Monday, October 28, 2013

World Series Tied, 2-2.

Quite a bit, so let's get to it:

--I've never seen a World Series game--or any game--end on an obstruction play.

--But when you commit lots of errors over two games in the World Series, you're likely to lose them.

--I've never seen a World Series game end on a pick-off.  But, as a holder of useless information, I can tell you that Babe Ruth, of all people, was thrown out trying to steal second to end a World Series.  Not just the game--the entire series.

--Ortiz singles, and Tim McCarver says that Napoli should come in at first for the bottom of the eighth.  With that, McCarver finally said something in this World Series that I agreed with.

--No matter what happens tomorrow, it's going back to Fenway.  What else could you ask for?

--The Sox are hitting a combined .189 in this World Series.  The Cardinals are hitting .234.  Also not good, but they're Murderer's Row by comparison.

--Considering this, the Sox are lucky to be 2-2.

--With two more errors tonight, they've now committed six in the past three games.  Again, lucky to be 2-2.  This is after they won Game 1 because of the Cardinals' errors.

--I don't want to see Middlebrooks in the field for the rest of the Series.

--I already didn't want to see him at the plate.  Neither, for that matter, did his manager, John Farrell.

--That goes for all of next year, too.  I'm happy with Drew at short for his defense, and Bogaerts at third.  Middlebrooks can go.  Get whatever you can for him, even if it's just a middle-of-the-road reliever.

--With the game ending on a pick-off, does the batter--Carlos Beltran--get credit for an at-bat, or a plate appearance?  I think the at-bat has to end before you get credit for it.  Feel free to weigh in if you know the (irrelevant) answer.

--Sox World Series ERA after this game: 2.27.  St. Louis's ERA: 3.60.

--That tells you how many Sox errors there've been.  Many, if not most, of the runs are unearned for St. Louis.  They still count, of course.

--Craig Breslow needs to sit for awhile.

--Seven total errors for the Sox in four World Series games.

--That was Gomes's first, and only, hit of this World Series.

--Kudos to John Lackey for coming in for a scoreless eighth for his first relief appearance at all since 2004.

--And kudos to Big Papi for firing up the troops in the dugout.

--Speaking of Ortiz, he doesn't make the pick-off tag that Napoli did to end the game.

--Doubront is suddenly effective in the past few games.  He can be Breslow for now.

--Why was Tazawa allowed to just face one batter, especially since he got him in the most tense part of the game?  I'm guessing his tank is empty.

--Just found out why I've never seen a World Series game end in the way the past two games have: Because neither has ever ended a World Series game before.  If it's never happened, I won't see it.

--Stephen Drew can hit zip for the rest of this World Series, and all of next year, and I'll still play him at short for his defense alone.

--At one point in this game, David Ortiz had 7 of the 21 total hits the Sox had in this World Series at that moment.  That's one player having 33% of his team's hits, for you math lovers out there.

--Buchholz was maxed out after just four innings.  He topped out in the mid- to high-80s.  Worried?

--I hope Uehara doesn't have to pitch tomorrow so he can have two days' rest.

--Has it occurred to anyone that, incredibly, the Cardinals have been better without Albert Pujols?  With the money they saved by not re-signing him, they signed two good starters and two relievers.

--For that matter, who would've known that the Angels would be much worse after they sign Pujols and Josh Hamilton?  And with Mike Trout leading off for them to drive in, if he doesn't drive himself in?

--Take a look at my regular blog soon to read about an actual nightmare I had with Will Middlebrooks in it.  Bizarre, is all I can say.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sox Win ALCS; Face Cards in World Series

A few thoughts after an exciting Game Six victory that opens the door to the 2013 World Series:

--I said in the last post that a commentator said the Tigers were a glorified softball team, and that I "sort of" knew what he meant.  Now I definitely know what he meant.  Great softball teams are usually big, slow sluggers who can't run or defend.  They throw hard and they hit hard, and that's usually enough for softball tournaments.

But that's not enough for baseball's postseason.  You have to be much more balanced.  You have to hit, but more important in a series is that you pitch, run and defend.  Though their starting pitching was perhaps the best ever in an ALCS, the relief pitching, the baserunning and the defending was terrible--perhaps the worst I've ever seen in an ALCS.  All of that reared its ugly head in Game 6:

* Austin Jackson, usually a very good baserunner, gets picked off first base by rookie Brandon Workman.  By a mile.

