“Hot Stove”: Gordon Starts Fresh With Fish; Heaney Finds His Way To Angels

This week’s Hot Stove customs feature two guys who moved around a bit on the same day. As usual, these custom cards are based on the 1974 Kellogg’s 3-D set.

Dee Gordon is the son of former MLB pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon.  Baseball America had him ranked as the Dodgers best prospect after the 2009 and 2010 seasons, as well as giving him accolades like “Fastest runner in the Dodgers’ system”, “Best athlete in the Dodgers’ system”, “Best defensive infielder in the Dodgers’ system”… but it wasn’t until this past year that he had his breakout and lead the league in triples and stolen bases.  As a reward, the Dodgers shipped him off to Miami and replaced him with Howie Kendrick.
2014-15 TSR Hot Stove #17 Dee Gordon
Dee Gordon was the first Dodger to lead the NL in stolen bases since Davey Lopes in 1976. As a Mets fan and Marlin hater I generally hesitate to wish anybody luck in Miami, but I don’t have anything against Dee Gordon… And let’s keep it that way, shall we?

All it took was one tweet from Andrew Heaney to make me say “I like this guy!”
2014-15 TSR Hot Stove #19 Andrew Heaney
Heaney was traded to the Dodgers in the deal that sent Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to Miami, and then several hours later he was traded to the Angels for Howie Kendrick. After the second trade, this is what he tweeted:

Well, @Dodgers we had a good run! Great to be a part of such a storied franchise. #thanksforthememories

Heaney’s major league debut came against the Mets on 6/19/2014 and he took the loss despite giving up just one run in six inning. Over his 7 MLB games he’s 0-3 with a 5.83 ERA, but Baseball America has twice ranked him among the top 50 prospects in baseball. It’ll be interesting to see what he does in Anaheim.

Two Small Things That Warmed My Nerdy Little Heart Today

I keep my recent cards in binders organized by current rosters, and I just got finished updating some player’s rows with recently acquired cards.  Two in particular made me smile…

The first smile came when I put this card into the appropriate Blue Jays page in my AL East binder…
2013 Topps Erik Kratz_0001
…Erik Kratz was traded to Toronto in December…

It made me smile partially because I got to replace a hand-written placeholder with an actual card, but even more so when I turned the card over and saw this guy’s career:
2013 Topps Erik Kratz_0002
I like to see a guy who’s been around the block a few times get a baseball card… Yes, Kratz was on a Bowman Prospects card a few years ago, but it’s not the same.

The second smile came when updated the Jerome Williams row in my AL West Binder (he signed with the Astros as a free agent).
Jerome Williams row from AL West binder
Before I put this 2013 card into the far left slot, the entire row was occupied with 2005 cards… The 2013 Topps card ended up bumping a 2005 Heritage card out of the far right slot. I love it when a long-dormant row gets new life. Jerome Williams was a hot pitching prospect who ran into problems and ended up playing in the minors and overseas for a number of years, so he was absent from the “card scene” for a while. He did have a couple of cards in between, but I don’t own those cards.

By the way, at least two of the cards he had in between were Upper Deck cards… The fact that they would give cards to guys like Jerome Williams is one of the few things I miss about UD.

I thought it was also worth mentioning that Williams is from Honolulu and Baseball-reference.com describes him as Hawai’ian-Chinese-Portuguese-Spanish-Japanese-Norweigan-African-Filipino-American.

After Bud Selig Steps Down And I Become Commissioner…

You know what?  I don’t think I’m supposed to say anything about my taking over from Bud in January, 2015… But what the heck.  I trust you guys, and I know you won’t say anything to anybody… Let’s just keep this between us… our own little blogospherical secret.

Even though I’ve got 15 months before I take over, I’m starting to take notes of things to change.  I got one idea on Saturday when I saw highlights of that day’s Angels-Rangers game.

It’s easier to show you than to explain;  Here, take a look at this custom I made…
2013 TSR #669 - Elvis Andrus

You may ask “Why is Elvis Andrus attempting to slide past his teammate?” Because – despite the red helmet and the red jersey, Chris Iannetta is not his teammate, he’s on the Angels.  The Rangers were wearing red jerseys, red caps and white pants, and the Angels were wearing red jerseys, red caps and grey pants.  It’s perfectly obvious which team is which, right? Shaaaaaa, right.

