Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trevor Hoffman, stealth Ninja

Last month, the Padres named Trevor Hoffman as their newly-created "Upper Pitching Coordinator" and "Special Assistant to the General Manager." The former all-time saves leader will now evaluate and coordinate pitchers at the Double-A, Triple-A and major league levels.
“Trevor will be a key part of finishing the development of our younger pitchers,” said Padres general manager Josh Byrnes. “His expertise, passion and communication skills will undoubtedly impact this critical area for us.”
Byrnes might be more on the money about Hoffy than he thought. 
I've always considered Hoffman a "Thinking man's pitcher." While he had a rather impressive fastball up until his 1994 injury, he developed an intimidating change-up which proved to be equally devastating.
You can just imagine Hoffman in his new position, scouting the Padres pitchers and perhaps taking pictures of those pitchers, as pictured on this 1998 Collector's Choice card #222.
However, I see Hoffman in an entirely different role -- as Ninja Hoffy.
Anyone can be a coach. However, with his newly added Ninja skills, Hoffman can easily transition into stealth mode, appearing almost invisible as he observes and perhaps photographs his young charges.
Think of the scouting reports...If you can't see him, is he actually there? The camera never lies.
As a matter of fact, Chuck Norris has nothing over Hoffman.
Tervor Hoffman and Superman once got into a pitching contest to settle a bet. The loser had to start wearing his underwear on the outside of his pants.
Trevor Hoffman doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
Trevor Hoffman once got bit by a rattlesnake. After three days of pain and agony, the rattlesnake died.
Outer space exists because it was afraid to be on the same planet facing Trevor Hoffman.
Beware, young Friars. Trevor Hoffman is coming!
 (Blogger note: This particular blog is part of Nacho Grande's Blogger Bracket Challenge. Please go to and vote for Comatoad in Group G in Round 1.).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Topps MLB ATTAX Showdown?

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
I’m sorry, but the 2011 Topps Attax cards, and this Aroldis Chapman card in particular, just doesn’t cut it for me.
Believe me, it’s all been done before.
Wizards of the Coast, riding the success of its uber-juggernaut series, Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon, released MLB Showdown, a collectible card game, in 2000.  It was kind of like the old Strat-O-Matic card game, only with cooler cards, and distinctly different gaming mechanics. It lasted until 2005, when WoC pulled the plug.
‘Fess up. Admit it. You actually played MLB Showdown with a friend when it first started hitting the shelves, or you reluctantly started collecting the cards. Ruben Rivera here was part of that early MLB Showdown release.
I remember playing in an actual league with eight other duffers (pun intended), at one of our local gaming shops (I think I finished fifth). Our league manager actually travelled to Minneapolis to compete in a regional tournament. He came home with second place and a decent amount of cash and goodies.
Ok, enough tripping down memory lane.
What once began as a simple insert set in last year’s Topps cards, has now evolved into yet another full-fledged collectible card game. Again, as a collectible card game, I give Topps Attax about a three-year run before it goes belly up (MLB Showdown enjoyed a five-year run).
1) The cards themselves are not that nice looking. While I have to admit, the 2000 and 2001 MLB Showdown cards left a lot to be desired, they at least featured almost full-length player shots that weren’t blocked out by a box of stats and gaming mechanics. Of course the later sets, such as this Tony Gwynn were pretty sharp looking cards, especially with that big team logo in the background. Plus, check out his sweet hitting numbers via a 20-sided dice.
2) It seems to me that me Topps Attax is geared more toward the younger player/gamers, with it’s cheaper price and number of cards. However, you have to determine whether you’re actually a player or collector; you can’t be both. Where MLB Showdown was printed on playing card stock with rounded corners, Topps Attax, is printed on matte paper with square corners. It won’t take much before you begin dinging the corners, even in a plastic sleeve.
3) One of the issues in playing MLB Showdown was the fact you couldn't just take a team like the San Diego Padres and play a game - there weren't enough Padres players included to make up a team. Even if they did, there was no way they could compete against a team like the Yankees at that time. I haven't seen the checklist for Topps Attax yet, so I don't kow if they have that same problem or not.
4) It’s all about the cards – threfore no dice and strategy cards, making the game fairly simple – that’s why Topps is offering Attax to be purchased as a separate entity, rather than as an insert set.
I may add the Padres from this set to my collection, but I'm not going to go out and buy any packs of this product. In the meantime, I thnk I'm going to go home and break out my MLB Showdown sets for old-times sake.
(Blogger note: I hope you like this particular blog. It's part of Nacho Grande's Blogger Bracket Challenge. He'll post up a card and you and a fellow blogger are supposed to write a post that somehow ties  into the card posted by Nachos Grande. Sounds like a lot of fun to me. Stay tuned to see how it turns out.).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Are you ready for the....El Paso Chihuahuas?

