Thursday, June 3, 2021

The best player in baseball that you've never heard of

 I know that title sounds a lot like click-bait, but this time it's actually true. If you have heard of Isiah Kiner-Falefa, it was probably in the context of his ungainly name, or maybe from me talking about him on my blog. Playing for the Rangers is definitely not the best way to make a name for yourself. The primary reason for his relative obscurity is probably that most of his value lies in his glove work. It was not until Isiah's fifth minor league season that he hit his first pro home run. In his first two seasons with the Rangers, his batting averages of .261 and .238 were certainly not impressive, especially combined with his lack of power. Another problem was that over his first two seasons, he played all over. And I mean all over. Over his first two seasons he played as much at catcher as anywhere else.

A Ranger? Seriously?


In 2020, though, Isiah finally settled down offensively as he stopped playing catcher, and was able to focus on 3rd base and short stop. In 2020 he hit .280 with 8 stolen bases -- not very impressive numbers, but he starred in the field, with 10 defensive runs saved according to Baseball Reference, winning the Gold Glove at 3rd. 

This year, playing at short stop, Isiah is having his best season yet. He is hitting .283, with 10 stolen bases and just one caught stealing. His fielding is just as good as last year, with 8 defensive runs saved and a .980 fielding percentage at short stop. 

The hobby and the baseball world still haven't woken up to Kiner-Falefa's performance. Except for guys like Ozzie Smith, glove men are always underappreciated, and he is nothing if not a glove man. On COMC, you can find plenty of his cards, including parallels and rookie cards, for under a dollar. 

I decided to take my own advice, and get some of his cards on COMC. Though I generally focus on vintage, Isiah Kiner-Falefa is one of my favorites, and it's also nice to change things up a little occasionally. 

2019 Topps Gold, /2019, $.39


2019 Topps Black, /67, $1.75

2019 Topps Chrome Sapphire, $1.27


2019 Topps Allen & Ginter Hot Box, $.60

It's quite possible that Isiah Kiner-Falefa will stay under-appreciated his whole career, or that his fielding will cool off and he will go back to being average. But I'm not getting his cards for the investment (investing on a gloveman is a bad idea); I'm getting them because he's my second-favorite current player. And if his cards do heat up, I'd be kicking myself if I hadn't gotten any. Who knows, maybe I'll become an Isiah Kiner-Falefa super-collector (not sure yet if I'm joking).


Monday, April 26, 2021

Yankees, knuckleballers, and prospects: more cards from the online dime-box

 This post is basically just a continuation of my last post, because I dislike both making my posts too long and just completely leaving out cards.

CC Sabathia was a bit of a favorite of mine, and I think he deserves to go into the Hall of Fame, with 251 wins, 3,117 strikeouts, and a 62.6 WAR. Though he spent most of his career in the AL, he also hit .207 with 3 home runs. 
Somehow, before this order I didn't have a single DJ LeMahieu Yankees card. I've been kind of disappointed with the Yankees' performance so far this year. Though on the balance their pitching has been very good, and their hitting okay, they haven't been able to do well in both areas in the same game. Right now they're tied for last place in the AL East with the Orioles.  The Orioles! The Yankees with their $200,000,000 payroll, are tied with a rag-tag band of minor leaguers and outcasts.  On the bright side, both Cole and Judge have been doing very well, though LeMahieu is the only one of the four above to be playing well this year.

Yesterday I was talking with my dad, and I said that with the starting rotation being so bad, if I was in charge I'd bring up Deivi Garcia. Who's pitching today? Deivi! So maybe I should be GM of the Yankees. :) Another change I'd make would be to get Odor off the roster, because he has a career OBP of .289 and is a bad fielder, put LeMahieu back at second, and then have Mike Ford and Chris Gittens combine at first. 
I'm not a prospector, but could I really resist cards of prospects like Royce Lewis and Sixto Sanchez for 10 cents? As relievers, Liam Hendriks and Sean Doolittle don't have much potential for upside, but it's kind of cool to have a player's rookie card. 

