Sunday, August 31, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
What is the greatest baseball team ever assembled? For many the '27 Yankees comes to mind. For others it may be the '75 Big Red Machine. A delusional Tribe fan may argue the '54 or '95 Indians, conveniently ignoring the fact that those teams never actually won anything (a small detail). This has been and will continue to be argued throughout time until Skynet becomes self aware.
I'm here to tell you, you are all wrong. The greatest team ever assembled was the '83 Routine Carpet Cleaners. As a proud member of that team I can tell you that we were dominant on a level not unlike the Cobra Kai dominated Danielson before he met Mr Miyagi. We were 7 years old and in the "Little Indians" coach pitch league. These were the days before T-ball. The Routine Carpet Cleaners deserve their own blog post.
What I want to talk about is the next year. The summer of '84 when the RCC was broken up. We were moved to the next level, the minors, where players pitched and coaches brought the equipment and gave out tickets to the candy stand. This was to be my summer of lost innocence. Well, maybe that's overstating it, but it did kind of suck. I was on a new team with new kids and was suddenly playing against better competition. No more 35-2 victories. No more coach tossing it exactly were I liked it. Suddenly I had to worry about getting hit with the ball. Everyone who played little league went through the same thing.
Two things happened that summer that seemed like a really big deal. One was a water line in town broke. The water, now contaminated, needed to be boiled. No more snowcones. No more orange pop (yes pop, not soda like some of you weirdos like to call it). No more long drinks from the water fountain. Suddenly all of the parents needed to eye each other with suspicion. Cliques were formed. The good, clean people, who boiled their water and therefore could be trusted with the water coolers, and the sketchy people who SAID they boiled the water, but maybe didn't. My parents were in the first group. My coach was in the second. It makes for a long summer (in retrospect it was probably only a few days or a week. It just seemed like the whole summer) when you have to decline a drink from your coach because your parents forbid you to drink his water. He knows why you won't drink it. It's very uncomfortable. As far as I know, every player survived that summer without coming down with dysentery.
The second thing to happen was an outbreak of lice. It started as a rumor. Some kids are getting lice. We were informed that in order to protect ourselves were to wear our hats underneath the helmet. It seemed like a good idea at the time. In retrospect it is a little like when we were taught to hide under our desk in the event of a nuclear attack. It was also just as effective. (Actually I'm assuming here. Maybe a desk IS the perfect protection from a huge blast of radiation. How would I know?). I, along with my friends, spent what seemed like days laying on the counter with our heads in the sink while our moms washed our hair with a mixture of vinegar, gasoline, and guacamole and combed our hair with tiny combs. It was brutal. Why they didn't just shave our heads I'll never know.
That experience is the genesis of this set. Players who for some reason STILL wear their hat underneath their helmet as if they trying to ward off lice. They know that it is their own helmet now. They know that lice probably doesn't make the rounds in The Show like it did in little league in the summer of '84. But, dammit, they aren't taking any chances. That's what I think of anyway when I look at one of these cards.
And here is the first card of the set. Jerome Walton:
When people think of '89 Upper Deck they invariably think of Ken Griffey Jr. I think of Jerome Walton. Why? Because I'm the A-hole who paid $15 for this card. Jerome Walton, I was convinced would be a Hall of Famer. Even better than Mark Lewis (Indian's Phenom, at least for a few months) and Kevin Seitzer ( who's card is in every pack ever produced). I looked it up and $15 in '89 is like $24.50 today. That is serious scratch for a 14-15 year old kid and remains the most I've ever spent on a single baseball card.
Walton started off strong, winning the ROY in '89 even going on a 30 game hitting streak (I'm sure DiMaggio was nervous). It was his last significant contribution, although he had a decent year in '95 for the Reds. That $15 is like Keyser Soze. Poof...It's gone. It doesn't seem fair. Jerome made close to $3 mil during his major league career. Maybe if I write him a letter he will send me my $15. I won't even account for inflation. That's just the kind of guy I am.
Looking back, maybe when I saw the card with Jerome's hat on underneath his helmet I should have known something was off. Maybe I should have put that $15 back in my pocket. Better to spend it on a sure thing. Like Hensley Bam Bam Meulens.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
This post has nothing to do with baseball or baseball cards, or even Walter, the Dude or H. I. McDonough. But I was thinking about it and I want to write something.
