Monday, December 31, 2018

Ending 2018 with a very 2018 repack

I have so many fun things to show off on my blog - great blogger mailings, my awesome online marketplace find, and a gift from one of my favorite pro players. And I'll get to those soon!

Instead, I bought one last Walgreen's Fairfield repack yesterday. As noted, we had been traveling for a week. So I stepped out to Walgreen's for milk, and decided to treat myself to a repack. When I checked out the toy aisle, there were four baseball repacks, but one stood out:
New packaging! To most of us, usually these are a dark green, like this one:
Figuring these have new packaging and thus, possibly more recent cards, I took a chance. I was right. This was full of some interesting 2018 cards.

Most of the 2018s were from Bowman, including a Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw. The Harper is 2016 Topps, of course.
There was also some 2018 Finest.
I was most pleased with the amount of 2018 rookie cards, including a sweet Miguel Andujar I didn't have, and a few other decent prospects.
There were also a lot of prospect cards from 2017, including Mickey Moniak and Tanner Houck.
The Young and Lee are from 2018.

There were even some 2018 Topps team set cards!
Of course, what is a repack without Barry Bonds?
Some of my more recent repacks had some newer Topps packs, but we're back to junk wax here with a pack of 1992 Donruss. No, I didn't pull a Ripken auto.
While I didn't get a 1:4 hit, hard to complain about this repack. The new Andujar RC almost makes it worth it on it's own, plus it had a lot of star power with Harper, Trout, Kershaw, and some top tier prospects.

Not a bad way to end 2018! Happy New Year to you all. If you're going out, have a fun and safe evening!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Secret Santa pays me a visit

I've been traveling since December 23rd, and won't be home until December 30th. I usually schedule a few blog posts during this time, yet this year, December got away from me. I figured I'd have lots of time to blog from my various family destinations, such as after the kids went to bed and all was quiet. Ha! That's not how it works out. I should know better.

But I didn't want to get too far past Christmas without showing my Secret Santa package, which came from none other than Tim over at I Love The Smell Of Cardboard In The Morning. I've traded with Tim here and there, so we're certainly familiar with one another.

Tim sent me a great package that was really catered to what I like. He even had my Tino Martinez "have list" on his phone when he went to a card show. That's dedication!
This one is definitely the most unique. While it might like a regular 2001 Topps, there is a portion of it that is embossed.
It's still hard to see, but the embossed surface shows that it's a Topps Employee Issue. Very cool! Hope Sooz doesn't mind me owning this.
Next up, a silver signature parallel from 2000 Upper Deck MVP. It's nice to see Tino's name scrawled across this one.
When I saw this card, I originally thought it might be a dupe, but turns our it's the unordered refractor version of 1998 Topps Mystery Finest. This set was pretty confusing with the bordered and unbordered cards.
Tim also sent some cool Yankees, including this 1996 World Series card /500. I'll always love the 1996 World Series.

There were a lot of current Yanks as well, many from the Walmart holiday boxes. I was thrilled to get this Miguel Andujar rookie.
And I think this alone doubled my Clint Frazier collection!

Tim, thanks so much for the thought and effort you put into this. It's much appreciated!

And a BIG THANKS to Jon at Penny Sleeves for organizing this year's program!

Friday, December 21, 2018

To cut or not to cut?

Blog reader Alex is a big fan of minor league cards, and from time to time reaches out to me via email with some excellent minor league card info. He is super knowledgeable about them and informs me of some cool Tino releases I may have missed.

He recently dropped me a line about an issue of Baseball Card Magazine with an uncut Tino Martinez minor league card in it, and graciously sent it along to me.

It got me thinking, that a guy like Tino would be a hot commodity as a prospect in 2018. He put up huge numbers in his minor league career, and was part of a young core the Mariners were brewing with Griffey, Buhner, Edgar, and Vizquel. I wouldn't have known at the time, but he was ranked by Baseball America as the #40 prospect prior to the 1990 season, and #18 prior to 1991.

Anyhow, I'm now left with a bit of conundrum. Do I cut the Tino, or leave it intact? A few have suggested an exact-o knife and then a paper cutter. Hmmm.

