Sunday, April 14, 2013

COMC Haul: Certifiably Bad

Sometimes a dig through a dime box or scroll through COMC store or ebay listings tells a story.  A player collection forsaken, team collection being broken up, or set build aborted.  I'm guessing the latter would explain the origin of the cards in this post.  These parallels all come from the same seller, as well as a few other Pirates left behind that I already had.

This post is as much about the shiny, foil goodness of 2004 Leaf Certified Materials as it is about just how mind-numbingly bad the Pirates were in the mid 2000's.  This set is from 2004, and features two rookies in the Pirate team set.  None of these players are in organized baseball in the United States. The Pirates sure knew how to pick 'em.
 Craig Wilson had his best season in 2004, hitting 29 HR's with a .499 slugging percentage.  But Wilson would be dealt from the Pirates to the Yankees in mid-2006, spending an unimpressive 24 games with the Braves in 2007.  He would spend 2008 in AAA, but was out of baseball at age 31.
 Simon shouldn't have been in Pittsburgh in the first place in 2004.  A mid-season 2003 trade to the Cubs could and should have spelled the end of his time in the Burgh.  But GM Dave Littlefield proved you could make the same mistake twice, and Simon rewarded the club with a .194 average in 61 games before being released.  He would get picked up by the Rays for a few games, resurface again in 2006 for a few more games with the Phillies, and play independent league ball through the 2010 season.  But in 2004 a major leaguer he twas not.
 Mike Johnston made it to the majors as a 25 year old lefty, pitching 24 unimpressive games for the Bucs.  He would briefly see the majors again in 2005 for one game.  He would leave baseball after the 2006 season until reappearing in AA and AAA in the White Sox system in 2009, pitching well in 16 games between the two levels.  And then he disappeared again.  He apparently pitched 24 innings in the independent Atlantic League in 2013, but following his pattern I'd imagine he should reappear in 2016 in your local fast pitch softball league.
 Ian Snell has the most longevity of this bunch, which is saying something.  Snell spent 3 games in the Bigs in '04 and another 15 in '05 before establishing himself as a starter.  Snell looked like a solid major league pitcher with a chance at a long career, racking up 177 K's in 208 innings of work as a 25 year old in 2007 with a 3.76 ERA. 

And in true Pirate fashion, proceeded to implode.  He jumped to a 5.42 ERA in 2005.  His fastball lost miles like they were going out of style, he demoted himself to the minors in 2009 before a trade to Seattle ended his time in Pittsburgh.  The Mariners, stuck with his $4M salary, pitched him in the majors in 2010, and he would make 5 atrocious AAA starts for the Dodgers in 2011, but has been out of baseball since then.

And of course we can't forget Jose Castillo.  Castillo jumped from AA to the majors as a 23 year old in 2004.  He put up a respectable .256/.298/.368 line his rookie year with strong defense.  He continued improving in '05, showing flashes of above average power and spectacular defense.  But weak on base skills and questions over his work ethic moved him to the bench in 2007.  He spent 2008 between the Astros and Giants, and has since spent time between Japan and Mexico.  He put up excellent numbers in the Mexican League in 2012 and 2013 thus far, but at 32 I'd imagine it's doubtful he gets another crack at the majors.

But hey, look!  Shiny cards!

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