A blog about baseball cards... and the Padres

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Tribute to a Padres… Uh… Legend?

The Padres were reportedly going to be very busy at the trade deadline this year, according to many baseball insiders.  For a team that was massively underperforming (at least compared to the high expectations drawn up after a flurry of offseason transactions brought a lot of big names to Petco Park), it was thought that they'd dump a lot of salary… and talent.

However, they stayed put, actually adding a bullpen arm in exchange for a minor league outfielder (who, has actually been outperforming the guy he was traded for - go figure).  Most believed it was because they didn't get the value they were expecting, but the front office spun a few "We think we're still in the race" type quotes to appease a fan base that they must've assumed hadn't watched any of the games this season.

Well, as they fell further and further out, general manager AJ Preller decided to cash in a chip before it left on it's own, and he traded the longest tenured Padre to Texas - outfielder Will Venable.

I have had a love/hate relationship with Venable in his Padres career.  I'm a sucker for homegrown talent, and Will was a 5th round pick in the 2005 draft.  He made his debut in 2008, and played 918 games in a Padre uniform.  That's good for 6th on the all-time franchise list, just ahead of Chase Headley (908 games), and behind Gene Richards (939).  In the record books, he is also:

3rd in strikeouts (722)
Tied for 3rd in triples (39, same as Dave Winfield)
8th in steals (130)
13th in runs (370)
13th in hits (694)
15th in home runs (81)
16th in doubles (114)
17th in RBI (304)

While making the top 20 in several statistical categories is definitely something to be celebrated, it speaks more to his longevity than his prowess as a baseball player.  To a more negative fan, it might speak more to the mediocrity of the Padres front office for not going out and getting a better outfielder after having him for so long.

Personally, I wasn't following too closely the first few seasons of Will's career, as I would've been in my last year of college during his first full season, and when we moved to Texas shortly after graduation, I was still out of it.  By the time I came back around to the Padres, it was 2012, and I was a bigger fan of the guy that usually platooned with Venable, Chris Denorfia.

Being a fan of the guy that was benched in favor of him didn't make me a Venable fan.  It made it easier to point out his faults, which were striking out too much, not doing very well with runners in scoring position, and seemingly always hitting weak grounders to the second baseman when the team needed a big hit.

Still, the dude had speed, an incredible glove, and was a consummate professional.  I think I really didn't like him not because he was a bad player, but because he was expected to be able to carry a mediocre Padres team, which he wasn't able to do.

When the Padres made all those blockbuster moves, Venable got moved into a 4th outfielder spot, which seemed perfect.  All of a sudden, I was Venable's number one fan, getting excited when he was put in to pinch run or hit late in the game, or when he got a random start in center (because Wil Myers should seriously never be a center fielder in Petco Park).

I really hoped that the Padres would keep Venable, if only because I love the idea of a player staying his whole career with one team.  Sure, by the end I might not love him as much, but it's so rare and if anyone had a shot, I thought it'd be Will.  Of course, having a new GM with no attachment to a 4th outfielder type more than likely meant that he'd be gone, either now or in the offseason, so I guess I'll take what the Padres can get for him and hopefully root him into the playoffs.  It'd be rad if he was brought back next year, but if there's one thing the Padres have plenty of, it's outfielders.

So, here's my farewell to a former "Lifetime Padre".  This post also could've been called "Every Will Venable Card I Own", but well, I think I've done an "Every ________ Card I Own" post (yep, I did, an Austin Hedges post last month).

I'll start with all the Topps flagship cards first.  Here's Will's rookie card, from 2009 Topps.  I dig the little Rookie Card symbol in the bottom left.  I don't have many '09 Topps cards, but this might be my favorite of the bunch, behind Tony Gwynn Jr.'s spectacular card from that set.  It seemed that later on in his career, Will would adopt the "pajama" style look with his pants, but I love the high socks right here.

Do you like pictures of Will Venable diving?  Topps certainly does.  This is the first of a few cards that show Will laying out to make a catch.  Will's been a Padre for so long, that they even changed the camo uniforms since he'd been with the team.  I'm not really a fan of '10 Topps, but this is my favorite card of the set for the Friars.

Alright, now we're talking.  I loved the 2011 Topps set, and I'm currently working on putting together the team set of the "diamond anniversary" parallels.  I obviously already have the Venable card, which looks great - a "check out how far I hit it" glance from Will, who is once again rocking the high socks.  Solid.

