Saturday, February 22, 2020

#61 - Trevor Bauer

What’s that Turtle doin’? Demonstrating just exactly perfect pitching mechanics, I expect.

By that I mean, I sure hope Trevor Bauer likes his sophomore Topps Baseball card, as he is fairly well known for a deep study of all things Pitching. The lines of the image do seem to align correctly in every way, both for a good photo, and a good pitch. Having his right foot included in the frame makes for a particularly strong overall line all the way to the top of his cap; a line which doesn't carry the viewer to the plate with the ball but does make the viewer of the card easily hear the announcer saying "from the stretch" pretty clearly.

I always like the high socks look; it says to me 'baseball' far better than the pajama leg uniform look does. With the socks, the long sleeves, solid color uni, the red advertising on the outfield wall, the cap, the red Sea Turtle, and the red team logo — well, overall the white frame nicely offsets all that red very nicely. Would a 'full bleed' card design do the same, for this photo?

I suspect this is probably a Night Card; day games under a roof tend to have a different lighting I think. But indoor Night Cards aren't usually as noticeably night-timed. However the photographic effect of shooting it at night creates my favorite part of the card - the white orb just beyond Bauer's pitching hand. So calming, somehow.

Somehow, so far, this 2013 Topps Baseball set manages to only offer up a 100% complete image of a baseball player about once per binder page; this card is only a close, but no toes for that idea. The result of seeing 99% of Trevor Bauer is that we are a little less able to see the expression on Bauer's face, which, given his now well-known enjoyment of discussing the state of Major League Baseball very publicly - is not surprisingly a fair bit 'earnest.' If you wish to see that a little better, this same image is used on an insert card in the set, his "1972 mini."

Uniform Hero? Negatory. Although MLB regulars wearing uniform #s this high start to thin out some, Topps did still have some options here for players that would appear elsewhere in Sea Turtle land.

Where’d the egg hatch? Trevor Bauer was drafted by Arizona in the first round in 2011, as the 3rd pick, which is something that leads to the creation of a lot of baseball cards, such as being included on insert checklists despite appearing in only 4 MLB games so far.

How about the migrations? Like most successful college starters selected early in the draft, he debuted the next year, but the Diamondbacks elected to largely keep him in the minors after that brief July call-up.

Bauer was then one of an impressive set of chips moved in a 3-team trade in early December 2012 as this card was 'going to press,' as it were, which also included Shin-Shoo Choo and Didi Gregorius; Bauer ended up in Cleveland where he again pitched in only 4 games in 2013 before joining their rotation to stay in 2014.

At the 2019 trade deadline, Bauer was again on the move in a complex 3-team trade, this time changing leagues but not States of the Union as he moved just downstate to Cincinnati. As the 2020 season commences he has only a year of club control left for the Reds.
Don’t flip over real Turtles.
One thing feels certain to me about Trevor Bauer — the Topps card back writer will never lack for subject matter in this assignment, something his Rookie Card foreshadows as well.

I do enjoy occasionally reading any active Major Leaguer's current take on Major League Baseball, but I do hope that Bauer someday shares a few thoughts on baseball cards. Though I can't say I am optimistic those will be sunny ones, I would still like to hear them.

Can the Turtle Catch the Rabbit?

CAREER CHASE: With 17 strikeouts, Bauer is 5,697 away from Nolan Ryan's all-time record 5,714.

This could be the greatest counting stat differential in the entire run of these stats, depending on how many Rookies Topps might subject to a Nolan Ryan comparison later in the set. This is surely the greatest differential so far.

As the 2020 season commences, Bauer has thrown 1,179 Strikeouts.

Subspecies? There will be more Trevor Bauer Sea Turtle cards in the set, but there are no variants of his Diamondbacks card.

Bling That Shell High print run parallels make this whole project possible; here I went with the Emerald parallel that might have fallen out of any pack of Sea Turtle cards, in every pack design:

Friday, February 21, 2020

#60 - Jon Rauch

What’s that Turtle doin’? Dramatically planting it's actually quite large frame right into our frame of reference - this baseball card. 

