Friday, April 17, 2015

Let the Bryant-Mania Begin

(Before I begin, I'd like to take a moment to say thanks and God Bless Francis Cardinal George, who passed away this morning due to complications to cancer. Rest in Peace, Your Eminence.)

In 2010, we had Strasburg Mania.

In 2012, it was Harper Mania.

Today, in 2015, it is time for Bryant Mania!!!

Since Theo and company took over the baseball operations of the Cubs, they have been able to stockpile a number of very prospects. And these last two seasons (well, really since the second half of the 2014 season), we have seen the arrival of heralded players such as Javier Baez (okay, so he's in the minors...for now), Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, and before the end of this year (or in the near future), we'll probably see the likes of Addison Russell, and Kyle Schwarber.

But today, on Friday, April 17, 2015, the most heralded of all of the Cubs' prospects will make his major league debut.

If you haven't heard his name by now, meet Kris Bryant!

That's right, the guy who's Bowman card has been in the news lately for being sold for a mere $90,000 plus dollars, stepped onto a major league ballfield for the very first time today.

How did he do?

0-4 with three strikeouts (all swinging, all against James Shields) in a 5-4 loss.

Eh, can't win them all. Even Mike Trout went 0-3 in his MLB debut.

He did have a few dazzling defensive plays, which is amazing considering that it was his defense that they were concerned about.

Okay, so what about cards??!

While certain collectors, okay, many collectors, went insane over Topps' treatment over the Washington Nationals' duo (super short-printed cards, variations up the wazoo in Series 2 and other places, mega-short-printed autograph cards), it looks like Topps has been preparing for this moment, and it looks like Bryant's first Topps cards will be appearing in earnest.

According to the Number One Source in the Hobby, and confirmed by Topps' Facebook page, Bryant's cards will:
  • show up on a  prospect base (meaning INSERT!!!) card in 2015 Bowman Baseball (as scheduled). There will be inserts and autographed insert cards to chase,
  • (hopefully) have autographed cards as part of 2015 Tier One Baseball (hopefully, because they won't be packed out, but redemption cards will),
  • be rushed into 2015 Topps Finest Baseball as card No. 111, one of the short-printed base cards, and there will be autograph cards here as well,
  • be getting the Harper treatment for his Rookie Cards in Topps Archives (limited base cards and autographs),
  • appear in Topps Series 2 Baseball which releases in June. No indication has been made as to if it will be another SSP card, but based on how early it is in the season, there should be no reason as to why he won't be included in the base set and not card #702,
  • be added to this year's edition of Stadium Club, Allen & Ginter's and Topps Chrome.
Okay, he's here now. He's gotten his first game out of the way. Let the Hobby riots begin.


JayBee Anama

    Wednesday, April 15, 2015

    2015 Topps The Jackie Robinson Story

    In amongst all of the cards Topps included in packs of 2015 Topps Series 1 was a ten-card set featuring Hall of Fame second baseman Jackie Robinson. These cards were exclusively included in packs sold at Target stores across the country. These were beautifully done, and gives collectors a brief biography of this great man's life before, during, and after his playing career.

    It was a historic day in baseball history when Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1945, tabbed by manager Clyde Sukeforth to be the first baseman that day against the Boston Braves, batting second in the lineup. In four plate appearances, Robinson was 0-3, reaching on a throwing error and scoring a run in the 7th inning before being replaced by Howie Schultz in the ninth. The Dodgers went on to beat the Braves 5-3.

    It would be the first of 1382 regular season games he would take part in, all from 1947-1956. He finished the '47 campaign with a .297 average, 12 home runs, 48 rbi's, an OPS of .810, and led the NL with 29 stolen bases. He was named Rookie of the Year, and finished 5th in MVP voting.

    All this, while becoming the first black player in MLB's modern era.

    It is because of him that the door to playing in the major leagues was blasted open, allowing players of all races in the game. While many of the veterans of the Negro Leagues would sadly not get a chance to play in either the National or American Leagues, it is because of the courage of Robinson (and Larry Doby to follow) that we would eventually know the names of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, et. al. By the time Pumpsie Green debuted for the Red Sox over 12 years later, all 16 major league teams finally integrated.

    But I digress.

    Today, as it has been done since Ken Griffey Jr. first asked Commissioner Bud Selig in 2007 if he could on this day, all major league players, coaches, and managers will be wearing the number 42. Now the number was retired in perpetuity in 1997, with only the handful of players who were currently wearing the number being allowed to have it if they chose going forward. When Mariano Rivera retired in 2013, no active player in the majors (and the minors for that matter) would be allowed to wear 42 on a regular basis moving forward.

    So today, as you're all finishing up your tax forms, raise a glass to Mr. Robinson. The game was forever changed for the better because of the courage he displayed on and off the field during a very difficult time in American history.

    Thank you.


    James B. Anama

    Friday, April 10, 2015

    Reports of 2015 Topps Team Sets are Showing Up on the Bay

    When the Cardinals/Cubs game was rained out on Tuesday, reports came out that fans who did show up bought Cubs cards for the players to sign. The thing was that these did not have the regular card numbers, but CHC-1, CHC-2, etc.

    That could only mean one thing...

