Monday, May 17, 2021

A Thunderous New Addition, Pt. 2

Been a while since I checked in here.  Life's been busy, lots of big life changes, figuring out this whole parenthood thing, the Cubs have been a whole bucket of bleh this year, the hobby has lost it's collective mind... I have a whole laundry list of reasons and/or excuses why my passion for blogging has ebbed, but who really cares, right?

However, yesterday, that part of my heart twinged for the the first time in a while.  All it took was an *extremely* surprising transaction.  Seriously, when I read that swingman, Alec Mills (he of no-hitter fame), was going on the 10-day injured list with a lower back strain, you could have given me two dozen guesses and I never would have called the corresponding roster move.  But before I talk about the guy going the other way on the transactional log, a little background information is needed for proper context.

For most of my conscious life, the Windy City Thunderbolts have been my local baseball team.  I've been going to 'Bolts games regularly for nearly two decades now and the independent, Frontier League club has kept me engaged with the game in ways that would be prohibitively costly with the Cubs or any Major League franchise.  I have always been able to count on a cheap ticket, a quick commute, and a good show whenever I get bored or antsy in the summer.  Sure, the level of play is nowhere near the Big Show and is roughly equivalent to Low-A ball, but baseball is baseball and the Thunderbolts are the best show in town.  

With the climb up the ladder so long long, I feel an intense bit of local pride any time a 'Bolt gets scooped up to the affiliated ranks, let alone makes the ultimate ascent to the Major League level.  Just two Big Leaguers previously wore the black and blue of this Crestwood, IL-based club before reaching the summit - Andrew Werner of the Padres and Dylan Axelrod of the White Sox.  Technically, a third Bolt alumni has an MLB resume and he played with my favorite team -  Billy Petrick, a reliever on the 2007 Chicago Cubs.  That being said, his time in Crestwood came on the downswing of his career, years after his time in the Friendly Confines.  Thus, no player has ever made the dizzying climb from Ozinga Park to Wrigley Field, which isn't all that surprising, considering the almost insurmountably long odds.  Well, that is, no player had made the climb until yesterday...

With Millsy going onto the injured list, Tommy Nance was called up from AAA-Iowa to take his place.  Nance's story is incredible, a Disney-worthy feel-good tale that is guaranteed to make you rediscover your love for baseball.  This undrafted hurler was given a shot by the Thunderbolts in 2015 to get his pro career off the ground.  His success and stuff got him noticed by the crosstown Cubbies and they inked him to a minor league deal for 2016.  In fact, I covered this transaction at the time because deals between these two Chicago-based teams are so rare and I was pumped about a Bolt just getting a shot with my beloved Cubs and I had a longshot prospect to root for and follow.

From there, Nance got hurt almost immediately and lost a good chunk of 2016 and all of the 2017 season.  When he came back, he was deployed at multiple levels of the minor league system and seemed destined for a career as a roster reinforcement, organizational arm.  After the pandemic provided the excuse Rob Manfred was looking for to retool the minors and axe so many teams and players, I thought Nance's career was surely over - he was far from a blue-chipper and there just didn't seem to be a spot for him anymore.  Lo and behold, I could not have been more wrong.

Nance survived the chopping block and turned heads in spring training this past March.  He was deployed in a handful of Major League exhibitions and parlayed that exposure into a spot at the alternate training site and then AAA once the season began - just a phone call away from the Majors.  After being part of a combined no-hitter with the Iowa Cubs, Nance punctuated his storybook breakout with a call-up to the Major League roster.  Needless to say, I was thrilled and actually yelped with excitement when I read the news.

Nance on the mound in Big League camp, 2021.  Image courtesy of Cubs Den.

It's not everyday a thirty-year old, undrafted, indy league alum makes it all the way to show, especially when their career is bookended by stints on my favorite local ballclubs!  It's with great pleasure that I now get to add the above Choice, Thunderbolt SGA giveaway to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection binder - like Nance himself, the very first such card to make that impressive ascent.

Coincidentally, I'll be taking my son to his first baseball game today and it just so happens to be a Thunderbolts contest.  The club never charges admission to their spring training games, so Rowan and I will be playing hooky to see their exhibition against the Schaumburg Boomers this afternoon.  Like I said the Thunderbolts have been a big part of my life for a long time now; now, I get to share one of the most important moments of fatherhood with my son thanks to the Thunderbolts.  This is symbolic of why Nance's call-up inspired me to open Blogger for the first time in months.