* Rather than get caught in a rundown so the (very fat and slow) runner from third can score, Victor Martinez--otherwise a very smart player--just stops in front of Dustin Pedroia.  Perhaps he wanted to block Pedroia's view and throw home, but Pedroia simply stepped around him, saw that Fielder had inexplicably stopped running home, and tagged Martinez out.  If V-Mart continues running, he at least makes it to second base, so there's one out and not two.  Or he gets caught in a rundown, which is what he should've done (and which he was taught in Little League to do), and so he's out but the run scores.  This is a common play, one he perhaps has done over a hundred times.

* Prince Fielder, one of the more seemingly-uncaring players I've ever heard and seen play in the ALCS (when told fans would get angry about his uncaring attitude, he said, "They don't play."), unforgivably stops halfway down the baseline and doesn't try to score on the aforementioned groundout.  Why?  If he's tagged out, again, there's just one out and runners are on first and second.  He shouldn't have tried to score at all, of course, with the ball never leaving the infield and his, shall we say, lack of speed.  Leaving third base is bad baserunning, but not continuing home to try to score is an unforgivable mistake that had his manager looking defeated and had Tim McCarver, who usually babbles incessantly about nothing, saying, "That's bad baserunning."  Fielder's unstylish bellyflop back to third base, which he missed by a few feet, will be a Defense Exhibit A of poor baserunning for years to come.  Adding insult to injury, he was signed last year to a 9-year / $215 million contract.  And he hasn't driven in a run in 18 consecutive postseason games.  No wonder why Detroit fans are booing him.  He would've already been driven out of Boston, a la Carl Crawford.

The Tiger defense was okay, since Iglesias is usually a magician in the field, and he loaded the bases, but he didn't give up the grand slam.  (And Pedroia booted an easy double-play ball earlier in the game.)  But the Detroit relief pitching was the worst in memory, or can you name another relief corp that gave up two grand slams in the same series?  The Tigers had the best starting pitching, and the worst relief pitching, in the same postseason series, at the same time.  Amazing.

--Speaking of $200 million and no playoffs, wave goodbye to the Dodgers.  I still don't get why they lost.  Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, or Clayton Kershaw are each able to win a postseason series, just by himself.  But they didn't, and Puig made more mistakes than even a rookie should make.

--The postseason brings out the worst in some players' personalities.  See: Alex Rodriguez.  Case Exhibit A was when he slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's hand in the 2004 ALCS as the Yanks were blowing it.  Players learn in Little League that they can't do that.  And if they do it anyway, they don't have the nerve to look shocked, arms stretched out in surprise, while standing on second base.

--The two teams with the best record in each league are in the World Series for the first time since 1999.

--Stephen Drew doesn't get hits, but he does take them away.  He helped save Game Six with his great play in the seventh.  That's been heavily covered, but nobody remembers his athletic grab of John Lester's errant throw to second base to turn an important double play.  Lester has Roger Clemens's illness: Neither can throw the ball to any base with accuracy.

--Ortiz hit .091 in the ALCS.  Both hits were opposite extremes.  A little blooper over second base.  And a game-tying grand slam that woke up Boston in Game Two.

--Victorino hit .125, with just three hits.  But, like Ortiz, he made the big one count.

--Drew went 1 for 20, with 10 strikeouts.  But, again, the hits he didn't get aren't as important as the ones he took away.

--I'm okay with Drew at short and Bogaerts at third throughout the World Series.  Middlebrooks can sit.

--Middlebrooks and Mike Carp will be important pinch-hitters in the World Series while in St. Louis.  Though here's hoping the Sox don't need them.

--Good to see Uehara win the MVP of the series.  If for no other reason than to show that I don't just pluck these predictions out of thin air.

--I don't remember a single game in which two different players on the same team lost homeruns by about half a foot--combined.

--The Sox relief was perhaps the best I've ever seen in one series.  The whole bullpen deserved the MVP.  Tazawa, especially, manhandled the best hitter (only less so when injured) in the majors.

