Exit Strategy

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A couple of things that showed up on my Twitter feed this week has me thinking about exit strategies. Both were related to the hobby and so of course they were of interest to me. I bet you saw that Ichiro card and are thinking I’m going to ask what do the Mariners do with him once Ben Gamel comes off the DL. Well, I might work that in here, but we shall see.

The first discussion I came upon stemmed from a cryptic tweet from the Night Owl.

“Seems like a shame to publish anything more,” the wise one had tweeted.

Now, I say cryptic because my settings on Twitter are set so I don’t see any photos unless I click on the tweet. Come to find out it wasn’t cryptic at all, but a photo from his blogger account, showing he had hit post number 4000 (btw:congrats, Greg). Anyway, a brief conversation ensued about whether or not bloggers should have a known end for their blog. I’ve experienced this first hand, having ended a blog (one which had also undergone both a name change and a focal point) without deliberately setting out to do so; I wanted a different platform (which turned out to be Word Press) and decided to start fresh rather than try to export all the old posts. As far as this blog… I have no idea how long it will last. I could lose interest tomorrow and never write another post.

It was the second discussion, however, that got me thinking about an eventual exit from the hobby. To clarify, I don’t plan on ever stop collecting (although I have twice before: once I hit the teen-age years and then again from 2001-2009 when life just wouldn’t allow it) but there will be a time when I exit this life and then what? Neither my kids nor my wife have any interest in my card collection and once I’m gone I don’t want them to be burdened with having to sell a lot of my crap. Perhaps grandchildren who enjoy the game and the hobby will be in my future- or maybe not. I’ll probably let it be known that there are a few cards that hold the most meaning to me, so perhaps each of the kids and the wife will pick something to remember me by.

So I’m asking myself, what do I do with this stuff?

Thankfully, I have a lot less to worry about getting rid of than many of those in the card community. I’ve already sold some on Sportlots and have thought about selling on COMC as well. I’ve been involved in trading through Twitter, the blogs, and TCDB. But the sad truth is that much of my collection consists of most of the Topps sets from 1977-2017 – and those looking to complete those sets have already done so. A few months ago, I decided to end the Topps set run, as we are limited in both space and funds- and I’d rather allocate both to my Mariners collection. I also have a lot of vintage Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves from my days as a *Braves Topps team set collecor that I would like to move while there is still an interest in vintage stuff. It’s my belief that in the next 15-20 years there will be a precipitous drop in vintage prices. Who’s going to be buying them? The demographic for collectors is an aging one and I really have my doubts that the interest in any of it, let alone vintage, will be there in a couple of decades. Sure, I could leave the vintage stuff to my wife and kids to try to sell but who are they going to sell them to? Why not just sell them now and be done with it. Let someone else enjoy them.

And as far as Ichiro goes… there are a number of possibilities of what happens now that Ben Gamel is good to go: The team could DFA him; place him on the DL and then send him on a rehab assignment (good for about a month, total); keep him on roster and send Guillermo Heredia down; or, they could carry 5 outfielders on the active roster. Surely they had an exit strategy in place when they signed him.

Or, perhaps Ichiro will know it’s time.

Will I?

**My Mariners fandom started in ’78 and then I also became a Braves fan once we got cable in ’81. My love of the Braves overshadowed that for Seattle from about ’85 until the new regime traded away Andrelton- among other boneheaded moves- and became a complete dumpster fire.

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You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

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Most collectors will probably tell you that their favorite time of year on the card calendar is late January/ early February, when the new baseball card seasons kicks into gear with the release of Topps Series 1. Ask for a second most favorite time of year and perhaps the response will be, “after the final product is released.” Collectors have become jaded with the copious amount of product on the market, so I get it, but that doesn’t prevent me from looking forward to the calendar turning to June- and beyond.

Archives isn’t included in the early summer trio of Finest, Series 2 and Stadium Club, but it too is something I always look forward to with great anticipation. Last week, we were given the first bit of information regarding 2018 Archives (with an August street date)- and, thankfully, we will see fresh throwbacks this year as Topps revisits 1959, 1977 and 1981. I’m especially looking forward to the 1981 theme, as it was a childhood favorite.

