Friday, July 19, 2013

Fantasy Baseball Update

Way back in January (I think), I suggested starting up a Fantasy Baseball League made up entirely of bloggers, with blasters as prizes. A twelve team league was ambitious, but we ended up with 10, mostly bloggers, a co-worker and my older son.

For the most part, we have some pretty dedicated players and it shows in the standings. As it should be, the more active players have risen to the top. I thought I had mentioned declaring a mid-season winner to help keep everyone motivated but I may have been thinking of rewarding the end of season best record. It looks to be a two-horse race between Tom of Waiting 'Til Next Year and Roy of plain gray swatch. Tom has the slight lead but he's playing me this week with just a two-game lead over Roy. We'll see how that ends up...

As I mentioned, I am behind again in my trades because of a found bag of packages. But I will try to find something good for the mid-season winner too.

By the time this posts, A&G should be out and when I return, will pick up a blaster to finish out the prize pool. Good luck the rest of the way!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I am so embarassed!!!

A while ago, I put out a call for readers to take my team lots. I was reorganizing, running out of room and just needed to get rid of stuff. I had sold some things on eBay at the time too because I was in a cleaning mood. I must have watched a Hoarders marathon or something!

Anyway, my wife, ever so helpful when it comes to me clearing out my stuff, offered to make a post office run for me while she was out running her other errands. I took her up on the offer and loaded up two of those reusable grocery bags into the trunk of her car and off she went.

Fast forward a week or so and I start receiving feedback through eBay. All is good. Then I realized I hadn't seen any writeups yet on the other blogs. Not every one I sent to has their own blog, so I chalked it up to those who did were as behind as I was. I had one person from eBay say they hadn't gotten their item yet. I apologized and sent a refund. It was a $2 card, no big deal.

A few days later, I saw a blog post. Whew. After that it was out of sight, out of mind. Until yesterday. As I mentioned Monday, we are preparing to leave on a trip and I went out to my wife's car to make sure the trunk had sufficient room for our luggage.

And there it was. The second reusable grocery bag, partially covered by the emergency blanket. Uh-oh. Sure enough, it was full of packages. Evidently, I did not clearly communicate that there were two bags, not just one. To those waiting, I sincerely apologize. I will really try to make a post office run before the trip but if not, they will be the first order of business when I return.


Monday, July 15, 2013

2013 Topps Brett Jackson Factory Team Set & Series 2

I sorta, kinda took the weekend off from posting but it was for the greater good. And by sorta, kinda, I mean I wrote out a bunch of postings, but for the future. At the end of this week, I am going on a 2-week, European vacation with the family, so I will be incommunicado. Cue the Clark Griswold references! I didn't quite come up with enough to fill the whole time I'm gone just yet, but I still have a few days. If not, there may be a random day off here and there.

Like my last couple of these, Brett Jackson has the same card in both the team factory set and Topps Series 2. It's a nice action shot, almost more suitable for a horizontal card. In fact, if it was somebody a little more popular, or Jackson had lived up to the hype a little bit better last year, it could have been one of the Series 2 Chase it Down inserts. He probably would have had to be closer to the ball for that to happen though. Speaking of which, did he make the play?

The caption claims that Jackson "makes a diving catch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game at Wrigley Field on September 14, 2012" so it must be true. No reference to the batter or inning so I had to go to the boxscore on The only fly ball out to Brett Jackson came off the bat of Pedro Alvarez in the top of the 8th inning.

The photographer took a flurry of shots and Getty posted two more shots:

This one would have made for a nice horizontal card, as he gets ready for full extension.

And the moment just before the catch. If the umpire hadn't cut right in front of the photographer, that would have been a pretty good Chase it Down card.

The Cubs beat the Pirates 7-4 that day. The play wasn't a game changer/saver, but a nice catch is a nice catch.

Friday, July 12, 2013

First Pitch Friday - Patrick Sharp

The Cubs have had a slew of Chicago Blackhawks throwing out first pitches lately. I don't follow hockey as much, is there some kind of tie in? I kid, of course.

While cards for those players will show up eventually, I do have one today from an appearance by a Blackhawk last season, Patrick Sharp.

