April showers.

If you were to tell me two months ago the Twins would start the season as a threat to lead the AL Central by mid-April, I’d be shocked. Sure we’ve slid to 7-6 on the year, but with the Wild season all but over(down 3-0 against the Blues) the Twins have started to draw more of my attention. Unlike last year where we started the season 0-9 last year(finishing April with a 7-17 record…) the Twins are on a hot pace to surprise a lot of people. Let’s compare 2016 and 2017:

Time Frame W L RS RA W-L%
2016 April 7 17 80 110 0.292
2016 Finish 59 103 722 889 0.364
2017 April 7 6 54 33 0.538

Pitching

Pitching W L ERA G SV IP ER BB K WHIP K/9
2016 April 7 17 3.97 24 2 215.1 95 75 192 1.365 8
2017 April 7 6 2.46 13 4 106 29 30 81 0.972 6.9

Batting

Batting G R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG
2016 April 24 80 198 44 4 21 77 14 0.239 0.309 0.378
2017 April 12 53 92 22 2 10 52 7 0.233 0.334 0.375

So what changed? Here’s my biggest surprises so far:

  • Pitching staff – Ervin Santana has been lights out(3-0 W/L, .041 ERA, 5 hits allowed(!) in 22 innings) and is leading as the ‘ace’ of the rotation. Phil Hughes returns to form with two wins of his own, and I think the biggest surprise has been the bullpen – 1.93 ERA in 42 innings, 9 earned runs, a 1.000 WHIP and a high 8.6 K/9.
  • Robbie Grossman – Robbie’s batting .310/.487/.517 through ten games! Dude is consistently getting on base with 9 hits, and 10 walks through 29 plate appearances. Thank you Cleveland.
  • Jorge Polanco – Another hitter who is consistently getting on base(13 hits, 3 walks), Polanco has come into his own as the Twins SS this year.
  • Miguel Sano – One of the hardest hitting batters in the league, lil’ Miggy is crushing the ball. Four doubles, a triple(!), and the team leading three home runs through 40 at-bats. He’s striking out plenty(16), but I feel he’s also been a bit more patient at the plate this year(11 walks!). There was an at-bat the other day where he quickly fell down 0-2, fouled off one pitch, and laid off four others and took the walk. Batting .250/.412/.625 on the year – OBP(.027 higher) and SLG(.095 higher) are currently career highs though they will surely fall come seasons end – a 1.037 OPS would definitely help improve last year’s record, but cold streaks happen.
  • Byron Buxton – Yeesh. Can a guy catch a break? He’s been a plus defender with shades of Torii Hunter-like fielding, but I wish his batting would reach the Major League level. Through 12 games, Byron is batting .093/.152/.140 with 23(!) strikeouts in 43 at-bats. Since being drafted in 2012, Byron’s been a much better MiLB hitter than a MLB hitter – .209/.263/.374 vs. .304/.380/.501 – which would you rather have? It’s a bit early to start floating the ‘bust’ label, but he needs to turn it around quickly.

Now if the wheel falls off the wagon next month and we finish with 93 losses, at least we had a few April ‘showers’ not ‘growers’. :D.

2017 Bowman Twins checklist

Base
None.

Paper Prospects

BP15 Nick Burdi
BP44 Stephen Gonsalves
BP52 Kohl Stewart
BP102 Alex Kirilloff
BP114 Tyler Jay
BP134 Fernando Romero

Bowman Chrome Prospects
BCP15 Nick Burdi
BCP44 Stephen Gonsalves
BCP52 Kohl Stewart
BCP102 Alex Kirilloff
BCP114 Tyler Jay
BCP134 Fernando Romero

Bowman Scouts Top 100

BTP-48 Nick Gordon
BTP-98 Alex Kirilloff

Talent Pipeline

TP-MIN Nick Gordon
TP-MIN Tyler Jay
TP-MIN Jake Reed

Chrome Prospect Autographs

CPA-FRO Fernando Romero

This might be the easiest Bowman set to collect for Twins fans. One autograph, a prospect set, a chrome prospect parallel set, two Top 100 prospects inserts, and whatever the hell the single Talent pipeline card winds up being – an insert, auto, relic, etc. Absolutely no base cards of the 100 in the set. The only team without any whatsoever! Sure, 100 Joe Mauer base cards get stale, but how about Brian Dozier? Eduardo Escobar? Ervin Santana? #ValenTwins Jason Castro? Very disappointed. For the first time since 1948, the Twins and/or Senators will have 0 Bowman base. #ThanksTopps

On the topic of pack searchers…

Newer friend of the blog Dub wrote a great post on the topic of pack searchers, and why it’s a bad thing that hurts consumers, companies, and #TheHobby. No really, if you haven’t read that go do it. I’ll wait.

