A Clearer Perspective On the Mets And Orioles

I’ll admit that, coming down the stretch, I didn’t have high expectations of the Mets or the Orioles.  Both teams had obvious issues, neither team exactly strolled into a postseason slot.  Even so, it was still disappointing that they both lost in the Wild Card game.

The Mets had a number of key players who weren’t around by the end of the season – Matt Harvey, David Wright, Neil Walker, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz – while Lucas Duda missed significant time to injury.

Jay Bruce was acquired at the trade deadline and struggled for most of his time with the Mets.  He did seem to be coming out of his funk towards the end of the season, we’ll hope that this is a promising sign for next year.

In the middle of August the Mets were under .500 and in 3rd place.  I wasn’t the only Mets fan who was less than optimistic at this point.

But the Mets got production from some unexpected players, including pitcher Robert Gsellman, who bailed out an ineffective Jon Niese in his first game, and then as a starter went 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA.

Seth Lugo, who went 5-1 as a starter from August 19th on, got wins against the Cardinals, Marlins and Nationals.

Considering everything the Mets were up against, I think they did very well to make the postseason at all.

…And perhaps as importantly, to finish with a better record (and a slightly longer season) than the Yankees (84-78) and last year’s World Champion Royals (81-81).

As for the Orioles, I think this one fact says a lot about the O’s season:  Out of 8 pitchers with 10 or more starts, on a team that went 89-73, there were only two pitchers (Chris Tillman & Kevin Gausman) who had a winning record and only 3 (Tillman, Gausman and Bundy) who had an ERA of 4.02 or lower.

The offense was fine as long as they kept hitting home runs.  This team isn’t tremendously well-constructed and it was just a matter of time before it would catch up with them.

In fact, if it were not for the efforts of skip Satsuki Fujisawa, they would not have even gotten a Silver in the women’s world championship…
…Oh, wait, this is the wrong post for that.  (Damn Quality Control department.)

The team did get an impressive season from Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo and Zach Britton…

…as well as some promising Major League time from young guys like Joey Rickard and Trey Mancini.

The Mets should be back, unless deGrom, Harvey and Matz don’t come back healthy.  Yoenis Cespedes may opt out of his contract, and I’m not sure that Jay Bruce is the guy to replace him, but we’ll see what happens.

Meanwhile, the Orioles have several free agents including Matt Wieters and MLB home run king Mark Trumbo.  I think Wieters will be elsewhere next year, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing… The money can probably be spent better elsewhere.  Trumbo, I’m not sure what will happen with him.  Playing in Baltimore was clearly a good thing for him, you’d like to think the O’s and Trumbo’s agent could work something out.

OK, let’s close out the post and the season with two more Joe Shlabotnik inserts.



This may or may not wrap up the 2016 TSR set. I’ll be back next Sunday with more customs, but at this point I honestly don’t know what form they’ll take. I do have a couple of more Shlabotnik inserts…

WBC Prototype #2:  I Really Like Who Israel Has Coming Off The Bench

The World Baseball Classic is rolling around again next March, and while I’m not a huge fan, I do enjoy the opportunity to watch competitive baseball early in the year.  I’ve been thinking that it would be fun to devote a small set of customs to it, and to leave the design of the set open to nominations followed by an online vote.

Last week I shared the first prototype, based on a nominated design… But I have to admit that this week’s is self-nominated.  I was organizing cards the other night, looked at my binder of 1980 Topps and said “Hmmm… That would work…”

When I was looking for a photo to use, I went through photos from the recent WBC qualifier round in Brooklyn, and once I saw this picture of Cody Decker from a post-game celebration, I knew which picture I had to use…


I said (to the empty room) “Is he carrying a ‘Mensch On A Bench’?  That’s awesome!”

For those of you who are currently saying “Huh?”…

  • “Mensch” is a Yiddish word that literally means “man”, but is used to describe a good, honorable person, someone of integrity.
  • The Mensch On A Bench is a doll and a book that is essentially a Jewish take on the “Elf On The Shelf”… only not as creepy.

I’m not Jewish, but having grown up in a middle-class suburb of New York City I have an appreciation of Jewish-American culture and I love the Israel baseball team having a Mensch On A Bench as the unofficial mascot.

Apologies to Cody Decker, this is more a picture of the Mensch than of Cody… but I’ll do what I can to get him a better custom card when my WBC set goes live.

Getting back the the whole prototype thing…  On the surface, 1980 Topps is a little more mainstream than I had originally been thinking, but it does have potential, so it will be part of the voting that will take place……. sometime…….. before March.

