Sunday, February 14, 2016

Kobe's last All-Star Game

Tonight is the NBA All-Star game. Growing up, I collected basketball cards more than baseball cards. My birthday is right around the time new releases came out, plus Christmas is in the heart of hoops season, so I always got basketball cards as gifts.

More of my friends were NBA fans than baseball fans. My co-worker has 10 and 12-year-old boys, and it's the same for them. The NBA fan base has always skewed significantly younger than baseball (and all major sports, really), and that trend is certainly continuing today.

Anyhow, whether you like the NBA or not is not the purpose of the post. Instead, I just wanted to give a quick tribute to Kobe Bryant, playing in his last All-Star Game tonight. Kobe is one of the best players to have ever played the game, and while I can't say I was always his biggest fan, I certainly respected him as an incredible player. I saw in person twice - once at MSG, and once at the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston. Both times, he owned the stage. Have you ever been to a baseball game and refused to go get a beer when a certain player was due to come up to bat? Bonds or ARod or Pujols in their primes? Mike Trout or Bryce Harper now. That kind of thing. Kobe was like that. When he was on the floor, you don't step away or go to the bathroom. You watch and hope to catch a glimpse of greatness.

I don't have a ton of Kobe cards. He was getting big as as I was transitioning to really focusing on baseball cards. I am lucky enough to have his rookie card, pictured above, from Collector's Choice. While it's low-end, it's still a RC. Man, I loved Collector's Choice.

The NBA won't be the same without Kobe. Sure, there's still LeBron and Durant and Harden and Curry. But Kobe was a breed of his own, and he'll certainly be missed.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Random Listia Autos - Part 12



It’s been awhile. How about another installment of autos sent to me by a very generous Listia user? I purchased a few cards with credits, and he threw these in just for fun. If you’d like to take a look back at previous posts, knock yourself out:


Part 8
Part 9 
Part 10
Part 11


I always had a fascination with Juan Pierre, and always wanted the Yankees to acquire him. I was fascinated by his speed and lack of power. Keep in mind, this was a time when middle infielders were routinely hitting 40 HRs. Suspicious, eh? So seeing an outfielder hit 0 HRs, but still manage 200 hits? Very different. Pierre was a classic speed/contact guy. He led the NL in steals twice, and the AL once with the White Sox. I don’t remember him on the White Sox. In 14 years, he accounted for a 16.9 WAR. I was surprised to see this, given the bags he stole and the fact that he was a .295 lifetime hitter with over 2200 hits. That’s pretty damn good. I was also surprised to see he was never an All-Star. Regardless, he had a nice career, and won a ring with the 2004 Marlins (grrrr).
Cripes, this guy. Joe Girardi absolutely loved Sergio Mitre. I don’t know why. He never did anything to warrant the chances he was given in NY. Over an 8-year career, he had a record of 13-30 with a 5.21 ERA. For the Yanks, he went 2-6 with a 5.35 ERA in 111 innings over 3 year. I have no idea. He appeared in 43 games for NY, although it felt like at least 500 games to me. I also feel like he pitched every time I went to a game. I am notorious for going to games and seeing my team’s worst starting pitcher. For a
Ok, this is a pretty good one. An auto of a guy who hit 462 career HRs. That’s pretty awesome. Although, he did finish his career with a 16.9 WAR – same as Juan Pierre above! I can’t think of two more opposite players. Dunn was a masher who also walked and struck out a lot. I wish he found his way to NY at some point in his career to play some DH and tee off on the short porch. He was a 2-time All-Star, but sadly never appeared in a post-season game. Still, he is one of the best power hitters of the last 20 years, and was a given to hit 40 HRs per year. Crazy enough, he hit 40 on the dot for four straight years from 2005-08. Pretty cool.
Lee Smith was the first mega closer I remember. I know Goose and Rags and Eck were big in the 80s and early 90s, but I didn’t quite understand the closer role until the Yanks acquired Smith and I learned about it then. I’m not sure if he’s a HOFer…I know he has hovered around 45% in most votes. He’s got one year left on the ballot, so it looks very unlikely at this point. I don’t really have an opinion since I didn’t see him pitch a ton. I know he wasn’t on the level of Rivera or Hoffman, but he was certainly impressive for a long time. Still, he ended his career with 478 career saves, while leading the league in saves four times.
True story – I had to check and see if Darren Oliver was still pitching. He’s not, in case you were wondering. He did manage to pitch until he was 42. He was a starter for most of his early career, pitching for the offensive-heavy Texas Rangers in the mid-90s. He won some games, but his ERA was usually pretty high. It looked like he was done in baseball after not pitching in 2005, but he was born again as a lefty reliever for the Mets in 2006. He then pitched for eight more seasons. I’m impressed with guys can find a way to stick for a long time, and Oliver certainly did that.
Zim! What can I say about Don Zimmer? The man was a baseball junkie, involved in the game for over 60 years. I really only knew him as the Yankees bench coach, but he was far more than that for many different teams. He was a decent player for the Dodgers early in his career, which was an accomplishment in his own right after almost losing his life to a brain injury as the result of being hit in the head by a pitch in the minors. The dude was in a coma for 2 weeks and had brain surgery. That he then went on to play for 12 seasons and coach or manage for another 40+ is pretty freakin’ awesome. He was a very lovable character for the Yanks, from his army helmet after a foul ball to his famous run-in with Pedro Martinez.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Hoops and Yanks from Cards on Cards



