2014 TSR: Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad, Why Must I Be Sad?

I’ll admit, I’m overstating things a bit here by quoting that particular They Might Be Giants song… but the truth of it is that I have been very disappointed by a number of recent “designated for assignments” that happened to players I like.

I originally made this rainy Brian Roberts custom to express that I was sad ABOUT Brian, but now it’s because I’m sad FOR Brian.
2014 TSR #414 Brian Roberts
It does seem like the Orioles took an attitude of “it’s time to move on” with Brian this winter, but to fans of Brian it seemed almost like an act of spite when he signed with the freakin’ Yankees.  No, it couldn’t be the Royals or Astros, it had to be the Bronx.

As it turned out, it didn’t quite work out for anybody, the Yankees went and traded for a bunch of new infielders, and Brian found himself without a job while the Yankees play an out-of-position Stephen Drew.

I don’t expect the Orioles to try to bring Brian back, but I’ve read the Padres haven’t gotten much production out of second, maybe they’ll give him a shot.  The Giants and A’s both have needs at second base, but I don’t know if a contending team would take a chance on Brian… Then again, the Giants have already tried and ditched Dan Uggla, so what’s wrong with throwing another struggling former All-Star into the mix?

Moving on to another former Oriole who didn’t have success with a new team…

This past winter there was incredulity a-plenty surrounding the Orioles after they traded Jim Johnson, the guy who lead the AL in saves for two years running, to Oakland for Jemile Weeks, a minor leaguer and several boxes of Dan Duquette’s favorite variety of Toaster Strudel.
2014 TSR #373 Jim Johnson
Now, Duquette looks like an absolute genius, because Johnson was so bad with the A’s that they ate his salary for the year and released him. I would not be entirely surprised if the Orioles sign him to a minor league contract to see if he might be able to revive some of that Oriole Magic. (Feel it happen! Magic! Magic!)

(Shhhhh… Don’t tell anyone that’s Nationals Park in the background of an A’s card…)

Just a little side note of happiness, I had to smile when I was doing an internet image search of “Jim Johnson Athletics” and one of the first hits was my custom from over the winter:
2013-14 TSR Hot Stove #13 - Jim Johnson

For what it’s worth, if I were at The National this weekend, I’d be looking to pick up one of the 1959 Bazooka cards upon which my “Hot Stove” custom set was based… and I’d probably be turning white as a sheet when I see how expensive they are.

The last source of Shlabotnik sadness comes from San Diego’s treatment of Jason Lane.

You may remember Lane as an Astros outfielder from 2002 to 2007.  In 2011 he made the conversion to being a full-time pitcher, and spent two years in the independent Atlantic League.  This year, he made it back to The Show after a 7 year absence.
2014 TSR #429 Jason Lane
In June, the Padres called him up for several days. In two relief appearances, Lane faced 14 batters, allowed just one to get to base, but that apparently wasn’t good enough, because he got shipped back down to AAA El Paso.

One July 28th he got called back up to make a start, and while his performance wasn’t spectacular – 1 earned run and 6 hits in 6+ innings of a Padres loss – it was good enough that one would think that they’d give a guy with a 0.87 ERA and a 0.677 WHIP another try… but apparently not. Free Jason Lane!

It was at this point that I was going to launch into a feel-good guy or two, but it quickly grew into its own post, which you’ll see tomorrow.

Who were you disappointed to see traded, DFA’d or otherwised dissed over the past week?

Heartbreaker, Your Time Has Come, Can’t Take Your Evil Ways! Go Away, Heartbreaker…

Duh duh duh duh-nuh-nuh




…So, I’m not too happy with this guy:

2005 Topps Pristine Brian Roberts

My wife has been a dedicated Orioles fan since 1983. During that time, she’s had two favorite players: Cal Ripken and…

2001 Leaf Limited Brian Roberts

She’s been a fan of Brian’s pretty much since he came up;  she still hates Jerry Hairston because back then he was the guy who stood between Brian and a starting job.

She stuck with him through concussions and injuries.  She stuck with him though steroid allegations.  She’s gone through numerous black and orange t-shirts with “ROBERTS 1” on the back.

We entered this offseason knowing that Brian could be gone, but hoping that he’d sign some incentive-laden contract with the Orioles.

I always figured that if he did leave, he’d end up with some team who might benefit from an upgrade and have little to lose… Maybe the Twins or Cubs?

2006 Topps Finest Brian Roberts

But when I saw that negotiations were happening with the Yankees, I said — Well, I try to keep this blog family friendly, so I won’t share what I said.

I wasn’t there when my wife found out, but she told me that she let out a very loud gasp of disbelief.

