Tuesday, February 14, 2017

If it's copper, it must be Upper Deck

For holidays that you never get off from work, Valentine's Day and Halloween seem to be pretty big deals in this country. Restaurants and florists across the land are raking it in at enormously inflated prices. And the chocolate flows like honey on a day like today.

My parents have always made a bit of a special occasion around Valentine's Day when it came to us kids. In my family, it is an occasion worthy of at least a greeting card, some of which I have pretty specific memories of. Later on, I remember being in my mid-teens and my dad surprised me with a one-pound bag of plain M&Ms and a brand-new video game. I played that one quite a bit, and I even remember missing a four-minute time limit in one race by a mere six-hundredths of a second.

That tradition carries on, as my mom gave me a baseball card inside this year's greeting card. She picked one out when my back was turned at a recent card show in Denver, which I believe was her first-ever trip to a card show. She recently suggested that we visit one, which happened to be just a couple days before the monthly card show that one of my dealers puts on. So that Saturday morning, we stopped by Roy's table, the guy who sold me all this vintage, and picked out a few cards that she'll give to me on my birthday next month.

But while I was perusing some of the other cards on offer, she found one at another table that made for a great little surprise.

1999 Upper Deck Textbook Excellence Double #T8 Nomar Garciaparra /2000
I think my mom is kind of a Red Sox fan. She's always had this Boston hat that she likes to wear, the one with the red B. Just like Nomar's batting helmet, only softer. Derek Jeter was the other great shortstop in the AL East at the time, but Nomar was giving fans a preview that Boston was about to take its place near the top of that division. She asked if Nomar had won a World Series with Boston, and I couldn't quite remember. I knew he was part of a blockbuster trade, but had to look up when that occurred. Sadly for "Nomahh", he was traded to the Cubs just months before the Red Sox finally broke their curse.

She knows I like serial-numbered cards, she recognized the copper foil that completely dominated Upper Deck in the late 1990s, and couldn't pass up that eye-catching die-cut pattern on the right side. It's a lot like that postage stamp-shaped set that Pacific put out around the same time. It's a shame Pacific didn't stick around, because they really were quite innovative.

There was something about this design that looked familiar, possibly another insert set. So while I was answering all her questions about serial numbers, what's "rare", what the difference is between a subset and an insert set, I looked this card up on Beckett to see what it was all about. Apparently, this is the "Double" variety, obviously numbered to 2,000, and further differing from the base card by having copper foil instead of silver and offering the die-cut edge.

Triple and Quadruple varieties also exist that are more scarce, but I couldn't find an image of those. I'd just have to guess that more edges have the die-cut pattern, and likely there is a different foil color too.

But it still looked familiar, and it turns out I had five of the base cards in my collection. I really don't remember the "Textbook Excellence" name, but the overall theme jogged my memory.

Yes, the late-'90s were a lot to keep track of, especially since I probably didn't purchase a single card between 1997 and 2003.

1999 Upper Deck Textbook Excellence #T18 Ben Grieve
As expected, the base card looks a bit more normal, at least with four straight cuts. But an Upper Deck card from this era without copper looks sort of...off. Like Charlie Hough in a Marlins uniform.

This post also marks the first appearance of Ben Grieve on Infield Fly Rule. He was the 1998 AL Rookie of the Year, and although he didn't end up having a terrific career, he absolutely tore the Rockies to shreds in the early days of Interleague Play. In just six games against Colorado between 1998 and 1999, Grieve notched three doubles, three homers, and twelve RBIs. And only half those took place at Coors Field. It's a good thing he was an American Leaguer, because if he were in the NL West, he would have given Eric Karros a run for his money in his Rockie-slaying abilities.

Valentine's Day also happens to be right around the time that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, so while I'm not the biggest Red Sox fan, this surprise card from my mom and the email I just got about the upcoming auto-renewal of my MLB.TV subscription are great reminders that baseball season isn't far away.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Trading Post #90: Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary

Brian of the blog Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary has sent me cards a bunch of times by now. He delivered again recently with another excellent trade package. On Superb Owl Sunday, (three hours to kickoff as I began this post, and what a comeback, Patriots!), I got to thinking a bit about how accurate Brian's blog title really is. This whole hobby is pretty much built on what each of us is individually drawn to. From which teams we root for (which admittedly has a lot to do with our geographic location), to what we think is appropriate in a baseball card set, it really comes down quite a bit to personal taste. Too many inserts? Not according to some. Card #7 shouldn't exist? Depends on who you ask. Yankees or Red Sox? Let's not even go there.

Except Stadium Club. Stadium Club is objectively awesome. There, I said it.

But what I found in this trade allowed me to come up with several arbitrary categories and place cards that I subjectively found awesome into them. There's a little more structure in this post than usual, and I hope you like what's to follow.

Category #1: Jon Gray Rookie Cards

2016 Bowman's Best #45 Jon Gray (RC)
Jon Gray, doing his best long-haired Noah Syndergaard impression, is certainly worthy of inclusion in the small Bowman's Best set. I haven't opened any yet, but the nameplate and team name at the bottom looks a lot to me like 2017 Topps Series 1, a recent release which has been all over the Cardsphere this week. With this much going on in the design, it's hard not to find similarities to something. And that is one monster-sized Rockies logo looming in the background.

For the first time since their inaugural season, the Rockies are making some slight tweaks to that logo. The logo itself isn't changing, but they are switching to a different shade of their trademark purple. My eye didn't pick it up, but apparently the jerseys, hats, and printed logos didn't look that consistent in various applications. So now the Rockies purple logo looks more...purpley.

Branding is important, people.

