Friday, September 30, 2011

I have plans tonight

Plans to be at ALDS Game One, that is. The Yanks take on the Tigers at 8:37pm ET tonight. I was fortunate enough to score a few tickets from my boss. Sometimes, treating a Sox fan nicely has its benefits.

I altered the ticket a little in Microsoft Paint (like section # and ticket price) and didn't include the bar code. Hopefully I'm not doing anything illegally by showing it off.

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to the match-up...CC vs Verlander. While I do expect a pitchers duel, sometimes these great match-ups have a way of ending up as high scoring affairs. Who knows? I'm just excited that I get to be there and hopefully see the Yanks jump out to a 1-0 series lead.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cards from Night Owl

Out of my blaster of Lineage, I pulled a Matt Kemp shiny. The refractory looking one and not the ones that look like the 2011 Topps parallels. Cripes, I can't keep Platinum Diamond and Diamond Anniversary straight. Seriously, I have no idea which is which. Anyways, Night Owl claimed the card (and an Ike Davis mmmmmini) and sent me some Yanks for it, plus a few more as my prize in his Crack the Code contest.

My favorite card is a Jorge Posada 2010 Topps Chrome Refractor. I think I just really love refractors I'm coming to realize. I think my scanner (aka iPhone app) did a great job capturing the color spectrum. I’m sort of impressed.

Card photos like this are why I really miss Stadium Club.

A cool ARod Upper Deck Die Cut. Check out the close up…was this part supposed to be perforated? Maybe I can sell it on eBay as a 1/1 error card!

Two nice cards of Mr. 602 himself. I would LOVE to get this Masterpieces card signed. Maybe Mo will sign TTM c/o spring training again next year. The card is begging for a signature.

Two CC Sabathias, including a Bowman Platinum. Hmmm, I wonder what photo the A&G artist sketched his portrait from?

These two cards don’t really go together but I like them. I’m a big fan of Lineage, so the Teixeira was welcome. I actually didn’t have a Sandy Alomar Yankees card, so this was a nice pick up too.

Mr. Night Owl, I thank you.

Wow. Just wow.

I don't have a ton to say that hasn't already been said. What a night of baseball. My opinions are admittedly biased, so I won't throw them at you (at least not all of them, I do have a few below). You know I'll defend the Yanks and laugh at the Red Sox and take pleasure in their collapse, even though the Rays pitching is scarier in the playoffs than what the Sox would have run out there. I've been on the other end of an epic collapse, and it's nice to now have this in my back pocket.

I have found myself defending the Yankees all morning to the countless Sox fans I work with. In typical fashion, they are blaming the Yankees for not using every weapon possible to win last night's game. I will say that blowing a 7-run lead is never a good thing and nothing to be celebrated, but it wasn't the A squad out there at that time, and I'm fine with that. There was no need for it and they've earned the right to rest their players. A guy in my office said, "The Phillies had Lidge in against Atlanta, why wouldn't Rivera come in for the save?" To which I responded, "Mo pitched you really think the Yankees are going to throw 41-year-old Rivera four out of five days (assuming he is used Fri and Sat in the playoffs) in order to save a meaningless game? The Phillies don't play until Saturday, so Lidge has two days off." Reasonable argument to me, in which he responded, "you play to win the game" and I said "you play to win the World Series." The Yankee starters shelled David Price. What more do you want? The Yankees were also responsible for stranding Jacoby Ellsbury on third base with no outs, right? The Yanks wanted to give their guys a few ABs to stay sharp, which they did, and then they rewarded them with a half game on the bench. Not a bad way to spend #162.

I'm looking forward to the postseason. The Yankees rotation has glaring holes and I'm concerned with that. I love what Ivan Nova has done lately, but who knows how he'll react to his first post-season start. A gem or a shelling just wouldn't surprise me either way. CC has been far from lights out the past six weeks. Sweaty Freddy's stuff works well against bottom-feeders, but in the playoffs? Verlander is great, Fister was a terrific pick up, and their offense is on fire. The Tigers are a strong team, five game series are crapshoots, and it's going to be exciting.

I'll be at Game One in person. Go Yanks!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Let's Go O's!

That is all.

TTM Success: Glenallen Hill

Back in 2000, the Yankees made a few mid-season aquisitions. While David Justice was the biggest piece, and rightfully so (he was great in 2000), Glenallen Hill was a smaller move that paid huge dividends. He slugged 16 HRs and hit .333, and I swear he hit a homer in every game he played. It was impressive and he really helped solidify the bench and add some right handed pop.

Unfortunately, Hill was later named in the Mitchell Report. He has since landed on his feet as a coach with the Rockies. Hill signed these two cards for me that I sent way back on February 22 to spring training. The Subway Series card sot a tad smudged, but the Topps is perfect.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jesus Montero is a damn good hitter

Here are a few new Jesus Montero's I've managed to pick up recently. His cards are not cheap right now. It's a small sample size for sure, but Montero has been as advertised as a hitter in his short time in the big leagues. Consequently, the prices for his cards have gone way up since his arrival.

I'm relieved by his fast start, honestly. I was worried he'd press right off the bat, trying too hard to show that he belongs in the big leagues. He hasn't at all. His hitting approach is quite mature for only being 21. He is always thinking right center and adjusts accordingly. His power to the opposite field has already served him well at Yankee Stadium, and he's already started making adjustments to the breaking ball as pitchers start changing the way that attack him. Early on, it was pitch him outside, but then he showed power to the opposite field. They then tried to bust him inside and he took Jared Weaver deep and pulled a few balls hard to left. Then the idea was to throw him breaking balls. After a couple of rough ABs chasing breaking balls away, he has been hitting the cover off the ball the last few games.

His 65 ABs haven't just been against no ones, either. His first two HRs (in the same game) were off Jim Johnson, one of the best relievers in the AL. His third HR, a blast to left, was off of Weaver as aforementioned. He smoked a two run double to deep center vs. John Lester on Saturday. Again, a small sample size, but he hasn't been over matched at all against a couple of the AL's best and that's encouraging.

The knock on Montero is whether or not he can catch long term. Personally, I don't think so. Not only because of his size, but because he has a bat that should be in the line-up every day. However, I see no reason why he couldn't catch two games per year next year while DHing three times. I also think he'll learn to play 1B at some point, perhaps to spell Teixeira as he gets a little older. We're not close to that yet, however.

It's early to say, but having Montero in the bottom third of the line-up could pay dividends in the post-season. He'll also qualify for Rookie of the Year in 2012 and should certainly be considered a front runner for that award. I can see a .275 BA with 20+ HRs...not bad for someone who will be 22 years old.

Tino Tuesdays #7: 1994 Fleer Extra Bases

This card was recently sent to me from Kerry of Cards on Cards. He had the Mariners in a group break that included 1994 Fleer Extra Bases, and when the Tino was pulled I immediately started pestering him for it. It had been a card that escaped me for far too long, and Kerry was nice enough to send it to me along with the cards from his free Fleer group break.

I don't have a ton to say. This was an awkward concept that never really amounted to much. When I was younger, I had a bunch of the NBA Jame Session cards - the basketball sister set of Extra Bases. I remember liking the uniqueness of the set, but that's about it. You couldn't store them or protect them at all, really. The best think to do was take two penny sleeves and put one on each end of the card. I could never find the top loaders that fit these, and as a result i ended up putting six cards in nine pocket pages and leaving the top row empty.

The design doesn't do much for me. Pretty simple. I'm glad that there is no border so that the full card size can be taken advantage of.

What did you guys think of these cards back in the day?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Check out that rack...pack of Lineage

Along with a pack of Topps Stickers and Topps Chrome, I picked up a rack pack of Topps Lineage. I still love this set, despite this not being a very sexy pack. I might just buy the set instead of trying to collect it, but we'll see. I can probably get it for the price of two rack packs.

I was happy to get Ruth and Granderson. I really wish I had gotten a Duke Snider TTM auto before he passed away. I'll always regret that. Anyhow, I love the mixture of current and past stars.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A pack of Topps Chrome

I picked up my first pack of Topps Chrome last weekend as well. I think they are very nice cards, and as others have mentioned, the lack of curl is welcome.

Here is my one pack - everything is available. I love the Jay Bruce photo, and it looks even more awesome in Chrome. The Mauer is not a refractor, it's the regular Heritage Chrome version #'d to 1962. The Logan Morrison, despite the color of the scan, is PURPLE and is numbered to /499. Pretty cool to get two #'d cards in one pack, right?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A pack of stickers

Last weekend at Modell's I picked up a few loose packs of cards. I saw a box of 2011 Topps Stickers, as well as the sticker albums. While I didn't buy and album, I did in fact grab one pack of stickers just to check them out.

Here is what I got. I like these a lot, but won't be collecting them other than the Yanks, so if you need any of the below, please let me know.

Topps Hertiage Minors is out!

Topps has released it's Heritage Minors set, and the cards look awesome. I may be in the minority on this one, but to each their own. I admit that I don't quite understand the set, it's basically Topps Pro Debut in the Heritage design. Seems weird to have such a similar set. However, I am a huge nerd for Minor League cards and Minor League TTMs, so this set could be awesome for me.

If you pick up any of these cards and pull a Yankee, please let me know. Here is the team checklist:

4 - Manny Banuelos
5 - Dellin Bettances
29 - Jesus Montero
36 - Austin Romaine
39 - Gary Sanchez
67 - Andrew Brackman
124 - Angelo Gumbs
133 - Kyle Higashioka
135 - Alan Horne
170 - Adam Warren

Friday, September 23, 2011

Two Killer B's make their debut

The Yankees have three pitching prospects called "The Killer B's" - Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, and Manny Banuelos. Banuelos is the most highly regarded of the prospects, a little lefty who projects as a front of the rotation starter and is just 20 years old.

Brackman and Betances are interesting. They are both ginormous. Brackman stands at 6'11" and played basketball at NC State. Betance is short...just 6'8"...well, short compared to Brackman. Both throw hard and lack control. Brackman's future is in the bullpen, while Betances is likely to be a starter if he can consistently find command. It takes tall pitchers a while to learn to repeat their delivery, so I think there is hope that these guys can get their command issues under control.

It was crazy seeing such giants come into the game last night - Brackman pitch 1.1 innings and Betances just 2/3 of an inning. Brackman's emotions were a bit more in check, while Betances was all over the place. He actually walked four batters and hit one. Not the way he envisioned his debut for sure. I hope he gets in another game this season so he can enter the off season on a more positive note.

I don't own these cards, but I want them.

Birthday present to me from me

Today is my birthday. I’ll be headed to the Yankees-Red Sox game tonight to celebrate. As a little gift for myself, I bought this card as part of a large purchase on SportLots. It’s a 2008 Bowman Chrome Jesus Montero RC and I paid $5 for it. A month ago I probably could have gotten it cheaper, but it’s a card I wanted, and hey, it’s my birthday.

It’s been an interesting year for me. For one, I found out I’m about to become a first-time dad. That will happen in December. On a much less personal note, I also started the blog and got back into collecting in the last year, which has certainly been a lot of fun. I picked up painting again with my Derek Jeter painting, and currently I’m working on a Rivera.

Yeah, I’m getting older, but overall it was a good year and I’m looking forward to what’s in store this year.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The rest of my 1968 Topps Game Lot

I already showed you the Mickey Mantle 1968 Topps Game card. It was the headline card in a lot of 32 Topps Game cards that I won for $15.50 + $5.10 shipping. Most Mantles from this set cost at least this much to begin with, plus I get 31 other cards? Yes please. What a lucky find this was. I figured I was going to pay at least $25 without shipping for this lot, so I’m happy I won it for less and put a huge dent in my quest for the set.

This lot was full of Hall of Famers that I needed for this set. Here are a couple – Yaz and Kaline. I didn’t know Yaz was going to be included in this lot, as he wasn’t listed or pictured, so it was a nice surprise. I had just won a different lot with the Yaz card, so this will end up being a duplicate.

I already had this Killebrew thanks to The Diamond King, but the Mays is the real surprise. This Killebrew came in a top loader, and it wasn’t until I went to take it out and scan it did I even know that the Mays was behind it. What a great surprise! It looks like it had been taped before, as some of the text has been ripped off. I don’t care. I needed this card and it wasn’t even listed in the auction listing.

Two more Hall of Famers – Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente. The front of the Clemente is in outstanding condition.

Here is the back of the Clemente. I‘ve noticed a lot of off-centered card backs. It must be really rare to get a back that is perfectly centered.

Here are six more that I needed. The Tommy Davis had some cosmetic work done in ink, but it shouldn’t be too hard to eventually replace. I love the helmet that Fregosi is wearing.

Here are a few dupes. Anyone interested?

This was scribbled on a few card backs. Thanks, Billy.

More dupes! I already had these cards as well.

So for $21, I got all of the cards pictured here. I feel like I came away the big winner. What about you guys? How do you think I did here?

1968 Topps Game Mickey Mantle...yeah buddy!

So I'm still chasing down the 1968 Topps Game set and am getting pretty close, due largely in part because of a big lot that I recently picked up on eBay for around the price of a Blaster. I'll do an additional post on all the great cards and HOFers that came in this lot, but I wanted to show off this guy first and foremost. Not the greatest condition, but not horrible either. I love it. I still don't have what I consider a "real Mantle"...a regular old Topps base card...but I'm pretty damn happy with this.

