wasn't much better either -- all the cards they stocked were ones I have all the Brewers for already thanks to case breaks. 

I guess I'll just stick to my classic, tried and true way of getting cards on eBay, COMC, and Just Commons. 

Speaking of classics, maybe some classic rock will help me dig out of this funk.

When I think classic rock, I think the rock of the 1970s and 1960s and maybe some early 1980s. Anything later than that is part of my "normal" rock and therefore isn't "classic." And speaking of classics, does it get any more classic than The Who and "Baba O'Riley"? This song is still used at UGA to fire up the crowd just before kickoff. That's pretty classic to still be in the rotation at least as of 2016.

Let's go really classic here. This 1977 Bill Travers is actual a 1977 cloth sticker from the original set that was deemed so classic by Topps that it was resurrected for use with Archives in 2012. Travers was a 6th round pick of the Brewers out of Norwood High School in Norwood, Massachusetts. He worked his way up through the minors -- making it to Triple A by the age of 20 in 1973 and to the Majors in 1974 despite only 61 decent innings in Triple-A in 1974. He stayed in the majors from 1976 on, and 1976 was his best season -- 2.81 ERA, 15-16 record, 240 innings, 120 strikeouts versus 95 walks and over 1000 batters faced at the age of 23.

He really didn't make it very far after that. He got injured and went through two ulnar transfer operations (transferring a nerve in his elbow). He rebounded in 1979 and 1980 to win 26 games in 52 starts over 341-2/3 innings. He played out his option after the 1980 season at the age of 27. He went on to sign what was recognized immediately as one of the worst free agent contracts in the early free agency era: a 4-year, $1.5 million contract that was seen in the same regard as that Pablo Sandoval contract with the Red Sox. For their money, the California Angels received 52-1/3 innings of 6.36 ERA pitching (4.54 FIP) with 72 hits allowed and 11 games started over those four years. 

Bill Parsons was even more unique -- so unique that Steve Berthiaume wrote up a story about him on ESPN identifying his career as completely unique. Parsons is the only pitcher since 1883 to win at least 13 games and start at least 30 games in each of his first two seasons, only to win 5 or fewer games the rest of his career. He was the rookie pitcher of the year in the AL in 1971. 

His career went into the tank because of coaching. No kidding. As the ESPN story discusses, manager Del Crandall hired former Milwaukee Braves teammate Bob Shaw as the pitching coach. Shaw was an analyst, breaking down mechanics into endless detail. But he messed with Parsons and his delivery and screwed him up. Parsons was a "grip-it-and-rip-it" kind of pitcher with a fastball and a change up. Shaw made him work from a full windup and learn a curveball. All of this had disastrous results, and Parsons never found his mechanics again. By the age of 26, he was out of baseball.

Sure, The Doors might not be a "classic rock" rock band, but their music is excellent. I know it's cliché to play this song, but it's a damn good one. In fact, I tried for a long time not to like The Doors due to all the reverence that the generations older than me have for them. 

That worked until I listened to their music. The keyboard solos are excellent and well-played, the chords are melodically interesting, and the music overall provides an atmosphere. Anything that has that much going for it will get into my playlists.

These cards strive for an atmosphere. They strive to give a sense of modernity, excitement, and action. Maybe I've become that "get off my lawn guy" but these cards really fall short in that regard. I like them for being cards I need, but the new card designs leave me wanting more. 

I like variety. I like a mix of photos. I like a sense of place or of being or at least some sort of differentiation. And, I think that is the problem I've gotten myself into with modern cards. Everything is either an action shot or it's from Heritage and its affected attempts to copy card designs and photographic flaws from 50 years ago. It's like Topps has become its own cover band.

I'll be honest about this song: I did not have a proper appreciation for it before I played Guitar Hero on PlayStation. It's an ass-kicking guitar riff around which the whole song is built -- that roaring sound that comes from the rhythm guitar while the lead noodles around -- that really grabs me. It's guttural, raw, even dirty, and it makes you feel like you're on a riverboat in the dirty Mississippi River somewhere south of Memphis.

Or maybe that's just me.

