Saturday, January 27, 2018

Moving Forward Part II: A New Player Collection

There's a lot of buzz and excitement amongst Milwaukee Brewers fans thanks to what I'll call Tremendous Transaction Thursday. It's almost like it's January of 1979 again in Milwaukee, where the team was coming off its first ever winning season. Or, maybe it's like December 1980, when the Brewers went to the winter meetings and pulled off what remains the biggest trade in team history to get Ted Simmons, Pete Vuckovich, and Rollie Fingers from the St. Louis Cardinals.

As you probably know by now, in the space of about an hour, the Brewers made two massive moves -- first trading away #1 prospect Lewis Brinson, #6 prospect Monte Harrison, #14 prospect Isan Diaz, and pitcher Jordan Yamamoto to the Miami Marlins in return for Christian Yelich, and then signing former Brewer Lorenzo Cain to a 5-year, $80 million contract.

The Marlins made the move to trade Yelich for obvious reasons: after the team traded away Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, Yelich had made it clear that he did not want to be the only major league player in Miami. And, the Brewers had depth in prospect talent that few teams could match, and their depth made for a good match for the Marlins needs.

Further to that point, the Marlins simply did not have much in the way of positional prospect talent in their system. Indeed, prior to this offseason's trades, basically all of the Marlins top prospects were pitchers. Prior to the trade with the Brewers, the only position players in the Marlins' Top 10 prospects according to MLB Pipeline were Magneuris Sierra (obtained in the Marcell Ozuna trade with St. Louis) and 24-year-old 3B Brian Anderson, a third-round pick in 2014 who made it to the majors for a short look last year. Now, their top ten features Brinson at #1, Harrison at #2, and Diaz at #9.

I was so ready for Brinson to be the next big Brewers star. Good luck to him in Miami.
Why would Milwaukee make these moves? First and foremost, the Brewers still have a ton of prospect talent remaining, including new #1 prospect Corey Ray (whom I don't buy as the #1 prospect right now, to be fair) and last year's competitive balance #1 pick, Tristen Lutz. Plus, the club still has tons of depth in the outfield from which to trade, if they choose. Starting pitching would be an obvious place to improve, and having Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, and/or Brett Phillips as a trade chit could help bring in some help near the top of the rotation. Maybe the Rays would take Broxton for Jake Odorizzi so that the Brewers could get another of the guys from the Zack Greinke trade with Kansas City back (since they have both Jeffress and Cain back!).

The team could also choose to be creative and set up a plan to get all of their top 5 OF (Braun, Yelich, Cain, Santana, and Phillips) plenty of games and plenty of rest at the same time. The team struggled to score runs last year when Braun was out injured, and his advancing age (he's now 34 years old) means that finding him games to rest and working him into a platoon at first with Eric Thames. Thames crushed righties to the tune of .265/.382/.551 last season with 25 HRs in 440 plate appearances, but he hit just .182/.270/.394 against lefties. While Jesus Aguilar did a nice job in that platoon/pinch-hitting role last year, Braun would be a step up at that position hitting-wise (assuming Braun can learn the footwork at yet another new position).

At any rate, both Cain and Yelich now have contracts that, assuming no extensions, are scheduled to keep them with the team for five years each. That level of commitment and the potential to keep contending for at least that five-year period has me excited.

So excited, in fact, that I'm breaking my own internal rules that a player has to do something for the Brewers before I make them a player collection.

Yes, I am going to add Christian Yelich as a player collection. For right now, I'm just going to collect his Brewers cards. If things go really well, perhaps that will change.

Who knows? If things go well, perhaps Lorenzo Cain will be a PC by the end of 2018. 

Thanks for stopping by. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Taking Stock for 2018

Men of philosophy often contemplate important questions of life: What is the optimum governmental system for humans to organize themselves? If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent, why does he allow human suffering? What is the natural state for human economics? 

Some of us are nearly equally philosophical about questions that to outside observers seem less important: should there be more than one official MLB licensee for baseball cards? Is Topps evil or simply horribly incompetent? What card sets should be issued every year? Or even this one:

Noted philosopher W. Axl Rose's oft-repeated question is what is on my mind at this point: where do I go now with my collection? 

My answer to that question is not as easy as it was in the past. When I first got back into collecting about four years ago, I was incredibly naive and thought I would try to build a Brewers collection that would be as complete as possible. 

In those early days, much of my time was spent tracking down checklists, figuring out want lists, chasing stuff on eBay, and ripping open pack after pack. Even then, frustration was beginning to seep in as I catalogued stupid parallel after stupid parallel in dozens of Topps-issued products. 

In the past two years, my time for collecting fell as I became much more involved with work-related efforts with the American Bar Association and, particularly during 2017, as Georgia football took more of my in-person time going to games and my mental time seeking out information about upcoming opponents and the like. This is why I have blogged much less in the past two years than I did in my first two years blogging too.

At the same time, my frustration with Topps grew and grew. Topps Now became an excuse to issue as many cards for the "major market" teams at the expense of teams like the Twins, the Brewers, and the Blue Jays. Even in 2017 as Milwaukee was the final team eliminated from playoff contention in the final week of the season, Topps Now nearly ignored Milwaukee. 

The Brewers had thirteen Topps Now cards issued last season. In contrast, including multiple relic and autograph cards, Aaron Judge by himself had 65 Topps Now cards. Add in the 43 postseason and offseason cards and autographs and relics for him, and Judge had 108 Topps Now cards of the 220 Yankees Topps Now cards this past season. Heck, including autographs and relics, Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic had 22 cards issued. 

I'm not going to turn this into a "Topps sucks" rant, though, because whether I like Topps or not is irrelevant. If I am going to collect baseball cards, my only choice is Topps for licensed, current cards of major league baseball players. One can agitate for change, but when the agitator is ignored by the powers that be, continuing to rage into the ether is a fruitless exercise -- particularly when one is talking about a hobby and not something very important in life like things going on with one's national government.

So, I'm done with beating my head into a wall where it comes to complaining about too many parallels, or too many Yankees, or too many high-end releases, or simply ugly cards. It's just not worth my limited time. Instead, I'm ignoring that stuff. Going forward, I'm collecting player collections -- which, yes, will include parallels -- and I'm collecting team sets of the base cards for the products that I choose to collect. 

For example, I got this card from Dennis from Too Many Verlanders/Manninghams just before the end of 2017:

I will still try to collect these cards because Ryan Braun is a player collection. Another card I'll seek out:

Again, any Younts that I can add to my collection will be added when I can find them.

But, it means that I will change other things. It means no more tracking and chasing every damn parallel for every card release. It means no more buying Topps Now cards unless it is a player collection for me. It means no more involvement with case breaks, because I don't need 11 copies of Topps Flagship's Will Middlebrooks.

Instead, I'm going to spend more time going into the archives, so to speak, and I don't mean Topps Archives. I mean finding cool oddballs, interesting schedules, magazines, programs, autographed photos, and other memorabilia that I like. Two more examples from Dennis of things I really like and will chase:

I will always collect magazines that have Brewers on the cover. 

I will still try to blog this coming year as well. I still enjoy the Meet the Brewers posts, and I should be doing more of them. I will probably try to mix in more posts about what is in my collection already. And, I will thank people for their kindness when they send me cards. 

Also, I will still try to keep putting music into my blogs. I love music. 

In other words, I will stop trying to do everything and collect everything. I'll stop being my own worst collecting enemy.

Thanks go out to Dennis for the cards and magazines in this post. And thanks go out to all of you who read this.