Monday, February 24, 2014


I’ll be posting this to both of my blogs today as it applies to them equally. Within the past two weeks, I unexpectedly changed jobs (within the same company and for good reasons). It is a learning curve and the training (on computer) has me too eye strained at the end of the day to do much else, including more computer time to blog.

I do have a couple of 2014 Topps posts built up but Blogger was giving me fits last week, not posting and/or not showing up in the blogrolls so I took the weekend off. And I still have a bunch of incomplete drafts for Once a Cub as well.

When I decided to add a second blog, this new job wasn't even on my radar. In hindsight, even without a job change, it was a little ambitious to think I could do two posts in one day for the 2014 Topps Blog and one for Once a Cub. Not to mention that I wanted to do three a day once March rolled around.

My posts take me between 30 minutes to an hour each, so spending 2-3 hours a day hasn't been easy. In fact, I haven’t really been doing it. There have only been a handful of days where I managed all three posts.

Don’t worry, I’m not retiring or quitting either blog. I’ll resume regular posting to Once a Cub next Monday after I finish up a couple of those unfinished posts. But I will be cutting back to just once per day on the 2014 Topps posts. Even if it takes me until 2016 to finish the set, at least I won’t have killed myself trying to do it. I also noticed that my later posts weren't getting anywhere near the same number of views as those posted earlier. Part of that is due to the fact the majority of the time they were my “newest post” was spent on the graveyard shift. And I think the other part of that was Blogger didn't want my posts to show up until a few hours after they were actually posted. By that time, the next one was on its way.

I still enjoy the process of researching each card and breaking it down. I still enjoy showing off my new Cubs stuff and custom cards. I just need some time to adjust to my new routine.

And last but not least, I do have a few delayed packages going out this week, too.  So if you've been waiting on me for something, sorry for the delay and thanks for your patience! And if you are expecting something and don't get it by the end of the week, drop me a line to remind me!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

#270 Gregor Blanco

#270 Gregor Blanco
First impression of what’s going on: Today I’m double dipping on both Gregor Blanco and plays at the plate. Earlier, Blanco made a cameo on Brian McCann’s card and was thrown out at home. Now, on his own card, while it's much better looking overall, it's not looking good as far as scoring goes.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 19: Gregor Blanco #7 of the San Francisco Giants safely slides under the tag of Miguel Montero #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks to score on a double by Buster Posey #28 in the first inning at AT&T Park on July 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Reality of the Photo: Mark your calendars, guys, I was wrong! At least according to the caption, it says Blanco slid in under the tag. Call me a skeptic, but we’ll have to see the BOXSCORE first.

Ok, they did score twice in the first inning.

And after leading off the inning with a walk, Buster Posey did in fact drive Blanco home with a double.

Since it was the game winning run (all the way from the bottom of the 1st), it was the top play:

The Giants wore their orange alternate jerseys for this game, a Friday night home game standard in 2013.

And courtesy of Diamondbacks catcher, Miguel Montero’s cleat, we get some Free Advertising in the form of a Nike swoosh logo.

He is not credited in the photo caption, and only makes a cameo from the waist down, but I think the Giant standing behind the sliding Blanco is third base coach, Tim Flannery.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Gregor’s .366 On-Base Percentage was second among NL Rookies in 2008.

I don’t know what the official minimum is, but I plugged in NL Rookies with at least 250 Plate Appearances over at, sorted by OBP and came up with this top 5:

I guess Topps’ threshold is slightly higher than mine because they’re not counting Martin Prado. Which is fine by me because the next four guys more than doubled Prado’s PA’s. So it looks like by Topps' standards, Blanco came in second behind Joey Votto of the Reds.

As for the blurb, the other errorless regular NL outfielder was the Washington Nationals’ Denard Span.

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #270
Player Name: Gregor Blanco
Team: San Francisco Giants
Position: Outfield
Game Date: July 19, 2013
Opponent: Arizona Diamondbacks
Stadium: AT&T Park
Division: National League West
Home/Away: Home
Outcome of the game: 2-0, Giants over the Diamondbacks, Win for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: Yes
Bats/Throws: Left/Left
Birthdate: 12/24/1983
Birthplace: Venezuela
Cameos by: Miguel Montero (catcher), Tim Flannery (third base coach)
Photographer: Ezra Shaw
Niche collections this card could fit into: Play at the Plate, Cameo, Free Advertising, Horizontal, Southpaw, Alternate Jersey

My Grade: This card hits several key niches and with the safe call at home, deservedly gets an A+.

