Shlabotnik demoted

Courtesy of Grandpa Joe

I miss baseball season

Originally posted on The Dugout Doctors

This time of year always makes me sad. Sure, we’re only midway through the summer, which for most of you is like living in an oven, but I’m in San Diego and the temperature is always ideal. In summer, we get longer ideal days. What’s so sad about that, right?

I’ll tell you why I’m sad: football season is here.

Now, perhaps a larger portion of the readers of The Dugout Doctors understand my plight better than the rest of the country because this is a baseball site. But I’m the type of guy who spends most of the winter longing for baseball season to begin. I get excited when the first tab on ESPN.com is “MLB”.

But if you look now, “MLB” has been bumped by the link to the NFL portion of the site, and the headlines are predominantly football-related. This guy is signing here, that guy signed there. Sign up for fantasy football today!

And oh-by-the-way-we’re-almost-at-the-baseball-trade-deadline.

I play fantasy football just like every other living, breathing organism on Earth, but a small part of me secretly hoped for an NFL lockout. I wanted people to care about all 162 games of the MLB season. Heck, even people in Pittsburgh are in on the action this year, but when (if?) the Pirates inevitably start to slip in the standings it will go virtually unnoticed, thanks to the NFL. And it’s not just Pittsburgh that’ll toss baseball on to the backburner like it was never around to begin with. The San Diego Padres, right here in my own back yard, may as well pack up now. Nobody cares once Phillip Rivers and friends don the Charger blue and gold.

I’ll be clicking all the fantasy football links around the internet soon enough as I scramble to come up with yet another hair-brained draft strategy that won’t work. I’ll be active on the waiver wire and with trades. I’ll lead my team to the playoffs only to choke in the post season, like always.

But right now I miss baseball season, and it’s not even over yet.

Card shop through a kid’s eyes

Last Friday I was faced with the daunting task of entertaining Joseph for a few hours on my own which, in solo parenting time, is roughly the equivalent of an eternity.  19 month old kids have the attention span of, well, a 19 month old, and the energy of a rabbit that has overdosed on a caffeine/sugar cocktail.  It can be rough.

In a panicked state of mind, I quickly had the bright idea to bring Joseph to the card shop, a locale which we’ve regrettably visited far too infrequently of late.  But this wouldn’t be the typical trip in that I’d spend the time digging through other peoples’ trash discount relic bins, but rather I’d be purchasing ONLY stuff for Joseph.

Everything was going according to plan until I saw this:

Boom.  1989 Donruss.  Hellooooooooo, Griffery rookie cards!  I haven’t checked a Beckett in ages, but since we all know values of cards – like houses – only go UP, I figured I’d practically be stealing this box at whatever price the shop was asking.

Uh oh:

Not sure if you can read that, but the book price clearly states that this box is “Priceless.”  Hey – no argument from me there.  Guess I’ll have to put it back since I only had $20 on me.  But wait!  The “Our Price” line says it’s “Free for Joe Swaykos”.  And wouldn’t ya know, that’s me.  But before you go thinking that this was a fine gesture on behalf of the card shop, you must realize that they’re not in the business of giving away inventory, especially not of the priceless variety.  This box was actually a gift from Travis of Punk Rock Paint (and The Baseball Card Blog).  His generosity, which will no doubt score me a handful of mint condition Griffey RCs, will put Joseph through college with money to spare.  I actually purchased a couple relics from Travis’s bin, but I seem to have misplaced them.  I have no clue where they are, and for all I know, the distraction of a 19 month old ready to burst at the seams from being confined indoors on a warm afternoon made me forget them at the shop.  O’well.

Back to the kid, since he’s the reason we went to the shop in the first place (that, and also the fact that Travis had been getting on me about not picking up the box, which our shop had kindly agreed to hold for me).  First thing that caught his eye: a Padres moving truck.

Very nice!  Of course, it had to be taken away within a couple hours of arriving home as it turned in to a projectile with a target set square in the middle of our TV.

Next thing that caught his eye:  Earth Mover collector cards from the bargain table.  Now that is good taste, and I have high hopes for his future.  This box is, believe it or not, from Series 2 in the set.  Three packs in and we’ve already pulled doubles of his favorite truck, the dump truck.

In addition to dump trucks, cranes, and hopefully his second favorite truck (the tow truck), we also have a chance at pulling randomly inserted Bob Feller and Karl Malone autograph cards, PLUS Chromium cards!!  Jackpot!!

I have no clue how Feller and Malone could possibly be associated with this set, and nowhere on the box or packs are there stated odds, so I won’t get my hopes up as we rip through the packs.  Also, I’m not sure what to expect of a Chromium card but I’m sure I’ll know it when I see it.

