Saturday, September 18, 2021

Too Many Tinos

Just a short post today. It's been 10 days since I've done so, but I'm too busy to play with baseball cards and blogs right now. Pretty recurring theme. Maybe the end of the blog is near...

Some of my favorite DMs or emails are when a fellow collector comes across a Tino they think I don't have. This happened a few weeks back when Dennis of Too Many Verlanders was going through a big lot he bought on Facebook. Usually the answer is "thanks, but I have it." But in this case, Dennis indeed found one I didn't have!
There we go! Nice little 1997 Donruss Gold Press Proof. There's a little bit of a diecut to it too, which is easy to miss. I think 1997 Donruss holds up pretty well. It's not the best Donruss design, but far from the worst.

Dennis also flanked the card with two gems.
While I have tons of these, they are still so fun. What a great set.

Thanks for thinking of me, Dennis!

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Derek Jeter - The full Project 2020 rundown

After over a year of waiting, Derek Jeter will finally be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Sadly, I am traveling during this time and will probably miss most of the ceremony. I'm sure I'll catch the replay of his speech.

Jeter was a special player for me as a kid. I feel like we are up together. I was in the 6th grade when Jeter took over as the everyday shortstop on Opening Day of 1996.  I was in seventh grade when the Yankees won the World Series later that season. I was in ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade when they three-peated from 1998-2000. I was an annoying Luis Gonzalez single away from seeing the Yanks win the World Series every year I was in high school.

He wouldn't win another until 2009. By that time, I was a young professional living and working in NYC. College had come and gone, with Jeter still entrenched on the left side of the Yankees infield. I was at Game 6 of the 2009 World Series when the Yankees clinched the title. My date for the game was the woman who would soon become my wife.

Derek Jeter was the Yankees shortstop from the time I was in junior high through the time I was married with two kids. That's pretty insane, any way you look at it. So while it'll be trendy over these few days to knock him as being a overrated slap hitter or that he couldn't play defense, that's going to fall on deaf ears on this blog. It's rare to grow up with a player and have them being linked to nearly every baseball memory you have.

I have that with Jeter.

While he has always been a more secondary part of my collection compared to Tino Martinez, I have about 1,000 different Jeters, give or take. But in 2020, Jeter was the focus for me during Covid-fueled trading card boom.

Why?

Because I completed the Topps Project 2020 full run of Jeters.

It was expensive, but I don't regret it one bit. The funds were there. The retail cards weren't on the shelves. So this took the place of what I might have normally spent on cards. 

All together, they create quite the masterpiece:
Just look at those! Maybe by themselves they don't equate to much, but when viewed as a collection, it's an incredibly unique piece.

Over the last couple days, I went back and looked at these for the first time in months. They had been stored away, but it was fun to go back and enjoy them with Project 2020 a distant memory. And while Project 70 is doing it's best to beat artist renderings of cards into the ground, these will always hold a special place.

And do you know what? My tastes changed over time. Some I loved at the time, I found myself perhaps not feeling the same now. Some I barely remembered now really popped for some reason. So with that, here a few categories of the Project 2020 cards after I revisiting my collection:

Favorite card: Tyson Beck
This one was always one of my favorites, but I feel it holds up. There's a lot going on, but I like how the full piece comes together. The iconic Draft Pick text from the back of the card is there. Jeter's RC image is there on the right, although he's holding Lady Liberty's torch. The colors are vibrant, the card is busy, yet captures Jeter well with his smile and his swing.

Card that I like more now than before: Jacob Rochester
I don't know why, but I kept coming back to this one. I think the sea foam green is what has attracted me to the card. I don't know if it'll ever be my favorite, but when I saw it I definitely felt more attracted to the simplicity of the design than I had remembered.

Least Favorite: Keith Shore
Oof. Moving on.

Missed the mark the most: Oldmanalan
I shouldn't be THAT surprised by this, as this artist was often out to lunch on most of his cards. And while this was definitely not his worst card, I found it odd that he didn't use the image from Jeter's RC at all.

Most surprising: Don C
This was another polarizing card, but I liked it immediately and still do. It's obviously a homage to Seinfeld, where Jeter made an appearance on the show after the 1996 season. What was most surprising about it to me was how different it felt from Don C's other cards, which were a bit more artistic.

I could take a look at these again next year and feel completely different. Regardless, the full run is now a cornerstone of my entire card collection, and something I'm grateful I decided to follow through on.

