Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Fire Is So Delightful.

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling ring ting tingling too
Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you
Outside the snow is falling and friends are calling "yoohoo!"
Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.

Giddy yap, giddy yap, giddy yap let's go, Let's look at the show
We're riding in a wonderland of snow.
Giddy yap, giddy yap, giddy yap it's grand, just holding your hand
We're gliding along with a song of a wintry fairy land

Our cheeks are nice and rosy and comfy cozy are we
We're snuggled up together like two birds of a feather would be
Let's take that road before us and sing a chorus or two
Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.

There's a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray
It'll be the perfect ending a of perfect day
We'll be singing the songs we love to sing without a single stop
At the fireplace while we watch the chestnuts pop. pop! pop! pop!

There's a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy
When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie
It'll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives
These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives!

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling ring ting tingling too
Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you
Outside the snow is falling and friends are calling "yoohoo!"
Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.

It's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.
It's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Hear Them Roar.

       I was as surprised as you are right now to see that I am posting to hear that last night, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris were elected to the Hall of Fame. First of all, I was completely unaware that the Modern Baseball Committee was even meeting much less that their results would be given a good month before the usual main announcement.  Second of all, this tickles me because they were two of the best players of their time and their exclusion was a glaring omission (and I am not even a Tigers fan). 

The best percentage of the vote Alan Trammell ever got from the writers was 40.9% in his last year of eligibility. This is pretty damn ridiculous.

I believe poor Alan retired and became eligible for the hall at the absolute wrong time possible for a player of his type.  While his career was winding down, A-Rod, Nomar, and Jeter were all the rage and spending their time destroying the cliched concept of what a shortstop could be.  Even though Alan spent 2 decades as the best all-around shortstop not named Cal Ripken Jr. in the American League, with the Big Three as the new hotness, Trammell's career seemed somehow lacking - even though his 1987 stacks up with any shortstop season of those guys (that he didn't win that MVP is proof that baseball writers in the 1980s were all huffing paint or something).  Luckily, it didn't take until he was an old man (or dead) for perspective to sink in.  I always feared that sometime in 2060, some future baseball historian would look at the beautiful double play combination of Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell and realize a horrible injustice had been done and their grandchildren would have to accept their enshrinement.  Now, all someone has to do is realize that Lou Whitaker's numbers are also very hall worthy.  The fact that he fell off the ballot in his first year is a travesty.

The best percentage Jack Morris ever got from the writers was 67.7% in his second to last year on the ballot.  When you get that high a percentage in your 14th year, it is usually practically a guaranteed springboard to induction.  Somehow though, in his last time around, he only got 61.5% and didn't get in.  Obviously, the paint huffing among baseball writers continues unabated.  

The knocks always came hard against Jack Morris: his 3.90 ERA was terrible for his era, his 105 ERA+ meant he was only a slightly above average pitcher, he didn't have a great peak, he didn't win 300 games, his mustache wasn't as cool as Rollie Fingers' - the list was long and got even sillier than that.  First and foremost, I am a firm believer in looking at the legacy of Hall of Famers in context among and against their peers, though.  Suddenly, Morris starts to look pretty remarkable: 14 consecutive opening day starts, highest paid pitcher several years, started game one of the World Series twice and of the LCS four different times.  Not to mention that minor trifle of game 7 of the 1991 World Series when he threw 10 shutout innings and was the winning pitcher (I am pretty sure he would have thrown 20 innings that night if Tom Kelly had asked).  In short, he was an ace, a horse.  The guy who said "jump on my back boys, I'll carry you home."  The Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson type guy.  Those guys belong in the hall and I am glad they came to their senses and put him in Cooperstown where he belongs.

Monday, April 3, 2017

First Things First.

       Ah, Opening Day.  There is nothing else like it.  Except, well, it is now stretched out over a few days so I guess MLB should just trademark Opening Few Days and get it over with.  But enough with the awful march of commerce, let us embrace the wonderful march of time.  The sun is up, the sky is blue (etc.) and the Mets are out in Flushing adding to baseball's best record on Opening Day.
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This year at CitiField, the ceremonial First Pitch was very emotional.