More to come.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An evening with Steiner Sports

Last night, I had the opportunity to sit in on a speech by Brandon Steiner, Founder and CEO of Steiner Sports Memorabilia. You've probably come across some of the autographed baseballs, photos, and dirt that his company specializes in.

The speech was the Lubin House in NYC, which is a house that Syracuse owns and operates and offers these types of events to students and alum. Steiner graduated from Syracuse in 1981.

It’s the third or fourth time I’ve seen him speak. He’s very engaging and his stories and experiences resonate well with me. He has a great vision and eye for sports memorabilia and creating what’s next. I’ll highlight a few points that I found particularly interesting.

  1. Him and his team constantly have to decide how to make “just not enough" of a product. For example, they issued 3,000 commemorative bats for Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit. They sold out in a matter of hours. While it was tempting to produce and sell more, it was important for them to keep a demand and a scarcity. While not everyone would be able to buy one of these, they’ll remember it for next time and know that they have to act quickly for whatever the hot item is.
  2. He likes to refer to himself as the “guy who sells dirt.” He didn’t invent the idea of selling stadium dirt. He was actually at a Marlins game and they were selling it in the team shop in bottles. He was interested in the idea and started thinking of how to make it better and as part of a collectible, as opposed to just a generic bottle of it.
  3. The dirt also gave him something less expensive to sell during tough economic times. While many of items are expensive (he admits it), the stadium dirt is available in key chains, coasters and other small items. It helped boost his sales during tougher times.
  4. He got dirt from every stadium in baseball, and created a piece specially for Brian Cashman. The framed collectible had team logos with a small capsule of dirt underneath, and he sent a note with it that said, "Brian, you now have a little dirt on every team."
  5. He said one of the biggest deals he ever lost money on is Curt Schilling. He signed him following the 2004 World Series, figuring that he would be considered an icon in Boston the way Orr or Russell is. He said he still can’t believe that despite what Schilling did, he still isn’t overly liked in Boston. This made me happy.
  6. In any business, there are three key components – price, quality and service. He said it’s impossible to have all three, so he focuses on quality and service.
There was a lot more, but those are some of my key takeaways. They then did a random raffle drawing for a signed Jeter Sports Illustrated cover. I didn’t win.

TTM Success: Astros coach Bobby Meacham

Bobby Meacham is a player I've been meaning to write to forever, but just never did. He has always been a great signer, but for whatever reason I've just never sent to him. That changed a few weeks ago, as I sent him three cards in care of the Astros, where he now coaches. Just 13 days later, Mr. Meacham returned my three cards signed.

I have approximately 1 million Meacham cards, so I'm not quite sure why I chose these three to send. The '86 and '87 Topps were easy choices, and the Fleer was more of a random decision. I'm glad I did, it came out nicely.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tino Tuesdays #6: '97 Pacific Latinos of the Majors

Geez, did I really steal this concept six weeks ago? Time flies. I haven't developed much of a method here for choosing a card other than just flipping through my binder and grabbing any ol' Tino that pops out at me.

I have a few different Tinos from the Pacific insert set "Latinos of the Major Leagues." I always thought it was a bit of an odd set, but Pacific issued many Spanish and bilingual sets, so I guess it's not that odd at all, really. I think out of all of the Latinos of the Major Leagues card, this one is my favorite. It's a basic design...there is no design to it, actually. Pacific just made the player's name as big as possible and but a photo in front of it. The text is gold foiled and shiny. I do like the block letters and the font chosen. I believe different issues have more of a Latin feel - flags or country maps, while this one is just a card with a big old name.

One thing I would have liked is the set name on the front somewhere, even if it was small at the top above his name. You really don't know what set this card is from until you look on the back and the card is #'d LM-13.

Jesus Montero from Colbey

A week or so ago, Colbey from Cardboard Collections bought a Triple A card set and plucked the two Braves cards out. All the rest were up for trade, and I pounced on the Jesus Montero. I sent Colbey a few cards of the guys he collects in return.

It’s a cool card of feels very Minor League set-ish...and a card that is not nearly as common as his Tristar or Bowman or Topps Pro Debut cards. He’s had a solid start for the Yanks, and I’m currently very excited about owning more of his cards. I don’t really see myself becoming a super collector or anything, but I do like snatching up these early issues. I just treated myself to a Bowman Chrome RC of Jesus, and now I probably have about five or six cards of him overall.

