Saturday, April 29, 2017

My Cubs-Red Sox Mashup Starting Lineup

Yesterday, Wrigley Wax had a post about Bill Buckner. I started to say in my comment to his post that he would make my Cubs-Red Sox Mashup Starting Lineup. But I was just pulling that out of my rear.

Would he really?

Is that even a thing?

Did I have a Cubs-Red Sox Mashup Starting Lineup?

No, I didn't.

But I do now!

And maybe I'll come up with one of these for each series this year. Since I'm not adding many cards to the collection these days, it's a good way to dig out and show off some stuff I already have.

The following players have played for both the Red Sox and Cubs. Off the top of my head, I could think of about 6-7 guys that could make the team. After a little research, I was able to fill out a starting lineup. I tried to stick to guys that were mostly known for having played for one of the two and had "significant" time with both. But what does that mean? Fifty games? A full season with each? I don't know. Completely arbitrary. Let's see how it goes.

Position #1 in the box score is the pitcher so we'll start there. A few players came to mind but two jumped out at me most because they have won a World Series with both teams. I'll pull a Topps All-Star Rookie team move and name a LHP and RHP. Taking the hill is either Jon Lester or John Lackey.

And if Jon Lester is your pitcher, you have to have his favorite batterymate behind the plate. The catcher position goes to fan favorite (seemingly everywhere he played, despite being mostly a backup) David Ross.

As I mentioned, Billy Buckner was kind of the inspiration for this post. Did he end up making the team?

I am going to give him the nod over Jimmie Foxx, which may seem odd when you compare the two head to head. However, Foxx spend more time with Philadelphia than he did with the Red Sox and Cubs combined and played in about 300 games fewer than Buckner's time with the two teams. Plus I don't have a Jimmie Foxx card in a Cubs uniform to show.

There is a lot less star power at second base in Todd Walker. He played in a combined 477 games for the two teams.

His double play partner was an actual double play partner. Nomar Garciaparra fills the shortstop spot. Known more for his time in Boston, he brings a ROY award, 5 All-Star game appearances and a Silver Slugger to this mashup lineup.

The hot corner is manned by Bill Mueller. He was a World Champ with the Red Sox as well as a Silver Slugger and AL Batting Champ.

I thought the outfield would be easier than it was. Andre Dawson came to mind immediately. Hall of Famer, and an MVP season with the Cubs makes him a no-brainer. By the time he came to Chicago, he was mostly done with center field but that's where I'm going to put him based on the others.

After that....crickets. A few other guys came to mind, but upon a little more research the next two guys were better fits.

Troy O'Leary gets a spot in left field. Despite just one season as a 4th/5th outfielder with the Cubs in 2003, he managed to make their postseason roster. He also accumulated 962 games with the Red Sox.

The final starting lineup spot goes to admittedly somebody I'm barely familiar with, Earl Webb. The rest of the lineup played during my lifetime. My ATCRCS cards and research generally don't go back that far but according to my Cubs collection spreadsheet, I did have a Conlon card. Unfortunately, it isn't scanned and for the quick turnaround time on this post, I'll settle for a borrowed image.

Webb played for the 1927-28 Cubs and for the BoSox from 1930-1932 for a combined total of 494 games. Not a whole lot, but in that time he batted .311 with 52 HRs and 271 RBI's.

As a bonus, I'll throw a closer out there too. This team would have a pretty solid bullpen but in a Save situation, I'm going to none other than Lee Smith.

I don't know that I'll be able to come up with a manager for each of these mashup teams I'll do but as an extra extra bonus, Don Zimmer is the obvious choice here.

If I was looking to fill out my starting rotation, I can throw out names like Dennis Lamp and Fergie Jenkins. Would Dennis Eckersley make the rotation (like he did when with these teams) or would he end up in the bullpen where he earned his HOF credentials? Ryan Dempster filled both roles adequately as well. Off the bench you have some nice utility guys like Rey Sanchez and Mark Bellhorn.

It gets a little dicier after that, otherwise I'd try for a full 25-man roster.

Pretty interesting that as long as these storied franchises has been around, most of these guys are pretty recent. Is that a bias on my part? What do you think? Did I overlook anybody?

Friday, April 28, 2017

This Time Last Year in Topps Now Part 4

Today I have another look into last year's Championship season through Topps Now.

