Sunday, March 31, 2013

Your 2013 Chicago Cubs Starting Lineup

I thought about posting this on Opening Day, then thought better of it.  After all, Opening Day for the Cubs is April 1, and after looking over their lineup, you may have thought that I was just posting some sort of April Fools Joke.

But no, this is actually the real thing.

So here we go, the second year in the Theo rebuild.

OUTFIELD--not pretty at all!

Alfonso Soriano, left field.  He had a surprisingly decent year last season after a really slow start.   Can we expect as good a year this year?  I doubt it.

David DeJesus, center field.  Solid but unspectacular numbers last season, DeJesus is a place holder in center until something better comes along.

Nate Schierholtz, right field.  A career .270 hitter with little power, a guy that's never been a starter for an entire season...that's our right fielder.  Boy, I wish I could say that this was just an April Fools joke.

INFIELD--add Baez in a year, and this could be a solid group for years to come.

Luis Valbuena, third base.  He's filling in for an injured Ian Stewart, who's holding a place until Javier Baez is ready

Starlin Castro, shortstop.  Time for him to really grow up and play to his potential.  He's not a 20-year-old anymore, so that excuse won't cut it any longer.  If he gets his head into the game, we're set.


Darwin Barney, second base.  Remain steady with the glove, get the average up a bit, and we are set at second base for the next several seasons.  Barney is the real second baseman, but he won't start on opening day after hurting his knee on Saturday.  Brent Lillibridge will fill in.

Anthony Rizzo, first base.  Please live up to all the hype from the early part of your time with the Cubs!

BATTERY---The Cubs are very thin with starting pitching.

Jeff Samardzija, pitcher.  He is now the ace of the staff.  I don't know what else to say.

Welington Castillo, catcher.  Beef takes over as the starting catcher.  I'm not convinced that he is up to the task.  I hope he proves me wrong.

So, are you fans of other teams scared, intimidated, or otherwise afraid to take on this group?

I didn't think so.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Eagle-Eyes Quest #2---Relics

Thanks to you eagle-eyed readers, my list of certified Cubs autographs grew from 76 to 100...and I think--I hope--that I'm finished.

That means its time to shift from autographs to relics.  I'm using the same rule I did with the autographs....a relic card for each Cub player that had one issued during a season that they played for the Cubs.

When I started this project, I already had 46 different players.  After successfully adding several autographs from COMC, I went back and did the same thing with the relics.  I searched for Cubs, and then checked the box to filter for relics.  Then I compared the year of the relics with the years the player was on the Cubs, and then checked if the player was among the 46 that I already had.

I came up with eight more card to add.  I really thought that there would be a lot more of these, since there were 100 players on the autograph checklist.  I guess since its easier to slap a sticker on a card, there are more autograph cards made.

Here are my eight new additions, with some big names and some relative unknowns...

Beltran was with the Cubs in 2002 and 2004; this card is from 2002

Cruz never lived up to his promise during his years with the Cubs, 2001-2003.  This Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects card is from 2001

It was cheaper to get this dual auto/relic card of Cashner that to get a plain relic card.  The card is from his only season with the Cubs, 2011.  He was traded after the season to the Padres in the Anthony Rizzo deal.

This was the only relic I could find of Jason Dubois, who is, by far, the lesser of the three on the card. It kills me that I have to refer to a card with Andre Dawson on it as the  Dubois card.  This is a 2005 release, which was Dubois' second season with the Cubs.

Mark Grace's time with the Cubs was coming to an end just as relic cards were starting to arrive.  If I read Beckett correctly, this is the only relic from when he was active with the Cubs. I'm happy to have this /1000 card from 2000, his final season in Chicago.

Here's another case where the dual auto/relic card was cheaper than the plain relic.  Pie was a big flop during his two years with the Cubs (2007-2008).  This card is from 2008

Juan Pierre spent only the 2006 season with the Cubs, so this is the only relic card that shows him as a Cub.

Todd Wellemeyer, despite what this 2004 card says, was not a future gem.  He was very mediocre during his time with the Cubs from 2003-2005

Here is my complete list of 55 Cubs with relics from a season with the Cubs.   Look it over all you eagle-eyed readers and tell me who I'm missing...

Moises AlouRich HardenCarlos Pena
Darwin BarneyBrendan HarrisFelix Pie
Francis BeltranKevin HartJuan Pierre
Damon BufordBobby HillMark Prior
Marlon ByrdRich HillAramis Ramirez
Andrew CashnerTodd HundleyAnthony Rizzo
Starlin CastroJacque JonesJeff Samardzija
Hee Seop ChoiEric KarrosAlfonso Soriano
Tyler ColvinDavid KeltonSammy Sosa
Juan CruzBryan LaHairGeovany Soto
Ryan DempsterDerrek LeeRyan Theriot
Blake DeWittTed LillyDarryle Ward
Jason DuboisKenny LoftonTodd Wellemeyer
Jim EdmondsGreg MadduxRandy Wells
Mike FontenotCarlos MarmolRondell White
Kosuke FukudomeSean Marshall*Jerome Williams
Nomar Garciaparra  Fred McGriffKerry Wood
Matt GarzaCorey Patterson     Carlos Zambrano
Mark Grace

*Missing from collection

The one player that I'm missing is one that I will probably never get.  According to Beckett, the only relic cards for Sean Marshall while with the Cubs were issued in 2008 by Upper Deck as part of the Ballpark Collection.  My best possibility is an unnumbered Jersey/Autograph card.  The other three are button, laundry tag, or MLB logo cards, numbered to either 4 or 5. I don't think I'll see any of those.

Friday, March 29, 2013

2013 Topps Stickers Cubs

The Topps Stickers seem to be flying under the radar.  With Heritage and Opening Day just out, and Gypsy Queen coming soon, the stickers seem to be forgotten.

After a ten year run from 1981 - 1990, the stickers were put to rest for 21 years.  They came back in 2011, making this year's set the third of the recent reincarnation.

There are nine Cubs on the 315 sticker checklist, plus the team logo.

Something new this year is the inclusion of a team legend...a retired player.  Topps didn't stray too far from the usual by including...

....Ernie Banks as the Cubs' legend.  Topps does get some extra credit by using an older version of the team logo on the sticker, a version used by the Cubs in the '60s and '70s.

The other eight stickers feature current players with the current logo...



The only thing I don't like is that the pictures all seem to be washed out.  They seem faded, not sharp.  The previous two years had nice sharp pictures.  Don't know why they went to the faded look.

Finally, there is the team logo card.  These are always shared with another team.  Over the past two years, the Cubs shared with...


...the Padres  and Phillies.  This year, though, Topps made a bad choice, by putting the Cubs on the same sticker as...

...the White Sox.  Boo!  Now my binder is contaminated!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Really New and Really Old Billy Williams Items

I've adding something old and something new to my Billy Williams collection (and I guess they're blue too, but nothing borrowed!)

Here's the new item....

...Billy's first appearance on a Heritage card.  As of now, only four of these /15 cards (#3, 8, 9, and 15) have shown up on Ebay.  Three have been sold and two more are waiting as BINs.  I knew I wanted one and I knew that they were going to be hard to get, so I probably paid more than I normally would for a card.  Sometimes, you gotta bite the bullet, especially for your all-time favorite player.

My only complaint....the picture is from either 1970 or 1971, not 1964.  But, at least he finally made Heritage.  It will be interesting to see if Topps starts phasing Ernie out of Heritage (they didn't this year) and start including more Billy and maybe even throw in a Ron Santo card or two.

On to something old....something 50 years old...

....this Billy Williams coin from the 1963 Salada tea/ Junket dessert set.  Its fascinating to me that a tea company would include baseball items as a premium.  Maybe Salada was trying to expand its market.  But I picture baseball fans as guys pounding Buds, not sipping Salada tea.

These are very similar to the coins that Topps would put out the following season.  Do you think Topps stole the idea or did the coin manufacturer come to Topps?

Here is what the back of the coin looks like...

....with the Salada and Junket names prominently featured, and a few player stats on the bottom.

Ernie Banks was also on the '63 Salada checklist, and I'm waiting to pick one up at a decent price.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2013 Opening Day Cubs Inserts

These came a little quicker than I thought they would...yea!  I'll have more about that later.

Topps has been adding more insert sets to Opening Day over the past couple years, and four Cubs cards were included...

...Two Cubs are having some Ballpark Fun.

Darwin Barney got a shower from Matt Garza on May 30, 2012.  Barney hit a walk off homer against the Padres...

....which he also is celebrating here.

Alfonso Soriano's bath came on April 24, 2012, when he singled home the winning run in the 10th inning against the Cardinals.  Before the bath, there was a...