Oh, those goofy minor league baseball affiliates.

A few years ago, Portland, who once hosted San Diego’s AAA affiliate for 10 years, decided to turn to the dark side, ousting the Padres for a professional soccer team. Then-Padres owner Jeff Moorad bought the team, parking them in Tucson while he tried to get a stadium built in Escondido. When that plan went belly up, he sold his controlling interest in the team to a group of El Paso, Texas investors.

After three -years of San Diego AAA baseball in the warm, Tucson sun, the Padres have now relocated to El Paso.
So, with a new team and a new location, a new identity and colors were needed.

Amid great fanfare and a tighter security system than that offered by the U.S. government, the El Paso ownership group announced the new team’s name – are you ready for this? – The El Paso Chihuahuas.
The Chihuahuas. Really?
Apparently, names such as the Aardvarks, Buckaroos, Desert Gators, Sun Dogs, and of course, Chihuahuas were all in the running. However, it was the entry of one Shae Vierra who was “chosen at random” in the “name the team” contest, according to an El Paso press release. Vierra will now get season tickets, a personalized jersey and the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the team’s inaugural home game.

I’m sorry, but “The Fighting Chihuahuas” doesn’t strike me as a name that will strike fear into Pacific Coast League foes. I can understand teams wanting a completely different identity from their parent club, all the better to generate their own revenue stream by hawkingT-shirts, ball caps, and anything else they can print up to sell their team logo.

But the Chihuahuas? Really?

“I’m sure I’m going to be hearing all sorts of views, but we’re standing by this,” El Paso General Manager Brad Taylor told “We have friends in a lot of other places, like the Iron Pigs or the [Fort Wayne] Tin Caps, who stepped outside of their comfort zone to create a brand. That’s what we’re doing here.”
I can just see some of the pomos now – Bring you Chihuahua to the ballpark night, with everyone carrying pooches in purses like Reese Witherspoon in “Legally Blonde.”

I guess it has to better than the “Swing of the Quad Cities,” the monicker the former Quad City River Bandits claimed a few years ago, with its teal blue and burnt orange colors. Thank goodness, it didn’t last too long, before the team was sold, with the owners returning to the River Bandits, only a little more updated.
Now that, my friends, is a logo.



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A possible San Diego catching conundrum?

To no one's surprise, C Austin Hedges has been tearing up the Arizona Fall League. He's the second leading batter for the Peoria Javelinas, hitting .364, with six RBIs, four strikeouts and three walks in 22 at bats. even more impressively, he's also thrown out seven of 10 basestealers so far in six games.

Hedges played most of the 2013 season at Class A Lake Elsinore, hitting .263 with one triple, three home runs, 21 doubles and 26 RBI in 66 games for the Storm. lsinore. He was promoted to Class AA San Antonio, whre he hit .24, with eight RBIs in 22 games.

He capped off the regular season by receiving the 2013 Captain's Catcher Award by Baseball America. It's awarded annually to the catcher who displays strong defensive qualities including leadership, dedication, the ability to call a game, blocking and receiving. Statistically, Hedges threw out 32 percent of basestealers in 179 minor league games.

While it may be a few years before Hedges makes it to the bigs, I'm curious where C Rene Rivera is going to shake out next season.

