Sunday, April 22, 2018

Blog Bat Around, Part II: The Brewers

As I mentioned yesterday, I decided to take part in the Torren' Up Cards Blog Bat Around in two parts. Yesterday, I put together my "non-Brewers" list. As I was thinking about my post last night after reading it and some others, I realized that I had some pretty glaring omissions from both my autograph team and my honorable mentions. 

First, I definitely messed up on my starting pitcher. It's not that Bert Blyleven is not worthy of being listed there. Neither, for that matter, would Don Sutton have been improper to list. But, I failed to recall one of the items that I got in the midst of my war with Wes back in 2015: a Warren Spahn autographed ball:

As good as Blyleven and Sutton are, they are not as good as Warren Spahn. That was a major omission on my part.

Second, while he would not supplant Tom Kelly for the managerial position, I neglected to mention my JSA-certified Eddie Mathews manager card from 1974 in the honorable mention section:

In addition, I should have added Ted Simmons to the catcher honorable mention since my autograph of him is on a St. Louis Cardinals card. Similarly, I have a couple of Rob Deer autographs of him on the San Francisco Giants, so he should have been an honorable mention in the outfield. Also, I know I have a Johnny Logan autograph here, so he should be a shortstop honorable mention.

Finally, in going through the various programs I have accumulated over the years, a few of them have autographs too. I don't remember them all, so I'm not going to say who I missed. But I missed those guys. I know I have Tommy John in a program next to Bowie Kuhn and Bud Selig, for instance.

Okay, enough errata. On to the Brewers Autograph team!

Catcher: B.J. Surhoff

Surhoff getting drafted overall in the 1985 draft was a big deal in Milwaukee, as you would expect. The Brewers were terrible in 1984 -- some of which can be blamed on Paul Molitor having Tommy John Surgery and the rest of which can be blamed on the core of the 1982 team all getting old and injured at the same time. For whatever reason, the Brewers drafted Surhoff as a catcher -- probably due to that being a position of need in the organization -- over Will Clark, Barry Larkin, Barry Bonds, and Rafael Palmeiro, among others. Also going in that first round were Bobby Witt, Pete Incaviglia, Chris Gwynn, Tommy Greene, Willie Fraser, Brian McRae, Gregg Jefferies, and Joey Cora. 

At least the Brewers weren't the White Sox. They drafted Kurt Brown, a high school catcher who never made it past Triple-A.

Surhoff edges out Jonathan Lucroy here because I got the Surhoff in person, and the Lucroy was just a Topps certified autograph. That matters to me. 

Honorable Mention: Dave Nilsson, Bill Schroeder, Ned Yost, Rick Dempsey, Johnny Estrada, Rick Cerone, Charlie Moore, Jonathan Lucroy

Guy I wish I had an Autograph for: Ted Simmons as a Brewer

First Base: Cecil Cooper

The Brewers and Red Sox made a fair number of trades with one another in the early 1970s. Perhaps the Red Sox thought that they could create a farm-club set up in the way that the Yankees of the early 1960s did with the Kansas City A's. In any event, the Red Sox had Yastrzemski at first base and put Cooper at DH. Then the Sox sent the soon to be 27-year-old Cooper to Milwaukee in exchange for 33-year-old George Scott after the 1976 season. Scott turned in a very good season in 1977 but then at age 34 fell off the table in 1978. Cooper was just getting started.

For a long time in the early 1980s, Cooper was a difficult autograph to get. He just wanted to get home after games and did not want to hang out signing autographs. Eventually, in the midst of his last year in Milwaukee in 1987 -- when the team kept him on the roster without ever playing him after mid-July -- he did a signing at Mayfair Mall. Nearly every Cooper autograph I have was from that day.

Honorable Mention: Greg Brock, Lyle Overbay, John Jaha, Billy Jo Robidoux, Antone Williamson, Kevin Barker, Matt Clark.

Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Prince Fielder (tons of relics, no autos), George Scott, Johnny Briggs

Second Base: Jim Gantner

As the local boy on the team after the 1983 season finally saw Jerry Augustine's albatross-like contract come off the books, Gantner was the guy that a lot of kids related to. They didn't idolize him, certainly, since Gantner was just a good player and not a great like Robin Yount or Paul Molitor. Gantner took his role seriously, though, and signed autographs after practically every game I ever attended and tried to get autographs. 

