Saturday, July 26, 2008


I wanted to weigh in on the issue of the request for donations made on The Baseball Card Blog. Apparently there was an uproar when Ben asked for donations, although I didn't see any of this uproar, just a few posts on various people's individual blogs.

I find any and all criticism of Ben's request to be wholly without merit. First of all, if you decide you don't like Ben's content, message, or philosophy, then just stop reading his blog. Second of all, as Ben explained, he's trying to convert his baseball card writing into a full-time career. He has that right. If you don't want to help him, that's your right too.

This brings me to the subject of baseball card blogs in general. My take is that a successful baseball card blog has three critical attributes:

1) One or more knowledgeable authors who bring something to the table about cards, baseball, or hopefully both

2) Some writing skill, in terms of basic writing quality or intelligence or humor or opinion or something

3) Frequent (at least weekly) updates with fresh content

In my opinion, most of the baseball card blogs out there are garbage. I am not going to name names, but what I am going to do is update my blogroll to include only those sites that I think are worthwhile.

There are a few stellar card blog authors out there. Ben Henry is the top of the heap, and that judgment is based on the content of his blog, not his notoriety. A few others who come to mind right off are dayf at Cardboard Junkie, Steve at White Sox Cards., and Matt at Ugly Baseball Card Blog. These are guys whose passion for baseball cards and baseball come shining through on their blogs. dayf is a very intelligent guy who makes a lot of interesting points about cards and card manufacturers. Steve is very much into collecting and supporting the White Sox and even though I'm not a White Sox fan, I really enjoy and appreciate his enthusiasm. Matt is stunningly observant and humorous and makes very funny and knowledgeable commentary on individual cards. There are a handful of other great authors out there as well.

Many other blogs have two or just one of the three critical attributes and fall short of being worthwhile reading material. I get frustrated by some of the great writers out there who rarely update their blogs. Even worse, though, are these guys who think that ripping below-average players, bitching about never pulling good relic cards out of packs, or writing paragraph after paragraph full of grammar and spelling errors constitute quality blog writing.

My personal opinion is that most people who chose to criticize Ben Henry are simply jealous of his success. And it's not that these people are jealous of the attention that Ben has received, but rather are jealous of Ben's talent, which is what has led to the popularity of his blog and the acclaim he has received. These people need to take a walk and disappear.

#551 Terry Steinbach

Why this card is awesome: Because of our second Pedro Cerrano moment in the set. Way back at card #122, Tony Bernazard, we saw another guy apparently having a conversation with his bat.

Also as you can see on the back, he was signed by Jim Perry, himself a pretty good ballplayer at one time.

Cool stat: Only twice has a catcher hit 35 or more homers at age 34 or older. Steinbach did it in a huge fluke in 1996, and Carlton Fisk did it in 1985. If you lower the bar to 20 HR (still at 34 years old or older,) that's still been done just 13 times by a catcher.

Friday, July 25, 2008

#550 Pedro Guerrero

Why this card is awesome: Because imagine that Guerrero isn't holding a bat in this photo. What's he doing, then? And what's that dude in blue jeans doing in the background? Looks like he's practicing putts on a golf green.

Cool stat: Only 3 guys had at least 32 homers 3 different years from 1982 to 1985. Guerrero did it 3 times but Mike Schmidt and Dale Murphy did it all 4 years.

It's also worth noting that while Petey missed the 1988 World Series since he got traded to the Cardinals mid-season, he absolutely raked against the Yankees in the 1981 World Series.

#549 Braves Leaders

Why this card is awesome: Because, hell yeah what a cool card! Such a classic pose, and featuring some really good players as well as a nice view of Fulton County Stadium in the background.

For the record, left to right, I think it's Gerald Perry, Dale Murphy, Ken Griffey, and Dion James. Do I have that right? (I see that right here they think one of those guys is Albert Hall but I don't see it.)

Cool stat: This isn't a stat, but check out how interesting the 1988 Braves pitching staff was, in retrospect. Of course Tom Glavine and John Smoltz stick out as two very young guys who both had bad statistical years and have gone on to have tremendously successful careers with the Braves. HOFer Bruce Sutter was there finishing up his career. Jim Morrison pitched in 3 games. Jim Morrison! The infielder! Lots of other neat stories there--which ones do you notice?

