Custom Card Sunday: Former Oriole Makes His Mark In Japan

The customs are all over the place today… Sometimes that’s the best place to be.

Former Oriole, Brewer and Astro Dennis Sarfate was named the MVP of the Japan Series (the NPB equivalent of the World Series) by picking up two saves and pitching three scoreless innings to get the win in an extra-inning, series-clinching Game 6 for the SoftBank Hawks against the DeNA BayStars.

Sarfate had a season to remember, because he also set an NPB record with 54 saves during the regular season as well as the career saves record for a non-Japanese pitcher.

Meanwhile, back in the States…

A number of managerial press conferences have been held lately, and as a result we’ve got more of my “Hot Stove” customs coming your way, including this one based on 1963 Post Baseball.

For those who might be wondering, the “3-D” customs will be coming once players start moving around, and the design to be used for this offseason’s customs is from 1972 Kellogg’s.

We’ll wrap things up with another sheet of U-KNOW-M stamps… You’ll love ’em because U-KNOW-M!

I’m sure by now most of you have seen the clip of Carlos Correa proposing to his girlfriend Daniella Rodriguez during the World Series post-game show.  It was fun to watch when it happened (I’d fallen asleep on the couch, woke up for the last out and watched some of the post-game), but I was not prepared for the coverage it got the next morning.  Good thing she said “Yes”.

Although I’d never seen him perform, it seemed like Myron Noodleman had been everywhere during any given minor league season… So I was sad to see that he recently passed away from an aggressive form of cancer.  Noodleman was named the “Clown Prince Of Baseball” in 2004 and will be missed.

A certain person who has been in the news lately has indirectly made me think of George Harrison’s cameo in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian. George, who stepped in at the last minute to underwrite the film under his newly-created HandMade Films production company, appears very briefly as “Mr. Papadopoulos”, and his one spoken word, “Hullo”, was actually overdubbed later on by Michael Palin.

When I was a kid I bought a remaindered album called “Dick Clark’s 20 Years Of Rock ‘N’ Roll”. The 20 years in question were from 1953 to 1972, and that two LP set was my introduction to musical acts like Carl Perkins, Brenda Lee, Dion and the Belmonts and Fats Domino.  The song featured on that album was “I’m Walking”, which remains a favvorite of mine, but Fats was also known for “Ain’t That A Shame?”, “Whole Lotta Loving”, and, of course, “Blueberry Hill”.  He was an inaugural member of the Rock Hall Of Fame, and recently passed away at the age of 89.


Hey, Kids! Collect U-KNOW-M Stamps — Now In TSR Fun Packs!

That’s right, you get four fun stamps in every pack…

…Featuring your favorite athletes, musicians, actors, historical figures, Nobel Prize-winning economists, game show hosts, cartoon characters, authors, theoretical physicists, sportscasters, members of Congress, mascots and celebrities who are famous for being famous!

You know you’ll like ‘em… because U-KNOW-M!

Here’s your first sheet… Make sure you go to your local VIRT-U-L-MART to pick up the official stamp album!

I fell asleep watching Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday night, woke up for the 9th inning, and ended up watching a fair amount of what followed on  FS1, the Pearl Jam concert film “Let’s Play Two”. I have to admit that even though I’m largely indifferent to Pearl Jam (their music just doesn’t speak to me) it was an interesting film. At the beginning there were shots of the band hanging backstage and I wondered “Who’s this guy hanging with the band, the one with short-cropped hair and glasses looking like Bob Saget’s younger brother?” As it turns out, Saget The Younger turned out to be Stone Gossard, rhythm guitarist for Pearl Jam. This amused me enough that I created a stamp for him.

For those who missed the debacle, the USMNT (U.S. Mutant Ninja Turtles Men’s National Team) were eliminated from World Cup qualification, bringing shame and disgrace on our country for generations to come. I haven’t seen the USMNT lately… and apparently won’t for quite a while… but Christian Pulisic sounds like he’s the future of soccer in the United States. Just the fact that he’s a 19-year-old playing in the German Budesliga impresses the hell out of me.  Maybe things would’ve gone better for the USMNT if the Mutant Ninja Turtles had been sent out to play against Trinidad And Tobago… or at least if Splinter had been the head coach.

I was amused by a t-shirt I saw, one which featured Cookie Monster and says “Straight Outta Cookies”. I like the shirt, but given Cookie Monster’s speech patterns, wouldn’t he say “Straight outta cookie”? …or maybe I’m just overthinking this.