A week after Jake Arrieta threw his second career no-hitter, he also earned his second card from this set, though this one a little more bittersweet. Streaks can be quite awesome...until they end. And that's what today's card shows, the end of a streak.

2016 Topps Now #40 Jake Arrieta
The back of the card describes the feat as well as I could:

It had been 10 months since Jake Arrieta had allowed an earned run at Wrigley Field. Granted there was an offseason in there but that is still a long time. And to add to his overall dominance, note that his two no-hitters in that stretch were both on the road!

There were only 365 of these cards produced, a huge drop from his no-hitter card last week, ranking it among the lowest of the Cubs cards produced. This one has increased significantly on the secondary market having sold for 4-5x its original value recently and the current cheapest one listed is $75.

The Cubs enter tonight's game at 12-9, with the 4th best record in the National League and a one game lead over the Brewers atop the National League Central. They have outscored their opponents by 20 runs. This time last year, the Cubs had the best record in the MLB, with a 15-5 record and a 3 game lead over the Pirates and a +69 run differential.

This is card #40 from the 2016 set and Topps has more than doubled that this year. Cards ending today are numbers 86 and 87, not to mention the cards that will go up for sale for yesterday's and today's games. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

ATCRCS - Jose Nunez

When I started this blog about 5 years ago, I was big into getting autographs, making my own cards and combining those two hobbies. Specifically for the Cubs, but also my local minor/major league teams. I figured that would be the niche for my blog, something to differentiate it from other Cubs blogs. I had a grandiose plan to make a custom card for every Cubs player and try to get it signed, even the short-timers like today's subject.

Over the years, I've stopped and restarted the project at various times. I dove back into "real" cards for a little bit and took a break altogether for about 18 months where I was just enjoying the Cubs success without feeling the need to collect everything (aside from Topps Now). And trying not to go broke in the process.

I mean, have you seen how much Cubs team sets are going for these days? I think I'll play the waiting game there for a bit and let things cool down. Plus, I think the other Cubs bloggers have showing off those cards all squared away.

So for the time being, my focus is drifting back to some of my side collections. Ivy cards and my customs. The tabs up top are current as of today, including photos of all of my signed ATCRCs. I was adding them as I did write-ups but I went ahead and just uploaded all of the photos. After some time off, I lost mental track of who I had already so its a handy reference for me, accessible anytime. I'll go back and do some write-ups eventually.

Anyway, today's former Cub is one that was the basis for the name of the blog. They don't have to be Cubs very long. Once a Cub, Always a Cub. Primarily "known" as a Blue Jay after spending 3 seasons with Toronto, Jose Nunez threw 60 2/3 innings across 21 appearances, including 10 starts for the 1990 Cubs.

Nunez got the win in his Cubs debut after starting the second game of a double header against the Phillies. His MLB career ended with his Cubs tenure, but he went on to have success in Taiwan, Japan and Korea. He won 22 games in 1993 with the Uni-President Lions, setting the Chinese Professional Baseball League record for Wins in a season. This has since been matched, but not beaten.

I had the opportunity to get my card signed via a private signing that was organized by a member of SCN. To my knowledge, Jose Nunez only has two cards from his time with the Cubs, including the high number card from 1990 Upper Deck below.

1990 Upper Deck #716 Jose Nunez
He also has one from the overpriced set known as Topps TV but I didn't have that one in my collection.

I don't have any particular memories of a Nunez game but he reminded me of a neighbor I had around the same time he was with the Cubs so he definitely sticks in my memory despite his short-timer status. Weird and random, I know.

Nunez was a pitching coach for the Dominican Summer League Brewers fairly recently but I can't find anything that says where he is this season.

Tomorrow is another Topps Now post looking back at last season but I wanted to break up those posts with something else in between. This card marks the 141st card in my ATCRCS collection. Officially, there have been 2,034 players suit up for the Cubs so I have a long way to go! 

Friday, April 21, 2017

This Time Last Year in Topps Now Part 3

(I haven't forgotten about my promised 30-team losers post yet. The turnaround for another Cubs Topps Now card was quick this time.)

Today's look back at last year's Cubs' season via Topps Now brings us a two-fer. Cards numbered 29 and 30 highlight Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta and the Cubs' 16-0 no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds.

