Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Favorite Books I Read in 2014

Since I started this blog, I've had a year-end wrap up of the books I read in each year. I retired in February of this year and have therefore had more time to read. Back in the end of June, I did a post on the books read so far. I've read more books in the second half of the year, totaling 93 in all. Rather than do another interminable post of book covers, I thought I just highlight my favorite books of the year, in the order I read them.

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman
This book was a bit off the usual track of books I read. Empty Mansions explores the fascinating life of Huguette Clark, an enigmatic figure who had not been photographed in public since the 1920s. Though she owned three palatial homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, they sat vacant while she lived out her final two decades in a New York City hospital, despite being in excellent health. Her father was copper industrialist W. A. Clark, who had started in the mid-1800s with nothing, to be one of the richest men in the country by 1900. He's little known today. His surviving daughter, Huguette, was basically a recluse most of her life, for years living in the giant mansion shown on the cover. After she almost died from untreated skin cancer on her face, she moved into an exclusive hospital in New York City. Although she recover fully, she felt safe in the hospital and never left. It helped that she gave huge donations to the hospital, so they weren't about to kick her out. The early parts of the book were about her father which is a fascinating historical account of a formerly famous person I never heard of. The rest was about Huguette herself, more a psychological study of how great riches can lead to total isolation. She died in 2011 at 104.

Never Let Me Go by Kazo Ishiguro
You may remember the 2010 movie made from this book staring Keira Knightley. I remember seeing the trailers for the film and thinking it looked interesting but we never got to see it. Even if you've seen the movie, I recommend the book, although the book is better if you haven't seen the movie. The book starts in what seems like a private English boarding school. There are both boys and girls attending the school. There are some strange goings on, which are not explained, but the story moves along nicely. It's only as you get deep into the book that you learn that the school is not what it seems and the children are not normal children. The author takes his time developing the mystery and developing the characters so that by the end you understand the choices the children have to make when they are adults.

23 Years On Fire by Joel Shephard
This is the 4th book (of 5) in the Cassandra Kreshnov saga. One of my main reading staples is science fiction and the harder the better. In this series, there are two conflicting cultures of humans in space. The Federation is a grouping of planets and star systems, loosely centered on Earth (although none of the stories take place there) which believes in individual freedom. It's not unlike what you might expect a more-perfect America might be. Although this future is advanced enough for artificial intelligence to be developed, it is against the law in the Federation. Humans are free to augment them selves with implanted devices which make them faster, stronger and smarter than normal humans, but artificial humans are not to be developed. The other culture, the Legion, believes the opposite and has developed artificial humans to a high degree. Eventually a war develops between the cultures and the Federation wins. All of the books in the series take place after the war is over. Cassandra is an artificial human soldier from Legion who defected to the Federation just before the war ended. She is a very high order of artificial human capable of feats of strength and action, backed by high intelligence.  She joins the Federation security services. There are still threats from Legion, which form most of the stories. She herself, although granted full citizen status in the Federation, has to deal with those who will never trust her. The series is all about her trying to overcome her slave-like past with Legion and trying to become a free and fully functional human. There is a lot of action very well done. There is also a lot of development of the basic economics and politics of the Federation which are very plausible. I highly recommend this series if you're a sci-fi fan.

Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings
I also like to read history books, and since 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, this seemed a natural. The book has some background on how the war started. The delicate "Balance of Power" maintained by the various European countries in the years leading up to 1914. The great powers were all expecting war but were shocked when it came. Of all the European countries, only Germany was really preparing for war, and when at long last the trigger was pulled, Germany was ready. Russia, France and England had to play catch-up which allowed the Germans to make progress on 2 fronts so quickly. Both sides thought the war would be over quickly but by the end of 1914, both sides got mired into trench warfare which would last for years.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey
Zombie stories seem to be a permanent niche in science fiction these days. This is a zombie story with a twist. The last city in England to escape the zombie plague has set up a research center in a remote area to study zombie children. These kids look normal, and unlike the adult zombies wandering the country-side, can speak and learn. The research center is set up like a school for the children who are taught normal subjects. One of the children (the "Girl" of the title) is particularity bright and at 10-years-old can do calculus in her head. But she's a zombie and if you get close enough to her for her to catch your smell, she'll launch at you in a frenzy and eat you. So consequently her and the other children are kept in restraints in the classroom and the teachers a keep themselves clean with bleach. Eventually the center gets overrun by zombies and the teachers, the soldiers who were protecting them and the Girl try to make it back to the city. The ending was quite unlike any zombie story I've read before.