In my opinion, the signing of Liam Hendriks was a very bad idea for the White Sox. Though he's been elite for the last two years, that's just two years, and Hendriks did not have much success before then. He certainly doesn't deserve $13 million a year, which is a level generally reserved for Hall of Fame quality closers.
Baseball can be painful sometimes. Getting hit by a pitch is one of the most dangerous aspects, as Andy Van Slyke can attest. And I'm not sure Greg Gagne is actually getting hurt in that card, but it sure looks like it. I don't think arms are meant to go at that angle.
With some guys, each new card is a joy, and Tekulve is certainly one of them. With his coke-bottle glasses and funky delivery, it's hard to think of a bad card of his.
Steven Wright is one of the few knuckleballers still hanging on in baseball, though he hasn't pitched in the majors since 2019. Right now he's in the Pirates' organization. The Allen & Ginter card of him is actually a short-print, which is nice.
Tim Wakefield's time with the Pirates was rather strange. In 1992, the converted infielder went 8-1, with a 2.15 ERA. And then in 1993 he went 6-11, with a 5.61 ERA, earning himself a ticket back to the minors. There, he actually did even worse, going 3-5 with a 6.99 ERA for the rest of 1993, and a 5-15, 5.84 ERA record in 1994. And then the next year he was 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA for the Red Sox in the majors. Huh.
Brett Gardner is one of my favorite Yankees. Though he doesn't have any one skill which really sticks out, he's fast, a good fielder, walks a lot, and has some pop in his bat. Plus, he just plays hard and cares about the game. Sometimes he might be a little too competitive, but I prefer that to not caring. Generally, he's the one player Yankee haters respect.


I also got a few Conlon cards. Johnny Bassler is one of my favorite obscure Hall of Fame candidates. He hit only 1 home run in his major league career, but he had a .416 OBP as a catcher, and had MVP voting finishes of 6th, 7th, and 5th. Though his major league career was short (811 games), he had batting averages of .365, .354, .357, .336, .351, and .354 in the high minors. He's never going to get in, and might not deserve it, but I honestly think he was a better player than some in the Hall. Bobo Newsom, Pete Jablonowski/Appleton, and Earle Mack, son of Connie, all have interesting stories too.

And that's all. It might be a while until I make another order on baseballcardstore.ca - hopefully I'll make to a card show sometime soon and enjoy a real dime box. 

As a side note, a while back I was at the library, and while looking through baseball books this fell out:
Isn't that cool? A ticket from Fenway park that also features my favorite team! It fell out of a book called "Emperors and Idiots" which is a book about the Red Sox- Yankees rivalry, so it's pretty fitting. Generally when I find something baseball related in a library book, it's a baseball card bookmark which I forgot to take out when I returned the book.

I've started another blog, https://johnsbaseballblog.blogspot.com/ ,which is me talking about whatever interests me in baseball as a whole. It's kind of a mix of commentary, opinions, and research, about current and historical baseball. Check it out.



Sunday, March 28, 2021

Dime card smorgasboard (+ rant about death of free minor leagues)

After my first order from baseballcardstore.ca, or the online dime-box, I made frequent small purchases by taking advantage of combined shipping. 400 cards later, in December, I finally got my cards shipped, hoping it would arrive by Christmas. And then I waited, and waited, and waited .It turned out that they were low on card supplies for shipping, which is okay, but I wish they had said something. I finally got my cards the same day of the card show, in late January, and when I heard it was delivered I ran out to the mailbox. I was not disappointed. It took a while, but it was worth it. Digging through 400 cards was pure joy!

I got a nice mix of Yankees, player collections, and just random cards. I am proud to say that I now have Yankees cards of 510 different Yankees players, and 1704 different Yankees cards overall. 

I compete in speech, and last year I did a speech on baseball players who overcame great odds, featuring Rick Ankiel, Jim Abbott, and Mordecai Brown. All three are favorites of mine. It was a fun speech, as I love being able to tie in baseball to speech topics whenever I can. 
 Dan Quisenberry has become my second favorite player ever, behind only Mariano Rivera, and that 1983 Fleer card is my favorite card of his. It sums up his warm, quirky personality perfectly. The 1990 Fleer card on the right, by the way, is not your everyday run of the mill 1990 Fleer card. It is a Fleer Canadian card.

I now have 25 cards of Quiz, or a little over 10% of all his cards. Just 205 to go!
This order was very helpful in filling in holes in my "One card for every Yankee" quest. The Jack McDowell was especially satisfying, as I'd been looking for one for a while.

