Monday, October 17, 2016

The Frankenset Bracket: The Sweet 16 (Pt. 2)

The first half of the Sweet 16 is in the books.

#13 (Page 5) -- 1996 Score #38 Bip Roberts (19 votes)


#9 (Page 20) -- 2012 Topps #172 Reed Johnson (15 votes)

#3 (Page 3) -- 1972 Topps #19 Billy Cowan (21 votes)


#7 (Page 21) -- 1984 Fleer #182 Glenn Hubbard (13 votes)

#4 (Page 34) -- 1973 Topps #302 Terry Crowley (19 votes)


#1 (Page 51) -- 1991 Topps #455 Walt Weiss (15 votes)

#2 (Page 63) -- 1976 Topps #564 Kurt Bevacqua (20 votes)


#3 (Page 48) -- 1998 Fleer Tradition #424 Jermaine Allensworth (14 votes)

Last week's voting was chock full of story lines. Sombrero Bip -- a #13 seed, mind you -- continues his magical run into the Elite Eight with a victory over Reed Johnson and the birds. Also, Terry Crowley's defeat of Walt Weiss means that three of the four #1 seeds have been knocked out of this tourney.

It's already setting up to be a very vintage Elite Eight.


Will the vintage trend continue with the second and final round of Sweet 16 matchups?

Only one way to find out.

#1 (Page 70) -- 1973 Topps #627 Luis Alvarado


#13 (Page 17) -- 1981 Fleer #148 Ellis Valentine

#6 (Page 65) -- 1988 Fleer #582 Tim Flannery


#2 (Page 53) -- 1971 Topps #476 Dal Maxvill

#9 (Page 47) -- 1973 Topps #420 Tommie Agee


#12 (Page 1) -- 1960 Topps #5 Wally Moon

#3 (Page 15) -- 1973 Topps #133 Dave Roberts


#15 (Page 28) -- 1970 Topps #252 Lowell Palmer

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Short Term Stops: The All-Orioles Team

The Orioles strike me as a team that's either really good or really bad.

A quick look at their franchise encyclopedia page seems to support that claim, as there aren't a ton of ho-hum .500-ish seasons in the mix. It's either somewhere around 90 wins or 90 losses in any given year.

I remember the O's as perennial cellar-dwellers during my formative baseball years in the late '90s and early 2000s. Under the guidance of Buck Showalter, however, the O's seemed to have turned the tide. They've won 85 or more games in four of the last five seasons, and my hunch is that they'll continue to be among the top of the AL East leaderboards in the years to come.

A franchise with as rich of a history as the Orioles is bound to have some (un)memorable short term stops along the way, and their roster is no exception.


1994 Topps #175 Fernando Valenzuela

Orioles "Short Term Stops" Accolades:

Fernando Valenzuela (1993 Orioles, 32 games)

One of the common threads running throughout this roster is the Orioles' tendency towards "out of nowhere" pickups.

After just two dismal games with the '91 Angels, Valenzuela played in the Mexican League the following year. I can't find any of his 1992 stats, but he apparently pitched well enough in Mexico for the Orioles to give him another shot at the big leagues in '93. 

I'm sure Valenzuela surprised a lot of people by playing a full season with the 1993 Orioles, posting an 8-10 record and a 4.94 ERA in 32 games along the way. He'd pitch in the bigs for four more years before calling it a career in 1997.

Not bad for a guy who couldn't find a job in American baseball just a few years earlier.

1995 Score #91 Lee Smith

Orioles Accolades:

Lee Smith (1994 Orioles, 41 games)

Lee Smith jumped around quite a bit later on in his career, but he had one of his last great seasons with the '94 Orioles.

The legendary closer -- who I still believe should be enshrined in Cooperstown -- finished with a 3.29 ERA and 33 saves in the strike-shortened season. He made the AL All-Star Team and placed fifth in the year's Cy Young voting.

And, as a testament to how crazy mid '90s baseball cards often were, I own a total of 24 cards of Lee Smith as an Oriole despite the fact that he only played a single year for the club. 

 2013 Topps Update #US-78 Francisco Rodriguez

Orioles Accolades:

Francisco Rodriguez (2013 Orioles, 23 games, half-year stint)

Not every trade deadline deal works out.

Desperate for late-inning help in 2013, the O's acquired Francisco Rodriguez from the Brewers in an attempt to shore up their bullpen. The Orioles mainly used K-Rod as a setup man down the stretch, a decision which didn't exactly pan out. Rodriguez posted a bloated 4.50 ERA in his 23 games in Baltimore.