The Forever Watch by David Ramirez
 The Forever Watch takes place on a giant spaceship on a 1000-year multi-generational trip to another world. The ship is fleeing some unnamed catastrophe back on Earth. The story is about a woman named Hana, who is a city planner. The ship is divided into sections, each with it's own culture from back on earth. Hana lives in a section which looks like New York City (yes the ship is huge). Her job is to keep the city working. She's a bureaucrat who worries if the sewers are working and how to control the lights to save energy. Then she meets ex-policeman Barrens who is haunted by a secret he learned before leaving the force. There is a serial killer on-board and no one seems to know how to handle the situation. He believes that the killer is actually some sort of monster. With her knowledge of how the city works, Hana starts to help Barrens track the 'monster'. The results of all this added up to a good read. Although generational spaceships are not a novel science fiction concept, the world building here is exceptional. As is the character development. This was a self-contained novel but I would not be surprised if there is a sequel. In fact, I hope there is.

The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price
This had the most original premise of a science fiction story that I've read in years. A small group of people, who mostly don't know each other, are going about their lives in San Diego. One early morning, all the electricity fails. As each goes outside they begin to realize that this was no ordinary power outage. There are airplanes crashed around the city. Nothing works, not even battery-powered devices. And then sky begins to crush inward. The tops of tall buildings start to disintegrate. As whatever is happening gets close to them, a mysterious stranger appears to each of the group and clasps a silver bracelet on their wrists. The world gets crushed around them but they seem to be protected by a force field. They pass out. When they recover, they find themselves in a altered San Diego. They find each other, others find them, scientists who have been expecting them. They get studied. They learn about this new world, where machines exist which can manipulate time in weird ways (like a device that looks like a microwave oven which can make objects placed in it younger). Gradually they find that they themselves can manipulate time without the use of machines. They get caught up in a struggle between other people who have the same powers as they and the mysterious strangers who saved them. The author does a lot of time twisting here but manages to get a linear story out of it. Be aware that this is the first book of a series but I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Players retiring in 2014 (almost non-Jeter edition) Part 2

Besides Jeter, there were three other players who announced their retirement in 2014 that I didn't cover yesterday. I'm going to slip in one Jeter card.

Alfonso Soriano
1999 Topps Traded #65
2014 Bowman #120
Soriano started his career in Japan, playing for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. He didn't like it there and broke his contract to sign with the Yankees. The Carp threatened legal action against MLB but nothing came of it. Although Soriano has had problems during his career, both on-field and with management, he has had a very productive career. He hit 412 home runs, putting him at #50 on the all time homer list. His career batting average is .270 and he has stolen 289 bases. In 2006 he joined Jose Conseco, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez in the 40-40 club (40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season). He was a 6-time All-Star in his 15-year career and was the 2004 All-Star MVP. Back with the Yankees in 2014, he struggled at the plate as a DH and was released in July.

Mark Teahen
2007 Topps Turkey Red #181
2010 Topps Allen & Ginter #225
Teahen was the #1 draft pick of the A's in 2002 and made his ML debut in 2005 with the Royals. The earliest card of his I have scanned is the 2007 Turkey Red. His last major league game was on 9/28/11. He spent the next two years in the minor leagues and went unsigned by anyone in 2014. He announced his retirement in December 2014. He finished his 7-year career, mainly as an infielder, with a .264 average and 67 home runs.

Josh Willingham
2006 Fleer Tradition #99
2014 Topps Heritage #340
Willingham was the Marlins 17th round draft pick in 2000. He made his major league debut with the Marlins in 2004. He had appeared on cards before 2006 but this is the earliest card I have scanned. 2006 was his breakout year anyway, having appeared in only 26 games prior to that. Although he was primarily an outfielder during his career, for half of his games prior to 2006 he was a catcher, which I guess explains that 2006 Fleer Tradition card. He was a career .253 hitter with 195 home runs. He finished his career with the Royals and got to the plate 4 times in the 2014 playoffs, getting one hit and 2 strikeouts.