2016 Topps Bunt #141 Jon Gray (RC)
I really don't know what the rules are for the MLB Rookie Card logo, but Gray's cards in both Bunt and Bowman's Best get the treatment. And others did too. But some didn't. So it seems like it had to be a 2016 card, but not all his 2016 cards are considered rookie cards. I suppose it's just as well, as the RC logo would have marred that beautiful Stadium Club card sent by Tom.

But it seems like a pretty arbitrary rule to me. Especially since there is only one company making licensed cards these days.

Either way, it's good to see him appear in so many sets. That is a mark of success. Or at least hype. But a 16-strikeout shutout performance seems to indicate that he's the real deal.

Category #2: Uniform Numbers

2016 Topps Update #US286 Gerardo Parra
To me, this looks more like Trevor Story's card than Gerardo Parra's. Cameos are like that sometimes. It's from 2016 Topps Update, and Story was quite a newsworthy player during the first half of 2016. I'm excited for the 2017 season for a lot of reasons, but seeing Story take his place on the left side of the infield again is definitely one of them. I'd like to see this one zoomed out a little more so we could get the full view of the double-high-five, but it's a nice card and seems minimally affected by the smoke effect on 2016 Topps.

I couldn't tell you what number Parra wears (11? Nope, 8). but I hope to see Story's #27 at Coors Field for a long time to come. He wasn't the first to wear it; a slew of players I've never heard of or didn't know spent any time as a Rockie wore it in the early days. Garrett Atkins had it for a while, as did Todd Hollandsworth. But it's Story's now. And you never know when a player will come along who's the last to wear a number.

Which brings me to my next card.

1995 Collector's Choice SE #208 David Nied
David Nied, or Dave, as he's called on this Upper Deck Special Edition card, was the first-ever Rockie, selected first overall in the 1992 Expansion Draft. The Rockies had high hopes for him, but he ended up being a disappointment. Not the first time the Rockies would have trouble like that in a draft. Selecting pitching prospects that don't pan out is essentially a founding principle for this team. But Nied did wear #17, the only other Rockie to do so before it was turned over to Todd Helton.

Helton, of course, wore it proudly for seventeen seasons, coincidentally. And other than the league-wide retirement of Jackie Robinson's #42, it's the only number out of circulation at Coors Field. But the other major sports teams in Denver still use it, as neither the Nuggets, Avalanche, nor Broncos have had a superstar suit up with #17.


Category #3: Weird Fleer Cards

2001 Fleer Legacy #82 Todd Helton
Normally I'm a fan of minimalism. No need for a lot of extra stuff or over-the-top design elements just for their own sake, sort of like that Bowman's Best card. But it has to be done right. That sparse, sort of Zen look really takes a lot of intent to get right.

This just looks lazy to me. If I had five minutes to design a baseball card, it would probably come out looking something like this. Solid white background, rectangular headshot that looks paperclipped on, an action shot, a one-letter logo in the corner with a drop shadow, and a basic all-caps font in two different colors.

I could literally do this in Microsoft Word.

It reminds me a little bit of that Jeff Francis autograph card, the one with all the empty space. But this is, frankly, bad. And worse, the back doesn't look any better. It has a couple shades of gray, the Rockies team logo that's oddly chopped in at least three places, and that same amateur Fleer logo. L is for Legacy.

Fleer was putting out an absolute ton of sets in the early 2000s, and there are only so many resources to go around. I don't think I've ever bashed a card design this harshly. But wow.

2002 Fleer Premium #91 Jeff Cirillo
Fleer got their act back together the next year, continuing their Premium set for a second and final year. It's a nice black-bordered set with a classic frame and a little silver foil. And a pretty good action shot of Cirillo covering third against the San Francisco Giants. It was likely taken in the then-new Pacific Bell Park (later SBC Park, now AT&T Park), reminding us of the AT&T breakup, and the reconsolidation of many of those once-separate entities.

So what's weird about it? Well, if you look closely, Cirillo is listed as a member of the Seattle Mariners. It's clearer on the back, as the Mariners logo and their sea green color are present. Or maybe it's aqua. Turquoise? Teal? I don't know. Us men are notorious for being able to recognize only about a dozen colors.

Category #4: Shiny Dante Bichette Cards

1996 Upper Deck Predictor Retail Exchange #R42 Dante Bichette W
Thanks to Dante Bichette's MLB-leading 128 RBIs in 1995, Upper Deck added him to their Predictor set the following year, a 120-card insert set (split into Retail and Hobby editions with 60 each). If the player pictured led the league in the listed statistic during any calendar month in 1996, the card could be sent in to Upper Deck for a 10-card foil parallel redemption set.

Believe it or not, Dante Bichette really did lead the league in RBIs in June 1996, with 39, including four in that legendary 16-15 win over the Dodgers on June 30th. His base Retail Predictor card became eligible for redemption, and I am pretty sure this foil parallel (copper-colored, UD's favorite metal) is one of the actual redemption cards. It took quite a bit of research to figure this all out, though. It looks like UD put six wild cards in the set to ensure they'd have something to do with the redemption cards in case no one won, but out of over fifty other Retail Predictor cards, only Bichette, Sammy Sosa, and Jay Buhner actually lived up to the forecast.

It was a similar story with the Hobby Predictor version of this set. Bichette won NL Player of the Month that June, and Roger CedeƱo led his category as well. There were numerous players found in both the Retail and Hobby insert sets, but Bichette was the only one to have a winning card in both.

1996 Leaf Limited #48 Dante Bichette
Bichette's stellar 1996 was the subject of his Leaf Limited card that year. This card was printed late enough in the season to mention that Player of the Month award, as well as his first-half RBI lead. He'd slip a little bit in that statistic by the end of 1996, yielding the lead to teammate Andres Galarraga.

There's no copper to be found here, as this isn't an Upper Deck product. But there's a shiny finish, a bit of gold foil, a shot taken in the distinctive Shea Stadium, and a little purple on the edges to round things out.

