Sunday, September 24, 2017

Say It Ain't So, Arroyo

This must be the year for retirements. First there was Shane Doan of the Arizona (nee Phoenix) Coyotes and now Reds fan favorite Bronson Arroyo has officially hung up the spikes after 16 seasons and a valiant comeback attempt earlier this year.

1995 Topps Traded and Rookies #47T

Arroyo was drafted by Pittsburgh in the 3rd round of the 1995 Amateur Draft out of Hernando High School in Brooksville, FL. He made his major league debut during the 2000 season and started 12 of the 20 games he appeared in during that season. His years with the Pirates were very uneventful, going 9-14 with a 5.44 ERA in 53 games over three seasons.

Just before spring training in 2003, the Red Sox claimed him off waivers. His season that year wasn't much but  he did get to pitch in the ALCS that year out of the bullpen. The 2004 season though is where he really started to blossom with Boston, going 10-9 with a 4.03 ERA in 29 starts. While his playoff performance wasn't great that year, he did win his only World Series ring as the Red Sox beat the Cardinals to break the curse.

He had another stellar campaign in 2005 going 14-10 with a 4.51 ERA over 32 starts. His lone appearance in the ALDS against Chicago that year did him in though as he came in relief in Game 1 an he promptly gave up 2 hits, 2 walks, and one homer over 1 inning for an overall ERA of 18.00 in a game where the Red Sox lost 14-2.

2007 Topps #30

Towards the end of spring training in 2006, the Reds pulled off a coup, acquiring Arroyo from the Red Sox for slugger Wily Mo Pena. That proved to be one of the most lopsided trades ever for Boston as Pena never really panned out but Arroyo would go on to be a mainstay in the Reds rotation through the 2014 season. In his first season with the Reds, he made his only All-Star team and finished 23rd in MVP voting. He threw a career high 240.2 innings over 35 starts and compiled a 14-11 record with a 3.29 ERA. 

2007 Ultra #43

Over the next 7 seasons, he never missed a start for the Reds and never landed on the DL once. He also threw over 200 innings every season except for one (2011) where he threw 199 innings and made over 30 start every season from 2006-2014. In 2010, he won a Gold Glove and finished 12th in Cy Young voting for a Reds team that surprised everyone and made the playoffs. For as surprising and memorable as that 2010 club was, they were unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs by the Phillies via a three game sweep in the NLDS.

2009 Topps #513

The Reds would return to the playoffs in 2012 in season where the steamrolled the NL Central and won 96 games. That season Arroyo went 12-10 with a 3.74 ERA over 32 starts. Then the playoffs started and despite being only one win away from their first NLCS since 1995, the Giants rattled off three straight wins and surprising knocked the Reds out in the first round. That was the downfall of the Reds as they could only muster a wild card berth the next season, which would be Arroyo's last in Cincinnati.

2014 Topps - Red Foil #78

He signed as a free agent with Arizona that offseason and only managed 14 starts before landing on the DL with arm trouble which ultimately led to Tommy John surgery. While injured, the D'Backs shipped him off to the Braves in June of 2015. He never made an appearance for the Braves and just over a month later, was sent to the Dodgers as part of a massive three team 13-player trade, which included future Reds teammate Jose Peraza. At the end of the season, he was granted free agency by the Dodgers. 

2015 Topps - [Base] #596.1 - Bronson Arroyo (Base) - Courtesy of
2015 Topps #596
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In 2016, he signed with the Nationals reuniting himself with former Reds skipper Dusty Baker as part of a comeback attempt but had rotator cuff problems resulting in him not getting a roster spot. He was released by Washington after the season. On Valentine's Day this year he signed a minor league deal with the Reds with an invite to spring training. 