This slot came down to Gantner and Rickie Weeks. My nostalgia won out.

Honorable Mention: Rickie Weeks, Ron Belliard, Juan Castillo, Fernando Viña, Hernan Iribarren

Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Pedro Garcia, Willie Randolph, Scooter Gennett

Shortstop: Robin Yount

The only questions with Yount were (a) which autograph I'd use and (b) at what position he would appear in this team. I chose shortstop because he was better in 1982 as MVP than he was in 1989 as MVP in centerfield, and I felt like having Gorman Thomas on the team. 

This autograph is on one of the team-issued photo sets from the early 1980s. I got it at a signing that Yount and Molitor did together at a shoe store in 1983. I remember Molitor's first wife Linda hovering over both of them as they signed autographs. The line was incredibly long, so to increase the number of people who could get autographs, the store had Yount sign these to hand out instead.

As a position for the Brewers, shortstop has been a position of bright, short-lived stars. A lot of guys have been the next big star at short for Milwaukee, and most of those guys were pushed out the door or fell on their face, unfortunately.

Honorable Mention: Jean Segura, Ernest Riles, Orlando Arcia, Fred Stanley, Ed Romero, Rob Picciolo, Bill Spiers, Pat Listach

Guys I wish I had an autograph for: J.J. Hardy, Craig Counsell

Third Base: Jeff Cirillo

This is the first autograph on this team that I did not obtain myself in person. I got this Cirillo from Matt Prigge, a fellow Brewers collector and the purveyor of the Summer of '74 Blog. Cirillo was one of the few bright lights in the morass that was the late 1990s Sal Bando-assembled Brewers. Sal Bando lost a lot of my respect for him during that time. I've heard that he got therapy because he lost my respect, though that's just a rumor.

I put Cirillo in here rather than Paul Molitor because Molitor could literally have slotted in at half the positions on this team and reached his pinnacle at DH rather than playing a position.

Honorable Mention: Dale Sveum, Randy Ready, Roy Howell, Bill Hall, Kevin Seitzer, Don Money

Guys I Wish I had an Autograph for: Tommy Harper, Sal Bando, Aramis Ramirez

Left Field: Ryan Braun

Braun is reviled around the league thanks to his steroid use and, more terribly, his lying about it and halfway ruining a guy's life after the protocols for handling his test samples (that came out positive) were not followed. That said, Braun is a good player. He's into the point of his career where injuries are keeping him off the field for 20-30 games a season. Yet, he's reaching major milestones now, having just surpassed 1,000 RBI for his career.

He'll never make the Hall of Fame, nor do I think he should based on where his numbers project to finish. Yet he will be one of the best players in Brewers history for a long time to come.

Honorable Mention:  Ben Oglivie, Glenn Braggs, Mike Felder, Drew Anderson, Kevin Mench, Carlos Lee, Geoff Jenkins, Jim Paciorek, Greg Vaughn

Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Johnny Briggs, Danny Walton

Center Field: Gorman Thomas

I never got Gorman Thomas's autograph in person. He was a baseball gym rat and loved being in the locker room around other baseball guys, according to Daniel Okrent's Nine Innings. For autograph hounds in the 1980s, that meant we never saw him. He arrived 4 or 5 hours before the game and then hung out in the locker room after the game drinking beer. So, he avoided all of us little kids. So, that means I end up having to get his signature through later cards like this Panini Hometown Heroes set.

Honorable Mention: Lewis Brinson, Logan Schafer, Rick Manning, Scott Podsednik, David Hulse, Michael Reed, Carlos Gomez

Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Mike Cameron, Brady Clark, Marquis Grissom, Darryl Hamilton, Von Joshua, Davey May

Right Field: Corey Hart

Going by statistics, Hart is outshined by Jeromy Burnitz for the right field slot. To me, there is something that is attractive about the fact that Hart came up in the Brewers system and was a key cog in Milwaukee's winning in the late 2000s and early 2010s. That's as opposed to Burnitz, who piled up big stats in the steroid era on legitimately terrible teams. Winning matters.

