Thursday, December 31, 2015

drewscards 2015 Year in Review

Hey everyone, this is Drew back here with you for one last time this year. Today marks the end of one of the craziest years of my life. After a seamless conclusion to high school, the transition to college was rocky and resulted with me transferring schools to come back home. I got out of what once was a really healthy relationship that was affected severely by the changes that took place. I started working at a local Dick's Sporting Goods store and made some really great friends in the process. And I am currently preparing to leave the country next month and explore Europe as part of my journey to start a newer, fresher beginning.

With all of these changes, I had to choose whether to keep this blog going or to let it fade away with the rest of my childhood. I remember saying last year when Derek Jeter retired that it was the final straw for me to grow up and become an adult. I've been starting to take my writing more seriously, as you saw all of last year through my occasional "Ten for Tuesday" ranking posts and my frequent opinions on trades, teams, and the Baseball Hall of Fame. Some of the articles you saw towards the end of the year were even published in my school's online newspaper. I plan to use my passion for not just this hobby but for the game of baseball itself to hopefully land an internship next year, and maybe a job down the line. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that I'm the type of person that would prefer to love what I do more than love the benefits of doing something I don't enjoy.

So, the blog continues into 2016, but I decided to brush away the rust and create something new for you all. With that in mind, I'd like to formally welcome you all to "Drew's Hot Corner". Same author, same style, but I would like to think it feels more "grown-up". One of my biggest goals in 2016 (I'll get into this more tomorrow) is to shed away the skin of the 12 year old I was when I began this endeavor and give you all a more mature representation of who I am today. I'll continue to show you all how my card and memorabilia collections grow over time, but a lot of what you'll see from here on will have to do with my thoughts on the sport itself. I'll occasionally branch into football, basketball, TV, music, or really whatever else I feel like writing, but baseball is and will always be the concentration.

I chose third base because it was the position I enjoyed playing the most in the decade I participated in baseball. I've always had the most respect for players that are capable of making the long throw to first and have unquestionably quick reflexes. Maybe had I caught during my career, this blog would be "Behind the Plate". But I think this serves me best. Evan Longoria and David Wright were my favorite players to emulate when playing third, so they accompany all time greats Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt on the updated logo. I hope you all have found this post well, because I did purchase a domain through Blogger. We have moved from to

But before the Hot Corner begins to spark, let's take a journey into what 2015 brought into my life.


I was blessed with a Nick Offerman through the mail success.

Cubs prolific slugger and a personal favorite of mine, Ernie Banks, passed away.

- Dad and I met Tino MartinezDon Larsen, among other Yankee greats at MAB's Pinstripe Pandemonium (and Frankie!)






- My birthday brought two new signed baseballs into my collection (Panik / Brooks)





- I shared the articles I wrote for my school's newspaper: "Five Ways the Yankees Can Claim Back New York" and "A Letter to the Hall of Fame".


Thank you to each and every one of you that helped make this year as great as it possibly could get. I'm fortunate to live a wonderful life with amazing influences, friends, and family, and I want it to be clear just how blessed I know I am. I hope I can continue to use all that I have to make a considerable impact on all of your lives much like you have mine. 

Thank you to every single reader out there. Even if you just take the time to click my link, it allows me to continue to bring material out for you. 2015 was an enormous comeback year on the blog for me, and I hope to ride out this hot streak well into 2016 and beyond.

Until next year, so long, and goodbye. Rest in peace, drewscards. It was fun.

Christmas Gifts from William & Frankie!

Hey everyone, Drew back here! It is the last day of the year, and I just realized how many different things I'd like to accomplish with the blog today. So we're going to start this final day with a bang and show a few awesome gifts I received from two of my closest friends in the blogosphere.

William led off this year with a package filled with PC cards I've been in desperate need of.

This Luis Severino card technically does not fit in my PC because it isn't a licensed issue, but I never said I wouldn't welcome any other card of his. He also included the same Onyx insert of Greg Bird.

I didn't have as impressive a year as I would have liked with the Joe Panik PC, but I think collecting Luis Severino was partially to blame. With Severino being on the rise in New York, I've felt it is necessary to grab as many cards of his as possible before they become unaffordable. Meanwhile, Panik has already been named an All Star and his card prices have seemed to hit their peak, so it may be possible to grab more down the road for cheaper costs.

I needed all three of the Panik cards William sent along, including this 2015 Allen & Ginter mini.