--I wouldn't want Fielder on my team, even with his homers and RBIs.  I just read that he's already over his offensive ineptitude--at the plate and on the basepaths--because he has two kids to raise, and he has to show them how to be men.  Like he doesn't have his wife and some hired help raise them during the season?

--Note to Prince: Not caring is not being a man.  Real men accept responsibility for their mistakes, internally if not externally.  (He doesn't have to say it to the press, but it doesn't sound like he's saying it to himself, either.)

--I wouldn't let Buchholz throw more than 85 pitches in the World Series, unless he has a huge lead, and / or he's just breezing along.

--Ditto for Lester, who, like Buchholz, start walking everyone when they're losing it.

--Peavy gets the chance to redeem himself.  He's the only one on the pitching staff who needs to.

--Like I said in the previous entry--Having come this far, let's go all the way.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

ALCS Sox Lead Tigers, 3-2

A few thoughts before the hopefully series-ending Game 6:

--If I'm the Tigers, I still like my chances.  Sure, they're down three games to two, with two games to play at Fenway, but they have the league's two best pitchers going back-to-back.  These two guys have given up one earned run between them in their two starts--and that was on one bad pitch to Mike Napoli.  I hate to say it, but the Tigers' chances are good.

--And so are the Sox's chances, of course.  They're at home.  They have the last at-bats and they're a last at-bat kind of team.  And their relievers are much better.  And they can play the park better.  And despite the success of the Tigers' two aforementioned starters, they're just 0-1 against the Sox in those two starts in this series.

--The way it's been so far, the Sox just need a lead by the seventh inning.  (Knock on wood.)

--Uehara is the MVP so far.  No one else comes close, not even Napoli.

--Neither team's offense has played correct fundamentals this series.  Runners aren't getting moved over, and they're not being driven in from third with less than two outs.  Frustrating to watch.

--I wonder if Peavy is in the bullpen tonight.  Everyone's in the bullpen if there's a game tomorrow.

--The first-half Clay needs to show up tonight.  If not, I hope Farrell has as quick a hook with him as he did with Lester last game.  Go with your strength; right now, that's the bullpen, not the starters.

--I agree with keeping Drew at short as long as Bogaerts starts at third.  Who would you rather see on the bench, Drew or Middlebrooks?  With his defense, Drew needs to play.  If the other batters hit like they should, his offense won't be necessary, anyway.  And I'll bet his defensive WAR is very good.

--What's the chance of Victorino sticking a forearm out there and getting hit to force in the winning run?  Better than me driving it in, that's for sure.

--Prince Fielder, who makes about $19 million a year and who hasn't driven in a run in about 16 postseason games, needs not to say things like he did the other night in Detroit.  When asked about the boos he got, he essentially said that if the fans could hit the ball, they'd be playing the game themselves.  Win or lose, at least the Sox have accountability.  If a player sucks lately, he'll say so.

--The talk radio station I listen to here called the Tigers the league's best softball team.  Reasons?  They're fat and slow at the corners, and the offense is not well-balanced.  Of course, their starting pitching is much better than a softball team's, but I sort of get what they meant.

--The Sox offense (actually, both teams' offense) has done much worse than anyone would've thought.  Not one single starter has hit well overall.  But they've hit well at the most opportune times.

--Then again, the Sox pitching has done much better than anyone would've thought.

--And who would've thought that the Sox would make it this far, anyway? 

--But having done so, let's go all the way, waddaya say?

Monday, October 14, 2013

ALCS Tied at 1

A few quick notes on this late night / early morning:

--I happened to have been lucky enough to watch the Patriots' comeback with 5 seconds left, and this Sox comeback, in the same night.  Ever since 2003, it's been great to be a Boston-area baseball and football fan.

--And I just caught the tail-end of both.  But what else was there to see?

--I know Bill James says there's no such thing as clutch, but I've been watching these two guys for a very long time now, and David Ortiz and Tom Brady sure look like clutch players to me.

--If there's no such thing as a clutch player, why would I want David Ortiz up at a crucial time, and not A-Rod, when the latter's numbers are clearly so much better overall?

--If there's no such thing as a clutch player, why is David Ortiz so respected as one by the other players--and why is A-Rod so not respected as one by the other players?  The players would know, right?

--Bill James has an open reservation to come to my house--or to take me out to dinner, preferably at a sports bar, so I can watch the games--and explain why he says that, statistically, there's no such thing as clutch.

