How Do You Solve A Problem Like The Marlins?

With the The Miami Marlins will soon have new ownership, and for most people it can’t come soon enough… but once the ownership change becomes official, that’s when the fun starts.

You’d have a hard time finding anyone who thinks that the past 15 years has been anything but a public relations disaster. Floridians hate Loria. Baseball fans hate Loria. When Loria is gone, there will be much rejoicing.

But the thing is that many people hate the Marlins because of Loria and his predecessors (who were not exactly guardians of the public trust themselves). So if you’re the new owners of the team, what do you do to put up a figurative “Under New Management” sign on Marlins Park?

Would you go as far as to change the team name? There’s enough brand recognition in the “Marlins” name that I wouldn’t expect a change, but we are dealing with an extreme situation.

Would you change the team’s logo and uniforms? I didn’t care for the Marlins logo or uniforms when they were unveiled, but they grew on me a bit and I will say that they’re better than the original black & teal uniforms.

But the other side of this is that the uniform also carries a Loria stench with it. He is the one who drove all the art-y changes involving the Marlins, from the uniforms to the garish Home Run sculpture. Keep in mind that licensing rules and obligations makes any change to a team’s visual branding like doing a one-eighty in a cruise ship, but if it were me, I would start the ball rolling immediately and get as much fan input as possible.

I don’t know how the fanbase feels about “Billy The Marlin”…

Me, I think he’s creepy as hell and if I were the new owner, Billy would be the first one out the door.

On the field… Job #1 is keeping Giancarlo Stanton happy. He is the face of the team, he is your primary on-field asset in terms of play and marketability.

Enough of my spitballing…

What would you do if you bought the Marlins?

“Hot Stove”: You’ve Got The Virtual Baseball Cards, Now Get The Virtual Cereal!

I’ve been making custom faux-3D baseball cards based on the 1974 Kellogg’s design for a while now.  During that time, it never occurred to me to take things to the next level until CommishBob from The Five Tool Collector complemented my customs by saying that “They look like they came right out of a Kellogg’s box”.

Had my wife been in the room at the moment I read his comment, she surely would’ve seen the cartoon light bulb pop on over my head.

After all, where should virtual Kellogg’s cards come from if not from a virtual cereal box?
2014 Cereal Box

If I do another batch of 3-D cards next winter (and I’m leaning towards using the 1976 Kellogg’s design, but that’s a long way away yet), I’ve got an idea to do a series of boxes as well… and those posts may well be like this one in that you won’t know what custom you get until you’re past the box and find that it contains…

Yoenis Céspedes!  After being traded to the Red Sox at the end of July, he found himself being traded to Detroit less than 5 months later.
2014-15 TSR Hot Stove #20 Yoenis Cespedes
If you combine the two Céspedes trades together as if it were one three-way trade that took a really long time to finalize, the Red Sox gave up Jon Lester, Johnny Gomes, Alex Wilson, minor leaguer Gabe Speier and cash for Rick Porcello and a 2015 competitive balance round B pick… given that Lester and Gomes became free agents, I would say the Sox came out alright on that one.

Getting back to the general concept of “Things I’d like to do differently next time”, I’m thinking I might carry two “Hot Stove” designs… One for the players I photoshop into new uniforms (like above) and one for the players who were photographed in a new uniform, like the Nelson Cruz showing off new alternate uniforms a couple of weeks ago, or like this Ichiro, which I did this way because I couldn’t bring myself to finish photoshopping him after I found this photo where it wasn’t obvious that he’s wearing a jersey over a dress shirt.
2014-15 Hot Stove 1968 Insert Ichiro
You know, just to make it easier to distinguish between “This is Matt Kemp photoshopped into a new uniform” and “This is Joe Mauer from a press conference where he was modeling the Twins’ new home uniforms”.

As of right now, I’ve got an idea in mind for the design of this “insert set” in the 2015/16 Hot Stove release, and it’s not based on a Kellogg’s set… but like I said, plenty of time there.

As long as I’m writing, I’ll just mention that my travels yesterday took me past three different Target stores and none of them had 2015 Topps… Although one had a shopping cart full of sealed cases that said things like “New Releases”, “Excell Marketing”, and “Display immediately”. Thanks, guys.

“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.

New Rule: You Make The Yankees Look Bad, You Get A TSR Custom Card

This past weekend the Yankees and Marlins played in Panama… Not Panama City, FL;  PANAMA.  Land of Mariano Rivera.  The place with the canal.  That Panama.

The series in Panama was intended to be a Yankee Love Fest and featured Rivera throwing out the first pitch and being the general center of attention.There was just one hitch.

On Saturday, the Yankees got no-hit by four Marlins pitchers.

Sure, it’s an exhibition game.  Yes, both teams were split squad.  I don’t care.  Jeter played.  So did Beltran, Gardner and Soriano.  None of them got hits.  Nobody in pinstripes got a hit.  I am happy.

