Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Rosie Rainbow Quest Begins With "Opening Day"

Well well well - we might not have any baseball right now, but the thrill of the chase is still alive. This year, I am chasing a ROSIE RAINBOW so buckle up! Opening Day is a "budget" release, so the parallels don't get too crazy.

Here's a Red Foil parallel - "March 26, 2020" hey, there's an uncorrected error! (wail)

A Purple Parallel from Meijer.

The "official" Blue "Opening Day" parallel, which has a reported print run of 2020 copies.

It's not numbered, though, so we'll just have to take Topps' word for it!

Here's the rainbow so far! 2020 Topps series 2 is still currently scheduled to be released in June, I will be hunting all those pesky parallels, including the clear/acetate parallel numbered to just 10 copies!

Of course you may recall as regular readers of the blog my "White Whale" is a Clear Parallel of Kennys Vargas from 2015. That ship has sailed most likely, to mix a metaphor or two. But I did find this fun 5x7 of Vargas that was an online exclusive in 2015. This was part of a Twins team set, but I just grabbed the single off eBay for a few bucks. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

1996 Topps All-star Rookie Catcher Jason Kendall

Some might say that Jason Kendall had catching in his blood. That's because his father Fred Kendall was also a MLB catcher, with a 12 year career for several teams. Jason spent little time making a name for himself- earning a trip to the All-Star Game in his rookie year. He hit .300 and turned in stellar defense behind the plate, quickly creating a rapport with his pitching staff. Kendall finished 3rd in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting.

Right from the start, Kendall was a rock - Catching 130 games in his rookie season. He also was stingy with strikeouts, with just 30 Ks in 471 plate appearances. Few catchers in the league in 1996 combined his level of defense and hitting ability, let along first year players, so he was the obvious choice for the 1996 Topps All-Star Rookie Team.

Kendall grew up in Southern California (his dad played several seasons in San Diego) and attended high school in Torrance, CA. He was already a talented hitter -- He hit safely in 43 consecutive games from 1990 to 1992 which tied a National record.

The Pirates drafted Kendall in the 1st round - #23 overall. He worked his way quickly through the Pirates' minor league system, mixing great defense, hitting for average, and speed. Kendall stole 14 bases for AA Salem and then in AAA in 1995 hit .325/.414/.448 and stole 10 more bags. He was more than ready for the big leagues.

Kendall had a serious ankle injury in 1999 that could have derailed his career. He would would come back strong the following season, even hitting for the cycle in 2000. Over his Pirates tenure, he became their all-time leader in games caught, stole 140 bases, and slashed .306/.387/.418 over 9 seasons. 

Once Kendall was traded from the Pirates after the 2004 season, Kendall began a nomadic pilgrimage around the big leagues. He spent 2 and a half seasons with Oakland, half a year with the Cubs, 2 years with Milwaukee and a final year in Kansas City.  He made his first post season appearance of his career in 2006 with Oakland, facing off against the Twins. Kendall's rate stats fell off considerably at this time, at one point he had the lowest slugging percentage among all qualified MLB hitters, and in another season (2007) had the lowest OBP and 2nd lowest slugging in the league.

Despite those declining stats, Kendall still had a great reputation in the league as a tough competitor. His ability to block pitches in the dirt and call games made him an asset even as shoulder issues hurt his ability to throw out base stealers. He continued to pile up hits, too, and surpassed 2,000 career hits in 2009. At the time, he was just the 8th full time catcher to reach that milestone. He also holds a record for most stolen bases in a single season by a catcher in the modern era, when he swiped 26 bases in 1998. He was known for crowding the plate - he ranks 5th all-time in HBP.

Let's hear your Jason Kendall stories! Anyone read his book Throwback

Sunday, March 29, 2020

I love the 80s - 1981 New York Mets

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!

In 1980, The Mets finished 5th in the NL East, narrowly avoiding 100 losses. The following season they would come out flat, again finishing in 5th place in the first half. They came sputtering out of the gate in the second half of the season following the strike, with a 24-28 record which was 4th best in the division. Manager Joe Torre would be let go following the '81 season, moving on quickly to become the Braves' new manager.

The team changed ownership in 1980, with Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon leading a new group. They would install Frank Cashen as the new GM, who was the architect of the Orioles' 1960s dynasty. Their poor performance in 1979 also gave them the #1 Overall pick in the 1980 draft, and they selected Darryl Strawberry. In the 1981 draft they added Lenny Dykstra in the 13th round, and just missed Roger Clemens (he was picked by the Mets in the 12th Round, but he opted not to sign.). The motto for the team in 1980 was "The Magic Is Back!" but it unfortunately went missing in the second half. They flirted with the .500 mark but tumbled to their 4th straight losing season, 24 games out of first place. They did see the debuts of Hubie Brooks and Mookie Wilson as September call-ups.

Here are the cards:

Topps #377 Jerry Morales - Morales came to the Mets in an offseason trade, and spent 1980 as the regular centerfielder for a team waiting for their young phenom Mookie Wilson to develop. Morales was an All-Star with the Cubs in 1977, and was coming off a season in Detroit that was less than stellar. Though he had a career high in stolen bases and hit 14 homers for the Tigers, he only hit .211 and had an OPS+ of 65. For the Mets, Morales fared a little better, but was not intended to be a long term solution, and was released following the 1980 season. He would play a few more seasons for the Cubs as a 4th outfielder.