If there’s a vintage, semi-vintage or not-really-vintage-at-all card design you’d like to nominate for this custom WBC set, leave a comment.  Three suggestions:

1 – Oddball sets are most definitely welcome.

2 – It doesn’t have to be a baseball design, so long as it works as a baseball set (i.e. no goalposts, hockey sticks or basketballs incorporated into the design).

3 – I’m shying away from anything that has team logos, mainly because I’m not sure what I would substitute for those.

I’m currently working on a 1986 Topps prototype, and welcome any other suggestions!

2016 TSR: Yakety Yak! Custom Wax

The subject line popped in my head when I started this post… And who am I to argue with the random functioning of my brain?

…Go tell your hoodlum friends outside
You ain’t got time to take a ride
Yakety Yak!
Don’t talk back.

OK, let’s get on to the titular custom wax (hee hee… ‘titular’)


I’ve played fantasy baseball for at least a dozen years, and one of the things I enjoy about it is that, by the end of each season, there’s always a player for whom I gain a profound appreciation.  This year, that player is Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez.
The main reason I picked him up was because he has eligibility at 2B, 3B, SS and OF and was putting up good numbers… But the longer I had him on my team, the more I appreciated the consistent numbers he puts up and the fact that I never know where he’s going to get plugged into my lineup, but he will be in my lineup.  Regular second baseman is day-to-day?  Move Jose to 2nd.  Outfielder is slumping?  Move Jose his spot.

Jose is 2nd in the Majors in doubles and top 10 in the American League in batting average, on-base percentage and stolen bases.  Another thing I really appreciate in this age of all-or-nothing batters, Jose is among the MLB leaders with a 9.0 AB/SO rate.

Here’s a new insert set for Series Four: “Shlabotnik Special”, which aims to be along the lines of Topps combo cards and the Fleer “Superstar Special” cards from the 1980’s.
I love this photo, and even though Albert Pujols is standing on a base, you get a good idea of how much bigger than Jose Altuve he is.

What the–?!?!
Aw man… I spoke to Quality Control last week about letting other sports slip into these baseball packs. I’m going to have to have another word with them.

I’ve done a fair number of “Ceremonial First Pitch” cards this season, but John McEnroe is notable for an unusual reason (among these first pitches, anyway).
Not only did McEnroe get it over the plate, the dude put some serious heat on the ball.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you can check it out on YouTube here.

This next one is a last-minute addition, the 2nd entry in the “Father & Son” TSRchives insert.
Jeff Shaw was your average workaday swingman until the Reds converted him to a closer at the age of 30.  194 Saves, 2 All-Star Games and a Rolaids Relief Award later, it would appear that the Reds were on to something.

BTW, a couple of months ago I was talking about players making their first or last appearance in a uniform at an All-Star game… Well, Jeff Shaw was one of those guys,  making his Dodger debut in the Mid-Summer Classic.

Travis Shaw took the 3rd base position away from Pablo Sandoval in Spring Training, and has played a significant role in the postseason-bound Red Sox season. In the Shlabotnik household, Travis Shaw is shortened to “Travishaw!”, but his popular nickname is “The Mayor Of Ding Dong City”. I saw a couple of references to this being a compliment regarding his ability to hit “ding dongs” (home runs)…  which is better than my interpretation, based on my understanding of a ‘ding dong’ being a fool (in which case, one generally wouldn’t appreciate being named the Mayor of Ding Dong City).


Finally, here’s the Joe Shlabotnik insert for this pack.
…Such an honor to get pie’d in the face by Adam Jones!

2016 TSR: The Mayhem Which Murphy Hath Wrought

Series Four is out on the shelves… A little past the release date, but you should be able to find them in fine virtual stores everywhere.

If you’re not a Mets or Nationals fan, you may not be aware of the severe damage that Daniel Murphy has done to his former team this season. I, for one, am glad that the schedule does not allow Murphy to inflict any more injury this year… unless the teams meet in the playoffs, anyway.
The Mets and Nats played 19 games this season, and Murphy got a hit in every one of them. In those 19 games he batted .413, had a slugging percentage of .773, 6 doubles, 7 homers, 14 runs and 21 RBI.

This next thing I’m going to do is statistical B.S., but I think it helps put these numbers into an interesting context. If you extrapolate those numbers over a 162 game season, Murphy would have 264 hits, 51 doubles, 60 homers, 119 runs and 179 RBI.

To put another slant on it, in 107 career games against the Nationals, Murph had 19 doubles, 6 homers, 40 runs and 51 RBI.  This seasons’ numbers against the Mets, extrapolated over those same 107 games, would give him 34 doubles, 39 homers, 79 runs and 118 RBI. A bit of an uptick.