Oh, Robby Cano. I've been missing our former star second baseman ever since he left New York, even though his years in Seattle have been mediocre at best considering the contract he is playing to. I still do collect any Cano cards, so feel free to keep on sending them along. They're all reminders of great times that have come before.

Speaking of great times, is there any product from 2015 that captured the inner essence of baseball quite like Stadium Club? The Mariano Rivera card is possibly my favorite non-hit card of my Rivera mini PC; showing him celebrate the final out of the 1998 World Series. The David Cone gold foil card (as Night Owl mentioned recently, I didn't notice the gold until I peeked at this scan).

I've been looking to add this Bowman Inception Severino auto ever since I sent one to Frankie for his birthday. I've added some of the higher end, serial numbered Severino cards from Inception in the meantime, but I still had to take it back to the basics. Inception is definitely one of this year's most underrated, although the amount of autos in the market make their top prospect autographs somewhat too affordable at times (to the point where you could question the card's long term sustainable value, but hey, we're not all in this for the money, right?)

My favorite card in the package was definitely the Jeter relic. I do not have enough cards of my all time favorite player, and that is something I hope to change in 2016. I've never really understood using a road jersey for a card featuring players in home jerseys, or vise-versa, but the amount of gray on the card makes this one aesthetically pleasing enough to pass my standards and keep me satisfied!

Frankie caught me totally offguard this year, although I was beginning to suspect something when I received a random text asking if I'm still collecting Joe Panik. Sure enough, a few weeks later I found a package in my mailbox that contained what now is my best card of the Giants All Star second baseman. 

I'm very excited to see what the future holds for Gary Sanchez. Sanchez was our top prospect for a considerable amount of time after Jesus Montero made his debut in pinstripes (and was subsequently traded to Seattle for Michael Pineda) until the recent core of young studs flooded the farm system. After Judge, Severino, Bird, and Mateo found their way towards the top of the Baseball America lists, Sanchez became a bit of an afterthought.

This year, he proved that he was just as worthy as the newcomers at sitting atop top prospect lists. In 58 games in AA, he batted .262 with 12 home runs and showed improvement behind the plate too. He was called up to AAA, and was even more successful there (.295/6 HR/26 RBI in 146 plate appearances). But he stole the show in the Arizona Fall League, making a run for MVP of the off-season league. It was a good year to be Gary Sanchez.

Tyler Austin and Mason Williams go hand in hand at this point. Both prospects have been highly touted at times for their athletic ability and skills, but neither player has been able to put it all together. Austin batted .240 between AA and AAA in 2015, far off what he had contributed in the past. He did perform better in the Arizona Fall League, and is still only 23. Williams made his major league debut in 2015, and showed some flashes of brilliance before a shoulder injury ended his 2015 rookie campaign.

The Yankees have proven to be excellent at finding pitchers like David Phelps and Adam Warren. These long reliever/6th starter type pitchers are valuable because they can help keep the bullpen rested when starting pitchers have to exit early, and they are often more than capable of starting games when other pitchers get injured. Phelps was included in the deal with the Marlins that brought Nate Eovaldi to the Bronx, who I would personally much rather have. I did miss Phelps in 2015 though, and I absolutely love this Gypsy Queen autograph of his.

My mouth dropped when I first saw this card. Joe Panik's best rookie autograph.. graded a 9.5? Is this real life? I don't often collect graded cards, but you won't catch me complaining about having a card this monumental for the Panik collection slabbed by Beckett. I already had the Bowman autograph, but have already sold it for a different Panik (that I have already bought). This one blew it out of the water, and I'm so fortunate to Frankie for sending it my way.

Thank you both for such awesome gifts! I hope you enjoy yours as well (which are well on their way by now)!

Later today, I plan on outlining the fantastic year it's been, before revealing a big change effective tomorrow. Be on the lookout for a big finish to drewscards' comeback year!

See Ya!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December TTM Mailbag

Hey everyone, Drew back here. I had a rather surprising month with through the mail successes. I don't believe I've mailed any requests out since this past summer (if not even earlier), but I sent out quite a few around that time. It's more refreshing than ever to see a little white envelope in my mailbox, and I hope to get a solid batch out in the mail before I leave the country next month. 

Glen Perkins: 1/1 (c/o Minnesota Twins)

Perkins has been in the league for 10 years now, and he certainly has been one of the more elite relievers in that time. Due to playing his entire career with Minnesota, I would say he's very underrated. He's made the All Star team in three consecutive seasons after being named the Twins closer sometime in 2012. His downfall does appear to be the second half of the season, where he owns a lifetime ERA over a run higher than his first half splits. Hopefully this trend will lead to a few more All Star selections before he hangs up the cleats.