As with the previous card, but even more impressively, a player missing a foot or lower arm in a picture sometimes seems to have suddenly leapt into the camera's lens. Despite the impressive entry, the missing foot also seems, to me, to stop the motion entirely at "Click."

A somewhat strange result of the image selected here is that the viewer of this baseball card has absolutely no way to guess a singular, trivia contest winning fact about Jon Rauch: he is the tallest player in Major League Baseball history at 6' 11".

After a while looking at cards for Pitchers from the New York Mets, one begins to theorize that CITI Field must have some sort of just slightly elevated area along the first base side, possibly in the lowest level of the various boxes above the lower level seats, for media photographers. The mound at CITI Field is a regular feature on Mets baseball cards.

Though I generally like bright sunny day baseball cards the most, I don't care for this card at all. I always want to see a baseball player's face on my baseball card, which was just about a golden rule of the genre for decades. I think 1991 Topps was the first set I can recall with a few cards that traded in showing the subject's face in exchange for a dramatic live action baseball photo; I do think that is worthwhile, sometimes. But for a player like Jon Rauch, who played for more teams (8) and in more seasons (11) than he had cards in a Topps Baseball set (7), I don't think this is a good approach to photo selection, particularly as this is Rauch's first card with the Mets after being skipped completely in 2012 Topps Baseball.

As I have owned and enjoyed this set of 2013 Topps Baseball cards all through the life-span of the TV series for "Game of Thrones," I sometimes look at this card and expect it to say "Valar morghulis."

Uniform Hero? Another clear card # just about perfectly centered - on the front of the baseball card. It is tempting to chalk up the appearance of a journeyman reliever here on a Series 1 card to the need to match those #s, but I think, as we will see shortly, that would be a touch overly cynical. Also, Topps was not without other options on this uni-card # choice.

Where’d the egg hatch? Rauch is one of the oldest Sea Turtles, as he was drafted in the last draft of the 20th Century (1999), in the 3rd round by the White Sox.

How about the migrations? Before Rauch would debut with the White Sox in 2002, he was a key part of a Championship baseball club: the gold medal winning Team USA at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

His time with the White Sox was brief (10 games) before they would trade him and another rookie reliever, Gary Majewski, to the Expos in 2004 (the White Sox received 1.5 years of still league average service from Carl Everett near the end of his career). Very few players on the Sea Turtle checklist have any remaining connection to Montreal.

Eventually as with most largely 'middle' relievers, Rauch's career became quite migratory, moving on from Washington to Arizona, Minnesota, and Toronto, usually as a Free Agent each time, before signing a one year deal to pitch for the Mets in 2012.

Don’t flip over real Turtles.
I regularly presume that some of the favorite players at composition time for a new Topps Baseball set - are the ones with a long enough career to just simply fill up the back of the baseball card with their journeys.

Can the Turtle Catch the Rabbit?

CAREER CHASE: With 541 games pitched, Rauch is 711 away from Jesse Orosco's all-time record of 1,252.

Jesse Orosco broke in with the New York Mets and represented them on 2 All-Star teams early in his career. Topps Baseball cards are created right in the New York Mets' home-town, and Topps never forgets a good New York Met. 

541 games pitched represents a very successful out-of-the-bullpen career; it is a good thing the text for a Lead League in Italics always appears on the top right of the stats on a card, otherwise it would be easy to miss the one for Rauch, in 2007, for "G" - games pitched.

Another key stat to read on this card is near the bottom right. A 0.99 WHIP across 73 "G" is an excellent result for a reliever, and that is what probably explains the presence of a journeyman reliever card in Series One - a nice touch by Topps rewarding a job well done.

