Thursday, May 28, 2015

Seven Nation Army of Cards in My Mailbox!

Hey everyone, Drew back here! About a week ago, my best buddy William surprised me with an excellent package of Yankees cards, new and old. I was not aware of this coming in, and needless to say it easily made my day. Let's take a look at what came my way:

We begin with some 2014 and 2015 Bowman; the one set I never seem to buy any of no matter how nice they may be. I must admit, this year's product is the best I've seen in years, and I'm not sure what it is that I love about it. The photo choices are atypical of the average Bowman product, and I particularly like the Michael Pineda card (although this copy is missing the foil "Mi" in Michael). Foil isn't always a plus, but Topps did a good job of making it work with this year's design.

My favorite of the Bowman cards happened to be of recently celebrated center fielder Bernie Williams. Bowman celebrated a 25th anniversary of the 1990 rookie class, which included Williams, Frank Thomas, Moises Alou, among others. There are regular variations, and also autographed versions, which our fellow blogger The Snorting Bull has already fully assembled (Beautiful set, by the way)!

I missed Bernie's best years in pinstripes, but have always had a high level of respect for his career(s). He was one of the more under-appreciated stars of the Steroid Era, and while it may seem off to retire his number with the Yankees, he deserves it thanks in part to others who have also had their numbers retired. It was a nice ceremony, and if you haven't heard his emotional speech, check it out.

2015 Topps Heritage hasn't done too much for me, although I have generally been a fan of the product over the years. I think a lot of it has to do with never being a fan of the 1966 Topps set, especially considering it followed up perhaps the most beautiful years of baseball card history, 1965. I do enjoy manager cards, as you saw recently with my TTM successes from this set of Buck Showalter and Ned Yost. 

I know I recently bashed Gypsy Queen for the random loopy thing on the front of each card, but the more I see of the set, the more it's growing on me. It almost reminds me of a keyhole, which as far as I know hasn't been done yet. As always, Gypsy Queen honors the legends they use, and boy, those Gossage, Parker, Cone, and DiMaggio cards are gorgeous.

... but nothing beats this one. Forever my all time favorite player. I miss you Derek.

There was quite a mixed variety of stuff in this package, as there usually seems to be. I don't know how William ends up with all these Yankees cards, but I'll always be glad to take them off your hands. I know it's hard for Panini to do without logos, but the Thurman Munson Diamond Kings card is flawless. I really hope they get an MLB license within the next few years, because I think a lot of what took me out of buying packs and boxes had to do with Topps receiving exclusive rights; crumpling Upper Deck in the process. A little competition is never a bad thing.

I've been waiting for this card for a loooooong time. The second I knew Jack White was getting a card in this year's Series 1, I wanted it in my collection. The former White Stripes lead singer and guitarist, as well a member of the talented Raconteurs, Dead Weather, and a fantastic soloist; has become one of my all time favorite musicians in a very quick timespan. I saw him perform live this past January at Madison Square Garden, and it was perhaps the greatest performance I've ever seen. White has been seen at many baseball stadiums in the last year, and a meme was even created for his dull expression at a Cubs game. I was even at a Yankee game last year that he (and Kate Upton) were at; and in retrospect I really wished I stalked him down and got a chance to shake his hand. Oh well. At least I finally have one of these beautiful cards, honoring his First Pitch at Comerica Park last summer!

Thank you so much again William! Please go check out foul bunt, but who am I kidding; who hasn't? See Ya!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ten for Tuesday - Most Iconic Sports Photographs

Hey everyone, Drew back here! After a week off from my new series, Ten for Tuesday, I have returned to bring you something a little different than what we've covered thus far. Over the past month and a half, I have created lists of Hall of Famers who may not deserve to be in, the Best Switch Hitters in Baseball, the players with the best signatures in baseball, among others. But this week, we are slightly shifting gears towards what is featured on the front of the baseball cards most of my readers love: the pictures.

It is safe to say through our love for this hobby we also all share a love for photography, because it is one of the main focal points that makes collecting fun. We complain when we see a set that features the same poses in photos; card after card. We like unique, and with that I decided to highlight the ten most Iconic Photographs in Sports History for you all to feast your eyes on.

10 Most Iconic Sports Photographs of All Time

Honorable Mentions - 

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No Kirk Gibson? No Carlton Fisk? Once again, let me remind you that this is my list, and I was on the verge of putting these unforgettable scenes on this list until others surpassed them. Mazeroski set the baseball world ablaze after defeating my all powerful Yankees dynasty in 1960, while Jackie Robinson snuck his foot into home just a few years before past the man in left field who watched Maz's long fly soar over the fence; Yogi Berra (he was out, by the way). Not many were alive to watch the feeble Lou Gehrig deliver one of the most famous speeches in American sports history, but the images we do have of the event showcase just how impactful and sincere "The Iron Horse" was. And to prove that I attempt to be unbiased, the lone moment I had the pleasure of watching first hand did not crack my top ten. Sorry, David Tyree.

10 - Bobby Orr, The Goal, Taken by Ray Lussier, 1970

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If you've followed my writing long enough, you know that I am in no means a hockey connoisseur. I was proud of myself that I managed to watch a majority of the Rangers' Game 7 victory over the Capitals last Wednesday that ended in an overtime victory. But when sorting through all of these iconic sports moments, this picture of hockey legend Bobby Orr stood out. This picture was a personal reminder of how sports truly are kids games performed by adults. Orr is flying through the air like Peter Pan, the boy who famously refused to ever grow up. The photo was taken after he scored a game winning goal that gave his Bruins a Stanley Cup title over the St. Louis Blues. Their opposing defenseman Noel Picard tripped Orr after he scored the goal, which caused him to take flight, however; the photo almost appears as if he didn't need to be tripped to fly. I know I didn't put Carlton Fisk's famous home run on this list, much to many Boston fans' dismay, but I hope I made up for that with this.

