Friday, August 30, 2013

Parents, Man.

Parents, man.  You can't live with 'em when you're a kid, and embarrassed to be living with 'em when you're an adult.

I recall a conversation with my mom (who doesn't seem to recall it at all) that we had after I got back from a two-year mission for my church, in which she told me that she expected me out of the house in a year.  I was gone 51 weeks later (worked, saved money, did some community college stuff, was engaged and married before heading up to "real" college).  She insists that if she did say something like that, that it was just a joke.

Anyways, while we're on the topic of parents and throwing people out...

Mark Parent, current bench coach for the White Sox, was ejected from a game last week while exchanging lineup cards before the game even started!  Pretty wild, right?  I guess he had a beef with some calls from the two previous games and vented a little too much to crew chief Jerry Layne.

I don't mean to stereotype or anything, but Parents seem to think that they're always right.

As far as Mark goes, the dude is on some pretty sweet pieces of cardboard.  Though I love this one, obviously, my all-time favorite Parent card would have to be from '91 Score.  Look it up.

In '91, Parent was no longer a Padre (there's a joke there somewhere, but who's got time to figure it out?), as he had been traded to the Rangers for Scott Coolbaugh, who also went on to become a coach. Mark played in only three games for Texas, striking out in his only appearance.  He'd go on to play for the Orioles, Cubs, Pirates, Tigers, and Phillies before playing the last season of his career in 1998.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rynager

Ok, while not as clever as "Brangelina" (the power-duo of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie), "Rynager"is the combination of Ryne (as in Sandberg) and Manager.  It's been a little over a week since the Phillies fired Charlie Manuel and Sandberg made his big league managerial debut for the Phillies.  In that time, he has gone 5-3 and is currently on a three game winning streak.

In 1990, Sandberg and Cecil Fielder led their leagues in home runs, with Ryne rocketing 40 whilst Cecil smacked 51.  As a kid, I always thought these "sluggers meeting by the batting cage" cards were cool, especially when they were in different leagues.  Not really as interesting now that we have inter league play, however.  Still, this is a sharp looking card, Ryne in Cubbie blue and Fielder in the Detroit grays.

I'm not sure how well Ryno will do as a manager, but he is one of the greats, so it's cool to see him still in love with the game.  I often think of him as being a lifetime Cub, forgetting the first 13 games of his career, spent as a Phil.  At the very least, he's just a "two-club" guy.  Not really sure what Chicago saw in Dale Sveum that made him so awesome that they wouldn't even consider Sandberg as a managerial possibility.  But I'd be lying if I said that I knew anything at all about Sveum, either.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Grizzly Adams Rotation

If you're like me, you just grew a beard because you wanted to see how long it could grow during summer break.  Even if you're not like me, you may have noticed that it seems like more and more baseball players today are growing beards as well.

It begs the question:  Was this a prevalent style in the 1991 Fleer set?

To answer that question, I have compiled what will hereby be known as The Grizzly Adams Starting Rotation.  To make the cut, players are judged not by their numbers, but on the quality of their beard.  It's only a four man rotation because, let's face it, with a rotation as manly as this one, nobody needs an extra day of rest.

#4 Starter - Rick Aguilera
Rick Aguilera grows a solid beard.  As a kid, I can't remember him without his face-warmer, but he managed to make it still look pretty cool.  By 1991, he had been put into a bullpen role, but for this instance, we'll toss him back into the rotation spot that he had in the late 80s as a New York Met.  In any other set, he would be ranked much higher than number four, but...

this is the picture on the back of his card.  What happened Rick?  Didja lose a bet?  More than likely, this could be a Spring Training photo, and Florida heat + thick beard = more than a little toasty.

#3 Starter - Bert Blyleven
As the lone Hall of Famer in the Grizzly Adams rotation, Blyleven's credentials (287 wins and 3,701 strikeouts) are of little help to him here.  While his beard is certainly a trademark, the Dutchman's close cropped look is only good for our #3 starter.

#2 Starter - Ron Robinson
My only memories of Ron Robinson are on baseball cards, and most of them seemed to be from his Reds playing days.  The Reds uniform with his red beard and large stature (6'4") led me to think of him as "Big Red Ron Robinson".  If the Grizzly Adams rotation was to see playing time in 1991, Robinson wouldn't have been considered a workhorse by any means.  In the third game of the season for the Brew Crew, he lasted 4.1 innings and gave up 3 runs before leaving with an elbow injury.  It would be his only game of the season, and he would retire after 8 more in 1992.  But here, his massive beard makes him a massive #2 starter.

