Another Pack Of 2017 TSR World Baseball Classic Cards

Well, we’re heading into the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic. For those who missed it, the USA beat the Dominican Republic last night in a game which determined who goes on to the semis and who goes home. The Dominicans are the defending champions and played a great tournament, so it’s a shame that both teams couldn’t move on… but that’s why they play the games, right?

The finals play out starting tomorrow night in Dodger Stadium when the Netherlands face off against Puerto Rico in the first semi-final. Tuesday night it’s Japan vs. the USA, and Wednesday night the winners of those games play for the championship.

…and then, much to the relief of a lot of people, everybody heads back to their regular teams.

So let’s rip open our pack. This is the second of what I plan on being three packs, with the third coming next Sunday.

It’s been a busy week for me, and I didn’t get to see any of the games, but I certainly saw the highlight of Adam Jones robbing a homer from his teammate Manny Machado.

Here’s a video (Lo siento, the clip is en Español)

Nobuhiro Matsuda has had a good Classic so far; he’s batting .400 with a three-run homer against Cuba, 8 runs scored and 7 RBI.

After the Classic, he goes back to playing for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the Pacific League.

Felix Hernandez allowed just one earned run in 7.2 innings, but he went 0-1 in two starts.

Venezuela made it out of the first round on a controversial tiebreaker, and then went 0-3 in the second round.

Yadier Molina has played well for Puerto Rico, both offensively and in terms of handling the pitching staff.

…as if that’s a surprise.

Xander Bogaerts has played well, but hasn’t exactly been one of the stars for The Netherlands… but I liked the photo.

Goodness knows I make enough mistakes as it is, so I feel the need to point out that the custom is correct; Bogaerts is playing third base for the Netherlands, as Andrelton Simmons is playing short.

Insert time!

This is based on 1976 Hostess, and although it didn’t win the poll on which design to use for the WBC set, it finished 4th in tightly-contested voting.

I don’t normally get all gushy over star-spangled clothing or equipment, but I really like Jonathan Lucroy’s chest protector.

Robinson Cano hasn’t scored or driven in a lot, but he’s been getting on base an awful lot.

Canada didn’t make it out of the first round, and Freddie Freeman got only 2 hits in 3 games… but hey! Horizontal card!

This is where I would normally be saying that I’ll be sure to watch the semis and the finals, but as I mentioned last time… I don’t get MLB Network or ESPN Deportes, and I don’t have MLB.TV.

I’ll be watching a different international event this week, one that is carried by channels on my middle-tier cable package… The World Women’s Curling Championship, live from Beijing, China. Round-robin play goes through Thursday, with the medal games next weekend. Nina Roth’s team is representing the USA.

This custom is based on the 1976 Wonder Bread Football set, and I’ve decided that I’m going to use this and the Hostess design as an all-purpose custom throughout the year.

They’re Here: The First Virtual Pack of 2017 TSR World Baseball Classic

I have to say, the World Baseball Classic has been fun so far, and I haven’t even been able to watch it on TV (minor rant about this down below).  At the time I’m writing this, there have been several fiercely fought extra-inning games, two different comebacks from five-run deficits, and Israel is 4-0.  Israel!

Since last fall I’ve been talking about doing a custom card set based on the WBC.  A reader poll voted 1980 Topps in as the design I’ll be using for this set.  I’ve taken this mandate seriously and tried to do what I can to make this set more interesting than a sort of “Topps Archives Lite”.  I even came up with a 1980-esque wrapper.

So let’s rip it open and see what we’ve got.

You’ve probably never heard of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo – I know I hadn’t – but he was named the MVP of Pool B after batting .364 with 2 homers in three games.

His “daytime” job is as an outfielder for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars in Japan’s Central League.  Tsutsugo had quite a year in 2016, batting .322 and leading the league with 44 homers and 110 RBI.

The Angels’ Andrelton Simmons hasn’t been lighting the WBC on fire, but he did hit a double.

More importantly, a good photo of him was available. For this set, that will play a bigger role than you might think.

As I’d mentioned, Team Israel is doing a good job of surprising people. The MVP of Pool A, in which Israel ran the table, was Ryan Lavarnway.

