2017 TSR: Four Quickies Are Better Than Nothing

This post and the four customs attached were largely done during surreptitious breaks while working from home on a project that unnecessarily occupied a good chunk of my Saturday.

Given that this post was done on the fly, there’s not a whole lot of deep thoughts involved here today… but I hadn’t done any customs in a couple of weeks and I didn’t want to let it slide any further… besides, making the customs kept me from getting excessively irate with certain co-workers.

And so…

Greg Holland has been lights-out for the Rockies so far. At this early stage, he’s one of the best, if not the best, free agent signings of this past offseason.

Dovydas Neverauskas is the second Lithuanian to play in the Majors; the first was Joe Zapustas who played 2 games for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1933.  Baseball Reference says that Zapustas was born in Latvia;  I don’t know if this is because of fluid borders in the Baltics, or Zapustas was an ethnic Lithuanian, or because one of my sources is wrong.

Seth Smith has quickly become one of Mrs. Shlabotnik’s favorite Orioles.  I’m sure he’d be one of mine if I’d have enough time in the past two months to keep on top of both the Mets and the O’s (sorry, Baltimore)

T.J. Rivera has done a nice job of filling in for… well, half of the Mets position players at this point, but mainly David Wright and Lucas Duda.

2017 TSR: An Immigrant, A Judge And Other Rookies

This might sound like the lead-in to a joke about the current US President, but I promise, it’s just a lead-in to the latest pack of 2017 TSR custom cards.

Since I wasn’t quite happy with how the first two batches of customs looked online, especially on phones, I’m trying a couple of tweaks to the design this time around.  These may end up sticking, or they may end up being “variations” that will be worth thousands and thousands of bitcoins someday.

Anyway, on to the first custom…

I’ve been aware of Gift Ngoepe for a couple of years because I’ve been telling a South African friend “Hey, there’s this guy in the Pirates’ system who’s from South Africa!”  She doesn’t care, but I’ve kept her updated anyway… and earlier this week, Gift Ngoepe made his debut with the Pirates.

Despite coming from a country where few play baseball, Gift literally grew up around the game;  that’s because his mother worked as a clubhouse attendant for a South African baseball team called the Randburg Mets, and they lived in the team’s clubhouse.

The first draft of this post had a custom of the Yankees’ 6’7″ Aaron Judge.  I wasn’t happy with the way the custom came out, but in that original draft I said “One of these days I’m going to find a good shot of him standing next to one of his teammates, and a combo card will ensue.”

Thanks to Brett Gardner’s 3-run homer yesterday, “One Of These Days” is today!

One of my goals for this year’s set is to have some combo cards which are more interesting than the typical Topps “two guys standing around first base waiting for the next pitch” combo.

Rookie Amir Garrett and the Reds were flying high for a while at the beginning of the season, but have since come down to Earth.

Garrett had a 1.83 ERA and 21 K’s in his first 3 starts before getting shelled by the Brewers in his 4th.

I’d heard about this Athletics pitcher Andrew Triggs who was, after his first three starts, 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA (and he pitched 7 shutout innings against Houston last night). I was thinking that his name sounded ever so vaguely familiar… and then I found out why. He spent 2015 with the Orioles’ AA team.

Because the Orioles have pitching coming out of their ears (sarcasm alert) and because the O’s can’t seem to acquire enough guys who have that valued combination of homers and strikeouts (even more sarcasm), they dropped Triggs off the 40-man to sign Pedro Alvarez. The A’s picked up Triggs on waivers, he split 2016 between Oakland and AAA Nashville and here he is in 2017, 4-1 with a 1.84 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. Yes, he’s 28 years old so he’s not exactly a prospect, but stats like that would be vastly preferable to the “Which Ubaldo Jimenez is showing up today?” situation there is now.

I’m in my sixth year of posting customs, and one thing I’ve attempted every so often is a series I call “Dude need a card!”, with the general idea being to feature players who have been ignored by Topps and Panini. I’ve decided to revive the “Dude!” series with a focus on Mets and Orioles.

Mets catcher Rene Rivera is technically a backup, but he gets into his share of games because of his skills behind the plate, even if he doesn’t have offensive stats that impress.

Rivera is in his second year with the Mets and started last fall’s NL Wild Card game, but his only Mets cardboard appearance so far is in 2016 Topps Update.

The Oriole “Dude” is a little bit of a stretch, as he has appeared in the 2017 Topps retail Orioles team set and should appear in Topps Series 2, but given the paucity of cardboard since his MLB debut in 2015 I declare that Mychal Givens is a dude who needs a card.

Givens was a shortstop during his first three years in the Orioles organization, but was converted to a reliever and that was what got him to the Majors. This year, he’s pitched 12 innings in 10 appearances, is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA, a 1.000 WHIP and has 11 strikeouts to just 3 walks.

