The Legend

The Legend

Friday, February 28, 2014

Ebay Day

I usually make it a habit to avoid new release cards as the prices are at a premium.  Thankfully when I came across this patch of Gerrit Cole the seller and I were able to come to a quick agreement on a price after just one offer.  Always nice to find a seller who doesn't try and nickel and dime you for every last penny.  I was happy to add a premium patch of Cole.  I have several auto's, but only one other patch card.  This one is from Topps Tribute and it is numbered out of /24.

The other day I was putting a best offer on a card that I really wanted.  I believe the seller had a buy it now of $10 or best offer.  It was card I really wanted so I put a bid of $8 thinking that would be a sure thing. The seller came back with $8.75.  I walked away from it out of principal.  Why even have the best offer function?  I'm sure everybody has had at least one moment like this on Ebay.

Hope everybody has a good weekend.  Happy card hunting!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

WTF JW2 1/1

I own a lot of unique cards but this one probably takes the prize.  This is a 2004 Donruss Elite Aspirations 1/1 auto of Jack Wilson.  Did his kid sign it?  Maybe he thought he would make the 1/1 extra special?  All I know is that this is one of the weirder cards I've ever seen.

Jack used the same walk up music his entire career.  Jumpin Jack Flash....Great Song!

Wilson was a mainstay in the Pirates lineup from 2001 to 2009.  A plus defender most of his career he would often make crazy defensive plays going to his right and making jump throws to first.   He earned his only All Star appearance in 2004 when he had a career offensive year accumulating over 200 hits.  The Pirates have had trouble filling Jack's shoes since his trade to the Mariners in 2009.  Lets hope Jordy Mercer can develop into a productive everyday shortstop.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pops and Mailing

This is a Willie Stargell cut auto from 2005 Legendary Cuts.  I have several Stargell auto's but this one has always been my favorite.  One nice thing about collecting Pirates is that besides Clemente, autos and relics of the hall of fame/retired players are affordable.  Auto's of Mazeroski, Kiner and Dave Parker can all be had for $15-$30.  Stargell is usually a notch above that amount, but considering he passed away back in 2001, I still consider that pretty reasonable.

On a side note I continue to sort cards and continue to find a lot of good stuff that some of my new blogger friends are sure to like.  As a thanks for all of those who have helped me get this blog off the ground I just sent out a second wave of mail today.  Thanks again to everybody that continues to plug the blog and comment on my posts.  Remember always feel free to drop me a line as I love to work trades.

*****Baseball was on TV today!  I caught some of the Reds/Indians game.  The Pirates beat the Yankees today as well.  Before we know it will be opening day!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Trade With Too Many Verlanders

Dennis from Too Many Verlanders sent me a huge selection of Pirates and WVU cards on Monday as part of our blind trade.  The pictures above show some of my favorites, but there was a bunch more.  He is a great guy and an awesome trader so if you have Tigers or University of Michigan cards send them over his way.

Thanks again Dennis, and be on the lookout for some more mail in the near future!

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Shield

Along with the Pirates I'm an avid WVU collector.  This is a dual NFL shield from National Treasures featuring Jamal Charles and Steve Slaton.  This was my first NFL shield and it is numbered 2/2. I previously featured a logoman of Devin Ebanks.

Slaton cards continue to hold decent value as he is often featured with other running backs from the 08 draft. The RB heavy class featured the likes of Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson and Ray Rice.  It is a shame that Slaton is no longer in football.  Injuries and fumbling issues derailed a career that started off so promising.

If anybody out there has some good WVU or Pittsburgh Pirates cards I'll be happy to trade.  Just leave a comment or shoot me an email and we can work something out.  I have a trade bait link on the blog, but that is not everything.  Just let me know who you like and we'll get the ball rolling.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Recent Mail Day/Random Thoughts

I love dual autos because it allows me to chase other players I like and still have the Pirates as the excuse for the purchase.  This Buster Posey/Tony Sanchez dual auto is from 2009 Donruss Elite and is numbered out of 100.  Obviously Buster is a household name with 2 World Series championships and an MVP under his belt.  He along with the likes of Andrew Mccutchen and Bryce Harper are becoming the faces of the NL.