Thanks, Murph.

If I’m not mistaken, Matt Wieter’s very first retail Topps card will be out once Heritage High Numbers hits the shelves this week. Wieters had signed an exclusive trading card contract years ago, so he’d been missing from Topps products for his whole career (with the exception of “wall art” sold online, because those aren’t cards).
Wieters is a free agent this winter, so this upcoming Hi #’s card could end up being one of very few Topps cards which depicts him as an Oriole.

Thanks, Matt.

Back in May, Miss Washington 2016 Kelsey Schmidt threw out the first pitch before a Mariners game. I know some of you guys get restless if there’s not a pretty woman pictured every now and then.
Kelsey has a B.A. in Biology and is a pre-doctoral fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. For those who don’t know, Fred Hutchinson was a Tigers pitcher and manager of the Reds who lost his battle with lung cancer at the age of 45.

Show of hands… At the beginning of the season, who thought that Rick Porcello was going to be a 20-game winner?
Yeah, that’s what I thought. Porcello was 9-15 last season, but this year he’s 20-4 with a 3.12 ERA and leads the league with a 1.002 WHIP.

The Red Sox got Porcello in a trade with Detroit, and the key player given up was Yoenis Cespedes. The key piece the Tigers got from the Mets for Cespedes was breakout rookie pitcher Michael Fullmer, so I’m guessing Tiger fans aren’t completely upset with how those deals worked out.

Aw, crap… How did this get into this pack?
*SIGH*… I’m going to have to have another talk with Quality Control…

Well, as long as it’s here I’ll mention that the World Cup of Hockey is coming up, and I’m really curious as to how fired up players get about playing for “Team Europe”, which is made up of European players who aren’t from the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia or Sweden.  The uniforms are kinda interesting, anyway.

Finally, here’s the Joe Shlabotnik insert promised on the wrapper.
Just like Alfred Hitchcock always made his way into each of his movies, I find my way into each of my sets.  You’ll be seeing a few more of these as the set wraps up.

2016 TSR: A Bit Under The Weather

I felt a bit off when I woke up this morning, and it’s only gotten worse as the morning has gone along… So instead of following through on my plans to make another couple of customs and write more text, I’m going to keep this short and head back to bed for a while.

There are a pretty fair number of Major Leaguers currently in the game with fathers who also played in the Majors. While these pairings are generally not on the “Ken Griffey Sr. & Jr.” level of notoriety, I thought it’d be fun to do a number of “Father & Son” custom cards.

So far, however, I’ve only made one for Tom & Neil Walker. This card is based on the “Father & Son” subset from 1976 Topps.
2016 TSRchives 76TF&S-1 Tom & Neil Walker
Aside from the fact that Neil Walker is with my Mets, I did this one first because I already had a scan of a Tom Walker card. Before I make any more of these, I have to find and scan the appropriate cards in my collection. I should have at least one more by next Sunday.

It’s that time of year when Olympians have come home from Rio de Janeiro and are being honored with ceremonial first pitches. Swimmer Katie Ledecky came home with four gold medals and one silver, and was honored by the Washington Nationals.
2016 TSR CFP-13 Katie Ledecky
She also got Bryce Harper to hold her medals while she threw the first pitch, and I was going to make a custom of that as well… but, as I mentioned, I’m not feeling up to it. I’ll have something for next Sunday.

I had one more custom lined up, a “2016 Season Highlights” card… but at the last minute I realized that one word in the text was embarrassingly misspelled… So you’ll have to wait until next Sunday for that as well.

Before I go, I have a small announcement to make (and, thankfully, one which was written earlier in the week when I could easily form complete sentences)…

Make a nomination for the design of the 2017 TSR World Baseball Classic set!

The World Baseball Classic returns this coming March.  I’ve been thinking that it would be fun to devote a small set of customs to this international event.

I had started to think about which vintage, semi-vintage or not-terribly-vintage card design would work well for a set like this… but then I had an idea that it could be fun to open it up to nominations, and then once I’ve got a couple of prototypes in hand, set up some sort of vote.

If there’s a particular card design you’d like to see made into a custom WBC set, leave a comment below.

I’m going to make three suggestions:

1 – Oddball sets are most definitely welcome.

2 – It doesn’t necessarily have to be a baseball design, so long as it works for a baseball set.

3 – I’m shying away from anything that has team logos, because I’m not sure what I would substitute for those.  Flags?  Anyway, not ruling it out, just shying away (right now).