Here's hoping that Nance can continue to build on this momentous surge and stick with the Big club.  The opportunity is there seeing as the bullpen has been in flux all season - a run of good results could keep him up all year, or at least maintain his spot on the 40-man roster.  Lord knows I'll be rooting for the Thunderbolt alumnus - welcome to Chicago, Tommy Nance!

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Truest Rookie Card


Today is my son's sixth month "birthday."  I honestly cannot believe that little Rowan is already half of a year old.  Even more incredible than that fact is that I've managed to keep him alive for that long!  I think anyone out there on the blogosphere who also has children will understand that surprising sentiment, as the chaos, stress, and unpredictable challenges that come with raising a newborn.  The false alarm health scares, the bottomless pit appetite, the inconsolable colic-caused temper tantrums, random night terrors, etc. - it's hard not to feel like you're doing it wrong!  Yet, here we are, half of a calendar year later with a happy and healthy little cherub.

To celebrate this milestone, here's the only card in my collection with a baby on it.




The 2002 MultiAd Sports single that you see above - featuring journeyman catcher, Mike Mahoney - has long been one of my favorite cards due to it's unique photograph.  Originally issued as part of a factory sealed SGA set, I have no doubt that it stuck out from it's cello-wrapped brethren - talk about a rookie card!  


However, since Rowan has come into my life, it has taken on a new significance.  Now, rather than just appreciating an off-kilter picture, I too understand and feel that beaming pride that Mike exuded while showing off his newborn daughter 19 years ago.  Thus, when my wife scheduled Row's newborn photo-shoot a couple of weeks after his official introduction to this world, an idea crept into my mind.

First of all, let me just say that the photographer was a miracle worker. When your talent is a cranky newborn and a pair of neurotic, first time parents, I can't imagine it's easy to get anything done. That said, she produced a whole reel's worth of timeless snapshots that feel like they belong in a coffee table book more so than a simple photo album.  If you ever need to book a photog in the Chicagoland area, I strongly recommend that you check out Photography By Angel for any occasion - she does far more than just newborn pictures.  Exhibit worthy work, positively pleasant to work with, excellent customer service... she is, in fact, an Angel!

Anyway, after we got all of the posed shots that she wanted during our booked slot, we had a little bit of extra time. Luckily, I just so happened to have brought my Cubs jersey, hat, my high school baseball glove, and the perfect idea with which to close out our session:


And it turned out even better than I had hoped!  Although, thankfully we shot on a blank background because it still seemed like it was missing something:

Rowan definitely needed a baseball backdrop to complete the look.  To keep things close to home, I opted to use a picture that I took from the dugout of Howie Minas Field, a local ballpark that's been a cornerstone of the community since it was plowed into a cornfield 70 years ago.  This field has played host to the National Baseball Congress champion Midlothian White Sox, the Cook County Cheetahs of the Frontier League, the Crestwood Panthers of the Midwest Collegiate League, and Rowan and I when we we noticed the gate was left open during a summer walk around the surrounding park.  So, of course, we stopped to take some pictures in the dugout.  As it turned out, they provided the perfect canvas for my latest Photoshop project.

Shhhh... don't tell anyone!  But, here are a few more pictures from our little visit:



Howie Minas Field, as viewed from the parking lot.

The view from home plate at Howie Minas Field

Tossing a quick bullpen session

My god, I cannot wait to take him to a real game.

If you want to learn more about the history of our little ol' community ballpark, I get a little more in-depth in this previous post.

Anywho, circling back to the reason for this post, happy half a year birthday, Rowan!  Six months simultaneously seemed to breezily fly by like a jet and yet also drag like a low rider with flat tires.  It's funny what having a child - and the ensuing lack of sleep - will do to your sense of time.  I'm sure that Mike Mahoney and his now college-aged daughter will agree.  


Here's to a lifetime's worth of further baseball adventures, Row!


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Workman's Comp

 Happy pitchers and catchers report day!

Baseball has been a frustrating sport to follow over the past few seasons, what with all the constant labor strife, ham-fisted attempts to "fix" the game, rampant minor league contraction and stifled pay, billionaire owners crying poor, slimeballs like Jared Porter and Mickey Callaway exposing a seedy underbelly, TV and streaming rights throttling the ability of anyone to watch the damn games, and.... okay, I'm droning on and on about the negatives, but today is the first official day of Spring Training and I'll be damned if I'm not still excited.  Of course, my chosen team is a whole other basket of badgers with it's own litter of troublesome issues piled on top of MLB's problems and the weather isn't exactly "spring" like, but my enthusiasm cannot be completely dampened!... Unlike my pant legs, which are soaked through from having to shovel out my parking spot for like the third time this month.

