Conlan On A Conlan? Bowman On A Bowman?

After a recent custom of Mets rookie pitcher P.J. Conlon, Jeremy over at the Topps Cards That Never Were blog asked “Has anyone made a Conlon card of Conlon?”

…Meaning, of course, whether P.J. Conlon had ever been the subject of a custom card in the style of the Conlon Collection cards of the 1990’s.

I was chagrined that I never thought of this myself.

I mean, I did once put Aaron Judge on an Old Judge.

…But Conlon on a Conlon? This was a project I was definitely going to have to take on.

And so…

…but the Conlon Collection design is a bit uninteresting and largely straightforward (even if I couldn’t get the fonts quite right) so I started to think about something more challenging and appealing. I got to wondering what other similar baseball card brand and player combinations I could come up with.

There’s Cardinal Matthew Bowman on a 1951 Bowman…

…Legendary Indians pitcher Herb Score on a 1988 Score…

In a bit of a stretch, DeJong on a DeLong…

Making a custom of the 1933 DeLong set was the biggest challenge of the bunch, and the most fun as well.

I thought about making a custom of Wally Post on a Post cereal card, but then realized that Wally already *had* been on a 1962 Post card, so that took the wind out of those particular sails.

I tried my best to come up with others, but there just aren’t any Major Leaguers named “Fleer”, “Mother’s” or “Leaf”. Can anyone come up with any combos I missed?


Most of my custom efforts this week were devoted to the project I just shared, but I have certain cards I’m determined to feature each week, so let’s get to those…

For the 1988 Topps Tribute of the week, all of the players who were outstanding last week have either been on an 88T custom already or weren’t players I really wanted to feature, so I went with the A.L. Pitcher of the Month for May, Justin Verlander.

It wasn’t until this past week when I looked at the standings and saw “SEATTLE” at the top of the A.L. West that I said “Hey, the Mariners are really good this year!” So much attention has been on the World Champion Astros and the Ohtani Angels that it seemed like the Mariners came out of nowhere, even though I can see on the M’s Baseball Reference Schedule/Results Page that they’ve never been more than 3.5 games out all season.

As a result, Mariners manager Scott Servais gets this week’s Managerial custom.

As for my Mets and Orioles… well… it’s been a long season already.  The Mets have lost 19 of the past 24 games, and the Orioles have lost 9 in a row and are on a pace to lose 117 games.

There’s nobody from either team’s offense which deserves any sort of commemoration this week, so I’ll feature Steven Matz and Kevin Gausman, who starting pitchers who pitched reasonably well this week.

Hopefully the coming week will feature some Mets and Orioles performances that deserve some custom commemoration.

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Which 3 Cardinals, Twins Would You Pick For A “1964 Topps Giants” Style Set?

In my little imaginary universe, Topps has decided to revive the 1964 Giant set and has put me in charge of determining the checklist for a set to be released late this summer. As with the original, each team is given three cards in the set, no matter if they won the World Series or got the top draft pick. Who gets left out from the contending teams? Who fills out the trio on the bad teams?

Just to be clear, the checklist is meant to appeal to baseball fans looking for their favorite players as well as each team’s best players… Ideally the players who, when this set comes out, had been 2018 All-Stars or at least considered for that honor. There’s no “lottery mentality” involved here, so a highly regarded and heavily hyped but struggling rookie is not going to be included.

This is the fourth of a series, and this time we’re covering the teams from the 1987 World Series, the Cardinals and Twins.

CARDINALS

YADIER MOLINA

For this checklist, I’m intentionally focusing on performance in 2017 and 2018. I’m not sure the statistics support the selection of Yadi, but the man was an All-Star last year, is a future HOFer and unless he were massively overstaying his welcome it just wouldn’t seem right to leave him out of any Cardinals trio.

MARCELL OZUNA

He’s here more for what he did with the Marlins last year (All-Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger) than what he’s done this year with the Cardinals, but I felt like he still belongs.

TOMMY PHAM

This is a choice I struggled with, because Pham isn’t one of those guys who is THE BEST, but it seems like no matter how you slice and dice the team’s statistics, he’s AMONG THE BEST, so I’m giving him the last Cardinals slot.

Strongly considered:
Carlos Martinez – An All-Star last year, Martinez was narrowly beaten out by Pham.
Jose Martinez – Leads the team in many offensive categories in 2018 and is having something of a breakout year at the age of 29
Miles Mikolas – If we considered only this season to date (7-2, 2.43), Mikolas is a shoo-in.