Tony Sanchez is a wildcard.  A former first round pick (4th overall) in 2009.  Many thought that his pick was a reach as there were several high end arms available....not to mention a guy named Mike Trout who was picked 25th!. Tony hit the ground running early on, but injuries in consecutive years cost Tony over a seasons worth of playing time.

Tony finally made his major league debut last season, but playing time was hard to come by.  The Pirates were in the thick of a pennant race, so Russell Martin took most of the playing time.  It looks like the plan moving forward is to have Sanchez catch full time in AAA this year.  The Pirates will have a big question to answer next season as Russell Martin will be a free agent.  Will they trust Sanchez to become to full time catcher?  My own personal opinion is to resign Martin.  I'm a huge fan and if you believe in defensive metrics and pitch framing, Martin grades out high. 

* Who buys low numbered Bowman Chrome auto rookies?  Holy crap they are expensive.  I was watching a low numbered Austin Meadows /50 and it was already close to $300.  Unless the guy turns out to be Mike Trout or Albert Pujols it seems that card only has room to go down.  I could probably buy 50 random Pirate autos for the price of one of those cards

* Getting close to time where my friends and I bust another box.  Anybody open anything good lately?  Get some pretty good discounts on 2012 and 13 stuff as the new 2014 cards are hitting the market.

* Man I'm ready for nice weather and baseball....

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Manager's Special

After a long time searching I finally came across the Danny Murtaugh auto.  Murtaugh coached the World Series champion 1960 and 71 Pirate teams.  Auto's are really scarce of the legendary manager as he died in 1976.  The Murtaugh auto is a cut signature and was from 2006 Topps Sterling.

Chuck Tanner coached the 1979 championship team. The auto is from 2004 Sweet Spot.  Coach Tanner passed away in 2011. 

Jim Leyland coached the successful early 90's Pirate teams.  The above auto is from 2005 Topps Retired.  Coach Leyland announced his retirement at the end of last season. 

I was trying to think if any new sets have manager signatures in it.  I know Topps had a few random GMs in it.  Pirates GM Neil Huntington was included in that set.   It would be kind of cool to see some active manager auto's make there way into some sets. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Thank You Fuji

Had a nice mail day today.  Fuji from the blog The Chronicles of Fuji sent me a nice welcoming gift to the blog world. 

Awesome mix of new and old.  Keep an eye on your mail Fuji.  You should be receiving some goodies very soon.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Random Combo

Growing up Andy Van Slyke was one of my favorite players.  I'm always trying to get my hands on autos and relics when they pop up on the market.

This is a nice 1980's flashback card from 2012 Triple Threads.  I picked this card up on Ebay last year and haven't seen many since.  This is the short print version /18. 

Here is the version that is numbered out of /27 which I picked up recently as well.

Van Slyke's accomplishments:
3 All Star Games
2 Silver Sluggers
5 Gold Gloves

What a trade for the Pirates when they sent Tony Pena to the Cardinals and received Van Slyke and Mike LaValliere.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Future is Bright

It wasn't long ago when the Pirates had absolutely no minor league depth.  If you go back 5 or 10 years any player that was worth anything on the big league roster was not homegrown.  Players such as Jason Bay (Padres), Freddy Sanchez (Red Sox) and Jack Wilson (Cardinals) were developed by other franchises.  It was the perfect storm of poor scouting, cheapness and no international footprint.  How times have changed.

When the new front office took over in 2007 an emphasis on putting together a winner through internal player development was made.  The Pirates began drafting players whom they would normally had passed on.  The results were slow, but the Pirates are reaping the rewards now.  Of the projected starters, 5 of 8 were developed by the Pirates. 

The Pirates farm system is a consensus top 5 in every major publication and Baseball America has them number 1.  The reasoning was high end arms and overall depth.  Plus they rated our 2013 draft as the best in baseball.  The pipeline is strong. 