My pal Kerry over at Cards on Cards is always looking out for me. Not only does he send great Yanks, but usually a stack of Knicks accompany his packages as well. I always appreciate that since the Knicks are my favorite basketball team. Plus, I don’t usually buy basketball cards, so I use Kerry’s packages as a way to get a glimpse of products over the last couple of years.

I’m not sure why I don’t buy basketball cards anymore. Growing up, I probably collected NBA more than MLB. I was much more into sports seasons then. Baseball cards during the summer, basketball during the winter. It’s just how it went. Maybe with baseball products pretty much year round now, that curbed my basketball buying? I’m still a big NBA fan, so it’s odd that when I got back into collecting, I just focused on baseball. I just don’t have a great reason.
Here’s an example of an NBA Hoops card from this year’s product. The design is ok. It probably would annoy most baseball collectors. Hoops was a low-end, affordable product when I was growing up. Packs were usually a buck or less, but I’m not sure if that’s still the case. I did get a box of them one year for my birthday, I believe it was for the 1995-96 release. Those ones came with a Block Party or Number Crunchers insert in every pack. Either way, I like this Melo card with LeBron guarding him. 

Here’s a Panini from 13-14. Look how big PANINI is with relation to the player name and team. This would cause blogger outrage if Topps did this for a baseball release.
There were also a few older Patrick Ewing cards, including this 1993-94 Upper Deck Skylights card. The Jordan from this set is still one of my favorite cards of all time. I like this Ewing since you can see part of the Twin Towers. I was 10 or 11 years old at this time, so to a kid, these looked super cool.
Moving on to baseball, my favorite card of the bunch that Kerry sent was Don Mattingly rookie patch manu-relic. It is the first of its kind for me. I had thought that the whole card within the card was this cloth-fabric, but it’s actually just the player image. The rest of the card is part of the cardboard design.
Speaking of cloth, here’s a pretty cool A-Rod from 2011 Lineage.
Here are some minis from 1986 Fleer. I admit that I didn’t know this set came in miniature form.
A couple sweet parallels. The Andrew Miller is low-numbered, and CC pink is very striking. Side note – I could not be more impressed with Andrew Miller’s tenure as a Yankee so far. He’s handled everything with complete class. Last year, he didn’t get into a back-and-forth about being the closer, a job he ultimately won and excelled in. This year, he battled not only constant trade rumors, but lost his closer role to Aroldis Chapman. I’m sure he didn’t love that, but he still said he just wants to win and will pitch wherever he is needed. He’s been great. He's an easy guy to root for, despite his Red Sox ties.

Lastly, some nice Topps Archives. I wish Archives wasn’t a yearly product. I am very confused as to which designs have been featured which years now.

Kerry, I owe you some cards. Or Cards. Or both. Thanks again!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

TTM Success: Brian Doyle

In just 9 days, former Yankees infielder Brian Doyle was kind enough to sign my card and return it.