Hagar Ben Ari is the bass player in the house band on The Late Late Show With James Corden. She’s often seen in the background and has this cool vibe about her, but I’d never seen her do anything but play bass and react to things on the show. I’ve been intrigued by her for a while, even more so when Googling turned up only her name, the fact that she’s Israeli and…. um….. she plays the bass.

Hopefully you enjoyed these… let’s see what else is in this particular Fun Pack!

While I have no love for the Washington Nationals, they recently did something I whole-heartedly approve of… They installed a full-blown organ for their organist Matthew Van Hoose (who previously had been using a keyboard).

I grew up listening to Jane Jarvis playing the organ at Shea Stadium, so I feel like a good organist should be part of a baseball game.  It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Nationals Park, but when I return to watch the Mets take on the Nats, I’ll make sure to appreciate Dr. Van Hoose.  I have a feeling, however, that he won’t be playing “Meet The Mets”.

When Nathan Walker took the ice recently, he became the first Australian player in the NHL. I thought that was really cool, and it almost made me want to root for the Capitals again. Almost. You know the rules… I won’t have any thoughts of reconciliation with the Capitals until Ovechkin’s gone.

The absolute best thing about this story is that Walker was congratulated by the Australian ambassador to the United States, a gentleman by the name of – and I am completely serious about this – Joe Hockey. My sources tell me that Mr. Hockey does not spend his winter skating on a frozen-over birdbath, thinking things like “Here’s Joe Hockey at the Stanley Cup Finals…”

If you hadn’t heard, the NBA is allowing teams to wear an advertising patch on their uniforms starting this year. What you may not have known is that the Indiana Pacers will be sponsored by 1994 Fleer Baseball.

The Angels’ Parker Bridwell went 10-3, 3.64 with a 1.198 WHIP. He also went at least 6 innings in 13 of his starts. The Orioles really could’ve used a guy like that in their rotation….

What’s that?

The Orioles had Parker Bridwell and DFA’ed him in April?


Custom Sunday: Unsung Players Bound For The Postseason (Plus Other Subjects)

This week I thought I’d focus on a few players who are on Playoffs-bound teams, but don’t get as bright of a spotlight as some of their teammates… and later in the post I’ll feature some other players who are going home tonight.

Earlier this year I was watching the Mets vs. the Dodgers and the announcers were talking about what a great season Chris Taylor was having.  At first I said “Chris Taylor?  Who’s Chris Taylor?”

It took a minute or so for my brain cells to line up in formation, and then I asked the TV “Former Mariner Chris Taylor?  The guy they got for potential first round bust Zach Lee?”

Well, Chris Taylor broke out this year and I had missed it somehow.  Whether it was playing most of his games in the outfield or just a change of scenery, Taylor batted .288 with 85 runs scored, 72 RBI, 34 doubles, 5 triples, 21 homers.  His 4.7 WAR ranks him higher than other Dodgers who have received more hype, including Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig and Kenley Jansen.  On top of all that, Taylor also played at 2nd, Short and 3rd.  Seems like a guy to keep an eye on.

Another guy who flies under the radar is Astros starting pitcher Brad Peacock.  I was impressed when I saw Brad Peacock pitch in AA six or seven years ago – he was a Nationals prospect at the time – but it seemed like he might never live up to my expectations.

This year, while all the attention is on Keuchel and Verlander, Peacock has a 13-2 record with a 3.00 ERA, 1.189 WHIP and 11.0 K’s for every 9 innings pitched.  I’ll be rooting for the Astros in the postseason… except perhaps if they go up against Cleveland.  I really wanted Cleveland to win last year, and I’m not sure which of these two teams I’d pull towards.

Speaking of the Indians… I’ve got one more “unsung” player and maybe you can’t call someone “unsung” when he’s one of four players tied for the MLB lead with 18 wins, but Carlos Carrasco unquestionably operates in Corey Kluber’s shadow.

Carrasco is 18-6 with a 3.29 ERA, 226 K’s and a 1.10 WHIP.  He’s in the Top 5 in the A.L in K’s, Walks/Hits per Inning, K’s per walk, K’s per 9 innings, BB’s per 9 innings and winning percentage… but in each of those categories he’s behind Corey Kluber.

Julio Teheran isn’t heading for the postseason, but he was a major “find” for my fantasy team this year… once I learned how to use him.

Overall, Teheran was an unimpressive 11-13, 4.49 this year… But he was pretty bad in the Braves new home in suburban Atlanta.  If you look at his road numbers – and I only had him starting on my fantasy team when he was on the road – he pitched a much more impressive 8-3, 3.14.  He even managed to have more strikouts and fewer walks on the road.

