Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Dodger Bats And My Collection Go Off Hiatus

Hey everybody,

FINALLY the Dodgers are righteously kicking some ass and blowing out the Pirates 12-2.  I've had to update the score twice since I started writing this.  Sorry Matt, but the Boys In Blue were due.  Sunday will be ours as well. Hehe

In the spirit of a great game, I bring a post about some great cards that arrived in my mailbox this morning.  

A while back my buddy Tony from Off Hiatus Baseball Cards ran a contest and I came away a winner of one of the most iconic slices of cardboard ever.  

The winners of the contest were able to choose our favorite of the offered cards, and if I remember correctly (which is not as often as I would like), I had second choice. It was a tough selection because Tony was offering a sweet giant swatch from a Dodger - Chad Billingsley - but I saw a different card that I wanted.  

Furthermore, I knew Chavez Ravining was next in line to choose after me, and I figured he had his eye on that Bills card.  I chose to pass on the unfulfilled potential of Bills and go for a card of one of the solid greats.

Lookit this beauty that Tony offered up - and I snagged!


I don't usually show the backs of cards, but in this case, let's see what Topps did with an early card of one of the game's greats...

What do you think? Do you see The Hawk's eventual career from this card back? 

Winning that card would have been enough, and that's all I expected when I saw my winnings envelope today, but Tony don't just roll minimum style like that. He included  a coupla great extras.  Let's check 'em out...

 How's about a legendary pitcher for the Angels - back when the Angels were happy to represent the city they actually play in? 

Although I'm not an Angels fan, per se, I did attend university in Orange County - Cal State  Fullerton - and I'm a California homer, so I'm very happy to land a card from a great Angel.

And that's not all.  Tony knew I wanted a Dodger and he sent me a beautiful Museum card ...

Scans don't really convey how nice these Museum cards are in hand.  The player image just jumps out at you from the background.  These cards are defintiely worthy of the Museum moniker. 

All in all, it was a very nice envelope for a great Saturday. 
Enjoy the weekend everybody! 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Set Builders - Help Me To Help You

So I was making my normal rounds of reading blogs in order to find a Blog Recommendation of the Day for all of you, and hopefully snag some new cards in trade for me, when I once again came across "The Trading Gap".  

What's the Trading Gap, you may ask?  It's that which separates Collector A's collecting (might we say hoarding?) habits from Collector B.  Of course there are as many different types of collectors as there are cards, but for the sake of this post, I'm simply going to address two particular types. 

The first type of collector is, of course, just like little ol' me.  My collection is pretty much focused on only one team, but I also chase a variety of players from a variety of other teams.  I suppose my collecting tastes can be classified as fluid.  Any Johnny Bench card will do, thank you very much.

  On the other hand, we have the set collectors. Their needs are absolute and finite. When card #11 is needed to finish 2013 Gypsy Queen, only #11 will do, thank you very much.   

And that, my friends, is the Trading Gap.

In checking other bloggers' wantlists, I frequently come upon something similar to this...

Blogger A needs: 
 2013 Topps Update

'71 Minis

Chasing History

That's fair enough - but when I see lists like this - and some lists are quite long - my brain goes blank, and I presume I can't help you. 

You see, my collecting brain doesn't think about cards or sort them like a group of numbers. When I see a list of 25 cards needed for 1972 Topps, I might very well have 8 or 10 cards to help you out, but I know those cards by the player on the front, not by the tiny number on the back.

My suggestion is when you know what player is on the card, please list his name along with the card number, and you just might get a lot more hits. 

I wouldn't expect Blogger A from above to list all 20 or 30 players needed for the main Topps Update set, but when the chase is down to only one or two needed cards, why not list the player when he's known? 

I might have that last Glove Stories card that you need to complete your chase, but I won't recognize it when I see it listed as #GSJI.

 However, if it's listed as #GSJI, Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers (or something like that), chances are, I'll remember I've got that one, and it can soon be on its way to you.  

And wouldn't that be grand? 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Day The Blue Dam Broke

(Hunter Martin / Getty Images)
 We may very well look back on Josh "No Hitter" Beckett's masterpiece of a game today as being the spark that lit the fire for the 2014 Dodgers.

By throwing today's no-hitter Beckett has tossed the last chain off of his recovered shoulders and declared he is all the way back. 

 When the 2014 season began Beckett hadn't won a game since early 2012!  Although he pitched pretty well from the get go this year, the mediocre Dodgers didn't give him much run support.  

He only recently recorded his first win in two years and he continued to show improvement with his brilliant performance today.  Beckett's is the first Dodger no-no since Hideo Nomo's in 1996. 

