The last post of 2011

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

Happy New Year, everybody. I hope you all enjoy the time with family and friends and I wish you all the success in the coming year. Thanks for reading, and coming back to the blog after my unplanned absence. 2011 was good, but 2012 promises to be the biggest year in my life (more on that later).

I'll be back tomorrow with an expanded look at my Twitter post in response to SRUChris's question. Until then, it was easy to pick the illustration for this post - my biggest pull from this, or any other year, a 1/1 Sandy Koufax!

See you all in 2012!

Drew Brees, NFL legend

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in ,

Let me start off this post with an apostasy: I have never been a big Dan Marino fan, and I don't rate him as highly as other great NFL quarterbacks. To me, Dan Marino doesn't belong in the same league as Joe Montana, or Terry Bradshaw, or Troy Aikman, for one simple reason. Dan Marino, for all his (former) records, all his gaudy statistics, all his legendary exploits, left the NFL with exactly zero championships and a single Super Bowl appearance, in his second season.

Drew Brees, by the way, was heading for an even worse fate than Marino. His was the Tale of Missed Potential.

Do you remember when Drew Brees was coming out of college? I do, because I happened to work with someone who was a proud Purdue alumnus, and could not stop talking about how great Brees was. Not that I didn't know that for myself. Here was a guy who, at age 21, had already done the seemingly impossible - lead the Purdue Boilermakers into the Rose Bowl. Big things were expected.

He wasn't the first quarterback selected - that was Michael Vick, and, frankly, who could blame the Falcons for trading up to get him. What's interesting is the team they traded with - San Diego. The Chargers could have had Vick for their own, but they preferred to trade down, drafting LaDanian Tomlinson, then Brees. However, Brees's five years in San Diego were a mixed bag, and he was considered enough of a disappointment that the Chargers felt the need to obtain Philip Rivers a mere three years after drafting Brees. Two more years in San Diego, and the label was complete. Missed Potential. Even worse, after shoulder surgery, he was also now an Injury Risk.

None of that mattered to Sean Payton. The former Cowboys assistant was finally getting his shot, and he was going to turn the Saints around the only way that made sense - a high-powered passing offense, similar to the ones he ran as a quarterback and assistant coach. But to be a success, Payton needed a quarterback who was comfortable throwing the ball many, many times, who could stay in the pocket while it was collapsing around him, who had a proven track record for fireworks. Someone who was a proven commodity - being the all-time Big Ten passing leader certainly wouldn't hurt. Luckily, that man was available.

Fast forward six years, and Drew Brees is the owner of 18 NFL records, including one of the most hallowed in football history, Most Yards Passing in a Single Season. It was a record he came so close (15 yards) to breaking three years previously. This time around, he will shatter it, because he broke the record with a game left in the season. Not only that, but in the same game against the Falcons last week, Brees also became the first person to notch up two 5,000-yard passing seasons in his career, and reached 40,000 yards for his career, effectively in ten seasons (he played but one game in his first year in the NFL). Were Brees to keep playing for as long as Marino, averaging 3,000 yards a season, that would put him at 61,000 yards. Marino's career total? 61,361.

Before you think that keeping up a 3,000 yard pace is unreasonable, let me share with you Dan Marino's last six seasons, starting with age 33 (Brees, by the way, is 31 this year):

Age 33: 4,453 yards
Age 34: 3,668 yards
Age 35: 2,795 yards
Age 36: 3,780 yards
Age 37: 3,497 yards
Age 38: 2,448 yards

(In Marino's Age 32 season, he was injured and only played in five games. He ended up throwing for 1,218 yards, which pro-rates to a 3,898-yard season over sixteen games.)

The average of Marino's last six seasons, when he is at the age Brees is going into? 3,440 yards. Throw in the pro-rated total for 1993 and it jumps up to 3,506 yards. So a 3,000-yard average for Brees, should he keep playing for seven more years, is certainly reasonable. If he were to average 3,500 yards for the last seven years of his career, just like Dan Marino did, that would put him past Marino and close to the 65,000 yard mark. That's Brett Favre territory, and Favre didn't retire until he was 41.

Am I saying that Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the history of the NFL? No, because his career has yet to be fully written. However, he is a lock for the Hall of Fame, based on all he has accomplished thus far. What's more remarkable, to me, is that unlike Marino, and to a lesser extent Favre, Brees found the most profit in the second act of his career. He truly turned things around after linking up with Sean Payton and the Saints, and long may it continue. As they say in Brees's adopted home town, laissez les bons temps rouler!

Finally, bringing things back to where they were at the beginning of the column, Drew Brees has something Dan Marino does not - a Super Bowl Championship. Want to bet against him getting another? I sure don't.

My next new idea

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

When I was last in America, I purchased the Strat-o-Matic baseball board game because I was intrigued. I have played, and enjoyed, the game so far. I know that I'll never play a whole season - I don't have enough time to do something like that. So I've been trying to figure out the best way to play my game.

