Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Pirates Make Deal With the Devil, err Yankees

When I got an e-mail from the Pittsburgh Pirates mailing list saying the Bucs had made a trade with the Yankees, my heart may have skipped a beat. I was certain that the Yankees were gonna rob the Pirates of Freddy Sanchez or one of the Laroche brothers or Zach Duke. I have to say I was relieved that it wasn’t one of them, but I wasn’t happy when I realized who it was. I’ve said it before, I wasn’t happy that the Rays didn’t re-sign Eric Hinske in the off-season. He was a great addition to their team; he was part of a 4-headed-monster at DH splitting time with Cliff Floyd, Jonny Gomes and Rocco Baldelli. I was pretty upset that all of them moved on. I was glad that Hinske found a job with the Pirates, though. They are my favorite National League team and they spring train just a few blocks from my house. The only problem is they weren’t utilizing him. He can play 1st and 3rd base, both spots occupied by LaRoche’s. He can do left or right, occupied as well. He was pretty much relegated to pinch hitting and not too often (.255, 1, 11).
In the grand scheme of things, it’s a great career move for Hinske. Balls fly out of the new stadium and Eric can hit the long ball. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits 15 in the second half of the season as a part time player. I’d be happy for him, too, as long as those home runs don’t matter. I’ll be damned if we (the Rays) miss the playoffs because Hinske is winning games for the Yankees in September. I just hope this is the first and last trade the Pirates do with the Yankees this year, or ever. On the up side, the Pirates got something (2 prospects) in exchange for Hinske, right-handed pitcher Casey Erickson (3-3 2.25 in Sally League) and young catcher Eric Fryer.

Trading With The Saints of the Cheap Seats Baby!!!

I have been very fortunate in the trading department these past couple weeks. My latest take comes from Dan at the amazing Saints of the Cheap Seats blog. The saying goes “one hand washes the other” and Dan needed a bunch of cards to complete his 2007 Bowman Heritage set (which I gave up long ago) and the ’52 Topps Rookies series (which I lost interest in finishing a while ago). I needed more Rays cards and he had some to spare. After receiving the cards I had sent him, he sent me an e-mail saying he didn’t have near as many cards to ship to me in return. That’s okay, cuz he sent quality over quantity. I had just sorted my Rays cards into player stacks, pulled out the doubles and got a final count (yes, I am that much of a nerd) on my player collections. I had 33 different Scott Kazmir cards before I opened this trade. Dan sent me 5 Kaz cards and they are all new to me. I was putting these away as Kaz was pitching against the Marlins on Saturday night. He threw 5 solid innings, giving up 2 earned and striking out 5. I think Kaz is back. The first Kaz card is an ’05 Upper Deck Trilogy card #87 showing Kaz with his old number 26 jersey. The next is another UD card, a ’07 Spectrum #41, then another ’07 UD, Future Stars card #92. This one stands as my favorite of the bunch. I like the green background and the white border frame. He also sent the Rocco Baldelli card from the same series. A ’07 SP Rookie Edition, card # 92 rounded out the Upper Decks. The last Kaz card he sent is a ’06 Fleer Ultra Gold. He included the Kaz and a card of Jonny Gomes, who has found a home with the Reds, hitting .343 with 4 homers for them this year. He did send me one 2007 Bowman Heritage card in return for the Bowmans that I had sent him. It was the one card that I wanted and never was able to pull, a prospect card of Reid Brignac, who is back down in AAA with Durham. I don't know if he will ever be an every day player for the Rays, but with his talent and ability he will certainly find a permanent job somewhere. I normally only get excited about getting current Rays, but the ex-Rays cards he sent were so neat, I am gonna post them, too. There is a 2001 Bowman Heritage of Greg Vaughn, card #323. It’s an up-close black and white portrait of the slugger. Vaughn, who is Mo’s cousin, played in the Majors for 15 years, hitting 355 homers and driving in 1,072 runs. He was the National League Comeback Player of the Year in ’98 for the Padres when he hit 50 homeruns. He was also a 4 time All Star. He spent 3 seasons with the Devil Rays, never really regaining his form. He hit 60 homers for the Rays.
Another slugger who did time in Tampa Bay was Jose Canseco. He is featured on this Curtain Call insert from the 2000 Upper Deck set. It is card #CC19. I wasn’t too pleased when the Devil Rays signed Canseco (twice) but he did bring the power when he hit 34 home runs in ’99 for them.
He sent a few 1998 Upper Decks. I hadn’t seen these in a while. I was still collecting when this set came out; I think that I even ripped a box of it. One of them is Roberto Hernandez, the man who saved the Rays first win in ’98. Hernandez was a two-time All Star who spent 17 years in the big leagues. He appeared in over 1000 games and saved 326 of them, good for 12th All Time. His best year as a Devil Ray came in 1999 when he saved 43 of their victories.
The trade ends with 4 really awesome BJ Upton cards that I did not yet own.
A 2007 Goudey, red back, card #12. I was collecting this set, but gave up. I didn’t like the green back, red back thing. I really didn’t like getting 2 cards of the same player in the same pack, one with a green back and one red. Anyway, when I gave up, Delmon Young was the only Rays player I had pulled. I didn’t even realize that BJ was in the set.
I am becoming more and more enamored with Topps Finest lately. I haven’t ripped a pack of it since ’95, still trying to finish that set, I think, but I have got a few cards lately from that series. This is my first 2005; card #7 0f then teenaged infielder BJ Upton.
Another cool ’05 Upton he sent is a Leaf Century Collection card, showing Upton post swing. I can’t make out his jersey number on this one, 15, 25, 35? I can’t tell. The picture on the card’s back has his number airbrushed out. Odd.
That’s all for another awesome trade! Thanks Dan, I really appreciate the cards. Since I have started to write this today I have gotten 4 more envelopes in my post box, so I gotta a lot of work to do. Right now, I am signing off, gonna watch the Rays try and take the second game of the series against the Jays! Did anyone watch that game last night? Niemann, Upton, Crawford, Bartlett and everyone looked awesome, great game!
Oh, the Longo card at the start of this is from Dan, too. I never get tired of getting Longo cards and that whole UD Masterpiece set is pretty awesome. Does anyone know how Greg Vaughn or Roberto Hernandez are TTM? Go Rays!! Troll out.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tampa Bay Rays and Bradentucky Bombers Rock Out on Sunday!!!

