Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Word Association- 1987 Topps

Time for a little game of Word Association-1987 Style

1987 Topps #89 Ozzie Guillen- #^?*!!

1987 Topps #170 Bo Jackson- Bo Knows/ Awesome!

1987 Topps #273 Gene Nelson- Chris Robinson/Black Crowes

1987 Topps #237 Jim Morrison- People are Strange

1987 Topps #321 Mike Laga- Photoshop

1987 Topps #584 Ron Kittle- Napoleon Dynamite

1987 Topps #569 Wade Rowdon- Clueless

1987 Topps #358 Sal Butera- The Fonz "Aaay!!"

1987 Topps #520 Jack Clark- Hades (Disney's Hercules)

Monday, September 27, 2010

From Red Hot Rookie to Tough Luck Tommy

I don't know what's in the water down in the Atl. but whatever it is, it seems to advance the aging process. Fit, athletic men have become impotent, losing their eyesight, watching their bodies fall apart. Unfortunately, due to this sad state of affairs, even a young gun like Tommy Hanson finds himself shooting blanks everytime he takes the mound.

"But seriously..." I read today on the AJC that Hanson is the only Brave in the Atlanta era (since '66) to have at least 30 starts and an ERA under 3.51 and yet have a losing record. Since July, he is 3-6 (with 8 no decisions). In those 8 no decisions, Hanson allowed 2 ER in each of three of the starts, 1 ER in each of three other starts, and 0 ER in the other two. Imagine that: 9 earned runs in eight starts, with nothing to show for it! Also, in three of the no decisions, Tommy left after 7 innings with the lead, only to see the bullpen blow the lead. And, in the other five games, he pitched into the sixth, being pulled with the score tied in each game. In four of Tommy's six losses since July, he allowed 3 ER, 1 ER, 1 ER, and 2 ER's, respectively. And tonight, with the Braves playing for their survival in the wild card chase, Hanson throws a beauty- 1 earned run in 7.2 innings, only to leave with the score tied at one.

I can't imagine the frustration a guy like Hanson must feel after pitching your butt off, only to get the anemic offensive support he has had (and the other starters, for that matter). I know he has stated that he doesn't care about individual stats, only whether the team wins or not. I'm sure he's speaking honestly when he says that, but still- it's awful hard for the team to win when the opponents are scoring 2-3 runs a game and your offense can't match that.

This Day in Braves History- John Smoltz

2002 Topps #145
On this day in 2002, former Brave John Smoltz recorded his 54th save of the season- breaking the N.L. record previously held by Randy Myers and Trevor Hoffman. The recorded save could be looked at as vindication for Smoltz, as he had been roughed up by the Mets on April 6th that year. Pitching in the ninth inning that day, he allowed eight runs to New York in an 11-2 loss. By allowing eight runs in just two-thirds of an inning, Smoltz began the year with a 43.20 ERA after two appearances- and despite dominating the National League over the next few months, it would be July 23 before Smoltz would get his ERA below 4.00

Thursday, September 23, 2010

'60-'09 Counterparts

The 1960 Topps design is one of my favorites from that decade, and I thought they did a great job with the Heritage release of 2009. The one complaint about the cards I have is that they do not have the year by year stats that we have come to know and love-opting instead for the previous season's stats, as well as the player's lifetime numbers. That being said, I do like the Season Highlights and the paragraphs included on the back, not to mention the cartoons and the tidbits of info they provide. Kicking off a comparison of the two sets will be the first Braves to appear in each set:

1961 Topps #3 Joe Adcock

Known mostly for his power (he hit a total of 336 homers for his career), Adcock was also a very good gloveman. He led the N.L. in putouts by a first baseman twice, including the year of our card. At the time he retired, Joe had the third highest career fielding percentage for a first baseman (.994), and at 6'4 he definitely gave a good target for his infielders to throw to. As the front of the card indicates, Joe also played in the outfield, where he would appear in 305 games during his major league career. It's too bad that Ryan Klesko wasn't on the Braves in '09, because, except for their defensive reputations, these two would compare better to one another than Adcock and ...

