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

Baseball is back, and that is awesome

Baseball is back.

I got to watch the Opening Day introductions of the Mets players live on SNY before it was time to start work, so I saw the new Mets trainer get cheered for not being Ray Ramirez. Jacob deGrom earned applause even without his trademarked long locks. Wilmer Flores, man of the people, got one of the biggest ovations. So did David Wright, though it was sad to realize that the cheers were for what he’d already done and not what he might still accomplish on a baseball field.

Philip Evans looked like he was trying to run Brandon Nimmo competition for having the biggest smile on Opening Day. After a too-long winter, it was great.

I had to wait for the SNY Encore to watch the game, which the Mets won 9-4.

Noah Syndergaard was impressive, striking out 10 while walking none. But I agree with him that there’s room for improvement… forget about Yadier Molina’s fluke home run, because Molina hit a pretty good pitch and it barely stayed fair. But Jose Martinez (who the hell is Jose Martinez, anyway?) looked way too comfortable.

Amed Rosario had one of the biggest hits in the game. Brandon Nimmo was on base just about every time he came up. Yoenis Cespedes was Yoenis Cespedes (in a good way.) Nobody could touch Robert Gsellman when he came in in relief.

It was awesome. The cherry on top is that Michael Conforto might be back next week, almost a month ahead of schedule. (Adrian Gonzalez, you should probably consider yourself on notice.)

I got to see a few minutes of the Yankees’ opener, though not any of the exciting bits. Giancarlo Stanton lived up to the hype — at least on Day 1. A homer in his first official Yankee at bat gave John Sterling the chance to debut his awful home run call. (Dude, you had all winter and this is what you came up with?)

The other big star of the winter, Shohei Otani, singled in his first Major League at bat and drove in a run. He went 1-for-5 as the DH in the Los Angeles Angels’ Opening Day loss. Otani is set to make his MLB pitching debut on Easter Sunday.

Thanks to Easter and all the daytime baseball scheduled during the season’s opening week, it will be a little while before I can settle into a rhythm of watching games… but it’s nice to know that baseball and the Mets will be there for the next six months, at least.

Posted in Autographs, Baseball

A surprise from Clay Parker

1516642684853-f71d3fec-70b7-40b4-88e3-90ddf20f637e.jpgI used to be very into mailing baseball cards to current and former players to see if they’d sign them for me. It used to be fairly common for all but the biggest stars to respond.

As time went on, responses from current players grew less common and I’d already gotten many of the former players that I remembered watching when I was younger. So I’ve cut back on mailing.

It was always fun to get a surprise in the mail beyond the standard advertisements and bills, and that’s the part that I miss now that I might send out five or ten letters during the year instead of five or ten dozen like I used to.

But every so often I’ll still get one of the old ones back. On Monday, I got an envelope postmarked from Chattanooga, Tenn. I figured it must be someone who was taking care of last year’s fan mail before they left for spring training.

I opened it and found a 1990 Fleer card from Clay Parker, and I had to check my records at SportsCollectors.Net because I didn’t remember writing to him. Turns out I tried twice, in 2011 and 2012. Yup, my card had been out for at least six years.

Now I think it’s pretty cool that former players will actually bother to open and respond to fan mail from strangers, period. And considering that my likely response to finding a pile of letters from 2011 or 2012 would be to get rid of the clutter, I’m happy Mr. Parker decided to sign my card and mail it back.

While I root for the Mets, I consider myself a baseball fan… and I had a soft spot for the not-very-good Yankee teams of the late 1980s/ early 1990s. (We didn’t have cable, so we tended to watch whichever team had a game on broadcast television on a given night.)

As a rookie with the 1989 Yankees, Clay Parker won four of nine decisions and threw two complete games in 17 starts. He also made five relief appearances, posting a 3.58 ERA.  The next summer, he was shipped the Detroit Tigers with Lance McCullers Sr. in exchange for catcher Matt Nokes, who had been an All-Star three years before. I thought he’d have a solid MLB career, even if he never became a star.

