Friday, August 7, 2020

Take him or leave him - Chris Sale

A few weeks ago, I put up a post here talking about players that I didn't really have strong feelings about.  I invited anyone who wanted to write up a guest post about any of the players and help me get a better feel for why that player is great and deserves my collecting attention.  Well, I am happy to announce that after the first response, for Ferguson Jenkins, the second response is in!!  

Today's player appreciation post is from Jeremy from the great blog Topps Cards that Never Were and he was awesome enough to do a writeup for 2 different players.  He makes great cases for both!!  I'm looking forward to having an increased appreciation for them.  Anyway, let's see what Jeremy has to say!!


This is Jeremy from the Topps Cards that Never Were blog writing. I am trying to convince Kevin from The Diamond King to collect Chris Sale. I am also going to pitch another guy I collect, Rafael Bournigal. Up first is Sale.

Sure, Sale is your stereotypical power throwing lefty, who notches up a ton of strikeouts, but there's more to him than that.

One of the main reasons I collect him is that he attended my high school, Lakeland Senior High School, located in Lakeland, Florida. I graduated in 2001, Chris graduated in 2007, but I still feel like I can kind of say that I knew him since he played basketball on the same courts that I did, walked around the same campus I did, and we actually had a mutual friend, Pamela, in common. Chris wasn't the first standout athlete to play at LHS, as his teammate and 2018 World Series MVP Steve Pearce was one of my classmates in chemistry and drafting class, and guys like Keon Broxton, Alec Asher, Carson Fulmer, and Jameson Taillon were on the baseball teams, and Rod Smart (He Hate me of XFL fame) was one of many guys to play at LHS and professional football. So you could collect Sale because he went to the same high school as one of your favorite bloggers (and probably had a higher GPA).

When healthy, Sale is one of the best pitchers in the game. Sale has had 2 different 9 pitch, 3 strikeout innings, less than a month apart in 2019. He led the AL in K's in 2015 and 2017. He came out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the 2018 World Series to finish out the game and become a World Champion. While it feels that Sale has been pitching for a long time and that he is old, he will be 32 on Opening Day in 2021, and it will only be his 12th season. He is already at 2,007 career K's. He has a halfway decent shot at 3,000 career K's if he is healthy. He twice tied MLB records of 8 straight starts with 10 or more K's. He is one of the few players in MLB history to have a 300 K season. He was the fastest player in terms of IP to 1,500 and 2,000 K's. He was an all-star from 2012 to 2018. He holds the career K/BB ratio record at 5.12. He just has so many strikeout records and if he is healthy for 2021, he could add on more numbers. It almost feels like he is Randy Johnson 2.0. If Randy was a 100, Sale has to be a 90.

Chris is tall (6'6"), and he is known as "The Condor" because of his delivery and how it looks with his height. His slider is almost unhittable. Most people forget he started his career as a reliever. Can you imagine having to face Chris in the 9th with his height, delivery, and his fastball/slider combo? I still think the White Sox and Red Sox are happy he is a starter.

Lastly, a few card-related reasons to collect Chris. Right now, he is recovering from surgery, so his card prices are low. He is well known enough that he has a good amount of cards out, and isn't some no-name with cards in only a few sets or hard-to-find cards. He also has a number of bloggers out there who collect him (Gavin from Baseball Card Breakdown and myself, for a few), so you already know 2 people who probably have some dupes of Sale to sent you.

If that doesn't convince you to collect sale, then maybe seeing some of his cards will. Here are all of my Chris Sale cards in my Favorite Player binder (and yes, that is a Keytar in the background. I used to jam out on that thing with an old band I was in.)

Back to the cards....


Hopefully this did the trick, and you are now a Chris Sale collector. Be sure to hit me up for Sale dupes.

Next up is a player who is probably one of the top players who I am trying to collect, Rafael Bournigal. You may not remember Raffy, as he was just a utility infielder for the Dodgers, A's, and Mariners in the '90's. He had a chance to break through with the Dodgers, but Jose Offerman and Juan Castro were given the chance over him, and with Oakland, he had Tony Batista ahead of him. When Batista got selected by the Diamondbacks in the expansion draft, suddenly Miguel Tejada stepped up, and Raffy just settled in as a backup SS. 