Like many of his teammates, Lavarnway is not on a 40-man roster. He’d signed a minor league contract with Oakland and has an invitation to big league camp. With Israel moving on to the second round, I think it’s safe to say that Lavarnway’s missing more time from A’s camp than anyone there had guessed. Lavarnway went 5-for-9 in the first round, walked four times, homered and drove in three runs during those three first-round games. His slash line was .556/.692/.889.

Speaking of Israel – this pack is admittedly heavy on Israel, but they’ve been my favorite team so far –  here’s an insert based on one of the other card design candidates in last fall’s voting. This custom is in the style of the 1976 Wonder Bread Football set, and shows the Israel team’s unofficial mascot, “The Mensch On A Bench”.

The Mensch is a take on the creepy “Elf On A Shelf”, was featured on the TV show Shark Tank, and has become the team mascot. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “Mensch” is used to describe a good, honorable person, someone of integrity.

Going into the WBC, I didn’t really expect to make any customs for the Chinese team… but that was before I found out that Bruce Chen, former Orioles, Mets, Royals, Braves, Phillies, Red Sox, Rangers, Indians, Reds, Astros and Expos pitcher, was on the team! Bruce has been a favorite since his bad jokes were featured on the scoreboard during his time in Baltimore. Q: What do you call a deer with no eyes? A: No-eye deer. (This joke works better when said out loud)

Bruce gets the honor of being part of one of my “innovations” in this custom set; he ges a horizontal player card! Woooo!

It didn’t affect the play of the game to any great degree, but one of the interesting moments in a first-round game came when 6’8″ Israel batter Nate Freiman (who played for the A’s several years ago) faced off against 7’1″ Netherlands pitcher Loek van Mil (who’s played in AAA the past few seasons).

It’s believed to be the tallest face-off in professional baseball history. Despite Freiman’s large strike zone, he drew a base on balls.

Australia didn’t accomplish as much as they would’ve liked to this time around, but I had to create a custom to show their nice unis paired with the natural fit of the Oakland A’s colors from 1980.

Travis Blackley is a reliever who has pitched for the Giants, A’s, Rangers and Astros.

The Mariner’s Nelson Cruz has batted .333 with a homer thus far…

…but he’s here because of the aforementioned “good photo” rule.

Chris Archer pitched 4 shutout innings against Colombia on Friday, but did not get the win.

The US team is currently 1-1 and would greatly improve their chances of advancing by beating Canada tonight.

Former Oriole and current Mariner Yovani Gallardo gave up four runs in four innings, but I wanted to get a card of a familiar Mexican player.

Here’s another card new to the set. 1980 Topps didn’t have a postseason subset, so I had to create one.

This is loosely based on the League Leader cards from that set.

That’s all the cards in this pack… Let’s see what the offer is on the wax pack wrapper…

That looks pretty cool, but I don’t have the money… Maybe after I get my allowance.

OK, up at the top I promised a minor rant.

I’ve been looking forward to the WBC for a while now, although I didn’t plan on watching entire games. I figured I’d watch a few innings here and there, maybe check in when I heard about a game that seemed exciting. That’s pretty much what I did during the last WBC in 2013.

But I forgot about one thing… back in 2013 the MLB Network was part of my cable tier. That’s no longer the case; it got taken away from us, and we didn’t watch it enough to shell out the money for the higher tier of channels.

I’d assumed that some of the games might be on another cable channel, but that’s not the case.  I found out that it’s also on ESPN Deportes, and I can deal with the announcers speaking Spanish…

…But nope, I don’t get ESPN Deportes either.

OK, then what about MLB.TV?  During the regular season they always have free low-demand games along the lines of Minnesota vs. Tampa Bay.  A first round game airing early on a weekday morning isn’t exactly “Must See TV”, they should have free games like that, right?

Nope, struck out again. Well, poo.

I honestly don’t get this. The organizers (i.e. MLB) have said that the World Baseball Classic doesn’t get the attention in the U.S. that they would like it to get, but the cheapest option to watch ANY of it is $25 for a month of MLB.TV.  No, thank you. I’ll stick with listening to the occasional game on satellite radio, and reading about the games afterwards.

End of rant.

By the way, I expect to have more virtual packs of WBC cards coming the next two Sundays.