Ace of the Grizzly Adams staff - Jeff Reardon
What?  How can a closer (who led the AL in saves in 1985) be the "ace" of the staff?  Well, if Rick Ankiel can go from being a pitcher to an outfielder, Reardon could go from the bullpen to the Opening Day starter.  Obviously he would need some good coaching to help him make the transition, but his Paul Bunyan-like beard would be more than up for the job.

While his ERA might suffer in the early part of the season, his FPcm (follicles per centimeter) would easily lead the rest of the league.  By putting more faith in his beard than his arm (or rational thinking), Reardon would become a legend, and his scruff would win MVB.

Of course, if you have a starting rotation as manly and tough as these four, you can't have some limp wristed pansy calling the game behind the plate.  But who would you call on to make up the other half of the battery?

While his name might be Junior, that is certainly a Major League beard.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Peña? Alejandro Peña?

I am currently sitting in my classroom at school and in serious need of a break.  I changed grade levels and classrooms (from 5th grade to 1st grade), which means lots of packing, lots of rearranging, and lots of... well, lots of other stuff.

To take this break, I'm utilizing a technique that I use in class pretty frequently: a timer.  What you are about to read (well, including what you've already read) will only take five minutes of my time.  I better stop introducing this and just get to the meat of this post.

When I was in high school Spanish class (I'm thinking my sophomore or junior year, but I could be wrong), our teacher told us that since we'd be speaking Spanish, we needed to have a "Spanish" name. Now, for my name, the most literal translation would be "Marcos".  Choosing this name would've made it pretty simple for my friends outside of class to know who other were talking about if we were in fact using these adopted Spanish names.

But who wants to do that?

I decided to go with "Alejandro" as my Spanish name, after Alejandro Pena.

Don't ask me why in high school I was still thinking about Alejandro Pena.  His last game in the majors was in 1996, and I graduated in 2002.  But for whatever reason, when I thought of "cool Spanish names", Alejandro popped into my head.

Crap, the timer just went off.  Adding another five minutes (my kids aren't lying, that does go fast)!

Pena is probably most known for being part of a combined no-hitter against the Padres when he was playing for Atlanta, as commemorated on a 1992 Donruss card.  No time for links, look it up yourself.

On the back, we have a carefree looking Alejandro, large eyebrows raised as if to say, "Me?  You want to take a picture of me?"  Reminds me of school photos where the photographer is trying to get you do do a particular head turn or look in a weird direction, and you just want to say, "TAKE THE PICTURE".

Pena was traded from New York to Atlanta during the 1991 season.  No time for stats or anything, I can see my time is almost gone.

Anyways, there is the story of me and Alejandro Pena two guys named Alejandro.  Happy Friday.

TIME!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Best of the Set - Blue Jays

When I first started this blog, I wondered how it would impact my "blogging life".  As you may know, my main blog is All The Way To The Backstop... which focuses on the rest of my collection, and is heavily Padre influenced.  I post on there pretty frequently (almost daily, depending on the week), but I wasn't sure if another blog would fit into my schedule.

Well, after almost a whole month, of which I have posted eight times, I gotta say that it fits in pretty well.  Kind of nice to do some more relaxing posts and not feel the need to write all the time.

Anyways, onto another leisurely card post: Best of the Team Set #2 - Toronto Blue Jays

In case you're not aware of how this works, we're deciding which is the "best" card for each team set from 1991 Fleer, and you the voter determines the criteria.  Choose two of the players on the sidebar, most votes is our champion.

When baseball fans think of John Olerud, there are probably some that immediately think of the Blue Jays.  Others probably remember him more for the helmet that he wore while he was playing defense.  From what I've gathered, he was advised to wear it in college to avoid getting hit in the head (duh), which would've further complicated the brain hemorrhage and aneurysm that he suffered during a workout.  It then became a habit that he continued the rest of his career.  That may or may not be accurate.  Still, there is no denying there is a unique quality to all of Olerud's cards of him on defense.

Both the Felix and the Williams became finalists for their backgrounds.  With Junior, we have a few uniformed Jays and some spectators watching his follow through.  I almost didn't see his bat, which is almost hidden behind his right hand.  Current White Sox general manager Ken Williams' card is less cluttered, as we can see the makeup of the stadium in the background with fans watching from a bit further away.  Seems like a very relaxing portrait.

