Thursday, January 16, 2020

Thursday Trading Post - Johnny's Trading Spot

I always want to start a trade post from John of Johnny's Trading Spot with the disclaimer that what you are seeing is just a small fraction of the big stack of cards he ships all over. It would break my poor scanner to try to show you everything, but suffice it to say each of these scans are a category that could include 5 to 10 times the number of cards shown!

Easily my favorite Allen & Ginter design came in 2019 - I'm curious to see if they keep something similar for 2020.

I'd never seen any of these Upper Deck SP Authentic cards before - a new to me set for sure. Big fan of the the Denard Span Rookie Exclusives card.

I dunno about Topps Gallery - I feel like this set lacks variety at times. I don't want to take anything away from the artists, but I don't like photo-realistic painting styles - maybe what makes the old Dick Perez Diamond Kings so appealing? Something just a little different can be good.

There were full or close to full team sets of Topps 2000 Limited Edition, 2005 Topps 1st Day Issue, and Topps 2000 Home Team Advantage.

A big stack of minor leaguers came through as well -Skybox, Line Drive, Star, regional and local issues....

Just a ton of fun stuff!

There was this stack of Red Foley stickers, I didn't have these sticker books growing up.

There were plenty of bat rack and sunglasses cards as well.


Thanks so much, John! I'll probably never be able to catch up at this rate, but I'll get some cards back out to you again soon!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Is the Twins' Reign Delay Over?

After years of small drops in the free agent pool, the Twins yesterday made a big splash, signing the slugging thirdbaseman and Bringer of Rain, Josh Donaldson.

Donaldson started out as a Cubs farmhand, but was traded to Oakland (with several others) for Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin. He would finish 4th in the MVP voting in 2013, then make his first All-Star squad in 2014. By this point, his controllable years were up, which meant Oakland would be looking for a suitable affordable replacement for his services.

The Blue Jays swooped in and acquired Donaldson in exchange for four players, the biggest name was Brett Lawrie. His first season in Toronto was a smashing success, as he led the AL in runs scored, Runs Batted In, and total bases.

The following year, he topped 100 walks for the first time in his career and slugged a 153 OPS+. He would finish in the top 5 in the MVP voting again. In 2017 and 2018, Donaldson had injuries to his calf and a brief "dead arm" period. He would bounce back in a big way in 2019 with Atlanta.

The Twins also recently added Homer Bailey, who finished 2019 with a strong showing in Oakland, and boosted his swinging strike rate above 10 percent. He'll slot in as the team's 4th starter.

And let's not forget about Dick Mountain. Rich Hill will be rehabbing his elbow for at least the first month or two, but he figures to be a mid season addition (with Michael Pineda) that will further bolster the Twins' starting pitching rotation. I still think they should look to add one more pitcher before the end of the off season, but these moves have brought the Twins further along than they were at this time last year. The AL Central is still up for grabs between Minnesota, Chicago, and Cleveland.

Adding Donaldson makes an already dangerous lineup lethal. Looking forward to an exciting season at Target Field in 2020!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

One Week Til Cooperstown

The Baseball Hall of Fame announces its 2020 Class one week from today. Let's take a look at the ballot. Eric Chavez is appearing for the first time this year. Injuries wrecked an otherwise promising career.

Carlos Peña is a talented analyst on MLB Network and a champion of baseball's sabermetric community. His Rays tenure included a HR title, another season with a Silver Slugger, another with a Gold Glove, and yet another with an All-Star appearance.

The 2020 ballot features plenty of familiar faces for the first time, and it is an honor just being nominated.

Some guys, like Konerko, were the face of a franchise, or made significant contributions for multiple teams. They might not be Hall of Famers, but certainly it is fun to make a case for them, or at least discuss their careers again.

Alfonso Soriano passed that 400 HR milestone, and started out burning up the record books. He was a 40/40 man in Washington, and had over 2,000 career hits.

Rolen and Jones had an injury history, Vizquel was all glove / no hit for a long portion of his career, and Billy Wagner was a closer just outside the inner ring of all-time-greats. All have compelling cases for induction, but so far have been on the outside looking in.

Some players may have the numbers, but have a cloud of real or perceived questions surrounding their integrity. There is no denying their talent, but PED use, even the suspicion of it, could derail their campaigns.

Others would present cases so strong that they might even override the proven fact of PED use.