This card is from Bowman Platinum and numbered to 10.  Josh Bell was a high school draft pick who the Pirates gave 5 million dollars to give up a strong college commitment.  He lost his first pro season due to injury but rebounded last year.  If healthy he should regain his top prospect status.  Alen Hanson is a shortstop prospect signed out of the Dominican Republic.  He has been a top 100 prospect each of the past two years.  Gregory Polanco is the Pirates highest rated positional prospect and is most likely going to take over right field at some point this year.  He was another international signing. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Let's Go Mountaineers

I'm a proud West Virginia University alum so to change things up every once in a while I will add a card from my WVU collection.  While my WVU collection is growing it is nowhere near the size of my Pirates collection, but I'm always looking to add new items.  Collecting a college allows me to full around with football and basketball so it helps keep things fresh. 

The above card is from 2010-2011 Timeless Treasures numbered out of 5 logoman.

Devin Ebanks is a classic example of what can happen if you go pro earlier than you should.  He decided to leave school his software year, but did not get drafted until the 2nd round by the Lakers.  He managed to hang around for a few years, but was the odd man out once the Lakers changed offensive schemes under coach Mike D'Antoni.  Ebanks is still in the D League trying to make his way back.

I always thought another year in college to work on his offense would have made Ebanks a lottery pick.  Already an elite defender he helped the Mountaineers reach the final four. He gave teams fits defensively as he was often used at the top of the 1-3-1 zone.  His 7ft wingspan clogged up passing lanes and forced tons of turnovers.  Hindsight being 20/20 I'm sure he would have tried to stay another year and got more guaranteed money.

If anybody ever comes across any WVU players let me know.  I'll be happy to trade for them.  Some of the names include...

Geno Smith
Tavon Austin
Stedman Bailey
Jedd Gyorko
Joe Alexander
Devin Ebanks.
Marc Bulger

Bunches more, but those are the more prevalent examples. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Freddy Sanchez

I was a huge fan of Freddy when he was with the Bucs.  His accomplishments while a Pirate include 3 All Star games, 2006 NL batting title and 2006 doubles leader.  The guy could flat out hit.  It was a shame he was stuck on so many terrible Pirates teams. 

This is a 2007 Topps Co-Signers Dual Auto of Freddy and Joe Mauer.  This set was always one of my favorites as it had a ton of Pirate combinations.

One cool moment of Sanchez's career I got to witness was during the 2006 All Star game in Pittsburgh.  Freddy's storybook season was so unexpected that he wasn't even on the ballot.  Pirate fans responded by giving him 850,000 write in votes.  He received a standing ovation when his name was announced. 

Freddy was traded to the Giants in 2009 and signed a two year deal following the season.  He rewarded the Giants with another quality year in 2010 and helped them win the World Series.  Unfortunately injuries have plagued Freddy since 2011 and he has been unable to take the field ever since.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Moving On

Last week the Pirates officially said goodbye to AJ Burnett when he signed a one year 16 million dollar deal with the Phillies.  I was having a conversation with Matt (the creator of this fine blog) the other day about this development and we were wondering how Pirates fans should feel about this.  For long time Pirates fans, it's easy to go with the knee jerk "same old cheap Pirates" response.  And, when you think about how little the Pirates have done so far this offseason, it's hard to think that they didn't have the money to bring Burnett back.  However, after reading Neil Huntington's comments about not making a qualifying offer to Burnett, fans crying "cheap" might be being a little short sighted.  After all, the Pirates had more than one objective this offseason.  Trying to make right field and first base upgrades were also priorities.  And while attempts to sign players like Marlon Byrd, James Loney, and Josh Johnson have been unsuccessful, offers were still made by the Pirates and more potential moves may still be in the works.  Like it or not, the Pirates are not operating with an unlimited payroll, and committing 14 plus million to Burnett may not have allowed the Pirates the flexibility to make other moves.  Despite all this, the Pirates reportedly still made a one year 12 million dollar offer.  A fair, but perhaps low, offer.  None the less, an offer was made. 

