Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Trading Post #81: Bob Walk the Plank

Anytime something shows up from Matthew of Bob Walk The Plank, there are sure to be some hits inside. Autographs, relics, patches, mini batting helmets, there's really no telling just what surprises await.

Matt and I aren't engaged in an ever-escalating battle of tailor-made trade packages like he is with Jaybarkerfan, but we have exchanged cards a few times. My autograph collection wouldn't be what it is today without him, and the hits just keep on coming.

2015 Topps Tier One Acclaimed Autographs #AA-VC Vinny Castilla /399 (AU)

Topps Tier One is normally way out of my price range. It's comprised entirely of relics and autographs, not even offering a traditional "base" set. It's a set that's entirely meant for player and team collectors, leaving set collectors to select one of Topps' many other fine products. There isn't even an actual card "number" to be found, as they're all lettered.

This looks more like something Panini would put out, or maybe Pinnacle ages ago. There's lots of gold foil here, a serial number right on the front, and even a tiny spot in the lower left where Topps managed to squeeze his position. Castilla's autograph matches other examples in my collection, and also a 5x7 photo that I got at my local library as a kid. Rockies memorabilia was a great incentive to get kids like me to read, especially when Pizza Hut's Book It promotion was idle. Pizza Hut was smart. They managed to instill a lifetime love of both reading and pizza.

2007 Topps Highlights Autographs #HA-MH Matt Holliday (AU)
This Matt Holliday card is pretty clearly from 2007. The black border matches the general theme of the base set that year, even though the little filmstrip squares are missing from the corners. It's definitely thinner than Castilla's card, the autograph is on a sticker, and there's no mention of the print run. It's definitely aimed at a different market segment than Topps Tier One, but pulling this out of a box of 2007 Topps would be pretty surprising. You expect a card like Castilla's when you spend so much on a box of Tier One. Pulling a card like this when it's unexpected offers quite a thrill on its own. Just see that Dee Gordon printing plate I found in a blaster of Opening Day, or the David Wright autograph from a hobby box.

Or when it shows up in the mailbox with a bunch of Costco flyers, for that matter.

2016 Topps Strata Autographs Blue #SA-TM Tom Murphy (AU)
We're back to the world of on-card autographs for this final card, and it's from Topps Strata, another high-end set that I'll never pay full price for. It has completely transcended the use of cardboard; like Topps High Tek, it's printed on a thick acetate.

Each part of the design has a varying level of transparency. The autograph square is completely clear, the various banners and lines are a bit darker, and Murphy's image itself is nearly opaque. For $80 a box, I'd hope it looks like this. And that's a pretty low print run, the scarcest card in this whole post, and among the scarcer in my whole collection.

Murphy is one of the exciting young Rockies that has already shown flashes of brilliance in the Majors. Late this season, he crushed a 482-foot home run to left field, one of the longest in Coors Field history. The Rockies have good depth behind the plate, and Murphy's presence on the roster likely means that will be the case for several years to come.

Bud Black, the new Rockies manager, has an interesting group of young players to work with. Hopefully he can lead a few more of them to being worthy of inclusion in a high-end set like Topps Strata or Tier One.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Trading Post #80: Baseball Every Night

Even though he's a newcomer to the Cardsphere, Peter at Baseball Every Night already has close to a hundred posts under his belt. He's had a running theme since last month called "A Shoebox of Baseball Cards", which he's broken up into posts by individual teams. Adam at Cardboard Clubhouse recommended me as a potential trading partner for the Rockies, and thus a new trading partnership was born.

Shoeboxes were a terrific way to store cards when I was younger. Between my parents, my sister, and myself, shoeboxes seemed to be in abundant supply. Binders and 9-pocket pages were pricey things for a kid on an allowance, and hobby supplies were lower on the list than the cards themselves. So into the shoeboxes they went, biding their time until a box of 250 pages appeared under the tree.

Anyway, I'm clearly not the only one that stored cards in shoeboxes circa 1995, and while these will end up in pages soon, a few of them deserve a spot on the blog first.