Leave a comment!  Make your case!  Maybe we can have some voting this fall where we can feel positive about the candidates!

2016 TSR: Beltran, Vedder, And Thoughts On Top-Heavy Checklists

This is going to be something of a quickie post today… My custom-making feels like it’s winding down for the season, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop… Just that I will cut back on the ones I post. Fr’instance, I did a custom for Ichiro’s 3000th hit, but it wasn’t all that visually interesting so I didn’t post it.

As a semi-collector of Carlos Beltran, I was happy that he got traded away from the Bronx. It’s hard to root for anyone when they’re wearing those navy pinstripes.
2016 TSR #330 - Carlos Beltran traded
Texas may not have been my top choice, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Eddie Vedder recently threw out the first pitch at a Cubs game, and while I’m no fan of Pearl Jam, a recent motivational phrase I’ve latched on to is “Dare to pander”.
2016 TSR CFP-12 Eddie Vedder
Truth be told, Eddie Vedder doesn’t make me think of “Even Flow”, “Daughter” or “Better Man”… Eddie Vedder makes me think of the ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic song “My Baby’s In Love With Eddie Vedder”.

…But my girl can’t get enough of his sullen demeanor
Like he’s some big tortured genius and I’m some kind of wiener…

It does appear that Mr. Vedder is wearing a Seattle Raniers t-shirt, so he gets some bonus points for that.

Moving on….

Yesterday’s post from Off Hiatus Baseball got me thinking a little bit… Topps checklists are very much top-heavy and focus overly much on big names, hyped prospects and big cities… but making custom cards has given me a tiny little insight into some of the issues with photo availability.

Now back in the day, Topps would have their own photographers… or at least subcontractors that they hired… and if a photographer were going to a Braves game, they could say “Hey Frank… Get me some photos of Bruce Benedict and Biff Pocoroba!”

Now, however, Topps gets most, if not all, of their photos from services like Getty Images. Maybe Topps can still put in requests to get pictures of guys like Kevin Jepsen or Ramon Cabrera, but if they’re limited to what’s available through Getty, then that brings in a whole slew of issues if they want to get bigger checklists.

Now, guys like Ichiro… You could make a 750-card set out of the available Ichiro images, and I’m not being facetious on that. There must be a big demand for Ichiro pictures, because any time the Marlins play, there’s at least a couple of Ichiro photos taken, even if it’s just Ichiro sitting on the bench or Ichiro swinging a bat before the game or Ichiro trying to remember whether he locked his car when he got to the ballpark.

There also seems to be a significant difference between the number of photos generated from, let’s say, a Nationals/Dodgers game as opposed to an interleague Reds/Rays matchup.

After a while, you start to see that it’s the same 150-200 guys featured in the photos over and over again, and you just don’t see as much of the rest of the players.

And to make things worse, often when you see the players who aren’t in the top 20%, the photos are…

OK, before I get into this any further, I have to apologize in advance to Eric Campbell, Hansel Robles and Josh Edgin, but the following is being done to prove a point.

…For the other 80%, the photos are often taken to fill in the narrative of that day’s game, and not necessarily of those guys in particular.

As a result, you often get photos of guys reacting to striking out…
2016 TSRchives 90T-1 Eric Campbell

…or giving up a home run…
2016 TSRchives 90T-2 Hansel Robles

…Or being just barely visible in the photo.
2016 TSRchives 90T-3 Josh Edgin

So just to play “Topps Advocate” for a moment… Even if they wanted to do a set that represented a large percentage of Major Leaguers, their hands might be tied by the images available to them.

…MIGHT BE… I can’t emphasize enough that this is conjecture, for all I know Topps can do anything they want, but instead insist on inflicting us with countless cards of Clayton Kershaw and Bryce Harper, all while laughing manically and rolling around in big piles of cash.

OK, so that wasn’t as quickie as I thought, but I never know how much I have to say until I’ve said it.

Have a good Sunday, everybody! Get in your Olympics while you can…

2016 TSR: Alex Rodriguez In Carbonite

OK, so the first custom takes a little bit of explaining.

This past Friday, I was looking at a blogroll when I saw a post from The Lost Collector titled “Goodbye, Alex”, but my brain interpreted the accompanying thumbnail as a picture of Han Solo frozen in Carbonite (from The Empire Strikes Back, for those non-Star Wars people out there).

What on earth does A-Rod have to do with Han Solo in Carbonite?

As it turns out, the post was a very nice tribute to A-Rod, and the thumbnail was of a 2015 Topps “Etched In History” insert, a medallion-y card that has nothing to do with Han Solo or being frozen in Carbonite.  You can read the post and see the card here.

I was going to leave a comment on the post about my misconception, but I wasn’t sure it fit the tone of the post… So I figured I’d say something here.

Then I got wondering if there has ever been a Star Wars card set with a “Carbonite” insert.  Seems like a natural to me.

Then my brain just went the rest of the way and I said “I should just do an Alex Rodriguez In Carbonite insert for the heck of it”.

So I did.
2016 TSR Carbonite #1 - Alex Rodriguez
The backstory I invented for this insert is that A-Rod’s agent had him frozen just in case the Marlins or some other team comes calling.

This next custom insert was not planned in advanced, but seems too good to pass up. It seems that William Shatner is in Boston this weekend for that city’s Comic Con, and while there he threw out the first pitch.
2016 TSR CFP-11 William Shatner
I would like to point out that Shatner is 85 years old, but threw the ball over the plate. Yes, he was standing in front of the mound, but… 85 years old!

I hope I still have a pulse at 85.

Among the other celebrity guests at Boston Comic Con (which ends today, so you’ve likely already missed them) are/were John Barrowman, Gillian Anderson, Jenna Coleman, Karen Gillan and Elizabeth Henstridge.

Jumping back to Mr. Rodriguez, his departure contributed to a new wave of rookies in the Yankees lineup.  In yesterday’s game, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge both hit homers in their first MLB at-bats;  this is the first time this has happened in MLB history, and the homers came back-to-back, no less.
2016 TSR #267 - Aaron Judge
Judge is a big boy… 6’7″, 275 lbs. He’s also wearing #99, which I love. Hey if all the good numbers are retired, why settle for a number in the 40’s or 50’s? Go for the gusto and grab that #99!

I like Mark Melancon, so it saddens me to see him in a Nationals uniform.
2016 TSR #329 - Mark Melancon traded
The Nats don’t have the best track record with closers, at least not lately.  Last year they jettisoned Drew Storen for Jonathan Papelbon… but you could at least blame that on Matt Williams’ questionable handling of relievers.  This year, the Nats dumped Papelbon for Mark Melancon.  Who will Melancon get dumped for in 2017?

As I mentioned earlier this week, Jay Bruce came to the Mets at the expense of Shlabotnik-favorite prospect Dilson Herrera.  After two weeks, Jay Bruce has done very little to make me feel better about this trade.
2016 TSR #327 - Jay Bruce Traded
In 11 games with the Mets, Bruce…

G’day, Bruce!

…Bruce has batted .159 with 2 homers, 3 runs and 5 RBI, with no doubles or triples.  In  his defense, I can’t help but wonder if this team has brought him down rather than the intended objective of his bringing the team up.

Last week I’d mentioned that the Astros threw back to 1986, but I didn’t have time to make a custom. I couldn’t let those rainbow throwbacks go to waste, so…
2016 TSRchives 86T-8 Alex Bregman
Bregman wins bonus points for the stirrups.

The Rangers also wore mid-1980’s road uniforms… but honestly, those uniforms are so uninteresting that I couldn’t bring myself to make a custom of those.

As long as we’re talking about achievements in Major League debuts, I have a last-minute addition…
2016 TSR #268 - Gabriel Ynoa
Mets pitcher Gabriel Ynoa earned the win in his Major League debut last night by pitching a perfect 11th inning with two K’s before the Mets won in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 11th.

Ynoa was the first Mets pitcher to get a win in his MLB debut since Kenny Greer in 1993.

…And this Mets fan of 40+ years said “Who?”

I felt better after I looked up Mr. Greer.  His debut came on September 29th, two weeks after being acquired from the Yankees, and it was his only regular season appearance for the Mets.  Greer pitched a perfect 17th inning with two K’s – sound familiar? – as the Mets beat the Cardinals 1-0.

I found only one card of Mr. Greer in my collection.
1994 Fleer ProCards Kenny Greer
As far as I can tell, he never made it into any nationally-issued sets.  He’d pitch 8 games of relief for the Giants in 1995, and that was the end of his MLB career.

For Mets fans in 1993, there was good news and bad news about that game.

Good news:  That 1-0 win was the second game of a 6-game winning streak to end the season.

Bad news:  The Mets had already lost 103 games.

At any rate, I managed to find it in me to forgive myself for not remembering a pitcher who’s only Mets appearance came in the 17th inning of a late September game during a season where the Mets lost 103 games.