Originally a second-round draft pick of the Seattle Marines, Rivera bounced from the Mariners to the Dodgers, Mets, Camden Riversharks, Yankees  and Twins before the Padres signed him to a minor league contract on Dec. 12, 2012. In July, he was called up from AAA Tucson to replace Yasmani Grandal who suffered a season-ending knee injury. Backing up Nick Hundley, Rivera hit .254 with seven RBI and four runs in 23 games.

I was fairly impresed with Rivera as he backstopped Tucson when they played here in Des Moines.
I can see the Pads keeping Hundley and Grandal next season. Despite Rivera appearing to be a mere journeyman catcher, I can see basically only one scenario where the Pads keep him up in the bigs, and that would be if Grandal doesn't bounce back from his knee surgery. Otherwise, San Diego could either carry three catchers (doubtful), or use Grandal as possible trade bait (even more doubtful, even if he were to come back completely from knee injury).

As I've stated before, the off-season should prove pretty interesting for the Padres..

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Bucs stops here

I'm a firm believer in Karma, in paying it forward and in sharing the wealth.

Earlier I posted a bunch of 1989 Topps Baseball Card books that were withdrawn from a local library. The books featured full-color pictures of every Topps card produced from 1952 to 1988 for that team. I collected a total of 14 books and put the other 13 up for whoever wanted them (Of course, I kept the Padres book).

One of those books found a happy home with Mark of Battlin' Bucs. Needless to say, he was pretty happy with it, as it helped bring back memories of Pirates cards past.

As a thank you, he sent me a nice little PWE of Padres cards - most of which were new to my collection.
I'll lead off with a 2002 Fleer Box Score #187 Ben Howard, S/N 893/2950. You can never get enough Ozzie Smith Padre cards and this 2003 Flair Greats #1 Ozzie Smith (far right) is greatly appreciated. Despite the fact he spent most of his career in Cardinal red, it always warms my heart to seen him dressed in brown and yellow.

I really, really like this 2002 Topps 206 Polar Bear #428 Khalil Greene Red FYP. Making his MLB debut in 2004, Greene may have been one of the best homegrown shortstops the Padres ever developed, letting his bat speak for his abilities. Unfortunately, the talented Clemson Tiger also battled inner demons of his own.  In 2008 he broke his left hand hitting a storage chest,while batting .213 with 10 home runs and 15 doubles. He was then traded to the Cardinals for Mark Worrell and Luke Gregerson and in 2009, he was diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder. In 2010, he had another bout of the disorder, and was released by the Texas Rangers, effectively ending his baseball career.
I also received a 2003 Donruss Heroes #420 Ryan Klesko card and a 2005 Bowman Chrome #273 Travis Chick RC. Chick didn't spend much time as a Padres minor leaguer. After coming from Florida in 2004 for Ismaeal Valdez, less than a year later, he and Justin Germano were packed off to Cincinnati for Joe Randa. Even though it's definitely a posed shot, you still have to smile at Gary Sheffield and Fred McGriff in their 1993 Spirit of the Game #SG12.

Again, it was a rather nice surprise to receive this PWE from Mark. However, like I've said before, having a great relationship with two local brick-and-mortar stores nearby and a monthly card show, I have no problem picking up cards I know my fellow bloggers can use.

Just don't be surprised when you find something in your mailbox from Iowa.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Playing 52-pickup with "My Two Tony's."

Over the weekend, I did something interesting....I dumped my entire "My Two Tonys" box onto the floor. You see, I have a 2,000 count box in which I keep my Tony Gwynn and Tony Esposito cards, incuding duplicates. I was putting some other cards away in my hobby room, when I bumped the box with my elbow, and viola, I had to play a modified game of 52-pickup!

What made it so bad is, I had each of my Gwynn and Esposito cards divided by year, and then in alphabetical and numerical order.

I have to admit, however, that I did enjoy perusing my Tony Gwynn collection again, since it's been a while since I've actually added anything to it. It's been pleasantly surprising to see what Gwynn cards I actually have.

For about his 1982 Hawaii Islanders TCMA card.

