Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 25: Numbers 217-225


Frankenset Page #58 WINNER -- 1996 Collector's Choice #522 John Smiley (14 votes)

Not much drama last week: John Smiley took the lead early and carried it to the house for an easy win.

Smiley collected 14 of the 35 total votes -- his only serious competitor was the '74 Derrel Thomas (9 votes). Cards like this one are an indicator of why I love Collector's Choice and, over two decades later, still miss it so much: it's a high-end shot (literally and figuratively) from a low-end set, the kind of card made for people who collect for fun more than anything else.

For that, I'm proud to induct Mr. Smiley into the Gallery of Frankenset Champions.




The Random Number Generator spit out #25, so we'll be looking at that fine page (#s 217-225) of the frankenset this week.

Let's meet the hopefuls.



1972 Topps #217 Roger Metzger

Off-center poses are the best poses.



1995 Pinnacle #218 Ricky Bones

A play at the plate(!) featuring pitcher Ricky Bones(!!!).



1983 Topps #219 Mike Armstrong

Fun fact: Mike Armstrong also played Milton Waddams in the movie Office Space.



2018 Topps Update #US220 Robinson Chirinos

Safe or out?



2014 Topps #221 Brian Dozier

Gatorade dump!



2018 Stadium Club #222 Domingo Santana

A rare sighting of the Brewers' alternate "Cerveceros" jerseys.



2014 Topps #223 Joaquin Benoit

Throwing it back to the Negro League's Detroit Stars franchise.



1993 Upper Deck #224 Jay Buhner

I've always gotten the feeling this was supposed to be a Ken Griffey Jr. card.



1995 Pinnacle #225 Mark Langston

One of the many reasons I feel '95 Pinnacle is horribly underrated.

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

Happy voting!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

When you wish upon a jersey card


There was a time, many years ago, when jersey cards were the prime focus of my collection.

I'd go to card shows and raid the $1-2 jersey card bins and virtually ignore all the dime/quarter boxes. Vintage? Forget it. Given my priorities these days, my onetime passion for memorabilia seems like many lifetimes in the past. But still I have to stop myself from scoffing when I see kids at shows nowadays with their boxes of jerseys and autos because I have to remember that I once carried around boxes of jerseys and autos at card shows. Pieces of baseball jerseys are easy to fall in love with when you're thirteen.

It's not so much that I avoid jersey cards these days, it's more that I just have no real interest in chasing them -- but I'll certainly take one if it falls into my lap, like this Willson Contreras relic that Mr. Shlabotnik of "The Shlabotnik Report" fame was good enough to pass on to me recently.




I wouldn't necessarily say I regret my jersey-card years, nor do I view the cards themselves as especially good or bad anymore -- I just treat them like I would any other insert.

Problem is, a lot of your standard inserts, like this batch from Mr. Shlabotnik (including the final Big League box-topper I needed with the Soto!) just look a whole lot better than most jersey cards.




That's not to say they all do, though.




Part of the reason I lost interest in jerseys is that I realized I couldn't afford them -- or, perhaps more specifically, that my modest budget could be much, much better spent elsewhere.

Even an overpriced copy (as most Cubs inserts tend to be in my area) of that brilliant "El Mago" would cost me less than even the cheapest jersey card -- and that Hendricks was one of the few 2019 Heritage singles I didn't manage to pull out of dime boxes earlier this year.




I'm starting to get oddly giddy when people like Mr. Shlabotnik send me 2019 Big League stuff because a) I absolutely love everything about this set, and b) no one at my local shows seems to have them.




I feel like dumping the pursuit of jersey cards has opened up so many new doors in the years since.

I used to hesitate starting new player collections because I'd want jerseys/autos for them, most of which I didn't have the money for. This was especially true for bigger names of the past like Tim Raines, a legend I basically ignored for decades until I recently decided to start chasing his cards.

He's since quickly shot up into my top-tier of player collections -- and thankfully, Mr. Shlabotnik helped erase a Dime Box Dozen need with this '83 Donruss Raines, a common I missed while I was too busy chasing pieces of fabric.




The cards in this post covered a few different envelopes I've received from Mr. Shlabotnik, who has proven elite at taking down recent insert needs (and even a treasured Heritage SP with the Baez!).




One of the problems with jersey cards is that there are no oddball jersey cards.

There are, however, oddball cards issued by Church's Chicken, and oddball cards of a dude golfing with a baseball (though Paul Noce has at least one other memorable minor league card I have yet to track down).




