Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 31: Numbers 271-279


Frankenset Page #23 WINNER -- 1960 Topps #204 Ryne Duren (12 votes)

In rare (but glorious) cases, I think about the objects associated with a certain player more than the player himself -- Wally Moon's unibrow, Ted Kluszewski's sleeveless jersey tops, or, as we saw last week, Ryne Duren's Coke-bottle shades.

Without those memorable specs, this would just be another ordinary baseball card, and nothing that would come close to sniffing my frankenset. But the shades make it a classic, and as it turns out, a frankenset champion. Duren won last week's page, collecting 12 of the 39 total votes and edging out Rick Cerone (9 votes) and Kevin Maas (8 votes) for the crown.

It's the oldest card I've had the privilege of welcoming into my Second Gallery of Frankenset Champions.




Slots 1-275 of my second frankenset are filled, but the Random Number Generator decided to pick the page with the earliest gap in my binder -- Page 31 (#s 271-279) is up for grabs this week, and apologies for that ghastly empty pocket.

I have yet to find a worthy candidate for the #276 spot, so this week's voting will (sadly) be a field of eight -- let's meet the nominees.



1992 Upper Deck Minors #271 Eduardo Perez

Multiple exposure treatment is usually reserved for big names and superstars...not mere minor leaguers!



2014 Topps #272 Carlos Villanueva

Here for the handlebar mustache. 



1973 Topps #273 Chris Speier

Play at the plate perfection. 



2017 Stadium Club #274 Ian Desmond

The more I see this card, the more I think of the Looney Tunes That's all folks! ending. 



1992 Upper Deck #275 Mike Greenwell

Shadoobie, shattered. 



1995 Topps #277 Chris Gomez

Infinite action in a single image. 



1990 Topps #278 Pascual Perez

Long live the Jerry Curl! 



2019 Stadium Club #279 Rougned Odor

Dig the angle on this double dip.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Monday, October 14, 2019

A confederacy of dunces


To me, part of the beauty of collecting baseball cards is the escape it offers, an escape almost paradoxically rooted in the reflections and images of real-life players in a real-life sport.

But as of late I've been forced to consider some of the more unpleasant questions that arise when that fourth wall breaks. Specifically: what happens when a player you once admired turns out to be a total dunce? What happens to the cards you've accumulated of that player, and how do you reconcile the lost time, spent money, and dead joy spent chasing said cards?

These questions, while uncomfortable, definitely aren't anything new. But they really came to the forefront during a Twitter exchange that recently took place between former teammates Seth McClung and Aubrey Huff, one that saw McClung label Huff as the worst teammate he ever had. Huff has come off as a bit of a bonehead in the past, and his response here didn't do him any favors. And if Huff wasn't a player I once admired I honestly wouldn't care -- he was one of my top five player collections at one point, and I currently own about 300 cards of his. To say I don't have much enthusiasm for my Aubrey Huff collection these days would be an understatement.

As the slightly updated version of a popular axiom goes: never follow your heroes on Twitter.




I could live with some of my one-time heroes becoming dunces -- it happens.

But unfortunately the question doesn't end there: the longer you stretch it out, the more serious it gets. Like, what happens when one of your favorite players, like Robinson Cano, gets busted for PEDs? Or, in the case of Marlon Byrd, what happens when one of your favorite players gets busted for PEDs...twice? It's even more painful with the latter since I gave Byrd somewhat of a pass after his first PED bust and kept collecting him, only to wind up with the egg on my face after his second suspension (which he retired before serving).

I used to be a big fan of both of these dudes (especially Byrd), but ever since I've been led to question what was real about them and what was all just a drug-made illusion.




Here's one that has sadly become somewhat of a regular occurrence: what happens when a player you like reveals himself to be a domestic abuser?

As a rule, I don't remove guys from my binders. Once they're in, they're in for good -- it's one of those collectors' OCD things for me. But I no longer accumulate their cards, and if I could go back in time and just never start collecting wife-beaters like Addison Russell and Steven Wright in the first place, I definitely would. (Wright also has a PED suspension under his belt now, which makes him a double dunce.)

