Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Card of Week: 2005 Helmar's Turkey Stearnes

2005 Helmar's

Thomas "Turkey" Stearnes was outfielder in the Negro Leagues from 1920-40, most notably with the Detroit Stars.  He got his nickname from his running style, but it did not hurt him in becoming one of the best hitters in Negro League history.   He lead the league in home runs for seven seasons while still maintaining high batting average.  Stearnes was not just great hitter, he was a very good in the field and known to have a solid throwing arm.  He participated in five Negro League All Star games and was finally recognized by being inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.

Helmar Brewing Company released a regional card set in the summer of 2005.  They were packaged in three card packs and placed in their line of potato chips in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.  The set included former players of MLB, Negro Leagues, Japanese and the barnstorming House of David team along with some pro boxers.
A few other notes about the tobacco styled trading cards is that they are very thick and prone to chipping.  So finding them in mint condition is quite difficult.  It was also difficult completing the set from the individual packs.  They were terribly collated as getting duplicates often was quite common.  2005 was the only year Helmar's released cards via packs.  The subsequent three years, they were released in only in set form.  Here is more information about the 2005 set and the checklist for it.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

More Songs About Stars

Catfish Hunter isn't the only Hall of Fame baseball player to have a song written about him:
Here is "Did You See Jackie Hit That Ball" by Count Basie:

"Joltin Joe Dimaggio"  by Les Brown:

Say Hey(the Willie Mays song) by The Treniers:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Did you know.....?

Sunday night is the American Music Awards and I decided to combine music and baseball with this post.  Give you a fun fact about a legend in each that are linked.
Did you know that music icon Bob Dylan once wrote a song about Hall of Fame pitcher Jim "Catfish" Hunter?
Hunter was the ace of the pitching staffs for both the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees in the late 1960s and 1970s.  He won multiple World Series titles for both franchises.
The song was originally written for Dylan's 1976 album Desire, but was released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare and Unreleased, 1961-1991).
Here is a link of the song on Bob Dylan's official website.  Joe Cocker did a cover of it and released it on his 1976 album Stringray. Here is Cocker version:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Omar Vizquel...En Espanol y Ingles

Omar Vizquel is the new first base coach for the Detroit Tigers.  He also will be coaching base running and infield.  How much better will Jose Iglesias will be with Vizquel as his personal tutor?

Here is a highlight video of Omar Vizquel from his playing days.  To me, he and Ozzie Smith are the two greatest defensive shortstops ever.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fielder/Kinsler Trade Analysis

The Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers pulled off a rare one for one trade of stars on Wednesday.  It looks like it will be a trade that will benefit both parties.  Prince Fielder who is 29 years old and owed $168 million dollars through 2020 and plus cash was dealt for second baseman Ian Kinsler(31 years old and just completed his first season of a 5 yr/$75 million dollar contract).
2013 Topps Heritage
For the Texas Rangers, it gives a big bat in the middle of the lineup that they desperately need.  Fielder, even though is one of the top sluggers in MLB, seem to never totally mesh in Detroit.  He gets some pressure taken off of him and is in a much friendlier power hitting ballpark.  I would not be surprised that Fielder flirts with the 50 home run mark next season.
By moving Kinsler, it opens up second base for Jurickson Profar, who has shown he is ready to be an everyday big leaguer.  I also think Texas is not done in terms of looking for another bat.
2012 Topps Opening Day

As for Detroit, I believe it is a bit of a bigger win.  It is a disappointment that one of Detroit's favorite sons never really fulfilled his potential in Motown, but the deal gives the Tigers more flexibility all over.
On the field, Kinsler is a hitter who could leadoff and steal some bases.  He does have some pop also in his bat.  It gives new Manager Brad Ausmus another option to Austin Jackson for leadoff guy.  It will give him more opportunity to create runs via hit and run and advancing bases much more than Fielder.  Which is a big advantage for post season ball.
Off the field, the moves frees up a ton of money for Detroit. They could use that extra dollars in attempting to resign Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and extend Miguel Cabrera contract that concludes at the end of 2015 season.  Fielder's contract is so huge, it could have been an albatross if they tried to deal him down the road.  Kinsler's on the otherhand is much more trader friendly if they chose that route in the future.
The negative for Detroit in this trade is that it leads a big void behind Miguel Cabrera in the lineup.  Which brings me to my last point.  I truly believe that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski is not done this off season. He will be looking for another bat.  This deal gives him more flexibility here.  Instead of going just for an outfielder with Cabrera stuck at third and Fielder at first base, he will have much more options.  He can either find an outfielder, move Nick Castellanos to third and Cabrera to First.  He can move Cabrera to first and acquire a third baseman or leave Castellenos and Cabrera and find a first baseman. There is also a possibility that DH Victor Martinez could play some first base also.   Dombrowski will have a much bigger pool of talent in finding another hitter.  This player position flexibiliy will also be beneficial in National League parks for getting the best bats in the lineup on a more consistent basis.
This trade seems to be a win/win for both clubs on paper, but time will tell in how it plays on the field