Others Considered: Harrison Bader, Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Dexter Fowler, Greg Holland, Bud Norris, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright

TWINS

JOE MAUER

Like with Yadi and the Cardinals, I don’t feel like you can leave out Mauer. His numbers have fallen off, but I don’t think enough to exclude him.

BRIAN DOZIER

Gold Glove and among the better players on the team.

ERVIN SANTANA

He has been injured most of this year and was included based on his very strong 2017… but it wasn’t an easy decision.

Strongly Considered:
Eddie Rosario – He was very good last year, is very good this year, and that almost got him in. Almost.
Miguel Sano – An all-Star last year, but he’s been struggling this year and recently got optioned to the minors.
Byron Buxton – Gold Glove last year, but not enough performance this year.

Others considered: Jose Berrios, Jason Castro, Eduardo Escobar, Max Kepler, Brandon Kinzler, Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi, Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney


One quick comment to wrap things up… After choosing three position players for the Cardinals, I got to wondering if, back in 1964, Topps had included at least one pitcher for every team. Something like that would affect the way I selected future teams. I went through a few teams from the 1964 set before I ran across the Kansas City Athletics who were represented by outfielder Rocky Colavito, 1st Baseman Jim Gentile and shortstop Wayne Causey.  That answered my question, but as I had to go through at least 10 teams before finding the A’s, perhaps I should make inclusion a factor where we’re choosing between a pitcher and a position player for the third slot.

And now, on to our reader participation part…

Would you have picked different Cardinals or Twins?

2018 TSR: I Can Make It Longer If You Like The Style, I Can Change It ‘Round

Once again, I didn’t have a subject line in mind for my weekly virtual pack of custom baseball cards, so I used a line from a well-known song.  If you can’t quite place it, the video is at the end of the post.

Over the offseason it was clear that the Orioles needed pitching.  One of the pitchers they signed was former Tampa Bay Ray Alex Cobb.  Like many on the Orioles pitching staff, Cobb has been a disappointment… until…

This past week saw the arrival of a series I never look forward to, that time when my two teams (Mets and Orioles) face off against each other.  Naturally, Cobb puts in his best performance of the season (6.0 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 7 K’s, 1 BB) against the Mets.  Granted the Mets aren’t putting up much of an offensive fight against anyone these days…

P.J. Conlon isn’t currently on the Mets 25-man roster, but he has an interesting background.  Although he grew up in California, Conlon is the first Irish-born player in the Majors since the Senators’ Joe Cleary in 1945.

According to Baseball Reference, Conlon is the 49th Irish-born pitcher in the Majors; only he and Cleary were born after 1901.

On June 2nd, the Mets lost Conlon on waivers to the Dodgers. Conlon was assigned to AAA Oklahoma City but before he appeared in a game, the Mets claimed him back on waivers.

Manager card of the week… The Cubs have been less-than-dominant this season, at times briefly finding themselves in fourth place. They’ve been on a tear lately and are currently a half-game behind the Brewers, so Joe Maddon gets himself a card.

Rookie Giants pitcher Dereck Rodriguez also hasn’t been dominant, although he did pitch well against the Phillies on June 3rd.

What makes him a pitcher of note is that he’s the son of Hall-of-Famer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. Dereck was born early on in Pudge’s MLB career.

Time for a couple of throwback customs… First off is our 1988 Tribute card of the week, as always included because Topps decided to use the design for Major League Soccer instead of Major League Baseball.

This week I decided to go with a smaller market and I made a custom for the Twins’ Eddie Rosario.

This past week Rosario batted .379 with 7 runs and 7 RBI with a double and four homers.  On the season he’s batting .318 with 14 homers, 40 runs and 43 RBI.

Rosario’s numbers were good enough that I picked him up for my fantasy team, while dropping Justin Turner, who is continuing to have issues with his wrist…

..and who is the subject of the latest “Pointless Pairings” insert.

Finally, Stephen Colbert brought his Late Show crew to Citi Field this past Friday for kickoff of the Mets/Yankees series. I ran across a posed photo that I wanted to use for *something*, but I wasn’t sure what.

…And then I thought about some 1955 Bowman cards I saw while poking around the Burdick Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website and I said “Oh, of course!”

I also stumbled across a video… or at the time, a “promotional film”… that I’d never seen before. It’s for the Beatles’ song Paperback Writer, the source of today’s subject line.

Which 3 Brewers, White Sox Would You Pick For A “1964 Topps Giants” Style Set?

In my little imaginary universe, Topps has decided to revive the 1964 Giant set and has put me in charge of determining the checklist. As with the original, each team is given three cards in the set, no matter if they won the World Series or got the top draft pick. Who gets left out from the contending teams? Who fills out the trio on the bad teams?