In fact, this card had so many labels, it wouldn't let me use them all. I had to remove Arizona and San Francisco from the team names to get them all to fit. Now for the sake of uniformity, I have to go back and adjust all of the other team names. Good thing this happened fairly early and not 500 cards in. I will be going back through all of my previous posts this weekend to make sure each post is properly tagged because I think I have forgotten a few photographers and stadiums, too. I'll also be adding each card's grade as a label so you'll be able to find all the A+ cards (or whatever grade you want to see) at a glance.

Tomorrow, I have the final two, thus far unrepresented teams. As a Cubs fan, it figures they're both NL Central teams. Ha! Then I'll probably go completely random again.

#225 Brian McCann

#225 Brian McCann
First impression of what’s going on: Something leads me to believe this is one of those “Play at the Plate” cards. I can’t say this one is particularly well cropped in a conventional sense, but it is such a unique angle, I’m actually going to let that slide. Catcher Brian McCann’s body language and eye line tells me he’s got the ball and this base runner is out.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 12: Gregor Blanco #7 of the San Francisco Giants is tagged out at home plate by Brian McCann #16 of the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning at AT&T Park on May 12, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
The Reality of the Photo: I’d have to go back and check (who am I kidding, I won't) but this may the most complete caption I've seen yet. Both players are named. I've got the date and location of the game, as well as the two teams involved. I've even got the inning. The only thing missing is the final outcome of the game so let’s go check out the BOXSCORE.

Looks like the play wasn’t crucial to the game but it can still be demoralizing to be thrown out at the plate. How did Blanco get into this position?

Whoa, talk about a crazy inning. So much going on. An error. A walk. A hit. A sacrifice that only kind of, sort of worked (no run, but it advanced a different runner). A fielder’s choice out at home (the play captured on the card). And a base runner caught stealing. If a run didn't score, that would seem almost Hollywood scripted. Or at least something you’d see on Looney Tunes.

I couldn't tell from the card or photo, but thanks to one of my new favorite features on, I can find exactly which uniform the players were wearing that day. According to the site, both teams were wearing their respective standard home and away uniforms.

Because it was Mother's Day, they had a special pink ribbon patch over their hearts. McCann's ribbon is covered by his chest protector and Blanco's front is facing away from the camera so you can’t actually see either. Therefore, the card won’t get any special consideration for the commemorative patch niche. You do get a small taste of the Mother's Day festivities with Gregor Blanco's pink arm sleeve/wrist band at the top of the card.

McCann does double dip on the Free Advertising though with a Mizuno logo on his chest protector and mitt.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Brian was the first Braves player ever to homer in his initial postseason at-bat.

That would be pretty magical for just about anyone. But take a minute and remember that this is a Rookie Fact and it's that much more impressive. Here’s a list of all the players who have played at least 1,000 regular season games without ever playing the postseason. Or if you don't want to click on the link, here's a screenshot of the top twenty:

* designates a Hall of Famer
Hall of Famer Ernie Banks played for 19 seasons and hit 512 home runs but never played in the postseason. Then this whippersnapper, rookie catcher not only makes the postseason his first year, but cranks a homer in his first at bat!? Kids these days, with their six divisions and wild cards.

I did a double take at the end of the blurb when it said McCann had his seventh All-Star season in 2013. Man, I’m getting old. How has McCann already played 9 seasons and been an All-Star seven times? It’s definitely the Cubs bias, but when I think of Braves catchers, I still think of Cubs-turned-Braves Jody Davis and Damon Berryhill in the late 1980’s-early 1990’s. And yes, I've heard of Javy Lopez, but he came later.

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #225
Player Name: Brian McCann
Team: Atlanta Braves
Position: Catcher
Game Date: May 12, 2013
Opponent: San Francisco Giants
Stadium: AT&T Park
Division: National League West
Home/Away: Away
Outcome of the game: 5-1, Giants over the Braves, Loss for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: No
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Birthdate: 2/20/1984
Birthplace: Georgia
Cameos by: Gregor Blanco
Photographer: Jason O. Watson
Niche collections this card could fit into: Play at the Plate, Cameo, Free Advertising, Partial Southpaw

My Grade: This is a pretty cool looking card with a unique angle for the play at the plate. It’s not overflowing with niche collections but the ones it fits into are some of the more popular ones. I guess I can overlook the fact that McCann is showing up Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Don Kessinger on the back of the card and let this one slide by with an A-.