More Cubs stuff, including a card of a jersey card(?).




Mr. Shlabotnik ended things by sending me another card my younger self would've salivated over with this Ian Happ autograph.

I still happily added it to my binders -- despite his recent struggles, Happ's still a Cub I collect -- but my days of staring starry-eyed at scribbles or chunks of fabric are long gone. I collect cards for the pleasure I get out of collecting cards, and simply too many other parts of this hobby give me more pleasure than jerseys and autographs. It's one of the biggest realizations I've made in my card life.

But I can already hear eighth-grade Nick trying to argue with me.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 58: Numbers 514-522


Frankenset Page #19 WINNER -- 2004 Upper Deck #166 Kerry Robinson (15 votes)

I try to remain unbiased as I watch the votes accumulate with each passing week, but sometimes I can't help rooting for a specific card to win.

That happened with last week's page -- and as the days rolled on, I was happy to know that I wasn't alone in my appreciation for this Kerry Robinson card, an obscure classic from 2004 Upper Deck that I so badly wanted to add to the Gallery of Frankenset Champions (also exciting because the 2000s are probably the least represented decade in my frankenset). It wasn't even much of a contest: Robinson won going away, taking 15 of the 40 total tallies for the easy and satisfying victory.

The vote total was among the biggest we've seen since I started this second frankenset (thanks to all of you!) and, in my obvious opinion, I think y'all picked the right card to win.




We shift from the low- to the high-numbers with this week's page -- the Random Number Generator spit out #58 this time around, so we'll be looking at the page of the frankenset (#s 514-522) here tonight.

I'll try to keep any bias I might have under wraps, but in the meantime let's meet the nominees.



1993 Upper Deck #514 Chito Martinez

Your weekly dosage of '93 Upper Deck greatness. 



1993 Ultra #515 Luis Rivera

Double dip! 



1993 Score #516 Bip Roberts

Way to go, Bip! 



1996 Collector's Choice #517 Kevin Jarvis

A surprisingly formidable cloud of dust surrounding (pitcher!) Kevin Jarvis. 



1974 Topps #518 Derrel Thomas

Most zoomed-out card ever? 



2010 Topps #519 Alexi Casilla

With form like this, is it any wonder bunting has become a lost art? 



2013 Topps #520 Peter Bourjos

A picturesque play at the plate. 



2009 Topps #521 Dava Eveland

A reminder of the weirdness Topps was once capable of. 



1996 Collector's Choice #522 John Smiley

Eye in the sky.

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

Happy voting!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 19: Numbers 163-171


Frankenset Page #14 WINNER -- 1998 Topps #119 Orlando Merced (9 votes)

I feel a little bad for last week's page -- it had to suffer through National Week, which meant that total votes took a nosedive.

Though voting was down by about a third, I don't know that the outcome would've changed either way -- Orlando Merced won pretty handily, taking nine of the slim 24 total tallies (no other card received more than four votes). Honestly, I didn't peg Merced as a force to be reckoned with on last week's page -- Hal Morris was probably my pick to win -- so my readers pleasantly surprised me there.

Welcome to the Gallery of Frankenset Champions, Orlando!




Now that National Week has come and gone, let's hope that voting totals return to something resembling normal with our latest page here -- as chosen by the Random Number Generator, Page 19 (#s 163-171) is up for grabs this week.

Let's meet the nominees, shall we?



1995 Topps #163 Alex Fernandez

Out! 



1984 Fleer #164 Lloyd Moseby

Blue borders, blue jerseys, blue headband. 



1998 Upper Deck #165 Todd Hundley

Todd Hundley tagging out pitcher(!) Geremi Gonzalez on this play at the plate. 



2004 Upper Deck #166 Kerry Robinson

One of those cards I like more and more every time I look at it. 



1997 Collector's Choice #167 Rey Ordonez

Leaping Ordonez! 



2018 Stadium Club #168 Chris Archer

Peekaboo. 



1983 Fleer #169 Ron Reed

Rolaids™ Reliever Ron Reed. 



1996 Upper Deck #170 Gregg Jefferies

Double derp. 



1993 Upper Deck #171 Doug Jones

Doug Jones looks vaguely like a '70s porn star, so there's probably an inappropriate joke in here somewhere.

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

Happy voting!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Into the Sunset: The NL East Team


Looking at the nuts and bolts of it, I think I care less about the NL East than any other division in baseball.