9 - Michael Jordan, Winning First Championship, 1991

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There is no sports photo I find more emotionally gripping than this one. Michael Jordan may just be the most dominant athlete in the history of American sports; perhaps worldwide as well. And this Championship series victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in 1991 was his first of 6 titles, and began the first of two three-peats. He was magical throughout the series, and came away with his first of 6 Finals MVP awards. The word that comes to mind every time I see this is dedication, as nobody out worked, out hustled, or out played #23 in his prime. As tears rush down his face, we can see that the journey was most certainly worth striving for. Hint: This may not be the last we see of the greatest to ever grace the court on this list.

8 - Tommie Smith & John Carlos, Black Power Salute, 1968

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The late 1960's were a controversial period of time in American history, as the Civil Rights Movement was becoming ever more impactful nationwide. The fight for African American equal rights extended throughout all facets of culture, including the sports world. During the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, two male African Americans named Tommie Smith and John Carlos placed first and third in the 200 meter race, respectively. But their actual performance was undermined by how they chose to celebrate their achievements. They made a political statement during the Star Spangled Banner while on the winner's podium, raising their fists with black gloves to bring awareness and salute the rise of black power in the country. It was extremely controversial at the time, and will forever go down as one of the biggest political moments in sports history.

7 - US Men's Hockey Team, Miracle on Ice, Taken by Heinz Kluetmeier, 1980

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USA! USA! USA! There is nothing more patriotic than watching an underdog US Men's Hockey team defeat the Soviets in one of the greatest Olympic upsets of all time! If you've never seen the movie based off of this story, I highly recommend it. Sports Illustrated even called the "Miracle on Ice" the greatest sports moment of the 20th century, and if you really think about it, that's quite an accomplishment. The joy expressed in this photo tells the whole story.

6 - Don Larsen & Yogi Berra, World Series Perfect Game, 1956

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Ah, yes, my lone Yankees selection for the list. Baseball has existed for hundreds of years now, and the World Series has since 1903. And there has only been one perfect game thrown in that series, by the hand of relatively unknown hurler Don Larsen. Larsen's name would forever be scratched into Yankees immortality all thanks in part to his heroic performance, and the image of Yogi Berra jumping into his arms following the 27th out is absolutely priceless.

5 - Dwight Clark, Super Bowl Catch, Taken by Walter Iooss Jr., 1981

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Dwight Clark was a pretty good player for a short period of time, but he picked the right time to shine. The only football moment on this list occurred in the 1981 NFC Championship Game when Clark's 49ers took on the Dallas Cowboys; America's Team. Late in the game, the Niners were down 6 points with minimal time left on the clock, and Hall of Famer Joe Montana led the team down the field. An 83 yard drive led the team to the Cowboys' 6 yard line, where Montana would connect with Clark for a touchdown that would forever be known as simply "The Catch" and would send the 49ers to the Super Bowl; which they would win. Epic catches have been made since then (such as David Tyree and Santonio Holmes' in their Super Bowl triumphs), but this was one of the very first clutch moments in the NFL's illustrious history. And with that, Clark's leap lands 5th on our countdown.

4 - Wilt Chamberlain, 100 Points, 1962

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People often try to rank the records that will be most difficult to break. Hell, I could even write about that in the future. Chances are one of the higher ranked records would be all thanks to this legend, Wilt Chamberlain, who on March 2nd, 1962, scored exactly 100 points in a routing against my New York Knicks. Although the moment was not recognized quite like it should have been (his reward was a piece of paper that said "100" on it), but since only one player has come slightly close to his record in over 50 years (Kobe Bryant, 81 points), a mystique has been given to Chamberlain's achievement. Chamberlain averaged 50.3 points per game in the 1961-1962 season, and topped 70 points twice that season, and twice the next. Talk about domination.

3 - Willie Mays, The Catch, Taken by the Associated Press, 1954

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Many will argue that baseball's version of "The Catch" was not even Willie Mays' finest work. Regardless of how anyone may object, Mays' over the shoulder diving grab in deep right field of the Polo Grounds has been the most recognized defensive play in baseball history. This play came in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series between the then New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians. His catch and quick throw kept Larry Doby from scoring what would have been the go ahead run. Overrated or not, Mays' storied career was personified by this image; showing the effort and perseverance he put into every play for 22 years.

2 - Michael Jordan, The Shot II, Taken by Fernando Medina, 1998

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Guess who's back? Back again; MJ's back. Tell a friend. If any of these legendary players deserved multiple spots on this list, Michael Jordan is as deserving as it gets. Jordan made two particularly remarkable shots that have taken simple names "The Shot 1 & 2" in his career playoff performances. The first came in the 5th game of the Bulls' first round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1989, where his buzzer beater seemed to freeze time. The photograph of Jordan leaping in the air from his 44 point performance is another that was seriously considered for the list, but it was his second "Shot" that took home first prize among all of 23's classic memories. Jordan made this shot against the Utah Jazz to win his 6th and final NBA Finals, and it would go on to be his final shot with the Chicago Bulls. I have always loved this picture because it appears that everyone in Utah's crowd was terrified of the inevitable; that Jordan would crush every chance of them winning a title. Sure enough, he did, and they haven't appeared in the Finals since then.