Made-up teams seem like the best - because I have no interest playing with teams that have half of their players on other teams, thanks to trades, free agency and the like. Best to start fresh with whole new rosters. My initial plan - a 24-team league (to incorporate all the players in the game in 40-man rosters) would have resulted in more than 2000 games! (remember, I said I didn't have the time for that?). Then, when I was watching the opening weekend of Australia's new Twenty20 cricket league, it hit me.

Twenty20 cricket, for those of you who don't know, is a relatively new form of the game that compresses the sport from five days down to 3 hours. It's designed to be TV-friendly and appeal to a wider range of people. Purists say that it takes all the strategy away from the traditional game and reduces it to smashing the ball as hard as you can. Think of it as the Home Run Derby of cricket.

So this is my new idea: a fantasy world where, under the auspices of Major League Baseball, the existing Australian Baseball League (ABL) is transformed from a winter development league (a la the Arizona Fall League) into a way for the best players in baseball to stay in shape, make some extra coin, and enjoy the great weather. Over a two-month period (December and January), ten teams will play a 54-game schedule (six games against each other team, home and away). The top four teams make the finals, with best-of-one semi-finals and best-of-three finals (because spring training is soon upon us).

To save pitchers' arms, and in keeping with the sped-up, Twenty20-inspired feel, games will be six innings long instead of nine. Starters will be limited to three innings maximum, and four days' rest is strictly enforced. The ten teams will have a 40-man roster, but only 25 can be selected to be eligible for each three-game series. At 270 games in total, even if I only play one game a day, I can be finished by next year's World Series (and start the next season of the ABL on time).

As there's only six real-life ABL teams, I've had to add four new ones. Again, I took a page out of the Twenty20 league, which faced the same problem when expanding from six to eight. They responded by putting a second team in Sydney and Melbourne. Seems like sound reasoning to me. So here's the ten ABL teams, at least in my universe:

Adelaide Bite
An existing ABL team, named after the Great Australian Bight.

Brisbane Bandits
An existing ABL team, of which there is nothing interesting to say.

Canberra Cavalry
An existing ABL team. Their mascot is a moustachioed cavalryman named Sarge

Geelong Baycats
I put Melbourne's second team on the other side of Port Phillip Bay so that I could use Geelong Baseball Park, one of the nicest stadiums in Australia. The Baycats name is the actual name of the amateur Geelong Baseball Club, so I kept it.

Gold Coast Clippers
The Clippers name was historically used by Queensland teams in the old ABL. The Gold Coast (which despite its name, is actually a large city) is home to the MLB Australian Academy. It seemed like a good fit to put a team here.

Hobart Hurricanes
Name and logo shamelessly stolen from the Twenty20 cricket team. They don't play baseball in Tasmania, apparently, so I didn't have much to work with. Besides, I needed a purple team.

Melbourne Aces
An existing ABL team. The Victoria Aces were the most successful state team in the Claxton Shield, aka the Stanley Cup of Australian baseball.

Perth Heat
The most awesome real-life ABL team ever! Current champions. It will be hard not to rig the draft in their favor.

Sydney Blue Sox
An existing ABL team. An artificial construction when the league re-launched in 2009, to be remedied with my second Sydney team

Western Sydney Patriots
The NSW Patriots were the historic name for New South Wales baseball, but unlike the Perth Heat and Melbourne Aces, that history was abandoned when the ABL arrived in 2009. Placing a team in Western Sydney and giving it the "Patriots" name was a logical move. Let the rivalry begin!

I don't plan on bombarding you with fictional ABL updates. In fact, this may be the only post I make on the subject. I'm in the process of loading the players in the SOM set into my copy of Out of the Park baseball - purely to run a draft and stock the teams in the fairest way I know how. After the teams are set (OOTP can also build a schedule for me), I'll start playing them. Maybe I'll play the whole season out. Maybe I'll get bored. The fun is in finding out.

The six real-life ABL team logos are from the ABL
The Geelong Baycats logo is from Geelong Baseball Club
The Gold Coast Clippers logo is from the Columbus Clippers
The Hobart Hurricanes logo is from the Big Bash T20 cricket league
The Western Sydney logo is from AZTarHeel, an online OOTP baseball player

Merry Christmas, Rickey Henderson!

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

Last year, I wished you all a happy Rickey Henderson's birthday. This year, it's time to keep the tradition going.

Hideki Okajima says, Merry Christmas everyone! Oh, and happy Rickey Henderson's birthday, too.

The Darvish and Latos sweepstakes

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in ,

Well, the bidding is over and the Nippon Ham Fighters totally ignored my advice. They waited until the last possible moment to announce they were accepting the Rangers' $51.7 million posting bid for Yu Darvish. Now the fun begins.

