Saturday, July 31, 2010

What was recently my favorite Allen & Ginter card has now become one I would rather not look at. For the second time this season, the Braves have had a key player suffer a hand injury due to a head first slide. First it was J-Hey and now Martin Prado looks to be out a minimum of 7-10 days. Is this really happening? Prado's move into the lead-off role jump started the Braves season, and with Philly closing the gap between the two teams, this is the last thing the Bravos need. Infante is more than an adequate fill-in, but it definitely weakens a bench that has been a strength for the team.

Upon learning of the injury to Prado, I was really hoping that Frank Wren would pick up the man whom Prado replaced, Kelly Johnson. With the D-Backs possibly blowing up their team, Johnson without doubt could have been had. After Prado is back in the lineup, Johnson could have been moved to left. Wouldn't that have been ironic if Johnson would have replaced Prado, if only for a week or two?

Don't quite know what to think of Ankiel in center (or right, should Heyward be moved to center). I actually wanted to see them sign him in the off-season, but that was before the Hinske signing & the trade bringing Melky over. He should provide some good D, but will he hit-and more importantly, will he hit for any power? Farnsworth improves an already deep bullpen, if only Braves fans can forget his "meltdown" in the '05 postseason. Blanco? He did a pretty decent job this season in his call-ups, but c'mon- he wasn't going to be any kind of long term answer in center. Oh, one final thing...At least Jesse Chavez is out of town!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mail-Box Monday

Perhaps a better title for this post would be "Mini-Monday", as one of the two packages in the mail today included six mini 2008 Allen & Ginter Braves. The minis have become my latest "must have", and although I'd like to try to put a set of minis together, I'll have to settle on just the Braves team sets.

#344 Matt Diaz-SP
Since July 6, Diaz is hitting .421 in 38 AB, with 5 doubles, 4 Homers (including three consecutive games in which he homered), and 12 RBI. Yes, he couldn't hit his weight prior to his DL stint, but he's stepping it up at a critical time of the season. Not exactly a player you would expect to appear in a short printed card, but I've been a fan of his since his college days at Florida State and he's one of my favorite Braves.

#274 John Smoltz
I guess all the talk of Smoltz being a mid-season pick up for some team has pretty much died. I was hoping he wouldn't come back again, unless it was to sign a one-day contract w/ Atlanta so he could retire a Brave. I'm sentimental that way.

#206 Jeff Francoeur
Well, the trading deadline is only a few days away, and I've already heard Frenchy mentioned in a few different rumors. The rumors involving Kansas City make you wonder about guys like Royals GM Dayton Moore. Does he really think bringing Francouer to KC will bring about a change in his approach at the plate?

#175 Chipper Jones- Allen & Ginter Back
Wouldn't it be great if Chip can find the fountain of youth and go on a tear like he did in September of '99?! That's all I want for Christmas this year (well, an early present).

#51 Brian McCann
The All-Star MVP has been raking after the Break, and will need to continue to do so in the last two months if the Bravos hope to play well into October and November.

#221 Tim Hudson
Over the last two months, Huddy has seen his starts go something like this: W,L,W,L,W,L,W,L, no decision, W. This needs to change, beginning Wednesday night vs. Washington and Livan Hernandez.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's Elementary Dear Topps

Since getting back into the hobby about nine months ago, I've really wanted to fall in love with Topps' Allen & Ginter line, but for some reason I didn't want to commit to her. I guess one analogy is that of the single guy who is drawn to the girl who has some pretty nice features, but there's something he just can't get over. Yep, that's been me. Well, after breaking a couple of blasters, I've finally determined what that hang-up has been: the standard sized cards have too much negative space. That's it; pretty simple huh? Case in point, check out the two cards of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. The standard 2 1/2 x 3 1/2" card of Holmes may not be the best to use as an example but it will have to suffice, as it is the only card I have both the standard & mini of. The photo of Holmes on the standard card is longer than the average photo used, but look at the area around the picture and you'll notice it still has a decent amount of space surrounding the photo. Now look at the mini. Allen and Ginter is made to be miniature. The Cabrera and Molina I chose because they are comparable shots & if the Molina was a standard card they would be almost identical in space used. This is the better representation of the product, in my opinion and does a fine job of depicting how the negative space on the standards detract from the subject of the cards. I also believe the cards with the landscape shots substantiate my theory. Although the Reimold card does have its share of negative space, the photo itself has other parts (the crowd & the wall) that help draw the attention to the photo. Same goes for Cano & Ibanez. Of course, mabey I don't like the standards just for the simple fact that I'm a contrarian & like most of the stuff that most others don't care for.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Allen & Ginter Blaster Break

As we were picking up some supplies for our swimming pool today at Target, I decided to peruse the sports card aisle, and what did I find? A couple of 2010 Allen & Ginter Blasters! Once again, I couldn't pass up buying one, if not for anything other than the hopes of pulling a Braves mini. I haven't had any real liking of the base cards-well, mabey the non-sports stuff aren't so bad- but I've found myself recently enamoured with the minis, This Day in History, and the various non-sport inserts. I didn't pull any big hits, but enjoyed the thrill of opening these packs...

Pack #1
#114 Milton Bradley
#248 Jason Marquis
#219 Adam Wainwright
#134 Vladimir Guerrero
WB4 World's Biggest- Tree General Sherman (Sequoia)- MINI
Too bad this things's a mess: Crushed corner, creased, etc. Better contact Topps!TDH37 Ichiro (This Day in History)

Pack #2
#266 Adam LaRoche
#349 Yuniesky Betancourt
#285 A-Fraud
#331 Huston Street
#102 Tori Hunter-MINI!
Beautiful card- hate to part with it, but it will go into a pile for Endued!
TDH44 BJ Upton

Pack #3
#131 Tyler Flowers-RC
#244 Aaron Cook
#226 Brian McCann win it for the NL All-Star Team!
Thanks to Brian, the Braves may have home field advantage in the Series (well, gotta get there first...)
#255 Robert Scott (Negro Leaguer)
NA24 National Animals-Condor (Columbia)
Beauty, eh?
TDH36 Hanley Ramirez

Pack #4
#300 Nolan Reimold
#109 Ian Kinsler
#8 Miguel Tajada
#346 Ryan Theriot
#70 Joey Votto-MINI AD-BACK!
#TDH25 Ryan Zimmerman

Pack #5
#277 Regis Phibin
#63 Matt Carson-RC
#7 Ryan Howard
#101 Mark Buehrle
#MM16 Monsters of the Mesozoic-Ultrasaurus MINI!
#TDH19 Robinson Cano

Pack #6
#233 Rick Ankiel
#180 Gordon Beckham
#144 Boo-Yah! Stuart Scott
#325 Brett Gardner
#33 Benjie Molina MINI
#TDH2 Stephen Drew
Checklist #1/4

Pack #7
#335 Jonathan Broxton
#49 Jenrry Mejia-RC
#2 Everth Cabrera
#AGHS11 Andre Ethier- Baseball Sketches
#WGWS15 Wordsmiths- Confucius (MINI)
#TDH12 Andre Ethier

Pack #8
#18 Jose Lopez
#91 Carlos "Psycho" Zambrano- the second "Psycho" to don a Chicago uniform!
#14 Shane Victorino
#305 Kelly Johnson
#47 Drew Stubbs-RC (MINI Black!)
#TDH23 Dan Haren

My wife actually showed an interest in the non-sport stuff- which is short of a miracle- so you know Topps did something right with this product. Now, if I can only find some of this year's Goodwin Champion's "Entomology" cards- those she found impressive!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Eleven '78s

I recently picked up a few singles for the 1978 Topps baseball set I'm putting together. Although I started buying sportscards in 1977, '78 was the first year I bought them in any kind of quantities. I would save my allowance, which wasn't much for a 9 year old, and pick up packs at the local drug store. With this recent purchase, I'm now 48 cards short of completing my set- with the Jack Morris RC and Lou Whitaker RC being the only significant ones I'm needing. If anyone is looking for a great dealer to purchase from, I've found Dean's Cards, who I purchased these from, to be a great resource!

1978 Topps #23 Bump Wills
The son of Dodger great Maury Wills, Bump was the Rangers first round pick in the 1975 amateur draft. After two sensational minor league seasons, Wills was the everyday second baseman for Texas in 1977, when he finished third in the A.L. Rookie of the Year voting and was named to the Topps All-Star Rookie Team. Wills followed up his impressive rookie season with a 52-stolen base effort in 1978. My only recollection of Bump was when he opened the 1982 season with a home run in his first at bat for his new team, the Chicago Cubs. The Cubbies were in Cincinnati that opening day and Wills' home run came as the major's first batsman for the '82 season.