2009 Topps Heritage #3 Casey Kotchman

Casey Kotchman was drafted thirteenth overall in 2001 by the team that Adcock ended his career with (Angels). At the time, Casey's dad, Tom, was the manager of our local professional team (the Boise Hawks, the Angels then Short Season A team)- and so I had an interest in how his career turn out. As it has turned out, I would say that Casey's career has been somewhat of a disappointment, at least offensively. He was highly touted as a hitter, but has managed only a .259 career batting average, .326 OBP, and a .393 slugging percentage. And yet, Kotch does put the ball in play, as he is a very tough strikeout. Where Kotch does shine, however, is on defense- where he is tied for the single season record with a 1.000% fielding percentage. Casey is also #1 in career fielding percentage for first basemen at .9982- and has committed an error only once every 521 innings (which translates to 9 total for his career). Surprisingly, with numbers like that you would think he's a perennial gold-glove winner, but the man has never won one. Probably due to not enough innings or chances in order to qualify?

Looking at the two cards, you find some of the similarities that are often found on the counterparts: same color scheme in lettering, background colors, not to mention the batting cages behind the hitters. That's where they end, though. Joe's Season's Highlights includes: Blasts 440-ft HR vs. Pitt. Casey- Slaps tie-breaking 2-run double. Joe-Pinch hits homer vs. Cards. Casey- Breaks open scorelss game in Kansas City with RBI single... Cartoon fact- Joe: In a game with the Dodgers in '54, Joe hit 4 Homers and a single. Casey: Casey's pop, Tom, has managed in the minors for 30 years.
As cool as having a successful manager as a dad is, sorry Casey- but, ADVANTAGE: Joe Adcock

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This Day in Braves History- Cy Young

1911 T205 Gold Border- I don't actually own this card, it was found on Wikipedia

Although Cy Young never pitched for the Boston Braves, he did pitch his final season in Boston, playing for the Rustlers- who would become the Braves in 1912. Young was released by the Cleveland Naps on August 16, 1911, having only pitched in seven games for the Naps that year. Three days later, Young signed with Boston and finished his career with the Boston organization- going 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA. On September 22 the 44 year-old Young pitched a 1-0 shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates for win #511, the final 'W' for the major league's all-time win leader.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This Day in Braves History- Greg Maddux

2003 Topps #694
On this day in 2003, future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux recorded his sixteenth straight season of least 15 wins- a new major league record- as he passed Cy Young's previous mark of fifteen years. Maddux would go on to record his seventeenth 15+ win season in 2004, a record that seems destined to remain for many, many more years.
Mad Dog was also pretty good in the field, too (an understatement)! He won a record eighteen Gold Gloves during his twenty-three year career- yet another number that no pitcher will probably ever match.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

First Career Save for Braves Future Closer?

With Billy Wagner announcing his retirement, effective at the end of this season, there's two possible replacements on the current Braves roster- lefty Jonny Venters and right hander Craig Kimbrel.

2010 Topps Debut #5 (160/259)

The Braves drafted Craig Kimbrel in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft, and have watched his accent to the big leagues with the idea of him being their eventual closer. No one has ever doubted his stuff, which includes a nasty slider and a mid-upper 90s fastball. The question has been more about his control, as he has had a difficult time taming it, which has led to a high walk total at every stop. After having been summoned to Atlanta for the fourth time this year, however, Kimbrel seems to have turned it around. In four innings this September he has walked none and has 9 K's, while allowing no hits. Coming into today Kimbrel had a record of 3-0 but had yet to have a save opportunity- so with a 6-3 lead against the hated Mets, Bobby brought in the kid for his first major league save-which he nailed down thanks to 3 strikeouts. After this appearance, Kimbrel sports a pretty nice 18.2 SO/9.