I always liked him when I was a kid, especially because of that perpetual .310 batting average and how much he excelled with a two-strike count. I'm glad to have a couple more cards of him to remind me of that era and that season.

Category #5: Purple Borders

2013 Topps Opening Day Toys R Us Purple Border #83 Wilin Rosario
As we all know, purple is synonymous with the Rockies. Their new purple is a little closer to what you see in the sea turtle than the border, but no other team in MLB uses it, now that the Diamondbacks abandoned it as an accent color. I'd be happy to share it with Arizona, as I find their dark gray uniforms to be hideous.

If you've finished your doctorate on Topps border parallels, you'll know that purple borders are a Toys 'R' Us exclusive. That's true for 2013 Opening Day, at least, as well as numerous other releases in the past few years. I haven't been in a Toys 'R' Us in ages. In fact, I couldn't even tell you where the nearest one is anymore. So these purple bordered cards are not something I run across very frequently. Neither Target nor Wal-Mart got exclusives in this Opening Day set, making this a pretty easy rainbow to complete, not counting the printing plates. Thanks to Brian, only the serial-numbered Blue parallel is missing from that rainbow.

The photo is similar to his shot in 2014 Stadium Club (mmmm, Stadium Club), but he's much more excited about the play that just occurred in that set, and he decided to switch over to Wilson for his chest protecting needs instead of All-Star.

2016 Donruss Optic #9 Carlos Gonzalez DK
Prizm is such a resounding success in the marketplace that Panini decided to make a second shiny set, Donruss Optic. Like Donruss sets of old, the first thirty cards or so are part of the Diamond Kings subset. They do a darn good job with this unlicensed set, especially when it's the purple-bordered parallel. It's definitely a different shade of purple than Rosario's card, so maybe those color guys know what they're talking about.

There are a couple of spots, like the border around CarGo's action shot, that catch the light with a touch of rainbow finish, and this thick card feels good to hold. It's pretty similar to the average Donruss card that's come out since 2014, but I do see a smidgen of 1972 Topps' tombstone design in the frame.

The back could use some work, though. It's mostly gray, roughly the same shade as those Diamondbacks uniforms. It's a little hard to tell if the gray splotches that spill into the white areas on the back are part of the design or just smudges. And the letters are jammed really close together in his paragraph, quoting him as "Ijustwanttoapplythatonthefieldandbethe" before it wraps to the next line as "player everybody wants me to be." Hard to tell if there is a miniscule space between those words, but it's certainly not consistent between the two lines. Maybe someone botched a Find & Replace in their text editor.

At least they still follow what Upper Deck, Fleer, and Pacific did ages ago and told me what set this is part of in the fine print. For the love of the hobby, Topps, start doing that.

Category #6: Awesome Insert Cards

1995 Stadium Club Power Zone #PZ6 Andres Galarraga
Of course there's another Galarraga card in 1995 Stadium Club that I've never seen before. Topps does like this "Power" theme, as we saw in my previous post. Galarraga is generating so much power here that he can simply fling the bat and cause a significant explosion. Who needs TNT when you have a Blake Street Bomber?

The back provides 1994 stats for his performance at home as well as in five other parks. This was before Interleague Play, so all the sites are National League stadiums, some of which aren't there anymore, or at least aren't hosting baseball. Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium remain, but the Padres, Braves, and Marlins have new places to call home now.

This isn't the first time I've thrown this fact out there, but as new as Coors Field is, having opened in just 1995, it is already the third-oldest park in the National League.

2016 Topps Opening Day Superstar Celebrations #SC-18 Carlos Gonzalez
Sadly, the Rockies are usually out of the pennant race by the end of September. But they usually perform well enough to play spoiler in the NL West, usually against the Giants. April and May are full of hope and a strong performance, but by the time July and August roll around, things start to take a turn for the worse. By September, when the playoff picture becomes clearer and the pressure is off, things pick up again, but it's too little too late.

2007 notwithstanding, you can pretty much set your watch to it.

Regardless, none of that stopped Carlos Gonzalez from hitting a walk-off homer against the Dodgers on September 26th, 2015. Charlie Blackmon was sure to empty the Powerade cooler onto CarGo during his post-game interview, a moment that's forever documented on this Topps Opening Day insert card.

2014 Topps Opening Day Stars #ODS-9 Troy Tulowitzki
In breaking with the tradition I've set in this post, here's a third card in this category. When Opening Day is in the mix, there's just no telling what will happen. It seems like a long ago memory, but Troy Tulowitzki was once a Rockie, and a stellar performer on Opening Day. Not just anyone gets the 3D treatment on a Topps card. I opened quite a bit of 2014 Opening Day, but this Tulo card had eluded me until now. I'd just like to see a little more purple on it.

Category #7: Hits

2010 Topps Pro Debut Prospect Autographs #PDA-CB Charlie Blackmon S2 (AU)
It's strange to see Charlie Blackmon without that big bushy beard. Stranger even than seeing him in a minor league uniform. Until a few years ago, the Tulsa Drillers were the Double-A affiliate of the Rockies, and Blackmon progressed nicely through the Rockies' farm system and his 2010 season in Tulsa.

This is a candidate for Category #2, but that sticker auto helps put it into a category of its own. Not long after this card was printed, I started seeing Blackmon jerseys pop up at Coors Field. At the time, I found that odd. I had heard the name, but for some reason thought he was a front-office guy or part of the ownership group or something. I didn't know the farm system or the prospects even five years ago nearly as well as I do now. Part of the reason is that I almost never buy minor league cards, but also that the pipeline wasn't as promising back then.