He'd return to Milwaukee on a free-agent contract the next offseason, making his brief sandwich stint as an Oriole all the more forgettable.


2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee #287 Gregg Zaun

Orioles Accolades:

Gregg Zaun (1995-96, 2009 Orioles, 146 games, half-year stint in '09)

I don't have a great nominee at the catcher position, so let's go with Gregg Zaun.

Zaun is the epitome of the career-backup type I so much love to collect. He played in 100 games in just four of his 16 career big-league seasons, a career which began in Baltimore back in 1995. Zaun returned to the O's in his penultimate 2009 season before being traded to the Rays after just 56 games.

But he's on this roster more or less so I can get another opportunity to mention how much I miss Upper Deck's OPC brand. 

First Base

2011 Topps Allen & Ginter #269 Derrek Lee

Orioles Accolades:

Derrek Lee (2011 Orioles, 85 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

Derrek Lee will always have a special place in my baseball heart.

He was the anchor behind the Cubs' division-winning clubs of my adolescence in the late 2000s and was one of the more underrated players in the game at that point. With the Cubs in the cellar in 2010, however, the North Siders dealt Lee to the Braves at the trade deadline that year.

He'd sign with the O's as a free agent in 2011, and was traded to the Pirates after posting a mediocre .246-12-41 line in 85 games in Baltimore.

Lee retired after the 2011 season, though he's still a fan favorite here in Chicago five years later.

Second Base

1993 Upper Deck #803 Harold Reynolds

Orioles Accolades:

Harold Reynolds (1993 Orioles, 145 games)

It's kind of a shame that the first thing I think of when I think of Harold Reynolds is horrible announcer.

The fact of the matter is that Reynolds was a terrific player in his day: a constant stolen base threat, a two-time All-Star, and a three-time Gold Glover. He walked 66 times in comparison to just 47 strikeouts during his lone 1993 season with Baltimore. 

But it doesn't matter: Harold Reynolds's legacy will be his announcing career after all is said and done, and that's not really a good thing.


1998 Ultra #300 Ozzie Guillen

Orioles Accolades:

Ozzie Guillen (1998 Orioles, 12 games, half-year stint)

It's sometimes hard to believe Ozzie Guillen played for any other teams besides the White Sox.

After 13 years on the South Side of Chicago, however, the Sox let him walk, prompting Guillen to sign with the Orioles during the 1997 offseason.

Ozzie would go on to play in just 12 games in Baltimore, going 1-for-16 (an anemic .063 average) before being released. He'd sign with the Braves and hang around the big leagues for a couple more years before calling it a career.

In hindsight, it certainly looks like the Sox got that one right.

Third Base

2006 Upper Deck #1009 Fernando Tatis

Orioles Accolades:

Fernando Tatis (2006 Orioles, 28 games)

Much like Fernando Valenzuela before him, Fernando Tatis is another "out of nowhere" member of this Orioles squad.

Best known for being the only player to hit two grand slams in a single inning, Tatis had been out of pro baseball since 2003 before signing a minor league contract and briefly resurfacing with the O's in 2006. He posted a .250 average and slugged two homers in 28 games for Baltimore. Tatis spent all of 2007 in the minors before resurfacing yet again, this time with the Mets in '08.

Talk about an up-and-down handful of years.


1988 Score #501 Reggie Jackson

Orioles Accolades:

Reggie Jackson (1976 Orioles, 134 games)

I can't remember a team having a better short term stops outfield than the Orioles.

We begin with what is easily one of the most well-known unfamiliar stints (hopefully that makes sense) in baseball history here, honoring Reggie Jackson's single year as a Baltimore Oriole.

Due to a new thing called free agency, the A's dealt Jackson to the Orioles prior to the '76 season, afraid of the big paycheck he'd most certainly command once his contract expired. Though no one remembers it, '76 was a fine season for Reggie, as he posted a .277-27-91 line in 134 games as an Oriole.

Of course, he'd sign with the Yankees the very next year, becoming a Bronx legend and little more than a footnote in Baltimore lore. No Topps card was ever made of Jackson with the O's: he's still depicted as an A in 1976 and airbrushed into Yankee pinstripes in '77.

It's time we gave Reggie's tenure as an Oriole its proper due.

