Thursday, December 29, 2016

Jake Stahl, Boston Red Sox Manager, M101-2 Sporting News Supplement October 24, 1912

Photo: from my collection

Just a quick post before my year-end comments. I'm posting this as a tip of the cap to my better half, who got me this for Christmas. I've wanted this for a few months now. It's a helluva image, and he's a former Red Sox manager and player besides. And doesn't he look thrilled?!?

I have six of these now. I'll maybe put them in one post sometime. These are awesome, huge sepia-toned photos of players and managers, owners and league presidents, from 1909 to 1913. They were supplements in The Sporting News, which is a large, newspaper / magazine-sized publication that started in the 1880s and is still around now. (It's still a big publication, too.)

They were printed on very fine, thin paper and inserted in the publication.You can find them now only on ebay and specialty websites and stores. They don't have a fixed value, pretty much whatever you'll pay for them, though of course the ones of Hall of Famers or the ones in the best condition will be worth more. They're rare enough that you can go to ebay, put in the player's name, and M101 Sporting News Supplement, and click the box for "sold listings," and you'll get it. (This one was $42.) You can't do that with any card made, say, since the 1950s. There's just too many of them, even of specific cards. These M101-2s aren't cards, of course, but they're sold and collected that way, and will be listed in comprehensive catalogs of baseball cards, especially vintage ones. They're blank-backed.

Jake Stahl had an interesting time of it, too. He won the 1912 World Series with the Boston Red Sox (Which had ended just a few weeks before this photo was published. Was it taken during the World Series? Would a manager look as dour as this during the Series?), and then was fired / quit the very next year. He had better things to do than to be insulted by the players and owners: He had a full-time job as part-owner of a large bank with his father-in-law, which paid a heckuva lot better than what he was making from baseball. He'd already left baseball once, the year before, and he happily left it again. But actual happiness was not to be. He had a breakdown in 1920 and went to a sanitarium in California, where he never recovered. In fact, he contracted tuberculosis and died from that in 1922, just 10 years after this photo was taken.

This from the Society for American Baseball Research, at The full address is here.

In 1903, Jake played 40 games as a rookie catcher behind Cy Young-favorite Lou Criger. He did not play in the subsequent 1903 World Series, and his keen disappointment at missing that opportunity became one of the key forces driving him throughout the remainder of his playing career.

In 1912, Jake skillfully managed the famous “Speed Boys” to an American League pennant-winning 105-47 season record. Ninety-eight seasons later, the 1912 won-lost season record still stands as the best in Red Sox history. His Boston team subsequently won the 1912 World Series from the McGraw-led New York Giants.

Garland Stahl was born on April 13, 1879, in Elkhart, Illinois, the third son of Henry and Eliza Stahl. Henry was a front-line Union veteran of the Civil War who survived the horrors of the bloodbath at Shiloh. After the war, Henry and Eliza opened a thriving general store in Elkhart. In naming her third son, Eliza used the name of one of her brothers-in-law, Garland.

After graduating from high school (which at that time went only to the 10th grade) and working at the family store, Stahl enrolled at the University of Illinois. His fraternity brothers nicknamed him Jake. University of Illinois football coach George Huff (who briefly managed Boston in 1907) encouraged him to try out for the team.

With forward passes not allowed yet, no offensive/defensive specialization employed, and only rudimentary protective equipment used, the resulting two-way game was particularly brutal. As he matured physically, Jake became both an outstanding running back on offense and a smart, quick lineman on defense. He had his best year as a junior in 1901, when he was named to the All-Western Conference football team. He was named captain of the Illinois football team in 1902. In his first formal leadership position, Jake was required to address not only his personal needs but the needs of the entire team. It was a skill he would continue to hone throughout both his baseball and subsequent banking career.

Huff also coached baseball at the University and encouraged Jake to join his highly successful squad. As the starting catcher, Jake batted .441 his sophomore year, and in his senior campaign, led Illinois to a Western Conference Championship.

Exhibiting an outstanding ability to organize and focus his efforts, Jake graduated with a law degree in 1903. Although his athletic and classroom activities clearly were his first priorities, Jake was no social wallflower in college. The University of Illinois yearbooks of the time contain two references to Jake’s social activities, including a poem describing his carriage ride with a young woman named Clara. Jake met his future wife, Jennie Mahan, at the university.

In the spring of 1903, as Boston suffered a potentially debilitating blow to their pennant hopes with the injury of their backup catcher “Duke” Farrell, team owner Henry Killilea hurriedly traveled to Chicago to sign Jake to an American League contract on the playing field immediately after a late-season university ballgame. Jake got into his first game on Opening Day and appeared in 40 games as a catcher for Boston in 1903, hitting .239. More importantly, Jake’s work enabled Boston to keep Criger fresh for the postseason. As noted, Jake himself did not play in the 1903 World Series. When pinch-hitting opportunities arose in both Games One and Four, Collins twice used the still-recovering Farrell (who had played in only 17 games the entire season) and the veteran outfielder Jack O’Brien (who hit .210 in 1903.) Jake’s personal disappointment was a key factor that helped shape the rest of his professional baseball career.

With Farrell fully recovered, Boston no longer needed Jake as a backup catcher. Ban Johnson, however, grateful for Jake’s role in Boston’s successful 1903 season (Boston’s World Series victory ensured the long-term viability of his new American League), envisioned Jake achieving long-term baseball success as first baseman. During the winter of 1903-04, Boston shipped Jake to the floundering Washington franchise. Johnson was in charge of the team until suitable owners could be found and converted Jake into a first baseman. He appeared in 142 games and finished the year with a .262 batting average, three home runs, and 50 RBIs. Even by Deadfall Era standards, these numbers were not exceptional, yet Stahl led the woeful (38-113) Nationals in all three categories.

In 1905, Johnson promoted Jake to manager. Having just turned 26 years old the day before the season began, he became the youngest player-manager in American League history. Employing the inclusive management style he used in college, Jake quickly won the support of the team’s veteran players. Coupled with a focused disciplinary approach emphasizing direct out-of-public-view communication with offenders, punctuated by demonstrations of potential physical force, Jake led the 1905 squad to 64-87 record. For a short time early in the season, Jake even had the team in first place. When the team returned from a successful road trip, Washington gave the team a rousing parade and celebratory dinner. More importantly, Johnson found new owners for the shaky Washington franchise. Stahl had become, in the words of one observer, “popular with the players, and so well liked by the club owners that it has been officially announced that he can retain his present berth until he voluntarily resigns.” In the offseason, Jake married his college sweetheart, the daughter of highly-successful businessman Henry Weston Mahan.

In 1906, however, things fell apart for Jake and the Nationals. Popular shortstop Joe Cassidy unexpectedly died of typhus at the beginning of the season and the team fell into a tailspin, finishing 55-95. Upset by the death of his close friend and consumed with trying to right the fast-sinking team, Jake completely lost his personal focus, finishing with the worst batting average of his career, .222. Jake took personal blame for the team’s disappointing 1907 performance, noting, “If I’d been able to hit .300 this year, as many of my friends predicted, we’d have been up in the first division, but I was a frost.”