Rafael Bournigal wasn't really on my collecting radar in 1993. I was really big in getting the 1993 Topps set, and while I did pull his 1993 Topps card from a pack, I more remember it being card #651 (the card after Terry Pendleton's card) that for who was on it. I actually thought he looked kind of dorky with the glasses. Well, fast forward a few years after that, and Rafael is with Oakland, and I find out that he is living in Lakeland, Florida (where I was living at the time), when I saw his picture in this little 'Polk County residents in the Majors' thing every Sunday in our paper (also frequently appearing were Lou Whitaker, Alan Mills, and Pat Borders). I started following Bournigal, and tried to catch any A's games on TV (mostly on WGN when they played the White Sox). I was about 14 or 15, and was playing basketball alot at the YMCA in Lakeland, and somehow, I found out that Raffy worked out at the Y. His brother Sean frequented the basketball courts, so maybe it was from hearing Sean's last name around the courts. I lived maybe a block from the Y (it was on the same street that I lived on, just on the other side of the road), and I usually walked over there to shoot hoops, or play a game in their middle school league. One day, I had just finished practicing a little, and I spotted this guy getting a drink by the door water fountain. Something told me that it was Raffy. I asked if it was him, and he said yeah. I then told him that I had 2 baseball cards of him and asked if he could sign them. He told me he was about to leave, and I mentioned that I lived right across the street. Then, him and Sean invite me into their fancy sports car, and drove me home, and I ran inside. I start yelling "Mom, Dad! Rafael Bourigal drove me home and I need a pen so he can sign his card!" They just looked at me and someone found me a pen as I dug out his cards, and he signed his 1993 Score and 1993 Topps card, and posed for a picture with me. 

This was around 1998 or so. I didn't realize it at the time, but that was kind of a big deal. He could've just blew me off, or said meet him later, but he took a sweaty stranger in his car, drove him home (probably a little out of the way), wasted probably 10 minutes, signed 2 cards, and took a picture. It was an effort for him, and it was a big deal for me. The older I get, the more I realize, it's not the big power hitters and flame throwers who tend to be in my collection, it's more the guys who were nice to me during in-person experiences. I can't stand talking to people or waiting on them at my job, but things like this make me realize that sometimes it's good to not shut people out and that I can do something that they will remember if I just take the time and be nice. 

I saw Raffy a few more times at the Y in the next few years. I remember asking him what Mark McGwire was like in 1997 (he said nice), and wishing him Merry Christmas on Christmas Eve. If my memory serves me correctly, I think I even played catch with him one time. 

I got a job at a local grocery store as a cashier, and one of the baggers was from Puerto Rico, and he was a big baseball fan who knew Roberto Clemente. He also knew Raffy, so he got him to come through my line most of the time, and we talked baseball and stuff. He would always get Presidente beer, and I don't remember much else of what he would purchase. 

After that, I didn't see him, but the story doesn't end. COMC kind of took off, and I started slowly getting more cards of Raffy from the site. I've amassed a pretty nice collection of Raffy, and added some customs to it to fill in some of the holes that Topps missed. 

Some time in 2017, I decided to write Raffy a letter and try to get some of my newer pickups signed by him. He not only signed some cards for me, but wrote a nice response back to me on the top of my original letter to him. Here is my Rafael Bournigal collection, and the note he sent back with my letter.

About a year ago, I also found an official signed contract from the Topps company. The contract was to produce Topps cards for him for  through the 2003 set if I read it correctly. I think he was signed through the 2002 set, and this extended it 1 year, so if he had played in 2002, Topps could've put him in the '03 set. Well, anyways, I won an auction on eBay (I was the only bidder), and now have an official signed Topps contract in my Rafael Bournigal collection.

So there you have it. If you want to collect cards of a great guy, a ballplayer who could've been the next Rafael Belliard but was blocked by bigger named stars, a guy who has a decent amount of cards but not hundreds, who has some nice looking cards due to playing during the '90's with Pinnacle and Score hitting the height of their printing technology, Rafael Bournigal is your guy. But beware. You will have some competition, the main source being myself.

Thanks, Kevin, for letting me try to sway you and for letting me write this post.



Wow!  Great stuff Jeremy!  And I love the pic of you with the Keytar!!  

I think you got me going on Sale.  The comparisons to Randy Johnson, one of my all time faves, helped a lot.  And the sheer impressiveness of Sale's records is hard to ignore, even in these strikeout happy times.  Beautiful cards you shared too.  I'm impressed with the athletic talent at your high school.  I think only future mascots attended my high school.

And the Bournigal stuff is even better!!  This is what I want collecting to be about!  Great personal experiences and a human side to our heroes.  Sure, I can obsess over Mark McGwire, the bigger than life persona, but you have a personal connection to Raffy.  And not just a single quick brush by, but some real, interesting stories.  Lucky you!!  Nice collection of him as well, I love the unsigned versions of the cards next to the signed versions.  And a personal note and topps contract??  What a collection!

Thanks again Jeremy, it was a pleasure!

And if anyone out there reading would like to do one of these writeups and help me appreciate a player you love, feel free.  Below are the players I thought of, but if you want to do one that is not on the list, let me know!!

Jose Altuve

James Shields

David Price

Manny Machado

Fergie Jenkins - taken

Cole Hamels

Alan Trammel

Don Sutton - taken

Roy Halladay

Andrew McCutchen

Chris Sale - taken

Carlos Beltran

Barry Larkin

Mike Mussina

Matt Holliday

George Springer

Gary Sanchez

Freddie Freeman

Nolan Arenado

Charlie Blackmon


  1. If you decide to collect Sale, I have a ton of dupes from when I used to collect him. I bet I could get your collection off to a pretty good start.

  2. As a fellow lefty, I quietly root for Sale. Hope he bounces back from his surgery and ends up having a HOF career.