2001 Fleer Platinum #308 Tim Raines

Orioles Accolades:

Tim Raines (2001 Orioles, 4 games, half-year stint)

Tim Raines makes his second consecutive short term stops roster with his appearance on the Orioles' squad.

With only a few games left in the regular season, Raines was dealt from the Expos to the O's in October of 2001. I don't know for sure, but I have to imagine the trade was made in an attempt to allow Raines to play in a few games with his son -- Tim Jr. -- who had recently been called up to the big club in Baltimore at the time.

Raines Sr. finished out the season with a grand total of four games as an Oriole, going 3-for-11 with a homer and five RBIs as the shortest-tenured member of this O's roster.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter "Starting Points" #SP-91 Jose Bautista

Orioles Accolades:

Jose Bautista (2004 Orioles, 16 games, quarter-of-a-year stint)

I usually like to stick with base cards in these posts, but I'm forced to show an insert here for the sheer fact that this is the only card I've ever seen of Jose Bautista as an Oriole.

Before coming out of nowhere to hit 54 homers with the Blue Jays in 2010, Bautista was the very definition of a journeyman, so much so that he played for a whopping four teams in his rookie 2004 season alone. (The others being the Devil Rays, Royals, and Pirates.)

Joey Bats made his big-league debut as an Oriole on Opening Day in '04, going 3-for-11 in 16 games with Baltimore (while failing to collect a single homer or RBI) before being claimed off waivers by Tampa.

And the rest is history.

Designated Hitter

2012 Topps Heritage #108 Vladimir Guerrero

Orioles Accolades:

Vladimir Guerrero (2011 Orioles, 145 games, sunset season)

This roster comes to a close with the man himself: Vlad.

Vlad posted a respectable .290-13-63 line in what would turn out to be his sunset season, slugging the final 13 of his 449 career homers as an Oriole in 2011. He signed with the Blue Jays the following offseason, but retired shortly after being sent to the minors out of Spring Training.

Part of me still believes that Vlad could come out of retirement and help a big league club today or next year or ten years down the road: he was that amazing of a hitter.

Once again, that about does it for this edition of Short Term Stops.

Thanks for tuning in!

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Frankenset Bracket: The Sweet 16 (Pt. 1)

This has turned out to be most exciting region of the bracket.

#9 (Page 47) -- 1973 Topps #420 Tommie Agee (19 votes)


#1 (Page 56) -- 1985 Topps #497 Gary Pettis UER (14 votes)

#12 (Page 1) -- 1960 Topps #5 Wally Moon (17 votes)


#4 (Page 62) -- 1975 Topps #550 Ralph Garr (15 votes)

#3 (Page 15) -- 1973 Topps #133 Dave Roberts (18 votes)


#6 (Page 71) -- 1986 Topps #639 Bo Diaz (14 votes)

#15 (Page 28) -- 1970 Topps #252 Lowell Palmer (22 votes)


#10 (Page 24) -- 1991 Studio #216 Steve Lake (10 votes)

Only one of the top eight seeds from this region (Roberts) moved on to the Sweet 16, and yet another #1 fell to the wayside with Tommie Agee's victory over the Pettis brother swap. Also, #15 seed Lowell Palmer continued his magical run with a commanding win last week to keep him alive in the tourney.

With that, we bid adieu to the Terrific 32...


...and say hello to the Sweet 16.

In the interest of time and space, I've combined the Sweet 16 matchups from both the first and second regions into one post for all of you to vote on this week. 

We're getting into the real nail-biting excitement now.

#9 (Page 20) -- 2012 Topps #172 Reed Johnson


#13 (Page 5) -- 1996 Score #38 Bip Roberts

#3 (Page 3) -- 1972 Topps #19 Billy Cowan


#7 (Page 21) -- 1984 Fleer #182 Glenn Hubbard

#1 (Page 51) -- 1991 Topps #455 Walt Weiss


#4 (Page 34) -- 1973 Topps #302 Terry Crowley

#3 (Page 48) -- 1998 Fleer Tradition #424 Jermaine Allensworth


#2 (Page 63) -- 1976 Topps #564 Kurt Bevacqua

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Ode to Mark

Earlier this week, I was browsing some old scans of cards I had received from my buddy Mark of "Clubhouse Kaz" fame over the past few months in preparation for a trade post.

That same night, Mark announced he was stepping away from his blog, which he's run since 2012. It's always sad to see a familiar face of our community leave, and although I can certainly relate to the feeling of blogging burnout, Mark's departure hit me a bit harder than most.