The frustrated Washington owners replaced Jake as their manager during the 1906-1907 offseason, urging him to concentrate on playing first base. Seeing the team transition that Boston was undertaking, Jake asked to be traded back to Boston. Washington management declined, trading him instead to the Chicago White Sox. Jake refused to report and spent the 1907 season working in his father-in-law’s bank, managing the University of Indiana’s baseball team, and playing semiprofessional baseball in Chicago.

In 1908, Chicago traded Jake to Clark Griffith’s New York Highlanders. When Griffith resigned in midseason, Jake was traded back to Boston to play first base. As the future Boston stars (Wood, Speaker, Hooper, Lewis, Gardner) developed, the hard-hitting Stahl anchored the Boston lineup from 1908-1910. In 1910, Jake led the American League with 10 home runs and ranked fourth best in RBIs (77) and triples (16). He also stole 22 bases.

Despite his baseball success, Jake’s off-the-field banking successes were even greater and paid more. Given the financial uncertainties associated with a baseball career at the time and the fact that he had just started a family, Jake opted to retire. He served as vice president of the Washington Park National Bank on Chicago’s South Side. Attempts to lure him back to baseball in 1911 were fruitless.

After a change in ownership late in the disappointing 1911 season, new Red Sox team president Jimmy McAleer convinced Jake to come out of retirement. Both he and his father-in-law became part-owners of the club, Jake becoming the player-manager-owner of a talented but uninspired Boston club. Jake signed a two-year contract. Using the same inclusive management and disciplinary styles he used earlier in Washington, he effectively focused the previously-uninspired team. Boston ran away with the 1912 American League pennant. Jake finished the year with a career-high .301 batting average. Facing the New York Giants in the 1912 World Series, Jake both outplayed the Giants’ Merkle at first base, and, according to Connie Mack, consistently out-managed McGraw. Jake invested his winning World Series share in his father-in-law’s Chicago banks.

In 1913, Boston started slowly and Jake suffered a serious foot injury requiring the removal of part of a bone in his right foot. Although he continued to manage the team, he could not play first base. Within a tense atmosphere of newspaper reports claiming internal dissension within the team and rumors that Jake would replace him as team president, Boston president McAleer publicly demanded that Jake return to first base.

Upset that he was being publicly portrayed in the newspapers as somehow losing control of his team, conniving for personal gain, and shirking his first-base playing duties, Jake met McAleer in Chicago during a July road trip. In the heat of the moment, the Boston president released him, paying off the remainder of his contract.

McAleer’s hasty action was immediately condemned by much of the baseball community, including Ban Johnson, who called the move “hasty and ill-advised.” Bill Carrigan, one of the players that Jake often consulted with, was named the new Boston manager. In October, Jake announced he was through with baseball. Later that offseason, as part of another Boston front office change, McAleer himself was released as president.

For his nine-year major league career, Jake posted a .261 batting average with 894 hits, which included 149 doubles, 87 triples, and 31 home runs. He also stole 178 bases, with his single-season high of 41 in 1906.

Jake immediately began his second career as a full-time banker. With his father-in-law serving as president, Jake became vice-president and board member of Washington Park National Bank. Jake continued as vice-president until he assumed the presidency of Washington Park in 1919.

During his years of involvement, he put in long hours at the bank, helping it more than double its deposits in three years. But the hard work came with a heavy price: in 1920, Jake suffered a nervous breakdown and was placed in a Monrovia, California, sanitarium. Though he spent two years in California, Jake’s health gradually worsened and he contracted tuberculosis. With his wife and son at his bedside, Jake died on September 18, 1922. He was just 43 years old.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Chris Sale to Boston for Yoan Moncada, Kopech and Two Others; 2 Other Deals

Photos: The front of my Chris Sale autographed 2010 Bowman Sterling Prospect Autographs card (It's got an 8 surface because the autograph is on a thin, transparent sticker that's put on the card). The back of the card shows that Beckett graded the autograph a 10, which is perfect. So a 9 card and a 10 autograph. Not bad.

Read about the Red Sox / White Sox trade at this link if you're not inundated with it already.

In a nutshell (which some are saying Sale is, especially after he ripped up some White Sox throwback uniforms last year), this is a trade for a power lefty with the best ERA in the American League over the past five years. Visit his page here.

Here's why the Sox are excited to have Sale:

--All-time: #3 in K / 9, 2nd in Ks per walk and #10 in WHIP, all awesome control and power stats.

--He's only 27.

--He's team-controlled until the end of 2019. The last 2 years are team option years, for $12.5 million and $13.5 million each year. That's really cheap considering his ability. (Consider that Pablo Sandoval got paid $17 million last year not to play at all.)

--He supplants Price as the ace and now gives Boston perhaps the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball, with Sale, Price and (2016 Cy Young Award Winner) Porcello starting the first three games of any postseason series.

--He averages over 200 innings a year and has finished 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th in Cy Young voting in the past five years. Also a 5-time All-Star, each of the past five years.

--He's led the league in complete games, Ks, and Ks per nine innings in the past few years.

--He's also led the league in hit batsmen the past few years. Why's that a good thing? Because it proves he pitches inside, and he pitches angry. (Remind you of anyone? Answer below.) That's good, because with half his starts at Fenway, and the Green Monster just 310 feet away, he has to pitch inside. He already does.

--You'd rather have a great thing, which Sale is, than 4 possibly great things. Think: Rose and Pavano for Pedro. (Another guy who pitched angry and inside, and hit a few batters. But he's in the HOF now.)

--The blue chip in the trade was Moncada, who the Sox spent $80+ million on, including a fine for signing a foreign player for so much money. Then he went 0-9 with 9 whiffs, looked terrible doing it, and seemed lost in the field. I saw him play a game in Portland last summer: he whiffed 5 out of 5 times, and looked terrible there, in Double-A. I also heard today that the Cuban League, where he (and Puig) excelled, don't test for PEDs, and that everyone comes out of there looking like King Kong. Then those guys (again, like Puig) come to the majors, and they're overmatched. He could be the next Robinson Cano ("Don'tcha know"), but I'm betting against it.

--The rotation now looks like this: Sale, Price, Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez (who has shown flashes of excellence--and boorishness), and Drew Pomeranz, who with some rest may be the guy they hoped they were getting. (And thanks, Hayes, for reminding me of his existence this afternoon. An unforgivable mental blip.) If he falters, Clay Buchholz and / or Steven Wright will step in. Wright showed brilliance last year before he was injured (perhaps permanently) and Buchholz may be the only #5 guy in the league who has pitched a no-hitter and won 17 games, twice. Perhaps the best starting rotation in the majors, on paper. And Buchholz did well in relief last year, too.

Here's why it's a slight cause for concern:

--Sale's the guy who ripped up the very, very ugly White Sox throwback uniforms last year. Literally, he took scissors to all of the uniforms in the clubhouse, costing his team thousands and earning him a team suspension. Not to mention the ire of the organization. So he comes with ace stuff, but also a bit of an attitude. But wasn't that said about Pedro as well?