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Card of Week: 1986 Topps Traded Wally Joyner

Wally Joyner was named as the Detroit Tigers new hitting coach earlier this week.  If you are not familiar with Joyner, he was a rookie sensation with the California Angels in 1986 and had a solid career beyond.
1986 Topps Traded
He broke onto the MLB scene as the first baseman in 1986 for California.  His hot start that helped him become the first rookie ever elected to start an All Star game lead to fan craze known as "Wally World".  He ended his season with a .290 avg with 22 home runs and 100 RBIs and helped lead the Angels to the divisional title.  Joyner also finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Oakland's Jose Canseco.
He had another very solid year the following year, but after the 1987 season his power numbers dropped off and subsequently got overshadowed by the bigger sluggers of the time.
During his latter part of his career, Joyner was the first baseman for the Padres 1998 pennant winning season.  Also while in San Diego, as his numbers started to really declined and felt the pressures, he inquired about steroid use.  After obtaining some from teammate Ken Caminiti, he took a 2-3 pills, but his conscience took over and flushed the rest down the toilet. I personally respect him for making the right decision at the end.
He ended his career back with the Angels in 2001 and finished his career with 204 HRs, 1,106 RBIs and a .289 average.
And here is funny video of him and White Sox Steve Lyons breaking up the monotony of a long baseball season:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hot Stove Preview

Now that the awards all have been handed out, the hot stove league is now in full swing.  I am going to give you my thoughts going into the off season.  No predictions, just some names that are available, trends and other factors to consider and think about as players are mentioned throughout the winter.

Major League Baseball is currently doing very well business wise.  Attendance was the sixth best in history with a total of almost 75,000,000.  There are more teams competing and making the playoffs -seven out of top ten teams with highest payrolls didn't make the playoffs last year.  Plus, the new television deal kicks in for the 2014 season, so every team will have more money to throw around this winter.
2013 Topps Heritage
Who is going to get this money?  The biggest name in free agency is Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano.  He is asking for a ton of money and will likely get the biggest contract this winter.  Yankees seem destined to resign him.  Speaking of Yankees, they have a lot of holes to fill.  Starters, closer?, outfielder, a catcher, will Jeter be healthy in 2014? and about ARod?  Yankees don't know how much  money is available until his appeal of suspension is determined. If his suspension is upheld, ARod's contract is off the books, but otherwise New York will have to pay the $20+ contract that is owed to him.

Most of the free agents available are veterans who are past or leaving their prime years or coming off injuries.  Teams are hesitant to sign a player who is in early 30s to a long term deal, so you might see shorter deals at higher dollars.
If you watched the baseball playoffs this past month, you probably noticed that pitching dominated and the lack of power hitters.  These are the two areas the general managers are coveting the most this winter.   Home run numbers are down to where they were in the 70s and early 80s. and there isn't a lot in the market.  Outfielders Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson, catchers Brian McCann and A.J. Pierzynski and first baseman Mike Napoli will be mentioned the most.  Leadoff batters Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin Soo Choo will also be highly sought after.

2007 Calbee
As for pitching, there is no real aces available.  The top starters are veterans Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bartolo Colon, Hiroki Kuroda and Bronson Arroyo.  Some solid starters, but none are top of the rotation guys.   The best available starter in free agency could be a Japanese import, Masahiro Tanaka.  The 25 year old righty finished the regular season 24-0 record.  He is not considered as good as fellow Japanese import Yu Darvish, but is thought to be a number 2 or 3 guy in a rotation.  His stuff is comparable to Kuroda and will be seven years younger than Kuroda at the time of their respected MLB rookie seasons.  One thing to watch for here is that MLB and Japan's NPB are negotiating new posting policies for Japanese players who want to join MLB. If no deal can be worked out, Tanaka will have stay in Japan.
Available relievers are lead by Joe Nathan.  Nathan has been very consistent throughout his career. The 38 year old closer is actually the all time leader in converting saves in terms of percentage.  Other closers available are Fernando Rodney, Brian Wilson and Grant Balfour.  We might see some setup men get deals just as good as the closers as all pitching is such a premium now, no matter if it is for beginning, middle or end of games.