He signed one 2013 Topps Update All Star card for me nicely in thin blue sharpie; also adding his number 15. This success alone would have sufficed for me this month, but fortunately a few other players had some Christmas gifts planned.

Brian Dozier: 1/1 (c/o Minnesota Twins)

A second Minnesota Twin decided to get in the giving spirit this Christmas and hook me up! Brian Dozier broke out in 2013 as an offensive minded second baseman capable of hitting the long ball. Over the past three seasons he's hit a combined 69 home runs for an emerging Twins team that was in the hunt for a playoff spot much of 2015. He was awarded with an MVP vote and his first All Star appearance last year of possibly several more to come, and his team looks to get better with each passing year.

In this case, he signed a 2014 Topps card that I really liked even without the signature. Some of the Gatorade shower cards seem to get a bit excessive, but this one really captures the excitement at Target Field. He has such an impressive signature too, might I add.

Jon Gray: 2/2 (c/o Colorado Rockies)

In most cases I don't attention to the MLB Draft, outside of who was taken by the Yankees. But in 2013, I followed it more than usual and saw the Rockies choose Jonathan Gray third overall. When I watched his highlight tape, there was something in it that reminded me somewhat of Roger Clemens. Ever since, I've been following his way up the ladder and into the big leagues. In 9 starts in 2015, Gray struggled; pitching to a 5.53 ERA (although his FIP does suggest he suffered from some bad luck). He couldn't have asked for a worse place to begin his career from a pitcher's perspective, but perhaps he will be able to overcome the hitter's ballpark and pitch effectively.

Unfortunately, the 8x10 photo was beaten up when I received it back in the mail. I'm certain that I included some form of plastic case, but it wasn't used when the photos were sent back. His signature is blue and bold, and makes up for the damage without question. The 5x7 has a dent or two but came out much better condition-wise. 

Matthew Berry: 2/1 (c/o ESPN)

I had the pleasure of going to a local event with Matthew Berry at my friend's parents' bookstore in 2013. My friends and I were some of about 25 people who listened to Berry talk about his book, fantasy strategies, and various other odds and ends. It was so much fun getting to know one of ESPN's breakthrough fantasy analysts, and it was one of the more unique experiences I've had since beginning my obsession with this hobby.

After Allen & Ginter created a Berry card in its 2013 set, I wanted to get a copy signed. In time, my wish was granted, as he signed the card and wrote me a note in response to my letter. He is certainly a class act, and although he didn't help me much with my fantasy football team this year (it was a lost cause though), I'll forgive him after these great autographs.

Aaron Judge: 1/1 (c/o Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders)

I can't think of a much better way to top off this post, and this year, then by showing my best success in a considerable amount of time. It was a good year for TTM's for much of the early and later portions of 2015. While it was somewhat of a wash in between, I guess I just needed to be patient in order to finally get back a few successes. Had I known in time I would actually receive an autograph from Judge back, perhaps I would've been more persistent and not lost hope in the hobby I once thrived in.

Aaron Judge, you're my only hope (sorry, couldn't help but throw one Star Wars reference in there). If you can get back to me in between being slugging home runs in the minor leagues for the Yankees, anyone can.

Hopefully this will be a sign for many more future successes in 2016! Who are you hoping to get back from next year?

See Ya!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cuban Missile Crisis

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Six winters ago, Yankee fans rejoiced following their MLB record 27th World Series Championship. General Manager Brian Cashman was bombarded with compliments after spending over $400 million on free agent stars C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira, while additionally trading for veteran clubhouse leader Nick Swisher. Fans ignored the long term aftermath of the contracts in order to get back to being on top of the baseball landscape; a place where they have felt so comfortable in the past.

Since their 2009 title, the Bronx Bombers have watched their rival Boston Red Sox win their third World Series in a decade. This, of course, followed Boston's 86 year title-less draught commonly referred to as "The Curse of the Bambino". As the Yankees' 2009 additions grew older along with Alex Rodriguez and the Core Four, it was implied that the team would have to get worse in order to eventually get better. But, they have always had a financial advantage that could potentially shorten the rebuilding process meanwhile keeping their fans satisfied.

