2014 Topps Series 2 hobby box – base cards

30 11 2014

I finally ponied up and got boxes for the rest of the Topps 2014 flagship product.  I got two boxes last month – one for series 2 and one for Update which had just been released.  I got a Jumbo HTA box for Update, but a regular hobby box for series 2.  That’s usually against my mantra – I think the jumbo boxes are much better values.  But series 2 seemed to be much pricier than Update, so I went with the cheaper option.

In series 1, Topps included cards of 2 HOF-caliber players who had retired the year before, so you got their full career statistics.  I noted they were missing one other retiree who was on that level – and in series 2 they did include Roy Halladay.  His final stat line includes 203 wins, 2,117 strikeouts and 3.38 ERA.  I think he’s HOF-worthy, though I really wasn’t expecting him to fall off the map so quickly in 2012 and 2013.

2014 Topps Halladay

Topps also included 2 other recent retirees – though these 2 teammates retired at the end of 2014.  This could be Konerko and Dunn’s last cards, though I hope they have a final card in next year’s set.

2014 Topps Konerko Dunn

Topps always likes to get some of the rookie phenoms into series 2, and this year the top two Rookie of the Year candidates in the AL were guys who had played professionally overseas.  The National League equivalent, Jacob Degrom, made his way into the Update set.

2014 Topps Tanaka Abreu

Funny how I’ve shown 3 White Sox first baseman in the past two photos.

Topps also finishes up the Rookie Cup cards in series 2 – after 6 cards in the first series, there were 5 more in this product.

2014 Topps s2 AS Rookie Team

About 15 years ago, Topps started getting a lot of the new free agent signings into series 2, as opposed to Topps Update.  I think Clemens may have been the first one back in 1999.  Here’s the biggest names in new uniforms this year.

2014 Topps s2 free agents

New this year but back from series 1 is the Future Stars subset.  There were 10 guys in series 1, and 12 (at least) in series 2.  That’s too many Future Stars for my liking!  I liked the 5 players from 87/88/89/90/91!

2014 Topps s2 Future Stars

Celebration was a theme of this set in both series 1 and series 2.  There’s a few in this series as well.

2014 Topps s2 Celebrations

Here’s a few action shots I liked – funny how all of them are horizontal action shots.  The Lorenzo Cain is my favorite, but the Russell Martin is particularly interesting since that’s now an outlawed play!

2014 Topps s2 action shots

And there are also a few really good non-action photos – two of them from my Reds squad.  Gotta love Great American Ballpark shown in the background!

2014 Topps s2 best pose shots

The other thing that’s included in series 2 are all the award winners.  I miss the days where subsets looked more distinct from the base sets.

2014 Topps s2 award winners

Last but not least, series 2 is one half of the regular set – so it naturally has some of the better players in the game for, well, regular reasons.

2014 Topps s2 stars

Completed set & master set – one last look at 1989 Topps

28 11 2014

Now that I’ve finished that elusive 1989 Topps Batting Leaders insert – I’ve actually finished off the 1989 Topps “Master Set”.  In fact – this means that I’ve finished off the Master Sets for all of the 1980’s!  That’s a fairly big deal in this elusive, oft-sidetracked project of mine.  I could back and do a recap of the 1980’s – but I kind of already did that with a post about the base sets.  I may decide to do a quick (by my standards) post showing how I got each of the cards.  We’ll see.

Info about my set:

How I put the set together:

  • 410 cards from the wax box
  • 296 cards from a lot of jumbo packs
  • 86 cards from trades

Card that completed my set: #393 – Gary Carter AS (1 of 5 cards I got in a trade a long while back from Scott Crawford on Cards that completed the set)

Best card (my opinion): #100 – Mike Schmidt

Check out this link to see the rest of the base set post.

My Master” Set Info:

1,050 cards – 792 “base”, 132 “update”, 126 “insert”

  • Update set: Traded
  • Insert set: Batting Leaders, Glossy Rookies, Glossy All-Stars, Glossy All-Star & Hot Prospects (Send-In)

Toughest card to track down:  Batting Leaders #22 – Alan Trammell

Trammell was one of 6 cards I got in an eBay lot back in April – the last cards to complete this master set.  The Batting Leaders is such an obscure insert from a time when inserts weren’t a thing – one of those has to be the answer.

How I put the additional sets together:

  • Traded – boxed set from eBay
  • Glossy All-Stars – set from eBay
  • Glossy Rookies – 10 from opening jumbo packs, 1 from a Target repack, 11 from Sportlots
  • Glossy All-Star & Hot Prospects – purchased through Amazon
  • Batting Leaders – 20 from various eBay lots, 1 from Beckett, 1 from COMC

Update set composition: 132 cards (126 players, 5 Managers, 1 checklist)

In the update set not in the base set: 44 players, 5 managers

Total in base and update sets: 734 different players, 10 #1 draft picks, 31 managers, 4 retired players

Read the rest of this entry »

Completed insert set – 1989 Topps Batting Leaders

26 11 2014

WHOA!  This was a tough one!  And it took me a while to get around posting about it.  I finished this 22 card set back in April.

I always thought of the ’93 Topps Black Gold set as Topps first ever insert set.  But of course there were glossy inserts from the 80’s and inserts like stamps as far back as the early 60’s.  And then in 1989 and 1990 there were these Batting Leader cards that have become fairly tough to find – at least at a decent price.

Info about the set:

Set description:  22 standard-size cards with a bright red border on the front, with a pair of hands holding a bat on one side.  There is a trophy that says “Top Active Career Batting Leaders” on the other side.  The red backs show the player’s career batting average and the number of at bats he’s had.  The 22 veterans with the highest lifetime batting averages with 765 minimum games played (conveniently equal to Kirby Puckett’s total at the end of 1988).  The cards were distributed one per Topps blister pack sold exclusively through K-Mart stores. The cards are numbered by K-Mart in order of average.

