Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday Verse

Hebrews 6:10

New International Version

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Thank You

On the day my oldest daughter turned 9, my Atlanta Braves 2018 season came to an end at the hands of the Dodgers. I was hoping they had another run, another rally left in them but it just wasn’t meant to be.

I could complain how it wasn’t a fair fight, going up against a team with near unlimited revenue to sign the superstar players and such, but in the end my team just ran into a buzzsaw of a team. As much as I hate to say it, I tip my hat to the Dodgers on a well played series.

However in a year when virtually no one expected the Braves to do anything I’m so thankful for what the team did accomplish. I hate that our offense disappeared. I hate that we clinched the division so early because I feel as if they lost their momentum. The future is bright though and I believe they’ll be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. They need to make some moves this off season and I believe they have the right guy in place to do so.

It’s been a fun ride and I’m not ready for it to be over, but I suppose I can now turn my attention towards my Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Hornets. However, when April comes I’ll be ready to Chop On!

Monday, October 1, 2018

NOT the Last Baseball Post

Nearly one year ago I had a post titled "The Last Baseball Post" and ironically it's one of best performing posts in the history of this little blog. Last year I was one of those fans that found the end of the baseball season to be bittersweet. Part of me was glad the season was over because I was tired of seeing my team, the Atlanta Braves, keep coming up short. The other part of me was jealous of the teams that were making preparations for the post season.

Well, I'm happy to say that this year I have a reason to really follow the post season because my Braves have won the NL East and are heading for the playoffs!!

The Braves swept the Phillies to clinch a little over a week before the end of the season so this meant some guys got some rest while others got a little more playing time. As a result, the Braves kinda limped towards the finish line, getting swept by the Mets and losing two out of the three final games against the Phillies. At least that's what I'm telling myself, that they lost these games due to our key players not playing all 9 innings!

Now to say this fan isn't worried going into the post season would be an understatement. While the Braves provided many exciting moments and highlights for all, our bullpen giving up so many walks, especially to the lead off batter and our inconsistent offense is a concern. The team also looked sloppy in the final few weeks of the season committing several errors. Even the uber talented Ronald Acuna, Jr. made a few errors in left field. Not too worried about him, after all, he's super young and rookies are expected to make mistakes here and there.

However all is not doom and gloom. The Braves exceeded just about everyone's expectations this season, including mine! While manager Brian Snitker would drive me nuts from time to time with some of his managerial decisions, kudos to the life long organizational guy and what he was able to do with his group of guys this year. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos did an excellent job picking up this team and making some adjustments throughout the season. Most of these transactions were very flashy, but they proved to be successful and benefited the team Win/Loss record. Many of the players also played their part well so let's take a look at them:

Freddie Freeman - MVFreee! Freeman turned in another excellent campaign, batting over .300 for a third consecutive season, lead the NL in hits with 191 and had 98 RBIs and 23 HRs. "Mr. Brave" is the cornerstone of this team and I'm so excited for him that he gets to experience the post season for the first time since the 2013 season.

Nick Markakis - Nick had a coming out season in 2018 posting some career best stats for the longtime Baltimore Oriole. Nick played all 162 games this season, only the 5th time in the team's history that a player played all 162 games. His bat came alive too posting a .297 average with 185 hits, 93 RBIs and adding 14 HRs. His glove was equally golden in right field. With Freeman, Markakis made a nice one-two punch in the Braves batting order.

Ronald Acuna, Jr. - What more can you say about what I believe is the NL Rookie of the Year that hasn't already been said? Acuna joined the team and made his MLB debut on 04/25/18 and ended up playing 110 games. I think you have to keep the number of games played in mind when comparing him to Juan Soto of the Nationals for the ROY award. Acuna provided a huge jolt in the offense in the second half of the season, causing a lot of excitement during his consecutive streak of games with a lead-off HR as well as home runs in general. Personally I love watching the guy play the game and interact with his teammates in the dugout. His smile is infectious and I look forward to watching him play in Atlanta for many more years.

I would be re-missed if I didn't give a honorable mention to fellow left fielders Preston Tucker and Adam Duvall. Preston started the season in left and provided adequate defense and at times a surge of offensive power. Duvall, a late season addition, also provided some depth and helped plug holes when needed.

Ender Inciarte - A flash of speed in center field and on the base paths for much of the season, Ender is a fiery competitor who played his heart out all season. Inciarte provided many highlights in center field. I also liked that he was a team player when Snitker decided to move him out of the lead off spot in the batting order (for Acuna). He had the right attitude and this is something I love to see in players.

Ozzie Albies - The other stand out rookie in 2018, Albies had a stellar first half and should have been the started the All-Star game at 2B in my opinion. He numbers may have dropped off a bit in the 2nd half of the season, but the future still looks awfully bright for this young kid.

Dansby Swanson - It seemed as if a lot of Braves fans were ready to kick Dansby to the curb this season for his lack of offense, however with the help of Braves batting coach Kevin Seizter, Dansby made some improvements and it showed at times at the plate. Injuries cost him some games, but he was still able to add a few points to his batting average over last year and his HRs more than doubled from 6 in 2017 to 14 in 2018. Of course with Dansby it's his defense that he is most known for and boy did he turn some impressive plays in the field this year. He's one of my favorite players to watch play the game. I felt horrible for him however when he partially tore a ligament in his left hand on Sept. 27th. At the end of the season the Braves are still unsure whether or not he'll be available for the post season.

Johan Camargo - Camargo didn't start the season on the field so Ryan Flaherty took his spot and performed well. All throughout the season there was talk and trade rumors abound regarding the Braves finding someone else to fill 3B or even Austin Riley being called up from AAA Gwinnett to eventually take the third base job. However Camargo began to silence a lot of those rumors with both his bat and his glove. He posted a .272 batting average with 126 hits, 27 doubles, 19 HRs and 76 RBIs...all in 134 games. Keep in mind this is only his second year in the majors as well. Camargo was a late inning sparkplug in many games when the Braves needed it. Personally I think he has won the job at third and I hope he is given that opportunity again in 2019.

Charlie Culberson - I didn't know who Culberson was when the season began, but it didn't take him long to introduce himself to Braves Country. Culberson was clutch for most of the season and would field just about any position on the field. He helped in the outfield early in the season as well as played some at short, second base and relieved Freeman a few times as well. Outside of his 2014 season where he played in 95 games for Colorado, this was the biggest opportunity he has had in the majors and he took advantage of hit. He posted a .270 batting average with 80 hits, 12 HRs and 45 RBIs. He has some playoff experience as he filled in for the injured Corey Seager last year for the Dodgers. It's still unknown if he'll be plugging the hole at short caused by Swanson's injury, but if he does I'm sure Braves fans will be OK. He may not be as good defensively as Swanson, but he can get the job done.

Kurt Suzuki - This guy became one of my favorite current Braves players during the season. We all know catchers get beat up and have a tough time behind the plate and Suzuki was no exception. I don't know how many pitches he was hit by, but I swear when you have your own hashtag on Twitter because you were hit by a pitch then you know it happened a lot! Love his positive attitude and hustle he put into every game. I believe he becomes a free agent in 2019 and I really hope the club brings him back.

Tyler Flowers - While not my favorite Braves catcher, Flowers had a great season and was ultimately rewarded with a late season contract extension. He isn't a flashy catcher or isn't going to put up offensive numbers like Yadier Molina, but he's a good, solid catcher who I don't mind seeing behind the plate. One of the questions floating around recently is whether the Braves are going to take 3 catchers into the playoffs because if they need to pinch hit for a catcher, you better have a back up. I could possibly see Flowers being a lifted for pinch hitter as he struggled at the plate at times this season.

Mike Foltynewicz - "Folty" had a rough 2017 and we really didn't know what we'd get out of him in 2018. As the season progressed he seemed to get sharper and sharper. He finished the year with a team leading 13-10 record with a 2.85 ERA and effectively became the team's new "ace". I won't forget watching his 2 hit, complete game shutout against the Washington Nationals on June 1st. I took my wife to the game in Atlanta for her birthday and we were treated to an excellent game. I'm pretty sure Folty will start game 1 on Thursday for the Braves. We just don't know where he'll be pitching or who he'll be pitching against at this time.

Julio Teheran - The former "ace" of the staff, it seems like a lot of Braves fans have a love/hate relationship with Teheran. He finished 2018 with a 9-9 record with an ERA of 3.94. Often he would get himselt into trouble early in the game before settling down. He gave up a team leading 26 HRs during the season, something he has to get better at or the team won't be in the post season for long. The second half of the season seemed to be nicer to Teheran and I hope he can take some of that momentum into the playoffs because they are going to need him to be at his best if they hope to advance to the NLCS.

Sean Newcomb - Newcomb was a little of an anomaly this season. He would go 12-9 with an ERA of 3.91, but late in the season started to have some problems with his control. This was thought to have been caused by perspiration. It does get hot in Atlanta in the summer and I remember watching many games at home where the bill of his cap would be soaked in the 2nd inning, sweat dropping of like it was raining. I believe he'll be used in the pen during the playoffs and I hope he can adjust. He still shows a lot of promise and could help anchor down the starting rotation for years to come.

Brandon McCarthy - He came over to the Braves from the Dodgers and the team would need his veteran leadership early in the season. He would only appear in 15 games before injuries kept him out, but he would post a respectable 6-3 record. Ultimately he would decide late into the season that this would be his final season in the majors, retiring at the conclusion of the 2018 season. Early on he would have the hot hand and helped lead the team while his fellow pitchers were still fine tuning their skills.

Anibal Sanchez - The other veteran in the starting rotation, Sanchez would go on not only to be a great mentor to some of the younger pitchers on the team, but also to post some of the best numbers since the 2014 season when he was with the Detroit Tigers. He would post a 7-6 record with an ERA of 2.83. I think the Braves will carry a 4 man starting rotation in the playoffs and Anibal could be 3rd or 4th on the depth charts. He was a nice addition to the team and it'll be interesting to see if the Braves bring him back in 2019.

Kevin Gausman - He was a late season acquisition from the Baltimore Orioles by GM Alex Anthopoulos. This was one of those non-flashy moves that would prove to pay big dividends for the team. With McCarthy going down the team needed another arm to help bolster the starting rotation so the club picked him up at the trading deadline. Gausman finished the season with a 5-2 record and a 2.80 ERA. He'll definitely be one of the starting pitchers on the Braves post season roster and I'm looking for him to go some good things in October.

Max Fried - If you follow me on Twitter then you'll know I've made a habit of picking up relics and autos of Fried (pronounced "freed") because I think the sky is high for this kid and I've liked what I've seen from him when he has had a chance to pitch. Coming over from the Padres, he has some experience coming out of the bullpen, something that will be valuable come post season play. I'd like to see him get more opportunities in 2019 starting games, but first he has to overcome these reoccurring blisters on his pitching hand that plagued him throughout the 2018 season.

Arodys Vizcaino - I didn't care for Vizcaino much in 2017, however he started to win me over as the Braves legitimate closer in 2018. The dude can throw some heat and seemed to pitch much better this year before injuries sidelined him for months later in the season. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise as he threw less innings than A.J. Minter, another young arm that was used in the closer role some during the season.

There are many, many more players that deserve to be mentioned (and deserve a baseball card, Topps!) and who helped make the 2018 season so much fun to watch. Part of the reason my blogging activity across all my blogs, not just this one, went down this year was because of the Braves. They kept winning. Young players kept doing remarkable things. Young kids would be called up from AAA Gwinnett to make their MLB debut and then they would win! For the first time in a long time, I didn't feel like if I missed a game I wouldn't miss anything. Most nights and Sunday afternoons I was glued to my couch and TV. When I wasn't at home, you better believe I had the game on my phone using the Fox Sports app.

2018 has been one fun rollercoaster of a season and now I can't wait for Thursday. Wouldn't you know that both the Dodgers and the Rockies would have an offensive explosion on this final day of the season and force a one game playoff to determine the winner of the NL West. I'm not sure who I'd rather the Braves face. The Dodgers have some good pitching and some scary guys at the plate, though they do struggle against left handed pitching. The Rockies also have some great players and can be a offensive nightmare...especially at Coors Field. The Braves struggled at times against both teams so at this point I'd just assume flip a quarter as either team will be a tough assignment...but one the Braves can handle if they play well.

Thursday can't come quick enough. Regardless of who they play, where they play, I'm just thrilled the Braves are back in the postseason and I hope they can make some noise and get on a run.


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

September Affordable Group Break Results

If you follow me on Twitter (@flywheels) or on Facebook then you may have already seen some the posted images from this month's break. However I know there are some readers that aren't on social media so I wanted to go ahead and do a recap post here as well.

The first box opened was 1991 O-Pee-Chee Premier. Small set so we got lots and lots of doubles and unfortunately some teams weren't as well represented as others, however some teams did end up adding several cards to their respective stacks.

The 1991 OPC Premier design was pretty clean and simple. Regular cardstock with a white border. A team colored border surrounds the color player photo. The player's name and team are in small font across the bottom with their position being listed in both English and French.

Next up was 1992 O-Pee-Chee Premier and it was a lot like the previous year in a lot of ways. The design was very similar to '91 and the set was again fairly small so the box yielded quite a few doubles. The player selection seemed to be better this time round however with a little more diverse checklist.

The final box of the break was 1993 O-Pee-Chee Premier and was my favorite of the 3 years. The design remained fairly clean and simple, however the checklist was much larger and the set introduced inserts. In each pack was a gold Star Performer and there were some good names in the set. The one per box inserts were Top Draft Picks, which we pulled Todd Steverson. The other insert was a version of the Star Performer, Foil Star Performer. The card had a UV coating and added some gold foil to the OPC logo. We pulled Roberto Alomar of the Blue Jays. Both of these cards were given to the two participants that had the smallest team stacks.

