Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Christmas Breaks

Last Christmastime, I picked up a couple loose rack packs of Panini Mozaic and blasters of Archives and the holiday Topps brand.  Here are the breaks:

1.  Chris Sale.  This is the Topps Big Foil card of Sale.  Unfortunately, the last couple years have been injury-plagued for the ace southpaw.  That has certainly not helped much.  Hopefully he will be back at full strength next season, or at least stay on the mound for the most par.

2.  Ted Williams.  I always enjoy when The Splendid Splinter makes an appearance, and it helps that this is not a picture that I have seen a million times before.

3.  Kyle Schwarber.  Man, I wish Boston would have re-signed him after the season.  He led the National League in home runs this year for the Phillies.  It would have been nice to have that kind of power in Boston this year.  He made an impact in his short stint in Boston.

4.  Wade Boggs.  This was the best card from the breaks.  An insert that was also a foil parallel of The Chicken Man.  Boggs, as I have said many times, was my first favorite player.  The first couple years of my collection, he was the player I picked up the most.

5.  Xander Bogaerts.  I am hoping that Boston will lock Bogaerts up.  This has been a frustrating offseason thus far, waiting for positive news on that front.

6.  Bobby Dalbec.  I really wanted Dalbec to succeed this year, but he took a big step backwards from last season.  There were times he looked utterly lost at the plate, and he struggled in the field as well.  I am not sure we will see him in Boston in 2023.

7.  Rafael Devers.  Devers is another player I want to see locked up for the long term this offseason.  Unlike Bogaerts, he is not a free agent, but he will be after 2023.

8.  Alex Verdugo.  Verdugo is my pick for the player most likely to have a breakout in 2023.  He has a lot of talent, but just has not quite harnessed it yet.  

9.  J.D. Martinez.  After Jose Abreu signed with Houston, I would not be surprised to see Martinez re-sign with Boston for a lesser dollar amount.  He has been one of the most successful free agent signings in team history.  In his five seasons in Boston, he hit .292/.363/.526 with 130 home runs and 423 RBIs.  He was an All Star four times and won two Silver Sluggers (both in the same season).

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Topps Now: October 10, 2021

I know these things are really out of order.  This is the order I received them.  Anyway, October 10 was Game 3 of the ALDS against the Rays in Fenway Park.  Boston won 6-4, bringing them one win away from winning the ALDS.

1.  Enrique Hernandez.  Hernandez continued his hot hitting in Game 3, tying a postseason record with seven straight hits.

2.  Nathan Eovaldi.  Eovaldi threw five innings, giving up two runs, walking a batter and striking out eight.  He did not figure in the decision.

3.  Nick Pivetta.  This was my first Pivetta card in my collection, so I had to have it.  Pivetta pitched four scoreless innings in relief, scattering three hits and a walk, while striking out seven batters.  Pivetta was a joy to watch in this game as his excitement was infectious.

4.  Christian Vazquez.  Vazquez slammed a walk-off home run in the 13th inning.  It was an incredible moment for the catcher.

Monday, November 28, 2022

COMC Order: Underrated Players of the Year

Last year I decided to go through and buy one new card of each player that I have named the Underrated Player of the Year, like yesterday's post.  I was not able to find a card I did not already have of two of those players.  I will get to that later.  I thought it would be kind of fun.

1.  Joe Hesketh (1991).  Hesketh was a jack-of-all-trades type pitcher in 1991.  He pitched in 39 games, starting 17 of them and had a record of 12-4.  He led the league in winning percentage.  He pitched to a 3.29 ERA in 153.1 innings pitched.   He struck out 104 batters while walking 53.

2.  Brandon Workman (2019).  Workman moved into the closer's role in 2019 rather surprisingly.  He pitched in 73 games, notching 16 saves.  But, his other numbers were truly impressive.  In 71.2 innings pitched, he had a record of 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA.  He struck out 104 batters while walking 45.  