My favorite meaningless statistic is that the Mets are now 36-20 on opening day, the best percentage in baseball history.  Also quirky - and often pointed out - is that they won a World Series (1969) before they actually won on opening day (1970) which means they are 36-12 since that Miracle happened.  Fascinating and stupid.

On a more card related point, this is what the 2017 Topps page ended up looking like:
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I am still not crazy about the design and it has yet to grow on me.  That along with this year's Heritage being the burlap abortion that is 1968 Topps, I am not in a collecting happy place right now (and let's not even bring up that Panini decided that the 1990 Donruss design needed to be brought back, ugh).

I did, however, follow through on my threat to tweak the Salute inserts into a better looking base design:
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My photoshop skills are weak at best, but I think by making the photo a tad larger by dragging out the half-border and replacing the insert title with the position, you have at least a good starting point for a much better and cleaner design than the inception angle boxes Topps gave us this year.  With a little more skill and time, I am sure the gold stripe could match the team colors and the city name in that right border could be something else as well (though I kinda like the half-font thing going on there).  But this is what I was driving at when I critiqued the 2017 base design and in a rare instance, I don't think I am crazy or wrong here.  What do you think? Has anyone else done something similar recently?  Let me know since this is the first year I have been that turned off by the Topps design since I started the blog.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Blizzard Blaster Box.

       I saw earlier in the week that it was going to snow today. Then as the days went by, the forecast got more and more dire and while it is not exactly Snowmageddon '17 out there, it is pretty bad.  In a rare case of thinking ahead, I stopped at Target yesterday early in the afternoon before the full French Toast Alert System panic set in and grabbed a box of the newly released 2017 Topps cards.  So now that I am housebound until the storm passes, let's take a look at what the flagship is giving us this year.

I wasn't posting last year when the 2016 stuff came out but I did see that the design was not at all lauded.  Pity because I kinda liked it.  I like the full bleed, I liked the photography, I liked the homage to 1988 and 1966 in the diagonal stripe. Yes, the white misty bits were distracting, but Topps made up for it, in my opinion, with the Snowflake release late in the year.  I am not sure if Topps was making up for a mistake or mocking itself, but it was a nice little quirk on the holiday design that helped out the one flaw in the original.  This is what we have this year:
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I haven't really read up on this yet but I have a feeling this is going to be slammed as well.  I like the big photos and I like the layered look but the busy lines and the awkwardly angled logos are bound to bring out the haters.  I like that Topps once again showed some restraint on the foil usage only going with the Topps logos itself.  The only thing I really don't like is the font - it is too modern looking and bound to look dated in a few years.  Topps is also trying to get away from the glut of 3/4 action photos that ruined the 2015 set and while they are obviously there, the majority of the pictures look sharp and well chosen for the most part. 

This is the 'Salute' insert series, which includes a number of ideas: Jackie Robinson Day, Throwback Jerseys, and the Legends.  I am going to throw this out there right away though: isn't this a much better and cleaner looking design than the base card?  It is less awkward, less likely to look dated in 5-10 years, and very easy on the eye.  Really, I think they should have considered swapping out the Salute insert design with the base design.
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Also, why are there players on the Jackie Robinson Day cards where you can't see them in their #42 jerseys?  Doesn't that kinda defeat the purpose?  Legends is self explanatory, it is yet another excuse to shove in some old time players but at least the two I got here are different photos than the usual ones they use for Palmer or Koufax. Throwback Jerseys is an excellent theme for an insert set as long as you don't put the throwback jersey photos in the base series.  From what I have seen, this is not the case.  Oh well, they tried.  That last Stanton card is one of the foil parallels and you know how I like the shiny.