 Beckett's personal breakthrough was partly due to a ripple effect now being felt amongst the Dodgers.  Manager Damn Mattingly first cracked the dam when he (finally!) made the wise decision to move Matt Kemp out of the lineup.  Mattingly admitted Kemp's liabilities and sat him down, leading to firestorms and blizzards in the blogs, twittersphere, and corporate media.

His defensive shortcomings notwithstanding, and with the exception of a few highlight shots, Matt Kemp has mostly had a bat made of wet spaghetti this season. The WAR, WIP and WACK stat heads point to + or - numbers and insist Kemp has done well at the plate so far.  Those cold stats however, tell very little about Kemp's numerous strike outs and double plays with RISP. Kemp needed to sit, or at least compete for a position as I called for  two weeks ago.

That movement of Kemp broke through the oft-mentioned logjam of outfielders and allowed the Dodger Nation a fresh breath now that the elephant - read Bison - in the room has been put into a new place, improving both the offense and defense, and the team seems to be responding positively.

Want more breakthroughs to feel optimistic about? 

A couple of other question marks in the Dodger batting order are starting to assert themselves.  When Juan Uribe went on the DL, most Dodger fans bemoaned the loss of his bat.  His replacement, Justin Turner has uncorked some power and given us a pair of key home runs. 

The Dodger's latest Cuban player, Erisbel Arruebarruena was tagged as being great with the glove, but sorely lacking a bat.  Now filling in for an injured Hanley Ramirez, he's quickly adjusting to major league pitching and is knocking out hits.

El Jaguar, Adrian Gonzalez is heating up at the plate again.

Even the Dodgers broadcasting booth is blowing up!
Radio broadcaster Rick Monday, whom I normally would place into the "snoozer" category of radio announcers, matched Beckett today pitch for pitch in his play-by-play. I tuned in during the fourth inning and Monday and Nomar Garciaparra called a great game on the radio.  They both had excellent insight, and let the drama unfold like we were sitting there in Philadelphia with them.  

Kudos also to the radio team for not uttering the jinx words.  Yes, I believe in the "no-hitter" jinx. 

 It seems the Philadelphia announcers also believe in it as they couldn't utter the phrase enough.  During the ninth inning it was almost comical the way they were straining to find new ways to insert the phrase "No hitter" into every sentence.

 Returning to my premise; today Josh Beckett broke on through the Phillies announcer's voodoo. In doing so he released quite a bit of pent up steam that had been building up and down the Dodgers over the past couple of weeks.  

The dam is now open.  Let the Blue Wave begin! 

Friday, May 23, 2014

When Mets Fans Become Puig Fans

By now you've all seen the extraordinary catch that Yasiel Puig made at Citi Field against the Mets...

Some are calling it "The catch of the year".  Puig's all-out effort and Fantastic Catch was even recognized by Mets fans who gave him a standing ovation.  It's one thing to make a great play and be given an ovation by the home crowd, but it's extremely rare for the opposing team's fans to stand and applaud a defensive play that killed their team's rally.  Especially in New York!

Whether or not it's the best catch of the year, Dodger broadcaster Charlie Steiner relayed a story during today's broadcast that I believe is Puig's "Play of the year" so far.

During the second of the three games against the Mets, Dee Gordon was at bat with Puig coming up next. While standing on deck Puig noticed a couple of fans watching the game in a special area - a quadriplegic in a wheelchair and his friend. 

While Gordon was batting, Puig quickly dashed into the dugout and grabbed a couple of bats and baseballs and apparently unnoticed by the television cameras, gave those baseballs and bats to the disabled man and his friend. He then returned to the business at hand, had his at bat and promptly hit a home run.

The reason we know about Puig's actions before that home run is because of a Mets fan. He sent an email to the Dodgers telling this story which otherwise might have passed forever unnoticed and unknown.

The fan went on to write, "I may be a Mets fan, but I'm now a Puig fan for life." 

Roy Campanella once said you have to be a man, but also have a lot of little boy in you to play the game of baseball, and most of us can agree Puig shows that little boy side quite often.  

Without the fanfare that accompanies many of his exploits, in one almost unseen moment, Yasiel Puig showed that he is indeed a man as well.  

Walking The Plank Is Very Cool Indeed

One of my newest friends and trading partners is Matt from Bob Walk The Plank fame. 

A couple of weeks ago I received a package from Matt, right out of the blue.  As everybody knows things out of the blue are definitely fantastic when they're Dodger Blue.  Let's take a look at that cool surprise...