Customs On The 8’s

So it all started last week, when I made a bunch of customs in the style of 1958 Topps. One of the first ’58 customs I made was for Phillies pitcher Clay Buchholz, and I had to go back and tweak it later when I realized I did it “wrong”.
Buchholz was acquired from the Red Sox for a minor leaguer. The Phillies have added a few veterans into their young prospects, and could be an interesting team this year. …Or not. Nostradamus I ain’t.

Lucas Giolito is a prominent pitching prospect and, as I’ve mentioned here before, has an intriguing background as his parents are actors Lindsay Frost (The Ring, Collateral Damage and other credits) and Rick Giolito (As The World Turns, Twin Peaks).
Giolito was one of three pitching prospects that the Nationals sent to the Chisox for Adam Eaton, and he should get a better chance with the rebuilding White Sox.  From my standpoint I don’t like either team, but at least the Sox have better uniforms.

Moving on to the next pair of customs, and moving ahead 10 years in terms of inspiration… In my two recent posts about this year’s Heritage set I bemoaned the absence of managers from the checklists, especially given how uninteresting the team cards are.  I was going to feature some manager customs in yesterday’s post, but decided that the post was plenty long enough as it was.

But to revisit the question… Would you rather have a card like this, one that’s reminiscent of the 1970’s Fleer football “Teams In Action” cards:

Or would you rather have a manager who is in the Hall Of Fame:

…Or a former MVP and 6-time all-star?

You know where I stand on this.  I don’t know, maybe it’s a financial decision on Topps’ part.  Perhaps they didn’t want to (or couldn’t) sign all of the managers to contracts.  Maybe Molitor and Mattingly drove the price up beyond what Topps was wiling to pay.  I don’t know, this is all just guesswork.  Maybe the management at Topps are just poopheads who increase the number of short prints to 100 and get rid of the managers.

So, anyway…

It was at this point that I looked at what I had for today’s post… I had customs inspired by 1958 and 1968… And I decided, what the heck, let’s extend the pattern and throw some 1978 in there as well.

Michael Conforto is battling for playing time in the Mets outfield and is off to a promising start in Spring Training.  I would like to see him starting in the CitiField outfield, but I’d also like to see Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce starting as well.  You see my dilemma here?
Since I’m talking relatively famous moms, Tracy Ruiz-Conforto is a three-time Olympic medalist in Synchronized Swimming.

I don’t know about Brett Anderson’s mom, but his dad Frank Anderson is the University of Houston’s pitching coach.
Anderson was with the Dodgers last year, signed with the Cubs as a free agent and is on this custom largely because he’s with a new team and that team is the Cubs, one of the few teams I can do with my work-in-progress 1978 template.

And just a reminder/tease…
First round action of the World Baseball Classic starts tomorrow (early in the morning on the East Coast because it’s in Seoul, South Korea). I spent an hour or so this morning finalizing the template I’ll be using for the custom cards and you should see the first batch next Sunday.

Customs Inspired By “Photo Day” And 1958 Topps

This past week was “photo day” for many MLB teams, and it’s usually a time of year when I enjoy poking through the photos taken, seeing what goofy shots are out there, and seeing relocated players in their new uniforms… their actual uniforms, not the money-grab Spring Training caps and jerseys.

This time around, Photo Day wasn’t quite as much fun as past years… it seems like all of the teams who dropped big cash did so on re-signing players or re-acquiring players they’d recently had.  We don’t need Photo Day to know what Aroldis Chapman looks like in a Yankees uniform.  Sigh.

And, of course, Matt Wieters signed with the Nationals after that team’s Photo Day.  Double sigh.   (By the way, I posted last Sunday about Wieters being unsigned, and then the Nationals signed him a couple of days later.  It’s nice to know that someone in the Nats organization reads The Shlabotnik Report… but it still won’t make me like the Nats).

All of this is not to say that I didn’t have fun looking at the pictures.  I also felt the urge to make some customs out of the pictures I ran across… but what kind of customs should I make?

I didn’t want to use my 1970 Kellogg’s “Hot Stove” template, because these images aren’t photoshopped like those were, and I want to keep those in separate custom sets.  I can’t make them 2017 TSR cards, because I’m still working on the design for those.

So the next best thing is to use a design from some past card set.  I mentally went through card designs, trying to think of something I haven’t done lately and, more importantly, Topps hasn’t done (to death) lately… and I thought of the colorful 1958 Topps set, and I said:

It’s been 10 years since 2007 Heritage, and I don’t remember Topps Archives using the 1958 design recently (maybe I’m wrong) so I figured that this made it an ideal design to use.