1 - Muhammad Ali, Defeating Sonny Liston, Taken by Neil Leifer, 1965

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In most cases, I am not sure who will take the top spot on any of my lists until I take some time to calculate, arrange, and rearrange all of the possibilities. This list featured an absolute no brainer. Yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of the day this inspiring photo was taken by Neil Leifer in Miami Beach, Florida. Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) was underestimated the previous year against the ferocious reigning Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston, and the publicity gained by the fight rivaled our modern day Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown earlier this year. After a six round battle, Ali's moves were too quick for the aging Liston; who failed to answer the bell and was defeated by technical knockout. It was an enormous upset at the time, but Liston wasn't ready to pass the torch just yet. The next year, they were back at it in their second matchup; this time in Lewiston, Maine. This fight was much quicker for the two foes, as Ali made use of a "phantom punch"; knocking Liston onto the floor midway through the first round. This photo above was taken as Ali shouted "Get up and fight, sucka!" at Liston, who rolled in agony and defeat on the ground.

This picture represents exactly who Ali would become: a champion. He may not have been America's hero all throughout his career, but he was always must-see TV. While the two bouts ruined Liston's troubled career, they kickstarted the career of who truly was "The Greatest".

I have often said (to myself, because usually not too many people care) that if I were to own any signed picture (within reason); this would be the one. It is the epiphany of what I love about sports; dominance. I have always been infatuated with larger than life athletes who transcended their individual sports, and Ali became boxing after his career was over. No matter how "undefeated" Floyd Mayweather may be, he would never stand a chance against the man who floated like a butterfly, and stung like a be. This may forever sit atop my wish list, but as long as I continue to get the satisfaction it provides me now, I'll be okay with that.

Happy 50th Anniversary to a moment in sports we will never forget. And hats off to the rest of the moments that have created amazing fans worldwide; on this list, just short, or even just the slightest imprint of talent that may have popped off the screen one day. 

See Ya!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Store Credit Flips at COMC!

Hey everyone, Drew back here! Over the past few months, I've been occasionally selling a card or three on my Check Out My Collectibles store. I've been using the site for several years now for buying and selling, and have recently put all the money I earned in sales towards cards I preferred for my personal collection. Lately, the money has been going towards autographs of rising stars in baseball that I enjoy watching, and I was able to add four to my Autograph PC in the process.

2013 Topps Allen & Ginter Starling Marte Autograph

First up, I picked up a 2013 Allen & Ginter framed autograph of Pirates young 5 tool outfielder Starling Marte. Marte swings a streaky bat, but when he's on, there aren't many more dangerous hitters. At 26, he's only entering his prime, and he's already built up two very solid statistical campaigns and is on pace for his best yet in 2015. I originally drafted him in my 8 team friends fantasy baseball league, but traded him along with Pedro Alvarez for Gerrit Cole and Jayson Werth. Werth has since hit the DL, but I've been pleased with what Cole has given me. I've always liked Marte's sharp signature, and had been looking forward to getting my own copy. 

2014 Topps Stadium Club Julio Teheran Autograph

The remaining three pickups are all of current pitchers, two of the three currently struggling thus far in 2015. First, I was able to complement ranking Julio Teheran as having the second best signature in baseball today by purchasing a certified autograph out of 2014 Topps Stadium Club. Teheran had a breakout season in 2014, going 14-13 with a 2.89 ERA and 186 strikeouts, however this season has been a different ballgame for the Columbian hurler. He has a 4.33 ERA through his first eight starts, and has produced inconsistent results. Despite this, I knew it was a good time to look into his autograph, and sure enough for just over $5, it was mine.

2014 Topps Finest Yordano Ventura Autograph Refractor

Perhaps the most controversial star in baseball (outside of A-Rod) in 2015 has been the Royals' Vordano Ventura. Clearly, the sky is the limit for this kid potential wise, as fans have seen in his spectacular 2014 playoff performances. The problem has been his attitude, which may have possibly affected his delivery on the field. After placing 6th in Rookie of the Year voting, he has come out the gate rather ineffectively in 2015. His ERA currently sits at a whopping 4.56, and advanced metrics don't appear to be cutting him much slack at all. This 2014 Topps Finest rookie autograph was too nice for me to pass up, but I know there is much more to be discovered about this kid before we can judge if he's an annoying, Delmon Young-esque fluke, or something much more memorable.

2013 Topps Tier One Andrew Cashner Autograph

My final autograph pickup was of Padres's young righty Andrew Cashner. Cashner was on my fantasy team last year, and I took a liking to him after he dominated in the early goings. Unfortunately, he only made 19 starts over the course of the season, and I may have put too much trust in him. How could I not though; when he pitched to a 2.55 ERA with 93 strikeouts when he was on the hill? This year, I shied away from him in my drafts, but despite a currently league leading 7 losses he only has a 3.24 ERA. It hasn't been an overly successful season for the 28 year old, but I can easily see his potential being all too high to keep things that way. This 2013 Tier One autograph only cost me a little over $3.00 in store credit, so it was worth every penny. On a side note, the new Tier One product looks amazing in all of the pictures I've seen so far.

What do you all think of these players, as well as the current state of youth in baseball today? Also, before I go I wanted to apologize for missing this week's Ten for Tuesday, especially considering that the king of Top Ten's is having his final show tonight. The series will be resumed around the same time next week.

See Ya!