Why very little amount of youth available in free agency?  It's because teams are locking up their young stars to long term deals years before they become eligible for free agency or arbitration.  If a team wants to get younger or fill a void during the winter, they would have to do it via trade.  With the lack of headline free agents on the market each year, we might see more blockbuster trades in the future.  The names mentioned the most this winter are starters Max Scherzer of Detroit and David Price of Tampa.  Texas could trade also trade one of their middle infielders Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus or even Jurickson Profar in trying to fill a need.  Teams are willing to trade these stars because either they are looking to lower payroll or get a return in investment instead of getting close to nothing when the players go elsewhere in free agency.

I hope I gave you some things to keep in mind when your favorite team or players are mentioned during the hot stove league.  Good luck to your teams this winter as we all looking forward to Spring Training. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Card of the Week: Dave Winfield 1991 Topps Desert Shield

For Veteran's Day, I will talk about one of the more unique baseball sets that has a link to the military.   During the early parts of 1991, Operation Desert Shield (and later Desert Storm) was in force.  Topps baseball card company issued in addition to its 1991 set, a special marked set just for the military stationed in the Middle East.  The set consists of 792 cards and parallels the regular set.  The only difference is the Desert Shield stamp on the front.

They were distributed in packs like here in USA and given out to the military.  Many, of course, were damaged or lost before ever making back to the states.  No one officially knows how many are currently on the market.
Couple interesting notes about the set.  One is that the stars of baseball is bit easier to find because the collectors in the military wanted to keep them for themselves or used for resale.  The commons or regular players were often tossed away.  Also, for anyone who is interested in any of these cards, there are forgeries on the market.  Buyer beware!
The above Dave Winfield is the only I have of the set. I bought it off Ebay a while back, so I can say I have one. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

100 Greatest Players of All Time

For my 100th post here, I will name my 100 greatest players of all time. I tried to put them in the best order as I can, but it is all speculation and guessing.  I did include the players accused and admitted of steroid use, but they get knocked down on the list. I also included former Negro Leaguers and current players.  For the active guys, I only consider what they have accomplished, no projections as we can not predict the future. 

In considering each player, I take account not only his stats, but his overall play(fielding, baserunning, etc), individual awards, team championships and overall impact on the game. So  a catcher or good fielding outfielder will take precedence over a slugger like a Harmon Killebrew or Ralph Kiner.

Couple notes on some individual players, I included Alex Rodriguez. I don't how much of his stats and accomplishments are steroid aided and how much is legit. Plus, he is a rather poor teammate.  But his stats are so overwhelming, I had to include him.  Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmiero are not included because the legacies are dependent mostly just on individual statistics.  Manny Ramirez was more of a clutch post season player than the above, but he didn't do much more than being a great hitter. So, he is off the list also.
Mariano Rivera is my only closer.  All things considered equal I will take a starter over a closer.  I believe they are overall better pitchers.  Rivera is the best of all time and has been phenomenal in his career including post season, I had to include him also.
And here is the list:

100.  Alex_Rodriguez
99.  Mariano_Rivera
98. Ryne Sandberg
97. Robin_Yount
96. Tom_Glavine
95. Wade_Boggs
94. Dave_Winfield
93. Charlie_Gehringer
92. Ralph Kiner
91. Goose_Goslin
90. Ferguson_Jenkins
89. Ozzie_Smith
88. Kirby_Puckett
87. Miguel Cabrera
86. Albert_Pujols
85. Eddie_Plank
84. Dizzy_Dean
83. Sam_Crawford
82. Harmon_Killebrew
81. Ed_Walsh
80. Willie_Stargell
79. Brooks_Robinson
78. Paul_Waner
77. Joe_Medwick
76. Cal_Ripken,_Jr.
75. Eddie_Murray
74. Ichiro Suzuki
73. Willie_Keeler
72. Al_Kaline
71. Juan_Marichal
70. Pie_Traynor
69. Carl_Yastrzemski
68. Pedro Martinez
67. Oscar_Charleston
66. James "Cool_Papa" Bell
65. Mickey Cochrane
64. Jim_Palmer
63. Eddie_Mathews
62. Randy_Johnson
61. Rod_Carew
60. Joe_Morgan
59. Bill_Terry
58. Harry_Heilmann
57. Lou_Brock
56.  Bill_Dickey
55. Willie_McCovey
54. George_Brett
53. Roger_Clemens
52. Whitey_Ford
51. Barry_Bonds
50. Roy_Campanella
49. Tony_Gwynn
48. Reggie_Jackson
47. Buck_Leonard
46. Mel_Ott
45. Carl_Hubbell
44. Jackie_Robinson
43. Al_Simmons
42. Ken_Griffey_Jr
41. Nolan_Ryan
40. Ernie_Banks
39. Greg_Maddux
38. Yogi_Berra
37. Shoeless_Joe_Jackson
36. Bob_Feller
35. Hank_Greenberg
34. George_Sisler
33. Tom_Seaver
32. Rickey_Henderson
31. Bob_Gibson
30. Steve_Carlton
29. Nap_Lajoie
28. Mike_Schmidt
27. Tris_Speaker
26. Sandy_Koufax
25. Eddie_Collins
24. Pete_Rose
23. Lefty_Grove
22. Warren_Spahn
21. Frank_Robinson
20. Roberto_Clemente
19. Satchel_Paige
18. Josh_Gibson
17. Joe_DiMaggio
16. Johnny_Bench
15. Jimmie_Foxx
14. Cy_Young
13. Honus_Wagner
12. Grover_Cleveland_Alexander
11. Mickey_Mantle
10. Stan_Musial
9. Rogers_Hornsby
8. Ted_Williams
7. Christy_Mathewson
6. Lou_Gehrig
5. Walter_Johnson
4. Hank_Aaron
3. Ty_Cobb
2. Willie_Mays
1. Babe_Ruth