Up until yesterday, this offseason has been atypical for Cashman and company. Rather than spending money the George Steinbrenner way, Cashman has been seeking out talent and making trades that could help the team grow younger while remaining competitive. Fans were beginning to see this management transition last offseason, but were still rewarded with reliever Andrew Miller for a 4 year term worth approximately $36 million. Even this signing, despite Miller's reputation as one of the game's top bullpen cogs, was relatively lackluster because it was only done to replace predecessor David Robertson and gain a first round compensation draft pick to use in the upcoming draft.

Cashman drew some noteworthy buzz a year ago as well by trading young assets Shane Greene, David Phelps, Francisco Cervelli, and veteran infielder Martin Prado to bring Nathan Eovaldi, Justin Wilson, and Derek Jeter's replacement, Didi Gregorius; to the Bronx. All three players were forgotten or unnecessary to their prior team's future, but essential to Cashman's blueprint. He did this while remembering that each player gained would need to be capable of handling the limelight and donning the pinstripes accordingly.

The moves paid off. Gregorius was nominated for a Gold Glove, Wilson was the primary 7th inning reliever, and Eovaldi won 14 games before an elbow injury ended his season. The team won 87 games, but ultimately lost the Wild Card Game to the emerging Houston Astros. All this while growing another year closer to the conclusion of some of baseball's all time worst contracts meant an overall success for the team. But they're the Yankees, and fans won't be able to tolerate these transition years much longer.

Yesterday, Cashman decided that the team is all in for 2016. He traded four middling prospects to the Cincinnati Reds for the best closer in baseball, Aroldis Chapman. Chapman has the talent to fit into what was already arguably the best bullpen in the sport. He will more than likely be given the full time 9th inning job while Miller and Dellin Betances will share the 7th and 8th inning roles depending on matchups. There is still some debate if Cashman will now look to trade Miller to acquire a young, controllable starting pitcher, but it appears unlikely at this time.

The most important question regarding the "Cuban Missile" is whether he has the makeup to fit into the fold. The Dodgers pulled away from a trade a month ago with the Reds after a horrifying story broke supposedly involving domestic violence between Chapman, his girlfriend, and a gun that was said to have been fired eight times.

The Reds were beginning a complete rebuild period themselves, and would have preferred to move their closer before the allegations came out anyway. Chapman was set to become a free agent after this year, and rebuilding teams typically should trade commodities midseason to get long term value out of a player they don't plan to resign through prospects. These types of moves also help contenders take an extra step towards a championship (ie: Yoenis Cespedes, David Price, and Johnny Cueto), so they're generally viewed as a win-win.

Cincinnati's former GM and now President Walt Jocketty did not take advantage of the opportunity to move Chapman at his highest value, and now-GM Dick Williams attempted to make up for the mistake with Los Angeles. However, the domestic violence situation was indeed disturbing, and the Dodgers could not be faulted for passing up on the player (no matter how hard he can throw his fastball). Cashman shocked everyone by swooping in to grab Chapman while his value was the lowest it's been.

From a business standpoint, the move makes total sense considering what was given up. Eric Jagielo and Rookie Davis have the potential to develop into solid players, but they aren't worth losing sleep over. They were able to upgrade their current roster while keeping Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, and all of their other most prized possessions.

Chapman will most likely begin the season suspended as Commissioner Rob Manfred may look to make a statement with the new Domestic Violence policy. He would need to be available in 138 games this season in order to qualify for free agency next year, so his suspension could mean one of two things for the Yankees. If he is suspended for fewer than 46 games, they will have him for close to an entire season and can tender a qualifying offer to him next winter. But if he is suspended for more than 46 games, he will fall short of the service time needed to become a free agent and the Yankees will have him for another season.

It's terrible to look at a player with this kind of recent history from a financial standpoint. Domestic violence should not be taken lightly, and the preceding information should not affect fans' standpoints on the importance of protecting players and their families. Whether Chapman gets a 25, 50, or 100 game ban, or no ban at all, is really unknown at this time. Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner did their homework before agreeing to the deal though, and they believe the suspension will be short enough where they can maximize his value for the length of the 2016 season. This will allow them to have a three headed monster capable of becoming the most dominant bullpen in recorded history.

The difference between these past two offseasons lays in the blood of their acquisitions. It appears as though Cashman has dropped the "good guy" policy the Yankees have always valued in order to instead gain as much talent as possible. He traded for infielder Starlin Castro several weeks ago, who has had some off-field violence history as well. It is easy to view the longtime General Manager as a villain for making these decisions. We live in a world today that places higher emphasis on punishing domestic abusers more than ever before.