This is my first Hundley swatch, and I'm digging the red and blue striped design. Hundley wasn't a great catcher per se, but one great accomplishment he did have as a Dodger was becoming the first visiting player to hit a home run out of Giant Soda Bottle Stadium and right into McCovey Cove.

Gimme more Hideo, all the time.  The Tornado is one of my all-time favorite Dodgers.  

Fleer inserts tend to be creative and busy, and this card exemplifies that standard.  There's a lot going on here with text, baseball seams, logos, a mini Nomo, lines, globes and a swatch of the home whites -  but it all works. Great card.  

Just receiving the Hundley and Nomo would have made my day, but good ol' Matt had one more awesome card up his sleeve, and it was a real beaut...

Matt mentioned in his note that he thought this card would be perfect for me when he saw it - and he was SPOT ON CORRECT! This is absolute cardboard coolness.

I will probably never get my hands on a real Koufax RC, at least not one where the image is in any way legible, and even if I do, this card will proudly hold a place right next to it in the binder.

THANKS for these great cards, Matt! I can't wait to come across some cool Pirates to send your way.  

Have a great weekend, everybody! 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

There's Two Kinda Angels - Those In Heaven & Those Who Trade Cards

Hey everybody,

How about a quick Sunday night trade post?   Fellow blogger, trade partner and good guy Tom from The Angels, In Order sent a fistful of Dodger cards over to me recently.  There was some very nice cardboard in there.  

Leading off is the skipper...

Tommy doesn't care there's no logo on his uni.  Just look at him.  He's casually whistling "Take me out to the ballgame", because he knows we all know whom he's "root-root-rootin'" for. 

I'm not a big fan of DP-with-RISP-Kemp these days, but I'm a major fan of these refractory Chasing History Goldies....

How about a shot of the Bulldog in all his glory with a  Blue Heaven Dodger Stadium background...

Insert Style!

I respectfully hold my nose for the next card...

Piazza here is making the same face I did while posting Mattingly's card.

Ryuuuuuu in an awesome blue framed commemorative.

Did somebody just say "Awesome"?  
 The Sweet Opening Day bunting and a blue 3D vibe make this card awesome-cubed and then some.  

And now a fantastic joint Ryu - Koufax card that I didn't even know I wanted till I pulled it out of the envelope! 

99.9% of cards featuring a Dodger pitcher with Koufax give us Kershaw.  This Ryu card has a great simple design and puts a welcome new spin on things...

Finally tonight, another brilliant Dodger pitcher awash in blue cardboard...

Grienke is tearing it up on the mound this season and has my vote for the Cy Young award so far. 

THANKS for the absolutely fantastic cards you sent my way, Tom.  I'll be sure to get some cool Angels cardboard out to you later this coming week. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cardboard Breakdown Of A Great Trade

So Gavin from Baseball Card Breakdown posted up some 2014 Gypsy Queen extras and I jumped forward to claim a few.   After a couple of emails we settled on a trade.  

That's par for the course, but what took this from the level of your basic trade and elevated it to "Great" level, was the fact that Gavin was generous and tossed in some cool extras.  

I first had my eye on a select few of the Dodger cards that he offered up, but when I opened the package he sent over, it was packed with just about the entire Dodger team set. Since I haven't bought a single pack of GQ yet, this was a most unexpected and excellent bonus.  Hence, greatness. 

Most of us love the cards that show our team's big boppers at the plate blasting a home run, but I also dig cards showing them play defense.  Here's El Jaguar taking care of business quietly and confidently, which is pretty much the way he approaches all aspects of his game.  That's why I apply the "Jaguar" moniker to A-Gon. 

Speaking of my favorite Dodgers, here's Hyun-Jin Ryu, insert-style...

 Bringing on yet even more pitching greatness is Kid K (these Dealing Aces inserts were what I originally asked for in the trade)...

Here come a couple of Dodger Glove Story Inserts...

How cool would it be to be clearly portrayed in the background of a baseball card?

 Below is another one of my favorite Dodgers.  Dre continues to get a bad rap as an underachiever that I don't think is deserved.  His name is always floating around in trade rumors, and I think if he is traded, he's going to be solid for his next team.  

Matt Kemp has lower RBI's, strikes out twice as much, can't throw anybody out (beyond second base) any more, places himself above the team ("I'm not a platoon player, I'm a staaaaaarterrrrrrr"), and yet he gets all the LA love.  Go figure.

Finally, these very cool inserts, the N174's.  These are based on a set from 1888...