--Though he'll be just 28 in March, at the start of Spring Training, I'm a little concerned about all the innings he's pitched. He throws 95-98, for 200 innings a year the past 5-7 years. That may add up. Then again, Price has pitched more innings, and after a poor start, he finished very well. Plus, there are guys like Ryan, Clemens, Johnson, etc. who had no problem. We'll see.

--Moncada might be the real deal. Maybe not. But Kopech could also be the real deal, as he also throws 100+ MPH and has three plus pitches. Diaz, the forgotten man, also throws 100 and has a great upside. I'm not as familiar with Basabe, but it is very possible that the first 3 guys will become All-Stars, Kopech as a starter and Diaz as a closer. I'm betting they'll make it further than Moncada. And, again, I'll take a definite over four maybees, even three very high-ceiling, scary maybees.

But neither Pavano nor Rose turned out to be Pedro Martinez, right? Not even combined.

P.S.--In case you missed it, Mitch Moreland (think Napoli, but weaker on offense and Gold Glove on defense) just signed with Boston, pending a physical. This puts Hanley Ramirez at DH, and he's a good option at 1st during interleague play.

P.P.S.--And Travis Shaw and a few prospects you've never heard of are going to Milwaukee for Tyler Thornburg, a proven 8th-inning power set-up guy with closing experience. If Carson Smith is healthy, the Sox may have the best 7th, 8th and 9th guys in baseball--and a safety net if they tire of Kimbrel's act, as I already have.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2017 HOF Ballot Part 1

Photo: from

315Jeff Bagwell71.6%
307Tim Raines69.8%
296Trevor Hoffman67.3%
230Curt Schilling52.3%
199Roger Clemens45.2%
195Barry Bonds44.3%
191Edgar Martinez43.4%
189Mike Mussina43.0%
150Lee Smith34.1%
92Fred McGriff20.9%
73Jeff Kent16.6%
68Larry Walker15.5%
51Gary Sheffield11.6%
46Billy Wagner10.5%
31Sammy Sosa7.0%

Above you have the players still eligible for the Hall of Fame. These guys have struck out on past voting, with the percentage they got during last year's vote.

In 2017 I expect Bagwell, Raines and Hoffman to get over the 75% hump, though I don't expect any of them to go crazy and reach, say, 95%. Bagwell has those whispers of PEDS use, but now that Piazza is in, this shouldn't be a problem. Piazza's whispers were louder, though one look at Bagwell in his rookie year, and then him looking like King Kong in later years...well, whatever. As I've said before, the writers can't moralize when they vote, as many of them would fail morality tests of their own. And Bagwell has never been accused by MLB for using PEDs. So he gets a pass with me. One of the best sluggers, defenders and taker of a walk that you're likely to ever see.

Key stats: Career .408 on-base %; 449 homers and 1529 RBIs; .540 slugging %; .948 OPS; 128 HBP. Top-50 career in every positive offensive stat, and JAWS says he's the 6th-best 1B ever. 'nuff said.

Raines, as I've written before, was overshadowed by Rickey Henderson his entire career, and there was that vial of crack cocaine that shattered in his back pocket in a slide at home, all caught on national television. Oops. (I'm pretty sure crack was on MLB's banned drug list at the time.) But he's worthy of the HOF, and would've been in already had he not played at the same time as Rickey.

I'm not crazy about closers making the HOF, but Hoffman does have over 600 saves. Not too many closers deserve it. Mariano will in a few years, and maybe the writers are waiting to put him in first. He deserves it more than Hoffmann, as did the Eck. I'm not convinced of Hoffman's dominance, exactly, but he should get in for career value at the position. Lee Smith should not, because Hoffman dominated more than Lee Smith ever could. I never felt Hoffman was elite during his entire career.

Clemens and Bonds are this generation's (and maybe all-time's) kings at their positions, and should eventually get in. I'd rather see that sooner than later. Neither has been accused by MLB as having used PEDS, though of course both did. I'll fall back again on my stance that writers should not moralize. They were the peak value and career value greats, and should be in, although they were also both greatly disliked by ballplayers and writers while they played. But look at the numbers.

Mussina and Schilling both deserve to be in, as well. I have played that tune before and won't again now. They're both all-time great pitchers and are ranked 28th and 27th by JAWS. I'd take Schilling over Mussina anyday. The Moose might be a Veterans Committee (or whatever it's called now) pick.

The rest are a no-go, even Sosa. Caveat there, as he and McGwire straight-up saved baseball in the mid-nineties and are now treated as lepers. But baseball bureaucrats have the right to be hypocrites.

Next up: New players on the 2017 HOF ballot.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mantle ($1.135M) and Musial Rookies Sold This Week

Photo: from

This is what a million dollar card looks like. Specifically, this is what a $1,135,000 card looks like. Of course it's a Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle, in PSA 8.5 condition, and it's beautiful. It sold just today at auction. This is a record for a '52 Mantle--and it'll fall soon. A 1952 Mickey Mantle in Perfect 10 condition is due to be auctioned soon. It'll threaten to become the most expensive card ever, outselling the T206 Wagner. Stay tuned for that!

Also selling this week:

Photo: from

A beautiful 1948 Bowman Stan Musial RC in PSA 9 condition, this week for $45,289. Or, more than half what most professionals make for a whole year. Shockingly under-rated player and card. Musial cards are so under-rated that even I can afford some mid-grades with no problem. That's a sin.

So click on the pics and see these beautiful cards! (Go to and go to the bottom of the site for the market news. Click on the Mantle pic there to see the back--also beautiful!) And wonder what you would feel like if you had them--or the money to afford them.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Red Sox 2016

Photo: David Ortiz at the White House, from his Wikipedia page. Just click here.

Yes, I know it's been a long time. Inexcusable, considering the good season. There were lots of entries I could have made here, and I was about to, but then something relevant came up. Also I didn't want to write an entry about how the season ended, considering the abrupt turnaround and the much-improved play. So...

--Let's start it off with a trivia question: When Randy Johnson won his 300th game, for what team was he pitching for? Answer towards the bottom of the column.

--Yes, a disappointing end, but let's remember what they've been the last few years. Bottom line: A much-improved team that now should make the playoffs regularly for a long time to come. And now those who played in a playoffs for the first time (which was almost all of the offensive players, especially those whose offense was . . . well, offensive) will be better prepared for next time. The Big Bs were all shut down this time, but they won't be next time.

--And it looks like Pedroia was playing with a bum knee for much of the season. Didn't know that. But when a player has major surgery a few days after his season ends, that's what that means. Pedroia himself had a resurgent year, and has entered himself into potential HOF talk. Amongst this generation's second basemen, his career is building up to be one of the best.

--Baseball-reference and JAWS say Pedroia's the 19th-best ever, and his fielding % is 4th-best, ever. (Click on the link for his page and stats.) Is there another second basemen you'd rather have? I'll take a leadoff batter with a .350+ OBP, 200 hits and great defense. Can't count the number of times this year I saw him make a great play going up on the ball, rather than just down. Amazing defense.

--And it looks like Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley and Benetendi will be good players for a long time. I have a 10 baseball and a 10 autograph of Betts and Bradley, by the way. Look at the blog about Betts's ball by clicking here.

--Don't be surprised if Ortiz has a tough time, at first, getting into the Hall. He's a DH, and he's got a cloud of PEDS suspicion, especially with HGH. True, his name (and the others) were not supposed to be leaked from the Biogenesis report--but it still was there. And I don't know that the country's sportswriters revere him like those in New England do. But I do think he'll eventually get in.

--If he does, Edgar Martinez should, too. But Ortiz was better. And he wasn't exactly the defensive liability that Edgar Martinez was. Ortiz could play first base if you were truly desperate, but I wouldn't have put Edgar Martinez on the field under any circumstance, especially at third base.

--His F-bomb after the Boston bombing will win over some of the out-of-New England writers, and his extreme popularity with other players and with the media cannot be ignored. That kind of stuff shouldn't matter with the writers' HOF vote, but it always does.

--It's a good thing, though, that the umpires don't do the voting. Ortiz, in all honesty, would make the HOF of Home Plate Whining at Umpires. And, for a few years there, the HOF of Contract Whining.

--Bradley may be one of the streakiest hitters of all-time. Not too many batters have led their league in longest hitting streak, as Bradley led the American League this year with his 29-gamer, and yet still finish at .267 or so for the year. In the playoffs this was especially frustrating.

--Any STATS employee or sabermetrics virtuoso, please feel free to look that up and leave a comment. Who has the lowest batting average of anyone who led his league that year with the longest hitting streak? My guess: Jackie Bradley, Jr. 2016.

--Worthless stat that just popped in my head: What player had the lowest batting average and yet led his league in homers? Answer: Tony Armas, Boston, .218. In the mid-80s, maybe before your time.

--I've met him--Jackie Bradley, that is, not Tony Armas--and spoken with him twice. Good guy, very soft-spoken. I'm glad he's finally made it. (Made the two autographs I have of him worth more, too.)

--The Sox may have the MVP and Cy Young on the same team for the first time since 1986. (Roger Clemens won both that year.)

--While we're at it, the trivia answer from the top: Randy Johnson won his 300th while pitching for the San Francisco Giants. (!) Yeah, I wouldn't have guessed that, either. I just happened to be on his baseball-reference page before I started this column. I wanted to see who was greater, Clemens or Johnson. Answer, Clemens, and it's not close, both in peak value and in career value. Both are top-10.

--And don't even bother telling me that one took PEDS and one didn't, because I don't believe that either one of them could've pitched that long, at that level, and that hard, without some help. I know Nolan Ryan just had Alleve, but still...he may have benefited from the same stuff that apparently helped Mantle and Ruth, if you catch my drift.

--Every time Bogaerts swings at a pitch low and (way) outside, he needs to drop and give me 20. Right there at the plate, like Willie Mays Hayes.

--The entire Boston team in 2016 may have been one of the streakiest ever. Without that 11-game winning streak, they may not have made the playoffs at all.

--And at least Ortiz got to go out at Fenway.

--Goodbye, Big Papi. It won't be the same without you.

--And good luck to Tito Francona and Mike Napoli. And Lester and Lackey, too, if they make it.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mookie Betts Autograph and Ball

My better half got me a Mookie Betts autographed ball last Xmas. Here it is:

It came with a certificate of authenticity (COA), but it was from the same ebay company that sold it. You probably know that you can't trust a COA from a company that certifies its own product, unless that company is a professional and trusted authenticator, like Beckett, JSA / DNA, etc. This company wasn't one of those. My better half, who has never bought an autographed collectible, didn't know that, and was also understandably pacified with the COA itself. The COA said:

"This certificate of authenticity guarantees the Rawlings Official Major League Baseball signed by Mookie Betts to be 100% genuine, being hand signed [sic] in person by Mr. Betts himself."

Sounds good, right? But what exactly is guaranteed to be genuine here? If you read it closely, the thing said to be genuine isn't the autograph, it's the baseball itself. Again, it says that the COA "...guarantees the ... baseball signed by Mookie Betts to be 100% genuine..." Whether by mistake (which I prefer to think) or by design, the COA sounds like it says it guarantees the autograph to be authentic, but it doesn't. It says the ball is a genuine Rawlings, which of course it is. Rawlings is the sole company that makes baseballs for Major League Baseball, and the commissioner's name is on it, but don't you want the COA to be for the autograph?

So I emailed the ebay company and asked if there was another COA or LOA (which really is what that was--a letter of authenticity; a certificate is usually a label or a card) that authenticates the autograph itself. The guy said No, but that he guarantees the autograph, or he'll give the money back.

I should mention here that the ball with autograph cost $70. Most Mookie Betts autographed balls, without a 3rd-party COA (like JSA) costs over $100, so this was a bargain. The ball looked really good to me--no smudges, dirt, cuts, etc. The autograph looked really good, too--no smudges, or blips, etc. Nice and clean with a good flow and solid contact.

After about an hour of research on ebay, comparing this to other authenticated Mookie Betts autographed baseballs, I decided this one was also genuinely his, and that I should send it out for authentication. (I did this just after I opened the gift on Christmas Day, before we continued opening things, because I'm an obsessive loser like that.)

So I saved up, because this stuff isn't cheap, and after a couple months I sent it to JSA (one of the three major 3rd-party authenticators, and JSA never sells anything--it only authenticates.) It took them about a month to say that it was, in fact, an autograph signed by Mookie Betts himself.

This cost $55. Not bad.

Then JSA sent it to Beckett, which grades the ball and the autograph. I wanted this done because this was the first autographed baseball bought for me by my better half, and because the ball and autograph looked good enough to grade, to better estimate its value and to protect them.

(I am violently upset with myself for allowing balls with Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek autographs to fade from the sun. Now I have to replace those. Daniel Bard also--infamously, among my friends--autographed a ball and then smudged it to hell when he gave it back to me. I got back in a long line with a separate baseball to get another autograph, but got stopped just before I got to his table by an overly strict woman who said he was leaving. When I explained what happened, and that I'd been in line twice, she said she didn't care. [This was at Pawtucket's HotStove, where new players sign for free, usually in the beginning of January, when it's about four degrees. And the PawSox don't turn on the heat, either. Luckily Daniel Bard turned out to be...well, Daniel Bard. I still have the damn ball, too. Anybody want it?)

But I digress. So Beckett took another month to grade the ball and autograph--and its website somehow managed to screw up my account info., so that they had to mail me a separate invoice, and the regional sales manager had to email me when the ball was done and it was coming back to me.

This cost another $40. And I paid $18 to reimburse them for shipping and another $10 for insurance. By the end, you can see this isn't cheap: $70 (which my better half paid for the ball) + $55 + $40 + $18 + $10, for a total of  $193, plus the $28 I paid to ship and insure, for a total of $225.

Yeah, $225 to authenticate, encapsulate, grade the autograph and grade the ball. And that's with no guarantee that the ball and autograph were graded highly! (I've sent over 100 cards to SGC to get graded and slabbed, with no guarantee of what they'll say it is. Suffice it to say, I've won some and I've lost some. One big win was the Jim Bottomley 1933 Goudey, which you can find here.)

Now the ball looks like this:

As you can see, all's well that ends well: JSA said the autograph was authentic, and Beckett said that the ball and the autograph were both a perfect 10! That means that, by definition, even Mookie Betts himself won't have a Mookie Betts autographed baseball (or, to be more precise: an autograph and a baseball) in better condition than mine! I can actually say that nobody in the world--Yes, not even Mookie Betts himself!--will have a better Mookie Betts autograph, nor a better ball to have the autograph on!--than mine.

If he ever turns out to be a Hall of Fame player, this will be worth a ton. As it is, it's worth about $500, from some internet sales on authenticated and graded autographs and baseballs, on ebay and other sites, including auction houses. And Betts hasn't been to an All-Star Game yet, nor a playoff game. Once he does...

So here's another picker success, done in tandem with my better half. We spent $225 and it's worth about $500, for a profit of $275. Not bad, even by the standards of the Pickers themselves.

Don't worry, honey--I'm never going to sell it! But it's good to know the value in case we ever have to, right?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sox 4 Games Out on 6.26.16

Photo: from the great Sox/Giants game on 6.7.16. This is just after Chris Young contorted himself by somehow moving his arm out of the way, mid-slide, to avoid a tag by Brandon Belt. Ortiz was out at first, but by staying out of the double play, the tying run scored.

So it has become obvious that the Sox will not contend in the American League East without some drastic changes. Despite the awesomeness of last month, one 30-day span does not make a whole season, and the offense could not have possibly kept up that incredible pace.

In fact:

--no offense will literally score 6+ runs every game, especially when the starting pitching puts it into a deep hole right away. I think this offense could be better than it is--and not leave the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth without scoring--but it won't if it feels pressure to do too much in every at-bat. A player will hit better when there's no stress or pressure on him--but there is pressure on him if his starter has given up a few runs in the first or second inning already. That's why the Sox won so many games last month: they scored in the first inning constantly and put pressure on the other team. Now other teams are doing that to the Sox.

--and that's not the fault of the offense. Sure, this offense has had some blips, especially the White Sox / Wright game, which actually was the offense's fault, as Wright pitched 9 great innings. But that was an anomaly. (And the White Sox left the bases loaded twice without scoring while losing a later game.) Simply put, the bad starting pitching has put more pressure on the offense, which tightens the batters up and makes them worse.

--if the starting pitching improves, the offense will improve.

So how to make the starting pitching improve?

The face and stats make it clear that the answer isn't this guy:

(Photo from my own camera. Saw this on my DVRed game on NESN and I couldn't resist.)

So who is the answer?

Well, I was in Pawtucket today, to watch who may be the only answer there: Henry Owens. Sadly, he continues to do the same thing: 2-0 and 3-1 on everybody, thereby becoming predictable and giving up lots of hits and walks and throwing too many pitches, and he's out of the game before the end of the 5th. (See: Eduardo Rodriguez and Clay Buchholz.)

He's not the answer, and won't be. He's been given a few years of chances and he hasn't changed. This pains me to say, as I have an autographed and slabbed RC of his, but it is what it is. He won't be any better than he is. I hope he proves me wrong in his September call-up, but he won't. Again. This is especially bad because his performances don't even make him good trade bait. He might be enticing for someone who wants to deal a reliever, or some bench help, but you won't get starting pitching for him.

So who can bring a top-flight starter?

Well, Bogaerts, Betts or Bradley could, but no way do you trade any of these guys. They'll bring butts to the stands even if the Sox aren't making the playoffs. These guys are All-Star caliber core players for many years, as they're all young and cheap. None of them are making more than $600,000 this year. (As opposed to Sandoval, who's getting $17 million this year not to play at all.) In baseball economics, they are very cheap, and will be until 2020. So they stay. So who?

Nobody wants Rusney Castillo, of course. He hit a seeing-eye single today and made a nice running catch, his back to the plate--but he also threw to third when he had no shot at the guy, thereby allowing the batter to get to second base. That reminded me of Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, who told a sobbing woman she can't throw to third and allow another runner (the tying run in the movie) to reach second base. If he knew that, wouldn't a star of the Cuban League, who's been playing ball all of his adult life? That's the kind of basic knowledge Jerry Remy said Castillo didn't have, and he said it last year. Castillo is a $70+ million waste of a Triple-A roster spot. That especially sucks because I have his rookie card in gem 10 condition. (Anybody want it?)

I would've said a package of Swihart (who can hit, and play left and catch decently) and Brock Holt and Rutledge may have been enough to send to the cash-strapped A's (Billy Beane loves cheap versatility) for Rich Hill, but all of those guys are injured, and nobody's desperate enough to take three guys just off the DL. (By the way, check out how well Hill is doing, and see the blog I wrote at the end of last year, saying the Sox were crazy to let him go, and for nothing!) Maybe they can get better and play really well before the Trade Deadline at the end of next month, but that's a lot to ask.

That package isn't enough for Sonny Gray, but I'm not interested in him, anyway. Though Hill is in his mid-30s, he's a resurging junkballer, and those guys can pitch into their early-40s. I think Sonny Gray is damaged goods and is looking at his best days in the rearview mirror.

It's a long shot, but I'd be willing to part with Hanley Ramirez, but he's not cheap, so the A's wouldn't want him. But how about him and all of the aforementioned guys, and a lot of money, to the Marlins for Jose Fernandez? Ramirez likes Miami, but they've probably tired of him there. Remember when the Sox traded him there for Josh Beckett and a throw-in named Mike Lowell? That trade won 2007.

Well, I hate to say it, but for a #1 or #2 starter, you're going to have to deal away Andrew Benintendi and / or Yoan Moncada. Certainly these guys--and even one of these guys--are too good to part with for the likes of Rich Hill, but they are good enough chips to get a solid #2 or even a #1 on a really bad team. I'd rather trade these maybes than the definite Yeses of Bogaerts, Betts and Bradley any day. Remember how Brian Rose and Carl Pavano were the best young starters in all of baseball, and the Sox traded them both for Pedro Martinez? Do you remember that local fans at the time were in an uproar? But how did that turn out?

Unfortunately here, it's a lot easier to trade starting pitching for starting pitching, than it is to trade an infielder and an outfielder for starting pitching, but it's still doable.  Benintendi and Moncada are thought of so highly in baseball that they could swing a #1. If the Sox are going to land one, these guys (or, hopefully, just one of these guys, and don't ask me which one) are going to have to be flipped. It's worth doing, especially for a good pitcher who's still decently young, and under some control.

If the Sox were to turn them both over for Fernandez--who the Marlins are rumored to be dealing--that would be a helluva thing. They're cash-strapped, too, and certainly a combination of Benintendi and / or Moncada, plus Hanley Ramirez, Swihart and either Holt or Rutledge would get Fernandez from Miami. Maybe throw Christian Vazquez, too, as much as I like his defense. But he's never going to hit, and I'm not as happy with his pitch-calling and strike-framing as others are.

Anyway, to get a #1 or a #2, I would try to do these.