....Superstar Celebration at home plate.  My question---if Soriano is a superstar worthy of a card in two different insert sets, why was he left out of the base set??

The final Cub insert shows Starlin Castro...

....playing hard against the White Sox on June 18, 2012.

Now, a little more about the purchase and delivery of the cards.  I got these from  If you're wondering what they sell,'re not trying very hard then, are you!

The site doesn't have as wide a selection as Sportlots, but everything they have is from a single shipper, which means a huge savings compared to Sportlots.  The prices are a little better too, with commons going for only 15¢ compared to the 18¢ at Sportlots. Also, shipping was only $2, and its free if your order exceeds $10.

Shipping was quick, and the cards arrived safely.  If you're looking to fill a team or complete set, you may want to see what they've got.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2013 Opening Day Cubs

Opening Day has been a Topps staple since 1998 (though skipped in 2009).  It's billed as the kid friendly version of the base set.  The cards lack the foil printing, making them less expensive. Personally, I'd like to see the base set skip the hard-to-read foil printing.

This year's Opening Day checklist is made up of 220 players.  Divide that among 30 teams and you should average seven or eight players per team.  The Cubs got half of that---four.  But at least that's better than last year, when only three Cubs make the list.  Progress, I suppose.

The cards are all identical to the base card with one slight exception...the rookie cup on Rizzo's card was moved up to accommodate the Opening Day logo.



Four Cubs were included in the insert sets, and I should have those cards in hand within the next couple days.  I'll get those posted as soon as the cards arrive.

For you  team collectors, here is the 2013 Opening Day checklist, broken down by team:

AngelsJosh Hamilton56
AngelsTommy Hanson36
AngelsHowie Kendrick26
AngelsAlbert Pujols38
AngelsMike Trout27
AngelsMark Trumbo77
AngelsJered Weaver32
AngelsVernon Wells99
AngelsC.J. Wilson149
AstrosJose Altuve164
AstrosMatt Dominguez4
AthleticsGrant Balfour49
AthleticsYoenis Cespedes137
AthleticsBartolo Colon125
AthleticsCoco Crisp188
AthleticsTommy Milone24
AthleticsJarrod Parker142
AthleticsJosh Reddick124
AthleticsJemile Weeks18
Blue JaysJose Bautista207
Blue JaysMark Buehrle9
Blue JaysR.A. Dickey213
Blue JaysEdwin Encarnacion88
Blue JaysDrew Hutchison61
Blue JaysJosh Johnson135
Blue JaysBrett Lawrie220
Blue JaysJose Reyes131
Blue JaysRicky Romero2
BravesFreddie Freeman182
BravesJason Heyward180
BravesTim Hudson195
BravesCraig Kimbrel199
BravesKris Medlen216
BravesDan Uggla161
BravesJustin Upton93
BravesB.J. Upton115
BrewersNorichika Aoki116
BrewersJohn Axford17
BrewersRyan Braun8
BrewersYovani Gallardo21
BrewersCorey Hart110
BrewersAramis Ramirez92
BrewersJean Segura111
BrewersRickie Weeks194
CardinalsCarlos Beltran13
CardinalsChris Carpenter190
CardinalsAllen Craig211
CardinalsDavid Freese132
CardinalsMatt Holliday144
CardinalsShelby Miller72
CardinalsYadier Molina141
CardinalsJason Motte202
CardinalsAdam Wainwright91
CubsDarwin Barney55
CubsStarlin Castro54
CubsAnthony Rizzo80
CubsJeff Samardzija85
Diamondbacks  Heath Bell39
DiamondbacksTrevor Cahill75
DiamondbacksPaul Goldschmidt98
DiamondbacksAaron Hill122
DiamondbacksDaniel Hudson203
DiamondbacksIan Kennedy136
DiamondbacksJason Kubel62
DiamondbacksWade Miley179
DiamondbacksMiguel Montero168
DiamondbacksGerardo Parra34
DiamondbacksJ.J. Putz158
DiamondbacksTyler Skaggs140
DodgersJosh Beckett192
DodgersCarl Crawford60
DodgersAndre Ethier153
DodgersAdrian Gonzalez87
DodgersZack Greinke46
DodgersMatt Kemp100
DodgersClayton Kershaw45
DodgersBrandon League86
DodgersHanley Ramirez11
GiantsMadison Bumgarner157
GiantsMatt Cain97
GiantsBrandon Crawford155
GiantsTim Lincecum104
GiantsAngel Pagan119
GiantsHunter Pence108
GiantsBuster Posey1
GiantsSergio Romo129
GiantsPablo Sandoval212
GiantsMarco Scutaro67
GiantsRyan Vogelsong73
GiantsBrian Wilson152
GiantsBarry Zito68
IndiansTrevor Bauer106
IndiansJason Kipnis74
IndiansJustin Masterson64
IndiansCarlos Santana82
IndiansDrew Stubbs89
IndiansNick Swisher90
MarinersFelix Hernandez22
MarinersHisashi Iwakuma78
MarinersJesus Montero16
MarinersKendrys Morales174
MarinersKyle Seager196
MarlinsAdeiny Hechavarria101
MarlinsLogan Morrison23
MarlinsGiancarlo Stanton145
MetsIke Davis48
MetsMatt Harvey59
MetsDaniel Murphy95
MetsJonathon Niese63
MetsJohan Santana160
MetsDavid Wright6
NationalsTyler Clippard166
NationalsIan Desmond109
NationalsDanny Espinosa70
NationalsGio Gonzalez44
NationalsBryce Harper50
NationalsDenard Span184
NationalsDrew Storen209
NationalsStephen Strasburg170
NationalsJayson Werth30
NationalsRyan Zimmerman147
NationalsJordan Zimmermann96
OriolesDylan Bundy52
OriolesChris Davis58
OriolesJim Johnson15
OriolesAdam Jones76
OriolesManny Machado172
OriolesNick Markakis121
PadresYonder Alonso84
PadresChase Headley130
PadresCameron Maybin134
PadresCarlos Quentin40
PadresHuston Street187
PadresWill Venable65
PadresEdinson Volquez127
PhilliesRoy Halladay162
PhilliesCole Hamels206
PhilliesRyan Howard198
PhilliesCliff Lee57
PhilliesJonathan Papelbon25
PhilliesJimmy Rollins208
PhilliesCarlos Ruiz217
PhilliesChase Utley112
PhilliesMichael Young117
PiratesPedro Alvarez43
PiratesA.J. Burnett128
PiratesStarling Marte167
PiratesAndrew McCutchen102
PiratesJames McDonald105
RangersElvis Andrus51
RangersAdrian Beltre7
RangersLance Berkman107
RangersNelson Cruz154
RangersYu Darvish165
RangersNeftali Feliz181
RangersIan Kinsler214
RangersMike Olt114
RangersJurickson Profar37
RaysAlex Cobb146
RaysJeremy Hellickson31
RaysDesmond Jennings103
RaysEvan Longoria200
RaysDavid Price218
RaysFernando Rodney183
RaysBen Zobrist178
Red SoxJacoby Ellsbury20
Red SoxJon Lester42
Red SoxWill Middlebrooks210
Red SoxDavid Ortiz143
Red SoxDustin Pedroia41
Red SoxJarrod Saltalamacchia  171
RedsBronson Arroyo29
RedsJay Bruce204
RedsAroldis Chapman12
RedsShinSoo Choo66
RedsZack Cozart173
RedsJohnny Cueto191
RedsTodd Frazier126
RedsMat Latos10
RedsBrandon Phillips175
RedsJoey Votto19
RockiesTyler Colvin79
RockiesCarlos Gonzalez113
RockiesWilin Rosario83
RockiesTroy Tulowitzki219
RoyalsBilly Butler133
RoyalsAlex Gordon193
RoyalsEric Hosmer5
RoyalsMike Moustakas159
RoyalsErvin Santana201
RoyalsJames Shields94
TigersMiguel Cabrera81
TigersPrince Fielder28
TigersDoug Fister205
TigersTorii Hunter151
TigersAustin Jackson189
TigersVictor Martinez71
TigersJhonny Peralta197
TigersMax Scherzer118
TigersJustin Verlander35
TwinsJoe Mauer138
TwinsJustin Morneau163
TwinsTrevor Plouffe33
TwinsJosh Willingham14
White SoxJohn Danks123
White SoxAdam Dunn156
White SoxPaul Konerko186
White SoxJake Peavy47
White SoxAddison Reed53
White SoxAlex Rios148
White SoxChris Sale177
YankeesRobinson Cano169
YankeesBrett Gardner69
YankeesCurtis Granderson185
YankeesDerek Jeter150
YankeesIvan Nova215
YankeesMariano Rivera176
YankeesAlex Rodriguez120
YankeesCC Sabathia3
YankeesMark Teixeira139

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Mayor of Wrigley Field

Who is the Mayor of Wrigley Field?