However, Rauch's one year deal with New York ended as this card was being created. He would sign for the 2013 season with the Marlins but would only pitch for them for about 6 weeks and would be unable to reach the Majors again despite 2 final attempts with the Orioles and Royals.

This, then, becomes the final baseball card for Jon Rauch, a first in this set; 2 other players, #23 - Jemile Weeks, and #40 - Chien-Ming Wang, technically appeared as a Sea Turtle on their final Topps Baseball card, but each had a minor league card issued later.

Rauch finished his career with 556 Games pitched.

Subspecies? No, middle relievers are lucky enough to appear in a Topps Baseball set at all, usually.

Bling That Shell There is one parallel from 2013 that I would really like to see Topps use again, and that is the "Blue Sparkle" edition with a print run of /150 (not stamped), that were issued via a wrapper redemption program for Series 1 and as a hobby shop giveaway for Series 2. I generally like sunlit cards with some infield grass on them the best on those, so went with that vibe for this spot with the Parallel Turtles:

Thursday, February 20, 2020

#59 - John Axford

What’s that Turtle doin’? Oh, probably showing off the best 0-60 speed of any Turtle so far. Topps always does seem to love printing Action! shots for the players with long hair.

For some reason, the 'knee high' cards - the ones where the player's leg(s) get cut by the card design framing below the knee, rather than above the knee, seem to impart the most sense of motion to me, fairly often. The player then appears to be on his way   -through- the card sometimes, until the photographer forced a stop so we can watch the game of baseball on our baseball cards.

The Brewers are wearing their dark blue 'Home Alternate' here; I think the roof might be open at Miller Park but it's a Great Lakes grey day overhead. The solid mass of blue helps make this quite a bit more memorable of a card, particularly as the Pitcher Parade wears on in this checklist.

Uniform Hero? Yes indeedy; the card # is one of the image elements leading the way to the plate here.

Where’d the egg hatch? John Axford was drafted twice — but still officially signed with an MLB club as a Free Agent.

First, the Mariners requested his services in the 7th round in 2001, but a scholarship to Notre Dame seemed like a better deal, and he did get a degree there, after Tommy John surgery along the way.

Then, the Reds took a chance on him in the 42nd round in 2005, but upon sending a scout to see him pitch with a final year of college eligibility (after that injury loss of a playing, but not a studying, year) the Reds declined to actually offer a contract. Which is something I haven't heard of before, possibly because it is usually kind of sunny on the back of a baseball card.

Axford seemed to enjoy playing the game, so he continued along in his home country, playing in the Canadian 'Western Major Baseball League' (Alberta & Saskatchewan), where a Yankees scout saw him pitch in the summer of 2006 and then signed him.

How about the migrations? As with the Mariners and Reds, a Yankee he was not to be; New York released him after a year in their minor league system. So, Milwaukee gave him a try in Spring Training 2008 and there everything finally worked out. By late 2010 he had become their Closer.

Don’t flip over real Turtles.

Only by doing a deep dive with this card back for this blog post did I learn that Axford is from a small Great Lakes port town, just like me. And I have owned this card for a full 7 years now. Naturally here in the 21st Century, I quickly turned to the kindly free hosting service of this blog - Google - for more details.

Which must happen to the crew at Topps sometimes, when their wizard like ability to summon a 'once did X in only Y days for only the Z amount of times in team history' statistic eludes them and they turn all team-media-guide-like ("the Club"), as on this oddball card back effort.

Can the Turtle Catch the Rabbit?

CAREER CHASE: With 106 saves, Axford is 502 saves away from Mariano Rivera's all-time record of 608.

With a nice Lead League in Italics for Saves already gracing his card back, there was naturally some optimism that Axford could anchor a bullpen for a long time to come.

However the more common result for relievers is only a few years of being able to generate those "SV" stats. Axford would move on from Milwaukee to serve in 7 more Major League Bullpens through 2018 until a final comeback attempt for an Ontario home boy via the Blue Jays' minor league clubs in 2019 ended in season, and career ending surgery in August of that year.

