Monday, March 31, 2014

#M-3 Baltimore Orioles

Even though I eventually found a connection from Friday's card to Saturday’s, I’m going to consider the streak over anyway. Monday, the beginning of the traditional work week is natural starting point and with a fresh start, I thought I’d change things up a bit. As long as I can keep adding them to my collection, the next bunch of Mondays will be “Mascot Monday” and feature cards from 2014 Topps Opening Day's Mascot insert set. Since they share the same front design aside from the added Opening Day logo, I don’t think this is too much of a stretch to include them in my ultimate set.

#M-3 Baltimore Orioles
First impression of what’s going on: These cards have been debated pretty much since their inception and this card is a prime example. Some cards in the set actually have the name of the mascot, while others, like this one, just have the team name. Any fan of the team, and probably millions of others could tell you the name of the Baltimore Orioles is simply The Oriole Bird.

As for the picture, Mr. Bird is standing atop a dugout. He could be taunting an opposing player or just up to some general tomfoolery with a member of the Orioles or ballpark staff. One thing I do find amusing is all of the fans that have their phones/cameras pointed at the mascot’s backside. Maybe he had just turned around, or they were waiting for him to turn back around, but it’s still funny. Also of note, I don’t detect a single kid in that crowd. Aside from the luxury suites, these are the priciest seats in the ballpark so the kids have been priced out of front row shenanigans.

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 04: The Baltimore Orioles mascot performs in the seventh inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 4, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
The Reality of the Photo: The caption says this came during the 7th inning stretch which likes prime mascot time. But there’s no mention of how the Orioles fared against the visiting Mariners so let’s check out the BOXSCORE.

So the Orioles took a 2-1 in the 6th but the a rally by the Mariners probably took some steam out of the crowd. Who to call to get a little home team advantage back on your side? Queue the mascot!

Unfortunately, the Orioles went 9 up, 9 down the rest of the game.

I do see a kid in the uncropped photo and looking back at the card, you can see half his torso on the left side of the card.

On to the back:

There’s no Rookie Fact on these as it has been replaced by the Identifying Feature.

Identifying Feature: Giant Orange Beak

Hatched in 1979, this will be the Oriole Bird’s 35th year as the mascot although a cartoon head first appeared on the Orioles caps in 1966.

Image courtesy of Chris Creamer's
The writeup on the back is good for a chuckle and great for the kids with some fun facts and good breakdown of his antics.

Here's an interesting article about being the Bird. Don’t tell the kids!

And an indication of the state of today’s journalism, an article about a tweet about the Orioles mascot from the 1950’s.

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #M-3
Player Name: Baltimore Orioles (The Oriole Bird)
Team: Baltimore Orioles
Position: Mascot
Game Date: August 4, 2013
Opponent: Seattle Mariners
Stadium: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Division: American League East
Home/Away: Home
Outcome of the game: 3-2, Mariners over the Orioles
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: N/A
Bats/Throws: With both wings! (According to the website)
Birthdate: Hatched: 4/6/1979
Birthplace: Baltimore
Cameos by: N/A
Photographer: G Fiume
Niche collections this card could fit into: High Socks/Stirrups, Mascots

My Grade: While fitting into a whole bunch of niches, this is a pretty good looking card. No missing appendages, although this is one of the few that could have been brought in a little tighter. Maybe crop him at the waist?

I’ll give this card an B+ as the only detractor for me is the lack of mascot name.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

#66 Kris Medlen

After yesterday’s “uncorrected error” disappointment, I wanted a palette cleanser. So the streak is over because as far as I can tell this card isn’t connected in any way to the Andre Rienzo.

#66 Kris Medlen
First impression of what’s going on: When I said palette cleanser, I meant something that I looked at and immediately thought it was awesome. While this isn’t necessarily the best of the remaining cards, it’ll probably be among them. The crop is a bit too tight, cutting of his foot in the upper right, It doesn’t necessarily take away from the photo but it will probably keep it from getting a A+.

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 27: Kris Medlen #54 of the Atlanta Braves pitches while wearing a Atlanta Black Crackers Negro League Tribute uniform during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on April 27, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Braves 7-4. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
The Reality of the Photo: With all that extra space, there’s no reason the crop needed to be that tight. This caption is actually pretty thorough as we get the teams involved, the date of the game, score, and which throwback uniform Kris Medlen is wearing. But let’s check out the BOXSCORE anyway.