Monday, May 18, 2015

TTM Mailbag: Angel in the Outfield

Hey everyone, Drew back here! Slowly but surely, I am beginning to receive some more TTM successes in the mail. I can't say I've been even the slightest bit impressed with how few MLB players have been consistently signing this year. The outlook seems worse than ever before. Or maybe it's just me. Anyway, I got one success in on Saturday that I didn't see until Sunday. Here it is:

Kole Calhoun: 1/1 in 19 Days (Received May 16th)

Angels up and coming outfielder Kole Calhoun signed a 2014 Topps card for my collection in a little over half a month! Calhoun is extremely underrated in the Angels lineup all thanks to that Trout character, but has became one of the better run scorers in the game. Last year, he scored 90 runs while smashing 17 home runs and driving in 58 runs, and keep in mind he is just entering the prime of his career. In 2015, he's batted .302 with 3 home runs batting leadoff mostly for an underwhelming Angels offense. While he will more than likely never go toe to toe with his teammate and fellow outfielder, I think Calhoun can be a productive player for five or six more seasons. Hopefully by that point more people will actually know who he is.

Unfortunately, his signature did not come out good at all. It could be my fault, as I forget if I properly prepared this card or not. I'm going to assume that his sharpie was beginning to dry out, and that of the recent bunch of people he signed for I just happened to get the short end of the stick. But, an autograph is an autograph, and I'll take what I can get! 

Thanks so much Mr. Calhoun, and keep up the good work this season! See Ya!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Yes We McCann!

Hey guys, Drew back here! My first official year as a college student is now complete, and I have to say there isn't a better feeling in the world than to be done. A lot has taken place in my life in that time, and I'm really fortunate for the way everything ended up. I definitely made the right decision by switching schools mid-way through the year, as being away (especially where I was) really brought me down in a number of ways. But, the past is the past, and every experience led up to where I am right now, and I'm very lucky to be where I am.

With all that said, here was my gift to myself for completing the school year; something I snatched up on eBay last week for a better price than what the remaining 24 copies were selling for.

Out of this year's stunning Topps Museum Collection product, I purchased my first autograph of the Yankees new gritty backstop, Brian McCann! McCann hasn't delivered as well as a lot of Yankee fans had hoped in his one plus year in the Bronx, but I feel like he deserves a lot more credit than he's been given. Being able to have a dependable catcher in this day of age who can also come up with clutch hits is really an asset only a select few teams can say they have. The Yankees pitching staff has come a long way, surpassing expectations thus far in the 2015 season, and I feel like some of that can be attributed to McCann's veteran leadership. He may not be the threat he was during his prime, but I would gladly take him over any of the options they threw out there after Posada left.

McCann didn't have many autographs in a Yankee uniform last year, but this year he's been featured in several products. This one is on a sticker, but it is pretty hard to tell unless you see it in person. It is rare to find quality Yankees patches in any product, so to be able to find one of one of the team's leaders, autographed and numbered to only 25 copies for under $30; I couldn't be happier.

He may not be our best player, but I have grown quite fond of Brian McCann as a person and leader. That is something many Yankee fans seem to overlook since we've had the pleasure of having the best team leader possible for the past twenty years. This year, other players have had to step up, such as CC Sabathia, McCann, and Brett Gardner; and I think they've clearly done a great job considering the Bombers have been in 1st place of the crowded AL East for a majority of the season! And if you haven't seen his Oscar nominated performance as Ham Porter of "The Sandlot" (totally kidding about the Oscar thing), you should definitely go do that.

Happy Sunday everyone! See Ya!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thanks, but no thanks, Topps.

Hey everyone, Drew back here today, with a post that has been delayed longer than any other post in the history of this website! On July 15th, 2012, my Dad, friends Schuyler, Connor, and I all met up at a local card show at the Mid Hudson Civic Center. At that show, we not only met Whitey Ford, but we also won a door prize and I came home with a Tino Martinez signed baseball. Plus, my Dad got me a beautiful Mariano Rivera signed 16x20 for my collection. Boy, those were the days. Also, that was the same day I bought and activated two redemption cards from my 2011 Topps Tier One set; the relics they were supposed to make of Rickey Henderson and Ryne Sandberg. These have been the last two cards I have needed to complete my set ever since that day.

And well, they're clearly not making them. Topps is far past their 2011 Tier One set, instead focusing on this year's product, leaving behind all of the now expired redemption holders in the cold. It really is a shame, as I was particularly excited to have the Henderson card, but sure enough Topps found a way to disappoint. After waiting over a year and a half for the cards with no response, I emailed Topps Customer Service and spoke to someone who said my cards would be replaced and handled within 6-8 weeks. Two months later, I was still left in the cold (keep in mind about $40 was spent on the two cards), but I continued to keep my faith in the company, hoping they would eventually pull through.

Another year passed, until I finally decided to give it another shot; this time with a little bit more of a temper. I normally don't like to raise my temper, but this was something I grew livid about as two and a half years of my life went by. And you may ask, why didn't I just throw in the towel and give up? The simple answer is because I don't like giving up when I know there is something I have purchased or earned. More promises were made by Customer Service, and this time they actually delivered. I was hoping they would provide me with cards that would fulfill my PC's, especially considering how fed up I was over this situation. I let them know who I collect, and they said they couldn't make any promises as to what I would receive. For once, they actually prepared me for a letdown.

Albert Pujols is a tremendous player, and easily one of the best players I've had the privilege of watching in my lifetime. This 2013 Museum Collection card is beautiful, featuring four pieces of material; 3 bat relics and 1 red jersey relic. It is numbered 98 of 99, adding to the overall value of the card, which I presume was meant to match the Henderson card. But this is not what I purchased; if I wanted to spend $25 on an Albert Pujols relic I would have went to eBay and done that myself. The best part about this, as well as the next card, is that I finally have some trade bait. Again, I do appreciate all that Albert Pujols has done for the game, but I would've taken a Joe Panik autograph instead of these two cards any day.

