Month: July 2010

Autograph Collection: Brian McCann

How can you have the kind of career this guy is having, and have it happen quietly? Yes, there is a better catcher in baseball than Brian McCann. There is exactly one better catcher, Joe Mauer. Every other catcher, including Russ Martin and certainly including Yadier Molina is inferior.

How good is Brian McCann? Well check out this article where they make the case that McCann is on his way to a Hall-Of-Fame career. Their reasoning? At this point in his career, McCann is better than all Hall-Of-Fame catchers except Johnny Bench and Gary Carter. Yes, even better than Yogi Berra. (Well, if you accept Wins Above Replacement as the ultimate stat for this comparison. I have no problem with it, especially since it makes Mac look so good!)

Ponder that next time you have an All Star ballot in front of you.

Buying Sets

Usually, by this point of the year, I’m still scrambling to complete the sets I started building earlier in the year, along with those from the previous few years that I never fully completed (which is most of them). This year, because I was pissed off at MLB for allowing only Topps to make cards … because I was looking to save a little money over what I typically spend on cards … because I was pissed off at Topps for the endless stupid gimmicks that drive up the price of boxes … I decided I was done with wasting my money on boxes and never completing the sets. This year, I’ve purchased the complete sets for Heritage, Allen & Ginter and Topps Series 1 and 2. How has this worked out for me?

I’ve certainly saved money. I paid $19 for the complete series 1 and $22 for the complete series 2. True, I didn’t get any of the inserts but I rarely collect the insert sets from base Topps anyway. Usually, I purchase a jumbo each from a local card shop which would have run me what … around a $100 each? What did I lose? A few worthless relics? Another Felix Pie auto? I’ll live. (The savings carried over to the other sets as well: $189 for the master Heritage Set versus $210 for three hobby boxes and an endless number of loose packs and blasters … $99 for an A&G master set versus three more hobby boxes for $270. If I had waited, I might have gotten even better deals.)

Look, I miss opening packs. I miss getting a fresh supply of relics and autographs I can use to trade for other cards I need. Still, I can get these thrills some other way. I’ll buy an occasional pack just to rip. I’ve started participating in a lot of the group breaks that go on around the web and I’ve gotten some great cards. Even better, I’ve started using some of the money I’ve saved to start completing my other sets.

You see, the single greatest thrill of a set collector is filling in those empty slots in a nearly full binder. Yeah, I won’t be creating any new “empty slots” in the near future, but I’m just getting started building the Topps sets from the 1970s. I still need to complete all the 80s sets. I don’t really have anything from 1993 to 2004. I can still build these sets the old fashioned way without spending myself into bankruptcy trying to stay caught up with all the new stuff. Buying sets is working pretty damn well for me so far.

(I should also thank Stephen Strasburg … thanks to the hysteria over his cards, there are a lot of people busting product who have no interest in the other cards, and have built sets to sell cheap on eBay. Nice.)

Authograph Collection: Martin Prado

I think its safe to sat at this point that Martin Prado is my favorite Brave. He plays with a fire and a passion that I think this team has missed for a long time, and I’m going back into the run of division championships here. People will think I’m borderline insane here, but he reminds me a lot of Terry Pendleton during the 91 and 92 seasons. He’s a hitting machine and more importantly, he’s a VOCAL leader who will do whatever it takes to fire up his teammates.

Perhaps the ultimate compliment to Prado came from Brian McCann who said that he has played with Prado at every level of the minors and in the majors, and he’s been the best player on every team.

Keep it up Martin … I don’t think this team can do it without you.

Braves Notes: July 21, 2010

First Place
Is it really late July? Are the Braves really 6.5 games ahead of the Mets and 7 games ahead of the Phillies? Can they keep this up? Man, I hope so. This is such a fun team to watch and I’m awfully glad that Atlanta seems to be getting out and supporting the team. Of course, there’s a lot of baseball left, and there’s no doubt that the Phillies and the Mets are looking to better their teams. Still, you won’t see this Braves team quit. No way. I think it will be exciting right down to the wire.

Matt Diaz
How can you not love Matt Diaz? How did this hitting fool end up on the scrap heap? Man, his first two months this season were dismal and were so out of character. I think it’s safe to say that his performance since coming off the disabled list is more in line with the player that he is. Personally, as much as I like Eric Hinske, and I do like him a lot, I would leave Diaz out there until he slows down. Platoons are fine, but so is going with the hot hand.

The Princess
I’ve always considered myself a minor Brewers fan. My favorite Brewers team was the early 80s version with Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Cecil Cooper and Gorman Thomas. I even met Ben Oglive’s sister who lived in my hometown, Columbus, Georgia. I think its great that they have so many good young players. Ryan Braun is a future MVP and Yovani Gallardo could win the Cy Young award one day. They’re a hard team not to like, but they sure made it easier in this past series against the Braves.

Now, I don’t want to come off like a cranky old guy (although … I am), but Princess Fielder should consider himself lucky he’s playing in this day and age. Seriously, if he flipped his bat at the Cardinals bench after hitting a home run off of Bob Gibson, the next time up, they would have had to carry his fat ass off the field after Gibson nailed his ass with one of his patented fastballs. That said, I don’t see any way that Venters hit the Princess on purpose. Still, even if he did, it was a minor shot to the back. He got his payback with the hard slide, and then with Heyward and Glaus getting hit on Sunday. This is called “The Code” and it is how baseball is played.

Still, the whiny ass Princess and his worthless manager (for now … this guy can’t keep his job much longer) go whining to Bob Watson who simply isn’t very bright and decides to suspend our Hall of Fame manager for a game and our talented young reliever for four games for, you know, playing baseball. I gotta say, when we face the Brewers next year, if the Princess is still there, I think we gotta drill him again. This time, on purpose.

Boom Goes B-Mac!!!!

The BEST catcher in the National League.

And it isn’t even close.

Why do St Louis Cardinal fans try to ruin the NL’s chances?

Home Run Derby

I hate, hate, hate Chris Berman. (How bad is he? I wish Bobby Valentine and Joe Morgan would talk more so boomer wouldn’t have a chance to speak. Do you understand me? I’d rather listen to Joe Morgan.) Boomer sucks and is the perfect ESPN announcer. Please. If any of you ever see Berman on the golf course, shove a club up his ass.

I hate, hate, hate ESPN. (How old am I? I can remember when ESPN didn’t suck. No, seriously. Once upon a time, they didn’t suck, Now they suck. They suck hard. They are a joke. Have I mentioned that they suck?)

It doesn’t help that the home run derby is almost always a crushing bore.

Book Collection: Of Mikes and Men by Pete Van Wieren

Of Mikes and Men, an autobiography by long-time Braves announcer Pete Van Wieren, will undoubtedly be of interest to most Atlanta braves fans. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t live up to my admittedly high expectations. While his book is solid, it is wholly unremarkable. It is competent, it is professional, but through most of the pages, it is lacking in both heart and surprisingly, for the man Braves fans know as “The Professor”, in depth. As anyone who watched a Braves broadcast during the many years he sat behind the mic knows, Pete’s steady hand was the anchor of every Atlanta Braves broadcasts. He was the perfect counter to Ernie Johnson’s homer and Skip Carray’s smart-ass. His book lets him down.

The majority of the book is dedicated to the Braves run of fourteen straight division titles, and this portion of the book tends to be a simple litany of facts written in prose, when a list would have sufficed. Perhaps this is a misjudgment of audience? The people most likely to read this book, Braves fans, already know about the constant World Series disappointments. Pete, who was there for the whole run and would often have morning coffee with Bobby Cox, doesn’t offer any in depth analysis into why the Braves were able to win their division so often, or why they failed in the post-season so often. He just mentions that they did.

Likewise, the early portion of his career is skimmed over with mentions of a few famous games (like the brawl-a-thon with the Padres or the billion-inning affair against the Mets where Rick Camp hit a grand slam to keep the game going … Braves fans know the games) without offering any insight into the games or even recreating them in the kind of language that would make them come alive. As good as the Braves were from 1991 to 2005, they were largely that bad from 1974 to 1990 (excepting a few seasons here and there). You would think Pete might be able to offer some insight into why the Braves would struggle continuously throughout this period. I had hoped he might offer his opinions on that ridiculous contract Ted Turner gave Claudell Washington, into the Brett Butler trade, into the Len Barker and Bruce Sutter disasters. No. We are told the Braves stunk and there you have it.

Most disappointing though is the lack of really good, juicy stories. For a man who shared morning coffees for years with Bobby Cox, there might be an actual story to tell … a conversation to recall. I was especially crushed by the lack of great Skip stories. Pete and Skip were on-air partners for years and they would become the best of friends. They were both characters in their way, and we know from Pete’s many interviews following Skip’s untimely passing that he has some great stories, but the book is lacking them. It seems like a missed opportunity that any Braves fan would wish Pete had taken.

The book works best on those all too few occasions where Pete allows his emotion to show up on the page. He does a great job of conveying his hurt and anger at his father who abandoned Pete and his Mom. He delivers a broadside against the TBS executives who decided that he and Skip Carray were not suitable for a national broadcast and took them off the air, only to be forced to put them back on after a true national outcry. Best of all is his amazingly thorough put down of that odious box of crap John Rocker. He truly got under Pete’s skin and Pete did not hide his feelings and seems to wish the Braves had dumped the jack-ass from the start of the problem.

Reading back over this review, it seems unnecessarily harsh. I don’t want to convey that the book is a bad read at all. Pete is an affable and professional guy and that comes through. He also does a great job of conveying how fortunate he was to have the job he did. He loved almost every minute of it. He was especially grateful to the fans for their support over the years, and especially when he was removed from the air. For me, Pete, along with Skip, will always be the “voice of the Braves”. I’m sure any Braves fans will, despite the shortcomings, enjoy the book. Hopefully, they’ll be another book where Pete can expand and expound on his years with the Braves.