1995 Donruss #476 Bruce Ruffin
About a year ago, I wrote that Steve Reed still holds a top-ten spot in career wins for the Rockies. A season later, and that's still true. But to further illustrate the kind of turnover the pitching staff in Denver has experienced, the guy pictured above is #4 all-time in saves for the Rockies, with 60. And most of those came in strike-shortened years. Ruffin retired as a Rockie, but even then, closers didn't have quite the importance as they do now, so his name isn't nearly as recognizable as one of the Blake Street Bombers.

1995 Donruss obviously went too far with the foil, as this card is barely legible unless it's under just the right light, Even the Donruss logo itself is pretty tough to read. But I do like how he's specified as a left-handed pitcher. Most card companies just stick a "P" on there and call it a day. They could go with LHRP if they wanted to be really accurate, but that would turn into alphabet soup pretty quickly.

1994 Upper Deck #105 Roberto Mejia
Upper Deck began their long fascination with copper in 1994, and gave us a much more readable design than 1995 Donruss. Roberto Mejia filled in at second base on occasion from 1993 to 1995, and might not have made it to the big leagues at all without expansion. Two new teams means fifty new roster spots, or even eighty once you factor in the September roster expansions.

What I'll most remember him for is colliding with Andres Galarraga while chasing down a foul pop in July 1993. Galarraga ended up missing about a month after suffering a knee injury on that collision, putting his run at the batting title and a possible .400 average in jeopardy. Galarraga ended up winning with a season average of .370, beating none other than Tony Gwynn, the second place finisher.

I don't know whether this photo was taken before or after that incident, but he's clearly calling off another fielder here. Statistically speaking, it's probably afterwards, as the collision happened just a couple weeks after Mejia's debut. It's also possible to see that he wears his batting glove under his glove, which is exactly what I did in little league, just to be like the big boys.

1994 Score #229 Freddie Benavides
So did Freddie Benavides, who played shortstop for the Rockies in 1993 before Walt Weiss left the Marlins to become the first player to suit up for both expansion teams. Benavides is putting the tag down on an unknown base-stealing Cub, and that looks like a caught stealing to me! We have a stadium, an infrequent starter, an action play, and a season. Time to do some sleuthing.

Vinny Castilla was the regular shortstop in 1993, and Benavides appeared in relatively few games that year. He only played in Chicago three times, and only one of those games featured a runner caught stealing. That happened in the bottom of the 5th on July 17th, 1993. With Armando Reynoso on the mound, Cubs left fielder Derrick May tried stealing second on the first pitch of Rick Wilkins' at-bat. He was caught by Danny Sheaffer, which is just as well, since Wilkins smashed a home run later that at bat.

The Rockies still lost that game, but this play was definitely a success and prevented them from going deeper in the hole. And backing up Benavides (as is the 2B's job on this type of play), is none other than Roberto Mejia, appearing in only his third Major League game.

It was a Saturday game right in the middle of summer break. There's a fairly strong chance I saw this play unfold on TV. I should have kept a few of my scorecards from back then.

1993 Topps #774 Curtis Leskanic (RC)
Curtis Leskanic, one of the bigger characters to ever grace the Rockies pitcher's mound, broke into the majors in 1993 as part of the rotation. He was shifted to a bullpen role in later years, even closing for the Brewers for a couple seasons. But non-Rockies fans will probably remember him for his 1995 Collector's Choice card.

1993 Topps did a good job with horizontal cards, and he was one of many Rockies and Marlins to appear in posed shots in their new uniforms. Not that anyone really cares, but this is Leskanic's Rookie Card, and we only get his minor league stats and school history on the back. It turns out that he went to LSU, a school that many of us got a good look at on Thanksgiving night, as they squared off against Texas A&M concurrently with the Steelers and Colts.

Always good to have another game to flip to during commercials. My brother-in-law did an admirable job with the remote.

1993 Stadium Club #652 Armando Reynoso
Armando Reynoso has already been mentioned in this post, and here's his card from 1993 Stadium Club. I've seen this set more times than I can remember, and even opened a few boxes, but I don't recognize this card. It was a poorly-collated set, so while I may have a copy of this already, if I run across John Johnstone's or Domingo Martinez' cards again, I might scream.

1995 Fleer #324 Luis Aquino
The Rockies and Florida Marlins will always be inextricably linked. There are some obvious differences, like Florida's two World Series championships, but they came into the league at the same time, have unusual team colors, and their genesis coincided with the later days of the overproduction bubble. Peter thought the same, and combined the Rockies and Marlins in his post. I offered to take the extra Marlins off his hands when we set up the trade, primarily to get one card.

I can't help but wonder if Fleer's crazy 1995 set was somehow influenced by the purples and turquoises that suddenly burst onto the scene in Major League Baseball. This thermal camera design for the NL East they came up with naturally seems to have colors similar to Luis Aquino's hat. Plus they threw some of his personal stats on the front for good measure. Much more than that and it would be tough to tell the front from the back.

1994 Upper Deck Electric Diamond #233 Darrell Whitmore
This was the card I was after when I offered to take the Marlins. After Topps Gold, UD Electric Diamond parallels were high on my favorites list in 1994. A Giants catcher, probably Kirt Manwaring, makes a cameo, along with an umpire in a light blue shirt. Those shirts always make them look like mail carriers. That sparkly foil may have been an industry first, or perhaps right around the same time as red foil hit Diamond Kings cards.

On the back, the card offers an excellent view of the Marlins' inaugural 1993 logo. I've seen it countless times, but only now noticed a small "Carl" at the bottom of the logo.

1994 Upper Deck Electric Diamond #233 Darrell Whitmore (Reverse)
I did some research on this, and it was worn in honor of the late Carl Barger, President of the Marlins who died in 1992, just days after the expansion draft. The Marlins retired number 5 for Barger's favorite player, Joe DiMaggio, only to "unretire" it a few years ago when they became the Miami Marlins. Sure enough, that's on all the Marlins inaugural patches that year, including the John Johnstone card that I thought I knew so well.

1993 Stadium Club #734 John Johnstone (RC)
I know the Rockies' history pretty well, and quite a bit about storied franchises like the Yankees, but there are lots of surprises to be found in these expansion clubs. The Seattle Pilots' brief existence, for example, or this fairly obvious lettering on a patch that had eluded my attention up until twenty minutes ago.

Is there still no one in the Cardsphere interested in Marlins cards?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Trading Post #79: Waiting 'til Next Year

The Chicago Cubs are World Champions.

I think we're all finally at a point where that's starting to sink in after their historic roller coaster of a Game 7. I caught the first half of that game at my local Buffalo Wild Wings, and there were plenty of Cubs fans there. I headed home around the 6th inning just in time to see the Indians chip away at the lead, capped off by Rajai Davis' game-tying home run. He was flying out of the box, so it might have been a triple even if it were off the wall. But that game suddenly became an instant nail-biter after the Cubs had taken a lead in the first at-bat.

We all questioned how early and for how long Aroldis Chapman was on the mound, as most fans had for the final few games of the Series. But after a rain delay and some last-minute team building in the Cubs' clubhouse, the Cubs plated two runs in the 10th. Pinch runner Albert Almora Jr. had the presence of mind to put together some brilliant baserunning, Miguel Montero and eventual MVP Ben Zobrist both drove in runs, and even though Rajai Davis smacked an RBI in the bottom of the 10th to terrify Cubs fans again, it wasn't quite enough. The look on Kris Bryant's face said it all.

So I guess that means that my fellow Supertrader Tom at Waiting 'til Next Year can finally change his blog name.

Tom sent a bunch of trade packages out in October hoping to build up some good karma for his Cubbies. I was on the receiving end, and I guess it was enough for the Baseball Gods to smile on the Cubs in 2016.

2012 Topps Opening Day #39 Michael Cuddyer
There were a ton of great cards in here; as usual I had trouble narrowing it down. But it starts off with a bit of unfamiliarity.

I always enjoy Topps Opening Day, but somehow I largely missed it in 2012. It's certainly the one in the last five years I have the least familiarity with. The surfboard design scans much better than cards from the flagship set, as the foil used for the player's last name usually ends up disappearing against that black background. But it shows up fine here, and gives us one of the first looks at Michael Cuddyer in a Rockies uniform. He had just left the Twins at the end of 2011, and began a three-year stay in Denver. He'd go on to win the batting title in 2013, and he made his second All-Star appearance that same year.

He became a well-liked player in Denver, and he got to play with his old teammate Justin Morneau for one of those seasons.

2002 Select Rookies and Prospects #42 Jason Romano (AU)
Continuing the theme of unfamiliar, here's a sticker autograph of a player I've never heard of on a set I've never seen. The card is embossed with an "authentic signature" stamp, and not only is it authentic, but it's more or less legible.

He played a handful of games for the Rockies in 2002, and with four other teams in his short career. He didn't make much of an impact in his career, and this set was lost in the glut of sets that existed in the later days of Pinnacle, Leaf, and Fleer.

2012 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP73 Will Swanner (AU)
Here's another player that never made in to my internal baseball encyclopedia. Will Swanner, a catcher, briefly progressed as high as Triple-A in 2016, but suddenly was demoted all the way to single-A then released by the Rockies' organization. Sadly, that's true for many players that appear on Bowman cards, though it does look like he took a few moments out of his development schedule to sign this card for a fan. Not sure whether Tom snagged this autograph himself, but it will go in the ever-growing collection of autograph cards.

2001 Topps Fusion #109 Ben Petrick GL
Like that Bowman Chrome card above, Tom threw in a bunch of shiny cards in this package. At first glance, this one of catcher Ben Petrick looks like a Topps Gold Label card, but it's actually from a very strange 2001 release called Topps Fusion. These always confuse me a bit. The set used five designs from Topps' portfolio at the time, including Finest, Stadium Club, Gold Label as you see here, and a couple others. They put a Topps Fusion stamp on them so they wouldn't be confused with the actual sets from those brands. I guess it was a cheap way for collectors to get a look at those higher-end sets without buying a box of each, but fifteen years later they're little more than a red herring.

Needless to say, this concept only lasted a year.

1996 Topps Gallery Players Private Issue #3 Dante Bichette /999
Topps Gallery was one of the sets included in 2001 Topps Fusion, and Gallery itself got its start in 1996. I have a few Gallery cards in my collection, including from that inaugural year. This one of Dante Bichette rounding the bases at Wrigley (that brick wall is easy as pie to spot) is actually a Players Private Issue parallel. This has a gold serial number on the back, but the print run is not given as part of the number. So it's #860 out of something. It's 999 according to Beckett, but the execution of serial numbered cards had not quite matured by 1996.

2000 SP Authentic United Nations #UN6 Larry Walker
Shortly after Bowman introduced their International parallels, where the flag or a skyline from the player's home country is displayed in the card background, Upper Deck did something similar for this 10-card United Nations insert set. Walker was the representative from Canada, selected for this set due to his consistently high batting average, and because he was the first native Canadian to bring home an MVP trophy. You can even see a faint Canadian flag in the background. By the way, that's the post-1965 flag, as the previous flag was a Union Jack on a red background, along with a coat of arms.

Rockies or ex-Rockies made up 30% of the small set, and which highlighted players from all over the world, from the USA to Curaçao, and across the ocean to Japan and Korea.

1998 Topps Gold Label Class 2 Black Label #69 Vinny Castilla
Castilla was Mexico's player in that UD set, but here he's on a Topps Gold Label card, this one of the Class 2 Black Label variety. His name at the bottom is just a bit more sparkly than usual. The Todd Helton card I got via trade from Play at the Plate now has a mate, even from the same Class 2 (out of 3).

1998 was a terrific year for the Blake Street Bomber, as he made it onto his second All-Star team, which happened to be at Coors Field that year. He also hit a career high 46 homers and won a Silver Slugger award.

1996 Pinnacle Aficionado #81 Vinny Castilla
A couple years before that, Pinnacle gave him a card in their Aficionado set. This has raised black printing on the right that makes for a pretty unique-feeling card. It's similar to an insert card from this set that I showed long ago, but it also reminds me a bit of 1998 Pacific Omega.

1996 was the only year for Pinnacle Aficionado, which is too bad. I think it had way more legs than Topps Fusion. Probably was pretty expensive to print, though.

2002 Fleer Ultra Gold Medallion #65 Jeff Cirillo
We're in the middle of a run of horizontal cards within all these shiny cards, and here's a player you don't run across too often. Jeff Cirillo came over to Denver from the Brewers for a couple seasons. He's holding on to a "snow cone" at third base here, which stands out just a bit better than usual on this Gold Medallion parallel. He was a good guy to have at third base, but nowhere near as good as Nolan Arenado's been since 2013, who convincingly won a Gold Glove in each of his four seasons so far.

Tom really found some good stuff for me!

1996 Leaf All-Star Game MVP Contenders #9 Dante Bichette
Horizontal shininess continues with another Bichette card, this one from a 1996 Leaf insert set. This is what I'll call a conditional redemption card, much like Upper Deck's You Crash The Game cards. In other words, it only becomes a redemption card if the player depicted does what he's supposed to do when he's supposed to do it. In this case, Bichette was one of 20 players selected by Leaf as one of the possible MVP winners in the 1996 All-Star Game. If Bichette got the honors, then this card could be redeemed for a full 20-card gold set of MVP Contenders, with a stated print run of 5,000.

Bichette did end up with a double and a run scored in the 1996 Midsummer Classic, but the MVP ended up being Mike Piazza, thanks to this early home run. I'm about 20 years too late on the redemption anyway, but maybe someday I can find a gold parallel of this card. Piazza, by the way, won that award in his hometown of Philadelphia. He never played for the Phillies, but won a pretty impressive award in their old park.

1998 Topps Gallery #107 Larry Walker
The frame was always an important part of Topps Gallery, sort of a non-retro precursor to Gypsy Queen. This is an exceptionally sturdy card, and has a slight texture on the front that's trying to go for an oil painting, I think. It looks a bit more like paint that's bubbled due to a fire, but it's still a neat card. Mets shortstop Rey Ordóñez makes a cameo wearing a white hat as Walker slides into second in the very blue Shea Stadium. It's not quite as obvious as the brick walls at Wrigley, but pretty much everything at Shea looked like that.

2000 Topps Chrome New Millennium Stars #NMS5 Todd Helton
Todd Helton shows up in a lot of discount boxes around here, but I'm pretty sure I've never run across this shiny number before. "Millennium" was quite the buzzword in 1999 and 2000, and Topps didn't miss a chance to give Helton and that word the shiny treatment. The background reminds me of an Art Deco style, and amazingly for a Chrome card, isn't curled!

2000 Black Diamond Rookie Edition #88 Todd Helton
I am not sure if I have this card, but it's one of the few sets so far that I clearly recognize. 2000 Black Diamond Rookie Edition, with its distinctive red and black colors, has appeared here before. The colors are so striking that I never really noticed the gold pattern in the background, which looks like a chain link fence with giant sections cut out of it. Or maybe a hockey net. They have a weave about like that.

2000 Topps 21st Century #C10 Todd Helton
Here's another millennium-themed card of Helton, who was not far removed from his rookie season when these were all printed. He was clearly recognized as a budding star, having led NL rookies in all three Triple Crown categories. Kerry Wood ended up with the Rookie of the Year award in 1998, edging out Helton by a few votes. It's been an elusive award for the Rockies, Jason Jennings being the only one to win it in 2002. Tulowitzki wasn't far behind in 2007, and Trevor Story was a strong contender this year until injury sidelined him shortly after the All-Star break.

This is a mesmerizing card. The grid has thick, bold lines, but that big baseball toward the top (see it?) is the focal point. If you tilt the card back and forth along the horizontal axis, a circular rainbow pattern appears to expand and contract, like you're travelling through a wormhole.

Not that I know what that looks like. But it might look something like this card.