Why Babe Ruth #1?  Basically because, he was so much better than others in his era. He actually out homered teams for a full season.  He also was so hugely popular among fans and is considered help save the gave after the Black Sox Scandal of 1919.  But, the biggest attribute of Ruth is that prior to being the great home run hitter, he was a very good pitcher. No other player on the list can say that.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Award Winning Predictions

Here are my predictions for the three major awards for each league.
National League Rookie of the Year:
The three finalists are: Jose Fernandez of the Marlins(12-6 record, 187 Ks, 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP)
Yasiel Puig of Dodgers(.319 AVG 19 HR 42 RBI .391 OBP .534 SLG)
Shelby Miller of Cardinals(15-9 record, 169 Ks, 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP)
winner: Jose Fernandez

American League Rookie of the Year:
Chris Archer of Rays (9-7 record, 101 Ks, 3.22 ERA, 1.13 ERA)
Jose Iglesias of Tigers (.303 AVG 3 HR 29 RBI, .349 OBP .386 SLG)
Wil Myers of Rays (.293 AVG 13 HR 53 RBI . 354 OBP ..478 SLG)
winner: Wil Myers

NL Cy Young:\
Jose Fernandez of Marlins(12-6 record, 187 Ks, 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP)
Clayton Kershaw of Dodgers(16-9 record, 232 Ks, 1.83 ERA 0.92 WHIP)
Adam Wainwright of Cardinals (19-9 record, 219 Ks, 2.94 ERA 1.07 WHIP)
winner: Clayton Kershaw

AL Cy Young:
Yu Darvish of Rangers (13-9 record, 277 Ks, 2.83 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)
Hisashi Iwakuma of Mariners (14-6 record, 185 Ks, 2.66 ERA. 1.01 WHIP)
Max Scherzer of Tigers (21-3 record, 240 Ks, 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP)
winner: Max Scherzer

Paul Goldschmidt of Diamondbacks (.302 AVG 36 HRs 125 RBIs .401 OBP .551 SLG)
Andrew McCutchen of Pirates (.317 AVG 21 HR 84 RBI .404 OBP .508 SLG)
Yadier Molina of Cardinals (.319 AVG 12 HR 80 RBI .359 OBP .477 SLG)
winner: Yadier Molina ...very close over McCutchen

Miguel Cabrera of Tigers (.348 AVG 44 HR 137 RBI .442 OBP .636 SLG)
Chris Davis of Orioles (.286 AVG 53 HR 138 RBI .370 OBP ..634 SLG)
Mike Trout of Angels (.323 AVG 27 HR 97 RBI .432 OBP  .557 SLG 33 SB)
winner : Miguel Cabrera

Monday, November 4, 2013

Card of the Week: Tug McGraw 1983 Topps

This week's card of the week is one of former closer of the Mets and Phillies, Tug McGraw. 
1983 Topps

McGraw was a part of World Series championships for the Miracle Mets of 1969 and the Phillies of 1980.   He also a key figure of the 1973 Mets' pennant winning season.  He coined the phrase, "Ya gotta believe", that became the team's rallying cry for the season.
Of course being a typical relief pitcher, he was a bit eccentric. He was the author of the following quotes:
"90% of it, I'll spend on good times, women and Irish Whiskey, the other would probably just waste" - After being asked what he planned to do with the World Series bonus.
"I don't know, I have never smoked astroturf" -When asked if he prefers grass or turf.

But in all seriousness, he later suffered a brain tumor and lost the battle in 2003.  After the diagnosis, he established "Ya Gotta Believe" foundation, helping adults and children with brain tumors.

Why am I picking a Tug McGraw card this week?  On Wednesday night, ABC is airing the Country Music Awards on television.  McGraw is the father of country superstar Tim McGraw.  Which gives me an excuse to replay this old Bud Light commercial: