Thursday, October 9, 2014

Atlanta Braves Offseason Thoughts/Predictions

I'm sure I'm not alone when it comes to how disappointing this season has been for the Atlanta Braves. They haven't hit, they haven't been consistent, and they haven't scored runs. Below are some things I believe the Braves will do, and also some thoughts about what I'd do if I were GM.


Thoughts

Obviously trading BJ would be a high concern. His contract needs to go and his lack of production would be nice to move off the team. I'm not "hating" on BJ, but I don't feel comfortable moving forward with him, and I'd look to get rid of him. Now trading him could be rather difficult. Not many teams want a guy that has hit only .198 in his last two seasons. I know I wouldn't want that. The Braves will most likely have to pay A LOT of his contract just to get him off the team, unless they were to wait until spring training and see if he shows any improvement. Trading him (if they can) as soon as possible would be key here. If they can, then it'd give them until next season to pursue an outfielder by free agency, determine to call someone up from the minors, or have someone switch positions until they can find a full-term replacement. I wouldn't have given BJ the contract that he got. His average hasn't been higher than .273 back in 2008. When they signed him I believe they were banking on him to hit 20+ HR's and drive in 70+ RBI. The Braves need someone to get on base and score runs.

Getting rid of Chris Johnson could also be on the list. I supported him as well as all Braves players, but he plugs the lineup. He's slow, struck out quite a bit, and his contract shouldn't have happened. Why anyone would sign a player just because he has one good year is beyond me. But considering the lack of an MLB-ready 3rd baseman in the minors, the signing made sense. I'm sure everyone would've been happy if he hit at least .280 this season. If he can consistently have an average of .280+, and lower his strikeouts and hitting into double plays, then it'll be less of a concern to trade him.

Leadership. Sometimes we don't always believe how important leadership is for a team. Once Chipper retired and McCann left, the team became young. Without a true leader, that presence of someone being there to show the younger players the right way to act and carry themselves wasn't there. I do know it's hard to replace a Chipper Jones....but someone needs to step up. I thought Freddie could be the guy, but I've read quite a few times that he apparently doesn't want the title of being a leader yet. Whether that's true or not isn't for me to decide, but considering he got that huge deal to keep him in Atlanta for a while, he'd be my guy.

Evaluate a deal to trade Justin Upton. Yes, I know. "How could you trade Justin, he's one of the best on the team!" Yes. But considering this is the last year on his current contract, it'd be wise to at least consider the possibility of trading him, whether it be in the offseason or at the trade deadline. With the money owed to Uggla (and BJ whether they trade him and pay most, or release him), those two contracts may play a part in whether or not we see Justin bid adieu. According to baseball-reference.com, he'll be making $14,500,000 for 2015. And that's BEFORE he hits free agency. Imagine what teams like the Red Sox or Yankees would pay to have him. The Red Sox have had a dreadful season and could look to him depending on how they perform in 2015, and the Yankees are already old as it is. Carlos Beltran is already 37, Brett Gardner is 31, Ichiro is 40 (will turn 41 later in October), Jacoby Ellsbury is 31, and Martin Prado will turn 31 later in October. The only "young" outfielders they have on the current roster would be Eury Perez with a career .174 average in the majors this far in 26 games (lol) and Chris Young (signed to a minor league deal) is now 31. I didn't anticipate to go into depth about the Yankees, and the Yankees could have outfielders in the minors they'd like to use instead, but chances are they'll literally THROW money at Justin if he were to become a FA. So the question is do you keep him and hope he signs for a bit less than what he'd probably get as a free agent? Do you keep his brother in a Braves uniform to "lure" him back? Or do you trade him while he still has value and can get something in return? If I were GM, I'd consider these options.

Trading Gattis would probably be the right thing to do at this point. Sell high. I always had the feeling Gattis would go to an AL team where he could DH more than catch. Let's face it. His hitting is what makes him valuable. We have Bethancourt for the time-being, and could sign a free agent to fill the gap for now. His offense would be missed, but the Braves could also wait until the deadline in hopes to keep his bat for as long as possible. Trading him now would likely get the biggest return, though.

Bethancourt is NOT the catcher of the future....not yet. You've probably seen this plenty of times with people saying he is. Well for me, he's not. Unless his hitting improves, I wouldn't necessarily call him the future. The Braves need to hit, so why have another plug that hits .248 or below, or an on-base percentage of .274 or below? He is only 23 and that could be a nice upside. For Gwinett this past season, he played in 91 games and hit .283 with an on-base percentage of .308. He also hit 8 homeruns and drove in 48 RBI. But that's for Triple-A. He played 31 games in the majors this year so because that's still just a small sample size, we can't write him off so soon. We've heard people praise about his defense, and I've also seen reports say that he seemed a bit worn out at the end of the year (which could be the case). Catchers are mainly valuable for their defense, but would you also like one that could hit fairly well? That's just an added bonus. I'm not saying he's a bad player, but to say that he's "the future of the Braves" is rushing it just a little, in my opinion.

A change or two in the coaching staff could be ideal. While I don't particularly like Fredi very much, some players didn't perform the way we had anticipated. But even so, that doesn't explain how the Braves seemingly always collapse in September (or right before the playoffs are about to start). A manager needs to have control of his team and discipline needs to be enforced. What did Joe Maddon do when he felt BJ wasn't hustling? He benched him, as written in this MLB article by Bill Chastain. A player may not show 100% effort every game (whether it's a looming injury or whatever the case may be) but being lazy, which we've seen from this team, can have dire consequences. If players aren't disciplined properly and/or made known what is expected of them, they may not always go 100% on the field, which can have a domino effect on the team. What happens to teams that gives up? They don't make the playoffs. If they do, then they don't make it far.

STOP saying the Braves need to "clean house" or "rebuild"....they don't. I'm tired of people saying this. The Braves do not need a complete overhaul, and they most certainly don't need to clean house. The Braves have handful of young key players to build a team around like Freeman, Simmons, Teheran, Wood, Heyward, and Justin Upton (if they can sign him to an extension). The Braves really only need to get rid of a few players (I'm sure you guys have ideas on who they are) and look to sign free agents, trade for other players to replace them, or give someone in the minors a chance like they did with La Stella. The Braves are a young team that can only get better. To say they need to "start over" is silly. As for rebuilding their farm system though, that's another story....

Medlen and Beachy are pretty much done, look for replacements. Both have had not one, but two Tommy John surgery's. Do the Braves really want to risk one (or both) of them going to the DL for similar issues? The Braves handed Medlen $5,800,000 without even throwing a pitch during the regular season. The Braves did the same for Beachy, he got $1,450,000. That's 7,250,000 down the toilet. From a business standpoint, that's obviously not good. We can't blame them for getting hurt because it can happen to anyone at any time. But there needs to be someone that steps in and acknowledges that they could be risky signings, should they go to arbitration. Unless the Braves could sign them considerably cheap, I'd be very cautious. Not saying that they're as fragile as a pane of glass, but we've got to think long-term here, especially when it comes down to millions of dollars that the team could use elsewhere (thanks to their potential budget restriction). I'm not completely saying that they shouldn't be brought back, but if/when the Braves do, they've got to anticipate further injury (which I'm sure they know). It's better to be prepared than to be completely lost like during the signings of Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana (with the Braves paying him $14,100,000 this season, which was an absolute joke). Plus, a team may want to trade for Medlen and/or Beachy, and although they may not get a "huge" return, they might get something decent. So there's an option.

Get another reliever. Scoring runs has been the main issue, but adding a reliable arm in the bullpen certainly wouldn't hurt. I've held my breath when certain pitchers were brought in to get out of an inning. Assuming they could trade for or sign a guy that has proven he can get outs more often than not, then that'd take some pressure off other guys (and for those of us watching).


What the Braves probably will do

These aren't in any particular order, just from what comes to mind as I write it:

The Braves will look to trade BJ, but will probably have to wait until the season begins.

The Braves will keep Gattis and if they do decide to trade him, it may not be until the deadline.

Chris Johnson will return for 2015.

Justin Upton returns, but is traded at the deadline. 

Medlen and Beachy will be back, and if healthy, will finish the year with the Braves. 

The Braves will trade for, or sign a free agent second baseman (I'd anticipate a trade more than a signing).

Braves will look to bring back Bonifacio.

Fredi will stay as the manager for the time-being, and depending how the team does throughout the year, he could get fired at some point.

The Braves' offseason will be more of an internal change, rather than going out and signing a ton of free agents (a few trades are anticipated if they can get them done, but I only see them signing a few free agents at most).


EDIT:

A few changes to the coaching staff have taken place since I first started writing this, which doesn't come as a surprise. A few front office changes have taken place as well.


Final thoughts

Once the season ended there was a ton of speculation as to where this franchise was headed and what the Braves needed to do as far as who to trade and whatnot. I'm not a reporter and I don't have any knowledge of what has been going on in the clubhouse throughout the year. You may agree with some of the things I've said, and you may not. That's up to you. All I'm doing is stating what'd I'd do, or look to do if I were in the Braves' front office. Most of this is just pure thoughts and speculation as to what they may or may not do. I did rant a little here and there (I toned it down a bit a few times) but I suppose that's what comes with devoting yourself to a sports franchise and then see a season like this crumble before your eyes. But have faith. The offseason will pick up pace once the World Series is over, and I'm sure we'll see more changes from now up until spring training. A new season is right around the corner.

So, those are my thoughts and predictions for the Braves' upcoming offseason. What's yours?

Monday, September 29, 2014

2014 MLB Postseason Predictions

The time is finally here, folks! Postseason baseball is back! Here was my initial standings/postseason predictions (Prediction: 2014 MLB Standings). I was off a bit on some (well, most) but the teams that I did guess would make it to the postseason include the Dodgers, Cardinals, Nationals, Athletics, and Tigers. Even though I was 5/10 on the teams, my original World Series prediction of the Dodgers and Tigers is still intact.

I wasn't too far off on the NL/AL predictions in terms of surprises and disappointments. For the NL I didn't see the Pirates making the playoffs, but they did. And I thought the Reds would get a Wild Card but, but they didn't. I had a feeling the Mets could've made the playoffs as the biggest surprise for the NL this year. They came fairly close, too. They were one win away from getting 80. Maybe they'll get in next year?

As for my AL predictions, I was WAY OFF on the Rangers winning the West. Now Ron Washington is gone, too. The Orioles surprised me a bit (as well as the Red Sox's horrible season). The Yankees came close, but weren't able to reach the playoffs in Jeter's final season. I'm not sure if you could consider the Yankees "the biggest disappointment" like I had suggested, but they could be considering the amount of money they spent in the offseason and no playoff spot to show for it (especially since Jeter is now retiring). I picked the Royals to be the biggest surprise for the AL, and that could very well be correct. They FINALLY made the playoffs for the first time since 1985 (yes, 1985). With the Royals making the postseason, I believe that's one of the best stories in baseball this season.

Referring back to the standings and predictions post I wrote way back, I remember I was a little late on writing/submitting it and things got a bit jumbled....but now that I have some time before the playoffs officially start (tomorrow), here are the actual teams that made the playoffs as well as my predictions.

AL Wild Card: Athletics defeat Royals

ALDS: Orioles defeat Tigers in five
            Angels defeat Athletics in four

ALCS: Angels defeat Orioles in seven


NL Wild Card: Pirates defeat Giants

NLDS: Dodgers defeat Cardinals in five
            Nationals defeat Pirates in four

NLCS: Dodgers defeat Nationals in six


World Series: Dodgers defeat Angels in six


I'd like to stick with my original prediction of the Tigers beating the Dodgers in the World Series, but I'm not sure if the Tigers will make it that far. Plus, the "Battle Of Los Angeles" sounds badass.

Either way, a lot of these are GREAT matchups, and I can't wait to watch. It'd be nice if my updated postseason matchups actually lined up perfectly, but postseason baseball always takes things to another level where anything can happen. I'm sure there will be a team that surprises everyone and goes deep in the playoffs (or even wins the world series) and I'm sure there will be a team that becomes a disappointment.

Anyways, those are my predictions. What are yours?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Newest Smoltz Addition

I'd like to thank @mauler_covers for the great addition. He gave me a good deal since he knew I love Smoltzy, and I couldn't thank him enough. If you've got a player you're looking for (any sport) he might have it. I suggest contacting him.

I've seen this auto on eBay from time to time but always missed the auction (don't you hate when that happens?). I'm usually pretty good at keeping up with ending times of auctions but they can be at weird hours of the day or night.

I actually received the card a few weeks ago and started writing this post but before I could finish I went on a little vacation to Florida, resulting in this post and also this post. All I had to do was take the pictures below, crop them, then upload them. And then add this little paragraph.

The card is from 2014 Topps Museum Collection and is #'d 25/25.






After a few missed auctions, I saw that he had this Smoltz card in his possession. It's one of the coolest I've seen in a while. Although it's a sticker auto, I still think it's a neat design. There's the two uniform patches, the classic picture of Smoltz, the nice blue background, and the gold borders. Can't get much cooler than that, really.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tomahawk Empire's New Look!

New look, same somewhat-decent blog! I haven't changed much since its creation, so it was due for an update. For those that have viewed my blog before you'll notice the updates. Probably the biggest change would be the background picture I used for the title. I had a difficult time trying to figure that one out. Then I realized I had to go to the header, and from there I was able to add the picture and have everything fit accordingly. I customized the lettering at the top and then had to add it to the picture of Turner Field (which was a frustrating task on its own), but luckily I was able to figure something out (anyone catch the Smoltz tribute?).

The tabs bar is a little different. I changed the colors and it seems to work well with the blue background. I went with the same color for the post background and the gadget background so that everything tied together. The final change was that I adjusted the width of the page. I wanted to make sure the picture I used lined up with the blog posts and the gadget sidebar.

The next step would probably be to get started on a new profile picture. I'd like to make my own logo, but I'm still looking into that. I'll figure something out. I might not get around to that for a few weeks at the very least, but I've satisfied my need to update for the time being.

Anyways, just giving everyone a heads-up on the new look. Hope you all have been enjoying my recent posts (now five consecutive days!).

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Smoltz Mini Bobblehead

This is the first (and only) Smoltz bobblehead I currently have. My mom got it for me as an extra little Christmas present a few years ago. I believe this is from the 2003 Upper Deck 2nd Edition mini bobbleheads collection. I looked on eBay and saw listings for other bobbleheads, but I'm not sure how many ones there are in total.



I put him next to a baseball so you guys could get an idea for the size. The bobblehead isn't very big as you can tell, so it'd make sense if they put them in cereal boxes. I've seen similar bobbleheads of Jason Giambi with the Yankees, Sammy Sosa with the Cubs, and Ichiro with the Mariners to name a few. There might even be one for every team, but I'm not too sure on that. It was a nice little present, and probably the biggest upside is that it doesn't take up much space.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Not Just A Picture

As I'm sure you guys know by now, John Smoltz is my favorite player. I'm always looking for something of him and thanks to my friend Meaghann (@MrsClooney32), I was able to obtain something I had my eyes set on for a while.

She had this Smoltzy pic and offered it to me without hesitation. I've gotten rid of mostly all the cards I've had that were up for sale or trade, but I'm still trying to see what I can do to send something her way in return (might be a little while, though).


This is the first Smoltz picture I have. I've gotten some 8x10's signed in person before, so perhaps I can get this signed by John in the future? Maybe. Hopefully. I've been on the lookout for similar pictures because they make great display pieces.

For me, I'm really into hockey as well (something you guys may not have known?) and hinting back at the signed 8x10's, I have a few I got signed by some players in the AHL that we should see in the NHL within the next couple of years. I also got some pucks signed (posts about that coming in the future).

Whether I frame it or put it in a protective sleeve and stand it up on a shelf, I'll always be thankful for Meaghann's generosity. She went out of her way, and I honestly couldn't thank her enough.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cards From Florida: Part Two

Here's the hockey cards I got at the flea market. I decided to make two posts to separate baseball and hockey so that I could put an emphasis on each sport as opposed to jumbling it all together. Plus it makes for an easy transition.

As I mentioned in part one, I got cards from two different vendors. The top three cards in the first post, and now these hockey cards, I got from the same guy. Another thing I forgot to mention was that I got some David Wright cards for my brother. His birthday is coming up soon so I figured it'd be a nice little present.

My favorite hockey team is the Ottawa Senators. Yes, I'm American and I like a Canadian hockey team (but that's a story for another day). Along with the baseball and hockey cards, he did have some football and basketball cards. I looked at the football cards but didn't see anything I really wanted, and the same went for basketball. Most of the cards he had were from 2007 and later and that applies to all sports.


These are nothing special, but these are cards I don't have (well, maybe I have one or two of them come to think of it....). The main Senator I collect would be Daniel Alfredsson ("Alfie") because of his long tenure with the Senators. Yes, I know he no longer plays for them because of management screwing it up, but let's pretend that he never played for the Red Wings....

Chris Phillips, as old and slow as he is, has been a Senator his whole career and it's easy for me to choose him as a player to collect. His card is 2006-07 Upper Deck #141.

Chris Neil has also spent his whole career with the Sens, and whether you like him or not, he's still a badass. Does he score a ton of goals? Not really. His most in a season was 16. Assists? Sort of. His most in a season was 17. Points? Decent. His highest point total in a season was 33, which was his "breakout" scoring season where his career highs in goals and assists were set back in 2005-06. His card (top picture, bottom) is 2006-07 Upper Deck #387.

Back to Alfie. Where to start? You could write books about him. It was tough when he and the Sens parted ways, but I'm hopeful for a return (as unlikely as that may seem). I have some cards of his already, and I actually may have these two pictured above (I'll find that out soon enough). Both are 2006-07 SP Authentic #33 (top middle) and 2008-09 SP Authentic #80 (top right).


This is the main highlight. It took me a few tries to get a decent picture. The lighting and angle was tough, but this shows some nice color. This is his 1999-00 Topps Gold Label Class 1 #37 card.

Although these aren't anything special, I'm glad I was able to pick some cards up while I was down in Florida. They were quite cheap, too. I think I spent a total of $5 (including the Mets cards I got for my brother that aren't pictured). I wasn't expecting to get anything spectacular at the flea market, but I'm glad I was able to get something to add to my collection. Plus, it allowed me to write my first hockey post!

Here's part one: http://tomahawkempire.blogspot.com/2014/08/cards-from-florida-part-one.html

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cards From Florida: Part One

I'm baaaaaaaaaack! Returned home a week ago from my trip to Florida in which my brother and I helped our grandfather move. One of the main highlights was heading to the flea market to look for some cards or anything sports-related that caught my eye. Last time we visited I bought a few boxes from one of the vendors at the flea market. I got some decent cards from the boxes but it left me with a lot of cards I didn't particularly want. Instead of getting a couple boxes like last time, I got a small handful that I wanted and that was MUCH easier to stow away in my carry-on for the flight, which I put inside a CD case my grandpa didn't want (which worked out great, by the way).


These are the baseball cards I got (I also got a few hockey cards that I'll write a part two for). I got the top three (and the hockey cards in the following post) from one vendor, and the bottom three I got from another.

I couldn't remember if I had these Smoltz cards (2005 Donruss #97 and 2005 Leaf #18) but I got them anyway. I'll have to check when I put them in my collection. The other is his 1989 Topps #382, which I have plenty of.

With the bottom three, and I wasn't expecting to find anything good. I was on my way out from the flea market and I saw a big box on a table and walked over to it. There were a TON of cards from '91 Upper Deck and a few clumps of other years too, but I don't remember which. Anyways, while going through I figured any of the players I collect would be gone already, but sure enough, I found a few gems. The Glavine (1992 Upper Deck #342) caught my eye, and I didn't remember seeing this before so I got it. Then I stumbled upon two Chipper Jones 1991 Upper Deck #55 rookie cards. When I asked how much for the cards he replied back, "50 cents each." Hell yeah.

Here's part two: http://tomahawkempire.blogspot.com/2014/09/cards-from-florida-part-two.html

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Vacation

Hey guys, just wanted to let you all know I'm going on vacation and will be back later in the month (24th or 25th). Figured I'd let you know before my sudden blogging absence. I have some posts written up but I think I'll wait until I get back for them.

I'm heading down to Florida to visit my grandfather (the same one mentioned in this post: A Willie McCovey Discovery) and in a little twist of events, help HIM move. He's moving elsewhere so my little brother and I are heading down to help.

We'll be going to a few flea markets and last time I was there, there were a few card guys. It's been two years since then, so hopefully they have some new stuff (you'd think they would, at least). There's also some other sports stuff like jerseys and hats there too. I'm sure I'll pick up something.

There's also a mall near where he lives (and maybe another in the area) that has a sports store that's LOADED with stuff, though it's a bit expensive. I'm not sure if I'll get anything there. I also have to remember that I'll probably have to ship whatever I get back to my house since I don't know if I'll have room for it on the flight back.

Either way, I'm quite excited to go down and see him. There's a card store or two we'll probably stop by, so it should be fun. Like I mentioned before, I've got a few posts almost completed so when I get back I'll be finishing those up and posting them. Whatever I get down there will become a post too, so there's quite a bit to look forward to.

I believe he has wifi at his new place, so assuming he does, you guys can still reach me at: @TomahawkEmpire

Take care and talk to you guys soon!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Trip To Card Store

While heading to my LCS (which is coincidentally a 40-minute drive) it was a trip that had been a few months overdue. I hadn't been there since earlier in the year, probably in February or March I'd guess. It's a fairly small store owned by a guy named Tom. Over the past year I've been going to his store every few months to see what new things he gets. He usually gives me a pretty decent deal on cards.

Since it's a 40-minute journey to a town I've had no need to be in other than when I played baseball games there, I try to make it worth the trip. I've mostly bought cards from him; he has a couple boxes/binders filled with a ton of cards, and each time I visit I get the feeling nobody buys much. He said he'd be sorting through some boxes he had at home, and the collector in me curiously wondered, "Boxes?" I pretty much cleaned out all his Smoltz cards, as well as his Chipper Jones. I've gotten a few Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine cards from him as well, but not too many....yet.



As you can see it's nothing "over the top" but still some nice pickups for me. I got some more Smoltz RC's, Chipper RC's, and a couple Glavine cards. Next time I go back (hopefully within the next few weeks) I can look into getting some more Tom Glavine cards (he still has a bunch) as well as some Greg Maddux.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Midseason Report: 2014 Atlanta Braves

It's now July 14th, just a day before the 2014 All Star Game set to take place in Minnesota. While players are off participating in the All Star Game and/or hanging out at the Homerun Derby, the break gives us time to reflect on what the Braves have done up to this point. First, here's how the Braves fared following the end of the 2013 regular season and up until July 14th of this year:

2013 Atlanta Braves statistics:

Hitting:

.249 average (tied with the Reds and White Sox for 18th best)
.321 on-base percentage (13th best)
656 rbi (13th best)
1,354 hits (21st best)
247 doubles (tied with Yankees for 25th best)
181 home runs (5th best)
688 runs (13th best)
542 walks (6th best)
1,384 strikeouts (3rd most)
64 stolen bases (24th most)

Pitching:

.244 opponent average (tied with Cubs for 6th lowest)
.301 opponent on-base percentage (3rd lowest)
512 earned runs (lowest in MLB)
1,326 hits allowed (5th lowest)
127 home runs allowed (tied with Dodgers for 4th lowest)
548 runs allowed (lowest in MLB)
409 walks allowed (2nd lowest)
1,232 strikeouts (15th best)
3.18 earned run average (lowest in MLB)
53 saves (3rd most)


2014 Atlanta Braves statistics (as of July 14th)

Hitting:

.247 average (21st best)
.309 on-base percentage (tied with Reds and Astros for 22nd best)
343 rbi (29th best)
802 hits (19th best)
143 doubles (26th best)
81 home runs (tied with Reds and Yankees for 15th best)
362 runs (28th best)
279 walks (14th best)
807 strikeouts (5th most)
55 stolen bases (tied with White Sox for 14th most)

Pitching:

.249 opponent average (18th lowest)
.310 opponent on-base percentage (tied with Rays for 11th lowest)
320 earned runs (6th lowest)
804 hits allowed (20th lowest)
72 home runs allowed (5th lowest)
350 runs allowed (tied with Giants for 7th lowest)
272 walks allowed (tied with Marlins for 14th lowest)
780 strikeouts (7th most)
3.36 earned run average (6th lowest)
36 saves (most in MLB)


It's no surprise the Braves' pitching is their strength. The only decent thing about their hitting is their home run total (tied for 15th best) and walk total which is 14th best in the league, barely in the upper half. Something worth noting is that most of these categories are decided only by a few numerical values (keep in mind the ones tied with another team). As the season continues we'll see some teams pull away further, and some teams start to drop off in statistical rankings. I'm sure they'll be at least one team that starts clicking on all cylinders and starts raking the rest of the year. There could also be a few trades that help teams looking for a playoff spot. Who knows? So although a few of these rankings may be somewhat surprising (or startling, depending on how you look at it) there's still plenty of season left to be played.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Willie McCovey Discovery

About two weeks ago I went to my great grandmother's house to help my grandpa and uncle move a bunch of stuff out (she passed away at the end of last year and they just took care of the paperwork for the house). Since my grandpa lives in Florida, he had to fly up here to New York and sign some paperwork. To my understanding she left the house for her children so that when she died they could sell the house and divide the money. I usually only see my grandpa maybe twice a year, so I welcome every opportunity I get to spend time with him. They needed help moving some things so that my uncle could move everything from his house to her house, so he could move in and sell his current house. I'm sure a few of you may be wondering how this applies to baseball. Am I right?

While going through some boxes in the basement (holiday decorations, old newspapers, silverware) my grandpa stumbled across something that further proves that even in the most random places you never know what you will find....

1965 Topps #176 Willie McCovey




When I went to help out I never expected to find anything pertaining to baseball. My guess is that this card belonged to one of the three brothers (either one of my two uncles or my grandpa) when they were younger. There's a small crease at the top, and I'm sure that even hookers have seen better corners than these. But other than a few marks (and being off-centered), the card is in decent shape. As far as I know it's been in the basement for all these years. Come to think of it, my grandpa was born in '42, so if he were to have had this card back then, he would've been 23 which is 3 years older than I am now. Interesting. If it belonged to one of my uncles (they're not too far off in age) they would've probably been between the ages of 17-21, which is a fair estimate. I haven't checked yet, but with this card being from 1965, I believe it is now the oldest card I have.

As far as a value on this card I'm not entirely sure. Just going by eBay, I've seen listings that are anywhere between $5 up to $40. There are some higher than $70 but those are mostly ones that have been graded. By looking at the pictures you can tell the card I have isn't in the best quality for someone to want to buy it and get it graded, anyways. But it does come with a rather interesting story on how it was found, as well as a memory of that day. That's what makes it the most valuable.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Newest Smoltz Auto

A few weeks ago I came across a Smoltz auto I've yet to own. Seeing that it was still at a decent price, I picked it up from eBay.

The card is from 2014 Topps Tribute Traditions and is #'d 75/99.




This is the first card I've bought in a while (the last card I bought was this Warren Spahn autograph that I picked up last month). The card has more of a shine to it than I had originally thought. The only thing I don't particularly care for is the background design. Referring back to the topmost picture, the guy on the far right (with his back facing you) looks like he's taking a leak on the baseball field. One thing I do love about this card, though, is that it's another on-card autograph. Usually I'm not too concerned whether it's a sticker or on-card, but who doesn't prefer an on-card signature at least slightly more?

Another thing worth noting is that I actually planned on posting this sooner, but once the sad news came about Tony Gwynn, I kept this in drafts and wrote about Mr. Padre instead. After that I was busy for a little while (also discovering a card for a new post to be written after this one) and finally found the time today to do a little editing and complete this post.

Anyways, I have a few things on the horizon (briefly mentioned above) and possibly something from ebay depending on how the auction turns out, so we'll see what happens.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Tribute To Tony Gwynn


Photo by ESPN
The news was a bit alarming (and surprising) as I hadn't heard much about him in a while. I found out minutes after it was announced late this morning, that Tony Gwynn had passed away at age 54 (just a day after Father's Day).

Gwynn was a career .338 hitter and had 3,141 hits, 1,138 rbi, 319 stolen bases, and scored 1,383 runs. Another statistic I'd like to point out was that he only struck out 434 times (in 10,232 plate appearances). The most strikeout's he had in a season was 40 back in 1988 and still hit .313 that year. His highest average in a season was in 1994 when he hit .394. His lowest average in a season was his rookie year back in 1982 when he batted .289. The lowest average in his career (following his rookie season) was when he hit .309 in 1983 and 1990.

Photo by ESPN
Here's a picture of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. during their HOF induction back in 2007. My first trip to the baseball Hall Of Fame was back in 2007, when these two men were inducted. I remember it as if it happened yesterday. I saw a bunch of Orioles and Padres jerseys, and I even saw cut-outs of both Gwynn and Ripken. I never saw the actual induction ceremony, though. I went there August 7th and 8th (I think I missed them by about two weeks). Nevertheless, it was a fun experience. I could go on in more detail but this isn't about my trip to Cooperstown, but about a baseball legend that was lost earlier today. Although I have never met Mr. Padre, I've only heard great things about him. He was very humble and had incredible knowledge of the game. He played the game the right way and many people within the baseball community will miss him and the accomplishments he gathered: he was a 15-time All-Star, won 7 Silver Sluggers, won 5 Gold Glove awards, and won 8 NL batting titles in a 20-year playing career. His #19 was retired by the Padres, the only team he ever played for, on September 4, 2004.

Heaven receives another induction today. Rest in peace, Mr. Gwynnn.

Tony Gwynn 1960-2014

Photo by Sports Illustrated

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Kimbrel Passes Smoltz For Braves' All-Time Saves Record

Photo by ESPN

After missing the 2000 season, John Smoltz returned in 2001 recording 10 saves and going 3-3 while starting 5 games for the Braves. Upon becoming the teams' closer, Smoltz added 55 saves the following season, 45 in 2003, and 44 in 2004. In those four years as Atlanta's closer, he piled up 154 career saves, which stood as the most in franchise history.

Skip forward to 2014 where the new closer, Craig Kimbrel, passes Smoltz for the all-time saves record on June 6th. Since winning Rookie Of The Year in 2011 (above teammate Freddie Freeman who finished 2nd in voting), Kimbrel now holds the franchise record with 155 career saves.

It was inevitable that Kimbrel would eventually surpass the mark, so it was only a matter of time for when it would happen. He makes this accomplishment shortly after his 26th birthday which was back on May 28th. The Braves have him under contract through 2017, with a team option for 2018. If he were to pitch the full four years for the Braves, if he can average around 40-50 saves a season like he has, by the time his contract ends he should easily have 340+ career saves.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

John Smoltz On The Dan Patrick Show

I'm a little late with this, but instead of a card post I decided to post about John Smoltz appearing on the Dan Patrick Show back on May 15th (both John and Dan's birthday). Below is a video of the show that I HIGHLY suggest you watch. It should appeal to any baseball fan, and is absolutely hilarious.


video

Video from the Dan Patrick Show on May 15, 2014


I enjoy watching the Dan Patrick Show when I can, especially when Smoltzy is on. Every now and then they have John on the show and it's always a lot of fun to watch. While on this show in particular, there's talk about doctoring baseballs, Michael Pineda caught with pine tar, Tommy John surgery, and Greg Maddux pranks.

One of my favorite parts was when John started pulling out random gifts to Dan and placed them on the table one by one:

Dan: "Is this just a clearance type thing, you're just cleaning out stuff?"

Smoltz: "No, this is special stuff, not everybody gets to get this."

And then Smoltz pulls out a Minnesota Twins fishing lure. It was just so random it made me laugh.

My favorite part, I'd have to say, would be when they talk about John's role in Trouble With The Curve:

Smoltz: "I went to the movie with my wife to check it out only to find out it didn't happen."

DP: "You didn't know you got cut?"

Smoltz: "No....didn't know. It was a rough moment...I was a pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves...it was about a thirty-second role and I went to a movie at about 10:30 at night making sure nobody was there in case it got out of hand when they saw I was in there...but it never happened."

Once he delivered the line "but it never happened" I burst into laughter along with John. I had no idea he was going to be in the movie until I saw this interview. I still haven't seen Trouble With The Curve (I'm not sure I want to now), but it was such a priceless reaction from him as he told the story.