Aroldis Chapman's trade to the Cubs brought up all kinds of uncomfortable questions for me when the Cubs traded for him in 2016 -- it's obvious they wouldn't have won the long-awaited World Series that year without him. As a baseball fan, I'm eternally grateful to have seen the Cubs win it all, but as a sheer feeling human being, it's hard for me to reconcile. I have no doubt that people can change for the better, and Chapman seems to have done that, but I mean the dude fired a gun in the same room as his girlfriend. That's pretty darn close to unforgivable.

And speaking of the Cubs...




...what happens when the team you love is run by a hateful, money-crazed dingbat?

It's no secret that the Ricketts family supports a lot of the horrible things going on in the country right now. And somehow they had the bright idea to give Addison Russell a job last year. No? Not bad enough? How about their grand scheme to take Cubs off public television and move them to a subscription-only channel starting next year?

What I once said with sarcasm is starting to skew more and more to reality, but...sometimes I wonder why I'm even a Cubs fan in the first place.




The sad part is that none of what I've talked about so far has even scratched the surface of baseball's long and often tainted history.

And by no means am I trying to say that I'm above any of this with my collection and general fandom. For example, I've long been a fan of Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle, and I'm still a huge collector of both to this day. I hoard as many of their cards as I can. But despite their stardom, both were also heavy alcoholics and general deadbeats for much of their lives.

My collection isn't perfect, and neither am I.




And what of people like Ty Cobb?

What of Cobb, a racist and generally incorrigible human being? What of Cap Anson, who refused to play any team that fielded a black player? What of baseball's long and embarrassing history of segregation? It's easy to ask these questions, but as a collector, it's so much more difficult to answer them with anything resembling correctness. Of course Cobb was an asshole, and Anson a dickhead. But the unfortunate fact is that I remain fascinated by them, and I thus collect them both, along with the numerous other dead-ball stars who froze major league baseball into a white man's game for nearly a century. You'll sadly find the Josh Gibsons and Oscar Charlestons and Cool Papa Bells in my binders along with the very same people who kept them from ever playing big-league ball.

It's admittedly one of the darker corners of collecting, bridging that disconnect between being (or trying to be) a compassionate human being, yet at the same time owning cards of idiots, 'roiders, wife-beaters, drinkers, racists, etc., etc. At the very least and most simplistic, it's uncomfortable. And as a white man observing what has been and still is largely a white man's game -- and devoted to what is overwhelmingly a white man's hobby -- I have no answers for any of the questions I've asked in this post, nor am I equipped to answer them in the first place.

I may love baseball, and the cards that go along with it, but there's no changing the damaging and sometimes sad history of the game reflected in the very cards I choose to collect.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 23: Numbers 199-207


Frankenset Page #64 WINNER -- 2013 Topps #568 Steve Lombardozzi (14 votes)

Last week's page was basically a two-horse race.

Steve Lombardozzi and the Gatorade Shower staved off a late run from the famous '74 Topps Ralph Garr, collecting 14 of the 37 total tallies (to Garr's 12) for the close win -- no other card received more than six votes. Vintage and '90s stuff make up the majority of my frankenset champions, so I think it's fun when a more modern nominee like Lombardozzi (one that I actually remember pulling from a pack) sneaks in there.

Welcome to the gallery.




We've only got about ten pages left to cover in the frankenset, and here's one of the remaining few -- as per the Random Number Generator, we'll be looking at Page 23 (#s 199-207) of the binder tonight.

Let's meet the hopefuls.



1982 Donruss #199 Rick Cerone

Seriously, I could stare at this card for hours. 



2013 Topps #200 Scott Downs

Hero number throwback! 



2006 Upper Deck #201 Todd Jones

Those giant circa-2006 iPods seem just as outdated as Walkmans these days. 



1994 Upper Deck #202 Chuck Carr

The lost art of the drag bunt. 



2014 Topps Update #US203 Cole Figueroa

Missed. 



1960 Topps #204 Ryne Duren

You can find Ryne Duren's Coke-bottle shades next to Wally Moon's unibrow in the Frankenset Gift Shop.  



1999 Fleer Tradition #205 David Dellucci

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...David Dellucci? 



1993 Leaf #206 Kevin Maas

An umpire, a tarpaulin, and a shirtless dude, all in one tidy baseball card. 



2012 Topps Update #US207 Greg Dobbs

Kinda gives new meaning to the whole "put the team on your back" thing.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Monday, October 7, 2019

On the sidelines


I haven't been spending much time with my cards lately.

