2014 in GIFs

Duda doing all the things that Duda does

Another year, another batch of GIFs to entertain, amaze, and confuse.  2014 had a lot of highs and lows.  And a lot of Lucas Duda.  But before we got to the Mets’ first base conundrum turned revelation, let’s check in on the minors.  This year, I experimented with GIFs from original video content shot at minor league games.  I’ve already covered the 2014 Binghamton Mets in GIFs, so let’s start with the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Marcos Molina rocketed up the prospect lists in 2014, going from a relative unknown to one of the hottest pitching prospects in a system filled with them.  Here he is on what must have been an off day for him.  He still pitched well, but it wasn’t anything worth raving about.

One of the other big names in Brooklyn was Michael Conforto.  Taken tenth overall in the 2014 draft, Conforto came with high expectations.  He started his professional career off with an impressive hitting streak, which he is shown here extending.  If he keeps this up, he could make it to the majors very quickly.

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30 Years of Collecting Surprises and Oddities

The strange and wonderful things that have come out of my packs in three decades

As I’ve mentioned before, this all began exactly 30 years ago with an uncut sheet of 1984 Topps.  From there, things have kind of snowballed into everything you see here and a whole lot more that’s waiting for a turn in the scanner.  Those stacks of cards are filled with rookies, stars, nobodies, and Hall of Famers.  But through all of it, one thing has remained constant – you never know what is going to come out of a pack of cards.  Usually it’s nothing.  Sometimes, it’s the card you were hoping for.  And every once in a while, well, you’re not really sure what it is.  And that’s what we’re looking back on tonight.

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Product Spotlight: 2014 Panini Immaculate Collection

Something old, something new, something orange, and something, um, black?

Part of the Donruss legacy from the Playoff years was innovation and diversity in memorabilia. To date though, Panini has been a bit inconsistent in its memorabilia releases. This fall, Panini brought the Immaculate Collection brand to baseball and brought with it some of what made Playoff/Donruss great. It also brought some of what has become controversial in the hobby and, until now, has been largely unseen in baseball products.
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Player Spotlight: Juan Centeno

Two-time September call-up gets no love from Topps

As we await the announcement of the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, we can safely rule out Juan Centeno. We can probably rule him out for next year as well; he will carry his rookie eligibility into 2015. Still, someone who started the final game of the season for two consecutive years deserves some recognition, right?

Juan Centeno’s claim to fame may have come in just his second major league game. On September 25, 2013, he became the first MLB catcher to ever throw out Billy Hamilton. Hamilton would go on to be the early favorite for NL Rookie of the Year in 2014 while Centeno would spend most of that season in the minors, finishing with AA Binghamton before getting the call to Queens, his second of the year after a brief stint in May. Despite the appearances early in the season, Centeno apparently did not merit his own fake Topps card at the entrance to Citi Field on the final game of the season.

In fact, he wouldn’t get any real cards from Topps either. Wilfredo Tovar, also a two-time September call-up and the recipient of the throw that nabbed Hamilton, got half of a Rookie Card in 2014 Topps Heritage. He had all of 3 MLB plate appearances in 2014 and has yet to play in a single AAA game. Centeno just can’t catch a break. Well, with Topps at least.

Panini is a slightly different story. After a disappointing first series, Panini revamped the 2014 Donruss product in Series 2. It was still disappointing, but this time around all of the Mets autograph cards on the checklist actually existed. Among those were Centeno, Tovar, and fellow Rookie Matt den Dekker (plus David Wright for good measure). These are Juan Centeno’s first cards other than team issues. A proper Topps Rookie Card seemed like an inevitability after this, but it was not to be.

But Panini kept delivering in 2014 Panini Immaculate with Centeno’s first memorabilia cards. Included here are swatches from blue and black jerseys, plus patches, piping, and assorted odds and ends. Seems too good to be true, right? A guy who has played in just 14 MLB games with memorabilia cards? Well, it wasn’t true. The black jersey, which the Mets haven’t worn in a game since 2012, was the biggest clue. Well, that and the bit on the back that says “event-worn material” where most others say “game-worn material.” None of this material is from an actual game and I can’t even imagine what “event” it could be from. Seems fishy.

And that’s all there is for Juan Centeno. After helping the Mets make it to the finish line (well behind the NL East champs unfortunately…) in two straight seasons, the Brewers claimed him off waivers when the Mets moved him off the 40-man roster to clear space for prospects in need of protection. With plenty of catchers available as minor league free agents, the move made sense. Still, Centeno deserved better than a couple of sticker autographs and some sketchy memorabilia.

Product Spotlight: 2014 Stadium Club

From the future of the hobby to flashback footnote

Back in 1991, the hobby was starting to respond to Upper Deck’s new quality standard and the growing demand for premium cards. Topps set a new standard with 1991 Stadium Club, one-upping Upper Deck with full-bleed photography and a new take on stats on the back. While 1991 Topps was still mired in the past, Stadium Club was the future. Two years later though, Upper Deck brought full-bleed photography to its base product while, along with Topps Finest and Fleer Flair, its new SP product helped to define the super premium category. Stadium Club meanwhile had grown stale and gimmicky, sticking around for another decade despite having been made redundant by an era of premium escalation that it had helped to usher in.

The Stadium Club brand would appear only briefly over the next decade with baseball, basketball, and football products in 2008 and a Triumvirate insert set in 2013 Archives. In 2014 though, Topps resurrected the brand that had been irrelevant for 20 years and tried to breathe new life into it. They just didn’t try very hard.
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1992 Mets Draft Class Autographs

The Mets get less than you would expect but more than you think

Full list of 1992 Mets draft picks

Tonight’s big story is about the 6th overall pick in 1992. After a 20-year career, he will be walking off into the sunset, a sunset called Fenway Park. Yeah, I don’t get it either. In honor of the cream of the 1992 draft class crop, we’re taking a look back at the Mets’ picks in 1992. Those weren’t quite as creamy. Or much of anything else. Combined, all of the players drafted by the Mets in 1992 appeared in just eight games with the team. Only three made the majors with any club. And yet, the Mets’ 1992 draft was key in bringing another iconic player to New York.

1 Preston Wilson 1C Chris Roberts 1S Jon Ward 2 Steve Lyons

The autographs for this draft class begin and end with Preston Wilson. The nephew / adopted son of fan-favorite Mookie Wilson, Preston had name recognition working for him in addition to his prospect status. With the big guy off the board three picks before the Mets made the first of their three first-round picks (they received two comp picks for the loss of Frank Viola), Wilson was a reasonable choice. Looking through the rest of the names in this draft, it becomes apparent that there just wasn’t much elite talent on the board.

So what of those other two first-round picks? Um, not much. With plenty of players who would at least prove useful over their careers still available, the Mets walked away with absolutely nothing. Of their remaining picks, the only one who became a star player (albeit briefly) was Darin Erstad, who didn’t sign with the Mets. The third pick that would reach the majors was 20th-rounder Allen McDill, who did so with the Royals and didn’t do much. Neither did the players he was traded for. The Mets weren’t alone in failing to sign a future star at least; the Padres failed with Todd Helton, who would go on to become a franchise player for the newly-created Colorado Rockies. Of the players who did sign, the only big stars the Mets passed on were Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi, who would both spend time as teammates of a certain someone on the Yankees.

Viewed on its own, it sure looks like the Mets made the worst of a mediocre draft class. Only 8 games in the majors for the entire bunch? It’s hard to do much worse than that. But things look a bit different when you realize why Preston Wilson’s Mets career ended after just 8 games. On May 22, 1998, after just two weeks in the majors, Wilson was the centerpiece in the trade that brought Mike Piazza to the Mets. Piazza would nearly take the Mets to the postseason in 1998 before signing a 7-year contract extension. With Piazza behind the plate, the Mets ended a decade-long playoff drought and made it as far as the World Series in 2000. He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 2013 and should be enshrined in Cooperstown soon (well, he should be there already…). And that’s how Preston Wilson (plus $91 million) helped to make history in Queens.