The Latest Stop On The Kelly Johnson World Domination Tour

Before the season ends, I want to pay tribute to the happy wanderings of Mr. Kelly Andrew Johnson, who began his Major League career as an Atlanta Braves outfielder, then their starting second baseman, and has recently been playing anywhere for anyone.

Kelly Johnson was drafted by the Braves in 2000 and made his debut as an outfielder in 2005.  He missed most of 2006 and came back as a 2nd baseman in 2007.
2009 Topps Kelly Johnson

In December, 2009, he signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent.
2011 Topps Kelly Johnson

In August, 2011 (his “walk year”), he was traded to the Blue Jays for for Aaron Hill and John McDonald. (This is where the fun starts)
2012Topps Kelly Johnson
He became a free agent but re-signed with the Jays.

After the 2012 season, he became a free agent again, this time signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.
2013 Topps Kelly Johnson

After one season in Tampa, he became a free agent again, and signed with the Yankees.
2014 Topps Kelly Johnson

At the 2014 trading deadline, he was traded to the Red Sox for Stephen Drew.
2014 Topps Update Kelly Johnson

One month later, Kelly Johnson and Michael Almanzar were traded to the Orioles for Ivan DeJesus and Jemile Weeks. (This card is a custom, BTW).
2014 Schmeritage Kelly Johnson

When he got traded to the Orioles, he completed the cycle by playing for all five AL East teams.

Over this past offseason, he went back to the Braves, and I held off on this post until after I got my 2015 Topps factory set, thinking that Kelly Johnson would be on one of the 700 cards — but I was mistaken.  We’ve got to wait for Topps Update or Heritage High Numbers to get Kelly Johnson on a 2015 card, so I’m going to repeat the 2009 card to stand in for a 2015 Braves card.
2009 Topps Kelly Johnson

In July the Braves traded Kelly and Juan Uribe to the Mets for two minor league pitchers.
2015 TSR #307 - Kelly Johnson

Just to recap, that’s 8 teams over the past 5 seasons, including all of the teams in the AL East and two out of five in the NL East.  So far this season, he’s played at first, second, third, short, left field, right field and DH (although only one game each as a shortstop and DH).

Just for fun, here’s another custom I’m “reprinting” from last year featuring Kelly Johnson and Kelli Johnson of Comcast SportsNet.
2014 TSR PP-3 Kelly Kelli Johnson
Kelli Johnson’s also been on the move;  this past winter she moved from Comcast SportsNet Houston to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.  Before that, she was with Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic.

You Can’t Spell “Korea Baseball Organization” Without A Couple Of O’s

Is it just me, or has the quality of baseball players going over to Korea significantly improved this winter?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the Kia Tigers had discussions with Robinson Cano, but it seems like the names involved are a bit more notable this year… From a baseball card perspective, there will be players in Korea who have been appearing in Topps sets fairly regularly in the past.

It could be that it just seems notable to me because I’ve seen several of the players when they played for the Orioles.

The most notable former Oriole to go to Korea is Luke Scott, who will be playing for the SK Wyverns.
2012 Topps Luke Scott
Luke peaked in 2010 and has been on the downslope since then, but since when does a guy with 9 years of MLB service, a guy who was a Major League regular for several years, go to the KBO?

Most Orioles fans will remember Josh Bell. He was obtained from the Dodgers in the George Sherrill trade, and was supposed to be the Orioles’ Third Baseman of the future, but he never batted better than .214 in the Majors.2012 Topps Josh Bell
Josh Bell will be playing for the LG Twins next year.

Incidentally, LG is the electronics company. Like Japanese baseball, the teams are owned by corporations which promote themselves through the teams.

The final former Oriole in our trilogy is Félix Pie, will be playing for the Hanwha Eagles…
2011 Topps Felix Pie
Pie was a former top Cubs prospect and even though he’s spent much of the last two seasons in the minors, he had been on the Pirates 40-man roster and asked for his release so he could play in Korea.  I think that’s what started catching my attention – the fact that a couple of the guys going there weren’t castoffs, but guys who were on the 40-man.

The Hanwha Eagles have a pretty cool logo;  I’d wear a cap with this on it:

Hanwha Eagles Logo

It’s not just former Orioles going over to Korea; Jorge Cantu, who has a couple of 100 RBI seasons on his resume, is going to the Doosan Bears.

2011 Topps Update Jorge Cantu

By the way, over on there was an interesting interview with C.J. Nitkowski, who’s pitched in the Majors as well as Japan and Korea.  You can link to it here.

CRY – 1, STK – 0

While we’re on the subject of non-North American leagues, my new favorite game on the weekend is to turn on the English Premier League match and try to figure out the two teams just from the three-letter abbreviation use for the score at the top of the screen.

While I enjoy watching soccer, I’m far from a fan.  Most of my knowledge of the EPL comes from British TV, music and other bits of popular culture. I know the “biggies” like Manchester United and Arsenal, but my expertise goes rapidly downhill from there.

This morning’s score threw me a bit. I guessed that “STK” meant Stoke City, and I turned out to be right… But “CRY”? What the heck is “CRY”?

The match was in the 85th minute, so I waited it out to find that the final score showed Stoke City losing to…

…drum roll please…

Crystal Palace. D’OH! I should’ve gotten that.

“Hey, Mets Fans… Are These Guys Boring You?”

“…Come and talk to us.  We’re from a different country.”

