Category Archives: Cody Asche

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.

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2014 Topps Series One: A Phillies Collector’s Review

Featured Cards: 2014 Topps #4, Cody Asche; 2014 Topps Camouflage #180, Ben Revere; 2014 Topps #296, Domonic Brown; 2014 Topps 1989 Mini Die-Cut #TM-16, Mike Schmidt; 2014 Topps Super Veteran SV-8, Jimmy Rollins; 2014 Topps Before They Were Great #BG-20, Mike Schmidt; 2012 Topps Wal-Mart Blue Border #90, Ethan Martin

2014 Topps AscheNow that I have a complete team set, all of the base Phillies inserts (not including memorabilia and autograph versions), and a few representative samples of the parallels in hand, I’m finally ready to write about this set. Unfortunately, I’m tackling this review about as eagerly as I actually awaited the arrival of the yearly Topps flagship product in recent years. This lack of enthusiasm results predominantly from my feeling like Topps just doesn’t put anything beyond a perfunctory effort into its primary brand anymore.

A lot of other collectors have already mentioned that the design of the set is rather bland and a little too reminiscent of last year’s set, and I am inclined to agree. However, I think this has become the primary feature of the flagship set — the fact is that Topps is now clearly heavily invested the idea that this set should be able to accommodate as many different colors/types of parallels as possible. Thus, blandness is essential. Once again, as with last year, counting the printing plates, you have 17 parallels of the base set. However, it needs to be noted that previously Topps has included parallels not initially produced in Series One into Series Two and the Update Series 2014 Topps Camo Revere and then issued the necessary Series One parallels retroactively (the 2011 Topps Hope Diamond Anniversary parallel immediately comes to mind). When you consider that Topps has also sold 1/1 blank-backed parallels exclusively through it’s Topps Vault eBay account and the hobby factory-issued set usually contains its own orange-bordered parallel as well, it becomes a certainty that the final number of parallels will certainly go up and will easily be a new record for parallels in a Topps set. Blech.

This year’s two new entries, yellow and a clear acetate, only serve to increase my irritation with parallel cards. Although I don’t have any of the yellow cards yet in my Phillies collection, I own a couple in my other collection thanks to my buying packs in order assemble a complete Series 1 set. Thus, I can confidently state that Topps has proven to everyone that the 1991 Fleer set was no fluke — yellow has no business being used as the border to a baseball card. As for the clear parallels, I thought that the overwhelming shrug of indifferene the hobby gave to Fleer’s attempt at acetate-based card sets in the late ’90s was also sufficient to kill that particular idea. Shortening the print run to only 10 doesn’t make it any more attractive whatsoever. I don’t know why Topps is feeling the need to resurrect Fleer’s bad ideas from the ’90s, but it needs to stop before someone decides that Fleer was onto something with its 1995 design.

2014 Topps BrownWhile the parallels just irritated me, I harbor pure disdain towards the two Phillies sparkle variations in Series 1. I didn’t like them the first time when Topps first tried them three years ago — especially since Topps royally screwed the pooch by using a photo on Domonic Brown’s card that had many collectors incorrectly thinking there was a sparkle variation. Well, this time around Brown actually has one, as does Cole Hamels. Although I don’t plan on acquiring either of them, I have been carefully checking the cards I get in packs to see if one does turn up. What I hate most about the sparkle variation is how carefully you have to look in order to determine whether you have the regular or variation. I’d much rather have different photo variations any day — I actually love them, even when they are extremely short printed (well, I love all of them except for that damn Kendrick card).

As for the inserts, the team’s 2014 Topps 1989 Mini Schmidtcontinued downward spiral means that the number of Phillies inserts is down again for another consecutive year. I’m not a huge fan of Topps’s mini insert sets, but I enjoy seeing current Phillies in older Topps designs, so I’ve found them otherwise enjoyable. This year’s twist on the mini inserts — a die-cut, colored-border take on the 1989 Topps set — strikes me as overdone and removes what joy I got out of the minis. The fact that the only Phillie in this set, so far, is Mike Schmidt, only serves to compound the disappointment. However, I will give credit to Topps for the color choice on the border — it works nicely with this particular Schmidt photo.