Lastly, with a dollar to spare, we turned to the box of $1 packs.  After looking them over, Joseph picked out the “blue one”, which narrowed his choice to 1986 Topps (yeah, buddy!!) or 2011 Topps Opening Day.  After holding each pack in his hand, the shiny foil of ’11 Topps was too much to resist, so that’s what he went with.  Guess he’s still a bit young to appreciate old wax.

So that was that.  Our Friday afternoon eternity at the card shop was a success for both of us.  May there be many more of these trips in our future.

Like it or not, the All-Star Game is fun

Originally posted on The Dugout Doctors

Baseball’s All-Star game, unlike those in the other major sports, actually counts.  Well, sorta.  It can end in a tie and there are enough pitching changes and offensive and defensive substitutions to make your head spin, but something is affected by the outcome of the game.

The winning team gets home field advantage in the World Series!  Woooooooo!!!!!  Because I’m sure that if there’s one saving grace for Matt Wieters (the lone Baltimore Oriole at the game), should his Baltimore Orioles not overcome their 18 game deficit in the American League East, it’s that someone from his own league gets to open the World Series at home.

So, in short, the game really can affect a World Series, though conventional baseball rules, customs, and strategy is totally thrown out the window.  The best players don’t necessarily start, pitchers will be inserted just because they’re supposed to be, and the game, arguably, is a farce.

But I love it, and you should, too.

Forget about the winner-gets-home field-advantage spin.  Nobody cares.  And although I’m admittedly a significantly bigger baseball fan than any other sport, MLB’s All-Star game is the only one I care about.  Here’s why.

1)   Derek Jeter is starting over Asdrubal Cabrera (err… was voted to start, anyway).  The reason anyone at all cares about this game is that the starting lineups are chosen by the fans.  Is Jeter the best choice?  No.  Cabrera is clearly putting together a better season and, based on performance alone, is a better choice to start.  But other than the baseball purists who oppose any sort of fun in professional sports, nobody cares about Cabrera.  Most casual fans outside of Cleveland probably don’t even know who he is.  Everyone knows Jeter.  Just like how everyone knew Cal Ripken Jr. and Ken Griffey Jr., who both started more All-Star games than they deserved.  If the casual fan is supposed to tune in to the game, they’ve at least got to recognize the players they’re watching.

2)   Every team is represented.   Maybe this is just the sappy father side of me talking, but isn’t this nice?  “Look, kids, even if you work your entire life to play pro baseball but you end up getting stuck on the Royals, you still might make an All-Star game!!!”  Similar to my argument about the fan’s choices starting over more deserving candidates, the only hope of drawing the coveted casual audience in Kansas City is the chance to see Aaron Crow throw an inning against the National League’s best.

3)   What other sporting events are you going to watch?  None!! Ha!  Baseball wins, here, because you have no alternatives.  Enjoy Wednesday, too, when not one single major professional sporting event is taking place.  The All-Star game beats nothing, right?

So no, the All-Star game isn’t perfect.  Everyone is represented, but getting everyone in to the game is a bit tedious.   If you’re one of “those” who hate baseball because it’s slow, the All-Star game is far from a shining example of why you should care about the sport.

I suspect that a lot of the hate being directed at the event is that it’s a slap in the face to the purists out there who watch all 162 games as if they’re lives depended on it.  The statistics obsessed nerds, who know more about a player’s season than the player himself, are harshly reminded that the game is supposed to be fun.  It’s entertainment.  The players are laughing and smiling, with zero regard for their batting average on balls in play in All-Star games held in cities west of the Mississippi in odd years.  For one glorious night in July, stats don’t matter and the game of baseball is what it was created to be:  a game.

When is kiss is not just a kiss

As posted on The Dugout Doctors…

By now you’ve seen the video by now of 18 year old uber-prospect Bryce Harper watching a deep home run, rounding the bases, and blowing a kiss towards the pitcher as he rounds third base. If you haven’t seen the video, here you go.

You say he’s arrogant and that he doesn’t “get it.” You argue that he’s immature and needs to embrace his status as the future of the Washington Nationals and therefore learn to lead by example.

Harper is displaying an arrogance unseen since the days of Rickey Henderson, and perhaps it’s exactly what baseball needs to be exciting again. You can rip a guy like Barry Bonds all you’d like, but don’t pretend for a second that you’ve never mimicked him (or Ken Griffey Jr., or David Ortiz or whoever is your favorite slugger) by admiring a home run in your back yard.

The cockiness is certainly more exciting that than the alternative: the play-it-safe, “my-performance-only-matters-if-the-team-wins” façade put on by most superstar athletes these days.

Screw that. Flip the bat, watch your home run, and walk halfway to first base.