I was kidding about not knowing about the Stanley Cub victory but only a little bit about not watching hockey. Where I live, the talk is all Caps, Caps, Caps and Ovie so I don't know much about the Blackhawks aside from two recent titles. I recognize names like Sharp and Kane and Coach Q and probably others if I heard them, but couldn't tell you why Sharp played almost as many playoff games as regular season games this past season. Injury? How many games did they lose to the strike or lockout, whatever it was?

Either way, Patrick Sharp threw out the first pitch on September 2, 2012 in a game between the Cubs and the San Francisco Giants.The Cubs lost to the Giants 7-5 with, not surprisingly, Carlos Marmol taking the loss after giving up two runs in the 9th.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Davey Lopes

As I mentioned the other day when I showed off the Ted Lilly ATCRCS card, I managed to snag another Dodger. Although this particular Dodger is currently a coach, first base coach to be exact. Davey Lopes, like Lilly, managed to sign over his name on the card, so while you can kind of make it out in the scan, in person, you can't.

On of the things I liked about the photo I found and used for the card is the "hat under the helmet" technique Lopes is using from before everybody had perfectly fitting helmets (and earflaps). This was also the method I employed growing up.

Almost all of the career achievements Lopes earned were from his pre-Chicago days, although he did notably manage to steal 47 bases for the Cubs during the 1985 campaign, most of them after turning 40. Primarily known as a second baseman, once Lopes came to Chicago, he spent most of his time in the outfield. They Cubs had some other second baseman...future Hall of Famer, Ryne Sandberg. In fact, Lopes played a grand total of 1 inning of his 174 game stint with the Cubs at second base.

This ATCRCS card is the 62nd one I've received signed since I started at the beginning of 2012. The Cubs have used more roster spots than that since I've started this task so I need to pick up the pace!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

2013 Topps Scott Baker Factory Team Set & Series 2

Scott Baker missed all of the 2012 season following Tommy John surgery. He signed with the Cubs as a free agent this past off season but suffered a setback that has kept him on the DL since Spring Training. Topps apparently has high hopes for him with the Cubs though, because not only did he sneak into the Heritage set with a photoshopped card, they doctored another photo and put him into the Cubs Factory Team set. And then reused the card for Series 2, even though he has yet to play.

I tend not to mock Photoshop jobs because this is much better than I could ever do. So with that aside, the crop is a little too tight for my liking. Was there really a need to cut off his left elbow? At least they got his new number right as he is assigned #32 if/when he does make an appearance with the Cubs. The #30 that he wore with the Twins is worn by future potentital battery mate, Dioner Navarro.
Photo by Leon Halip (courtesy of Getty Images)

Topps had to go in the way back machine, all the way to 2011 to pull the photo they used for the card. June 1, 2011 to be exact. Baker and the Twins lost to the Tigers that day 4-2 at Comerica Park in Detroit. Miguel Cabrera hit a 3-run homer from which the Twins couldn't recover. How many other pitchers have suffered that fate? The caption from the Getty website narrows the pitch down to the third inning (when Cabrera hit the home run) but nothing more specific than that. It could be any one of the 36 pitches Baker threw that inning.

Spring Training estimates had Baker's return at June but nothing yet. The latest news I could find has Baker throwing simulated games at the Cubs Spring Training facility. Barring any further setbacks, he should find his way into the lineup by the end of the year.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cubs Roster Moves

Since I last posted any of these customs from my 2013 team set (just a few days ago!), the Cubs have made several roster moves resulting in one season debut (Chris Rusin, who made his Cubs debut last year) and two new Cubs debuts (Pedro Strop & Matt Guerrier). Unfortunately, I haven't come across any usable (resolution wise) photos of them in their new uniforms.

In the meantime, here is one from my "Missing List" from earlier in the season, Hisanori Takahashi.

Takahashi signed as free agent prior to the season and was traded to the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named later on June 22. He was in Triple-A Iowa at the time after pitching just 3 innings in 3 appearances for the Cubs in early April. Takahashi remains at the AAA level, pitching for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox and even stayed in the same league (Pacific Coast) as Iowa.

Surprisingly, other former Cubs currently donning the Sky Sox uniform include Justin Berg, Chris Volstad, Xavier Nady and manager Glenallen Hill. Tyler Colvin, Manny Corpas  and DJ LeMahieu also started the season there but have since been called up.

