Wednesday, August 31, 2016

TTM Success: Juan Gonzalez

TTMs have been slow for me lately. I know it takes a few weeks for mail to forward to a new address from a previous one, so hopefully that is the reason for the delay. Otherwise, it hasn't been a very successful TTM summer for me.

Anyhow, again I've got a non-Yankee success to show off. I'm actually surprised this guy was never a Yankee, as I know George Steinbrenner lusted after him on several occasions.

However, I've always been a fan of Juan Gonzalez because I remember watching a game with my older brother, and Juan Gone becoming mythical to me because of that.

It was probably 1992 or 1993, and I was a bit gullible. My brother - seven years older than me - once told me Michael Jordan never missed a shot. Well, I watched a game and saw him miss one, so I went around telling everyone at school "I saw Michael Jordan miss a shot." Idiot me.

Another time, we were watching a baseball game. I'm not even sure if it was Yankees/Rangers or some other team vs the Rangers. Juan Gonzalez came to the plate, and I hadn't heard of him. My brother, not being as mean as in the MJ instance, said "You gotta watch this guy. He hits a HR every at bat." Sure enough, Gonzalez went deep that very at bat.

Obviously he didn't hit a longball every time up, but I'll always remember him because of that story.
Mr. Gonzalez was nice enough to sign a few cards for me c/o his home in 24 days.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Kraken keeps smackin'

In December, Yankees GM Brian Cashman had a bit of a prophecy:

Unleash the Kraken.

Well, nine months later, the Kraken has most definitely been unleashed. Gary Sanchez continues to be the hottest hitter in baseball. He just hit his 10th HR and had his 20th RBI in his 20th MLB game.

I know he won't keep up this pace (duh), but man, it's fun. I'd think he'll end up with an AL Player of the Month Award for August, but we'll see.

Anyhow, here's a new Sanchez I surprisingly didn't have this 2011 Bowman Sterling, courtesy of San Jose Fuji:
I also just came across this, which I never added to my Sanchez PC list:
Sanchez cards are crazy high right now, so if you're looking to own a card of his, I'd certainly wait until the market starts to correct itself a little bit.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Topps NOW - you got me, at least for today

I’ve been sucked in.

I had no intentions of buying any Topps NOW cards this year. For the most part, I was probably bitter because the Yankees have been so boring this year (slash last four years) with a lack of truly likeable players. Don’t get me wrong, there are several guys on the team I like as a players, but not really enough to fork over $10 on one of their cards, especially one lacking some ink. And sure I like Brett Gardner, but ehh, not enough to plop over $10.

There would be exceptions, of course, like if Big Mike decided to throw a no-hitter (or how about allow no runs with 2 outs?) but the team has been so mediocre and that there just hasn’t been a lot of Topps NOW moments. Until now. Or until NOW, that is.

I can imagine Topps has been salivating over an exciting Yankees team to pair with their print-on-demand product, and they’ve finally got some iteration of that. While the Yankees are still mediocre and mid-pack, they are refreshingly more exciting than they were at this time last month. The youth movement has begun, and Topps NOW moments are seemingly happening every day.

Take this for example:
Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge hitting back-to-back HRs in their ML debuts in their first at bats for their first hits. Whew. Yes, that is a moment I want on a card.

I get it. Topps is capitalizing on Yankee fans with holes burning in their pockets, eager to be part of the season narrative this set offers. I also know Topps, based on what they’ve done over the past two weeks, is going to continue to roll out Gary Sanchez an Aaron Judge cards for moments not quite NOW-worthy in order to continue luring Yankee fans to spend. Every homer Gary Sanchez hits is going to have some sort of qualifier attached to it. Nine HRs in first 21 games. Then it’ll be 10 in first 25. Then it’ll be “Fastest to 11 HRs among mid-season call-ups” then it’ll be “Finishes runner up in AL Player of the Week” followed by “Sanchez throws out two more base stealers.”

But for now, I’ve been caught up in the youth movement, and I want to remember it, hence my two Topps NOW purchases. I know it’s very un-Yankee like to be excited by a team with a slim chance at the second wild card. A lot of people are saying “my, how times have changed.” "That's not what the Yankees stand for." I look at it differently. It has that feeling of 1993, 1994, 1995. When you could feel the Yankees were on the cusp of bigger things and of better results. That’s how it feels now. I’m not excited about trying to chase down the second wild card, although if that does happen, cool. I’m excited about what these last few months are going to be setting up – a young, exciting team that will make us forget the Lyle Overbays and Brian Roberts and Vernon Wells of the past few years. It signifies turning a corner with a young, likeable team…or at least that’s how I am choosing to look at it.

Not to mention, it's made watching the games a lot more enjoyable. You literally cannot miss a Gary Sanchez at bat right now. They are each drop-what-you-are-doing moments. It feels like when Yasiel Puig first came up. Every at bat of his was must see. Obviously, I hope the long-term results are better, but it's got that same level of excitement.

As for the cards themselves, I was actually a little surprised. Other people who have reviewed them set the bar very low, and I was expecting a very poor quality card. The cards actually exceeded the small expectations I had. I didn’t expect them to be so glossy either. I’d actually ask for a little less gloss. They are slippery as heck.

The soft toploader is frustrating, as others have mentioned, but that's clearly how it's going to be for free shipping. I bet if Topps offered a "add toploader for $.50" option, they'd have a lot of takers.

I do wish they were serially numbered, or at least had something to signify the print run, such as 1 of 1200 or something. Maybe next year as Topps gets better at this.

These are the last two I’ll buy directly from Topps, as I’ve already realized that you can immediately get them for a few bucks cheaper on eBay. All in all, not a bad effort, and hopefully the Yankees have some more truly Topps NOW moments in the last month of the season, such as “Mateo steals to home to clinch Wild Card spot” or “Frazier wines and dines Selter at Manhattan steakhouse.”

Thursday, August 25, 2016

SuperTraders #18: Johnny's Trading Spot

If there were a blogger nice guy award, I feel like one of the first nominees would be John from Johnny Trading Spot. I don’t think I’ve ever received a package from him that A.) wasn’t extremely thoughtful and B.) didn’t include something for my son, Joey.

John even goes out of his way sometimes to shoot me a note and ask what Joey is into these days. So when a flatrate box arrived, I knew my son and I would be in for a treat.

And a treat it was! I’m actually going to start with the cards John sent for Joey, because those really mean a lot.

First off, there were a bunch of packs of quite the random assortment of non-sports cards!
So far, Joey has opened a pack of fire engine cards, as well as a pack of Batman that included 20+ year old gum. I didn’t let him eat the gum as much as he whined about it. There were some crazy sets I had no idea even existed, ranging from Muppets to Dinosaurs to Bozo The Clowns. There were even a pack of Cinderella cards, which I gave to my two-year-old daughter.

The Batman cards came with a small 12-piece puzzle which Joey has assembled about 20 times since last night.

There were also a bunch of loose cards, by far highlights by these Sportflics-like Toy Story cards. I’ve mentioned before how much Joey likes “moving cards”, so combining that technology with one of his favorite movies? Big winner.
I remember this GI Joe set well from when I was kid. I had a ton of these. I even had the Croc Master action figure, which was a super tough find, as many of you toy collectors might know. Him and Big Boa were the toughest to find. Some guy probably made out like a bandit with my GI Joe collection for a cheap price at one of my mom’s garage sales.
John also included a bunch of NASCAR cards, mostly just featuring the car itself, as Joey is into cars and race cars, like many 4-year-olds.
Also, I had to include a card of Dick Trickle, because Dick Trickle.

But it wasn't just non-sports cards! There was a healthy dose of Hall of Famers.
As for me, there were a great batch of ‘90s cards.
This Bobby Meacham threw me off, but I believe it’s because it’s the Tiffany version.
Another Crosetti! Bloggers are on a roll sending me cards of Crow. I don’t think I’ve seen these with the “Major League Baseball 125th Anniversary” foil on the side. If I have, I’ve never noticed!

Here are a few more I liked quite a bit.
John, thanks so much for thinking of us. Hope you needed a few cards in the return package I sent!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Just turn it 90 degrees

Verizon has this content app called Go90. I recently learned the “90” in the name is associated with turning your phone 90-degrees so it acts as a more conventional video-viewing screen. I would have never guessed that from the name, but made sense once the logic was explained to me.

Anyhow, I was reminded of Go90 when these two cards arrived. It’s my first look at the 2016 Allen & Ginter, although if you told me in was 2013 or 2014 or 2015 I wouldn’t have argued. I’m at the point now where I can’t look at Ginter and automatically know which year it’s from.
I do like the teal/aqua color of Allen & Ginter. That was a nice touch.

What most threw me was that the mini that accompanied the base card – in this instance a black bordered version – was turned 90 degrees. Perhaps this is a common trend, but I don’t think I’ve noticed it before. Topps was able to show a bit more of the photo, as well as the background of the image. It also looks more like Luis Severino than Big Mike. Just a weird angle.

Anyhow, I thought it was an interesting route for Topps to take, and wonder if anyone else has thought something similar when comparing the base cards to the minis. I also know this product has been out for about six weeks and this topic likely has already been touched upon.

Monday, August 22, 2016

A wrinkly old rookie

It's been a long time since I picked up a beat up vintage card that I otherwise wouldn't be able to afford. However, when this 1955 Bowman Elston Howard RC popped up for basically no money,  I decided it would be cool to add the rookie card of a key Yankee from the '50s and '60s.

