Saturday, February 28, 2009

Joe's Cool!

Got a bubble mailer in today. While not a complete surprise it was a nice gesture by Joe over at Cincinnati Reds Cards. Joe had told me that he was sending me a couple of Rangers game used cards to complete a trade that we had started earlier. Due to circumstances beyond Joe's control I had told him not to worry, but he did.

What arrived today was this 2005 Upper Deck MLB AL Artifacts jersey card of Laynce Nix. It contains a nice looking piece of blue jersey and is numbered 9/325. In addition, Joe also included two game-used cards of Michael Young and two game-used cards of Hank Blalock. I needed all five cards. Thanks a bunch Joe! I can't remember exactly what all I sent you but I am sure I got the much better end of the trade.

A quick side note. If nothing has happened by then, Mrs. Spiff is due to be induced first thing Monday morning. What with the new kiddo and all the assorted upheaval, it is possible that I will not be posting for several days. Just didn't want anyone thinking I had fallen off the face of the earth.

Friday, February 27, 2009

1972 Topps - Bill Gogolewski.

So the Rangers have gone down to defeat the past two days in the Cactus League. Looking at the box scores it appears that a lot of guys are getting looked at. Probably one of the reasons for the losses, also a good strategy in Spring Training.

Nelson Cruz is taking off to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. He played today but that will be it until after the Classic. Ron Washington says that his job is not in danger.

In the spring of 1972 Bill Gogolewski left his home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and traveled to Spring Training as part of the Texas Rangers' inaugural team. Gogolewski, seen here on card number 424 of Topps' 1972 set, had already pitched a full season for the Senators in 1971 after debuting in 1970. He would serve with the Rangers for two seasons before being sent to Cleveland in a trade in March of 1974. Seems that Texas made a lot of trades with Cleveland in the early years.

The thing that sticks out to me about his card is the fact that we can see Bill's socks. After getting daring with Tim Cullen's photo, the Topps photographer threw caution to the wind with Gogolewski. Rather than a posed shot from the waist up we have a posed shot with almost a full-body view. Wow! I just hope that such derring-do didn't cost anyone their job at Topps.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cactus League off to a good start.

The Rangers came out of the chute big yesterday in their Cactus League opener yesterday. They managed a 12-7 win over the Royals. I know, I know, it's only Spring Training and doesn't mean anything. Still, it's nice to see them come out swinging, so to speak.

Hank Blalock led the bombing with a two run homer in the first and a triple later in the game. If he can keep producing like that all season, he will work out nicely as the DH.

Today's card of Hank is number G-23 in the 2003 Donruss Gamers set. It features a piece of a jersey "personally worn by Hank Blalock in an official Major League Baseball game." It is also numbered 57/500.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spring Training notes.

Things seem to be cooking along ok in the Rangers' Spring Training camp. The workouts continue and the two intrasquad games are history. So far most of the guys seem to be doing well.

Three of them are headed off to play in the World Baseball Classic. None are playing for the United States. Nelson Cruz will play for the Dominican Republic and Max Ramirez will join Venezuela's squad. Frank Catalanotto, seen here on card number 164 of the 2002 Donruss Fan Club set, is slotted to don Italy's uniform. Hopefully all three do well.

John Bannister is dealing with soreness in his pitching arm. Since he missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery this could be a cloud on the horizon.

Back on the bright side. So far Andruw Jones is looking like a new man. Well, an old man really. Apparently he is looking like he might have gotten his previous form back.

Kris Benson is slated to start today against the Royals in the Spring Training opener. He is trying to crack the rotation after signing a contract similar to Jones' and this could be his chance to get a foot in the door. So far pitching coach Mike Maddux has been impressed by what he has seen from Benson.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

1972 Topps - Roy Foster.

So far things seem to be coming along nicely at Spring Training. The Rangers played their first intrasquad game game yesterday. The highlight of the game was Nelson Cruz's grand slam.

Every year in Spring Training there are players who just don't impress or for some reason don't make the cut. Some are then sent to the minors, some released, and some traded. Roy Foster apparently belongs in the last category but with an unusual twist.

Foster, seen here on card number 329 of the 1972 Topps set, never played a major league game for the Rangers. We have already seen that situation with a couple of other players. What makes this one strange is that Roy never played for the Senators either. All three of his Major League seasons were with the Cleveland Indians.

In December of 1971, after two years with the Tribe, Foster was dealt to the newly minted Texas Rangers. Apparently Topps then finalized it's 1972 set. Then on April 3, 1972 the Rangers shipped Foster back to Cleveland. Roy then played the 1972 season with Cleveland before his playing career ended. Strange series of events to be sure. At least Roy wasn't traded for a player to be named later and then sent as that player.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Book 1, Page 30.

Another Monday and still no Pudge signing. Looks like Ivan now considers the options down to the Astros, Marlins, or Mets. In a recent interview he did mention the possibility that no team may sign him at this point. At 37 years of age he can't sit out a season and still come back. Could be the end of the line.

Well, it's not the end of the line in my Pudge binder so let's see what today's page has to offer.
1995 Topps Embossed #54
1995 Topps Embossed Golden Idols #54
1995 Topps Traded #163T
1995 UC3 #82
Empty pocket
1995 Ultra #113
1995 Ultra All-Stars #18
Empty pocket
1995 Ultra Award Winners #1

The empty pockets are waiting on the 1995 UC3 Artist's Proofs #82 and the 1995 Ultra All-Stars Gold Medallion #18. Of the cards on this page I probably like the Topps Embossed one the best. Reminds me of those Action Packed cards from the early 1990's that featured retired players and Hall of Famers. Great set.

I must admit that I came across a disturbing bit this morning while trying to find out what is going on with Pudge. Apparently during an interview, a reporter asked him if his name is on the list of those testing positive for PEDs in 2003. He replied, "Only God knows." What kind of reply is that? A disappointing one to be sure. If you didn't use just say so. If you did then admit it so those of us who follow your career can decide if we want to continue to be part of your fan base.

On to happier topics. I was pleasantly surprised that three folks took the time and opportunity to answer Friday's trivia questions. I think that, if the next time garners as much participation, I will try and offer a prize. Here are the answers:
1. True. Easy warmup question.
2. Branch Rickey. I never would have got this one and was amazed that two of the three guys posting answers got it correct.
3. Lou Boudreau. Another one I would have missed by a mile. Night Owl wowed me by getting this one correct.
4. Vic Willis. Not a chance I would have even come close. Not sure I could have even ventured a guess. I had company though as this was the question everyone missed.
5. Grand Slam. I think Classic included this one to try and patch up the damaged egos of such as I.

Amazingly, Night Owl missed but one question. All three contestants scored better that I could have. Thanks for playing guys. I'll try and come up with a prize for next time.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

1989 Classic - Rafael Palmeiro.

Not much going on today. The Rangers are prepping for their first exhibition game, against the Royals. Mike Young is predicting a big offensive season. Pretty safe prediction there.

Seeing as things are slow on the baseball front, I thought some Classic trivia might be in order. Today's questions come from card number 163 in the 1989 Classic set, Rafael Palmeiro.

1. (T-F) Bobby Valentine started the 1989 season as manager of the Rangers.
2. Who was sometimes referred to as "the Mahatma"?
3. What playing manager led the league in hitting?
4. What pitcher lost the most games in a season?
5. A home run with the bases loaded is called what?

Got a couple of easy questions along with some that I know I would have no chance of getting correct. Anyone willing to take up the challenge please post your answers in the comments. Good luck!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Catching a job.

One of the jobs up for grabs this spring with the Rangers is the starting catcher spot. With the departure of Gerald Laird there is a vacancy. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shown here on card number 397 of Upper Deck's 2008 offering, is hoping to get the nod.

Salty is the front-runner for the job but may face some competition from Taylor Teagarden. Prospect Max Ramirez is likely to start the season in triple A and Adam Melhuse will only make the team if a miracle occurs.

While Jarrod has a lot going for him, he also has some weaknesses that Teagarden may be able to exploit. Salty has almost ten times as many major league games to his credit as Teagarden. He is also considered to be a decent offensive threat. On the other hand, his defense is not rated as highly as Teagarden's and he tends to get in a hurry and make erratic throws.

Most likely the final decision will come down to which catcher best handles the pitching staff. Manager Ron Washington rates that skill highly and the Rangers need that type of catcher. Could be interesting to see what the Rangers have on the plate on Opening Day, Salt or Tea.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Something to prove.

The Rangers have their first full squad workout of the spring today. From this point the jockeying for position begins.

One of the players most involved in the proving process will be Joaquin Arias. Arias, seen here on card number BB-JA of the 2004 Bowman's Best set, was at one point considered an excellent defensive shortstop prospect. He was supposed to eventually replace Michael Young as that player aged.

A couple of years ago Joaquin had to have shoulder surgery. He has been trying to come back since then. The surgery, and the injury that required it, weakened Arias' shoulder to the point that he could no longer make a solid throw from short to first. When Ian Kinsler was injured last season the Rangers called up Arias but limited him to second due to his shoulder.