Axford would finish his career with 144 Saves.

Subspecies? A dominant Closer as Axford was in 2010 and 2011 is popular enough to make a popularity based small checklist like Opening Day and this card can be found there in 2013, but not in Chrome later that year, as Rookies need cards, too. There are no variant versions of this one.

Bling That Shell I think this dynamic action based card would look good on a number of parallel options however this project wouldn't be possible without the 'retail' parallels printed in higher quantities than even Topps Gold cards, so here I paired the classic dark blue uniform with a classic dark red parallel:

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

#58 - Jeremy Hellickson

What’s that Turtle doin’? Perhaps, purring a little, just as the baseball was released? I mean, when the cats in my house have the tip of their tongue sticking out like that, they are always purring simultaneously. Surely one of the more odd 'Pitcher Face' cards you ever will see.

The live baseball playing motion is captured by the line of Hellickson's right leg flowing up to the billowing uniform and along the Rays logo but then the overall momentum of the pitching motion is even whip-sawing Hellickson's glove a fair bit. That is probably the most dramatic element in the photo, but somewhat brings your eye to a halt there, rather than at the frame sliced baseball at the top of the card. But a good reminder of just how rapid and forceful a Picher's delivery motion really is.

Otherwise, this is most definitely a Tampa Bay home game, which, on-card, always seem like neither a day game, or a night game. Just, an indoor game. For that reason, many baseball cards produced for Rays players just never interest me all that much, and to be honest, neither does this one. Maybe Topps will throw me a lifeline somewhere on the flip side.

Uniform Hero? Hellickson did wear #58 for his entire career.

Where’d the egg hatch? He was drafted by the Rays in the 4th round of the 2005, after his high school graduation.

How about the migrations? Naturally his MLB debut would not then occur until a good amount of minor league seasons; he would first appear in Tampa in the 2010 season for 3 starts and a few summons from the bullpen. In 2011, however, Hellickson would join the Rays' rotation and go on to win the AL Rookie of the Year award and this checklist position. Things were beginning to look very promising for a Tampa Bay club with a solid, high quality, young rotation.

Don’t flip over real Turtles.

Must be break time at the Topps Baseball card mine.

Can the Turtle Catch the Rabbit?

CAREER CHASE: With 27 wins, Hellickson is 484 away from Cy Young's all-time record of 511.

Ultimately, Jeremy Hellickson only appeared out of a bullpen 8 times in his career; Wins thus becomes the go-to stat comparison here. 

Hellickson's post ROY seasons included more successful ones in Tampa, then a series of ups and downs, stat wise, in Arizona, Philly, and then Baltimore. He reached Baltimore at the trade deadline in 2017 from Philly - quite a strange trade for Baltimore to be essentially trading _for_ a veteran starter like Hellickson in the middle of a season. Things must have been, perhaps all too usually, tough in B'more that summer. Jeremy's final 2 seasons with Washington in 2018-19 included the same mix of more success on the mound than not, but also more time with shoulder problems than without.

I am actually composing this one on February 15, 2020, several days before my devoted readers will follow along with me here. 2-15-20, it turns out, was the day Hellickson officially announced his retirement on news that his shoulder would require yet more surgery and another long rehab process in order to try pitching again.

Jeremy Hellickson finished his career with 76 Wins.

Subspecies? Sooo much promise in that early 10s rotation in Tampa; this card would also appear in Opening Day and Chrome, though without any variations.

Bling That Shell Another Tampa Bay card, another easy chance to acquire a parallel with a low print run, fairly cheap. I went with the tasty Pink here:

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

#57 - Mark Lowe

What’s that Turtle doin’? Demonstrating the pitching motion once again. I think if one were trying to study how that motion works, this card pairs perfectly with the Lincecum card just 2 checklists spots prior. Perhaps Tim Lincecum was able to famously generate more rotational force with his shoulder via a much lower starting point for the baseball in his right hand.