Didja know that Glenallen Hill likes to hustle?  I'm not talking about just a few lines of dirt on his uniform, but he also hustles so much that he sometimes loses his helmet on the base paths.  He doesn't hustle so much that he loses track of where the ball is, however, as he is looking to see if he can advance to the next bag or if he'll have to hold up.  For the longest time, I've alway thought that he was coming from second and pulling into third, but after taking a closer look at the seats in the background, they are most likely fans on the first base side, making him heading from first to second.

Gotta show a little love for the pitchers, here.  If you were one who thought "helmet" when you saw Olerud, you probably think "glasses" when you see Tom Henke.  While not as noticeable here, they are quite prominent on other cards.  Dude was also a pretty imposing 6'5", so I can't imagine that you would be making fun of him unless you were buddies.  Stottlemyre makes the cut because he's the only Jay in the set who's wearing the dual color blue & white cap.  A few wear the pattern on their batting helmets, but I think those are pretty slick looking, and he's the only one wearing it in wool (or whatever fabric they were made of at the time).

If you know me, you know that I'm a big Fred McGriff fan.  This is a good looking shot of the Crime Dog patrolling first base (Olerud and McGriff - talk about an embarrassment of riches at first base), with the second baseman lurking in the background.  I think of him more fondly as a Padre, but he had some great years and great cards as a Blue Jay.  Fleer did a good job in showing plenty of catchers in their gear in this set, so here is Greg Myers decked out in blue protective gear, with a Ranger (Rafael Palmiero?) in the background.

Well, there you have it, another week, another "Best of the Set".  Voice your opinion on the left!  Two votes, one week!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Stan the Man

Stan Belinda was drafted by the Pirates in 1986 and made his debut with them at the end of the '89 season.  He was always a bullpen guy, making appearances in 585 career games, but never starting a game.  He recorded 79 saves in his twelve year career, also playing for the Royals, Red Sox, Reds, Rockies, and Braves (though he didn't save any games in Atlanta in his last year in the bigs).  He retired  in 2000 with a decent 41-37 record and a 4.15 ERA.

As a kid, I seemed to get lucky pulling cards of Stan Belinda and Jose Lind, both on the Pirates at the time.  Though I didn't get this one until recently, it was of particular interest to me (not just to be able to finish the set, of course).  Not for the less-than-thrilling action shot, or because I'm jumping on the Pirates bandwagon now that they're in first place.  It's because...

We share the same birthday!

Okay, so you probably can't see it, but he was born on August 6th, 1966, 18 years exactly before me.  Happy 47th Stan!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Common Theme

Just a quick post today.  As I was flipping through the wondrous pages of the Yellow Binder, I came across a few cards that seemed to have a few things in common...


Seems that the common theme was to have Dodgers middle infielders getting Padre runners out.  Bip Roberts is doing his best to break up a pair of double plays, first by leading with a helmet to the groin, then by hitting the dirt as the fielder moves to his right.  

Joe Carter also appears to be out on this one, though it looks like Harris had to apply the tag.  Caught stealing?  Trying to stretch a single into a double?  Who knows.

Judging by the outfield wall, I'm guessing that the Griffin and Harris cards might've been from the same game, while the Vizcaino was taken on a different date.

By the way, the poll is now closed for the first "Best of the Set" vote, and Marquis Grissom will be representing the Expos.  Congrats to Mr. Grissom.  Trying to figure out what team to do next.  Will be taking any and all suggestions, first come, first served.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

H.O.F. Class of '99

When talking about great baseball card sets, many people will cite the number of Hall of Fame players that were on the checklist.  This will be the first in a series of posts on the Hall of Fame classes that featured players who also had cards in the '91 Fleer set.

Given that it came out in 1991, the earliest that Fleer's "Sunshine Set" could've possibly had a Hall of Famer would've been in 1997 (assuming that '91 was their last year, and after five years of retirement - '92 - '96).

In '97, there were a few guys that made the ballot, but weren't inducted.  Terry Kennedy, Garry Templeton, Mike Scott, and Fred Lynn made their only appearance on the Cooperstown list, all getting less than 5% of the vote.   Dwight Evans and Dave Parker received 5.9% and 17.5% of the vote, respectively, allowing them to qualify for the next ballot in 1998.

