Friday, March 22, 2019

Card Spotlight: 3-22-19

2004 Topps Draft Pick Bonus #8 - Gio Gonzalez

A small part of me really wanted the White Sox to right a wrong in their past this off-season. I really wanted Gio Gonzalez to come home. You see, the White Sox originally drafted Gio in 2004, as the thirty-eighth pick overall in the first round. I've been hearing great things about Gio ever since.

The mistake was not trading him away after the 2005 season. No. That may have taken Aaron Rowand away too, but the White Sox got Jim Thome out of the deal. That was a great overall trade. I would have pulled the trigger on that trade. In fact, Gio was the player to be named later in that trade. It stung, but Jim Thome was such an asset to the White Sox that it was worth it. Center field may have been too much for Brian Anderson to take over, but the Sox were still in great shape.

When the White Sox shipped out "Sweaty" Freddy Garcia to the Phillies, almost a year later to the day, I was saddened to say goodbye to Freddy, but I cheered getting Gio Gonzalez back. The other player the Phillies threw in was a prospect named Gavin Floyd. That trade worked out well for the Sox too.

Gio was well on his way to making his debut with the White Sox a few years down the road, when the unthinkable happened. The White Sox got fleeced in a trade with the Oakland Athletics on January 3, 2008. Losing Fautino De Los Santos didn't sting so much. I remember him being highly thought of, but his MLB career didn't pan out greatly. The loss of Ryan Sweeney wasn't too bad. I'd miss him, since he had been up for a little bit in the previous two seasons. I could live with losing those guys. The Sox threw in Gio Gonzalez.

There was literally no position player that I would have wanted from the 2007 Athletics coming back in a trade to the White Sox. If the player was a name, they were past their prime. If they were mid-20s or younger, they didn't amount to much. Did Mark Kotsay and Dan Johnson work out when they were on the White Sox a few years later? No? Imagine them coming to the White Sox a couple years earlier. You'd be right to think that was underwhelming. Who did the White Sox get back in that trade? Nick "Dirty 30" Swisher.

His grating antics, anemic batting average and lackluster fielding skills were a black cloud over the 2008 White Sox team. Despite him, that team went on to win the division. Out of those three main complaints, Swisher was benched. Instead of cheering on his teammates and pumping everyone up, Nick decided his time would be better spent by pouting.

If the Sox had to give up Gio Gonzalez in a trade to the Athletics, who would I rather they have gotten? That's easy. A prospect that was thrown into a trade with the Diamondbacks a few weeks earlier... Carlos Gonzalez. Carlos would make his MLB debut with the Athletics on May 30, 2008. He had a better attitude, a better average and was four years younger. His fielding would improve greatly in 2009, when he was traded to the Rockies.

Swisher was such a burden to the Sox and clearly not a good fit, that they packaged him with Kanekoa Texeira to the Yankees that brought back the underwhelming trio of Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez. Clearly not their best trade.

Gio would make his MLB debut in 2008 for the Athletics. After two years of bumps and bruises, he would find his footing and become a two time All-Star and be in the running for the Cy Young award twice.

Cargo would have been a nice addition for giving up Gio for the second time. I was hopeful that the White Sox would have added Gio to the 2019 White Sox, but the battle of Ervin Santana and Manny Banuelos for fifth starter will have to suffice. Good luck in New York, Gio!

WSC Gierman '19 - Jace Fry

Card #15 - Jace Fry

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Card Lies: 1960 Topps Norm Cash

While I try to expand this series past just White Sox players, mistakes involving the White Sox just keep haunting me. I tried to keep the White Sox away, but it just followed me.

We'll take the case of Norm Cash's 1960 Topps card, which features three different teams.

Norm played for the White Sox in the 1958 and 1959 seasons. On December 6, 1959, Cash was traded to the Cleveland Indians with Bubba Phillips and John Romano for Minnie Minoso, Don Ferrarese, Dick Brown and Jake Striker. But wait, Norm's travels were not done yet. On April 12, 1960, before playing an official game with the Indians, Cash was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Steve Demeter. Norm would play fifteen seasons for the Tigers.

Just how weird is this card? It was done in time to list Norm on the Tigers, so kudos for Topps being current. It used an unaltered photo from Cleveland as the large picture. The smaller black and white photo has a Detroit Tigers logo placed upon Cash's hat. The uniform is clearly from his time with the White Sox. Owner Bill Veeck put large numbers on the sleeves, as well as the back. If I recall correctly, he called them "TV numbers" because they were easy to spot on the game television broadcasts.

I actually appreciate the Cleveland photo. Norm was on the team for such a short time, it's nice to see that represented. The card still looks good, despite the mess. I wonder what made Topps fix the Sox hat logo and not the Indians hat logo? Whatever the reason, it's a cool little oddity that some people might overlook.

This is the only three team card that immediately comes to mind. If I come across another, it will probably be featured here at some point.

