Friday, May 29, 2020

Bob Horner TTM Success

Sent: 5/20/2020 | Received: 5/29/2020 | 9 days
1/1: 1981 Fleer Star Sticker
Address: Home (Irving, TX) through
Before Horner ever played for the Atlanta Braves, he was an NCAA star. Manning second base for the ASU Sun Devils, Horner hammered a then-NCAA record 58 career home runs. He was selected College World Series MVP (1977) and won the Golden Spikes Award in 1978.

With that track record, it was no surprise that Atlanta took Horner with the first overall pick in the ’78 amateur draft. He is one of the handful of players to go directly from college to the majors without spending any time in the minor leagues.

Was he ready? In his first game, he homered off Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven. He’d play 89 games and slash .266/.313/.539, belt 23 homers, and drive in 63 en route to the Rookie of the Year Award.

Leg and shoulder injuries wiped out 79 games over his next two years. Nonetheless he was productive. In 1979 he batted .314 with 33 home runs and 98 RBI. A year later, he hit .268 with 35 home runs, and 89 RBI. In the strike-shortened 1981 season (79 games played), he hit .277, 15 HR, and 42 RBI.

His lone All-Star season came in 1982 when he tallied 32 home runs and 97 RBI, while slashing .261/.350/.501.

Through his age-25 season (’83), Horner had already amassed 158 homers, swatting them a prodigious pace: on every 17 at bats.

His 1983 and 1984 seasons, however, were shortened with separate fractures to each wrist. He returned to form in 1985 with 27 homers and 89 RBI in 130 games and in July of that year, he became the 11th MLB player to hit four home runs in a single game.

Horner became a free agent in 1987, turned down several low-ball offers from the Braves, and received no interest from other teams. It was later found that MLB owners were colliding to keep salaries down. Horner opted to sign a one-year contract with Japan’s Yakult Swallows instead.

Postscript: In 2004, via player lawsuit over collusion, Horner would receive the biggest award: $7,034,112, including interest.

Horner returned to the Majors in 1988 with the Cardinals but was limited to only 60 games by should injury. He’d retire before what would have been his age-31 1989 season.

1981 Fleer Star Sticker Set Progress: 46 of 125 (36.8%)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Fred Lynn TTM Success

Sent: 5/2/2020 | Received: 5/28/2020 | 26 days
1/1: 1981 Fleer Star Sticker
Address: Home (Carlsbad, CA) from SportsCollectors.Net
Not going to lie: super pumped to get this one back. For those of you card collectors that aren’t in on the whole TTM scene, Fred Lynn is notorious for sending a signed blue index card in lieu of the requested card. Look, beggars can’t be choosers. A success is a success, but getting the on-card return is a pretty big deal here. Mr. Lynn made my day.

Lynn burst onto the scene with the Red Sox in 1975, and was the first player ever to win both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards in the same year.

That year, the 23-year-old Lynn slashed .331/.401/.967. He led the league in slugging, OPS, runs (103), and doubles (47). He hit 21 home runs and drove in 105. He finished second to Rod Carew in batting average and earned his first of four Gold Glove Awards.

He was the 1979 batting champion with a .333 mark. In fact, he led the league OBP (.424) and Slugging (.637).

In seven seasons with the Red Sox, Lynn batted .308 with 124 home runs and 521 RBI.

However, Lynn's career was hampered by injuries attributed to his fearless play. He broke a rib crashing into the outfield wall (1980). He injured his knee breaking up a double play (1981). He suffered sprained ankles, a broken toe, and battled chronic back pain throughout his career. He never played more than 150 games in a season, and only topped 140 games four times.

Lynn went on to play for the Angels (1981-1984), Orioles (1985-1988), Tigers (1988-89), and Padres (1990).

Over 15 career postseason games, he batted 22-for-54 (.407) with two home runs and 13 RBIs.

Lynn was a nine-time All-Star, batting an overall 6-for-20 (.300) in All-Star Games with four home runs and ten RBIs, including the first grand slam in All-Star Game history (1983). All told, he hit four Mid-summer Classic HRs, second only to Stan Musial with six. 