As I note on the 2013 Cubs Custom Team Set page, the Cubs have now used 41 different players since Opening Day. Last year's team record of 53 is well within reach, especially with the Cubs being sellers at the deadline.And the fact that it is not even the All-Star break yet and there will still be a smattering of September call-ups.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ted Lilly

This Ted Lilly ATCRCS card  has been sitting in my "draft" folder for a little while now. It was in a batch of cards that came back in May so they all have that off yellow coloring from the scanner.Now that my organizing is wrapping up, I should have some time to go back and rescan some of these.

Ted Lilly signed with the Cubs prior to the 2007 season and stayed with them until he was traded to the Dodgers along with Ryan Theriot in 2010. He went 15-8 in '07, 17-9 in '08 and was the Cubs lone All-Star representative in '09. Despite using eight pitchers in a 4-3 loss to the AL, NL skipper Charlie Manuel did not use Lilly. Luckily for Lilly, he was able to get into the game and pitch a scoreless relief inning during first All-Star selection while with the Blue Jays in 2003. 

While the signature is decent, I'm a little bummed about the placement. This is a case where the scan looks better than the card in person (aside from the coloring. In person, you can't read the pre-printed Ted Lilly name underneath the signature. It almost looks like he started to trace the "Ted" and then went into an upward slant with the "Lilly" part. Oh well, beggars can't be choosers, right? Unfortunately I ran into the same problem with the other Dodger I sent in. That'll be the next card in a few days.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


I'm getting ever so close to putting the finishing touches on a completely organized collection. Using Wrigley Wax's collection as the ultimate goal (check out two of his ridiculously beautiful older posts here and here), I've been logging card after card into a spreadsheet, scanning them and putting them into binders.

The good news is that I'm almost done. The bad news is that I have nowhere near the amount of "unique" Cubs cards I thought I had. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely in the thousands. The boxes were full but there were a lot more dupes than I realized. The next step is finding master team set checklists and figuring out what I don't have. I've also been making notes of cards that could use some upgrading. But more work now also means more fun when I'm acquiring new cards!
I'm sure this comes up every once in a while in the blogosphere but I do have a couple of questions for those who are team collectors and use binders. I know a lot of this is personal preference but I'd like to poll the community.
How do you sort them?
When my cards were in boxes, they were sorted by player. When I started the transition to binders, I assumed I would have binders for each different brand. The closer I get to finishing, the more I realize that's not really how I use my collection.
I collect autographs too so when I need to find a player, it was much easier to find the player when they were all together. Now, I will have to pull multiple binders to decide which cards to pull. If I were to sort by year (for example one binder would be all my team sets from say, a 5 year run), all of my Jeff Samardzija's would be in the same binder. But I really like how team sets look when shown together. I'm leaning towards the multi-year span rather than brand.
I guess if my spreadsheets and scans are all up to date it doesn't really matter as long as they're organized somehow. But that keeping it up to date thing is daunting!
For those who use binders, are you putting cards back to back (18 per page) or singular (9 per page) into your pages?
For my complete sets, I have been doing 9 per page. It made it easier to fill in the gaps when new cards were obtained because I could see the card numbers on the backs. With my Cubs team sets though, I've been doing back to back to save pages. Maybe in the offseason when new cards aren't coming out, I'll be able to splurge a little more on supplies and redo them.
Let me tell you, there's nothing as frustrating as 10 or 19-card team sets. Manufacturers should definitely issue team sets in factors of 9!
How often are you going through your cards (for fun)?
I found that I wasn't really looking at my cards once they were scanned/logged/filed away. Once I had them, they were out of sight, out of mind, but what was the point of having them if I wasn't enjoying them? I showed off this video for my Father's Day 2012 post but that was pretty early on in my blogging history so I thought I'd show it off again. While it is hard to beat flipping through a binder, having these make enjoying my collection just a little bit easier.
At the rate shown in the video, I could view nearly 29,000 cards in a 24 hour period. Or my entire "unique" Cubs collection about four times a day. Or my signed ATCRCS collection in about 3 minutes. Haha.
It would be great if you have a desk at work to distract you, maaaaybe throw in a few family photos as well.
And finally, if your organization method involves lots of unsorted stacks/boxes, what is your dream solution?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

2013 Topps Ian Stewart Factory Team Set & Series 2

Around the same time that Carlos Marmol was DFA'd, Ian Stewart was finishing up serving a suspension and was released outright. It had more than a little something to do with his Twitter rant in which he expressed frustration with his lack of a call-up. Although it probably doesn't help to be batting .168 when the comments were made.