As a result of his recent limitations, Arias was passed on the prospect ladder by Elvis Andrus. Andrus is now being given a shot at the starting shortstop job while Arias is being looked at as a possible utility infielder. He says though that his shoulder is back to full strength and he can make the throws from short. This spring may be his best chance to prove it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Trading with Dubbs.

Got a box in the mail yesterday from Dubbs over at Cheese and Beer. This was his end of a team lot trade that we had set up recently. Inside was a nice group of Rangers. Included was this Laynce Nix 2006 Upper Deck First Pitch #197. I needed quite a few of the cards sent but this particular one completed a team set for me. Thanks for the trade Dubbs, let me know when you're ready for another.

As you may have guessed from the name of his blog, Dubbs is a Brewers fan. He does an excellent job with the blog and I am adding him to my links list. Take a gander at his writing and tell him Spiff sent ya.

In other news, all the Rangers except Omar Vizquel and Jose Vallejo are in camp. They are expected soon. So far things are looking good. Michael Young has started the transition to third and the increased training with the pitchers continues. Hopefully both will work out well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Silver lining?

I'll admit it, I'm pretty weary of the Alex Rodriguez soap opera. The man is a mercenary, philandering, arrogant cheat. Ok, I got that. Let's test him every three days (like MLB does Josh Hamilton) and move on.

There may be a small silver lining to the whole ordeal though. Recently I have seen two articles on dealing with the situation. One was talking about David Ortiz's reaction and another covered Jamie Moyer's thoughts. Both were interesting because Ortiz is a good friend of Rodriguez and Moyer is a former teammate.

Moyer, pictured here on card number 85T of the 1989 Topps traded set, says he is "disappointed" in Rodriguez. He also believes that Rodriguez's career numbers are ruined, he has no credibility, he will not be elected to the Hall, and now has nothing to play for. Pretty strong words from a guy generally considered to be among the nicest in the game. Pretty credible words from a guy who has made the game work for him by being himself, something Alex should have tried.

Ortiz is more pointed. While saying that we should move on from the Rodriguez situation, he calls for testing of every player on every team several times a season. He also thinks that the penalty for a first time offense should be a one-year suspension from the game. Only then, he feels, will steroids be taken seriously and the cheating stop.

In a way I find both of these encouraging. I remember from past situations that other players were surprised or felt badly for the involved player. I don't remember any negative reactions or calls for increased enforcement. Maybe the players are waking up to the fact that steroids are ruining the game. Perhaps the positive peer pressure will bear some fruit. It would be nice to see something positive come out of this revelation.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Book 1, Page 29.

Well, the pitchers and catchers are all in camp. At least those with contracts are. Still no Pudge signing, but the Marlins are still professing some interest. It seems to me though that time runs short.

Today we have almost a full page of Pudge. Only missing one card. By this point in the book that isn't bad. Let's take a look:
1995 Stadium Club Virtual Reality #103
1995 Stadium Club Virtual Reality Members Only #103
1995 Studio #117
1995 Summit #82
Empty pocket
1995 Tombstone Pizza #15
1995 Topps #543
1995 Topps Cyberstats #324
1995 Topps D3 #32

The empty pocket is left for the 1995 Summit Nth Degree #82. On this page I like the Studio most which is strange considering that I believe credit cards to be a necessary evil at best. I find the 1995 Stadium Club Virtual Reality Members Only card to be amusing and frustrating at the same time. A parallel of a parallel? Why?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Reporting in.

They're in camp! Spring Training has started! Oh yeah! 31 Pitchers reported to Surprise, Arizona for the Rangers this year. 32 if you count the team president. Nolan Ryan, seen here on his 1990 Score card number 696, has made his mark on the team and apparently on Spring Training.

Starting tomorrow the pitchers begin throwing to live hitters. It's been a long time since they did that and this is probably the first time to do it on the first day of camp. In addition the Rangers are adding throwing and conditioning practice and emphasizing fielding.

Hopefully this work will all begin to pay off. Ryan and Jon Daniels stood by their word and didn't spend a bunch of money on free agents. This gives the young guys a chance to shine. It would be nice to see them take advantage of the opportunity.

Josh Hamilton thinks the team can win 90 games. That would just tickle me pink to see. A winning season along would be nice, contention for a large part of the year would be well above anybody's expectations.

Friday, February 13, 2009


If Gerald Laird, pictured here on card number 23 of the 2009 Topps set, were still with the Rangers he would be reporting to Spring Training tomorrow. Gotta love the anticipation as pitchers and catchers show up and start to get ready for the upcoming campaign.