Yesterday was a great day.
David Price earned his second win of the year, BJ Upton homered and the Rays finished their interleague home stand with a 5-1 record, suffering just one loss, the first game against Jamie Moyer and the Phillies. They successfully swept the Marlins and Scott Kazmir and Chad Bradford are back with the team and in mid-season form. The Rays have a 13-5 record in interleague play this year. They are 42-35 overall and they moved past the Blue Jays into 3rd place in the American League East, just 5 games behind the Boston Red Sox. They are riding a 5 game winning streak and are 7-3 in their last 10 games. BJ’s third inning home run was the 100th homer for Tampa Bay this season, making them the quickest team in Major League history to reach 100 homers and 100 steals. Led by Carl Crawford with 39 steals and BJ Upton with 28, the Rays have 118 steals as a team on the year. During the sweep of the Marlins, reliever JP Howell had two wins and a save in 3 games. Overall on the season his numbers are All Star caliber, with a 4-2 record with a 1.67 era, 5 saves and 46 strikeouts in 37-2/3 innings this season.
The Rays are all over the league leader boards, even with Jason Bartlett not having enough at-bats for his .364 batting average to qualify. Carl Crawford is 7th in the AL in batting with a .314 mark. He is 3rd in hits with 97 and leads the League in steals. Carlos Pena is leading the American League in both home runs with 23 and runs scored with 58. Current second baseman, Ben Zobrist is pacing the AL in slugging percentage (.622) and tied for 3rd in triples. Third baseman Evan Longoria is 4th in slugging percentage (.575), tied for 2nd in doubles (24) and in second place in RBIs with 63. His .306 batting average is 15th in the league. He and Ben Zobrist are tied for 13th in the AL with 16 round trippers each. On the other side JP Howell, whose 1.67 ERA doesn’t qualify for the league leader board is pacing the AL in games with 38. James Shields does qualify and his 3.41 ERA is 13th and he is in a tie for most games started this year. He is also 6th in innings pitched this year, overall he has a 6-5 mark with 76 Ks. Matt Garza (5-5 3.61) has 85 Ks which is good for 8th in the league. Jeff Nieman is one of 14 pitchers this year to throw a shutout. Zack Greinke remains the only pitcher who has 2 so far this season.
The Rays are gearing up to head north and take on the Blue Jays at home. Jeff Nieman (6-4) will get the call for the Rays who will be facing (in my opinion) the best starter in the American League in Roy Halliday (10-1 2.53). It will be Halliday’s first start since June 12th. He has been sidelined with a right groin strain. Prior to that, he had been 7-0 in his last 10 starts. A few of the Rays have had serious success against Halliday. Carl Crawford is hitting .327 against him with a home run in 49 at bats. BJ Upton has a .304 average with a home run in 23 at bats. Russ Adams in the only Jay who has faced Nieman more than 5 times and he is 0-10 career against the righty. Wells, Scutaro, Rolen, Lind and Alex Rios have never faced Nieman in the big leagues. Matt Garza and James Shields will get the call to start the 2nd and third games of the series. In game 3 the Rays will face Jays rookie Ricky Romero (5-3 3.20) for the first time. No players in the Tampa Bay line-up have a single at bat against Romero. Really the only negative thing that could be said about the Rays is they sent one of my favorite starters to AAA Durham this weekend. It is a great problem for a team to have, having too many quality starters, but I hate seeing Sonny sent down. Last year he tied for the team lead in victories, but this year he suffered a few bad innings, even though he has pitched better than his 6-7 record shows. Hopefully he will be able to tune things up and rejoin the Rays soon.
In other GREAT news this weekend, the Bradentucky Bombers travelled south to Fort Myers to take on the Palm City Punishers for the first time this season. These two teams have serious history from prior seasons and I had been waiting for this matchup. Their home rink skated much faster than ours and the game was all action. The defense had little time to get set, but big hits and great one on one matchups kept the scoring low. The Bombers were staked to a 30+ point lead at the end of half-time. It was a game of firsts and lasts for the Bombers. Rookies Blaque Jaque,Madcap and Esther Gin & Juice all made their first appearances with the Bombers travelling All Star A-squad. It was the final bout for last seasons Rookie of the Year and defensive mainstay Splatsy Kline. Kline was named co-captain for her last bout and I gave her a memorial introduction thanking her for all she has done for the league, the team and for being a friend. The Bombers made sure it was a bout to remember for her. Both teams traded the lead and kept it close. At the halfway mark in the first half, the score was 22-20 in favor of the Bombers. After that, the Bradentucky offense took over with Yakuza Girl, Signal 20, Mofo On Wheels, Gigi Ramoan and Esther Gin & Juice taking turns with high scoring jams. The defense, led by Busty Bruiser, Julia Sieze Her, Heartbreaker Hylton, Mission Mary Position and Splatsy Kline kept the speedy Fort Myers team in check. All tolled, the Bombers left Fort Myers with a decisive 95-74 victory. Signal 20 (who was my announcing partner last week) was named best jammer for the Bombers while Jamsterella took that honor for Fort Myers. Busty Bruiser won the hardware as Bradentucky’s top blocker with Flying Da Brie taking the award for the Palm City Punishers. There will be a rematch of these two teams on July 19th at Florida Wheels in Bradenton. It will be the final bout of the season for the Bradentucky Bombers.
Thanks to Bombshell Sinda Roller for all of the photos from this weekends bout!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Rays Card of the Day!