The following year, Evans and Parker saw spikes in their votes, getting 10.4% and 24.5%, respectively.  There was also a fresh batch of "one ballot wonders" that missed the 5% cut, including  Brian Downing, Carney Lansford, Willie Randolph, Pedro Guerrero, and Jack Clark.  A fresh faced Bert Blyleven placed second of the '91 Fleer alumni with 17.5% in his debut ballot.

While it took a few years for the first crop of Hall of Fame inductees, 1999 was a pretty solid one class, including three first-ballot HOF'ers.

Robin Yount received 77.5% of the vote in his debut ballot.  While barely squeaking over the requisite 75% bar, there is no doubting his Hall of Fame status.  The powder blue Brewers uniforms from the good old American League days look harken back to a simpler time, and the follow-through swing pose is one that is definitely befitting a player of his caliber.

Yount was definitely no spring chicken in '91, the 18th of his 20 seasons, all spent in Milwaukee.  That year, he hit a solid .260 with 10 homers and 77 RBI.  He got 131 hits in 130 games - not too shabby.  He would finish his Hall Of Fame career with 3,142 hits, one more than future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.  Speaking of Gwynn, he and Yount both wore number 19, the last on their respective teams to do so, as they have since been retired.  Yount went on to be a coach for the Diamondbacks and Brewers, as well as pitching an all natural lemonade brand called Robinade.

Speaking of members of the 3,000 Hit Club who spent their entire career with one team, our second inductee is George Brett.  He cruised into Cooperstown easily, with a whopping 98.2% of the vote.  His card is eerily similar to Yount's - a follow-through swing shot, in a powder blue uniform during a spring training game.  Only difference is that Brett is doing it from the left side, while Yount was a right handed hitter.  Solid looking card.

Not a bad head of hair for somebody who was entering their 19th season in the bigs at the age of 38.  The previous year, he won the AL Batting Title with a .329 average, his third such award.  I wasn't aware that he hit a ridiculous .390 in 1980, the year he also won the AL MVP.  1991 would be a tough year for Brett, as his average would drop 74 points to a career low .255.  For a guy who was a 13 time All-Star, he wasn't on the All-Star team the last five seasons of his career.  Since switching over from third to first, guys like McGwire, Mattingly, Fielder, Palmiero, Olerud, and Thomas took the slots.  He would end his career in 1993 with a .303 batting average, 317 homers, 1,596 RBI, and 3,154 hits.  Uniform number 5 has been retired by the Royals, the number he wore since his second full season in Kansas City.

Brett currently is the hitting coach for the Royals and has three sons, Jackson, Dylan, and Robin, who was named after the aforementioned Robin Yount.

Nolan Ryan managed to top Brett's induction numbers, posting a 98.8% on the ballots.  As high as that is, I'd like to meet the 1.2% of the voters who didn't vote for him.  Being a child of the 90s, my memories of the Ryan Express are with the Rangers (and in Advil commercials), but he also pitched for the Astros and Mets during his 27 year career, which ended in '93.  This card is one of my favorites of Ryan, in the classic rear-back-and-let-it-fly pose.  In '91, he would lead the league in WHIP, as well as record his 7th and final no-hitter on May 1st against the Blue Jays at the age of 44.  The final out of the game would be a strikeout of future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, one of the 5,714 strikeouts he would record in his career.

Like Brett, the hairline is receding just a bit, but it just reflects the veteran experience that would help Ryan become one of the best pitchers in the history of the game.  One stat that jumped out at me is his 222 career complete games, or an average of 10 per 162 games.  Can't imagine today's pitchers getting anywhere near those numbers.  He ended his career being the all-time leader in walks, strikeouts, and hits per nine innings.  The Angels retired his number 30, and the Rangers and Astros both retired his number 34.  Ryan is currently the owner of the Texas Rangers.

Out of those three players, there are three great legacies, as well as some post-playing careers that are still going strong.

There were other '91 Fleer alumni who didn't make the cut in '99.  The one-time balloteers were Mike Witt, Frank Tanana, Charlie Leibrandt, Mike Boddicker, John Candelaria, and George Bell.  In their third year of eligibility, Dave Parker slumped to 16.1%, while Dwight Evans sunk to 3.6%, dropping him off the ballot.  Blyleven's second year saw him dip to 14.1%, just behind Dale Murphy's debut of 19.3%.  Carlton Fisk's debut of 66.4% saw him just barely miss induction, but was a very strong showing.

Well, there you have it, the very first Hall of Fame induction class from the 1991 Fleer set.  Many more posts to come, especially considering that there are some players that are still on the ballot