WSC Gierman '19 - Dylan Cease

Card #14 - Dylan Cease

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

WSC All-Stars: Thornton Lee 1945

Card #23 - Thornton Lee

For the first time since the inaugural All-Star game in 1933, the All-Star game was cancelled. Due to wartime travel restrictions for World War II, the 1945 All-Star game was cancelled on April 24, 1945.

No players were ever "officially" selected to the All-Star rosters, but the Associated Press and The Sporting News selected their own roster, so fans could dream about the All-Star game that never was.

Thornton Lee was selected by the Associated Press as a reserve pitcher. Lee was also selected for the 1941 All-Star game as a member of the White Sox. Thornton spent eleven seasons with the White Sox and last appeared in the majors with the New York Giants in 1948.  Lee might have been an All-Star in the years between his selection had it not been for a string of injuries that finally relented in 1945, when he regained his old form.

WSC Gierman '19 - Jon Jay

Card #13 - Jon Jay

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

2019 Topps Opening Day

It's pretty standard fare that after the hullabaloo of Series One and Heritage, the lesser priced Opening Day sneaks by like a thief in the night. The no frills, kid friendly release is always a bit of a letdown. A solid release that is mostly a repeat of the flagship release, just pared down.

The exciting part of this set is the few players that aren't in series one, but will be in series two. This will theoretically whet the appetite for series two. While this tactic does accomplish that goal, it also has an unfortunate side effect. It sets in design fatigue. By the time series two rolls around in June, I'm sick of the design. I tend to not pick up as many packs. When the update series finally drops, I don't want to see that design anymore, so I pick up even less packs. It's a vicious cycle that happens every year without fail.

Still, there is a place for Opening Day in the cycle. I tend to look at it more as an unannounced parallel with some different inserts, at a kid friendly price point. That makes it a tad bit more exciting of a release, but I'm usually underwhelmed at the set. Not because it isn't a good set, but because it feels like a rehash. I would feel better if Topps used all the elements in Opening Day but used new pictures. It would feel fresher that way.

The White Sox have nine cards in the set. Seven base cards and two inserts.

37 - Jose Abreu
57 - Carlos Rodon
63 - Avisail Garcia
66 - Matt Davidson
89 - Yoan Moncada
99 - Daniel Palka
131 - Michael Kopech
TTC-SP - Scoreboard Pinwheels
YOF-16 - Frank Thomas

This could be a chance to update a few team changes for players, but Topps opts for carbon copying the existing card, slapping the Opening Day logo on it and calling it a day. Garcia and Davidson have been on different teams for awhile. If Topps can make last minute changes to Heritage to update player destinations, then it's possible for Opening Day to have more current information available. Even if they went the O-Pee-Chee route and added a line of text saying that the player was traded or signed with a new team and changed the team logo to reflect that new team, it would be something cool.

I would have more respect for Opening Day as a card line, if Topps treated it with more respect. I appreciate the little flairs like mascots and ballpark food. It makes the set worthwhile to get these little moments that bring you closer to the aspects of being there without the benefit of sweat stained "relics" or tablecloth pieces. I enjoy learning about features of different parks and rituals of different teams. I just appreciate more care into the final product.

WSC Gierman '19 - Carlos Rodon

Card #12 - Carlos Rodon

Monday, March 18, 2019

Draft Years: 1968

 With the fourteenth pick in the 1968 amateur draft, the White Sox chose shortstop Rich McKinney out of Ohio University. Rich had parts of seven seasons in the majors with the White Sox, the Yankees and the Athletics. McKinney started out as a third baseman, before moving to second base and then the outfield, occasionally filling in at shortstop. After 1971, Rich became more of a utility player, playing all but catcher, pitcher and center field.

Players like Thurman Munson and Greg Luzinski were taken before Rich, but notables such as Gary Matthews, Bill Buckner, Burt Hooten, Tom Paciorek, Cecil Cooper, Doyle Alexander, Al Bumbry, Steve Stone, Oscar Gamble, Ken Forsch and Bill "Spaceman" Lee were all taken after McKinney. The White Sox chose Hugh Yancy in the second round.

A better choice for the first pick would have been the 248th pick in the eleventh round...

Ben Oglivie

Of the eleven picks that the White Sox had in the draft before Oglivie was selected by the Boston Red Sox, only the first three ever made the majors. All three (Rich McKinney, Hugh Yancy and Lamar Johnson) made their MLB debuts with the White Sox in the seventies. Lamar Johnson had the best career out of the three picks, playing nine seasons in the majors with the White Sox and the Rangers. Lamar was also a nice key player for the 1977 "South Side Hitmen" White Sox team, hitting .302 with eighteen homers.

Oglivie would play for sixteen seasons with the Red Sox, Tigers and Brewers and would finish with a .273 career average. Ben would be selected to three All-Star teams (1980, 1982 and 1983) and win a Silver Slugger in 1980.

As with any retrospect, it's easy to say what should have happened. It's fun to speculate the fortunes of the White Sox, if they had better drafts. It's still frustrating to see wasted opportunities, even if there was no sure fire way of knowing how things would pan out.