As the photo caption said, the Tigers won 7-4. It looks like Medlen probably gave up the first five runs and ultimately suffered the loss.

Yep. Giving up five runs is one of those things that could go either way in the win/loss column. Some of the better teams can overcome that but the perennial contender Detroit Tigers held the Braves off. Maybe I’m just used to cubs pitching but the innings didn’t seem particularly bad for Medlen; the Tigers just kept chipping away.

A single followed by a home run accounts for two runs in the bottom of the second.

After the Braves battled back to take the lead, Medlen gave up three consecutive singles that plated a run.

And then one of those pesky walks was followed by another home run in the bottom of the fourth.

Let’s get back to the positive stuff, the niches.

Starting with the free advertising, we see two Nike swooshes. One of his shoe and one on his undershirt.

We can also see a Rawling logo on Medlen’s glove.

On to the uniform. Last season, the Tigers hosted the 11th Annual Negro League Weekend for their series against the Braves. Here is a link from the Tigers website that talks about the weekend festivities. The Saturday game was the only one that featured the throwback uniforms though.

I’ll admit I’m way undereducated about the Negro Leagues but here’s a link I found interesting regarding the Atlanta Black Crackers.

And done properly are the high socks. Nice!

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Kris, a righty, held left-handed hitters to a .183 Batting Average.

I couldn’t find anything (with minimal effort) that broke it down but holding any group to a .183 batting average is pretty impressive, depending on the sample size.

Unfortunately for Medlen, it looks like he’ll be out for the entire 2014 campaign.

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #66
Player Name: Kris Medlen
Team: Atlanta Braves
Position: Pitcher
Game Date: April 27, 2013
Opponent: Detroit Tigers
Stadium: Comerica Park
Division: American League Central
Home/Away: Away
Outcome of the game: 7-4, Tigers over the Braves, Loss for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: Yes, throwback.
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Birthdate: 10/7/1985
Birthplace: California
Cameos by: N/A
Photographer: Mark Cunningham
Niche collections this card could fit into: Horizontal, Throwback Uniform, Free Advertising, High Socks

My Grade: After filling in the Information I’ll Be Tracking portion of this card, I did find a link to Andre Rienzo from yesterday. Both pitchers were on the losing end of a 7-4 game. But I am officially done with the streak. Going random for a little while.

I also really wanted to like both cards, but what separates today’s card are the niches it fits into. The throwbacks are awesome. While researching them, I learned a little about the Negro Leagues which is an intangible part of this grading system. And I've already express my love of horizontal card and in spite of the crop, this was an excellent use of the format.

This card gets a solid A.

Friday, March 28, 2014

#230 Andre Rienzo

One more link to a rookie. Yes, I know that’s three in a row but this gimmick is running a bit thin for me. I’ll probably go back to random soon.

#230 Andre Rienzo
First impression of what’s going on: I mentioned yesterday that my expectations were a little lower for Rookies since they probably have a fewer photo opportunities compared to the veterans. And being a rookie pitcher is probably even tougher since you don’t even really have an opportunity to play every day.

With that said, and aside from the bad crop along the top, this card isn’t bad. There’s a little Free Advertising I’ll touch on a bit later and some interesting pitching mechanics. There’s been thousands of pitchers and thousands of different ways to through the ball. I’m sure there are a lot of pitchers whose upper body goes perpendicular to the ground but I don’t think it shows up on cards that often. Maybe this is the fastest part of the pitching process? Or I could be making that up. But it sounds good, right?

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 30: Starting pitcher Andre Rienzo #64 of the Chicago White Sox pitches during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on July 30, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
The Reality of the Photo: One thing I didn’t see in the photo but is mentioned in the caption is that Andre Rienzo wears #64 as a starting pitcher. That’s a Spring Training number if I’ve ever heard one. Rookies, man. I wonder if that number is special to him for some reason or if he was just happy to get one handed to him by the clubbie.

Other than that, the caption doesn’t say much about the game, so let’s go to the BOXSCORE and see how he did.

It looks like he may have been roughed up a little in the 5th and shouldn’t have taken the loss, even though his team did lose.

No loss for Rienzo. Holds is a category that's new to me, so I’m not sure how you can get credit for a hold and the loss. Seems shady, Donnie Veal. Reeeaaaal shady.