Nope, not Harry Caray; he was the Mayor of Rush Street

Not Ernie Banks either--he's Mr. Cub.

The Mayor of Wrigley Field is this guy,

Hank Sauer, the latest addition to my autograph collection.  His signature is on a 1988 Pacific Legends of Baseball card.

So class, raise you hand if you know who Hank Sauer is...and I see that not too many hands are going up.

I've got to admit, that for a guy known as The Mayor of Wrigley Field, I didn't know much about him either.

Growing up in a house full of Sox fans didn't give me much of a chance to hear about Cubs players from earlier times.  The only knowledge  I had of Sauer was from this card I got in 1975...

....and it shocked me that a Cub other than Ernie Banks had won the MVP award.  In my world, Cubs history began with Ernie Banks.  I had never heard of Hank Sauer or the fact that he was the NL's MVP in 1952.  But in those pre-internet days, I couldn't just google up a bunch of information on him.

I didn't actually learn much more about him until I got back into collecting in 2008.  One of my early goals was to get all the Cubs team sets back to 1961 (the year I was born) and then one card from each of the prior years.  I decided to get as many Hank Sauer cards as I could since he was the best player on the team before Ernie arrived. ( I later decided to go ahead and get the complete team sets back to 1951).

I got this card first, since I knew of it from the '75 MVP card.  In his MVP season, he hit a league-leading 37 home runs and knocked in a league-leading 121 runs.  He became the first player to win the MVP on a second division team (the Cubs finished fifth that year).  That was his third straight season of 30+ homers and he would top that again in 1954.

Sauer was a tobacco chewer, and the fans in the bleachers would toss packages of chew his way whenever he hit a home run.  It was that type of popularity with the fans that earned him the nickname "The Mayor of Wrigley Field."

He only spent 7 seasons with the Cubs and the teams were generally pretty bad, so that may explain his lack of recognition.  But for a time, he was the face of the Cubs and his is a signature that deserves a place in my collection.

If you want to read more about Hank Sauer, there are a couple of nice articles here and here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Five Random Cubs Cards

I've got 11,263 Cubs cards from 77 different brands listed on a spreadsheet. A random number generator picked five cards, one each from the past several decades.  

1950s / 1960s: 1959 Topps #538 Chick King  I must confess that this is one Cub that I knew absolutely nothing about.  I checked both the '58 and '59 roster books and he wasn't included in either.  Baseballreference told me why he was missing...he played in only 8 games for the '58 Cubs and 12 for the team in 1959 before being sent to the Cardinals in a mid-May trade.  I wonder why Topps included him in the '59 set after playing in only 8 games for the Cubs the year before?

1970s: 1978 Kelloggs #44 Steve Ontiveros  Ontiveros hit a career high .299 in 1977, good enough for Kelloggs to make him one of three Cubs in the '78 set.  He got off to a horrible start in 1978, hitting .145 in April and .178 in May.  He finally snapped out of it in June, with a .376 average.  His season came to an end in July when he dislocated his shoulder for a second time .  Surgery put him on the shelf the rest of the campaign.

1980s: 1981 Topps #17 Bill Buckner  Billy Buck had a really good year in the strike-shortened 1981 season.  He hit .312 (his third .300+ season in four years), led the league in doubles (35), was second in hits (131), third in RBIs (75) , and fifth in average.  He was named to the NL All Star team for the only time in his career and was 0-1.

1990s: 1993 Bowman #524 Rick Wilkins  Rick Wilkins had one of the best seasons ever by a Cubs catcher in 1993.  He hit .303 with 30 homers and 73 RBIs.  He became one of only seven catchers in MLB history to hit over .300 with 30+ homers.  Not only was he a stud with the bat, but he led NL catchers with a .421 caught-stealing percentage and was second in fielding with a .996 average.  He would never again come even close to matching this season.

2000s: 2002 Fleer Tradition #7 Jon Lieber  Lieber payed the price for a 20 win season in 2001 by blowing out his elbow in 2002.  He was 6-8 before being shut down in early August.  Tommy John surgery followed had he missed the entire 2003 season.