3.  Stan Belinda (1995).  The longtime Pirates' reliever was the Red Sox primary setup man in 1995.  He had a 3.10 ERA, and a record of 8-1 in 63 games pitched.  Over 69.2 innings, he struck out 57 and walked 28.  He also picked up ten saves over the season, helping to bridge the gap until Boston acquired Rick Aguilera.

4.  Jeff Frye (1997).  Utility player Frye played in a career-high 127 games, playing every position position except pitcher and catcher.  Most of those games were at second base.  Frye hit .312/.352/.433.  Not gifted with a lot of power, he hit three home runs and two triples, but he did have 36 doubles.  Frye scored 56 runs, drove in 51 and stole a career-high 19 bases.

5.  Wily Mo Pena (2006).  Pena had huge power, but generally not much else.  In his first year in Boston though, he hit a career-high .301/.349/.489.  He hit 11 home runs in just 84 games played.  I saw him play in Kansas City that year and he hit a home run that almost left the stadium.  

6.  Reggie Jefferson (1996).  In Jefferson's second season in Boston, he played in 122 games with 418 plate appearances.  He split time between designated hitter and left field, with some first base thrown in.  His bat was always promising and he broke out with a line of .347/.388/.593 with a career-high 19 home runs and 74 RBIs, also contributing 30 doubles, four triples and 67 runs scored.

7.  Tom Brunansky (1992).  Bruno never really contributed the power numbers he was expected to in Boston, but he was easily the team's best hitter in 1992.  He hit .266/.354/.445 and led the team in OPS (.799), home runs (15) and RBIs (74).  It was not a great year for Red Sox hitters, but Brunansky was not the problem.

8.  Ken Ryan (1994).  Ryan looked like the Red Sox closer of the future after taking over for the ineffective Jeff Russell.  In 42 games, he had a 2-3 record with a 2.44 ERA and 13 saves.  He struck out 32 and walked 17 in 48 innings pitched.    

9.  Ryan Brasier (2018).  In the World Championship season of 2018, Brasier became one of the most reliable relievers on the team.  In his rookie season, he pitched in 30 games, 33.2 innings, and had a record of 2-0 with a 1.60 ERA.  He struck out 29 and walked just seven.  He had a WHIP of 0.772.

10.  Brock Holt (2014).  Holt's rookie year saw him finish eighth in the Rookie of the Year vote.  He played all over the field, except for pitcher and catcher and hit .281/.331/.381.  He hit four home runs, driving in 29 runs and stealing 12 bases.  He also had 23 doubles, five triples and 68 runs scored.  

11.  Casey Fossum (2002).  Fossum's second season in the Majors saw him pitch in a variety of roles.  He had a 5-4 record in 43 games, starting 12 and even picked up his first career save.  He had an ERA of 3.46 in 106.2 innings pitched, striking out 101 and walking 30.  

12.  Brian Daubach (1999).  Daubach finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year vote as a 27-year-old.  In 110 games, he hit .294/.360/.562.  He had 112 hits, 61 runs scored, 33 doubles, three triples and drove in 73 runs.  He also launched 21 home runs, while playing mostly first base and designated hitter.

13.  Joe Kelly (2017).  After several seasons of middling success as a starter, Kelly settled in as the Red Sox primary setup man.  He pitched in 58 innings over 54 games and had a 2.79 ERA and a record of 4-1.  Kelly struck out 52 batters while walking 27.  

14.  Daniel Nava (2013).  Nava mostly platooned in left field and right field, with some games at first base in 2013.  He had his finest offensive season, playing in 134 games and hitting .303/.385/.445.  He hit 29 doubles, 12 home runs and drove in 66 runs.  He scored 77 and had a career-high 139 hits.

15.  Alfredo Aceves (2011).  The Yankee cast-off threw 114 innings over 55 games pitched in 2011.  He started four but also picked up two saves.  He had a record of 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA, striking out 80 while walking 42.

16.  Tony Graffanino (2005).  Graffanino was Boston's primary trade deadline acquisition, picked up from the Royals.  He solidified second base for the team.  In 51 games, he hit .319/.355/.457 with four home runs, 12 doubles and 20 RBIs.  He also stole four bases and scored 39 runs.