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Harold Baines TTM Success

Sent: 5/19/2020 | Received: 5/26/2020 | 7 days
1/1: 1982 Donruss
Address: Home (St. Michaels, MD) from SportsCollectors.Net
I don’t want to debate whether or not Baines is worthy of his induction to the Hall of Fame. Baines – who never got more than 6.1 percent of the BBWAA vote in his time on the ballot – is in.

He didn’t reach any of the big milestones like 3,000 hits or 500 homers. His career WAR was 38.7 and had an .820 OPS. However, Baines was a premier player in the 80s with the White Sox. He earned MVP votes each year from 1982 through 1985.

After Chicago traded him midway through the 1989 season, they retired his number (#3), making him only the third player in baseball history to have his number retired while still playing in the big leagues.

He bounced around the A.L. during the 1990s – Rangers, A’s, Orioles, White Sox (again), Orioles (again) and the Indians. In his age 41 and 42 seasons, he’d return to both Baltimore (2000) and Chicago (2000-01) for third tours.

A quick aside on card selection: When sending to players for TTM, I typically opt for a card that best represents how I remember the player. I don’t default to Rookies and, other than the 1981 Fleer Star Sticker set, I don’t prioritize specific sets/designs. In Baines’ case it was a toss up between this and his 1986 Fleer card. Neither depict his trademark high leg kick, so I opted for the ’82 – the year he broke out as a 23-year-old.

Baines was a remarkably consistent hitter and his 162-game average .289 average and 22 home runs looks right at home inserted anywhere in his 22-year career.

He finished a six-time All Star and won a Silver Slugger (1989). He amassed 384 homers, 2,866 hits and 1,628 RBI. He’d win a World Series ring while serving as bench coach for the White Sox in 2005.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Breaking a 2018 Stadium Club Blaster

In my fruitless search for 2020 Bowman, I’m up to five trips covering six unique stores (four Targets, two Wal-Marts), and still nothing. The closest I’ve come was a glimpse one empty Gravity Box. Otherwise, no sign.

So I settled for this blaster of 2018 Stadium Club. I figured I earned something for all the trouble.
Eight packs. Five cards per pack. Stunning photography. You know the deal.

Let’s get to rippin’…
Pack One: Robinson Cano, John Smoltz, Chris Sale, Jackie Bradley Jr. (Red), Jackie Robinson

That was quite the theme pack there to start. Jackie Robinson, Cano and Bradley Jr.
Pack Two: J.P. Crawford (R), Chris Taylor, Rafael Devers (R) (Never Compromise insert), Jake Derom, Jake Lamb

Pack Three: Erick Fedde (R), Cam Gallagher (R), Corey Kluber, Manny Machado (Power Zone insert), Justin Bour
Pack Four: Hank Aaron, Clint Frazier (R), Jose Altuve, Tzu-Wei Lin, Joey Votto

If I never pull another Lin card in my life, that’d be fine.
Pack Five: Alex Wood, Didi Gregorious, Dillon Peters (R), Andrew McCutchen (Chrome), Justin Verlander
Pack Six: Mariano Rivera, Amed Rosario (R), Dominc Smith (R), Max Scherzer (Special Forces insert), Keon Broxton

Pack Seven: Victor Caratini (R), Dwight Gooden, Freddie Freeman, Keury Mella (R), Lucas Sims (R)
Pack Eight: Barry Larkin, Christian Villanueva (R), Luis Severino, Trey Mancini (sepia), Adam Jones

I don’t know if that qualifies as “last pack mojo,” but I’ll take it.

And the search for 2020 Bowman continues…

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Not Cards: My Boys’ Baseball Bedroom

From time to time I might want to write about something other than baseball cards. This is the first such time.

The combination of Bowman hysteria and looser quarantine rules (at least here in Connecticut anyways) has made it impossible to find any Bowman myself. Three separate trips (three different Targets and two Wal-Marts) have netted me nada. So with that, and an unexpected response to something I posted on Twitter, I thought I’d share what I put together for my boys.
Someone posted a Man Cave custom standings board. I replied with the pic above. Now I’m not a big Twitter guy, and I’m not used to there being any response when I do post. I always thought Twitter should deploy a crickets sound effect when I post. But I figured it might make a blog post. So…

Here’s what I did for my boys:
You can see the standings board in the far corner accompanied by a Fenway scoreboard that I previously made for my eldest’s backyard baseball birthday party the previous summer. Originally it said, “Happy Birthday,” but I updated it to “Play Ball.”