I have no ill will towards Stewart as a player. It sucks to get hurt and while I have all the sympathy in the world for the frustration caused by rehabbing an injury and then not really having a spot when you're ready to come back, the way Stewart went about expressing it was out of line. 

Earlier this week, we said good-bye to Carlos Marmol after his trade to the Dodgers was made official. Now it was announced on Friday, that Ian Stewart has signed with the Dodgers as a free agent. He doesn't appear on their roster on the team website nor has he been officially sent to their Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes where former teammate Marmol awaits. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Anyway, on to the card. Like the Marmol card earlier in the week, this is the same photo used on both the Factory Team set and on the Series 2 version. I apologize but for the life of me I can't remember where I saw it. Too many blogs busting Series 2 packs lately but somebody pulled one in a box or pack and likened Stewart's expression to the Church Lady (Dana Carvey) of Saturday Night Live fame. Classic. If you remember seeing it or it was you, say so in the comments so I can give credit.

Topps did a nice job cropping and zooming on this one. According to the caption on the Getty Images website, Ian Stewart is making a throw to first base in a 9-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Not real helpful on the actual play though.

Photo taken by Brian Kersey (courtesy of Getty Images)
After looking at the boxscore on Baseball-Reference, two balls were hit to Ian Stewart, both of the "weak" variety. In the top of the 5th, Chris Heisey grounded out to end the inning. In the top of the 6th, after a leadoff double by Willie Harris, Devin Mesoraco was credited with a single to weak 3B, moving Harris to third. And based on the third base coach's (Mark Berry) reaction in the background of the photo, I think that may be key information.

If this is the Heisey play, I don't think Berry has that kind of reaction with the bases otherwise empty and it being the third out. On the Mesoraco single, Berry has to be paying close attention and moving into a better position to direct incoming Harris on how hard he is rounding third.

So that's my call until proven otherwise.

Friday, July 5, 2013

First Pitch Friday - Fergie Jenkins

These two cards were courtesy of the same guy that helped me with the two Andre Dawson autographs I showed off earlier this week. I already had an ATCRCS card for Jenkins, in fact, he was one of the first couple I picked up.

This time, I sent in a First Pitch card and one of the A&G/ATCRCS mashups. Jenkins has thrown out a ceremonial first pitch numerous times. This particular occasion happened to be October 2, 2008, Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS and is currently the most recent postseason game at Wrigley Field. The Cubs would go on to get blown out 10-3 and ultimately get swept by the Dodgers in that series but there's not reason to concern ourselves with that. Jenkins continues to be a very gracious signer and I hope to add more of these types of cards to my collection.

The photo behind the card
 As I mentioned, I also sent in one of my newer designs. Notice on the First Pitch card I went with the contemporary logo as that fit the time frame of the occasion. I used the older logo on this card below as it matches the one of his sleeve in the photo.

I thought I had found a unique photo (although he does have a few in similar poses). Unfortunately, a closer inspection brought forth a 2006 Greats of the Game card. Below is a Pewter version:

Whoops, oh well.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, America!

By the time this posts, I'm sure there will at least a half dozen similarly themed posts from around the blogosphere. But there's not much more American than baseball, so after a little digging, I came up with these Albert Almora cards:

The first of these is from the 2010 Upper Deck USA Baseball set. The other two are from 2010 Topps USA Baseball.

I also have a couple of the "International" cards from 2012 Bowman that showcase the American flag in the background. I know there are more from the set but I haven't picked those up yet.

Happy Birthday, America! I hope everybody parties safely!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

2013 Topps Carlos Marmol Factory Team Set & Series 2

Last week, the Cubs designated setup man, closer, reliever Carlos Marmol for assignment. Wrigley Wax did a nice write up shortly afterwards that showed off his collection of Marmol cards. Aside from my customs which I've already showed off, I don't think I had anything he didn't but I also held back from posting because I didn’t want to count my chickens before they hatched. I wasn’t sure anyone would nibble let alone bite and there was a slim chance he could end up in Iowa and thus, still with the team.
But now that he is officially traded to the Dodgers, I may as well get this card out of the way in my 2013 breakdown. The front of the card was the same one used in both the 2013 Team Factory set and in Topps Series 2. A nice celebratory pose that has become increasingly rare.