With the end of the offseason officially at hand, the Cubs' hurlers and backstops have begun to trickle into the Sloan Park facilities in Arizona.  Perhaps looking to make the most of this milestone, this morning, the team added one more pitcher to the attendance list, signing Brandon Workman to a one-year, Major League contract worth $1MM with another $2MM available via incentives.

Accordingly, I decided to use the Workman acquisition as an excuse to pursue my maiden dalliance with 2021 Topps.  To this point, I have not so much as seen a pack of this product in the wild, let alone purchased any.  In fact, I had to take to Ebay just to buy this single card.  I'm not about to battle with the investor bros stalking Target vendors over such trivialities and my LCS doesn't seem to have any of the seminal Topps product in their stock just yet.  

Of course, I don't have the card in-hand at this point, so I'm not going to go in-depth reviewing the cards and it's design - after all, it wouldn't be fair without getting my hands on the actual product.  However, I will say that I'm pleased with the return of borders and, as a Cubs fan, the fact that red and blue factor so heavily into the design is a major plus.  One the other hand, the font used for the nameplate might require a stronger prescription from my eye doctor.  

Anyway, maybe I'll do an actual breakdown once this card arrives in my mailbox.  For now, let's get back to the subject at hand, the Cubs All-Time Roster Collection's latest addition, Mr. Workman himself.

Workman during his Fenway days.  Image courtesy of Maddie Meyer at Getty Images

Just yesterday, the Cubs' new President of Baseball Operations, Jed Hoyer, broke from the norm and basically told the press outright that they'd be signing another Major League reliever in the very near future, though he stopped short at naming the mystery moundsman.  Some wondered if it might be the reclamation project known as David Robertson, as the team had representatives at his latest showcase.  But, the Northsiders were far from the only team to show up, all but ensuring that the price tag would far exceed what the Rickettses would allow.  Others posited that a reunion with Jeremy Jeffress was on the horizon.  That being said, the guy's 2020 results far exceeded his peripherals, indicating that major regression is in his future.  Still more Twitter experts bandied about names like Shane Greene and Trevor Rosenthal, but, strangely, I don't think I saw anyone mention Brandon Workman.  Honestly, I forgot he was even a free agent.  Did anyone out there call this one correctly?

Anywho, the former Red Sox bullpen stalwart was a solid performer after making a full-time transition from the rotation to the pen in 2017.  But, Brandon truly made his name with a phenomenal 2019 campaign, going 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA  and 16 saves in 71.2 innings for Boston that year.  His fortunes dipped slightly in the weird COVID-ridden follow up season, as did the Red Sox's as a whole - thus, the now-closer was shipped to a contending Phillies club at the trade deadline where he was promptly lit up (10 earned runs in 13 frames, plus 3 blown saves) and allowed to walk after the schedule's conclusion.

All in all, Mr. Workman probably isn't as good as his 2019 stat line, but he also probably isn't nearly as bad as his Phillies tenure turned out to be.  I think the statistics from last year's shortened season are almost meaningless due to short sample sizes and dozens of other mitigating factors, not the least of which was the weirdness of the time.  

While the high upside would be phenomenal to have, if Workman's stats and results can meet somewhere near the middle of that peak and valley, he'll make a solid, if unspectacular, bullpen option on a roster that lacks such stability.  This dearth of depth is especially exposed if Rowan Wick and Kyle Ryan's health do not rapidly improve, as these key cogs both reported to camp with maladies of their own.  As a sort of insurance policy meant to compensate for potential production lost during injury and sickness, does that make Brandon's signing... Workman's comp?

I will not apologize for art.

Anyway, if this franchise does one thing consistently well, it's isolate worthy rebound bullpen candidates and, with a few tweaks, turn out usable arms.  I mean, they got Ryan Tepera an MVP vote, after all and turned no-namers like Wick and Jason Adam into legitimate late-inning weapons.  This is one aspect of the Cubs that do actually feel some confidence in.  Although, that could just be the warm and fuzzy feelings brought on by "pitchers and catchers report" clouding my judgment.

As an aside, do you still feel the good vibes that are normally brought on by the first official day of training camp or has all the negative press surrounding baseball killed the mood for you?  Furthermore, what are your thoughts on the look and feel of the 2021 Flagship card set?  I encourage you to share your opinions in the comment section below!