I mean, it’s one thing to leave Baltimore…

It’s another thing to go to the – pause while I spit on the ground – YANKEES…

It’s even worse to know that, according to some sources, he didn’t even give the Orioles a chance to match the relatively modest contract.

I dunno, maybe this was an unspoken mutual parting.  Maybe the Orioles pulled him aside, wished him well and made it clear that he shouldn’t let the front door hit him on the backside.

All I know is that my wife is very upset and sad… “Heartbroken” may be too strong a word, but I haven’t ruled it out.  Last night I gave her some 2013 Topps Series 2 wax packs to open (because she likes busting some wax now and then) and she pulled this card:

2013 Topps Brian Roberts

Before this happened, she would’ve let out an exuberant yell after pulling a Brian, even if it was a base card;  last night she just looked really dejected and said “It’s not even a good picture of him”.

…and it’s not.  Do we want to know what Bryce Harper is doing to Brian here?

I know baseball is a business.  I know players have to do what’s best for them.

…But come on, dude.  The freakin’ Yankees?

…And it’s not even like you can say he did it for the money.  $2 Million plus incentives?  That’s not “doing it for the money”.

I hope he ends up with a uniform number like 43.

I hope that, if he “has always dreamed of turning two with Jeter”, the two of them are never healthy at the same time.

I hope he realizes that if things go badly, he’s going to hear it from the fans and get mocked on the back page of the NY Post and Daily News.

I hope that the Yankees continue to get old and end up in last place looking up at the first place Orioles.  Yeah, yeah, this is my hope every year, but more so this year.  This year…. it’s personal.


Wrapping Up My 2013 TSR Custom Set And Looking Forward To 2014

Now that the World Series is over, now that Koji Uehara and some guys beat Carlos Beltran and some other guys …which is largely what the World Series ended up being for me…  now that the Postseason is over, we can get on with the business of the offseason…  Manager hirings can get announced, awards can be awarded, free agents can be free and so on.

With all the offseason movement will come my 2nd annual “Hot Stove” custom set, which I previewed back in September… but before we get to that, I need to put my regular “TSR” set to bed for another year and start looking forward to 2014.

2013 TSR #708 - Ben Revere

A lot of the customs I made this year ended up being a case of “Oh, that photo will work really well with my design”. Having the team name at the top and behind the player’s head, bat, glove, etc. made for a theme in and of itself.

2013 TSR #502 Lorenzo Cain

I’m far enough along with next year’s design to know that “Photos which go with the design” won’t be anywhere near as much of a factor next year. That being said, I kinda liked having a theme to the cards I made, and I’d like to carry that forward in some other way.

2013 TSR #715 - Hanley Ramirez

I could always do players from my favorite teams (Mets and Orioles), but I honestly like making at least one card for every team;  I think it makes it more fun for me and for you.

I could also do something along the lines of a “Player Of The Week”, which wouldn’t necessarily be the best player of the week, but more the player about whom I have something to say.

I’m sure I’ll figure it out.  If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment, I’d love to hear what you think!

Speaking of having something to say, I have something to say about the last three customs…

I made this Jim Leyland custom in the middle of  September, mainly to make sure that I had a Tigers custom in my “inventory”.  Little did I know it would be Leyland’s final custom (sniff).

2013 TSR #643 - Jim Leyland

Mrs. Shlabotnik looooooooooves Brian Roberts, and I would be ill-advised to ignore that fact when making customs… especially when he’s going to be a free agent.  I truly hope that he and the Orioles can come to some sort of incentive-laden agreement;  it would be too weird to see Brian in another uniform.

2013 TSR #701 - Brian Roberts

Finally, a sort of tradition I’ve established is to make a custom of “myself” which truly embodies the unique blend of grace, skill and sheer athleticism that I bring to any sport.

2013 TSR #792 - Joe Shlabotnik

…and that’s a wrap for the 2013 TSR set!  I hope you’ve all enjoyed them, and I hope you have a happy and safe Halloween!

A Day Late And A Common Short: Confusion, Brian Roberts And Other Things

It all started with the best of intentions, and as things tend to go, things went awry. I have all these scanned images that I never get around to posting, so I figured I’d use the birthdays of players I collect as an excuse to talk about why I collect that player. So, I made a list and figured out that Brian was the next birthday coming up, and I said “Perfect! I’ve got something like 100 different Brian cards, I can pick out a few and write about them on his birthday this Thursday!”

So, I had the post partially written and then – too late – realized that Thursday isn’t Brian’s birthday, it is Ty Wigginton’s birthday. I’d screwed up my posts. Again.

…But I can see some eyes glazing over out there – wait, no! Don’t close this browser tab I’ll get to Brian Roberts and leave the blogging ennui for the end.

