Getting My Dux In A Row


In 30+ years of playing auction-style Fantasy Baseball, winning over 30 championships can make you feel like an “expert”. The real test, however, is when you compete in a league full of experts. That has been a yearly challenge for The Old Duck and it presented itself once again as the 15 owners in the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL) gathered in Phoenix last week for their 18th annual draft.


As a quick refresher, the XFL is the only experts keeper league within the fantasy industry and many of the owner’s names are familiar to those who have viewed the landscape of fantasy sports over the years. These brilliant guys produce websites, magazines, newsletters and blogs that help guide you in becoming a better player in your league. The league is a 5 X 5 format (with on-base percentage replacing batting average), a 23-player live auction draft in October with a $260 budget and a supplemental snake draft in late March to round out the 40-man rosters (23 players are active each week during the season). Donald’s Dux (my squad) has captured four championships and holds the top overall performance record encompassing all 17 seasons of the league.


After finishing 1st, 1st, 2nd & 2nd from 2011-14, the Dux  struggled with 7th place finishes in 2015-16 and then a more respectable 5th place in ’17. The 2018 season, however, was a disaster and the Dux finished 11th. The 2019 season didn’t look too promising as the projections had the squad in the middle of the pack but the boys overachieved and finished a strong 3rd while actually contending for the top spot during the Summer. Solid seasons from long-time team members such as Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig & Yoan Moncada helped the cause as well as the spectacular rookie campaign of Pete Alonso, a great sophomore performance by Gleyber Torres and a healthy year for Stephen Strasburg.


So, as we approached the October Draft for the 2020 season, it appeared that the Dux had a much better starting point than last year.


Here’s the keeper list that was frozen on October 4th –


C – Willson Contreras $13

C – Tom Murphy $6

1B – Jose Abreu $19

3B – Yoan Moncada $10

1/3 – Pete Alonso $4

2B – Eduardo Escobar $15

SS – Gleyber Torres $7

2/S –

OF – Yasiel Puig $19

OF – Niko Goodrum $6

OF –

OF –

OF –

U –

P – Patrick Corbin $13

P – Brandon Woodruff $11

P – Sandy Alcantara $6

P – Alex Colome $6

P –

P –

P –

P –

P –

P –

P –

Farm – Royce Lewis

Farm – Christian Pache


Here’s a quick review of the salary structure…


> October Draft – Player salaries are determined by the winning bid at the table and increase $5 each season. So, unless a team finds a break-out player in the end-game, there’s a reasonable chance that expensive veterans will only be on your team for one season.


> March Supplemental Draft – A 17-round snake draft gets all the squads up to a 40-man roster from which you determine 23 active players each week. All players chosen in this phase have a $1 salary. For current major-leaguers, the increase each season is $5 so the annual keeper lists have a smattering of $6 players that were great choices the previous year. Examples this time around include Sonny Gray, Kolten Wong, Domingo German, Marcus Semien, Jorge Soler & Adam Frazier . Minor-leaguers taken in this phase also have a $1 starting salary, but once they get to “the show”, their salary only goes up $3 per year. This is what might be described as the “dynasty” component in this particular league. An example would be Jose Abreu, who was taken as a free agent by my team in March of 2014 and now enters his 7th season on the roster at a salary of $19.


> In-Season Monthly Free Agent Selections – Teams can choose free agents once a month and drop someone on their roster in a corresponding move. The salary is $5 with a $5 increase in subsequent seasons, so you’ll see a few of these players scattered on keeper rosters at $10 each year. Current examples include Taylor Rogers, Christian Walker, Lucas Giolito, Jake Odorizzi & Bryan Reynolds.


The nine hitters on the keeper list had a salary total of $102, while the four pitchers equaled $36 leaving $122 to buy 10 players at the draft table. The basic allocation would be $67 for the five hitters and $55 for the five pitchers. So, the draft strategy was as follows…


> Spend $15+ to fill the 2/S spot and prioritize speed…someone like Andrus, Segura or Newman.


> Allocate $45-$50 for three OF’s who are solid everyday players…or overpay for the first two (Conforto, Castellanos, Schwarber, et al) and find an overlooked player for the 3rd spot (Hicks, Margot, etc.)


> Look for one of those end-gamers in the Utility spot that could be productive…Winker, Cooper, Hays & Grichuk come to mind.


> Three starting pitchers for about $40…Strasburg ($35 salary) wasn’t kept because the money needed to be spread around. Hurlers like Wheeler, Bumgarner, Ray & Musgrove are on the radar.


> Spend $12-$15 on a 2nd Closer…the priority is just finding someone who will have the job in March. Iglesias, Osuna & Neris all fill the bill


> Look for skills in the last pitching spot for a minimal cost…Lugo, Jimenez, Leclerc and others.


> My advice to players has always been to not “chase” any particular player. Find a group of players that fit your need and focus on getting one of them. This was the biggest challenge because so many of MLB’s star players were already rostered.


Before reviewing the results of the draft, there’s one other important league rule for readers to understand. Even though the word “list” is being used in this discussion, the really unique aspect of the XFL is that team owners can bring nothing to the table…no lists, no projections, no research, no draft software, no laptops, no tablets and no smart phones. When you sit down at the table, major league depth charts are handed out with the names of keepers crossed off and that is your only reference material during the auction. Even the depth charts are as neutral as possible with players listed by position and alphabetically. You don’t get any help as the typical MLB team could have 12 relief pitchers on the sheet and you need to know which one might get (or be next in line for) Saves.


The actual approach at the draft table needed to be somewhat aggressive for the positions needed because 1/3 & C were already filled. And, of course, never forget the words of a world-class poker player who once told me, “If you sit down at the table and don’t spot the pigeon, it just might be you”.


One of the keys in a keeper league environment is to  determine what the inflation factor might be on player salaries. You can do the math prior to the Draft, but until you actually hear the bids, you can’t really be sure. Every Fantasy league is basing their valuations on projections but when you’re bidding in October, knowing what a player actually “earned” the previous season can give some insight into inflation.


The first player nominated might tell us some of what we wanted to know. The last two seasons, J.D. Martinez went for $50+ at the table and ended up earning $26 for 2019 in our statistical format. This time, he was bought for $34, which only represented a 30% inflation factor. Did that mean the inflation factor was going to be less than usual?


That question was answered when Joey Gallo was the 2nd players off the board at $37. Even accounting for injury time, this seems to be about a 100% inflation factor. The 3rd player was Chris Sale at $29 and he only earned $8 in an injury plagued season, so that inflation factor would certainly be 50%+. The answer was now clear…inflation would be traditionally high and overpaying for assets in the early rounds would be necessary.


The next eight players told the tale…Charlie Blackmon ended up costing $32 (60% inflation), Stephen Strasburg $38 (40%), Jose Altuve $34 (100%), Paul Goldschmidt $30 (58%), Clayton Kershaw $30 (30%), Zack Greinke $31 (7%), James Paxton $23 (130%) & J.T. Realmuto $31 (107%).


The only “bargain” in Round 1 seemed to be Hyun-Jin Ryu, who sold for $18 despite earning $27 in 2019.


The Dux didn’t roster a player until the 5th pick in Round 2, when we added Madison Bumgarner for $14. Despite the perception that his 9-9 season was mediocre, he earned $13, pitched 200+ innings and recorded 200+ K’s.


In the middle of the 2nd Round, we brought up Andrus and were will to pay $18-$20 based on our budget. The bidding seemed to stall at around $17, but then picked up again, driving the final price to $24. The Dux dropped out at $20. The plan was then to bring up Newman at our next opportunity but Segura was nominated in the interim, so we took him for $13. Not the base-stealer he once was, he still contributes double-digit HR’s & SB’s while hitting in a strong line-up.


Now it was time to get that Closer and Rasiel Iglesias was the choice at $16. Quality Closers in this league go for $12-$18 and it is always a roll of the dice. His record of 3-12 was ugly but 34 Saves and a K/9 of 12 says the stuff is still solid.


The rest of the picks were unexciting but balanced. $48 was allocated for three OF’s and we added Manny Margot, Kyle Schwarber & Brandon Nimmo for a total of exactly $48. $40 was set aside for three SP’s and Bumgarner, Miles Mikolas & Joe Musgrove only cost $33, allowing us to add another SP in Stephen Matz. The Utility spot was filled by Garrett Cooper, who qualifies at both 1B & OF.


The Dux spent $169 on offense (65% of budget) and $91 on pitching (35% of budget), which were the exact target numbers….and we didn’t leave any money on the table.


Just to keep your mind percolating during the off-season, here are some random thoughts from the Draft…


> October is much too early to evaluate injured pitchers…Nathan Eovaldi went for $1, as did Lance McCullers, Aaron Sanchez, Michael Pineda & Alex Wood.


> Reputations don’t matter as future Hall of Famers Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols weren’t drafted.


> Never ask the question, “why did someone pay $30 for Frankie Montas” without clearly understanding that someone else bid $29.


> And, of course, the annual exercise of listing the players that weren’t even drafted. You can decide if the experts were right or wrong…Anthony Santander, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rick Porcello, Yolmer Sanchez, Leury Garcia, Christian Stewart, Josh Reddick, Wade Miley, Nicky Lopez, Alex Gordon, C.J. Cron, J.A. Happ, Mike Fiers, J.P. Crawford, Domingo Santana, Rougned Odor, Hunter Pence, Justin Smoak, Teoscar Hernandez, Nick Ahmed, Mike Leake, Julio Teheran, Mark Melancon, Jason Heyward, Jose Quintana, Jose Peraza, Ian Desmond, Kiki Hernandez, Starlin Castro, Eric Thames, Orlando Arcia, Ryan Braun, Todd Frazier, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco, Colin Moran, Chris Archer, Dexter Fowler, Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Kevin Pillar & Ryan Zimmerman.


You can review additional league information at



The Baseball Card Version Of Cheers


When you’re fortunate enough to retire, here’s some advice…keep busy and do stuff you love. It may sound simple but a number of my friends who haven’t retired yet always seem to wonder, “What will I do”. The answer for me a dozen or so years ago was to immerse myself in the game I love…baseball.  From Spring Training to Fantasy Baseball leagues to the Arizona Fall League, to a community sports interest group, it was an easy transition.


Then, I luckily stumbled across the idea of dealing with baseball card collections. At that point, no one would have considered me an expert, but it is amazing how good your study habits can be when you’re motivated. I became a regular customer at a North Phoenix baseball card shop, printed up some business cards (Rotisserie Duck Baseball Cards) and started advertising on free websites. After acquiring a few small collections and utilizing some cards from my personal stash, I became an eBay dealer. There were many mistakes along the way but the end result has been over 10,000 sales through the years with a 100% positive customer feedback rating.


The other positive outcome from this experience has been a valued friendship with a great guy I met at that original card shop. We obviously had a mutual interest in collectibles and it evolved into endless talks about sports over lunch, rounds of golf and dinners where his lovely wife would put up with our sports-related conversation.  3 1/2 years ago, fate intervened and another local baseball card store became available due to the untimely passing of the owner. My friend jumped into the void and negotiated a purchase with the family of the owner. Almost everyday prior to the deal being finalized, he would say, “You’re going to help me with the store, right?” The purchase got done and it has been an unbelievably wonderful experience. Two days a week, I set up my “office” behind one of the counters and people make appointments to bring in their collections. The results have certainly been positive for us financially, but it is so much more than that. My friend is meticulous about continually upgrading the look of the store (his background is in retail space construction) and the atmosphere is incredible. Customers describe it as a baseball card version of “Cheers” with bar stools, island seating, counter space, sports events on TV, etc. Due to my continuous pontificating about baseball, I’ve acquired multiple nicknames including, “Senior Buyer”, “OG” (Original Google) and “Don Cardleone”, who will make you an offer you can’t refuse. Can you imagine a better way to spend your time in retirement?


As a public service, here’s the latest version of Card Collecting 101…



Baseball fans fall into categories – 1) card collectors…2) former card collectors…3) wannabe card collectors…4) or as George Carlin once said, “Grow up, these are just pictures of grown men”. For those of you in the first three groups, maybe a primer on the basics of collecting would enhance your experience or motivate you to get back into the hobby. For this exercise, we’ll stick to new products as opposed to secondary markets that sell older cards.


  1. Where do I buy cards?
  2. Card shops, hobby stores, retail chains and Internet dealers.


  1. Are the products from these outlets all the same?
  2. No, there are “Hobby” packs and “Retail” packs. A hobby pack will have more autograph, memorabilia and insert cards…and will have a higher price.


  1. Huh, what are autograph, memorabilia and insert cards?
  2. When the card manufacturers re-invented themselves about 20 years ago, they created interest in new products by inserting cards autographed by players or including a piece of memorabilia in the card (jersey, bat, etc.). Insert cards include parallel versions of the regular card or a special set highlighting certain players.


  1. Can cards be purchased directly from card companies?
  2. Yes…some manufacturers sell on their websites, but the pricing will be comparable to other outlets


  1. What is the configuration of today’s cards?
  2. Baseball cards still come in packs which have a certain number of cards (depending on the product). A sealed box of cards will include a specific number of packs. For example, the Topps Heritage brand arrives from the factory is a case of 12 boxes, each box has 24 packs, each pack has 8 cards.


  1. What size are cards?
  2. Today’s standard is 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches.


  1. What is a rookie card?
  2. Usually, the first regular issue card of a player in his major league uniform.


  1. What is a short-print card?
  2. This goes back all the way to the 50’s and is a card made in smaller quantities than others. Again, using Topps Heritage as an example, the 500 card set has #’s 426-500 made in lesser quantities.


  1. Sometimes when I open a pack, there’s a blank card inserted – why is that done?
  2. Companies insert them to discourage people from trying to “search” unopened packs for thicker memorabilia cards. If they weren’t used, a buyer could just buy the one thick pack in a box to acquire a more valuable card.


  1. What is a “common” card?
  2. The Beckett price guide only lists certain star players in each set. The remaining cards are listed as commons or semi-stars and have equal value.


  1. What is a “redemption” card?
  2. When card companies contract with players for autographs, the timing doesn’t always allow for those cards to be in the original production run. So, the manufacturer puts an insert in the pack that describes the card and gives the collector guidelines to redeem the insert for the real item at a later date.


  1. When were the first cards made?
  2. Baseball cards first appeared in the late 1800’s when they were inserted into packs of cigarettes and tobacco. The modern era of baseball cards really began with the 1952 Topps set.


  1. When I was kid, there was a piece of bubble gum in the packs…when did that end?
  2. As collectors became more aware of card condition, they complained about the gum staining or damaging the cards. Topps removed gum from the cards in the early 1990’s.


  1. How can I protect my cards?
  2. For newer cards, many collectors still use albums and nine-pocket pages…especially for sets. For loose cards of any value, always use “penny sleeves” (a clear plastic sleeve that covers the card) and then a “top-loader” (a more rigid holder). Never use rubber bands!


  1. What about really valuable cards?
  2. Don’t use the old-fashioned “screw-down” holder (two pieces of hard plastic screwed together). Instead, use a “one-touch” holder (the same concept but held together by a magnet).


  1. What is grading?
  2. Third-party companies will inspect your card, give it a grade (from 1-to-10), encapsulate it and include a serial number on the case. This is the best way to protect valuable older cards and enhance their marketability. The two major vendors in this field are PSA & Beckett.


  1. What is an error card?
  2. A mistake on the card such as the player’s name spelled incorrectly or his position missing. If the mistake was never corrected by the manufacturer, it is listed in guides as “UER” (uncorrected error). However, if the mistake was corrected, these cards become variations and can be more valuable.


  1. I see some cards referred to as “Refractors”…what does that mean?
  2. A Refractor is a card manufactured by Topps using a technology that creates a shiny version of their “Chrome” cards. It reflects light and can be found in a number of colors. These are always made in limited quantities.


  1. What is a rack pack?
  2. Not as prevalent as in the past, it was a pack of cards made from clear cellophane that usually had cards in three separate compartments. Today, they are primarily found at retail outlets.


  1. Who should I collect?
  2. The most difficult question of all. Think about your own personal history involving baseball and go from there. Your favorite player(s), your favorite team or maybe your favorite year…including the year you were born. Above all, create a collection you can enjoy and share.


AZ Sportscards is at 10045 W. Camelback Road…drop in and say hello or check out the website at



The Clutch Chronicles – 2019

'12 Rendon Auto

The Urban Dictionary defines Clutch as, “To perform under pressure”. For decades, baseball pundits and fans have extolled the virtues of players who supposedly had this trait. Their evidence, however, was only visual and anecdotal. Back in the 1970’s, most people considered Tony Perez of the “Big Red Machine” one of baseball’s best clutch hitters. After all, he had over 100 RBI’s in six seasons between 1967 & 1975. In fact, some would argue that his election to the Hall of Fame was based on this reputation.


Now that baseball is in the age of statistical analysis, our old observations may be called into question. Even a math-challenged fan understands that you can’t get a plethora of RBI’s without baserunners. And, boy, did those Reds teams have baserunners!


Statistics on RBI Percentage (RBI-HR/Runners On) now go back to 1974, so let’s see how our legendary clutch hitter fared in a season where he was an All-Star. Perez had 101 RBI’s, 28 HR’s & 489 runners on base for a RBI percentage of 14.93%. That didn’t even crack the top 50 for the major leagues in ’74! He finished behind household names such as Reggie Smith, Richie Zisk, Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno & Ted Simmons. The leaders were Jeff Burroughs at 21.18% and Sal Bando at 21.15%.


Our Hall-of-Famer improved considerably in 1975 as he accumulated 109 RBI’s with 20 HR’s and 489 runners on base (again). His percentage improved to 18.20% and he just snuck into the top ten for that season. The only hitters at 20% or higher were Willie Stargell at 20.48% and Thurman Munson at 20.00%.


As a fan, you certainly have an opinion on today’s clutch hitters but do the stats back you up? In 2019, there were over 20 hitters who exceeded the 18.20% that Perez posted in ’75. We’ll only include players who had at least 200 baserunners during the season to eliminate the “small sample size” outliers.  These are “Quacker’s Clutch All-Stars” and we’ll see how well their performance aligns with their reputation. There will be players you expected to see and others that will cause you to scratch your head.


1) Josh Phegley, Athletics C, 22.83% – When a team seems to over-achieve, you’ll find contributors like this 31 year-old backstop.


2) DJ LeMahieu, Yankees U, 22.16% – One of the strangest free agents signings turned out to be the best…100+ Runs & RBI’s.


3) Freddie Freeman, Braves 1B, 22.13%- One of the most consistent players in the game…he was #8 last year.


4) Anthony Rendon, Nationals 3B, 21.40%- A MVP candidate and a free agent…Cha-Ching!


5) Charlie Blackmon, Rockies OF, 21.01% – Colorado gave him a big contract and his productive season got lost in the team’s disappointing results.


6) Travis d’Arnaud, Rays C, 20.95% – Practically given away at mid-season, he was a huge factor in Tampa Bay’s playoff run…he’ll also be a free agent in 2020.


7) Didi Gregorius, Yankees SS, 20.93%- Didn’t miss a beat coming back from elbow surgery…over 50 RBI’s in half a season.



8) Daniel Murphy, Rockies 1B, 20.63%- All the clutch hitting in the world can’t make up for Colorado’s pitching staff.


9) Eric Hosmer, Padres 1B, 20.21%- This number resulted in 99 RBI’s, but he’s still not a $144 million corner-infielder.


10) Nelson Cruz, Twins DH, 20.18% – At age 39, he just keeps producing…OPS over 1.000


11) Kurt Suzuki, Nationals C, 20.09%- Seemed to be on the highlights every night…over 60 RBI’s in a little more than 300 AB’s


12) Rafael Devers, Red Sox 3B, 20.00%- When you hit 50+ Doubles and 30+ HR’s, you lead the league in Total Bases…he’s also only 22 years old.


13) Asdrubal Cabrera, Nationals 2B, 19.84%- Another player dumped during the Summer, his OPS in Washington was over .950


14) Adalberto Mondesi, Royals SS, 19.78% – Still just 24, only injuries are holding him back.


Others over 19% were Josh Bell, Bryce Harper, Jose Abreu, Colin Moran & David Dahl


What about the MVP candidates? All were outside the top 30…Alex Bregman (17.93%), Mike Trout (16.39%), Christian Yelich (16.16%) & Cody Bellinger (15.89%)


For everyday players, Willy Adames was the worst in baseball at 9.61%. Others under 11% included Brian Dozier, Adam Eaton, Robinson Cano & Leury Garcia.


Hope all your fantasy players came through in the clutch. For more information on RBI Percentage, go to



Going To WAR For The MVP

'17 Bellinger Hert Chrm

Are you aware that each year’s MVP winners receive an award called the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award? As the Baseball Writer’s Association has never really defined “most valuable”, would the results have been different over the years if it was just called the “Landis Plaque” and went to the most outstanding player in each league. In other words, do fans think in terms of most valuable player or player of the year? And, do you agree that the MVP is for position players and the Cy Young Award is for pitchers?


While there have been some examples over the years of MVP winners on losing teams like Ernie Banks of the Cubs in ’58 & ’59, the general consensus is that the award should go to a player on a contending team. Ted Williams won the Triple Crown (HR, RBI’s & Batting Average) in both 1942 & 1947 but didn’t win the MVP Award in either year. In both seasons, he also led the AL in Runs, Walks, On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage. The winner in ’42 was Yankee 2B Joe Gordon and in ’47, it was Joe DiMaggio. The Red Sox finished nine games behind the Yanks in 2nd place in ’42 and 14 games behind in 3rd place in ’47. If there were more than just two teams going to the post-season in the 1940’s, maybe the results would have been different.


Now that just about any team at .500 or better still has a chance for the playoffs at the end of August, will the voters expand the list of players considered for MVP? And, if “most valuable” is really the criteria, how is that defined? It seems that there is some logic in value being related to teams winning games, so maybe WAR (Wins Above Replacement) can help us determine the real contenders. After all, being a difference-maker in team wins certainly equates to a player’s true value. As a reminder, WAR represents a statistical analysis of how many wins a player is worth to his team over that of a replacement level player (think AAA or AAAA). As you’ll see in the ratings, WAR isn’t just about hitting stats for position players, it also includes advanced defensive metrics.


“Old School” baseball fans will be disappointed to know that advanced statistics have already had a major impact on how this award is viewed. Over the last decade, every MVP has finished in the top five (5) in WAR. That is about the time that this new-age statistic became somewhat mainstream. As recently as 2006, Justin Morneau won the MVP with a WAR number of 4.3. Not only were there twenty players better than that, he finished third on his own team behind Johan Santana & Joe Mauer. Juan Gonzalez won two MVP’s in the 90’s without being in the top 15 while Don Baylor (1979), Willie Stargell (1979) and Jeff Burroughs (1974) weren’t in the top 20. Those days of writers voting without doing thorough research are gone.


Stats are as of Sunday, September 22nd and the WAR numbers are from &




> Mike Trout (8.4) of the Angels is on the shelf at the end of the season but his numbers say that he’s the best in the game. His 3rd MVP will be well deserved, as he leads the AL with 45 HR’s, .438 OBP, .645 SLG and a 1.083 OPS.

> Right behind is Alex Bregman (7.7) of the Astros who has emerged as a star with 38 HR’s and more Walks than K’s. However, the star-studded Houston roster might keep him from the spotlight.

> Marcus Semien (7.5) of the Athletics is a key piece in the team’s unexpected march to the post-season. Playing a premium position (SS) and contributing great defense, he’s produced 32 HR’s, 90 RBI’s & 10 SB’s. Oh, he’s also played every game this season.


> Mookie Betts (6.4) was the MVP in 2018, leading the Red Sox to the World Series title. A victim of his own success, most fans think he ‘s having an off-year. When you look deeper, his OPS of .910 and a league-leading 132 Runs tell a different story.


> Matt Chapman (6.1) is another major contributor to the Athletics success. Gold Glove caliber defense along with 34 HR’s & 98 Runs make him a budding star at age 26.


> Xander Bogaerts (5.6) is another great young (26) player on the Red Sox. Signed to a six-year extension, he has 32 HR’s, 110 RBI’s, 105 Runs and a league-leading 51 Doubles.




> Cody Bellinger (8.0) of the Dodgers leads a very close race in 2019. 45 HR’s and a 1.031 OPS are very impressive and his defensive versatility might give him the edge.

> The Brewers Christian Yelich (7.5) won the MVP last year and has continued his success at age 27. Limited to 130 games due to injury, he still leads the NL with a .329 BA, .429 OBP, .671 SLG and a 1.100 OPS.


> Ketel Marte (7.0) of the D’Backs has been the breakout star of 2019. Playing all over the diamond, he leads the NL with 187 Hits and has a .981 OPS.


> Anthony Rendon (6.8) has put up another stellar campaign on his way to free agency. With 119 RBI’s and a 1.025 OPS, this guy could get big bucks even if I was his agent.


> If you had a vote, would it be a SoCal ballot with Trout & Bellinger?


Just for the record, in 1942 Ted Williams led all of baseball with a WAR figure of 10.6. MVP winner Gordon had an impressive number of 8.2. In ’47, Teddy Ballgame once again led the majors at 9.9 while DiMaggio wasn’t even close to the top ten at 4.8.


If you ever drop by the Duck Pond, you’re welcome to view the extensive collection of Williams memorabilia….but you probably already figured that out.


Field Of Dreams


OK, close your eyes and picture yourself sitting behind home plate at a beautiful ballpark, on a perfect day, surrounded by big league scouts, watching a game filled with prospects from ten different major league teams. Pretty nice dream, isn’t it? Well, without trying to rub it in, your fantasy is my reality because I’m fortunate enough to live in the Valley of the Sun.


An envelope arrived in the mail a few weeks ago from the “Office of the Commissioner of Baseball”. No, it wasn’t my voting credential for the MVP & Cy Young Award…it was better! It was my annual  season pass for the Arizona Fall League.


The Arizona Fall League, which was the brainchild of Hall of Fame Baseball Executive Roland Hemond, brings together 180 players for six weeks every September and October. Utilizing six of the Spring Training ballparks in the Phoenix area for six weeks, local fans pay $9 (or less) to watch some of the top prospects in baseball compete against each other and attempt to impress scouts and team executives with their talent. Back in 2011, for example, Mike Trout & Bryce Harper patrolled the same outfield for the Scottsdale Scorpions. This Fall, at least ten of the top 50 prospects will be on rosters including Jo Adell (LAA), Royce Lewis (MIN), Alex Kirilloff (MIN), Forrest Whitley (HST), Joey Bart (SF), Jarred Kelenic (SEA), Alec Bohm (PHL), Nolan Jones (CLV) and Dylan Carlson (STL).


Today, we’ll take a retrospective look at the last decade of the league (2009-18) and some of the players who made it to “the show”.



> 2009


* Starlin Castro hit .376 and swiped 9 bases


* Grant Desme led the league with 11 HR’s but eventually retired at age 23 to join the ministry


* Mike Moustakas cranked five HR’s in only 75 AB’s


* Mike Leake made five starts and posted a 1.37 ERA


> 2010


* Brandon Belt hit .372


* A.J. Pollock hit .317 with 7 SB’s


* Charlie Blackmon only hit .264 but with more walks than strikeouts, his OBP was .372…maybe he’ll make a good lead-off hitter someday


* Marc Rzecpzynski was 4-0 in six starts with a league-leading 1.26 ERA


> 2011


* Forget about Trout & Harper, the leading hitter was Jedd Gyorko with a .437 BA and a 1.204 OPS


* There was also another .400 hitter…Scooter Gennett at .411


* Nolan Arenado batted .388 with 33 RBI’s in 29 games


* Dallas Keuchel’s 5.08 ERA gave you no clue as to his future success



> 2012


* Billy Hamilton stole 10 bases but only hit .234…sound familiar?


* Christian Yelich batted .301 but had zero HR’s…think he’ll ever develop any power?


* George Springer hit .286 and his 13 walks got his OPS up to 1.012


* Chase Anderson went 3-1 with 25 K’s in 23+ IP


> 2013


* Kris Bryant hit 6 HR’s in only 77 AB’s and posted an OPS of 1.184


* C.J. Cron was the leading hitter with a .413 BA and 20 RBI’s


* Mitch Haniger led the league with 24 RBI’s


* Mike Montgomery had a 2.57 ERA…three years later he got the last out of the World Series


> 2014


* Jesse Winker was the leading hitter at .338


* Greg Bird & Hunter Renfroe each hit 6 HR’s


* Roman Quinn swiped 14 bases in 24 games


* Zach Davies was 3-0 in seven starts with a 1.75 ERA


> 2015


* Gary Sanchez was the top slugger with 7 HR’s & 21 RBI’s


* Jeimer Candelario showed off his skills by hitting .329 with 5 HR’s


* Jeff McNeil’s .230 BA didn’t deter his progress to the big leagues in 2018


* Josh Hader’s miniscule 0.56 ERA was a forecast of things to come


> 2016


* Gleybar Torres was the batting champion at .403


* Cody Bellinger posted a .981 OPS


* Tim Tebow hit .194 and struck out 20 times in 62 AB’s


* Frankie Montas allowed one earned run in 17 innings


> 2017


* Ronald Acuna JR. led the league with 7 HR’s


* Austin Riley had an OPS of 1.021


* Victor Robles had a .389 OBP and swiped 7 bases


* Max Fried was 3-1 with a 1.73 ERA


> 2018


* Pete Alonso tied for the league lead in HR’s


* Keston Huira’s 33 RBI’s led the league


* Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit .351


The season begins on September 18th and finishes with the Championship Game on October 26th. Hope you can join us sometime at the ballpark in Arizona…you’ll recognize me as the one guy sitting behind home plate without a radar gun.

1951 Bowman Nicknames

'51 Klu

Spending lots of time over the years with vintage (pre-1975) baseball cards has helped me define many of the differences in today’s modern game. From visual aspects such as uniforms and gloves to social issues like players of color being limited, our cherished game has certainly come a long way. It seems, however, that one area where the sport has gone backwards is in the category of nicknames.


In 2019, as the game has become richer and more corporate, original and appropriate nicknames have begun to disappear. Of the top players in the game, is there a decent nickname among them? Looking at, it appears that many of them have nicknames, but even the most ardent fan might not recognize them. Have you ever heard of the “Millville Meteor” or “Bigfoot”? Those are the nicknames listed for Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton. And Clayton Kershaw is “The Claw”? Add this to the weak efforts of “Miggy” for Miguel Cabrera and “Goldy” for Paul Goldschmidt and you can see that the new era of baseball is a wasteland for nicknames. Max Scherzer is “Blue Eye”, Justin Verlander is “JV”, Bryce Harper has three nicknames and they are all boring…”Bam-Bam”, “Mondo” & “Harp”. Maybe you like “Votto-matic” for the Reds 1B?


Thanks to a very large baseball card collection that has taken over significant areas of my house, we can look into the rear-view mirror, travel back to almost 70 years ago and see what kind of nicknames we find for the players in the 1951 Bowman set. This was the 4th issue of the post-war era and had no real competition, as Topps didn’t produce cards until 1952. At 324 cards, it was a treasure trove for fans because almost every major leaguer was represented. If you wanted to add this set to your collection, bring your checkbook and 401K…today’s price would be over $20,000!


Let’s look at some players you’ll recognize and others you won’t. The values are based on a card in “EX 5” condition.


> #1 Edward “Whitey” Ford ($500) – This is the rookie card of the Yankees Hall of Fame Pitcher. Once he became a star of the Bombers dynasty, he was also called “Chairman of the Board”…long before Sinatra.


> #2 Lawrence “Yogi” Berra ($190) – This was long before Yogi Bear and came from childhood friends commenting on the way he sat with his legs crossed.


> #10 Al “Red” Schoendienst ($30) – A mainstay of the Cardinals organization for decades and the good friend of Stan Musial.


> #21 George “Snuffy” Stirnweiss ($12) – While most players were off fighting in World War II, he led the AL with a .309 BA in 1945.


> #23 Walter “Hoot” Evers ($12) – A two-time All-Star while playing in the OF for the Tigers.


> #24 Ewell “The Whip” Blackwell ($14) – This nickname referred to his pitching motion which was almost sidearm. Made six consecutive NL All-Star teams from 1946-51.


> #26 Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto ($65) – All that needs to be said is “Holy Cow”.


> #30 Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller ($70) – This Hall of Famer had the best fastball in the game.


> #32 Edwin “Duke” Snider ($100) – The Duke of Flatbush.


> #50 Johnny “The Big Cat” Mize ($35) – Hit 51 HR’s in 1947.


> #58 Enos “Country” Slaughter ($30) – This HOF member is a Cardinals legend thanks to the 1946 World Series.


> #60 Alfonso “Chico” Carrasquel ($25) – This White Sox SS was one of the first stars from Venezuela.


> #80 Harold “Pee Wee” Reese ($70) – The Dodger Captain was also known as “The Little Colonel”.


> #86 Harry “The Cat” Brecheen ($12) – The slim Cardinals left-hander won 20 games in 1948 and led the NL with a 2.24 ERA.


> #102 Emil “Dutch” Leonard ($12) – Pitched in the Majors from 1933 – 1953 and won 191 games.


> #104 Virgil “Fire” Trucks ($12) – How often do you see a 20-game winner who pitched for two teams in that season…in 1953, he was 5-4 with the Browns and 15-6 after being traded to the White Sox.


> #109 Allie “Superchief” Reynolds ($25) – A mainstay of the Yankees rotation in the 50’s, the nickname came from his Native American roots.


> #112 Willie “Puddin Head” Jones ($12) – Rumor has it that the genesis of the nickname was a Rudy Vallee song from 1933.


> #118 Elwin “Preacher” Roe ($25) – ’51 was his best season as he went 22-3 for the Dodgers…most fans didn’t even know his given name.


> #127 Sal “The Barber” Maglie ($25) – If you’re guessing that he was known for pitching inside, you’re correct.


> #143 Ted “Big Klu” Kluszewski ($35) – Had three 40+ HR seasons in the mid-50’s.


> #170 Sebastian “Sibby” Sisti ($12) – A utility infielder who played in three decades, he also portrayed the opposing Manager who calls in a reliever in the climatic scene of “The Natural”.


> #187 Al “Flip” Rosen ($20) – Won the AL MVP in ’53 with 43 HR’s & 145 RBI’s.


> #194 Harry “Peanuts” Lowrey ($12) – At 5′ 8″, he had a 13 year big league career.


> Monford “Monte” Irvin ($65) – This is the rookie card of the Negro League legend who didn’t get a major league at-bat until he was in his 30’s…in ’51, he led the NL with 121 RBI’s.


> #233 Leo “The Lip” Durocher ($30) – This argumentative Manager earned this nickname while leading his teams to over 2,000 wins.


> #257 George “Birdie” Tebbetts ($30) – Spent over 30 years in the game as a player and manager. The nickname came from a family member who thought his high-pitched voice sounded like a bird chirping.


> #275 Stanley “Bucky” Harris ($32) – This HOF Manager was the skipper of five different teams from 1924-1956.


> #317 Forrest “Smoky” Burgess ($40) – A big league Catcher for 18 seasons with six All-Star appearances.


There were a few more nickname scattered throughout the set, but the players were somewhat obscure. Included are “Teddy Ballgame”, “The Mick” and “Say Hey Kid”.

Defining Moments

'33 Hubbell

If you’ve been a baseball fan for decades, there are dozens of mental snapshots available to you at any given time. Some were taken in person and many others have accumulated through watching live games on TV, viewing archival footage or enjoying sports-related docudrama. These collective moments give you a personal history of the game beyond the written word but even the prose of the sport creates images of players you may have never seen. This concept leads each of us to have differing “defining moments” in the game.


Excuse the pun, but everyone has their own definition of a defining moment. If you feel that Ted Williams hitting a home run in his last at-bat or Pete Rose passing Ty Cobb on the all-time hit list or Willie Mays making that catch in the World Series or Derek Jeter hitting a home run for his 3000th hit were defining moments, you and I are already in disagreement. To me, those players were so great that any one moment can’t define their career. It is, however, a very fine line because there will be Hall of Fame players who actually have a defining moment and it might cause an ongoing debate about the term. For the Old Duck, the criteria is simple…when you hear a player’s name, is there any doubt about what moment you remember? For example, actor Peter Fonda passed away recently at age 79. In 1969, he starred in the counter-culture classic “Easy Rider” and it is that role he is most remembered for playing. The average person can’t name two of his films from the last 50 years despite the fact that he was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in 1977’s “Ulee’s Gold”.