I spent the weekend in Colorado at a wedding. It was very nice. Maybe I'll put some pictures up later. My wife and I were flying home sunday morning out of Denver. The first thing that is my fault (and there are several) is I made a wrong turn on the way to the airport. This probably cost 10 minutes. What can I say. Then it took longer than expected to return the rental car. The DNC was arriving and things were busy. Maybe I should have accounted for that.
I got to the airport to check in about 50 minutes before departure. Plenty of time. There is a huge line. I think maybe I should say something, but I don't want to be one of those people that gets to cut to the front unless I'm really cutting it close. I don't begrudge those people. I just didn't think it was necessary. I decided just to wait my turn. Mistake #2.
I get to the front with 35 minutes to spare. No problem. I go to check in on the computer. It says I've missed my flight. I call some dude over who politely says that I must check in 45 minutes before departure. "But, I've been in line for about 20 minute." He politely ignores this observation and points me to another counter for the scum who arrive late.
I go over to the next counter to tell my tale to another polite gentleman. This man will surely help me. The plane STILL doesn't take off for another half hour. I could do cartwheels to the gate and still have time to spare. This man is the slowest man on the face of the earth. As he steps away for a moment my wife informs me that she has named him "Flash". This is ridiculously appropriate. I take this as a good sign. Surely he would move faster if time was short. Flash politely charges me $15 to check my bag. It's $350 a person round trip, $380 if you don't want to be naked. No problem. Flash then hands me our standby tickets to the next available flight to Chicago, our connection. We have now officially missed our flight that STILL won't take off for 20 minutes. However, Flash doesn't seem concerned. "You'll still make the connecting to Cleveland" he tells us very politely. Fantastic.
So we get up to the gate in time to see the plane that we SHOULD be on, push away a few gates over. No worries. We'll be in the air in less than an hour. The gentleman at the gate politely tells us he'll call us when it's our turn. Then things go horribly wrong. The plane is full. Now we will miss our connecting to Cleveland.
At customer service the lady politely berates us with her eyes for the scum that we are. We have missed our flight. We are all that is wrong with the world. We were only 35 minutes early (50 actually, but 35 when it counted) which is 10 minutes late. I think the airline must be run by Tom Coughlin.
"What do we do now?"
"I can get you on a direct flight to Cleveland", she politely informs us.
"Great, when does it leave?"
For a terrible moment I'm sure she isn't done. I'm sure she is going to say "thursday". But our luck is changing. It's leaving tonight. We only have about 7 more hours in the airport. What fun. My pregnant wife is thrilled.
It serves us right for being only 35 minutes early. I have no doubt that there is a piece of paper somewhere informing us that we must be checked in 45 minutes early. So this really is technically my fault. I was late. I made the wrong turn. At about 7.30 we took off and arrived in Cleveland at about 12.30 AM. Home at about 1.30AM. Up for work in a few hours. Good times.
I also am well aware that this absolutely pales in comparison to other travel nightmares, and most of you probably have stories that make this seem like a walk in the park. But like I said, I was just thinking about it.
I guess what I just don't understand is why nobody from the airline who could have helped decided we were worth helping. Nobody was interested or seemed to care very much. I understand that in the big scheme of things it is a very small inconvenience and it IS much my fault for missing their deadline. It would have been nice for someone to help out, though.
I wonder if the trouble that the airlines are in has as much to do with this sort of thing as the high gas prices. To them we were just another couple that had to wait around for a little while for a fight. Big deal. To us, it wasn't the end of the world, it was just a really shitty, uncomfortable, completely exhausting day.
If nothing else it did give us time to spend $29 on candy and 1.5 lb of fudge. So that wasn't too bad.
I don't really want to name the airline because they probably are no worse than any of the others. I'll just say that it rhymes with Nunited Nairlines.
And, like I said, they were slow, unhelpful, and didn't seem to give much of a crap...but they were polite.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Cliff Lee #1: The Pedro Cliff Lee. He showed up a lot at the begining of the year when he threw something like 857 shutout innings in April. Pedro Lee nails the corners and makes hitters look foolish with his cutter. An example of Pedro Lee:
June 26 v. S.F - 8.0 IP 4 H 1 ER 11 K 1 BB and of course the win
I love this Cliff Lee. This Cliff Lee kicks all sorts of ass. This Cliff Lee leaves no doubt.