Derek Jeter
1993 Bowman #511
My best early Jeter card.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Players retiring in 2014 (non-Jeter edition) Part 1

Some notable players not named Derek Jeter announced their retirement in 2014. I found a list here. Here's an alphabetical list. I'm going to show a card from the player's first year and last year of cards (or as close as I can depending on what I have). Part 2 will be tomorrow.

Bobby Abreu
 1994 Upper Deck Minors #13

2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Framed Relics
Abreu had a long and successful career. He made his major league debut with the Astros on 9/1/96. I mostly know him as a Phillie, where he played from '98-'05. After that he spent some time with the Yankees, Angels, Dodgers and Mets. He sat out the 2013 season but tried to make a comeback in 2014. The Phillies signed him to a minor league contract in March and invited him to spring training but didn't make the cut. He later signed with the Mets and played 78 games for them. He got a hit during his last game on 9/28/14. He finished his 18-year career with 2,425 games, a .291 career batting average, 289 home runs and 400 stolen bases. He did not appear on any cards in 2013 but did appear in the 2014 Topps Update set as a Met, although I don't have that card.

Josh Beckett
1999 Fleer Tradition Update #122
 2013 Topps Heritage #120
Beckett made his Major League debut with the Marlins on 9/4/01. He won 20 games with the Red Sox in 2007 and was a 3-time All-Star. He was the MVP of the 2003 World Series with the Marlins. For his career he had a 138-106 record with an ERA of 3.88. His last two seasons were rough due to injuries. He had season ending surgery in 2013 for a condition that required the removal of a rib. After returning in 2014 he had a left hip impingement, which also required surgery in August ending the 2014 season for him. His last game was 8/3/14 and he announced his retirement on 10/7/14.

Ryan Dempster
2007 Upper Deck #287

2013 Topps #401
Dempster made his Major League debut with the Marlins on 5/23/98. I don't have any 1998 Dempster cards scanned but he spent the most years with the Cubs ('04-'11). He also spent some time with the Reds, the Rangers and finished his career with the Red Sox. He took off the 2014 season to be with his family (he has a daughter with a rare genetic disorder) and announced his retirement on 10/8/14. In December he announced he would be taking a Cubs front office position as an assistant to general manager Theo Epstein. Dempster had a record of 132-133 with a career ERA of 4.35. He also had 87 saves, all with the Cubs when he was their closer for a few years.

Paul Konerko
1994 Topps Traded #112
2014 Donruss #73
Konerko was the Dodger's #1 draft pick in 1994. He made his Major League debut with the Dodgers on 9/8/97. He spent 16 of his 18-year career with the White Sox. He appeared in 2,349 games with a career BA of .279 and hit 439 home runs. He won the World Series with the White Sox in 2005 and was a 6-time All-Star. In October, Konerko was a co-winner of the annual Roberto Clemente Award, sharing it with Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies. He is the first member of the White Sox to win the award.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

End-of-the-Year Sci-Fi Movie Reviews - "Age of Tomorrow"

I don't know if I can do another of these movies after watching this.  I have a hard time understanding how these kind of movies get made.

Here's the synopsis that Netflix gave for this movie "When the sun strikes an altar hidden within the ancient Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico, it creates a beacon that triggers an alien blitzkrieg". It didn't sound too promising, however, nothing in that synopsis, expect for the last two words actually happens in the movie. The only reason I can think of to name this movie "Age of Tomorrow" is the hope that people would confuse it with the Tom Cruise movie "Edge of Tomorrow". In fact if you image Goggle "Age of Tomorrow" most of the images are "Edge of Tomorrow". If you can fool Goggle, you can fool anybody.

The story started out looking like a high school reenactment of "Armageddon". That's right, another asteroid is heading for the earth and it's a 1/4 the size of the moon. And learning nothing from either "Armageddon" or "Asteroid vs. Earth", we're gonna try to blast it from the sky. The "best pilot" we have (Captain James Wheeler) who has "issues" is tapped to lead his band of "roughnecks" in a CG spaceship to the asteroid and plant explosives.  Coming along for the ride is the best expert we have on "interstellar geology" (Dr. Gordon - this film is so low budget, she doesn't get a first name), to direct the placing of the charges. The mission is put together by General Magowan who is played by Richard Picardo. You may recognize him as The Doctor from "Star Trek Voyager". It's the second movie in a row featuring a refugee from Star Fleet.

