Friday, August 19, 2016

2016 Topps #314 Kyle Hendricks

In a rotation with reigning National League Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta and former vote getters/All-stars/World Series champs John Lackey and Jon Lester, it would be easy to get lost in the shuffle. But Kyle Hendricks is quietly making a name for himself as he methodically shuts down the opposition.

I've been comparing his stuff to Greg Maddux all season long to anybody that would listen. Not overpowering, but very effective, able to hits his spots. And in return, I get those looks like I'm crazy. In April and May, he was piling up losses when the Cubs were on pace to match/break the team Wins record. The team run differential was ridiculous, but a month ago Hendricks had just a .500 record. It seemed liked every game he pitched, the Cubs forgot how to hit.

Right now, he has the second lowest ERA in the Majors (while Clayton Kershaw preserves his "lead" on the DL). Tonight, he starts in Colorado so we'll see if he can't keep the damage to a minimum against the only team with more runs scored this season than the Cubs. Hopefully the Cubs bats keep pace in that thin air as well.

#314 Kyle Hendricks
I'd like this shot a whole lot better if it was zoomed out a little more to include the whole glove. I know some people think criticizing the "amputations" are a bit nit-picky, but I likes what I likes. Whatever the green blob in the background is gives the Cubs red, white and blue a nice pop.

The staredown at the beginning of Hendricks' windup is much better than the exertion faces we've been getting a lot of from Topps lately.

Did I mention Hendricks was flying under the radar? Over at Getty Images, a search of "Hendricks Wrigley 2015" yielded just 114 results. And unfortunately, the first 20 or so (sorted by most recent) are from the NLCS against the Mets and mostly feature Daniel Murphy. He must have had a good game or two, I don't remember...

The green blob helped narrow this down as there were a couple other similar photos.

Of note (to me anyway) was the one above from a day game against the Giants on August 8th. I was at Wrigley on the 6th for that same series. The Cubs had a 4-game sweep of the Giants and took possession of the second Wild Card spot after that. Good times.

But anyway, back to the actual source photo. From the caption:
Kyle Hendricks #28 of the Chicago Cubs prepares to eliver the ball against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field on May 26, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.
How do you "eliver" a ball? Is that an interwebs thing? Oh wait, I'm getting distracted again.

Not much to go on so we'll have to go the boxscore.

A Cubs walk-off win, their 5th of 13 last year. Woo-hoo!

As you can see by his line, a recurring problem for Hendricks' personal Won-Loss record has been lack of run support. He pitched 7 innings, gave up just four hits (one for a solo home run) and a walk but got a no decision. That's a WHIP of less than 1.
The game winner was an Addison Russell 2-out double which is linked here.
The card gets a B grade from me. Would have been an A if cropped properly. An autograph would look great scrawled across his jersey too!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

2016 Topps Throwback Thursday Set #6

Another week, another set from Topps' Throwback Thursday line.

Like last week, the Week 6 cards were issued right around the All-Star break and went with an All-Star theme. This time, it was two-time All-Star Game MVPs. Good news, with only one current player in the group, there isn't much room for player duplication. Mediocre news, that one current player is a duplicate.

Good news, the Orioles and the Expos are first timers to the Throwback Thursday set. Bad news, two-time All-Star Game MVPs has only happened five times, which means Topps charged the same $19.99 per set with one less card.

Weeks 1, 4, & 6 feature a horizontal layout. The 1975 Topps MVP design was an interesting choice but with two cards having horizontal and vertical mini cards on them, its kind of "meh" to me. Look at Topps trying to make me not like horizontal cards.

#31 Willie Mays

#32 Mike Trout

#33 Cal Ripken

#34 Gary Carter

#35 Steve Garvey

I like the theme although I wish they kept going with the 6 card sets-within-a-set. Now the set will be numbered weird. And it appears others felt that way too as this was (and still is through Week 9) the set with the lowest print run to date at just 570 sets.

Maybe because there wasn't a Cub this week (or the next three) but my enthusiasm for these is dying off.