Back? Cool. I couldn’t agree more with his opinions – going above and beyond to try to find a 4$ relic that could otherwise impress a younger collector is just trashy. Let’s be honest, for the most part base card sets don’t yield anything worth while. Sure, Heritage seems to be a little hit heavy this year, and you might have had good odds if you bought out discount boxes of 2011 Topps Update in 2012, but those odds are not in your favor.

Sure, I’m guilty of the occasional picking out of three packs and leaving with the two heavier ones, and besides usually I’ve struck out and pulled the blank spacer cards. Even more often, I end up buying all three packs anyway as it’s more fun the more packs get opened. However I’m not going to stoop so low as to using a weight scale killing odds for other collectors, or opening them in store and thus committing theft, nor will I encourage it by buying a “hot pack” off ebay or in a card store. Even worse than those are the horror stories I hear of people receiving repackaged junk wax in newer released product. I would never think to return an opened box, and I sure as hell wouldn’t keep the new cards and replace with dime a dozen fodder. The hell is wrong with some people?!?

What I consider an even bigger offense to the hobby though are card stores who weigh out individual boxes from a case to sell to preferred buyers. Or searching their newly un-boxed packs when they’re opening a box for the display case. Or when case-breakers who have “issues” with their internet conveniently before they pull a huge hit and then replace it with another card – their internet now restored. These are still cardboard pictures of athletes right? The card producers distribute the cards with printed odds – and those I’m fine with, but case/box/pack sellers don’t need to further tip the odds against the “lowly” hobby collector.

Why all the greed? Sure, I suppose it’s not an issue only restricted to #TheHobby, but it’s still disheartening for a community I thought that we were supposed to be a #CollectFam.  Respect for the fellow collector seems to go right out the door for some people when there’s a new shiny top prospect/PSA 10 vintage. It’s a shame really. Sure, I’m sure most would rather have the best available card from the card companies, the top one of one of one. But I’d rather pull it myself and be surprised than have to screw someone else out of enjoying that rush. I’d rather not have those actions weigh on my moral consciousness. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

If I could influence the readers of the blog to do one thing this year – it’s to benefit another collector the next chance you’ve got – maybe donate your base cards to a kid in the hobby shop, or trade in the favor of your partner. Besides, the hobby is more fun when we’re all having fun. Finishing off sets, collecting our player/team collections, and sharing our nice hits online. Isn’t that the point of social media? 🙂

Speaking of, I’ve got a continuation of the previous Donruss post, maybe another Zelda pack, and an older Stadium Club blaster to post this week. Keep an eye out for those and more. :).

One year anniversary with the Babe.

It’s been exactly one year since I pulled the Babe Ruth dual relic from 2015 Diamond Kings. To celebrate I opened the same amount of boxes(2) as I did that day, and I’ll eventually post those when I get around to it. No, I didn’t get that lucky this year. Just a quick post to celebrate the anniversary. :).

The Babe? Hardly knew her.

Here’s some photos from last year’s National. The Babe met some old-timey friends.

Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb.
Two signed Babe Ruth balls.
Game used Ruth bat.

Finally, here’s my card next to a game-used bat! We got a nice picture with the full sized game-used bat from I think 1929. Six home runs of Ruth’s 714 home runs were hit with it. Naturally, FBI agents were posted around all the corners at the booth = but I got to hold the bat myself as well! Wonder what I’ll pull this year. 🙂

Nintendo Powered

Nope, this post’s not from that set. Though I suppose I could write one about these, or the news to me second OPC-only Series 2 set from 1989. No, today we’ll cover this set from Enterplay that was released late last year. The set breaks down by grouped ranges from Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, then A Link Between Worlds. The most recent fan favorite 3D Legend of Zelda releases, and the most recent handheld offering from Nintendo. At the end of each grouping of games, there’s a foil title card. After the 90 card set, there’s two different foil levels(silver/gold), a foil puzzle back, as well as tattoo and sticker cards. I’ve seen individual retail packs, hobby boxes through hobby shops, as well as Toys R Us carrying a blaster of sorts with a retail only foil Midna card, poster, and one of three different pins. 

Pack.

Fan favorite Ocarina of Time.

The Legendary Master Sword and a Loftwing from Skyward Sword.

We’ve opened a few single packs, as well as one of the Toys R Us offerings and we’ve liked the set so far. I think we’ve only ended up with five duplicate cards through about ten total packs. Despite the nine tattoos and twelve sticker checklist, we’ve only ended up with four stickers and four tattoos – no dupes.


The sticker set also ranges across the four series.

Tattoos – or “FunTats”.

Iconic images from Majora’s Mask.

Images feature artwork from Nintendo, as well as a good mix of in-game screenshots. The card backs feature game play tips, descriptions of items/characters, and other helpful game notes.