Brian sent some awesome oddballs, including a nearly complete set of the 1984 Waunakee Police Department Brewers set (he kept the Molitor for his own PC of the St. Paul native) and this Pinnacle/Denny's card from 1996 of Kevin Seitzer. With my new Oddballs blog up and running and focusing on the 1980s, I see this Pinnacle card and think that I've made a mistake by limiting myself to the 1980s.

However, there are so many oddball issues in the 1980s that I probably should not have wandering eyes for the 1990s.

When it comes to classic rock of my youth, nothing quite embodies that term better than two things. I'll get to the other in a minute, but this one is the first one. Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" -- and its opening guitar riff -- was the first song every aspiring metalhead in the 1980s seemed to learn. And the local rock station was more than happy to oblige those learning the song by playing it as if it were the new hot release. 

Don't get me wrong -- it's a great guitar riff -- but damn it got tiresome after about the 500th time that it got played in the high school weight room while someone screamed at me to "PUSH IT" when I was trying to max out my bench weight at something around 150 or 160 pounds (while I weighed 175). I haven't seen either of those weights -- either on bench or on the scale -- in quite some time.

In all, Brian probably sent me nearly 100 cards. These four cards were the some of the best. A Geoff Jenkins relic from the early 2000s? Yes, please! A Jeromy Burnitz Topps HD? Certainly. A Doug Jones "Minted in Cooperstown" parallel? I hardly ever see these!

The top card here, though, is that Prince Fielder. Topps's "Moment & Milestones" set maybe the one of the most diabolical sets ever issued -- along with Topps Tek. Moments & Milestones had a card number for each player -- let's say Fielder is 59 -- and then had a different card 59 for each of the 81 RBI that Fielder had in his rookie season. So, let's call this card "59-70." To top off the obnoxiousness, each card is serial numbered out of 150.

The other guarantee from classic rock stations in the 1980s -- and maybe today for all I know -- is that at an appointed time, usually 9 PM, it's time to "Get the Led Out." Led Zeppelin is a great band and did a lot to push metal forward with Robert Plant's vocals and Jimmy Page's grinding guitar lines. But every damn night? Really?

"Black Dog" always got a lot of airplay during those 30 minutes where the DJ could line up three songs, hit the head, smoke a cigarette, and line up his evening after leaving the station at 10 PM.

Let's close with youngsters -- two that really didn't make it, and one that is still working on it. You know who Orlando Arcia is already, so let's look at the other two guys.

Erik Komatsu is still only 29 years old, but it has been 5 years since he appeared in the big leagues for the Cardinals and the Twins. The Brewers drafted him in 2008 in the 8th round, then traded him to the Nationals in a rental trade for Jerry Hairston. The Nationals left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, so the Cardinals signed him. They tried to waive him, so the Twins took a shot on him in May of 2012. A little over 3 weeks later, they returned him to the Nationals. The Nationals released him in 2014, and he signed as a free agent with the Angels for a month. They released him, so the Brewers picked him up for the rest of 2014. After the 2014 season, the Brewers let him go, so he played in the Atlantic League for Long Island in 2015 before hanging up the spikes. He's now a music producer in Orange County, California

Chad Green was the Brewers 1st round draft pick in 1996 (eighth overall) out of the University of Kentucky. He made it to Triple-A with the Brewers at the age of 25 in 2000, but his hitting was poor, to be charitable. He struck out three times for every walk he took, and his overall OBP in the minor leagues was .310 (.282 at Triple A). As of 2014, Green -- who was just 5'9" tall and relied on speed over power...indeed, this article says he beat Bo Jackson's 60-yard-dash time -- was living and working in Lexington, Kentucky, running a day care company called "Wee Care." 

Orlando Arcia has already seen more action in the majors than either of these other two gentlemen. Arcia has a real chance to be something special in the end -- if he avoids injuries and keeps hitting.

Thank you to Brian for the great cards -- and the classic rock that has picked up my spirits a bit!


  1. What a nice lot of cards! maybe you should stake a claim to a 1990s oddball blog now, just in case???

  2. Oh no - there was no Molitor? I never even opened the baggie. Sorry about that, I should have checked it.
    I bought it at a card show, so I can check with the vendor to see if he's got the Molitor somewhere.

    Thanks for the tunes, The Who are in my top 5 all-time!