As mentioned, the Orioles and Expos join the list of teams used with 14 still unused. The Dodgers get their 7th, while the Angels and Giants both get their 2nd. Trout s the 6th player to get a 2nd card in the set joining Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Jake Arrieta and Noah Syndergaard.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Ivy Frankenset Page 1

Buckle up, this is a long one!

In case you couldn't tell, I primarily collect Cubs cards. But I am nowhere near as disciplined as Paul over at Wrigley Wax who methodically adds team set after team set to his collection and avoids the siren call of packs of cards. I love opening me some packs.

And of course, when I came back into the hobby I dove in headfirst, went overboard and accumulated way too many cards that did not fit my collection. To right the ship, the deal I made with myself was that non-Cubs cards would have to find new homes unless they met one of two criteria.

The first exception were cards that were horizontally oriented. They typically make up a smaller percentage of a card set so it shouldn't be too overwhelming. A smaller hobby of mine is/was collecting autographs and a lot of time, this type of card showcases an autograph better, giving a player more space to sign.  And the action shots on the cards tend to be more appealing to me. A frankenset is in the works for this as well, but with specific parameters, it is taking a lot more work.

The second exception keeps a Cubs theme and features cards that have the Wrigley Field ivy in the background. In the first 35 years of my life, I had been to dozens of Cubs games but to Wrigley Field exactly one time. I have been to six games there in the past three seasons and plan to make it an annual pilgrimage.

I read somewhere once that back in the day a lot of photos for baseball cards were taken in Chicago and New York because they had a team in each league making it easier for photographers to capture more players. This was helpful in filling in some gaps but I noticed quite few sets and teams have chunks of ivy cards. 

I only made a few "rules" for this frankenset as to me it seems pretty self explanatory.

#1 - The card must show the Wrigley Field ivy somewhere in the background. Early season, leafless vines will count if nothing better is available.

#2 - As wrong as this sounds, for this set, non-Cubs cards will trump Cubs cards. I have used Cubs cards from my duplicates as place holders for card numbers where I don't have a non-Cub representative but if one shows up, the Cubs card gets the boot. I could probably do a Cubs only ivy set but don't get started down that path...

#3 - Ivy on card backs (think early Upper Deck) is acceptable, but front trumps back which trumps a Cubs card.

#4 - Inserts/Trade/Update sets that use letters as well as numbers are acceptable. The number portion is what will be used.

#5 - I would like to minimize the duplication of players and sets overall but especially within the same page. For page fillers, obscure Cubs will probably get the nod over bigger names like Ryne Sandberg who will have a ton of cards with ivy in the background.

Before I get to the pictures, I just wanted to point out I'm a big nerd. I like statistics and keeping track of things that probably don't matter to anybody else. If you followed my 2014 Topps blog once upon a time, you'll know what I'm talking about. At the end of this post I will have a whole slew of things I'll be tracking from this set from teams, to total different players to positions of the featured players, etc.


1996 Topps Gallery #1 Tom Glavine
Card #1 honors go to Hall of Famer, Tom Glavine. The card is from 1996 so I can assume the photo is from the 1995 season. The patch on his sleeve honors the Braves' 30th season in Atlanta, which was indeed worn in 1995. Glavine pitched three times against the Cubs in 1995, twice at Wrigley. On May 29th, he threw a complete game only allowing a solo home run to Sammy Sosa in a 2-1 victory. On August 27th, he won again, this time 3-1. He helped himself at the plate with an RBI single.

In his career, Glavine went 7-6 at Wrigley Field in 17 appearances with a 3.65 ERA.

1999 Bowman Chrome #2 Kerry Wood
I'm knocking out a fan favorite pretty early with this Kerry Wood set filler. I went with the Chrome even though the ivy probably shows up better on the regular Bowman card. In 1998, Wood went 13-6 on the season and earned Rookie of the Year honors but was an even more remarkable 9-1 at home in Wrigley.

Wood's career numbers at Wrigley consisted of a 37-35 record, with a 3.47 ERA and 21 Saves in 172 appearances.

1991 Topps Stadium Club #3 Shawon Dunston
A quick search of my Cubs cards with ivy backgrounds yielded another fan favorite in Shawon Dunston and two Ryne Sandberg cards. With a Sandberg appearance later this page, Dunston gets the #3 spot.