At any rate, welcome to the Windy City and to my CATRC, Brandon Workman!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Well Past the Deadline

I've never been great with deadlines.  As a habitual procrastinator with an atrocious memory, I often leaves tasks until the very last minute.  Obviously, this often causes timing issues.  Back during my school days, I sometimes had to beg a teacher or professor for mercy after forgetting to turn in a project on the appointed day or just missing an online submission deadline by minutes as a result of my last-minute rushing.  I may have once completely forgotten to do a semester's worth of online assignments until the last week of classes and lied my ass off... errmm... convinced myself and my prof that an unreliable internet connection was the culprit behind my tardiness.  I'm not particularly proud of that fib, but I only got half credit and it did save me from failing the class, in the end.

Furthermore, anyone who has been reading this blog over the past few years has noticed my issue with timeliness and the absurdity of 2020 only exacerbated that problem.  In fact, when it comes to documenting new Cubs added to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection during this abbreviated season, I missed just about everything that happened here on Wrigley Roster Jenga.  Six plus months of missed content?  Now, that's a series of blown deadlines that no amount of groveling would have fixed, back in the day.

Last summer, the Cubs were caught in the throes of contention; but, after a blazing hot start, the team had started to revert to the mean.  With a flawed roster that needed upgrading if they wanted to stay on top in the NL Central, Theo Epstein worked with the budget limitations imposed on him by the front office and used his last trade deadline with the team to try and patch up some of those holes.  As it turned out, none of these last minute moves of desperation did much to turn around the team's slow spiral. Maybe waiting until the last minute - like in school or blogging - was, in fact, waiting until it was too late?

That being said, Theo was able to get four moves made before the stroke of midnight - or 4pm eastern - on trade deadline day; so, he did better than I often did with ultimatums. That's why these trades were consummated and this blog post is... well past the deadline!

The cast of characters that was imported onto the roster are a bunch of guys that, in a couple years time, we'll look back and say to ourselves, "he played for the Cubs?  I don't remember that at all."  Perfect fodder for Daily Random Cub on Twitter.

On the day before the deadline, former Cardinal power threat, Jose Martinez, was acquired in a trade with the Rays, in exchange for a player to be named later.  As it turned out, a nameless player might have been of more use to the team than Jose, as the guy brought in to be a lefty masher off of the bench didn't so much as record a single hit in his 22 plate appearances in Cubbie Blue.  It seemed like he rolled one over to second base every single time he stepped up to the dish.  In fact, things got so bad that he was even sent back to the alternate training site to retool because it just was not happening on the Major League roster.  Not exactly the performance you want to see from a supposed reinforcement meant to fix a struggling offense.

Image courtesy of the Marquee Sports Network

After the conclusion of the 2020 schedule, Jose was - unsurprisingly - non-tendered and he eventually found a new home with the Mets.  Both the fact that Jose's bat didn't show up during his time in a Cubs uniform and his brief tenure with the club contribute to his "random Cub" status; however, another factor (to me, at least) is that he did not end up making a Cubs appearance on a baseball card.  It's supremely disappointing that the print cutoff for Update, the card set who's whole purpose is to "update" player movement, is so late that it can't do properly do it's job.  Deadlines strike again!

I thought there was at least a chance that Jose might show up in Topps Holiday or 2021 Series One as these types of acquisitions sometimes do.  Maybe if he'd actually done anything in blue that might have happened.  As it stands, I'll have to settle for the 2019 Opening Day single you saw above, even if it is in Cardinal colors.  It was the only Jose card that I could find in my LCS.

Speaking of which, here's a card of the next guy that was brought in this summer to assist the offense.  Again, he hasn't appeared on a true Cubs card and, despite being a veteran player, this 2018 Allen & Ginter single was the only pasteboard I could find of him in the whole card shop.  I may be the black sheep of the blogosphere with this hot take, but I just don't like the look of A&G... I never have either.

Cameron Maybin has been around the game a long time, having first reached the Major Leagues way back in 2007.  Theo and crew thought that some extra veteran leadership might be nice to have around the clubhouse, especially from a well-rated defensive outfielder who could come off the bench and fill the role that Steven Souza failed to seize.  Cam did just that - he wasn't flashy, but he proved to be a useful spare part in what, as of now, appears to have been his final Big League season.  He even contributed a walk-off win down the stretch, though it came in the form of a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch.  All in all, I'm glad that this guy got to go out as a Cub.  

Giving his body up for a win or reciting the pledge of allegiance with kidney stones... you decide.
Image courtesy of the Canadian Press

Finally, in the waning hours of the transaction period, the Cubs also made a couple of moves to shore up the left-hand side of their bullpen.  One of these new imports, Andrew Chafin, was already covered in a previous post, as the franchise decided to bring him back for the full 2021 season after his abbreviated 2020 audition.  In that post, I was so late that I ended up coming full circle and becoming timely again.  Unfortunately - well, depending on how you look at it - this was not the case with the other pitcher brought in on that day:

Anyone have to clear their throat ?  It's time to hock a LOOGY!

Josh Osich has become your prototypical southpaw journeyman.  Having already blown through the Windy City and onto Cincinnati, the first game in which he appears with the Reds will mark his fifth franchise since 2018.  Thus, you won't be surprised that Osich features the traditional profile for your average lefty - tough on same-handed hitters, but couldn't put a golf ball by a righty.  Of course, that meant that David Ross used the Red Sox expat on the latter almost as often as the former for some god forsaken reason and immediately exposed his weakness.  Josh gave up three earned runs in just 2.2 innings, good for 10.14 ERA and the groans of socially distanced Cubs fans everywhere.  No wonder he left town.

Also, as is common for LOOGY's and journeyman, Osich has not gotten a lot of love from the card companies.  Despite a five-year MLB career, prior to his 2020 Topps Total appearance (which I opted to purchase for my CATRC) Osich hadn't made a mainstream cardboard cameo since 2011, when he made two logo-less appearances in Donruss Elite Extra Edition and Playoff Contenders.  

Image courtesy of Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

No respect for relievers!  For that reason, it should come as no surprise that, like Maybin and Martinez before him, Osich's brief tenure with the Northsiders will not be immortalized on cardboard.  Gosh I wish there was a bigger emphasis on actually documenting the MLB season - or, at least one product which made that their mission statement - rather than pumping out mega mojo hits of the hottest prospects.  That being stated, this is a rant for another post.

And there you have it, my wrap-up of the new Cubs acquired just before the 2020 trade deadline... only six months behind schedule.  

The 2021 edition of deadline day may be quite different, unfortunately.  Although the purse strings have loosened slightly over the past couple of weeks, the wishy-washy Cubs could still find themselves as sellers for the first time since the summer of 2014.  With so many of their core guys playing on expiring contracts, the cheapskates that run the club might start to break up the band and trade Rizzo, Bryant, Contreras, and Co. for a bunch of teenagers who work at Wendy's.  Here's hoping I don't have to write about that, as it would most likely take me ages longer than six months to find the motivation needed for that disparity.

In the meantime, welcome to Chicago and goodbye from Chicago to Jose, Cameron, and Josh.  Though your time in the Second City was brief and ended in ultimate disappointment, your Cubs tenure will be commemorated in my CATRC binders forever.  No deadlines to miss there!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

NASCAR Goes Digital

I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone this morning - something that I do these days with far more regularity than I care to admit.  There's not much else one can do with one hand while bottle feeding a temperamental infant in the pre-dawn hours in order to stimulate the mind enough to stay awake.  Sure, I guess I could invest in a Kindle or something and read about something that would enrich my mind instead of foster my belief that humanity is doomed, but... okay, I don't have a but.  Maybe I do need to do that, for the sake of my sanity.

Anyway, if nothing else, this early morning doom scrolling did give me some content for a blog post; so, this waste of time has not been all bad!

This afternoon is the 63rd running of the annual Daytona 500 - one of the marquee auto racing events in the United States. To the Joe, when asked to name one car racing event, they'll likely pull out the Indy 500 or Daytona 500 and I haven't missed either since 2001.  In years past, I was as fervent a NASCAR fan as I am now a Cubs/baseball fan.  Over the decades, my interest has waned and I no longer watch stock cars run around in circles for three hours every Sunday; that said, I still tune in to the major events in motorsports, seeing as they have that extra bit of "oomph" in terms of excitement.  At any rate, the old algorithm knows this, as I scrolled across this targeted ad in my Facebook feed while giving Rowan his 5:30am bottle:

Well, I should say that it was an advertisement LIKE this one.  I zoomed past it before my brain fully registered what I was looking at and, by that point, it was gone forever.  So, I dug up a similar one on the official Facebook page of JTG Daugherty Racing.  In case you were wondering, JTG Daugherty is a NASCAR Cup series team that is co-owned by former NBA star, Brad Daugherty.  That's right, Michael Jordan's new 23XI Racing wasn't the first basketball-funded foray into the world of stock cars.

But back to the ad, those images sure do look like digital trading cards, don't they?  I've tried Topps' foray into the computer-only card market with Bunt and Skate and even gave Honus Bonus a fair shot, but .jpg's of pasteboards do not hold my interest.  I haven't even looked into the whole Topshot thing that's been the talk of Twitter over the last few weeks.  However, I'd never heard of Fanaply before and this mystery piqued my curiosity.  So, I confirmed what the algorithm anticipated and clicked on the attached links.

