Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Don Larsen Enters Hospice Care

Don Larsen, the New York Yankees 1956 World Series hero has entered hospice care. According to a statement by his son, the 90-year-old Larsen, who lives in Hayden Lake, Idaho, has been recently suffering from esophageal cancer. Larsen is the only pitcher to throw a perfect game in World Series history. His last public appearance was in August 2019, at the St. Louis Browns Historical Society Luncheon.

Don Larsen / Terry Ballard


On behalf of the Larsen family, my wife Nancy and I want to express our heartfelt appreciation to Don Larsen’s many friends and fans who have reached out and contacted us in recent days concerning my father.

Shortly after returning from his annual August trip to St. Louis to attend the St. Louis Browns Historical Society gathering, dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He immediately began a rigorous program of radiation therapy through Cancer Care Northwest. He recently completed that treatment regime.

My dad is keeping active, despite his age (90) and this continuing health challenge. He recently celebrated a 62nd wedding anniversary with my mother, Corrine, on December 7th at Capone’s, his favorite local restaurant in Hayden, Idaho.

Dad is continuing to reside in his home of over twenty-five years overlooking Windy Bay on his beloved Hayden Lake, where he has spent many joyful hours fishing, frequently with me and our sons, Justin and Cody.

My dad and the entire Larsen family are very grateful for the medical care he has received over these recent months through the Kootenai Medical Center and Cancer Care Northwest, as well as the current assistance he is receiving from Hospice of North Idaho. Dad is looking forward to the upcoming baseball season and hopes to attend Yankee spring training once again next year.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Playoff-Ready Mets Building Off Solid 2019 Season

Despite facing major injuries and former manager Mickey Calloway's questionable lineup decisions, the New York Mets managed to squeeze out a respectable 2019 season. They went 86-76 but only finished third in the NL East.

Making the playoffs is difficult. Much harder than in the NBA, because you must win your division to be guaranteed a spot, not just have a good record. It makes it even harder when two of the top three won-loss records come out of your National League division. The Atlanta Braves had a break-out year, winning 97 games. The World Series champion Washington Nationals emerged from the wild-card with 93 wins.

Entering 2020, the New York Mets have a lot to build from, starting with Jacob DeGrom. The MLB Picks experts at SBR recently posted on his Cy Young-winning season. DeGrom won the Cy Young award in a landslide, with the only other NL hurler to get a first-place vote was Los Angeles Dodgers star lefty, Hyun-Jin Ryu.

FanGraphs Stats

DeGrom outpaced his division counterparts Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. His 7.0 WAR was well ahead of the Nationals' pair (6.5 and 5.7 respectively). The only pitcher with a better WAR was Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole, who probably should have won the AL Cy Young award.

Cole didn’t match deGrom's ERA, and his 20 wins came largely from the American League's best batting lineup. deGrom earned his Cy Young with only 11 victories, as voters took note of his advanced pitching metrics ahead of his win total.

DeGrom was 7-1 heading into the All-Star break, and he finished the season with a .97 WHIP and 255 strikeouts – best in the National League. With his contract extension keeping him in New York for the foreseeable future, the New York Mets are +1400 to win the World Series in 2020, tied for fifth with the Boston Red Sox on the World Series odds boards. That number is just behind the Braves at +1200, the Los Angeles Dodgers at +800, the New York Yankees at +650, and the Houston Astros at +600.

The Mets solidified their pitching staff by picking up starters Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello. The two augment an already All-Star rotation that consists of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard.

However, there are many questions about their bullpen. They took a huge step forwards on Christmas Eve when they signed Dellin Betances to a one-year deal. The pen is loaded with Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Brad Brach, Edwin Diaz, and Jeurys Familia. Brach showed promise but there was a lot left to be desired out of both Diaz and Familia. If both Diaz and Familia can return to form, the Mets have a potential lights-out trio at the back end of their bullpen.

They Mets shored up their outfield defense when they snagged Jake Marisnick from the Astros for a pair of minor leaguers. The move gives the Mets outfield flexibility, as they now have a back-up for Brandon Nimmo and the oft-injured Yoenis Cespedes. New Mets manager Carlos Beltran can also move Nimmo to left field and run Marisnick in center field. Additionally, Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis can also play in the infield when needed.

If Cespedes comes back healthy and Pete Alonso repeats his record-setting rookie season, their new acquisitions give rookie manager Beltran much-needed lineup flexibility. That coupled with an improved pitching staff – assuming Diaz and Familia can bounce back in the bullpen – I see the Mets winning 90+ games and challenging for the NL East.

The Mets have formidable competition with the Braves and Nationals, but with the Nationals prime for a post-Series-win slump, the Amazins' could easily slide into a wild card berth at the end of the 2020 regular season.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Ted Lepcio Interview

On the latest Baseball Happenings Podcast, we present an interview with the recently deceased Ted Lepcio, an infielder who played primarily with the Boston Red Sox in the 1950s.

