Tuesday, March 31, 2009

HOF Tracker: Matt Holliday

Last up in the American League hitter group of potential HOF players is Matt Holliday. A recent transplant to the AL, it will be interesting to see how much of an effect the move out of Denver will have on Holliday. After only five seasons, Holliday is a three-time All Star and Silver Slugger winner, with a lifetime .319 batting average.

His first Topps card was a shared card in the 1999 regular series. He also appeared on a popular Bowman Chrome issue the same year.

NOTE: If any readers have suggestions on potential candidates for the remaining polls (AL pitchers, NL pitchers, NL hitters), please feel free to leave a comment. Again, the criteria are that the player must have played at least five seasons (including partial seasons), and the players should not be an obvious slam-dunk candidate for the Hall (such as Pujols, Ichiro, Jeter, etc.).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Latest Sandberg Addition: 2007 Topps Cards That Never Were, 1982 Topps Traded

In 2007, Topps issued a series of special cards at the National Convention, including a "pre-rookie" card that could have been released for Ryne Sandberg (the other cards were a 1952 Joe DiMaggio, 1952 Ted Williams, 1967 Nolan Ryan, and 1954 Stan Musial). There were approximately 900 cards released of Sandberg's 1982 Topps Traded card, numbered 133T. As an avid Cubs and Sandberg fan, I am always intrigued by cards of Sandberg in a Phillies uniform. This card is probably my favorite to date:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

HOF Tracker: Miguel Cabrera

There is no denying Miguel Cabrera's offensive prowess. He is only 25, and he has already accumulated 175 home runs and more than 1000 hits. A four-time All-Star, Cabrera's biggest obstacles are of his own making; namely, his weight is a subject of concern for many Tigers' fans. In his first season with Detroit, he was finally switched off of third base, where his defense was suspect. As a first baseman, he may be limited in future All Star game appearances, with Teixeira and Youkilis likely to garner more popular support.

But Cabrera is an outstanding hitter, and with his young age and experience, he is uniquely positioned to be on track for a Hall of Fame career. Below is Cabrera's rookie card, a 2000 Topps Traded Chrome:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Making the HOF Case: Curt Schilling

After Curt Schilling announced his official retirement yesterday, I have read many negative comments about his legacy, mostly based on his bigger than average ego it seems. Well, if ego excluded a player from the Hall, how can you explain Rickey Henderson's election this year?

Let's look objectively at the stats. Schilling was a 6-time All Star, a three-time Cy Young runner up, and a World Series co-MVP in 2001 (with D-Backs teammate Randy Johnson). Impressive stats, but there are indeed areas where his career could come up short. He only accummulated 216 wins, and his career ERA was 3.46.

His National League legacy was somewhat limited until he starred with the Diamondbacks from 2000-2003. His postseason resume rivals that of John Smoltz and Mariano Rivera in terms of success. His record in postseason play was 11-2, with a 2.23 ERA. His "bloody sock" exploits are well documented, and his ability to win the big games could be enough to warrant selection.

One of the most interesting part's of Schilling's career was that he was on the side of many one-sided trades in his career:

  • From Boston to Baltimore for Mike Boddicker
  • From Baltimore to Houston for Glenn Davis (along with Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch)
  • From Houston to Philadelphia for Jason Grimsley
  • From Philly to Arizona for Omar Daal, Travis Lee, Nelson Figueroa, and Vicente Padilla
  • From Arizona to Boston for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, and Jorge de la Rosa

Thus it appears that even during his career, Schilling was undervalued and underappreciated. In this writer's opinion, Schilling deserves the call, but probably will not be elected on the first ballot. I foresee his fate being similar to that of Bert Blyleven, who will eventually be enshrined but after a laborious journey.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Blog Bat Around V

This is my first time participating in the Blog Bat Arounds, which have been thoroughly entertaining to date. This time around the BBA, hosted by Cardboard Junkie here, asks this: What is the best experience you have had acquiring cards or memorabilia?

For me, there are two distinct events that come to mind. The first was when I was about eight years old and I lived in Kokomo, Indiana. I was a huge Cubs fan and at that time the Cubs caravan went as far south as central Indiana. I had my picture taken in the local newspaper, proudly wearing my Cubs jacket and hat. My favorite memory that day was meeting Scott Sanderson. I got his autograph, and in his honor I include my favorite Cubs card of Sanderson, his 1986 Topps:

My second memorable event was only a few years ago. I moved to the north suburbs of Chicago after graduating from college. It wasn't until a few years ago that I found a great card shop with lots of old stuff and tons of Cubs cards. The shop reintroduced me to card collecting, as I had drifted away from the hobby for many years. The most fun part of the shop was their "rookie card vault" of sorts with their most valuable cards. I subsequently adopted the phrase with my most valuable cards at home, albeit they are not properly displayed in a proper case just yet. Of the many cards purchased there, one of my favorites is the 1977 Topps Andre Dawson RC:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Retiring Number 31

Congratulations to two of my favorite Cubs pitchers of all time, Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux, on the Cubs announcement that their #31 will be retired on May 3rd. I'm looking forward to being there for a Cubs victory and to see a new flag raised.