Congratulations to Derek Jeter!

Monday, September 6, 2021

Fairfield Repacks change with the times

I've always like Fairfield repacks, more for their entertainment value than anything else. I would pick one up here and there from Walgreen's for $4.99. Would I get $5 worth of cards? Sometimes. Would I enjoy the way I spent my $5? Almost always.

You're never going to strike gold with these things. Once in a while someone on Twitter will claim they got a Bryce Harper RC or something, but I don't believe most of that. Those types of posts are fake and just for likes.

Still, I never really considered myself to be a sucker when I bought these. I knew what I was getting. A year or two ago, you'd get 100 cards, an unopened pack, a few hall of famers, and maybe a little bit of trade bait. 

Now? Not so much.

For the first time in months, I came across one of these on Saturday at Walgreen's. There were three total, but I bought just one. Very non-flipper of me, eh? The packaging has undergone a few changes over the last few years. The preview window of the hero card is gone. I always liked that. It would help me choose which to buy.
You know what else is gone? It doesn't say how many cards are in the box. It used to advertise 100 cards. Then sometime last year it dropped to 80. Now? No mention.

Hits have gone from 1:4 to 1:8 over the last few years. The hits were never very good anyhow, but still fun to snag a random auto or relic at those odds.

For years these were $4.99, but when I rang them up at the counter, they were $5.49. The $.49 isn't a big deal, but still, there's price increase of 10% off the bat.

When I opened the box, the first thing I noticed? A lot of free space! The boxes are still big enough for 100 cards, but nooope. Guess how many?
80? Nope. 75? No.

51 cards!

That is a drastic decrease. Over the past year or two, these have gone from 100 cards to 51. Something tells me it's supposed to be 50 and I ended up with a bonus card by accident.

That's an enormous drop, if you ask me.
When you get 51 cards, do you know what else you get? More junk. I know, I know. These have always had junk. But I would say, what, maybe 50% was junk wax, and the rest were maybe cards from the last few years, or some oddballs?

I only got two cards that I would call recent:
Now to be fair, I was surprised to see a card from 1957 pop out. That is different. Usually the oldest card would be something from the late 70s. That was a welcome surprise. No creases, either!
Outside of the three above, the other 48 cards were all junk wax. And there were ZERO oddballs.
The pack was 2021 Opening Day, which shows that this was packed very recently. While I'd rather have this than a pack of 1990 Donruss, it still doesn't really make up for the emptiness that the box provided.
So that's that. Again, I know these repacks are often fairly lackluster, but now this feels like it's on a completely new level of rip-off. If that's how all these are from now on, I won't be rolling the dice anymore with Fairfield repacks. I'll keep my $5, happily.

These are a lot more 2021 than they are 2019, and that's sad.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The future, but now

Although I was out in Colorado for MLB All-Star Festivities, I decided not to attend the Futures Game.

It wasn't for lack of interest. I just had better things to do in Denver that afternoon, including visiting one of my old college roommates.

One of the most surprising storylines of the game was that Jasson Dominguez was selected to the AL squad. At the time, he had less than 10 games to his credit, so it was definitely a leap.

Still, it's an exhibition game, and he's one of the game's top prospects. Maybe some guys deserved it more, but to me, if baseball has a chance to showcase young players who might be household names one day, they should do it. The game means nothing, so bring your big guns and show them off.

Dominguez hit a 100mph+ rocket for an out, but otherwise the game was uneventful for him. Still, it gave him a chance to be around other top prospects, many who are right on the doorstep of the majors. Hopefully he noticed how they prepared for the game, and took some notes. One note I hope he didn't take was letting the NL win. We all know that doesn't happen in the big boys game.
As expected, Topps put out a few cards to commemorate the game via Topps Now. Dominguez received one, so I headed to eBay and scooped it up for half the price that it goes for on Topps website. Dominguez cards are still rare enough to me that I don't mind spending a couple bucks for them here and there.

It's not first Bowman Chrome, but it's still pretty cool.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Flying up the rankings

Prospect rankings can often be inconsistent and arbitrary. Many in the Top 100 at any given time won't have an impact in the Major Leagues.

Still, wouldn't you rather your team have a few high-ranking prospects?

The Yankees haven't gotten a ton out of their most recent first round draft picks. Outside of Aaron Judge, many either didn't make it, were traded, or are still finding their way in the minors. There have been short bursts of success, but by and large their picks have underwhelmed over the past decade. That happens when you frequently pick in the late 20s and don't have access to top five talent.