They crash land on the asteroid and with machine guns in hand, they go out to place the charges. The low budget doesn't extend as far as trying to reproduce a low gravity environment, nor does it explain why they needed machine guns (and it later turns out knives) on this mission. Well it's just as well they did. All of a sudden a swarm of spheres streams out of the rock toward earth. One takes a swipe at their ship leaving them stranded. Luckily (?) they find some sort of portal which takes them to the alien's home planet. It has lovely blue vegetation.

Back on earth, the alien machines, which look like miniature Death Stars, are causing havoc in Los Angeles. Fireman Chris Meher and is crew are trying to put out the resulting fires while dodging alien machines, when Chris gets a call from his 17-year-old daughter. Instead of being at home, she's gone into town and is trapped in an office building.  Meher and company run into an Army group which mostly gets wiped out by the aliens. Chris gets his men and Major Blake, the only surviving soldier, to help rescue his daughter. One of the fireman says to another "Rescue his daughter? That's a bad idea". The other says "Yeah, she isn't even that cute". They both get killed by an alien blast for those remarks.

Eventually we learn that the aliens, who by the way look like the aliens in "Preditor" but with shorter dreadlocks, are a dying race. They have only one queen left. For some reason they are not killing everyone on earth, some are being teleported to their planet. This is what happens to Chris' daughter just when he's found her.

The aliens are torturing the humans they send back or blowing them up in what look like futuristic telephone booths. They then may be feeding the remains to the queen. Captain James Wheeler's get killed in one gruesome manner or another. Wheeler manages to escape and finds the team's radio. He sends a rather disjointed message back to earth. Again no budget to account for the speed of light in this movie as the message is instantly received back on earth.  The good Captain gets one of the serrated blades the aliens have sprouting out of the backs of their hands through is chest for his trouble.

Back on earth, The Doctor, I mean General Macowan, completely understands Wheeler's message. They are planing the greatest assault ever launched by earth. First, a fleet of 6 CG space ships will be sent against the asteroid to blow it up and seal off the portal the aliens are using to get their ships to earth. At the same time, a crack team of heavily-armed soldiers will be sent through a portal created by an alien machine they captured to rescue the humans on the alien planet. This crack team consists of Major Blake armed with a hand gun and a flashlight, fireman Chris, armed with a giant axe, and 6 other soldiers with an odd assortment of automatic weapons and a bazooka. None of them is wearing a helmet. This assault doesn't exactly look like D-Day.

We've already seen that the aliens are pretty hard to kill. Bullets just bounce off. Captain Wheeler managed to kill one by sticking a knife in it's ear (or whatever it had on the side of its head).

It's a good thing that Chris had the axe because it was the only weapon effective against the aliens. While the rest of his team gets wiped out, usually without even firing their weapons, Chris mows those aliens down with his fireman's axe. He finally find his daughter but she gets a gut shot. He gets her outside, saying "Let's go home", even though there didn't seem to be any provisions to get back to earth.

Meanwhile, The Doctor gets the decisive shot against the asteroid and blows it to pieces, only to see that all the pieces are going to hit the earth.

Back on the alien plant, Chris puts his daughter down by a tree and sees he's surrounded by aliens. He starts to pick up his axe, but his daughter manages to croak out, "Dad, it's over". Chris grabs the axe and says something line "It ain't over yet" and leaps toward the nearest alien.

Roll credits. Seriously, that was the end of the movie. Perhaps they had some sort of sequel in mind.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

End-of-the-Year Sci Fi Movie Reviews - "Asteroid vs. Earth"

Tell me if you've heard of this plot before. A giant asteroid is going to strike the earth and wipe out mankind unless we can stop it first. Think movies like 1998's "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon". "Asteroid vs. Earth" is nothing like those other movies. "Asteroid vs. Earth" is genuinely terrible. So terrible that I'm sure I lost 10s of IQ points while watching it. It's on Netflix if you don't believe me.

The movie opens with a kid (19-years-old, maybe?) in the control room of a large telescope somewhere. He's got some awful music playing at ear shattering volume while he rolls around in an office chair monitoring the various computer screens. I never really caught this guy's name and didn't see anybody in the credits likely to be him, so I'm just going to call him "The Kid". We later learn that he's an intern genius who once built a working nuclear reactor in his garage.