I wouldn’t put it past the Blue Jays to use a Zaphod Beeblebrox pickup line on the Mets faithful.  It occurred to me that, intentionally or not, they’re doing a lot to ensure that the interest of Mets fans ends up directed north of the border.  Think about it…

They’ve got the guy who rose to stardom, became a fan favorite and won a Cy Young with the Mets…
2012 Card #720 - R.A. Dickey Cy Young

They’ve got the guy who was an 4-time All-Star and also a favorite of many Mets fans…
2011 Sticker Jose Reyes

They’ve got the Mets’ 2012 starting catcher…

2011 Sticker Josh Thole

…and one of his backups…
2011 Topps Mike Nickeas

Their new AAA affiliate is the Buffalo Bisons, the Mets top farm team for the past 4 years…

2011 Topps Pro Debut Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Heck, even their manager is a former Met.

1987 Donruss John Gibbons

Their filthy Canadian schemes won’t work on me, though… Not as long as I’m also an Orioles fan.

Well, OK, maybe I’ll root for the Blue Jays, perhaps they can win the Wild Card while the O’s win the division.  But no matter who the Jays acquire, I’m never calling their home ballpark anything but the SkyDome.

College World Series Cinderella: Stony Brook Seawolves

I don’t always follow the College World Series, but Stony Brook is a team that anybody who likes an underdog or is from the Northeast can get behind.  I’m declaring them to be the official CWS team of The Shlabotnik Report.

The Seawolves have made an impressive ascent through college baseball; bear with me while I give you some perspective on how far they’ve come.  I grew up on Long Island, and at the time SUNY Stony Brook was a state school with a large percentage of commuter students, an emphasis on science and technology.  The Division III sports teams went by some team name which I don’t remember because I was barely aware that they had teams.  They’ve since re-branded the teams as Seawolves and have only been Division I since 2000.  This year they beat Miami and other teams to win the Regionals, and then pulled off a major upset by eliminating the host LSU Tigers in the Super Regionals, playing in front of a bigger LSU crowd for that one game than the Seawolves had drawn at home all season.

Aside from the fact that they’ve advanced to the College World Series for the first time in school history, they’re also the first CWS team from the northeast since Maine in 1986 (Mike Bordick played on that team) and the first team from New York State to make the CWS since St. John’s in 1980.  That team included these guys:

Although the roster has a significant number of Long Islanders, the entire northeast is represented, as there are players from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, other parts of New York state, as well as 4 players from Ontario, Canada.

Seven Seawolves were taken in the MLB draft, including OF Travis Jankowski (drafted 44th overall by the Padres with a supplemental pick) and C Pat Cantwell (Taken in the 3rd round by the Rangers.)  The one Major Leaguer to have played for Stony Brook is Joe Nathan, who donated a large sum of money to the baseball program;  not coincidentally, the Seawolves play their home games at Joe Nathan Field.

If you ask a Stony Brook student, faculty member or alumnus “What is a Seawolf?”, the answer you will get is apparently “I am a Seawolf!”

Stony Brook, NY is on the north shore of Long Island, about a 55 mile drive from midtown Manhattan (for those of you who think that the entirety of Long Island is a 20 minute train ride away from NYC).

Photo Cliché #2 – Ryan Hanigan

Yesterday I introduced a new series of posts illustrating how card companies latch on to a particular type of photo for certain players.  While updating my team binders the other day, I discovered another example of card companies beating a particular photo to death… Ryan Hanigan, Catcher In Action!

I hope you don’t want to know what Ryan Hanigan looks like, because about all you can tell is that he’s Caucasian.  Wikipedia says he’s one of two active MLB players born in Washington D.C., and Baseball Reference seems to bear that out (the other one is the Giants’ Emmanuel Burriss).

So, for  Ryan Hanigan, that’s 4 cards, 4 defensive action shots in full catcher’s gear, with mask on.

Photo Cliché #1, Bronson Arroyo: Leg Kick or Not Leg Kick

Card companies sometimes get caught up in visual clichés…  They get so hung up on a particular trait of a player that they just keep repeating what is essentially the same photo over and over again.  As long as I’m going through my cards to bring focus back to my collection, I thought it might be fun to track certain players and see how pervasive that cliché is.

The first couple of cards are for Bronson Arroyo, let’s take a look at his 2011 Topps Card (Diamond Anniversary Edition!  WooooHooooo!!!!):

A horizontal card featuring his leg kick.  Topps loooooooooooooves his leg kick, and I want to say that the majority of his cards feature his leg kick from some angle.
Here’s his 2010 Topps card, and another leg kick.

Finally, here’s a 2008 Topps Heritage card and…  WHAT THE –?  It’s a portrait!  What’s up with THAT?

So, as I run across these for Arroyo and other players, I’ll be keeping a running total of the clichés.  Coming up soon, I’ll be featuring a newly-discovered cliché involving another Cincinnati Red.

Bronson Arroyo cliché Totals:  3 cards, 2 leg kicks, 1 portrait.

2011 Topps Update Legend Shortprint – Tom Seaver

Usually when I pull one of these legend shortprints my reaction is “Yeah, whatever, at least I can get something for it on COMC”.  But when it’s Tom Seaver, that’s another story… even when it’s Tom Seaver in an ugly White Sox unform.   Unlike a lot of these legends, I remember Tom Terrific as a player, and I was anguished when the Mets traded him in 1977 and again in 1984 when they lost him in the free agent compensation draft.

2011 Topps Update Seaver SP #US85

No COMC for this beauty!