Mark has probably been my most frequent trading partner over the nearly five years I've run this blog, and he's sent me some of the best and most well-rounded trade packages I've had the privilege of receiving during my time here. More than that, however, he's shown himself to be a kind soul, and his posts are always entertaining reads. His was one of the first blogs I discovered back in my early blogosphere days.

Hearing of his semi-retirement from the blogs was like having an old friend move away.

As an ode to Mark's time around here, I've collected a gallery of some recent packages/PWEs he's sent that show how well he knows my collection and how much thought he puts into every batch of cardboard he sends.

At times, it's just random cards that Mark might have a hunch about, and more often than not, his hunches are right on the money. Dennis Martinez in a designer shirt and shorts (?) and a card-that-never-was with the Luis Aparicio Donruss throwback were both treasured binder hits, as was the panoramic minor league stadium shot at the top of this post.

Sometimes you just have to play the hunches.

Mark's been known to be somewhat of a czar of oddballs.

I opened many packs of Ted Williams as a kid, but I'd never seen any promos from the set before Mark dropped that Honus Wagner into a trade package a few months back.

And count me among the many who never knew Aquafina made baseball cards.

Mark fired up the way-back machine with this quartet of spectacular throwbacks.

Mark's picked up on one thing I've tried to broadcast in the history of this blog: you can never go wrong with sending music-themed cards my way.

I haven't checked, but I'm probably close to a complete set of these Pro Set MusiCards by now. They're relatively easy to find and don't cost a whole lot.

I'm not a huge, huge fan of most of the artists in the checklist (I've never even heard of some of them, though that might be my relatively young age talking), but this is still the best all-music release out there, in my opinion.

KISS was the first band my dad ever saw, a show which laid the foundation for his long history of concert-going.

This scan goes out to him.

A separate PWE saw Mark shoot a couple 2013 Topps parallels my way.

The Sogard is a new hit for my double dip mini-collection, and the Matsuzaka is a rare zero-year card from Flagship, as Dice-K never actually suited up in a game for the Indians.

Another small package from Mark saw him continue to keep the zero-year train chugging along.

Addison Russell never saw time with the big club in Oakland. The A's traded him to the Cubs in the much-maligned Jeff Samardzija deal at the 2014 trade deadline.

I was a big fan of Shark -- and still am -- but I'd make that trade a hundred times out of a hundred.

Mark and I share a similar passion for parallels.

Purple refractors and golden honeycombs are always welcome in our homes.

Of all the bloggers I've traded with, Mark has probably contributed most to my two largest player collections: Vlad and Ichiro.

I'd never seen that "Laser Cuts" insert set before, but given Pacific's kooky history, I guess I should've known they had a role in the brief laser-etching craze of the late '90s.

Let's see, let's see...what hasn't Mark covered yet?

Oh, yeah: reprints. Mark checked that box off with this Shoebox Collection reprint of The Killer's 1955 Topps rookie.

Reprints don't seem to be as popular with collectors these days, but I am and always will be a fan of 'em.

Mini-collections ahoy here.

It took a few viewings to notice Miguel Montero (a current Cub) is tagging out Dexter Fowler (another current Cub) on that x-fractaorrifc play at the plate.

There's yet another new Vlad for the binders, as well as a fantastic magazine-cover-turned-baseball-card from the Sports Illustrated archives.

Mark's showed his mastery of my collection with his most recent PWE, which featured a litany of Fan Favorites singles, easily one of my top five favorite brands of my collecting lifetime.

I don't like Topps Lineage anywhere near as much as Fan Favorites, but I do enjoy sparkly parallels, and Mark had me covered there as well.

The man does it all.

I'm starting to think Mark might also have ESP, because while I don't think I ever announced it on the blog, I recently decided to make Fernando Valenzuela the subject of one of my top-tier player collections.

Lo and behold, this beautiful Squirt oddball of Fernando turned up just a short while later. I probably haven't had a sip of the lemon-lime soft drink in about a decade, but I get a craving for it every time I see one of these cards. (Do they even sell it anymore?)

While I'm sure Mark and I will continue to swap cards during his indefinite hiatus from the blogs, I'm still going to miss his posts showing up in my blogroll. In the meantime, I'll let the cards I've just shown speak for themselves in terms of just how much Mark cares about helping the collections of others. He'll long be a friend of this blog and many others out there.

It's been fun, pal.