Until then, the starters need to walk fewer, keep their pitches down, get ahead in the count and stop being so predictable. The offense needs to hit with RISP and do all those little things that haven't been done consistently since that game mentioned in the beginning of this (long) blog entry.

By the way, notice how the slide started when the Sox lost Carson Smith for the season, and Brock Holt for over 6 weeks? Brock Holt is the player the sabermetricians don't have a stat for, but he gels this offense, and does every single little thing very well. I saw him today, too. He got on base 3 times.

Time to call him up.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sox 28-17 on May 24, 2016

A few things as we bask in the glory of the recent success:

--A few years ago (or during the first half last year), who would've thought JBJ would hit in 28 straight? With his offense and defense, he's probably one of the best players in the game. According to WAR, anyway.

--But keep in mind that he's been doing for a few months what Mike Trout has been doing for a few years.

--And I'm wondering why JBJ got so suddenly better, if you catch my drift.

--I hated to say that, because I spoke to JBJ for a short time a few years ago, at the Pawtucket Hot Stove League, and he's a very nice, soft-spoken guy. And he signed two baseballs for me, in the perfect spot, in a perfect marker with perfect handwriting.

--And, yeah, I'm sending those bad boys to JSA and then to Beckett ASAP.

--My comment a few spots ago holds true to Ortiz as well, who's having a resurgence with his power numbers at an age in which even the immortals (besides Bonds, of course) were beginning to feel it. I'm just sayin'.

--I was afraid for a moment there that the baking powder thrown at Ortiz after his game-winning double was actually the remaining HGH powder for both of them.


--Carson Smith, who could've given the Sox three 7-9 guys that maybe rivaled the Yankees, is now out for at least a year after Tommy John surgery. What a shame. Wasn't last year his rookie?

--Not only are their 9 through 3 guys--Bradley, Betts, Pedroia and Bogaerts--very good hitters, but they're also all very fast. And great defensively. Few teams can boast four 9 through 3 hitters like that.

--To prove the point, the Sox scored three runs today when guys scored from first on a double. Your Sox of old would go 1st to 3rd on a double.

--I'll say about Christian Vazquez what I said about Bradley the last two years: with that great defense, all he has to do is slap-hit .250 and that'll be enough to make him a good big-leaguer.

--Clay Buchholz has to go.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sox 6-4 After 10 Games in 2016

Well, now it's 6-5 after 11 games, the early afternoon of the Patriots Day game. Here's what it looks like to me so far:

--Hanley Ramirez has shockingly impressed. Not only is he much better at first base than anyone could have (or should have) expected, but he's also got a much better attitude. He has hustled and gestured more so far this year than he did all of last year.

--He's hitting over .300, but his OPS is about .850. That should improve as we go.

--If the Sox go 6-4 every 10 games, they'll finish 97-65, which will be plenty to win the division.

--If the bullpen and/or starting rotation doesn't implode first.

--Like it just did, now, on 4.18.16. Patriot's Day, no less.

--I haven't seen anyone throw as many balls with 2 strikes on the batter as Kimbrel does. He gets paid for situations like today, and he K'ed 2, but only after he struck out the first guy, walked the next two, and allowed a base hit. He allowed all 3 runners to score, and gave up one of his own.

--That's not going to get it done, though the Sox can't expect to win 1-0, either.

--Tazawa, Uehara and Kimbrel are overworked. They need Carson Smith back, fast.

--The Christian Vasquez thing, about him being much better with the pitchers, might be a tad over-rated.

--But he's the best they've got on stealing strikes.

--Can you remember the last time Sox tickets were available this easily? Season-ticket packages, too.

--But when you finish last 3 of the previous 4 years, that'll happen, even with a ring thrown in.

--If the Sox are near .500 a month from now, Farrell will be shown the door.

--And Carl Willis, too.

--I'm 0-1 at Fenway so far this year. Wish me luck tomorrow.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sox 8 Blue Jays 7: 4.8.16

Photo: The Brockstar, just after his grand slam, courtesy of the Boston Herald at this link.

A few quick things about this very exciting game:

--In his post-game comments, Joe Kelly said that this was a game Boston would not have won last year. He's right about that, and just three games into this year.

--In one game, we see the two most glaring problems for both teams: Boston--starting pitching; Toronto--relievers. Both may hit themselves into the postseason.

--Boston needs to bring the Freudian couch to the mound for Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly. I mean that in the kindest way. They can maybe push it aside between pitches like other guys throw aside the resin bag.

--Buchholz has a defeated posture and attitude on the mound I just don't like. And when he was asked about the cause of his most recent performance, the first thing out of his mouth was "Twelve-minute rain delay." That tells you all you need to know about Clay Buchholz. And it explains why his performances are either shutouts or shellackings.

--And Joe Kelly has a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look on the mound that must be addressed fast.

--It's one thing to pitch badly. But these two come very suddenly unglued. Which is even worse. Just ask Kevin Pillar. Or Josh Donaldson, for that matter.

--Whoever's the sports psychologist for these guys needs to be fired.

--Travis Shaw points out that the Brockstar is on a pace to hit over 60 homers this year. He's right, and that's why you don't look at a hitter's stats until a month into the season.

--Speaking of stats: I mentioned last time that the LOB stat needs to go on the NESN telecasts. Now I say that the OPS stat needs to go, too.  OPS is a useful stat for maybe four or five batters currently on Boston's 25-man roster: Ortiz, Ramirez, and maybe Shaw, Young and Pedroia--who reaches the outer fringe of OPS's usefulness. Technically, it's not Betts' or Pedroia's (or Holt's) job to slug, though they do that more often than your typical one-two guys will. But really their job is to get on base, not slug the runners in. Showing their OPS every at-bat, and those of the 7-9 guys as well, is wasting eye-strain. That's NESN trying to appease the stat-geeks and fantasy-leaguers, but even those fans know that LOB and OPS are essentially useless stats for most players on most occasions. The sport is polluted enough with numbers (and I'm a stat-aware guy myself), so let's dispense with them when we can.

--Let's watch when Boston has 7-10 straight games of leaving 10 or more guys on. I'll bet NESN will toss the LOB stat then.

--And I'd be okay with the OPS stat being replaced with the OB% stat, even every at-bat. Then Alex Speier can annoyingly but just occasionally remind us of the OPS of only the aforementioned players, when relevant.

--I see now that has OPS in their box scores, too. Enough, I say.

--One last point (for now) about Buchholz and Kelly: Because they implode so suddenly, they can't be used as relievers, either, if later in their careers it's determined they can't be starters. This makes both essentially useless pitchers when they're like this, especially Kelly, who has closer-like stuff.

--The starters can't put their offense in this position as often as it looks like they will. The batters will literally get tired, and they'll sputter in the second half, just like overused relievers do.

--Toronto's carpet is a travesty.

--The last two home-plate umpires have been egregiously bad. Whoever the supervisor of umpires is now, he needs to talk to these guys. Have umpires across the leagues been this bad? John Hirschbeck's strike zone was (mostly) consistently a foot off the outside, and Fagan's zone was simply all over the place, inconsistently.