Less impressive was A.J. Ramos, who the Mets picked up from the Marlins during the season.

In 21 games with the Mets, he put up a 4.74 ERA and 1.632 WHIP.  It looks like the Mets might have a new manager and pitching coach next year, so we’ll see whether this was an aberration or just another typical Mets “buy high” acquisition.

The Orioles took Anthony Santander from the Indians in last year’s Rule V draft, and even though he was on the 40-man roster all season, he only appeared in 13 games.

Santander spent most of the season on the DL, so if the Orioles are to keep him, they’d have to have him on the active roster for part of next season as well.  He’s been hitting pretty well in his short time playing, it will be interesting to see if the Orioles will hang on to him.

2017 TSR: What Happened

If Hillary Clinton can ask that, so can I.  One can safely assume that my version will make significantly less money.

In my case, “What Happened?” refers to my 2017 TSR custom set.

I’ll be the first to tell you that 2017 was not a great year for my original-design TSR custom card set. I worked hard on the design, but because I was also working on customs for the World Baseball Classic, I ended up rushing the design phase a bit, and I later came to realize that there’s a bit too much going on… The end result is a set I like but don’t love, and given the crickets in response to most of the posts, I’m thinking that the lack of love was pretty universal.

I’ve also come to understand that the underlying theme of a virtual card set representing my pack-busting desires has gone from inspiration to hindrance. Because of where the hobby is now, some of the subsets became largely pointless. Why make a 2017 Highlights “Indians Set Winning Streak Record” custom when Topps Now had already featured the streak 10 times?  (By my count, anyway)

…But I DO enjoy coming up with original card designs, I DO enjoy making customs and sharing them with all y’all, and I DO want to carry on in 2018.

In preparation for next year, I’m working on a 1960’s-inspired design and sorting out a “mission statement”. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to put some ideas to the test, but rather than saying “My 2017 design wasn’t great – here it is a bunch more times!” I’m going to whet your appetite for next year with a 1960’s favorite: 1960-62 Bazooka.

I always enjoy customs of players who changed teams, and at the moment nothing seems quite as odd as the sight of Justin Verlander in an Astros uniform.  I actually had to make this custom twice because –  no joke – I automatically typed DETROIT TIGERS before I saved the image.

Naturally, I like to feature Mets and Orioles as well, especially guys who are new to the team.  For a guy who’s been traded and lost on waivers since the season began, Norichika Aoki has been doing quite nicely in the Mets lineup every day since they got him.  In 19 games he’s batting .321 with 12 runs, 8 RBI, 7 doubles and a triple.

…And he’s using “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. as his walk-up music.  How can I not love this guy?  Watching Mets games now, I find myself in an odd position regarding the Mets outfield.  I like Aoki, I like the Gold Glove-winning Juan Lagares, who’s getting regular playing time again.  I like Brandon Nimmo and his .385 OBP.  Despite his injury-prone label, I like Yoenis Cespedes.  I really like the injured Michael Conforto, who looks like he could be a star in the making.  I wouldn’t mind a return of Jay Bruce when he hits free-agency.  And because I’m a Mets fan, I fear that the team will ignore Bruce, let Aoki leave as a free agent, trade several young outfielders for an inning-eating pitcher and then sign some past-his-prime big name outfielder, both of whom will suck.

Moving right along…

Night Owl indirectly inspired an idea I had for next year’s set.  Over at Topps, where they think that QA stands for “Questions and Answers”, the All-Star Rookie Cup was left off of the cards of each winner who appeared in Series 2.  That gave me the idea of having my own Rookie Star subset using a different method of picking the players, and in doing a test run using 2016 rookies, I came to realize that the 2016 A.L. Rookie Of The Year was not a Topps All-Star Rookie.

Nope, Fulmer got passed by for Kenta Maeda as the rookie RHP, even though their numbers were similar and Maeda was a 28-year-old rookie (having first become a star in Japan).  Will one of the 2017 Rookies of the Year get left off the Topps All-Star Rookie team?  HA!  Like Topps isn’t going to continue to hype the holy hell out of Bellinger and Judge.

Another idea I had for an occasional theme is “Players I like I on teams I don’t like”.  My disdain for the Marlins, who have had a steady succession of disagreeable ownership, have outpaced the Phillies and Braves in terms of “Most disliked division opponent of the Mets” and, on the right day, the Fish will give the Nats a fight for this ignominious honor.

Figuring out my favorite Marlin is easy… Ichiro, of course!

Ichiro is so talented, he can hit BP while simultaneously covering all logos, just for the benefit of Panini and other companies who are licensed only by the MLBPA!