One more company and I’d have to give Rienzo the “Nascar Award” for advertisements. But he sneaks by with just two, the Nike swoosh on his undershirt and his Rawlings glove.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Andre’s 7-IP, 0-ER debut was a first for a White Sox hurler since 1989.

That’s cool, as that’s about a quarter century. But wait a minute… 

That’s Rienzo’s entire MLB career in one screenshot. The game pictured on the front was his MLB debut and we just talked about how he gave up three runs in the 5th inning. All earned. And if you look at the rest of the chart, he had no other 7-IP appearances and in every appearance he gave up at least one Earned Run. Uh-oh, Topps. Busted!

It didn’t say it on the back of the card but after the talk about Brazil in the blurb, I decided to look it up. Rienzo is just the second MLB player born in Brazil. Here’s a staggering chart from

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #230
Player Name: Andre Rienzo
Team: Chicago White Sox
Position: Pitcher
Game Date: July 30, 2013
Opponent: Indians
Stadium: Progressive Field
Division: American League Central
Home/Away: Away
Outcome of the game: 7-4, Indians over the White Sox, Loss for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: No
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Birthdate: 6/5/1988
Birthplace: Brazil
Cameos by: N/A
Photographer: Jason Miller
Niche collections this card could fit into: Rookie Card, Free Advertising

My Grade: I wanted to like this card. I saw Andre Rienzo when he came through and played against my local minor league team in 2011. He, and many of the other Winston Salem Dash signed autographs for my kids so I’m a little partial. The photo itself is pretty cool and it’s a rookie card. But the bad fact on the back kind of sours it for me. I remember when Error cards were “cool” to collect and some companies even issued corrected versions. But bad facts are just lazy. This card gets a C-.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

#86 Wilmer Flores

Today, I’m following up a rookie with another. This time we’re going all the way back to the the east coast.

#86 Wilmer Flores
First impression of what’s going on: This is kind of a generic shot of a swinging batter but I don’t know that you can expect more than that for a rookie card. Sure, you might get lucky like we did yesterday with Michael Choice, but I think he was an outlier. There are probably only a couple dozens shots to choose from for most rookies. The crop is too tight but Flores does have a few niches at first glance.

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 08: Wilmer Flores #4 of the New York Mets in action against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field on August 8, 2013 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Rockies 2-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

 The Reality of the Photo: Definitely too tight of a crop. I can’t believe the Rockies are making another appearance, in spirit, if not on the actual card. The caption isn’t much help in identifying a particular pitch or even at-bat so let’s go to the BOXSCORE and see what we can find out.

A win is a win, whether you score two or twelve. Let’s see if the rookie had a hand in it.

No hits, but Flores did draw a walk and drive in a run. Fielder’s choice? Or maybe his walk was of the bases loaded variety?

He drew his walk in the bottom of the second, but nothing came of it.

In the fourth he did come up with the bases loaded but as I said, his walk already happened. This time, it sounds like he hit a dribbler to shortstop and the only play was for Flores at first, but allowing Daniel Murphy to score from third.

I wonder if, with no outs and the bases loaded, the infield was playing back for double play depth or in, for a play at the plate. My guess would be, that early in the game, play for the double play, sacrificing a run but putting a damper on an even bigger inning. If they were playing back, that could be the reason why the only play was at first on the dribbler.

This run tied the game at 1 apiece, which was followed by the game winning sacrifice fly by former Cub Anthony Recker. Had Flores grounded into a double play, the sac fly would have been an inning ending out.

The Mets were wearing their home alternates that day, as the regular home uniform involves pinstripes.

Looking a little closer, we can see the All-Star patch because the Mets hosted the game in 2013.

Better View 
And a little more subtle than that, we get a glimpse of an Under Armour logo from Flores’ undershirt on his elbow, for some Free Advertising.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Wilmer tied a Mets record with 9 RBI in his first six MLB games.

First, I want to go off on a tangent about the plurality of Runs Batted In. I think they are commonly referred to as RBIs even though that would translate to Runs Batted Ins. Maybe they should be RsBI, but that sounds ridiculous. So even though RBI, as used by Topps in the Rookie Fact, seems odd, it is technically correct. Weird.

Back to the fact at hand. Among Flores’ 9 RBI, he had a pair of 3 RBI games and one in at least five of the six games. Not to mention that the Mets as a team went 5-1 in that stretch. Good way to start a career.

