August 30, 2009

The Ultimate Moneyball Post

I think it would have been pretty interesting if all the card blogs had been around when Moneyball first came out and what our general opinion would have been. Overall, I think we tend to agree on most of the key issues relating to the sport and I wonder if anyone would have "called bull shit" on the basic premise that you can mathematically measure just about everything about baseball and consequently you can make better decisions using statistics than your "guts." Some of the ideas presented in the book fly in the face of our conventional opinion of the game such as that a pitcher has no ability to control where a ball is hit. It is hard to swallow that at first but it's impossible to argue with the stats that show only knuckle ball pitchers are more likely to produce ground balls over pop ups.

So I've put together a little collection of my Moneyball related players and with the help of upgraded some of the lesser known players that would normally just go straight into your commons box.

Jeremy Brown

If there is one person made famous by Moneyball, besides Billy Beane, it would probably be the little known prospect Jeremy Brown. Brown was drafted by the A's in the 1st round in the 2002 draft to the shock of everyone else in baseball. You couldn't help but hope that Brown would make it to the big leagues and be a success and by the end of the book you don't really know much more than he was excelling in A-ball. So it was with great surprise to find that Brown had retired from baseball in 2008 having played just five games in the majors.

Here are two of his few cards including a nice little Upper Deck SPx autograph:

2007 Upper Deck SPx #YS-JB

2006 Topps Rookies '52 #112

Scott Hatteberg

Scott's Moneyball story is one of being under appreciated by general managers thinking about baseball conventionally. However, to Billy Beane Hatteberg was a treasure who could wear down pitchers with his marathon at bats and great on-base percentage.

2004 Topps Heritage #159

2007 Topps Chrome #98

Barry Zito and Tim Hudson

Surprisingly, the A's two aces don't play a major role in Moneyball. In the Acknowledgements section of the book, the author, Michael Lewis, cites Zito and Hudson for the support they provided and sort of apologizes that they weren't in the book more.

2008 Upper Deck Spectrum #RS-BZ2

2002 Upper Deck Vintage#A-TH

Chad Bradford

I wasn't able to find a Chad Bradford card that portrayed him as an A so instead we'll highlight one that shows the pitching style that made him famous. That right hand is going to go so low that it will sometime scrape the pitching mound. Like Scott Hatteburg, Bradford was unappreciated by every other ball club but became a great fireman in the A's bullpen when they acquired him from the White Sox. Chad is currently with the Rays and pitched in last year's World Series.

2008 Upper Deck #175

Ray Durham

Ray Durham appears in Moneyball only briefly but he is the key example of a player that doesn't understand the Billy Beane-style of baseball the A's play. The main point of contention was over stolen bases. The A's organization viewed steals as a nice way to throw away scoring opportunities while Durham had made a name for himself as a great base stealer. He was only an A for a little part of one season, just long enough for Beane to get compensation draft picks when Durham signed elsewhere at the end of the season.

2002 Fleer Tradition Update #U264

Billy Beane

And here is the A's commander and chief. Billy only has a few cards from his brief career and this is from the 1986 Fleer Update set after being traded from the Mets to the Twins. As Moneyball lays out, it is widely held that Beane is considered one of the greatest draft busts in baseball history. The Mets nearly drafted Billy ahead of Darryl Strawberry and it was thought that Billy would become the third piece to an All-Star outfield with Strawberry and Lenny Dykstra.

1986 Fleer Update #U-11

Jeremy Giambi

When Jason Giambi left the A's for the bright lights and big city of the Yankees, Billy Beane looked to replace Jason's offense and defense number with three different [and cheap] players rather than one large free agent purchase [that the A's would never be able to afford]. Fittingly, Beane turned to Giambi's brother Jeremy to be one of those three players.

2000 Fleer Showcase Fresh Ink Autograph

1999 Fleer Tradition #95

Art Howe

If there is one figure in Moneyball that you could look at sympathetically for it would be A's manager Art Howe. Pretty early on in the book you realize that Billy Beane runs the team thru Howe with Art having to abandon nearly all the baseball principles that he learned through his playing career. Eventually, Beane even ended up trading Howe to the New York Mets.

1978 Topps #13

2002 Topps Chrome Refractor #299

August 26, 2009

Sports Related Thoughts On The Passing Of Ted Kennedy

I never realized until today that Ted and John Kennedy had fifteen years between them. That's a long time between siblings. Another interesting thing to think about is that Ted was only 77. Although he seems to have been around for forever, that's just a little more than the average male age expectancy today. I've read several John Kennedy assassination books and one fact I found in passing was that John Kennedy was a just few months older than my grandfather, Wayne. Because Kennedy was murdered so young [at 46] he will always be etched in time of the 60's and I have difficulty seeing him as an aging grandfather rather than the guy who could get Marilyn Monroe to sing him "Happy Birthday." Today, JFK would be 92 and there is a fairly good chance that he could still be alive. How the world would be different is one for the fiction writers but I can't help but feel it would be a better place.