Set composition:  22 cards

Inserted: K-Mart blister packs of 1989 Topps.  1 per pack.

Hall of Famers: 9

Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Kirby Puckett, George Brett, Jim Rice, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Rickey Henderson, Robin Yount

How I put the set together:

  • 20 from eBay
  • 1 from Beckett
  • 1 from COMC

Thoughts on the set:  In a word – awesome!  The set has a theme and is numbered in order.  I seriously wish this was something Topps had updated every year – you could see people fall in and out of the set based on how they’d done or if a younger guy had gotten eligible with enough at bats.  It’s hard to come by – and it costs some money, too!  Back when I did a write-up on the set, I guessed it would cost me $100 to complete it.  Over the past 4 years – I actually shelled out $150 to finish it!

Card that completed my set:  #22 – Alan Trammell

Trammell was one of 6 cards I got in an eBay lot back in April.

Highest book value:  #5 – George Brett

Best card (my opinion):  #1 – Wade Boggs

I’m going with the guy who was in the lead, which is in this case the #1 card.

My Favorite Reds card:  There are none.

1989 Topps Batting Leaders set

1989 Topps Batting Leaders set_0001

1989 Topps Batting Leaders set_0002

Any other tidbits: Tony Fernandez was about 40 games short, otherwise he would have made the set at card #10.  Ken Griffey and Bill Buckner should have been in the set – Griffey would have been 11th at .298, and Buckner would have been around 16th at .292.  Neither had Topps cards that year (though Griffey was in the Traded set), which probably had something to do with it.

I wanted to look at where these guys finished their career batting average compared to where they were at the end of the 1988 season.  The info in parentheses is the stats at the time these cards came out – I put them in the order they ended their career.  Only Gwynn, Franco and Molitor increased from the end of 1988 to the end of their career – which is quite an impressive feat!

  1. Tony Gwynn, .338 (2nd, .331)
  2. Wade Boggs, .328 (1st, .356)
  3. Kirby Puckett, .318 (4th, .320)
  4. Don Mattingly, .307 (3rd, .327)
  5. Paul Molitor, .306 (10th, .299)
  6. George Brett, .305 (5th, .312)
  7. Pedro Guerrero, .300 (6th, .307)
  8. Julio Franco, .298 (14th, .295)
  9. Jim Rice, .298 (9th, .300)
  10. Keith Hernandez, .296 (8th, .300)
  11. Willie McGee, .295 (12th, .295)
  12. Tim Raines, .294 (7th, .305)
  13. Carney Lansford, .290 (20th, .290)
  14. Dave Parker, .290 (13th, .295)
  15. Johnny Ray, .290 (18th, .291)
  16. Eddie Murray, .287 (11th, .295)
  17. Alan Trammell, .285 (22nd, .290)
  18. Willie Wilson, .285 (17th, .292)
  19. Robin Yount, .285 (21st, .290)
  20. Kent Hrbek, .282 (16th, .292)
  21. Pat Tabler, .282 (19th, .291)
  22. Rickey Henderson, .279 (15th, .292)

I went to a Card Show!

24 11 2014

This past weekend I went to a card show for the first time in over a year.  I went to the National in Rosemont, IL, in late 2013, and yesterday I went back there for a card show put on by a company called Fanatics Authentics.  It was much smaller than the National – but still a pretty good-sized show.  There were a number of autograph guests, but I didn’t get any autos at this one.  I though about adding a Jim Thome baseball to my 500 home run collection – but I didn’t want to spend the time or money right now.

I felt a tinge of regret after going to the show – it was kind of neat to walk around and see what the dealers had.  But there really weren’t a whole lot of cards that I was looking for.  The set collector just isn’t catered to at a show like this.  Even when I did find some bargain bins – it’s just so hard to dig through everything because the common cards just aren’t organized by number or anything like that.

I did find some good stuff, though, after doing some digging.  I found a guy who had some newer cards for 10 cents apiece.  Some were 2014 Heritage, which isn’t that unique.  But he also had 2013 and 2014 Goodwin singles, which are more difficult to find.  I got over 50 cards from those 3 sets – which put a good dent into my wantlists (and for 5 bucks, no less)!

Chicago Card show purchase Nov 2014

Toward the end of the show, I went back to a dealer that had a bunch of inserts and Heritage SP’s in binders.  Another one of my pet peeves was in play here.  I’d stayed away from the dealer because nothing was marked with a price.  I hate that!  When that happens, my experience is that the cards are usually priced more than I would want to pay.  And that ended up being the case here.  But I didn’t want to go home with only $5 worth of cards.  So I picked up quite a few cards here.

I got quite a few cards from 2014 Heritage – a number of SP cards and some inserts.

Chicago Card show purchase Nov 2014 Heritage SPs

I also got a few cards from 2014 Topps Archives.

Chicago Card show purchase Nov 2014 Archives

And, finally, some 2014 Topps inserts.

Chicago Card show purchase Nov 2014 Topps inserts

Overall, it was pretty productive, and I listened to the Bengals game while I walked around – so I’m glad I did go.  But I probably won’t be looking for a card show any time real soon.

Trade #2 with reader Matt T

21 11 2014

I hadn’t completed a trade in a pretty long time – but earlier this month I finished another one up with blog reader Matt.  This was my second trade with Matt.  In fact – he was the last person I traded with!  Matt and I swapped some serious base cards.  I sent Matt some 2012 Upper Deck, 2011 Topps and a bunch of Topps Update cards from the past few years.

Matt sent me a ton of 2014 Heritage cards – 88 in fact, including 2 SP cards.  He also sent me 4 insert cards.  This put a huge dent into the regular part of the set.  Here’s some of the highlights from those cards.

Trade with reader Matt - Heritage

Trade with reader Matt - Heritage_0001

Matt also sent over enough series 2 cards to finish off Topps 2014 for me.  Plus, he sent a few inserts and 2 cards from 2014 Archives (SP’s!) that I needed.

Trade with reader Matt - Topps & Archives

Thanks again for the trade Matt!

My 2000 All-Star selections and Silver Slugger comparison

20 11 2014

My opinion of the best player at each position in each league.  For pitchers, I pick 3 starters and 1 reliever.  I’m now including DH in the American League.  Here’s the 2000 version:

My NL All-Stars: C – Mike Piazza, NYM (.324/38/113)

1B – Todd Helton, COL (.372/42/147, 138 R, 216 H, 59 2B, .463 OBP, .698 SLG)

2B – Jeff Kent, SFG (.334/33/125, MVP)

3B – Chipper Jones, ATL (.311/36/111)

SS – Rafael Furcal, ATL (.295/4/37, 40 SB, RoY)

OF – Barry Bonds, SFG (.306/49/106, 129 R, .440 OBP, .688 SLG, 117 BB)

96 Vlad AndruwOF – Andruw Jones, ATL (.303/36/104)

OF – Vlad Guerrero, MON (.345/44/123, .664 SLG)

SP – Randy Johnson, ARI (19-7/2.64/3478 CG, 3 SHO, 248.2 IP, Cy Young)

SP – Kevin Brown, LAD (13-6/2.58/216)

SP – Greg Maddux, ATL (19-9/3.00/1, 249.1 IP)

RP – Robb Nen, SFG (4-3/1.50/92, 41 SV)

Jeff Bagwell seems like the biggest “snub” here, but I would have probably voted for Helton as the MVP (or at least put him 2nd behind Bonds but ahead of Kent) if I had the choice.  Outfield was also very tough.  Bonds was fairly entrenched as the top choice, but after that there were about 7 guys who you could argue for that last spot.  I went with Andruw Jones because he was clearly the best defensive outfielder in baseball by this point.  Couple that with his excellent offensive numbers; he just seemed to stand out a bit.  I went with Vlad as the third choice for a different reason – his offensive numbers just seemed to jump out a bit more than the others.  Jim Edmonds could have made it as a fielder nearly in Jones’ category, and even better offensive numbers, and Sammy Sosa or Gary Sheffield could have made it for their great offensive seasons.  

The starting pitchers weren’t as tough as usual – there’s probably an outside argument for Tom Glavine, Mike Hampton or Darryl Kile.  But I think there was a clear-cut top 3.  I went back and forth between Nen and Danny Graves, because Graves pitched 35 more innings.  But ultimately the numbers for Nen were so much better and he still saved 41 of the Giants 90-plus wins.

My AL All-Stars: C – Jorge Posada, NYY (.287/28/86)

1B – Jason Giambi, OAK (.333/43/137, .476 OBP, 137 BB, .647 SLG, MVP)

2B – Roberto Alomar, CLE (.310/19/89, 39 SB)

3B – Troy Glaus, ANA (.284/47/102)

SS – Alex Rodriguez, SEA (.316/41/132)

OF – Darin Erstad, ANA (.355/25/100, 240 H)

OF – Manny Ramirez, CLE (.351/38/122, .457 OBP, .697 SLG)

OF – Johnny Damon, KCR (.327/16/88, 136 R, 46 SB)

DH – Frank Thomas, CHW (.328/43/143)

pedro-martinez BostonSP – Pedro Martinez, BOS (18-6/1.74/284, 4 SHO)

SP – David Wells, TOR (20-8/4.11/166, 9 CG)

SP – Mike Mussina, BAL (11-15/3.79/210, 237.2 IP)

RP – Derek Lowe, BOS (4-4/2.56/79, 42 SV)

Nomar seems to have had the best season of guys not on there, but like Bagwell he just played the same position as one of the 2 best position players in his league; his numbers just don’t stack up to A-Rod.  Carlos Delgado was also a tough slight here – he may have had the best pure offensive season in the league.  I actually thought about putting Giambi at DH to include Delgado.  But he only played 24 games there, whereas Frank Thomas played most of the season at the White Sox DH and was one of the best hitters in the league as well.  Edgar Martinez won the RBI title and was almost as good as Thomas at DH.

Catcher was also interesting – Ivan Rodriguez was amazing in the time that he played, hitting .347 with 27 homers.  But injuries forced him to only 91 games, so I think Posada was the right choice here.  Manny missed a lot of time as well – but he played in 118 games and would have been a legitimate MVP candidate if he had been able to play 150.

Pedro was again so far ahead of the next best pitcher in the AL.  I don’t know if I’ve picked a pitcher with as bad of a record as Mussina when I’ve done these imaginary All-Star teams.  But Mussina was not only more effective than either Tim Hudson or Roger Clemens – but he did it over 30 more innings.


NL Silver Slugger: C – Piazza, 1B – Helton, 2B – Kent, 3B – Jones, SS – Edgar Renteria STL (.278/16/76), OF – Bonds, Guerrero, Sammy Sosa CHC (.320/50/138), P – Hampton (.274/0/8)

In 1999 I picked Andruw Jones over Guerrero; this time it’s Jones over Sosa.  That was a tough call like I mentioned, but if I wasn’t allowed Jones, I may have picked Edmonds and not Sosa.  Hampton was actually in the 2nd year of a 5-year run of winning the Silver Slugger, but had never hit a homer in his career.  He wet to Colorado in 2001 – and proceeded to hit 7 of them!

AL Silver Sluggers: C – Posada, 1B – Carlos Delgado TOR (.344/41/137, 57 2B), 2B – Alomar, 3B – Glaus, SS – Rodriguez, OF – Ramirez, Erstad, Magglio Ordonez CHW (.315/32/126), DH – Thomas

Kind of amazing that the MVP didn’t win a Silver Slugger, but Delgado was that good.  Giambi was actually a pretty decent defensive first baseman, so I can understand the seeming inconsistency here.  Magglio had a good season, but I’d have picked a few other guys ahead of him, especially Damon.

2000 Season – statistics

18 11 2014

2000 AS Game logoAll-Star Game: AL over NL, 6-3 at Turner Field in Atlanta, GA     (Derek Jeter, MVP)

Home Run Derby: Sammy Sosa 26 – beat Ken Griffey Jr., 9-2 in the final     (NL over AL, 41-21)

2000 WS programALDS: Seattle Mariners over Chicago White Sox, 3-0

New York Yankees over Oakland A’s, 3-2

NLDS: St. Louis Cardinals over Atlanta Braves, 3-0

New York Mets over San Francisco Giants, 3-1

ALCS: Yankees over Mariners, 4-2

NLCS: Mets over Cardinals, 4-1

World Series: Yankees over Mets, 4-1


MVP: AL – Jason Giambi, 1B, Oakland A’s (.333/43/137, .476 OBP, 137 BB)

NL – Jeff Kent, 2B, San Francisco Giants (.334/33/125)

Cy Young: AL – Pedro Martinez, SP, Boston Red Sox (18-6/1.74/284, 4 SHO)

NL – Randy Johnson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (19-7/2.64/347, 8 CG, 3 SHO)

RoY: AL – Kazuhiro Sasaki, RP, Seattle Mariners (2-5/3.16/78, 37 SV)

NL – Rafael Furcal SS, Atlanta Braves (.295/4/37, 40 SB)


MLB Amateur Draft:

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, FLA (1st overall pick) – 4x All-Star, 3x Gold Glove, 2014 NL RBI champ

Chase Utley, 2B, PHI (1st #15) – 6x All-Star

Adam Wainwright, P, ATL (1st #29) – 3x All-Star, 2x Gold Glove, 2x NL Win leader

Cliff Lee, P, MON (4th #105) – 4x All-Star, 2008 AL Cy Young, 2008 AL Wins & ERA Champ, 143 career Wins

Yadier Molina, C, STL (4th #113) – 6x All-Star, 6x Gold Glove

Dontrelle Willis, P, CHC (8th #223) – 2003 NL RoY, 2005 NL Wins leader

Brandon Webb, P, ARI (8th #249) – 2006 NL Cy Young, 3x All-Star, 2x NL Win leader

Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, TEX (9th #274) – 2x All-Star

Jose Bautista, OF, PIT (15th #599) – 5x All-Star, 2x AL HR Champ, 54 HR in 2010

Ian Kinsler, 2B, ARI (29th #879 – did not sign) – 5x All-Star, 2x 30-30 Club

Michael Vick, OF, COL (30th #887 – did not sign) – 4x NFL Pro Bowl, 2010 NFL Comeback PoY


Tony Perez HOF plaqueHall of Fame: Carlton Fisk, C, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox (2nd ballot)

Tony Perez, 1B, Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos (9th ballot)

Sparky Anderson, MGR, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers (VC)

Bid McPhee, 2B, Cincinnati Red Stockings (VC)

Turkey Stearnes, OF, Detroit Stars, Chicago American Giants (VC)


Batting Leaders:

Avg. (AL) Nomar Garciaparra BOS .372, (NL) Todd Helton COL .372

HR (AL) Troy Glaus ANA 47, (NL) Sammy Sosa CHC 50

RBI (AL) Edgar Martinez SEA 145, (NL) Helton COL 147

R (AL) Johnny Damon KCR 136, (NL) Jeff Bagwell HOU 152

SB (AL) Damon KCR 46, (NL) Luis Castillo FLA 62

H (AL) Darin Erstad ANA 240, (NL) Helton COL 216

Pitching Leaders:

W (AL) Tim Hudson OAK / David Wells TOR 20, (NL) Tom Glavine ATL 21

ERA (AL) Martinez BOS 1.74, (NL) Kevin Brown LAD 2.58

K (AL) Martinez BOS 284, (NL) Johnson ARI 347

SV (AL) Derek Lowe BOS 42, (NL) Antonio Alfonseca FLA 45


Trends and Stats:

15 players above .330 AVG, 5 above .350 AVG

47 players above 30 HR, 16 above 40 HR, 1 above 50 HR

53 players above 100 RBI, 18 above 120 RBI

3 players above 50 SB

6 players above 200 H, 1 above 230 H

4 pitchers above 20 W

8 pitchers above 200 K, 2 above 250, 1 above 300 K

4 pitchers below 3.00 ERA, 1 below 2.50 and 2.00 ERA

1 pitcher above 250 IP

6 pitchers above 40 SV


I’ll post my standard All-Star selections and compare to the silver slugger winners for the year in the next post.

2000 Cincinnati Reds season

16 11 2014

The 1999/2000 offseason was about as newsworthy as they’ve ever had.  The Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown would prove to be a Reds party, as there were no less than 4 inductees whose primary affiliation was with the Reds organization.

  • Marty Brennaman won the Ford C. Frick award for Broadcasting.  Brennaman has been the voice of the Reds since 1974, still announcing Reds victories with his trademark “This one belongs to the Reds!”
  • Sparky Anderson, manager of the Big Red Machine.  He managed more seasons in Detroit, and did win a World Series there.  But his best seasons were in Cincinnati; he won 2 championships and 4 NL Pennants with the Reds.  And his Cooperstown cap bears the “C” logo on it!
  • Tony Perez, RBI man from that Big Red Machine, who also came back for a stint in the mid-80’s and was the hitting coach for the 1990 World Champions.
  • Bid McPhee, one of the better players from the 1800’s.  McPhee played his whole career for the Reds, and was best known for being one of the last players to play bare handed.

Tony Perez HOF plaque

Sparky Anderson HOF plaque

Marty Brennaman HOF plaque

But the biggest news in the offseason was the return of the prodigal son.  Moeller High’s own Ken Griffey Jr. requested a trade from the Mariners, and the Reds essentially traded Mike Cameron for him.  It seemed like a great deal for the Reds at the time – they were coming off a 96-win season and it seemed like Griffey would put them over the top.  At the time, it was hailed as the biggest trade since Babe Ruth was dealt from Boston.  The Reds let Greg Vaughn walk in free agency, but also picked up Dante Bichette to help replace his bat.

The Reds offense was consistent – after being shut out by Al Leiter in the play-in game in 1999, the Reds went the entire season without being shut out.  They were only the second team in modern baseball history to accomplish this, the other being the 1932 Yankees.  Unlike those Yankees, who swept the Cubs in the World Series, the Reds did not make the playoffs.  They played .500 ball for most of April, and then played well in May to stay close to the division-leading Cardinals.  However, an abysmal June saw the Reds fall out of that race, and they entered the All-Star break under .500 and 8 games back of the Cardinals (albeit still in second place).  They did trim that lead to 4 games by the end of July, but a poor August essentially eliminated them from the race; they were back at .500 and again 8 games behind the Cardinals.  The team caught fire in September, but it was already too late as the Cardinals did as well.  The Reds finished 85-77, 10 games out of first place and 9 games out of a playoff spot.

Griffey was the highlight of the season – he hit 40 home runs, knocked in 118 and scored 100.  It was by far his best season in Cincinnati, but while the offense was consistent, it wasn’t good enough to overcome mediocre starting pitching and an injury filled season for Barry Larkin.  Dmitri Young (.303/18/88) and Sean Casey (.315/20/85) continued to show promise, and Chris Stynes (.334/12/40) was a pleasant surprise as a utility player.  But Dante Bichette was a relative disappointment; his .819 OPS wasn’t enough to overcome his poor play in the outfield.

The pitching rotation just wasn’t very good.  Denny Neagle was the one pitcher who showed promise – he went 8-2 but was traded when the Reds fell out of contention.  Elmer Dessens was also a bright spot, going 11-5 on the year with stints in the bullpen and as a starter.  But the rest of the rotation (mostly consisting of Steve Parris, Rob Bell, Pete Harnisch and Ron Villone) struggled to maintain a .500 record and posted an ERA of around 5 runs.

The bullpen, on the other hand, was excellent.  Danny Graves was stellar at the back-end, posting 30 saves and a 2.56 ERA.  Scott Williamson came off his Rookie of the Year campaign and chipped in as a starter at times; he struck out 136 batters in 112 innings.  Scott Sullivan was also very good.

Mike Bell made an interesting headline when he made his debut for the Reds.  His brother David had first played in the majors 5 years earlier, so his family already featured 3 generations in the big leagues.  But David never played for the Reds like his father, Buddy, and grandfather, Gus, had.  When David made his debut, the Bells became the first three generation family to play for the same franchise.

2000 Griffey Reds Press Conference

Team MVP: Ken Griffey Jr. (.271/40/118)

Best Pitcher: Danny Graves (10-5/2.56/53, 30 SV)

Award Winners:

Pokey Reese, Gold Glove


Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin, Graves

2000 MLB playoffs

14 11 2014

Division Series:

The American League side of the playoffs featured 3 new teams, with the Yankees as the only holdover.  The National League featured 2 new teams, as the Braves and the Mets both repeated their spots as the NL East champ and Wild Card winner.

Mariners at White Sox

Led by Frank Thomas, who turned back the clock for another MVP-caliber season, the White Sox had the best record in the AL.  They hosted the Mariners who had won the Wild Card behind Alex Rodriguez, who had an even better season than Thomas.  The teams played 3 close games, but unfortunately for the Sox, the Mariners won all 3.  Extra inning home runs by John Olerud and Edgar Martinez helped them to a 7-4 win in 10 innings in game 1.  A home run by Jay Buhner in game 2, plus solid pitching by Paul Abbott, led to a 5-2 victory as the Mariners went home a game away from moving on.

James Baldwin and Aaron Sele faced off in the first playoff game at Safeco Field.  The game was a pitcher’s duel, tied going into the bottom of the 9th.  John Olerud reached base in the inning, and an error got him to second base.  Rickey Henderson came in as a pinch runner, and a sacrifice got him over to 3rd.  Then Carlos Guillén bunted past first base to knock Henderson in.  I’m pretty sure this is the only postseason series to end on a squeeze play (though a game in the 1997 ALDS did end on a wild pitch from an attempted bunt by Omar Vizquel).  Henderson became the second Mariner to score a walk-off series winner; both are all-time greats (the other being Ken Griffey Jr.).

2000 ALDS Henderson walk off

A’s at Yankees

After posting the best record in the league for the previous few years, the Yankees won the AL East with the 5th best record in the league.  The Yankees were the 2-time defending champs, and for the third straight year, they were facing off against the AL MVP in the first round; this time it was Jason Giambi of the A’s.  Oakland had won the division by a half game over the Mariners (holding the tie-breaker meant they didn’t need to play their last game).

In game 1, Roger Clemens blew leads on 2 occasions, with Ramon Hernandez stroking 2 clutch hits from 9th in the batting order.  The A’s held on behind Gil Heredia to win, 5-3.  New York bounced back in game 2, blanking the A’s 4-0 behind Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.  Game 3 in the Bronx was pivotal – Tim Hudson pitched a complete game for the A’s, but the Yankees put together some timely hitting and Orlando Hernandez held the A’s to 2 runs and 4 hits over 7 innings.  Rivera closed the door for El Duque in another multiple inning save.  Clemens was back on the mound to close out the series in game 4, but it quickly took a turn for the worse; a 3-run homer by Olmedo Saenz in the first set the tone for an 11-1 A’s win.  Rookie Barry Zito pitched well, and the series went back to Oakland.

The Yankees returned the favor early in game 5 – Heredia got only one out before he was replaced, and the Yankees had a 6-run lead before Oakland had come to the plate.  With Pettitte on the mound, you had to like New York’s chances, but the A’s pieced  together a few rallies to make it 7-5 after 4 innings.  The score would hold, though, as the strength of the Yankee bullpen came through – with El Duque even pitching to get an out in the 8th.  Rivera saved his third game of the series – all were more than 1 inning.

Cardinals at Braves

The Braves won the NL East yet again, though the Cardinals had the better record and home field advantage.  The Braves sent the pitcher of the 90’s out, but Greg Maddux gave up 6 runs in the first inning.  The Braves fought back, but were unable to make up the deficit and lost, 7-5.  Tom Glavine and Kevin Millwood didn’t fare any better – St. Louis swept the series in 3 games by a combined score of 24-10.

Mets at Giants 

The favorite lost out in the next series as well.  The Giants had the best record in baseball behind MVP Jeff Kent and runner-up Barry Bonds.  They looked like the World Series favorite in game 1, as Livan Hernandez pitched 8 innings of 1-run ball and Ellis Burks hit a 3-run homer off Mike Hampton.  Game 2 was the turning point; Al Leiter was dominant, and a 2-run homer by Edgardo Alfonzo gave them a 4-1 lead.  But Bonds and Kent both reached base, and J.T. Snow hit a 3-run homer off closer Armando Benitez to send it to extra innings.  It looked like the Mets had lost the momentum and were staring at a 2-game hole; but Jay Payton singled home a run in the 10th and John Franco struck out Bonds with a runner on to end the game.

Game 3 also went extras; Russ Ortiz stymied the Mets through the first 5 innings.  He couldn’t hold a 2-run lead, however, and Benny Agbayani homered in the bottom of the 13th to give the Mets a surprising 2-1 series lead.  Bobby Jones, a longtime but unheralded starter for the Mets, completely shut the Giants down.  He pitched a 1-hit shut out to seal the series and move the Mets to the NLCS.

Championship Series:

The favorites had lost each division series, so the 3 seed was host to both Championship Series.  The New York franchises were involved for the second straight year, but this time the Subway Series became a reality.

Mariners at Yankees

The Yankees got the chance to exact revenge from the 1995 ALDS when the Mariners had ended their championship hopes.  The series didn’t start off that way, however, as Freddy Garcia and the Mariners bullpen shut out the Yankee offense in game 1.  They went 7 more scoreless innings in game 2, but then the Yankee offense exploded in the bottom of the 8th off Arthur Rhodes to turn a 1-run deficit into a 7- victory and a split in the Bronx.

In Seattle, the Yankee bats maintained the momentum at Safeco Field, blowing a 4-2 lead wide open with 4 more runs in the 8th inning.  In game 4, Roger Clemens atoned for his poor postseason performance with one of the best playoff outings of all time, hurling a 1-hitter with 15 strikeouts.  The Yankees were 1 win away from another World Series.

The Mariners made sure it didn’t end on their own field, as Garcia had another stellar outing in a game 5 win.  But in game 6, David Justice hit a key home run in the only slugfest of the series.  El Duque wasn’t very good, but he pitched well enough to get credit for the 9-7 victory.

Mets at Cardinals

The Mets jumped on St. Louis in game 1 at Busch Stadium behind Hampton, winning 6-2.  The next game looked like it would be much of the same, as Rick Ankiel didn’t make it out of the first inning.  The Cardinal bullpen minimized the damage to 2 runs, and the game was tied at 5 going into the 9th inning.  But Jay Payton came up with his second game-winning RBI of the playoffs in the top of the 9th inning, sending the Mets back home with a 2-0 series lead.

Back in Shea Stadium, the Cardinals got back in the series behind a solid pitching performance by Andy Benes.  The Mets ended any thought of a Cardinal comeback, however, as they ran Darryl Kile and Pat Hentgen over the next two games, winning 10-6 and 7-0.  Hampton pitched a complete game shutout in game 6, earning the LCS MVP for his two stellar outings.

World Series:

Mets at Yankees

The 2000 World Series was the first Subway series since Don Larsen was blanking the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.  Game 1 started off like the classic that you’d expect – Al Leiter and Andy Pettitte didn’t budge until Dave Justice got to Leiter with a 2-run double. in the bottom of the 6th.  The Mets came back with 3 runs in the top of the 7th, but Benitez blew a save in the bottom of the 9th inning.  The Yankee bullpen held up the rest of the game until Jose Vizcaino knocked in Tino Martinez in the bottom of the 13th inning to take the series opener.

Game 2 is most remembered for this moment:

2000 WS Clemens Piazza bat throw

In short – Clemens and Piazza have bad history, Clemens throws pitch, Piazza breaks bat fouling pitch off, bat lands toward Clemens, Clemens throws bat toward Piazza as he’s running up the 1st base line.  It was one of the weirder moments I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.  I remember that Posada looked confused at his own teammate.  The umpires looked confused – you’d have expected that to get Clemens thrown out.  Honestly, though – I never thought there was any real intent from Clemens; he was just hyped up on whatever he was hyped up on and it was odd that Piazza was running down the line in the first place.  Regardless, Clemens shut down the Mets the rest of the game.  The bullpen almost blew a 6 run lead, giving up 5 runs in the 9th, but the Yankees took a convincing 2-0 lead after that game.

After traveling the long distance to Queens for game 3, the Mets got back in the series behind a solid outing from Rick Reed.  The Yankees got a good outing from Hernandez, but stuck with him too long, as he gave up runs 3 and 4 in the 8th inning.  This was El Duque’s first postseason loss in 7 decisions.

Derek Jeter made sure the Mets didn’t get back in the series – he led off the next game with a homer on the first pitch.  The Yankees scored in each of the first 3 innings and held on to win 3-2.  They needed a comeback in game 5, but Jeter hit a game-tying homer early in the game and the Yankees got the lead and the victory with 2 runs in the 9th.  Jeter took home the Series MVP award for his performance, as the Yankees won their 3rd straight title, having won 16 or their previous 17 World Series games.

2000 baseball season in review

12 11 2014

Unfortunately for MLB, the biggest offseason story in baseball was a Sports Illustrated article where Braves’ reliever John Rocker made just about every racist remark you could think of while disparaging New York City; he was eventually suspended for 2 weeks.  There was a huge move in the offseason – Ken Griffey Jr. requested a trade to his hometown of Cincinnati, and the Mariners sent him there essentially for Mike Cameron.  It seemed like a great deal for the Reds at the time – they were coming off a 96-win season and it seemed like Griffey would put them over the top.  Mike Hampton (Mets) and Shawn Green (Dodgers) were the other big moves in the offseason – in fact, all 3 were traded with one year to go before free agency.  Green and Griffey signed extensions, but Hampton left the Mets after one very successful year.

That Seattle team did not feature Ken Griffey Jr. as I mentioned after he forced a trade to his hometown Reds.  Junior did hit 40 home runs, including becoming the youngest player to hit 400 homers.  They were still a good team, winning 85 games – but they didn’t make the playoffs and wouldn’t for Griffey’s full tenure with the team.

The season actually opened in Japan on March 29, as the Mets “hosted” the Cubs in the first MLB game played outside of North America.  Hampton actually lost the first game, 5-3, to the Cubbies, but the Mets won the next day to split the two games in the Tokyo Dome.

Mets Cubs 2000 season

The two teams went separate directions after that, as the Cubs were never in contention, but the Mets won 94 games and the NL wild card.  They would end up turning that into a World Series appearance behind their balanced lineup which had 7 players with over 15 homers.  Their staff was also balanced – all 5 starters posted double digits in victories.  Mike Piazza was an MVP candidate behind the plate, with 38 homers and 113 RBI.

There were three new ballparks in 2000, but the Devil Rays had an interesting new development at their existing park – they installed replaced their Astro Turf at Tropicana Field with Field Turf, the first time this had been used in MLB games.  Tampa Bay was still a pretty bad team, though.

The first new park was in Detroit.  The Tigers closed historic Tiger Stadium in 1999, and opened Comerica Park in downtown Detroit on April 11.  They opened to a 5-2 win over Seattle.  Brian Moehler threw the first pitch to Mike Cameron, who flew to center for the first out.  John Olerud notched the first hit, a double with two outs in the first inning.  Luis Polonia got a hit in the first at bat by a Tiger, off Freddy Garcia, and he scored the first run in the new park one batter later.  Moehler and the Tigers got the win that day, 5-2, while Garcia was hung with the loss.  Moehler had also closed out Tiger Stadium with a win the previous year.  Juan Gonzalez, the Tigers big offseason pickup from Texas, hit the first home run of the ballpark 3 days later.  The Tigers, unfortunately, did not have a great season to christen their new park, finishing in the middle of the pack with 79 wins.

Comerica Park aerial

The other new ballpark in 2000 was in the bay area.  If Safeco in Seattle was the house that Griffey built – Pac Bell park owed a great deal to the other 2nd generation star, Barry Bonds.  The Giants opened up their beautiful new park on April 11th, losing 6-5 to the Dodgers, and unfortunately they didn’t win their first six games in the new park (that’s a record).  Of course, you can’t talk about the Giant’s gem of a ballpark without thinking of McCovey Cove!

Pac Bell McCovey Cove

Kirk Reuter threw the first pitch to Devon White, who opened the park with a single.  Rueter struck out the next hitter, Mark Grudzielanek, for the first out at the new park.  Bill Mueller got the first Giant hit in the bottom of the inning, and scored the first run when Bonds knocked him home with a double.  Bonds would later homer, but Kevin Elster hit the first home run in the park in the 3rd inning – Elster ruined the new park with 3 homers that day.  Rueter took the loss for the Giants while Chan Ho Park won the game for the rival Dodgers.

Despite the poor start in their home ballpark, the Giants had an excellent season.  They won the NL West by 11 games over the Dodgers, and posted the best record in all of baseball with 97 wins.  Jeff Kent won the MVP with 33 homers behind and Bonds finished second with 49 homers and a .688 SLG, while Rob Nen was the best closer in baseball.

The third park to open was in Houston.  Ominously named Enron Field, the Astros played their first game there on April 7th against the Phillies.  Octavio Dotel threw the first pitch to Doug Glanville, who opened the park with a single.  Dotel struck out Ron Gant, the next batter, for the first out in the park.  The park didn’t see a run until the 7th inning, when Rolen led off with a home run.  Richard Hidalgo hit a homer for the Astros in the bottom of the inning, but the Phillies won the game, 4-1.  Randy Wolf picked up the win for the Phillies, with Dotel taking the loss.  The Astros had a down year, losing 90 games.

2000 topps Strikeout Kings Randy PedroRounding out the National League, the Braves and Cardinals took home the NL East and Central.  The Braves won their 10th straight division title behind great seasons from Glavine and Maddux, who finished 2nd and 3rd in the Cy Young voting, while Andruw and Chipper Jones put together their usual stellar seasons.  St. Louis was paced by newcomer Jim Edmonds (42 HR) and 20-game winner Darryl Kile.  Away from contending teams, Sammy Sosa hit 50 homers to lead the league – his third straight season with 50-plus.  Todd Helton had an incredible offensive year, leading the league in hits, doubles, RBI, batting, slugging and OBP.  Randy Johnson took home his second straight Cy Young award for the Diamondbacks.

