Friday, March 13, 2009

Mailbag, featuring Bob Vila

This is about as far from 1972 as you can get. So, hop back in the DeLorean because we're about to go 88 mph and run up to the 1990's and 2000's.

Recently, Stats on the Back asked readers to comment on who was better, former Pirate lefty Bob Veale or TV handyman Bob Vila. I offered some of my smarmy comments and, because there weren't many that answered, I won a Bob Vila card and some assorted baseball players. That added 23 to my many tens of thousands of baseball cards and 1 to my collection of 1 carpenters' cards. Looks like Bob's working on some kind of small engine. Why do TV handymen wear khakis? If (no, scratch that) when grease pops out of that thing it'll go straight for the zipper and make him look like he needs to visit a urologist. Why don't they wear jeans or navy, if they have to wear something dressier?

Hey, I didn't anticipate getting to use the back of this card as a coupon. Too bad I found a deal at my Black and Decker outlet store last weekend. Well, let's see....10% off on Craftsman ought to bring them down to.... Wait, "Expires 12/31/96." I doubt I can get that past the Sears employee.

I also got some newer (for me) Cardinals and Royals cards. Here's a sampling of what was good and bad with the Royals' franchise from about 1995-2005:

Let's start with the good. In 1991, Score called George Brett The Franchise for the Royals. Sad to say, but in 2009 that's still true. This is the 40th anniversary of the first Royals' game and the face of the franchise is still a guy that hasn't played in 15 years. Johnny Damon had a chance to be the new franchise man, but he took advantage of changes in the game that gave him bargaining power the Royals couldn't match, so they had to trade him. If the rules/money had been in 1973 what they are now, I don't know who and what Score would have put on this card because I don't think the Royals would have been able to keep Brett.

There was a time the Royals developed players who were really good and consistent for a number of years. Guys like Brett, Paul Splittorff, Dennis Leonard, Frank White, Willie Wilson, and even more recently Kevin Seitzer (see, I'm stuck in the past if I think Kevin Seitzer is "more recent"). But part of the Royals' legacy from 1995-2005 has been flashes in the pan. Both of these guys were Rookies of the Year. Neither of these guys had any long term success. Hamelin was a nice guy that mashed as a rookie, but then lost his stroke which was attributed to vision problems. Berroa, well, who really knows. Let's hope guys like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Zack Grienke and Luke Hochevar wind up being more like Brett, Leonard and White than Berroa and "The Hammer."

One of the best things about the Royals' franchise continues to be the Stadium. I know most of you have never been there, but it's a beautiful place to watch a game. Unfortunately, it's all too often a good place to study for finals. I haven't made the journey to a Royals' game in 3-4 years, but I hear they really only get excited now about Opening Day and the Yankees.

There were also recent cards of the Cardinals, the other team I grew up rooting for. Let's see the differences in the fortunes of the two franchises.

Let's start with a beloved Hall of Famer. Growing up in the 70's I was all about Lou Brock and Bob Gibson. I thought Brock should have been the 1974 MVP over Garvey. Guess maybe the Cardinals should have won a few more games and made the playoffs, perhaps. But remember, the 70's valued the stolen base more than baseball does now. However, while Brock is still a hallowed figure in St. Louis, he's not still the face of the franchise.

Brock isn't still the face of the franchise partly because another beloved Hall of Famer came along within a few years of Brock's retirement. The 80's were the Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee show. Once Ozzie got to St. Louis, nobody remembered Garry Templeton's middle finger or Ozzie taking out an ad offering to do odd jobs in San Diego as a ploy to renegotiate his contract with Mrs. Kroc.

Lee Smith may make it into the Hall of Fame. He'll have a place with the other Cardinal Hall of Famers, but his career wasn't primarily in St. Louis, so it won't be as prominent. I'm just glad that nobody did a "Smith Bros." card with Ozzie like 1983 Fleer did with Ozzie and Lonnie Smith.

This is my first UD Masterpiece. I was a little blown away at Mark's generosity here. I was expecting a smattering of 90's commons and I'd have been happy with that, but these cards are fantastic. Can't you just hear Paul LoDuca there saying, "Uh-oh?" Oh, and don't think that the Kansas City Royals don't realize the Albert Pujols went to high school and junior college just a few miles from beautiful Royals Stadium. Talk about a guy who could be on the 2011 Score The Franchise card.....
I'm going to be getting rid of this card. Not that I'm ungrateful for it. Quite the contrary. This card is going in the mail with a SASE to Chris Perez for the new Cardinal closer to sign. I got to see him when he came through town with the AA Cardinals a couple of years ago. It was fun to watch Jason Motte come in throwing 98 in the 8th and Perez throwing 96 in the 9th with a wicked slider. He's got a pretty bright future and I hope he can fill the shoes of some former Cardinal relievers (Hrabosky, Sutter, Worrell, Smith, Henke, Eckersley, Isringhausen...)

That's about it for this brief interlude from funky vintage cardboard. I appreciate Mark's generosity and encourage you to visit his site if you don't already have it bookmarked into your favorites. He's on a series of his Top 3 all-time best at each position and it's a thought-provoking look at baseball history. Oh, and with the season about to open, I'm sure he'll keep us updated on the exploits of another former Royal that got away, Carlos Beltran, Johann Santana, Jose Reyes and David Wright.

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