There are baseball diamond rugs online that look super nice and cost a fortune. I bought a bit of turf from Home Depot and painted the dirt, bases, and lines. It’s a little stiff, but the boys don’t complain. And I put a pretty good mattress pad beneath it.
I wanted it to be a baseball room, not a team-specific one. I am a Yankees fan. My wife is a Red Sox fan. Right now, the elder lad aligns with me, while the younger with mom. But if one of them wants to root for another team, they can.
Those over-sized Topps cards set me back more than I would have liked, but they make an impact. I made the #42 thing on the shelf with a few dollars’ worth of materials from Michael’s.
Since this is a baseball card blog, I want to say that no cards were harmed in the making of this desk. That’s not exactly true. I did cut down some duplicate 1982 Topps Kmart cards.

I’ll wrap it up with a few more detail pics.
Hopefully I can locate some Bowman packs and I can get back to cards soon.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Andrew Abbott TTM Success

Sent: 5/17/2020 | Received: 5/22/2020 | 5 days
1/1: 2020 Panini Stars & Stripes
Address: Home (Nathalie, VA) from SportsCollectors.Net
Another 2020 Stars & Stripes return, and this one sets a new standard for fastest return. I’ve had a few come back in six days, this is my first to come back in five.

Andrew Abbott was not only speedy; he included a nice note back addressing my boys. Class act.

Abbott is a left-handed reliever out of UVA. For the abbreviated 2020 season, the junior Cavalier had a 1.35 ERA (fifth lowest among ACC relievers with 10+ IP) while appearing in nine games. He struck out 28 (tops for any ACC reliever) in 13.1 innings pitched. ranked him No. 7 in their Top 50 list of relief pitchers across the NCAA.

In 2019, he led Team USA in appearances and went 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA.

I’ve seen mock drafts in which he’s taken as high as the 2nd round. He was previously drafted by the New York Yankees in the 36th round (2017) out of high school.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Binder Page: Yankees 2013 Opening Day Nine (WOOF!)

Tried Walmart this morning for some 2020 Bowman; struck out again. All they had was Series One, Heritage (which I opened yesterday), and one of my least favorite releases: Gallery. I left empty handed.

Also, no incoming TTMs. Bummer.

So I figured I’d come back with my second “Opening Day Nine” page post. Back in December I had thought this might be a regular thing. This time, let’s look at 2013 and the shockingly abysmal lineup that took the field on Opening Day. The Yankees finished tied for third place in the AL East (85-77), their worst season since 1992, and failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

How this team won 85 games, is beyond me.

No Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeria, or Granderson.

The season opened with an 8-2 loss to the Red Sox. Jon Lester outpitched CC Sabathia. New York managed six hits and Francisco Cervelli plated the two runs with a fourth-inning single.

The Starting Lineup: 

1. Brett Gardner, CF

The Card:
2013 Topps Opening Day #69

Gardner’s Season: After limited to just 16 games in 2012 by an elbow injury, Gardner returned to full-time action for his age-29 season. Curtis Granderson broke his right arm in spring training, forcing Gardner to shift back to center field. Gardner slashed .273/.344/.416. He score 81 runs and led the A.L. in triples (10). He'd also ad 33 doubles and steal 24 bases.

2. Eduardo Nunez, SS

The Card: 2013 Topps Heritage #422

Nunez’s Season: With Derek Jeter opening the season on the D.L. – he broke his right ankle during Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS and aggravated the injury during offseason rehabilitation – the 26-year-old Nunez got the start. In limited action over the previous three seasons, Eduardo had shown some promise with the bat – if you’re willing to overlook his free swinging tendencies, and live with his questionable defensive work. Unfortunately, Nunez himself bounced on and off the disabled list, and was limited to 90 games. He hit .260 with an OBP of .307.

3. Robinson Cano, 2B 

The Card: 2013 Topps Archives #60

Cano’s Season: With most of the Yankees’ bats sidelined, the 31-year-old Cano was asked to carry the load. He turned in another typically productive Cano season: .314/.383/.899 slash, 27 home runs, 41 doubles, and 107 RBI while playing 160 games. He earned his fifth All-Star nod and fifth Silver Slugger. It would turn out to be Cano’s last season in pinstripes as he inked his 10-year, $240 million deal with Seattle the following offseason.

