Thursday, November 27, 2014

What I AM Thankful For in 2014.

This is going to be the fifth Thanksgiving post I've written on this humble, little blog, something that I started back in 2008. I may have skipped a couple of years, but it's something I look forward to writing (when it's not about baseball, or baseball cards...which seems to be lacking around here lately, it seems). For inspiration, I looked back at previous Thanksgiving posts. I realized that while most of what was written was pretty much the same, I can see where I was at that point in my life, personally, professionally, spiritually, and where I was when it came to my place in the Hobby. It is hard to believe that I've had this blog for more than six years. So much has changed, but there is so much that remains the same.

When I wrote last year's Thanksgiving post, I was working at a temporary gig, wondering if this was what my life was going to become: bouncing from temporary job to temporary job, not knowing if I had done well enough at my present job that my bosses would make me a permanent employee. I was grateful when a former co-worker recommended me for a job that I was very familiar with, and that I was able to get the job. With that job ended a sixteen-month period of stress and began a new chapter that included financial security for myself and my family. Now that's not to say that there have been times that we've struggled - we've had some rough patches along the way. But through the struggles, we have gained a much more heightened sense of humility. These are the lessons that I hope my children learn. While I pray that my kids will make better lives in the future, if they ever stumble in their paths, I hope that they show the same amount of perseverance and drive their mother and me to pick themselves up and continue their journeys.

By the time this post comes online, my family and I will be visiting my brother and his family as we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Last year we made the trip to Indiana to celebrate with my wife's family, and it looks like we'll be doing that again over the weekend. It will be nice to have a bit of a respite from what has been our daily routine and spend time with both families.

Anyway, I can rattle on and on about how tough it is nowadays, but everyone already has an idea. For all the bad news out there (and it seems there is plenty), there is so much for me personally to be thankful for.

I am thankful that I have a wonderful family that gives me a reason to be alive. My wife and I have been together for 16 wonderful years, and I look forward to many more with her. My present job allows me to spend a lot more time with her because there is less travelling. And while we've had our ups and downs (and all couples do), being with her now has been just as much fun, if not more so, as it was when we were first dating. We still talk about what we want for ourselves in the future. While we couldn't travel out this year (new job), I am excited for what our futures hold. For now, we just have to keep going with what we have. As with many who took this vow of marriage, I promised to be with her for richer or poorer, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I loved her then, and I love her more so now.

I am thankful for being the father of two beautiful children who I love with all my heart. I am truly grateful to have them in my life. Both are growing up to be fine individuals. And as the years go by, our children are developing way too fast. They are both figuring themselves out now and after visiting with their teachers earlier this week, I can breathe a bit easier knowing that they are at least heading in the right direction. It is just a matter of maintaining that focus and scheduling whatever time they have so that they can balance school time and their other activities. In my heart, they will always be my little babies. It's hard not to look at them and see them when they were five years younger, or even ten years. But my wife and I couldn't be happier with how they've grown to love us and each other (as pre-adolescents and teenagers do). They both are growing up so fast, and it won't be long before they begin their individual journeys without parent involvement. Both their mom and I know that being their parents, and the responsibilities that come with it, will never end, no matter how old they are. We still have a lot of work to do raising them, but it is something that I would never exchange.

I am thankful to have a family to lean on when times are hard. My parents, who have been my support when I have nobody to turn to when I'm having troubles and give me good advice whether I ask or not. My siblings, who keep me grounded as a person (based on whatever they're doing in their lives). When we're all together, there is just that warmth that comes with remembering who we were, the people we've become, and just enjoying each other's company. The sibling rivalries, fights, teasings, and all that comes with it still are there. But it makes for good conversation. The laughter that comes with it at times is much louder as the stories of our lives become wilder (or at least for my younger sibs). But we still have our moments, and when we get together, it is always fun.

I am thankful for my wife's family. They help keep my wife in check and make sure that she's doing well. Although we don't get to spend as much time with her side of the family as we'd like (everyone is busy it seems), it makes the times when all can get together much more special. When we're with them, I tend to stay back a bit. I'm more there to see my wife and children have fun. It may feel like I'm just there for the ride, but I know where I stand, and am more than happy to be a part of this family too.