2009 Topps Willy Aybar card #567
This is the first card of the day by a current Rays player. I picked it for a few reasons. One, Aybar is having a great season, hitting .284 in 48 games with 6 homeruns and 24 runs batted in. Two, he has been a super utility man with starts at 3rd base, shortstop, 2nd base, first base and designated hitter. Third, he hit a walk-off sacrifice fly last night when the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Marlins in the bottom of the 10th inning. Fourth, the back of the card has a fun fact. It reads “on 9/17/08 Willy Aybar and Fernando Perez became the first switch-hitting teammates in at least 40 years to hit home runs righty against a right handed pitcher in the same game”. It’s kind of random, but still amazing. Fifth, he is an inspiration. While with the Braves, he battled through problems with drugs and drinking, after his trade to the Rays he cleaned up and found his star on the field. Sixth, I didn’t like this card at first glance because Derek Jeter had managed to get his face in the picture. Its bad enough his mug is on his own cards, I don’t like it when he sneaks into other peoples. At closer inspection, I decided this makes the card. If Jeter wasn’t so busy “mugging” for the camera, he may have been able to break up the double play that he is a part off. That’s why this is the card of the day. The Rays turning two is great, turning two against Jeter and the Yankees is awesome!
End Notes:
1. I will be in Fort Myers, Florida all day today as the Bradentucky Bombers are taking on the Fort Myers Derby Girls tonight!
2. I have more trades and pack breaks to post next week, as well as derby updates.
3. This will be Splatsy Kline's final bout with the Bombers
4. Many more 1987 Donruss team sets are still up for grabs. Get in touch before I change my mind!
5. Contest is coming next week, remember the requirements.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rays Win!