2017 Topps Heritage #598
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Surprisingly, he made the team and made his first start on April 8th of this year in a 10-4 loss against the Cardinals in a 4 inning effort. It was obvious from the start that he wasn't the Arroyo of old as his fastball had lost a lot of zip and he was forced to rely mainly on breaking pitches and finesse. His last start before arm troubles resurfaced was June 18th, Father's Day, at home against LA where he threw three innings giving up 7 hits, 5 earned runs, and one homer over 16 batters faced. His final stats for the season were 3-6 with a 7.35 ERA. His final career stats came out to be 148-137 record with 4.28 ERA, 1,571 career Ks, 2,4335.2 IP, one World Series ring, and one All-Star appearance.

And so ends the career of one of my favorite players and someone I'm glad to have on my player collection list. I've got a decent start on my Arroyo collection but I'm always on the lookout for more.

Congrats on a great career Bronson. Hope to see you again soon in a few years for your induction into the Reds Hall of Fame.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

2017 Halloween Mood Display

The last three weeks have really put a damper on my Halloween enjoyment due to the stress of not knowing if I would have a job come the end of October. At the end of last week though, that stress finally went away as I was offered a new position in my current department and it would be considered a promotion. That instantly helped my mood and this weekend I've felt like I can finally get back to my Halloween enjoyment ... and with that enjoyment comes the annual Halloween Mood Display!

If you've been following this blog for any amount of time, you know how this works. Every year I take the mantle between my living room and kitchen and load it up with miscellaneous Halloween/fall stuff. It really helps lift my spirits (no pun intended) when I've had a long day a work or if I just need something to stare at blankly for a few minutes. This year I went for a simplistic theme, completely different from the pop culture-esque stuff from years past.

Here it is ...

Behold! This year's Halloween Mood Display! Let's explore from left to right ...

First, we have a partially burnt Trick or Treat flavored (is that even the right word?) candle from Yankee Candle. The smell of candy corn and buttercream is completely gone but the ambience when it's burning and the lights are off is really cool. Plus, how can you not have a candle with the name "Trick or Treat" in a Halloween display?

Next is the Mysterious Mansion from this year's Lemax Spooky Town collection. I bought this piece at an early fall season sale at Michaels when they were running a 40% off promotion back in mid-August. I wasn't too impressed with the selection this year but this was the best of the lot. Plus, the damn thing makes noise!!

The orange trees, bone bridge, and creepy road sign were picked up at Michaels last year and are just little accent pieces to accompany the larger buildings. I've deemed this light up pumpkin simply "Great Pumpkin".

Here's last year's major addition, the Spooky Town Gas N' Ghoul. While it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of its counterpart, it's still a very fine piece because of all the detail involved.

Finally, we have another buttercream candle from Bed, Bath, and Beyond in an awesome black jar that says "Eat, Drink & Be Scary". Certainly those are great words to live by during the Halloween season. Also, there's a Zombie Kenny Funko figure and a Charlie Brown Halloween themed piece.

So, there you have it, this year's Halloween Mood Display. I challenge you to build your own and get out there and make it the best Halloween season you can!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

2011 Dayton Dragons Team Set - Part 2

Continuing on from yesterday in the 2011 Dayton Dragons team set. I can't guarantee I won't be long winded again but hopefully I won't have to split this into a third part.

Devin Lohman was an infielder who was actually drafted twice, first by the Rockies out of high school in the 43rd round of the June 2007 draft, then again by the Reds out of CSU Long Beach in the 3rd round of the June 2010 draft. In 2011, he started at Dayton for 62 games before being demoted to Billings for 29 games, and then getting promoted again to Bakersfield to end the season. In those 62 games for the Dragons, he hit a paltry .208 with one homer and 31 RBIs. After Dayton, he made it as high as Triple-A Lehigh Valley for 10 games in 2015, his last season in the minors.