On this card, implied motion somewhat oddly stops. The dramatically lit-up pinstripe on Lowe's uniform draws the eye away from the imminent route of the ball to Home Plate, but then the pair of arms extending in the other direction draws the eye back over to the ball. Although this is an excellently framed and appealing card, it doesn't have the same flow that many other live action pitching cards do.

The background of the card is a nice, varying combination of sunlit areas and shaded areas. 

Of all the advertising one sees while viewing baseball games and baseball players on baseball cards, I can't think of a more perfect spot to advertise grass care products than on the outfield wall of a baseball stadium.  

Uniform Hero? Pickings are getting a little slim here by #57 but Mark Lowe did indeed wear #57 for Texas in 2012, though he wore a variety of uni #s in his career. A far more famous pitcher, with perhaps a bit of an infamous No Hitter to his credit even, wore #57 on a uniform where it is clearly seen - Johan Santana. But as it turned out, his main Sea Turtle card appeared in Series 2, though we will also see him a little further along on this checklist here in Series 1.

Where’d the egg hatch? Lowe was drafted out of college by the Mariners in the 5th round of 2004,

How about the migrations? and would rather routinely (for a college player) debut with them almost exactly 2 years after the draft. 2008 became his first full year in Seattle's bullpen; his career would become a classic migratory reliever pattern that began with a trade from Seattle to Texas. However as Seattle was also sending Cliff Lee to Texas in that trade, it is not really worth considering the trade outcome much here.

On the standard "cya" day in Major League Baseball, Lowe was released by Texas the day after the 2012 World Series and then signed with the Dodgers for the year of the Sea Turtle cards but would not make it out of Spring Training with them. He was able to latch on with the California Angels for the 2013 season but would appear in just 11 games.

All in all, a rather curious checklist selection by Topps here, as middle relievers like Mark Lowe only sometimes, more not than often really, appear in Topps Baseball sets. Across a 10 year career, Lowe would appear on just 5 Topps Baseball cards, generally in the Update release, and a smattering of other small sets.

Don’t flip over real Turtles.
I would say the Topps card back writer hit a nice single here, always nice to read as they will always be writing more of these in a week or two. What I am referring to is the nice shout-out for very local fans in the Arlington area; not all that many MLB fans connect MLB players to their collegiate play.

Can the Turtle Catch the Rabbit?

CAREER CHASE: With 253 games played, Lowe is 999 away from Jesse Orosco's all-time record of 1,252.

As a Tigers fan, I was pretty sure which record comparison would be made here, before I turned the cad over, for for a player so well fitting the classic "journeyman reliever" trope. This is only the 3rd card so far to feature this comparison.

After his brief 2013 season with the Angels, Lowe would also pitch a similarly brief amount for the Indians in 2014 and then make the also classic outside-looking-in career move of once again signing with the team that drafted him - Seattle - who would trade him to Toronto at the 2015 trade deadline. As usual for a low leverage veteran reliever, very few would be able to recall much on the careers of the 3 other pieces in the trade.

Somehow in Toronto in the home stretch of the 2015 season, everything would click for Mark Lowe and he would have the best 2 months of his career, turning in a 0.842 WHIP for a Jays team on their way to the ALCS, where Lowe would allow just one Hit (& 1 HBP) in 3.1 innings of relief in a series loss to the Royals.

That brilliant stretch somehow convinced the very new GM in Detroit, Al Avila, that Mark Lowe was worth signing for $5.5 Million for 2 years, a decision which proved to be completely wrong. Perhaps Avila hadn't yet conceded that Detroit would no longer be able to purchase enough veteran talent to achieve decent results in the standings, who knows?