RWH over at I Heart Halos has already reported in with an outstanding and unanticipated package. I had contacted him to see if he was interested in trading a Josh Hamilton card he had posted. He replied that he would just send me the card. Very thoughtful. I expected an envelope and toploader. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when a large envelope arrived from RWH. Inside was a plastic case containing today's card along with 17 others. A nice variety of Pudge cards I didn't have, my first 2009 Rangers cards, and both Pudge and Rangers game-used cards. Also included was a nice note threatening me with future generosity and wishing the Rangers well against Seattle and Oakland. Wow! RWH came to town with his A game. Now I gotta try and work up a return package that comes somewhat close. Thanks RWH!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A word from the management.

Starting last night, I am working a seven day third shift stretch at work. I'll try and keep posting but may be sporadic or short until I get back to a more normal shift. I'll leave you with this signed through the mail 1988 Topps card of Bobby Valentine and the answers to yesterday's trivia.

Two readers posted answers to the questions, both got most of them correct but tripped once. Probably better than I could do off the top of my head. Ok, here we go.
1. True. I probably would have gotten this one simply because Dwight is the only Mets pitcher I remember from 1987.
2. George "Rube" Waddell. This one would have been a toss-up at best for me.
3. Hank Aaron. I looked this one up to be sure it is still true. It is. Hank holds the lead with 2,297 career RBI. Barry Bonds is fourth with 1,996. In between are Cap Anson and Babe Ruth.
4. 1976. I would have been able to narrow it down to the seventies but would have missed the exact year.
5. False. Of course. I did see a discussion of what would happen if the Rangers switched leagues. According to T.R. Sullivan, they would probably still lead the league in runs scored and still need pitching.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

1988 Classic - Pete Incaviglia.

Still not a whole lot going on in Major League Baseball. Still a lot of significant free agents out there with only a few days left until Spring Training kicks off. Things could get interesting.

Seeing as it is a somewhat slow day, I have decided to give Classic trivia another whirl. Today's questions come from card number 177 in the 1988 set, Pete Incaviglia. Here they are:
1. (T-F) Dwight Gooden led the Mets in wins in 1987?
2. What Hall of Famer was referred to as "Rube"?
3. Who holds the MLB record for career RBI?
4. What was Hank Aaron's last year in the Majors?
5. (T-F) The Texas Rangers are in the N.L.?

Ok, got some pretty easy ones this time. Please feel free to post your answers as comments.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

1972 Topps - Tim Cullen.

Not much happening today on the baseball front other than continued drama in the Alex Rodriguez saga. Since I am already tired of that I am going skip it.

Today's card is number 461 in the 1972 Topps set, Tim Cullen. Along with Denny McClain, Tim Cullen's last season with the team was 1971. He never actually appeared in a Rangers' uniform. Texas released him in March of 1972 and the A's picked him up for that season. That would be it for Tim.

The thing that strikes me about this card is the incredible innovation of the Topps photographer. After seven previous cards of head shots we now see a posed photo from the waist up. Wow! What's next? Action shots?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Book 1, Page 28.

So, Tom Hicks feels betrayed by Alex Rodriguez. Guess he can join the long list of fans who have already felt betrayed by him. Should have plenty of company.

Still no solid word on the Marlins and Pudge. No telling what could happen there. Let's see what we have up for Ivan today.
1995 SP Championship #192
1995 SP Championship Die Cuts #192
Empty Pocket
1995 Sportflix #33
Empty Pocket
1995 Stadium Club #197
1995 Stadium Club First Day Issue #197
1995 Stadium Club Member's Only #197
Empty Pocket

The empty pockets are reserved for the 1995 SP Silver #198, 1995 Sportflix Artist's Proofs #33, and the 1995 Stadium Club Super Team World Series #197. Of the cards in the page I must admit that I like the Sportflix one the best. I am, and always have been, a sucker for Sportflix. Although I am not a set builder I have been on and off working on several Sportflix sets for years.

Well, Andruw Jones has a new home, we just don't know where yet. Possibly with the Rangers, more likely in AAA if he can't get his game on. Seems that Texas has signed a lot of guys this year to minor league deals. Is this a sound strategy? The reasoning seems to be that if they make good, the team scores. If they fail, little loss. What do you think? Is this the poor man's free agent lottery? Is it a valid strategy that could yield results?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Talk to the hand...

Apparently when the picture was taken for card number 206 of the 2003 Donruss set Alex Rodriguez suspected that his failed steroid tests would come out in the wash. He appears to be telegraphing his response to the news; talk to the hand, I ain't listening.

As much as I have always considered A-Rod to be overpriced and somewhat arrogant, I am saddened by the news. Alex had the chance to break Bonds' home run record and be considered clean while doing so. Not anymore. Now A-Fraud or A-Roid seem to be appropriate nicknames. Guess it all goes to show that when you lie it will come out eventually.