    The 2015 Topps Retail sets are now live!!!

    After checking the bay, team sets are showing up thanks to a couple of sellers that I have bought from in the past. When I get a bit of cash next month, I'll probably take a shot at them. In the past, both sellers have offered all 32 team sets in an auction. I don't know if they'll do them this year, but you never know.

    The number one source in the Hobby has been kind enough to post checklists for both the Athletics and Padres cards that I did not have before, so without further ado, here are the checklists:

    Oakland Athletics
    • OA-1 Sonny Gray
    • OA-2 Coco Crisp
    • OA-3 Brett Lawrie
    • OA-4 Sean Doolittle
    • OA-5 Sam Fuld
    • OA-6 Jesse Chavez
    • OA-7 Ben Zobrist
    • OA-8 Scott Kazmir
    • OA-9 Stephen Vogt
    • OA-10 Drew Pomeranz
    • OA-11 Josh Reddick
    • OA-12 Eric Sogard
    • OA-13 Marcus Semien
    • OA-14 Ike Davis
    • OA-15 Dan Otero
    • OA-16 Tyler Clippard
    • OA-17 Billy Butler
    San Diego Padres
    • SDP-1 Matt Kemp
    • SDP-2 Alexi Amarista
    • SDP-3 Andrew Cashner
    • SDP-4 Will Middlebrooks
    • SDP-5 Jedd Gyorko
    • SDP-6 Justin Upton
    • SDP-7 Ian Kennedy
    • SDP-8 Tommy Medica
    • SDP-9 Carlos Quentin
    • SDP-10 Wil Myers
    • SDP-11 Rymer Liriano
    • SDP-12 Cory Spangenberg
    • SDP-13 Yonder Alonso
    • SDP-14 Yangervis Solarte
    • SDP-15 Tyson Ross
    • SDP-16 Derek Norris
    • SDP-17 Joaquin Benoit

    It's going to be a long month. But I know it will be worth it.


    JayBee Anama

    Sunday, April 5, 2015

    Opening Day is Here!!!

    It's Easter Sunday. He Has Risen!!!

    A month of spring training games have now whittled the rosters down to 25 players each (plus those on the DL, of course). This is it. Every prognosticator has made their choices as to who will win it all, but the games aren't played on paper. They're played on the diamond.

    And tonight, the first of 2,430 games will be played, opening up another season of Major League Baseball!!!

    The 2015 season opens with the St. Louis Cardinals taking on the Chicago Cubs at beautiful, but still being renovated, Wrigley Field. The bleachers won't be ready supposedly until June. And while modern technology has now started to take over the park (they now have a video board in left???), it still holds a lot of the charm and old-time feel the park has had in it's 100+ year history.

    But enough about the field. Let's get on to the more important issue. The I-55 rivalry starts in earnest. There's no hiding here. Both teams have re-tooled for this year with off-season free agent signings and trades to supplement their rosters. We welcome Joe Maddon, Jon Lester, Miguel Montero, Jason Heyward, and others to the rivalry.

    Right now, everyone is even at 0-0. Time to play ball.


    JayBee Anama

    Wednesday, April 1, 2015

    Happy Kazuo Uzuki Day!!!

    Let me just say that I love this card.

    It drives a certain Hobby blogger (now Twitter fiend) to the brink of insanity. But I think it's great.

    Long story short, on the heels of Daisuke Matsuzaka, Topps decided to add a card of the next great Japanese pitching phenom. This kid named Kazuo Uzuki. The bio on the back of the card talks of a pitching prodigy who was so close to making that first Japanese team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, but was prohibited by age. Here's the full bio:

    Already being called "The Uzi" by some for his 104 MPH fastball, kaz will be the first japan-based high-schooler to jump straight to professional baseball in America when he graduates in 2009. "He is, hands down, the best pitching prospect I've seen in 30 years," said one MLB scout. And one unnamed American League GM said, "The contract this kid is going to get will be astronomical." At age fourteen, he was the youngest player invited to the WBC squad trials and - though he was cut on the last day - he made a lasting impression with his 17 Ks in 7 innings of work during intrasquad matches.

    What a prospect. No wonder Topps added his card to packs of their 2008 Topps Series 1 product.

    But wait.

    People started to guess that something was amiss.

    There was no information anywhere on a Kazuo Uzuki. Nothing online about this wunderkid. And for all of the accolades, you'd think someone would have heard of him.

    And that's when things started to unravel.

    On April 1, 2008, Topps finally announced that this was an April Fool's joke, less than two months after the product went live. And go figure. Kazuo Uzuki means "first son of April" (if Wikipedia is to be believed).

    It turns out that the Japanese pitching phenom was really a New York University law student named Sensen Lin (who, oh yeah, is Chinese). When he was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, he said he had summered with Ropes & Gray LLC. I went to check, and according to his LinkedIn profile, he's been with the firm for six years now (and no, I'm not going to link his profile...are you kidding? Although, I may ask if I can add him as a connection...)

    So let's raise a glass to Mr. Lin, who so graciously is now a part of cardboard lore.

    Happy April Fools' Day everybody!!!

    Keep the pranks to a minimum, will you?


    JayBee Anama