Besides being the first German developed player to play in the majors in the modern era, Lutz became something of a world traveler in recent years. While his 2011 season in Dayton where he hit .301 with 20 homers along with recording the first cycle in Dragons history was impressive enough to earn him a spot on the Reds 40-man roster, he struggled in the majors. In 62 games over parts of two seasons with the Reds (2013 & 2014), he only mustered a .211 average with 1 homer and 9 RBIs. After the 2014 season, his world travels began in abundance with Obregon in the Mexican Winter League, then back to Triple-A Louisville for 13 games before getting injured. This was followed by an offseason stint in the Australian League with Brisbane, back to Louisville, then Pensacola, followed by another stint with Brisbane and finally resurfacing this year with Leon of the Mexican League. I think I need a passport after writing all that.

The career of Jaren Matthews lasted all of four seasons, with 2011 being his most prolific. In 66 games with the Dragons that year he hit .217/.272/.364 with only 5 homers and 21 RBIs. He was out of the Reds system after spending 2012 with Bakersfield and out of baseball entirely after spending 2013 in the Independent Leagues.

In 5 seasons in the Reds system, Daniel Renken never made it above Double-A. A 25th round pick our of Cal State Fullerton in the 2010 Amateur Draft, he saw action in 20 games for Dayton in 2011 amassing a 6-8 record and 3.89 ERA. That was good enough for him to get a late season promotion to Bakersfield where he finished out the season by going 2-0 with a 4.80 ERA for the Blaze. He hung around in the minors until 2014 and was out of baseball after that season.

I remember hearing a lot about Tanner Robles during this time frame, about how he's a promising left-handed pitching prospect and all that mess. The problem with that is that despite all the hype, he never made it past A-ball and a 7-9 record with a 5.40 ERA doesn't exactly blow the doors off, if you know what I mean. He bounced around the low minors in 2012 and 2013 and after his ERA ballooned to 10.57 in 2013 after 6 games, he was promptly shown the door.

The only major league action Yorman Rodriguez has seen to date was 11 games as a September call-up in 2014. Aside from that, he's been toiling in the minors since 2009. I couldn't find any record of him playing this year, so it appears that the last season he had in the minors was 2016 with Daytona. Back in 2011 though, he was a promising outfield prospect that hit .254/.318./393 in 79 games with the Dragons.

Chad Rogers, so far, is the first player I've come across where 2011 was his professional debut. Over 37 appearances, mostly as a reliever, in his debut season he racked up a 6-4 record with a 2.99 ERA over 69.1 innings. He maneuvered through the minors over the next few years, getting as high as Triple-A Louisville but he never made it to the majors. His most recent appearance came with Triple-A Gwinnett in the Braves system in 2016.

Besides having an interesting spelling of the name "Jeffrey", Sierra didn't have much of a career. Dayton in 2011 was as high as he got in the minors. It was also his best season appearing in 105 games while hitting .234/.270/.297. After 71 more games for Dayton in 2012, he was out of baseball except for a brief time in 2014 where he resurfaced with Billings for a 20 game stint.

Josh Smith is the last player of the bunch to make it to the majors. He's also still currently active, having split this season between Nashville and Oakland. Over parts of two years with the Reds (2015 and 2016) mostly out of the bullpen, he had a 3-7 record with a 5.46 ERA. In 2011 though, he was a starter with the Dragons going 14-7 with a 2.97 ERA in 142.1 innings. Aside from Tucker Barnhart and Billy Hamilton, I believe he is also the only other person still active in the majors from this team.

A 5th round pick out of high school in the 2009 Amateur Draft, Daniel Tuttle was out of the minors by 2012 after 8 games with Dayton. The season prior however, he split between the rookie level ARZ Reds and the Dragons. Over 11 starts with the Dragons, he went 4-3 with a 4.87 ERA.

I was surprised to see that David Vidal is still kicking around in 2017, having spent this season in the Marlins organization at both the Double-A and Triple A levels. In 2011, though, he was the primary third baseman appearing in 127 games and putting together a more than respectable season at the plate hitting .280/.350/.498 with 20 homers and 85 RBIs.