You see, Darvish likes to portray himself as a sort of iconoclast. From getting caught engaging in underage smoking and gambling, to outspoken comments, he tries to cultivate an image as someone who bucks the system. Though I'm not sure how marrying and then divorcing an actress and pinup model fits into his rebel persona. That sounds more Beckhamish to me, and he's nobody's rebel.

Darvish has been an outspoken critic of the posting system. He says it's unfair to players, and I have to agree, I'm not a fan of it either. There's been some rumblings that, the higher the winning bid, the less likely Darvish would sign with the MLB team that ponied up the cash. He would view his stance as a condemnation of the system and a refusal to play the powers-that-be's little game. Of course, that's why he hired superagent Arn Tellem, right? Let's face it - Tellem didn't get where he is by tilting at windmills. My guess is that he'll knock some sense into Darvish and we'll see him in Ranger blue next year. I also believe that Darvish's favourite colour is green.

Now I'd like to turn my attention to the newly-minted Reds pitching ace, Mat Latos. It's commonly accepted wisdom that if you have the chance to trade for proven performance in exchange for prospects, you make the trade. Exactly how much proven performance Latos brings is up for debate, but the prospect status of Yonder Alsono, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger is beyond dispute.

The general consensus is that the Reds gave up too much in this trade. But that consensus is also predicated on several factors, none of which is a slam-dunk certainty. For example:

  1. The Reds will lose Joey Votto to free agency, and they just traded away his ready-made replacement.
  2. Alonso will be happy sitting on the bench waiting for Votto to depart, because the Reds have tried (and failed) to find another place for him.
  3. Yasmani Grandal will be a better catcher than Devin Mesoraco, and the Reds just traded him away.
  4. Brad Boxberger will develop into a shutdown major league closer, and the Reds never gave him a chance.
I look at this trade, as many small-to-mid market teams and fans do, in terms of control. In other words, is four years of Mat Latos worth trading away four years of Alonso and six years of Grandal? I don't know, but I'm certainly not going to evaluate it on the basis of "four years of Latos being a head case vs. four all-star seasons from Alonso and six years of Grandal being the next Pudge Rodriguez" like the naysayers have decided will happen. The reason these players are called prospects is because we don't know what will happen with their careers. Alonso might develop into the next Joey Votto, then again, he might not. Grandal might be the better catcher, but maybe Mesoraco is. We don't know what their future career holds, but we have a better idea of what Latos is likely to do, and the future looks pretty damn bright for him.

As a side note, I don't count Edinson Volquez in this trade because, frankly, I'm glad to see the back of him. Likewise, I don't count Boxberger because, if projecting a ballplayer's potential is a fool's errand, then the phrase "closer prospect" is downright farcical. The hand-wringing over his inclusion in the trade smacks of lingering regret over Trevor Hoffman's exposure in the 1993(!) expansion draft.

People have all but written off the Reds chances of retaining Joey Votto once he becomes a free agent, but I'm not so sure. The only team I really fear getting their hands on Votto is his hometown Blue Jays, suddenly resurgent and seemingly keeping their powder dry for a run at Votto in two years. However, I do worry that signing Votto to a big contract significantly reduces the chances of keeping Latos four years hence, unless the Reds can lock him up to a Cleveland Indians/Tampa Bay Rays-style below market contract. However, if at the end of 2015 the Reds have no Votto, no Latos, no real hardware to speak of and only a handful of compensatory draft picks, then what will we think of the trade?

(By the way, yes, I am collecting the 2011 Lineage set)

An open letter to the Nippon Ham Fighters

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in ,

Dear Nippon Ham Fighters,

You already have the coolest name in all of professional baseball, so please don't do anything that will endanger all of that goodwill. You have already publicly stated that you will accept the highest bid for Yu Darvish. Well, the bids are all in, you know what they are (heck, we even know that the highest bid is a monster), and we all know you're gonna take the cash.

Please don't make us wait until the Tuesday deadline. Just announce, today, that you have accepted the bid, and then we can all find out who massively overpaid for the next Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Sincerely yours,

P.S. My money's on the Rangers

The pictures are up

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

I couldn't post pictures to my blog when using my phone. But now we have moved back into the house (yay!) and the computer and internet connections are set up. So I've added the pictures I wanted to have in the Travels with Raleigh post in the first place. Here's a link to the posts - Raleigh is a damn cute dog, if I do say so myself.

Day 1 (Derby to Port Hedland)
Day 2 (Port Hedland to Carnarvon)
Day 3 (Carnarvon to Perth)

Other good news - most of my cards have been unpacked already (priorities, don't you know!) At some point on the trip, when thinking about Raleigh and his brother, Charlie, I realised that I subconsciously lifted the title of this series from John Steinbeck's book Travels with Charley. Thanks again for indulging my inner Steinbeck.

More Travels with Raleigh (Day 3)

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

6:30 am: An on-time departure. I like those when I'm travelling. Raleigh jumps into the car straight away, then curls up on the seat and goes back to bed almost as quickly. I guess he's tired from barking at the other dogs in the caravan park all night.

The landscape south of Carnarvon is noticeably different yet again. The Gascoyne region is more agricultural (as opposed to the Pilbara which is mining and the Kimberely which is cattle ranching), so even the bush looks taller and greener. Is it tastier? Raleigh will be the judge of that.

6:50 am: Kangaroo tail is apparently a delicacy. I was reminded of this when I saw a dead roo on the side of the road with its tail sticking out. All I know is that when I went in the shops at Roebourne there were a bunch of kangaroo tails in the freezer.

7:45 am: We cross back over the 26th parallel - the official border of the Northwest of Australia. Living above the 26th parallel actually entitled us to a tax break - we say good-bye to that now.

The land is reminiscent of the Southwestern US, minus the cactus. Buttes and mesas dot the landscape, and the trees are very similar. It's funny how there are places that remind you of other places very far away.

8:30 am: Rain?!? It's summer! It doesn't rain here in the summer. At least not south of the 26th parallel.

11:00 am: Lunch in Geraldton was an ordeal. My wife wanted Subway, but their computers were down and didn't take credit cards. Raleigh went for a walk in a park and ended up with prickles in his fur. And then there was all the construction delays, which backs up traffic behind road trains. I was hoping to get to Perth by 4 pm, but a late finish to the lunch, followed by all the back-ups, has probably put paid to that goal. We shall see.

Raleigh is being very good and patient, though. And now he has all the prickles out of his fur.

1:30 pm: More construction, this time outside of Ennabba. There's really nothing much to say right now. When you've travelled 2500 km already you just want to finish up the last 250 as quick as possible.

3:15 pm: Raleigh is the doggy Isaac Newton. My wife was rounding a corner and a bag of apples fell on his head. Poor puppy!

3:30 pm: We are now in the Perth outer northern suburbs. Guess what? It's raining again! It doesn't rain in Derby, where the wet season is supposed to have started by now, but it's raining here in Perth, where it's supposed to be dry. Anyway, we're about to turn on the freeway. Let's hope we beat the rush hour traffic.

7:30 pm: We got to my in-laws house close to 5:00 pm and had a nice dinner with everyone. Raleigh has enjoyed having his brother to play with, and Charlie has enjoyed having his brother around, too. He's not too happy about his new haircut, however.

It's been a long trip, but just like the trip up to Derby, Raleigh passed with flying colors. I hope you enjoyed the journey, and I promise normal service will resume once I have set everything up at the house. Until then, let me just say that it's good to be home.

More Travels with Raleigh (Day 2)

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

1:00? am: There's a scratching at the tent door. It sounds like Raleigh is trying to pull the zipper open with his teeth. I put my glasses on, and there he is, sitting there, with a silly grin on his face. Guess he has to go out.

5:15 am: Still stupid o'clock, but it's light out now. Time to get ready to go.

6:30 am: The car is packed, and we're off. Raleigh did absolutely nothing to help. He needs to start pulling his weight. And since he only weighs 22 pounds, it's not much.

Today we'll be traveling about 880 km (550 miles) to Carnarvon, which should take, with stops, about 9 hours. The second half of the drive contains some of the most boring bits of the whole trip. The highlight is crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, and I already got my picture taken there on the drive up.

8:15 am: Passing through Roebourne. If you ever get the chance to go to Roebourne, don't. It's dirty and smelly and they make you drop your speed down from 110 kph all the way to 50. I don't like Roebourne.

9:30 am: We're doing good with the stops today. My wife drove the first hour, then an attack of sleepiness necessitated a driver change and I've been in the seat since then. We were supposed to have gotten to the next stop, Fortescue Roadhouse, by now. However, road construction shut down one lane, and now we're stuck behind two road trains, neither of which will pass the other, and a car which won't pass either. Grr.

9:40 am: Pull into Fortescue ten minutes behind schedule. Instead of staying in the nice shady green grass, Raleigh is insisting on walking in the sun. The plants of the Pilbara don't look as tasty, apparently. Or maybe he's learned his lesson after throwing up yesterday.

10:30 am: When we drove up to Derby, we were stuck at a water crossing for about an hour waiting for the level to go down. It was somewhere between Fortescue and Nanutarra roadhouses. Now, it's so dry that I can even pick the spot where we were stuck. We had to passed it by now. Crazy how the landscape changes so quickly here in Australia.

11:00 am: The landscape around here is dotted with mountains. They're not really mountains, but that hasn't stopped the highways department from putting up signs at scenic lookouts indicating "Mt. Something" and proclaiming heights of 218 meters. Nice try, but I'm from North Carolina, and I know that 218 meters does not a mountain make.

11:30 am: Lunchtime at Nanutarra is finished, and we're back on the road to Carnarvon. Different chambers of commerce have nicknamed their various coasts; Broome has the "Pearl Coast," Exmouth has the "Coral Coast." I call this stretch the "Boring Coast." Do you think it'll catch on?

12:00 pm: It is hot here in Australia. As you learned from school, December is the summer. The temperature in the car has been reading a constant 37-38 degrees Celsius since the sun got high in the sky. 37 is normal body temperature - 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. 38, well, that's over 100.

You think that's bad - yesterday, the thermometer in the afternoon was reading 43 and 44. It's like being in a Midnight Oil song: "The Western desert lives and breathes in 45 degrees."

1:00 pm: Tropic of Capricorn

1:15 pm: We pull the ol' traveling greenhouse over for a driver change. Into the cockpit goes J.A. Hart. The American has done this drive before, on his own, so the 160 km left into Carnarvon should be a piece of cake.

In other news, Raleigh says "Yuck-o-rama! The scruby little plants in the Gascoyne do not look tasty AT ALL!"

2:45 pm: Win! We pull into the campsite ahead of schedule by about 30 minutes. Our campsite is great - nice and shady and close to the toilet block. We pitch the tent and head off to find a dog beach.

3:30 pm: Pelican Point is an awesome dog beach. Raleigh was running up and down the beach, trying to avoid the waves and munching on the seaweed. He even made a doggy friend - a pug who was already at the beach. They took turns sniffing each other's butts (as you do) and pointing out the good smells on the beach.

I think Raleigh missed having a beach around. We didn't have that option in Derby - the water was brown and there are salt water crocodiles that would just as soon eat you as look at you. It will be good for him to have his beach back again.

4:30 pm: The "big" (literally) tourist attraction in Carnarvon is the Big Banana. Originally built for a fruit and veg stand that went out of business, it was purchased by the Chamber of Commerce to serve as a monument for the area's status as a fruit farmers' mecca, particularly bananas. Here's a picture of Raleigh and I in front of the Big Banana.

5:30 pm: Time for a nice refreshing dip in the pool. Raleigh would love to come, but he's not allowed.

Speaking of which, yesterday when I was checking in to the other campground, the lady pointed out some sites on the map. "Here's the pool," she said. "You can't take your dog in the pool area."

"Well that goes without saying," I replied.

"You'd be surprised how many people think they can bring their dogs in the pool," she replied.

7:20 pm: I'm now sitting here with a homemade ginger beer and posting this day's entry. I am looking forward to sleeping well tonight.

See you again tomorrow for part three...

More Travels with Raleigh

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

7:00 am: He knows something is up. Usually, when we pack up the car, he's not allowed outside because he's not coming. This time, however, the car is full of stuff, much more than usual, and he's darting in and out, usually in the car, sometimes running around it, with a big smile on his face.

Our year here in Derby is done, and we're heading back home. Originally we were planning on staying here for two years, but circumstances (a dream job coming up) and other things meant we're coming home now. And that means another three-day car trip with my dog, Raleigh, and this time, also my wife. It'll be nice to share the driving duties.

7:35 am: we were down a quart of oil, so we pull into the town service station to get that sorted. Who do we see? The one kid from my class that I don't really want to see. The type of kid who eats paste. Raleigh was a good boy - he didn't bite the paste eater. Although I wish he would have. ;)

7:45 am: All ready to hit the road. My wife is taking the first shift.

8:15 am: When driving around country Australia, it's a lot different then a long-distance drive in the States. It's more like how drives used to be, before Interstate highways. The main roads are two lanes, and services, particularly in remote areas, are sparse. Every 200 - 300 kilometers you'll find a roadhouse - a place to fill up, grab a sandwich and a drink, and, if it's time to stop, pitch a tent or park your RV. There's one such roadhouse 60 km out of Derby - it's where I usually stop to get a chocolate milk. Not today, though - it's big picture time. With a 2700 km drive ahead of us, we can't be stopping 60 km in. Sorry, Willard Roadhouse!

8:30 am:'s time for our first pit stop! I spent most of it trying to keep Raleigh away from a barbed-wire fence that apparently looked tasty.

9:15 am: We've reached the turnoff on the main road for Broome and Port Hedland. With the exception of one time when we went camping about 60 km from this spot, I haven't turned left to go to Port Hedland for a year. Yet, that is what we need to do now to head home. Even though, geographically, it's not true, by turning left and putting that stretch of road behind us, it feels like we're leaving Derby and the Kimberley behind.

10:00 am: Another pit stop. This time, Raleigh apparently mistook the side of the road for an all-you-can-eat salad bar. Lots of tasty looking grasses. I have taken the wheel, and will be driving the rest of the way today.