We’ve got a new Topps Now card with the biggest print run; Ichiro’s 3000th hit card sold 11,550 copies. While it’s a great accomplishment to have a card of, if it had been a a flagship insert which had a press run of 11,550 cards, how much would you pay for that? Naturally, you don’t know the print run before you buy a Topps Now card, but it just seems to underline that Topps has gotten themselves into something good.

There’s also a lowest print run on the books since the last time I checked (and it’s apparently been a while since I checked): Card 257, “Chase d’Arnaud breaks 0-0 tie with two out, walk-off single”. This highlight happened on 7/17 and the print run was just 180. Chase d’Arnaud fans are getting their money’s worth out of that one!

2016 TSR: A “Traded” Subset And More Throwbacks

The MLB trading deadline was this past Monday, and this year’s didn’t disappoint with all the craziness surrounding it… Some of the craziness happened, some didn’t. For the trades that did happen, I wanted to give everybody a look at what some of the newly-relocated players look like in their new uniforms.

Being a child of the mid-1970’s, I’m rarely satisfied with just having an updated card… I want the card to clearly show that a trade took place, but I ain’t talkin’ ’bout no fool O-Pee-Chee line of black text.

I wanted something colorful and “Traded-y”, so after playing around with it for a while, the results are what you’ll see on a number of customs in today’s post.

Although it wasn’t a fire sale, the Yankees raised more than a few eyebrows by actually being sellers at the deadline. The first transaction made was sending Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for a reliever (Adam Warren) and a number of prospects.
2016 TSR #321 - Aroldis Chapman Traded
The Yankees traded prospects to get Chapman, they flipped him for some different prospects. A few years down the road, it’ll be interesting to see how the two sets of prospects compare.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had just shipped Adam Warren to the Cubs last December, and here they were getting him back again. In other similar re-acquisitions, the Mets got Jonathan Niese after half a season in Pittsburgh, the Orioles got Steve Pearce after half a season in Tampa Bay, the Pirates got Antonio Bastardo after half a season with the Mets, and the Mets tried to re-acquire Kelly Johnson from the Braves, only to find that they’d already done that earlier this season. (Insert rim shot here)

No one could’ve faulted the Yankees if they stopped after trading Chapman, but they also shipped Andrew Miller off to Cleveland. No more “No Run DMC” for the Yankees, but I’m sure the teams’ broadcasters will find something else to talk about.
2016 TSR #325 - Andrew Miller traded
The worst part of these trades (for me, anyway) is that the Yankees got some quality prospects in exchange.

After vetoing a trade to Cleveland (the Indians were part of his no-trade clause), Jonathan Lucroy found himself in Texas.
2016 TSR #326 - Jonathan Lucroy traded
The Rangers have certainly made it clear that they’re going for it.

Just a little bit lower in the AL West standings, the A’s made it clear that they’re not going for it. Josh Reddick found himself heading for the contending Dodgers, along with pitcher Rich Hill.
2016 TSR #322 - Josh Reddick traded
Perhaps the most notable aspect to Reddick’s acquisition is what it allowed to Dodgers to do, which is send Yasiel Puig to AAA. It’ll be interesting to see if Puig takes this as a challenge or an insult (or both, I suppose).

I seem to remember that a certain reader of this blog is a fan of Billy Burns, and while I wasn’t sure that this fandom would follow Burns to KC, I figured I’d do a custom anyway.
2016 TSR #324 - Billy Burns traded
If Billy Burns in Royal blue is too painful for certain people to handle, I promise I’ll make it up to you a little further down.

To the surprise of nobody, Matt Kemp also found himself on the move, except in his case he’s going from 4th place to 5th place.
2016 TSR #323 - Matt Kemp traded
To me, the most notable part of this trade can’t be shown on a traded card. The Padres got Cuban 3B/OF Hector Olivera, whom they promptly designated for assignment. What does it say when neither the Braves or Padres want a player?

I have some more “Traded” cards I plan on doing, once I find some better images than what I’ve already found.

Yesterday, the Athletics and Cubs threw back to 1981 and while the throwback uniforms are cool, it looks like it would’ve been more fun to see the game on TV than to watch it in person; Comcast SportsNet California had a throwback broadcast, including 1981 graphics and yellow network blazers for the broadcast team… there’s an article about it here.

In 1981 I was a teenager and collected all three sets that came out that year. When I realized I had an opportunity to do 1981-style customs, I didn’t hesitate in selecting the Fleer option for the job.
2016 TSRchives 81F-2 Coco Crisp
1981 Topps was fine, 1981 Topps was Topps, but 1981 Fleer was my favorite set that year. One of these days I’m going to write this “1981 Fleer Appreciation” post I’ve been tossing about in my head for a long time.

