I used to be a major baseball card collector. I still have tens of thousands of them in the basement, but almost none of them are newer than, oh, 1990 or so. Just kind of lost the thread. Girls and stuff got more interesting for me in the late 80s. And then the companies all decided to come out with 27 different sets and special editions and things. It was just too much pressure for a guy who prided himself on being something of a completist.
It’s a totally different baseball card world now than it was 20-25 years ago, but I have a lot of friends who have continued to collect. One of them is Cee Angi, the newest contributor to The Platoon Advantage. But she, like several others I know, are poised to give it up. The reason? The Topps monopoly is leading to crappy cards:
Ever since Topps monopoly began as the “Official Card of Major League Baseball” they have really jumped the shark on card quality, creativity, but especially photo-selection and editing. One would assume that the improvement of technology would lead to a better baseball card, but they seem to be on the decline at a rapid pace.
Cee hates the 2012 set. A lot of cards have pictures taken with obstructions and — inexcusably for a company that has the official imprimatur of Major League Baseball — feature pictures taken through the screen behind home plate, with visible net.
The last time Topps let quality slide like this was in the late 70s and early 80s. It led to Fleer and Donruss getting in the game and cards becoming awesome for a good while. Let’s hope that happens again. Because the beauty of baseball cards, even in a digital age, is to bring us closer to the players and give us something that sitting in the stands and watching on TV just can’t do.
And the 2012 Topps set just doesn’t seem to be too interested in that.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.