10:30 am: I have a terrible sense of distance, but an inborn compass and always know where I am in relation to landmarks, etc. When you're traveling the highways here, there are distance markers every 10 km toward the next town (or roadhouse). It's really not hard to know where you're at. All you have to do it's make note of a marker, note the time and the speed you're traveling, and do the math. My wife, however, fails to grasp this concept, and always guesses at least 20 km off. She thinks we'll get to Sandfire (the next roadhouse, where we're stopping for lunch) at 12:30. But, since we're 180 km out at I've got the cruise control set at 120, there's no way. Barring an excessive number of pit stops, we'll get there by noon, easy. Probably a couple of minutes before.

11:58 am: We pull into Sandfire. Wife not pleased with smug look on my face.

12:00 pm: Lunch is just what I needed. I had a Mountain Dew to drink with my sandwich, then cracked open a Red Bull when I started driving again. I feel like an alcoholic mixing his hard liquors.

Raleigh enjoyed his lunch - water. Don't feel sorry for the pooch, though. For the last two weeks, we've been trying to eat down our fridge. We didn't quite make it, though, so Raleigh got a special treat for dinner last night - a whole steak! It was either that or through it in the bin. So he can afford to have just water now. Besides, he doesn't eat lunch.

12:20 pm: Back on the road. Raleigh has finally started laying down on the back seat instead of sitting up and looking through the window. I guess the excitement of the long card ride is starting to wear off.

12:30 pm: Whoops, I spoke too soon. He's back up.

1:30 pm: We've reached another roadhouse, which means another pit stop. This time it's Pardoo, which is where Raleigh and I stayed on the second night of our trip up. This time, he whined and whimpered the whole time my wife was inside, and wouldn't go for a walk until she came out. He's such a momma's boy.

This 300 km stretch between Sandfire and Port Hedland is pretty easy, which also means it's pretty boring.

3:00 pm: We arrive in Port Hedland, right on schedule. I like having the short first day so we can relax. After going to the shops for some groceries (my wife and Raleigh go for a walk while I'm shopping, Raleigh got squirted by a fountain), we check into the campsite, pitch the tent, and go to the beach. Raleigh has earned a run-around and a swim.

4:30 pm: The place we were directed to go by the campsite manager, Pretty Pools, is a great spot. It's sandy tidal pools with lots of families and some other dogs. Raleigh is a good swimmer, but he can be apprehensive at times, and usually only goes into the water to follow his brother, Charlie (who is owned by my in-laws). There was another family next to us, but the kid (and wife) weren't too keen on dogs, so we kept having to keep calling Raleigh back to us.

At one point, I look up and see the father of that group has wandered quite a ways around the edge o the pool. And then I see Raleigh, swimming over there trying to get to him. I'm wearing regular clothes, so I'm not going to swim after him. He's back on dry land now, so I call him. He goes running, then swimming, then he reaches a sandbar, so he's running again, then...SPLASH! The water was deeper then he was expecting. But his little head pops right back up and there he is, dog-paddling his way back to us. Very cute. But not so cute when he got out and started rolling around in the sand. He looked like a crumbed sausage.

5:00 pm: Guess who got a bath before we got back in the car?!?

6:30 pm: Dinner time! Remember that steak I told you about? Well someone thinks that the steak sandwiches we're pan frying on the camp stove are for him. Nice try, Raleigh. Have some dog food instead.

8:20 pm: As I write this, Raleigh and my wife are asleep in tent and I'm about to join them. The first time he and I camped, he wouldn't sleep on the air mattress. He slept all around it on the floor of the tent, but wouldn't get on. But now that my wife's here as well, he's sleeping on the mattress.

Like I said, he's such a mamma's boy. :)

Big, long day tomorrow. The end point is Carnarvon, the town where Raleigh and I were trapped by the cyclone (hurricane) on the way up to Derby. If there are going to be any tricky water crossings on the highway this trip, tomorrow's the day we'll get them. It's a cloudless, starry night, though.

Until tomorrow...

Gint-A-Cuffs: The first three packs

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in ,

Release the Kraken box topper!

It is time for my inaugural Gint-A-Cuffs entry. I finally got myself organised in time to enter the contest. I have also avoided the pitfall of picking the wrong box to open by only getting one box. I plan on getting three, one when I'm on my trip in September (too late for GAC) and one for my birthday, which I don't know will arrive in time or not. I also don't know what the limit on entries is. Is it two? I thought it was two. If it is two, maybe I'll have a second entry. If not, well, like I said, this is the only box I have.

Anyway, on to more important things, like the selection of the packs that I will open. Last year, I proceeded to get a relic in my second, fourth, and sixth pack, all in the first two rows off the top. This, of course, proceeded to give me lovely visions of the hot box to end all hot boxes, or at the very least a bonus fourth hit.

Alas, this was not to be. Those were my three hits. The rest of the box was anti-climactic. So selecting packs in the right order is crucial. Do I tempt fate, and clear out one side of the box at a time, or do I keep picking off the top? Will be hopes be dashed I think that due to the insane Series 1 jumbo box, my luck on hits might be used up for a while - bad news for Gint-a-Cuffs.