These are the two "digital collectibles" NOT cards (according to the Fanaply website - they're very specific) featuring the two drivers racing under the JTG Daughertry Racing in the Daytona 500 and the rest of the 2021 NASCAR season.  Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. is a sometimes competitive driver who has a couple wins so far in 10-year career and he is always tough to beat at the superspeedways, including Daytona.  Maybe I've pulled a card of this year's winner?  He'll start 21st this afternoon in the #47 Kroger Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

Meanwhile, on the left is Stenhouse's junior teammate, Ryan Preece.  While Ricky has been around the Cup Series garage for a decade, Preece is entering what is only his third full-time season.  With a top-notch pedigree in the modified ranks, Ryan has yet to truly break through in Cup, with only five career finishes among the top ten.  That said, he's looked quick so far this month and will roll off the grid in the 11th position in the #37 Cottonelle Chevy.

So, now that I have these cards... errrrr... I mean collectibles, what do I do with them?  Apparently I can share them on social media, specifically through Facebook Messenger as evidenced by the big ol' blue icon in the bottom right of the screen.  Apparently, they're somehow limited to only 1,000 "copies" because, as their website subtly states:

Good to know.

You also might have noticed in those screenshots that these collectible not-cards aren't just a picture.  To see more, all you have to due is flip them over... and by that, I mean click the arrows:

Thanks to Screencast-O-Matic for allowing me to turn these into .gifs so you can get the full effect.  Take that blockchain!  Honestly though, that crawling car effect is pretty dang cool.  Does the holder of the exclusive NASCAR license, Panini, have a line of digital trading cards?  If so, they need to "borrow" this idea.

Obviously, Fanaply is trying to jump on the bandwagon for the booming trading card market.  Actual adults are fighting off hoards of kids over Happy Meals in search of special Pokemon cards and sports card prices continue to skyrocket as stock bros look for new avenues to get their fix.  With so many exclusive licenses in the trading card market these days, an enterprising company has to get creative with how they nudge their foot in the door.  Digital "collectibles" - definitely not cards, guys - represent one such avenue into this suddenly lucrative industry.

Normally, Fanaply's true "groove" appears to by music-themed digital collectibles.  According to their website, they've been around for about a year and a half and offer an service through which "artists can create limited digital collectibles in the form of a digital card, so that fans can commemorate specific events, memories and milestones and be recognized for their support. This could be something like a card confirming the attendance of a specific event (think Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert), being the #1 listener to an artist on a specific day, or being one of the first hundred fans to watch a video premiere on YouTube."  As far as I can tell, these NASCAR releases are their first foray into the world of sports.

Above are some examples of their more musical offerings.  They have stuff from just about any genre you can think of, but I chose a few of my favorite artists because this is my blog, after all.

Like any other digital card, I still don't know what I'd do with these things, so I will not pursue any more of them.  But that's just me - if you are into this sort of thing, check Fanaply out by clicking this link.  My snarky sarcasm has been bleeding through this whole post, though just because digital cards are not for me doesn't mean I don't want Fanaply to succeed.  More options in this hobby is always better!  In the words of Sly Stone, "different strokes for different folks and so on and so on."  

I wonder if Sly and the Family Stone have a Fanaply card?

Has anyone else ever heard of Fanaply?  This Facebook advertisement was the absolute first time I had ever even heard a passing mention of this company.  Does anyone out there on the blogosphere collect these digital cards or are now interested in doing so?   What are your feelings on digital pasteboards in general?  I encourage you to weigh in by visiting the comment section below - I'd love to hear what you think!

In the meantime, digital trading cards don't officially count towards my roster collections; so, the slot for Ryan Preece in my all-time NASCAR drive binder remains unfilled.  It's pretty tough to put a .gif in a Ultra Pro page.... we just don't have the technology yet.  Although, I don't think blockchain could stop me from printing out my Fanaply single and turning the digital into the physical.  On the other hand, I already have a Stenhouse card from his days at Roush Racing, so I don't have to worry there.  

And to think, all of this came out of scrolling Facebook before sunrise.  I guess Facebook might ruin democracies, but at least it helps with blogging and collecting?

Finally, it's time to wrap this post up.  The Daytona 500 is just about to kick off and I want to give this race my full focus.  I'll be rooting hard for the aforementioned 23XI Racing and their driver, Bubba Wallace, who has quickly become my favorite.  I'd love for him to win one of motorsports most important races and cause the less-desirable element of the NASCAR fan base into a absolute tizzy.  But, if it can't be him, I guess I'll lend my support to the faces found on my new Fanaply digital collectibles.