2008 Upper Deck Spectrum Spectrum Swatches #SS-GA Garrett Atkins /99 (MEM)
In case you didn't believe me that Garrett Atkins wore #27, here's proof. This UD Spectrum relic card is quite an attractive shade of blue, maybe a dark cyan? The flattened "S" that makes up the Spectrum logo is barely visible as a pattern in the blue area, which looks sort of like those SP logos on some cards that Fuji sent to me. Not that the scanner picked those up either.

I do enjoy relic cards, especially when they have a low print run like this. It's a bonus when the swatch matches the jersey in the photograph, but that is never a sure thing. Sometimes these even have pinstripes, which is not something that every team's collector has a chance to find. Since this is a 2008 card, this is probably from the 2007 season, meaning there's a chance this is from a pretty special period in Rockies history.

2007 UD Masterpieces Captured on Canvas #CC-GA Garrett Atkins (MEM)
And that's not one, but two Garrett Atkins relic cards! This black swatch looks absolutely spectacular on this framed UD Masterpieces card. If I had to pare down my collection to just a handful of sets, this would definitely make the cut. I'd almost say these are the pinnacle zenith peak of a painted card design, what Diamond Kings was always trying to be.

Especially because they spelled "masterpieces" correctly.

Category #8: Green Topps Finest Cards

1994 Finest Superstar Samplers #35 Andres Galarraga
You knew this was coming, didn't you?

1994 Finest has made plenty of appearances around here, but this happens to be a Superstar Sampler parallel, which I've never heard of before. I know about the pre-production versions, and of course there is the base version. All I need is the refractor to complete the rainbow.

Apparently Topps picked 45 cards from the Finest base set, printed up these partial parallels with a circular red seal on the back, and included them as promos in Baker's Dozen varieties of 1994 Topps factory sets, along with a similar Bowman and Stadium Club card of the same player. I vaguely remember my old Beckett magazines referring to those factory sets, but I had no idea what made them so special. I've never seen a Bowman or Stadium Club Superstar variety, or at least if I did, I never flipped it over. I'll have to check my 1994 binders now that I know these exist.

Good thing I'm not a Griffey collector. I'm sure his card from this set sells for some ridiculous amount of money. Probably not the $2,000 that his 1993 Finest Refractor goes for, but still more than I'd care to spend.

2014 Finest Gold Refractors #30 Carlos Gonzalez /50
Supply and demand is real. There are about five times as many 1993 Finest Refractors of Ken Griffey Jr. as of this Gold Refractor, but this one goes for about $8 on eBay. Which is still a lot for a modern card. But I doubt this one will end up in a safe deposit box. Incidentally, The Junior Junkie, proud owner of one of those rare Griffeys, originally sent me the base version of this card. There isn't as much green in this one as you see in 1994 Finest, but there's a bit, and it's enough to earn a spot in this final category.

I feel like I have a pretty good memory, and my mom is often in awe of the encyclopedic knowledge I seem to have about this sport and the hobby. I have no idea how some people remember who sent them each card in their collection, where they got it, even how much they paid. I can remember that for my most special cards, but I had to look through my past blogs to figure out where the base card came from. I had originally thought it was Julie, who recently made a triumphant return to the Cardsphere, but that was an incorrect guess. Unless she sent a second copy.

I think to a larger degree than most of us would care to admit, these blogs are for us just as much as they are for our audience. There were a lot of great cards in this trade, and I'm sure I'll be referring back once The Trading Post #180 rolls around.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Trading Post #89: The Chronicles of Fuji

Fuji recently vacated the Athletics' spot in the #supertraders group, but that didn't stop him from sending an awesome trade package in December. He even took the time to put everything in penny sleeves for safe keeping. It was one of those trades where I had to narrow things down quite a bit to keep this from being a 20-card post, as I was dazzled by a lot of what he sent.

1994 SP Holoviews #10 Andres Galarraga
At first glance, this looks like a recent card with a hologram sticker autograph. But it's actually from all the way back in 1994. Upper Deck went all in with the hologram technology for this insert set, though there is no Upper Deck hologram anywhere on the back. The card has a Topps Chrome-esque curl, but the silver area at the bottom shows the Big Cat's 3D face on the right, and a bunch of SP logos coming out of some clouds on the left. They give the design a bit more of a 3D illusion by superimposing Galarraga's photograph over the hologram.

The card number looks like a fraction: 10 over 38. I was wondering if this was some kind of a fractured set, as I haven't seen this one before, Then I thought it might be something to do with the uniform number, but that was clearly not correct, as he wore #14. It's simply card 10 out of 38, the total size of this insert set. Simple.

1997 SPx #SPX24 Andres Galarraga
The Big Cat shows up again on a similar card a few years later, but this one is die-cut. The write up mentions that in early 1997, he became the all-time home runs leader among Venezuelans, with 252. He'd end up with just shy of 400, still a monster number. And he only played five seasons as a Rockie, so he had plenty of power outside of Denver.

There are lots of holograms on this one, even more than in 1994. The areas of the X contain a bunch of SPX logos, and the arc in the middle contains a nearly identical headshot of Galarraga against a backdrop of Rockies logos. It's even got a bit of color to it, both in Galarraga's skin tone and in the purple areas of the team logo. And there's even the familiar Upper Deck hologram on the back, this time in gold. 

Shiny at its best.

2011 Topps 60 #T60-11 Troy Tulowitzki
Topps 60 is one of those giant insert sets that I've been casually chasing for a while now. Coincidentally, I'd estimate that I've completed about sixty percent of it. This one of Tulo in that familiar batting motion documents his slugging percentage as a cleanup hitter. Between 2005 and 2010, Tulo was second overall behind Miguel Cabrera. And Tulowitzki didn't even play in 2005, and was a late-season callup in 2006. So while this doesn't quite give us an apples-to-apples comparison, Tulo was doing exactly what he was supposed to in the #4 slot.

The back of the card gives the top ten players in this stat. There are some familiar names on here, like Bonds, Berkman, Fielder, and others. And tied for 6th was Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg. He had a relatively short-lived career, but put together an all-star season in 2005. I even picked him for my fantasy team one year (probably the year after). He didn't have lasting power, but he was definitely part of the conversation for a while.

2011 Topps Diamond Duos Series 2 #DD-22 Troy Tulowitzki / Ubaldo Jimenez
Tulowitzki's post-swing pose finally made it onto a card, one of the two-player Diamond Duo cards, another large 2011 insert set. He appears with teammate Ubaldo Jimenez, neither of whom are even in the National League right now, let alone on the Rockies. The paragraph on the back talks more about Tulo's defensive performance, so it's a little odd that Topps used a batting shot here, especially given that he appeared in this insert set three times across two series.

The back also offers a statistics comparison between Tulowitzki and Jimenez, except comparing a pitcher's stats to a position player's doesn't seem that relevant. For example, Tulo had 338 RBIs by then, compared to Ubaldo's 655 strikeouts. 

2011 Topps Target Red Diamond #RDT-12 Carlos Gonzalez
2011 marked Topps' first year all by itself in the baseball card marketplace in over 30 years. That pesky Upper Deck wasn't making even unlicensed baseball cards anymore, and Topps took the opportunity of their reinstated monopoly and their 60th anniversary to churn out bunches of insert sets. The previous two I've come reasonably close to completing, but this one I've never seen before. It fits with the rest of 2011's diamond theme, but this is a Target-exclusive insert set. I wasn't buying cards regularly at that time, but I'm a little surprised I've never seen one turn up in a discount box. Usually the red- and blue-bordered ones stand out in discount boxes full of Topps base.

This insert set spanned 30 cards over two series, and contained a pretty even mixture of active players and retired greats. Carlos' two-homer performance on August 29th, 2010 is the subject of the paragraph on the back. That sounded familiar, making me wonder if I was at that game. But I wasn't. He just does that sort of thing a lot.

2008 Upper Deck Heroes Beige #55 Jeff Francis /299
Speaking of Upper Deck, here's a familiar-looking card of 17-game winner Jeff Francis from the well-liked Baseball Heroes set. I've shown the base version of this card before. While the base card is described as a "sand" color, this is the beige parallel, serial numbered to 299. The difference in color between the two is somewhat noticeable when placed side-by-side, but trying to recall it from memory would be a challenge. It would definitely be easy to skip over if you didn't know just what you were looking for.

Like other cards in this set, and that purple Todd Helton card from my previous post, the background has a matte finish, while the photo and logo are glossy. And it's definitely reminiscent of 1959 Topps. More on that later.

2014 Topps Update Power Players #PPA-TT Troy Tulowitzki
I've seen Carlos Gonzalez's card from 2014 Topps Power Players numerous times before, including this very trade package. but this is my first copy of Troy Tulowitzki's card from that set. The "wormhole", as I previously described it, is the same shape but uses different colors. And Tulo gets a real action shot as opposed to CarGo's posed image. There's also a pattern of dots in the background, which reminds me of what you see on Panini Prizm's Pulsar parallels.

Say that ten times fast.

1999 Topps Power Brokers #PB9 Vinny Castilla
I have to wonder if Topps looked through the archives and found inspiration for Power Players in this similar Power Brokers set from 1999. This one is shinier, but the overall color and design is pretty similar. Enough of the blue wall peeks through the distortion to indicate that they're in Shea Stadium, but between the action shot, blocky font, and a pair of electrodes, there's a lot going on here. There's even a rather large nuclear symbol on the back. To be honest, I didn't even realize this was a die-cut until I viewed it several times. It's a clear indication of history repeating itself, which happens more than you'd think in this hobby.

1995 Stadium Club Virtual Reality #204 Marvin Freeman
In 1995, the sport of baseball, and its related card industry, was trying to recover from a disastrous strike that cut the 1994 season short. Topps came up with the idea to include computer-simulated statistics on some 1995 cards, such as Topps Cyberstats, and also this Virtual Reality partial parallel set in Stadium Club. Freeman had 10 wins in 1994 as the Rockies ace, but Topps thought it likely that he'd win another four for a total of 14.

1995 Stadium Club Virtual Reality #204 Marvin Freeman (Reverse)
No one really talks about it, but the the back of 1995 Stadium Club wasn't that different from the thermal camera look that Fleer famously produced in 1995. The hobby went to some strange places that lasted for the rest of the decade.

Virtual Reality, and the Web itself were just getting off the ground in 1994, barely past the concept stage. Over twenty years later, Virtual Reality still isn't quite mainstream, but it's certainly moving that direction, and rapidly. Perhaps in another 20 years, cards (or something like the Bunt app) will have an actual VR component, allowing us to see video highlights at a glance.

Hopefully it's more like that and not another prediction of what might have happened without a labor dispute.

1995 Topps Embossed Golden Idols #112 Walt Weiss
Shiny cards usually look generally silver, like a mirror. It's fairly uncommon for the thing to just be straight, bling-y gold. But that's just what Topps did with the parallels for Embossed, adding to the oddness of 1995. I haven't seen a ton of Topps Embossed in general, and apparently these are one per pack parallels that took Topps Gold to its logical endgame.

It's a very texturey card. Weiss' images are raised from the card surface both front and back, and each of the concentric layers of the border has a different pattern. Furthest out are baseballs, further in are diagonal ridges, horizontal ridges, what looks like ice cream sprinkles, etc.... Lost in all that is some letting at the bottom that reminds us that Weiss was the 1988 Rookie of the Year, and there's a little more detail about that on the non-gold back.

1995 Score Gold Rush #338 Andres Galarraga
Beginning a transition from gold to green, Score's Gold Rush parallel set in 1995 gives us a shot of Andres Galarraga signing autographs. I think. Many ballplayers were sporting shades like this in the mid-1990s, but Galarraga did not go down the goatee route, the 1990s equivalent of the big, bushy beards we commonly see today.

Score also used a different, darker shade of gold on the border than Weiss' card. This one looks less like actual gold and more like a slightly reddish alloy. The foil is a tiny bit dinged up on the edges, as whatever Score used for this product, I've always found to be easy to nick.

2008 Topps Heritage Chrome #C50 Matt Holliday /1959
Moving fully into the green color theme, Matt Holliday's Chrome parallel from 2008 Topps Heritage is serial numbered to 1959, matching the design of that year. Remember that Jeff Francis card? Now it should be pretty obvious where Upper Deck got its idea for Baseball Heroes. Not that a circle is a hugely unusual shape or anything, but the diameter and placement are almost identical.

Being from 2008, this is from the year after the Rockies went to the World Series and Holliday won MVP honors in the NLCS against the Diamondbacks. He also led a bunch of categories in 2007, including two Triple Crown categories. They didn't mention his memorable slide at the end of the 2007 regular season (hi, Padres fans!), but any green card always has a welcome spot in my collection.

1994 Finest Refractors #72 Joe Girardi
1994 Finest is right up there as my all-time favorite green set, with 2013 Topps Emerald close behind. Joe Girardi, now manager of the Yankees, spent a few seasons behind the plate as a Rockie, and even though he missed about half of the 1993 season due to injury, he still earned a spot in the Topps Finest set. Not only that, but this is the refractor version, a term we all know now but weren't so familiar with back then. 

This isn't nearly as rare as refractors from the debut 1993 Finest set, but it's still a great card, and a fairly scarce variation of one of my favorite sets. I have none of the refractors from 1993 in my collection, and only Kevin Stocker's from 1994, besides this. It was a trade package full of shiny cards from start to finish, covering all the great periods of Rockies history.

Thanks, Fuji!

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Trading Post #88: Johnny's Trading Spot

A surprise #Supertraders PWE arrived recently from John at the aptly named Johnny's Trading Spot. John represents the Braves in the group, and I don't believe I've sent anything to him yet. I'll address that soon enough (no pun intended), but for now, let's take a look at this Bowman-heavy envelope.

2016 Bowman Platinum #95 Jon Gray (RC)
Kicking things off is the young hurler Jon Gray, wearing a cap with an alternate logo. After a year off in 2015, Bowman Platinum returned in 2016, offering no Major League statistics but a very brief write-up alluding to Gray's call-up in late 2015. It's good that we have a pitcher with hair like this, since that seems to be working well for the Mets.

This is instantly recognizable as a Bowman Platinum card, and there is good color-coding to signify that this is a Rockies card. It goes particularly well with Gray's jersey. I also like the little white spot in the lower right that punches through the color and displays Gray's position. The only thing I've always had trouble with is that the cursive "P" in the Bowman Platinum logo looks much more like an "L" to me. I keep wanting to call it Bowman Limited.

2009 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP58 Wilin Rosario
For as much Bowman as was in this envelope, there were no black borders to be found. I've seen the base version of this card before, but now I have the Chrome version to go with it. Rosario was released by the Rockies after the 2015 season, and played in Korea in 2016. He re-signed with the Hanwha Eagles for 2017, who play in the city of Daejeon.

It's truly become a global game. It's not that big in Europe, but in Eastern Asia and across the Americas, it's a major sport. And with the upcoming World Baseball Classic and the sport's return to the Summer Olympics in 2020, the trend is sure to continue.

2014 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP27 Raimel Tapia
Raimel Tapia remains a top prospect in the Rockies' farm system, and even played 22 games in September after rosters expanded. He didn't show much power, but did get 10 hits in 38 at-bats. He's just 22, so he still has plenty of time to develop.

He's "only" 22, but what that really means is that he wasn't even born yet when the Rockies began play.

2014 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP23 Kyle Parker
Parker, on the other hand, seems to already have had his turn in the majors. He was a two-sport star at Clemson, but after a couple seasons of sub-.200 batting averages in 64 games, the Rockies cut him. There's not really much else to say, which is sort of how it goes in Bowman-land. For every Stephen Strasburg, there are dozens of players that don't make a significant dent in the Majors, if they make it at all.

Prospecting for Bowman cards (and running a farm system in general) seems a lot like venture capital. You're throwing resources in a lot of areas, hoping that one will pan out big-time and pay for all the rest. At least the 2010 draft didn't look like a giant blunder for the Rockies. Noah Syndergaard did go lower down, but the Rockies had 26th pick. Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Matt Harvey, and Chris Sale were long gone by then.

2004 Fleer Tradition Diamond Tributes #13 Todd Helton
The only non-Bowman card in here was this 2004 insert of Todd Helton. Fleer used a mixture of glossy and matte finishes on the front, along with a touch of gold foil. It was clear by then that Helton was going to put a great career together. He had already amassed 1,000 hits and he did it pretty quickly, too. No mention of his doubles, a statistic where he finished in the all-time top-20.

The purple background on this looks a little like woodgrain, I'd say more like woodgrain than the mirror image black lines on the crossed bats. It's definitely something different than Bowman Chrome, and I hope that one day another player in this post has a good enough career going to warrant a spot in a 20-card insert set.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Trading Post #87: cards as i see them

Veterans of the Cardsphere (am I the only one still using that term?) know garvey cey russell lopes as one of the well-known early entrants into our community. Its writer wrapped up that particular blog in 2015, but couldn't stay away blogging for long, starting up a new one in September called cards as i see them. It has his trademark no-capitalization style, though I can confirm that his handwriting doesn't follow the same pattern, based on the PWE I got from him right around Christmas.