So, should we turn our frustrations to AJ himself?  He is the one who said he would either return to the Pirates or retire.  He forgot to mention any financial demands that would be needed to be met to make his return possible.  There's no doubt that Burnett never should have made such a bold statement, but it's not hard to understand why he would take the best offer for himself.  What is hard to understand is why he would take a deal from a team like the Phillies who, as Matt pointed out in his post the other day, are not considered to be playoff contenders this year.  It certainly seems like it was just all about the money for Burnett, which makes it look as if he turned his back on the Bucs.  Because of this, it's fair for Pirates fans to be disappointed that AJ will not be back.  Burnett's departure definitely leaves a hole in the rotation, but the loss shouldn't be seen as disastrous by any stretch.  Yes, he gave us two excellent seasons of work, and was seen as a team leader.  But personally, I feel like the leadership factor has been largely overblown.  For example, so much of what he was given credit for was mentoring the younger pitchers on the staff.  His two pupils were James McDonald in 2012 and Jeff Locke last season.  Both seemed to thrive under his perceived guidance, but their success only lasted for half a season.  Are we to believe that both simply stopped listening to him in the second half?  It's just too hard to tangibly measure the affect of his leadership, and thus, I don't think Bucco fans should sweat losing that aspect of his presence.  What we should miss is the 4.0 WAR he posted last season, and also the opportunity to see more free shirt giveaways like this

But, alas, we now have to move on whether we like it or not.  The good news is the Pirates will have Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton all at the start of the season this year.  And hopefully, Wandy Rodriguez will also be ready to go by opening day.  While it's true that there are some questions about the 5th spot in the rotation, fans should be excited about the possibility of getting a potential boost from Jameson Taillon at some point this summer.  In the end, it's always hard to lose a player the caliber of Burnett, but unlike years past, I think the Pirates are in a better position to move forward then they have been in some time.  So, I hope AJ enjoys his money because I think the Pirates will more likely be enjoying the success this season.

Futures Game Patch from Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects /25. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Rotation Issues

With AJ Burnett out the door, the Pirates rotation has a few more question marks.  Guaranteed spots belong to Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton, but the water gets a little murky after that.  Wandy Rodriguez is coming off a serious arm injury in which he may not be ready for opening day.  Jeff Locke had a complete meltdown in the second half after making the All Star team with his first half performance.  The Pirates think he was overworked, but if you look at the numbers Locke was due to be hit with some regression.  He had an extremely low batting average of balls in play which was impossible to keep up.  The balls that were put in play in the second half were finding holes.  

The wildcard in the rotation could be Edinson Volquez.  The Pirates took a gamble and offered Volquez a contract with the idea they could fix his command.  Once a front line starter with the Reds Volquez in recent years has lost his command and has struggled to maintain his spot in a rotation.  If Ray Searage can work his magic Volquez could be the boost the Pirates rotation needs.  Maybe he can be this years Francisco Liriano.

The other key component will be Jameson Taillon.  The Pirates top pitching prospect who was drafted right behind Bryce Harper should be MLB ready.  I'm sure the Pirates will want to wait until the summer to bring him up, but with so many question marks it is not completely out of the realm of possibility that he could break camp. 

It is pretty exciting to see these guys starting to help the big league team.  This dual auto was an Ebay purchase last year before Cole made his debut.  I'm always on the hunt for Taillon auto's as his value will go up when he makes his debut at some point this year. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Box Break (2012 Panini Prizm)

Last weekend a couple of my friends and I each busted a box of 2012 Panini Prizm.  We always try to find a box that has a few hits for under $75. No major hits were pulled but we had a good time. 

I was happy with the Bernie Williams pull.  That is what makes Prizm a cool bust as they have a decent amount of veteran stars to pull.  My two Prizm cards were the Trout above and a Ryan Howard.  All these cards have been added to my trade bait link. 

Anybody else open any of this product?  Any luck?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ready for Baseball

Pitchers and catchers report this week, but baseball seems like 100 years away with all the snow on the east coast.  I miss the days when I was in college and my buddies and I would hit up spring training in Bradenton.  Life has a way to get in the way of those kind of trips.