The only saving grace of this 2013 Allen & Ginter Bruce Sutter relic is thanks to Sutter's beautiful facial hair. Otherwise, it's a very dull card, to be honest. I just listed Sutter as one of my most undeserving Hall of Famers, and I really don't have any need for this in my collection. I understand his place in baseball history as one of the better relievers of his era, and I'm sure someone else reading would love to own this, and if that is the case I'd love to work something out.

All in all, I'm pretty frustrated still with Topps despite finally sending me something. I get that the two cards I was given equalled the Beckett value of the cards I was waiting on, but there was more to it than that. I stopped buying Topps cards for the most part of two years in a row because their Customer Service was so lackluster, and you would think the company would provide the care for their customers a little better than just throwing two cards I don't want or need at me. With this, I am now officially done with the 2011 Topps Tier One set; it ended on a bitter note, but at least I can say I have some nice cards from that set to drool over.

Thanks but no thanks, Topps. Comment below if you're interested in either card.

See Ya!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"No No: A Dockumentary" Review

Hey everyone, Drew back here. I've had some recent pickups to share recently, but I wanted to pause momentarily and share my thoughts on a documentary my Dad told me about last night. Last year, Jeff Radice directed and produced "No No: A Dockumentary" about the life and career of controversial 1970's star pitcher Dock Ellis as part of the annual Sundance Film Festival. Ellis has universally been known for pitching a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD, but his story goes far beyond one memorable game.

Ellis states in the documentary frequently that he was either drunk or high in just about every professional game he ever pitched, but despite this, he was still a formidable pitcher for a team that transcended the game of baseball, the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates. At one point during that season, each position was filled by an African American or Latino player, and they became a tight knit group. Of course, this was based off of an era in which the majority of the young American population began experimenting and rebelling from the standards that were held from the times of the past, and this carried through to the Major League's. Dock was genuine and honest about all of the trials and tribulations that he faced as a young African American in baseball, and Radice does an excellent job of taking viewers on an emotional rollercoaster all throughout.

I know I had personally only known of him as a very good Pirates pitcher known for the famous no-hitter, who also had a brief stint with the Yankees towards the end of his prime. I did not know much else about the man, but can easily say this film was captivating from start to finish. It was cool getting to see an Al Oliver interview scattered within the hour and forty minutes, since I have met him on multiple occasions and have had nice experiences with the man overall.

The best part of the film comes at the end, when it is revealed that he redeemed himself. Ellis cleaned himself up after hitting rock bottom, and he spent the rest of his life trying to help people recover from their own drug addictions. He may have pushed the envelope during his career with fans and those involved with baseball, but by the time of his death in 2008 he appeared to have exorcised his own demons and owned up to the fate of his career.

I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary. It kept my interest from beginning to end, and I can say that I learned a lot not only about Ellis but the other players and era they were a part of. If you have two hours on your hands one day, go give it a look, it is currently on Netflix if you can't find it elsewhere for streaming.

Have any of you seen this before? Leave your thoughts down below!

See Ya!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ten for Tuesday - Active, Dangerous Switch-Hitters

Hey everyone, Drew back here today with yet another Ten for Tuesday topic to start this week's conversation! Mark Teixeira crushed his 11th home run on the season last night, and with that I decided to research who the very best switch hitters are in today's game. Switch hitting appears to be a dying art, as recent players like Chipper Jones and Jorge Posada have since left us behind, but there are still some players who know how to get it done on both sides of the plate.

For this list, I made sure to take into account player's splits, not just their overall talent. The young base stealing talent Billy Hamilton is great on the basepaths, but he will not be on this list despite his switch hitting capability. The qualifications are hitting only, and over anything else concern players who became increasingly dangerous by being able to switch their hands and move to the other side of the dish. Without further ado, let's see where your favorite players fell.

Top 10 Active Switch-Hitters

Honorable Mentions - Chase Headley, Neil Walker, Dexter Fowler

Headley was the hardest player to keep off this list, especially while he was having a great offensive day yesterday, but just missed the cut because his defensive skill normally outweighs his offensive contributions. Fowler's all around game is what makes him a good player over his offensive output, while Walker has been improving every season but is significantly worse at reaching base when batting right handed against left handed pitching.

10 - Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles (Splits)

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It may not be fair to the players who just missed the cut for a player who has not played in 2015 to be featured on this list, but come on, what is more valuable than a switch hitting catcher? Wieters may not have ever lived up to the ridiculous hype surrounding him that landed him on a Sports Illustrated cover in his rookie season, but he has been very good when healthy. Health is a huge factor for the Orioles backstop, as he has recently missed a lot of time thanks in part to undergoing Tommy John Surgery. He was off to a torrid start in 2014, but only wound up playing in 26 games. In those 26 games, he was substantially better facing right handed pitchers as a left handed batter, but his career splits have shown that he reaches base for a higher percentage when batting right handed.

One thing I had to keep in mind with this list to make sure I don't take home run and RBI totals into account when viewing career splits, because every player faces much more right handed pitching than left handed pitching unless they are in a platoon situation. Wieters has 58 home runs against RHP and 34 against LHP, but has over a thousand more career at bats against RHP.

9 - Kendrys Morales, DH, Kansas City Royals (Splits)

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Billy Butler was the heart and soul for the Royals for the first eight years of his career, but both sides were ready to move forward after a magical 2014. They moved on to Morales, a player who has been up and down his entire career. He is infamous for his 2010 MVP caliber season ending quickly when he broke his leg jumping into home plate after hitting a walkoff home run for the Angels. Ever since, he has been trying to regain some of what he lost that day, and slowly but surely he has worked his way back to relevancy.