1978 Topps #26 Rich Hebner

1978 Topps #46 Al Cowens
This man sure knew how to hold a grudge! While playing with the Royals in 1979, Cowens was hit in the face by Texas pitcher Ed Farmer, suffering a fractured jaw which caused him to miss 21 games that year. Teammate Frank White was also hit by Farmer in the same game, suffering a broken hand which caused White to miss 33 games. The following year, while a member of the Tigers, Cowens once again faced Ed Farmer. This time, Cowens grounded out to short and as Farmer watched the defensive play unfold, Cowens charged the mound rather than run to first base and attacked Farmer. Perhaps Michael Farber of the Montreal Gazette described it best when he said Cowens made contact with Farmer at the intersection of fist and nose. Nice! Poetic even.

1978 Topps #47 Jack Billingham

1978 Topps #122 Dennis Eckersley

Yet another player who wore those annoying wind breakers under his uniform from back in the day. I never could see why anyone would want to-it seems to me that it would be highly uncomfortable, but I've never tried it, so what do I know?

1978 Topps #123 Manny Trillo

1978 Topps #140 Rollie Fingers
So I'm trying to figure out just what the heck the green thing is in the collar area. Fingers looks like the type of guy who in the 70s wore those scarves that Don Knotts' Ralph Furley character wore on Three's Company. Perhaps it's one of those?

1978 Topps #159 Lou Piniella

1978 Topps #188 Al Bumbry
A speedy outifelder for the Orioles, Bumbry missed time in the minors due to serving our country over in Vietnam, and was later awarded the Bronze Star (given for bravery, acts of merit, or meritorious service). His son, Steve is currently an outfielder in the Orioles farm system. Thanks for serving our country, Mr. Bumbry!

1978 Topps #189 Tom Lasorda
1978 Topps #211 Earl Weaver

Monday, July 12, 2010

I Love Mondays

Okay, now that you think that I'm nuts, let me explain. Monday seems to be the day that I get more fun stuff in the mail; fewer bills, more cards. I like that! So today I received four packages, much to my nine-year old daughter's dismay ("why don't I ever get any neat stuff in the mail!!"). This was one of the better mail days in a while, and now that I'm having to put in longer days at work it very well may be the last of the goodies for a few weeks.

2010 Bowman Orange #BP81 Caleb Brewer #240/250

2010 Allen & Ginter Black Mini #267 Martin Prado
The NL hits leader and leading hitter didn't do much at the plate in the All-Star game, but that doesn't detract from the great first-half he's had this year. For the Braves to continue their playoff push, they'll need Martin to continue to rake. I love the black mini's, and this one has an awesome photo! It's probably my favorite card thus far from the 2010 sets.

1990 Leaf 300 Frank Thomas
What can I say- a hobby classic, as far as modern cards. I sold my only Leaf Thomas Rookie Card about 16 years ago and got quite a bit for it, so was thrilled to pick this one up for little. A sure fire Hall-of-Famer.

1994 Topps Traded #56T Jason Schmidt
Seems to be a more difficult card to find; it was a shame that injuries robbed Schmidt of a better ending to an otherwise decent career. I really hated seeing him traded to Pittsburgh. Neagle was a key contributer to the Braves' staff, so I can't complain too much. I really like the "Prospect Cards" that Topps included in their early to mid-90s sets. Would like to see them go back to doing these!

2006 Topps Heritage #283 John Smoltz
Sweet! The throwback to the classic '57 Topps issue with an Atlanta icon. I've read many complaints about the '06 Heritage set, and I can't understand why people don't like it. What really makes the card is the Red and Blue lettering at the bottom; it goes really well with the colors of his uniform. Anyways, this leaves me with only 1 Brave to get from the '06 set- Brian Jordan.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Omar Infante- Proving his worth

I really wanted to post something on the 1st anniversary date of the Braves trading the Golden Boy, Jeff Francouer, but I'm just really not up to it tonight. I wished Francouer all the best when he was traded, and really hope he can improve his plate discipline so that his talent can be fully realized.