So I took an hour or so when I really should’ve been in bed sleeping, and whipped up a template and the first custom.  Yesterday I did the rest of the cards you’ll see here.

Unlike sets from the 1970’s and 1980’s, I’m not as much a student of the visual language of 1950’s sets, so if I screw up something that is part of the “visual logic” of 1958 Topps, please forgive me (and let me know, because I do want to know).

I did a custom of Kendrys Morales with the Jays earlier this winter, but it was a 1977 Topps homage with a hand-drawn Blue Jays logo.  Here’s Kendrys in an actual Toronto uniform.
I had to wing it on the “DES. HITTER” position, because this obviously didn’t appear on 1958 baseball cards.  Because the full team name would take up a good part of the bottom of the card, I did the 1958-ish abbreviation of “TOR. BLUE JAYS”.  Looking back on it, I should’ve put an extra space between “DES.” and “HITTER”, as well as between “TOR.”, “BLUE” and “JAYS”.

I might not have a custom of Wieters just yet, but I do have one of the guy the Orioles got to serve as their primary catcher.
I’m not sure, but I think to be true to 1958, I should’ve used a smaller font for a long name like “Wellington Castillo” rather that horizontally smoosh the letters as I did.  Then again, in 1958 this guy might’ve been listed as “Will Castillo”.  (And I’m making a mental note to never use this design when doing a custom of Jarrod Saltalamacchia).

With Aroldis Chapman back in navy pinstripes, the Cubs gave up Jorge Soler to get closer Wade Davis from the Royals.
I was about to make a comment about how the Cubs should hope that Davis gets the job done, but you know what?  Now that they’ve won a World Series, the Cubs have lost my “Mets and Cubs fans are in the same boat” empathy. Too bad, Cubs fans, your team is just another rival for my Mets.

Finally, I couldn’t resist using a scruffy R.A. Dickey headshot.  I became a fan of his during his time with the Mets and began to collect him as well.
As I’d mentioned before, I’m not what you’d call an expert regarding 1958 Topps – the set is not only before my time, it’s before my Mets’ time, and I don’t put terribly much effort into collecting pre-1970’s Orioles.  I always thought the colors in the set was more or less random with regards to teams, but there are an awful lot of Braves with green backgrounds.  This was the first custom I did in this batch, and I originally did it with a blue background, but then changed it to green before working on the next custom.

I’m planning to have another batch of these 1958’s next weekend, and then we’ll get into these customs (tease, tease, tease):

O, Wieters, Where Art Thou?

For me, one of the more interesting and overlooked story of the off-season involves Matt Wieters…
…2016 All-Star (and three times before that) Matt Wieters…
…Two-time Gold Glove winner Matt Wieters…
…30-year-old starting catcher for a playoff team Matt Wieters…
…Fifth-overall draft pick Matt Wieters…
Unemployed Matt Wieters…
…”My former team has already moved on” Matt Wieters…

How can it be that Matt Wieters still be looking for a job?  Did he and his agent set his expectations (and price tag) too high?  Are teams trying to wait him out to see if they can get him at a discount?

I didn’t expect him to be back with the Orioles… hell, I didn’t expect him to be back with the Orioles last year.  But I figured he’d be somewhere by now, working out with the Braves or Rays or Angels or Rockies or White Sox… somebody.

I usually reserve my “41st Man” customs – which represent how I would do an unlicensed set – for guys who are on the fringe rather than 4-time All-Stars, but Matt Wieters is somehow both right now.

One guy who is a “traditional” 41st Man subject is pitcher David Rollins, who has had a winter where he has no shortage of teams which are interested in him… up to a certain point.

This past November, Rollins was put on waivers by the Mariners and was claimed by the Cubs. The Cubs tried to pass him through waivers, but he was claimed by the Rangers. The Rangers tried to pass him through waivers and he was claimed by the Phillies. All of this happened in just over three weeks, and isn’t the end of it.

Rollins stayed with the Phils for the better part of December before they put him on waivers and he was claimed for the second time by the Rangers. The Rangers tried to pass him through waivers and he was claimed again by the Cubs. The Cubs hung on to him for (gasp!) over a month before designating him for assignment.  This time they successfully got him through waivers and assigning him to AAA with an invite to Spring Training.