This year, he's back, and while he may not have the power from five years ago, he is still a can't miss bat in the middle of one of baseball's most impressive lineups. He is batting over .300 currently and his slugging percentage is the highest it has been since that 2010 season. While he was performed better in his lifetime as a left handed batter, his all around peripherals are impressive on both sides.

8 - Jimmy Rollins, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (Splits)

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J-Roll has appeared to have been around forever. The longtime Phillies shortstop and former MVP winner made his way to Los Angeles this past offseason in what was perhaps the craziest offseason yet, and is now setting the table for one of the best offenses in the game. Rollins has put together a very nice 16 year career, and although his time in Hollywood hasn't been as impressive as expected, he is still a huge threat that can not be overlooked.

Through his career, his batting average and on base percentage have been eerily similar from both sides of the plate. At the top of the lineup during most of his career, he has posed as an immediate threat because he can get things started no matter who is on the mound. That is a very valuable commodity, and it earned him 8th place on this list.

7 - Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees (Splits)

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You're on the Mark, Teixeira. For once, the career .236 hitter in April, prone to horrible starts for years now; Mark Teixeira is on a roll kicking off his 2015 season. Perhaps its due to the gluten free diet, or the fact that he's simply healthier than he's been in recent history, but he's already got 11 home runs to show for this season and he does not appear to be slowing down. The Yankee first baseman has always been known as a great offensive and defensive threat, but at the age of 35 he hasn't quite been the player that the Steinbrenner family paid for ever since his 39 home run 2011 campaign.

Tex has been a productive player on both sides of the plate, with considerably higher averages against left handed pitching despite a much smaller sample size. 269 of his career 374 home runs have come against right handed pitchers as a left handed batter. When he's on, he clearly can not be stopped, and I hope he's got at least one more healthy, All Star caliber season left in him.

6 - Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Boston Red Sox (Splits)

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"The Panda" has been a staple in the middle of the San Francisco Giants lineup going back to 2008, but much like Rollins, he was on the move this past offseason, heading to the Red Sox on a 5 year, $100 million dollar deal. He claimed to have been "disrespected" by the Giants organization, which I personally cannot fathom and it made me lose quite a bit of respect for him. He has been a key playoff performer over the years although his regular season stats have left much to be desired.

His general offensive ability has brought him to #6 on this list, but he would be higher on the list if his statistics translated on both sides of the dish as well as they have for the next five players. As a right handed batter, he's batted .264 with 18 home runs, whereas as a left handed batter he has batted .307 with 92 home runs. Last year, he batted .199 against lefties, proving that perhaps switch hitting hurts him more than helps. Overall, he still lands high on this list thanks to his prior success, but if there is any player on this list that may not want to keep switch hitting, it would be Kung-Fu Panda.

5 - Ben Zobrist, UTIL, Oakland Athletics (Splits)

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I wonder how the conversation went in Little League when little Ben Zobrist was asked what position he wanted to play. Zobrist has gone on to play practically every position, and play them significantly well. On top of that, he's a switch hitter, basically making him the switch army knife of Major League Baseball. He took his talents to the West Coast this offseason in a trade from Tampa Bay, where he played his first nine years, all of which under the tutelage of one of baseball's more creative managers in Joe Maddon. Zobrist became the cover boy of the WAR statistic argument, posting six seasons with over 4 Wins Above Replacement. Whether or not you feel like he should be considered an MVP candidate despite average offensive statistics, Zobrist is a player every team wishes they could have.

At 33, Zobrist is beginning to hit his decline, but is still capable of hitting well at the top of the A's order. He's been on the Disabled List since April 24th for having torn cartilage in his knee, and should not be back until mid June. His career peripherals indicate a slightly better performance as a right handed hitter, and in 2014 he batted .340 against lefties versus .247 against righties.

4 - Melky Cabrera, OF, Chicago White Sox (Splits)

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One thing I've learned through this research is that a significant amount of the players on this list are on new teams in 2015, proving how much teams value players capable of hitting both lefties and righties. Melky Cabrera traveled south from Toronto to Chicago this offseason, and now sets up for Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche in the "Pale Hose" lineup. Cabrera has been a better player as a left handed batter, but is solid on the right side as well. He has evolved into one of the best contact and doubles hitters in baseball during and after his PED suspension in 2012 when he was with the Giants. Like him or hate him, Melky is one of the best switch hitters in the business, and makes a case for the best #2 hitter in any lineup.

3 - Carlos Santana, 1B/3B, Cleveland Indians (Splits)

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Carlos Santana (not the Latin guitar legend) has snuck into one of the more consistent offensive threats in baseball. He never seems to finish with a high batting average, but he walks more than anyone else and has hit at least 18 home runs in each of his last four full seasons. He is off to a good start in 2015, with 4 Home Runs to his credit and a league leading 25 walks. He may not be the most exciting player to watch, but he more than gets his job done for a team desperate for offense.

As far as his switch hitting prowess goes, well, his career statistics show a much better offensive player when facing left handed pitching, and in 2014 he batted .271 in that situation as opposed to .214 against right handed pitchers. Because of his career success and ability to get on base, he has made it all the way to #3 on this list, but he's in jeopardy to fall if he continues to struggle against right handed pitching as much as he has.