While these boxes weren't (and didn't) knock anyone socks off, I hope it was still fun for those who participated. It's always hard trying to find product that people will enjoy where I can also keep the price down. With the final 3 months of the year I don't see myself having as much free time, plus I know people's money gets tighter come the holidays so I think this will be my final Affordable Group Break for 2018. I appreciate everyone who has participated and supported me since I brought these breaks back. I'm definitely planning on busting more cheap wax in 2019 and will make an announcement when I'm ready. Until then, thank you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

When Worlds Collide

As one with multiple hobbies it becomes hard at times in deciding which hobbies gets my attention and my hard earned money. Between my job and family, finding time can sometimes be difficult...but I'm sure I'm not the only one that deals with that. There are a lot of things that run through my mind when deciding what kind of purchase to make. Take for instance my latest decision.

In addition to cards, I also collect comics, toys and video games. While video games are an easier purchase due to the volume of entertainment value they offer me, toys can get expensive. Take for instance this Marvel Legends figure I found yesterday at Walmart. Granted I've been looking for this character for some time and granted it's the last in this wave I needed to build the Build-A-Figure character, the Lizard, the figure costs $20 bucks...the same amount a blaster, like this 2017 Topps Series 2 blaster I happened to have laying around.

On one hand this figure falls into my Spider-Man collection and I'll be able to take pictures and blog about him on my toy blog, Random Toy Reviews. One the other hand I could spend a Jefferson on a blaster of cards hoping that I'll get cards I need for that respective set and/or perhaps get lucky and land a hit. Sometimes I look at buying a blaster like buying a lottery ticket as I never know what I'll get and it may be a bust. At least with the figure, I know what I'm getting.

In this particular case I chose Mysterio over the latest blaster of cards. Part of my rationalizing was that the cards often hang around at retail longer than figures do...especially when the figure is of a sought after character like this one. In fact, I bought two other Marvel Legends at $20 a piece and already flipped them both for close to $100. I can't do that with cards...unless I'm lucky and land one of those elusive hits.

In the end I have fun with all of my hobbies, but I usually end up "rotating" my focus through them all. I kind of have to in order to keep my sanity! Sometimes people tell me just to choose to collect one or two things and not so many, but for me it's just not that easy. I've essentially grown up with all of these hobbies in way shape or form and I'll continue to have fun with these hobbies for as long as I'm able to do so.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

All O-Pee-Chee Affordable Group Break

I tried my hand at a break earlier this month and I didn't get the interest I was hoping let's go back to my roots so to speak with some early 90's boxes. This break will have a theme in that it'll be all O-Pee-Chee product. I'm hoping more people will lack these cards for their team or player collections and will join in on the fun.

This break will feature 1991, 1992 and 1993 O-Pee-Chee Premier. All three of these sets feature exclusive designs, different than what Topps offered those years. Click on the years for a complete checklist of each set.

INFO (Please Read Carefully)

* 2 Team slots - choose your 1st team, 2nd team will be 
randomized from all unclaimed teams.

* Each slot will cost $6.75 delivered

* As the host, I claim the Braves, but I will not have a 2nd team.

* Rockies/Marlins are only in 1993 box, so they'll be offered 
as an add-on slot for $2.00 to the first party interested.

* Payments can be sent to:

* Boxes will be order once at least half of the teams have been claimed.
Hoping to be ready to go by 09/29/18 if not sooner.

* Highlights of the boxes will be shared via social media
(blog, Facebook and Twitter)

01 - Atlanta Braves - Cardboard Collections / @flywheels
02 - San Francisco Giants - Nick Vossbrink / @vossbrink (PAID) - Yankees
03 - Boston Red Sox - Old Red Sox Cards (PAID) - Rangers
04 - Oakland Athletics (+ Rockies/Marlins) - Adam / @awmckenz (PAID) - Tigers
05 - Milwaukee Brewers - Collector's Check / @cynicalbuddha (PAID) - Indians
06 - Houston Astros - Roy Galloway (PAID) - Mets
07 - Pittsburgh Pirates - Wade Fisher / @wdeeee (PAID) - Royals
08 - Montreal Expos - CaptKirk42 / @captkirk42 (PAID) - White Sox
09 - California Angels - Cardboard Collections - Reds
10 - San Diego Padres - Cardboard Collections - Cardinals
11 - Minnesota Twins - Cardboard Collections - Mariners
12 - Baltimore Orioles - Cardboard Collections - Cubs
13 - Los Angels Dodgers - Cardboard Collections - Phillies

Friday, September 14, 2018

2017 Topps Now: Rio Ruiz #231 (293 print run)

June 9th, 2017 Rio walked up to the plate and gave the Braves a walk-off single to help defeat the New York Mets. Rio, a rookie, hadn't had that many major league at bats up until this day. He however came through for his team on this day, batting in Dansby Swanson for the win!