Prior to his time with the Mariners, Rollins had also been in the Blue Jays and Astros organizations, so I’m sure he’ll be happy to find a more permanent home, ideally in the Major Leagues.  I’ll be following Rollins over the next few weeks and wishing him the best.

A little while ago I posted a couple of customs from a faux mid-20th-Century card set I called “Floatyhead Gum”.  The response the first time was crickets, but I remain undaunted.  Here are two more Floatyheads featuring players who are very happy to be with new teams.



Finally, the World Baseball Classic starts up in just over 2 weeks, and as promised last fall, I’ll be doing a set of customs based on 1980 Topps.  To whet your appetites, I created a collage of “promo cards” for this upcoming custom set.


Since 1980 Topps has already been “Topps Archive-d” twice, I’ve been working on ways to sort of shake things up a tiny bit and make these customs a little bit more than another 1980 rehash.  This preview image contains some clues regarding things I’ve got planned… and I’m still trying to figure out a way to work the “Burger King Pitch Hit & Run” cards into this.

Also, for those of you who didn’t vote for 1980 Topps, I do plan on making “inserts” out of the more popular runner-up designs.

Remember to ask your virtual retailer for 2017 TSR World Baseball Classic cards!

Hot Stove: A Pair Of Tampa Bay Refugees

Once again, I didn’t have time to (*ahem*) shop for some new cereal this week, so we’ve got a box from one of my previous stock-up trips.


A lot of you like a nice bowl of Bips anyway, so I’m sure you won’t mind. By the way, I’ve heard rumors that next year’s Hot Stove cards could appear in products other than breakfast cereal… but that’s a long way away, we’ll worry about that when we get there.

So it occurred to me that a lot of my readers are Dodgers fans, yet we haven’t pulled a Dodgers card. The main reason for this is because the Dodgers aren’t well-represented on the Hot Stove checklist, given that majority of the Dodgers’ big off-season moves have been re-signing Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner and Rich Hill.

I’m still waiting for that rumored Yasiel Puig for Ryan Braun trade to happen, so the biggest new acquisition for the Dodgers is former Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe.
So what can I tell you about Forsythe? He played 3 years for the Padres and 3 years for the Rays. He was tied for 5th in the A.L. in errors by a second baseman last year… He had 9, Rougned Odor was way ahead of everyone in the Majors with 22 E’s. In 2015 he broke up a perfect game which Marco Estrada had taken to the 8th inning.

As it turns out, we’ve got a bonus card in this box of Bips…  And it involves another former Ray.  Before we get to it, I’ll point out that it’s from a sporadic set of “unlicensed” customs I call “41st Man”, honoring those players who are liked enough to repeatedly be added to 40-man rosters but not liked quite enough to stick on those roster… Something that a guy who calls himself “Joe Shlabotnik” can identify with.

Richie Shaffer was the Rays 1st round pick out of Clemson in 2012, and after that season Baseball America named him the Rays’ #7 prospect. Shaffer hit cleanup for the USA in the 2015 Futures Game and played in the Majors some in 2015 and 2016.
He was traded to the Mariners on 11/18 in a move intended to clear space off the Tampa Bay 40-man roster. The M’s put him on waivers on 12/14, and he was claimed by the Phillies… A young team who would certainly have a spot for a former prospect, right? Wrong. The Phillies also tried to pass him through waivers and lost him to the Reds. Surely the Reds can find a role for — no, wait, they lost him on waivers to the Indians on 1/26. Four days later, the Indians designated him for assignment and he finally passed through waivers and was outrighted to AAA. Shaffer did get an invite to Spring Training, and he’ll be one of the guys that The Shlabotnik Report will pull for this March.

Hot Stove: Another Box Of Sugar Papi

It’s been a busy week, so I don’t have time to do more than inhale a couple of bowls of Sugar Papi cereal…


…And quickly check out the card inside….

…Which is of new Cubs reliever Koji Uehara!


The Cubs signed Koji to a 1-year deal to work in the back of the bullpen in front of new Cubs closer Wade Davis.  So why did I make a custom of the setup guy instead of the closer?  Because I didn’t think of it until just now.  Hey, Koji’s one of my guys, sue me.