Regardless, it's very cool, and is one reason I preferred Tuff Stuff over Beckett as a kid...because a magazine about cards CAME with cards.

Baseball Card Magazine was a bit before my time. I didn't start reading card magazines until around 1994, so I really don't have much affinity for it simply because it wasn't required monthly reading for me. I'm sure I had an issue of it here and there, as I still have a 1988 with Gary Carter on it. But I don't have any recollection on how I got it.

It was amusing to flip through the pages and look at some of the old card values. In this particular issue, I found it to have far less interesting content and articles than a mid-90s Beckett would have. Right or wrong, it felt like it existed more for the classified ads versus card info. The classifieds were insane, listing cards individually from current releases. 1989 Topps Benito Santiago for $.12! I would have hated to buy cards like this via mail or 1-800 number. I'm sure it worked for many of the businesses, but oy. We're in a much better place now.

As someone who works in marketing, what I enjoyed most about this issue (other than Tino!), were the card company's print ads. Look at these!
I think it's safe to say that in retrospect, Collect-a-Books was not the dawn of a new era of collecting.
Reggie Jackson sitting on a sports car showing some Upper Decks? Weird. But awesome. I love Upper Deck's tagline here - "Nobody does baseball like Upper Deck." Probably pretty accurate after their 1989 release. Get 'em before Reggie does!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Kin Claus delivers

Last week, I got a surprise package from Kin over at I Feel Like a Collector Again slash Bean's Ballcard Blog.

At first, I thought he might of been my Secret Santa. But nope! He just is a very generous dude who sent out a bunch of holiday packages. What a guy!

The card that popped the most were a few inserts from the '90s. I showed a picture of these on Twitter with a message about how I missed cards from the '90s. It was one of best performing Tweets ever, which isn't say much. But I always enjoy when others appreciate my love for '90s inserts. It's a generational thing.
The Paul O'Neill acetate film strip is extra cool!

Speaking of O'Neill, I was pumped to get this relic. Framed relics always look cool.
There was a whole bunch of Stadium Club from this past year that I needed.
And I didn't realize it until I scanned it, but this Aaron Judge is a SP! Woohoo!
There were some very shiny Tinos too, including a Mystery Finest with Gary Sheffield on the back. Very cool card, and would have been an exciting pull at the time.
One thing I found enjoyable was to flip over the backs of these two cards and check out the nice, clean stats. I don't ever appreciate the stats of guys like Gehrig and DiMaggio enough. They were absolute beasts.
There were a whole bunch more goodies too. Thanks, Kin!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Cornering the market

It's weird being really the only market when it comes to collecting certain players. Now, I don't have complete proof of this, but I believe I'm the only person actively chasing Ty Hensley cards.

Even with my Tino Martinez collection, I face competition from Yankees fans, especially for some of his rarer cards and autographs. I still manage to snag most of the ones I want, but it's not easier.

Then you've got the super collectors with collections centered entirely around popular players. I can't imagine how hard it is for Junior Junkie or Collecting Cutch, as both must face a lot of competition for rare cards of Griffey and McCutchen, respectively. Although I have to say, I can't imagine anyone beats those two for key cards of that particular player.

I'd assume P-Town Tom (Vogelmonster) and Zippy Zappy (Torrens) can relate as to being the only market for a certain player. While it's great to not be in a major competition for cards, it can also be frustrating.

For me, Ty Hensley carries the label of "YANKEES FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICK." And that's true. He was. In 2012. Yet many of his cards still carry a premium price because of the interlocking NY, despite Ty's struggle to succeed in pro ball. It's annoying seeing cards I need that are either overpriced, or the seller isn't willing to negotiate. I just want to be like, "dude, if I'm not buying this card, no one is."

Luckily, anytime there is an auction with a minimum bid for a card I need, I usually end up with that card, and usually at the lowest price. So when this autograph numbered to /10 popped up with a $.99 bid, I was all over it.
And won it for $.99. The problem I now face is really the fact that shipping usually outweighs the card cost, but at this point, I don't have a ton of choices if I want to keep building this collection.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

TTM Success: Chad Green

I haven't sent out a TTM request since mid-September. I do have a stack of cards set aside to send at some point, but I just don't have a ton of motivation for sending right now. It happens.

During these lulls, I always find it surprising to come home to a SASE. But I guess that's the fun of having over 100 outstanding requests. You never know when one is going to make its way home.

In this instance, I was thrilled to find a 2018 Topps Series 2 autograph of Chad Green. I just inserted CC Sabathia into my Topps Yankees Project for 2018, although Green is tempting. I think I'll stick with CC, but I am really happy to get this back.
Green has been an awesome reliever for the Yanks the last two years. He came to NY (along with Luis Cessa) from the Tigers in exchange for Justin Wilson. He was shifted to the 'pen full time in '17, and his numbers the last two years have been terrific:

2017: 5-0, 69 IP, 103K 17 BB, 0.739 WHIP, 1.83 ERA, 248 ERA+, 2.7 WAR
2018: 8-3, 75.2 IP, 94K, 15 BB, 1.044 WHIP, 2.50 ERA, 175 ERA+, 2.3 WAR

Two years of a 5 WAR pitcher for Justin Wilson? Yes please.

This card was sent on 9/13 and returned 12/14, so as very nice 3 month turnaround time here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My card of the year

The last two years, I've done with a Topps NOW card as my card of the year in P-Town Tom's excellent yearly contest.

In 2016, it was the debut duo of Tyler Austin (now a Twin), and Aaron Judge.
In 2017, it was the Rookie of the Year celebration for Aaron Judge.
In 2018, I'm changing it up a little. I had a weird relationship with cards in 2018. I didn't buy as many. I was, and still am, unenthusiastic about many of the releases and the lack of creativity on inserts, and sets in general. My best pickups weren't even from 2018, such as my Ty Hensley Superfractor to complete my 2013 Bowman Draft Rainbow.

I've been harping a little on it on Twitter, but during my card sorting process recently, it's so hard to look at inserts of the '90s and early '00s versus some of the current releases. They are an afterthought; often a way just to shove more legends in a set and celebrate things like first hit or first home run. Which is all well and good, but the insert sets over the last few years have all blended together into a forgettable mass. Even the ones that stray a little and have some design element to them feel lackluster, such as 'Legends in the Making' or 'Don't Blink' from 2018. I think part of it is a lack of texture or interesting printing techniques.

Aside from the ramble above, cards were hard to find in 2018! I went to Target a bunch of times in search for newer releases, and my Target was usually pretty empty. Sure, there is a little thing called the internet, but the day I order a blaster online will be a first.

Regardless, I did have a favorite insert set this year. It dawned on me that in a few different posts, I consistently said that I thought the 1983 Topps Chrome Refractors were the nicest cards this year. Because while most inserts may stink, especially ones that continue to beat old sets into our brains, Refractors are the same awesomeness in 2018 as they were 25 years ago when they first debuted.

Side note - how was there not an 'Ode to Refractors' insert set on their 25th Anniversary??? (1993-2018)

So with that, my card of the year is this Giancarlo Stanton 1983 Topps Chrome Refractor:
Why Stanton? Well, I think 2018 will always be remembered by me for his debut season with the Yankees. It was right at this time last year when ninja Brian Cashman made the move to obtain Stanton. I remember watching coverage late into the night, hardly believing it was a reality. It definitely defined the 2017 offseason and 2018 season for me. Giancarlo was a Yankee.

He had a fine year, with 38 homers and 100 RBIs. He was a good teammate and I think he enjoyed being in a winning environment after his years in Miami. Sure, it wasn't his 59-homer MVP season from 2017, but it was a good year. And part of me thinks his year 2 will be even bigger, just like Alex Rodriguez's second year in New York.

1983 is also the year I was born, so we've got the whole birth-year set going for me. I've never really had an attachment to 1983 Topps, but still, just an added element to this card.

So there you have it, my personal nominee for my card of the year.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Celebrating Tino's birthday with an Xplosive new card

Today, Tino Martinez turns 51.