Time has been somewhat of a reason for that: I just finished my first week at the new job. I'm obscenely happy for the full-time work but I've also been reminded of how exhausting a normal work week can be. Most of my off hours have been spent reading or sleeping instead of blogging and putting cards away. Over time I'm sure I'll adapt to the new schedule, but for now it's still a process.

But I think there's something more. Maybe it's the worrywart and/or curmudgeon in me, but I've been wondering more and more lately if the hobby is slipping away into high-end oblivion. People are raiding Walmart clearance bins for the sole hope of pulling a big rookie instead of simply enjoying the rare taste of discounted cards. My yearly tradition of buying a box of Topps Update has been nixed because hobby box preorder prices have just about doubled this year because ROOKIES.

If money talks, then I guess I don't have much of a voice.




I feel like my blog in particular has been suffering as of late.

My frankenset posts have accounted for about half of my total output over the past year. They remain my biggest blogging thrill, and I love writing about them, but at the same time I don't want this blog to be a sole vehicle for frankenset pages. I also haven't done nearly as much reading, trading, or other blogging activities as I'd have liked here lately.

I've just kinda felt on the sidelines of it all.




Part of the problem, I think, is that I constantly compare myself to the blogger I once was, posting every day of the week with a constant flow of new ideas.

That's just not feasible anymore. I don't see this blog ever going extinct (and you can take that to the bank), but I also know I'm not the high-energy, high-output blogger of the past. In times like these, it's often the readers who remind me of why I'm here -- people like Bob O., a reader and recent friend of the blog who's taken to shoveling cards on me as of late. I've lost count of how many packages I've gotten from him over the past year or so, but it has to be right around a dozen (and I do know I'm sorely behind in returning the favor).

In addition to a bunch of spectacular randoms and oddballs, I also think Bob's one of the few who checks my theme lists, because almost everything I get from him is new to me -- I certainly don't expect everyone to pore over my gigantic mini-collection lists, but it's nice when it happens.




Looks like Bob's trying to convince me to start a new mini-collection too.




The Morris is another fine bat rack shot, but HOLY HELL is that Hentgen beautiful.




The Cubs may have been hot garbage this year, but these cards sure aren't!




Whenever I get down about prospect insanity and blogging insecurity, it helps to write posts like these to remind me of all the random greatness I have yet to find in this hobby -- and the people out there who are willing to help me look for it.




Minis, then and now.




Superman Cory Snyder and a Kerry Wood insert so busy it almost made my computer explode.




More excellent mini-collection hits, and yet another instance of Bob's (not-so) subconscious quest to get me to start collecting bat rack cards.




But maybe the bat rack stuff is all in my own subconscious, because I mean this card had been sitting on my Dime Box Dozen list for a good long while now.

Just a beautiful Griffey I somehow hadn't acquired yet, and one that took a whole lot longer to track down than I thought considering it came out in the heart of the overproduction era. Thankfully Bob came along to put it to bed, although now he has me thinking if a bat rack mini-collection isn't such a bad idea after all...

In the end, just the joy of knowing that someone's trying to get me to collect bat rack cards -- and me thinking long and hard about actually doing it -- is enough to convince me that, yes, the hobby is still alive and well here on the sidelines, despite everyone and everything trying to convince me otherwise.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 64: Numbers 568-576


Frankenset Page #15 WINNER -- 2001 Ultra #132 Matt Stairs (11 votes)

Here's another example of how off I can be on predicting the outcomes of my own frankenset.

I thought the Stadium Club Jameson Taillon would run away with the win last week -- for my money, it's one of the more striking cards in this second frankenset. But in the end, Taillon barely factored in the running at all: he finished a distant third behind record-making Eric Christopherson (9 votes) and the eventual winner, Matt Stairs, who received 11 of the 37 total tallies. Definitely a fine card, full of excellent dead-ball era throwbacks, but I didn't think it'd be a match for Taillon.

And so our newest victor walks up the Stairs and into the Gallery of Frankenset Champions (sorry, pun).




We're back to the higher numbers with this week's group: as dictated by the Random Number Generator, we'll be taking a look at Page 64 (#s 568-576) of the frankenset tonight.

Let's have a look at 'em.



2013 Topps #568 Steve Lombardozzi

Perfect timing.



1981 Topps #569 Al Williams

I can't tell you exactly why this card's in my frankenset -- it's basically just a dude sitting down -- but for some reason it speaks to me.