By 1992, Parker had thrown his final MLB pitch. I’m not really sure what happened, whether injuries derailed a career or whether MLB hitters proved to be better at making adjustments… or maybe just bad fortune.

Regardless, I’m happy Mr. Parker took the time to bring back some memories for me.

Odds & ends

I’m not sold on the pitch clock either, and Manfred’s plan to limit mound visits doesn’t go far enough to suit me. Want to speed up baseball games? Get rid of all of the trips to the mound! We know that most of the time, the manager, pitching coach and catcher are going out there to stall for time… and that it’s boring! Forcing managers to have relievers ready and making quicker decisions about bringing them in will have less of an effect on the integrity of the game than Manfred’s pitch clock, and would do more to get rid of dead time. Another pace-of-play improvement I’d like to see is to force managers to make an instant decision on whether to ask for replay review – no more consultations with replay coordinators.

Posted in Uncategorized

Subway Series momentos

Sure, MLB unveiled this year’s spring training uniforms today and Topps released the first baseball cards of 2017 this week. We can totally talk about those in the comments if you want.

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But I’m going to show you a couple of 17-year-old baseball cards I got from my friend Vinny back in December. (And wow, I didn’t really want to think about it being 17 years since the Mets and Yankees played in the World Series.)

At least in the New York metropolitan area, it was a really BIG DEAL that our two teams were playing in the Fall Classic. I had pretty much gotten away from following baseball after the 1994-95 work stoppage, but the excitement of the possible Subway Series developing had me glued to the playoffs in 2000. Looking back at the television ratings, I don’t think the rest of the country really cared for the match up that much. Continue reading “Subway Series momentos”

Posted in Uncategorized

Darth Vader wants you to join the Mets Empire… or else?

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I picked this pin up during my last visit to Citi Field, but I’m not sure what it’s really trying to say (beyond, “hey, Star Wars fans… give us your money.”)

See, the Yankees are supposed to be the (evil) Empire, with their Death Stars and Stormtroopers and what not… right? But here’s Darth Vader, demanding your allegiance to the Mets.

I’m definitely overthinking things… a quick check of eBay reveals MLB partnered with Disney for Star Wars pins of the month at other ballparks, too. (Though curiously, Vader is conspicuously absent from the Yankees’ set.)

August’s Mets pin featured Stormroopers, while June’s had C-3PO exhorting you to “Let New York win”… presumably there were also pins for April, May and July.

If you like weird collectables or share a fondness for both Star Wars and the Mets, these might be worth tracking down. I think I’ll save my money for the Rogue One collectibles coming out at the end of the week & the end-of-season Mets baseball cards.

Posted in Baseball

Mets baseball card of the week: Carlos Beltran 2011 All-Star Game Relic

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A while ago, Twitchy sent me some really neat Mets baseball cards… and I still haven’t shown any of them off. So let’s fix that.

I love All-Star Game relic cards, despite not being a particularly big fan of relic cards or the All-Star Game. Go figure. I think it’s because it’s fun to see players in uniforms that they don’t normally wear.

In 2011, Carlos Beltran was in his final year as a Met. It seems like a lifetime ago, but it hasn’t even been five years since he represented the Mets in the National League’s 5-1 victory in the All-Star Game at Chase Field. Beltran went 1-for-2, scoring on Prince Fielder‘s home run off of C.J. Wilson. A few weeks later, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Zack Wheeler.

In a few hours, Beltran will be trotting out to right field at Yankee Stadium as New York’s other team tries again to get their 2016 season started. On the plus side, it’s not raining today…but it’s not exactly baseball weather – fans might need to worry about frostbite.

It’s too easy for Mets fans to remember Beltran’s career for one playoff at-bat in 2006, but he really was one of the greatest players in team history. Hopefully after he retires, the Mets will honor him with a plaque in the team’s Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, the Mets will try again this afternoon to get that first win under their belts. Friday’s home opener will be more fun if they aren’t starting the season with an 0-2 record.