As it turned out, 2016 in Detroit would be the final season of bouncing around the Leagues, (or at least, appearing on a mound in an MLB game) for Mark Lowe as he could not repeat that mysterious late 2015 brilliance and the Tigers had little choice but to release him during Spring Training in 2017 and just eat the $5.5 Million they still owed him. I think that perhaps that particular expensive decision finally convinced everyone in Detroit of the reality of what they were facing, and also ended a long era of attempts to staff a bullpen with expensive veterans, a routine habit of former Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski.

The White Sox, Mariners (again), and the Dodgers (again) would each give him one more "look" but he would not return to the Majors; sometimes the complete MLB Transaction list can tell some rather sad tales.

With 382 games pitched, Lowe finished his career 870 away from Jesse Orosco's all-time record.

Subspecies? By now you probably already understand that middle relievers are lucky to appear in a standard issue Topps Baseball set. There are no other 2013 baseball cards for Mark Lowe.

Bling That Shell I went a little round & round with this selection. Early on in collecting 2013 parallels I obtained the Black /62 parallel for this card as part of a lot purchase and included it as the permanent parallel Turtle. Over time I grew a little dis-enchanted with the blue-team-on-black parallel cards, more due to how they look in-hand than they do in a scan, where they look quite nice. Blue-on-black just didn't have that "pop" that looks so good in a baseball card collection. 

I also considered using the Blue Sparkle parallel here due to all the variety in the background of the photo, which does look nice. But a blue-on-blue combo is right out.

But all that was making this page difficult to fill and I have 110 pages to fill. I also somewhat want at least one example of every team color + parallel color. Eventually I decided that a) Black parallels of sunny day cards look nice, and b) if a team logo had at least some red to it, the overall effect would be 'poppy' enough to use a blue team card with a black Turtle shell, like this one:

Monday, February 17, 2020

#56 - Joe Blanton

What’s that Turtle doin’? This time, here in the middle of the Pitcher parade, we have just driven to the plate. I would hazard a guess that the batter's swing (or not), and the Ump's call are in the process of completion right, now, as we gaze upon Joe Blanton. I would make that claim because Blanton has not begun to relax his body from the end of his delivery motion in any single way that can be seen here. His right, throwing, arm has completed it's follow through all the way back to his torso after releasing the ball, and that is all.

Blanton does seem optimistic on the call and this card almost makes the cut for a sub-collection I like to keep called The Pitcher Is Smiling At Me.

This Pitching card is a little less common than others in that a photo clicked _after_ the Pitcher completes his delivery is not the norm for an 'In Action' card of a Pitcher. This is only the 3rd such card in the set of 24 Pitchers on the checklist so far.

Overall though, this is a nice sunny day baseball card day out in sunny Los Angeles. It has a nice balance of sunlight and shadow created by Blanton himself, which makes one forget this is almost a purely 2-tone card of all white and blue but ultimately works very well thanks to all that sunshine.

One new element on this card is the right shoulder patch Joe is wearing, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium. However we will see much better views of that patch on other cards in this set.

Uniform Hero? Normally home Dodger uniforms give a splendid view of the player's # on their baseball cards but such is not the case here. Nevertheless, Blanton did wear #56 for the Dodgers in 2012, but by 2013, he was wearing a different uni # for a different team.

I mentioned a 'Pitcher parade' at the head of this post as we have just passed the half-way point of a very long string of Pitchers on this checklist, likely the longest in the set. Pitchers do seem to favor uniform #s in the 50s; of 21 players that wore #56 in the 2012 season, 17 of them were Pitchers.

Where’d the egg hatch? Blanton is one of the more veteran Sea Turtles in the set, as he was drafted in the 1st round in 2002 by the Oakland A's, right at the core of the action in the book "Moneyball," which does discuss the pre-draft thinking on Blanton some. He was actually Oakland's 2nd pick in the 1st round (24th overall), as the A's had 4 picks in the top 30. This all makes him 33 years old on this card, though he looks not far removed from his Rookie season on the front.

