Casey at the Plate

I came across this Casey Kotchman card last week while re-organizing my collection and found something (finally!) that inspired me to pick up pen and paper my iPad and begin typing away. And the fact that Sunday marked the 130th anniversary of the first publication of the poem Casey at the Bat is purely coincidental. I wasn’t aware of the publishing date until it was mentioned during the Mariners broadcast Sunday afternoon.

To my knowledge, there has never been any mentioning of the position that Mighty Casey manned while in the field. In my mind’s eye, I envision him as a power-hitting first-baseman. Part of my thinking comes from our English lexicon. “Possessing great and impressive power or strength,” is how the Oxford Dictionary defines the word, mighty. I guess it’s also inferred in the poem itself. The first and third stanzas tell us that the Mudville nine is down 4-2, with Cooney and Barrows registering the first two outs before two more hitters reach base. With two on in scoring position and the game-winning run coming to the plate, there is a confidence that the home team is going to win the game. A three-run dinger, perhaps? The next to last stanza describes Casey’s one and only swing in the AB. “And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.” You don’t use that kind of language to describe a ‘hoodoo’ or a ‘cake,’ folks.

Our Casey (for one forgettable season, anyway)- Casey Kotchman- was anything but mighty at the plate. No, our Casey was more like Flynn and Jimmy Blake, the two weak hitters who preceded the protagonist in Thayer’s comic ballad.

While Kotchman never possessed a great bat, his 2010 season for the Mariners was absolutely terrible. And considering that the team was coming off a 2009 season that featured a putrid offense and then let first baseman Russell Branyan (2.6 WAR for the ’09 team) walk- and then trading for Kotchman to be his replacement, was truly befuddling.

There was hope early in the season, as Kotch was hitting the ball with more authority than he typically did; more fly balls from his bat resulted in three homers in his first 49 plate appearances. It didn’t take long, however, before Casey regressed back to being a ground ball hitter.

By early June, the team recalled Mike Carp from Triple-A Tacoma, hoping to get more offense from the position. After the Carp experiment failed, the team acquired Russell Branyan, their first baseman from the 2009 team, from Cleveland. Casey’s days as a starter seemed to be over*.

Part of Casey’s 2010 offensive woes could be attributed to bad luck- he had just a .229 BABIP, after posting seasons of .305, .272, and .283 before being traded to Seattle. What’s more, his BABIP on line drives was only .507- over 200 points below league average. But his ground ball rate was higher than his career rate (which was already high) and for the season, Casey hit 200 ground balls, 98 fly balls and 63 line drives. His tendency to put the ball on the ground resulted in grounding into 15 double plays.

A few more swing and misses:

  • .616 OPS
  • 73 OPS+
  • -1.7 offensive WAR (that’s a minus 1.7)
  • -0.55 WPA
  • 69 wRC+

Unlike those fans in Mudville, Seattle fans didn’t (or at least *shouldn’t have*) have much expectations for Casey at the plate.

*This wasn’t necessarily true. Kotchman would go on to have a pretty decent 2011 season as Tampa’s first baseman

Advertisements

A Slam Short of the Homer Cycle

img379

Given that there have been so few 4 home-run games, the odds of hitting for the Home-Run Cycle in a game are pretty slim. In fact, it’s something that has never happened in a major league baseball game, making it perhaps the rarest feat in the game. (Can it be rare if it’s never happened?)

While Ken Griffey Jr. is not one of the 18 players to have homered four times in a game (his replacement, Mike Cameron is one of the 18), he did  hit a solo shot, two-run homer and three-run bomb on this day in 1996. The game took place at the Kingdome and came against the New York Yankees. The Kid would hit his only other three-homer game (all solo shots) the next year  (April 25, 1997) against Toronto.

 

 

1991 Country Hearth Bread Seattle Mariners

img376

Produced and sponsored by Country Hearth Bread and Langendorf Baking Company, the Country Hearth Bread Mariners team set is a gem from the junk era that suffers in some areas (many dark photos, due to poor indoor lighting; very thin card stock) and a strong checklist to go along with some solid photography on many of the other cards.

Cards in Set: 30 (29 numbered and 1 unnumbered header card), with a reported 20,000 sets produced.

Distribution:

  • Individually inserted into loaves of Country Hearth Bread
  • Stadium Give Away- August 17, 1991

Cards inserted into the loaves of bread had no protection, making them difficult to find in mint condition due to spots caused by moisture .