2008 Bowman Chrome Prospects #27
Coming into spring training the thought was that Venters would be an arm that would be added to the twenty-five man roster at some point during the season. However, nobody thought that he would be up in Atlanta so soon- having been called up on April 17 and then staying with the Braves for the rest of the season. Venters has been such an integral part of the bullpen that he has been dubbed "Everyday Jonny", which is quite appropriate since he has appeared in 70 games thus far this season. Venters forte is a wickedly sinking two-seam fastball that can reach the mid-nineties. There's been talk of him eventually becoming a starter, but with his stuff coming out of the 'pen, I have a hard time believing that will be the case.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Card Show Buys #2

While I would like nothing more than to buy some seriously nr-mint/mint grade cards from the 50s and 60s, I am on a budget-and with so many cards on my wantlist, I just can't invest in higher priced stuff. And yet, there's something appealing about a fifty-something year old worn-out piece of cardboard. I guess the rounded corners, creases, pinholes, etc. give it a more "authentic" look. Plus, there's no questioning of it being 'doctored'...
1958 Topps #117 Frank Torre

How would you like to be known as "Joe's Brother"- as I am sure Frank is often referred to as. Frank didn't have alot of at-bats over his career, fewer than 1500 ABs during a seven year career, and only had 13 home runs. However, he did blast two homers against the Yankees during the 1957 World Series.

1958 Topps #223 Andy Pafko

I would prefer to have Pafko's 1952 Topps card- the #1 card in the iconic set- but will have to settle for this '58. Rounded corners, pinhole, and a back with stains and glue, but it has found a home. A very solid major league career was winding down when this card hit the streets-Pafko would call it career after the 1959 season, and went 3 for 9 in the '58 Series against the Yanks-the last of the four World Series he played in during his career.

1959 Topps #315 Joe Adcock, 322 Harry Hanebrink, 499 Johnny O'Brien

Out of all the Topps Heritage sets released, I think the '59 sets counterpart-the 2008 Heritage- is the only one that Topps really bungled. These originals are badly off-centered, and include a crease on O'Brien and the name 'Del' written on the Adcock, but I got 'em on the cheap. I like the little piece of trivia on the back of the Adcock: "Joe once hit 4 homers and a double against the Dodgers in a single game." The total bases from that game would be a MLB record until 2002, when Shawn Green would top it by recording 19 total bases against the (yes) Milwaukee Brewers.

1960 Topps #534 Ken MacKenzie

1962 Topps #130 Frank Bolling
Picking up a '62 got me excited for next years Heritage set, which dayf the Cardboard Junkie whetted our appetite for by posting this recently. This is only the second or third '62 card I have, so I'll have to start picking them up in anticipation of the '11 Heritage.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mail box Monday

One-time "future Hall of Famer" Andruw Jones homered (a grand slam!) for the White Sox on Sunday afternoon, the nineteenth time he's gone yard this season. In fact, 'Druw is on the verge of doing something he hasn't done since 2007 (but seems much longer)- hitting 20 homers in a season. Which is a good segue to Monday's Mailbox...

2005 Topps UH119 Post Season Highlights- NLDS

2005 Topps UH141 '05 N.L. Home Run Leaders
2005 Topps UH143 '05 N.L. RBI Leaders
I thought I had all the Braves cards from the '05 Topps set until I recently noticed these three cards on Check Out My Cards. With all the struggles the Braves have had out of the CF position this year (until Nate's recent explosion), how nice would it be to have these numbers in the lineup? Can you imagine a lineup with Andruw in his prime along with the J-Hey Kid?

The Post Season card brings back horrible memories- it was the last time the Braves appeared in post season play, losing the series clinching game in the 18th as Chris Burke hit a walk-off homer off of Joey Divine. It never should have gotten to that point, however, had Kyle Farnsworth not completely melted down by giving up the game-tying 'slam in the eighth to Berkman and then another game tying homer to Brad Ausmus in the bottom of the ninth with two out. And management wonders why the fans weren't too excited to see Kyle back at the trade deadline this year!

2008 Topps Opening Day #55 Andruw Jones

This card of Andruw took me by surprise because the only '08 Topps card of him I could ever find was one which pictured him in a Dodgers uniform. Upon further inspection, it's the same photo, just with a photoshop job on the base Topps card.