I am thankful for the opportunities I've been given to broaden my horizons professionally. I am back in the field I had spent most of my adult life in (specialty foods), doing a job that I absolutely love and am so blessed to have the opportunity to work from home. I do make my way to the office regularly, don't get me wrong. But being able to work from home has allowed me to focus my energies in a way that I feel that I am more productive and that I'm contributing positively to the growth of the company I know work for. I work with an incredible team of professionals, some I knew from the other place, so there is that sense of familiarity. I still miss the people I've worked with over the years and continue to think about them.

I am thankful for having a roof over my family's head. I tell my children that we wanted to have a sense of stability, and being able to live in this house, in this town, and be a part of the community has contributed to it. Both my wife and I have worked so hard to keep this house, and though it's still a struggle, we have made it work. Those sleepless nights will continue, but through it all, I am grateful that my family still has a place to call home.

I am thankful that we have food on our table. We have done a lot more cooking at home this past year, trying new foods, and experimenting with dishes that we'd only eat when at a restaurant. We try not to eat out, although at times with our children's schedules it has become a necessity at times. We've had to cut back on many luxury items (seafood, steaks), but we still try to have a sense of normalcy when it comes to cooking at home, whether it's my wife cooking or me taking a turn. I'm not saying that we've had to totally give up on good food (I've tried my hand at cooking a wide variety of foods since being home more. Some were hits...others, not so much), but as long as we have the basics (milk, bread, eggs), and we're never out of pasta, I'm happy.

The final thing I am for which I am thankful, for all intents and purposes, is the reason I am able to keep sane through all the things going on in my life. It is something that many understand, but few will admit relating to it. Many people, no matter what their situation, have at least one. And often times, use it for the same reasons I do. For the goals this one thing accomplishes is not just to give joy to my life, but to give it an escape. An outlet if you will, to a time where I didn't have stress, or have much to worry. This one thing is the reason why I write this humble little blog. I give thanks to the Hobby. Because with everything going on in the world today, second to my family, it is the one thing that gives me comfort. Yes, I know that if Sitemeter is to believed, my readership is down. But I never wrote for others. I wrote it more for me. The idea of writing this blog was more for me to learn and appreciate the Hobby, and learn more about the game. While 2014 was a great year in baseball, the Hobby, and this blog, took a bit of a backseat as I adjusted to all the changes around me. I do realize that while the game remains the same, the names have changed. Almost all of my childhood heroes are out of the game, and there are so few now who are older than me. It won't be long before everyone in the game is younger than I am, and kids my children's ages will be making their first appearances on pieces of cardboard. I have begun to wonder when would it be the right time to begin scaling back, as eventually that time will come. Change is a constant. As I have mentioned in a recent Hobby discussion on twitter (follow me @bdj610 if you haven't yet), we all have to adapt, if not now, soon. Eventually, I will.

If this sounds like I'm whining at the same time that I'm being grateful, I apologize as that was not the intent of my writing. There are many people out there who are struggling and somehow surviving on less than what we have. To them I pray that things will get better. It will take some work, but it will get better.

If there is one thing I have forgotten to do above, it's to say thank you to those who have read my blog, left comments, accepted me into this crazy community, and have added to my card collection since I started this blog. Thank you for adding me to your blogrolls and welcoming me into your online lives. I will do my best to fill this blog with information about the Hobby and the cards that we all enjoy. After all, 2015 Topps Series I won't be out until February, and I don't plan on leaving this site hanging until then.

On behalf of my family, may you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Please stay safe if you are travelling this year.

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2014 Topps All-Star Rookie Team Contest Winners!!!

Now that the 2014 Topps All-Star Rookie Team has been announced, I have spent the good part of the morning going over all the e-mails I received, seeing who outguessed me in the All-Star Rookie Team contest.

Even with the unanimous picks of Jose Abreu, and Billy Hamilton, nobody correctly predicted all eleven players who would make the team this year. The fact that Topps named Danny Santana as the third outfielder and not as the shortstop, even though MLB.com had him listed as one (in Topps' defense he played 69 games in CF compared to 34 games at short) pretty much ruined everyone's chances for a perfect score. But once again, nobody wins the 2005 Topps Rookie Cup set grand prize.