Cliff Lee #2: The Maddux Cliff Lee. He shows up when he doesn't quite have his best stuff going. When he isn't painting the corners and striking batters out with his incredible disappearing pitches. Last year Fausto Carmona was killing the opposition and time after time the beaten players would talk after the game about how filthy Fausto's stuff was. How it was almost unfair. I never hear that this year about Lee. What I hear about Lee is "he just pounded the strike zone". Almost like they can't figure out why this guy is any harder to hit than any other average pitcher. And then they look up, it's the seventh inning and they have 1 run on the board. This is always how I felt about Maddux.
I loved Maddux. Still do. (Except in the '95 WS). I liked to call his stuff the "stinky cheese". I don't have the faintest idea what the hell that actually means but it felt right. And it felt right on Aug 10 vs Toronto when this was Cliff's line:
8.0 IP 8 H 0 ER 1 K and the win.
He gave up 8 hits and no runs with only 1 strikeout. He must have had the stinky cheese working that day.
And, he had the stinky cheese in full effect today as inning after inning he had men on base. And inning after inning he got out of it. 4 double plays in seven innings. You never really felt like there was really a chance that he WOULDN"T get out of it. That's how Stinky Cheese Lee is pitching this year. It's just working. This is my favorite Cliff Lee. He's a great pitcher to watch.
This dude is 18 - 2 this year with a 2.34 ERA and close to a 6 K/BB ratio. He's phenominal. And to think that there are probably a million Red Sox fans who will cry bloody murder if Dice doesn't win the Cy Young.
My man crush on Cliff Lee continues to grow daily.
As far as Cliff's cards go, it looks like you can still pick up pretty much whatever you want for really cheap. The nicest card I can find is this 02 Donruss auto /100. It's going for a pretty reasonable $20 right now. Probably be a little higher by the time it closes. I'm not getting it for one reason. I live in Cleveland. I've seen this before. I know how this ends. I'll pick it up cheap next year after the inevitable fall to earth. Let's face it. There's no where else for him to go.
But, here's hoping that in a years time I'm writing another blog post about how Cliff Lee is still throwing the stinky cheese and i sure wish I would have picked up that card last year when it was only $20. That would really put a smile on my face.
This post was about Cliff Lee and his unbelievable season, but I thought it only prudent to mention that Grady had 4 hits today including a triple and a homer. And, he drove in 7 runs. Not a bad day at the office.
Monday, August 18, 2008
"Jeez, I'm suprised they can run so fast down there with all of that weed that they smoke."
Think about that. Kind of tough to argue with that, isn't it?
Sunday, August 17, 2008
"What an odd looking fellow" I thought, or something to that effect. (Probably not fellow. I doubt I used that word much when I was 12). I just couldn't get over those glasses. And he looked too...well...gauky or something. Since then, every time I see someone with similar eye wear I always think of Kent, even though the glasses are just about the ONLY thing I know about him.
Here are 2 cards of Kent a decade apart. 1977 and 1987 Topps. I scanned both because I think they are the same glasses. I'm not kidding. Look at them. They're exactly the same. This guy probably pitched his entire career in the same specs. Having perfect eyesight myself (I rule) I have no idea if this is unusual. The only frame of reference I have is that my wife seems to get new glasses about 16 time a year. It seems to me that a dude on a major league salary ought to be able to mix in the occasional new pair of specs.
Tekulve did have a good career, spanning from '74 to '89, mostly with the Pirates. He had a goofy sidearm delivery that was apparently very effective. At one time Kent held a few different records for relief pitchers, including most appearances with 1,050. He saved 184 games during a time before there were really save specialists. I guess you could say the highlight of his career would have been the '79 World Series in which he struck out 10 in 9.1 innings, saving 3 games for the champion Pirates "We Are Family" team.
I think Kent had the type of career that should have gotten him more recognition. I think whatever recognition he has outside of Pittsburgh (fair or not) is probably due a lot to his glasses. I'm not the only one to have noticed either. Kent Tekulve does have his own tee shirt. It's pretty kick ass too. Is Tekulve the kind of guy to get his own tee shirt based on his stats? Would he get a tee of his own without those 1970's big, slightly tinted glasses on that skinny face underneath 15 years of ridiculous Pirates hats? Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but mine is "not a chance in hell".
There is no shortage of players in the 70s and 80s with big glasses. Everyone of them gets compared to Tekulve. He is their General. Kenton Charles Tekulve deserves a baseball card set all his own. And, dammit, I might be just the man to do it.