It's always cool getting cards of favorites in unfamiliar uniforms. 
Isiah Kiner-Falefa might be second favorite current player, behind only Aaron Judge. He spent two years for the Frisco Rough Riders a while back, and two years playing for one team is forever in the minors nowadays. Gone are the days when Jigger Statz got 3,356 hits with one minor league team, the Los Angeles Angels. It seemed like every time I went to see the Rough Riders, Isiah would be playing. He was a constant, an oasis in an ever-changing roster. I have very fond memories of the P.A saying " Isiah Kiiineerrr FALEFAAAAAA!!!!!!" And then the Rangers called him up, and ever since I've rooted for him from afar. I mean, not very far, but I almost never go to Rangers games. 

Which reminds me of angry angry angry I am at MLB for renaming the minor leagues. The Texas League is now "AA Central"? The Pacific Coast League is now "AAA West"? What in the world? First they took away the minor leagues' independence, and now they've taken the last thing they had, their individuality. To me it's just the last straw. It shows just how little they care about the minor leagues. The minor leagues now exist only to funnel players into the major leagues. They are the vassals, the slaves of the major leagues. 

MLB is bent upon destroying the true, the free minor leagues, and something has got to be done. If the Frisco Rough Riders were an independent team, if they were free to try to win, I would be a Rough Riders fan first and a Yankees fan second. But they exist only to school players for the majors.

Rant over. Ahem. 

Shiny cards will help to distract my mind from the wretched way MLB is treating the minor leagues, from the dastardly, evil, Sauron-like the way MLB is..... 

Deep breath, John. Focus on the cards.
Of course, no trip to the online dime box would be complete without O-Pee-Chee.
It was a nice surprise to get some just-barely-vintage cards for just a dime, especially cards as awesome as that Bake McBride. Jesus Alou is nothing to sneeze at, either.
Four iconic cards, finally mine for the paltry sum of 40 cents.
Though Mickey Hatcher is another one that has gotten its deserved attention already, the other three above I hadn't seen before, and I've never seen a card that's anything like the Kirk Gibson.

Vintage for 10 cents! Generally when I find vintage in a real life dime box, they're creased, taped, trimmed, or something, but the Leron Lee is in nice condition, and the Watson is okay.

I always feel bad about leaving cards out of posts, so I'll probably do a second post for these cards. 

Thanks for reading!


Monday, March 15, 2021

Getting high (numbers) on Kronozio

In my first order on Kronozio, there was a high number among my cards which was priced the same as the others. After getting them, I looked through the seller's inventory in the hope that there would be more high numbers, priced just as well. To my glee, I was able to find about a dozen high numbers, along with some other cards.

I don't know why it took so long for me to get a Don Mossi, but that '57 above was the first in my collection. The Pedro Ramos, from the scarce series, set me back just $1.40, the same as Mossi. That is the most I paid for any of the cards in this post.

                                         

I think I'll also start working on completing 1963 Topps, and finding so many good deals on high and semi-high numbers is one of the reasons. I love getting cards of 1962 Mets of any kind, and I especially love getting semi-high short prints for $1.10!

I find it interesting how in the cartoon on the back of Thomas's card, there's a portrayal of Casey Stengel, lecturing to the Mets . It's odd because for almost all the cartoons, it features only the player, or the player with some generic figures. Casey also makes a cameo in one of my 1956 Topps Yankees.


Casey's in the 3rd panel - back images courtesy of TCDB

I guess Casey was pretty easy to caricature. 

                                               

A row of Rowes! (sorry)

Too bad Randy Cardinal didn't pitch for the Cardinals. Anyhow, I was glad to get a McNally rookie on the cheap, because it's a high number and the cheapest copy on COMC is $22.56.
                                 

Too bad Dick "The Monster" Radatz didn't last longer, because he was incredible at his best. Over his first three years, he averaged 13 wins, 25 saves, a 2.17 ERA, and 162 strikeouts per year! The workload was probably too much for him, as he worked in as many as 157 innings in a season. What might have been.

                                           

These aren't very noteworthy except for being high numbers, but they were still satisfying adds.