The specter of an additional pun looms when I say that what is presented here in certainly not a definitive list. It is only one person’s reflections from his own snapshots and hopefully, you will add many of your own that we can discuss in the future.


> Fred Merkle (1908) – In the September pennant chase, Giants base-runner Merkle was belatedly called out after failing to touch 2nd base after a teammate crossed home plate with what would have been the winning run. The Cubs ended up taking the pennant when the game was replayed in October. Even though his career lasted until 1926, still to this day, his nickname is “Bonehead”.


> Carl Hubbell (1934) – A Hall-of Fame pitcher for the Giants, “King Carl” is revered for his performance in the All-Star Game at the Polo Grounds on July 10th. Utilizing his famous screwball, Hubbell struck out five Hall-of-Fame AL batters in succession…Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons & Joe Cronin.


> Johnny Vander Meer (1938) – The Reds pitcher no-hit the Dodgers 6-0 after no-hitting the Boston Bees four days earlier. No other major league hurler has ever accomplished this feat.


> Lou Gehrig (1939) – Despite having one of the great careers in the history of the game, this defining moment came after his playing days were over. On July 4th at Yankee Stadium, the terminally ill “Iron Horse” told the crowd that “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth”.


> Mickey Owen (1941) – In the World Series, the Dodgers are leading the 4th game with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning when Catcher Owen lets a 3rd strike get past him and the Yankees go on to win the game and the Series.


> Joe Nuxhall (1944) – Not yet 16 years old, the Reds LH Pitcher makes the first appearance of what would be a 16-year career. It was eight years before he pitched in the big leagues again.


> Jackie Robinson (1947) – On April 15th, he starts at 1B for the Brooklyn Dodgers and become the first player of color in the Major Leagues.


> Eddie Gaedel (1951) – The St. Louis Browns sent the 3’7″ pinch-hitter to the plate wearing uniform number 1/8. He walked on four pitches and was replaced by a pinch-runner.


> Bobby Thomson (1951) – “The shot heard ’round the world” was a home run in the bottom of the 9th inning to give the Giants the NL pennant over the Dodgers.


> Johnny Podres (1955) – Ending decades of frustration for Dodger fans, he shut out the Yankees 2-0 in game 7 of the World Series.


> Don Larsen (1956) – In game 5 of the World Series, this Yankee hurler pitched the only perfect game in post-season history when he retired 27 consecutive Dodger batters.


> Harvey Haddix (1959) – This Pirate hurler pitched 12 perfect innings but lost the game to the Braves in the 13th inning.


> Bill Mazeroski (1960) – The Pirates 2B hits a walk-off HR in the 7th game of the World Series to defeat the Yankees.


> Roger Maris (1961) – A good, but not great player overcame the intense pressure and the insult of the Commissioner to break Babe Ruth’s record with his 61st home run on October 1st…Holy Cow!


> Tony Cloninger (1966) – This Braves Pitcher beat the Giants 17-3 on July 3rd…he hit two grand-slam HR’s and had 9 RBI’s.


> Al Downing (1974) – He won 123 games in a 17-year career, but on April 8th, he gave up Hank Aaron’s 715th HR.


> Carlton Fisk (1975) – Another Hall-of-Fame player, he will always be remembered for guiding his HR off the foul pole in the 12th inning to beat the Reds in the 6th game of the World Series.


> Len Barker (1981) – This Indians hurler threw 84 of his 103 pitches for strikes and pitched a perfect game against the Blue Jays. He recorded 11 strikeouts and they were all swinging.


> Bill Buckner (1986) – Despite a career in which he had over 2,700 hits, all that is remembered is the error he made in game 6 of the World Series that doomed the Red Sox and opened the door for the Mets to become world champions.


> Kirk Gibson (1988) – His 9th inning walk-off (or was it limp-off) home run in game 1 of the World Series propelled the Dodgers to defeat the Athletics in 5 games…it was his only at-bat in the Series.


> Joe Carter (1993) – The Blue Jays OF hit a Series-ending 3-run HR to beat the Phillies and secure Toronto’s second consecutive title.


> Edgar Renteria (1997) – Another walk-off World Series winner, his 11th inning single won the 7th game for the Marlins against the Indians.


> Kerry Wood (1998) – This rookie pitcher for the Cubs struck out 20 Astros while pitching a one-hitter…it was his 5th major league start.


> Luis Gonzalez (2001) – His bloop single over the Yankees drawn-in infield in game 7 gave the Diamondbacks the World Series title.


> Aaron Boone (2003) – A walk-off home run in the 11th inning of game 7 gave the Yankees the AL Pennant over the Red Sox.


> Dave Roberts (2004) – As a pinch-runner, he steals 2B and eventually scores the tying run for the Red Sox, who go on the beat the Yankees in extra innings for the AL pennant.


> David Freese (2011) – Still an active player, nothing will ever compare to his performance for the Cardinals in the World Series where he had an OPS of 1.106.


That takes us to eight years ago and many current players still have their defining moment to come. Which of your memories did we leave out? How about names like Bucky Dent, Ray Fosse, Jack Morris, Fernando Tatis, Rennie Stennett, Vic Wertz, Cookie Lavagetto, Dusty Rhodes or Enos Slaughter? I’m guessing some of those snapshots are in your mental camera.