Forgive me for not understanding the general outrage over the incident. When did baseball become a game for stuffy old men and statistical geeks? It’s no wonder nobody cares about baseball anymore. It’s boring. It’s slow. You’re apparently not allowed to have fun. Know when people did care? When Barry Bonds was mashing 500 foot home runs in to the San Francisco Bay remaining in the batter’s box until he saw the ball splash.

And what’s with the double standard among sports? We laugh at touchdown celebrations and criticize the NFL for often being too strict about them. We cheer the NASCAR driver as he spins doughnuts on a track’s infield after winning a race. Yet we scream “unprofessional” when Jonathan Papelbon screams after closing a game or when Giants closer Brian Wilson does his whatever-you-call-it with his arms at the end of each game.

But when Bryce Harper, an 18 year old kid, has a little fun of his own, the world stops spinning. Lighten up.

In other baseball related news

If you don’t check my site more than once a month, you haven’t noticed the disgusting lack of new posts on any sort of consistent basis.  What was once a daily updated site became three times a week… became twice a week… became weekly… became sometimes, maybe.

Turns out, the “Hey, this isn’t as time consuming as everyone said it’d be!” mentality that I had towards the initial months of parenthood was WAY off – parenting is most definitely time consuming.

But at heart, I enjoy writing.  I will continue to update The Priceless Pursuit on occasion, but in the mean time, you can find my work somewhere else:  The Dugout Doctors.  I expect to contribute to this site much more frequently, so click my link incessantly.  All the time.  20 times a day.

My personal blog on the page can be found here.

I won’t copy/paste the entire articles here, because that’d keep hit counts low, don’t ya know, but my first piece is about stats sucking.  No, not the ‘traditional’ categories like wins and losses, but rather all of the new garbage that is too convoluted (and time consuming) to understand.

Go check it out.

Return to the card shop

This past weekend, for the first time in ages, I returned to my local card shop – All Star Cards, in Santee, CA.  It’d been a while – definitely not since January 2011 – and it was my first trip since the skyrocketing prices of the short lived “Stephen Strasburg era” of the hobby, which REALLY turned me away.  It was too harsh a reminder the ‘bubble’, and subsequent burst, of the hobby just a decade or so ago.

But with baseball season in full swing, I’d begun to feel the baseball card itch, so I packed up the little guy and off we went!  He actually hasn’t been since before he learned to walk, which makes it AT LEAST seven months since our last trip.  Anyway…

Our haul.

I’d wanted a pack of 2010 NCAA Sweet Spot since college football season, so I was pleasantly surprised to see these packs “discounted” below their original MSRPs.  So much for the baseball card itch, eh?

I pulled the normal, uninteresting base cards, of course, but I swung and missed (… there’s a baseball reference!) on an autographed mini helmet.  Instead, I pulled a Mike Wallace event used jersey.  Guaranteed worn in the Rookie Premiere event! Woooooo!!!  Seriously, though – can’t we just stick to the vague “game used” swatches?  The “event worn” stuff just doesn’t have the appeal.

I certainly didn’t drag little Joseph along without intentions of getting him some fun stuff, too.  Naturally, we hit up the bargain table.  First up:  a discounted Greg Oden MacFarlane figure!  $3… imagine that.

Also, some packs.  Two, from 2011 Topps Opening Day.

As it usually goes, these items left me with an uneven total, which I don’t like.  To round out the purchase, I’d initially decided to purchase ONE pack from something new.  Ginter has yet to be released, which would’ve been an easy choice, so instead I looked to Gypsie Queen… which is $7 a pack.  Seven. dollars.  What the hell?  There aren’t any Strasburg autographs inside, as far as I know, so what’s up with the exorbitant price tag?  No thanks.  I turned around (literally – the bargain table is across from the baseball card packs) and saw this:

ProSet Guiness Book of Records cards!  A whole box!  36 packs, 10 cards per pack, 100 card set.  By that math, I should easily be able to put two sets together.  If I’m lucky, I’ll squeeze three out of the box.  This purchase was a no-brainer.

I left the shop with mixed feelings.  The Sweet Spot definitely left me with a sense of buyer’s remorse, which is what slowed down my purchasing a few months ago.  I don’t like the feeling of getting nothing for my money, which is what tends to happen with unopened wax.  So maybe I should stick to singles, which is the exact realization I came to many months ago.  I also loved the junk wax purchase, as these – in their unopened forms – look awesome in the man cave card shop.   No, I won’t get $5 in monetary value out of the World Records box, but I also wasn’t getting $7 out of the Gypsie Queen box, either.

Besides, the World Record cards are more fun, and that’s what this hobby is all about.

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