Thursday, November 26, 2015

What I AM Thankful For in 2015.

This is going to be the sixth 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 seven years. So much has changed, but there is so much that remains the same.

At this moment, I am at the house of my brother-in-law and his family. We've long finished the turkey, the huge amount of side dishes, and even finished dessert. Half of the family is going to journey out into the wilds of Black Friday shopping. The other half (myself included) will be sitting here at the house, watching the Bears-Packers game, or catching up to some work (the food industry never rests). Looking back, I realize I was here in Indiana one year ago, typing about how grateful I was for all of the things that my family and I experienced, one year probably the most challenging times of our lives. One year later, I am happy that we have our health, our home, and continued support from both families (my wife's and mine). There have been struggles, but we've started to make a lot of headway and hopefully by next year, our financial obligations will be a lot less stressful.

By now, those who still read this blog know that I use this opportunity to thank (it's Thanksgiving after all) all of the people who have been a part of my life, who have been there from the beginning watching me grow as a person, to the people who I have connected with (or in many cases, re-connected) as recently as my high school reunion last year. Funny how life experiences make even the worst of enemies the best of friends after a long time apart.

Many of the things I am about to say below, I wrote last year. They still apply now, more than ever.

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 17 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, I am excited for what our futures hold. New opportunities may have given us less time to be together, but what it does for me is cherish the time we are with each other, even if it's for a few minutes. 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. As the dad of two teenagers, I know that as they continue to find their independence, I know that both still rely on their mother and me to guide them. All we can do is show them how to be good people (as best we can). Their activities have kept them busy for the most part, but I'd like to think that they still love us in their own special way. Of course, 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. 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, teasing, 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 and me 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. This year was one of culinary discovery. I learned this year, how to make restaurant quality meals, some of which have been seen on the television. Although I've been in the specialty foods industry for most of my adult life, and I'm surrounded by family members that can cook rings around executive chefs, I am in no way extremely talented in the kitchen. So when my family finds something that works, it's in our weeknight rotation. 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 2015 was a great year in baseball, the Hobby, and this blog, took a larger 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 seriously given a lot of thought about scaling back, more so than last year. But I find that even when I focus on my work, the Hobby is never far away from my mind. It's a quiet distraction, even if I can only spend time in that world for a few minutes.

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, 2016 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.


JayBee Anama

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Introducing Your 2015 MLB Cy Young Award Winners - Three Horse Race in NL, David vs. Dallas 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. While no preliminary checklist for next year's eponymous set has been released as of Thursday, November 19, last night, we learned who was named the winners of the Cy Young Award in both the National and American Leagues.

Congratulations to both Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs and Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros for winning the National League and American League Cy Young Awards. If the teams these aces play for sound familiar, it's because the other day, their teammates were named the NL and AL Rookies of the year.

Any of three dominating pitchers could have easily won the award in the NL. But Jake Arrieta's dominant second half (which included a no-hitter) convinced 17 voters to put him on the top of the list over two Dodger pitchers. With a record of 22-6 record, an ERA of 1.77, 236 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 0.87 in 229 innngs of work, 17 of the 30 voters picked Jake as their first place choice (for a grand total of 169 points). The Dodger duo of Zack Greinke (147 points, 10 first place votes) and defending Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw (101, 3) finished second and third. Pirates ace Gerrit Cole finished fourth (40 points) followed by Max Scherzer of the Nationals (32), Madison Bumgarner of the Giants (8), last year's NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom of the Mets (7), Pirates closer Mark Melancon (5), and the Cardinals John Lackey (1).

Dallas Keuchel's career year propelled the Astros to their first playoff appearance in more than 10 seasons, their first as a member of the American League. He finished the 2015 campaign with a 20-8 record, a 2.48 ERA, 216 strikeouts and a 1.02 WHIP in 232 innings pitched. No team could beat him at Minute Maid Park, as he won all 15 of his decisions at home. He was on the top of 22 of the 30 voters' ballots, earning a high 186 points. David Price of the Blue Jays finished second in the balloting taking the other 8 first place votes (143 points) while Sonny Gray of the Athletics landed in third place (82 points). The rest of the field included a bevy of All-Star quality pitchers: Chris Sale of the White Sox (30), Chris Archer of the Rays (29) Wade Davis of the Royals (10), Felix Hernandez of the Mariners (9), Collin McHugh of the Astros (5), last year's AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber of the Indians (4), Marco Estrada of the Blue Jays (3), Yankees closer Andrew Miller (3), Shawn Tolleson of the Rangers (3), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (2), and Dellin Betances of the Yankees (1).

This is the fifth time a Cubs player won the Cy Young Award (last was Greg Maddux in 1992) and while it's the third time an Astros player has taken home the trophy (Roger Clemens, 2004), it's the first time an Astro has won it in the American League (again, they spent their first 50 years in the NL).

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


JayBee Anama

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Introducing Your 2015 MLB Rookies of the Year - Unanimous in NL, Tighter Race in 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. While no preliminary checklist for next year's eponymous set has been released as of Tuesday, November 17, last night, we learned who was named the Rookies of the Year in both the National and American Leagues.

Congratulations to both Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs and Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros for winning the National League and American League Rookies of the Year Awards. As was done last 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.