How about the migrations? Blanton's 8 IP 'cup of coffee' debut came in 2004 before joining an A's rotation depleted by trades in 2005. Naturally, he would eventually be traded away from the A's in 2008, off to the Phillies (Josh Outman only really known return piece; not one of Billy Beane's better trades but then Beane is always hamstrung by looming player paydays). Has Beane ever drafted a player who retired from the Oakland A's? Not that all that many MLB players do that any more for any team, but to see a career arc like that in 21st century Oakland would be noticeable.

After that mid-season trade in 2008, Blanton would hit a Home Run while pitching for the Phillies in the World Series, currently the last MLB pitcher to perform the feat. 

Blanton landed on this baseball card via a trade to L.A. on August 3, 2012, a few days after the 'no-waiver' trade deadline which confuses 99% of baseball fans, but does not confuse Topps, who will definitely not print an Update card for a player traded that late in the summer. The return piece for the 'rental' of 2 months of Blanton's contract never made the Majors, well illustrating a common outcome of such trades despite the value casual fans place on them.

Blanton would then sign a contract with the Angels on Dec. 12, 2012 and would not actually pitch an inning for L.A. in the actual year of the Sea Turtle cards. He would appear in the Heritage set, which releases a month after Series One, as a photo-shopped California Angel. All of which probably illustrates something about the lead-time required for Topps to create accurate Topps Baseball cards.

Don’t flip over real Turtles.

A player in the Leagues this long runs out of room for the Topps crew to write up a blurb for them, in any set with "full stats" like this one, rather than 5 year stats. It is often a bit of a pity whenever a Lead League in Italics is a counting stat the player would rather not have compiled, although in this case Blanton had such respectable WHIP and ERA figures there that allowing 240 Hits is more a positive indicator of his ability to stay in games — and pitch his rotation spot 100% reliably as this card misses the fact that by starting 34 games in 2007, Blanton should have earned another Lead League in Italics bit of red ink for that.

Can the Turtle Catch the Rabbit?

CAREER CHASE: With 228 games started, Blanton is 587 away from Cy Young's all-time record of 815.

Now this is a surprising comparison in a couple ways. For one, this is the first such comparison in the set here on the 56th card. It is also a stat that the card collector can't verify for themselves right on the back of the card. I suspect we might see a few more of these unexpected All-Time stat comparisons sneak up on us as we read the back of each and every card in the set, as composing them had to have been a bit of a chore, really.

Blanton would pitch for the Angels in 2013 before one could almost call him a journeyman starter for the rest of his career, if he hadn't largely switched to the bullpen after this card was created. After a season with the Angels additional stops included a 2nd stop in Oakland though injury would prevent him from pitching there, a 2nd stop in Dodger Stadium, as well as time in the bullpens of the Royals, Pirates, and Nationals before he retired after the 2017 season.

With 252 games started of 427 games appearing in, Blanton finished his career 563 away from Cy Young's all-time record.

Subspecies? This is the only Joe Blanton Sea Turtle designed card.

Bling That Shell We have started a new binder page now and this one leads off with a blue on Gold choice, one which will be pretty common in the all parallel set as the blue Sea Turtle baseball diamonds don't mix so well with some of the blue Sea Turtle shells. But these always look classy:

Sunday, February 16, 2020

#55 - Tim Lincecum

What’s that Turtle doin’? "The Freak" is showing off some of his unique delivery motion, a delivery that was at times called 'iconic,' even. Meanwhile we are back in the other on-deck circle as Topps keeps switching the lefty-righty starters every card so we can't get too comfortable facing these hurlers.

As Lincecum's delivery was always more 'rotational' than some, this image does set up some contrasting lines with his raised left arm, but that is unavoidable for a photo shot so early in the delivery.

One very interesting photo element is again the pitch selected, which looks to be a 'circle change' off-speed pitch. This in turn makes one wonder how well the batter may have been able to see that, however that is probably just a trick of the photo selection as the ball would only drop into view like that for a brief portion of a second.