--When your team has been held hitless for over 15 innings over two ALCS games, you should lose both.

--It is a testament to this team that they won one tonight, and actually could have, and perhaps should have, won it last night.

--I would agree that there's no such thing as momentum, but I saw the 2004 ALCS.  Then again, I also saw the 2008 ALCS, and was at Fenway for the eight-run comeback win, down by seven in the seventh, in Game 5.  If they come back from the brink and win that game, and they win game six, momentum stipulates that they'd also win game seven, right?  Nope.  So I'm undecided about whether momentum really exists.

--If it does, the Sox have it going to Detroit.  But you're only as good as your last game.

--Part of me thinks the Sox should be up 2-0.  The other half of me slaps around the first half, and says to be thankful that they're tied.  The Sox really should have won last night, and they really should have lost tonight, so I'll agree that the slate is as it should be.

--The Tigers bullpen doesn't impress me.  The only advantage the Tigers have is in starting pitching.  Which is huge, but if the Sox can hang in there and get into their bullpen, they have a good chance of winning one, and perhaps two, in Detroit.  They'll have to win at least one to bring it back to Boston.

--Cabrera's swing is coming around.  And most of the Sox's swings are not.  Even with the slam, Ortiz is hitting below a buck fifty.  And Ellsbury still doesn't have a hit.

--There've been four grand slams by Sox players in the playoffs, and I've seen them all.  Ortiz's tonight.  J.D. Drew's in the 2007 ALCS.  Johnny Damon's, of course, in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.  And Troy O'Leary's in the 1999 ALDS, in Game 5, after Nomar was intentionally walked to get to him. 

--In his next at-bat in that same game, after another intentional walk to Nomar, O'Leary hit a three-run homer.  This was Mike Hargrove's famously mismanaged series, when even the announcers said he used his bullpen like he was panicking--up two games to zero.  He was fired after that ALDS.  This was the same game that Pedro came in with a busted back and pitched six hitless innings.  For those who care about such things.  Don't ask me how I remember such things--I just do.  But don't ask me anything about yesterday.

--I'm not surprised that the Sox have struck out over 30 times in the two games.  Isn't that what some of them have been doing all year?  Luckily they walk a lot, too, which is why Napoli can strike out a team-record 187 times this year, and still have an on-base percentage of around .350, which is decent.

--Left unnoticed is the job of the Sox bullpen these last two games.  And, for the most part, its defense.

--And Joe West's strike zone was amongst the most inconsistent I've ever seen, for both teams.  He's just happy this ALCS isn't between the Sox and Yanks.  (He infamously said two years ago that those teams make a mockery of the game because their games last so long.  How dare the hitters work the count and try to get on base?)

--Let's not get greedy if the Sox lose.  I know you expected them to be middle of the pack, if not in the basement, this year.  I know you did, because I did, too.

--Ortiz is hitting about .500 against Verlander for his career, and the Sox overall handle him pretty well, considering how dominating he is to everyone else.  Daniel Nava infamously had a great game against him.

--Go Sox.  They do better when I don't watch, so I'll continue not to, and just catch the last few innings.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Red Sox to the ALCS

A few quick thoughts about the last few games of the ALDS:

--Peralta can quick-pitch Napoli for strike-three as often as he wants, as long as he uncorks a game-tying wild pitch first, like he did last night.

--The results were good, but I can't say I approve of how Maddon managed his bullpen yesterday.  Why he didn't do the same the night before--which was also a must-win game for them--is a mystery, if he thought the situation that dire.

--And you're instilling a sense of fear in your team if you're mixing and matching your pitchers so often that you're basically screaming out that your team can't afford to make even one wrong pitch.  I think that made the team more stiff at the plate as well.  Some players do not perform well under such intense alarm.  See: Fernando Rodney.  Perhaps Longoria as well; he had more indecisive half-swings in that one game that he probably had in the past few weeks combined.