Kris Bryant, who's name was on the lips of EVERY baseball writer, fan, and card collector, not only showed that he was the real deal, but was truly deserving of the words "Future Star." He led all MLB rookies in home runs (26, tied for first), rbi's (99), doubles (31), runs (87), while hitting .275 with an OBP/SLG/OPS line of .369/.488/.857. He was also named to the NL All-Star Team in 2015. On a team of young stars, it is hoped that Bryant will help lead the Cubs to the promised land. He received all 30 first place votes in the NL ROY balloting, thus earning the maximum 150 points possible. The rest of the field included Giants third baseman Matt Duffy (70 points, 22 second place votes), Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang (28, 4), Noah Syndergaard of the Mets (16, 3), Justin Bour of the Marlins (4, 1), Joc Pederson of the Dodgers (1), and Stephen Piscotty of the Cardinals (1).

Like Bryant, Carlos Correa of the Astros did not make the Opening Day roster. But once he made his MLB debut on June 8, not only did he become the youngest position player in the majors in 2015, but he also added to what was already a renaissance year for the Astros. Just like the Cubs, the Astros were building for their future. But the future was now for the 'Stros, leading the AL West division for most of the year before managing to earn the second wild card spot in the playoffs. In 99 games, Correa hit 22 home runs, drove in 68 rbi's, stole 14 bases, and hit for a .279 average with a slash line of .345/.512/.857. It was a close race on the AL side though, with Correa taking 17 of the 30 1st place votes (124 total points). Francisco Lindor of the Indians finished in second place in the voting (109 points, 13 first place votes), followed by Miguel Sano of the Twins (20), Roberto Osuna of the Blue Jays 9 (8, 2), Billy Burns of the Athletics (6, 1), Eddie Rosario of the Twins (2), and Delino DeShields of the Rangers - feel old people, he's the son of the Expos All-Star from the 90's - (1).

Bryant becomes the first Cubs player to win the Rookie of the Year award in unanimous fashion, and the sixth Cubs player to do so overall (last to do so was Geovany Soto in 2008). Correa is the first Astro player to win the AL Rookie of the Year award (remember, the Astros spent their first 50 years in the NL), and the second Astro player to win the award (last was Jeff Bagwell in 1991).

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


JayBee Anama

Monday, November 2, 2015

As Today is November 2, 2015

November 2 is traditionally All Souls Day. It is the day where we celebrate the lives of family and friends who have passed away. Many will go to cemeteries and pray, some may even picnic on the grounds. It is not really a day of mourning, but a day of reflection. Remembering those who we strongly miss.

Personally, I would like to honor my grandparents, Felix Anama, Leonor Filoteo Anama, Gloria Y. Nichols, Ruben S. Menguito, Sgt. Clinton H. Nichols. As well as countless great aunts and uncles too numerous to list.

Today I want to remember the seven souls who died on January 8, 1993, at the Brown's Chicken in Palatine, Illinois: Michael C. Castro, Rico Solis, Thomas Mennes, Marcus Nellsen, Guadalupe Maldonado, Richard Ehlenfeldt, and Lynn Ehlenfeldt.

I would like to remember the people I've met over the years who left us too soon: Lynn Swoboda, Shannon McNamara, Linda Beyer, Gail Leff, Lois Winesburgh, Mary Jo Scanlan, Nancy Huber, Joseph Nasca, Antoinette Nasca, Dan Doles, Chris Stufflestreet, Thomas Scanlon, Darrin Steffey, Erin (Ryals) Semerad

On behalf of my wife, I would like to honor her grandparents, uncles, and especially, her mother (since I have not asked for my wife's permission to do so, I am not adding their names here).

Finally, I would like to take a moment to remember the families, the loved ones who were left behind.

Now that the personal side of the blog has been taken care of, I would also like to take time to remember 73 more people. Between 10/31/2014 and 11/01/2015, 73 people who can lay claim to playing major league baseball, 2 of whom had the honor of being a manager of a major league franchise (even for one game), passed away. Many lived long productive lives, even after their careers ended. Others, tragically, either passed away before their potential could be fully reached or before they could enjoy the fruits of their retirement.

Today, I take time out of my humble little baseball card blog to remember:

Brad Halsey
Jean-Pierre Roy
Allen Ripley
Kelvin Moore
Alvin Dark
Whammy Douglas
Ray Sadecki
Art Quirk
Don Grate
Buddy Hicks
Russ Kemmerer
Herb Plews
Bob Usher
Stu Miller
Chuck Locke
Don Bryant
Ernie Banks
Nick Koback
Bill Monbouquette
Al Severinsen
Charlie Williams
Rocky Bridges
Dave Bergman
Don Johnson
Ray Hathaway
Gary Woods
Jim King
Alex Johnson
Minnie Minoso
Jeff McKnight
Steve Shea
Bob Anderson
Al Rosen
Harley Hisner
Bill Slayback
Dick Mills
Riccardo Ingram
Jose Capellan
Bobby Moore
Ollie Brown
Jim Fanning
Earl Averill
Fred Gladding
Alan Koch
Skeeter Kell
Lennie Merullo
Larry Eschen
Andres Mora
Len Matarazzo
Darryl Hamilton
Kal Segrist
Buddy Lively
Rugger Ardizoia
Billy Pierce
Hank Izquierdo
Jack Spring
Doc Daugherty
Bud Thomas
Barney Schultz
Joaquin Andujar
Alex Monchak
Randy Wiles
Bobby Etheridge
Walter Young
Yogi Berra
Ed Sukla
Tom Kelley
Cal Neeman
Hal Schacker
Garry Hancock
Dean Chance
Neill Sheridan
John Tsitouris


JayBee Anama