This is the third of a series, and this time we’re covering the former divisional rivals Brewers and White Sox.

BREWERS
I know we’ve got some Brewers fans out there, I’d be curious to know your take on this.

TRAVIS SHAW

I like Travis Shaw, so I’ll admit that I came into this looking for ways to justify putting him in this checklist. Last year he lead the team in doubles and RBI and tied for the team lead in homers. This year he leads the team in all three of those categories again. I’d call that justification.

CHRISTIAN YELICH

Top 3 in most offensive categories and one of the bigger names on the team.

JOSH HADER

On a team with several very good relievers, I have to go with the guy who’s the closer.

STRONGLY CONSIDERED FOR A SLOT:
Lorenzo Cain – Cain probably has as much claim to one of the three spots as the three players who got the honor, but I had to draw the line somewhere. Cain leads the team in On-Base % and hits.

Matt Albers – His stats are surprisingly good… well, surprising to anyone who saw him when he pitched for the Orioles.

Cory Knebel – An All-Star last year

Jeremy Jeffress – interesting bit of trivia; the Brewers had traded both Cain and Jeffress to the Royals in the trade that brought Zack Greinke to Milwaukee.

Ryan Braun – The best-known player on this team. That and $2.75 gets him on the subway.

Others considered: Jesus Aguiar, Chase Anderson , Zach Davis, Jimmy Nelson, Manny Pina, Domingo Santana, Brent Suter, Eric Thames, Jonathan Villar

WHITE SOX

JOSE ABREU

Abreu is this week’s one “no brainer”. He lead team in most major offensive categories in 2017 and does so again this year. Last year he was the league’s Total Bases leader and a 100 RBI guy.

YOLMER (CARLOS) SANCHEZ

The team’s leading triples guy last year and this, and among the top 3 in most non-power-related offensive categories. I’ll admit, this is very debatable, but I’m going with Yolmer (or Carlos, I’m never sure which one to go with).

TIM ANDERSON

He’s a shortstop and also is among the team leaders in a number of categories.

STRONGLY CONSIDERED FOR A SLOT:
Yoan Moncada – A hot prospect who probably should make a similar checklist in 2019, but to me he’s not quite there yet. Who knows, I might be regretting this omission before I get through all 30 teams.

Wellington Castillo – “Beef” would’ve gotten some consideration had he not been suspended for PDA’s

Others considered: Matt Davidson, Avisail Garcia, Nate Jones, Reynaldo Lopez, James Shields

Like I said, very few of these were easy decisions. Did I make the right ones? Let me know in the comments!

2018 TSR: Mistakes May Have Been Made…

Quick comment for anyone who’s new to The Shlabotnik Report… we’re about to “open a pack” of virtual baseball cards, some of my own design, others are a tribute to past sets.

So… I’m beginning to wonder if I screwed up in my post this past Friday where I selected the 3 Braves and Yankees who would represent their teams in a fictional card set which mirrors the 1964 Topps “Giants” set.  For the Braves I chose Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies…

…To which Mike Foltynewicz says “Leave me out of your stupid set’s checklist, willya?”

In an effort to make me look foolish, Foltynewicz has not given up more than a single earned run in each of his last five starts, including Friday night’s two-hit shutout of the Nationals. In that game Folty retired 20 Nats in a row, and over his last five starts he has an 0.56 ERA, 37 K’s and 17 hits allowed over 32 innings.

Hey, speaking of the Braves… Do you know which golfer recently qualified for the U.S. Seniors Open?  Why none other than Braves HOFer John Smoltz!

Among the players who Smoltz beat out was Football HOFer John Elway.

What can I say about the Orioles this year? Before the season started, some thought they had a chance at a wild card spot. Instead they currently have the worst record in the major leagues and are getting ready to trade off players who are in their walk year.

None of this is the fault of Jace Peterson, who was claimed on waivers in April and has been starting a number of games at third base, even though he’s played the majority of his Major League games at second.

While he’s struggling at the plate, I understand he plays a respectable third base. I don’t know firsthand because I have to admit I’ve watched very little of the Orioles lately.

By contrast, the Tigers started tearing things down last season, but they’ve won 4 straight and 8 out of 10 to get up to 2nd place in the admittedly mediocre AL Central.

Maybe the Orioles need a “Rally Goose”…

I couldn’t decide who to make my “Met of the Week” so I went with the guy who had the best stats for the week: Outfielder Brandon Nimmo.