The updated take on the Super Veteran subset from 1983 Topps helped to offset my disappointment in the 1989 Mini Die-Cuts. When I first saw the Rollins card, I initially felt that it was too modern an update — I really loved the original 2014 Topps SV Rollinsversion of Super Veteran cards and thought that Topps made a small mistake in not being more faithful to them in last year’s Archives set. However, upon further examination and comparison to the ’83 cards, the new version grew on me quite a bit. In fact, it proves that nostalgia for older sets doesn’t necessarily require that we have to replicate them perfectly to create a proper homage. All the primary elements are still there — on the front, a much younger monochromatic photo alongside a current color photo, and on the back, an identical listing of career achievements. I’m hoping we see a couple more Phillies Super Veterans insert cards when Series Two comes out in a few months.

2014 Topps BTWG SchmidtThe other two non-memorabilia original inserts, Ryan Howard’s Upper Class and Mike Schmidt’s Before They Were Great, were rather run-of-the-mill and nothing special. Actually, the Before They Were Great set looks and feels rather similar to last year’s Topps The Elite and Topps The Greats insert sets — thus demonstrating once again that Topps really is putting minimal effort into this set and its inserts. However, there is one final insert set of note, however, and that’s the 75th Anniversary Buybacks, celebrating Topps’ 75th year as a company — not to be confused with their 60 anniversary of producing baseball cards, which they celebrated a few years ago. The 75th Anniversary Buybacks are much like previous buyback sets, only this time with an ’60-’70s era Topps logo foil-stamped onto the fronts. I have nothing against such inserts, per se, but I do wish that Topps would, at a minimum, actually provide a checklist of all the cards included. At this time, there’s no such list available, but I have taken the time to incorporate into the database all the Phillies buybacks I’ve seen on eBay. In fact, they should do this for all their variation cards as well — far too often collectors need to rely on postings on sites such as The Cardboard Connection to get all the necessary information. There really is no good reason for Topps to not be more forthcoming with this information.

2014 Topps WM Blue MartinIn the end, there are really only two things that this set truly has going for it. One, it’s the flagship set; the largest set issued by Topps and the one with 60+ years of history behind it. The other is that for all practical purposes it’s probably the best value for your money as a collector, and that’s even when factoring in the amount of money set builders inevitably waste on packs because of the inordinate number of parallel cards they’ll receive. (All due apologies to Topps Opening Day, which is cheaper, but it’s really nothing more than a derivative of this set.) If it wasn’t for these two facts I’d be hard-pressed to work out any real excitement for this set. I feel that’s only fair though — based on the final results, Topps can’t seem to work up much enthusiasm for this set either.

Click here for complete list of all Phillies cards, including parallels and inserts, from 2014 Topps Series One. A newly updated version of the Phillies Baseball Card Database is going online this weekend.

Revisting the MLB Debut Post

Featured Cards: 2011 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Prospects #BDPP2, Cody Asche; 1996 Fleer Ultra #522, Rich Hunter; 1992 Donruss The Rookies #108, Steve Scarsone; 2013 Topps Walmart Blue Border #197, Tyler Cloyd; 2013 Bowman Cream of the Crop Mini Refractors #CC-PP3, Ethan Martin

Back in May, I wrote a post 2011 Bowman DPP Aschedetailing the correlation between the Phillies performance over the past 10+ years and the number of players making their Major League debut in each of those years. At the time, I predicted that if the team faltered then we would likely see Cody Asche, Cesar Hernandez, Adam Morgan and Jesse Biddle all appear at some point during the season and that Leandro Castro and Tommy Joseph would see outside chances at playing as well. Well, we know what happened with the Phillies, but I was only correct on two of those predictions: Asche & Hernandez. However, a number of other Phillies did make their MLB debut this year: Steve Susdorf, Cameron Rupp, Ethan Martin, Luis Garcia, J.C. Ramírez, and Mauricio Robles (Jonathan Pettibone had already made his debut at the time of the original post.)