WSC Gierman '19 - Zack Collins

Card #11 - Zack Collins

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Cards That Never Were #64

1988 Classic Blue - Greg Walker

From 1987 until 1991, Classic made quite a splash onto the hobby. The company got around the whole license issue by making a board game. The backs of the cards had trivia questions and even a place for the player's autograph.

Some collectors loved these cards and others hated them. I personally don't know anyone who actually played the game attached to these cards. I was always disappointed when my team did not get any cards in a release. Classic made two sets of fifty cards each in 1988. Two teams were absent from both releases. The Dodgers and the White Sox.

I can almost see the absence of the White Sox. The team was spiraling towards mediocrity. The Dodgers, on the other hand, won the World Series in 1988. It's harder to explain the lack of Dodgers cards in a 1988 release than the White Sox.

This entry and the next will try to rectify that issue.

I chose Greg Walker as the White Sox card because Carlton Fisk and Harold Baines had cards in 1987. Greg was a popular local player, who was still decent. His life would be threatened on July 30, 1988 from an epileptic seizure. While he would come back strong during Spring Training in 1989, his '89 season was not up to his usual standards. After playing in two games in the 1990 season, the White Sox released Greg. Walker would sign with the Baltimore Orioles a few days later, but was released after fourteen games.

WSC Gierman '19 - Caleb Frare

Card #10 - Caleb Frare

Friday, March 15, 2019

Card Spotlight: 3-15-19

1992 Fleer #89 - Jack McDowell

The overproduced junk wax era is not one that I physically visit often in my collection. I tend to have the bulk of it already and I have seen them so much, that the cards mostly haunt me in my dreams. Sometimes I can get caught up in the hype of the stigma against this era of cards and I dismiss them. It doesn't mean I love them any less. It just means I don't visit as often as I should.

Last night, while organizing my collection, I found myself inside a monster box full of junk wax. As I was separating cards into years and sets, I was reminded of stupid things I used to do. I would fill nine pocket pages with cards and then I would cut the pages down into individual cards. My reasoning was that these were more rigid than penny sleeves and not as expensive or bulky as toploaders. It worked as a creative solution at the time. Not so much now.

As I've been organizing, I've been taking cards out of these homemade monstrosities. Most of what I thought I was protecting didn't need any protection at all. It may have cost more to print some of these cards than they are worth now. To me, these cards are priceless, but to those who make their living selling cards, these cards are basically throw-ins or padding so more valuable cards don't get damaged in transit. When I sold cards on eBay, these were my bread and butter. The inexpensive add on. Then eBay changed their pricing structure for stores and I was out.

As I was sorting these cards and I was feeling the actual cards in my hand, something dawned on me. These cards are actually pretty great. I'm not talking about the early nineties Ultra cards or Stadium Club, whose high gloss on both sides would bind those sets together like an impossible brick. No I'm talking about 1992, when Topps and Fleer had gone on to better card stock and gloss on the front. It still had the feel of cardboard on the back, just a glitzier version and the card fronts never looked better.

The card companies took better care in selecting photographs. They took more care in how the cards were made. Yes, some companies would lie about production runs and everybody pumped out way too many cards, but the quality was better. I guess we can thank Upper Deck for that. Even those early Upper Deck cards feel different. A 1990 Upper Deck baseball card has a different feel than a 1994 Upper Deck baseball card. The stock is paper thin on the 1990 cards, but the quality still remains after all these years.

These thoughts struck me as I was sorting through 1992 Fleer cards. The back feels and looks nice. The front still looks nice tilted into the light. There's just something about these cards that is underappreciated because of the time they were released. Sure, the Jack McDowell card has too much dead space on the photograph, but it still captures your eye. Jack isn't in his windup. He's leaning up against a post, 'cuz he's tired.

I'm not sure when cards started using this trick of the player overlapping the border or the text, but it was overused. It also didn't make much sense, dimensionally speaking. Go ahead. Look at some examples where the player obscures part of the border or team name. That's not three dimensional space on a two dimensional plane. That's something that bends the laws of physics.The Jack McDowell card isn't atrocious, but there are some cards out there that really test your spatial reasoning.

There were some great cards that came out in the junk wax era. We tend to blanket over that time frame because the overproduction made most cards worthless. Next time you are going through your cards, if you grew up buying packs in the junk wax era, pause on that part of your collection and try to remember your excitement at opening those packs. What made those fun to collect? What were your collecting goals? What places did you get your cards from?

When you've answered those questions, take a good look at those cards. Appreciate them through your younger self. The answers you get there will peel away at all the "hits" and you'll find yourself at the core of your collecting. It's not just about the case hit or the gimmick cards. It's about the base card. The hometown star, who is only truly appreciated in your town. The common card, which makes up the bulk of the set. Too many times we gloss over every card in the pack, rushing to find that hit or favorite player or favorite team. Slow down and appreciate every card. You won't regret it.

WSC Gierman '19 - Eloy Jimenez

Card #8 - Eloy Jimenez

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