More entries were sent to me this year than in last year's contest (which is a testament to the fact that last year at this time, I was down to almost nothing in terms of posts...hence almost no readers), so needless to say I was a bit nervous that the results would be expensive on my part. But out of all the entries I did receive, only one person beat my score of nine. The congratulatory e-mail has already been sent, so it's okay for me to announce the winner:

Congratulations to Anthony Zarriello!!!

Many of the people who participated in the contest did get the same number of players right that I did...a big fat nine. The Santana screw-up aside, Mr. Zarriello once again came close to perfection with 10 correct picks (his third outfielder was Oscar Taveras). Regardless, a Jumbo pack of 2014 Update Series for outguessing me.

Thank you very much to all who participated in the contest. Although nobody got all eleven to win the grand prize, I promise to run this contest again next year. Hopefully somebody will win it.

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Introducing the 2014 Topps All-Star Rookie Team!!!


The MLB managers have spoken, and today, Topps has announced the players named to the 55th All-Star Rookie Team!!! (If the player's name is in bold, it means I predicted that they would make the team earlier this month).
  • 1B: Jose Abreu, CWS (145 G, 0.317, 36 HR, 107 RBI, 0.964 OPS, 3 SB)
  • 2B: Kolten Wong, STL (113 G, 0.249, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 0.68 OPS, 20 SB)
  • 3B: Nick Castellanos, DET (148 G, 0.259, 11 HR, 66 RBI, 0.7 OPS, 2 SB)
  • SS: Xander Bogaerts, BOS (144 G, 0.240, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 0.66 OPS, 2 SB)
  • OF: Billy Hamilton, CIN (152 G, 0.250, 6 HR, 48 RBI, 0.648 OPS, 56 SB)
  • OF: Danny Santana, MIN (101 G, 0.319, 7 HR, 40 RBI, 0.824 OPS, 20 SB)
  • OF: George Springer, HOU (78 G, 0.231, 20 HR, 51 RBI, 0.804 OPS, 5 SB)
  • C: Travis d'Arnaud, NYM (108 G, 0.242, 13 HR, 41 RBI, 0.718 OPS, 1 SB)
  • RHSP: Masahiro Tanaka, NYY (20 GS, 13-5, 2.77 ERA, 141 SO, 1.056 WHIP)
  • LHSP: Roenis Elias, SEA (29 GS, 10-12, 3.85 ERA, 143 SO, 1.314 WHIP)
  • RP: Dellin Betances, NYY (70 G, 5-0, 1.40 ERA, 135 SO, 0.778 WHIP, 1 SV)
So I guessed 9 out of now 11 spots correctly. I guessed Kevin Kiermaier as one of my outfielders and Matt Shoemaker as my right-handed starting pitcher. Last year, I was almost close to perfect (getting 10 of the 11 spots correct).

Now my comments. At least now Topps is showing some consistency with naming three pitchers to the team (two starters, 1 reliever). Good thing that I asked those entering the All-Star Rookie Team contest to name four pitchers (two right-handers, two-left handers) just in case.

Figures that Tanaka gets the RHSP spot, and many have taken to social media to make their displeasure known (Matt Shoemaker and Jacob deGrom were two of the names more people thought should have been named instead of the Yankees' hurler (figures...should have known).

So congratulations to all. Each player will now get the illustrious rookie cup trophy added to their 2015 Topps cards. I will be going over the results shortly and will announce the winners if any soon.

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Friday, November 14, 2014

Introducing Your 2014 MLB Most Valuable Players - West Coast Winners


In recent years, Topps has reserved six cards within Series 1 for the AL and NL award winners that are being announced this week. Once again, however, this year's preliminary checklist doesn't specify what numbers are being held for the them. But yesterday, we learned who was named the Most Valuable Players in both the National and American Leagues.

Congratulations to both Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers and Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers for being named the American League and National League Most Valuable Players for 2014. Incredible seasons by both players, one a runner up to the MVP for two seasons prior, the other, this year's Cy Young Award winner.

