Posted in Baseball, Baseball Cards, New York Mets

Easter baseball cards

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I hope everyone had a good Easter (or Passover… or just a nice weekend.) It sure feels like yesterday’s 60 degree spring-like weather was the April Fool’s Day joke, because we woke up to snow (again) this morning.

The Yankees’ home opener has already been postponed, and who knows if the Mets can clear the snow from Citi Field’s seats in time to play tonight’s game.

So today’s a good day to look at the Topps Opening Day baseball cards I got for Easter. While Opening Day is overlooked by most collectors, I enjoy it because it’s about the closest I can get to reliving the experience of opening baseball cards when I was a kid.

Opening Day packs are cheap, usually a dollar. They have a decent number of cards in them (by 21st Century standards, anyway.) And given the unlikelihood of pulling any autographs or memorabilia cards, if you’re opening Opening Day, you’ve got to actually want the base cards or the fun “regular” insert sets.

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There are two reasons that Opening Day isn’t perfect. Number one: except for a few Series 2 previews and PhotoShop uniform swaps, Opening Day cards are rehash of the Topps Series 1 cards that came out in February.

Number two: Opening Day has a limited checklist – just 200 cards. The positive to that point is that you’re much more likely to have at least one star player in every pack.

Shohei-Otani Opening Day’s March release spot does give Topps a little more time to do things like add our first rookie card for Angels’ pitcher and designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (who impressed in his Major League pitching debut on Sunday.)

I’m kinda happy Topps used a press conference photo for this card – I love getting to see them on cardboard because they represent that time of optimism where your team’s new star player can do no wrong. There will be plenty of time for game action photos later. (I can’t wait to see what the card designers at Topps and Panini decide to do about including hitting and pitching stats on Ohtani’s cards next year.)

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While Ohtani’s rookie card is the draw for Opening Day this year, usually the inserts are the big thing. Card collectors who like mascots have to go for Opening Day. This year’s set also includes Team Traditions & Celebrations inserts, as well as an Opening Day subset and a Before Opening Day insert set.

I love the mascots and I think the Team Traditions & Celebrations set is a fun new idea. The other two leave me a bit flat.

The Opening Day cards have cool photos, but the backs are focused on how the teams did on Opening Day 2017…and that leaves them feeling a bit dated. If I were writing the copy for the card backs, I’d go with a more general focus. Maybe a particular team is unusually successful on Opening Day, or they have an active Opening Day winning streak. Maybe there’s a star player who does particularly well on Opening Day. Something…

The Before Opening Day insert set is worse, because the photos aren’t even that interesting. I’m pretty sure I don’t care which players had good springs in 2018. I know I don’t care about 2017 spring training performances. Hopefully this insert theme gets retired.

 Other odds & ends:

Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

Last Mets standing

I thought I was numb.

It’s been an awful year for the New York Mets – yesterday afternoon’s lost dropped their record to 55-71, including a miserable 28-39 at home. (I feel blessed that they actually won one of the handful of games I went to this season.)

There have been so many injuries that the team is actually issuing press releases to help the media keep track of who’s hurt, who might be coming back soon and who’s done for the season.

Thanks to a series of summer trades, the Mets have become the second youngest team in baseball. And many of the veterans who are left — I’m looking at you, Yoenis Cespedes — have underperformed. A lot. (Cespedes, earning the highest salary among the 2017 Mets, has a 1.6 Fangraphs WAR — just 0.2 points higher than what Noah Syndergaard accomplished in 27.1 innings.)

I still put the Mets on as background noise if I’m home, but I haven’t actively paid attention to every minute of the tv broadcasts since early June.

Yesterday, I got to see the ugly footage of Michael Conforto dislocating his shoulder during his likely final plate appearance of 2017. And surprise, surprise… the Mets can still deliver that sucker punch even when you thought it couldn’t get worse.

My heart goes out to Conforto, who was on his way to becoming the Mets’ best player and one of baseball’s stars this year with an amazing season. Hopefully the Mets’ leadership will handle his injury properly and Conforto will be able to pick up where he left off next year.

Conforto, and more recently rookies Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, were the reasons I was still watching Mets baseball this year.

Let’s hope Rosario and Smith can both make it to October 1st.

Posted in Baseball

So you're saying there's a chance….

CitiFieldFor one night at least, everything went right in Mets-land.

  • Michael Conforto went 4-for-4 with a walk in his second major league game.
  • Kelly Johnson made a good first impression in his Mets debut by going 2-for-6 with a home run.
  • Kirk Nieuwenhuis also went 4-for-4, driving in four of the Mets’ 15 runs.
  • Lucas Duda hit a pair of home runs, offering hope that he’s returning to his April & May All-Star candidate form.
  • Daniel Murphy went 2-for-4, including a home run
  • Matt Harvey went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs… oh, and he pitched a pretty good game too.

It’s fun to watch your team score 15 runs on 21 hits in a single night instead of taking a whole week to reach those totals. Imagine if Terry Collins issued that “hit or sit” ultimatum a little bit sooner.

The Mets have a tougher challenge awaiting them today. Zack Greinke hasn’t given up a run since June 13th… but maybe, just maybe, the Mets can be the team to put an end to his scoreless innings streak.

And maybe, just maybe, they can find enough offense on a consistent basis to get their amazing starting rotation to the postseason where anything can happen.

It might take something on the order of a minor miracle, but after games like last night’s it’s easier to believe.

Posted in Uncategorized

That futile feeling….