In honor of this announcement, here are the Topps rookie cards of each player:

1966 Topps Fergie Jenkins, #254

1987 Topps Traded Greg Maddux #70T

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

HOF Tracker: Mark Teixeira

Up next in the HOF tracker poll is the new first baseman for the Yankees, Mark Teixeira. Only 28, Teixeira has already hit over 200 home runs and won two Gold Gloves. Playing for the Yankees will give him much more visibility than he had as a Ranger, Brave, and Angel, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure. He played the best baseball of his career after he was traded to the Angels in 2008, batting .358 in 54 games. He profiles as a Carlos Delgado/Jim Thome type hitter for his career, but with better defense. Barring injury, his HOF case should be solid.

Of the many rookie cards for Teixeira, my favorite is his 2001 Fleer Tradition.

Monday, March 16, 2009

HOF Tracker: Grady Sizemore

Up next in my rundown of AL hitting candidates with an early track toward the Hall of Fame is Grady Sizemore. Anyone who has watched Sizemore play knows his ability and potential. After five seasons, Sizemore has been an All Star three times and last year was a 30-30 guy for the first time. At this point he profiles like a young Barry Bonds, without the supplements.

Sizemore's most widely collected rookie card is the 2000 Bowman Draft Pick:

Saturday, March 7, 2009

HOF Tracker: Michael Young

Of the five players listed in my first poll, Michael Young may be the most under-appreciated. But take a close look at his numbers at what is likely the half-way point in his career. He has almost 1500 hits, a .300 career batting average, five all-star appearances and one Gold Glove. His impending switch from SS to 3B could jeopardize his chances, however. While his hitting style profiles more like a middle infielder, his relative lack of power could be a problem. Also, his $80 million contract will likely keep him playing for the Rangers for a number of years, where his profile is much lower than it would be in a larger market.

But for me, Young has Hall of Fame ability. He is on pace for more than 3000 hits. And few remember that he willingly switched from 2B to SS after the Rangers traded A-Rod for Alfonso Soriano. While he initially demanded a trade earlier this year when he was asked to move to 3B, he again put the team first and accepted the new role. My favorite card of Young's is his 2000 Topps Traded rookie card, where he was listed as "Mike Young".

New HOF Poll: American League Hitters

Over the next few months, I am going to post a series of polls asking which current players in their prime are most likely to make the Hall of Fame. I decided to break this into four separate polls--for NL pitchers, NL hitters, AL pitchers, and AL hitters.

The first post is American League hitters, as you can see on the right sidebar. I decided not to mention the "slam-dunk" HOF players such as Derek Jeter, Ichiro, Vlad Guerrero, etc. I also decided that the players eligible for this poll must have played at least 5 years.

I will post an individual profile for each player featured in the polls, with the first post later today. Please vote and comment if you want!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Latest Sandberg Additions

As an avid collector of Ryne Sandberg cards, including his post-career non-relic cards, I recently acquired two interesting Upper Deck cards from 2008.

First up is the UD Masterpieces SP, #94:

Next is the UD Goudey SP, #210:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

2011 Topps Archives "Wishlist": Players from the 80s and 90s

JayBee from bdj610's Topps Baseball Card Blog (here) has started a great series of posts regarding a "wishlist" of players to be featured on a 2011 Topps Archives set, commemorating the 60th anniversary of Topps. The conditions are that none of the players could have been featured in the 2001 Archives set--and I will add that players from the 2002 Archives set are also off limits--and that the players must be retired as of this year.

JayBee started with Mickey Mantle, who is a terrific selection to get things going. Given that my relative knowledge of baseball is limited to the past thirty years, I will provide a few suggestions from the 1980s and 1990s. From the 1980s, the most obvious addition to me is Alan Trammell. I have extolled Trammell's HOF worthiness before, so that does not bear repeating.

Other prominent stars of the 1980s that come to mind include Eric Davis, Rick Sutcliffe, Tim Raines, and Harold Baines. From the 1990s, there are several somewhat forgotten stars that warrant inclusion, including pitchers David Cone and Bret Saberhagen.

Cone's career gets overlooked because he did not win 200 games. But he was a tremendous big-game pitcher with five All Star appearances. Other players from the 1990s that I would consider include Terry Pendleton, Larry Walker, Mo Vaughn, and the Big Cat, Andres Galarraga.

Finally, I would lobby for inclusion of my two favorite "Francos", Julio and John.