I think last year I felt a bit weird knowing my baseball hero was turning 50, and I remember him when he was in his late 20s and early 30s, cranking high fast balls over the right field wall at Old Yankee Stadium.

There's not much special about 51 (other than being Bernie's #!), but hopefully Tino continues to enjoy his 50s and then I feel extra old in 9 years when he turns 60.
As luck would have it, a new Tino arrived in the mail yesterday. I had known this existed and wanted it for a while, but never quite pulled the trigger. Finally I saw one in my saved search for the right price, and not wanting it to escape me again,  I made the purchase.

This card is 199 Skybox Molten Metal. Specifically, it's an Explosion parallel, and is actually a metal card with rounded die cut edges. The best I can compare it to is that it feels similar to a printing plate. These Xplosion cards fell at a rate of 1:2, so while not rare, it's not always the easiest set to find for player collectors.

I don't think this metal card will replace 1999 Topps Stars N Steel as my favorite metal-based set of all time, although this has a bit of a cleaner look and feels a little sturdier.

Regardless, it's a great card to show off of Tino on his birthday, and puts me at 856 unique Tinos.

Happy Birthday, #24!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

An ugly card of meh player

The last few weeks, I've been trying to go through a few monster boxes of Yankees in an effort to divide the cards by a few notable players. I've also been setting aside dupes in hopes of selling a Yankees lot on the online marketplaces before Christmas.

This exercise has led me to see a lot of cards. A lot of ugly cards. But one sticks out, so much so that I'm pretty sure I have refused to even keep one copy of it.

Here it is:
This card is ugly on so many levels. I'll start with the player. I don't think there is a more disliked Yankee than Jacoby Ellsbury. Now, I don't blame him one bit for taking the Yankees contract offer. It was a bad deal and they likely blew everyone out of the water for his services. We'd all take 7 years, $153 million. Seriously, can't fault the dude for that.

He never made himself endearing to the fanbase the way former Boston players did, including Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, and Johnny Damon. He just never really connected with the fans or did anything on the field to make you forget his past life.

He really had one good year in Boston. Many acknowledged at the time of the deal that he likely wouldn't stay healthy. And by and large, that has been true. Games played during the contract: 149, 111, 148, 112, 0. Two out of five seasons over 140 games. Two years left to go on the deal, and a crowded outfield. Hopefully, for the sake of both player and organization, the Yankees can find a way to send him elsewhere, maybe taking on a bad contract in return, preferably one that can eat some innings.

Aside from the player, the card is u-g-l-y.

First, the design. This was Panini's first foray into the Donruss baseball brand, and the base set is brutally unattractive. The borders are tragically massive, cutting off much of the player's photo.

The font in which the city name is written feels out of place. Not quite script. Not quite italics.

And the logos. Now we all know Panini can't use team logos. It's what has prohibited some decent looking sets from really gaining traction with collectors. But in this instance, Ellsbury is seen still wearing red from his Red Sox days (understandable, but come on), with his name scrawled across the back of his jersey. If you're going to try and Yankeefy him a little bit, at least remove the name during the airbrushing process.

This card is ugly. The player has no role on a team that has no room for him. He rarely stays on the field, and when he does, he doesn't show the game-changing skills he possessed earlier in his career.

And for those reasons, this might just be the ugliest card I own.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

CC returns home (to my mailbox)

CC Sabathia is returning home to the Yankees, as he signed a one-year deal a few weeks ago. It'll be his 11th season with the Yankees and the 19th overall of his borderline Hall Of Fame career.  He said that 2019 will be it. With four more wins, he'll get to 250 for his career. With 16 Ks, he'll eclipse 3,000 strikeouts. He's got a World Series and a Cy Young Award to his name, as well as six All-Star appearances. He's got another 10 Ws in the post-season.

Yes, he should get some serious consideration in a few years when his name is on the ballot.

He's already a HOFer in my book because for the second time in three years, he returned a card signed to me that I sent him.

I saw a few successes popping up on Twitter, some from spring training 2017. I was hoping that would mean mine was on its way back, and luckily, today brought one little SASE.

When I cracked it open, this card was staring back at me:
Looks beautiful, doesn't it?