Go Bubba, Ricky, and Ryan!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Everything's Jake

For the past several weeks, there's been plenty of rumors connecting the Cubs and a free agent named Jake.  We all assumed the club was looking into a reunion with World Series hero, Jake Arrieta.  After all, the Cubbies have more question marks in their rotation than answers and Arrieta remains as one of the better options left in the free agent pitching market.  And, as it turns out, these rumors were correct - word dropped this morning that the team had agreed to terms with a Jake on a one-year, $1.5 million Major League contract.   However, while the team may very well yet bring their one-time ace back home, it appears as though those previous rumblings had their wires slightly crossed - they had the wrong Jake!  This one plays the outfield.

Jake Marisnick has spent most of his career chasing fly balls in Houston, though he originally came up with Miami in 2013 and was briefly a Met in 2020.  He's seen here on a 2014 Topps Archives single which I just purchased from my local card shop on my lunch break.  Into the Cubs All-Time Roster Collection it will slide.


He was a pseudo-starter for several seasons as an Astro, but has been transitioning to more of bench role over the past couple years.  With his ability to play all three outfield positions and the Cubs having promised Joc Pederson a fixed starting spot, this Jake will likely serve as the fourth outfielder.  Somewhat amusingly, this means that the Mets and the Cubs essentially got together and traded their "next man up" in the outfield, with Albert Almora having taken his talents to Queens earlier this winter.

Image courtesy of Con Los Bases Llenas.

Like Almora, Marisnick brings plus defense into the mix.  But, Jake offers more in terms of speed on the base paths and his bat profiles as about league average against lefties - that's more than we can say about the now-departed Albert, who's bat simply never developed at the Major League level.  Thus, while we were gossiping about the wrong Jake, this one still plugs a hole on the roster.  It's just a gap that we Cubs fans assumed that the suddenly "poor" Ricketts ownership didn't want to waste any money on fixing.

Most of the offseason, the Cubs had been walking a thin line - rostering exactly three outfielders while cutting Almora and Kyle Schwarber loose - and they seemed all too comfortable on that razor thin margin.  With this signing, the previous acquisition of Pederson, and waiver-claim of Phillip Ervin the Cubs outfield has been completely retooled and now actually contains some MLB-worthy depth.

Speaking of Ervin, here's the 2020 Topps Flagship single I finally picked up for his slot in the CATRC.  Like I said previously, Ervin was brought into the organization waiver claim and, therefore, I was not convinced that he would stick around long enough to see in-season game action.  Something, something, roster Jenga, something.  That being said, as the winter has progressed, it seems as though the front office is intent on keeping Phil around; so, I finally pulled the trigger on a pasteboard for the collection.  He seems like as good of an option as any for the fifth outfielder role.

At any rate, the Cubs got themselves a Jake that fills a need.  Will they acquire another one to fill yet another unchecked box on the shopping list?   Word is the Mr. Arrieta is currently asking a bit too much for the front office's tastes and, honestly, more than the market has dictated for a hurler with his recent injury history.  Who knows though?  Spring Training is less than two weeks away, so both uncommitted players and shop around teams are going to have to start making some compromises.

Welcome to the CATRC and to the Windy City, Jake Marisnick!

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Original Wallet Cards

In the time that I was away from Wrigley Roster Jenga, I was still passively collecting baseball cards.  Honestly, the almighty Cubs All-Time Roster Collection has never been fully ignored in the nearly two decades that I've been assembling it.  However, with baseball being absent all spring due to the pandemic and then testing my nerves when it finally came back mid-summer, my true focus shifted to my other prime hoarding hobby - record collecting.

Ever since I was a wannabe radio DJ in college, I've been slowly putting together a record collection that I am quite proud to own.  Of course, it's not exactly a museum-worthy collation of albums because I don't give a damn about resale value and I purchase them for use, not display.  Furthermore, I do most of my shopping at resale shops and garage sales because there's no greater thrill than finding a sought after LP in the bargain bin.  Every now and then, I'll pull the trigger on a "mint in package" repress from a big box retailer or something off of the top shelf at the local record shop; but, my focus is definitely on treasure hunting.  


All things considered, I think I've put together a pretty good library over the last decade plus.  My tastes skew towards punk, cheesy 80's pop, Motown, emo music from the early aughts, and a whole lotta classic rock, so those genres take up most of the space on my shelves.  Just in case you were curious.