2012 Topps was a pretty lackluster team set for the Padres, and Will's card was pretty mediocre.  Once again, a follow-through-swing shot, and this time, he's rocking a new version of the camouflage uniform.

Alright, if I loved the 2011 Topps set, then I was downright infatuated with the 2013 set.  In my opinion, my favorite Topps set since the 90's (I really liked the '92 and '93 Topps sets, the first ones that got me into collecting).  We're on our second of three laying-out-to-make-a-diving-catch shots, and it looks incredible.  The ball is just peeking out from behind the frame of the card, and Venable's tracking it all the way into his glove.  I loved the emerald parallels from this set so much that I put together the team set for them.  Maybe I should get the base card of this because I love it so much.

Last year's card had the final installment of the diving-catch Venable cards.  While not as stellar as the '13 version, still pretty good.  Topps Series 1 had yellow bordered parallels that reminded me of the '91 Fleer set that I love so much, so I put together the team set for them.  The Padre blue mixed with the yellow reminds me of San Diego's other big league professional team: the Chargers.  It also reminds me of the All-Star Game logo that was revealed a few months ago.  Ugh.

Here's the final chapter in the Will Venable Topps Timeline:  Overall, a pretty solid card.  It'll be hard for me to dislike any card that show's the Jerry Coleman memorial patch that the Padres wore last year, and I dig the colored borders of this year's set as well.

Along with the Topps flagship cards and the pair of Heritage cards I showed at the top, I have two "other" Venable cards:

I loved that '13 Topps card so much that I also got the blue foil parallel from 2013 Topps Opening Day as well.  I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that when I went to a game last year, I saw some banners that had this image on it.  While marketing Venable as the "face of a franchise" probably wouldn't have happened with many other teams, I can't say I blame them too much, because this picture is gorgeous.

Here's the final card of the post, my only Venable auto.  I had a few others that I've since traded to other Padre collectors, but I couldn't bring myself to deal this one, even when I was mad at Will for taking Denorfia's playing time.  Even though it's a sticker-auto (which are always a little less rad than on-card autos), I LOVE the throwback uniforms.  SO much better than anything they've had since the 90's.

For lots of players (especially ones from my childhood), when I think of them, I think first of my cards. With Will, there will be two plays that will ALWAYS come to mind when I think of him.

The first is this one, which I would put into the canon of Top Padres Plays of All Time:

Seriously, probably the greatest Padres defensive play I've ever seen live.  I almost screamed out loud when I saw it, but fortunately refrained, since the rest of my family was sleeping.

Next, I think of this play, which is currently the final play of the last Padre game I've been to (I couldn't find a video of just the play, so you'll have to watch til the end of the three minutes here):

Thanks to Will Venable.  I didn't begin to appreciate you until this season, which is when you left.  Such is life.  While I still won't go out and grab a Venable jersey anytime soon, he'll still always be a Lifetime Padre in my heart.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Yesterday, I posted a quartet of Tony Gwynn cards that came my way via Nick at the Dimebox blog.  Today is part two of the cards he sent my way - the non-Gwynn's.

I've decided to list them in order of "Dimebox-ness".  If you've read Nick's blog (and really, if you're reading mine, you've probably been reading his for a long time, or you're my mom), you'll know that he has a knack for acquiring seemingly common cards that have something a little extra special about them.  For example, he sent me a fistful of "kids on cards" cards, the best of which was the Mike Cameron you see above.  Not everyday that you see a little kid featured on a baseball card, but Nick's got an eye for that kinda thing.

Putting the obvious ones aside, here are the other rankings, in ascending order.  As "Dimebox-ness" is a relatively new statistic, it is on a scale of 0-10, 10 being the most Dimebox-ness you could possibly want (the Cameron card is an easy 10).

Dimeboxness Score: 5.5

Nothing about the photo in this Mark Grant card really sticks out, but it's from a set that I don't have very many cards of (1989 Score Young Superstars), and Mark Grant is the voice of the Padres TV broadcast team, so it does stand out, at least to this Padre fan.  This is now my favorite Mark Grant card.

Dimebox-ness Score: 8.4
Phil Plantier is known for being born in New Hampshire, graduating from my alma mater (Poway High, a suburb of San Diego), having 100 RBI in 1993, and being fired as the Padres hitting coach this offseason.  What he is not known for is making leaping catches at the wall… until now.

Dimebox-ness Score: 9.5
If there's one thing you're sure to see plenty of in Nick's collection, it's plenty of pitchers doing things besides pitching.  Not only is this a card of Padre pitcher Scott Sanders swinging a stick, it's from the LSD influenced set of '95 Fleer.  I'd be willing to bet that Nick isn't into hardcore drugs, but I know he can appreciate a set like '95 Fleer, so maybe I'm wrong.

Dimebox-ness Score: 9.9
Goodness gracious!  Not only is it vintage, it's of Tito Fuentes' headgear!  This is a great photo from a great set, and on any given day, could have taken home the gold medal.  Perhaps if it was a little more worn, it would've amped up it's Dimebox-ness that last decimal point.

Dimebox-ness Score: 11
What!?!?  I thought you said this system was out of 10?  Well, Andy Ashby must be listening to Spinal Tap while he's trying to catch dugout fish, because he just cranked it up to 11!  If there is a more Dimebox-ness card, I have never seen it.

Thanks a lot Nick!  To everybody else, you are free to incorporate the Dimebox-ness stat into your blogging, and feel free to rename it as you see fit.  You just need to site me in your bibliography.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dimebox GWYNNsday

I got a sweet package of (mostly) Padre cards from Nick over at the Dimebox blog, and while not all  of the cards were Gwynn's, these ones were.  

I'm pretty beefed up on Gwynn's from the 80's and mid/early 90's, but I'm still trying to catch up with some of these releases from the late 90's early '00s.  For whatever reason, the card design here makes me think of Topps Total rather than an Upper Deck brand.  Call me an old fashioned kid from the 90's (an admittedly strange phrase), but I preferred my cards to say "Upper Deck Collector's Choice", none of this "UD Choice" shorthand!  I demand satisfaction!  Show some self-respect Upper Deck! 

While I really and truly love Gwynn cards of all shapes and sizes, sets and years, the late 90's/early '00s ones aren't quite as awesome.  While I'm a big fan of the 80's brown uniforms (and all the Padres brown uniforms, for that matter), I also really dug the blue and orange.  However, in the last few years of Tony's career, the Padres moved to blue and white (boooooooorrrrrrring), and these cards are a bittersweet reminder that change was on it's way.  Here, the helmet and hats were still the 90's style blue/orange/white, but the uniform was plain blue and white.

Alright, this is a little more pleasing.  Also, not a lot of… uh… bat-flipping Tony cards out there.  I'm not even sure if this is technically even a "bat flip", but it's not like he's gently placing the bat on the ground or anything.  I'd assume this was taken after being issued a walk, on his way to first base.  I know that designs and styles change all the time, but is it weird to think that eight years before this card, Fleer was making those glorious yellow-bordered cards that are all the rage with all the in-the-know card collectors?

I'm not sure if this was my favorite card of the bunch, but it was definitely my favorite Tony Gwynn card, and it's pretty hard to top getting Tony Gwynn cards, so I'll deem it the champion of the package. Pretty much everything about Tony Gwynn is awesome, and he was especially great with fans.  I've been reading a book that's pretty much a compilation of thoughts by Gwynn fans/San Diego writers/former players, and pretty much everybody wrote about how nice and approachable he was.  My favorite entry was by a former Padres ball boy who said that Gwynn once went down to the Foot Locker and bought some shoes for some of the kids that worked at Jack Murphy Stadium.  He also wrote about when Gwynn and Bip Roberts made fun of Will Clark after he called one of the other Padres ball boys a faggot.  Anyways, yeah, tough to beat a card of Gwynn signing autographs for the fans.

Thanks Nick!  My next post will be on the other non-Gwynn cards that he sent me.  Believe me, there were some gems in there.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Party Time!

Editor's Note: Here at the archives of All The Way To The Backstop…, we have unearthed a trade post that was supposed to be published weeks ago, but hasn't seen the light of day… UNTIL NOW!  Here is the trade post, in it's original form.

Regardless of what happens during the day in the life of a card collector, checking the mailbox and finding a package of cards is always a huge win.  I started this blog at pretty much the same time that I got back into card collecting, and since then (April 2012), whenever the mail carrier has a manila-looking bubble mailer, my wife's learned that it's not usually for her.