Scott Kazmir pitched 5 innings, struck out 5 and looked like the Kaz of old. The bullpen handled the rest, shutting down the Marlins for the next 5 innings. In the bottom of the 10th, Jason Bartlett singled, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and then scored the winning run on a line-drive sac fly to center field. Willy Aybar drove home the winning run and the Rays won the Citrus Series for the year. They have one more game against the Marlins, tomorrow at 1 PM.
Chad Bradford also made his first appearance of the year for the Rays in relief. With Bradford and Kazmir returning, Andy Sonnanstine was the odd man out, he was optioned to AAA Durham. Winston Abreu was also designated for assignment.

Trading with the Waxaholic, Part 2

Okay, I am a day late, but as promised, here is part two of the trade I received from Captain Canuck from the awesome Waxaholic blog! If you haven’t read the adventure these cards faced while attempting to cross the border in the States, please go back and read it.
Here are the Rays cards he sent…
A big stack of 2007 Fleers including card #50 of right-hander James Shields who is 6-5 with a 3.41 ERA in 16 starts this year for the Rays.
Another big pile of Fleers are the 2006’s like this card, #120 of lefty Scott Kazmir who is pitching as I type against the Marlins. Kaz is 4-4 this year, but hasn’t made a start in the Major Leagues since May 20 when he went on the DL. He has looked fantastic in his two rehab starts, but he’s been pitching against minor leaguers. This is going to be a telling start for him.
I’ve been lucky with 2006 Topps Devil Rays cards lately. I now have 2 full team sets. The Captain sent a bunch of these, including card #5 of (Devil) Rays All Star leftfielder Carl Crawford. Craw is batting .314 with 38 steals so far this year.
He sent me some 2009 Topps Finest, too. This is the first I’ve seen of this premium product. I like the design with the shiny silver background, which makes the photo pop out in a 3-D kinda way. They have multiple choice Finestrivia on the back. I got 2 cards, #92 of the aforementioned Scott Kazmir and #3 of Rays All Star third baseman Evan Longoria who is in the middle of another great season (.312/16/62).
He rounded the Rays cards out with a bunch of cool Topps black cards and I am so glad these didn’t suffer the knife of Homeland Security. I had never actually seen any of these cards before, but I did a little research because I would love to be pulling some of these myself. The “black” cards are available at Wal Mart stores exclusively in Topps Series 1 retail blaster packs. There is a nine digit code on the top of the box which is Code: 1-825-50-13-9. I think that all the base cards in boxes with that code will be black. I know that next 20 bucks I have, I will be buying one of these boxes because these cards look really sharp.
I am now the proud owner of 5 of these cards including card #22, Classic Combos featuring Longoria and David Price.He sent cards of those two by themselves also. The other 2 black cards are #174 of James Shields and card #177 of current Pirates infielder Eric Hinske. He was one of our favorites last year when he hit 20 home runs for the AL Champs.
Well, that sums up part two. Thanks again for the trade Waxaholic! And thanks for sending a package so suspicious looking that the border patrol had to tear it apart, therefore leaving me with a funny story. The Rays are down 1-0 in the 2nd inning, I gotta go! Go Rays!!! Troll out.
P.S. Only 2 people have claimed one of the free team sets I offered two posts ago. Doesn't anyone like free cards anymore?