With that in mind, the spring and summer of 2020 were spent obsessively sifting through OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace.  After all, being stuck in quarantine, I had nothing better to do than listen to records all day and my need to collect wasn't being satiated by baseball card hunting on Ebay.  One of the black platters than I acquired during this period of obsessive hunting was a marquee release from one of the biggest names in 70's rock:

Alice Cooper - both his solo career and the original Alice Cooper band - is one of those artists that still commands a premium.  Thus, the shock rocker's only representation in my collection heretofore was a copy of his 1989 LP, Trash, that I pilfered from the archives of my college's radio station.  However, as much as I enjoy Poison, that hair metal offering from near the end of Alice's relevance doesn't hold a candle to Billion Dollar Babies, the green goodie that you see above.  

The sixth offering from Cooper was unleashed on the public in 1973 and features several now classic rock radio standards.  Elected, No More Mr. Nice Guy, the title track and a slew of other rockers came to define shock rock and early heavy metal and further pushed the Alice Cooper name into the mainstream.  All in all, I don't think it's much of hot take to say that this album is one of the most significant rock and roll LP's from the decade and I was super pumped to come across a copy in a good condition and price range for my collection.

Lo and behold, imagine my surprise when I opened the gatefold and realized that Billion Dollar Babies has something to offer for both my record AND trading card collections:

Remember, I was a born in 1989 and am a child of the 90's - squarely in the CD era of music distribution.  In high school and college, the iPod emerged and physical media was suddenly an endangered species.  Thus, while I am quite familiar with the discographies of my favorite artists and the trivia and stats of their releases, the album packaging is something I am constantly learning more and more about as I acquire each artifact.

Therefore, I had no way of knowing that the wallet-like design of Billion Dollar Babies was more than just a layout on the outer cover.  One I opened the gatefold, I noticed the raised money clip and I've come to find out that the album originally came with a large "billion dollar bill" to nestle underneath.  That funny money wasn't the only premium that came with the wallet.  Those pictures of the band that you see on the left panel aren't just there to let you know what the group looks like; they're actually a perforated sheet of genuine Alice Cooper band trading cards!

I guess you can say that these were the original "wallet cards!"

I apologize for the fuzzy picture - this is what happens when you rely on a camera phone and are too cheap to buy a scanner.  Perhaps I should crack open my own wallet...

Anyway, these oddballs feature head-shots of all the classic AC band members (complete with facsimile signatures), an array of "in action" stage snapshots, and a promo picture for the Billion Dollar Babies tour/album.  Of the bunch, I'd have to say that pasteboard of Alice and his slithery friend on the bottom left is by far the most interesting.  Shades of 1984 Donruss Glenn Hubbard!  Anyway, the cards themselves are slightly smaller than standard, measuring approximately, 2" x 3" and feature completely blank backs.  Additionally, they're all centered around a logo card for the album itself, which - unlike the rest - is perfectly square.

You sure don't get that from a CD jacket or a .jpg on iTunes or Spotify!

Uncovering these oddballs made for a welcome surprise, one that came completely out of left field.  For now, rather than punch them out and mangle my album, I'll leave them in there so that I can enjoy them every time I spin Billion Dollar Babies. I might not seek out mint condition records for my collection, but I sure don't intend to actively mangle them either.  You might say that would be my "nightmare!"

Okay, so that's a terrible pun based on the wrong album, but it's my blog and I'll ruin the internet in whatever way I so choose.  
At any rate, how would you handle this oddball situation?  Would you punch out these cards and page them up in a binder?  Perhaps you'd tack them to your wall like a teenager from the 70's?  Would you stuff them in your own, actual wallet like pictures of your children?  Or, maybe you'd do as I did and leave them be - they've been there close to fifty years now, why disturb them?  Please feel free to let me know in the comment section below!

Now, while we're on the topic of records, I'm also going to take this opportunity to show off some of my other recent hauls of stacks of wax:

That's just SOME of the albums that I've added to my library in the last year.  Like I said, I'd been a busy boy in collecting while WRJ was on hiatus, just not so much with baseball cards.  And, believe it or not, none of those LP's cost me more than a buck each. 

Thank you for entertaining my humble brag.

Does anyone else out there on the blogosphere also dabble in record collecting?  Personally, I've actually thought about starting up another blog to babble on and on about my other favorite hobby, but I have a hard enough time keeping the cobwebs off of the webspace that I'm managing already.  For now, I'll settle for the occasional tie-ins which meld the world of cards and vinyl into one neat and blog-able package, such as this "shocking" discovery.

It happens more often than you'd think!