I got this card not long after the 2012 National Treasures set came out.  Not a huge fan of the button cards, but I got a fair deal on the card.  Always hard to pass up a Mccutchen card at a decent price because it is getting really hard to find a low numbered Cutch auto for under $100.   This one is numbered to 6.  Man, I hope Panini can get a license soon. 

Any early predictions for NL MVP this year?  I think my shortlist this year is Cutch, Harper, Hanley Ramirez and Jason Heyward.   Might make for a good contest down the road. 

Anybody open 2014 Topps?  Any good hits?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Random Thoughts

* A.J. Burnett signed with the Phillies today.  This whole situation was really odd.  It makes the Pirates look cheap no matter how you shake it.  GM Neil Huntington just released a statement saying the reason they didn't offer him a qualifying offer in the first place was that they felt 14 million was too much for one guy.  That is all fine and dandy but the Pirates are in a unique situation where the value of a win is very high.  A player like Burnett can make the difference between a playoff team and finishing a few games out.  The Pirates are coming off a hugely successful season, so you have to think some money was available. 

The flip side of the story is what was motivating Burnett to sign elsewhere.  He is always adamant that he is motivated by family and not money.  If you believe the rumors, the teams actively pursuing Burnett were the Pirates, Orioles, Phillies and Nationals.  It was always assumed that the Orioles were the front runners as he is from the Baltimore area and they have a huge need at starting pitcher.  Why did he pick the Phillies?  That is the million dollar question.  Seems odd to pick a team that is likely not to be a contender, have a subpar defense and a park that gives up a lot of homeruns. Did he chase the most money?  That will make for interesting debate. 

* I've been opening a fair amount of boxes with friends lately after taking a 5 year break.  I used to get so pissed off when I didn't pull something decent that I had to give it up.  I put all my focus into my Pirate and WVU collections.  Our new system is keeping the boxes below $70 bucks.  We figure that price is low enough that if we don't get a decent hit it won't piss us off.  We have been having a blast.  I'll be posting some more trade bait this weekend.

I have owned this card for a long time and it has told a lot of different stories.  At first this was a crazy expensive card as Braun hit the ground running for the Brewers and both Gordon and Laroche were super prospects.  Fast Forward a little bit and Gordon was called up for the Royals and struggled and Laroche was traded to the Pirates as part of the Jason Bay/Manny Ramirez deal.  Laroche ended up fizzling out for the Bucs and has been a AAAA player since his release.  Alex Gordon finally adapted to the major leagues and has developed into a steady player for the Royals.....and then there is Ryan Braun now.  PED's has forever tarnished his legacy.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Candy Man Can

Back when I was in college my friends and I would often attend card shows and autograph signings.  Being that we lived reasonably close to Pittsburgh most of these signings consisted of retired greats from the teams in the Burgh.  One of my favorite interactions was John Candelaria.  He was very down to earth and asked lots of questions about my hometown.  We spoke about some of the local restaurants and how he would play in golf tournaments in the area.  He posed for some pictures with us and would sign anything we gave him. 

I loved the Team Heroes Auto set from Donruss.  How cool is it he signed it "Candy Man."

Talk about lasting careers.  The Candy Man's best years were with the Pirates in the mid 70's through the early 80's.  He was a workhorse for a lot of great Pirates teams and helped them win a World Series in 1979.  He then balanced around a lot, but stayed in the majors all the way until 1993! 

Cool side note...I remember my buddy asking him what team he liked playing for best.  He said he loved his time with the Bucs as he had his best seasons and won a championship, but the Dodgers did everything first class.  He said it was nice traveling in style.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Brian Giles

I'm currently in the process of sorting all my cards and keep finding some that I forgot about which is making the process fun.  If you follow a team for a long time cards have a way to trigger certain memories. 

Brian Giles was the best player on a lot of bad Pirates teams.  He had a stretch from the 1999 to 2002 where he hit at least 35 homeruns and was probably one of the more underrated stars in the early 2000's.  When I saw the above card I was instantly reminded of the catch below.