Getting cards makes me feel like throwing a fiesta, like the one that the Swinging Friar seems to be a part of.

This is that card that spurred this particular package of cards.  After mentioning in a post that I was looking for the "Keys to the City" card from this year's Allen & Ginter set of the Alamo, Jim over at the now in-haitus Garvey Cey Russell Lopes blog

I'll give you three guesses as to what former Dodger player dominated the majority of this trade package, but the first two don't count!  Despite getting a few Garvey's that I already had, these two magnificent specimen were new to my collection, as well as my eyes!  Garv and Goose on one card?  Awesome!  The scan for the card on the right doesn't do it justice, it's refractory and incredible.

Despite the refractory awesomeness of the other Garv, this was my favorite one, a box panel from the '86 Fleer Star Sticker set.  Man, this is a great card, I'm a big sucker for those thick cards that were part of the box.  And look at Steve's forearms!

This, however, was the biggest Garvey card of the lot, and the biggest in my collection - I haven't busted out my ruler yet, but I believe it's 3" x 5".  Seeing the uniform details a little clearer reminds me of a tweet that… someone wrote recently:  Socks that look like stirrups are the clip-on ties of baseball uniforms.  Fortunately, Garv is not a victim of any such fashion fo paux.

Jim hit me up with a bunch of '71 Topps Padres, which is my all time favorite Topps set.  I already have the complete team set, but a few of these were good upgrades.  Man, looking at all of these together, I think I'd like to wallpaper a room with '71 Topps.  I don't know if it'd be hard to relax in that room though, with all those eyes looking at you.

Oh, here's a Rickey Henderson card that I couldn't believe I didn't already have.  I loved Rickey during his time on the Padres, but, to be honest, a lot of the cards that he had as a Padre are kinda subpar.  This, however, is great, and probably my favorite Padre card of Rickey.

Jim also stashed this away into the package.  I considered saving it for a rainy day and stashed it in my sock drawer, but after a few days, I decided that waiting for rain in Texas is a fools errand, so I opened it up.  Can't remember where I put the cards though.  I remember I pulled a shiny Kirby Puckett and a half panel sticker of Garry Templeton.

Thanks for the trade Jim!  While the rest of us mourn the loss of your incredibly insightful blog posts, I can take solace in the fact that your incredible writing and research will no longer subject me to looking at pictures of Dodger cards.  I guess Night Owl will have to carry that torch by himself now.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

New Cards, Part 4

Alright, the last quick installment of my now not-very-recent Just Commons purchase.  

After being told that I'd be going on a professional development trip to San Antonio for my school, I rummaged around until I found a card of the Alamo from an Allen & Ginter set.  I then found out that the Alamo had been in three A&G sets.  I went the cheap eBay route with one, but this one from the "Palaces & Strongholds" insert set from 2013 came from JC.  I dig it.

For my Miscellaneous Padres binder, a general guideline that I follow with most of the players is that there are no more than five cards per player.  It's a rule that I break a few times, but follow it enough to say that it's at least at "guideline" status.  Well, I had more than five Aki Otsuka cards, but I liked these ones way better.

Here's some more fodder for the Miscellaneous Padres binder.  I know I had that Ollie Brown card at one point, and I know I wouldn't knowingly trade it/discard it, but alas, I can't find it, so I got it here.  The Greg Vaughn and John Flaherty cards remind me how much I really dug '97 Stadium Club set when I was a kid.  Still like it now.  Both of these Chris Gomez cards edge their way into the top 5, along with a shades-wearing Goose Gossage and a bat-wielding Andy Hawkins.  Will Venable, who is  a Padre that I've had a big love-hate relationship with, makes an appearance here, since I figured he'd be gone at the trading deadline, and it'd be good to have something to remember him by.  I was almost right - he stayed after the deadline, but was dealt later to the Rangers.  Post forthcoming.  You know, sometime.

At this point, I was super close to the needed $15 for free shipping, so I tacked on a few 2013 Pinnacle cards.  Not chasing the whole set, but I really like it, so I wanted to have a good, solid page of cards I liked from it.  These replaced a few guys that I liked, but didn't love.  James Shields is a current Padre, and Pence and Jones are two of my favorite non-Padres in the league right now, so they did the job.