Getting to see the Mother’s Day ribbon and maybe a little bit of red text on the back (League Leader status) would have made this card an A.

As a 7x All-Star and 5x Silver Slugger, I’m actually kind of surprised McCann hasn't led the league in something that Topps tracks in his near decade in Atlanta. I never really thought about McCann’s Hall of Fame potential (mainly because I didn't realize he had already played so long), but after looking at his stats, I’m not sure he comes close to passing the sniff test, despite those accolades.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

#110 Wil Myers

#110 Wil Myers
First impression of what’s going on: I like me a good running photo. Going from first to third or trying to score from second on a single to the outfield. Hair and jersey flapping in the breeze. Wil Myers looks ready to karate chop you out of his way with one hand or knock your lights out with the other. By my count, six of the eleven Topps All-Star Rookies are included in Topps Series 1, but Myers is the first one I've shown.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 27: Wil Myers #9 of the Tampa Bay Rays in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 27, 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Rays defeated the Yankees 1-0. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The Reality of the Photo: The angle of Myers running seems a little more pronounced zoomed out. The caption just lists him “in action” so let’s go to the BOXSCORE to see if we can figure out what’s going on.

Oooh, close game. Did Myers score the lone run? Or maybe drive it in?

Nope and nope. Let’s see what he did with his hit.

Hmmmm. A leadoff double by Myers in the 4th, followed by a walk and then three strikeouts. I would have sworn Myers was coming to third in this photo but he was stranded at second. Getting the angle of Myers coming in that hard on a double would put the photographer out in the left field bleachers. Possible, but not likely. If I knew more about Yankee Stadium, I could probably tell you exactly where that yellow sign is in the background and know better.


I got ahead of myself. I found his hit in the fourth but going back to the first inning, with a runner already on, Myers grounded to the third baseman who went for the lead runner. Myers was safe at first though. And that was followed by a single to center field by James Loney, moving Myers from first to third on the play. Much more likely scenario to match the photo.

The lone run came in the 6th but had nothing to do with Myers, as he led off the inning with a ground ball out.

Myers is wearing an “alternate” jersey. The Rays wore it 61 times last year. Compare that to the 27 times they wore their official road uniform and the 65 times they wore their home whites and you'll see why I put the word alternate in air quotes.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Wil is the lone Rays rookie with 7 RBI in his first eight games.

I’ll be honest, I’m feeling a little too lazy to fact check this. But the Rays are just starting their 17th season (wow, that makes me feel old!) so it seems feasible for Myers to have that record already.

I don’t know what the deadline is for these cards, but there is no mention of Myers winning the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year award on November 11, 2013. Myers was the third Rays player in the last six seasons to win the award and teammate Chris Archer (former Cubs prospect) took third place.Previous Rays winners include Evan Longoria in 2008 and Jeremy Hellickson in 2011. It was a Florida sweep as Miami Marlins pitcher, Jose Fernandez took home the NL ROY honors.

I would have to do more research on it, but 88 games seems low for a non-pitcher Rookie of the Year winner. I know a lot of rookies are mid or late season call ups, but I would think a player who made the team out of spring training or hit at least 100 games would have a leg up on those guys. But he seems to have gotten overwhelming support.

Eh, what do I know? Myers winning the ROY was fairly recent, but if you ask me again in 6 months, I probably wouldn't be able to tell you! Again, no offense to Myers. It's just that 90% of the time if I'm watching AL baseball, its because one of their teams is playing the Cubs. The other ten percent is postseason.

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #110
Player Name: Wil Myers
Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Position: Outfield
Game Date: July 27, 2013
Opponent: New York Yankees
Stadium: Yankee Stadium
Division: American League East
Home/Away: Away
Outcome of the game: 1-0, Rays over the Yankees, Win for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: Yes, alternate road
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Birthdate: 12/10/1990
Birthplace: North Carolina
Cameos by: N/A
Photographer: Jim McIsaac
Niche collections this card could fit into: Alternate Jersey, Topps All-Star Rookie

My Grade:  I like the photo choice, but not the cropping. The Topps All-Star Rookie designation carries a lot of weight but there's just not a lot about this card that wows me. B-

#35 Trevor Cahill

#35 Trevor Cahill
First impression of what’s going on: Not a surprise? Another pitcher pitching. An actual surprise? Great cropping! No missing appendages. Well done, Topps! (How's that for positive reinforcement?) We even get a little perceived “oomph” with Cahill’s expression. After some mediocre cards, this one is off to a good start.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 14: Trevor Cahill #35 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on June 14, 2013 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
The Reality of the Photo: There isn't much to go on with the full picture but the caption limits this photo to the first inning at least. This caption doesn't even give the outcome of the game so let's go to the BOXSCORE.