Unfortunately, I can't quite make out the opponent in the lower left corner that was forced into a double play so I can't get real specific on this game. Hopefully it's a Cardinal though.

In 1990, Dunston was making his 2nd All-Star appearance when Wrigley Field played host to the Mid-Summer Classic. He was part of 39 double plays at Wrigley that year/ I'm sure if I looked closer I could eliminate a few more based on whether he made the relay to first or fed Ryno for the assist. And that's assuming of course that this double play was completed. So I'll just leave it at that.

Love the flip shades and the eye black and the way the home pinstripes look against the ivy backdrop.

2016 Topps New Era #4 Joc Pederson
This was the card I was waiting on to complete the page to make this post. Because this card is more recent, I was able to pinpoint the game much easier and actually broke the card down just a little bit ago so I won't go into it again. Click here to read what I already said.

2003 Upper Deck Sweet Spot #5 Billy Williams
Billy Williams is the second Hall of Famer in the set and another Cub great. Maybe Wrigley Wax can pipe in with more information about this particular photo used by Upper Deck. It looks familiar and has probably been used on multiple occasions. Williams is sporting long sleeves and the ivy isn't anywhere near coming in yet so this is very early in the season.

The 6-time All-Star and 1961 Rookie of the Year played in 1116 games at Wrigley Field over the course of his career. He hit .306 and 231 of his career 426 home runs in the Friendly Confines.

2008 Upper Deck Timeline #6 Hanley Ramirez
I was out of the hobby in 2008 so I know nothing about Upper Deck Timeline. In 2007 Hanley Ramirez played in a 3-game series at Wrigley from May 28-30. He appears to be on second so I went to the boxscores to see when he was on second during the series

On May 28th, he was 0-4 but walked once in the 9th. Following his walk he was advanced to second on a single and stranded there. Could be.

On May 29th, he was 1-5, getting on base twice. He reached on an error and advanced to third on a Miguel Cabrera single. Didn't stop at second. Later in the game he singled with the bases loaded. He scored from first on a double by Josh Willingham, also without stopping at second. Nope, not this day.

On May 30th, he went 1-5 again, reaching just the one time. He singled in the 9th and advanced to second on a walk by Willingham. Maybe.

Tie breaker? Upon closer inspection, the game on the 28th was an afternoon game while the 30th was a 7:06 start time. The 9th inning of a night game wouldn't have as much daylight as shown on the card so I'm going with May 28th, final answer.

In his career so far, Ramirez has played in 30 games at Wrigley Field, hitting .263 with 3 home runs and 12 RBIs.

1991 Donruss Highlights #BC-7 Ryne Sandberg
Another Cub and another Hall of Famer. Like the Dunston above, this card is from 1991, but the photo should be from 1990. That year, Sandberg became the first payer to win the All-Star Game Home Run Derby in his home ballpark. I thought for sure he was going to win his second MVP that season and couldn't even fathom when he finished 4th in the voting behind Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Darryl Strawberry. Sandberg had more hits, more runs, more home runs and a higher batting average than those other three. Not to mention the fielding records he set that are honored with this card (and a Topps Record Breaker card and a Fleer Highlights card, but whatever). I guess the Pirates making the playoffs helped Bonds and Bonilla there.

Sandberg played in 1091 games at Wrigley Field but 1990 was a career year there. He hit .357 with 25 home runs, 62 RBIs, 67 runs and a 1.082 OPS, all career highs for his home ballpark.

1991 Topps Traded #8T George Bell
Another Cub card from 1991 but this time the photo is actually from 1991. George Bell was an offseason pickup so he made the Topps Traded that year after having a Blue Jays card in the base set. It was an All-Star season for Bell, but it was his only one on the North Side, moving to the South Side in 1992.

All 78 games that Bell played at Wrigley came in the 1991 season as the rest of his career was spent in the American League before Interleague play existed. He hit .267 with 9 home runs and 45 RBIs at home.
1989 Upper Deck #9 Gregg Jefferies
Card #9 is the first time I had a choice to make as I have two non-Cubs cards jockeying for position.

In 1989, Gregg Jefferies was a top prospect and Upper Deck was another new kid on the block. Jefferies managed to garner Rookie of the Year votes (6th place overall) for the 1988 season despite playing in just 29 games.

