Category Archives: Cameron Rupp

Today’s Lineup vs. Its ’96 Counterparts: Which Is Better?

Beerleaguer was rather harsh in his assessment of the starting lineup the Phillies will be trotting out today, calling it “the worst lineup card in history.” Their performance today didn’t do anything to disprove his assertion. Yes, it truly was awful, but for me the standard by which all bad Phillies team are judged against will be the ’96 squad. It is easily the atrocious LineupPhillies team I’m most familiar with since I actually went to The Vet and Shea Stadium a combined nine times that year to watch it find innovative ways to lose and make me lament that the previous World Series was a scant three years before. With that in mind, I thought I do a quick-and-dirty comparison of today’s lineup to its ’96 counterparts to see which is actually better.

To make a proper comparison, I am purposefully comparing each of today’s starters to the player on the ’96 squad who most closely filled the same role. Thus if a regular starter, such as a Ryan Howard or Chase Utley, is beginning the game on the bench today, then his replacement is getting compared to the ’96 team’s backup player for the position. Admittedly, it’s highly unlikely that the members of the ’96 team that appear below actually constituted a starting lineup on any day of the season, but it would take far too much work for me to examine each box score from that year to determine which ’96 Phillies starting lineup was its worst. So, without further ado…

Starting Pitcher: Dustin McGowan vs. Russ Springer

1996 Leaf Sign SpringerDustin is a reliever and former starter who is being called on to make a spot start today. His closest analog is Russ Springer, who filled a similar role for the ’96 team, appearing in 51 games and starting in seven of them. McGowan has a career WAR of 2.2 and has done nothing to embarrass himself or the team out of the pen this year. Alternatively, Springer entered the ’96 season with a career WAR of -0.5 and finished it with a -0.8

Advantage: 2015 Phillies

Featured card: 1996 Leaf Signature Extended Series Autographs (no #), Russ Springer

Catcher: Cameron Rupp vs. Mike Lieberthal

2014 Immaculate RuppIt’s a shame that we’re comparing backups here because I’d like to take a few moments to talk about lucky the Phillies were in their acquisition of Benito Santiago at the beginning of the ’96 campaign. The club decided they wanted a veteran to fill-in while they waited for Lieberthal to mature enough to become the regular starter, and Santiago filled the role admirably, putting up All-Star caliber numbers. He left the team via free agency following the season and Lieberthal became arguably the best catcher in team history.

We won’t be saying anything remotely similar about Rupp when he takes over for Carlos Ruiz.

Advantage: 1996 Phillies

Featured Card: 2014 Immaculate Collection #108, Cameron Rupp

First Base: Darin Ruf vs. Kevin Jordan

1996 UD CC JordanAt the moment, Ruf is the backup first baseman, so we compare him to Jordan since he started the second most games at the position in ’96. (Interestingly, Jon Zuber and Gene Schall both started nearly as many games at the position as Jordan.) As far as backups go, Jordan actually had a decent season in ’96, providing a 0.5 WAR for the year and an OPS of 93. As much as it pains me to say it, Ruf thus far has been an offensive black hole. In fact, his performance over 15 games in 2015 has eliminated all but 0.1 WAR he accumulated in the first 137 games of his career. Ouch.

Advantage: 1996 Phillies

Featured Card: 1996 Collector’s Choice #33, Kevin Jordan

Second Base: Cesar Hernandez vs. David Doster

1996 Flair Wave of the Future DosterBy now, you’ll have noticed a recurring theme here. Once again, we are comparing backups. If we were comparing starters, this would be a no-brainer of a contest with Utley vs. Morandini. Instead, we have this. It’s actually a fairly close comparison in that both players are/were playing at the age of 25. However, Doster was making his major league debut while this is Hernandez’s third season appearing in the majors. Mind you, Hernandez hasn’t shown much thus far at this level and has a career WAR of -1.0. However, he hasn’t hurt the team this year, or helped them for that matter, in his limited playing time; current ’16 WAR is 0.0. Doster’s 113 plate appearances in ’96 were just as mundane, netting a WAR of 0.1

Advantage: Push

Featured Card: 1996 Flair Wave of the Future #7, David Doster

Third Base: Cody Asche vs. Todd Ziele

2014 Topps Heritage AscheFinally, a chance to compare starters. At first glance, they couldn’t appear more different. Asche is in just his second full year as a starter while Ziele was a respected veteran playing in his eighth major league season. However, both started the season as placeholders while a highly-regarded prospect gained additional seasoning at AAA. Thus far, Asche has already accumulated 0.5 WAR this season, but it’s unlikely he’ll continue at this torrid pace all year long. However, it’s not a stretch to argue that he could exceed the 1.7 WAR Ziele provided before being traded along with Pete Incaviglia to the Orioles for Calvin Maduro and Garrett Stevenson.