Before we get to the cards, let me set the scene a bit.

On July 25, 2015, the Cubs were no-hit by Cole Hamels to end a streak of 7,920 consecutive games with a Cubs hit, the longest streak ever. Why am I mentioning something that happened a year and a half before this? Because after that game, the Cincinnati Reds became the owner of the longest active team hitting streak at 7,026 games.

Back to present day. Errr, I mean a year ago today. The Reds' streak has been extended to 7,109 games.

The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta is taking the mound for the Cubs. He picked up where he left off, beginning the new season 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA.

Kris Bryant was coming off a Rookie of the Year season but hadn't quite kicked in to his MVP groove yet.

The Cubs as a team were atop the National League Central with a an 11-3 record. The Reds were in a tie for 2nd place with a respectable-because-it's-still-early 8-7 record. And no I'm not saying that because its the current Cubs situation, ha! I'm saying it because in 2015, the top three records in baseball came out of the NL Central and did not include the Reds.

The previous afternoon, the Reds had walked-off the Colorado Rockies. The Cubs had dropped one to the Cardinals after an uncharacteristic bumpy start from Kyle Hendricks.

Even though the Cubs regularly brought in 40,000+ fans at Wrigley and visiting ballparks throughout the season, this game had an official attendance of only 16,497.

And then the fun began.

Dexter Fowler led off the game with a double (You Go, We Go). After a Jason Heyward strike out, Kris Bryant put the Cubs on the board with his 3rd home run of the season. Fast forward through Ben Zobrist, David Ross and Anthony Rizzo home runs (among other scoring), Bryant hit a one-out grand slam in the top of the 7th to bring the score to 13-0. Not to mention his two other singles and runs scored.

As the back of the card mentions, despite this offensive output, he was overshadowed by Jake Arrieta's no-hitter.

Speaking of which...

Card #30 focuses on Arrieta's 2nd career no-hitter. His previous one came on August 30, 2015 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, just 9 starts prior. Only Johnny Vander Meer (back-to-back starts) and Warren Spahn (5) had fewer starts between no-hitters.

So while his offense was plowing through Cincinnati pitching, Arrieta was doing the same to their hitters. The only Reds baserunners were due to four walks, but Arrieta faced just two more than the minimum. Joey Votto was picked off 1st base in the 4th inning and a 7th inning double play cancelled out another.

Including this game, Arrieta was 15-0 with a 0.53 ERA (and two no-hitters) in his previous 16 starts. This was the second biggest blowout no-hitter, only behind an 18-0 romp between the Buffalo Bisons and Detroit Wolverines in 1884. So yeah, kind of a big deal.

After a three no hitters in 2013, five in 2014 and modern era record tying seven no-hitters across the MLB in 2015, Arrieta's gem was the only one in 2016 and still the most recent as of this post. In fact, you have to go back to 2006 to find the previous season with only one.

Fan favorite David Ross caught the no-hitter, the first of his career. On a side note, what an amazing final season for that guy, eh? Miguel Montero had caught Arrieta's first no-hitter which was the second for him. Montero previously caught future Cub Edwin Jackson's while with the Dimanondbacks back in 2010.

The Cubs return to Great American Ballpark tonight and although Arrieta was originally scheduled to start, Jon Lester will be taking the mound.

As for these cards, Topps Now was starting to pick up some steam by now. Combine that with an actual historical feat and the buzz surrounding the Cubs and you have a perfect storm for the highest print runs to date. While the Addison Russell and John Lackey cards were a paltry 331 and 224 respectively, the Kris Bryant had a print run of 1644 and Jake Arrieta came in at 1808. Among regular season Cubs cards that ranks them as #4 and #5 in quantity and because of those numbers the value (based on eBay finished auctions) has remained relatively low.

Also of note, at this time last year, these were cards #29 & #30. For the 2017 incarnation, through games played on April 19th, there are already 65 cards. And print runs have remained under 1,000 aside for the cards commemorating the Cubs World Series banner, trophy and rings and a random Andrew Benintendi rookie card. Hmmm....

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

This Time Last Year in Topps Now Part 2

It’s already time for another “This Time Last Year in Topps Now” post.