Of those 29 games, two were played at Wrigley Field. It's not a realistic sample size by any means, but in those two games, Jefferies went 5-9 with a double, a home run, a walk, 4 runs and 2 RBIs. Over his career visiting the North Side, in 52 games, he hit a very impressive .360 with 5 home runs, 47 runs and 26 RBIs. That was by far the most success he had at any stadium with at least 50 games played.

The fielding shot is a little generic so it's impossible to pinpoint the exact game. Or is it? The Cubs started playing night games in 1988 so maybe I can have a tiebreaker like the Hanley Ramirez card above.

The two games Jefferies played at Wrigley were on September 7th and 8th. The game on the 7th was an evening game with a 6:30 start time while the 8th was an afternoon start time. While I would lean towards the day game on the 8th, it was still possible to have daylight as shown on the card during the 6 and 7 o'clock hours in Chicago.

Now on to the nerdy record keeping portion of the set. More stats will be added as the set grows.

Total cards - 9
Total Non-Cubs - 4/9
Percent of Non-Cubs Cards in Set - 44.4%
Total Cubs - 5/9
Percent of Cubs Cards in Set - 55.6%
Total Different Players - 9
Total Different Teams - 5
Total Different Cubs Players - 5
Hall of Famers - 3
Positions depicted on the cards
     Outfield - 3
     Pitcher - 2
     Shortstop - 2
     2nd Base - 1
     3rd Base - 1
Different Years Represented - 7
Different Brands* Represented - 9 
Different Sets** Represented - 9
Duplicate Non-Cubs Cards Not Used - 1

* For the purposes of this frankenset, Topps (and their parallels), Opening Day, Stadium Club, Archives, Heritage etc represent their own brands even though the are all made by Topps. The same will be true for all of the other card companies as well.

** For the purposes of this frankenset, brands from different years represent different sets. So 1991 Topps is different from 1992 Topps.

Bonus unused card:

1987 Fleer #9 Dwight Gooden
Despite Dwight Gooden being a bigger name than Jefferies, this card takes 2nd place at #9. No worries though as both Doc and 1987 Fleer show up later in the set.

I tried scanning the whole page so you could see them all at once but parts kept getting cut off all the way around. After several attempts this was the best that I got.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you can think of anything else I can track, let me know!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

2016 Topps Throwback Thursday Set #5

Wow, another week has flown by and it's time for another post showing off some of the Topps Throwback Thursday cards. Week 5 ran in early July so the theme was a fitting first time All-Stars, mimicking the 1959 Topps All-Star design. National Leaguers got a red background, American Leaguers with the blue. The main difference is that it says Topps across the top of the card rather than The Sporting News on the original.

Player selection was an issue again this week as while they fit the criteria, three of the six had already been featured in the first four weeks of these Throwback Thursday sets. And only one of the six was actually a starter, Xander Bogaerts. Two of the six cards were American League and they were both shortstops?

Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts joined Bogaerts as first timers and starters for the the American League but I guess that would have been a Red Sox heavy card set. On the NL side, Addison Russell started at shortstop but with Jake Arrieta already in the set, that's too many Cubs? The first timer Dexter Fowler (another Cub) was injured and replaced by fellow newcomer Marcel Ozuna of the Marlins but both of them were overlooked as well.

Maybe top 3 vote getters from each league would have been better? I mean if you are trying to sell card sets, what better way than the six most popular players? Although, without looking at the numbers, I'm guessing a third Bryce Harper would have been included there.

Anyway, enough griping. I know, I know, I don't have to give them my money. Here are the cards.

#25 Jake Arrieta

#26 Francisco Lindor

#27 Corey Seager

#28 Xander Bogaerts

#29 Noah Syndergaard

#30 Aledmys Diaz

As for my tracker, there have been 30 cards in 5 weeks. Perfect distribution would yield one card per team but only 16 teams have been represented. So far the Dodgers rule the roost with six cards. The Cubs, Mets and Nationals all have three. The Cardinals, Rangers and Red Sox round out the teams that have multiples, sitting at two apiece. Seven teams represent 21 of the 30 cards. Cleveland is the only new team this week. Fourteen teams remain unrepresented.