Slight edge: 2015 Phillies

Featured Card: 2014 Topps Heritage #75, Cody Asche

Shortstop: Andres Blanco vs. Mike Benjamin

2015 Phillies Team Issue BlancoBefore I tackle this one, I’m glad that thus far Freddy Galvis has proven utterly wrong my assessment of him back on Opening Day. Admittedly, it’s based on a small sample size, but thus far he’s really been a bright spot for the Phillies both on the field at at the plate. I’d love to compare him to Kevin Stocker, but we have another battle of the backups — our fourth out of the five infield positions. I’d like to say I remember something of Mike Benjamin’s ’96 campaign, but I don’t. In fact, I remember nothing at all of him and according to my ticket stubs, I saw him start at short on three different occasions. I suspect Blanco’s ’15 season with the Phillies will be just as memorable.

Advantage: Push

Featured Card: 2015 Phillies Team Issue (no #), Andres Blanco

Left Field: Ben Revere vs. Pete Incaviglia

1995 Score IncavigliaJust our second comparison of starters, and this one isn’t even close. In his three seasons with the Phillies, Incaviglia provided 3.0 WAR and an OPS+ of 106. Revere’s Phillies career thus far: 1.3 WAR and an OPS+ of 85, with 60 more plate appearances. Stolen bases and triples can be exciting, but Revere doesn’t provide enough of either to match the excitement of watching Incaviglia absolutely crushing a pitch. Furthermore, as bad as Incaviglia was in the field, Revere really hasn’t been that much better.

Advantage: 1996 Phillies

Featured Card: 1995 Score #131 Pete Incaviglia

Center Field: Odubel Herrera vs. Ricky Otero

1997 Stadium Club OteroAdmittedly, we’re looking at small samples sizes again, but as the Phillies pointed out on their Twitter feed a couple days ago, Herrera is currently amongst the leaders in several rookie offensive categories. Admittedly, he’s still a work in progress in his transition to the outfield, but he’s quickly proving that the Phillies made the right decision in picking him up in the Rule 5 Draft. Otero, on the other hand, was a passable defensive center fielder, but those skills were completely overshadowed by his offensive deficiencies.

Advantage: 2015 Phillies

Featured card: 1997 Topps Stadium Club #328, Ricky Otero

Right Field: Jeff Francoeur vs. Jim Eisenreich

1996 E-XL EisenreichI’m not even going to dignify this comparison with commentary.

Massive Advantage: 1996 Phillies

Featured Card: 1996 E-XL #244, Jim Eisenreich

Final score: The ’96 squad exceeds today’s lineup at four positions, with two positions being judged a “push.” With some luck today’s lineup might win in a head-to-head match, but they will need a lot of help from the bench. I don’t know about “worst lineup card in history,” but it definitely looks like it could be the worst in my lifetime.

Advertisements

2014 Donruss: Renewing a Love Affair

During the 1980s, Donruss was my favorite 1988 Donruss BB Best Parrishcard manufacturer. Please don’t misunderstand, I didn’t think that they released the best set of cards every year. My feelings were more the result of the fact they were the ones attempting to modernize baseball card designs (at least, on the front of the card.) Some of the them were hideous, especially the 1988 Donruss Baseball’s Best which replaced the blue in the borders of the regular ’88 set with orange, thus providing a look so horrifying that the set should’ve been released on Halloween. But as I said in my review of 2014 Topps Turkey Red, I’d rather the card companies try something different and fail miserably than be absolutely lazy and boring. However, there’s no such issue with Panini’s resurrection of the Donruss brand. In fact, the 2014 Donruss set, the first in nearly 10 years, now makes Panini my favorite card manufacturer.

That’s quite the feat considering that they don’t have a license from MLB. However, over the past year in particular, Panini has shown exceptional adroitness, flexibility, and growth in figuring out how to properly remove team 2013 Panini AP Carltonlogos and insignia from the photos they use. I didn’t write a review about their 2013 America’s Pastime offering (although I did write about why I felt the John Kruk & Carlos Ruiz dual autograph card was by far the best Phillies autograph card of the year), but in my opinion it was actually the best high-end set of the year. In addition to assembling a complete team set, I also acquired as many of the inserts as I could. I’m sure my ability to purchase nearly every base card and insert was enhanced by the fact that so many collectors are turned off by the lack of MLB licensing, by I viewed that as their loss and my gain. In my opinion, if Panini continues issuing sets that exceed those produced by Topps, then collectors will force Topps and MLB to take notice.