88 AUTO FEST wrapup

OK, here is the final list of winners:

Mike S 2 (J Jones, C Lansford)
Kevin 1 (J Gott)
Cannonball 1 (D DeCinces)
Matt 1 (J Calhoun)
zman40 1 (D Jones)
dayf 1 (T Brunansky, T Henke, B Surhoff, D Williams, R Horton)
rgrantd 1 (D Clark)
Chris D (T Hulett)

Congrats to the 8 of you for winning. Please email me at 88topps at gmail dot com to let me know your full name and mailing address, as well as your favorite team (you might get some extra cards.) dayf, I've got your data already and in addition to your autographed cards you will be getting an unopened pack to use at APAD.
And congrats to Mike S, the overall winner of the 88 AUTO FEST contest. He wins his two auto cards, plus cards 451 to 550 of the 88 Topps set, as well as the extra Topps Fan Favorites cards I posted here for Gary Carter and Dave Stewart.

And just in case anybody out there doesn't believe that I'm really giving away autographed cards, here is a shot showing all the autos won in this contest.

#548 Shane Mack

Why this card is awesome: Because of the nice shot of the "RAK" patch on the Padres' uniform sleeve, remembering Ray A. Kroc, onetime owner of the Padres (and, incidentally, founder of McDonald's.) Also, some goofy kid in the background playing air guitar.

Cool stat: Mack is mostly remembered as a flop for a first-round draft pick, and I think that's really unfair. He never got a fair shot at a full-time job, in my opinion, and when he did play, he hit very well. From 1991 to 1994, here are the 17 players with 50-70 HR and 250-300 RBI. Mack is on that list with comparable players such as Ryne Sandberg, Wally Joyner, Tim Wallach, and Lou Whitaker.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

#547 Felix Fermin

Why this card is awesome: Because this card shows you what was expected of middle infielders before the Steroids Era. The guy never hit particularly well in the minors but still made it to the bigs fairly directly. And the way he hit in the minors? That's pretty much what he did in the majors. Career .259 / .305 / .303.

Cool stat: Fermin had 6 or more total bases in a game 3 times, and his team won each time. He had 6 ribbies in one of those games.

#546 John Candelaria

Why this card is awesome: Because he the Candy Man might as well have been wearing a ski mask. The bill of his car hides his eyes and the shadow from his own round face hides his mouth and chin. But damn, at least we can see that nose.

Cool stat: Candelaria had great control. For pitchers with at least 2500 IP in the last 60 years, he ranks pretty high in fewest walks per 9 IP. Bret Saberhagen is first, actually.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

#545 Don Baylor

Why this card is awesome: Because this card captured Don Baylor on the Twins, in the middle of a very cool thing he was involved with. He went to the World Series three years in a row, with three different teams! (1986 with Boston, 1987 with Minnesota, and 1988 with Oakland.) Has anybody else ever done that?

Oh, and two huge cotton balls just shot out of his ears.

Cool stat: Trivia time: since 1901, name the 8 guys with at least 300 career HR and 250 career stolen bases. Some are easy, some are hard. Baylor makes the cut.

Still looking for a 1978 Topps set

If you've got one, I'll trade you a pair of tickets to an upcoming Red Sox game (face value $100.) Email me at 88topps at gmail dot com.

#544 Jim Traber

Why this card is awesome: Because this photo looks almost like it was taken in front of the ocean. That would have been cool.

Cool stat: Since 1901, just 13 times has a guy had at least 44 RBIs in a season in which he had no more than 240 PAs. Traber did it in 1986.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Pack a Day

I've started contributing to the A Pack a Day blog.

Check out my first rip, a section of a 1987 Donruss rack pack, right here.

#543 Kent Tekulve

Why this card is awesome: Because, hot damn, what a great photo of Tekulve. It captures him with those awesome photogray sunglasses about to go into his submarine delivery.