17.  Enrique Hernandez (2021).  I just covered him yesterday.  Hernandez started out as a utility player but eventually became a great defensive center fielder.  He also hit .250/.337/.449 with 20 home runs, 35 doubles, three triples, 60 RBIs and 84 runs scored.

18.  Doug Mirabelli (2001).  After Jason Varitek's season-ending injury and Scott Hatteberg's inability to throw out runners, Boston acquired Mirabelli from the Rangers.  He played in 54 games, hitting .270/.360/.518 with nine home runs and 26 home runs and was adept at throwing out base runners.

19.  Justin Masterson (2008).  Masterson's rookie year saw him make it into 36 games, starting nine, and pitching 88.1 innings.  He had a 6-5 record with a 3.16 ERA.  Masterson struck out 68 while walking 40.  

20.  Rich Garces (2000).  El Guapo was a fan favorite in Boston.  2000 was the year he pitched the most, making in into 64 games and throwing 74.2 innings.  He had a record of 8-1 with a 3.25 ERA as the primary setup man.  Garces struck out 69 and walked 23.

21.  Mark Bellhorn (2004).  Bellhorn led the league in strikeouts with 177, setting a then team record, but he had a successful season.  He hit .264/.373/.444 with 17 home runs as the team's second-baseman.  He walked 88 times, scored 93 runs and drove in 82 while also knocking 37 doubles and three triples.  Curt Schilling appears on the card as well, and Schilling has another shot at Cooperstown in a few days.

22.  Kevin Plawecki (2020).  Backup catcher Plawecki had a terrific season at the plate in the pandemic-shortened season.  He hit .341/.393/.463 with one home run and 17 RBIs, also notching five doubles, a triple, a stolen base and eight runs in 24 games.

23.  Don Schwall.  Okay, this one doesn't fit in with the rest of the cards, but it is an oddball of a player who is not well-represented in my collection.  Schwall won the 1961 Rookie of the Year after finishing with a 15-7 record, 3.22 ERA and 91 strikeouts.  He was never as effective again.

24.  Sandy Leon (2016).  Leon came out of nowhere to solidify the catcher position.  In 78 games, he hit .310/.369/.476 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs.  He scored 36 runs and hit 17 doubles with two triples.  He was also effective behind the plate, catching 41% of attempted base stealers.

25.  Greg Harris (1993).  Harris set a then-team record by pitching in 80 games in 1993.  Primarily a setup man, Harris did pick up eight saves and had a record of 6-7 with a 3.77 ERA.  He pitched 112.1 innings, striking out 103 and walking 60.

26.  Travis Shaw (2015).  Shaw was never really a top prospect, but he emerged in 2015 as the team's first-baseman down the stretch.  His rookie season saw him play in 65 games, but hit 13 home runs with a line of .270/.327/.487.  He drove in 36 runs while scoring 31.  

27.  Bill Mueller (2003).  Mueller won the Silver Slugger in 2003 and won the batting title.  He still managed to be underrated.  In his best season, the third-baseman hit .326/.398/.540 with 19 home runs, 45 doubles, five triples, 85 runs scored and 85 RBIs.

28.  Manny Delcarmen (2007).  Boston native Delcarmen was one of the World Champion team's top relievers.  He pitched in 44 games with 44 innings pitched and notched a save.  He had a 0-0 record and struck out 41 batters while walking 17.  He had a 1.023 WHIP.

29.  Ramon Ramirez (2009).  Acquired in a trade for Coco Crisp prior to the season, Ramirez was one of the team's top relievers in 2009 with a record of 7-4.  He had an ERA of 2.84 in 69.2 innings pitched over 70 games pitched.  He struck out 52 and walked 32.  It was kind of cool finding a silk card of such an obscure player.

30.  Franklin Morales (2012).  Morales filled a variety of roles, starting nine games and saving one among his 37 games pitched.  He threw 76.1 innings with a 3-4 record and 3.77 ERA.  He struck out 76 and walked 30.

Notably missing from these cards are two players: Jim Corsi (1998) and Darnell McDonald (2010).  Both players have very few Red Sox cards.  