I think they did a great job on this card considering the source photo that was used. The crop is tight and with Marmol's face shadowed by his hat in the afternoon Chicago sun, the lightening was well done too.

Photo taken by David Banks (courtesy of Getty Images)
According to the caption on the Getty website, Marmol just earned a Save (his 13th of the season) over the St. Louis Cardinals on July 28, 2012. Hopping over to the boxscore on, you can see this was a typical Marmol Save opportunity. Up by one run, Marmol of course gives up a leadoff single (a walk would have been just as typical). A stolen base that put the tying run in scoring position while recording the next three outs is enough to warrant a "here we go again" rise in blood pressure response from Cubs fans everywhere.

This game evened the series at a game apiece and the next day the Cubs would win in extra innings to take the series too.

The back is pretty unremarkable. No red "League Leader in Italics" notations which was a little surprising. I remember just a few years ago when he seemed near invincible as the Cubs closer but I suppose those types of stats aren't featured on the back of the card. I figured the K/BB ratio would be bad but I thought he would rank pretty high in K/9. Guess not.

In 2010, he did lead the MLB in Games Finished with 70 and his 38 Saves were good enough for 4th in the NL and 8th overall. I'll miss that Carlos, but not necessarily the current incarnation.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Andre Dawson

These aren't the first Andre Dawson autographs I've added to my collection but they're definitely my new favorites. When a private signing was posted on, I jumped at the chance to add a third Hall of Famer to my ATCRCS collection. I've been waiting on these for a while now but only because I was too cheap to pay for separate return shipping on other signings the promoter was running. Yes, that means I have other players to show off as well!

Dawson was the right fielder I grew up with and has not yet been supplanted in my mind, not even by the once beloved Sammy Sosa. I know Sammy helped save baseball and saw the Cubs to a couple of playoff runs. But it just so happens that was smack dab in the middle of a couple-season-baseball-hiatus. Not because of the strike like most people, but because I was getting married, having kids, etc.

I also sent in the above custom card. Dawson has such a clear, fine signature that showed up fantastically on these cards. I may have to keep these display rather than tuck them away in a binder. At least for a little while. These are definitely going in to the digital photo frame that hasn't been updated in a while!

Monday, July 1, 2013

3 More for the 2013 Custom Team Set

Since I last updated on these, the Cubs have upped their roster total from 36 to 38 players since Opening Day. I only have a card for one of the two newest but I've also gone back and added two more that I missed.

Brian Bogusevic was added to the roster last week when the Cubs designated Carlos Marmol for assignment. This is another card that may ultimately change because of the photo selection. If I could see more of his face, it would have been a keeper. We'll see if a better photo comes along that meets my standards.

He started off well getting two hits in his Cubs debut and getting a hit in 4 of his five games. He did make a blunder in left field that led to the tying run scoring in the opening game of the Seattle Mariners series. Officially, it was a RBI triple for Raul Ibanez but had he played it properly, it would have been first and third with no run scored. Hindsight is always 20/20 though.

I've liked him so far in left field and Alfonso Soriano seemed to do well as the DH. (Hint, hint American League buyers at the trade deadline.)

Speaking of trade bait, Matt Garza is 3-1 in eight starts since coming off the DL with a 3.83 ERA that is just a shade below his career average. I have nothing against Matt Garza but if he can bring another piece or two for the puzzle that's coming together for the near future...

Rafael Dolis pitched five innings over five appearances this season before landing on the DL back in May. I haven't seen any updates to his status.

As for the Cubs as a team, they are 35-45 and 15.5 games back in the NL Central through 80 games. At this point last year they were 30-50 but only 14 games back.
I guess as the Cubs improve, so do the other teams...

Last year, they had scored 293 while giving up 368 through 80 games. As of yesterday's win over the Mariners, the Cubs have scored 330 and given up 340. While the run differential is still negative, they've added almost a half run per game.

These are cards 32, 33 and 34 in the 2013 team set (although they are not officially numbered). There still four unaccounted for but they're coming! You can see the rest of the ones I've posted here.