Giles was traded to the Padres which turned out to be a great deal for the Pirates as they received Jason Bay in return.  Bay stepped right in for Giles and became the face of the franchise in the mid 2000's. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Jordy Mercer

Is Jordy Mercer the shortstop of the future?  Unfortunately, it's still probably too early to answer this question.  But, there was reason for optimism last season.  In 365 plate appearance, Mercer was able to hit .285/.336/.435 to go along with 8 homeruns and 22 doubles which actually stacks up well against NL shortstops with a minimum of 350 plate appearances (as seen here).  A promising start, but given the small sample size, can he sustain over a full season of play?  His BB% was considered below average and his .330 BABIP might suggest some regression is on the horizon.  Perhaps due to some of these factors, the projections for 2013 are not terribly optimistic.  But despite a less than favorable outlook for the upcoming season, I still think there is a case to be made for Mercer as a viable option at short for the Pirates going forward.  For comparison, we are going to look to the right side of the Pirates infield. 
In 2010, Neil Walker made his debut as second baseman for the Bucs after spending nearly six years in the minors falling from top prospect to a guy who was being looked at as super utility player.  After being called up, Walker went on to hit .296/.345/.462 in 469 plate appearances (seen here).  Like Mercer, his BB% and BABIP suggested regression, and many were unsure if Walker could sustain his early success.  But, as Matt wrote just the other day, Walker has continued to build on his early success and has become a solid if unspectacular player, and big part of the Pirates lineup.  Let's say Mercer is able to improve his BB% as Walker has continued to do since his rookie season, he too may be able to ease the regression that may come in other areas of his game.   
Now, this isn't a perfect comparison.  After all, Mercer was never considered to be the caliber of prospect that Walker was. But, considering how pricey a free agent shortstop can be (see Jhonny Peralta), the Pirates might do well to see what they have in Mercer, and if Mercer's upside turns out to be a poor man's Neil Walker, the Pirates could certainly do a lot worse.   

The above card is from the new Panini America's Pastime set and is numbered to 10.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Call to the Bullpen

Being a small market team means you have to be thrifty in certain areas.  One area in which Pirates GM Neil Huntington has excelled in both controlling costs and getting value is the constuction of the bullpen.  Much of the teams success last year was their ability to close out tight games.  The Pirates have made great use of advanced metrics to see value in guys that fell out of favor with other teams.  Ignoring stats like ERA and focusing on k rates and xfip has found them many diamonds in the rough.

At some point I will touch base on all these guys (Wilson, Watson and Melancon) because they all have had very interesting paths to the big leagues and the Pirates, but none more than Jason Grilli.  Once a former first round pick, Grilli became the quintessential journeyman.  He balanced around the league as a journeyman bullpen piece.  After a subpar 2009 season Grilli found himself out of the major leagues in 2010.  In 2011 Grilli was pitching for the Phillies AAA squad and was released in the summer.  The very next day the Pirates signed Grilli and the rest is history.

Grilli embraced his second chance with the Bucs.  After finishing strong in 2011 Grilli would setup closer Joel Hanrahan in 2012.  He was unhittable most of the season.  Grilli mastered a wipeout slider and was among the league leaders in k's per 9 innings at over 13. 

With a season and half of success behind him Grilli became a free agent and was a sought after target.  Thankfully he felt obligated to give back to the city of Pittsburgh and signed a 2 year 6.75 million deal.  He said he felt comfortable in Pittsburgh and was thankful for his second chance.

2012 proved not to be a fluke as Grilli put together another stellar year in 2013 as the primary closer.  He was a key part in the Buccos ending the two decades worth of losing and misery.  He earned his first All Star appearance and became a fan favorite as the Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in over 20 years. 

The card above is from the 2013 Topps Update set.  It is numbered out of /25.  I was a huge fan of last years Update set as it had many All Star themed cards of Pirates. 

Maz and Fisk

I love dual autographs because it allows me to venture away from the Pirates.  This is one of my favorite dual autos in my collection. 