My wife, who loves Brian Roberts, makes a point of looking for Brian in the dugout at the playoff games… Yes, he’s there along with Nick Markakis and some other Orioles not on the playoff roster. It’s a damn shame that Brian can’t participate in the playoff games after spending so many years playing with not-good Orioles teams. Hopefully he’ll be able to be the starting second baseman again, but it’s hard to stay optimistic.

Brian used to be the “marquee” player for the Orioles, he used to be the team’s All-Star representative, he’d be in every base set, many of the insert sets and on the team’s souvenir drink cups, pocket schedules and media guides. Now because of his injuries and being eclipsed by other players, he’s something of an afterthought. I don’t think Brian had more than one card this year, Topps Series 2 (that’s disregarding parallels, which I don’t collect).  It just ain’t right, I tell  you.  Someone should do something about it!  Someone with the ability to make a 2012 card for Brian Roberts!

…someone like me…

So best of luck to Brian, best of luck to the Orioles, we’ll see what happens this month and next year.

OK, so getting back to the navel-gazing…  Lately, I’ve been having sort of a mid-life crisis blog-wise… I’ve been blogging for about 11 months, enjoying the heck out of it and doing my best to post something/anything on a daily basis.  Lately, though, I’ve become dissatisfied overall because I never quite get around to those posts which take more time to write, or time to create these custom cards I have floating around in my head.

No, I haven’t hit the wall, I haven’t burned out… but posting every day is not getting me where I want to be, so I’m going to cut back on my schedule a little bit and try to figure out where I’m going and how to get there.  I just figured I’d let all my faithful readers (thanks, Ed and Jeannette!) know what’s going on.

The souvenir drink cup reminds me; I used to start every Orioles game with a Coke and a brat, but that was before they had the Natty Boh brats, which I don’t care for.  I’ve been having trouble finding something to replace the brat, so if anybody has a suggestion of food I should try at Camden Yards, let me know.

The Brians My Wife Got At The 2012 National

No, she didn’t go to Baltimore, but I’d mentioned in an earlier post that every time I go to a show, I try to buy cards of her two favorite players, Brian Roberts and Cal Ripken.  Here are the Brians which came from The National.

This is the “Brian Roberts lurking in a dark basement” card, also known as the 2010 Wal-Mart black border parallel.

“I couldn’t even lurk anymore.  I’d hear ‘Who’s that lurking over there?  Isn’t that Brian Roberts?’ ”

This 2006 SP Authentic card is pretty good looking;  it would be nicer if the image looked more like Brian… it’s slightly off, almost like Brian Roberts after cosmetic surgery.

Hopefully Brian will be able to make more than a cameo appearance in 2013.  It’s a lot of fun to follow the Orioles this year, but I know Mrs. Shlabotnik would enjoy it more if Brian were part of it.

National Wantlist, Part 1: Brians And Cals

Two of the players I collect are Brian Roberts and Cal Ripken, but I don’t collect them for myself as much as I collect them for my wife.  She’s been an Orioles fan since she was in high school and her all-time-favorite players are Brian and Cal (she’s got a thing for middle infielders).  Although she’s not a collector, she’s gained an appreciation for collectibles and enjoys seeing any Orioles I pick up, especially Brians and Cals.  So, when there’s a situation where I’m gone all day, spending money and bringing more stuff into the house, I like to be able to come home and say “Hey, I got  you some Brians!”

With Brian’s injuries over the past couple of seasons, it’s making it harder to find new cards of his.  A few years ago he was the face of the Orioles and would appear in every set and on a decent number of inserts.  This year, he’s been in the base Topps set and the sticker set, and I think that’s it.

It was great seeing Brian in some Orioles games earlier this season;  I have to admit, I wasn’t confident that we’d see him in uniform again.  Brian’s injuries did have the side effect of giving more playing time to Robert Andino, who’s become one of my favorite Orioles, and with both Andino and Roberts currently injured, the Orioles picked up Omar Quintanilla, another guy I’ve grown to like from his short time with the Mets.

Cal Ripken’s a completely different situation.  Despite the fact that his career’s been over for eleven years, he has far more 2012 cards than Brian Roberts.  Cal is in Archives and A&G and Gypsy Queen and a bunch of “Golden” inserts, Brian is not.  That’s the way it goes sometimes.

I don’t have exact numbers because I’m still working on getting organized, but a rough count shows that we have 90-100 different Brian Roberts cards, and close to 300 Cal cards… Neither of which would put a scare into a serious player collector, but we have fun with it, and that’s all we’re shooting for.