Former manager Joe Torre is particularly opposed to violence, and established the Safe at Home Foundation in 2007 in order to raise money to educate and prevent domestic violence. As now acting Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations, Torre's personal history with domestic violence could play a role in Chapman's case.

With Aroldis Chapman closing out games in 2015, the Yankees may have earned their title as the "Evil Empire". His actions rival Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy's, who was given a second chance but is genuinely disliked by the vast majority of fans. When a player's reputation outweighs their talent, they can become a detriment to the clubhouse. When a player can throw 106 mph yet still manage to be a distraction, their presence can be dangerous. Brian Cashman is walking on a thin line with this trade. His reputation may be at stake for allowing one of the sport's criminals into the most populated city in America.

But if the team wins, all will rejoice, much like 2009. Chapman's personal history will dissolve into obscurity as he celebrates atop a float on Broadway.

There is a lot one can say about just how scary that may sound.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Biggest Win of the Year

Hey guys, Drew back here! Yeah, I know, it's been weeks. I can explain. The lapse began with my final exams and ended with about a week on the shelf after having all four of my wisdom teeth pulled. Christmas came in the midst of my recovery (Happy Holidays to all of you!), and yesterday I returned to Metlife Stadium with my Dad for the first time since 2010 to witness the Jets' biggest win of the season. So, it's been an extremely jam packed few weeks, but I hope to be back to catch you all up on my collection before I leave for Florence about a month from now.

As I said, Dad and I went to the Meadowlands yesterday for the biggest game of the Jets' season. We bought the tickets for his birthday in September because we always wanted to see them play against the Patriots despite our pure hatred for all things Brady & Belichick. To be honest though, I did feel honored to get to watch Brady play in person, as much as I wanted to see our defense break his legs and knock them out of contention. He is the best quarterback I've ever had the pleasure of watching. He creates something out of nothing practically every season, is remarkably clutch, and has left a lasting legacy in New England (despite some of the mysterious controversies hidden in the Pats organization). 

The Jets always like to make things interesting. They have had an impressive season thus far, with their record standing at 9-5 before yesterday's matchup. However, throughout all of my years as a football fan, whenever a game is down to the wire, the Jets seem to always manage to find a way to lose it. They had a two touchdown lead over New England midway through the third quarter until Ryan Fitzpatrick fumbled the ball, which was recovered for a Patriots touchdown. From that point until the end of regulation, their offense disappeared. 

The view from our seats was outstanding!

But, perhaps due to the luck of the 10% Irish in my blood, this time they managed to pull away with the victory. The Patriots won the coin toss in overtime but elected to kick rather than receive, and I was totally confused by the decision (as many others appeared to be as well). We took advantage of Belichick's blunder and drove down the field like it was the first half all over again. It capped off with a beautiful pass from Fitzpatrick to Eric Decker that gave us a crucial advantage for making the playoffs. I don't know if I had ever been happier to be a Jet fan than I was in that moment, practically leaping into my dad's arms with joy while screaming at the top of my lungs!

Since the Ravens beat the Steelers, we control our own destiny as Gang Green rolls into Buffalo to meet with former ringleader Rex Ryan in the final week of the regular season. Bills running back Boobie Dixon has already considered it their team's "Super Bowl", as it would boost their spirits going into the offseason if they knock the Jets out of the playoff race. After watching yesterday's game, I'm relatively confident that we will do what it takes to advance. But, rule #1 of being a Jets fan is to never, EVER get overly confident.

Regardless of next week's outcome, I can say that I watched a hell of a game yesterday and had an amazing time with my Dad. We have gotten to attend some spectacular events in the past, and this one will rank near the top of them all. I'd like to thank our new GM Mike Maccagnan for making this season happen. His trades for Fitzpatrick and receiver Brandon Marshall, along with revamping our entire defense and bringing back Revis Island have all been key components to this great year. It would be a shame if a 10 win team with this level of talent doesn't make the playoffs, but as long as he's calling the shots it may not be the last time we make a run for it in coming seasons.

We were handed a few five card mini sets of Jets players on the way out. I have a few extra, in case anyone is interested. I don't collect football cards nearly as heavily as baseball, but I like to see the updated designs Topps creates each year. I'm a fan of this year's industrial design, and hope to have some more Jets from the set roll in as time goes by.

I have a bunch of great things to show off in the coming weeks, so be on the lookout for that. I've gotten five TTM's in that I didn't expect and a few really thoughtful Christmas gifts to share. 

Until next time, see ya!