I’m so happy that I’ve created custom cards of the four Marlins pitchers who did this glorious deed… and I’ve also established an additional way of picking who will appear on my custom cards.

Brad Hand was perfect for 5 innings and struck out 6.
2014 TSR #4 Brad Hand
Hand is out of options this year, and you’d have to think this helps his chances of sticking with the team.

…And I know at least some of you are thinking this: “Aloha, Mr. Hand”.

Steve Cishek pitched an inning, struck out one, walked one.
2014 TSR #83 Steve Cishek
Last year, Steve Cishek lead the NL with 62 games finished, and was 6th with 34 saves.

A.J. Ramos pitched two innings with one walk.
2014 TSR #111 AJ Ramos
Like Cishek, it doesn’t look like Ramos has to worry about having a job in Miami.

Arquimedes Caminero – who instantly shoots up to the Top Ten Great Names In The Majors – pitched the 9th and struck out a batter.
2014 TSR #56 Arquimedes Caminero
Caminero’s full name is Arquimedes Euclides Caminero… and yes, he was named after Greek mathematicians Archimedes and Euclid. It’s just a shame that I didn’t get to write this guy on the recently-passed “Pi Day” (3/14).

Now that I’ve featured five Marlins on TSR customs, I think we’ll have to take a breather from that team… unless some Marlin forces my hand again.

I’ll be back later in the week with some guys from other teams… Promise.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody!

Using My Fantasy Team As An Excuse To Make Customs, Part 2

Fantasy-wise, Greg Holland was the biggest surprise for me in 2013. I drafted him before the season, but admittedly didn’t know much about him other than he’d been named the the Royals closer during the 2012 season.
2013 TSR #756 - Greg Holland

He ended up with 47 saves, a 1.21 ERA, a 0.866 WHIP and 13.8 K’s per 9 innings – all very impressive numbers.

When doing a Image Google to find a photo of Greg Holland, I somehow ended up with the same image as was used on this Simon & Gintfunkel card:
2013 Gintfunkel Gloria Estefan

When I clicked on the link provided, I ended up on a page full of HTML and no reference to who this singer in the photo was, nor what she had to do with Greg Holland. I did ultimately find out that it’s Gloria Estefan; why she came up in a search on Greg Holland remains a mystery to me.

When it comes to fantasy baseball, I pride myself on my ability to pick up impact rookies during the season. Last year it was Mike Trout; this year, I picked up a couple of kids you may have heard of…
2013 TSR #669 - Yasiel Puig

I won’t deny that Puig’s had a an impressive season and may well have turned the Dodgers’ season around, but when it comes to the NL Rookie Of The Year award, my money’s on this guy:

2013 TSR #702 - Jose Fernandez

Before recapping some of Fernandez’ achievements, I will remind you that all of this was with a very bad team that lost 100 games…

He had a 12-6 record, which means he got nearly 20% of the Marlins’ wins but only 6% of the losses. He also had a 2.19 ERA (2nd in MLB), 0.979 WHIP (4th in MLB), .182 Batting Average Allowed (1st in MLB) and 187 K’s in 172.1 innings.

Most other years, Puig is a shoo-in… but I have to think that Jose Fernandez takes home the hardware.

Why The “1972 Mini” Cards Might Look Wrong To You

Whenever Topps does something Heritage-y, Archive-y or Lineage-y, my thoughts turn to “How will they re-create these cards for teams which didn’t exist at the time?”

So when I saw that they were going to do 1972 minis, my first thought was –

Well, to be honest, my first thought was “Minis. Why did it have to be minis?”

– But my second thought was “I’ll be curious to see how they handle all the teams that they can’t just copy from the original 1972 cards” (i.e. the Blue Jays, Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Rays, Diamondbacks and Nationals).

So after pulling this Giancarlo Stanton card from a pack…
2013 Topps 1972 Mini Giancarlo Stanton
…I just shook my head and disapprovingly said “Duuuuuuuuuuuuuude…”

The first thing I noticed was the fact that the “LINS” part of “MARLINS” sort of sags down closer to the border, which looks sloppy.

…but something else about it looked wrong.

After a minute or two, I realized that the big problem is on the perspective. The letters are supposed to look like they’re coming out from behind the photo, all of them originating at some distant vanishing point.

Here, I’ll give you an example… I took a 1972 Frank Robinson card and used pink lines to extend the drop shadow on the letters (This was done virtually; no HOFers were harmed during this exercise):
1972 Topps Frank Robinson with lines
The letters are meant to look like they’re emerging from some distant point behind Frank’s head.  These lines don’t all converge on exactly the same point, but that’s probably just me not drawing the pink lines right… it’s still close enough to get the idea across.

But look at what happens when I do the same thing to the Stanton card:
2013 Topps 1972 Mini Giancarlo Stanton with lines
See? It’s a freakin’ mess. The person who did this may have the skills, but didn’t “get” what the original artist was doing… or maybe they weren’t given enough time to do it right.