Card Backs.

Twilight Princess fishing, and series villain Ganondorf.

The set has a solid mix of horizontal and vertical cards.

Yuga show here summoning Ganon in A Link Between Worlds. The 3DS spiritual successor to A Link To The Past.

The chase in the set though are the foil cards – as always – it’s been a staple for entertainment/non-sport releases since around the time the original 1989 set was released. Why not in this case? Though the scans don’t show the foil well, these are gorgeous in hand. #TWSS. Again, the Midna is only found in the retail ‘blaster’ boxes – as the checklist is quick to inform.


Ocarina artwork, Skyward Sword help Fi, Ganon in pig form, and Midna from Twilight Princess.

Overall, I love the set. There’s a great mix of artwork, in-game shots, foil/foil puzzles to chase, and fun for kids. It’s a bit pricey at 2.99 retail, or roughly 70$ hobby. Overall 4/5.

I blame twatter.

I was busy watching the Wild win 5-3 over the Hurricanes, while browsing Twitter. This isn’t uncommon, I live tweet most Wild games – win or lose. However, friend of the blog @TwitchWasHere made the “itchies” for opening new packs surge. They posted a series of tweets showcasing discount Diamond Kings from 2016, and even hit a Miguel Sano dual relic(that I’d love to trade for!). So during the second intermission we headed off to Target to look for stuff to open.

They didn’t have any Diamond Kings, so I settled on Donruss base packs. I grabbed two skinny packs before deciding to grab two other packs that felt a bit thicker. Even if I got two spacer cards, I can use extras of those for The National. I also grabbed a ‘fat pack’ for extra measure, and two Zelda packs from Enterplay. There’s a blog post for that set in the works. After ringing up and paying, we sat just outside to see what we’d pull. Couldn’t wait for the car or till we got home.

Pack one highlights. Never heard of Jake Burger, but Baseball America seems to profile him fondly. To the prospect box it goes! I got stiffed on this one with a blank spacer card.


Pack two highlights. Not a blank spacer! Twinning! So, if your retail gravity feeder feels like it has two packs back to back that are thicker than the others, buy both! Oddly, the Park relic is slightly bigger than a standard card, and won’t fit in a one-touch magnetic case, or snap case.

Fat pack highlights. Kirby Puckett! Jersey numbered serial, ebay Juan of Juan! The next card in the pack was the Harmon Killebrew insert! This pack continues the Twinning! We also had great luck with the 1983 insert set in this pack!




Roy Sievers

The original AL Rookie of the Year has passed away at 90. After five years with the St. Louis Browns, the Washington Senators picked him up in 1954 in a trade for Gil Coan. His trade in the spring of 1954 not only was one of the first player transactions for the newly moved and renamed Baltimore Orioles, but it also brought legitimate power threat to the Senators. In fact, his first year, he led the team in home runs(24), and RBIs(104). Roy along with Mickey Vernon, Jim Lemon and Pete Runnels were the four star names I’ve always heard about in the pre-Harmon Killebrew 1950s Senators era. He finished his career with a respectable 1703 hits, 292 doubles, 42 triples, 318 home runs, and 1147 RBIs, to go with his .267/.354/.475 batting lines. In addition to finishing first in RoY voting in 1949, he received MVP votes in seven seasons – finishing as high as third in 1957(behind Mickey Mantle, and Ted Williams), and represented the AL in four All-Star Games.

A tale I’ve told before on this blog or another, one of our local card stores has a huge vintage collection, and I thought I had knocked off a 1954 Sievers for the team set. Once I got home and started to binder the other pickups I realized the Sievers was autographed – but faded, see below. Initially I was upset that I’d need a new unsigned version, but the autograph soothes the burn a little. I’d later add another autograph, this time from the junk wax era.

With no offense to Harmon Killebrew, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams or other stars in the set – that 1956 card is perhaps my favorite action shot in the entire run. A quick run through his cards in my collection are below – note he had a few Bowman/Topps/Exhibit cards both before and after his Senators run, but these aren’t in my collection – Browns/Phillies/White Sox/Senators(Texas). A quick note on his 1957 Baseball Thrills, he set the franchise HR record with 42 that year – a number that’s been bested by only Harmon Killebrew(several times – setting the new record of 49 HRs in 1964 and in his MVP season of 1969), and equaled last year by Brian Dozier. May he rest in peace.

1954 Topps.

1955 Topps.

1956 Topps.

1957 Topps.

1958 Topps.

1959 Topps.

1960 Topps.

1989 Swell.

#baltimore-orioles, #harmon-killebrew, #jim-lemon, #mickey-vernon, #pete-runnels, #rookie-of-the-year, #roy-sievers, #st-louis-browns, #washington-senators