2013 Topps Chrome Update #MB-15 Michael Cuddyer
Inside that envelope was another iteration of Michael Cuddyer's 2013 Update card, this one of the Chrome variety. Right around the same time, the Gold version arrived from It's Like Having My Own Card Shop. I can't decide which of the colored borders I like best, but orange with the silver background looks surprisingly good. I had to look up why the card number has "MB" in it, and it's because these cards were sold in "Mega-Boxes" back in 2013. It's pretty much just a blaster, so I'm not sure why that packaging warranted a card number like that, but that's how they did it.

I just don't think I quite get Update.

2013 Topps Update 1971 Topps Minis #14 Troy Tulowitzki
Maybe it's just Chrome, though. Because this mini of Tulowitzki makes much more sense to me. I'm sure anyone who actually collected 1971 Topps will wonder what the heck I'm talking about, but I grew up being able to afford reprints, not the real thing. So current players on old designs seems like quite a good idea.

This is definitely a recycled photo, but it does look good when placed next to Cuddyer's card, as they've both been captured at precisely the same point in the swing from the same angle. Tulo looks a little behind the ball here, but it's a Coors Field shot, and this particular cropping of the photo shows us that they were playing the Padres that day. As we know now, the Padres are the last pro team remaining in San Diego, with the Chargers moving to L.A. next season. I didn't know this, but both the Rockets and Clippers of the NBA originally played in San Diego, before moving to Houston and Los Angeles, respectively.

Good thing Los Angeles already has two pro baseball teams, otherwise San Diego might be without a major league team before long.

2014 Panini Prizm Prizms Red White and Blue Pulsar #100 Jorge De La Rosa
Panini Prism took a page from Topps Chrome and went a little crazy with colored borders. There are more than a handful listed on Beckett, and this one is the particularly odd Red, White, and Blue Pulsar variety. Rotate it 90 degrees clockwise and you have the French flag, which actually looks pretty cool when held at arm's length. And I was so distracted by these colors and the dot pattern in the background that I didn't even notice there were no logos! Well, other than Nike. But I've flogged that dead horse before.

2011 Topps Heritage Black #C94 Ubaldo Jimenez
When 2011 rolled around, it was time for Topps Heritage to use the 1962 design that I so adore. Of course, it got the parallel treatment too, such as this Black variety. The border isn't entirely black, but they gave it this sort of charred wood look which looks great. It's a clever idea to implement on a woodgrain design. I'm interested to see if they do the same thing in 2036 when the 1987 design gets its turn with the Heritage treatment.

Of course, that assumes that Heritage, or even Topps itself will still be around in 2036.

Maybe by 2036 the Rockies will have had a 20-game winner. As it stands now, Ubaldo holds the Rockies single-season record, with 19 wins. This card was printed the year after that, so his 19-8 record is proudly displayed on the back. He finished third in NL in strikeouts, wins, and Cy Young voting. Perhaps the fact that he led the NL in wild pitches and finished second in walks issued hurt his chances at that accolade a bit.

2009 O-Pee-Chee #73 Ian Stewart
I never opened any, but I'm probably getting pretty close to completing the team set from 2009 O-Pee-Chee. It's an understated retro set, although the photos are significantly sharper than they are on Heritage, making it feel just a little bit too modern. I'm sure this was taken in Hi Corbett Field, the former Spring Training home of the Rockies. That scoreboard just visible on the left matches up with photos I've taken of it.

2016 Topps Update #US256a Nolan Arenado AS
Ian Stewart held down the hot corner for several years, but was traded to the Cubs for DJ LeMahieu, and clearing the way for Mr. Arenado and his four straight Gold Gloves.

Arenado was an All-Star in 2016, meaning he had the privilege (?) of wearing the retro yellow and brown All Star jerseys in San Diego. He did better in the field than at the plate, but anytime you're on the All Star team, you're pretty much guaranteed to get a card in Topps Update.

Starting this season, the All-Star Game is just going to be about having fun and putting on a show again, rather than determining the league with home-field advantage. But perhaps that doesn't really matter. In the 14-season period that the All-Star Game "counted", the NL was 3-11, but 8-6 in the World Series. However, in the three seasons the NL did have home field, (2010-2012), they also won the World Series.

I'm sure there's more in-depth analysis out there than that. But either way, if the Midsummer Classic can just be about having fun and wearing oddly-colored jerseys, I am fine with that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Trading Post #86: It's Like Having My Own Card Shop

Daniel from It's Like Having My Own Card Shop and I are kindred spirits, in a sense. We're both fans of the recent expansion teams in the NL West, sort of all by our lonesome among all the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees, and Cubs collectors in the Cardsphere. He was one of many bloggers who got a #supertrader mailer from me shortly before Christmas, and he was sure to return the favor with a PWE of his own.

1997 Collector's Choice All-Star Connection #42 Ellis Burks
Once my eyes returned to normal after being blinded by the giant silver star on this Ellis Burks card, I started doing a little research, as I didn't recognize the set. It's an insert from 1997 Collector's Choice, part of a moderately-sized insert set of 45 cards. There's quite a bit of red foil on it, including the 1997 All-Star Game logo, which took place in Cleveland that year. Until recently, the AL and NL did a pretty good job of alternating which league hosted the Midsummer Classic, although we're in the middle of a four-year stretch of NL hosts. Cleveland, of course, is an AL city, and the Rockies would get to host the very next year.

Upper Deck put a unique spin on their usual method of putting five lines of stats on the back. Rather than the five most recent seasons (which always kind of bugged me, and why I preferred Topps and Fleer as a young collector), they put the 1996 season, along with his stats for the All-Star Games and each playoff series he had appeared in. It definitely reads like an early-season line or single-game box score. One triple, one stolen base, six at-bats and so on. He hadn't appeared in a World Series by this point, and would never get the chance. In fact, his team lost each of the six playoff series he appeared in, including the 1995 Rockies.