Every other major sport has requirements about some sort of color contrast between teams, and I’m going to bring MLB in line with that.  The home team declares their uni choices before the beginning of a series, and the visiting team has to pick out clearly different uniforms.  I haven’t yet worked out the specific definition of “clearly different”, but I’ve got some time to hash that out.

…and as long as we’re talking about the Angels’ red jerseys – no more red numbers on a red jersey.  There has to be a minimum contrast between numbers and jerseys.  If I’m sitting in the upper deck, I need to be able to read the uni numers, otherwise what’s the point of having uniform numbers except for the Yankees to retire them?

I’ll be sharing  more plans for my Commissionership here in this blog, but if any of you have suggestions – and I know you do – leave me a comment, or write your own post about it and leave me a link.  I’d love to know what you’re thinking.

As long as I’m here, let’s take a look at a couple of more customs, shall we?  I’d like to have posted at least one custom for every team, so I’ll just throw out a couple of more here…

Hisashi Iwakuma put together a nice season, going 14-6, 2.66 with a .220 Batting Average Against and a 1.01 WHIP for the 71-90 Mariners. His ERA, BAA and WHIP were all among the top 10 in the Majors.
2013 TSR #761 - Hisashi Iwakuma

I stole the red/yellow/grey color combination from 1974 Topps Indians cards, and I have to say, I really like the way it looks. I’ll probably do something similar for my 2014 TSR customs (although not necessarily for the Indians).
2013 TSR #675 - Michael Bourn

Certain Photos Just Beg To Have Customs Made Of Them

When I came up with my 2013 custom design, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to find pictures where part of the player’s head or arm or bat came up enough to be in front of the team name while still leaving the name somewhat legible. Over the past few months I’ve sorta trained myself to look for photos that have that particular attribute… However, I never thought I’d have an opportunity to use a photo where the it’s the player’s foot that comes in front of the team name, so when I did come  across one, well, I just had to.
2013 TSR #432 Scott Diamond

Thank you, Scott Diamond.  Unfortunately, this custom may have been the only thing to work out for him this week, as he had a poor outing and got sent down to AAA.

The A’s recently had a throwback game against the Angels, and I can’t say enough about how nice a job was done to replicate the 1969 A’s uniforms.
2013 TSR #499 - Grant Balfour

It seems like they got a lot of details right, from the lack of an apostrophe-s on the jersey and hat logo, the MLB Centennial patch, and the green and yellow stirrups over the yellow sanitaries.

The Angels also wore throwbacks  which seem pretty accurate, but aren’t anywhere near as colorful as the A’s.  They do have the very cool halo on the hats, though… You can kinda sorta see it on the top of Trumbo’s cap.

2013 TSR #435 - Mark Trumbo

Series 1 Of My 2013 TSR Custom Set is LIVE!

2013 TSR #45 - Josh BeckettAs the new season begins, it’s also time to unveil my custom 2013 TSR card design.

This will be my 5th season of custom cards, my 3rd original design, and my second set shared through this blog; You can view the cards from last year’s set in the “2012 TSR CUSTOM GALLERY” tab above.

If this were a real set, it would be issued in 6 series of 132 cards each, for a total of 792 cards. Cards would be printed on grey cardboard without gloss, foil, holograms, shortprints, parallels, relics or many other “innovations” of the past 25 years. Wax packs would be 15 cards for $1, come wrapped in wax paper and include a small pink strip designed to lovingly transfer a “bubblegum” smell on to the cards. This strip could also, in a pinch, be chewed as gum.

Also, if this were a real set, I’d be filing Chapter 11 somewhere around September… if all went well.

2013 TSR #100 - Josh HamiltonThis design evolved through my staring at cards and thinking things like “I really like how 1988 Topps has the team name floating in the air behind the player’s head”… but instead of making a custom 1988 card, I’d adapt that particular idea into my own design; think of another design element that I liked and incorporate that into my design; lather, rinse, repeat until I have something that I like which is more-or-less original.

For those who might actually be interested in the thought process that went into these, here is a list of my basic criteria when designing a set:

  • The template I create needs to be easy to work with and flexible enough to adapt to Highlights, All-Stars, managers and so on.
  • While I prefer vertical sets, I like designs which also work horizontally (think of Topps in 1971, 1973, 1974 and 2007-2013).
  • Colors are limited to those which occur in the Topps palette of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
  • Each team has an assigned color scheme, one which is not necessarily that team’s colors. Ideally I’d have a different color scheme for every team, but I don’t know if it’s possible to do that for 30 teams without getting into some fugly color combinations.