Howard gets overshadowed by guys like Mantle and Maris and Berra, but he was a hell of a player. It's easy to forget he was the 1963 AL MVP. He was also the first African American player on the Yankees. He won four World Series rings as a player, and two more as a coach. His life was cut far too short, as he passed away at age 51 in 1980.

I was surprised to see that he never got more than 21% of the Hall of Fame vote. His stats now don't look great, but there's no doubt he was one of the better players on a remarkable team, and played a demanding position, playing it well. Perhaps that isn't enough to make it to Cooperstown, but it was plenty for a spot in Monument Park in the Bronx. Maybe that's enough.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Finally invited to a Rave

You may find this hard to believe, but I'm not particularly cool.

In college, I did go to my fair share of house parties and the occasional frat party, but I never experienced a rave. I remember there being a few, whether it was at one of the aforementioned frat houses or somewhere off campus, but i just never felt very inclined to go.

When I got to NYC, I remember my good buddy going to one in Brooklyn, and he tried dragging me along. I didn't go though. It just never appealed to me.

Well, I finally found a rave I can get on board with:
Circa Rave parallels are some of the harder mid-90s cards to find. Circa, in general, was a whackadoo set, then throw in the Rave set, and it's even more out there. I do remember these going for big bucks back in the day, and I know nowadays the big stars like Griffey still go for a few hundred dollars on eBay when they pop up. Luckily for me, the minor stars have come down in prices quite a bit. Still, I feel fortunate to cross this one off my collecting bucket list. It was one of the more coveted Tinos on my want list.

Friday, August 19, 2016

My hobby box of Topps BUNT physical cards

I’ll start this by saying that I am not a fan of the Topps Bunt app or digital cards.

Many are, and that is fine. I know some people probably collect digital cards and not physical cards. Some collect physical and not digital. Others do both. Collectors are all different, and despite what stance you take, you do you. No need to bash one group versus the other. I have dabbled in the app, but ultimately have decided that it’s not for me. I’d rather spend money on tangible cards as opposed to in-app purchases, and am happy to share that I never did make a purchase in the app. Again, that’s just me.

When I saw Topps was putting out a physical Bunt product, I was intrigued. When I saw the price point, I was even more intrigued. It costs approximately $29.99 for a 36-pack hobby box. I actually got an eBay seller to take my best offer of $25 shipped, so for $5 more than a blaster, I figured it would be fun to open 36 packs of cards, despite the brand or what Topps Bunt represents. This is about having fun opening physical cards and not worrying about the tie in to the app. It’s completely possible to enjoy these and not worry about the cards in the digital space.

I also grew up at a time when I could buy Topps Bazooka, Upper Deck Collector’s Choice, Score, or NBA Hoops for under a buck a pack. This brought me back to that, as those were the cards I bought most as a kid. While Opening Day does hit that $1-per-pack threshold in current times, it’s also boring for me because it’s so similar to the Flagship. If it were a completely different design with different photos, I think I’d like Opening Day much, much more.
With that, here are a few thoughts.

The base design is nice. The card stock is very thin, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. I’d actually compare it to Archives, which for a cheaply priced product, is fine. The corners ding really easily, as butterfingers me dropped a couple on the floor and they instantly got dinged.
The set, as a whole, is basically 2011 Topps Lineage. It’s a 200 card set with retired players and legends, current stars, and rookies. Also, the back has a short write-up and no stats, a la Lineage.
I do like the design, for the most part. They almost don’t look as much like a digital card as the flagship does, if that makes sense. In some instances, a different team logo is used for retired vs current players.

As for the odds, I was pretty much chalk. I got what was expected. If you are looking for an auto, good luck. They fall at over 1:9000. Other inserts are around 1:7, 1:8, or 1:14. The Lightforce and Programs are pretty cool.
I got several Bunt loot cards, which I probably won’t do anything with. They fall 1:3, but I actually got 13 as opposed to 12. As I understand it, these can be redeemed for digital packs.
I did beat the odds with a Platinum Parallel, which fall 1:53 and are numbered to 99 just above the player's name.
A few more impressions:

  1. I am not cut out to bust boxes. I got tired opening packs.
  2. The checklist is solid, although I feel like it’s disproportionately loaded with Yankee, Cubs, Dodgers, and Red Sox. I’m sure that’s normal, but I really noticed it while opening 36 packs.
  3. I got a few dupes. I’m not sure if I got a complete set and don’t intend to check. Not a set collector, sorry.
Overall, a very fun break if you’re looking for an affordable product and a good bang for your buck. I’m sure a few of you will be receiving some of these in upcoming trade packages.