In 1982 Gwynn played 93 games for the AAA Pacific Coast League, Hawaii Islanders, hitting .328 in 366 at bats. He also had minor league stops in Walla Walla (Class A, Northwest League, 1981) and Amarillo (Class AA, Texas League, 1981). He played for Las Vegas, San Diego's new AAA affiliate in 1983, just before being called up to San Diego, but this was his only minor league card.
How about these two 1999 Pacific Omega Gwynn Cards, No. 8 and 6? The first one, numbered 2678/3000, is entitled, "An American Hero." I think it may have been a little more appropo for the flag to be in the background (instead of the fireworks), rather than around his shoulders. But then, that's just me. The second card, numbered 2530/3000, is aptly entitled, "Pitcher's Worst Nightmare." Even though it's a posed shot, you can definitely feel the attitude, as you look down the barrel of the bat. One thing I loved about Gwynn was his humility. It was great when he and Ripken were inducted into the Hall of Fame together. It was justly deserved, as those were two players who played the game the right way!
I've always enjoyed the Studio series and Gwynn's 1991 Studio #245 is no exception. To me, this is the quintessential Gwynn pose, the boy next door. As far as his 1984 Fleer #301 card goes, what can I say, I love the old yellow and brown uniforms.
I have to admit, I have rather enjoyed reorganizing my Gwynn cards while taking a stroll down memory lane. Who knows, maybe I'll pull them out later and give them another loving look.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

2013 Bowman Chrome Case Break

Yesterday, RyansCardz, one of my favorite brick-and-mortar card stores had a 12-box case break of 2013 Bowman Chrome. Each team was on the bid board, with prices for each based on what the possible expectations for each team were.  For example, the Twins went for $15 (no bids) and the Angels bidding ended at about $160, thanks in large part to the possiblility of a Puig auto. The Padres opening (and only) bid was $30 (which I won).

Besides the basic autographs, most players also have colored autographed refractors, including plain refractors (#/500), Gold (#/50), Orange (#/25), Purple (#/10) and Superfractors (#/1). San Diego autograph expectations feature first autographs of Yeison Asencio, Jeremy Balz, Aldys Portillo, Matt Wisler, as well as a Casey Kelly autograph.
As far as the Padres went, I ended up with 31 cards, 19 of which are copies, and one hit. I'll start out with three San Diego Pares stalwarts - C Yasmani Grandal, 1B Yonder Alonso and the ever-present in every card set 2B Chase Headley. Last year Grandal was a Bowman Chrome Draft RC.

I also received some Bowman Chrome Prospects - Matt Wisler (4 copies), Jeremy Baltz (5 copies) and RHP Adys Portillo (3 copies). Portillo is currently playing for the Peoria Javelinas, the Arizona Fall League team that San Diego shares with Houston, Seattle, Philadelphia and Kansas City.
I received a Bowman Chrome Prospect of P Zach Elfin (4 copies), as well as Jed Gyorko and Casey Kelly RCs. I was excited by the Gyorko card and would of loved to of had him in a refractor, since his auto wasn't available in this set. My apologies, I forgot to scan one of my five Yeison Asencio Prospect cards.
As for my only hit, it was a purple refractor P Max Fried (#73/199). Next to it is Fried's prospect card (5 copies.) Fried was the Padres' 7th overall pick last year, out of Harvard-Westlake High School. In 2012, he was ranked as the Padres' second best prospect and 46th best prospect overall by Baseball America, and to have the best curveball in the San Diego system. At 19 years of age, he appears to have a wealth of potential, putting together a 6-7 record, 3.49 ERA 100 Ks and 59 BBs, at Low-A Fort Wayne. He appears to be doing well against his peers, and I'm looking forward to him stepping up to pitch A-level ball next year.
Overall, this was a fun case break. Did I feel that the Friars cards I receveid were worth the $30 I invested? Not particularly.
What did I learn? I still believe, dollar-for-dollar, that Bowman Chrome is one of the best sets out there, especially if you're looking for younger players with huge upside and definite up-and-comers. This particular case had an awful lot of color in it, rewarding the Braves, Diamondbacks and Twinkies. According to Topps, there's suposed to be one auto in eveery box and every third box will have two autos. If that's the case, we were shorted an autograph. It'll be interesting to see if Topps customer service will make good on that or not.
We also had the hit of the day -- a purple auto refractor of Puig, numbered #9/10. I've seen these on E-bay already going to $3,500+. Despite now having all the Padres base cards, I'll definitely be picking up some packs.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