This past week Nimmo batted .390 with 3 doubles, 3 homers, 6 runs, 7 RBI and 2 stolen bases.  I almost went with Amed Rosario;  he’ll probably be the Mets card next week unless somebody convinces me otherwise.

Time for the 1988 Tribute of the week, where I create the 30th anniversary insert set that Topps didn’t. This week’s subject is the Indians’ Jose Ramirez:

For the week, Ramirez batted .367 with 3 doubles, 4 homers, 9 runs and 6 RBI.

To finish things off with another “insert”…  It’s been a while since I included an sheet of U-KNOW-M stamps – “You’ll love ’em because U-KNOW-M” – in a pack.  Can you guess what Ludwig Von Drake, the Burgermeister Meisterburger, “Poppin’ Fresh” (aka the Pillsbury Doughboy) and Boris Badenov have in common?

All four were originally voiced by Paul Frees, who did an amazing amount of voice work and narration over his lifetime. The other day I was discussing the Don Knotts movie “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” with friends – when I was a kid it was in heavy rotation on the local channel’s weekday afternoon movie – and somehow Crusty The Crab from that movie evolved into a discussion of the man who gave voice to Crusty… Paul Frees. Among other roles of his were Santa Claus from “Frosty The Snowman”, John Lennon and George Harrison from the early 1960’s Beatles cartoon, Morocco Mole (sidekick to Secret Squirrel), Inspector Fenwick (“Dudley Do-Right”), Fred (“Super Chicken”), Ape (the original “George Of The Jungle”), Ben Grimm from the 1960’s Fantastic Four cartoon, the mega-computer Colossus from “Colossus: The Forbin Project” and the narrator of the classic ultra-low-budget 1970’s parody film “Hardware Wars”.

I understand that if you’re under a certain age (which I won’t guess at) you’re not going to know what I’m talking about, but trust me, it’s impressive.

Which 3 Yankees, Braves Would You Pick For A “1964 Topps Giants” Style Set?

This is the second part of a series, inspired by this SABR Baseball Card Committee post, in which I use the framework of the 1964 Topps Giant-Sized All-Stars set – commonly known as Topps Giants – to select three players to represent each Major League team, whether it means whittling down the list of candidates from the reigning World Champion Astros or finding three worthy candidates from the burn-it-to-the-ground-again Marlins.

As with the previous post, I’m working under the pretense of picking a checklist for a set which will be released in late summer, as the original set was. Ideally I’d be choosing players who will have garnered All-Star consideration, as well as players who we would be fairly confident would still be active, still considered stars and (as is becoming more important lately) not in the middle of a PED suspension when the theoretical set gets released.

I’m also picking these players more as they would be picked for a vintage set, one looking to draw in fans looking for their favorite players… not the 21st century strategy of appealing to the lottery mentality.

Last week I did the Astros and Dodgers; this week I’m going to work through the Braves and Yankees.  First, the Braves…

FREDDIE FREEMAN

Freeman has been a leader of the Braves in recent years and has consistently been among their top players for the past year or two.  He’s also among the team leaders in several statistical categories

ENDER INCIARTE

Inciarte was an All-Star last year, won a Gold Glove and lead the 2017 Braves in Runs and Triples. As of the time I’m writing this, he leads the league with 18 stolen bases.

I had some difficulty picking the third Brave, but I went with…

OZZIE ALBIES

Last year, Albies lead the team in several offensive categories while playing 2nd base.  This year he leads the team in runs and homers.

Strongly considered for a slot:
Nick Markakis – I was tempted to add the former Oriole to the checklist, and a case certainly can be made for him. He lead the team in a couple of offensive categories last year and he continues to be an offensive force this year.
Sean Newcomb – His stats for this season look good, but then I noticed that three of his five wins came against the Rays & Marlins. That took a bit of the wind out of the Newcomb sails.  (Update:  Yes, Newcomb beat the Nationals last night, but it was too late for this exercise)
Dansby Swanson – Former #1 overall draft pick who’s very good but not yet a star.
Other candidates: Ronald Acuna, Mike Foltynewicz, Kurt Suzuki, Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino

…AND NOW, MOVING ON TO THE YANKEES, STARTING (OF COURSE) WITH…

AARON JUDGE

Last year Judge was the Rookie Of The Year, an All-Star, won a Silver Slugger award and was Player of the Month in June and September. He’s become a central figure of the Yankees in a very short time and there’s no way you could leave him out of a set like this.

GIANCARLO STANTON

Last year’s National League MVP, Silver Slugger and Hank Aaron Award winner is another Yankee who couldn’t be left out.