1974 Topps #570 Ralph Garr

Ralph Garr's '75 Topps card seems to be much more famous than this one (it won its page in the inaugural frankenset), which is odd since it features the exact same photo, only a year earlier. 



1979 Topps #571 Darrell Porter

High on the list of Baseball Players Who Don't Look Like Baseball Players (might have to make that list one day, now that I think of it).



1994 Topps #572 Roberto Hernandez

The jersey isn't a throwback, but the hat is. 



2019 Topps #573 Tucker Barnhart

An awkward, sprawling play at the plate from this year's Topps.



1992 Topps #574 Steve Avery

Wrigley never looked so good. 



1996 Collector's Choice #575 Mike Macfarlane

Collector's Choice is an absolute goldmine for autograph shots. 



1991 Score #576 Edgar Diaz

The more violent the double play, the better!

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The One-That-Got-Away Team (Cubs edition)


As the hopes and dreams of my favorite team fade into oblivion, I find myself turning more to past failures -- rather than victories -- for comfort.

I guess that's one reason I was enthralled by a recent post over at the immortal "Night Owl Cards" that focused on the "ones that got away" from his Dodgers, aka guys (often rookies) who had a chance to earn their fame and fortune with a certain club, only to be spoiled bad luck and/or ineptitude of the front office.

The Cubs, of course, are no stranger to this. Until 2016, they were a team whose history was defined by bungled moves and missed opportunities (and it sadly seems to be moving back in that direction now). Given this -- and the fact that I need no excuses to create more specialized rosters out of my baseball cards -- I decided to come up with the One-That-Got-Away team for my beloved Cubs.

Let's get ready for some pain and misery.



Pitchers


Bruce Sutter -- Traded to Cardinals for Leon Durham, Ken Reitz & PTBNL, 12-9-80

The Cubs have been blessed with some of the game's all-time greats -- Banks, Jenkins, etc. -- but sadly they've also allowed their fair share of legends to slip away.

Bruce Sutter instantly came to mind when I first started mulling over this post. News of his trade may have been buried in the headlines since John Lennon had been shot the night before, but the Cubs dealt Sutter to the rival Cardinals for Leon Durham and Ken Reitz prior to the '81 season. Durham was a decent player in the early-to-mid '80s, and Reitz had one mediocre season with the Cubs -- but neither came close to approaching Sutter's success, which eventually found him with a plaque in Cooperstown.

Alas, it's a common theme on this roster.




Dennis Eckersley -- Traded (with Dan Roan) to A's for Brian Guinn, Mark Leonette & Dave Wilder, 4-3-87

This is an especially horrible one: not only did Dennis Eckersley become the most dominant reliever of his generation (and a Hall of Famer), but oh by the way none of the three guys the Cubs received for him ever played a single game in the big leagues.

While it's true that I don't think anyone could've seen the rapid turnaround Eck's career would have, you'd think they could've gotten something to make that deal a tiny bit less painful.




Dontrelle Willis -- Traded (with Ryan Jorgensen & Julian Tavarez) to Marlins for Antonio Alfonseca & Matt Clement, 3-27-02

At the time, this probably wasn't seem as a horrible trade -- Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca played vital roles in the Cubs' memorable (yet still doomed) 2003 season.

But in an ironic twist, Dontrelle Willis -- and his new Marlins club -- helped put those same '03 Cubs to bed in the NLCS that year. Willis was the NL's Rookie of the Year in 2003, and nearly won a Cy Young with the Marlins a couple years later. Clement and Alfonseca flamed out with the Cubs almost instantly after the '03 season.

This is a particularly miserable deal for me because I was (and remain) a big Dontrelle Willis fan -- I would've loved to have seen his personality (and talent) on some of those solid but kinda bland Cubs squads of the mid 2000s.



Catcher


Josh Donaldson -- Traded (with Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton & Eric Patterson) to the A's for Rich Harden & Chad Gaudin, 7-8-08

I don't wanna talk about it.



First Base


Andre Thornton -- Traded to Expos for Larry Biitner & Steve Renko, 5-17-76

Andre Thornton is one of those guys who I'm a big fan of without quite knowing why.