All right, enough yammering. Here's the envelope at the top:

CB-3 Dallas is perfect in Oakland (+8)
I really wanted the cabinet card that Nachos Grande pulled, because that would have been beaucoup points, plus I want it for my collection. But this card is pretty cool. I'm still willing to trade it for the Felix/Ichiro one, though.

And now, Pack #1:

118 Rafael Soriano (-1 Yankee scum)
What a shit start to the pack. Don't worry, it gets worse.

254 Denard Span
56 Scott Kazmir
30 Hanley Ramirez

AGA-AT Andres Torres framed auto (+10)
The autograph checklist Allen & Ginter fans have been waiting for, my foot.

Stuck to it was...

mini #7 Mickey Mantle (-1 Yankee scum, but...

...thank goodness it's an A&G back, so +2, so +1 overall)
Does the Mantle mini go into my Frankenset? Yes, but does it even matter? Don't worry, it gets worse.

HH79 Hometown Heroes (+1!)...

...Derek Jeter (-1 Yankee scum, so nil overall)
PBBBBBTH! A Bronx cheer for all the Bronx Bombers.

Total for pack: 10 points
Running total: 18 points

Pack the 2nd:

181 Mark Buehrle
132 Colby Rasmus
16 Gordon Beckham
85 Chris Sale
Why didn't I make the White Sox my favorite team?
110 Jake McGee

171 John Lackey (Ginter Code card: +3)

WMF1 Rasputin (World's Most Mysterious Figures: +3)

HH50 Josh Hamilton Hometown Heroes (+1 HH, +2 Favorite Player = +3)
I personally think I should get bonus points for pulling a Hometown Heroes card of my own hometown. I named my dog Raleigh, for goodness sake!

Total for pack: 9 points
Running total: 27 points

Pack III:

252 Omar Infante
243 Mike Nickeas
188 Daniel Descalso
226 Andre Ethier
88 David Ortiz

183 Mike Napoli (Ginter Code card: +3)

116 Josh Beckett black-bordered mini (+3)
Slot 116 is blank, so this goes in the Frankenset.

HH53 Justin Verlander Hometown Heroes (+1)
I'd like to average ten points per pack. After five cards, I was at zero, so seven is a decent result.

Total for pack: 7 points
Running total: 34 points

Spot the difference

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

Notice anything about these cards?

I must say, I had them in my collection for two years but didn't notice them until this week when I was cataloguing.

Gint-A-Cuffs Update

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in ,

It's here!

That's the box of 2011 Ginter that I ordered. And yes, I will be competing in Gint-A-Cuffs this time around. Colbey has gone out and set the first mark - 197 points. Will that hold up? We shall see. Expect an excruciatingly slow reveal from some folks - like me. I'll be opening the packs three a day (got to make them last!) but revealing them every other day.

Stay tuned...

Who wants ToppsTown cards?

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in ,

I've managed to accumulate a stack of ToppsTown cards (haven't we all?) from 2009 to 2011, which I put together last week when cleaning up my collection.

The thing is, I don't want them. At all. I'd just toss them in the bin, but I can bring myself to do something like that to baseball cards, no matter how unwanted.

Does anyone want/need any of these cards? Send me an e-mail or leave a comment. Maybe this can be the start of a larger trade, who knows?

Junior is ready

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in ,

Well, I'm feeling incredibly productive - I've finished my Ken Griffey Jr. PC page. That's three down, one to go. Unfortunately, I've saved the biggest for last, and given how long the Junior page took (not long, but tedious, so I didn't work on it straight through), I'm not looking forward to Ichiro since that collection is twice as big as the Griffey.

Anyway, my Junior cards are catalogued and up on the site. The link, as always, is available on the right-hand side of the website. It now points to the Junior PC page instead of the White Sox project page, which is still at the top. I also have some Junior cards (as well as cards for the other three) that are sitting in my CheckOutMyCards account and aren't listed on any of the player collection pages. I really should get those cards shipped to me. It's been a year since I bought some of them, for crying out loud!

What do you think, should I add the pictures from COMC onto the page? Or should I just stick only with the cards I have on hand in my binders?

Everybody's All-American

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in ,

During my last eBay buying frenzy, I picked up a strange little set for 99 cents. Card No. 1 featured Ken Griffey, which is why I got the set. I figured I could put that card in the bottom right-hand slot of a binder page of my Griffey, then put the other nine in a page behind. While I realise this might offend some of your sensibilities, frankly, I'm not losing any sleep over this.

I scanned the whole set it while scanning in my Griffey cards (news flash! - I'm now done scanning in all of my PC cards!). So here, I present to you, the 1989 All-American Promo Cards set. A giant among card manufacturers, to be sure.