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Underrated Player of the Year: 2021

In this series, I look at one player per year from 1991-the present who came out of nowhere or had a great year that no one really noticed or expected.

This is an excuse to show off the Living Set card of Enrique Hernandez that released after his terrific performance in the 2021 postseason.  

Hernandez originally came up with the Astros before being traded to the Marlins, and then later, the Dodgers.  He developed a reputation with the Dodgers for being a great defensive player at a number of positions and playing well in the post-season.  Boston signed him to a two-year deal to capitalize on his defensive versatility.

He started the season slow, and played a variety of positions early on.  As the season wore on though, he settled into the leadoff slot in the batting order and became the primary center fielder.  Hernandez was one of the best defensive center fielders in the game and would end up winning the Fielding Bible award for utility players.  He was a year too early to win the new Gold Glove for utility players.  

His hitting number were also impressive.  In 134 games, Hernandez hit .250/.337/.449.  He contributed 35 doubles, three triples and 20 home runs.  Hernandez notched 127 hits, scored 84 runs and drove in 60 runs.

It was the postseason where Hernandez really shined.  He tied a team record with five home runs in a single postseason among his 20 hits.  He drove in nine runs, including the ALDS clinching run.  He had four doubles, a triple and scored eight runs.  Overall, it was an extremely impressive first season for Hernandez.  

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Topps Now: October 18, 2021

The last win of the 2021 season for the Red Sox came in Game 3 of the ALCS when Boston beat the Astros 9-2.  At the time, they took a 2-1 lead in the Series.  But it was all downhill from there.

1.  Kyle Schwarber.  Schwarber hit a grand slam in the third inning off of Jose Urquidy.  That was pretty much all the Red Sox needed.

2.  Kyle Schwarber/Rafael Devers/J.D. Martinez.  Boston became the first team in postseason history to have three grand slams in one series.  Each of the players depicted connected for a bases-loaded bomb.

3.  Christian Arroyo/J.D. Martinez.  Arroyo and Martinez each homered in the game.  Arroyo drove in three runs in the game.  Martinez had two hits, including a homer and a double and drove in two runs.

4.  Enrique Hernandez.  Hernadez had two more hits in the game, giving him 17 in a six-game span.

5.  Hunter Renfroe.  Renfroe made a sliding catch to put the game away for the Red Sox

Friday, November 25, 2022

Topps Now: October 5, 2021

October 5, 2021 was the Wild Card Game in which the Red Sox hosted the Yankees at Fenway Park.  The game was somewhat one-sided.  Boston won 6-2, scoring two runs in the first inning and never looking back.

1.  Xander Bogaerts.  Bogaerts homered in the first inning, driving in Rafael Devers to take an early 2-0 lead.  

2.  Nathan Eovaldi.  Eovaldi, the former Yankee, got the start and lived up to his reputation as a big-game pitcher.  He threw 5.1 innings, giving up just one run while striking out eight batters and walking none.

3.  Kyle Schwarber.  Schwarber homered in the third inning.  His solo shot was eventually the game winner.

4.  Kevin Plawecki.  In a terrific defensive play, Enrique Hernandez fielded a Giancarlo Stanton liner off the wall, threw a perfect strike to relay man Xander Bogaerts, who nailed Aaron Judge trying to score.  It was the play of the game.

5.  Alex Verdugo.  Verdugo has developed a reputation as a Yankee killer.  He had two hits, including a double, and drove in three runs.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Topps X Sports Illustrated Cover

Okay, I had to grab this one.  I have not paid much attention to the other online sets from Topps.  Of course, I grab the Topps Now cards and the Turn Back the Clock cards.  I occasionally grab some of the other ones (Living Set went through a time where a lot of Red Sox cards were issued) and I have grabbed a Sports Illustrated card in the past.  But by and large, there have been very interesting cards. 