During our conversation from 2017, we discuss Lepcio's relationship with his teammate, Jimmy Piersall, as well as his memories of facing Satchel Paige. Lepcio died December 11th, 2019, in Dedham, Massachusettes. He was 90.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

2019 Bowman Draft Baseball Review | Autographs, Chrome, Parallels, Checklist, Box Break

While the 2019 Major League Baseball season may seem like a distant memory, Bowman wastes little time putting tomorrow’s stars in focus with 2019 Bowman Draft Baseball. The highly anticipated set, which features the Class of 2019’s first Bowman baseball cards, gives collectors a new focus while snow covers fields across the country.

2019 Bowman Draft Baseball / Bowman
Bowman gave 2019 box cover honors to the first overall pick, Baltimore Orioles catching prospect Adley Rutschman, and the third overall pick, Chicago White Sox first base prospect Andrew Vaughn. Both prospects’ tremendous upsides have driven their low-numbered refractor 2019 Bowman Draft autographs over the $1,000 mark, fueling the hype behind this year’s release.

2019 Bowman Draft Baseball Base Set and Checklist

The 200-card base set highlights the top draft picks including the above duo, as well as emerging stars from the 2018 Bowman Draft Baseball set, Wander Franco, Jarred Kelenic, and Royce Lewis. The base set also has Bowman’s trademark colored parallels: Sky Blue #/499, Purple #/250, Blue #/150, Green #/99, Gold #/50, Orange #/25 (Jumbo), Red #/5, Black 1/1, Printing Plates 1/1.

2019 Bowman Draft Baseball Base / Bowman
The 200-card chrome set has the same player checklist but also has short-printed image variations (code #763) as well as base refractors. Rainbow parallels include: Sky Blue (Jumbo), Purple #/250, Sparkles, Blue #/150, Green #/99, Gold #/50, Orange #/25 (Jumbo), Red #/5, SuperFractor 1/1, Printing Plates 1/1.

2019 Bowman Draft Baseball Parallels / Bowman
Click here for the entire 2019 Bowman Draft Baseball checklist.

2019 Bowman Draft Baseball Inserts

There are four insert sets in 2019 Bowman Draft Baseball, all featuring serial-numbered refractor parallels. The 1989 Bowman 30th anniversary set frames ten top-tier prospects in the classic old-school design, while the Draft Pick Breakdowns set takes a magnifying lens to 2019’s top draft picks.

2019 Bowman Draft Baseball 30th Anniversary Wander Franco / Bowman
Bowman highlights organizational depth with The Franchise Futures dual player cards, and the Draft Progressions Trios, which track the past three-year draft history from select franchises.

2019 Bowman Draft Baseball Inserts / Bowman

2019 Bowman Draft Baseball Autographs

Bowman Draft autographs have become must-haves for serious collectors. Eager hobbyists flock to 2019 Bowman Draft Baseball, hoping to lock down this draft’s first fully licensed certified autographs.

The base chrome autographs and their parallels are industry standards for prospecting 101. Their serial-numbered parallel variations are the ones collectors are bidding up over $1,000.

Chrome autograph parallels include: Refractor #/499, Purple #/250, Blue #/150, Blue Wave #/150, Green #/99, Black #/75 (Jumbo), Sparkles #71, Gold #/50, Gold Wave #/50, Orange #/25 (Jumbo), Red #/5, Red Wave #/5, Black Wave 1/1, SuperFractor 1/1, Printing Plates 1/1.

2019 Bowman Draft Baseball Autographs / Bowman
Draft Night and Class of 2019 autographs creatively feature the new talents in vivid backgrounds that serve as a break from the traditional chrome autographs. Three of the insert sets (1989 Bowman 30th Anniversary, Draft Pick Breakdowns, and Franchise Futures) also have autographed versions as well.

The jumbo box opened for this review drew three autographs. A Nick Lodolo gold chrome autograph #/50 was the top hit, while the other two were a Daniel Espino refractor #/499 and a CJ Abrams base chrome autograph.

2019 Bowman Draft Baseball Box Break and Review

Opening a 2019 Bowman Draft Baseball box is a highly anticipated adventure, as each draftee possibly holds the key to future stardom. The jumbo box opened for this review was tough on collation, as back-to-back packs had an identical run of base draft cards. Despite the duplication, buying a 2019 Bowman Draft Baseball box is still an excellent way to get familiar with this year’s draft class going into spring training, as well as join in on the hobby excitement the prospects are creating this offseason.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Baseball Happenings Podcast | Emily Waldon of the Athletic Discusses Rob Manfred's Proposal To Contract 42 Minor League Baseball Teams

Emily Waldon, Detroit Tigers and National Prospect writer for The Athletic joins the Baseball Happenings Podcast to discuss Major League Baseball's proposal to contract 42 teams from Minor League Baseball. She shares how the two Detroit Tigers affiliates that Rob Manfred has put on the chopping block have responded to the news.

Baseball Happenings Podcast
"They're very against it, and they're both fighting to make sure that they don't lose their places," Waldon said. "They're working with Congress to try and fight against it. Obviously wanting to defend their place in the organization's farm system, I'm working very hard to make sure that that can stay reality."

In the 11-minute interview, Waldon also shares her thoughts on Lou Whitaker missing out on the Hall of Fame, her grinding journey covering the minor leagues, and the top organizational farm systems to watch in 2020.