After playing second fiddle to Miguel Cabrera for two consecutive seasons, Mike Trout finally wins his first MVP award. One of the game's best players, the Angels' outfielder hit .287 with 36 home runs, 111 rbi's, stole 16 bases, had an OPS of .939, and for you sabermetric people, a 7.9 WAR. Trout also claimed all 30 first place votes, good for 420 points in the overall ballot. In second place was the Tigers' Victor Martinez (229 points, 16 second place votes), Michael Brantley of the Indians (191, 8), AL Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu of the White Sox (145, 1), Robinson Cano of the Mariners (124, 1), Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays (122, 1), Nelson Cruz of the Orioles (102), Josh Donaldson of the Athletics (96, 1), two-time MVP Cabrera of the Tigers (82, 1), Felix Hernandez of the Mariners (48, 2), AL Cy Young Winner Corey Kluber of the Indians (45), Alex Gordon of the Royals (44), Jose Altuve of the Astros (41), Adam Jones of the Orioles (34), Adrian Beltre of the Rangers (22), Greg Holland of the Royals (13), Albert Pujols of the Angels (5), Howie Kendrick of the Angels (3), James Shields of the Royals (3), and Kyle Seager of the Mariners (1).

Kershaw becomes the tenth pitcher (fourth in the NL) to win both the Cy Young and MVP award in the same season. He earned 18 of the 30 MVP votes, good for 355 voter points. Marlins' slugger Giancarlo Stanton finished second in the voting (298, 8 first place votes), follwed by last year's NL MVP Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates (271, 4), Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers (167), Anthony Rendon of the Nationals (155), Buster Posey of the Giants (152), Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers (57), Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals (53), Josh Harrison of the Pirates (52), Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs (37), Hunter Pence of the Giants (34), Johnny Cueto of the Reds (22), Russell Martin of the Pirates (21), Matt Holliday of the Cardinals (17), Jhonny Peralta of the Cardinals (17), Carlos Gomez of the Brewers (13), Justin Upton of the braves (10), Jayson Werth of the Nationals (9), Denard Span of the Nationals (8), Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers (8), Devin Mesoraco of the Reds (5), Lucas Duda of the Mets (3), Freddie Freeman of the Braves (2), Justin Morneau of the Rockies (2), Dee Gordon of the Dodgers (1), and Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies (1).

Trout becomes the third Angels player, and the fifth player to win the MVP unanimously. Kershaw becomes the eleventh Dodgers player to be named NL MVP. With both winners from the Los Angeles area teams, it is also the 11th time in MLB history that two players from the city or area take home the MVP awards. As with the last two sets of awards, here for your viewing pleasure are the 2014 Topps cards of your MVP's. Too bad they didn't make cards for the managers (congratulations to both Buck Showalter of the Orioles and Matt Williams of the Nationals by the way).

With everything all said and done, did your guy win?

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Introducing Your 2014 MLB Cy Young Award Winners - Unanimous in the NL, No Longer Anonymous in the AL


In recent years, Topps has reserved six cards within Series 1 for the AL and NL award winners that are being announced this week. Once again, however, this year's preliminary checklist doesn't specify what numbers are being held for the them. But yesterday, we learned who was named the Cy Young award winners in both the National and American Leagues.

Congratulations to both Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers and Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers for winning the American League and National League Cy Young Awards. While there was no doubt in the NL, the AL margin between first and second place was a mere 10 votes.

On Monday, a Stetson Hatter alum was named the NL Rookie of the Year. Yesterday, another Hatter took home the AL Cy Young award. Kluber, a second-year starter with the Indians, had a very dominant run in 2014. With a record of 18-9, an ERA of 2.44, 269 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.095 in 235.2 innngs of work, 17 of the 30 voters picked Corey as their first place choice (for a grand total of 169 points). The Mariners' Felix Hernandez claimed the other 13 first place votes, good for 159 points. Following Kluber and the King were Chris Sale of the White Sox (78 points), Jon Lester of the Athletics (46), last year's Cy Young winner Max Scherzer of the Tigers (32), David Price of the Tigers (16), Phil Hughes of the Twins (6), and Royals relievers Wade Davis (3) and Greg Holland (1).

Kershaw takes home his third Cy Young Award in four years after leading the NL for the third straight year in ERA (a ridiculous 1.77) to go along with a 239 strikeouts, a 16-9 record, a WHIP of 0.915, 3 complete games, and two shutouts. Claiming all 30 first place votes (210 points) Kershaw outpaced the rest of the field of contenders, including finalists Johnny Cueto of the Reds (112 points), Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals  (97), Madison Bumgarner of the Giants (28), Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals (25), Cole Hamels of the Phillies (17), Zack Greinke of the Dodgers (6), Doug Fister of the Nationals (5), Jake Arrieta of the Cubs (3), Craig Kimbrel of the Braves (3), Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals (3), and Henderson Alvarez of the Marlins (1).