Cool stat: I just love Tekulve. He was a hell of a pitcher. Here's a small piece I wrote on him about most losses in games where the pitcher didn't allow any earned runs. Here's one about how good he still was at age 40. And did you know he once played in the outfield in a game in which he also pitched?

#542 Paul Noce

Why this card is awesome: Because Noce is one of the forgotten guys of this set. What you see on the back (his time in 1987 with the Cubs) is his entire major league career, save for one plate appearance with the Reds in 1990.

Cool stat: Since 1901, just 12 non-pitchers have managed a season with at least 49 strikeouts and just 6 walks. (Lots of pitchers have done it.) I guess that's why Noce didn't stick in the majors, although there are some decent players on that list, including Mariano Duncan and Kevin Bass.

Monday, July 21, 2008

#541 Juan Beniquez

Why this card is awesome: Because, in Beniquez, I give you the Oscar Gamble of the 1980s.

Cool stat: Check out this list of fewest RBIs in a season by a player with at least 350 AB and a .330 BA. Beniquez comes in 12th since 1901. How about Luis Castillo in 2000? How the hell do you bat .334 over .539 ABs and get only 17 RBI? Florida wasn't even that bad of a team.

#540 Bret Saberhagen

Why this card is awesome: Because of bright futures. At the time this card came out, Saberhagen was perhaps the brightest young pitching star behind only Roger Clemens. 1989 would be Saberhagen's Cy Young year, and his career was hot and cold after that.

Also, I believe I may need to add a tick to the HOF counter but I wanted your opinion. I believe that's George Brett playing first base in the background, as he did almost exlusively in 1987 and 1988. Kevin Seitzer and Steve Balboni also put in a little time at 1B, and a few other guys (Bill Pecota, Bill Buckner, Pat tabler and others) put in a tiny bit of time there, but odds are this is Brett plus it looks like him. Do folks agree or disagree? If it is Brett, then this is the second card in the set featuring both Saberhagen and Brett on the front.

Cool stat: Saberhagen has the third most-recent season with at least 23 wins and an ERA+ of 180. That's been done just 15 times since 1919. Saberhagen is probably going to end up as one of the best pitchers not to make the HOF, being left out mainly due to his injuries that prevented him from making 30 starts in all but 1 of the final 10 years of his career. His actual W-L is 167-117 (.588) but his neutralized W-L is 177-112 (.612.)

#539 Mike LaValliere

Why this card is awesome: Because while I love the classic pose, the angle of Spanky's bat make me feel both a bit uncomfortable and wholly inadequate as a man.

LaValliere has been mentioned (or seen) previously on this blog here and here.

Cool stat: Spanky played at a time when catchers were not expected to produce offensively, and indeed he didn't do a ton with the bat. But for guys with at least 2000 PAs since 1930 and a slugging percentage of .338 or less, he cracks the top 10 for highest OBP. LaValliere walked a good amount, and struck out fairly infrequently.

Looking for a 1978 Topps set

I'm getting ready to make a new blog for 1978 Topps, starting later this year after we finish off the 1988 set here. Does anybody have a '78 Topps set they'd like to sell (or donate?) The set need not be in fantastic condition but it does have to be complete. Email me at 88topps at gmail dot com.

#538 Bill Wegman

Why this card is awesome: Because I like the little white "46" on Wegman's glove. Seems so old school to have to mark up your equipment manually for identification purposes. (These days, most guys are playing with their own custom models manufactured just for them.)

Cool stat: Wegman's name is forgotten outside of Milwaukee but over 1991-1992, among the 20 pitchers to throw at least 450 innings, Wegman had the 6th-best ERA+. Neutralized stats suggest he deserved to go 30-19 over those 2 years, instead of the 28-21 he actually went.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

#537 Steve Buechele

Why this card is awesome: Because he was signed by scout Rick Schroeder. Heh. In 1982 no less!

Cool stat: Only two guys had double-digit homers and a sub-.250 batting average every year from 1986 to 1989: Buechele, and Steve Balboni. And Balboni had 93 HR in that span compared to Buechele's 63. BOOOOOO, indeed.