--Farrell managed his team much better than Maddon, who's also a good manager, but sometimes steals the spotlight from the players during games and post-game interviews.  Pinch-hitting Bogaerts for Drew was a helluva move, and not one he made all year.  He normally sticks with Drew even at times when he must know he shouldn't.  But Bogaerts drew two walks in two PAs, and scored the tying run.  Taking out Peavy at just the right moment, after just 74 pitches, took steel nerve.  Bringing in Breslow earlier than usual, and leaving him in longer than usual, was just the right move.  Letting Tazawa face just that one batter, rather than having him finish the eighth, which he would normally do, was also just right.  Perfect decisions at exactly the right moments.

--Breslow speaks just like the Ivy-League educated guy that he is.  And I mean that as a compliment.  For a ballplayer, he's extremely well-spoken, and I mean that in the kindest of all possible ways.

--I don't know why Maddon didn't leave Moore in longer.  When he came in, the announcers (and me) thought he was in for at least four innings.

--The game lasted just under four hours, until 1:30 a.m., for those keeping track.  TBS might want to consider that next time it wants to start a playoff game at 8:30 pm.  If Girardi had managed the way Maddon did, and had the game been Sox / Yanks instead, it would have lasted past 2:30 a.m.

--Bottom line: The Rays were tired, and couldn't hit.

--I wouldn't want Rodney for my closer.  There seems to be something a little off-kilter rattling around in there.  And even when he does well--one person can't have a completely askew cap, off-center to the point that it draws unnecessary attention to itself, and a bow-and-arrow genuflect to God.  If he wanted to scream "Hey, look at me!" then he should have literally screamed "Hey, look at me!" as he was walking two and hitting a batter in the ninth inning of a must-win game.

--The Trop is a travesty that simply needs to go.  Has anyone considered the possibility that the team draws like crap not because the fanbase sucks, but because it doesn't want to come to that park?  It even looks terrible on television.  And what if the catwalk fiasco had been the final play of a Game 7 of the World Series?  If there was a great team playing in a great park and the fans still didn't come, then it would be time to move the team.  First, how about playing in an actual ballpark first?

--Tigers or A's?  Are you kidding?  Go A's!!!  (I wish a World Series for Billy Beane.  But not this year.)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sox 2 Rays 0 2013 Division Series

A few things as we await the third game of the series.  Comments about a game refer to the second one unless specified otherwise:

--Let's not celebrate yet.  The third win is always the hardest, or so the players say.  Five teams have won the first two Division Series games and not the series.

--Each of the three double plays ended an inning, and none was more important than Tazawa's.  He's this bullpen's weakest link.  Out of the really important pitchers, anyway.

--Breslow continues to amaze, but I still hope Buchholz goes into the eighth inning next time.

--It is not as easy as Uehara makes it look.

--Speaking of which: Uehara threw 11 pitches.  All strikes.

--The most important stat of the night: Not Ortiz's two homers.  Not Pedroia's three RBIs.  It's Ellsbury's three hits and three runs scored.  He is the oil that lubricates this offense and keeps it running smoothly.  If he's not on base, and stealing bases, and creating errors, and taking the pitcher's mind off the other batters, then Pedroia doesn't drive in three because there's nobody to drive in.  As Ellsbury goes, so does the offense.

--Speaking of which: I've not been an Ellsbury fan the last couple of years, since he exploded on the scene in 2007, because of his many injuries and days on the DL, and his fragility and reluctance to play unless he's 100%.  (Which no ballplayer ever is.)  But I'm a fan this year.  The Sox need to resign him, though not at the expense of other players, of course.  He's beloved here, so I hope he doesn't take the money (the Yankees, the Dodgers and the Angels will all offer more during the offseason) and run.

--I have a very reliable source who says that Ellsbury is such a jerk that he will, in fact, take the money and run.  Of course, if someone offered me millions more than I'm making now, I might, as well.  Who wouldn't?

--But this very reliable source is firm on the fact that he is a very big jerk, and is known for being so.

--It was nice to hear the applause that Lackey got when he left the game.  Last year and a couple of weeks ago, all of those cheers were very loud boos.  Well, when his name was spoken, anyway, since of course he wasn't on the field when he cashed his checks totaling about $16,000,000.

--I'm closer to California than Stephen Drew was to second base when he turned the two late-inning double plays tonight.  But we'll take 'em.

--Next year, when the abomination of the instant replay starts, you won't see those proximity plays anymore.

--The Rays pitching and defense are tired.  Moore and Price usually manhandle and shackle the Sox.