If anyone has good cards of players with Tekulve specs (especially more recent, which are harder to find) let me know so I can add them to the checklist.
Friday, August 15, 2008
When I was younger and collecting in the deadcard era of '86 - '91, I never put together an actual set. I got plenty of factory sets, but they just aren't the same. The real shame of the whole thing is that half of my factory sets have been opened, sorted, and put in binders 2 cards per sleeve so I had to use less pages. As I get older and wiser I can no longer deny that the $15 that Beckett assures me my '88 Donruss set would normally be worth is considerably devalued due to the short sighted recklessness of a foolish yout. (I'm sorry...yooouuuttthh). I have an email in to Tracy Hackler on the issue, but I fully expect that in it's current condition my set will be valued at no more than $12. I can only hope that it would have been worth $3 to a 13 year old boy to actually be able to look at and play with his baseball cards. Either way it's a lesson learned. NEVER LOOK AT YOUR CARDS.
But enough about that. On to the issue at hand. Set collecting. Since my triumphant return I haven't really settled on an area of focus for my collecting. I did decide to try to put together a few sets and immediately settled on 2008 Topps Chrome. It is far from finished and I haven't completely decided what parallels and refractors to focus on, but it's been fun so far.
But my favorite idea thus far is to collect sets I just made up on my own. The idea came about, as most good ones do, as I sat on the porcelain throne. As I was fiddling with my database I ran across a list I had made of all 36 Ernie Camacho cards ever made (as far as I could tell). I've already blogged about Ernie a bit. Well, I was entering cards into the computer and ran across a fellow named Dick Davis and noticed he had a gold tooth. I was thinking about Dick as I sat on the toilet (I'm adding this as I preview this blog post to let you know that I DO realize how that last sentence sounds and I REFUSE to change it. It's too funny.) and chuckled. Then I started to wonder how many other players might have gold teeth. There MUST be others. This is a set that I want. It doesn't matter that it can never truly be completed. It can just keep getting bigger. And even though most of the players won't be any more than commons, they'll be like gold (teeth) to me. What an awesome set that would make.
Well it snowballed from there and I have lists of other goofy sets I intend on collecting, to be unveiled all in good time. And it all started with Dick Davis.
So the first set to be unveiled it the Gold Tooth Mafia Set. And here is it's one and only member.
I've personally never heard of Dick Davis, and there isn't a whole lot of info on him. This is his 1981 Topps card. For some reason I have doubles, which probably means he was somehow deemed unworthy of my bicycle spokes. Dick was born on Sept 25, 1953 and he hails from Compton. His best year as a Brewer was '79 when he hit 12 HR and slugged at a .418 pace. Baseball Library has very little to say other than he was a "terrible defensive liability". After being traded to the Phillies in 81 for Randy Lerch, Dick played briefly for a few other teams before becoming a star for the Kintetsu Buffalos. This has led me to believe that the Tom Selleck movie must have been loosely based on Dick Davis.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I'd also like to take this opportunity to point out that we are getting our asses handed to us by Jeremy Guthrie. He's the guy we drafted, gave a $3 mil signing bonus to. Made a starter in the minors. Kept calling up to ride the bench and pitch out of the bullpen. And finally gave up on. Baltimore claimed him off waivers in early 07 and made him a major league starter. He's now their number one. You know what? Who needs him. He can go bowling with Brandon Phillips and Ryan Ludwick for all I care. We're fine. We've got Jeremy Sowers, Josh Barfield and David Delluci.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
There are a few reasons for my disappearance that's I'd like to explain.
1. As the next pictures will show, the Achiever Card Blog is not the only thing in the Kramer household (Yes, my name is actually Kramer) that is under construction. My wife is doing a little constructing of her own. In her crazy world what she's working on is more important than baseball cards and baseball card blogs. Yeah, I know, it's crazy. But, what am I going to do. There is just no reasoning with the woman. And, seeing as how she is way out of my league, I go out of my way to keep her happy.
This means a lot of time at doctors appointments and the store for me and more computer time for her. "Little Larry" and anything having to do with him takes precedence over pretty much everything else right now, as he should. The silver lining is that every trip to the store is another potential pack of baseball cards for me. This does leave less time for me to blog. I've been busier at work so I usually have time to occasionally check the internet but not really make a post. I guess I have to teach myself that every post need not be a book. In fact, the shorter the post the better, in most cases.