Doyle played for the Yankees from 1978-1980, before finishing his career in Oakland. He hit just .161 in his big league career, with all of one HR. However, filling in for an injured Willie Randolph in the '78 World Series, Doyle found his stroke and hit .438 with 7 hits and 2 RBIs in the series. He had 10 hits and 0 RBIs all season! Didn't plan for that, did you, Dodgers?

Post-baseball, Doyle has been through a lot. Over 20 years ago, he fought and beat leukemia after a grim diagnosis. Then, just last year, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's. That he was still kind enough to take the time to answer a fan letter means a lot to me.

Thank you, Mr. Doyle. You will remain in my thoughts.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

TTM Success: Ian Clarkin

Yankees lefty Ian Clarkin signed two cards for me, and tossed in an extra of his own. Sadly, I am not certain when I sent this. You see, I lost all my TTM records from 2011-2015 on my previous work computer. Stupidly I had kept my spreadsheet there instead of a cloud or drive I could access, and when I left the company, I massively dropped the ball and forgot to bring a copy.

I was really bummed when I realized what I did. The spreadsheet had who I sent to, what I sent, where I sent to, the number of cards, success/failure, and any notes. It was a lot of info to lose. Total screw up on my part.

I've got a new spreadsheet going on Google Docs, so I'll always have it. There's nothing I can do about all the lost info, except ensure that I don't do it again moving forward.

Long story short, I'm not sure when I sent this Clarkin. I know that I definitely didn't include the Bowman All-American Classic, so I thank Ian for that. The Bowman Ice looks awesome signed as well!
I know Eric Jagielo was a great signer with the Yankees. He's with the Reds now, so maybe I'll try to complete the duo.
Thanks for the return. Mr. Clarkin! Best of luck this season.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

2016 Topps - one week later

On Saturday, I carved out a little bit of time to head to Target and finally snag some 2016 Topps Series One.

I was happy to see the cardboard aisle fully stocked when I got there. While still disorganized, I was able to find a ton of blasters, hanger boxes, jumbo packs, and individual packs.

As I was contemplating what to get, my wife called me and said that my daughter was throwing up everywhere and to hurry up and get home. Also, get more paper towels. I had intended on really weighing my options and making a calculated purchase. Instead, I was rushed into my purchase by a barfing toddler. Parenting!

I’ll also note that I had a $20 giftcard, which would cover my blaster. I then opted to get an additional 72-card hanger and a 36-card jumbo pack. It’s kind of silly to spend $20 on a blaster and get 101 cards, and for the same amount of money I could have gotten 144 cards had I bought two hanger boxes. However, in the past I’ve noticed bad collation with the hangers, and I didn’t want to risk too many duplicates. Plus, the big 72 card brick just isn’t very fun to open. I find it stressful. Topps chucks the inserts in the middle, and it’s just hard to take in all the base cards at once with such a thick stack. So in the spirit of wanting to open packs, a blaster it is.

I opened the 36-card jumbo pack first, then the hanger, then the blaster.

First card of the year? Blah.
I will use this chance to say that I really like the base design. They are different, and who knows if they’ll stick out like a sore thumb in the grand scheme of Topps designs, but I like the change. I have zero issues with these looking like TV graphics. TV graphic packages are often far more technologically advanced than print or digital graphics, so why not? Plus, TV plays a massive part of the game. Huge rights deals from Fox, ESPN, and local RSN’s are the reasons payroll and player salaries are soaring (not to mention owners' pockets). TV is good for the game. My cards can reflect that. Plus, it's just for a year. I'll be curious to see if Topps keeps expanding going in this direction, or if we'll see a more traditional design next year. Regardless, it's one year and not everyone is going to like it. That's life.

I don’t mind the cut-off team logo either. I know what the logo looks like. It’s on the back too. The smoke is a bit excessive, and the Instagram-like filters on some of the players make them feel a bit too cartoony. As for full-bleed photography and name presentation, I think it’s solid though. I like that the player name lacks foil as well.
I got several Yanks, which I was pleased with. I have a team set on the way, but nice to have a few dupes for TTM purposes. I am not a set collector so it won’t bother me beyond an observation, but those light gray card numbers on the back are bad. I’m curious if that was something that was missed during the design approval process, or simply not considered. Who knows? 
As for Topps Gold, I like them more than I thought I would. The player name is a little hard to read, but I actually like the design quite a bit. With that being said, I don’t understand the rainbow foil parallels. I know there is usually an additional parallel beyond the Gold, but these are just a bit boring to me. Also, those two Jayson Werth cards were literally back-to-back in a pack. That hurt.