While I can relate to collectors growing weary of products, I don’t get the exasperation many of them feel over something as insignificant as a font change. It happens with every retro set and 2018 Archives is no different.

My approach to this subject is to view it as I do when an artist covers another artist’s music or a producer remakes a movie. I don’t want an exact reproduction; artist liberty calls for a re-interpretation, not a carbon copy. And I view the brand manager as someone who has artist liberty in how they produce a set. Not popular among collectors, but I’m usually the contrarian.

I guess I can take comfort in knowing that multitudes of music fans around the world share my view. Afterall, the most-played song ever is “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”- and many of those spins of the disc were of the dozens of artists who re-interpreted the Righteous Brothers classic.

A Real Cut Up

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Keeping my emotions in check has become a little easier as I’ve gotten older, but it can still be a struggle. Sometimes the temptation comes from my own negligence, such as my utter failure in trimming out this 1991 Fleer Wax Box card, which was part of a panel I had received in a trade a few months ago (I posted about it a few months ago at my old blog). Because I was interested only in the Randy Johnson, I took the panel to the trimmer- and the result was less than satisfactory. The problem was there were too many black lines & I mistook one of the horizontal lines for a border line, so I miscut it. Simply put, I wasn’t paying attention. When it finally dawned on me what I had done, I didn’t get mad; to the contrary- I laughed. It happened and there was nothing I could do about it, except to tape the thing together.

This attempt at self-control can be especially put to the test on social media. As much as I like Twitter for news and information (not to mention the community of like-minded collectors and sports and music fans), the place can be a cesspool of snakes and charlatans, self-promoters and trolls. Thus, engaging in conversations comes with it a certainty that you will at some point call someone out on the bullshit they are espousing. I try to keep my twittercisms to a minimum, but had to break ’em out over the past week.

It all started with the guy grating on my nerves, as he seemed to hold himself in a little too high esteem. The book end of his conceit was the ridiculous claim that he found it hard to believe that he is the one “fighting the cause for collectors.” Great, another self-anointed advocate for the hobbyist. If it was just these ridiculous claims, I’d have bit my lip and moved on. But what I read in the middle of his nuggets (i.e., turds) of wisdom really set me off. Had he called collectors “stupid” or “dumb”- fine. But he chose a different word that was totally inappropriate.

Why did the use of that word set me off? Was it just the case of me being ‘PC’? Let me explain.

My oldest child, whom I adopted and raised since he was two years old, was diagnosed as having Tourette Syndrom at the age of nine. It seemed to be a very severe case, with a lot of muscular spasms, odd tics etc, and, kids being kids, he put up with a lot of shit from guys just like our card advocate. Names (“retard” or being called “retarded”), pointing and laughing at things he literally had no control over. It also affected his ability to think, to reason, to focus (among other things). But come to find out, it’s not Tourette’s, but Huntington’s Disease, a fatal genetic disorder that causes a breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. Think of someone having ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s all at the same time- that’s Huntington’s. It’s a slow, cruel disease that will lead to his demise- most likely at a young age, since his was onset Juvenile Huntington’s.

Every parent can tell stories of their kids being laughed at or picked on, so our story isn’t uncommon. But when there is an existing condition that makes day to day life a struggle for a child- and then for them to have endure that kind of behavior… totally unacceptable.

So yeah, this clown pissed me off .

A few days later… I replied to a tweet that referenced 1991 Fleer, saying we should all tweet photos of the set just to get under the guy’s skin. Shortly thereafter a response comes from funny man, who tweeted a picture of a ’91 Fleer Ryne Sandberg. Normally I appreciate a sense of humor- but not this day. And sure as hell not from this guy. Yep, I’m talking about you, I replied.

Then comes this:

“Everything is all in good fun.” Except you misspelled “in poor taste”

So, Mr. Comedian, the next time you want to use an outdated, pejorative term to insult the mental capabilities of certain individuals, do me a favor and do something I didn’t do when trimming out that 1991 Fleer wax box card… think.