I'm almost perfectly neutral about the Braves, Phillies, and Marlins -- though the Braves have started to win me over in recent years with their likable young stars. I was once a big Nationals fan, but I'm little more than moderately interested in them now because of how many times they screwed me over when I pegged them to win the World Series in the past. If I had to pick a favorite team in the division, it's gotta be the Mets. A lot of dudes I like from the past (Seaver, etc.) and present (Syndergaard, etc.) have played for them, and they've got the underdog thing going for them since they're in the shadow of the crosstown Yankees.

As expected, however, my overall apathy towards the franchises in the division has no effect on the quality of their Sunset Team, because this roster fields a scary lineup of guys who finished their careers in the NL East.



Pitchers

1988 Classic Update Red #200 Phil Niekro

Phil Niekro (Years active: 1964-1987) -- 1987 Indians/Blue Jays/Braves, 25 games, 7-13, 6.10 ERA (sunset season)

Maybe there's something special about the NL East I'm missing, because, as I found writing this post, a lot of guys' careers were like revolving doors that began and ended in the division.

Phil Niekro spent the majority of his Hall of Fame as a Brave (debuting in 1964 when the team was still in Milwaukee) before joining the Yankees and Indians in the late stages of his baseball life. He'd go on to accomplish the rare feat of playing for three teams in his sunset season -- after fizzling out with the Indians and Blue Jays in 1987, the Braves brought "Knucksie" back for one last homecoming start with them on September 27 of that year. 

Niekro gave up five runs in three innings for a no-decision against the Giants, an otherwise pedestrian line until you account for the fact that it was the last game the great knuckleballer would ever pitch in the big leagues, of course.



2009 Upper Deck #20 Tom Glavine

Tom Glavine (1987-2008) -- 2008 Braves, 13 games, 2-4, 5.54 ERA

Tom Glavine, another Hall of Famer, spent his entire career in the NL East.

Like Niekro, he started with and spent the vast majority of his time in the big leagues with the Braves, leaving only for a somewhat forgotten five-year stint with the Mets between 2003-07. Also like Niekro, Glavine returned to the Braves for one last go-around in his final season.

Though just a shell of his former self -- he collected the final two of his 305 career wins with a high 5.54 ERA -- it was still a fine end to one of the better pitching careers I've witnessed in my baseball lifetime.



2014 Topps Heritage #208 Roy Halladay

Roy Halladay (1998-2013) -- 2013 Phillies, 13 games, 4-5, 6.82 ERA

The late Roy Halladay is the rare example of a guy who I remember more with a team he didn't play all that long for.

Just four of Halladay's 16 big-league seasons were spent in Philadelphia (he was a Blue Jay for the other 12), but he's embedded in my brain as a Phillie for some reason. I think it's because he had more "moments" as a Phillie (his postseason no-hitter, his perfect game, etc.). It's certainly not because of his farewell season, which saw "Doc" limp into the sunset with a 6.82 ERA in 13 games with the 2013 Phils.

Either way, when I think of Roy Halladay, I think of him in red pinstripes.



Catcher

2011 Topps #360 Ivan Rodriguez

Ivan Rodriguez (1991-2011) -- 2011 Nationals, 44 games, .218 AVG, 2 HR, 19 RBI

For better or worse, Ivan Rodriguez's sunset image came at a time when Topps was trying to feature a young prospect named Stephen Strasburg on every single card they produced. 

Though Stras-mania got tiring pretty quickly, this card...actually isn't bad. I've always liked the "passing of the torch" feeling of it, with the grizzled veteran encouraging the hotshot prospect. As far as numbers go, Rodriguez's ride into the sunset wasn't much to write home about: he hit just .218 with two homers in 44 games for the 2011 Nationals, and retired shortly after the season.

Pudge is still one of the greatest catchers ever, and he has a plaque in Cooperstown, but he'll forever be sharing the spotlight on what turned out to be his sunset card.



First Base

2007 Topps #531 Julio Franco

Julio Franco (1982-2007) -- 2007 Mets/Braves, 55 games, .222 AVG, 1 HR, 16 RBI

Julio Franco is the first non-HOFer on this roster, but he still might be the single most interesting dude here because his sunset season came when he was 49 years old.