In 2019, the Yankees selected a local product, high school short stop Anthony Volpe from Watchung, NJ. He was committed to Vanderbilt, but the Yanks signed him away. Many felt the pick was fine, maybe a slight reach, and perhaps not the most exciting prospect.

They were wrong.

In 2019, he played in a few games and his season was cut short by mono.

Then 2020 was a throwaway year for lower level minor leaguers.

But in 2021, the Yankees look like they may have struck gold with their 2019 first rounder. Volpe has been nothing short of amazing. In MLB Pipeline's most recent Top 100 mid-season rankings, Volpe comes in at number 15 overall. Even more impressive, he did this from not being ranked at the start of the season. That is a massive jump.

And for good reason.

Just 20 years old, he has played at A and A+ levels this year, hitting .302/.436/.609 with 21 HRs in 90 games. He has swiped 28 bases, and has walked about as much as he has K'd. He's doing all this at shortstop, while be a few years below the average age of his competition.

A lot can happen between A+ and AA and AAA. But for now, it appears the Yankees have something special brewing, and what a story it would be to see a local kid man SS for the Yankees. With all due respect to Andrew Velazquez, of course.

Volpe cards used to be fairly easy to pluck on TCDB, but now not so much. Still, I managed to get quite a few before he burst onto the scene.
Here's to hoping he continues to flourish and climb the rankings as one of the best prospects in baseball.

Friday, August 27, 2021

The first of...a couple?

Yesterday, I received my first Anthony Rizzo card that depicts him as a New York Yankee.

Rizzo is a likable player, and I'm glad the Yankees acquired him. It's been too long since they've had a good power bat from the left side who plays an above average 1B, as well.

The move was sweet because it was unexpected, but also quickly balanced the Yankees lineup with two power lefty bats, since Joey Gallo was also brought on board.

Rizzo quickly endured himself to Yankee fans with a big HR in in his first game, and went on a small tear with RBIs in his first six games with the new squad. While he's struggled a touch since then, plus had a bout with Covid-19, I'm not worried about him in the slightest and think he'll be a really important player down the stretch run. He's settled into the number 2 spot in the lineup.
I decided to buy the first Topps NOW card that depicted Rizzo in a Yankees uniform, since I'm not sure how many Yankee cards he'll get. He's a pending free agent (I hope the Yankees re-sign him), and usually trade deadline acquisitions don't make it into Update, which is pretty weird. I'd rather Update print a month later and include the deadline deals versus waiting until Series One.

There was a previous Topps NOW card that featured the "TRADED" mark, but Rizzo was still in a Cubs jersey. That's an overlooked benefit of Topps NOW - being able to acquire cards of guys in new uniforms and not having to wait months.

Sadly, I missed the first Joey Gallo Yankees card, but since he's under contract next year, I'm not too worried about it, and expect him to have 500 Yankee cards next year.


Saturday, August 14, 2021

All's Wells

I've been going through a busy time at work right.

It doesn't make me different or special. Many of us feel a bit overworked and tired. I'm glad to be working, when I know some aren't that fortunate over the past year and half.

But still, I've found myself to be getting worn out easier, a tad more irritable towards my staff, and wishing the days away. And despite entering our busy season in a couple weeks, I'm set to leave for a week-long beach vacation later today with my wife and kids.

It's coming at a good time, as I plan to recharge my batteries a bit. As parents can attest, a vacation with kids often is not a vacation at all, however, I'll do my best to settle down for a few days without much of an agenda.

So for now, all is well in my world.

And speaking of 'well', Yankees 2020 first rounder Austin Wells is off to a strong pro start, hitting .260/.388/.471 with 10 HRs between two levels of A ball. Wells was one of the better collegiate hitters in the 2020 draft, so it's not surprising to see him doing well, and have the power start to show up.
I only have a few cards of him, but this really pretty Bowman Sapphire recently arrived via a TCDB trade, if you're into that sort of thing. While we don't need Sapphire for every single product, it really does look nice and enhance nearly any card design.

Between Wells and 2019 first rounder Anthony Volpe, the Yankees have made what looks to be two really strong picks in a row. People will say it's the hype machine, but these two are very legitimate prospects who are fun to follow.

And with that, I'm off to go sit in traffic on the Garden State Parkway.