Donruss #276 Neil Allen - Allen was the Mets' closer in 1980, 81, and 82. He saved 22 games for the Mets in 1980, and fared even better in 81 and 82, lowering his ERA and striking out more batters each year. He was the key piece in the trade that netted the Mets Keith Hernandez from the Cardinals.

Fleer #325 Joe Torre - Joe Torre had been the Mets Manager since 1977, starting as a Player/Manager. He was widely regarded as a smart coach, but not a particularly successful one. When he was finally let go from his tenure with the Mets, he had endured 5 consecutive losing seasons. He would go on to more challenges in Atlanta and St. Louis, though he did start to have some success at the end of his Cardinals' run, which led to his being hired to take over that other New York team in 1996. Of course he found quite a bit of success with that team, and was named to the Hall of Fame as a manager in 2014.

Fleer #330 Doug Flynn - Flynn came to the Mets in the Tom Seaver trade, going from being a backup to Joe Morgan in Cincy, to getting the everyday job in New York. Flynn was a glove first middle infielder, in fact winning the 1980 Gold Glove for 2nd base. He was a member of the '76 Reds championship team, and just missed out on the 1986 Mets run, going to Texas in a trade that brought Jim Kern to New York.

Topps #259 Mets Future Stars Juan Berenguer, Hubie Brooks, and Mookie Wilson - The 1980 Mets team had several everyday starters that were 30+, and the lineup was cobbled together with aging players and inexperienced once. Juan Berenguer was 25, still primarily a starting pitcher. He appeared sparingly in the 1980 season, just 9 innings pitched in the big leagues. He was a key part of the 1984 Tigers team, though he did not pitch in the postseason. He was also a big part of the 87 Twins World Series team. Hubie Brooks had a cup of coffee with the Mets in September of 1980, and would become a fan favorite following his 3rd place finish in the 1981 ROY balloting. Brooks of course, would be part of the Gary Carter trade with the Expos.

Donruss #575 Mookie Wilson - Wilson was a very highly touted prospect for the Mets in 1980, like Brooks he was a September Call-up. Wilson quickly became the igniter of the Mets' offense as a lead-off man and base stealer. In 1981, Wilson stole 24 bases in the strike shortened season, then reeled off a pair of 50+ stolen base campaigns. His best offensive season in New York came in 1984 when he had 10 Triples and 10 homers to go with 46 steals. Wilson had big moments in the playoffs as well for the Mets in 86.

Topps #414 John Pacella - Topps had several good shots of Mets' pitchers in the 1981 set, but this one with Pacella's cap on the mound is my favorite. Pacella was a spot starter for the 1980 Mets, starting 15 games and appearing 17 more in relief. He was still getting his legs under him, and would spend 1981 and most of 82 in the Yankees' minor league system.

Donruss #36 Roy Lee Jackson - Jackson like Pacella had a dual role for the 1980 Mets, as he started 8 games but appeared in 24 games overall. He was traded to the Blue Jays following the 1980 season, where he would spend the bulk of his MLB career in the Toronto bullpen. He had a pair of strikeout crowns in college for the Tuskegee Institute and yet still went undrafted. The Mets signed him as a free agent following his college career.

Fleer #321 Steve Henderson - Henderson also came to the Mets with Doug Flynn in the Seaver trade, and was the trade chip that brought Dave Kingman over to the Mets from the Cubs. He had several good years in New York, making his MLB debut in 1977. His 1980 season featured his career high with 23 stolen bases. He was in the top ten in the NL with OBP and Triples. In his 12 MLB seasons, Henderson was a career .280 hitter.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Free Stuff Friday #8 Hindsight is 2020

Here's some 2013 Topps to get us started - claim one or claim them all!

Parallels - Girardi Gold, Tyler Foil, Ranger rookies Walgreen's yellow, Sheffield Stadium Club Chrome.

Inserts - 2019 update Bench, 2020 Opening Day mascot, 2020 Matt Olson, 2019 Will Clark.

Speaking of 2020, there was comment about seeing more of the 2020 products, so here is a trio from Series 1, Heritage, and Opening Day!

Here's another page of hockey for anyone interested. . .

Get it? 2020? Hindsight? Eh, these guys all wear glasses. Dizzy Trout is a 1991 reprint of the 1953 set, the 2 from 1970 are from 1970. . .

If we haven't traded before (or if it's been a long time), please send me your address! I still have a few small piles of cards that are claimed but I don't know where to send them! 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Happy Opening Da-angit! (Sad Trombone)

Today was scheduled to be MLB's Opening Day - thumbs up all around!

Unfortunately, the season is delayed due to the Coronavirus outbreak, and the necessary step of limiting crowds and maintaining social distance is in place to help limit the spread of the virus, which has already infected more people in the United States than any other country in the world.


There is not much to say, I am glad we are taking the right approach here in MN. The Lieutenant Governor lost her brother to COVID-19, and we have had 346 positive cases in the state, 59 new positive cases on 3/26 alone.

The 2020 season may be delayed for several months, and may be cancelled altogether. I will be more than happy to wait for it, so long as we can flatten the curve and start to see some relief for hospitals and their staffs along with all the front line workers who have been keeping the food supply chain moving. I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to work from home.

Spring Training was cut short - - many plans that have been floated for resuming the season involve a second Spring Training. I can't think of many things that would be a more welcome sight than players returning to FL and AZ.

Of course, when the season does start, Opening Day across MLB should be smiles all around. Stay Safe out there!