The Cubs were also dressed appropriately, wearing the sartorially questionable powder blue with white pinstripes road design.  This was a fun matchup of uniforms, even if it wasn’t one that would’ve happened at the time (well, outside of Spring Training, anyway).
2016 TSRchives 81F-1 Jake Arrieta

The A’s might have looked better, but the Cubs played better as they shut out the Athletics 4-0.

There was another throwback game yesterday as the Astros and Rangers threw back to 1986… but I ran out of time this morning so you’ll have to wait until next week for some Astro rainbow goodness.

2016 TSR: Sundry Sunday

…Because “Sundry Sunday” sounds a hell of a lot better than “I only made two new customs this week and the rest are customs I’ve been meaning to share for varying amounts of time”.

I just came up with “Sundry Sunday”, but I quite like it. Must keep this in mind…

Last night, Keegan-Michael Key threw out the first pitch at the Dodgers game. He’s been doing the talk show circuit to promote the new movie “Don’t Think Twice” – which I think I’ll have to check out because the cast features several people I like, plus it’s gotten good reviews.
2016 TSR CFP-10 Keegan-Michael Key
Key is possibly best known as half of Key & Peele… And I created another custom of Heisman winner Jammie Jammie-Jammie, one of my favorite players from Key & Peele’s East/West Collegiate Bowl.
2016 TSRchives 72TFB-3 Jammie Jammie-Jammie
For technical reasons I don’t do embedded videos, but you can check out the 2013 East West Collegiate Bowl here.

This TSRchives custom was built around the photo… it looked so much like a photo from 1973 Topps that I could not resist.
2016 TSRchives 73T-1 Michael Conforto
From left to right that’s Michael Conforto, Asdrubal Cabrera and David Wright…. Wright’s presence tells you that this was not a recent photo.

This next photo caught my eye because… OK, I’ll be honest, Morgan Pressel’s skirt caught my eye, because that’s what this skirt was designed to do. Anyway, I stumbled upon it shortly after making a “Faux Set” template for another post, so I figured “What the heck”.
2016 TSR Faux Set Morgan Pressel
I don’t follow golf at all, so all I can tell you about Morgan Pressel is that she’s an American, she’s currently ranked 30th in the world, and her career earnings are a lot higher than my career earnings.

Proof that Chris Sale is not opposed to throwbacks in general:
2016 TSRchives 22AC-2 Chris Sale

Wrapping up with an All-Star custom for Mark Melancon, who was recently traded to the Nationals, a move that left me disappointed and encouraged.
2016 TSR #353 - Mark Melancon All-Star
Disappointed: I like Melancon, and I’m not happy that he’s with the Nats now.

Encouraged: I’m starting to wonder if the Nationals front office is a little deficient on understanding the whole “managing people” thing. Last year, Drew Storen was their closer and they picked up Jonathan Papelbon, which did a number on Storen’s confidence and also brought in a guy who would have an (*ahem*) altercation with Face-Of-The-Franchise Bryce Harper. So this year, they’ve decided that changing their closer midseason worked out so well that they’re going to do it again.  Good luck with that, guys…. (and by “Good luck with that”, I really mean “Let’s Go Mets!”)

2016 TSR: Series Three Already? Where Has The Time Gone?

Yesterday morning, before I got out of bed, I was wondering if I should make the next “pack” of custom cards be for Series Three, given that it will have All-Stars and such.  I was thinking it was too early, but then I realized that it’s halfway through the season and we should be halfway through the four series.  My half-awake brain wasn’t convinced, so I worked out the six-week periods that each series should be out in virtual stores….  Series One is opening day to mid-May, Series Two is mid-May to….the beginning of July.  I’m actually a little late.  Then again, Series Two was a little late,so I guess I’m OK.

Anyway, welcome to Series Three.
2016 TSR Series Three wrapper
Let’s tear in.

The Rockies are 6 games under .500 and 6 games out of a wild card spot. I’ve heard rumors that Walt Weiss is on the hot seat.
2016 TSR MC-4 Walt Weiss
Walt’s expression seems to have an element of “I’m too old for this crap” to it.  As I’ve said before, I like photos of managers that involve more than just standing in the dugout, even if involves “I’m too old for this crap”.

Walt’s first name reminds me of something I’ve been pondering lately:  All of the names that I grew up with and which have fallen out of favor. Walter is one. I had a couple of Walt’s in my class. How many kids do you know named Walter? Karen? Gary? Linda? Bruce? Nancy? I know a bunch of women named Nancy, the youngest is in her early 40’s.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just a thing… An observation of how things change.