2013 TSR #90 - James ShieldsI always try to come up with something which will look good in a 9-pocket sheet, as that was the original intent behind my custom cards. That intent went out the window when my color printer crapped out, but I still try to keep that in mind, just in case I find a way of printing my lovelies without shelling out $$$ for another color printer (…any suggestions?)

…So there you go. I hope you like the design, because you’ll be seeing these for the next 6 months.

Pack Animal! 2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects

I’ll freely admit it:  Bowman products confuse the heck out of me.

It wasn’t until this year that I realized that Bowman Chrome has different cards than Bowman.  I’d thought they were just Chrome-y versions of the Bowman cards.

And numbering… there are cards with numbers, and those prefixed with BDP, BDPP, BDPDPBPDPBPBP and so on.  …Not to mention that Bowman has a #42 card which is different from the Bowman Chrome #42 card, and both are different from the Bowman DP&P #42 card, but they all  have the same card design… How the hell am I supposed to keep all this stuff straight?

You know what?  I don’t give a flying “Future”, it’s all far more effort than it’s worth to me.  Let’s just rip into this pack of DP&P and look at some cards.  I’ll bet some of them are SHINY.

Joseph Almaraz is from San Antonio, was a 28th round pick and played in the Gulf Coast League in 2012.
2012 Bowman DP&P Joseph Almaraz

Marcus Stroman seems familiar to me, but I’m not sure why… In looking him up I found out that, like me, he’s from Long Island and not what you’d call tall.  He’s also the first-ever 1st round draft pick out of Duke University, and Baseball America recently listed him as the #7 Blue Jays prospect.  For what it’s worth, he was #7 before the Jays traded a bunch of prospects to the Marlins, and he’ll probably move up more if/when the R.A. Dickey trade goes through.
2012 Bowman DP&P Marcus Stroman

This is the big hit in the pack… it’s a Blue Refractor, numbered 11/250.  Kole Calhoun was the Angels’ 2011 Minor League Player Of The Year, and appeared in 21 Major League games in 2012.
2012 Bowman DP&P Chrome Kole Calhoun

The guys in these packs are so generic to me that I hadn’t realized until after I’d scanned these cards that I had the regular and Chrome versions of the same Andre Martinez card in this pack.  Even though I don’t prefer shiny cards, I like the Chrome version better, if only because the player’s name is larger and legible.  Those tiny foil letters are a pain in the arse to read.

2012 Bowman DP&P Andre Martinez 2012 Bowman DP&P Chrome Andrre Martinez

I searched on Andre Martinez and found that he recently launched a new Fresco Bath collection, giving new Luxury design ideas for small bathrooms… but I think that’s the wrong Andre Martinez.  OK, here we go….  Andre Martinez was the 6th round pick of the Twins in 2012.

This pack was completely an impulse buy.  My friendly neighborhood comic store had some packs; I don’t normally buy anything beyond comics there, but everybody that works there is very nice and knows me by name, so I try to “throw ’em a frickin’ bone” every now and then.  I hadn’t planned on buying any packs of DP&P, and this pack didn’t inspire any future purchases.

Does Anyone Know The Way? There’s Got To Be A Way To Blockbuster!

If I’m not making semi-obscure references to 1970’s music, then I’m not doing my job.  Making comments on Topps Update cards is another part of my job…

I was surprised – in a good way – at the Blockbuster insert.  These are pretty nice looking cards, despite the huge “Trademark” symbols at the end of the team names.  I wonder if there’s a legal reason for this, that the symbol has to be a certain percentage of the text size, or if they just use the symbol that comes in that font and they don’t bother making it smaller.

“Well, that’s a pretty crappy photoshop job,” is what I said when I first saw this Eric Chavez card, but after a few seconds I realized that it was from the game where the Yankees and Red Sox both wore 1912 throwback uniforms.  OK, fine, it still looks weird.  I know a lot of people were gushing about those uniforms, but sometimes you can “throw back” too far.

Speaking of throwbacks, this C.J. Wilson card is the kind of card I like to see… almost, sorta.  As my regular readers know, I’ve been broadly hinting that Topps should feature throwback uniforms on throwback card designs, and we’ve certainly got that here… Unfortunately, it’s an early 1970’s uniform and a late 1980’s card, but I’ll give Topps some tiny little props anyway.  “Topps Propps”.  Wonder when that’ll end up on the shelves at Target….