Honorable Mention: Dion James, Mark Brouhard, Matt Mieske, Brett Phillips, Marshall Edwards, Rob Deer, Jeromy Burnitz

Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Sixto Lezcano, Nori Aoki, Domingo Santana

Designated/Pinch Hitter: Paul Molitor

Molitor has to be included on this team, of course. Molitor was the guy I most liked as a player as a kid. During his fifteen years in Milwaukee, Molitor did not pitch or catch, but he played in games everywhere else: 131 games at first, 400 games at second, 792 games at third, 57 games at short, 4 games in left, 42 in center, and 4 games in right -- along with 418 games as a DH, 22 games as a pinch hitter, and 4 games as a pinch runner. After leaving Milwaukee, he only played DH and first. Of course, he left at the age of 36.

I'm just glad that he did not sign a pro baseball contract directly out of high school. I would have hated Paul Molitor as a St. Louis Cardinal.

Honorable Mention: Larry Hisle

Guys I wish I had an Autograph for: Dave Parker, Dick Davis, Julio Franco, Hank Aaron

Starting Pitching

While the team that Kenny called for had just one starter, I decided to include four starters. The Brewers do not have a history of strong starters, but I have a lot of autographs so four it is.

SP1: Ted Higuera

The biggest shame about Ted Higuera's career is that he did not get into US baseball early enough. He made his debut in Milwaukee in 1985 at the age of 27 despite pitching with his hometown Juarez team starting in 1979. If only the scouting system were a little better, perhaps Ted could have been in the bullpen for the 1982 team at the age of 24 to help out when Rollie Fingers went down.

Oh, who am I kidding, though? Harry Dalton would have flipped him to the Astros instead of Frank DiPino probably.

One thing I always liked about Higuera's autograph is the fact that he did not anglicize his autograph. His real name is Teodoro Valenzuela Higuera (yes, his mother's maiden name was Valenzuela) so his autograph was always "Teo Higuera" rather than "Ted".

SP2: Yovani Gallardo

I was disappointed when Gallardo did not pitch well enough this spring to make the Brewers. That disappointment was completely selfish, because I was hoping to add a few more new cards to my Gallardo collection. Instead, he ended up in the Reds bullpen as batting practice fodder for hitters wanting to improve their statistics before the Reds dropped him like he's hot. Shortly after, the Rangers signed him to a minor league deal.

The Brewers pretty much sucked the life out of Gallardo's arm toward the greater good of winning divisional championships and the wild card. His stats have been in decline for several years now. It's tough to believe that he is only 32 years old, having turned 32 in February. 

SP3: Mike Caldwell

Mr. F**king Warmth. So named sarcastically for his surly overall demeanor by his teammates, Mike Caldwell actually was usually pretty nice to me. Caldwell was the workhorse of those late 1970s and early 1980s Brewers teams. There was never an "ace" for those teams, but Caldwell was as close as it got. He owned the Yankees, and his 1978 was a masterpiece of pitching -- as he threw nearly 300 innings and completed twenty-three games of his 34 starts AND had 6 shutouts AND even added a save for good measure. 

His falling off the map ability-wise in 1983 and 1984, getting really old really fast, helped accelerate the team's decline into the abyss in 1984. 

SP4: Ben Sheets

Sheets had pinpoint control matched with great swing-and-miss stuff. He holds the Brewers team record for most strikeouts in a game with 18, racked up against the Atlanta Braves in 2004. His curve just dropped off the table and befuddled hitters. The ever obnoxious Chris Berman even compared the curve to Bert Blyleven's -- the gold standard of curveballs. So many of those strikeouts were on curves that bounced. So those balls looked tantalizing enough to hit but were nowhere near hittable. 

His pitching is just fun to watch, if you can find some YouTube videos to do it.

Honorable Mention: Ray Peters, Tim Leary, Chris Bosio, Mike Birkbeck, Bill Wegman, Juan Nieves, Jaime Cocanower, Pete Vuckovich, Chris Capuano, Ben Hendrickson, Nick Neugebauer, Johnny Hellweg, Chuck Porter, Steve Woodard, Mike Fiers, Ricky Bones, Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann, Danny Darwin, Jim Slaton, Moose Haas, Tom Candiotti

Guys I wish I had an autographs for: Lew Krausse, Marty Pattin, Jim Colborn, Bill Travers, Scott Karl, Cal Eldred, Jaime Navarro, Zack Greinke, Kyle Davies, Junior Guerra, Brent Suter, Hideo Nomo, Doug Davis, C.C. Sabathia, Gene Brabender

Right Handed Reliever: Mark Clear

Watching Mark Clear pitch during his time in Milwaukee was mesmerizing. He was so thin -- just look at him in that photo! -- and having his stirrups showing the way he did emphasized how tall he was too. And, when it comes to good curveballs, Clear is right up there. He couldn't always get it over the plate, but man did it break. 