Citi-Field-Night-IMG_201209The New York Mets’  brain trust did two things today that fans have been hoping for since the All-Star Break. They promoted outfielder Michael Conforto from Double-A Binghamton (about 13 months after he was drafted with the 10th overall selection last year) and they made a trade to acquire help for the major league offense.

It didn’t help, as the Mets lost 7-2 to the Dodgers and are now 2-6 since the break, just one game over the .500 mark for the season. But the Nationals also lost again, so the Mets remain just three games out of first place in the NL East.

Conforto drove in a run with a ground out in his second major league at-bat, but otherwise was a non-factor in the game. So were most of the other Mets batters.

The trade has yet to be officially announced by the Mets or Braves, but it should improve New York’s roster without costing the organization any players who factored into any immediate plans. Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe add depth, but they are not really the kind of players who can make a bad offense into a good one.

Much like the Michael Cuddyer signing last winter, I like the move if it’s the first step of a plan to retool the Mets’ lineup. But if it’s the only trade that happens in the waning days of July, I don’t see that much point. (And considering how the Cuddyer signing turned out so far, I have to admit that I don’t have a very good record evaluating player acquisitions.)

Posted in Baseball, Uncategorized

Mets still hanging on despite inept offense

Michael Conforto's 2014 Bowman Draft baseball card
Is Michael Conforto the answer to the Mets’ offensive woes?

The New York Mets salvaged the final game of their weekend series with the St. Louis Cardinals and are continuing to tread water in both the National League East and wildcard races. In the former, they trail Washington by 2 games and have a chance to make up ground when they play the Nationals starting tonight. In the latter, they trail the Chicago Cubs by 2 games, with the San Francisco Giants in between them at 1 game back.

And though the standings say the Mets are very much in the race, another set of numbers paints a very different picture.

In yesterday’s 18-inning victory, the Mets tied a club record by stranding 25 runners on base. (The mark was originally set in 1974 during a 25-inning game.) Mets hitters went 1-for-26 with runners in scoring position and are 3-for-62 with runners in scoring position over their last 8 games. For the season, Mets batters have hit .227 with runners in scoring position and have driven in just 222 runs. Only the Seattle Mariners have been less productive.

Does anybody else see the flaw in Sandy Alderson‘s offensive philosophy that focuses on walks and home runs?

I watched the first six innings of Sunday’s game before I went to work. When I checked to see who won during my break and saw that they were still playing, I half-expected that the game would still be going on when I got home.

Fortunately, the Mets won and I was spared about four hours of frustrating baseball. Unfortunately, we’re looking at a team that could be very tough to watch if Alderson doesn’t do something to improve the offense soon – amazing starting pitching can only carry you so far.

And it looks like a not-very-deep lineup is only going to get worse. Michael Cuddyer is probably headed to the disabled list if the Mets trainers can’t help his balky knee with whatever secret treatment plan they’ve cooked up to try today. Cuddyer’s .250 / .300 / .380 slash line has been disappointing, but Kirk Nieuwenhuis and his .175 / .242 / .404 slash line will probably get the most playing time because of Cuddyer’s absence. And Darrell Ceciliani – the most likely call-up candidate – hit .206 / .270 / .279 during his first stint with the Mets.

There’s increasing pressure to promote top prospect Michael Conforto from Double-A Binghamton, where he’s hitting .325 with 5 home runs and 24 RBI in 41 games. But Conforto is a second-year pro with all of 570 plate appearances. A number of scouts believe he could succeed at the major league level despite his young age. And honestly, it would not be hard to offer more production than Nieuwenhuis, Ceciliani and John Mayberry Jr. (.180 / .250 /.354.)

But if Conforto gets promoted to the Mets this month, particularly in the absence of any significant trade deadline acquisitions, fans and media are going to look to him to carry an offense that looks dead on arrival most nights. If he’s not the second coming of Darryl Strawberry — or at least the 1988 version of Gregg Jefferies — things could get really ugly, really fast. I’d hate to see a kid get labeled as a bust if he doesn’t immediately succeed in a job he might not be ready for.

Conforto should see a promotion – to Triple-A, where he’ll face pitchers with some major league experience. But that’s really not going to help the 2015 Mets offense… I hope Alderson has something in mind that will.

Posted in Autographs, Baseball, Uncategorized

Starting the second half

How great was Jacob deGrom‘s All-Star appearance? By next week, I’m pretty sure I will have forgotten the outcome of the game…but deGrom’s completely unhittable, 10-pitch three-strikeout inning is going to be a lasting memory.

The All-Star Break is over and the New York Mets will be back in action tonight. Noah Syndergaard takes on the St. Louis Cardinals to open up the second half.

The next couple of weeks will tell us a lot about whether the Mets really have a chance to play post-season baseball this year. Can they hold their own with the Cardinals and Dodgers and gain ground when they play the Nationals? Will Sandy Alderson make any moves at the trade deadline? Will he instead follow in the footsteps of the Cubs and promote 2014 first-round draft pick Michael Conforto to try to spark the offense?

I guess we won’t have much longer to wait to find out.

Speaking of Syndergaard, he and Steven Matz are scheduled to sign autographs at the The East Coast National Show at Westchester County Center in White Plains, N.Y., on August 15th. The signing fees are a bit steep – $69 for photos and baseballs, $79 for bats and jerseys – but that seems to be the way things are headed, unfortunately. (Should either pitcher be scheduled to start that day, or should Matz be on a minor league rehab assignment, their appearances will be cancelled.)