This one, I had to get.  Carlton Fisk is one of my favorite Red Sox of all time, even though I never saw him play with Boston.  I did get to see him while with the White Sox the last few years of his career. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

2021 Topps Update Blaster Break

Even though I already had the 2021 Topps Update team set, I decided to take a shot at a blaster to see if I could get some inserts or parallels.  Surprisingly, the gamble worked out okay:

Was it worth the cost of the blaster?  Probably not, but I added a nice insert of David Ortiz.  A die-cut insert at that.  Ortiz, of course, is the newest Red Sox player to be elected to the Hall of Fame.  Hopefully it won't be too long before the next one.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

2021 Topps Archives Blaster (or Two)

I do not remember if this was one or two blasters.  Archives is one of the sets that I look forward to every year, primarily due to the Fan Favorites autograph set.  2021's set only featured Nomar Garciaparra, who was a rarer pull.  I have yet to get that one, and do not see paying out three figures for it.  Anyway, here are the pulls:

1.  Carl Yastrzemski.  I love any chance to see the late 1970's uniforms, particularly the red hats.  My first Red Sox hat was one of these.  

2.  Tanner Houck.  Houck is a pitcher who has yet to find a set role in Boston.  At times this last season, he was a starter and at other times a closer.  Coming in to 2023, he will likely be in the bullpen.  Houck has an absolutely filthy slider.

3.  Rafael Devers.  Reports are encouraging that Boston will lock up Devers for a long-term contract.

4.  David Ortiz.  Ortiz was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot this year.  A well-deserved honor for one of the most important players in Red Sox history.

5.  Alex Verdugo.  In the second half of 2022, Verdugo finally started to show some of the talent that made him a target in the Mookie Betts deal.  Hopefully he can build on it for 2023 and break through.

6.  Bobby Dalbec.  Dalbec may be trade bait this offseason.

Monday, November 21, 2022

2021 Panini Chronicles Ebay Break

I tried my hand at a Panini Chronicles break from Ebay last year, and actually ended up with a few good pulls.

1.  Xander Bogaerts America's Pastime Dual Swatch.  This was the big pull, a dual relic card of Xander Bogaerts, who still seems sort of small in my collection.  I have more cards of him than any other active player, but not by a lot.  Bogaerts is a free agent this winter and hopefully Boston will bring him back.

2.  Bobby Dalbec Overdrive.  Dalbec has way more cards out there than is necessary.  He struggled greatly this season after putting together a nice rookie season in 2021.  With Triston Casas coming, I think Dalbec's days in Boston are numbered.

3.  Rafael Devers Crusade.  Devers is the second-largest current player in my collection, and he will be a free agent after 2023.  Hopefully Boston will lock him up and not make the same mistake they made with Mookie Betts.

4.  Hirokazu Sawamura Titan.  This card I am excited about.  Sawamura did manage to sneak into a few sets.  He had a very good rookie season as well, though he is no longer with the team now. 

5.  Bobby Dalbec Titan.  Of course Dalbec appears twice.  There are currently 106 Dalbec cards listed on my wantlist.  That seems like a crazy number.

6.  Rafael Devers America's Pastime.  This set seemed to be the de facto base set for Chronicles in 2021.  They are much thicker than the other cards though, so I do not like them too much.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Project 70: Rafael Devers by Jacob Rochester

As far as player selection goes, I cannot say I was super impressed with the Project 70 set.  There were a reasonable number of Red Sox cards out there, but outside of Bill Buckner, all the players were big superstars or Hall of Famers.  There were 27 Red Sox cards total.  Like I said, that's a reasonable number, but compared to some teams, not all that impressive.  For instance, the Angels had 95 cards, all but a couple of them being Mike Trout or Shohei Ohtani.  The Dodgers had 92.  The Yankees had 196.  That's absurd.  I know Topps wanted to give the artists creative license here, but that's a bit much.

This is a card I decided to grab because Rafael Devers is one of my current favorite players and he was enjoying a terrific season in 2021.  The design looks more like a standard card.  There really is not much flash here.  It looks like something that would have come out in the 1970's.  That is probably the idea.  It's not super-exciting, just a solid design for a great player.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Topps Now: October 16, 2021

Game 2 of the ALCS saw the Red Sox tie the series at one win apiece.  There were three home runs in the game.  