I’m still second-guessing the third choice, who is…

LUIS SEVERINO

Severino was an All-Star last year and his 2018 stats – 8-1 record, 2.31 ERA plus a shutout – made me think he was deserving of the third spot

Strongly considered for a slot:
Gary Sanchez – Just barely beaten out by Severino. Sanchez was a 2017 All-Star and Silver Slugger.
Dellin Betances – Also an All-Star last year
Didi Gregorius – Didi was the April Player of the Month and certainly deserves being in the discussion.

Other candidates: Aroldis Chapman, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Masahiro Tanaka

So what do you think? Did I screw up by not going with Gary Sanchez? Would you have gone with Nick Markakis or Ronald Acuna?  Make your arguments in the comments!

2018 TSR: Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard

“And I’m on my way… I don’t know where I’m goin’, I’m on my way.  Takin’ my time, but I don’t know where…”

I never expected to do a series of cards featuring Jose Bautista, but when the Mets picked him up to fill in for some injured players I wanted to capture this moment in Mets history so that down the road I can say “Oh, I almost forgot that Joey Bats played for the Mets”.

Here’s some trivia for you… this is actually the *second* time that Bautista has been on the Mets roster, but the first time was for just a few minutes between trades, and by the time Bautista found out he’d been a Met he no longer was. Here’s the way it played out… in late 2003, the Orioles selected Bautista from the Pirates in the Rule V draft. He made it to early June before the Orioles gave up on him and the Devil Rays picked him up on waivers. A few weeks after that, the Royals purchased him from Tampa Bay. In late July the Royals traded him to the Mets, who flipped him to the Pirates in a trade that also involved Kris Benson and Ty Wigginton. It wasn’t until 2010 that Bautista broke out with the Blue Jays and the rest is history.

A couple of years ago, a young minor league pitcher named Aaron Nola impressed me in a game I went to, and now that he’s in the majors he’s a player I collect, if somewhat passively.

Last night he took a no-hitter into the 7th by retiring 18 straight batters.  He didn’t get the no-no, but he pitched the Phillies to a win over the Blue Jays, and now the Phillies have sole possession of first place, so that’s kind of a mixed bag for this Mets fan.

Dylan Bundy also pitched an impressive game recently, pitching a complete game two-hitter against the White Sox.

The fact that Bundy and teammates Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner (plus two other  pitchers) are all tied for the American League “lead” with 6 losses goes a long way towards giving you an idea of how big of a performance this was for the Orioles.  It’s been a long season at Camden Yards, and it doesn’t show many signs of improving.

Just when I say “This is the last guy I’m featuring who pitched in Japan last year”, I find another. Chris Martin came up through the Red Sox system, pitched one season for the Rockies and their AAA affiliate (and got on a 2014 Topps Update card), another for the Yankees and their AAA affiliate and then went to Japan to pitch for the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Over two seasons with the Fighters Martin made 92 appearances and rocked a 1.12 ERA and a 0.668 WHIP. The Rangers gave him a chance this year, and although a 4.00 ERA is nothing to write home about, some of his other numbers look pretty good to me.

The Brewers have gone 8-2 over their last 10 games, earning Craig Counsell the “Manager Card of the Week”.

As I write this the Brewers are in first place, 4 games up on the Cardinals and Pirates and 4.5 on the Cubs.


This week’s 1988 tribute is for Mike Trout, who many say is the best player in baseball.

One can also make the argument that Trout is the best player in the just-concluded week.  From Sunday to Saturday he went 8 for 17 with 3 doubles, 3 homers, 9 runs, 6 RBI and 10 walks.  He got on base for 2/3rd of his plate appearances!


A few weeks ago, something I saw in my internet wanderings told me that the WNBA’s Chicago Sky drafted Diamond DeShields with their first round pick, 3rd overall.

“Diamond DeShields?”, said I… “Gotta be related. GOTTA BE.

Sure enough, she’s the daughter of Delino L. DeShields (who played for five MLB teams from 1990 to 2002) and the sister of Delino D. DeShields (in his 4th year with the Texas Rangers).  Interestingly enough, all three of them were drafted in the first round; Delino the elder by the Expos in 1988 and Delino the younger by the Astros in 2010.


The subject line for this post was meant as a placeholder – the song was playing on the radio when I was looking for a subject line – but then I remembered that the video for Paul Simon’s “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” has cameos by Mickey Mantle and John Madden towards the end, so hey… gotta love that.  Oh, and the slam-dunking “nerd” is Spud Webb.

The video was made for a 1988 greatest hits compilation, 16 years after the song was originally released… in case you were wondering why a video for an early 1970’s song has Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie and Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts.