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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 15: Numbers 127-135

Frankenset Page #69 WINNER -- 1988 Fleer #616 Sammy Stewart (14 votes)

I get the sense that baseball players themselves view posing for pictures as a dull, bothersome process.

I guess that's why it makes me so happy when, apropos of nothing, silly faces make their way onto baseball cards. It makes even more happy when said cards win a frankenset page, as Sammy Stewart did last week without much of a fight, taking 14 of the 33 total votes for the easy victory.

My frankenset binder is mostly a collection of cool action and quirky images, but every once in a while, I hope, it's simply able to make you laugh.

Back to a full (and lower-numbered!) group this week: the Random Number Generator decided on #15, so we'll be taking a look at that page of the frankenset (#s 127-135) here tonight.

Let's meet the nominees.

1999 Upper Deck #127 Jeff Cirillo

Enjoying my coffee. 

1992 Upper Deck Minors #128 Eric Christopherson

In his spare time, Eric Christopherson produces gold albums. 

2012 Topps Opening Day #129 Alex Rios

One card, a hundred smiles.

1982 Fleer #130 Bob Sykes

An otherwise mundane card made magical by the background banners. 

1971 Topps #131 Curt Blefary

Horizontal '71s are the best '71s (and yes, my copy's that far off-center). 

2001 Ultra #132 Matt Stairs

Throwbacks, everywhere throwbacks! 

2017 Topps #133 Jace Peterson

Turning two at Wrigley. 

1996 Topps #134 Chris Gomez

Turning two at Comiskey. 

2017 Stadium Club #135 Jameson Taillon

I will fight anyone who says they don't like Stadium Club.

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

Happy voting!

Friday, September 20, 2019

The one where I find a new job

Good news: I found a new job!

As of next week, I'll be working full-time at a local Half Price Books shop. Being a book lover myself, I like the trend of bookstore jobs I've fallen into here in my adult years, and I'm excited to finally break out of the corporate book world (I've been working at Barnes & Noble over the past year-plus) and into the more independent part of the scene. Unlike my past couple places of employment, I'll get full benefits, a hefty discount, and first access to any of the books that come in. I don't know if I'd call it my dream job, but it's the closest I've come in the working world thus far.

And as you might have already guessed by the way I collect cards, used bookstores like HPB are much more my speed.

I suppose my new job won't affect my card collecting much except for the fact that I'll (hopefully) have a bit more pocket change at my disposal.

But either way I don't see myself buying much more retail than I already do, given that I have people like Greg of "The Collective Mind" who are nice enough to send me PWEs full of inserts from my want lists (including the excellent Wrigley Field panorama at the top of this post).

Same goes for the stack of want list assistance I received from Chris of "Nachos Grande" a while back.

I never really realized it before, but Ithink part of the reason I like GQ's inserts so much is that many of them rely on mystical themes (Fortune Teller, Tarot of the Diamond, etc.).

Getting the latest and greatest stuff is always fun, but I also like when people like Chris go back a year or two on my want lists because wow do these dry up fast at card shows.

In keeping with the want list damage besieged on my mailbox over the past few months, my buddy Alex of "Chavez Ravining" fame reached out to let me know he had some 2019 A&G for me.

Because in addition to these two adorable pups...

...and a hearty stack of inserts...

...Alex obliterated a good number of my A&G base wants just weeks after the set even hit the shelves.

Vlad and Didi and Pops are all great, but that Griffey is far and away the best of the lot here -- I'd say it's even in the running for an appearance on my Card of the Year lists.

I also received an I'm sending you some cards email from Jeremy of the terrific "Topps Cards That Never Were" blog recently, and believe me when I say that such emails are among the purest joys known to humankind.

Usually, all I expect are a few random goodies, like a sparkly Yogi and an appearance from Evelyn Jones, who has to be the oldest person to ever appear on a baseball card (108 years young!).

Maybe some treasured mini-collection hits, too.

But never, ever, ever do I expect one of those I'm sending you some cards emails to turn into a Cal Ripken Jr. rookie card!

My Cal collection has progressed nicely over the past few years, but I hadn't even sniffed any of his rookie cards. I don't have near the budget to afford his famous '82 Topps Traded rookie (even with a new job), so I figured it'd be Fleer or bust -- thus its recent appearance on my "Keep Dreaming" list. Even then I thought it'd be a good while before I had even a chance to snag a copy.

But Ripken, much like my desire to work in the world of used bookstores, is a dream no more -- wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 69: Numbers 613-621

Frankenset Page #30 WINNER -- 1997 Topps #266 Eric Owens (13 votes)

I can't quite believe it myself, but a card from 1997 Topps, of all sets, actually won a frankenset page.

I say this because '97 Topps is almost universally regarded as one of the biggest clunkers in the Topps catalog -- I'd probably rate it as one of the ten worst Topps designs ever. But proving the "blind squirrel finds a nut" theory right, Eric Owens dominated last week's frankenset page, taking 13 of the 38 total votes for the win. He pretty much led from start to finish, and even defeated competitors from legendary sets like '73 Topps and '93 Upper Deck in the process.

It's a flash of greatness in what is otherwise an overwhelmingly forgettable Topps checklist, and it's a pleasure to welcome it into the Gallery of Frankenset Champions.

We soar into the super high-numbers with this week's page -- the Random Number Generator spit out #69 (nice), so we'll be taking a look at that page of the frankenset (#s 613-621) tonight.

Since I have yet to find a worthy nominee for the #618 slot as of this writing, it's a field of eight this week -- let's meet the hopefuls.

1993 Donruss #613 Pete O'Brien

I've always gotten a distinct Harry Potter vibe from this card.

1991 Topps #614 Luis Salazar

I've said it once, I'll say it till I'm blue in the face: 1991 Topps rules. 

2019 Topps Heritage High Numbers #615 Skye Bolt

I wanna have a name like Skye Bolt when I grow up.

1988 Fleer #616 Sammy Stewart


1989 Topps #617 Mark Parent

Supporting my theory that, on the aggregate, catchers get the best baseball cards. 

1989 Score #619 Kirt Manwaring

Frankenset legend Kirt Manwaring strikes again, seen here tagging out a Reds pitcher (note the jacket) on this excellent play at the plate. 

2013 Topps #620 Hector Santiago

The White Sox haven't lit up the standings in recent years, but they're #1 in the throwback jersey market.

1990 Upper Deck #621 Rick Luecken

Unlike one of our resident bloggers, I don't specifically chase night cards -- but they're fun to slide into the frankenset every now and then.

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

Happy voting!

Friday, September 13, 2019

The ups and downs of binder storage

If you walked into my room today and asked: Nick, can I see your cards of Keith Hernandez as an Indian? -- I might stare blankly for a few seconds wondering how you got in my house, but then I'd have the binder out and ready for you in two seconds.

Aside from the fact that my cards just simply look a lot better in binders, I choose to store them that way because it keeps me organized. A collection as large and scattered as mine needs a steady sorting system as its backbone. Take this '90 Score Traded Keith Hernandez as an example: an example of this legendary Short Term Stop I somehow didn't already own, and a former Dime Box Dozen need bestowed on me by the almighty Greg of "Night Owl Cards."

You'll find it in three steps: 1) take out the second of my three Indians binders, 2) flip to first basemen, 3) find my nine cards of Hernandez as an Indian sandwiched between Richie Sexson (13 cards) and Mark Reynolds (8 cards), and there it is.

Easy enough, yes?

But having stored cards in binders for virtually my entire collecting life, I will admit that there are some downsides to it all. The first that comes to mind involves minis. All things equal, I love, love, love minis -- but wow do they look weird in standard nine-pocket pages. I know mini pages exist, but they wouldn't really mesh with my organizing system since I don't own enough Kris Bryant minis to fill a whole sheet.

I don't often put disc-shaped cards in pages -- they roll around and are almost impossible to fish out when moved from slot to slot -- but I made an exception for that Snell candy lid insert from this year's Heritage since a) it's not truly a disc, and b) I didn't know what else to do with it.

Between the disc and the Heritage SP here, it's apparent that Greg is trying to turn my new Blake Snell collection into a super-collection.

I've already added almost two new pages to my Rays binder for the Snells I've accumulated, which reminds me of another slight downside to my storage methods: the need to buy binders and pages for an ever-growing collection. Pro tip: don't buy them new. I find binders at the thrift store for a buck or two a piece all the time, and pages can usually be bought in bulk online fairly cheap (I found a lot of over 200 on Ebay not long ago for less than $20).

Because being thrifty with supplies means more money for cards, of course.

Another reason I'm glad I started my frankensets is that I'll never need new supplies for them: the slots may change, but the sets themselves will remain at 666 cards, now and forever.

As I write this post, I am almost literally surrounded by cards: my binders line shelves on either wall of my room, and every new card I receive pushes those walls in just a little further.

It's true that binders take up a whole lot more real estate than throwing cards in boxes, but if you can spare the space, it's worth it -- collections are meant to be displayed, not merely stored.

Greg bulked my binders up a bit more with these 2019 inserts, including the final nail in the coffin I needed to complete that "Wall Climbers" insert series from Big League.

I also received a fun package from my buddy Adam of "Cardboard Clubhouse" fame that kinda reiterated a lot of these thoughts about binder storage.

Because in addition to a healthy serving of nice, normal-sized cards...

...came a big ol' stack of unwanted GQ minis Adam was nice enough to pass on to me.

Some of these come in colors I didn't even know GQ used (green? red?) -- and sure, they might look weird in binders, but come on, I'm not gonna turn down minis of Johnny Bench or Larry Doby I don't already have.

Also: another candy lid!

It's still a bit strange seeing these in standard nine-pocket pages, but with my system, that's where they're destined to live. Any kind of storage is gonna have its ups and downs. I prefer binders because they make my collection feel like a collection rather than a bunch of cards thrown into toploaders and boxes.

Now, if you want to stick around and see my Trouts after I've shown you the Keith Hernandez Indians cards, I'll oblige, but please: don't break into my house again.