Thursday, December 6, 2018

Eight Clubby Nights: A Stadium Club Hanukkah (Night 5)

It's Night 5 of Stadium Club Hanukkah, and we've leapt over the center branch of the menorah, and are now filling the left half with candles. At least, that's assuming the common design of a menorah, with four branches on a side and a slightly offset branch in the middle. They don't have to look like that, though. You'll occasionally see a straight row of eight branches or reservoirs, and a separate spot off to the side for the shamash.

Candles are actually something of a convenience. To be historically accurate, they would really be small reservoirs of olive oil with a wick. Israel and surrounding areas are in the Mediterranean region, after all. In the (second) Temple in Jerusalem, a holy flame fueled by olive oil was always supposed to be kept lit, something like the Olympic flame. Various conquests and revolts interrupted that, but when the Jewish people retook the Temple in the 2nd century BCE, one small vial of oil, about a day's worth, was all they could find. As it's told, the miracle that's being celebrated is that it burned for a full eight days until more could be found, hence the eight-night duration of Hanukkah.

That oil is why the food associated with the holiday tends to be fried, i.e. potato pancakes. Because if they had discovered a small box of Hanukkah candles and selected the drip-prone red color, we probably wouldn't be celebrating this holiday today.

This week, you're not only getting baseball cards, you're also getting a history lesson and some exposure to a different culture.

Carrying on with the cards, this pack was actually somewhat of a letdown compared to the awesomeness of Night 4. Not every pack will be great, but we will open it nonetheless.

2018 Stadium Club #155 Francisco Mejia (RC)
Francisco Mejia is the first of four rookie cards in this pack. I'm probably not going to have a lot to say about most of them, since they've yet to make much of a mark on the big leagues. This young catching prospect has already moved on to his second team, joining the San Diego Padres in a late-July trade. He'll be catching Garrett Richards if he sticks around long enough.

The minors never have as much coverage as the Major Leagues, but that doesn't mean you won't find amazing records at lower levels. Neifi Perez, for instance, once turned an unassisted triple play. And Francisco Mejia, according to the card back, put together a whopping 50-game hitting streak in 2016. That's probably about as many baseballs as you see in that basket behind him.

2018 Stadium Club #1 Sandy Alcantara (RC)
Sandy Alcantra, from the Dominican Republic along with Mejia, became a Miami Marlin before the 2018 offseason. The card #1 recipient was packaged up with a few other prospects by the St. Louis Cardinals in return for All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna. The Marlins have been doing plenty of trades like that, and they somehow managed to trade away two consecutive NL MVP winners. At least Giancarlo Stanton was a Marlin when he won it in 2017, but Christian Yelich was long gone to Milwaukee when he got it this year, almost putting together a triple crown season.

The Marlins Fire Sale, which tends to happen once a decade, is usually a pretty ugly affair. Alcantara has actually been one of their better pickups, and he only went 2-3 in six games in 2018. It makes sense that the Mets are busy working on blockbuster trades, knowing that one of their division rivals will be a pushover for some time to come. And it's probably no accident that some NL East teams are at the top of the headlines when it comes to Bryce Harper's free agency.

Not even the Home Run Sculpture survived the bloodbath. At least Alcantara's Marlins will be sporting a new logo next season. And I seem to have pulled the bookends of 2018 Stadium Club, card #1 above, and card #300 the other night.

2018 Stadium Club #227 Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller of the Indians is the only established player in the pack, and this photo is more typical of a Topps base set than Stadium Club. The stitches on the ball are quite sharp, and they look darker than the usual red stitching we're familiar with. It's been dirtied up just enough with baseball's rubbing mud, a just-so natural product from the banks of the Delaware River.

He's played for quite a few teams, but the "high-leverage" role the Indians created for him has been what's contributed to his fame and two straight All-Star selections. He's even been pretty high up in Cy Young Award voting, a rarity for a relief pitcher. And none other than the New York Mets are talking about picking him up this offseason, though that seems less likely now that they got 2018's AL saves leader Edwin Diaz from the Mariners along with Robinson Cano.

2018 Stadium Club Red Foil #170 J.D. Davis (RC)
There wasn't a traditional insert card in this pack, but I did find a Red Foil parallel of J.D. Davis' base card. The Astros have not brought him along on the Postseason roster these past couple years. Davis seems to be a decent utility player, which is good, because I don't see him unseating Alex Bregman anytime soon. He has the makings of a borderline two-way player, with a handful of pitching appearances under his belt, and plenty of closing experience from his college days at Cal State Fullerton, the card back tells us.

I can't ever hear of Cal State Fullerton without thinking of two things. First, the beautiful arboretum on campus, which I visited with my dad when he lived in the Orange County area. And second, Tim Wallach, one of the best players to attend the University. I don't follow college sports too closely, and other than the superstars like Tom Brady and Michael Jordan, I probably couldn't tell you where a given player went to college. But for some reason, I always remember that Tim Wallach went to Cal State Fullerton.

The front of the card gives us just a touch of red foil, which you know I like, but since this appears to be a road game, there is no chance of Orbit being up to some antics during this pre-game warmup.

2018 Stadium Club #295 Mitch Garver (RC)
The last card in the pack is also a horizontal one, and probably the most Stadium Club-looking card in the set. Mitch Garver, another catcher, got a pretty great shot on his card, showing Target Field and the home dugout pretty well. The Twins are in the majority of teams who select the first base side for their home games, but there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason about which team occupies which side. I grew up watching the Rockies, and generally assumed in my younger years that the home team was on the first base side. Of course, that's not the case, but it does tend to be generally selected, especially in newer stadiums.

Like most of the rookies in this post, he has playing experience in two seasons, 2017 and 2018. I haven't heard of him, and he's got some big shoes to fill with Joe Mauer's retirement, although Mauer hasn't been catching since 2013. Of all the rookies in this post, I like Garver's chances the best of appearing in another set five years from now, but prospects can always surprise you one way or the other.

We only have three packs to go. You might think it's winding down, but most of the candles are burned in the final few nights, so we'll see if anything can beat night 4's pack.


  1. Not that it matters, but I coach high school baseball and we occupy the 3rd base dugout.
    The Garver is my favorite of this bunch.
    I've been enjoying the Eight Clubby Nights posts.

  2. The guy dancing on the dugout of the Garver card is the best part!