Clear is nowhere near the best righty reliever in Brewers history. He just as easily could have been listed under closers here too. But he was one of the most enjoyable middle/late inning relievers to watch thanks to that curve.

Honorable Mention: Jorge Lopez, Pete Ladd, Carlos Villanueva, Jose Capellan, Bill Castro, Bob Gibson (the white one), Chris Demaria, Tom Tellmann

Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Chuck Crim, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jeremy Jeffress, Todd Coffey, David Weathers, Danny Frisella

Left Handed Reliever: Dan Plesac

I'm cheating again here to get Plesac into this team. Plesac is still the Brewers all-time leader in saves with 133, and he is also the all-time pitching appearances leader for the team with 365. He finished 269 games and even started 14, so he pitched more in non-save situations than in save situations. That's my excuse -- he was never a pure closer.

After being drafted out of N.C. State in 1983, Plesac came up at the age of 24 in 1986, so he was 10 years older than me. He was another Midwest kid, which is probably why I gravitated toward him. He won 10 games and saved 14 in his first season in the major leagues before taking over as closer through 1990 and making the All-Star team three times. He lost the closer job in 1990 thanks to a spike in his walk rate from 2.5/9 innings up to 4.0/9 innings. He left Milwaukee after the 1992 season and became a LOOGY, finally retiring at the age of 41 in 2003.

Honorable Mention: Jerry Augustine, Rick Waits, Josh Hader, Will Smith, Graeme Lloyd, Mike Potts, Wei Chung Wang, Ray Searage, John Morris

Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Mitch Stetter, Bob McClure, Jesse Orosco, Valerio de Los Santos

Closer: Rollie Fingers

When life gives you a Hall of Famer, you do not look that gift horse in the mouth. You employ the Hall of Famer. I know Rollie gets a lot of love in Milwaukee and rightfully so. But, to me, he's not a Brewer. He's an Oakland A, having spent 9 years of his career there. Plus, I'm not sure I've forgiven him for screwing up his elbow in 1982 so that the team had to use Pete Ladd as the closer in the World Series.

Even so, Rollie was the Cy Young and MVP as a closer. It's tough to top that. 

Honorable Mention: Dan Plesac, Mike Fetters, Corey Knebel, Doug Jones

Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Bob Wickman, Dan Kolb, Trevor Hoffman, Ken Sanders, Doug Henry, John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Francisco Cordero, Curt Leskanic

Front Office/Managers:

The Dalton Gang changed the franchise in the mid-1970s, and Harry Dalton and George Bamberger are inextricably linked as a result. Dalton is the only GM for which I have an autograph.

Honorable Mention: Managers: Buck Rodgers, Tom Trebelhorn
Coaches: Dave Garcia, Herm Starrette, Andy Etchebarren, Tony Muser

Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Doug Melvin, Frank Lane, Marvin Milkes, David Stearns, Davey Lopes, Phil Garner, Ron Roenicke, Ned Yost as Manager, Harvey Kuenn as Manager, Del Crandall, Dave Bristol, Joe Schultz, Alex Grammas, Jerry Royster, Jim Lefebvre, Cal McLish, Rod Carew, Rich Dauer, Robin Yount as a coach, Don Baylor, Frank Howard

All in all, this isn't a bad team. It's been just as fun for me to see who I would like to get some autographs from as well. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Blog Bat Around, Part I: The Non-Brewers

I've been incredibly busy this past month away from the blog. I've been working a lot -- getting into the office early and staying late in an effort both to stay on top of my work and in trying to catch up on my billable hours that suffered early in 2018 thanks to Georgia football. Plus, I've been lacking in inspiration again. It happens.

Then, I saw Kenny's idea for a Blog Bat Around: creating an all-autograph lineup from cards in his collection.

The idea is this: build a lineup out of the players from whom you have autographs. Kenny put together a list of 13 total positions to fill -- a Card Gen lineup -- including two relievers, a closer, a starter, a DH/PH, and then the 8 position players. 

I looked at my autographs and realized I could drag this one out into two posts -- one based off non-Brewers (today's post) and one based off Brewers (which hopefully will be tomorrow's post). So, without further introduction, let's get started.