Not only does he have one of my favorite cards in the iconic '75 Topps set (a rookie card, no less), but he was a Cub at one point. If anything, I can take a bit of solace in the fact that the Cubs weren't the only team that let him get away: Thornton was part of both the Phillies' and Braves' systems before becoming a Cub, and the Expos -- the team Thornton slipped away to -- traded him to the Indians for popcorn not long after.

Thornton would go on to have some big years with the Indians in the late '70s and much of the '80s, seasons that probably left the Cubs brass shaking their head and wondering why.



Second Base


DJ LeMahieu -- Traded (with Tyler Colvin) to Rockies for Casey Weathers & Ian Stewart, 12-8-11

This could well go down as the worst Cubs trade of my generation -- proof that for all their successes, Theo & Co. have made some clunkers, too.

It's particularly bad because I vividly remember how much of a disaster Ian Stewart's Cubs career was -- he fought with Cubs management about playing time...while hitting .201. Aside from a brief reappearance with the 2014 Angels, he'd never play another big-league game. DJ LeMahieu, meanwhile, hasn't done much except win a batting title with the Rockies, be in the running for a second batting title with the Yankees this year, and become one of the best all-around second basemen in the league.

Though I do have this excellent Crosstown double dip in my frankenset, LeMahieu still isn't a binder guy for me -- mostly because I think it's too painful, deep down, to collect cards of a star who should've been a Cub.



Shortstop


Starlin Castro -- Traded to Yankees for Adam Warren & PTBNL, 12-8-15

The Cubs have a weakness (strength?) at shortstop on this roster -- I've put Starlin Castro here mostly because I bet he feels like he got away from the great Cubs teams of the decade.

I've always felt bad for Castro because he was one of the rare shining spots on those awful rebuilding Cubs clubs of the early part of this decade -- and then they went and traded him just when the team was getting good.



Third Base


Bill Madlock -- Traded (with Rob Sperring) to Giants for Bobby Murcer & Steve Ontiveros, 2-11-77

It's rare that a guy wins two batting titles with a team and still becomes a dude who got away, but that happened with Bill Madlock.

The Cubs themselves stole Madlock from the Rangers, but instead of going ahead and enjoying their riches, they too let Madlock go, unceremoniously shipping him to the Giants prior to the '77 season for Bobby Murcer and Steve Ontiveros. Solid players, yes, but no Madlock.

Considering his two batting titles, it's still a bit crazy to think that Bill Madlock was only a Cub for three years -- how you let a guy like that slip away is beyond me.



Outfield


Lou Brock -- Traded (with Jack Spring & Paul Toth) to Cardinals for Ernie Broglio, Doug Clemens & Bobby Shantz, 6-15-64

Here it is, the trade that all bad trades are judged by: Brock for Broglio.

A trade so bad it became part of the baseball vernacular. As in: Yeah, that wasn't a good deal, but at least it wasn't Brock-for-Broglio. The facts are all you need to hear -- Broglio won seven games in three seasons with the Cubs. Brock's a Hall of Famer.

Oy.




Joe Carter -- Traded (with Mel Hall & Don Shulze) to Indians for George Frazier, Ron Hassey & Rick Sutcliffe, 6-13-84

This wasn't a bad trade, by any stretch -- the '84 Cubs wouldn't have become the '84 Cubs without Rick Sutcliffe.

But that doesn't mean I can't still fantasize about the career Joe Carter may have had here, right?




Luis Gonzalez -- Left as free agent, 12-7-96

In time, the third outfield spot on this roster could very well be occupied by other guys: Jorge Soler, the AL's current home run leader, comes to mind -- as does Eloy Jimenez (traded for Jose Quintana, who, despite my biased fandom, has admittedly been little more than a passable innings-eater for the Cubs).

For now, however, I give the final roster spot to one Luis Gonzalez, whose unspectacular Cubs career is pretty much summed up on this baseball card. But I guess it could be worse: the Astros let him slip away twice in the '90s, and the Tigers traded him to the Diamondbacks for Karim Garcia(!). Gonzo, of course, would put up video game numbers for a few years there in the desert and lead Arizona to its first and only World Series title in 2001.

All right, I think that's enough misery for one night -- and I haven't even mentioned the Burt Hootons and Chris Archers of Cubs lore yet! Much thanks again to Greg for the idea and inspiration, and the headache I'm currently sporting.

But emotionally, I actually feel a little better now, remembering the Cubs, like all teams, have been a train wreck before and probably will be again.