Cards given away at the Kingdome came 10 to a pack, making set completion difficult.

img377

Checklist:

  1. Jim Lefebvre
  2. Jeff Schaefer
  3. Harold Reynolds
  4. Greg Briley
  5. Scott Bradley
  6. David Valle
  7. Edgar Martinez
  8. Pete O’Brien
  9. Omar Vizquel
  10. Tino Martinez
  11. Scott Bankhead
  12. Bill Swift
  13. Jay Buhner
  14. Alvin Davis
  15. Ken Griffey Jr.
  16. Tracy Jones
  17. Brent Knackert
  18. Henry Cotto
  19. Ken Griffey Sr.
  20. Keith Comstock
  21. Brian Holman
  22. Russ Swan
  23. Mike Jackson
  24. Erik Hanson
  25. Mike Schooler
  26. Randy Johnson
  27. Rich DeLucia
  28. Ken Griffey Jr. /Ken Griffey Sr.
  29. Mariner Moose
  30. NNO- Team Header

 

Piecing it Together:

What If’s?… Wimpy

82T Tom Paciorek

I found the above Tom Paciorek photo online and immediately thought it would make a great custom or re-imagined card.

Wimpy was no longer with the team in 1982- he had been traded to the Southside on December 11, 1981, in a trade that had brought Rod Allen, Todd Cruz and Jim Essian to the Mariners. Knowing how Topps doesn’t always exclude players from being pictured with their former teams (it’s not just a recent phenomenon), my initial thought was to create a “Card that Never Was”, picturing Tom on an ’82 Topps as a member of the Mariners. Then it occurred to me that he was, in fact, featured as an M on card #678. So, now we will just call this a re-imagined card. Tridents and Trading Cards (TNT) Archives.

I do like this bright, colorful “What If’s” card- quite the contrast with the subdued, prescient 1982 card that featured the future color commentator in front of a mic.

2018 Topps Erik Goeddel

18ErikGoeddel

We’re still a few weeks away from the release of 2018 Topps Series 2 and I’m going out on a limb in creating a ‘Missing’ card for one of the pitchers to have appeared on the big league club this year. The possibility exists that Erik Goeddel will appear in either Series 2 or the Update set, although it’s highly unlikely in either case.

After going to camp with Texas this spring, the right-handed reliever signed with Seattle on March 20 as a minor-league free-agent. While with Triple-A Tacoma, Erik went 1-0 with 4 Saves and a 0.00 ERA in 9 games for the Rainiers. Added to the 40-man roster on May 3, Erik debuted the next night against the Angels, going 1.2 innings, striking out 3 batters while setting down all 5 hitters he faced.

The Mariners, needing to add a starting pitcher to their roster, designated Goeddel for assignment on May 16; the Dodgers would claim him on May 18.

Standard Pitching
Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W Awards
2018 29 SEA AL 2 0 1.000 1.23 5 0 4 0 0 0 7.1 4 1 1 0 5 1 9 0 0 2 29 354 2.73 1.227 4.9 0.0 6.1 11.0 1.80
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2018.

</div>

Paul Mitchell

img358

On a shelf in our bathroom sits a number of hair care products, remnants of a business my mom recently closed.

About twelve months ago she decided to put the property (along with the adjacent building next to the salon) on the market; a month ago she signed a 5-year lease with an entrepreneur who wanted to open a salon. Not yet ready to retire, she is now renting a station from the lady and, having no more employees, found herself with excess inventory. Now my wife and daughter are set up with conditioners, shampoo and God only knows what else for the next five years.

I find myself in a somewhat similar situation. No, I don’t own a business that I’m looking to get out from under; but I do have excess cards sitting on a shelf in my office that I’m looking to get rid of. Some will be put up for trade; others have gone, or will go, on eBay (or COMC, should I go that route). As I posted about a month ago, I’ve decided to purge the collection of many singles and sets.

Mom purchased the salon from her former employer in 1981. By then I was in the middle of my first go-around with collecting cards. My first packs were purchased in 1976- probably no more than a couple of packs- on a visit to Buttrey Food & Drug. Of course, it was mom who bought them for me. The ’77 season came and more cards were purchased- much more than the previous year. Money was still pretty tight though, as my dad had become self-employed during the bi-centennial year and it wasn’t until 1978 that I was able to buy packs on a consistent basis.

Paul Mitchell’s baseball career ended the same year my mother became a business owner. He pitched his final game in the majors against Seattle on September 21, 1980 and was then released by Milwaukee on April 1, 1981. Paul found himself in the Yankees organization, where he appeared in seven games that season for Triple-A Columbus.

I don’t remember watching Paul Mitchell as a player- only remembering him from his baseball card- but I have often wondered what became of him after his playing career ended. And because he shares a name with the co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems (the hair-care giant), I have mom to thank for that, too.

Appetite for Eighty-Seven

Destruction is Coming.

That’s what a billboard in the U.K. teased earlier this week, as did the domain gnr.fm. All of which got fans of Guns n Roses excited for dates with Steven Adler and Izzy Stradlin playing with the other original members of the band…or a new album…or a remastered disc of their hugely successful 1987 debut album, Appetite for Destruction.

Adding their former guitarist and drummer to some summer dates didn’t seem very likely. And a new album? Who does that these days? There’s no money in producing new music anymore. So that left a big-assed boxed set, which is the surprise announcement that was revealed today. Probably not what fans were hoping for, but hey, it will come replete with merchandise, multiple remastered discs, vinyl, and previously unreleased music.