Catcher: Gary Carter, Montreal Expos & New York Mets

In the early 1980s, it was well known among autograph collectors that Gary Carter was one of the good guys who would sign pretty much anything you sent his way. Around 1983 or so, he started asking for a donation for a cancer charity or foundation of some kind in exchange for signing baseball cards issued after that date. I was poor and didn't have a checking account, so I kept loading up on cards from earlier times. In all, I have 18 total cards autographed by Gary Carter.

Honorable Mention: Larry Haney, Johnny Oates, Joe Ferguson, Terry Kennedy, Jim Sundberg, Sal Butera, Lance Parrish, Tim Laudner, Don Slaught, Mike Stanley, Rick Dempsey, Rick Farrell, Geno Petralli, Dwight Lowry

First Base: Steve Garvey, Los Angeles Dodgers

Yeah, it's not the best or most striking autograph you'll find of Garvey. But, it's still mine. I got this one through the mail in the early 1980s as well. Garvey was both a favorite and a villain to me as a kid. He was a good player, no doubt, but he was such an attention seeker. It may seem contradictory to love Gary Carter, whose love of the flashbulbs was well known, but not to like Garvey. I played catcher, though, so Carter was forgiven where Garvey was excoriated.

Honorable Mention: Mike Squires, Terry Francona, Kurt Bevacqua, Andres Galarraga, Darrell Evans, Dave Bergman, Kent Hrbek

Second Base: Lou Whitaker, Detroit Tigers

By the late 1980s, Lou Whitaker had been called a "temperamental" signer. He might sign and return your cards, he might not. He might sign it with just "Lou Whitaker" or with "Louis R. Whitaker" or, as here, "Louis Rodman Whitaker II." Or, you might never see your cards again. So, I guess I got a bit lucky in getting this oddball and a 1987 Topps card back from him in about 1987 or 1988. Whitaker deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, as he was almost certainly the best second baseman in the American League in the 1980s (eclipsed maybe by Ryne Sandberg in the National League).

Honorable Mention: Tom Herr, Steve Sax (probably fake), Jerry Browne, Rex Hudler, Jim Walewander

Shortstop: Alan Trammell, Detroit Tigers

An easy choice with his well-deserved election to the Hall of Fame this year, Trammell was a great guy to get autographs from in the 1980s whether in person or through the mail. This 1987 Topps was an in-person autograph, but I have another 3 or 4 that I got by sending cards to Tiger Stadium. Weirdly, Trammell got into the Hall before Whitaker though Trammell was at best the third-best shortstop in the American League in the 1980s behind Robin Yount and Cal Ripken.

Honorable Mention: Rob Picciolo, Bill Russell, Greg Gagne, Ozzie Guillen

Third Base: Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia Phillies

Despite his fame and the accompanying mail loads that must have produced, Schmidt was always good for signing at least one card in mail sent to him in care of the Phillies. I'm not sure why I sent a 1988 Topps Big card to him to sign, but, well, I must have. 

Honorable Mention: Ron Cey, Bill Madlock, Wade Boggs, Roy Howell, Buddy Bell, Tom Brookens, Tom O'Malley, Tim Wallach, Steve Buechele, Larry Parrish, Doug DeCinces

Left Field: Jim Rice, Boston Red Sox

I had heard bad things about Rice returning mail, so I didn't exactly send him the best-conditioned cards to sign. I'm still not sure if it is real, either. One of the other bad things I heard about Rice was that he employed either an Autopen or a clubhouse man to sign his mail for him. I've posted this autograph on Twitter in the past, and people have told me that it looked good to them. If it is legitimate, it's cool to have another Hall of Fame member.

By the way, for the outfield, I'll do honorable mention at the end.

Center Field: Chet Lemon, Detroit Tigers

The outfield on my autograph team is decent, but it's not awesome. Chet Lemon is a member of the hall of the very good, certainly, but he was never an all-time great. Still, JAWS rates him as the 20th best center fielder of all-time, so he's not *that* bad. He was drafted in the first round in 1972 by Oakland, and was part of a trade in 1975 that sent him to the White Sox for Stan Bahnsen. He was a major league regular with the White Sox at the age of 21 in 1976. The White Sox then traded him to the Tigers after the the 1981 season for Steve Kemp. I got this autograph after a Brewers v. Tigers game in 1987. Looking through my collection, I can say unequivocally that the Tigers of the 1980s were some of the best signers in the American League.