And we've finally reached the last player to be represented in the set, one Daniel Wolford. He was drafted in the 14th round of the 2010 Draft out of UC Berkeley and lasted all of three seasons in the Reds system. He saw action in 43 games for the Dragons in 2011, all in relief, with a 1.46 ERA and a 7-1 record in 67.1 innings. He was promoted to Bakersfield in 2012, saw his ERA balloon to 6.38 over 68 innings and was out of the Reds system following the season.

Wrapping up the set we've got the coaches and mascot cards. The mascot cards are cool but I'm not really sure I need a card of the Dragons hitting coach.

There you have it. An exhaustive two-part look at the 2011 Dayton Dragons team set. I need a nap after writing all this.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

2011 Dayton Dragons Team Set - Part 1

If there's one thing I have to get at a minor league game, it's a team set of baseball cards, no matter how old the cards may be. You may remember back in May I went to a Dayton Dragons game with a group from work. While there, I browsed the team shop and found a 2011 team set on the discount shelf for the measly sum of $4. I opened them at home, thumbed through them once, and then promptly stuffed them into a team bag and into a box. As I was doing some sorting and organizing last weekend, I came across them again and thought it would be fun to examine them and the players contained within, how they did that season, and perhaps who they are playing for now (if they're still playing that is).

Before looking at the players, let's have a look at the cards themselves. These were released more than likely towards the end of the season by a card company called Choice, which I've never really heard of before or since. Along with the basic white outer border, there's the green inner border which widens at the top for the team name, and at the bottom for the player name and position, which are all written in dark gold. The Dragons logo is on the bottom left. 

Image from
The backs are simple with a profile shot, name and vital stats in a green box, some career notes and minor league stats to date below that. The card number is in the upper right. With sets like this, cards are typically numbered in alphabetical order by last name and that's no exception here. 

With all that out of the way now, let's look at the players themselves.

In 2011, Tucker Barnhart appeared in 97 games for the Dragons with a .273/.344/.387 slash line in what would be his only season in Dayton. In 2012, he graduated to A+ and Double-A ball, the year after that Triple-A, and made his Reds debut in 2014. Currently, he's the primary catcher for the Reds, displacing Devin Mesoraco who is once again beset by injury.

Chris Berset was the backup to Tucker Barnhart in 2011 and never made it to the majors. He reached as high as Triple-A Louisville in 2016. It seems that was his most productive year in the minors as well, having hit .249/.306/.294 is 85 games with the Bats that year.

Theo Bowe never reached above Double-A Pensacola during his 6-year minor league career in the Reds system. In 2011 with the Dragons, he appeared in 85 games with a .244 batting average, one home run, and 24 RBIs. He split 2012 between Dayton and High-A Bakersfield, graduated to Pensacola in 2013 and was out of baseball after that.

Jason Braun was drafted by the Reds in the 29th round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft. He toiled in the minors for a few seasons, having appeared with the AZL Reds, Billings, and Dayton in 2011 and was out of the Reds system after the season. The last record Baseball Reference has of him is 31 games with Schaumburg of the independent Frontier League in 2012.

When I was doing my research for this piece, I was surprised to find that Daniel Corcino was still kicking around the minors. Presently, he's an LA Dodgers farmhand with the Tulsa Drillers. He made 5 appearances with the Reds in 2014, 3 of which as a starter, and posted a 4.34 ERA with an 0-2 record over those 5 appearances. In 2011 for the Dragons though, he had probably one of his best seasons as a professional with an 11-7 record and 3.42 ERA over 26 starts that season.

Despite only appearing in 8 games for the Dragons in 2011, Tim Crabbe found himself with a card in this set. I'm guessing the main reason is probably because he spent the 2010 season there as well. Tim Crabbe was last seen in the minors with the Birmingham Barons in 2015 as part of the White Sox organization. Over his time with the Dragons from 2010-11 he had a 5-9 career record with a 4.12 ERA

Some of the players I've talked about so far I have a vague recollection of even though they never made it to the majors. Dominic D'Anna is not one of those. Appearing for 86 games with the Dragons in 2011, he hit a decent .286/.386/.422 but never advanced past high-A ball and was out of the Reds system by 2013.