--Breslow continues to impress during his interviews, which is not normally where players shine.  But this Ivy-League educated guy is yet to give a cheap or cliche answer to any question.  He must've missed Bull Durham.

--Rays' manager Joe Maddon said after the game that he looks forward to Game 5 at Fenway.  And he sounded like he meant it.  Gotta respect that.  (And let's hope he's of false hope.)

--A shout out to my friend Chris, who was at Fenway during Game Two of this 2013 Division Series.

--I've never seen the Sox run the bases as well as they have the past two games.  You expect Ellsbury to score from first on a double, but not on a hard-hit ball to left field at Fenway.  And Gomes scoring from second on an infield hit last night by Stephen Drew?  That's right out of Major League.  (Literally.  Remember Jake's bunt?)  Unbelievable.  The Sox I started watching in the mid- to late-80s were the exact opposite of this, barely-fit sluggers who clogged the basepaths and didn't hustle.  (For the most part.  Ellis Burks and a couple of second basemen were the exceptions.)

--I have to admit that I worried when Breslow came in, and was loudly critical of Farrell for bringing in Tazawa.  But what did I know?  (Except that Tazawa was brutally bad in September, and that double play perhaps saved the game right there.)

--I thought Breslow should've started the eighth, and bring in Uehara for a four- or five-out save, if necessary.  Breslow hadn't thrown many pitches at all, because of the double-play, and because the Rays swung early against him.  Tazawa worries me.  A lot.

--I thought starting Ross was a mistake, too.  But he hits a double, and scores a run, and there's only one base stolen against him.  So what do I know?

--Here's to hoping for a Game Three win for the Sox, and for a Series win by the A's over the Tigers.  Is that asking too much?


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

1923 Willard's Chocolates--George H. Burns--20 Fair 1.5

Today I'm starting a new feature that spotlights one of my cards per week.  I'll try to keep the cards and the players as varied as I can.  I'll write about the player first, then the card.  Sometimes the card will be available for sale.  I'll say so at the bottom of the entry.  So look back here for a new entry, on average once per week, about a card and player.  And look back to previous entries about some cards I've already written about.

This one is a 1923 Willard's Chocolates: George H. Burns--in 20 Fair 1.5 condition, which isn't too bad for the age.  I mean, this card is 90 years old, after all.  I hope I look as good at 90, if I even reach that age.

The backs are blank, like the 1887 N182 Old Judges and the 1921 Exhibits.  (Love those, too, but they're very expensive.  The 1887s cost at least $100 each, in authentic, presentable or fair condition, which are the three lowest.  Crazy money, for me, anyway.)  This one has writing on the back, which I'm not crazy about.  Normally I don't buy blankbacks that aren't blank, especially if there's writing on it.  But this card was at a price I couldn't refuse.  It's the only 1921 Willard's Chocolates I own.

The Player

I was interested in the card partly because I was vaguely familiar with the player.  I knew that a George Burns led the league in hits in the 20s for a year, and won an MVP, and was a solid player.  The Hall of Famers' cards cost more, of course, so I had to stay away from those.  But you tire of buying commons of good cards, too--though this card is more a commons than a star card.  Still...So if you look him up on, which is the site I always use to get stats, you'd find that there were actually two George Burns playing in the 20s.  There's my guy, at this address, and then there's another guy, who played in the mid-10s to the mid-20s, at this address.  They were both good players, but time being what it is, let's focus on my guy.

He had an odd career, if you look at the stats.  In 1918 he led the league in games, hits and total bases, while batting .352 and with an almost-.400 on-base percentage.  Despite this, he only scored 61 runs, which tells me that he either didn't bat leadoff (or even in the top-5 in the order) or that the Philadelphia Athletics of 1918 was a bad team.  Or both.  Anyway, in spite of his good play, he was a part-time player in 1920 and in 1921--two prime years, when he was 26 and 27, peak years for many ballplayers.  He apparently got stuck in the depth chart behind another first baseman, and he was flat-out bought by the Cleveland Indians (for whom he was playing in 1923, the year of my card).  He was a part-time player for them, before being traded to the Boston Red Sox for Stuffy McInnis, an extremely good player.  He played very well for Boston, which traded him back to Cleveland in a huge trade you can read about at the bottom, beneath all the stats.