Through the music he hears a strange beeping. He frantically starts typing on one of the keyboards the runs over to the eye piece of the telescope and sees an asteroid heading straight for us. He instantly figures out that it's going to hit the earth in 10 days and calls some woman up even though it's 3 in the morning. He tells her what he found, she says, OK, let me think about this, and we never hear from her again. Just the first of the many weird continuity problems in this movie.

The next think he knows, a squad of soldiers with NSA written on their caps storms the place and holds him a gunpoint.

Next, the craggy faced guy in the poster, General Masterson (Robert Davi) is taken from his home, which had just survived a "super cell storm", by helicopter to the telescope. He's in charge of launching nukes at the asteroid. The Kid tells him it won't work, that the asteroid is 1/4 the size of the moon and we'll never stop it. This is another continuity problem. Later he says that the asteroid is about 200 miles across (about 1/10 of the moon) and still later he says it's 34 miles across. He says that since we can't stop the asteroid we have to move the earth out of the way. His suggestion is to explode a nuke in the Yap Trench. This will cause massive earth quakes around the Pacific Rim pushing the earth out of the way.  The General, without consulting with anybody, like the Chief of Staff, or the President, or even the Speaker of the House, sets in motion a plan to do just that.

Here's where Tia Carrere (as Melissa Knox) comes in. She has a remote controlled submarine that can be modified to carry a nuke and driven into the trench. She's picked up by the military, stashed aboard a submarine (the USS Polk) and dispatched to the Trench.

The nuke that the general sent to the asteroid hits dead center but only manages to blow some rocks out toward earth and somehow make the larger asteroid speed up, which, of course, makes perfectly no sense.

When the Polk left it's base it offloaded some of it's warheads and leaves it's gunnery officer (Ray) in charge of them. Every scene with Ray in it seemed to be wrong. He's got the nukes (there seem to be four of them, with 4 marines and maybe another 30 people, in a warehouse somewhere. Then a volcano behind the building erupts, apparently because of the gravitational pull of the asteroid. Ejecta starts raining down on the building and Ray says they've got to get the nukes out. A fork truck picks up two of them and heads out of the building. Ray, and the four marines make it out of the building before it collapses. Ray checks with the marine sergeant who says all his men got out. Everybody else seems to have gotten killed but Ray is unconcerned. Then they open the two warheads and remove a heavy bullet shaped thing from them which goes into a foam-lined case. They pull one of these from each of the two warheads and end up with 6 cases. The marines load the cases into a couple of Suburbans and the four marines split into two groups. 3 of them get into one Suburban with Ray and the other 3 get into the other Suburban. I can't even go on with this.

Back to the Polk. One of the pieces of the asteroid lands on Hong Kong and makes quite a mess. The Chinese Navy scrambled before the impact and now a Chinese sub is firing at the Polk. They've got the mini-sub in the water and are guiding it into the trench but get hit a few times. The sub starts taking on water in the aft portion. And the captain gets electrocuted. I almost forgot about the Captain, he's played by Tim Russ from "Star Trek Voyager". His promotion from First Officer to Captain didn't work out well. The Polk's first officer (Commander Chase Steward), in order to save the boat, blows off the aft end and the rest floats to the surface. WTF.

I'm going to wrap this up. The mini-sub blows up in the Trench but it's not enough. So Chase calls up Ray on the radio and tells him he has to throw his nukes into a volcano, apparently not the same volcano he ran from. And he has 49 minutes to do it. And he does. And the earth moves.

Stay tuned for the squeal "Earth vs. the Sun".

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Good-Bye Jimmy Rollins

Every team has those players who define the team. Players who came up through the ranks and became a part of a team's mythology. For me, a Phillies fan, I'm talking about Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts and Del Ennis in the 50's, Richie Allen in the 60's, Mike Schmidt and Larry Bowa in the 70's and 80's, Scott Rolen in the 90's. And in the 2000's we have Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, and Ryan Howard. But baseball is a tough game. Players, no matter how good they are, get old. Their skills erode. Their skills and their team's needs don't match. And so Phillies phans say good buy to Jimmy Rollins.

I own 198 Jimmy Rollins cards and I'd like to share them all with you but I'm going to limit this post to my favorite card in each year he was a Phillie. I had to make some hard choices.

1998 Bowman #181
My first Rollins card. Jimmy was the Phillies #2 draft pick in 1996. In 1998 he played for the Phillies single A team in Clearwater Florida.

1999 Just #228
Jimmy played most of 1999 with Double A Reading, making the jump to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the last 4 games of the season.