2 - Jose Reyes, SS, Toronto Blue Jays (Splits)

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Jose Reyes. Wow, where to even begin. What a career it has been for the long time shortstop, beginning with some excellent seasons in the Big Apple with the Mets, then heading down south to Jeffrey Loria's Miami circus, and then being shipped all the way back up north to Toronto where he's now been for two plus years. Staying on the field has been the only problem holding Reyes back from becoming an annual elite player and the respect he could have attained otherwise. He may not be the best defensive option, but it's hard to find another shortstop in the American League that can do what he does. Even as he is beginning to age past his prime, few teams find it easy to deal with this man, who sets up for three of the best right handed sluggers in the game that follow suit in Bautista, Encarnacion, and the newly acquired Josh Donaldson. He may not steal 50 bases anymore, but is a lock for at least 30 when he is able to stay on the field. Currently, Reyes is battling a cracked rib that he played with for a while until the Blue Jays eventually placed him on the DL.

Reyes has a lifetime batting average of .291, and surprisingly both his left handed and right handed batting averages lie in the .290's range. He produces almost identical averages from both sides every year, and only compiles more statistics batting left handed due to the increased amount of right handed pitching. He is an unstoppable force when he's playing on the field, and not many players show the combination of passion and skill like he does. It was an easy decision to place him as runner up on this list, however there is one player I do think takes the cake by just a little more.

1 - Victor Martinez, DH, Detroit Tigers (Splits)

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There isn't much to say about the man who has provided a fantastic presence behind a former Triple Crown Winner in the Tiger's lineup that hasn't already been said. Victor Martinez is what they call a pure hitter, and somehow even at 36 he seems to be only getting better. His 2nd place MVP finish in the American League last year behind only Mike Trout was amazing - he batted .335 with a career high 32 home runs as well as over 100 RBI's for the fifth time of his great thirteen year career. In addition, he only struck out 42 times over the course of the entire season, the fewest of anyone in the game. He once spent almost an entire calendar year without striking out looking, if that says anything about just how disclipined he is. And on top of it all, he bats from both sides of the plate, which allows manager Brad Ausmus the ability to construct his strong offensive lineup in many ways and still pose a threat even to the best bullpens such as their division rival Kansas City Royals.

Martinez hasn't gotten off to the best start this year, but this past week he has shown signs of turning things around. He underwent knee surgery last offseason to fix a torn medial meniscus, and that could be most of the reason for his slow start. However, he'll have to pick it up soon, as the Tigers recently rewarded his excellent 2014 with a 4 year, $68 million dollar contract. Hitting behind Miguel Cabrera could be enough to make that contract worthwhile either way, though.

He has bat over .300 as a left handed and right handed hitter, and has 120 home runs on the left side opposed to 69 on the right; with about 2000 at bats separating the two sides. He batted .371 in 2014 against left handed pitching, proving just how capable he is of owning both matchups.

When thinking about this topic, I knew initially I had no way of taking V-Mart out of the #1 spot, even after a lackluster April this year. I wanted to focus on the players between 10-2, and I think I covered all of the players worth mentioning. Carlos Beltran would have made this list a few years ago, and possibly Coco Crisp as well.

This week, I decided to try something different to try to open up conversation, as I haven't gotten as much feedback as I initially expected in doing these posts. Check out the poll below, and feel free to leave your input on who you believe is the best switch hitter in the game. I love to write these posts, but half of the few is getting to hear what you all have to say, and I hope this may help spark some more debate between you guys. Comment below if you think my positioning was off with a few players or if I should have considered someone else. Are there any real prominent switch hitters coming up soon?

Who do you believe is baseball's best current switch hitter?
Victor Martinez
Jose Reyes
Carlos Santana
Melky Cabrera
Other (comment below!)
Poll Maker

Let me know your thoughts on this week's subject! See Ya!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Masterminds of Magnificent Teams TTM's!

Hey everyone, Drew back here! I was able to complete two of my finals today, leaving one for the semester on Wednesday morning before I'm off for the summer and finished with my first year of college! It's been a very windy road over the course of the past year, but overall I've learned an awful lot and grown up more than I could have ever expected. I'm loving my new school despite a relatively subpar schedule in my first semester, but I definitely changed it up so I won't have to suffer through 8 AM Public speaking courses any longer. 

I had been on a 51 day TTM drought, after sending almost 30 requests out for Spring Training. So, what did I do? I ordered some cards off of Just Commons, and sent even more out. Sixteen requests went out to add to what I had already sent, and I already received two autographs back from two of the more successful managers in recent history, despite no World Series championships among the pair under the helm.

Ned Yost: 1/1 in 10 Days (Received May 6th)

Yost, of the defending American League champion Kansas City Royals, was the first of the two successes! He has always been a questionable decision maker throughout his time as skipper for the Milwaukee Brewers and since he took the Royals job in 2010, but he paid a lot of dues with the Royals' fantastic, out of nowhere season. It was a lot of fun to watch them pave their way through the playoffs, and although some may deem them as a dirty ballclub, especially in 2015, they certainly have learned their own winning formula.

He signed a 2015 Topps Heritage card for me quickly and nicely in 10 days!

Buck Showalter: 2/2 in 10 Days (Received May 8th)

However, as good as Ned Yost has been, getting Buck Showalter back TTM meant much more to me. Showalter has been the manager of my buddy William's Orioles since 2010 as well, and has led them to a tremendous amount of success. While Joe Maddon is constantly hyped as a difference making manager, it is Showalter who has come away with three Manager of the Year Awards, each with different clubs. On top of it all, he was the Yankees manager between 1992 and 1995, and resigned because he was unwilling to fire his hitting coach, Rick Down. He, along with Gene Michael, had a lot to do with the personnel decisions the team made during that time, which may have involved some guys named Jeter, Rivera, Posada, and Pettitte, among others. Despite being a rival manager, most Yankee fans give him a lot of credit for their World Series dynasty teams in the late 1990's that he wasn't even a part of. After seeing the way he managed the Diamondbacks, Rangers, and now Orioles, fans can see how pivotal his presence is in turning a team in the right direction.