Whether you hate him or really hate him, Curt Schilling seems to be gaining real momentum towards election. His post season stats are much more favorable than his Twitter feed. Todd Helton and Larry Walker may have been beneficiaries of the "Coors Effect," but they put up numbers that no one else could, even in the thin air. 

The only question would be whether or not Jeter would be a unanimous selection or not. He might be overrated, but he was still one of the best hitting shortstops of all time. There's no question about his leadership, or toughness, or any other intangible a New York sportswriter could come up with.

I'm guessing Jeter (and Ted Simmons) will be joined by Larry Walker, Curt Schilling, and maaaaybe Bonds and Clemens.

How about you? Who do you think will get the call next Tuesday?

Monday, January 13, 2020

1995 Topps All-Star Rookie Third Baseman Chipper Jones

Chipper Jones was an obvious choice for the 1995 Topps All-Star Rookie team. The runner-up for the 1995 Rookie of the Year, Jones led all rookies in games played, runs scored, and Runs batted in. He had 48 extra base hits and swiped 8 bases while playing as the everyday third baseman on the World Series winning Atlanta Braves.

Jones tore his ACL in spring training 1994, delaying his rookie season by a year. He was hoping to compete that season for the left field job, vacated by an injury to Ron Gant in the off-season. Following the year away he embarked on a long and otherwise healthy career as one of the most prolific third basemen in MLB history.

Jones was the #1 overall pick in the 1990 MLB draft, selected in part because pitching phenom Todd Van Poppel was reported to be unwilling to sign in Atlanta. Jones may have been the 2nd choice, but he turned out to be the right one. He was a Short Stop and a pitcher in high school, hitting .483 as a senior and pitching a sub 1.00 ERA with 100 strikeouts to just 25 walks allowed.

Once in the Braves' minor league system, Jones found a home at the hot corner. Despite gaudy numbers in Single A Macon at the plate, he struggled as a short stop, making 56 errors. He would find a home at the hot corner, and made steady progress towards the big leagues. He would make his MLB debut in 1993, the 2nd youngest player in the league that season.

Following his 1995 season, Jones would quickly become a middle of the lineup threat and team leader. He would appear in the playoffs every year from 1995 until 2005. He would make the All-Star team 5 out of 6 years from 1996 to 2001. The one exception in that span? 1999.

In 1999, Chipper Jones was the NL MVP, and he didn't make the All-Star team. The squad had Matt Williams starting at third, and Padre Phil Nevin and Pirate Ed Sprague as the reserves. Jones did take home his first Silver Slugger award that year, after hitting 41 doubles, 45 homers and slashing .319/.441/.633. His OPS+ was a filthy 169. He led the NL in runs created with 165.

Over the course of his career, Jones would make 8 All-Star teams, win 2 Silver Slugger awards, and add a batting title in 2008 for good measure. He also led the NL with a .470 OBP that year. He is the all-time MLB leader in RBI among 3rd basemen, and leads the Braves franchise in career OBP. He's only the 2nd switch hitter in MLB history (Mickey Mantle is the other) with a career OBP over .400, slugging over .500, and more than 400 homers. He finished his career hitting better than .300 from both sides of the plate.

The Braves retired his number in 2013, and he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.

Let's hear your Chipper Jones stories!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

I Love the 80s : 1981 Chicago White Sox

This is a series of posts on a 1980's Frankenset. Each page features a different team, with 9 of my personal favorite cards from that year's team. You might find players repeated, you'll definitely see brands repeated, but hopefully you'll agree that there are some interesting selections from the 1980s!

Last week we visited Southern California, but now we go to the South Side of Chicago. Here are the cards of the 1981 Chicago White Sox. The ChiSox finished 5th in the AL West in 1980, and built on that record to finish 3rd  overall in 1981. They surged in the first half with a pre-strike record nine games above .500, only to slump after the break with an 23 - 30 record to close the season. 

The 80s were the end of the Bill Veeck era, and the start of the Jerry Reinsdorf-led ownership of the White Sox. The Veeck era ended with a pinch hitting appearance in October 1980 by Minnie Miñoso at the age of 54. Minnie was the second player to appear in an MLB game in 5 different decades - the first being former Chicago White Sox Pitcher and pinch hitter, Nick Altrock. The Reinsdorf era began with the signing of speedy outfielder Ron LeFlore, and then adding future Hall of Fame Catcher Carlton Fisk.