A little bit of history was made when, in the first inning of the game, J.D. Martinez hit a grand slam, and then an inning later, Rafael Devers also hit a grand slam.  It was the first time in postseason history that two grand slams from the same team were hit.  

In the fourth inning, Enrique Hernandez went deep.  Again.  It was his fifth home run of the postseason, tying a Red Sox record.  Hernandez was on fire in the postseason, hitting .408 in 49 at-bats with four doubles, a triple and five home runs.  He scored nine runs and drove in nine.  He might have been the ALCS MVP had Boston moved on to the World Series.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Topps Now Postseason Bonus Cards

Not really much to say about these cards:

Each of these cards were issued after Boston moved forward in the postseason in 2021.  Boston played the hated Yankees in the Wild Card Game with Nathan Eovaldi going up against Gerrit Cole.  Eovaldi struck out eight in 5.1 innings pitched and the offense was supplied by home runs from Xander Bogaerts and Kyle Schwarber.

In the ALDS, the Red Sox beat the Rays in four games.  It started off poorly, with the Rays taking Game 1.  The ALDS was pretty exciting from there, and Boston walked off in each of the last two games.  Christian Vazquez homered in Game 3 and Enrique Hernandez hit a sac fly in Game 4.  

Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Best Rule 5 Selection by the Red Sox

I have talked before about the Rule 5 Draft and the selections Boston has made over the years.  There are not a whole lot of big success stories, but players like Vaughn Eshelman, Lenny DiNardo, Adam Stern and, more recently, Jonathan Arauz, have had some success.  But nothing like this guy:

Garrett Whitlock was taken from the Yankees, making his success that much sweeter.  He was coming off of Tommy John surgery so there was some question about whether other teams would be interested in him.  Boston took a flier and that was one of the team's best moves.

Whitlock settled into the bullpen in 2021 and was a major part of the team's success.  In 46 games spanning 73.1 innings, he had a 1.96 ERA and a record of 8-4.  He notched two saves and struck out 81 batters while walking just 17.  He had a 2.16 ERA in the postseason, winning a game and striking out five in 8.1 innings.  

In 2022, Boston experimented with him as a starter, which was met with mixed success.  He also had some injury problems and ended up pitching in just 31 games, including nine starts.  He had a 4-2 record and a 3.45 ERA in 78.1 innings pitched, striking out 82 and walking 15.  He also picked up six saves.

Whitlock is a versatile pitcher, but it would be nice to know which direction the team will take him.  He has been told to prepare to be a starter and I think his stuff would be best served in that role, but there is a certain amount of security to the idea of bringing him in for a couple innings at a time in the middle or end of the game.  One thing is for certain: Whitlock is one of the best bargains the team has picked up in years.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Topps Now: October 8, 2021

This has been a very busy year.  For those that don't know, I am a lawyer.  A criminal defense attorney to be precise.  I have done five jury trials this year, which is the most I have ever had in one year.  In addition, Boston had a bad season and for some reason I have not been that excited by the card sets this year.  

Anyway, enough rambling.  I need to catch up.  Here are some postseason Topps Now cards.

October 8, 2021

After a rough showing in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Rays, the Red Sox bats came to life.  The game did not start out well, with Chris Sale giving up five runs in just one inning of work.  But Tanner Houck came in and settled things down and the bats took care of the rest.  Five hitters are depicted on this card, including Xander Bogaerts, Alex Verdugo, Enrique Hernandez, J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers.  Bogaerts had three hits, including a home run, and drove in two runs.  Verdugo also had three hits with a home run and two RBIs.  Hernandez, on track to have a HUGE postseason, had five hits, including three doubles and a home run, and drove in three runs.  Martinez had a double and a home run among his four hits and drove in four.  Finally, Devers had a home run and two RBIs.  

Among the random factoids from October 8 was that Xander Bogaerts joined Nomar Garciaparra as a Red Sox shortstop with multiple home runs in a postseason.

Here is an individual card showcasing Hernandez's game, which included a game-tying home run.

And finally, it was Martinez's three-run home run that put Boston ahead for good in the game.