The irony of it all.

4/11

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I bought this ticket to the Red Sox 1997 home opener on eBay recently- not because I’m a Sox fan, but because of the date. My daughter is celebrating her 17th birthday today, so April 11 is a special day for our family. The ticket pre-dates my daughter’s birth by four years but I’m thinking of starting a collection of tickets (or maybe Topps Now cards) from games that have taken place on the 11th.

As far as the game itself, the Mariners beat Boston 5-3, with Randy Johnson picking up theĀ  105th win of his big league career.

 

When Baseball Cards Were Baseball Cards and Players Were Men

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A glance at my 1981 Fleer Leon Roberts card tells me a couple of things.

  • Leon Roberts was a real man. You don’t see many chaw-jawed, tobacco-spittin’ men on the diamond these days. No, today’s players are merely boys.
  • If a stat isn’t on the back of a baseball card, I don’t need to know it; it’s not a real stat.

Other tell-tale signs of the inferiority of today’s player can be inferred from the back of Leon’s card.

  • Five of first 7 years in majors were spent on astro turf and concrete surfaces. After his 1980 season, 3.5 of his final 4 seasons would be on those surfaces. Today’s player doesn’t shred his knees nor destroys his hips and back on astro turf. Today’s players are wussies. Bring back astro turf. Bring back concrete fields.

Breakfast with Buhner

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I’ve tried to be more conscientious of what I eat for breakfast as I’ve gotten older. Most of us probably ate cold cereal as kids (and unhealthy ones, at that) and I have to admit that it’s been a part of my morning diet ever since (and sometimes for dinner, when I was single). The only thing that has changed over the years is that I’ve gone from the obvious high-in-sugar cereals (Fruit Loops, Cap’n Crunch) to some of the more subtle high-in-sugar ones (Cheerios). These days I try to mix it up by eating oatmeal and toast with my morning coffee at least four days a week. My favorite breakfast meals, however, are those that my wife makes for dinner sometimes: a breakfast wheel that includes scrambled eggs, cheese and bacon in a croissant or a casserole with tater tots, scrambled eggs and sausage. My favorite, however, is from our favorite diner (Sunrise Family Restaurant): good old biscuits and gravy with hash browns that are covered in shredded cheese. Nothing exactly healthy, I’m sure.

There are some things- such as fish- that I probably wouldn’t even consider for breakfast. And while salmon in the morning doesn’t sound appealing to me, at least one former player would disagree with me. Jay Buhner, who has served as a judge in the Copper Chef Cook-Off at Sea-Tac International Airport, once said that salmon in the morning for breakfast is pretty hard to beat. I do like salmon as an evening meal, but think I’ll stick to one of Jay’s other morning favorites.

A surprise awaited Buhner when he arrived at his locker on February 28, 1996. Someone with General Mills had discovered that the Mariners slugger liked Cheerios and arranged for 162 boxes of the cereal -one for each game of the season- to be crammed into his locker at the Mariners spring training facility. The prank was video taped, capturing the outfielder’s reaction upon opening his locker, and was later shown in twelve major television markets.

Some fellow collector surprised me with this 1992 Denny’s Grand Slam hologram card from Upper Deck. I’ve had a number of trade packages come through in recent months and unfortunately don’t remember who it was that sent it (Julie, perhaps). While I’m not much of a fan of Denny’s food these days (last couple times, the food was terrible), I do like the cards and might even be compelled to visit one of the restaurants if they were to go back to offering the Grand Slam packs with a meal.

Baseball’s Best… Mustache?

There was a reunion of sorts about a week before the start of the regular season began, one that featured a number of former Mariners players and coaches. Included in this group was the man who, thanks to Seinfeld, will forever be remembered in American pop culture. But the man who was once traded for Jay Buhner deserves to be remembered for more than being a source of Frank Costanza’s ire.