Wow, a pitcher’s duel. The sixth inning could go to the starter or the bullpen, let’s take a closer look.

Cahill ran into trouble in the sixth and got stuck with the loss. Usually only allowing two runs should get you the win.

As for the first inning, Cahill did allow a pair of base runners but struck out three to escaped unscathed.

You can blame your offense for lack of support (they only managed two hits) but when you start off an inning with a walk and a hit by pitch, it can come back to haunt you. On this day, Cahill paid the price with his 8th loss of the season.

The good folks at Rawlings wanted to make sure in case you saw Cahill's glove, you knew they were the manufacturer. They have three separate logos in plain sight.

And speaking of logos, can I just say that the sleeve patch logo where the lower case “d” and “b” form a snake head is one of my favorites.  It’s simple yet clever!

It reminds me of the old Brewers logo with the “M” and the “B” that form a ball and glove.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Trevor was the 1st Athletics rookie since 1983 to take a no-hitter to the 7th.

Take that, Todd Van Poppel! Sorry, that’s the extent of my A’s rookie pitcher knowledge. I probably just dated myself too. Cahill's feat came in just his second career appearance on April 12, 2009 against the Seattle Mariners. Unfortunately, it was another case of lack of run support as Cahill took the 1-0 loss after allowing a single and double in the 7th inning. Each team had three hits, but only the Mariners managed to convert.

I didn't go year by year so I can’t vouch that Cahill was the first to do it since 1983. But to rub a little salt in the wound for him, I did find a rookie pitcher for the Athletics that got into the7th inning with a no-hitter in 1983 and that guy finished it out. On September 29, 1983 (almost five years before Cahill was born), Mike Warren of the middle-of-the-AL West- pack Oakland A’s no-hit Tony La Russa’s first place Chicago White Sox.

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #35
Player Name: Trevor Cahill
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Position: Pitcher
Game Date: June 14, 2013
Opponent: San Diego Padres
Stadium: Petco Park
Division: National League West
Home/Away: Away
Outcome of the game: 2-1, Padres over the Diamondbacks, Loss for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: No
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Birthdate: 3/1/1988
Birthplace: California
Cameos by: N/A
Photographer: Denis Poroy
Niche collections this card could fit into: Free Advertising,

My Grade: This card didn't fit a lot of niches and tells not one, but two stories of lousy run support. But I really, really, really want to reward this card for having one of the best crops to date. And since this is my blog, I shall. It gets a B.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

#266 Zack Wheeler

#266 Zack Wheeler
First impression of what’s going on: Like earlier with the Ernesto Frieri of the Angels, I think Wheeler is sporting an alternate jersey. And like most of the cards this year so far, cropped too close. Eventually I might stop mentioning it, but in fairness to the cards I've already dinged on it, it’ll still get counted. Although the Future Stars logo isn't very legible, Wheeler is one of 15 players in Series 1 to get it on his card.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Zack Wheeler #45 of the New York Mets in action against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field on June 30, 2013 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Nationals defeated the Mets 13-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Reality of the Photo: Yep, plenty of uncropped elbow in the original photo and the ball/hand doesn't have to be obscured by the Topps logo. Getty hasn't been real specific with the pitchers on their captions as to the batter or situation.  But it does let me know that this was a 13-2 drubbing. This won’t be good for Wheeler. Let’s go to the BOXSCORE to see just how bad it was.

Well, it looks like most of the runs came late in the game, probably off the bullpen. I’d be surprised if Wheeler made it much past those first five runs. And if he did, certainly not all the way to the 8th when the Nationals unleashed a half dozen more runs.

So Wheeler did make it a little further but started to get into trouble in the 5th and got the hook. Wheeler was involved in all five of the Top 5 Plays, although as a pitcher, that’s rarely a good thing. Case in point:

Another thing that caught my attention about this game, and it has nothing to do with Wheeler or this card. Former Cub, Anthony Recker pitched the 9th inning. And that’s only notable because, with the Cubs, Recker was a catcher. He must have gotten some whiplash from his inning though as you’ll see from the inning summary:

Walk. Home Run. And then three fly balls hit to the outfield. Luckily, they stayed in the field of play. I don’t know how hard they were hit, but with the wind on any given day at Wrigley Field, those could have been gone!