Of course this will lead to the inevitable Hall of Fame discussions as well. Rodriguez was considered a first ballot inductee. Is he still? In my mind he is not. In fact I don't think he should be in at all. Why? Well, my reasons really have little to do with steroids and more to do with consistency. Mark McGwire never failed a steroid test and has never been credibly implicated in steroid use, yet he is denied entrance to The Hall. If Big Mac can be denied based on his failure to prove a negative then A-Rod should be denied based on his failure that proved a positive.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Minor signing.

Jason Jennings, seen here on card number 680 of Upper Deck's 2008 set, didn't pitch much for the Rangers last year. he spent most of the year on the disabled list. After that horrible experience, I doubted that the club would re-sign Jennings. They did though. Today Texas announced that Jason had signed a minor league deal with them good for one year. The deal includes an invite to Spring Training but no guaranteed spot on the roster. That brings some small relief to my mind. If Jennings gets back on the ball the team can use him, if not they are out only a little.

With pitchers and catchers due to report in less than a week, the first Pudge report in some time has surfaced. Apparently the Marlins are interested in possibly signing Ivan. He would have to understand that he would not be the everyday catcher but at least he would still be in the game. It will be interesting to see how that turns out.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Can pitch, will travel.

Well, it is looking like the Rangers have some serious doubts about Ben Sheets. Perhaps his medical issues are more than first realized. Better safe than sorry I suppose.

Looking at the Hot Stove Tracker on one can see that Sheets isn't alone. There is still a lot of starting pitching out there that hasn't been signed. Some of it is like Kenny Rogers, seen here on his 2005 Topps U&H All-Star Stitches card. Kenny and a few other pitchers are possibly on the cusp of retirement due to age. Others may be looking at medical induced retirement or possibly minor league contracts.

One thing is for sure, if some serious inking doesn't get done in the next week, there may be a few millionaires filing for unemployment.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Texas signed two relief pitchers yesterday in a day that seems like a class reunion. They inked Bryan Corey to a minor league contract. Eddie Guardado will start the season in the bullpen, if everything works out. Both have pitched for the Rangers before.

Corey pitched for the Rangers in 2006. "Ready Eddie" seen here on card number 675 of Upper Deck's 2008 set, was a bullpen workhorse for the team in 2008. In August the Rangers dealt him to Minnesota but apparently missed him badly enough to resign him this year.

Seems like a good move to me. Eddie has experience and can mentor the younger relievers. He is also a real Energizer Bunny-type pitcher who can shoulder a big load in relief. No way to argue with those credentials.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hearing the beat.

Yesterday I got a bubble envelope from John at Johngy's Beat. I opened it to find that I needed every card that he had sent.

John sent all of the 1981 Topps Traded cards that I needed to complete my team set. He also sent four 1972 Topps cards that knocked off a big part of the remaining portion of my team set from that year. The last card in the envelope was this 1973 Topps, number 601. I was thrilled to receive this addition to my collection.

Sometime back I had asked if anyone had any Rangers cards they would like to see me post. John was gracious enough to reply and stated that he would like to see a card of Rick Stelmaszek. Sadly, I had no cards of Rick in my collection and was ashamed to admit that I hadn't heard of him.

In addition to being married to John's third grade teacher and being a great neighbor, Rick was a catcher for several years in the majors. He actually debuted two years before this card was issued, playing in six games for the senators. In 1973 he played in seven games for Texas before being traded to the Angels. At the end of the 1973 season he was traded to the Cubs. He spent 1974 in Chicago before ending his MLB career. Thanks Johngy, both for the cards and the great history lesson!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Book 1, Page 27.

Not much going on in baseball today. Still no Pudge signing to report. Here is what we have for today:
1995 Score Contest Redemption #AD2
1995 Score Gold Rush #367
1995 Score Hall of Gold #HG74
Empty pocket
1995 Select #63
Empty pocket
1995 Select Certified #77
Empty pocket
1995 SP #198

The empty pockets are left for the 1995 Score Platinum Team Sets #367, 1995 Select Artist's Proofs #63, and 1995 Select Certified Mirror Gold #77.

Probably my favorite from this bunch is the Score Contest Redemption. Nice shot of Ivan holding the ball and glaring a runner back to the bag as the dust settles from the previous play. The inscription on the card of "Guaranteed Right, Guaranteed Scarce" is also kind of interesting. I can understand the "scarce" part, the company would know that from their print run. What about the "right" part? Does that refer to the write-up on the back? To the fact that Pudge is right-handed? Interesting indeed.