Franco was a terrific player for a long time -- a three-time All-Star with a career .298/.365/.417 line -- but he's remembered by most fans for playing well into his fatherly (almost grandfatherly) years. After 23 big-league seasons (as well as a few others in Japan, Korea, and Mexico), Franco played for both the Mets and Braves in 2007, his age-49 season. He actually finished as a Brave, but as far as I know no cards have been produced of that tenure, so this 2007 Topps single of him as a Met goes down as his sunset issue. 

Considering the dude was 49 at the time, hitting .222 with one home run and 16 RBI seems worthy of an MVP vote to me.



Second Base

1993 Select #195 Willie Randolph

Willie Randolph (1975-1992) -- 1992 Mets, 90 games, .252 AVG, 2 HR, 15 RBI

Though the majority of his career was spent with the rival Yankees, Willie Randolph finished his career as a Met in 1992.

There's not much to note about Randolph's sunset season except for the fact that it seems a lot more noteworthy in hindsight since he'd go on to manage the Mets about a decade later. 



Shortstop

2018 Topps #345 Jose Reyes

Jose Reyes (2003-2018) -- 2018 Mets, 110 games, .189 AVG, 4 HR, 16 RBI

I was once a big fan of Jose Reyes, but it's funny what a domestic violence suspension can do to your opinion of a guy.

Still, Reyes is the most qualified shortstop for the shortstop spot on this squad since he was, at one time, one of the most young exciting players in the game. But at some point around 2015 his career fell off a cliff: he was a negative-WAR player in his final years, and he hit a paltry .189 in 110 games during a second stint with the Mets in 2018.

Not surprisingly, that was the last we'd ever see of Jose Reyes.



Third Base

1990 Donruss #643 Mike Schmidt

Mike Schmidt (1972-1989) -- 1989 Phillies, 42 games, .203 AVG, 6 HR, 28 RBI

Really the only nice thing I can say about 1990 Donruss is that it gave Mike Schmidt a true sunset card.

Schmidt retired in the middle of the '89 season, which led most companies to omit him from their 1990 checklists. I credit Donruss for producing this one, however -- if you can ignore the design, it's actually a darn fine finale. While his sunset season was a dud, Mike Schmidt is still the greatest third baseman ever for my money.

The NL East is packed with prospective stars for the hot corner -- David Wright and Chipper Jones come to mind -- but Schmidt's spot was never in much doubt.



Outfield

1991 Line Drive Ruth #19 Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth (1914-1935) -- 1935 Braves, 28 games, .181 AVG, 6 HR, 12 RBI

I'm trying not to showcase too many Short Term Stops on these rosters since I've already devoted a whole theme to them in the past, but some are simply too legendary to ignore.

Case in point: Babe Ruth...as a Brave?! Seeing the once-great Bambino in a Boston Braves uniform will always seem like something out of a surrealistic painting to me, but fact is it happened. (In)famously, the 40-year-old Ruth managed just a .181 average in 28 games during his swan song with the '35 Braves, hitting the final six of his 714 career homers in the process.

Short Term Stop or not, this roster just wouldn't be complete without The Babe.



1973 Topps #305 Willie Mays

Willie Mays (1951-1973) -- 1973 Mets, 66 games, .211 AVG, 6 HR, 25 RBI

Though Willie Mays as a Met isn't technically a Short Term Stop -- he spent two seasons with them -- the sight of him in the uniform is as unfamiliar as they come, and well worthy of a spot on this Sunset Team as well.

Like Ruth, Willie Mays was an all-time great who played a bit longer than he probably should have. His final-season numbers are almost physically painful to look at considering the stats he put up during his legendary years with the Giants -- nevertheless, they'll always show up on the back of the baseball card.

Mays has kind of a curious sunset gallery as well: he appears on a '74 Topps World Series highlight card, but isn't in the regular set -- all things considered, I consider this '73 Topps single to be his true finale.



1997 Fleer #329 Andre Dawson

Andre Dawson (1976-1996) -- 1996 Marlins, 42 games, .276 AVG, 2 HR, 14 RBI

The Marlins haven't been much of a factor in the sunset department over the years, but they have at least one big name to their credit with Andre Dawson here.

Dawson is like Willie Mays, in that his stint with the Marlins (two seasons) isn't a Short Term Stop, yet remains incredibly odd to see. His .276 sunset-season batting average actually leads this team, which should say something about sunset seasons. The other numbers, however, are fairly dull: the final two of Dawson's 438 career homers came during his '96 swan song, but his time with the Marlins will never be mistaken for a focal point on his Hall of Fame plaque.

And so that just about does it for this Sunset Team -- thanks for tuning in!