Right Field:  Tom Brunansky, Minnesota Twins

Bruno is undoubtedly the worst player on this team. This spot would have been filled by Tony Oliva, whose autograph I got on a Twins sticker at the same game I got this autograph, but I sent that Oliva autograph away to a Twins collector. Brunansky was known for his rifle arm and his power bat. He was absolutely helped by the Metrodome, which made him into a 30-homer guy on two occasions. The Twins got him from the Angels for Doug Corbett and Rob Wilfong, but then got rid of him in 1988 in exchange for Tom Herr from the Cardinals. The Cardinals traded him to Boston in 1990 for Lee Smith. Boston let him leave for Milwaukee as a free agent after the 1992 season, and the Brewers traded him back to Boston in June of 1994 for Dave Valle. 

Outfield Honorable Mention: Rick Manning, Steve Henderson, Jay Johnstone, Manny Mota, Paul Householder, Bob Clark, Reid Nichols, Gary Matthews, Dusty Baker (probably fake), John Moses, Ron Kittle, Oddibe McDowell, Pat Sheridan, Mike Kingery, Bobby Brower

Designated Hitter/Pinch Hitter: Wade Boggs, Boston Red Sox

He's the best autograph in my collection not playing in the starting lineup, and he was never better than Mike Schmidt. So, Boggs gets put here. If I recall correctly, this one was a TTM. It compares well to autographs from that period, though his later signatures got pointier on the "W" than this one. I think it's good, but I'm not going to get it certified by anyone because I don't care about that.

Honorable Mention: Probably Andres Galarraga.

Starting Pitcher: Bert Blyleven, Pittsburgh Pirates/Cleveland Indians

Like Alan Trammell, Blyleven is another Hall of Famer who was an incredibly fan-friendly guy to fans in the 1980s and who would sign through the mail or in person. I got the Indians one in person, and the Pirates one through the mail. Man, he grew one hell of a beard and mustache between 1981 and 1982, though, didn't he?

Honorable Mention: Don Sutton, Mark Fidrych, Len Barker, Pat Dobson, Dave Goltz, Joe Niekro, Charlie Lea, Danny Darwin, Dave Stieb, Fernando Valenzuela, Storm Davis, John Tudor, Bruce Hurst, Rick Sutcliffe, Frank Viola, Eric King, Frank Tanana, Jose Guzman, John Cerutti, Steve Trout, Ray Peters, Jim Bouton

Right Handed Relief Pitcher: Dan Quisenberry, Kansas City Royals

Another of the really good guys in the 1980s. Memories of Quisenberry have faded over the years as closers began piling up crazy save numbers through use in the single-inning role that predominated starting in the late 1980s. Quisenberry did not make it to the majors until age 26 thanks to ditching an over-the-top delivery for an extreme submariner approach. He then led the AL in saves five times, was an all-star three times, finished in the top 5 in the Cy Young Award five times, and finished in the Top 11 for the MVP 5 times. He lost his exclusive closer role in 1986, as Bud Black and Steve Farr ate into his opportunities, and the Royals cut him mid-year in 1988. He had a late career reinvigoration with the Cardinals in 1989, then finished up with 5 nondescript appearances for the Giants in 1990. He died just 8 years later from brain cancer.

Should he be listed at closer? Perhaps. 

Honorable Mention (middle relievers only): Dwight Bernard, Jim Kern, Don Aase, Nate Snell, Pete Ladd, Mark Clear, Tom Tellmann

Left Handed Relief Pitcher: Tug McGraw, New York Mets/Philadelphia Phillies

Sure, the Tugger was more of a closer than middle reliever. But, lefty relievers are tough to find in my collection. I apparently engaged in the type of discrimination common in baseball even up to the 1970s -- viewing relievers as "lesser" pitchers. And I sure was not going to list Steve Howe here. Anyway, McGraw was an excellent TTM signer, so I have many of his cards autographed. 

I wonder if Tim is as good of a signer as his dad was, or if Tug was as good of a singer as Tim is.

Honorable Mention: Rick Waits, Steve Howe

Closer: John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves

This autograph came in the great Christmas collection haul of 2015. My in-laws bought a collection from a friend whose husband had passed away, and it gave me months of sorting fun and cool finds. None of the finds got much better than finding a John Smoltz autograph on a 1989 Score. 