October Sports Card Forum Baseball Card Traders

As I've noted before, I've been a long-time member of SportsCardForum. One of the great things about it, is belonging to a group such as the SCF Baseball Card Traders. Actually, it's a pretty sweet deal -- there are six different groups, with at least three traders per group, each seeking cards from a specific team. Each month, each of the groups are paired up and each trader must send at least a minimum of 10 cards.
I usually try to throw about 25-30 cards, including a few serial-numbered cards, as well as some nice inserts. If I have a decent auto or game used card for that team, I'll try and throw that in, too. I figure it certainly provides for some good karma.

Among the cards I received this month were these three 2004 Reflection RC cards of Jason Szuminski, Chris Oxsping and Freddy Guzman. These Upper Deck cards are indeed reflective, to say nothing of being shiny and flashy, with an interestingstream background made up of the Padres logo. Really nice cards, easily forgetable players.
 I also received a pair of 2006 Finest Jake Peavy cards. The first one is an X-fractor numbered 206/250, while the right one is a Refractor, numbered 7/399. Peavy, a 15th round pick in the 1999 draft and a Padres homegrown player, was truly a joy to watch. In 2004, with a 15-6 record and a stellar 2.27 ERA, he became the youngest pitcher to win an ERA title. His best season as a Padre was yet to come. In 2007, he became San Diego's fourth Cy Young Award winner (behind Randy Jones (1976), Gaylord Perry (1978) and Mark Davis (1989)). Not only that, but he was the 10th NL pitcher to unanimously win the award.
The final pair include the 2008 Topps 50th Anniversary All Rookie Team Ozzie Smith and 2010 Upper Deck Portraits Heath Bell. I know, I know, the Wizard spent the majority of his career with the Cardinals and that's how most people remember him, but damn, did he carve a big swatch as a Padre, especially during his rookie year. During that first year, he stole 40 bases, finished second among all NL shortstops in assists, putouts and double plays and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Atlanta's Bob Horner.

I also discovered that Ozzie was playing in a semi-pro league right here in Iowa (Clarinda), when he was initially drafted by the Detroit Tigers. The next year, he'd be a fourth-round pick of the Padres.

Now, I just have to get my packages in the mail. There's only three weeks until the end of the month, so it'll be interesting to see who I'll have as trading partners next month.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I'm in love with my mailbox!

You know, there's days when you just can't wait to come home and find out what's in the mailbox.

Of course, you can't help but know when the mail truck arrives at our house. Our dogs, Shetland Sheepdogs, better known as Shelties, start barking and spinning in circles. Since we live on a corner lot, they know it's an opportunity to go outside and sniff out who's passed by in the past few hours.

The past couple of days have been especially nice. Uh, I mean as far as what I've found in the mailbox.

Yesterday, I found an envelope from Tom, over at the "Waiting 'til Next Year" blog. I recently sent him some nice Cubbie cards, as well as programs from the local AAA Iowa-Cubs, that I've collected over the years (like I tell my wife, there are actually people out there who wants the stuff I collect along the way...).

In any case, according to Tom, "I found a couple vintage "semi-hi #'s" at my last card show. Thanks again for the programs and all the great Cubs cards."