I guess the link here is historic playoff homeruns with Fisk's wave it fair homer and Maz's game 7 World Series shot against the Yankees.  When I get some time I would love to write an article about Maz the hall of famer.  Some say he is one of the least deserving people in the hall of fame, so that would be fun to compare some stats. 

Do any of you have a favorite random dual auto? 

Friday, February 7, 2014

RIP Ralph Kiner

Ralph Kiner passed away today at the age of 91.  The Bucco legend and Hall of Famer was one of baseball biggest sluggers during its Golden Era.  During an 8 year stretch he averaged 44 homeruns and 115 rbis. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Trade Bait Added

I have added a permanent link on the right side of the page to some of my trade bait cards.  You can also get to it here.

I have a bunch more that needs to be added, but this will get everybody started.  If you see something you like shoot me an email or post a comment on one of the posts. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Neil Walker Great at Nothing Good at Everything

I'm a frequent watcher of the MLB network and one of my favorite offseason features is the top ten at each position.  Last weeks feature was 2nd base, and Neil Walker was 8th.  The rankings are based on past performance/upcoming projections and weighs defense and offense.  My first instinct was that I could name a lot more than 7 second baseman I would rather have than Walker, but that proved to be more difficult than I thought.  He is so average he is good. 

When looking at his numbers you see a good obp with a rising walk rate, decent pop (13-17 homers a year) all while continuing to improve his defense.  Really the only flaw in his game is the ability to stay on the field.  He has had DL stints each of the past two years.  A healthy Walker is vital to the Pirates success as middle infield depth has been a weakness the last couple of years. 

Would Neil Walker be in your top ten? 

Neil Walker was drafted out of high school as a catcher back in 2004.  Pretty cool company on this card.  This is from 2004 SP Prospects and is serial numbered 19/25. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Trade Bait

Just to let everyone know I will be posting trade bait very soon.  I've been busting some boxes with friends and participating in case breaks the last couple of months with the idea of accumulating some cards to deal.  In the meantime feel free to send me an email or comment on a post with anything you are looking for.  I'm always looking for Pirate auto/relics and WVU grad auto/relics.  My buddy Micah who also helps me with the blog is an avid collector of all things Pirates as well. 

Here is a cool card I picked up last fall.

This was a box topper from 2012 Bowman Sterling featuring autos of Dylan Bundy, Danny Hultzen and Gerrit Cole.  The only bad thing about box toppers is finding ways to protect the corners.  If anybody has found something that works drop me a line.  Most of the top loaders for pictures are too big and the card still slides around. 

I'm sure I will be writing about Gerrit a ton in the next few months as I've been accumulating a pretty large collection of his auto's.  It's exciting to see the Pirates have a front line power pitcher.  One thing over the years the Pirates have been missing is that clear cut number 1 starter.  Lets hope Gerrit can feel that void over the next handful of years.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Forgotten Pirate

Ralph Kiner is often the forgotten man in Pirates history.  After an up and down rookie season in 1946 Kiner received some guidance from legendary slugger Hank Greenberg whom the Pirates convinced to stay on one more season.  With this knowledge Kiner blossomed into the games most feared slugger.

The sad aspect of Kiner's career is that he never played for a winner.  In fact most of the Pirates teams he played on were the worst in franchise history.  It was said fans would leave Forbes Field once Kiner had taken his final at bat as the rest of the team was not worth watching.

A fun footnote to Kiners career is that during a contract dispute with then GM Branch Rickey, Rickey told Kiner "we finished last with you, we can finish last without you."  Kiner was then traded to the Cubs, but injuries slowed down his career and was out of baseball by the age of 32. 

Kiner's offensive peak was so strong that he still was elected to the hall of fame in 1975. Take a look at the numbers.

The scan is a little shaky in this card as the silver causes a nasty glare.  This is a triple auto from 2005 Donruss Signature featuring Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson and Ralph Kiner.  Kiner autos are very affordable as he has had a long career in baseball after retirement as an announcer for the Mets since their inception.  This has allowed him to be an active signer and is featured in many sets the past 10-15 years. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Can Andrew McCutchen repeat?