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #86
Player Name: Wilmer Flores
Team: New York Mets
Position: Shortstop
Game Date: August 8, 2013
Opponent: Colorado Rockies
Stadium: Citi Field
Division: National League East
Home/Away: Home
Outcome of the game: 2-1, Mets over Rockies, Win for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: Yes, alternate
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Birthdate: 8/6/1991
Birthplace: Venezuela
Cameos by: N/A
Photographer: Jim McIsaac
Niche collections this card could fit into: Alternate Jersey, Free Advertising, Patch, Rookie Card

My Grade: This one hits a lot of the same niches as yesterday’s A+ rookie, but somehow it still falls a little flat. Maybe if the crop wasn’t so tight or if Flores had a bigger day at the plate. I’m still going to give this card a B though.

Usually I save the “what could have been” photos for cards with failing grades, but when looking for the source photo, I saw two photos that would have put Flores into “no doubter” A+ status. Both are perfectly timed photos that shine a good light on Flores and they’re both from the same game on September 15, 2013. Maybe that was a little too late in the season to get these made on time.

Lesson learned for the Marlins. Don't try to get to third if Flores is guarding it!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

#27 Michael Choice

#27 Michael Choice
First impression of what’s going on: I don’t know if the Topps photo selector is from Oakland or what, but it’s going to be hard to argue that the A’s don’t have the best cards in the set this year. Even something as simple as running the bases looks pretty cool in those bright yellow jerseys. This card might not crack the top three from Oakland’s team set but could still beat several of the best cards from other teams.

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 02: Michael Choice #35 of the Oakland Athletics runs the bases against the Texas Rangers at Coliseum on September 2, 2013 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
The Reality of the Photo: The crop on this one is pretty good. Choice’s entire upper body is in the fram eand Topps made a good choice on where to crop along the bottom. The expression isn't one of exertion so I wonder if this is a home run trot? He is leaning but I don’t know if that means he is running hard or if he’s just about to round third. Let’s go to the BOXSCORE.

An A’s victory is a good sign for Choice. Let’s see how he did at the plate and on the base paths.

Interesting. How often do you see the the DH batting last in the lineup? And batting .000 in a game in September? I know the card says he’s a rookie but I wonder how far into his career this is?

In the bottom of the third, Choice walked but didn't make it past first base.

Choice led off the bottom of the fifth by beating out a ground ball and errant throw from the third baseman. Coco Crisp followed that up with a home run, with Choice being the eventual game winning run. Nice! I’m guessing this is what the photo shows. So I was half right. It was a home run trot, just not Choice’s home run. He would line out in his final at bat.

I already mentioned the A’s bright yellow jerseys, but here is where I confirm they are in fact alternates.

Choice will also get credit for a little Free Advertising by showing off his Mizuno batting gloves and wrist band.

Another niche we haven’t seen in a while that will probably become more prevalent are Tattoos.

On to the back:

Rookie Fact: Michael was one of 7 UT-Arlington alums to play in the Majors in ’13.

I don’t know what the record would be, but that sounds like a lot. I found an all-time list on and sorted it by the last year played and came up with 18 players somewhere in pro-ball that came from UT-Arlington. The bolded players below are the seven that played in the Majors.

And then we get to the blurb where it confirms that this September 2, 2013 game featured on the front was indeed his MLB debut, in front of his friends and family. So to recap, in his MLB debut, he walked, hustled on a ground ball which might have caused a hurried, errant throw and would score the game winning run. Not a bad day at the office on any day, let alone a debut.

Information I’ll be tracking:

Card Number: #27
Player Name: Michael Choice
Team: Oakland A’s
Position: Outfield
Game Date: September 2, 2013
Opponent: Texas Rangers
Stadium: Coliseum
Division: American League West
Home/Away: Home
Outcome of the game: 4-2, A’s over the Rangers, Win for the player depicted
Alternate/Throwback Jersey: Yes, alternate
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Birthdate: 11/10/1989
Birthplace: Texas
Cameos by: N/A
Photographer: Thearon W. Henderson
Niche collections this card could fit into: Former 1st Round Draft Pick, Alternate Jersey, Free Advertising, Tattoos, MLB Debut, Rookie Card

My Grade: Usually I reserve my A+ grade for “no doubters” where you instantly look at a card and know it’s awesome. For me, this one was an A at first glance. The crop is good, the alternate jersey is cool. The running “pose” is one that isn't quite overdone yet.  I even said it would be the best card on another team. But learning more about it made me like it even more and there’s only one grade higher, an A+.