The idea of "what could have been?" comes back to me as I'm reading through all the articles and obituaries about Ted Kennedy's passing and I find mention again and again of a great little story that I knew nothing about. Apparently Ted Kennedy was once a Green Bay Packers prospect. This is from Kennedy's Senate web page:

"Just one month earlier, Kennedy's promise on the football field had caught the notice of Green Bay Packer Head Coach Lisle Blackbourn. "You have been very highly recommended to us by a number of coaches in your area and also by our talent scouts as a possible Pro Prospect," Blackbourn wrote to the young Right End.

Kennedy declined the offer, saying he was flattered, but that he had plans to attend law school and to 'go into another contact sport, politics'."

How's that for a "what if?" If it had all worked out he would have been a rookie with Bart Starr.

August 25, 2009

The Continuing Saga: 1971 Topps

The funny thing about "being on hiatus" is that about five times a day I think to myself "I should blog that." But the idea of "the hiatus" stops me. What good would it do to announce to everyone you are taking a break and have people write the most marvelous things about you and then just come back a few days later and write about some stupid shit that Panini is doing? If I'm going to do this hiatus thing, I need to do it for real.

That being said, I would say I'm buying more cards now than I was when I was searching for cards that could be fodder for a new blog post. I'm putting a big dent in my '71 Topps set as I'm now past 50% and moving closer and closer to having 1-100 complete...[except for that damn Reggie Jackson card at #20]. If I don't keep up with my "Continuing Saga" posts I'll never finish and so here is card...

#87 Jack Heidemann

I've always thought it a little weird when teams use the same logo as other teams from different sports. Here we have the Indians pretending to be the Chicago Bears. Or any sports team from Grambling posing as the Green Bay Packers. Or Tim Beckham how's tearing up what appears to be the Packer's summer league.

Tonight's Episode: "A Thank You To Mario" or "It's Hard Being A Corporate Whore"

A little while ago I showed and told about some of the free cards that Mario from Wax Heaven sent along. I held back one of the free ones until I knew exactly what I would be in store for. Why? Because Mario sent me one the Finest Rookie Card Redemption #6 from this year's Finest.

The real important question now is how much my coverage of Topps products will be positively influenced now that I've received a free redemption from Topps [through Mario]. Maybe this was Topps' master plan in giving Mario free products? To get their free-card tentacles into every card blog. Or will I now just be more in the tank for Wax Heaven? But then again who could be more in the tank for Wax Heaven then me? I love that blog. It's complicated being a corporate whore.

So here is the card that has purchased my undying support and allegiance:

Thanks Mario!

August 22, 2009

Where Michael Vick Lived For Nearly Two Years

Whatever your opinion of Michael Vick's signing with the Philadelphia Eagles it is probably related to your personal opinion of whether or not Vick has had a sufficient punishment for running a dog fighting ring and murdering several dogs in the process.

Your thoughts on what federal prison is like are probably based on movies like The Shawshank Redemption or Oz...those were both state prisons by the way and the only federal penitentiary movie that springs to mind immediately is Goodfellas...and I don't think that was the same treatment that Vick had.

So inspired by Stale Gum's "on-location" card breaks, last week I took a little drive to see Leavenworth in person. The prison is located on Fort Leavenworth which is an Army base that is literally in the city of Leavenworth, Kansas. One second you've got fast food restaurants and gas stations and the next you are BAM, face to face with a federal prison.

I think many of you will be surprised by what it looks like. It has more of a city hall or early 1900 public library than a prison.

The view from the west.

And here is the front view from the car. There is a memorial to killed prison guards in the front but you aren't allowed to take photographs of it or to even park and take photographs of the front of the prison which is really just begging for a nice snapshot.

August 14, 2009

The Ultimate Exquisite Case Break!

Get in while you can...only $3,100 per spot!

Be sure to watch the video all the way through...

August 12, 2009

But Seriously, Here's What I Think

"Topps…for the fun of it!"

That used to be their slogan. It seems ridiculous now after the events of the past few weeks. It seems even more ridiculous that I might have believed that old slogan had any relevance to the way Eisner-Topps now does business.

The idea of a loyal opposition has always been one that fascinated me when I was a political science undergrad. The idea that the minority government agrees to play by the “rules of the game” established in a Constitution. The opposition doesn't take up arms. They don’t revolt. They bide there time and wait for the next election.

In my mind, this is the same sort of thing with Topps and Upper Deck. One company might be on top for a year or two [clearly in my mind Topps is the company on top in terms of quality of product.] and eventually the other company will rip the title from the champ. But it seems to me like both companies should agree to the “rules of the game,” that both companies should have the right to make licensed baseball cards. The idea is to make a better product FOR ME, not put the other company out of business. That doesn’t help ME! It isn’t FUN! That is the sort thinking of Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, not for a baseball card company. Topps should strive to make the best product they can and the only way to do that is to have Upper Deck giving them dirty looks on an equal footing.

I want to have FUN. I want to be able to buy an Upper Deck baseball card with a major league logo on it. Topps, you’ve stopped me from doing that, and for that, you suck.

My Thoughts On The Topps Monopoly

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