Baseball’s Best…

Fleer could have named this insert Baseballs Best Mustaches and you wouldn’t get any complaints from me about the inclusion of Ken Phelps. But we’re talking about Baseball’s Best Sluggers, and while major league teams might not have appreciated Phelps, it’s nice to see Fleer recognize the man whom Bill James once named an All-Star team of underappreciated players after.

Despite absolutely crushing Triple-A pitching every season between 1979-1983 (and recording 407 walks vs. 309 strikeouts), Phelps didn’t spend an entire season on a major league roster until 1985, when he was 30 years-old. And even then, he only got 140 plate appearances for the Mariners.

So why didn’t Phelps ever get a fair shot at a full-time job? After all, he was a guy whose knowledge of the strike zone was phenomenal, whose approach at the plate was to hit the ball where it was pitched, and who put up an OPS of .898/.932/.959/.950 during the four seasons he accumulated at least 300 plate appearances in the majors. Bill James, the godfather of advanced statistics, blamed managers like Chuck Cottier (who managed Phelps in Seattle).

In his 1987 Baseball Abstract, James had this to say about Cottier, “[he] could run and throw but couldn’t play baseball. Most major league managers were those kinds of players. Ken Phelps, on the other hand, can’t run particularly well (though he isn’t exceptionally slow, either) and doesn’t throw well, and if you’re that kind of player and want to play major league baseball you’d better go 7-20 in your first week in the majors, or they’ll decide it’s time to take another look at Henry Cotto.” Phelps was slow out of the gate during his first audition in Seattle (’83) and didn’t get much of a look the rest of the year. Henry Cotto wouldn’t arrive until ’88.

Another explanation for Phelps lack of playing time at the major league level during his prime years can be chocked up to ‘bad luck.’ While in Kansas City- his original organization- he got stuck behind Willie Mays Aikens at first base and Hal McRae as the DH; Phelps arrival in Montreal came in 1982, the same year that first-year Expos first baseman Al Oliver finished 3rd in the NL MVP voting. Once in Seattle, he was quite similar to a younger player named Alvin Davis- the 1984 AL Rookie of the Year who would go on to earn the nickname, Mr. Mariner.

That Iconic Look

As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Phelps had a glorious mustache that brought to remembrance players of the previous century. Add the power, the Popeye-like forearms, eyeblack, pants worn just below the knees and high socks, and you have the making of a cardboard icon. Perhaps Ken would have attained that status had his time in New York lasted longer and been more successful that it was.

One Last Homer

Prior to the Seinfeld episode, Phelps was best known for the final home run of the slugger’s career. Facing his former team on April 20, 1990, Phelps, then with Oakland, was called upon to pinch-hit for second baseman Mike Gallego with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. This wasn’t just any game, however; Mariners starter Brian Holman was just one out from perfection, when Ken swung at a first-pitch fastball and deposited it into the right field bleachers.

Magic, Man

It was magic, man. That’s all I can say after seeing the 44 year-old Mariners left fielder robbing Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez of a home run on Saturday. While his hitting skills may have eroded over the past few years, the defense is still there- and Ichiro’s defensive gem reminded me of this 2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces card. “Ichiro works magic in outfield,” it says; which, of course, reminded me to check the Topps website last night for the latest Topps Now! offerings.

It wasn’t a surprise to see that it was one of five cards featuring highlights from March 31st. After putting one in my shopping cart I decided to check out eBay before paying the $9.99 Topps was going to charge me. Good thing, too, because I found one on eBay for $5.25 delivered.

Lessons from a Mother…Casey Candaele

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It’s Opening Day and I’m at my mom’s house, waiting for the Mariners game to begin. My wife and I made the decision to drop our satellite tv service when our two-year agreement expired last fall and I found myself conflicted as the new baseball season approached. What would I do for my Mariners fix? We live in the northwest, so subscribing to MLB.TV is out of the question because of blackout restrictions. I eventually decided to subscribe to the radio package for the weekday games and asked my mom if I could come over on Sunday afternoons to watch the games on Root Sports Northwest. So that’s the plan; with Easter being this Sunday and Opening Day being only a few days before that, I decided today would be the day to come over.