1993 Stadium Club Murphy #152 Sean Smith

Smith was a 1992 Draft pick for the Braves- a catcher who spent five years in the Atlanta farm system. I recently found this on the 'bay, but unfortunately had to buy the lot of 11 cards. I got 'em for a buck- but paid $3 for shipping. Anyone need one of these?

2010 Topps T-206 #TA-JB Gregor Blanco Autograph

As much as I dislike the T-206's, I love the mini's- and the autographed cards are just as great! Although he didn't get much playing time in Atlanta, save 2008, Gregor did play an important part in this years surge- and so for that I had to get this bad boy at a very low price!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Forgotten Faces- Jose Oliva

Thanks to Pete Van Wieren, I got a pretty good little piece of Braves trivia. In his book "Of Mikes and Men", Van Wieren speaks of the excitement surrounding Jeff Francoeur after his 2005 call up. During that summer, Frenchy homered five times in his first twelve games- which as amazing as it was, isn't even the franchise record for quickest to five homers. That record is 11 games, and belongs to today's subject, the late Jose Oliva.

Oliva was originally signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Texas Rangers at the tender age of 16. Jose spent his first five seasons in the Rangers minor league system as a power hitting third baseman with a good glove, but who was not much of a contact hitter. Prior to the 1993 season, Texas traded the young Oliva to Atlanta for SP Charlie Leibrandt and relief pitcher Pat Gomez. Oliva was thought to be the guy who would take over for Terry Pendleton when his contract expired. Expectations were really high after his 1994 rookie season when Oliva hit .288 in 19 games, as he had 6 home runs in 59 ABs, a .364 OBP, and a .678 SLG. Jose was also named the 1994 Topps Rookie All-Star third baseman. Jose began the 1995 season (which was Atlanta's championship season) as the starting third baseman until the middle of June, when he was hitting .151 with an OBP of .205 and was slugging .370. The Braves at that point moved a certain rookie by the name of Chipper Jones from left field to third base (and the rest, they say-is history). By the end of August, Oliva was given up on by the Braves, who traded him to St. Louis for outfield prospect Anton French. The struggles for Jose would continue in St. Louis, and he found himself in AAA Louisville in 1996-which was his last season in baseball. Sadly, Oliva died in a car accident in his homeland just three days before Christmas 1997.

Getting back to the trivia, here's some other notable Braves and how many games it took them to reach five home runs during their rookie season:

Andruw Jones- 15

Eddie Mathews-18

Bob Horner-26

Chipper Jones-28

Henry Aaron-32

Dale Murphy-83

D'oh!! Ronald Flemons Fumbles Ball at Goal Line

The NFL had the controversial call on Calvin Johnson's touchdown, but our friends north of the border had a pretty funny moment in Saturday's game between B.C. and Toronto.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Card Show Buys #1

Most of my card transactions are done online but I still enjoy every chance to attend a card show- and I got the opportunity to do so this morning. The LCS owner has been promoting quarterly card shows over the past year, and with baseball heading towards the playoffs and the NFL starting up, what better time to have one. While they aren't what they used to be 'back in the day', it's still fun to get out and talk chop with other collectors/sellers, as well as look for that elusive card that seems to be on every collector's wantlist. I surprised my wife by getting home earlier than she had expected-it wasn't that the show sucked, but I found plenty of older Braves cards and I didn't need to stay once I was out of dough.

1965 Topps #366 Dan Schneider
According to the back of his baseball card, Schneider never pitched below AAA. I looked up his career stats, and he never pitched below AAA thereafter, either- although he spent many season in AAA with only 7 decisions in the majors.

1971 Topps #61 A.L. Batting Leaders
Doesn't have any Braves, but it does have Yaz and Oliva. I'm not familiar with Alex Johnson. I picked this up for a quarter, with the intentions of giving to my pal Endued (an Angels fan). If he already has it, then I'll just keep it.