Friday, June 26, 2009

(Devil) Rays Card of the Day Part 4

1998 Skybox Thunder, Quinton McCracken, card #12
When you mix 90’s technology with 80’s gaudy-cool, bad things happen. Generally, when you attach the name Skybox to baseball cards, bad (hideously ugly) things happen. This is one of the gaudiest, ugliest, dizzying sets ever, it may be the very reason that I disappeared from the hobby for 9 years. It is, if nothing else, attention grabbing and this post is about Quinton McCracken, an original Devil Ray. 1997 was a breakout year for the young McCracken. He hit .292 and stole 28 bases for the Rockies, but they left him unprotected and the Devil Rays stole him in the expansion draft with their 4th pick. He was the Devil Rays starting center fielder in their inaugural game; he was also their lead-off hitter. At 28, he had some big league experience, but was young enough to build around. He was off to a great start: he was named the American League Player of the Week after the first week of the season, and he batted .483 and scored 7 runs over that span. Along with Miguel Cairo (it was a double steal) he stole the first base in Rays history. He also scored the first run ever by a Devil Ray. He was the Devil Rays player of the year in 1998. Early into the 1999 season he tore his ACL and never really regained his prowess on the field or on the base paths. He spent the 2000 season in AAA, same with the 2001 season where he played for Edmonton in the Twins organization. He did establish two team records that year that held up for 11 seasons. He had 18 outfield assists in 1998; he had 2 in one game twice that year. As a team, the Devil Rays had 47 outfield assists in 1998. Both of those records still stand. McCracken also had an 18-game hitting streak in 1998. That record stood for 11 seasons, until last night when current Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett hit safely in his 19th consecutive game establishing a new team mark. Congrats to both Bartlett for setting the new standard and to McCracken for setting the bar high in his only full season with the team.
The back of the card shows a quote from Q which says “My goal would be to hit .300, to steal 30 or 40 bases, and score maybe a hundred or so runs…and play good defense.” He never reached those goals (other than the great defense), but he gave hope for a young team to succeed and his name lives on in my memory and in the record books.

An Eighties Post? Beat It! Its 2007 Donruss Opening Day Baby!!

Was I fan of Michael Jackson? Yes. Did my friends know this? No, he was the butt of many a joke around my grade school. Did I watch the World Premiere of the “Thriller” video completely in awe with my parents? Yes. Do I still own a copy of “Bad” on vinyl? Yes. Was I shocked and surprised at his passing? Yes. Will I write a post memorializing the “King O Pop”? Absolutely not. There is a chance that my old grade school bullies may find this blog, hop a flight to Florida and break my nose again. It isn’t gonna happen. I will make a quick 80’s post of sorts, so here we go.
2007 Donruss Opening Day, who wants ‘em?
My parents still have one of these sets unopened and sitting on a shelf in their den with some of my old jerseys, trophies, kid stuff and Danny Tartabull memorabilia that they wont let go of. Since there is a back-up, when a friend asked me to break up the set that lives in my troll-quarters, I agreed. Now I have an incomplete set that will never again be complete. Therefore, it must go. The White Sox, Pirates, Cardinals and Twins are gone. All other teams are up for grabs. As I flip through these one last time, I’ve noticed two things. First, the Yankees and Mets and Cubs and White Sox share a team card. The first person to comment for that team gets the team card. Second, I don’t know if I can part with the Julio Franco. I was thinking of putting together an “All Hair” team, if you want the Indians set, it may take some coaxing. By the way, this isn’t a trade; this is me sending you 10 cards. That’s it. Here’s how it will work. Leave a comment with the team you would like so folks know it’s taken. Next, e-mail me (bacontowne at yahoooooo dot com) with your address and screen name and the team that you would like. Then, wait patiently by your mailbox in about two weeks. I will mail all these out next Thursday (payday baby!!). Thanks for reading. Go Rays!!!
Troll out.