All of this got me thinking about baseball cards (of course) and how cool it would be to see some sort of ‘boxed set’ coming from Topps, with cards of players who didn’t appear on cards in the particular boxed set year, merchandise, packs, etc.

I know, you’re probably thinking, “don’t encourage them,” and I get it. Things like this can be seen as a cash grab, but wouldn’t you like to see an ’84 Topps Kirby Puckett or Roger Clemens, with the original stock and fonts? How about one of those sweet ’87 Topps caps they did a couple years ago to go with some “lost cards” and photo variations featuring pictures from the Topps archives (little ‘s’- not the set)? Proofs, mockups for the set and cards based prototypes for a given year that didn’t get chosen are a few other things that would be fun.

I made this ‘mockup’ for one of the players who appeared with the Mariners in ’86 but didn’t get an ’87 Topps card.

Ross was a former first-round pick of the Dodgers (University of Miami, 9th overall in the 1980 draft) who never lived to such the expectations that go with such a high draft spot. Jones never had a card with the Mariners, but he did have three in 1988 sets (Fleer, Score, Topps) while with the Royals.

There’s No Such Thing as Useless Information

img283

After much debate, I finally broke down and subscribed to The Athletic last month. I probably would not have, if not for a discount offered when Jayson Stark announced he was joining the staff.

Stark wasn’t the reason I signed up, but his addition to the staff at The Atlantic added to an already great team, making my decision that much easier. I have enjoyed Jayson’s columns in Baseball America and on ESPN’s website over the years and am glad to, once again, be able to read The Useless Info Department- even if there’s no such thing as ‘useless information’ when it comes to the sport.

The player featured on today’s card might have been the subject of one of Stark’s “strange but true” nuggets- I just don’t recall ever reading about his “feats” until I begun to research Skip Jutze.

Jutze was a member of the original Mariners team and appeared in only 42 games that maiden season, his last in the majors. Forty-two games and 118 plate appearances don’t make for much of an opportunity to accumulate any kind of team records or hard to accomplish feats, but that didn’t stop Jutze.

In only the sixteenth game in team history, Skip found himself on the back end of a rare 6-4-3-2 triple play, as his counterpart on the Royals, catcher Darryl Porter, grounded to Mariners shortstop Craig Reynolds, whose toss to second baseman Jose Baez forced Amos Otis out at second; Baez then threw Porter out at first before first baseman Dan Meyer went home with a throw to get John Mayberry out at the plate.

Exactly one month later, in a game against the Oakland A’s, the Mariners back-up catcher was thrown out at home on the front end of a double steal, TWICE! (Dan Meyer was also thrown out at home in an attempted steal during that game). Jutze’s first failed attempt came in the top of the fourth; the second, coming in the top of the sixth. Both failed attempts ended an inning. Despite this poor base running, the team still won the game, 6-2.

The back of this Topps card noted that Skip hit the first Grand Slam in Mariners history, clubbing one just five days before he was caught stealing home twice against the A’s.

Useless Info when it comes to baseball?

Nope.

Not when you can use it as fodder for a baseball card blog.

Endangered Species

An interaction on Twitter recently with a new follower (and someone I had likewise just started following) led to a funny comment. “…And holy heck, a Mariners collector?? I’ve been waiting to find one of you… I don’t believe I’ve found one before.”

My response was first, laughter, and then telling Matthew that he made us sound like an endangered species- which I guess we are, to an extent. Griffey Junior had many collectors, as does Ichiro. The beginning of Arod’s career brought with it a lot of collectors, but he fell out of favor with, well, just about everyone. And I suppose that Randy Johnson and King Felix have had a few collectors. But team collectors? I don’t know if I can say I’ve come across many of those. So, yeah, I guess we are about as much of an endangered species as knuckleballers are in the game of baseball. [Note: R.A. Dickey is currently a free-agent who has never announced his retirement, and the only other knuckler in the majors that I’m aware of is Steven Wright of Boston- who’s currently serving a suspension for a domestic violence case]

“The scarcity of former knuckleballers to teach the pitch makes it harder to spread.” Tyler Kepner, February 22, 2016 New York Times

Speaking of endangered species… as far as I know, this is the only card you will find of R.A. Dickey in a Mariners uniform. It comes from the 2008 Cloverdale Meats stadium give away.

Topps Magazine James Paxton

90sFannyPackPaxton

I’ve been on a bit of a custom card kick lately, mostly making cards for Mariners players who were not featured in any 2017 Topps products. But I came across something on my Facebook timeline tonight that cried out to be made into one of those wild Topps Magazine cards from the early 90s.

The Mariners are hosting 90s Night as they take on the Los Angeles Angels on May 5th, with the first 10,000 fans receiving the fanny pack shown in my custom card.

The fanny packs might be great for holding all those “sweet snap bracelets,” as the Mariners Twitter account reminded us (or even all those pogs, as one person tweeted), but I would prefer a giveaway of some 90s-style baseball cards any day of the week.