Whatever the reason for this, it fails a critical test: Is it better than I could’ve done?  I’ve got some artistic ability and I like to play around with Paint Shop Pro, but I am not, by anyone’s definition, a Graphic Artist.  I’m not even one of these people who thinks they can call themselves a Graphic Designer because he/she made up a business card saying that they’re a Graphic Designer.

…So when someone who makes a living out of manipulating pixels, someone who ostensibly calls this their career, when that person produces something which makes me feel like I could do better, then that’s a failure.

You know what? I’m not objective on this. We should ask someone who doesn’t have a stake in this… someone like…. Oh, I don’t know… Someone like the 1971 National League ERA Leaders. I just happen to have them here… OK, guys. Look at this mini. What do you think of the job Topps did on this card?

1972 Topps 1971 NL ERA Leaders

See, it’s not just me. Even Seaver, Roberts and Wilson are unimpressed.

2012 Topps Golden Moments Die Cuts, Just Before The Deadline

I unlocked three cards through the Topps “Golden Giveaway”, and even after trading 2 of them for players I collect, I debated for quite a while whether or not to even redeem these cards…  All of the selling points of these cards are just “meh” to me.

Shiny?  Meh.

Die-cut?  Meh.

A design rather than the photo’s original background?  Meh.

I let it go until pretty much the last minute, and finally decided that it would be better to buy them and see if they’re more exciting in person, rather than to skip them and risk buyer’s – or  non-buyer’s – remorse.

So here are the cards. They’re much thicker than I expected, about the thickness of four normal Topps cards.

Please forgive the wavy white lines in the scans… Because I haven’t committed 100% to keeping these cards, I didn’t remove the protective film from the front.

2012 Topps Golden Moments Die Cut Jose Reyes

2012 Topps Golden Moments Die Cut Ryan Zimmerman

2012 Topps Golden Moments Die Cuts Tom Seaver

I hope some of you will say something along the lines of “Whoa, awesome cards!”

…Because I’m still saying “meh.”

Florida’s Mike Stanton –> Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton

Many of you have seen that the Marlins’ Mike Stanton has announced that he’d like to be called by his actual first name of Giancarlo.  I’m cool with that; I have a friend who also reclaimed the harder-to-pronounce first name he preferred rather than the more common middle name he’d been using.

It also avoids whatever confusion there is between the Marlins outfielder and the former pitcher Mike Stanton.

In honor of Stanton’s decision, I’d like to unveil what may be the first custom of him as Giancarlo, even if it means I’ll have published more customs of the <I spit on the ground> Miami Marlins than of any other team:

I don’t mean to be cynical… OK, fine, I do mean to be cynical, but only a little bit…  I’m not questioning Stanton’s motives, this is probably something he’s wanted to do for a long time.  However, I can’t help but wonder if the people with a certain premium cable channel might have offered up encouragement to Stanton, knowing that something like that would give them material for the documentary being filmed about the 2012 Marlins.

A few random thoughts on the winter meetings

The obvious reaction to the Angels big signings is that they want to compete with the two-time AL champion Texas Rangers… But I think the Angels front office smells blood… Dodger-blue blood.  There’s probably not going to be a better time if they want to become Los Angeles’ team.

What I wish for when Jose Reyes comes to CitiField for the first time in 2012:  Give the man an ovation when he comes to bat for the first time, show him the appreciation for all he’s done — and as soon as that first pitch is thrown, he is the enemy.  Feel free to boo the crap out of him for the next six years.

…Finally, I have to apologize.  Back when the Marlins unveiled their uniforms, I said they weren’t bad.  Now that I’ve seen Heath Bell and Jose Reyes modeling the uniforms up close and in HD, I will flip-flop on that.  They don’t look bad from a distance, but close up, well…  um… They sure are colorful!


Padres’ new uniforms

When I was a kid in the 1970’s, I thought of the NFL games on NBC as being more colorful than those on CBS.  I guess that was because the AFC games on NBC could have teams like the Dolphins, Bengals or Broncos (Back when they had orange jerseys), Jets or Chiefs, while the NFC games on CBS seemed to always be teams that had blue or black as their primary colors… Giants, Cowboys, Bears, Lions… you get the picture.

I thought about this when I saw the  new uniforms the Padres will be wearing in 2012.  There’s nothing wrong with the new uniforms, they’re pretty good looking.  The problem comes in when you look at them within the context of Major League Baseball, and we’ve got yet another “traditional” blue uniform with the team name in script.  It seems like everybody wants to be traditional, and all too often traditional means 1950’s and early 1960’s.  It’s a good look, but it’s become overdone.

I don’t know why teams are so afraid to be distinctive.  If  you take away the MLB teams with blue, navy, black or red as their primary color, what are you left with?  The A’s.  That’s it.  It would be nice if someone were to think outside the box when designing uniforms.

I’ve a feeling that when the Miami Marlins introduce their new logo and uniforms later today, the phrase “Be careful what you wish for” will come back to haunt me.