2017 TSR: The First Official Pack

“If I could produce my own card set, what would it be like?”

That’s the question I ask myself every year when I create my virtual TSR set (…which is called ‘TSR’ because I used the initialism of “The Shlabotnik Report” as a placeholder name and then couldn’t think of anything better).

The succinct answer to that question is that my ideal card set would include managers, bench players and relievers… it would have a few inserts but still be about the base set… and most importantly, would have an original design which would look like something produced in the 1960’s, 1970’s or 1980’s.

Furthermore, such a set would be issued in four 198-card series and work as a ongoing document of the season in progress… Something which falls between the static “This is where a couple of hundred players were in early January” and the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time (or money) For This” beast that is Topps Now.

This is what I generally strive for, and was what I was striving for in the previous five TSR sets.

Last week I featured some “promo cards” from my custom set because I was ill-prepared for the “official release” – such as it is.  Thanks to a poopstorm at work, I’m still not completely ready, but…

Anyway, Let’s get to the wax pack, which is a true wax pack wrapped in wax paper, oh, yessirree Bob, you’d better believe it!

After all, there are no relics, autographs or 1/1’s in this set, so there’s no need for high-tech tamper-resistant stuff.

First card…

One of the things I noticed with last week’s “promo cards” was that the drop shadows which looked cool and seemed to make the lettering “pop” on my laptop sometimes just served to make the lettering look blurry when viewed at smaller size, like on a phone. Certain color combos look worse than others, so I might end up taking a cue from 1968 Topps and tweaking the design for the second series.

Here’s the first subset of the year, a Highlights card featuring the Braves new ballpark. I feel like Topps Now has supplanted proper “Highlights” cards to some degree, but it’s interesting that there wasn’t a Topps Now card for a new home field. Granted, a new ballpark is not a once-in-a-generation event that it used to be, but still…

From what I’ve seen SunTrust Park has opened to positive reviews, which I view as something of a disappointment because the Braves and their “Screw the fans, we’ll go where the money takes us” attitude is little too NFL for me.

I don’t believe that Jerry Blevins has appeared on cardboard since 2014, which means he hasn’t been shown in a Mets uniform yet… despite making 73 appearances last year with a 2.79 ERA and 11.1 K’s per 9 innings.

…But he’s a reliever with only 2 saves, so clearly nobody cares about him.

Rick Renteria puts me in a rooting bind. I’d like to see him do well because he was let go by the Cubs solely for the reason that Joe Maddon became available.

…but I really don’t like the White Sox and generally enjoy seeing them suffer. Sorry, White Sox fans… it’s not you, it’s Jerry Reinsdorf.

Wrapping up with Eric Thames, who played with the Blue Jays and Mariners before going to Korea for 3 seasons where he hit 124 homers and became Korea’s first 40-40 guy.

The Brewers signed Thames to a 3-year contract and cut Chris Carter loose to make room for Thames. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. So far he’s panning out pretty well with 5 homers and 10 RBI in 10 games.

That’s the end of this week’s pack.  We’ll see what innovations and design tweaks come in next week’s pack!

“Promo Cards” For My 2017 TSR Custom Set

As I’ve done every April since 2012 (yikes!), I would like to unveil my 2017 TSR custom baseball card set by opening a virtual pack!

Emphasis on “would like to”… while I would like to, I’m unfortunately not able to… not this week, anyway.  I’m already a week past my Opening Day target date, and all I have ready is a vertical base card design which is set up for 8 teams.

Under better circumstances (i.e. had I not waffled between two potential designs for all of February and part of March) I would’ve presented a virtual pack for us to go through…. but that would require a design for a wrapper.  I’d also include at least one or two inserts, possibly a horizontal card… all of which exist only in my head.

What I do have is a handful of customs I created as a “dress rehearsal” to make sure that the design works for different color combinations I had in mind, that it worked for player and team names of varying lengths (i.e. CUBS, DIAMONDBACKS).

I don’t have anything else to post today… so I’ll call these “promo cards” and work towards having a more fulfilling experience next week.

I’m always willing to suck up to my readership, so if there’s a particular player or team you’d like to see on a TSR card, leave a comment and I will do my best to get something in the first official pack.

Since I call these promo cards, I feel like they should be accompanied by some sort of sales pitch, so…

Contact your TSR sales representative to find out how TSR cards can:

  • Drive traffic to your stores!
  • Increase profit margins!
  • Improve customer loyalty and employee morale!
  • Give your store a distinctive fresh aroma and…
  • Qualify your business for tax-exempt status!

The Last Muni (And Other Customs)

I’m scrambling to finalize my 2017 TSR design this year, and also scrambling to do a number of “real life” things, so this week we have an assortment of TSRchives and WBC customs.

Next Sunday – God willin’ and the creek don’t rise – we should have a pack of my TSR customs to virtually rip open.  I hope.