Overall, the most memorable take-away from this card is perhaps Lincecum's eyes and one of the more worried expressions I can recall on a Pitcher Pitching card like this one. Which, as we will see shortly, fits very well with the state of his career at the time this photo was shot and then this baseball card composed.

The card also shares a photo element with the CC Sabathia card in that Tim is wearing some sort of bracelet on his left wrist. Post-scan zoom reveals this one to feature Kanji characters (I think); his different bracelets in different seasons can still dredge up some Google results if you are curious.

There is a final element I quite like on this card, which is supplied by the Giants' "Home Alternate" uniform in and of itself, as a solid color alternate uniform makes for a better baseball card than one featuring home whites or road greys. This is only the 3rd card in 55 now to feature such a uniform, which somewhat surprised as I just counted them as I think Topps has been increasing their use of photos of these uniforms. And that colorful orange uni gives it a nice colorful harmony with the blurred advertising on the outfield wall - a well chosen ad strategy, it appears.

Uniform Hero? It can't be fully seen on-card but Lincecum did wear #55 throughout his career and he was still one of the brighter stars in the game when this card was composed.

Where’d the egg hatch? Lincecum showed so much promise as a teenaged Pitcher that he was actually drafted 3 times, something I figure has to be fairly rare. First the Cubs tried to sign him straight out of high school in 2003 (48th round), then the Indians tried again after two years of pitching in college in 2005 (42nd round), and then finally the Giants stepped up and made him their first round pick, 10th overall, in 2006.

How about the migrations? He would then debut with a nearly full (24 starts) Rookie season in 2007, before really 'nailing it' in 2008, making his first All-Star team, his first of 2 consecutive Cy Young awards, and earning the first red ink stat totals on the back of his baseball card -

Don’t flip over real Turtles.
By the late fall of 2012 when this card was being composed, Lincecum's unique mechanics were so well-known that they became a simple, and perfect, topic for the Topps scribe here.

Amongst all the red ink stats however are a trio of very telling ones from the 2012 season that perhaps inform that worried expression we see on the front of the card.

Can the Turtle Catch the Rabbit?

CAREER CHASE: With 1,317 strikeouts Lincecum is 4,397 away from Nolan Ryan's all-time record of 5,714.

After 3 league lead in italics for Ks in his first 4 seasons one would think that would be the perfect launching point for an attempt at Ryan's record. But despite starting a career with those 1,317 strikeouts in 6 years, here Lincecum is still more Ks away from Ryan than all but 2 MLB Pitchers have ever even thrown.

Lincecum would never return to his dominant early career results and would only pitch for the Giants through the 2015 season. A probably never-ending hope of finding the right mechanical adjustments, after this card was made, included a final attempt with a new coaching staff in southern California via 9 starts for the Angels in 2016, but then Tim Lincecum had to retire.

He finished his MLB career with 1,736 Strike-outs.

Subspecies? Only one year removed from elite MLB production, Lincecum probably appeared on every Topps checklist in 2013 and this same card can be seen in Opening Day and Chrome. There is also one photo variant for this card # which was released in Series 2 as part of the "sunglasses" set of Short Prints. It is a good looking card that I look forward to owning some day, and sharing with you here.

Bling That Shell As black is basically the secondary 'team color' for the Giants and one that is most easily noticed on the Home Alternate uniform shown here, a black parallel of this one would be a very nice card. However matching the black parallel to Adam Wainwright's special hat on card #50 has already used that color for this page. So I went with the emerald parallel seen below, which amuses me via tying into a lesser known, off-season incident in Lincecum's heyday that you can Google up if you wish. In this scan there does appear to be a print line running across the name plate/bar area of the card, but that is completely invisible in-hand. It has been a good 20 cards or so since we have seen one of these:

Normally right here it would be time to scan up a colorful page of 9 parallel Sea Turtles however page construction is on-going for this one. So this page will ultimately have 2 more photo upload updates as this blog moves along at a turtle's pace over the years to come.