Anyways, when it was announced that Braves super-sub Omar Infante was named to the 2010 N.L. All-Star team, there was much backlash. Many folks were upset that Joey Votto was snubbed. Votto's having an unbelievable season- and I would argue that he is running neck and neck with Martin Prado for N.L. MVP. However, he also plays a position which has always had a number of worthy All-Stars, many of whom have been snubbed. Votto's got his place on the team now, so ya'll can relax. Infante's place on the All-Star team has more to do with needing someone who can play multiple positions; you see, MLB this season has changed a rule that now allows a manager to designate one player to be able to re-enter the game after leaving. Heading into the break, the Braves faced their two closest division rivals, Philadelphia & New York, and Omar's only gone 11-19 the past four games-each being a multiple-hit game, including Friday's four-hit game, only to be followed up with a three-hit game today. In a season where Chipper Jones has missed 16 games thus far, Infante has filled in admirably and has absolutely murdered righties-hitting .352/.811 against them. He has also played 5 positions this year, not to mention pinch-hitting at a .300 clip. In the field, Infante has the lowest fielding percentage of any position player on the Braves, which doesn't bode well for a defense of him as an All-Star. One might argue that a player who does not have an established position in the field would have a hard time settling in and being comfortable in the field. We know how difficult it is for a player to be an effective pinch-hitter when he's never in the game, so perhaps there's something to it. But like I said earlier, his role on the N.L. squad is about being a role player and has more to do with the impression he's left on Charlie Manuel and not the talking heads on MLB Network, ESPN, or the gazillion bloggers on the web.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Congratulations Mr. All Star 2nd Baseman!

Great news today as 5 Atlanta Braves players were named to the 2010 N.L. All-Star team! Included in that bunch was Martin Prado, who just happens to be the subject of this entry. I just recently bought Photoshop 8, and have been messin' around with it this week, trying my hand at some card creations. The first one I'll put up comes from the '82 Topps set. I chose this particular set because of the sweet baby blues that the Bravos wore April 15 against the San Diego Padres; love those old uni's, so I decided to give it a whirl... The font is something I'll need to work on, as it didn't turn out how I wanted it to, but all-in-all, I'm pleased with it for being one of my first cards.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

50 Year Counterparts, Pt. 8

While the recently injured Arodys Vizcaino is the most talked about piece of the offseason trade that sent Javier Vasquez to the Yankees, lefty Michael Dunn is proving to be a diamond in the rough for Atlanta.

2010 Topps Heritage #322 Michael Dunn-RC

Originally drafted and signed by New York as an outfielder, Dunn was moved to the mound halfway through the 2006 season, after hitting only .160 in 187 ABs over 66 games. The move wasn't completely foreign to the 25 year-old Dunn, as he had pitched in high school. During his first year as a pitcher ('06), Dunn appeared in 14 games between the Gulf Coast Yankees & Class A Staten Island. He then spent most of the next two years as a starter between Charleston, Tampa, and Trenton, going 17-12 over that time period. Since his final year in the Yankee system, Dunn has been moved back to the bullpen, where he has really cemented his place as a prospect. Though he has struggled with control issues during his career, Dunn has improved this area of his game significantly this year, seeing his WHIP drop while his strikeout totals have improved dramatically as well. Through June, the lefty is 2-0 at AAA Gwinnett, having pitched 38.1 innings in 28 games, with a microscopic 0.70 ERA/ 6 sv / 24 hits, 52 K and only 16 walks.

Though Dunn appeared in Topps' 2010 Series 1 base set, the card didn't indicate that he had been traded to the Braves- so this was actually the first card that depicts him in an Atlanta uniform.

1961 Topps #496 Ken MacKenzie

Appearing on card #496 in the 1961 Topps set was another Brave rookie prospect- lefty Ken MacKenzie. The Canadian-born reliever was a Yale graduate who was signed by Milwaukee as an amateur free agent in 1957, played for 5 MLB teams, and was out of baseball by the age of 31. His stay in Milwaukee was a short one, as he appeared in only 14 games for the Braves over two years, with 1961 being his last year in the organization.

The following year he spent with the New York Mets in their inagural season, and was the only pitcher for the Metropolitans to post a winning percentage above .500- as he went a CY Young-like 5-4.
MacKenzie only appeared on two cards for the Braves- this '61 card, as well as the 1960 Topps #534. There's no word on whether or not he's credited with inventing the "Tomahawk Chop."