Earlier this past week, the Cubs cut fan favorite Munenori Kawasaki;  They were hoping to sign him to a minor league contract, but wanted to give him the opportunity to hook on with another team if there was interest.

Unfortunately for those of us in North America, there was interest from another team… Muni flew back to Japan and signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League. When I read the news, I went “Awwwwww!” in dismay… out loud. Fortunately, I was alone in the room at the time.

According to the Hawks’ English-language roster page, some of Muni’s new teammates with the Hawks include Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tsuyoshi Wada, former Oriole Dennis Sarfate, and Cuban Alfredo Despaigne, who batted .474 with 3 homers in 6 games during the World Baseball Classic.

Cuba made it to the second round of the WBC, but have had too many players defect (and not participate) to be as competitive as they used to be.

More than a few websites picked up on how emotional Brock Stassi got after being told that that he would be making the Phillies’ opening day roster.

Not that you can blame him for getting verklempt. He was the 1,021st pick in the 2011 draft, worked through 6 seasons in the minors before impressing in camp this spring… And he’s got a cool name.

FYI, Brock’s younger brother Max is a prospect in the Astros organization.

41-year-old Eric Gagne pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in the WBC and he’s said to be in talks with several teams, including the Dodgers, on a minor league contract.

Gagne won the Cy Young in 2003 and last pitched in the majors in a season-long stint with the Brewers 9 years ago.  Good luck, Eric!

No story behind this Adam Jones custom, I just like the way it turned out.

The Final* Pack Of 2017 World Baseball Classic Customs

Well, another World Baseball Classic has come and gone, and even though I didn’t get to watch any of the games, I did follow it all the way through and it’s a bit of an adjustment to go back to laid-back Spring Training games. When does the regular season start? Another WEEK? Geeeeeez….

OK, well let’s rip into the final* pack of custom WBC cards, and I’ll explain the asterisk in a bit.

Martin Prado splilt time between third and left for Venezuela, and while he didn’t appear in every game, this shot of him after going into the stands guaranteed his spot in this virtual set.

Buster Posey split time with Jonathan Lucroy, but Buster still tied for the team lead with 2 homers (Adam Jones also hit two).

Kenley Jansen didn’t join the team until the championship rounds, and only pitched one inning, but he did strike out two batters…

…And he’s Kenley Jansen, so I felt the need to get him in here.

Francisco Lindor batted .370 with 7 runs and 4 RBI.

…And he was very excited throughout the whole tournament. Pretty much every picture had him looking like this.

Korea surprisingly didn’t get out of the first round, so we didn’t get to see a whole lot of the Cardinals’ Seung-Hwan Oh.

He did get make two appearances, and over 3.1 scoreless innings he struck out 6 and was the only Korean pitcher to get a win.

Norichika Aoki batted .379 and had 3 doubles.

When it comes to international competition, I don’t take it all that seriously in terms of proving that my country (the United States) is superior to all others. While I was rooting for the USA and was happy they won, I also was kind of bummed that Japan and some other countries didn’t. No, it doesn’t completely make sense, but I am a complex human being… or something like that.

Canada is another country I was rooting for. I was disappointed that they didn’t get out of the first round, but they just weren’t as good as other teams.

Justin Morneau had a rough series, going 0-for-11, but he makes for a nice custom.

There were other Dominican players who deserved a custom more than Jose Reyes, but I like Jose and it’s my set. Nyah.

I’ll remind you that there’s also that asterisk that’s been hanging over this post…

If there were an award for “Player who helped his own cause the most by playing in the WBC”, Josh Zeid might have walked away with it. He was unemployed going into the WBC, but is now a non-roster guy with the Cardinals.

He did this by pitching 10 scoreless innings with 10 K’s across 4 appearances, going 1-0 with 2 saves and a 1.10 WHIP. Zeid pitched for the Astros in 2013 and 2014, and has pitched in the minors the past two seasons.

When I started this set, I intended to leverage the different types of 1980 Topps cards as much as I could, with the intent of making this different from just a sort of “Topps Archives” custom set. Late in the process, I realized there was one type of card in 80T that I hadn’t considered using… and I whipped up a quick version of it to use as the Champions card. Let’s see if you can figure out what this design was in a former life.

OK, so what’s with the asterisk? Well, I originally didn’t see much point in going on terribly long with WBC cards, but I have been happy with they way they’ve turned out, I did make a bunch more customs than I’ve posted, and there are a number of big-named players who haven’t appeared in custom form, so……….. While this is the last pack of WBC customs, it’s not the last you’ll see of them. At least one of these will show up in next Sunday’s post, and at this point I have no idea what next Sunday’s post will be. In an ideal world, I’ll finish my 2017 TSR design and we’ll be busting our first pack of that on Opening Day… but I will admit that I’m scrambling to get that done, and it may not “go live” until the following Sunday. Stay tuned!

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.