Back to Zack Wheeler. The Mets uniforms were one of seven they used in 2013. See the chart below courtesy of for the results while wearing this one.

And Rawlings is getting a little Free Advertising with two prominent logos on Wheeler’s glove. And I guess he’s advertising himself too as his name is written on the glove.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Zack is the only Mets rookie to have won his first five road decisions.

Aha! The bludgeoning at the hands of the Nationals was a home game. Sorry season ticket holders, in 2014, Wheeler is only pitching on the road!

The blurb mentions that the Mets won 10 of Wheeler’s first 14 starts. By the end of the season, they had still only won 10 of his eventual 17 starts. It doesn't mention in the five games that Wheeler is credited with “losing” that the Mets scored two runs twice, one run twice and were shutout the last one.

Yes, there was the lopsided game against the Nats depicted on the card, but how about some run support, Mets?!

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #266
Player Name: Zack Wheeler
Team: New York Mets
Position: Pitcher
Game Date: June 30, 2013
Opponent: Washington Nationals
Stadium: Citi Field
Division: National League East
Home/Away: Home
Outcome of the game: 13-2, Nationals over the Mets, Loss for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: Yes
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Birthdate: 5/30/1990
Birthplace: Georgia
Cameos by: N/A
Photographer: Jim McIsaac
Niche collections this card could fit into: Free Advertising, Future Stars, Alternate Jersey, Partial Southpaw, Former First Round Pick

My Grade: I started out thinking this card would be a dud. Bad crop, boring photo, dud of a game. I think I've seen cards of his in the Pro Debut set but I’ll admit, I've only heard of Zack Wheeler in passing. No appearances against the Cubs last year. After going further into his season, I’d definitely take him on the Cubs.

But that doesn't really have anything to do with the card itself. It does fit into a few of the niche collections to save it from mediocrity of a C. But only barely. Final grade is a B-.

#240 Ernesto Frieri

#240 Ernesto Frieri
First impression of what’s going on: Standard pitching shot. It’s a bit too cropped for my tastes, but not quite enough to get the Unnecessary Censorship designation. I think this may be an alternate jersey as home jerseys are usually white and away jerseys have the city name rather than team nickname. But they are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim so maybe that doesn't fit.

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 14: Ernesto Frieri #49 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on April 14, 2013 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Reality of the Photo: The caption doesn't give much to go on, no inning or batter. Luckily, Frieri is a reliever so that narrows it down a little. Let's look at the BOXSCORE.

Angels got the win, looks like a Save situation. Did Frieri get it?

Yes he did. And he even struck out 4 batters in his inning and a third.

And one of those strikeouts was a Top 5 play. Must have been a rally killer.

Yes, again. Frieri came into the 8th with two on and two out in a one-run game to get Jason Castro to strike out swinging.

Josh Hamilton would add some insurance runs with a two-run homer in the bottom of the 8th before Frieri would shut down the Astros for good in the 9th. This was way back in April, so it earned Frieri his second of eventually 37 Saves on the year.

As for the uniforms, I was right about home jerseys being white. And while their away jersey is not red, they apparently do not use the city name. The red jersey is their alternate.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Ernesto tied a Padres mark by starting his career with 12 scoreless GS.

That can’t be right. If you start 12 games and don’t give up any runs, I think I would have heard about that. I remember Orel Hershiser back in the 1980’s chasing that record. I think instead of “GS” Topps must have meant appearances.

Counting his two innings in two appearances in 2009, Frieri didn't give up a run until his 13 game (not game started).

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #240
Player Name: Ernesto Frieri
Team: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Position: Pitcher
Game Date: April 14, 2013
Opponent: Houston Astros
Stadium: Angel Stadium of Anaheim
Division: American League West
Home/Away: Home
Outcome of the game: 4-1, Angels over the Astros, Win for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: Yes
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Birthdate: 7/19/1985
Birthplace: Colombia
Cameos by: N/A
Photographer: Jeff Gross
Niche collections this card could fit into:  Alternate Jersey

My Grade: This was a card that bored me at first glance. Just a standard pitching shot. The Rookie Fact was a little iffy. But looking deeper into the game in which the photo was taken, I was a little more impressed with Frieri. Just enough to bump this card from a D to a C-. There’s nothing horrible about this card but it just doesn't stand out in any way.