Sunday, May 19, 2019

NOW That's What I Call A Milestone

I am pretty good at keeping up with the Twins' new cards from Topps NOW, but every once in a while I make an exception for other teams or players. To be honest, I've never been a fan of C.C., since he's been with Cleveland and after a brief stint in Milwaukee with the Yankees. Tough position for a Twins fan to be in - but I have to say I have great respect for Sabathia, as much as I have wanted him to have a bad night when he's pitching against my favorite team.

3,000 strikeouts is quite the feat. More exclusive than 3,000 hits, with Sabathia being just the 17th pitcher in MLB history to reach the milestone. Even more exclusive, he's just the 3rd lefty - Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton being the others.

Speaking of 3rd - Albert Pujols is now ranked 3rd* on the RBI list. He's not exactly the Machine he once was, but 2,000 RBI is nothing to sneeze at. I really like this photo, which captures Albert flipping his bat in ... relief? Having blasted a home run to pass 2,000.

The list of course is missing Babe Ruth - (and Cap Anson), who also drove in more than 2,000 runs in his career. Before 1920, the Runs Batted In statistic was not counted in a consistent way from game to game, so the RBI the Sultan of Swat accumulated prior to 1920 are not included on this list. Pujols is likely going to pass A-Rod for 2nd overall some time next season (if he doesn't retire first). Pujols is another guy, like Sabathia, that I've never been a big fan of the teams he's played for. But, 2,000 RBI is great, and not likely to be repeated.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

That's A Whole Lotte Miles From Home, Kennys

Just because he's no longer a Minnesota Twin doesn't mean I've stopped collecting Kennys Vargas cards. His first 2019 card comes from the 1st Version (series 1) of BBM, the official trading card of the NPB. Vargas is wearing Jackie Robinson's #42 for the Chiba Lotte Marines.

If you want to see more of this set - check out the post on Japanese Baseball Cards I will be keeping an eye out to see if there are any parallels to be had of this card- and if he's in the separate Chiba Lotte Marines team set...

I also picked a few new to me parallels from 2015 recently. This one is the Camo Refractor from Panini Prizm, numbered to 199.

Ooh, Die-Cut Shiny refractor-y nonsense from Donruss/Panini Elite, numbered to 81. There are more than enough versions of this card that I am certain to never complete the rainbow and accidentally buy the same version many times.

And finally, this card is from Bowman and numbered to just 5 copies! The never ending quest to find all of the various Vargas parallels will continue no matter where he's playing!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

1993 Topps All-Star Rookie Short Stop - Wil Cordero

Wil Cordero had a decent rookie season, providing a little unexpected power (10 homers) to the Expos' middle infield. Along with teammate Mike Lansing, the future looked bright (Again! Still!) in Montreal. His fielding was still a work in progress (33 errors), but the Expos were content to allow Cordero to develop at the major league level. Instead of the dreaded "Sophomore Slump" Cordero would return in 1994 with arguably the best year of his major league career.

Cordero is from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico- the same city that produced Roberto Perez, Jose Vidro, Ozzie Virgil Jr., and Omar Olivares on the diamond and NBA player J.J. Barea. Cordero was signed by the Expos in 1988 just shy of his 17th birthday, and he made steady progress through the minors. In 1992, he was invited to major league camp in Spring Training, but an ill-timed slump and a pile of strike outs saw him returning to AAA Indianapolis for a second year. He would make his MLB debut in July, going 2 for 3 against the Dodgers, scoring 2 runs in a 4-3 victory. 

He'd play in 45 games for the Expos down the stretch in 1992, hitting .302 with minimal power (just 7 of his 38 hits went for extra bases.) He wasn't especially fast and his defense left a little to be desired, but he had the raw tools that a team operating on the strength of their next prospect crop would covet. He did show flashes of power in the minors (11 homers in '91) as well as being strikeout prone (122 Ks in  '90).

He put it all together in 1994 - making the All-Star team, and winning a Silver Slugger award as a Short Stop. He hit 15 homers for the Expos in the strike-shortened campaign.

The big season would make him an attractive trade chip, and he would be sent over to Boston in a trade for 4 players, the biggest name being pitcher Rheal Cormier. He'd play in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Florida, and back with the Expos again just in time for their move to Washington in 2005. He had a rough start was was released by the Nationals mid season. He'd finish 2005 playing for the Mets' AAA affiliate. He'd try again to make a comeback with the Mets in 2007, but was released prior to the start of the season.

Cordero played in 14 major league seasons, including the lone All-Star appearance in 1994, and two trips to the post season with Cleveland in 1999 and 2001. He hit .556 for Cleveland in the '99 ALDS including a home run in the ninth inning of a crazy game that ended with a score more like a football game, with Boston winning 23 to 7. The series went the distance, with Boston edging out Cleveland 3 games to 2.