In terms of players, as mentioned, three players joined Clayton Kershaw and Bryce Harper in the two-timers club this week, with Arrieta, Seager and Syndergaard.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

2016 All-Star Fanfest Goodies Part 1 - Kris Bryant

Killing time a few weeks back waiting for an oil change I pulled up the eBay app and started running through a list of things I keep an eye out for. Tony Campana (still looking for the blue Prizm parallel from 2012. Anybody??). Cubs Desert Shield cards I still need. Ryne Sandberg stuff. The usual.

I've been more of a looky-loo the past couple of years but I did stumble across some cards that were exclusive to the All-Star FanFest this year. I'm a pretty patient buyer and most of the time that works out in my favor as prices drop over time. Sometimes it doesn't. (Seriously, doesn't anybody have a blue Prizm Campana?!)

I was eyeballing a few things and I think I managed to get some decent deals with combined or free shipping and lower prices after things settled down a little.

Today I have two Kris Bryant cards. It makes sense that he got a little love out there as he attended the University of San Diego as depicted on the card below.

I have no information on this card other than what you can see. No manufacturer, no copyrights or trademarks. It has USD logos, the All-Star FanFest logo and the back mentions the Cubs by name, but no logo. Anybody know anything more about how these were distributed?

The card above is part of a 6-card wrapper redemption from Topps. I believe you had to buy a couple of packs from their booth and you got one of these cards. The other five players were Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp and Mike Trout. Not too often you see a West Coast bias. There was also a David Ortiz variation that was a MasterCard exclusive.

I've got a couple of more things that I'll save for another post early next week.

Friday, August 5, 2016

ATCRCS - Ced Landrum

I probably have more Ced Landrum cards than he played games for the Cubs. That's a slight exaggeration but he came up in the junk wax boom era when being a sixth outfielder or middle reliever would still get you into a bunch of sets.

Landrum played for the Cubs in 1991, when their award winning outfield consisted of George Bell (1987 AL MVP), Jerome Walton (1989 NL ROY) and Andre Dawson (1977 ROY, 1987 NL MVP, 2010 HOF). Backing them up was 1989 NL ROY runnerup Dwight Smith and Doug Dascenzo. Obviously, with that lineup, he was mostly used off the bench.

Oddly enough, I have two distinct memories of Ced Landrum. The first was his debut which happened to be against the Mets, my dad's favorite team so we were watching the game together. He came in as a pinch runner in the 6th or 7th when the Cubs were trailing by one. Somehow he got to second (that's a bit fuzzy) but then he stole 3rd and scored on a hit to tie it. The Mets took the lead but Landrum led off the bottom of the 9th getting a single in his first MLB at-bat. He stole another base but ended up stranded at 3rd to end to the game. Not a bat late inning debut with a hit, 2 SB's and a run scored.

The other came much later in the season when he had 4 stolen bases in one game, stealing 2nd and 3rd twice. If I remember before posting this, I'll try to look up the details to see if my memory holds up correctly.

I saw a private signing come up over at SCN sometime last summer and jumped at the chance to get this short-timer. Following his career, he coached in the Expos organization briefly, coached high school baseball, then in the Orioles organization. The last thing I found for him was as a hitting instructor for the independent Joliet Jackhammers of the North League a few years back.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

2016 Topps Throwback Thursday Set #4

Its crazy how quickly the weeks of summer are flying by. (Sorry educators!) I feel like I just did a TBT post and yet its time for another one. I was going to post two sets to catch up this week but it snuck up on me before I had time to scan and crop.

Week 4 came out around the 4th of July, a very patriotic time of year. With that in mind, Topps went outside their Archives/Heritage box again and used the 1955 All-American Football set for its design. But unlike their Week 3 Flamethrower player selection, they managed to come up with a solid group of players to match their patriotic theme. The six players for Week 4 for not only played baseball, but also served in the U.S. Military.

So, All-American card design, veterans, and baseball? Ding! Ding! Ding!