The fun concludes on Thursday when the Most Valuable Players in both leagues are announced. Let the debates continue. Did your guy win???

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

To The Men and Women Who Serve in the United States Armed Forces 11-11-14

This was written four years ago, but the sentiments remain the same.


November 11, 1919: President Wilson proclaims the first Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations." The original concept for the celebration was for the suspension of business for a two minute period beginning at 11 A.M., with the day also marked by parades and public meetings.

On June 1, 1954, President Eisenhower signs legislation changing the name of the legal holiday from Armistice Day to Veteran's Day. (from The History of Veterans Day)

To the Men and Women who serve in the US Armed Forces:

I will not pretend I know the infinite different reasons why you made the decision to join the US Military.

I can only imagine what your basic training was like (I'm not even sure the movies do any justice).

I will not pretend to know the feeling of being away from family, friends and all of the comforts of home, having been assigned to a foreign land, serving the interests of our country.

I will not say that I necessarily agree with ALL of the reasons why our country has gone to war.

I will not pretend to know what it is like out in the battlefields, not knowing if I was going to live to see another day.

But I will say this.

Thank you.

Thank you all for your service to our country.

Thank you for the sacrifices you made so that we can continue to live with the freedoms that we enjoy.

Your courage is nothing if not inspiring. Your stories become tales of legend that deserve to be told again and again.

For these, and countless other reasons, I give you my respect.

And I give you thanks.

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama

Introducing Your 2014 MLB Rookies of the Year - Little to No Doubt Who Was Going to Win


In recent years, Topps has reserved six cards within Series 1 for the AL and NL award winners that are being announced this week. Once again, however, this year's preliminary checklist doesn't specify what numbers are being held for the them.  But yesterday, we learned who was named the Rookies of the Year in both the National and American Leagues.

Congratulations to both Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets and Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox for winning the National League and American League Rookies of the Year Awards. This year, MLB decided to announce the top three finalists for each of the awards. While there certainly more players in the running, announcing the top three made for interesting debate.

Jose Abreu, the White Sox' first baseman of the future, had a breakout rookie season that could only be described as dominant. He was among the top 5 players in the AL in batting average (0.317), home runs (36), and rbi's (107), was named to the All-Star Team, and won the Silver Slugger Award for first basemen. He was everything the Southsiders were hoping for and more. Abreu also received all 30 first place votes in the AL ROY balloting, thus earning the maximum 150 points possible. The rest of the field included Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker (40 points, 12 second place votes), Yankees reliever Dellin Betances (27, 7), Collin McHugh of the Astros (21, 6), Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees (16, 3), Yordano Ventura of the Royals (9, 1), Danny Santana of the Twins (3, 1), Nick Castellanos of the Tigers (1), Brock Holt of the Red Sox (1), Jake Odorozzi of the Rays (1), and George Springer of the Astros (1).

For Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom, the numbers may be a bit misleading, but it does not mean he is not more than deserving of the honor. He earned a 9-6 record, a 2.69 ERA, struck out 144 batters, and a WHIP of 1.140 in 22 starts and 140.1 innings of work. Taking 26 of the 30 1st place votes (142 total points), deGrom earned more points than runners-up Billy Hamilton of the Reds (92 points, 4 first place votes), Kolten Wong of the Cardinals (14 points), Ken Giles of the Phillies (8), Ender Inciarte of the Diamondbacks (4), Joe Panik of the Giants (3), Travis d'Arnaud of the Mets (2), Jeurys Familia of the Mets (2), Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs (2), and Chase Anderson of the Diamonbacks (1).

Abreu becomes the fourth Cuban-born player, the sixth White Sox player, and the ninth player to be named Rookie of the Year. deGrom is now the fifth Mets player and the first starting pitcher with less than 10 wins to earn the award.

So begins a wild week were debates will come fast and furious. Did your guy win???

Sincerely,

JayBee Anama