Any fond Wil Cordero memories?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Shopping for cards at a Vintage / Consignment shop

Just a few blocks from my house is a long string of antique and vintage stores, probably 6 or 7 in a row over 4 blocks. I'd been in them all over the last few years, rarely if ever found anything sports related. One of those shops just relocated even closer to my house, so on Saturday afternoon, I wandered over to investigate, and maybe find a little something extra for my mom for Mother's Day.

To my surprise, there was a wall of trading cards, including a box filled with vintage hockey. No Gretzky, but I did find the Oilers' goalie from that season, Dave Dryden. He was one of the league leaders in . . . autographs? Closing off the net is a good skill for a goalie to have, and his Goals Against Average was not too bad. Dave's brother Ken was Montreal's great goalie, winning his 5th Vezina (best goalie) and 6th Stanley Cup in his 8th and final NHL season in 1978-79. Dave was the WHA standout that year, leading the WHA in games, GAA, and shutouts. He was an All-Star, and winner of both the Top Goalie (Ben Hatskin award) and the league MVP award. The Oilers won their conference championship, but were runners up in the WHA finals to the Winnipeg Jets.

The vast majority of the cards were from the 73-74 Topps Set, including the 4 beauties.

You can still watch hockey on NBC, some things never change... Ed Giacomin is a Hall of Famer, mostly for the first 5 seasons of his career, when he was the Rangers' netminder and perennial All-Star and Vezina Trophy contender. I like the juxtaposition of him being the last goalie to not wear a mask, and wanting to be the first goalie to score a goal during an NHL game. That honor ended up going to Billy Smith of the Islanders, sadly because he was credited with an own goal. Ron Hextall of the Flyers (Bryan Hextall is Ron's dad!) scored the first Goalie goal against the other team.

Garry Unger was interesting to me for being hockey's Iron Man, playing in over 400 straight games at the time the card was made. He'd retire as the All-Time leader, playing in 914 straight games. He'd be passed by Doug Jarvis, who started his career with 964 straight games played.

Added one more for the sweet panoramic shot. Terry Harper was a long time Montreal Canadien, and was on 5 Stanley Cup champions.

The vintage store also inexplicably had a box of 1991-92 Fleer basketball packs. Checking the background for possible murderers or kids who grow up to be professional athletes... no luck so far, though the gentleman in the first row on the left appears to be winning the game of impressive mustaches.

I actually kind of like the backs of these cards, with the hardwood background, the Fleer Ultra style action shot / portrait, and the per 48 minutes stats are a nice Fleer touch, reminds me of the stat splits on the back of their baseball designs in the 80s.

I won't show the whole pack, but here are the biggest names I pulled. If you look closely, I'm pretty sure Joe Dumars is being guarded by Michael Jordan. All in all, it was a fun trip to the vintage store, I ended up finding a couple fun things for Mom too, but this is a card blog, dang it!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Year of Living Dangerously

Topps is back for a second year with The Living Set, but the truth is that it never really stopped. Felix Jorge is the just the 3rd Minnesota Twin featured in the set, and it turns out that shortly after this card was produced, Jorge was waived by the Twins and became a free agent.

Still just 25 years old, Felix made his debut for the Twins jumping several levels in the minors. His promotion had a good deal to do with the other available arms in the Twins' system - Jorge was able to be added to the 40-Man roster, then the 25-Man MLB roster without being overly concerned about service time. After being DFA'd, then outright released, he would still re-sign with the Twins, but became a free agent again at the end of the 2018 season. Jorge is currently playing for the Billngs Mustangs in the Cincinnati Reds minor league chain.

The first Twin of 2019 in the Living Set? Jake Odorizzi, who is currently in the middle of 20 inning scoreless streak, is having a very good second season with MN.

That cartoon choice is strange... Both cards mention Jose Berrios, who was the first Twins player featured in the Living Set. Odorizzi will be looking to extend that scoreless innings streak later this week!

Finally, the most recent Topps Living Set entry featured Mr. Boomstick himself, Nelson Cruz. He joined the Twins in the off-season, and will be the team's primary DH, the biggest veteran free agent bat the Twins have added since Jim Thome.

Cruz is one of the few MLB players older than me left, so I am happy to have him on the team to feel a little less old. It doesn't hurt that he's been hitting well in the middle of a very potent Twins lineup. The team currently leads all of baseball in slugging percentage.

Cruz brings the total number of Twins in the Living Set to five - Berrios and Joe Mauer were added in season in 2018, and these three guys since the end of last season. Is your team well represented in the Living set? Manny Machado already has two cards in the set on his own (and now that he's with a new team, will probably get a third one before too long).

I'm looking forward to cards for some retired Twins greats - like Killebrew, Carew, Blyleven... or current players like Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, or hey, Willians Astudillo??? Maybe wishful thinking there.