BTW, while I don’t think Don Matttingly deserves it, part of me hopes that the new Marlins ownership will fire the manager… Just because the optics of Derek F’ing Jeter firing Donnie Baseball will make the Yankee fandom implode.

…or not.  More likely then not, they’ll say “Whatever” and then “All rise!”

I always enjoy watching Major Leaguers who I first saw in the minors, and the Orioles’ Austin Hays is the latest entrant into that category.  Hays was a 3rd round pick in 2016, was impressive in A and AA this season, was named the O’s Minor League Player Of The Year and earned himself a September callup.

Despite this impressive catch in last night’s game, the O’s lost, were mathematically eliminated from the postseason and are guaranteed a losing record.  Yay.

More 1975 Customs: Mets Scattered On The Four Winds

Once again, I’m doing some 1975 customs as a “proof of concept” for a project I’ve got going on this winter. This time around, I’m featuring players who started the season with the Mets but are now elsewhere.

Before we get into the customs, here’s a bit of trivia I picked up watching a nationally-televised Mets game (FS1, I think… maybe ESPN):
How many players from this year’s opening day starting lineup are currently on the Mets active roster?

While you think about that, here are the customs along with the transactions in chronological order:

July 27th; Lucas Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays for Drew Smith.

July 31st; Addison Reed to the Boston Red Sox for Jamie Callahan (who just got called up) and two minor leaguers

August 9th; Jay Bruce to the Cleveland Indians for a minor leaguer

August 12th; Neil Walker to the Milwaukee Brewers for a player to be named later

August 19th; Curtis Granderson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a PTBNL (which a day later became Jacob Rhame, also a September call-up)

August 19th; Rene Rivera claimed on waivers by the Chicago Cubs

Answer to the trivia: Two of the nine Mets from the opening day starting lineup are currently active and with the Mets: Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes.

Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard are on the DL and the other five players are shown above (with the exception of reliever Addison Reed, of course).

Hank Aaron Heritage Weekend ==> 1975 Customs

Last weekend the Atlanta Braves observed “Hank Aaron Heritage Weekend” and wore throwbacks to 1974, the year when Aaron set the record for career homers.  As it so happened, I’ve been messing with a 1975 Topps template for an upcoming project which you’ll likely see this Winter (hint, hint).

And so, with almost no text save for the last one, here are the resulting customs…

This custom is for Fuji (and because Kurt Suzuki was kind enough to hit a 2-run homer, which meant that I was able to find images of him hitting said homer).

I actually made this custom twice; the first one had a blue & green border, but then I ran across the 1975 Topps card for Mike Lum who, like Suzuki, hails from Hawaii. At that point, I knew I had to make the Suzuki custom using the same colors as the original Mike Lum.

I’ve got another batch of these customs coming… not involving throwback uniforms or the Braves, but I just wanted to take my messing around with the 1975 design to the next phase.  You’ll probably see those before too long.

Throwback Uniforms On Throwback Customs: 1978 & 1984

This weekend there have been two different throwback games in the Majors, both throwing back to my weak spot – the mid-70’s to the mid-80’s. What could I do? The temptation was too great… I had to make customs for both games.

On Friday night the Phillies and Padres threw back to 1983 when the Phils were N.L. Champions. Both sets of uniforms had their issues, but looked pretty good overall. I really like the 1984 Fleer design and photos from 1983 would normally go on 1984 cards, so it seemed like a natural to me (and I wasn’t even going to attempt to find TWO throwback photos of a player to use the 1983 Topps design). Unfortunately, neither the Phils nor Pads are stacked with superstars, so I was a bit limited on who I could find pictures of. Even so, I’m happy with what came out of it.

Meanwhile the Rangers and Angels threw back to 1977… I would presume solely because it was 40 years ago. I wouldn’t think the Rangers were commemorating finishing 8 games behind the Royals in ’77 (although they did go 94-68, there was just no catching the 102-60 Royals).

For whatever reason – maybe because powder blue is oh-so-very-seventies – the Rangers wore 1977 Road uniforms last night.

The Angels, being the visiting team, also wore road uniforms, only theirs were grey.

From the clips I’ve seen, it wasn’t bad… unlike the Father’s Day weekend game I attended in Baltimore (you don’t want to get me started on both teams wearing blue when neither one should wear blue), I don’t think there was any problems telling the teams apart. It’s just a bit odd for those of us who lived through the 1970’s (“You are wearing powder blue and yet you are the home team? Illogical. Illogical. Norman, coordinate!”)