For those of you who missed it… Drew Pomeranz had a great first half with the Padres, he made the All-Star team, he was cheered by the hometown fans… and what nobody realized at the time is that the All-Star game was his swan song with the Padres; He was traded to Boston before the All-Star break ended. Something about that story made me think that a 1976 Topps Traded custom was in order.
2016 TSRchives 76T-7 Drew Pomeranz
I’m almost positive I’ve heard this kind of story before, where a player’s last (or maybe first) appearance with a team was at the All-Star game. Can anybody think of another player like that?  I have a feeling that the answer is going to be facepalmingly obvious.

Just to add a little element of… something… to the Drew Pomeranz thing:  Since the AL was the home team in an NL park (because the NL is hosting the game several years in a row), the Padres were wearing a one-off grey version of their home uniform.  So Pomeranz’ last appearance in a Padres uniform had him wearing a Padres uniform he’d never worn before.  Fun stuff, right?

While watching the player introductions at the All-Star game, I was mildly surprised to see Ian Desmond included.
2016 TSR #301 - Ian Desmond
…Not that he doesn’t deserve it, he’s batting .316 and on a pace to set career highs in a couple of categories. It just surprised me because I hadn’t been aware that he was playing so well. I guess adjusting to playing the outfield and playing in a different league didn’t take a huge toll on his offense.

Speaking of first half performance and All-Stars, here’s a guy I fully realized was an All-Star going in…
2016 TSR #351 - Daniel Murphy All-Star
Any Mets fan will tell you how much Murphy is killing his old team. He’s hit more homers against the Mets this year than he hit against the Nats in his 7 years with the Mets. In 13 games aainst the Mets, Murphy is batting .423 with 7 homers, 21 RBI and an .885 slugging percentage. To help drive home how crazy that is, if you extrapolate that over 162 games he’d have 87 homers, 261 RBI, 137 runs, 274 hits, and 37 doubles. On the plus side, he’d also have no stolen bases and be caught stealing 12 times.

Oh, I should mention that the reason that Ian Desmond’s card didn’t say “2016 All-Star” on it is because the photo wasn’t from the All-Star game.  That was the ground rules I set going into this.  If TSR were a real card company I couldn’t get away with a rule like that just for sheer logistical reasons, but since I won’t be making an All-Star card for EVERYBODY, then that’s the way it goes.

This photo doesn’t capture the shininess, but Matt Wieters was wearing chrome-y shinguards… Shinguards that were so shiny they were like mirrors.
2016 TSR #352 - Matt Wieters All-Star
I wonder if they were refractors…

The Mets had three representatives at the game… and none of them played. Noah Syndergaard wasn’t going to pitch anyway because of concerns about his arm. Terry Collins said he was holding Colon back for a potential extra-innings long-relief session, and Jeurys Familia in hopes of getting a save. Didn’t quite work out that way.
2016 TSR #357 - Familia Syndergaard Colon All-Star
But I wanted to get them on a card, even if it was all three of them.  This image reminds us that “Thor” has a full 7 inches on “Big Sexy”.

The first pitch was thrown by Randy Jones, which I thought was cool. In 1975 and 1976, Jones was a dominant pitcher, winning 20 and 22 games, leading the league in K’s in 1975, winning the Cy Young in 1976 and finishing second to Tom Seaver in 1975 Cy Young voting.
2016 TSR CFP-9 Randy Jones
…And I just realized that when I swapped out the border on this card (going to the “First Pitch” border with more white space at the top), I inadvertently cropped out the baseball… You can just barely see it under the word “GAME”.


The Angels are in the middle of a “1970’s Weekend”, which means late 1970’s throwbacks for them… but sadly, no late 1970’s throwbacks for the visiting White Sox. Well, maybe it’s not “sadly”, I’ve always hated that “leisure suit” uniform they wore, no matter how iconic they’ve become. I set out to make a series of customs out of the two games so far, but I won’t use any photos that involve batting, because the Angels are wearing their red helmets with their throwbacks and it ruins the effect.  That limits me to photos of the Angels either in the dugout or out on the field, and for now, we’ll get a candid shot of Ji-Man Choi, done up 1978 style.
2016 TSRchives 78T-3 Ji-Man Choi
For some reason, when Majestic does throwback pullovers, they ALWAYS get the collar wrong. This collar is too wide, and the red stripe is WAY too wide. Other than that, it’s a pretty good job.

This is a fun time of year to make customs… All of the All-Star festivities, plus players getting traded before the July 31’s deadline. I’ll be back with more next Sunday!