Just wanted to share this with you guys. Hope you get a few laughs!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Recent eBay Pickup: Part Two

While picking up the Smoltz rookie lot, I almost stumbled upon something I have been searching YEARS for. For the price, I had to have it. This autograph has eluded me for the longest time, and that ladies and gentleman, would be the autograph of the one and only Warren Spahn. Other than being the winningest lefty in MLB history with 363 wins, he played for the Braves (Boston and Milwaukee) for 20 seasons, with his last playing for both the Mets and Giants. What's also worth mentioning is that he missed three seasons due to military service (like other players had in the 1940's) at the start of his career. He didn't play again until he was 25 years old and the wins started piling up after that. Had he played those three years, there's a possibility he could have over 400 career wins. Though with 363 wins, being 5th on the all-time wins list isn't bad either. Now that you've endured my little history lesson, here is the card I picked up from eBay....



When I first saw this, I knew I had to have it. I got it for a good price (thankfully) and I'm very proud to say that I now own a Warren Spahn auto. I asked myself what the heck is he looking at? That question probably lured me into getting this, even though I'll never know the answer. I've seen pictures of other players from around this time so perhaps this was like the "default" pose, who knows. You can see a bit of his Braves uniform and they added the logo behind him, but what I like most is that his picture has color (instead of the black and white photos). Also, I'm not sure if you guys can tell from the picture or not, but it's an on-card autograph, so to think that he actually held this card is pretty cool. Now I can finally check this Braves great off my list!

Here's part one of my recent eBay pickups: http://tomahawkempire.blogspot.com/2014/05/recent-ebay-pickup-part-one.html

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Recent eBay Pickup: Part One

I already have a ton of these, but I couldn't resist picking up more (I'm sure you guys know that feeling). I got a pretty decent deal on these, so I figured why not? The 1989 Upper Deck card is by far my favorite John Smoltz rookie card. I'm not sure what it is with Smoltzy, but he just has that intimidating look.



I got 11 of them in a lot (the last picture is just a close-up), and they're in pretty good condition. I'm not sure how many of these I have (probably over 50, I'd guess) but it's always nice to get something of your favorite player, and for me, that would be John Smoltz.

Here's part two: http://tomahawkempire.blogspot.com/2014/05/recent-ebay-pickup-part-two.html

Friday, May 16, 2014

My First John Smoltz Autograph




I can still remember the day I won this on eBay, back in my senior year of high school. This is actually the first auto I've ever bought, so when I won it I was very excited. This card is from 2012 Topps Five Star and is #'d 138/208. Five Star is usually pretty good from what I've seen in the past. To make it even better, it's an on-card signature. The colors stand out very well; the red background and the blue sharpie really just work perfectly with the Braves uniform. The picture they used of John really makes this card stand out for me. It shows his competitive nature and in my opinion, is such an iconic pose. To say that this is the first autographed card I've ever gotten of him (or anyone for that matter) is truly a great feeling. This was the card that took my collecting to a whole new level, and I'm proud to say that I now have 8 autographs of him. I also have 6 jersey cards of him. To see all of the autographs and jersey cards spread out is quite mind-blowing, to say the least. One of these days I'll post a group photo of all my John Smoltz cards (including the rookies), so I'm really looking forward to that. I'll probably have to use a panoramic view! Actually, I'm pretty sure I'll have to.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cards/Memorabilia

For those of you who don't know, I'm a HUGE collector of John Smoltz. I have hundreds (maybe even a thousand to two-thousand) total cards of him. I have quite a bit of RC's, as well as (maybe 8?) autos of him that I've gotten within the past three years or so. Other than Smoltz, I collect Chipper Jones, Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons. My brother got a Freddie Freeman autographed rookie card for me a few years ago (I think he said he spent between $12-15 total on it, which compared to now is a pretty good deal). Last year I bought two Andrelton Simmons rookie autos in a lot for I believe around $30 (maybe a few dollars more for shipping), so roughly $15-$17 per card. As for another core Braves player, I've yet to get an auto of Jason Heyward. I've looked a little here and there but I haven't been as eager as I am for Freeman, Simmons, or even Smoltz for that matter.

Usually when I collect, I look for players that I know have proven themselves, or have been with the Braves for a considerable time. For example, Chipper Jones spent his whole career with the Braves - that makes it easy for me to want to collect him because he's actually had an impact on the team, and because he spent his whole career with them. I have 3 Chipper autographed cards. Two of them were easily $40+ each, while the other my brother got me. It's one of those booklets with a bat relic and an auto (it may have a piece of uniform too, I haven't looked in a while). The booklet is #'d to 5, I believe, and it's actually the only one I've seen; I've yet to see a similar one since I've gotten it.

Along with the auto's, I have plenty of rookie cards of these guys, with Smoltzy being the one I have the most of (I know, big surprise, right?). I've always been into baseball cards, but the hobby really took off in about 9th grade (somewhere around there). The first card I bought was a Smoltz auto and I remember that day very well. Before that, I usually just got rookies and other base cards just because they were much cheaper (I usually got them in lots).

I've recently gotten that urge to buy some more Smoltz cards, although I haven't seen any that I am interested in enough to spend the money on. We're looking at $25+ for an auto, at least (for a college guy that's a considerable amount to spend). Topps should be releasing some cards within the next few months, so I'll certainly keep an eye out for him. As for Freeman, I've been looking around a little bit and have seen a few cards that may be of interest. Moving on to Simmons, I've mostly seen the 2012 Bowman Chrome auto, but have seen a couple others as well - nothing that has really caught my eye yet. I don't think Topps had any auto's of him this year (unless they'll be released in another product later in the year?).