I can't have too many Yogi cards.

THANKS for the great trade, Gavin!  Looking forward to the next one. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The State Of The Dodgers - It Aint Purty!

 Ever since their glorious win in Australia on Opening Day, the Dodgers have been stuck in the mud, spinning their wheels, and sinking deeper into the muck. 

I'm of the belief that idiotic early-start in Australia ruined Spring Training and injured pitchers for both the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks.  

However, Australia is the past. It's not early in the season anymore, and we are beyond what can be laid at the feet of Bud Selig's horrible international marketing plan which forced both teams to open the season Down Under a full week before everyone else.  

We're a month in, and patterns are establishing themselves.  However, I'll indulge those who insist it's still early.  Fine.  We still can't afford to be losing this many games.  Somebody wiser than me once said something to the effect that pennants are not won, but they can certainly be lost early in the season.

Speaking of patterns, it seems these days every game is a 3-2 or 2-1 loss in 9 innings, or it'll be extra innings with an eventual loss.  Intellectually I know the boys aren't losing EVERY game - you can check the statscentric blogs for the exact numbers - but all I know is it FEELS like every game is like that.  Perception can quickly become reality.

So what's the problem? Is it the pitching or the hitting?  Not to ignore the defense, which is producing an average of an error every game, but I believe good hitting or pitching should be able to neutralize that.  

When Clayton Kershaw went on the DL immediately after the Australia series, most observers thought the Dodgers would really suffer.  Although the Dodgers are losing too often (it's the fans who are suffering), the remaining starting pitchers - and even some emergency AAA call ups -  have been very effective and have kept us competitive in most of the games.  

We've gotten to the 6th and 7th innings very often with the opposition scoring two runs or less.  The problem is, concurrently the Dodger bats have usually scored only one run or less. The pitching staff (as a whole) cannot realistically be expected to win 80 - 90% of the games by scores of 1- 0 or 2-1.  

When a team scores three runs, it's going to win most games. While Dodger relievers cannot be excused for issuing the second-highest walks (69) in baseball, they have no business being involved in extra inning marathons we would have won had we scored three runs.

The Dodgers have scored just two runs in their last 27 innings. Somebody should tell them we can't win by a score of 0 to -1.  No, the pitchers are not to blame.  It's those cold, cold Dodger bats.

 Adrian Gonzalez was red hot a couple of weeks ago and Yasiel Puig's bat is pretty hot right now.  The Dodgers are very good at getting a lead off single or double and then not scoring the runner.  And that pretty much sums up the Dodger offensive attack in 2014. 

What are the Dodgers' chances of turning that around? 
There's almost zero offense coming from the three Dodger catchers we've tried.  Juan Uribe, with the second-highest RBI's is one bad cough away from the DL, and there is no real replacement for him on the bench or in the minors. Mattingly is forced to play lousy utility guys or broken down ex-Angels. Thanks, Ned Colletti!

What about the "good" problem of too many outfielders? 
Mattingly has taken a step forward in deciding what to do with that surplus, and in true Mattingly fashion, he's making the wrong decisions. His choice of Puig as the everyday right fielder is a no-brainer, but after that, Mattingly is simply showing no brain.  

He's made the Dodgers' Strikeout King, Matt Kemp (36 K's), the everyday center fielder. Mattingly has Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford battling for the remaining outfield spot. 

Ethier has16 RBI's  and he's fourth on the team behind Gonzalez, Puig and Uribe.  He's fourth while sitting out about one third of the season, while Gonzalez and Uribe have played just about every inning of every game. Kemp and Crawford are tied with 9 RBI's each.  Kemp has single-digit RBI's and leads the team in strike outs, but he's been gifted center field. 

Here's a thought - today's Giants pitcher is Matt Cain. Ethier is hitting .400 with 30 hits against the guy.  Would you play him?  Mattingly won't.  He's got Ethier sitting on the bench while Crawford, who has stunk at the plate all season except for last week, is out in the field.  Genius managing.  

The Giants come to town sitting in first place and they have pretty much owned the Dodgers up to this point.  This four game series could well set the tone for at least the next few weeks of the season, and perhaps all of it.

 The Dodgers just need a fire lit under them, right?   Damn Mattingly held a closed-door team meeting before the first game and did what he could.  The Dodgers went out and lost.

Last night Puig launched a massive home run against the Giants. He then had some loud and gruff words with the Giants pitcher and catcher when he came around third.  Both managers came on the field and tensions rose.