Tyler Moore hit the go-ahead hit for the Nationals in Saturday’s Game 1.  Moore’s not exactly one of “my guys”, but I saw him play in the minors, which makes him a “potential guy”.  It’s always fun when a guy you’ve seen in the minors does good in the Majors.

What’s that? You want me to tell you what the subject line is referring to? It’s “Blockbuster” by Sweet… and if you want to get REALLY obscure, this song was one of the samples in “Doctorin’ The TARDIS” by The Timelords.

Hold Me Closer, Tiny Blaster

I almost missed the Topps Update blaster when I went to Target yesterday; the blaster box is much smaller than had been used before … well, on the brands that I buy. Now that I think about it, the Football blasters might have been this size as well. I picked the box up thinking it was a “cereal box” and was surprised to see the $19.99 MSRP, and then I saw the part about 10 packs plus a mannypatch card.

In the category of “One man’s meat…”, I was annoyed as anything to have pulled a blaster with two packs of red Target parallel cards. I don’t collect parallels, so these are of no use to me, other than something to send in my next shipment to COMC so I can hopefully use the credit to buy something far more interesting (which wouldn’t be hard – Did I mention I really don’t like parallels?)

The Blockbuster cards are pretty nice-looking; here’s the patch card I pulled, which is nicer in person than in this scan. This is also going to COMC in the next shipment.

I’ll have more about the cards tomorrow, when I have more time (and if I’m late for work, it’s ALL YOUR FAULT! I hope you’re satisfied!). For those who like the numbers, here’s the breakdown of what was in my blaster:
50 base cards
12 Target red parallels
5 Gold parallels
3 minis
3 Golden Moments
2 Blockbuster cards
2 “Beerfractor” parallels
2 Golden Giveaway Cards (I got a Lou Gehrig virtual coin – my first HOFer, for whatever that’s worth. I also got a Dustin Pedrioa virtual coin, which gave me 6 unique player coins, which got me a $10 e-gift card code.  Ooh.)
1 Golden Great
and, of course, one mannypatch card.

In my case, 20 of the 81 cards are going to COMC, and two more were Golden Giveaway cards which were redeemed and recycled.  Not a promising start.

A Few Random Customs I Figured I’d Share

No real reason behind posting any of these, other than I felt like it.

I like the way this card turned out, and I’ve liked Rodrigo Lopez since he was an Oriole, but the Cubs unfortunately designated him for assignment back in April before I could post the image.  At this point in the season, it just doesn’t matter.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for photos involving throwback uniforms which would not be anachronistic on a 1974 Topps card, and here’s another one; like the Josh Hamilton card I’d featured a little while ago, this is from a Rangers 40th anniversary throwback game.

And finally… A week or two ago, I featured one of my custom cards in a cello wrapper. I got some comments asking what the card looks like without the “wrapper”, so here you go:

Mike Trout Custom – 1989 Donruss Rated Rookie

I wish I could remember who it was that posted this, but someone had asked if anyone collected a player because they had had him on their fantasy baseball team.  My response at the time was that I became a fan of Doug Fister after his performance for my team last year, but this year, I’m really getting to like Mike Trout.

This guy is having an impressive rookie season so far, only he’s had the misfortune (if you can call it that) of sharing his rookie season with that Bryce guy (not to mention Yu Darvish).

The Troutmeister was named the AL Rookie Of The Month for both May & June, and is leading the AL in batting average (.343) and stolen bases (26)… Not leading AL rookies, leading the league.  Just to add to the impressive numbers, he’s also got 12 homers and 40 RBI.

The Angels were 6-14 before he got called up and 42-24 afterwards.  There’s too  much talent on that team to think they would continue at a .300 winning percentage all season, but Trout undoubtedly acted as a catalyst.

From what I’ve seen, he’s a lot of fun to watch – I was watching the Angels play the Orioles on TV and saw him steal a homer from J.J. Hardy with a beautiful over-the-wall catch – and he’s doing wonders for both of my fantasy teams.

And on top of all of that, he’s from New Jersey.  It used to be that I had a thing for players who were from Long Island like I am, but given that most American ballplayers come from California or Florida, I’ve come to appreciate anyone who comes from north of the Mason-Dixon line.