Here are the Mets players I got, all four of them out of 100 cards in the blaster. I must have gotten 9 or 10 Pirates and somewhere in Pittsburgh there is a dude with a shit load of Mets angry at the collation gods.  Such is life.  The Nolan Ryan is a reprint with an ad on the back for Bunt and Topps Now.  I am not 100% sure what that card is supposed to be, but hey, I'll take it.
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Topps also made the choice to go with single League Leader cards rather than combo cards. I don't like this as I like multi-star cards and we get all the All Star and Home Run Derby cards in the Update set to highlight single players to give them multiple cards.  I hope this is just a one year detour.  I also didn't get any All Star Rookie Cup players.  Send me yours. 

While the photography on the vertical cards is okay, Topps seems to have gone out of its way to choose dynamic shots for the horizontal ones - plays at the plate, diving fielders, full wind-ups and follow-throughs, etc.  I also find the design less distracting sideways; maybe they should have done the whole set this way? These are some good looking cards...
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One last complaint about Topps' tone deafness sometimes.  That combo card is called B'more Boppers.  I have never heard Baltimore called B'more ever really but they could have amused many in and out of Charm City by calling it Balmer Boppers. Anyone in Merlin wanna dispute my thinking here?

Topps has a 30th anniversary insert for the 1987 set.  Topps seems to use this design a lot but I am not certain there is some kind of universal love for it. Or is this a new 30-year flashback thing they are going to do with sets?  This one has me perplexed.
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One thing I will say is that Topps got the look of those 1987 backs correct. The right font, the right kind of write-ups.  But the deciding fatal flaw of the these and the flagship base cards is right there to see.  I hope you folks missed Donruss cards that much because they're back and their 'recent major league stats' are haunting the back of Topps.  This is would be a poor choice for some one-shot release in early June and it is inexcusable on the regular set.  These are the cards of record, they should have full major league stats.  It's a shame too, because the colors and design of the backs are legible and aesthetically pleasing.  Leave the uniform, half stat nonsense for the Lineage or Top-Tens of the world.  And the less said about the amount of space devoted to the Twitter addresses, the better.

Here are the other inserts and parallels that were in my box. Some new things and traditional favorites are here:
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The Bowman Then and Now cards are almost like advertisements.  I am not a fan.  The Five Tool cards, however, are the right kind of busy and colorful with a sturdy baseball-related premise.  This is what an insert card should be. The Award Winners cards devote entirely too much space to the team name, and I guess that Topps got tired of giving Rawlings free advertising because they are just calling them 'Fielding Awards' which looks terrible. I am a huge fan of the First Pitch set and I am glad they are back.  I will be completing a page of them as I have the last couple years so if you need to get rid of yours, you know where to send them.  Last and least is the venerable Gold Parallel which I could hardly tell was a gold parallel. They probably should have retired these by now.  Do we really need rainbow foil and gold numbered parallels (much less all the other colors)? 

I was promised a Jackie Robinson Day manu-patch card and I pulled Madison Bumgarner (clearly not showing he is wearing #42).  If Night Owl has taught me anything over the years, it is no one wants to have Giants on their Dodger cards or Dodgers on their Giants cards.  They are the two great tastes that DON'T taste great together. 
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If there is any card you have seen (including this one) that you would like to trade for or if you have a want list of base cards, feel free to email me or comment here and I am sure we can work something out.  Otherwise most of these are destined for eBay or Listia after I make a page, separate the Mets, and decide if there are any specific insert pages I want to make.  Now I have to go shovel and daydream about using those coupons in the warmth of spring.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Sobering Reminder.

       I woke up to the awful news this morning that two young baseball players died yesterday in car accidents in the DR.  No one wants to be a cautionary tale so please, while we all have a lot on our minds all the time, when you are driving pay attention and be patient and safe.
Andy Marte was 33, Yordano Ventura was 25.  Added together that is way too young to die.

If you are drunk, call a cab. If you are tired, pull over and sleep. If some jackass cuts you off, take a deep breath and let it go.  And if you are passing the other cars like they are standing still, slow down.  Your life literally depends on it and your loved ones will always appreciate you arriving alive and well, even if it is 10 minutes late.