--Rarely do you allow 7 runs in 3 innings and not get the loss. In fact, Buchholz didn't get the L for his implosion, either. Tazawa did.

--Speaking of Tazawa, after the Sox brass said they would be more careful with using him this year, he's appeared in 3 of the team's first 3 games. But the relief was set in place last night once they had the lead after 6 innings. Both wins ended with Tazawa, Uehara and Kimbrel. But...

--100-loss teams this year: San Diego Padres; Milwaukee Brewers; Phillies. Maybe Atlanta, Minnesota and the Angels, too. They'll at least lose 90.

--Baseball rules aside, Noe Ramirez deserved the win last night, not Matt Barnes. Noe's two sanity-replacing innings saved the game.

--Note to Buchholz and Kelly: Henry Owens got the win in Pawtucket's opener, tossing six shutout innings and striking out 8. (I have his autograph, so I especially need him to do well.) You saw how The Overweight Panda lost his job? Look over your shoulders, guys.

--Guerin Austin has grown on me. I wonder if she's that naturally effervescent or if it's just for TV.

--I know I'm naive just asking that, but I usually like to earn my cynicism.

--Or did you not see Jenny Dell rip that overweight fan a new one when he stumbled in front of her during her segment a few years ago? But Jenny Dell always came across as someone who would rip you a new one--which, of course, was part of her allure. She'd kick your ass for ya, and that was OK.

--Considering how he's played the last few years, I wonder if she's been kicking Middlebrook's butt?

--Austin's a Miss Nebraska, after trying for the 2nd time, for those who care about such things. There's no truth to the rumor that she shucked corn (or juggled them) for her talent portion. (Sorry.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Red Sox 2016 Opening Day 4.5.16

Photo: from This could've been Price about to pitch during today's game, but it wasn't. Game time temperature was 34 degrees in Cleveland.

The game worked exactly as the Sox would've drawn up: the starting pitcher goes 6 or 7 innings, then you finish up with an inning each from your best relievers--Tazawa, Uehara and Kimbrel. That's what happened in this 6-2 win.

With a little bit of help from a truly terrible day behind the plate from John Hirschbeck, who had a strike zone that extended a good couple of inches (or about a foot for Napoli and Bogaerts) to the outside, the Sox best pitchers--the three relievers and David Price, their $30+ million per year ace--pitched well and made this look easy.

A few notes:

--the Sox were patient with Corey Kluber, who walked more batters and who gave up more hits than usual. He allowed 9 hits and 2 walks in 5 1/3 innings, and went to a lot of three-ball counts. He threw 96 pitches in just 5 1/3 innings.

--Price gave up 5 hits and 2 walks in his 6 innings, and struck out 10. He had great pace out there, and was helped out considerably by the wider strike zone. He saw that the pitch 2 inches on the outside of the zone was going to be a strike, and he kept throwing it to that exact spot.

--Napoli, especially in his last at-bat, was a victim of this. He had very good at-bats, especially the first K and his walk, and he deserved better. It was good to see him take pitches and field well, as usual. He can still play, even if not over the course of a full season. And nice sunglasses!

--Bogaerts, Betts and Bradley had very good at-bats. Shaw did, too, even though he struck out three times. Actually, twice, because that last strike three was in another time zone. The young core did well.

--Shaw's K came with the bases loaded, and that could have been haunting had things turned out differently. But they didn't.

--My guess is that Swihart missed a sign, but Bradley could have, too. But Swihart wasn't running on his own with just a two-run lead at the time.

--The next time Hanley Ramirez stands and admires one of his shots, like David Ortiz did after his last Opening Day homerun, it had better go out. His single that should have been a double should earn him a fine from the team. And not by a kangaroo court.

--Having said that, it was good to see him playing with fire, though it's a good thing that throw to third was off-line. Had he been out, as he should have been, I wouldn't be as forgiving. But it was good to see that intensity, and again when he clapped as he scored after Holt's bloop fell in. We didn't see him playing with that fire last year.

--Kudos also to him for coming to camp in much better shape, and with a much better attitude, than Sandroval did. They are noticeable opposites this year, though they were very similar last year.

--And, in all honesty, he's been better at first than I thought he'd be.

--I don't like the LOB column on NESN's graphic this year. Looks bad. I know some channels have had that for awhile now, but that's new to NESN. Needs to go.

--Let's not get carried away. Last year's Opening Day: a shutout for Buchholz, and Pedroia hit two home runs. And look how that turned out.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Retirement of Adam LaRoche

Photo: from his Wikipedia page. Or, this is Adam LaRoche, running from his responsibilities.

--Read Justin Gorman's short article about Adam Laroche's sudden retirement here, at the Sons of Sam Horn page. I couldn't agree more. Brilliant move by Executive Vice President (and former GM) Ken Williams, if it was indeed planned. Had LaRoche stayed, the White Sox would've had to pay $13 million for the honor of having LaRoche ride the bench with his son beside him, and at most LaRoche would've come in as a defensive replacement in the later innings. The South Siders thought so much of LaRoche that they've given him five Spring Training at-bats. In 2009, the Red Sox traded two prospects for him, but had him for all of 6 games and 19 ABs, before they decided they'd rather have Casey Kotchman. And the Nationals were so pleased with his 26 homers and 92 RBIs last year that they bought out his option for $2 million. Williams said, "In what other business can you bring your son to work every single day?" and he's right. Now the Pale Hose have $13 million in their pockets, and two lockers for more deserving bodies.

--Yes, that's right. Two lockers. The son was there so often that he got his own locker. The kid must've been there longer than many minor leaguers, some prospects, and a few veterans.

--And I don't care what Chris Sale says. So Williams went back on his verbal agreement about the kid from last year. If LaRoche hadn't been paid $12 million just to barely hit above the Mendoza Line, maybe this wouldn't be an issue. (Though Williams never should've agreed to that to begin with.)

--Then again, he never should've signed LaRoche to begin with.

--My guess is that Gorman was right: Ken Williams wanted to get rid of this contract, and he knew the button to push. I say, good for him.

--This is all about one word: Entitlement.

--Now, because I can't say it any better than this, I offer you, off her social media, the sage wisdom of Bethany Randa, wife of former major league third baseman Joe Randa:

“I’ve gotten so many messages about what a wonderful thing it is that Adam retired for his son ... and yes, my boys spent time in the clubhouse when it was approved and appropriate and loved every minute of it!!! My concern is and ALWAYS has been that these kids already live a privileged life, where rules don’t always apply, where ridiculous money just pours in, where so many of the things we could afford were free, and where we were offered immediate seating at restaurants and other events ahead of hard working people who were there before us. My boys saw this. It sounds ridiculous to most people, but our job is to raise dependable hard working and respectful men. It’s hard enough in the world they see, but to teach your child that when your boss makes a decision you don’t agree with, you just 'retire'?? In the REAL world, that’s not an option.’’

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Wildfire Schulte, M101 Sporting News Supplement, March 2, 1911

Photo: Frank "Wildfire" Schulte, Sporting News Supplement, March 2, 1911. From my collection.