2000 Fleer Tradition Update #93
Jimmy had a pretty good year at Triple A in 2000, hitting .274 with 12 HR, 28 doubles and 24 stolen bases. Good enough for a September call-up where he hit .321 in 53 at bats.

2001 Upper Deck #43
The Phillies had traded away their every day shortstop, Desi Relaford, to the Padres in 2000, so in spring training, the job was Jimmy's to win and he did. He led the league with 656 at bats, 12 triples and 46 stolen bases. He was an All-Star and the third runner up for Rookie of the Year, getting beat out for the award by some guy named Albert Pujols. The Phillies finished 86-76, in second place in the NL East.

2002 Fleer Hot Prospects #64
Jimmy once again led the league in at-bats (637) and triples (10). He also made the All-Star team again. The Phillies slipped a bit, finishing 80-81 and third place.

2003 Topps 205 #69
Jimmy had a bit of an off-season in 2003 although he hit for a higher average, .263. The Phillies finished 86-76 but still in 3rd place.

2004 Upper Deck Vintage #145
Jimmy hit .289, the third highest season average of his career and once again led the league in triples with 12. The Phillies once again finished in 2nd place with an 86-76 record.

2005 Bowman Heritage Mini #76
Jimmy hit .290 in 2005 and made the All-Star team. The Phillies finished 88-74, in 2nd place under new manager Charlie Manual. They were only 2 games out of 1st at the end of the season.

2006 Topps Allen & Ginter #204
Jimmy hit 25 home runs and lead the league in plate appearances with 758. Another good year for the Phillies finishing with an 85 and 77 record and again in second place. But in 2006, the Mets ran away with the division and the Phillies ended up 12 games back.

2007 Sweet Spot Sweet Swatch Memorabilia
Jimmy's MVP season. He hit for a .296 average, lead the league in plate appearances (778), at bats (716), runs (139), and triples (20). He was an All-Star and won the first of his four Gold Gloves. The Phillies finished 1st in the NL East with an 89-73 record but lost 3 straight to the Rockies in the NLDS.

2008 Upper Deck Timeline #159
Jimmy spent about a month on the DL in 2008, for the first time in his career, so his numbers were a bit down. He did manage to steal 47 bases, a career high, and win his second Gold Glove. The Phillies put it all together this year, going 92-72 and taking the division by 3 games over the Mets. The Phillies knocked off the Brewers (3-1) in the NLDS and Dodgers (his new team) 4-1 in the NLCS. They met the Devil Rays in the World Series, taking it 4 games to 1, bringing the World Series Championship back to Philadelphia for the first time since 1980.

2009 Upper Deck Goudey #281
Jimmy was back leading the league in plate appearances and at bats again, just like you want your lead off guy to do. The Phillies had another great season, finishing 93-69, 6 games ahead of the Marlins. They cruised past Rockies (3-1) in the NLDS and the Dodgers (4-1) in the NLDS but the Yankees would deny them a second-in-row World Series, 4-2.

2010 Topps Manufactured Hat Logo Patch
Jimmy spend 74 days on the DL in 2010 but he also hit is 150th home run during the season. The Phillies finished 97-65, 6 games ahead of the Braves and everyone expected them to go to their third World Series in as many years. But it wasn't to be as the Giants knocked them out of the playoffs (4-2) in the NLCS.

2011 Topps Heritage #284
Jimmy came back from his injury-riddled 2010 season with a decent year. The Phillies won their 5th division title in a row with a 102-60 season. But after such a great season, they lost to the Cardinals 3-2 in the NLDS.

2012 Topps Archives 1956 Relics
Jimmy's stats rebounded a bit this year, the last year of his current contract. At the end of the season he signed a 3-year contract worth $33MM with the Phillies. The Phillies glory days appeared to be over as they finished the season 81-81, in 3rd place, 17 games behind the first place Nationals.

2013 Bowman Blue Sapphire Chrome Series
Jimmy had a pretty average year offensively in 2013 while staying uninjured and playing good defense. The Phillies continued to deteriorate, however, finishing 73-89, their first sub-.500 season since 2002.

2014 Topps Team Sets #5
Jimmy's offensive performance slipped some more in 2014 but the Phillies slipped even further, with another 73-89 season under new manager Ryne Sandberg. They dropped to last place, a full 23 games behind the Nats.