#19 Ted Williams

#20 Jackie Robinson

#21 Stan Musial

#22 Duke Snider

#23 Warren Spahn

#24 Ralph Kiner

If you are only doing a 6-card set (and trying to make money from collectors), it's hard to argue with the inclusion of these 6 players. Of course, there were a couple of dozen other Hall of Famers who were also military veterans, and well over a thousand others not enshrined in Cooperstown. Checkout Baseball in Wartime for more information.

I also said last week that I was going to start tracking teams used and duplicate players. With all retired players, there weren't any duplicates this week. Through 4 weeks (24 cards) here is a list of teams and players with multiples:

Los Angeles Dodgers - 5
Washington Nationals - 3
Chicago Cubs - 2
New York Mets - 2
Texas Rangers - 2
Boston Red Sox - 1
Colorado Rockies - 1
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - 1
Miami Marlins - 1
Atlanta/Milwaukee Braves - 1
New York Yankees - 1 (surprise??)
Pittsburgh Pirates - 1
San Francisco Giants - 1
St. Louis Cardinals - 1
Toronto Blue Jays - 1

That's 5 teams representing 14 of the 24 cards.

The only duplicate players so far have been Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Topps Now - Albert Almora Jr

Because I took a few weeks off, I'm a bit behind on posting. This Topps "Now" card is sooooo two months ago. Well, almost.

In mid-June, the Cubs came to town to play the Washington Nationals. In previous years, I had only been making it to maybe one game in the series, but last year and this year, I took in all the games. Might as well since they only come to town once per season.

The first game was a Max Scherzer-Kyle Hendricks pitcher's duel. Scherzer was perfect through the first 5 1/3 before Addison Russell tied the game with a line drive solo home run. The Nationals tacked on 3 more in the bottom half of the 6th and held that lead the rest of the way. Scherzer finished with 11 strikeouts in 7 innings. I'm not sure how many times the Cubs have gone 5+ innings this season without a hit, but it seems like a lot. Or maybe I'm just watching a lot of Cubs baseball. Luckily, their late inning game is strong.

Game 2 is the subject of this post.

John Lackey pitched a fine game, allowing just two runs in 6+ innings. He left with a 3-1 lead but runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs. Pedro Strop came in to strike out two, but also gave up a sacrifice fly to shrink the lead to one.

In the 8th, Travis Wood allowed a leadoff walk to Bryce Harper and then induced a line out to centerfield. Hector Rondon then came in for the 5-out Save. Unfortunately, a single by Ryan Zimmerman moved Harper to 3rd who scored on another sac fly to tie the game.

Fast forward to the top of the 9th. Addison Russell leads of with a walk. And don't announcers like to talk about how lead off walks come around to bite the pitcher? Grandpa Rossy moved him along to 2nd on a nice sac bunt. Up the plate comes Albert Almora Jr, who had entered the game with Rondon in a double switch. He lines the first pitch he sees into the left-center gap for a double, scoring Russell and giving the Cubs the lead for good. Rondon pitched a 1-2-3 9th for the blown Save and Win.
2016 Topps Now #152 Albert Almora Jr (Print Run 738)
It wasn't a walk-off but Topps saw fit to give the rookie a Topps Now card the next day. I was pretty excited for it as I thought it was the first card featuring a game I attended. (Since debunked)

Also of note, Jason Hammel threw a ball to my older son in batting practice.

Speaking of Hammel, he started the rubber game of the series. Unfortunately a lack of run support earned him a no decision in a duel with Stephen Strasburg (who had yet to take his first loss). Both allowed a first inning run and then nothing more until the bullpens stepped in.

The Nats got one off Strop in the 8th, but the Cubs battled back for the lead off an Anthony Rizzo 2-run homer in the 9th. Unfortunately, Rondon blew his 2nd Save of the season (and it just so happened on back-to-back nights) as the Nats tied it up again to send it to extras. Skip ahead to the 12th inning and the Cubs jumped on top again thanks to Almora (again). A lead off single, heads up base running to advance on a wild pitch and then scoring on a Russell single.

The bottom half brought about a bullpen implosion and Jayson Werth had his 2nd walk-off hit of the week. This was also featured as a Topps Now card that I did not pick up. I may try to add one to my new "I Was There" mini collection eventually but I won't be rushing to pick one up.