This is my other M101 Sporting News Supplement photo, bought for me by my better half for Christmas. You can read about the other one, Bob Harmon, by clicking here.

As I mentioned about the previous one, these very large photos are not considered cards, per se, as there were actual Sporting News cards published after these supplements proved popular with the public.  The photographers must've been amongst the best of their time, because these images are all classically striking.  I wish I could've gotten them all. Unfortunately, I've only got two, and this is the second one I got.

These supplements were just that: included in issues of The Sporting News between 1909 and 1911, which in itself looked more like a newspaper than a magazine, just like it does today.  They were often folded, which is not considered a detriment to their value, but they are extremely thin and therefore very fragile.  Since I had this one bought for me, I don't know how much it sold for (though I could find out easily on Ebay), but Wildfire Schulte was a heckuva player, and popular in his time. He is not a HOFer.

But he did have a Hall of Fame season in 1911. That year he won the MVP, then called the Chalmer's Award. They gave you a great car, since the award was named after the car company, but once you won the award, you couldn't win it, or even be nominated for it, again--a rule not changed until long after he retired. It was a fluke season for him. He led the league in homers (21), RBI (107), slugging % (.534), OPS+, and total bases (308). He scored 105 runs and batted .300. He walked more than he struck out, for a .384 on-base percentage, and he had 173 hits and a .918 OPS. He did all of this for a great Chicago Cubs team, which went to 4 World Series with him. He won two of them.

He was the first player ever to have more than 20 stolen bases, doubles, triples and home runs in the same season. Willie Mays did this next, in 1957.

He never had more than 68 RBIs in any other season; never more than 12 homers; never more than a .769 OPS and never more than a .418 slugging %. Those MVP numbers were also way above any season before 1911, too, though he did also lead the league in homers in 1910, with 10. His career slashline is .270 batting average; .332 on-base percentage and .395 slugging percentage. His offensive WAR was 5.5 in 1911 and 3.5 in 1910. It was never higher than 1.7 in any full season after 1911. (You can see all of his stats on his baseball-reference page. Just click.)

Schulte was a full-time player until 1915, but then spent the next three years with four teams. One wonders what happened to him. His 1911 season was one of the most out-of-context for a player's career, ever. JAWS puts him as the 101st best right fielder ever. He's compared favorably to Jimmy Piersall and Johnny Damon (who were much better fielders, and probably better hitters. Damon definitely was a better fielder and hitter), and Red Murray (a contemporary). In 1916 he and another player were traded for Otto Knabe and Art Wilson--which is not a compliment, as Knabe (another T206 guy, as is Wildfire) and Wilson were not good players. 

He played in the minors (which were not the same as they are today, but that's another blog; though you didn't have to be a worse player to play in the minors, or the PCL, or Canada, or the Independent League, or any of the many other types of leagues at the time, he was.) Overall, he peaked, then fell off the cliff.

I wondered why, so I did a little research. I didn't find much, but I did read that he got the Wildfire nickname when he saw a play by that name, and then named his racehorse the same. I also read that he married in 1911, and then fell off the precipice, but my better half says that had nothing to do with it.

From his Wikipedia page, I can show you that up close he looked like this:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Picking A 1933 Goudey HOF Jim Bottomley

Here's a before and after story about being a baseball card picker--the purchase, grading and valuation of a good baseball card.

I bought an ungraded 1933 HOF Jim Bottomley on Ebay in a screwdown case. Here's a picture of it from the listing after I bought it:

I spent $36.51 and paid $3.50 shipping, for a total of $40.01. (Notice the penny extra on the bid.)

I took a chance here--not something I typically do with money in general. But the Goudeys are one of the Big Three sets. The 1909-1911 T206s (which I've written about many times), the 1952 Topps and the 1933 Goudeys are the most-collected and sought-after sets. Any card from these sets will sell for more than average; HOF cards from these sets will be worth a premium value. And highly-graded HOF cards from these sets will be worth good money. A card in decent condition (even, in most cases, in poor condition) from these sets will re-sell, no problem. So if you want to collect a card and try to make a good profit at the same time, these are the cards to get. (I would throw the 1888 Old Judges and the T205s in this category as well. And any card, really, between 1900 to 1933.)  The trick is to buy one at a low price--ungraded cards can be bought for even cheaper--and then to send them away to SGC, PSA or Beckett to get them graded.

But doing so is taking a chance. No matter what you guess a card will be graded, it sometimes seems these guys grade the cards almost at whim, defying any reasonable explanation. (I have proof of this.) But if you want to increase a card's value, you have to get it graded. Out of all the companies, I think Beckett is the best for cards after 2000. PSA is best for cards 1960-1999. And SGC is best for all cards prior to 1960. It seems that overall card values back me up with this.

So what to buy? I've bought ungraded T206s and written about those before. But I'd never done so for a Goudey and I wanted to try. So if you're going to do that, you need to buy a popular player or a HOFer. But many of those are out of my price range. (Ruths and Gehrigs are worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.) I decided upon a HOFer nobody but serious fans know (and who shouldn't be in the HOF but for Veterans Committee shenanigans) and to get it raw, which means ungraded. The ones available during the limited time I allowed myself (because I could so easily go overboard with this and there goes the mortgage) were scant, and I settled on this guy.

Anyway, I sent it to SGC during its December Goudey/Play Ball/Diamond Star Special of $8 per card. (I also sent a HOF Rabbit Maranville Goudey, which I knew was in terrible condition; I was lucky to get that graded in Poor condition.) Because this venture is all about value and profit, you wait until the grading company has a sale on its grading. By chance, this sale came up right when I bought the card. Normally SGC charges $10 per card from this era.

So a few days ago (the website publishes your results when they're done, even before you get it in the mail) it was graded a 5 Excellent--which is really good for a 1933 Goudey, as they were handled a lot, and they're old, and they fray and literally disintegrate, and the corners round easily. The card, now graded, looks like this:

My Beckett Graded book shows the highest graded 1933 Goudey Jim Bottomley to be an 8, and I've got a 5. Not bad for $40! Book value? $150!!! Because you often can't get book value on cards, I looked up recently sold SGC 5 graded 1933 Jim Bottomley Goudeys on ebay. (I checked off the "sold listings" box; just because someone's asking $300 for the card on ebay, that doesn't mean it's worth $300. People ask insane prices via "Buy It Now" on ebay. But if a card has sold recently at a consistent price, that card is worth that price.) A PSA 5 (same exact grade and conditions, and PSA and SGC are equally respected) sold on January 10th, 2016 for $159.99, which shows the book value of $150 to not only be accurate, but maybe even a little low.

So I spent $40 on it, and paid $8 to get it graded, plus a couple bucks for shipping and insurance, for a total of $10 more. In summary, I paid $50 and it's worth at least $150---three times what I paid. Not bad! Even if I sent it to a 3rd party (an ebay company I do business with) and got the 87% he gives, and spent maybe $5 to send it to him, my profit is around $75-$80. Not bad for one card! It all took just minutes of my time, mostly sitting on my butt at my computer, and my post office doesn't usually have any lines, either. I could seriously make some part-time income doing this.