Blog Bat Around – My favorite set of the year is Topps FrankenLineaStickAttaxMan

2011 was an unusual collecting year for me.  There wasn’t any particular set that I loved busting wax for, but there was a lot to love scattered about the various Topps sets.  Rather than pick out a particular release as my favorite of the year, I’m going to build a Frankenset out of my favorite elements of 2011 sets.

First off, the base set is itself a Frankencard… The front would use the design from Topps Stickers, except it would be standard size and non-sticky.  The back would be from the regular Topps set, and the cardstock would be Heritage.

Also from Heritage would be the manager cards and some of that classic slightly-ridiculously-posed photography:

2011 Heritage Adam Wainwright: Thanks to CheckOutMyCards.com for the image

Packaging for my set would include a rack pack much like what was used for Attax, where you could see at least one of the cards in the pack.  I like packs like these, they bring me back to the day where you could decide which of the racks to buy based on the glossy insert or the base cards you could see.  As long as I’m talking about packaging, I’d also like to see some sort of packs which have a lower price point by removing the “lottery” inserts but keeping the more common inserts.  The Dollar Store insert-less packs are a bit spartan, but I’d also like the chance to get inserts without having to worry about whether Peter Johnson-Packfeeler has removed anything of value.

Here are the inserts I’d include in the 2011 Frankenset:

Diamond Giveaway code cards:  Yeah, yeah, the free cards aren’t really free.  Sure,  you can probably get many of them cheaper through other sources, but screw that.  Diamond Giveaway is fun.  I’ve enjoyed signing on every day to see what’s been offered for my cards, see what ridiculously one-sided offers I’ve gotten for my 1961 Chuck Stobbs, whether anyone’s accepted my offer for that 1972 Danny Frisella, and so on.  I also like the idea of an exclusive card for the giveaway;  Even though I traded the one die-cut I got, it was still a moment of mojo and, through a series of trades I got a lot from that one die-cut (more on that in a later post).

Lineage 2011 Rookies:  Unlike a lot of the other throwback-y inserts in Lineage and other sets, I remember pulling these cards out of rack packs, and I still have every one I pulled.  Well, OK, not the doubles, but you get the idea.

Bowman inserts and Bowman as an insert:  Rather than Bowman as a distinct brand, I think Bowman should be an insert which focuses on prospects rather than rookie cards.  Bowman as a set has too many uninteresting veteran cards and non-prospect minor leaguers.  I do really like some of the Bowman inserts, such as Topps 100 (and if an insert set ever begged to be in Topps instead of Bowman…).

I bought this card from COMC.com, it just hasn't shipped yet...

Funny, it wasn’t until I inserted this image in my post that I realized how Oriole-centric this post is turning out.  Just as well, I’ve had enough Mets cards lately.

By the way, Xavier Avery has one of the coolest names in the minors, and if you ever hear him mentioned on TV or radio, it’s fun to hear them carefully pause a beat between first and last name so they don’t end up slurring it into Xavieravier…y.

Lineage 3-D inserts:  I’m the right age to remember Kellogg’s 3-D cards, but for some reason I didn’t have any as a kid.  I guess it might be because I wasn’t allowed to get many of the “kids cereals”.  Doesn’t matter, 3-D cards are awesome!

Lineage 1975 Mini inserts:  Although I never saw a 1975 mini until well into my adulthood, the 1975 Topps set is one of my all-time favorites, and the first set I ever completed.  That being said, I still haven’t decided what to do with this insert.  I was initially a little disappointed that it was a parallel (for the most part) rather than a stand-alone insert, but since I’ve not really taken the Lineage base set to heart, I could almost look on that set as the parallel.  I’ll probably collect the Mets, Orioles and my other “guys” and leave it at that.  Still, this is a great insert.

Cheerleader Cards:  Wait a minute, how did this get in here?  Not that it wouldn’t make a great baseball insert (and I doubt many of your are complaining…)

Topps 60:  Another nice insert set, I like the mix of current and legend players on a non-ugly background.  I guess it’s a good thing that Topps 60 and Topps 100 weren’t in the same set.

Honorable mention:

Aloha, Mr. Hand!

If I  had to pick one and only one set, the regular Topps set would be it.  This was a design subtle in it’s appeal… I liked it well enough when I saw the sneak peek images online, liked it a little more when I opened packs, liked it even more when I started putting cards into binders and saw how nice they look together in a sheet.  I didn’t go for a lot of the inserts, but on the whole it was a well-above-average effort from Topps.

Also, I had a lot of fun busting packs of Attax and Stickers, even though neither is the type of set I would normally buy (and I’m still not really collecting either one).  My internal grew-up-in-the-70’s child enjoys packs where there’s nothing but base cards, and where the mojo comes from getting one of your favorite players.