In the American League, Pedro Martinez also took home his second straight Cy Young award.  Martinez was unfairly left out of the MVP discussion yet again after posting a 1.74 ERA (the league ERA was 4.91), but his season wasn’t quite enough to push Boston to the playoffs.  The Yankees won their third straight division title by 2.5 games over the Red Sox – though it was their worst regular season since 1993.  The Bronx Bombers won only 87 games and actually had the 9th best record in all of baseball.

Oakland took the AL West title from Seattle, behind Jason Giambi’s breakout season.  He won the AL MVP in a close race over Frank Thomas, who led the AL Central champion White Sox to the best record in the AL.  Giambi hit 43 homers and 137 RBI.  Miguel Tejada also had a great season with 30 homers at Shortstop.   Tim Hudson went 20-6 while Barry Zito came up late in the year as a promising prospect.

Seattle did still make the playoffs – they took home the Wild Card behind Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez’s phenomenal campaigns.  To me, A-Rod and Pedro should have been the main guys in the MVP discussion – A-Rod put up similar numbers as Giambi, but played most of his games in the spacious Safeco Field.

There was also a very unique day in New York City that ended up being a Subway Series preview.  The Mets hosted the Yankees in a day game at Shea, then they went across town for a night game at Yankee Stadium.  This was the first time two teams had played a double-header at different parks since 1903.  It must have felt like retro night, as the two winning pitchers for the Yankees were Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens.

Mike Bell made an interesting headline when he made his debut for the Reds.  His father, Buddy, and grandfather, Gus, had both played for Cincinnati in their careers – the Bells were the first three generation family to play for the same franchise.

On September 9th, Scott Sheldon became the third player in MLB history to play all 9 positions in a game.  The Rangers fell behind 10-1 early, and Sheldon actually entered the game in the 4th inning, so he accomplished the feat in only 5 innings.  The only batter he faced was a strikeout.  Shane Halter did the same thing on the last game of the season for the Tigers – this was in a 12-11 victory for Detroit, however.  Halter didn’t have the success pitching; he walked the one hitter he faced.  However, Halter did do much better at the plate; he went 4-5 and scored the winning run in walk-off fashion in the 9th inning.

9 positions Campaneris Tovar Sheldon Halter

The Olympics were back in 2000, and the United States finally came through with their only gold medal in the five times baseball was held at the Olympics.  The U.S. team featured some of the better minor league prospects in the game, mixed with a few veterans who were no longer on Major League rosters.  Their ages ranged from 37 (Pat Borders) to 19 (Sean Burroughs).  The U.S. and Cuba both went 6-1 in the preliminary round to take the top 2 seeds.  Cuba beat Japan in their semifinal game in a repeat of the gold medal game from the 1996 Olympics.  The U.S. took down South Korea, and then Ben Sheets pitched a 3-hit shutout to drop the favored Cubans and give America its Gold Medal.

There were a number of milestones reached, particularly on the offensive side.  Griffey and Mark McGwire continued to move up the all-time home run list, while Cal Ripken, Rickey Henderson, and Tony Gwynn all moved further up the charts in a number of longevity statistics.

Milestones and feats accomplished in 2000 included:

  • Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 400th career home run, at 30 he became the youngest player to reach that milestone.
  • Fred McGriff passed the 400 HR plateau on June 2nd in an interleague game when the Rays faced the Mets at Shea Stadium.
  • Rafael Palmeiro also reached the 400 homer plateau on September 29th.
  • Cal Ripken knocked hit number 3,000 on April 15th, becoming the 7th guy with 400 homers and 3,000 base hits.
  • Rickey Henderson joined Babe Ruth and Ted Williams the third player with 2,000 career walks when he worked a walk in the 9th inning of a game against the Orioles on May 23rd.  Henderson also passed 10,000 at bats in 2000 and passed Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth for second place all-time in runs scored.
  • Mark McGwire moved up the home run list – he passed Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle and Mike Schmidt during the season.
  • On September 10th, Johnson struck out Mike Lowell for the 3,000th K of his career – the 12th player to do that.
  • Randy Velarde of Oakland turned in the 11th unassisted triple play in the game’s history on a line drive from the Yankees’ Shane Spencer on May 30th.
  • Kenny Lofton tied a major league record when he scored in 18 straight games over a stretch in August and September.
  • On April 16th, Chuck Finley struck out 4 batters in an inning for the third time in his career – he was already the only pitcher to have done so twice.
  • On April 21, Mo Vaughn, Tim Salmon and Troy Glaus all hit home runs in both the 4th and 9th innings – the first time three teammates had all homered in the same inning twice in one game.
  • Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams both homered from both sides of the plate in a game against Toronto on April 23rd, marking the first time that two teammates had done that in the same game

In 1999, I had moved Jeff Bagwell (and Craig Biggio) passed Barry Bonds as the best player in baseball.  The first time I’d done that since 1991.  Bonds came back strong in 2000 with 49 homers, and probably deserved the NL MVP over his teammate Jeff Kent.  But I’d still give a slight edge to Bagwell, who also had a great year.  Bonds was right behind him, with Piazza, Griffey and Biggio right behind them and A-Rod coming up closely as well.

Pedro had ended the run of Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux as the “best pitcher” in baseball the year before, and while his 2000 season didn’t seem quite as dominant as the 1999 campaign, it was still probably MVP worthy.  Pedro was the best pitcher in the game – with Randy Johnson right behind him.

Read tomorrow for the postseason recap…