I'll be posting more about cards and my sports memorabilia that I have now, and that I will get in the future. All my exams are done so (hopefully) I'll have more time to post. Keep an eye out! I've got some sweet stuff to share with you guys.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Prediction: 2014 MLB Standings


*Teams with a "WC" are Wild Card winners

World Series: Tigers vs. Dodgers

World Series Champions: Detroit Tigers


National League:

Not too many surprises here, really. I feel that all of the division winners listed should have a decently straight shot at capturing the division crown. The NL Central may prove to be the closest division for the NL this year with the Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates fighting for a spot in the playoffs. The biggest disappointment for the National League could end up being the Pirates as I don't see them making the playoffs - Joey Votto and the Reds should get a Wild Card spot with the Nationals just beating the Pirates out for that second Wild Card. The biggest surprise could be the Mets (yes, the Mets). Although Harvey's out, they made a few interesting free agent signings with Colon, Granderson, Young, and Valverde. They haven't been able to be much of a force in the division for the past few years, but I think this could be the year that the Mets finally win more than 80 games (something they haven't done since 2008 when they won 89).


American League:

As with the NL, there's not much of a change from last year, though I do have the Rangers taking the West in a showdown against the Athletics. Probably the closest division for the AL, the East may be a beast after all. With the Red Sox looking to repeat, the Yankees and Rays could spoil the parade. The biggest disappointment could be the Yankees. They failed to make the playoffs last year, and although signing Tanaka, Beltran, McCann, and Ellsbury, could injuries (or their age) plague the Yankees' season? The biggest surprise could be the Royals. With a record of 86-76 last season (their highest since 2003 when they ended 83-79), could this be the year that they're finally able to get into the playoffs? If so, they should be keeping an eye on a possible Wild Card spot, as the Tigers should capture the division yet again.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Hunt For Choptober

The Braves may have surprised some people (including myself) over the off-season, signing young key players to long-term deals. Among those were Craig Kimbrel, Julio Teheran, Freddie Freeman, and Andrelton Simmons.

                                  
Photo from curacaosport.com
Andrelton Simmons: 24 years old

  • Gold glove in 2013
  • Reminds me of "The Wizard" Ozzie Smith
  • Defensive vacuum - has only committed 17 errors in 205 games played


We already know how great he is defensively, but his batting average was quite low for the year (.248) while managing to hit 17 HR's and driving in 59 RBI. If he can consistently hit above .280ish while putting the ball in play, he will be a dangerous weapon (more than he already is). Even just 24 years of age, there's a great upside. With this deal, the Braves found their shortstop.



Photo from JamieD on totalprosports.com
JamieD
JamieD
Julio Teheran: 23 years old

  • Finished 5th in ROY voting for 2013 
  • 14-8 in his first full year in the majors
  • Ace potential


I wasn't too surprised by this deal, but a 6-year contract was interesting. Teheran had a bit of a rough start but finished the year strong, ending off on a 14-8 record with a 3.20 ERA, 170 strikeouts, and 45 walks in 185.2 innings pitched. Still only 23 years of age, there's so much more he could learn in the years to come. If he can continue to grow as a player and meet expectations, this could prove to be a great deal for the Braves.



Photo from espn
Craig Kimbrel: 25 years old

  • 2011 ROY
  • Voted to each All Star Game since 2011
  • 139 career saves, 381 career strikeouts, and a 1.39 career ERA


Where to start? Kimbrel's a beast, simply put. In his first four seasons (last three full seasons) Kimbrel has piled up a total of 139 career saves as the Braves closer. Along with being an All Star the past three seasons, Kimbrel has also finished within the top ten in CY Young voting (9th in 2011, 5th in 2012, and 4th in 2013).



Photo by The Associated Press
Freddie Freeman: 24 years old

  • 2011 ROY runner-up (finished second to Kimbrel)
  • 2013 All Star
  • 5th in MVP voting in 2013

Freddie Freeman is consistent. Perhaps even the most consistent on the team, getting important hits in key moments. This, in my opinion, was the best of the deals the Braves made. Of the more popular categories, Freeman had career-bests in hits, RBI, walks, lower strikeouts, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (on-base + slugging percentage), total bases, and WAR (wins above replacement). Quite a big year for him, I'd say. His fielding deserves a mention, as in 461 career games, he's only committed 28 errors, resulting in a .993 fielding percentage. If he's putting up these numbers at age 24, what type of numbers will he be putting up when he's 28, 29, even 30 years old? We'll have to wait and see.



Photo by Tim Evearitt
Jason Heyward: 24 years old

  • 2010 All Star
  • Gold Glove in 2012
  • Finished 2nd in ROY voting in 2010


Although not a long-term deal, Jason Heyward deserves a mention as he received a two-year contract. Heyward, who had career lows across the board from missing games due to appendectomy surgery and getting hit in the jaw by a pitch from Jon Niese, is looking for a rebound season in which he can stay healthy. Hoping Heyward will be less-prone to injury, the Braves took the low-risk route and signed him to two years for now. The Braves will surely monitor his progress throughout and decide whether to extend him after his contract is up, let him go to free agency, or trade him. His performance will obviously determine what the club decides to do with him (and how much they could possibly get in return if they were to trade him) but that's a topic for a future discussion.

As a Braves fan, I am very excited over these deals. Considering the Braves haven't really been known to throw out these types of contracts (Freeman receiving the biggest contract in team history at 8 years, $135 million), it should make all Braves fans anxious to see how this team can perform over the upcoming years. With a new stadium in the works, this looks like one hell of a team ready to make consistent runs for a title for years to come.