2003 Upper Deck Classic Portraits #181 Clint Barmes MP /2003 (RC)
Clint Barmes would be an important part of the next Rockies team to make the playoffs, but he hadn't quite made it to The Show yet. This is actually the second time I've seen this set, and it's starting to grow on me. It has a similar look and feel to UD's later A Piece Of History products. The serial number this time around isn't quite as low as Chris Capuano's card, but at 2,003 copies, it's still fairly scarce.

Interestingly, there's a slight error on the back. Even though he didn't have any MLB experience at this point, the column headings are clearly meant for a pitcher, not a position player. I suppose it's not entirely wrong, as he hadn't taken the mound in a MLB game. But he's clearly listed in a couple places as a shortstop. The only other two cards I have from this set are of actual pitchers, and they have the same column headings. So I can't be sure if this error affected all position players or just Barmes. But Capuano's card wasn't quite accurate either, as I pointed out last time, further indicating that this set didn't get a proper quality check.

1996 Collector's Choice Silver Signature #758 Andres Galarraga CL
The run of silver foil continues with an Andres Galarraga checklist parallel. It's from 1996 Collector's Choice, and if you want to see more of that set, Nachos Grande is in the middle of opening a whole Series 1 box pack-by-pack. This one is from Series 2, though. In fact, its the third-to-last card in the whole 760-card checklist, not counting a small update series that came a little later.

Silver Signatures were one-per-pack in this product, and they're pretty plentiful. Unlike Topps, which didn't make Topps Gold checklists, UD had no problem recognizing that checklists are an important part of a set and giving them the parallel treatment. They go pretty in-depth on Galarraga's performance in June 1995, highlighting his 3-for-3 day on June 25th, which included three home runs in three consecutive innings, plus two walks. Coors Field was in its infancy then, but the Rockies were already earning their Blake Street Bombers nickname.

There's an error on this card, too, by the way. The front of the card has the correct date, but the back lists June 15th, 1995, which was an off day. Maybe Night Owl's recent post about error cards has me paying extra attention to these things.

2005 Diamond Kings Framed Red #251 Jeff Francis
The streak of silver foil comes to an end here, but there's still a little red foil and a framed border. With the continued growth of Panini cards, these mid-2000 Donruss cards are starting to look a bit more familiar. Francis is listed as a Rockie, but the painting by artist Dave Kramer has him wearing a Canadian jersey. Francis would represent Canada in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, but that didn't happen until the following year, and their actual jerseys were different. That makes this image basically an artist's concept, one that would become technically correct later on. I especially like the combination of the Rockies' "CR" logo on the hat, paired with the little Canadian flag on the jersey. Not sure about the yellow stripe, though.

2010 Topps 206 Bronze #262 Melvin Mora
Topps 206 Bronze parallels from 2010 look pretty similar to that Diamond Kings set. While they don't have the same playing card finish, they're about the same thickness, and the design of the border frame is strikingly similar. Before the Rockies started signing aging Twins stars like Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau, they picked Melvin Mora. Mora, according to this card, played more games at third base for the Baltimore Orioles than anyone besides Brooks Robinson. Mora is Venezuelan, one of many from that nation to play in Denver, including Galarraga, Carlos Gonzalez, and Alexi Amarista, whom the Rockies just signed to a one-year deal today. Mora only stuck around for a year himself, making this a good candidate for an unfamiliar uniform mini-collection.

2013 Topps Update Gold #US226 Michael Cuddyer /2013
Speaking of Michael Cuddyer, here's the newest card that Daniel stuffed into this envelope. Julie from A Cracked Bat sent me the base version once upon a time, but it looks more dramatic with a gold border. Cuddyer did pretty well in the Derby that year, finishing third overall, just barely missing the final.

I'm not sure whether these bright orange jerseys are that much better than the brown and yellow ones worn in San Diego last year. And this year it will be in Miami, so for all I know they'll wear bright green and look like airport gate workers.

2008 Topps 50th Anniversary All Rookie Team #AR85 Aaron Miles
Aaron Miles played second for the Rockies for a couple of seasons. He was traded to the Cardinals at the 2005 Winter Meetings, and would go on to win a World Series ring that year. He was one of those adequate-but-kind-of-invisible infielders, putting up a decent average but not having much power or speed. Sort of like my own career as a second baseman.

This one is part of a 110-card insert set in 2008 Topps, showing various members of the Topps All-Rookie Team. It reuses the design from a subset found in the 1960 set, giving us an early hint at what Topps Archives is today. The same design on different card stock appeared in 2009 Topps Heritage, and it seems so strangely familiar that they may have used it again on a more recent insert set. Not too sure about that, though. Maybe I've just seen this design so often but never knew precisely where it came from.

2003 Fleer Ultra Gold Medallion #60 Jason Jennings
Finally, something very different from what was on offer in 1960. And not just batting helmets with ear flaps. It's a die-cut card, but not with a zillion odd corners like Topps has been doing these days. It's subtle, and goes well with the angles of the thin gold lines elsewhere in the design. It's just batting practice, but it's still a pitcher at the plate, who's also working on his bunting. He was a righty, but batted from the left side of the plate. It's not that uncommon to have opposite handedness depending on whether you're throwing or hitting, but I can't think of many pitchers that play that way.

It seemed to work for Jennings, one of the best homegrown pitchers to ever come out of the Rockies organization. This gold medallion parallel was my favorite card in the envelope.

I don't expect to see Fleer Ultra again, but perhaps the Rockies will have a young pitcher that's as good as Jennings one of these days.