Drafted out of Missouri State University in the 2010 Amateur Draft, Pat Doyle burned a path through the minors in 2011 that included 37 games with Dayton (6-4, 3.68 ERA), 2 games with the Carolina Mudcats (1-0, 19.29 ERA ... no that's not a typo), and one appearance with Triple-A Louisville where he posted a 9.00 ERA. I'm not sure what the reasoning for that trail of fire was but having an ERA that high at any level above A-Ball isn't good. Doyle was last seen with the independent Kansas City T-Bones in 2014.

Juan Duran was at one time a highly touted prospect. In 2011, he slugged 16 homers and had 71 RBIs in 104 games. He also struck out 152 times that year, which would probably explain the dismal .264 average. That seemed to be just about when he hit his stride as over the next three seasons, he would average 16 home runs a year while moving up the ranks and reaching as high as Double-A Pensacola in 2014, despite having over 100 Ks per season and not having an average reach over .270 during the same span. His power numbers took a dive the next season and he was out of the Reds system by 2016. He resurfaced this year with the Sussex County Miners of the Canadian-American Association.

No research is needed here as current Reds CF Billy Hamilton is probably the biggest name in this set. He stole 103 bases in 135 games in 2011. Not to be outdone, the next year he stole 155 bases between Bakersfield and Pensacola. Despite being drafted as a shortstop, he made the switch to the outfield before hitting Triple-A and has grown into arguably one of the best center fielders in the game today. As an aside, this particular card may have the best picture in the whole set as it captures Billy just as he's taking off to steal a base.

Drew Hayes was the closer for the Dragons in 2011 and had probably his best season as a pro. His ERA that season was an astounding 1.35, with 22 saves in 51 games and 89 strikeouts over 60 IP. Those are some crazy numbers. After that season, never again would Hayes finish a season with an ERA that low. In 2016, Hayes made it to the majors and appeared in 6 games with the Reds that amounted to an 8.38 ERA. After that brief stint at the beginning of the season, he was shipped back down and was released after the season was over. Currently, he's pitching for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League.

Blaine Howell was in the bullpen for the Dragons in 2011 registering 9 saves and appearing in 47 games throwing 66 innings in those said games. Dayton must have had a good bullpen that year too because Howell had an ERA of 1.91 to go along with the 1.35 ERA of closer Drew Hayes. That was his best year in the minors because after that, he would have stints with the AZL Reds and High-A Bakersfield in 2012 and 2013, missing the 2014 season, and reappearing in Pensacola and Daytona in 2015 before he was ultimately released and showed up in the independent leagues with Evansville and Sussex County in 2015.

By the time 2011 rolled around, Ezequiel Infante was with his third stint with the Dragons and it would be his last in organized baseball, at least that I could find records of. I guess that makes this a sunset card of sorts. His 2011 run was not pretty to say the least, 16 games with an 0-2 record and 5.60 ERA over 17.2 innings. Yikes.

Since this is becoming more lengthy that I originally intended, I'll stop here and pick up tomorrow with the remaining 12 players.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Jetting Into the Sunset

Last week Shane Doan, one of my favorite players, announced his retirement from the NHL after 21 seasons. He was one of the reasons I enjoyed watching the Coyotes last year, even though they weren't a great team. Still, much like I enjoy watching any team that has Jaromir Jagr on it, I enjoyed watching the Coyotes primarily because of Shane Doan.

Doan spent his entire career, save for his rookie season, with the Coyotes in the desert. His rookie season however, was spent as a member of the original Winnipeg Jets, where he was the seventh overall pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. In that first season for him north of the border, which turned out to be the final season of the Jets before moving to Phoenix, Doan saw action in 74 games and scored 7 goals with 10 assists for 17 points overall and a plus/minus rating of -9. With his retirement, he was the last member of the original Jets active in the NHL.