Everyone calmed down and the next batter came up. Mattingly was almost immediately ejected by the plate umpire.  Ejected from the dugout!  He went on the field and gave that minor league (yes, minor league) ump just about every curse word you would ever hear on a ballfield - or not.  Did all of those fireworks light up the Dodgers? Nope. 

Brandon League later came in for the Dodgers and got out of a bases loaded and no out jam to keep the game within one run.  Did that finally fire up the Dodgers? Nope. We lost again, 3-1.  There's that three run principle. 

Does any of this sound familiar? It should to Dodger fans.  This is pretty much the way last season started.  During the first half of the season the Dodgers absolutely stunk up the ballpark.  Sure we ended up almost in the World Series - but that was only after a historic, epic, never seen before, winning run that stunned everyone.  

At this point in the season, it looks like we're gonna need another one of those.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sunday Trade Bait And Rec Post Of The Day

Hey everybody,

Here's some trade bait to chew on...

These Topps 3D cards look awesome, and the color contrasts on this card work very well.   I have one of these with Matt Kemp, but that one's staying close to home.

Ryan's Pitch posted today about collecting Pujols, so let's see Albert in pop-up form!

How about the less celebrated half of the Killer B's on a great looking card?  The baseball seams are raised and textured.

Fergie numbered to 50

No intro necessary.

Is that the worm from Dune coming up behind Nelson?

Let's close out with an ATBATT blog post recommendation....

Because who don't like Star Wars?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Maligned Dodgers Win The Game!

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press / April 21, 2014)
A month into the season and 70% of the L.A. market still can't catch a game on TV.  Even Vin Scully can't watch the boys while sitting in his living room.  For those of you who didn't see it, ATBATT will fulfill it's public duty and fill you in on what took place in tonight's battle against the Marlins - because you need to know! 

Let's begin by saying the Dodgers have not been living up to the 2014 hype yet, to say the least.  Every game these days seems to be a grinder.  If we fans feel like we've been through a shredder after the game, I'm sure the players themselves feel like they were in a machete fight.  

Tonight was more of the same.  We were easily winning 7-3 and feeling fully pumped up after a MASSIVE 3-run bomb off the bat of Puig.  It was the kind of shots they hit for show at the All-Star Home Run Derby.  Happy head slaps and puffy chests were seen up and down the dugout.

Then Brian Wilson (about to become a new member of The Maligned), immediately coughed up the lead and had to be pulled off the mound by Mattingly before our 7-6 lead became a 22-7 hole.  The rest of the bullpen couldn't hold them back and the Marlins forced the game into a tie and extra innings.  

The last thing the Dodgers needed was yet ANOTHER extra inning marathon, but it looked and felt like we were about to thrash around for 16 innings and then lose in heartbreaking fashion.  A lesser team would have wilted into that role and acquiesced.  They had just slept-walked through an uninspired loss yesterday - would they mentally switch it off again?

But that wasn't happening tonight.  Even Mattingly (much maligned by little ol' me) fired up his team in the top of the 10th with a legitimate and loudly-barked argument with the plate umpire.  

The umpiring crew must have been sensitive over losing so many instant replay challenges that they wouldn't even check a pitched ball for a dirt scuff.  Mattingly was right about dirt being on the ball - and the umps probably knew they would lose face again - so out of pettiness they wouldn't give the Dodgers the satisfaction of an on-field inspection of a ball in play, like they're paid to do.

Mattingly lost the battle, but in the end, it was a great managerial play because he showed his team he was ready to fight and scratch for every pitch.  His play set the stage for the win.  

Juan Uribe (ex-Maligned) opened the top of the 11th with a walk, and up stepped Carl Crawford (Maligned).  Crawford manned up and crushed a huuuuuge 2-run blast, the ball bouncing forcefully off of the concrete separating the upper and lower levels. The Dodgers went back ahead 9-7.

Then Flash Gorden Jr. (ex-Maligned) came up. BASE HIT!  Tonight was the first ever five-hit game in his career.  He also stole three bases.  He's the first Dodger to do that since 1914.  
Do you know who's leading the leagues in stolen bases?  I'll save you the trouble of looking it up. It's Dee Fricken' Gordon.

Could another member of The Maligned on the squad step up and cement the win?  While our big 8th and 9th inning guys have been a real cardiac squad lately, Brandon League has been quietly settling into a good pitching groove.  League pitched a quick and easy three up, three down, bottom of the 11th and sent the Fish back into the sea.  

Tonight showed the team it's not just El Jaguar and Puig, Grienke and Ryu.  Tonight's win, our not-able-to-watch-on-TV-audience -  was brought to you by The Maligned.