Talk about some great cards. Since the Padres are a "relatively" young club, having come into being in 1969 with the the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots and Canada's first MLB team, the Montreal Expos, they don't have the long vintage card history of a club like the Chicago Cubs. I'm always excited when I can get "older" Padres cards, such as these 1971 Topps cards of C Chris Cannizzaro and SS Rafael Robles.
Cannizzaro, a native Californian, may of had the most interesting career of these two early Friars. He became a Padre in March 1969, coming to San Diego from Pittsburgh, with Tommie Sisk in return for Ron Davis and Bobby Klaus. He became San Diego's first All-Star after hitting .245 with two home runs in the first half of the seaon. The Mets' Casey Stengel, who managed Cannizzaro in the early ’60s, had said, “He’s a remarkable catcher, that Canzoneri. He’s the only defensive catcher in baseball who can’t catch.” Following his MLB career, he became a baeball coach at the University of San Diego, later becoming their Director of Baseball Operations.
Robles was the Pads' 51st pick in the 1969 expansion draft from San Francisco. Despite playing only 47 games for San Diego, he's ensured a place in Friars history as being the very first Padres player to come to bat. On April 8, 1969, he also became their first baserunner (reaching first base on a Joe Morgan error) and their first base stealer, after nabbing second. He passed away in New York at the age of 50.
The 2013 Bowman Prospects Hometown Matt Stites was just icing on the cake.
Like I've said before, it's not a contest when I send out sports cards. With two great, local brick-and-mortar card shops with fantastic dime and quarter boxes, and a really nice monthly card show, I don't mind sharing the wealth, picking up cards that I know my blogging brethern will love.

The other item in the mail, was a recent E-Bay purchase, a Jedd Gyorko signed, mini home plate, measuring 4 3/4 x 4 3/4. The guy made this piece out of wood, and then had Gyorko sign it. Gyorko, who's one of my favorite players among the current Padres, was just named to the Baseball America 2013 Major League All-Rookie Team. Despite missing 30 games to injuries, Gyorko hit .249  with 23 home runs and 63 RBIs in his rookie season. He led all  rookies in home runs (23), was second in RBIs, third in doubles (26) and fifth in hits (121). What a great piece of memorabilia!

Now, I can't wait to find what's waiting in the mailbox on Monday....

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Happy 62nd Birthday, Dave Winfield!

Today is St Paul, Minn. native Dave Winfield's 62nd birthday.

To say that Dave Winfield was a stud, is an understatement. As a Minnesota Gopher (I can't  help but think of groundskeeper Carl Spackler, Bill Murray's character in the movie Caddyshack), his basketball team won their first Big Ten championship (1972) in 53 years. He averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in 40 Minnesota Gophers basketball games and posted a 19-4 pitching record on the diamond.

In 1973, he was the fourth overall pick by the Padres, as well as the NBA's Atlanta Hawks (5th round) and the ABA's Utah Stars (6th round). The Minnesota Vikings also made him their 429th overall pick (17th round) that year as a tight end.
Despite going directly from college to the big league diamond, completely bypassing minor league play, he batted .277 in 56 games during his first season in the brown and yellow. In 1978 he became the Padres team captain, batting .308 with 34 home runs and 118 RBIs.

Here's Dave Topps American Pie Timeless Classic Relics #BBTC45 (a reprint of his 1980 Topps #203RBIs leaders card). I think the 2003 Padres Carl's Jr. set was a great grouop of Padres cards, and Winfield's #13 was certainly no exception, with great photos and great layout. Putting the Swinging Friar on the front certainly doesn't hurt either.
Once he became a free agent, you could see the beginning of the Padares dollar dynamic - they could no longer afford him. He was immediately snatched up by the New York Yankees, signing a $23 million, 10-year contract. After wearing the Yankees pinstripes (1981-1990), he went on to play for the  California Angels (1990-1991), Toronto Blue Jays (1992), Minnesota Twins (1993-1994), and Cleveland Indians (1995).

When he retired in 1996, his 23-year career spanned 2,973 games, where he garnered 3,110 hits, 465 homers and 1,833 RBIs, enroute to 12 consecutive All-Star games. He also won seven Gold Gloves and six Silver Slugger Awards. And when it came time to vote him into the National Baseball Hall of Fame (was there any doubt), it's no wonder he was a first ballot inductee with 84.5 percent of the vote in 2001.

Best of all, when he entered the National Baseball Hall of Fame, he did so as the Padres' first inductee. In 2001, San Diego officially retired his jersey.
There's nothing wrong with these three cards, as they feature Winfield in the brown and gold. He just looks so young in these 1981 cards -- Donruss #364, 1 Kellogg's #21 and Fleer #484

Happy 62nd Birthday Dave, and thanks for the Padres memories.