This is my 14th post of the month, which is tied for the most posts in a month for the 2015 year.  If that's not reason enough to smile, the Padres won today and the Dodgers got no-hit.  Good job baseball gods.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The 7th Kouz

The first week of school is in the books, and it was awesome.  I'm not sure how often I'll be blogging now, but I guess it's been a slow year for me posting-wise, so it's not like only writing a few posts a month will be dropping my activity down too much anyways.

In celebration of having a good first day of school, I bought this card on eBay for a few bucks.  It came yesterday, and I dig it.

Kind of a rushed post, so only a quick iPhone photo, no scan today.  It's just a plain white jersey swatch, numbered 24/200.  There are a ton of parallels from the 2008 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes set,  but this is one of the lower-ish numbers, for what it's worth.

I now have seven parallels of that card, since it joins this other sextet.  From top to bottom, left to right, there's the base card, blue /199, red/249, silver/399, red auto swatch/50, and green/499.  I think I'll stop at a page of these, so whatever the cheapest two parallels I can find (under $5), I'll snatch up… sometime.  

Speaking of Kouzmanoff, I was wearing my Kouz replica jersey w/my new San Antonio Missions hat in the HEB in town a few days ago, when the guy behind me started talking about how he played against former Padre prospect and not-so-great major league player Sean Burroughs in Little League.  Kind of a cool conversation to have with a random stranger, who wouldn't have even mentioned it if I hadn't been rocking my Padres gear.

EDIT: I noticed when I hit "publish", that this is my 801st post on this blog!  I guess that's kind of a milestone, right?  Anyways, just thought it was worth mentioning.  I tried to find a way to tie in the number 801 to Kevin Kouzmanoff, but couldn't find a way.  For those curious, he had exactly 650 hits and 500 strikeouts in his 685 game MLB career.

Monday, August 24, 2015

First Day Of School Cards

Here in central Texas, it's the first day of school.  A big deal for this first grade teacher.

This is the most excited I've ever been for a school year to start.  We have some great leadership on this campus, my class seems like they should be solid, and I've never been a better teacher.  Things should be great.

So, with teaching on the brain, here's how some of these baseball card expressions make me think…

When you pull up into the parking lot on the first day of school.

When you got so much stuff to do that you wish you had a personal secretary.

When other teachers who have been lesson planning since July ask if I'm "all ready to go."

When your co-workers are talking about their awesome European trip over the summer, and then ask what you did over the summer.

When you're high-fiving all the students at the doorway as they enter class.

When a parent describes their child as a "genius" while introducing them to you, while they are playing Angry Birds on their parents' phone and not making eye contact.

When those really excited parents ask for a first-day-of-school picture.

When the administration underestimates the time that certain programs will take in addition to your current workload.

When it's story time and the book you're about to read is going to blow their minds.

When they're really excited to learn, but they still need lots of help.

When you gotta get down on their level to build the personal relationship.

When you wanna be the really fun teacher, but you still gotta let the class know who the boss is.

When you're secretly really nice, but you gotta act tough that first week so everybody stays in line.

When you're calling on students but still learning their names.

When it turns out that the kid you thought was leading the line to the bathroom is really making a break for it.

When a kid gets up to reading level and nails the comprehension questions.

When you nailed the lesson, then look up at the clock and realize that you still have 25 minutes left before lunch.

When your feet hurt, so you sit down at your desk, but you still gotta make sure the class is following directions.

When you realize that no matter how hard you're trying, some days, it's just not your day.

When you gotta scrap the video you were planning on watching as part of your lesson, and you're trying to figure out what to do next.

When you're trying to avoid stepping on the little ones during lunch time.

When the principal walks into the classroom at the worst possible time, and there's nothing really to say or do.

When a kid tries to get up to go to the bathroom right in the middle of the lesson without any explanation, sees you looking at them, and sits back down.

When you explained a concept like a master teacher, but then while you're walking around, six students come up to you and ask you the exact same question that you already covered.

When you see a student acting crazy in another class, and you're glad they're not assigned to yours.

When you're the last class to walk outside to parent pickup on the first day of school and everybody's waiting.

When you see the outfits that some of these moms are leaving the house to pick up their children in.

When you're going back to class by yourself after everyone has been taken home.

Not all of those are funny, but most of those are things that I think to myself throughout the year (though not all of them). Maybe you'll need to be a teacher to get it, I don't know.

Anyways, here's to a great year!