The Cards:
Topps #552 Steve Trout - Trout was the 1980 Opening Day Starter for the White Sox, and finished the year with a rough 9-16 record. Trout was a 1st Round pick in 1976 by the White Sox and made his debut in 1978 as a 20 year old. He would find his greatest MLB success on the other side of town with the Cubs in the mid-80s. And check out the shades!

Fleer #354 Chet Lemon -  In 1980, Lemon was coming off a pair of All-Star campaigns. He led the AL in doubles in 1979, and had 32 more in '80. Lemon was not only an excellent hitter; he was also one of the finest outfielders in the game. The White Sox would trade Lemon to the Tigers in exchange for Steve Kemp, and Lemon would be a key part of the 1984 World Series championship team in Detroit. 

Topps #354 Harold Baines -  Baines was the #1 overall selection in the 1977 MLB draft, and made his debut for Chicago in 1980. He would reel off 20 consecutive seasons with an OPS+ above 100 following his rookie campaign. Though he would become known primarily for his bat, he did rank 2nd among RF in Outfield Assists in 1981. 

Donruss #40 Ed Farmer - Before coming to the White Sox midway through the 1979 season, Farmer was the epitome of the journeyman reliever. Even as a 20 year old in 1971 with Cleveland, he was used as mop-up middle relief. He would be almost entirely absent from the majors from 1975 to 1978, bouncing around the minors of various franchises. But the Sox acquired Farmer in a June '79 trade with the Rangers and made him the team's closer. Farmer would rack up 30 saves in 1980 and made the All-Star team. He's gone on to be the radio voice of the White Sox following his playing career. 

Fleer #346 Harold Baines - Harold's best season was probably 1984, when he led the AL in slugging and had 10 triples to go with 29 homers, 28 doubles, and 94 RBI. Baines was a consistent run producer throughout the 80s, and a favorite lineup fixture for Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa. The six-time All-Star took home a silver slugger award in 1990 thanks to a torrid first half, when he slashed .321/.423/.505 before being traded to the Rangers in the deal that netted Wilson Alvarez and Sammy Sosa for the ChiSox. 

Donruss #159 Glenn Borgmann - Former Minnesota Twin Glenn Borgmann served as the 3rd catcher for the 1980 Sox, appearing in 32 games in his final MLB season. His Donruss card features one of the many stylish White Sox uniforms, untucked but with the very classy faux-collar. 

Topps #242 Chet Lemon - Chet the Jet did not steal many bases, but he was routinely among the best in the AL in Range Factor and fielding pct in Center Field. He was also oddly skilled at reaching base via the hit by pitch -  he was a 4-time AL leader in the category. Somehow he still looks good on this card, even though he's wearing a garbage bag for a shirt.

Drake's Big Hitters #32 Carlton Fisk - Fisk switched socks in 1981 because Boston made a timing blunder when his contract was mailed one day late, making him a free agent along with Fred Lynn. Fisk had requested a raise during the off-season, so the clerical error may have been an attempt by Boston GM Haywood Sullivan to send a message to the players for trying to hold out. Unfortunately, the move backfired and the Hall of Fame catcher would play the rest of his career in Chicago, which would last surprisingly for 13 seasons. He was already a 33 year old catcher when he began his White Sox career. By the time he finished, he'd be an 11-time All-Star. All 3 of his Silver Slugger awards came as a Southsider. Only Ivan Rodriguez has caught more games in a career. 

Fleer #355 Bruce Kimm - Before Fisk, the primary catcher in Chicago was Bruce Kimm. He caught 100 games in 1980 for the Sox. Kimm was originally a White Sox draft pick in 1969, but he would not play for the big league club until a decade later, coming to the Sox in the 1979 Rule V draft. Kimm's .243 average with 0 homers in 1980 made the acquisition of Fisk a much needed move in 1981. A shoulder injury ended his career in the Puerto Rican Winter league in 1981. He was the personal catcher for Mark Fidrych in Detroit in 1976, and following his playing days he was a manager for 2 years in the minors, then a long-time bullpen and bench coach in the big leagues. He was the interim Manager for the Chicago Cubs between Don Baylor and Dusty Baker. 

Any fans of the 1981 Sox out there? Stories about Harry Caray doing T.V. and radio broadcasts? 

Which team would you like to see next?