He played great in Cleveland, batting .306, .328, .310, .336, .358 and .319.  While averages across the league were up between 1921 and 1939, this is still very good.  In 1926 he was the MVP, with 216 hits and 64 doubles, a record until Earl Webb hit 67 for the Red Sox a few years later.  (Webb's record still stands today, so Burns' 64 is still in the top-5 or so.)  He had 3 triples, 4 homers and 115 RBIs, which means those doubles drove in a ton of runs, plus whatever singles he hit.  (This also means Cleveland was a good team, with lots of runners on base, and that Burns hit between 2nd and 5th in the lineup.)

But something happened, because two years later he was flat-out bought by the New York Yankees, who barely used him for a couple of seasons, before selling him back to the Philadelphia Athletics, who rarely played him.  And that's it.  He played twice for two different teams, and he seemed to be wanted, yet easily sold or traded, at the same time.

A very strange career for a very good player.  He led the league in hits twice, eight years apart, which is hard to do in general, but especially if you're playing in the same league as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby and all those guys.  He finished second in hits and average one year; finished second to Babe Ruth in RBIs during his MVP year, and constantly was among the league-leaders in hits, average and defensive statistics, including consecutive games played and fielding percentage.  He snagged an MVP from them as well, when he was 33.  He had over 2,000 hits and hit over .300 for his career.  A quick glance at his defensive stats shows that he was good, maybe a little better than average.  Not a Gold Glove winner, but solid enough not to make a jerk of himself there, and he once made an unassisted triple play, which is very rare. Burns also played in two World Series, and won both of them, nine years apart.

I went to his Wikipedia page to see why he was traded or sold so often, and why he was made a part-time player in the middle of his career after very good seasons, and at the end, just a year after winning the MVP.  It didn't tell me a thing, except that there might not be anything to say, and that he became a good minor-league player and manager, and then a sheriff of a small town.  I guess injuries could explain the part-time status and the trades, but I would've thought Wikipedia would show that.  Maybe he had Rogers Hornsby disease: despite a HOF career and being a world-class hitter as the National League's Babe Ruth (and a second basemen!), Hornsby was also an uncontested jerk who teams couldn't wait to get rid of, and which actually became better after getting rid of him, despite replacing him with a worse player.  (A-rod is a present-day example.)  But, again, I would guess that the Wikipedia page would've mentioned that he was hard to get along with.  Instead, this article's writer seemed to be obsessed with Burns' greatness as a right-handed hitter, and with right-handers in general.

I suspect that there's more here to know.  If you feel like it, please investigate and leave a comment.

The Card

As stated by (click this link and look at the beautiful Babe Ruth card):

"The 1923 Willards Chocolate set consists of 180 cards, each measuring about 2” x 3-1/4”. Produced by a Canadian firm, the Willards Chocolate Company, the unnumbered cards feature a sepia-tone player photo with a white border. A facsimile autograph is printed across the image. The back of every card is blank. The key cards belong to Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and of course, Babe Ruth. This set is also anchored by Grover Cleveland Alexander, Stan Coveleski, Hugh Duffy, Johnny Evers, Frank Frisch, Kid Gleason, Burleigh Grimes, Harry Hooper, Rogers Hornsby, Miller Huggins, Connie Mack, Branch Rickey, and Tris Speaker. The company inserted one card into packages of their products. The set’s unique imagery has kept the Willards Chocolate issue extremely popular with collectors, and partly as the result of coming from a Canadian manufacturer is seen as being relatively rare."

Apparently they're commonly found trimmed, with the white border cut away, leaving just the picture.  (Some of the T206s I've seen were trimmed, too, like we do today with a copy that has too much black ink.  I don't get the point of doing this to baseball cards, but whatever.  Who knew in 1922 that they'd be worth so much?)  Anyway, they're worth less, obviously, if they're trimmed.  Mine isn't.  A graded set of 6.+ sold in 2010 for $71,700.  The Babe Ruth was $35,000 in Mint condition, and $315 in poor condition, which is a worse state than mine's in.  The Ty Cobb was $18,000 in Mint condition, and $155 in poor condition.  I don't own those, of course.  I make it a point not to buy cards for more than $15 to $25, and for even less, when I can.  I did so for this card, and it's not for sale.