Colbey, thanks for the trade!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Congrats to Mariano Rivera on save #602

Congrats to Mariano Rivera on his record-breaking 602nd save! It's really more of a formality and appropriate that the greatest relief pitcher of all-time holds the record. Even if he ended under Trevor Hoffman's 601, many would argue that his place is cemented at the top. Either way, there is no denying it now. One impressive thing about both Rivera and Hoffman is their longevity. Closers come and go. That is the norm. Some are lights out for a few years and fall off the face of the planet...guys like Eric Gagne and Byung-Hyun Kim. Others are great but aren't as durable - think Billy Wagner. Some transition to starter and others forget where the strike zone is (Mark Wohlers). For the majority of teams, it's an ever-rotating position of who is pitching best at the moment without any long-term stability. Since I was 12 years old, I knew who was closing for the Yanks, and I'll miss that next year if he decides to retire at the end of his contract.

I love the card above because it really showcases what Mariano does. He closes the game, once in a while gives a slight fist pump, but usually just puts his head down and walks toward the catcher to shake his hand. Who even shakes hands these days in baseball? He isn't a quirky reliever who pounds his glove and stomps around the mound. There are no K-Rod or Valverde ridiculous reactions after saving the game. He does his job, takes a shower, and goes home.

It's been a luxury I've taken for granted for too long, and I suspect I won't truly miss it until 2013 (if that's the year) when Rafael Soriano or someone else is closing out the game, and I feel like closers will come and go from year to year. Someone will be the next big thing and receive a huge contract, I'm sure. Some will pitch one year, maybe three if I'm lucky. But will I ever see the same closer for eight, nine or ten years? Someone I genuinely like? I'm not counting on it. I'm going to make sure I really appreciate this last year or so of Rivera.

Here are two more Mo relics that I own.

TTM Success: Yanks prospect Kevin Russo

I sent this request out back on February 22 to Spring Training, and I got it back this past Friday...just under seven months later! Russo appeared in a bunch of games in 2010 for the Yanks, mostly as a defensive replacement. He didn't find himself in the Bronx at all this year and spent his third straight season in AAA. I always liked him and wish he was able to stick, but at age 27 and with younger players with more upside around him, he may be destined for the minors again next year.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

1995 Signature Rookies Future Dynasty set

One of the small insert sets I still have from when I collected as a kid is a promo set called "Future Dynasty" by Signature Rookies. The set includes some of the hottest prospects at the time: Billy Ashley, Derek Jeter, Ruben Rivera, Antone Williamson and Ben Grieve. For the sake of this post, I'll spare everyone the Jeter info. You know what he has ended up doing. I'll take a look at the other four.

The cards themselves are ugly as hell. They look like some sort of weird colored camouflage. The airbrushing looks goofy, and the "1 of 30,000" along the card's side is laughable.

Billy Ashley-
Dodger fans, what are your thoughts on him? He was drafted in 1988 and put up HUGE minor league numbers at AAA when he was 23 and 24 years old. The 1994 season (age 24) was sort of weird because he hit .345 with 37 HRs and 105 RBIs, a year after he hit 26 HRs and had 100 RBIs at the same level. Seems he would have graduated, but he didn't get much more than a cup of coffee in '93 or '94, even after appearing in 29 big league games in 1992. It seems that while he put up big numbers, he wasn't ever considered much of an option at the big league level.

Was he hyped up and a disappointment? Or was it obvious he wasn't going to make it, hence wasting away in the minors?

Ben Grieve-
I had high hopes for this guy. I remember when the big time prospects were Grieve, Jose Cruz Jr and Travis Lee. He started well, winning AL Rookie of the Year in 1998 by hitting .288/.386/.456 with 18 HRs. Pretty good. The next two years he hit 28 and 27 HRs, respectively, but after that found himself in Tampa and eventually was nothing more than a journeyman. His last game was in 2005 with the Cubs.

Antone Williamson-
He was the Brewers' fourth overall pick in 1994 out of ASU and reached the majors in 2007, his only season as a big leaguer. He never really tore it up at any level, and remained in the Brewers' organization until 1999.

Ruben Rivera-
He was the next Mickey Mantle. The next great Yankees CFer. He put up promising minor league numbers and was ok in his first few callups. After the 1996 season, he was a key piece in the Hideki Irabu trade with the Padres. His best year came in 1999 when he hit 23 HRs...all while batting a lofty .195. The Yanks brought him to spring training in 2002 as a chance to make the team as a back-up outfielder. He promptly stole Derek Jeter's bat and glove and sold them to a sports memorabilia dealer. He was kicked off the team.

Interestingly enough, he is still playing in Mexico for Campeche and his numbers are ridiculous. This past year at age 37 he hit .322 with 31 HRs.

This set really acts as a reminder that no matter how hyped the prospect is, you just can never guarantee success in Majors.