In 2013 we saw the Pirates pretty much complete a "First time since 1992" checklist that has been hanging over the club like a dark cloud since Sid Bream slid past Mike LeValliere (that is still hard to type).  The first winning season, first playoff appearance, and first payoff series win were all items on that list that have mercifully been crossed off giving Pirates fans a sense of closure and a reason for optimism for the first time in 20 years.  And, the firsts kept coming even after the NLDS loss to the Cardinals when Andrew McCutchen became the first Pirate to be named NL MVP since 1992.  A bonus checkmark to be sure, but it was great way to cap off what was a great season for the Pirates organization and fans alike.  Now, with the ghosts of 1992 mostly put in the rear view mirror, I want to look ahead to the 2014 season and another possible first for the Pirates. Can Andrew McCutchen become the first Bucco to win back to back MVP awards?  According to Steamer Projections, Cutch will be a 6.6 WAR player in 2014 trailing only Buster Posey (7.1) in the senior circuit.  This projection may be a bit conservative considering McCutchen posted a 6.8 WAR in 2012 and 8.2 WAR last season.  Of course, even with the growing acceptance of advanced statistics, traditional counting stats will still factor into the decision.  Staying with Steamer, his projected 23 HRs and 89 RBIs still stack up well against the top 5 NL players in terms of WAR (as seen here).  In fact, those numbers would actually be a slight improvement over his 2013 stats that were god enough to earn him the award.  All things considered, I think it would be safe to say Cutch has a good chance to be a top NL MVP candidate next season.  However, there is one factor that I have failed to mention.  And, that is how the overall success of the Pirates will affect Andrew's chance to repeat.  After all, the case can be made that he actually had a better season offensively in terms of traditional statistics in 2012.  But, after the Pirates second half swoon, Cutch's MVP chances faded right along with the Pirates playoff hopes.  And if you don't think team performance factors into the MVP voting, just talk to Mike Trout.  If Andrew is going to repeat, the Pirates may also have to make back to back playoff appearances. 

2012 Topps Marquee /70 Auto Patch. 

Who is Jose Tabata?

Most Pirates fans would agree that Jose Tabata has not lived up to his potential.  Jose had a successful rookie campaign in 2010 where he hit .300 with a great obp of .346.  He accumulated 1.9 WAR in just 450 at bats.  Things were looking up as the Pirates looked to have another young outfielder to go along with Andrew Mccutchen.  Seeing this potential the Pirate front office locked up Tabata to a team friendly 6 year deal. 

The rookie season has proven to be mostly a mirage.  Jose has been unable to recapture is rookie season success.  Since 2011 he has had trouble staying on the field and has been in manager Clint Hurdle's dog house several times for lack of effort.  Jose did not reach 400 at bats in both 2011 and 2012.  Losing playing time to the likes of Travis Snider and Garrett Jones the past few seasons and the emergence of Starling Marte has put Tabata's Pirate future in question.

In 2013 Jose was able to rebound to a certain extent.  After Starling Marte got hurt in the second half of the season he was able to recapture some of his rookie season magic.  He accumulated 1.1 war mainly in just the second half of the season.  He played a key part in the Pirates playoff run during the dog days of summer. 

So what does 2014 have in store for Jose Tabata?  Most project him to be slotted in as the opening day right fielder, but it seems to be temporary.  Top prospect Gregory Polanco will start the season in AAA and could be ready by mid season.  It seems that Jose's best bet for future playing time would be playing well enough to make himself attractive to other teams.  With a team friendly contract and still being only 25 years old, Jose can still be very valuable.

My own personal belief is that Tabata will be moved at some point over the next year.  Most projections already have Polcano as a + defender and better base runner than Tabata.  While Tabata is a nice insurance policy if one of the everyday guys get hurt like Marte did last year,  his time will be coming to an end as a Pirate.  Some other team will see a young cost controlled outfielder and make a nice match for the Pirates to fill a need either before the deadline or during next offseason. 

This is a wood 1/1 from 2011 Topps Triple Threads.  This was an Ebay purchase several years a go as I went and purchased many high end Tabata cards when he was struggling in 2011.