Buck signed a 1992 Topps as well as a 2015 Topps Heritage beautifully for my collection. I made sure to wish he and the Orioles the best of luck with the situation going on in Baltimore, and it is nice to see them playing at Camden Yards again tonight.

I don't normally get too excited about manager TTM returns, but these two were particular exceptions. I love to get player autographs over anything, but if I were to add any manager's autograph, it would be Buck's. I'm glad I have a few now!

See Ya!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Taste of Gypsy Queen + Why Matt Carpenter is the Worst

Hey guys, Drew back here! It may or may not be a good thing that my new job is located at my local mall, along with my closest Target. I've been tempted for over a week to check out the new Gypsy Queen product, and I finally got around to giving it a try; purchasing a hanger pack with 3 retail packs and a 3 card pack of Target exclusive parallels. I could not resist Ozzie Smith being on the pack covers, and I've always liked what Topps has done with the set year after year.

Pack 1:

- Matt Carpenter
- Ty Cobb
- Mookie Betts Mini
- Yan Gomes
- Starling Marte
- C.J. Wilson

Matt Carpenter and I are foes all thanks to fantasy baseball. I really want to like the guy, he's a great run scoring leadoff hitter on a team I have always found respect for. However, in September of 2013 I was playing in my main fantasy baseball league championship against the kid comparable to Ruxin from "The League"; who had won two consecutive seasons and was seeking a three-peat. On the last day of the season, I was barely ahead, until the Cardinals played that Sunday night. My opponent played Matt Adams and Carpenter while I had Yadier Molina as my final player of the season. I was winning the batting average category by percentage points, and Molina's 1 for 3 performance that night put me up just enough where I thought I could hold on. I also was winning by 1 home run, and was worried that Matt Adams could be the guy to hit the tying bomb, since he is more of a power hitter and was on a tear at the moment.

Adams stunk it up on Sunday Night Baseball, striking out 3 times in an 0-5 performance. However, Matt Carpenter did just enough to crush my spirits. In his first at bat, he barely knocked the ball over the fence to tie the home run category at 12 each. At this point, I had the score at 5-3-2 (our league plays Head to Head based on categories), and after Molina's hit I thought I would still be able to hang on. But Carpenter wasn't done, and in one of his later at bats he knocked a base hit barely above a leaping Scooter Gennett at second base that gave him a batting average lead of .3121 to .3117, which he was able to hold on to to tie the overall score, 4-4-2. Yeah. A tie. In the championship. And since his team had a better overall regular season record than me, he won the tiebreaker, and the championship.

But that's not all. After having to hear him brag about Matt Carpenter winning him the cheapest championship in fantasy sports history, I decided to give him a shot the next season. If anyone else reading had Carpenter on their team last year expecting what he did in 2013, you can see why I still couldn't change my mind about him. This year, he's back on the dark side, and of course, he's performing whenever my arch rival wants him to. So, long story short, Matt Carpenter, you're the worst.

Pack 2:

- Cal Ripken Jr.
- Matt Adams
- Johnny Cueto Mini
- Mike Moustakas Glove Stories
- Daniel Murphy
- Jake Odorizzi

Sorry for the rant before, I just can't help but get frustrated whenever I see Matt Carpenter dominating. As for the Gypsy Queen set itself, I'm a fan of the base cards with the exception of that distracting loop on the upper left side of each card. It bothers me, especially when they don't make use of it to include more of the photo in it. The Carpenter and Marte cards in Pack 1 look better to me than what Topps did with Daniel Murphy and Cal Ripken's cards, because the space is unnecessary and takes away from the overall design. I think they wanted to make a substantial change this year because the product was beginning to lose its appeal, and I really have to be honest, I'm not sure if it worked well at all.

Pack 3:

- Howie Kendrick
- Allen Craig
- Matt Garza Mini
- Alex Gordon Walk-Off Winners
- Jean Segura
- Anthony Rendon

I'm also starting to get a bit sick of mini cards. I have never known what to do to store minis properly, and I've had stacks of different years of minis laying around in my basement for a while now. I always have to put them separately in card boxes because if I try to put a player's cards in order, the minis always seem to fall out and it becomes a process. If anyone wants a significant amount of my mini cards, feel free to comment on this post. 

One thing I can say Topps does a good job with in Gypsy Queen is how they can photoshop players in new uniforms. Obviously, there is no perfect way to do this, but I think the Howie Kendrick card looks presentable without a doubt, and it was my favorite card of the pack. A lot of this has to do with the artistic approach to contrast and shadows that has been Gypsy Queen's draw for years now.

Retail Exclusive Parallels:

- Mookie Wilson
- Yu Darvish
- Satchel Paige

Call me hypocritical, but the weird loop in the design looks fantastic on these parallels. The pictures are set into the cards and these are on thick card stock, and I think the shining gray foil used displays the pictures really well. The Satchel Paige is a beautiful card, and the other two don't look that bad either.

Something did feel a bit off with Gypsy Queen this year, and I can say of the three products I've checked out in 2015, it has been my least favorite. I'm looking forward to Series 2 of the flagship set!

What do you think about this year's Gypsy Queen? And, do you have any players you can't like no matter how hard you try?

See Ya!