                                             

Does anyone else have the problem where, when writing a blog post, they keep on wanting to write things from The Great American Baseball Card etc. book? It happens to me all the time. I had to restrain myself from writing whooooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee for the 1963 Roseboro a little bit back in the post. (For those who are interested in getting the spelling exactly right, it's 10 o's and 17 e's.) Now I'm tempted to just write "Jim Bouton is a big mouth" for Bouton, and repeat the passage on Daddy Wags and "Rent Your Pad From Super Dad." But I guess I'll have to resist the urge.

By now I have the book almost memorized, so these passages just spontaneously present themselves to me when I see the cards featured in the book. I've read it for almost as long as I've been collecting baseball cards, and it's been very influential to me.

The holy grail of the high numbers I got were three 1972 Topps high numbers, all of which were under a dollar.

                                             

Because my dad has a complete 1972 set, I didn't need these for the collection, and by selling Ivan and Koosman, I almost paid for the rest of the cards! And I haven't sold the Gallagher yet. Think of it. 1960s high numbers, practically for free!

So that's it. I have some more 1963 Topps cards from this seller that I'm going to buy, including some more high numbers, so I'm feeling pretty happy right now. 

By the way, sorry for going almost a month without posting. Half the time I've been too busy to write a post, and the other half I just haven't wanted to. I'm planning to start doing a post at least every Sunday, so hopefully that'll help me with my consistency.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Cards from Kronozio

As I have a relatively small collecting budget, but ambitious collecting tastes, I spend a lot of time scouring the internet for deals. Probably too much time, but it often pays off. A while back, I was looking at cards on the Trading Card Database, when I noticed that there was a link to a trading card site called Kronozio. I had never heard of it before, but decided to look and see if there was any good cards. Though it's a smaller site, I was able to find some very good cards, and I made my first purchase from a store called, oddly enough, Frames, Plaques, and more. 

Though the prices vary on Kronozio, all the cards I got were below the price on COMC, so there are some very good deals to be found if you're prepared to look a little. 

Maybe the most spectacularly priced card was the dual Alley/McFarlane rookie on the right, which set me back a mind-blowing 25 cents! I was also very happy to get a Marvelous Marv rookie for just 70 cents.
This was my first card of Eddie Fisher, a welcome addition to my knuckleballer collection. 

It looks like Topps took a ton of pictures in Yankee stadium back in the day, because it seems like every 7th card features the Yankee Stadium facade.
1965 Topps is one of the many vintage sets I'm accumulating, with 1956, 1957, 1963, 1964, and 1967. You can't be actively working on 7 sets at the same time, so I've decided to accumulate and keep my sanity.
This is a great quartet of cards, notwithstanding the 2 cap-less shots. Any card of Wally Moon is welcome around here, and that Duke Carmel is my first Yankee card of him. 

It's jarring to see a young Tommy John. I just now realized something odd: Tommy John never got gray hair during his career. It seems like all the other elderly pitchers, Niekro and Sutton and all, were all graying before hanging up the spikes, but apparently not Tommy John.
I think 1967 Topps is becoming one of my top-five Topps sets ever, the photographs are just so beautiful.
I was pleasantly surprised to get a sharp, if off-center, Luis Aparicio for just 70 cents. And did I mention how beautiful 1967 Topps is?


The seller also had a nice array of '70s cards, most for 25 cents.
I was very happy to get my first card of Ron LeFlore, and my first card of Dock Ellis as a Yankee.

How could I pass up a 1956 Topps card for 70 cents? 
Dick Groat actually played one season in the NBA for the Fort Wayne Pistons, scoring 11.9 points a game over 26 games. But after he got out of the army, the Pirates insisted he stop playing basketball, and he did.

Though all these cards are great, maybe my favorite of them all is the following card:
The first thing you probably notice is that, instead of one facsimile autograph, there is another rendition of Gamble's signature down the right side. I'm no autograph expert, but it looks to me like it might be real.

Here are some close-ups of the possible autograph, and the facsimile. It seems to me that there are some definite similarities, and I'm not sure why someone would carefully forge an autograph, just to have the card sold for 25 cents. 

If anyone who know more about autographs has any idea whether it's real or not, I'd really appreciate the help.
The Bud Daley was my most expensive card of the order, at a whopping $1.10. I was very happy to get the Larry Sherry for just 50 cents, because it's a high number. Actually, getting under-priced high numbers off Kronozio will be the theme of my next post. 

Thanks for reading, and have a good weekend!