4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B 

The Card: 2013 Topps Update Series (Wal-Mart Blue) #US10

Youkilis’ Season: I don’t know anyone who thought the one-year, $12 million contract given to the former Red Sox heel was a good idea. Youkilis was 34 (though played much older) and was coming off a .235/.336/.409 season. Nonetheless, he was the Opening Day cleanup hitter because Mark Teixeira strained a wrist tendon while playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Youkilis played just 28 games for the Yankees before back injuries ended his MLB career. He hit .219 and the “Greek God of Walks” reached base at a .305 clip.

5. Vernon Wells, LF 

The Card: 2013 Topps Update Series #US325

Wells’ Season: Three years removed from his last productive season in Toronto where he was a three-time All-Star, the Yankees traded for Wells and his untradeable contract in March after Granderson went down. New York assumed $13.9 million of the remaining $42 million remaining on his deal. Briefly, it seemed the Yankees desperate gambit had worked: Wells mashed his way to a .301/.357/.538 batting line with 10 homers through his first 38 games, but he'd turn back to a pumpkin in mid-May and finish with a batting line of .233/.282/.349 in 458 plate appearances. 2013 would be Wells’ last in the Bigs.

6. Ben Francisco, DH 

The Card: 2012 Topps Update Series (Target Red) #US277
^This one breaks two of my “rules” for these “Starting Nine” pages. It wasn’t issued during the year I’m representing, nor is he pictured as a Yankee. I’ve considered making a custom, but haven’t really gotten into custom card making. So for now, this stays.

Francisco’s Season: Francisco too was brought in – on a minor-league deal – after Granderson went down in the Spring. In six years across five teams, he earned the reputation as a platoon bat, and the Yankees used him at DH against left-handed pitchers. He and Travis Hafner would share the position. Francisco hit .144/.220/.182 in 21 games before being released in late May. Hafner hit .202/.301/.378 in 82 games. Neither would play in the majors again.

7. Ichiro Suzuki, RF 

The Card: 2013 Panini Select #15

Ichiro’s Season: Acquired mid-2012 via trade, the Yankees re-upped Ichiro for two years and relied on him to replace Nick Swisher, who departed via free agency. Ichiro hit .262/.297/.342 over 150 games. In August, Ichiro collected his 4,000th professional career hit (Japan and US combined).

8. Jayson Nix, 3B 

The Card: 2013 Topps Update Series (Gold – 1533/2013) #US262

Nix’s Season: The A-Rod circus opened the door for Nix. Rodriguez had offseason hip surgery and then became embroiled in the Biogenesis scandal. He’d eventually return August 5th, the same day MLB announced he’d be suspended through the 2014 season for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. He’d appeal and end up playing 44 games in ’13. In the interim, Nix led a cast of misfits (Youkilis, David Adams, Reid Brignac, Chris Nelson, Brent Lillibridge, Corban Joseph, Luis Cruz, Brendan Ryan, Alberto Gonzalez) occupying the depleted left side of the Yankees infield, and incredibly his .236/.308/.311 was probably the best of the bunch. He appeared in 87 games.

9. Francisco Cervelli, C 

The Card: 2013 Topps (Emerald Foil) #552

Cervelli’s Season: With Russell Martin departing via free agency, Cervelli figured to become Yanks’ primary backstop in 2013. However, he fractured his right hand after getting hit by a foul tip during an April 26th game and was lost to the D.L. Later, Cervelli too was suspended (50 games) for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. He’d play in just 17 games.

The Season 

Did I already say “Woof?”

At 85-77, the Yankees finished 12 games behind the eventual World Series winning Red Sox. It was a forgettable/regrettable season, but damned if I don't look at this binder page every time I go into it.

Legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and fan favorite Andy Pettitte each retired following the season.

A lot went wrong for New York in 2013. I focused on the offense and injuries above. The pitching staff also had its issues. CC Sabathia’s ERA ballooned from 3.38 to 4.78, and while he’d have a late career resurgence, he’d never again be an ace or an All-Star. Any lingering hope for former prospects Phil Hughes (4-14, 5.19 ERA) and Joba Chamberlain (4.93 ERA, 1.738 WHIP) were dashed, each punching their ticket out of New York that offseason.