1996 Fleer Ultra HunterThe nine players making their debut this season marks the highest number since 1996, when the Phillies used a mind-numbing 54 players, 13 of whom made their MLB debut that year. One of those was Scott Rolen, who would win Rookie of the Year the following season, but for some of those players, such as Rich Hunter, 1996 marked the only year that they would play in the Majors. A couple of them, Rafael Quirico, and Carlos Crawford, literally made their sole Major League appearance that season. Sadly for both Quirico and Crawford, they also earned losses in those appearances. Even though card companies were still churning out massive quantities of product in ’96, a few of those players never appeared on a Phillies baseball card: Bronson Heflin, Jon Zuber*, & Quirico. If it hadn’t been for the Phillies Team Issue set, Crawford would’ve never seen one either.

All this got me to thinking about how it’s a shame that the Phillies won’t be issuing an update to the second edition of their team issue set. It’s likely that at least a couple of this year’s MLB debuts may never see action in the majors again, and the 1992 Donruss Rookies Scarsoneteam issue set was their best hope for a Phillies card. This is a perfect example of what made Topps’s Major League Debut sets in the early ’90s and Donruss’s 1992 The Rookies set so great: you got plenty of cards of players making their only cardboard appearance for a particular team. Without those sets, we wouldn’t have Phillies cards for Steve Scarsone or Jim Vatcher. I loved it when Topps resurrected the idea of sets built around rookie and MLB debuts with their ’52 Rookies sets in 2006 and 2007, and although neither of those sets contained the only Phillies card for a particular player, that may have had more to do with dumb luck than anything else. As such, it would be nice to see sets like those again.

The irony of all this is that the prospect inserts in the various Bowman sets does provide Topps a way to have at least (pre-)rookie cards for most players. Yet, they are so focused on printing2013 Topps WM Cloyd cards for players who are years away from appearing in the majors that they frequently miss players who should appear in those sets. I would argue that there was no reason over the past couple years to not issue a Prospects insert card for B.J. Rosenberg, Tyler Cloyd or Susdorf given that they were all in AAA long enough to make their MLB debut a more probable event than the likes of Julian Samson, Chance Chapman, or Jeremy Hamilton — none of whom ever came close to sitting in a big league dugout.

So, out of this year’s players to see their first MLB action this season, I believe we can reasonably surmise who won’t ever appear on a Phillies card. Asche, Hernandez, Pettibone, Ramírez, Rupp and Martin have all already appeared on a Bowman Prospects insert card of some sort, so they don’t even enter the discussion. Garcia has 2013 Bowman Mini Martinpitched in 21 games this season and is currently on the roster, which means there’s a good chance that Topps will include him in either this year’s Update set (amazingly, they haven’t issued the checklist for that yet) or in next year’s Topps set. Even though I earlier pegged Susdorf as someone who arguably should have appeared on a Bowman Prospects insert card, his age and the Phillies outfielder logjam make it very unlikely he’ll even appear in a Phillies uniform again (other than in Spring Training next year.) So I’m guessing we won’t see him on a Phillies card. Same goes for Robles, who has only appeared in two games this season, and, truth be told, whose minor league numbers suggest he doesn’t belong in the majors. However, he’s only 24, so things could still change.

In the meantime, I continue to wait for Topps to issue a card for B.J. Rosenberg and Freddy Galvis, both of whom made their debuts last year and have spent months on the big league roster. Amazingly, Steven Lerud, who also made his debut last year, already has two Topps cards even though he has appeared in only nine games and spent only a few cumulative weeks on the big league roster. Even more amazingly — Rosenberg and Galvis have appeared in Phillies team issue sets while Lerud has not.

It all makes me yearn for the return of something like Topps Total or Upper Deck’s Fortyman.

* I am aware that the Phillies at some point printed a card for Zuber to use for answering autograph requests. However, it was never included in a team issue set, thus not readily available to the public. So, although he has a very limited Phillies card, I do not consider it an official baseball card release (if that makes any sense.)