CC has been a great TTM signer, scrawling his name on cards for over two decades. Hopefully the HOF voters are the ones checking his name off the ballot six years from now.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Update should be released a little later in the year

In 2018, Topps Update was released on October 22.

I always enjoy update because of the checklist. I'm not talking about half the set being All-Star or HR Derby cards. Those are overdone.

I'm talking about cards of rookies, free agents, and late-season acquisitions.

For the most part, Topps does a really good job of getting players traded at the non-waiver trade deadline into update. I was very happy to see guys like Zack Britton and JA App make their Yankee card debuts.

However, over the last few seasons, we're seeing more and more meaningful acquisitions happening in late August around bigger names. In 2018, Andrew McCutchen, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Curtis Granderson were among the names traded prior to September 1. In 2017, Justin Verlander and Justin Upton were moved during this time.

I know Topps has checklist and production deadlines, but when cards like the one below make an appearance as an SP, it makes me wish they'd push those deadlines back a few weeks to get a full scope of the players who were traded, rather than waiting until 2019 Series One, when a lot of those players are likely on a new team.
If the set came out around Thanksgiving time or so, it'd be much more representative. I know then one could say - why not push it further and get in World Series highlights or post-season awards? All fair. But I think that pushing deadlines through August acquisitions versus pushing through the World Series and postseason awards sounds a bit more manageable, and would make for a few happier collectors, me included.

I get that it's easier than ever now to get these acquisition cards with the emergence of Topps NOW, but I'd still love Update to be an actual regular season update versus an update through July 31 with a possible SP or two snuck in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Finally Frazier!

Clint Frazier is an interesting prospect.

He came to the Yankees in the Andrew Miller trade with the Indians, and has had some success in limited big league action. Poised to play a bigger role in 2018, he was unfortunately sidelined with some scary concussion symptoms. It's too bad, because it may have been his best chance to take a job in the Yankees outfield and run with it. Of course, you can't blame him for the injury.

It just feels like he's never really going to get his chance to shine, at least in NY with a crowded outfield. It's too bad, because he seems like a great dude who the fanbase would really get behind with his style of play.

Still, I hope he finds a way to make a big league impact, and make it with the Yankees versus being another trade chip.

After the trade to NY in 2016, his autograph prices shot up. They remained relatively high until this past season, when both the injury and market saturation drove prices down. I've wanted an autograph of him for quite some time, and was close to picking up an unlicensed Panini version just to have one.
Luckily, I found this card for about the price Donruss autos go for, so I pulled the trigger. I guess it's a RC auto, although I can't say I'd really consider a Topps Tek autograph a rookie card.

Still, the design looks pretty cool and the signature is on-card, and the price felt right.

I'm now very happy to have a Frazier autograph, and I look forward to seeing him back in action in 2019.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Catching up with A Cracked Bat

I am close to finally cleaning out my scanned folder, and here's a post I've been meaning to get to. Over the summer, Julie from A Cracked Bat was kind enough to send me a great bubble mailer full of Yankees. Julie's packages are always great and are always full of cards I didn't have - new and old!

I was most surprised by the 1994 O-Pee-Chee cards in there. I honestly have never seen this set! I'm not surprised at all they exist, just for whatever reason I never came across them. Probably because Tino wasn't included in 1994 for some reason?
Gary Sanchez cards were plentiful too. I really like this Museum Collection card, as Julie is known to include cards from some of the higher end products. The Refractor looks great as well! For whatever reason, I feel like 2018 Refractors looked a lot better than years past.
Another card I really enjoyed was Yankees Old Timers Day insert. I mean, just look at Matsui's flow in the picture! It's amazing!
I think I've gotten some Tips Fire in about three or four of the last packages I've received. Since I found zero Fire this year, I'm very cool with this development.
Stadium Club was pretty nice this year, and these were two great Yankees to snag from the set.
Lastly, this was a fun card: a Jose Campos ONYX autograph. I actually couldn't tell if the silver was a real or pre-printed autograph, but I found a few copies of the card online and the signature differed in each one, so indeed, it'a an autograph! Neat looking card!
Julie, thanks for always keeping me on your list of trading partners!