Honorable Mention (the Closers): Dan Quisenberry, Tug McGraw, Mitch Williams, Jeff Reardon, Steve Bedrosian, Michael Jackson, Doug Jones, Bob Stanley, Jeff Russell

BONUS: Manager: Tom Kelly, Minnesota Twins

I have no recollection of getting this one myself, nor do I recall having found it in that Christmas Collection. I'm thinking my younger brother might have picked it up at some point in the early 1990s at a game in Milwaukee.

But, I chose Kelly here because my other options were Bob "Buck" Rodgers on his 1987 Topps card and Rene Lachemann on his 1982 Donruss card. If you know about Buck's involvement with the Milwaukee organization, you know Buck wasn't a bad manager. Lachemann, on the other hand, never displayed any great skill as a manager -- whether in Seattle (total record of 140-180), Milwaukee (1 year at 67-94), Florida (221-285 from 1993 to 1996) or the Cubs (0-1 in 2002 as interim manager).

Neither are anywhere near as good as Kelly. Also, I was not going to choose any one not listed as a manager or acting as manager at the time of their autograph. So, sorry Terry Francona -- you'll probably get to the Hall as a manager, but not as a player. 

This was fun, definitely. We'll see how the "Brewers only" lineup goes. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

New Cards from Brent

It's no surprise to anyone who follows me on Twitter or, for that matter, to anyone who reads this blog that I'm less than excited by new card issues. The most excited I got recently was when my pal Ray Peters and my more recent acquaintance Fred Stanley both got cards in the Heritage autographs of the Seattle Pilots. Of course, the initial excitement over those autographs -- and their scarcity -- have made getting any of those from eBay a losing proposition.

In any event, I have been focusing on getting cool 1982-related items. But, in an effort not to fall "behind" the current times, I've signed on with the official BrentandBecca® email list to get my Brewers team sets and an occasional short print.  Let's start with some of the Heritage Brewers regularly printed set.

Yes, believe it or not, the Brewers had TWO members of the Topps 2017 All-Star Rookie team last year. In fairness, there were not too many rookie catchers of any value last year, but Manny Piña was the catcher on the ASR team. 

Also, what is going on with Domingo Santana's photo? That's some messed-up perspective with his hand looking like it's approximately three times the size of the rest of his body, and that bat looks like it's a kid's toy. In fact, it almost looks like his head has been photoshopped into that photo. It just looks weird.

From the short prints, Brent had two of the five Brewers short prints available. I'm wondering when the first set to show Lewis Brinson as a Marlin will be -- and, at the same time, when the first set to show Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich will be showing them as Brewers. We have to be getting close, right? I think that Topps's most recent releases are somewhere near early January with catching up with team changes. Perhaps by Allen & Ginter? Or will Yelich & Cain get left out of that set?

When I say, "Topps's most recent releases," I could be talking about the Opening Day set. Despite the fact that Jonathan Villar was absolutely shit last year, Topps is acting like 2017 never happened and are including him in practically every set they put out. 

It's either Villar or Eric Thames, who had a great April last year followed by a so-so rest of the year. The "so-so rest of the year" really came out of the fact that the Brewers had to figure out whether Thames had improved his ability to hit left-handed pitching. He had not, so that led to a platoon with Jesus Aguilar and it is why Thames may be on the bench more frequently this coming year when Ryan Braun gets to play first.

That weird set up is why the two outfielders who played reasonably well last year -- Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips -- were sent down to Colorado Springs this week even though they really do not have anything more to prove in Triple-A. Simply, there just is not enough playing time for Braun, Santana, Yelich, Cain, Thames, and Aguilar if either Broxton or Phillips remained in the majors. Now, injuries and days off will allow those guys to all play enough -- Braun's injuries last year alone would have made that possible. But, when will this logjam of major-league-level outfielders be cleared up? Hopefully a starter will be heading to Milwaukee soon.

And finally, I picked up this 2018 Topps Ryan Braun short print from Brent. I still need a Braun from both the regular set and the Opening Day set for my team collection, and I probably need to pick up another one of those short prints from Heritage for Braun. 

All in all, buying current team sets in this way makes me much happier than trying to get the cards one by one in some fashion. It's easier, it's less expensive, and it limits the amount of time I have to deal with current Topps cards. 

Thanks for stopping by.