After the Jets relocated to Phoenix, Doan remained there for the next 20 seasons, becoming the soul of the Coyotes franchise and eventually the Captain from 2003-17. He was an NHL All-Star in 2004 and 2009, was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for the 2009-10 season. The one trophy that eluded him his entire career though was the Stanley Cup. Despite the Coyotes never being consistently one of the top teams in the league, they did make the playoffs nine out of 21 seasons Doan was with the franchise, including a postseason berth in the final year of the Jets, 1995-96. The closest the Coyotes would ever come to the Stanley Cup Final was in 2012, where they made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, only to be ousted in five games by the eventual cup winner Los Angeles Kings.

Doan retires as the Coyotes franchise leader in a litany of categories. He is the franchise leader in games played, goals, assists, points, power play goals, and game-winning goals. He also leaves the Captain's spot vacant. While no official announcement has been made (at least that I'm aware of), it's rumored that defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who currently serves as the alternate Captain, will graduate to that spot. I would also expect the Coyotes to retire Doan's number at some point in the future.

Doan was one of my favorite players mainly because of his loyalty to the Coyotes/Jets franchise. Sure, he could've gone somewhere else at points and contended for The Cup but he showed a tremendous amount of loyalty and stuck with the Coyotes and helped grow hockey in the desert. I'd go so far as to say that he's one of the main reasons the Coyotes are still in Phoenix and weren't relocated. The cards you've seen in this post are the only three cards of Shane Doan that I currently have in my collection. I thought I had more but when I went through my hockey binder, I was disappointed that I only had these three. I've added Doan to the list of hockey player collections and I'm definitely on the lookout for more, especially a card or two of him with the Jets.

I'll close this by saying congratulations to Shane Doan on a great career and all the best to him in retirement. Thanks for the memories, Doaner. You'll be missed.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Football Shoebox Part 3: Falcons to Oilers

With college football season starting up and NFL season about to start, I figured there's no better time than now to jump back in to the football shoebox. If you're not familiar with this concept, then here's how it works. Last spring, I purchased a literal shoebox full of football cards. I've since sorted them, set aside the ones to keep, and am now showing them off in groups of six teams. Here's the next six:

Atlanta Falcons

As you can clearly tell, there weren't many Falcons cards I felt were worth keeping. I did, however, hang on to a couple Deion Sanders cards (that Wild Card card scanned like crap), one Jeff George card, and one Andre Rison card. 

New York Giants

Again, not many cards from the Giants that I felt like keeping. The ones I did keep gave me a nice variety though, especially when the batch includes both Eli Manning and Amani Toomer. Although I'm not so sure who Dave Brown is, I kept his card as it's from the late 90s, an era I don't have much from of any sport.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Mark Brunell was probably one of the best known Jaguars from the early days of the team. He's really the only one I remember. 

New York Jets

The Jets were one of those teams where I had a tough time finding cards I wanted to keep. I've never really followed them and really have no knowledge of who used to be a star for them. The only reason I kept these cards are because they are names I know, with Neil O'Donnell being the one I'm most familiar with since he's an ex-Bengal.

Detroit Lions

Something I have to admit here ... the only time I watch a Lions game all season in when they are playing on Thanksgiving. Other than that, unless they're playing the Bengals, I never see them. On a related note, I read that their old stadium, the Pontiac Silverdome, is going to be demolished this year. 

Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans

I'm going to lump the Titans in with the Oilers here since they have the lineage of the Oilers and I've only got a few Titans cards. Anyway, I set a lot of these aside to eventually go into a binder full of defunct teams. Yes, there's a whole bunch of Warren Moon cards but there's also some representation by Frank Wycheck and Yancey Thigpen. 

Speaking of Houston, normally I wouldn't do this, but if you haven't made a donation in some shape or form for the disaster in Houston, please consider doing so. Donations of all kinds help, either monetarily to a charity or by giving food to your local food bank to give to those in need down there, every little bit helps.

That's it for this round of the shoebox. Hope everyone enjoyed the start of college football and the beginning of the NFL season this coming week.