A year ago today, John Lackey became the 16th person in MLB history to have earned a victory against all 30 teams. On one hand, that sounds impressive. Thousands of pitchers over the years and only 16 have accomplished that feat?

But realistically, this could only have been done beginning in the 1998 season when the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays joined the league to make an even 30 teams. Since then, there is an average of just below one pitcher per season added to the list. When you factor in the introduction of interleague play the year before, this feat isn’t nearly as impossible as the small list implies.

In fact, less than a month after Lackey, Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals defeated his former team, the Detroit Tigers to become the 17th person.

And as of this post, 9 more active pitchers sit on the cusp at 29 teams beaten. Among them is Lackey’s current teammate, Jake Arrieta. The only team he hasn’t beaten? The Cubs. I don’t know that Arrieta’s career will end with the Cubs but here’s hoping!

Despite what the back of the card tells us, I would hardly say this list contains all-time greats aside from the already mentioned Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

I guess Barry Zito was a Cy Young winner and a couple of other guys had All-Star selections. Maybe Scherzer eventually, but his feat was after this card so they weren't thinking about him. Two characteristics specifically jump out at me when scrolling down this list of names. Team hopping or longevity. Or in the case of most, both.

However, I don’t mean to poo-poo all over this stat, as it really is quite an accomplishment. So let’s take a look at how Lackey got there.

In his MLB career, Lackey spent 8 seasons with the Angels, 3 ½ with the Red Sox, 1 ½ with the Cardinals and the past season plus with the Cubs. Here are the teams in order of his first win against them.
Dodgers 6/30/2002
Mariners 7/26/2002
Tigers 8/5/2002
Blue Jays 8/10/2002
Indians 8/16/2002
(Devil) Rays 8/27/2002
Orioles 9/1/2002
Rangers 9/26/2002
A’s 4/11/2003
Yankees 5/13/2003
Phillies 6/10/2003
Twins 7/13/2003
Cubs 6/11/2004
White Sox 7/6/2004
Royals 8/24/2004
Rockies 6/26/2006
Red Sox 7/30/2006
Reds 6/13/2007
Mets 6/17/2008
Nationals 6/23/2008
Giants 6/15/2009
Angels 5/5/2010
Diamondbacks 6/17/2010
Brewers 6/17/2011
Astros 4/28/2013
Padres 7/2/2013
Braves 5/28/2014
Pirates 8/25/2014
Marlins 8/15/2015
Cardinals 4/18/2016

Although it took a couple of tries for Lackey to beat some of the teams, there was no way he could have done this any sooner because 4/18/2016 was the first time he faced the Cardinals in his career.

As with the Addison Russell card, this one has a short print run (shortest among all Cubs cards at 244 copies) and the value has skyrocketed. Also like the Russell card, I picked this one up on the secondary market originally for less than the $10 list price.

I did a quick search but I couldn’t find any readily available data about pitchers who have lost to all 30 teams. I thought that would be an easier feat to accomplish seeing as you only need to face one batter to get a loss but face 15+ as a starter to get a win. But on the flip side, such futility might not yield the opportunity to continue to lose.

Certainly the guys on the winner list have the appearance count to have made it happen but I’m too lazy to look them all up individually. Lackey, for the record, has only lost to 27 teams, remaining undefeated against Diamondbacks, Mets and Nationals.

*Edit: Had some time to kill so looked up a few of the other guys on the list. More on that in a day or two.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Niche Collection Updates

I figured if I was going to try to jump back into this whole blogging thing, I should do a little blog maintenance. I've eliminated a few tabs up top while I do some updates but the ones I've left behind are up to date as of this post.

I haven't picked up very many cards in the past 12-18 months aside from Topps Now, but I didn't stop completely. I kept my eBay Saved Searches alive so every once in a while I would get a notice on something I was looking for.

First up is the 1991 Topps Desert Shield parallel team set. With a few pickups, I currently have 31 of the 32 Cubs cards. (I am not counting the Keith Comstock error card because even though it declares him to be a Cub, he never was.)

The lone holdout for this set is #740 Ryne Sandberg's regular card. There are some available so it's more a matter of finding one at a good price and in a condition I'm happy with. The centering on these cards has been my biggest issue.