1971 Topps #174 Dave LaRoche, #223 Cecil Upshaw, #270 Rico Carty, #359 Ron Reed, #387 Ron Herbel, and #668 Gary Neibauer
I didn't have my checklist with me, but I figured I probably had at least one of these, but didn't! The LaRoche, yet another Angel for Endued. However, I also have an interest in this card because of his son (former Brave Adam LaRoche)-which may be a future post.

1972 Topps #21 Braves Team Card, #149 Gary Niebauer
I never have cared for the design on the '72. Come to find out, I already have both of these. Thankfully, I only paid 2 bits each.

1970 #122 George Stone
A decent lefty who spent 6 seasons with the Braves before being traded to the Mets. Interestingly, Stone's cousin was a teammate of his- right handed pitcher Cecil Upshaw.

1971 Topps #133 David Clyde
Another 25 cent pick-up. Other than the centering, this card is in pretty darn good shape. For those of you who don't know about Clyde, I encourage you to read this piece about him.
Mabey I'll start a new project in my collecting- of phenoms who don't live up to the hype.

1975 Topps #394 Larvell Blanks (mini), #427 Clarence "Cito" Gaston, #431 Rod Gilbreath (mini), #618 Jamie Easterly (Rookie Pitchers)
Another one of my least favorite Topps designs- this set seems to be far more popular with other collectors. It did have have three great Hall of Famer's rookie cards in Yount, Brett, and Rice. The Gaston card has a pretty bad air-brush job on it. He had played in San Diego prior to the '75 season, which explains the need to air-brush his uni.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

2010 Topps Red Hot Rookies #8 & 9

Well, Topps finally revealed which Red Hot Rookies card can be redeemed for Stephen Strasburg (#8) and which one is for the player that I really want (#9 Mike Minor).

Which card am I holding onto? Yep, card no. 8. Sigh That's how it goes for me.

Roger Clemens- Red Foreman Dumbass of the Week

"Hell, only 15? I've struck out more batters than that in one game."- Roger Clemens, after a grand jury on August 19 charged the 'Rocket' with 15 counts of lying about his use of a banned substance.

I guess that just about sums up the arrogance of the disgraced pitcher.

Roger Clemens lied
arrogance on display
this ain't no game fool.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Seventies Saturday: 1976 Topps Carl Morton

Today's subject, pitcher Carl Morton, was orginally signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1965 as a free-agent. Oddly, he wasn't signed as a pitcher- but as an outfielder. After spending the 1965 and 1966 seasons in the Braves minor league system, in which he showed some power at the plate (but not much discipline), Morton was converted to a pitcher prior to the 1967 season. Morton would go 23-14 in his first two seasons as a pitcher (in Single-A Kinston and AA Shreveport), with a 2.94 ERA, and 255 Strikeouts. After the 1968 season, Morton would be selected by the Montreal Expos in the expansion draft, and would appear in eight major league games during the 1969 season. Then, in 1970, Morton would take the N.L. by surprise- starting 37 games, and going 18-11 with a 3.60 ERA on his way to winning the 1970 N.L. Rookie of the Year Award and finishing ninth in the Cy Young Award voting. Morton would go on to pitch for the Expos during the 1971 and 1972 seasons, but would experience some serious control problems, walking 279 batters versus his 305 strikeouts. Montreal would trade Morton to Atlanta at the beginning of spring training in 1973 for pitcher Pat Jarvis.

The return to the Braves organization would see a resurrection of Morton's career. Over the course of the next three seasons, Morton would pitch in 114 games, going 48-38 with a 3.35 ERA. Morton would continue to struggle by putting runners on base, allowing almost 13 runners on base per 9-innings. 1976,the year of today's card, would be Morton's final season in the majors. He would appear in 26 games for the Braves, going 4-9 with a 4.17 ERA, and more walks (45) than strikeouts (42). After the 1976 season, Morton and four other players (along with cash) would be traded to the Texas Rangers for slugger Jeff Burroughs. Morton would pitch in AAA Oklahoma City (Phillies) during the 1977 season, but would then be done in baseball by spring training 1978.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An Ode to Nyjer Morgan

Dear Mr. Morgan,

Next time you want to act
like you're some kind of WWE star,
check the scoreboard-