A couple of things - first, AAPC's attempts to hide MLB logos makes Upper Deck's attempt 21 years later look positively professional. I don't think AAPC even tried, or cared. Secondly, the choice of players seems strange - Griffey was in his rookie season, and appears to be the reason for the set since he has two of the ten cards. If you can figure out rhyme or reason behind the other eight players, please let me know. Jim Abbott was also included as a rookie. However, the back of his card lists "1988 Pitching Record" then says "No Major League Stats". However, the back of Griffey's cards say "1988 Batting Record" then list his numbers for the San Bernardino Spirit. Plus, they got the number of runs wrong.

So which is it?

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

Look carefully at the back of this card:

The blurb says Altherr was born in Germany, but the stats say he was born in Arizona. So which is it?

King Felix cards are up

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in ,

I've completed my second Player Page, the one that lists my Felix Hernandez collection. I've also scanned in all of my Ichiro cards but haven't started work on that page yet. Remember that picture of my desk? Well, I would like to get that cleared off by tomorrow, which means more scanning and less typing. The good news is, scanning is an excellent activity to do when doing other things, such as listening to the Tour de France in the background.

The Reds game will be shown live tomorrow morning (Friday evening USA time) so I am looking forward to watching that. Looks like an early start for me tomorrow.

You can find my King Felix collection by clicking at the link on the top of this page or the sidebar on the right-hand side.

Joyeux le 14 de Juillet

Posted by Jonathan @ RGB Cards | Posted in

It's Bastille Day, the French national day. I'm currently watching the Tour de France, where the malliot jaune is being worn by a Frenchman, Thomas Voeckler.

Did you know that there are nine Major League Baseball players who were born in France? Here's profiles of the three whose baseball cards are in my collection.

Steve Jeltz was born in Paris on May 28, 1959, and is perhaps best known for his exploits with the Phillies throughout the 1980s. He also holds most of the career records for players born in France, including most singles, doubles, triples, RBI and games played. But it's not all sunshine and lollipops - Jeltz also holds the record for most career strikeouts by a French-born player. His most famous game came in 1989, when the Phillies faced the Pirates in Pittsburgh. After the Buccos put up a 10-spot in the first inning, the game seemed over. However, Jeltz, who entered the game as a substitute, led an improbable comeback. A switch-hitter, he became the first Phillie to hit a home run in the same game from each side of the plate. Even more remarkable, Jeltz had exactly five home runs in his career - and two of them came in that game! After seven seasons in Philadelphia, Jeltz finished his career with the Royals in 1990.

Charlie Lea was born on Christmas Day, 1956, in Orléans. No, not New Orleans, but the town that the Big Easy is named after. Old Orleans, if you prefer. Lea spent most of his seven-year big league career in Montreal, so you'd imagine that he felt right at home. Except that Lea grew up in Memphis, then starred at Memphis State, and even played his Double-A ball with the Memphis Chicks. Lea's career highlight came in 1981, perhaps the année miraculous of Montreal baseball history. On May 10, Lea pitched a no-hitter against the Giants, becoming the first Expo not named Bill Stoneman to pitch a no-no (Dennis Martinez and his perfect game was the third and final Spo to accomplish the feat). In 1984, Lea made his only All-Star appearance, being named the starter for the National League (over players such as Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden) and picked up the win. Sadly, he wrecked his elbow, and missed both the 1985 and 1986 seasons. He pitched one inning for the Expos in 1987 before finishing his career with the Twins in 1988.

Perhaps the best-known and most successful French-born major-leaguer is Bruce Bochy. Bochy, of course, is the manager of the defending champion Giants. He became the first (and only) European-born manager to win a title, as well as the first to manage in the World Series when his Padres won the NL pennant in 1998. Bochy's father was in the Army, which explains why Bruce was born in Landes-de-Boussac in central France. Bochy first broke into the big leagues with the Astros in 1978, but it is with the Padres that he acheived the most fame. Prior to becoming the Padres manager, his most notable feat was perhaps being the catcher on the field when Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's all-time hit record. Bochy also holds the career record for home runs by a French-born player, with 26 circuit clouts.

As a manager, Bochy led the Padres to the post season four times, winning the NL pennant in 1998. After leaving San Diego for the Giants at the end of the 2006 season, Bochy has proven to be a steady hand on the wheel, mentoring young Giants pitchers such as Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner.

Six other major leaguers were born in France, all of whom played parts of one or two seasons, most in the dead ball era. They are Ed Gagnier, Claude Gouzzie, Paul Krichell, Duke Markell, Larry Ressler and Joe Woerlin.

As I write, the day's racing in the Tour de France has come to an end, and although Sammy Sanchez, a Basque, won the stage, Thomas Voeckler has kept his overall lead and will wear the yellow jersey again tomorrow. Vive La France! Joyeux le 14 de julliet!