As for my other goal with this set, of the 31 cards I have, 8 of them are signed. Now that I am oh-so-close to having them all, I hope to focus on getting more autographed. The tab above is up to date, minus scans of the Shawon Dunston and Greg Smith cards.

Next up is the stalled out Tony Campana PC. He is currently a free agent and hasn't seen the big leagues since 2014. Hence the lack of any newer cards being produced. I did manage to track down a 2014 minor league issue from his time with the Reno Aces, doing what Tony does best. Running.

Campana split 2016 between the AAA clubs of the Washington Nationals (Syracuse Chiefs) and Chicago White Sox (Charlotte Knights). As far as I know, I'm just looking for a few parallels and printing plates.

I'm putting an APB out for:

2009 Tristar Projections #29 various parallels (have base)
2011 Topps Update #US57 Canary Yellow Diamond and any printing plates
2012 Topps #580 Toys R Us Purple, Wood, Platinum and any Printing Plates
2012 Panini Prizm Blue #95

Click the tab above to see most if not all of what I have, including some autographs.

The Ivy Frankenset is coming along and I'll have Page 2 posted soon, but no further updates at the moment!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What a Difference a Year Makes...

It is a wonder how time flies.

It's been just over 4 months since I last posted and the topic du jour was a recap of my whirlwind trip to see the Chicago Cubs victory parade.

Tonight, the Cubs will get their championship rings before their game against the Dodgers. The night before last, the Cubs had their home opener where the championship banner was raised and the evening culminated in a walk-off victory. Topps Now created three cards to commemorate the events.

Confession time.

I went down the rabbit hole last year and picked up all of the Topps Now cards that featured Cubs. Since I fell off the radar blog-wise and missed doing the look-what-I-picked-up posts like I had planned, I thought it might be a fun trip down memory lane with a simple "this time last year" style write-up.

I'm a day late for this post, but a year ago yesterday, the Cubs earned their first Topps Now card. (Considering it went on sale a year ago today, maybe I'm not late?)

#14 Addison Russell
As I mentioned, I missed this card when it was originally released. Topps Now was still fairly new (this is card #14) and the $9.99 price point kept the print runs relatively small. About a month later, I picked this one up for less than that. Bulk orders through Topps brought prices down with savings that trickled to the secondary market while still allowing eBay sellers to potentially make a small profit.

The print run for this card is listed as 331 copies, one of the lowest for Cubs cards (3rd or 5th lowest depending on what you consider Cubs cards). The lowest Cubs card was 244.

Topps Now eventually picked up some steam, with many cards breaking the 1000+ mark. Fast forward to today and with this limited run and the success the Cubs had, you'll be hard pressed to find one of these for under $100. Crazy. I wish they all had that ROI rate!

However, the ingenuity of the set may have worn off for its sophomore season as print runs in general are much lower. We're about 30 cards in (again, compared to only 14 this time last year?) and two already have lower print runs than last year's all-time low of 178 and less than half have surpassed the total of this card's 331! Four cards have broken 500 and only one of those has gone over 1000.

Maybe it was a lightning in a bottle thing? Maybe things will pick up again as the season rolls on? Or maybe the secondary market dried up causing bulk buyers to bail? Time will tell.

But let's get back to this card and what was going on last year...

The synopsis on the back of the card hits most of the high points but to fill in the blanks:

The Cubs were no-hit through 6 2/3 and down 3-0. David Ross broke up the no-no with a single. Two walks later, Jason Heyward plated two runs with a single of his own. Following a walk and hit by pitch in the 8th, Addison Russell propelled the Cubs to a 5-3 victory with the depicted 3-run home run. Five runs on three hits.

Jon Lester was the Cubs starter but Adam Warren (remember his Cubs stint??) vultured the win with a scoreless 8th.

I think Topps Now was still finding its groove at this point as there's nothing particularly spectacular here. In fact, had the Reds held on, starting Reds pitcher Brandon Finnegan may have earned a card for his late no-hit bid. Maybe it was a boring day around the league?

At this point though, the Cubs were now 6-1 and Topps probably felt they needed to be recognized. Comparatively, this year the Cubs are 5-2 and have 5 cards already (though to be fair, two of them recognize the home opener ceremonies of raising the championship banner and trophy presentation).

The next Topps Now post won't be for another week or so but I hope to have another post or two in the meantime. Hopefully, I still have some followers!