2014 Donruss LeeAfter the release of 2014 Donruss, Topps and MLB should take notice. This is what a low-end set should be. Let’s start with the bast set. As other collectors have noted, the design uses elements of the 1987 set with a cursive script for the team’s home city. I’ve seen a couple different collectors refer to the script as reminiscent of that used on Topps’s 1978 set, and while I understand the sentiment, I don’t entirely agree. If you look closely at the script on the ’78 Topps cards, it is a different cursive font — all cursive fonts look vaguely similar. Really, the city name font on 2014 Donruss is the same script Panini used on America’s Pastime, only slanted and italicized. They’ve brought back the logo Donruss employed from 1982 through 1985 — though it’s much more prominent than it ever was on previous sets — and the backs look fairly similar those throughout the ’80s, though for some reason 2014 Donruss Lee BackPanini chose to only list 2013 stats and career totals, rather than list the last five seasons of stats in the manner Donruss did 20 years ago. I also couldn’t help but notice that Panini jettisoned the “Contract Status” and “How Acquired” information from the design Donruss faithfully employed for nearly 10 years, starting in 1983. Beginning a theme that will start running throughout the insert sets, Panini mixed design elements from different year by coloring the backs blue like the 1986 sets, rather than the gold used on the back of the 1987 set.

Beyond the regular 2014 Donruss DK Utleybase cards, Panini also properly included Diamond Kings and Rated Rookie subsets, though the design of the Diamond Kings subset is clearly borrows from the 1984 set rather than the 1987. Unfortunately, Panini didn’t pay for original artwork for use on the Diamond King cards and instead relied on a photo treatment to make the photos appear vaguely like artwork. I suppose that’s just a sign of the times (Topps currently isn’t any better), but it would’ve been nice to see artwork, even if Dick Perez was either unavailable or too expensive. There are no foils or gimmicky variations to increase interest, and while parallels, as such, didn’t exist in the ’80s, the ones Panini issued — Press Proofs, Career Stat Line, and Season Stat Line — properly reflect the parallels created by Donruss before it lost its MLB license in 2005.

Panini continued paying 2014 Donruss Rookies Rupphomage to various Donruss designs from the ’80s with the insert sets. The Team MVP set, which includes Mike Schmidt and Ryan Howard, is nearly identical to the 1989 Donruss Bonus MVPs, with the MVP text moved from the bottom of the card to the top. The Rookies, which Donruss originally issued as a self-contained box set, interestingly utilizes the color-scheme of the 1988 Donruss set and the name plate from that year’s Diamond Kings subset to create another design that is both new and retro. The same applies to the No-No’s set, which superimposes 1989 Donruss border colors onto the basic 1986 Donruss design.

But it’s the Game Gear relic set that may possess the most interesting amalgamation of Donruss designs. It appears to use a variation of the 2002 Donruss Originals What If 19802014 Donruss GG Brown as the basic design, and then takes the team name font from the 1981 set for the Game Gear set name. I only call this one the most interesting because someone at Panini possessed enough knowledge about the history of the brand to make a connection to the What If 1980 insert set. Too bad someone at Topps wasn’t showing this level of creativity on this year’s Turkey Red set. The two remaining insert sets containing a member of the Phillies, Hall Worthy and Breakout Hitters, don’t appear to have any analogues to previous Donruss issues, but I’m willing to admit that it’s possible that my ignorance of such sets, certainly inserts of some sort, results from the lack of a Phillie in the originals.

In a set chock-full of things to love, I do have a few very minor quibbles with the final product. First, the main set is too small. At a minimum, the set should’ve been 660 cards, since it was Donruss, along with Fleer, who established that as an acceptable minim2014 Donruss Byrdum for a comprehensive, modern set. Second, while I loved seeing each and every single one of the variations on Donruss designs from the ’80s, I personally would have loved to see Panini slowly tease them out over the course of a few different sets. On the other hand, it might be better that Panini issued the overt homages to Donruss’s en masse so that with future releases it could move the set forward in a new direction. Finally, I also noticed that the year was missing from its place next to the Donruss logo. Although Donruss stopped incorporating the year in such a manner in the mid ’90s, I always thought it was a nice touch that provided collectors, both new and old, with a very easy way to immediately identify the year the set was released.

However, those quibbles detract in any discernible fashion from my enjoyment of 2014 Donruss. It’s a wonderful reintroduction of the brand, and its creative homage to its past works quite nicely. Panini manages the neat trick of issuing a low-end set that contains the requisite parallels and inserts that many modern collectors expect, and Panini does this by employing designs for the insert sets that make it clear which set they accompanied — something that’s not always true with insert sets. Aside from my nitpicky criticisms, the only thing that could’ve made this set better was an MLB license. Alas, we have a Topps monopoly on that until the year 2020. It really is a shame we have to wait that long for Panini to potentially receive one — that lack of license is standing in the way of the hobby properly embracing these sets.

One Final Note: I couldn’t find a way to properly work it into the review, but Utley’s base card appears to have an uncorrected error: the back of his card lists his name as “Chase Cameron Headley.”

Featured cards: 1988 Donruss Baseball’s Best #184, Lance Parrish; 2013 Panini America’s Pastime #123, Steve Carlton; 2014 Donruss #111, Cliff Lee; 2014 Donruss #19, Chase Utley; 2014 Donruss The Rookies #11, Cameron Rupp; 2014 Donruss Game Gear #39, Domonic Brown; 2014 Donruss #151, Marlon Byrd