Now for the inserts. Growing up, I loved inserts. It felt so special to get one, even when they came one per pack. Now, I don’t really care. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older or the insert craze has worn off, but I just find myself flipping past the insert with quite a bit of indifference. I remember buying Fleer Ultra basketball cards growing up, and when I’d pull a Jordan insert I’d be on cloud nine. Now I can pull a Trout insert and just not care. That's sad.

As for the individual sets:

Back to Back are fine. Good concept. The designs are ok. Very Pixels-esque. I saw one card where the guys didn't actually go back to back. Come on.
I really like the concept of Pressed Into Service. I would have liked to see the pitching line on the back, although usually it’s not pretty, but that's the fun. I guess making the players not look foolish is a priority for Topps, and I don’t blame them. I'm sure the Player's Association wouldn't appreciate that. On another note, it also just sort of seems like an Opening Day insert set, right?
MLD Debut. Ho hum. Looks very much like the First HR inserts from last year. There are obviously different colors based on the product you buy. I also noticed the foil printing is all over the place. You can see Babe's name is toward the bottom of the banner, while Cano's is floating toward the top.
Berger’s Best. Dumb. Tired of reprints and having to check the back of the card to see from which year.
Amazing Milestones. Amazingly boring. There's basically an iteration of this set every year, right? Babe hit 714 HRs. Got it.
Walk-off whatever it is…I don’t understand the design. It looks like a 2014 Update Power Players design a little bit.
First Pitch. No issues with this set. I like commemorating last season's first pitches and whatnot. I was surprised how much the gold foul logo stuck out. What a sweet old lady. I hope she reached the plate.
Wrigley set - cool. Not for me, but no issues. They look nice.
That brings me to Perspectives. Honestly, I was expecting more. Womp womp womp, I know. It feels like poor man’s Stadium Club with cheap graphics. I thought the player name and “Perspectives” word mark would be more intricately designed, but up close, I’m not impressed. I feel like it could have been done much better with a bit more time and effort.
Sticking with the TV-graphics theme, this really isn’t a new concept. Deadliest Catch promos have been doing this sort of effect for years. I can't say I've ever watched the show, I just remember the effects in the promos. I notice these sorts of things as a marketer.
 
To be fair, I do like the concept and appreciate Topps really issuing a different insert set that breaks the mold from their normal look and feel. I really do. I just felt like these were built up so much that perhaps I had an unreasonable expectation when I saw them in person. I applaud the concept though, and I'm glad that so many collectors have enjoyed it. Hopefully Topps notices and continues to take chances on new, exciting insert sets.

Lastly, the guaranteed manu-relic in my blaster was Bernie Williams! I was pretty pumped. Looking at the checklist, it’s probably the one I would have wanted most, so I felt good about pulling it. I've seen a ton of people pulling the Cespedes, so I was expecting that. I would be annoyed if it was my hit in a box, but when it’s the expected manu-hit in a blaster, I am fine with it and thrilled I got a Yankee.
So that's my story and I'm sticking to it. In short, I like the base and gold, appreciate the effort on Perspectives, and think the rest of the inserts are a bit lackluster. But I'll gladly be collecting the Yanks base and desperately trying to get one signed for my Topps Yankees Project.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

ITT Tek



My buddy Judson of My Cardboard Habit is always looking out for me. He recently busted some 2015 Topps Tek, and pulled two cards he thought I would enjoy. He sent them my way, and he was damn right. I do enjoy them.

The only Tek card I had up to this point was an Al Leiter auto I splurged on. I didn’t have any base or parallels.

The first card in the toploader was a base card. Just a little guy named Mr. October:
Very cool. But the next card. The next card was very unexpected!
That’s a Dellin Betances gold parallel numbered to just 35! I believe it’s a gold rainbow parallel. Whether or not is has other versions or backgrounds, I have no idea. What I do know is that it’s a very nice card. It’s definitely one of the nicest Dellin cards in my collection. Something about a clear cut acetate card plus gold just makes for a really classy card. Oh, and Dellin is really awesome too.

Judson, thanks my friend!