I really don’t know if mom will watch many of the games with me. Besides not being much of a sports fan, she has lupus and takes her medication on Sunday; whatever it is she takes, it causes her to be sleepy. I’m just hoping that she will be able to stay awake for part of the time I’m over there, just so that we can have that time together. Though I’m now an adult, there’s always something I can learn from her. She was my main influence growing up and taught me the importance of honesty, hard work, fiscal responsibility and treating others with dignity and respect. One of the best lessons I learned was how she raised my older sister, whose birth mother had left my dad when Kim was (maybe) two, as her own. This helped me in later years, as I would eventually marry a woman who was a single mother and whose ex-husband was completely out of the picture.

Casey Candaele learned a number of things from his mother, as well. In fact, she was the one who taught him the game of baseball. Casey’s father had left the family when the future big-leaguer was eight, so his mother was the one who would play catch with him, hit balls to him, and teach Casey the fundamentals of the game. It wasn’t until he was in high school that Candaele found out his mother had played in a women’s professional baseball league. Later, when Casey reached the majors, he would become the first major leaguer whose mother had played professional baseball.

Canadian-born Helen Callaghan was a part of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that played during World War 2. If that sounds familiar, it should: the movie A League of Their Own was based upon a documentary produced by Casey’s brother, Kelly- who also co-wrote the screenplay for the 1992 movie. Helen had been called the ‘female Ted Williams’ and was considered a star in the league, earning as much as $125 per week. Like her son, Helen (which happens to be my mother’s name) was diminutive and stood only 5’1″ and weighed 115 pounds, but she was what might today be called a ‘gritty player.’ Her style of play could be summarized in the words she taught her son, words that stuck with him all these years, “no matter what, you always play the game hard. You can always hustle because you can go 0-for-4 and you can make a couple errors, but you can never have a bad day hustling.”

Helen St. Aubin (she had later remarried) passed away from breast cancer in 1992 at the age of 69. But the things she taught her youngest son, who is set to begin his first managing gig, still remain to this day.

Note about the featured card: it’s a digital card I created on the Topps website.

Ten in a Row

I guess when you’ve had as good of a career and have meant as much to your team as Felix Hernandez has to the Mariners, you’re afforded an opportunity to pitch on Opening Day- even if you’re no longer the ace of the staff. Is James Paxton the #1 on the Mariners’ staff? Yes. But I don’t have a problem with Scott Servais giving King Felix the ball today. When Felix takes the bump tonight it will mark the 10th straight season the Mariners have turned to him for Opening Day. Only six other starters in MLB history can boast such a claim: Walter Johnson (1912-1921), Robin Roberts (1950-1961), Tom Seaver (1968-1979), Steve Carlton (1977-1986), Jack Morris (1980-1993), and Roy Halladay (2003-2012).

And since it’s Opening Day and the King is on the mound, let’s take a look at some of the Topps Opening Day inserts he has appeared on over the years. I’m also going to post a complete checklist of his O.D. inserts, along with their status in my collection.

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  • 2012 Opening Day Stars #ODS-16 HAVE
  • 2012 Opening Day Elite Skills #ES-8 HAVE
  • 2013 Opening Day Stars #ODS-14 NEED
  • 2013 Opening Day Celebrations #SC-15 HAVE
  • 2014 Opening Day Stars #ODS-13 NEED
  • 2014 Opening Day Breakout #BO-18 NEED
  • 2014 Opening Day Fired Up #UP-8 NEED
  • 2015 Opening Day Stars #ODS-7 HAVE
  • 2016 Opening Day Bubble Trouble #BT-2 HAVE
  • 2016 Opening Day Striking Distance #SD-7 HAVE
  • 2017 Opening Day Stars #ODS-19 NEED
  • 2017 Opening Day National Anthem #NA-9 HAVE
  • 2018 Opening Day Team Traditions & Celebrations #TTC-KC Kings Court NEED