1999 Upper Deck Century Legends #77 Andres Galarraga
Upper Deck got into the Y2K celebration too. Before Upper Deck Legends, the short-lived set was called Upper Deck Century Legends. I have maybe 15 cards from this set, one of the first to combine retired legends with current stars. Though he was a Brave at this time, and is pictured as one on the back, the front shows him as a Rockie (again at Wrigley), the team on which he became a genuine star. Upper Deck still had a fascination with copper foil in 1999, which became a real signature for them. With all the sets out there in the late 1990s, it was probably a good idea to have a recognizable feature, which they moved further and further away from as casualties started mounting in the card industry.

2016 Stadium Club #251 Jon Gray
Yes, a current player or two did make it in here. After all this past Rockies greatness, I figured I'd end with one of the bright stars of the Rockies rotation. This is one of the best Coors Field shots I've ever seen on a card, as we get a great look at some full sections on the third base side (right where I like to sit), and a glimpse of a sunny Colorado sunset through the concourse. I've waited out a rain delay in that exact spot, and can point you to a couple excellent pre- or post-game spots just beyond.

Baseball season has only been over for a couple weeks, but already I'm hungry to head back to Coors Field, especially when I see it on a Stadium Club card.

Bud Black was just announced as the new manager, the rotation and lineup remain strong, and the Rockies are reportedly talking to Mark Melancon, who could provide an invaluable boost to a perennially weak bullpen.

That Cuddyer card at the beginning ended up being the dullest one of the whole post. I almost had to wear sunglasses to look at these. And if this kind of a generous trade package helped the Cubs finally win it all, then I'm fully on board.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Trading Post #78: Blog Reader Chris

As I write this, I am watching the Chicago Cubs play in a World Series game.

It's quite a momentous occasion. The last time that happened, I couldn't have used much beyond a typewriter to write that sentence.

This has been quite an interesting postseason. There have been lots of surprises, including both eventual pennant winners. And of course the San Francisco Giants had a little bit of even-year magic left in the tank, but not quite enough to keep that pattern alive. My blogging activity has been pretty quiet this month, but I've made a bit of a dent in some card organization projects. I even went to a card show a couple weekends ago.

And there are still trades coming in. Blog Reader Chris, who does not have a blog of his own to my knowledge, sent a few Rockies earlier this month, as well as a couple non-Rockies, which I'll get to later. Chris is a Cubs fan, so I figured that tonight would be an appropriate night to pen this post. In case you hadn't heard, it's the first time since 1945 they've played in a World Series, and while they still have four wins to go to break the truly long drought, a Cubs pennant is something very few of us have seen.

2006 Topps Update #UH173 Cory Sullivan SH
There's been very little of the Rockies in the news lately, besides who will take over for Walt Weiss as Manager. But I'm still a fan, and compared to the Cubs, it wasn't really that long ago when the Rockies last played in the Fall Classic. Cory Sullivan was a member of that team, which was his only trip to the Postseason. He's part of the Rockies TV crew now, along with his former teammate Ryan Spilborghs.

Sullivan pulled off an exceptionally rare feat in 2006, as shown on this Updates & Highlights card. You know, the set that used to be called Traded and is now called Update? Anyway, Sullivan made it to third base on his own batted ball twice in the 5th inning of an away game early in 2006, something that happened on occasion back in the 1880s. Sullivan was the first to do it in 80 years, and it was previously done in 1926. So it's a pretty rare feat.

Almost as rare as a Cubs pennant.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. I am rooting for them!

2004 Topps Opening Day #12 Jay Payton
Opening Day used to look quite a bit different from the base set. The border color is different than the plain white that year, and there's even a bit of foil to be found. Compare that to now, where there's barely any foil even on the flagship set. Opening Day is having a hard time differentiating itself, except for the consistently great insert sets. 2004 is of course known for that tiny foil outline of the player in the lower left corner. It's a bit like 1973 Topps, just more meta since it matches the actual photograph. You can even see the tiny "24" in the corner, and I don't just mean the numerals to the left of the outline. The outline itself even has his uniform number that you can make out surprisingly well.

2007 Upper Deck First Edition Leading Off #LO-WT Willy Taveras
Willy Taveras, clearly pictured as an Astro here, had signed with the Rockies in 2007. Between the Astros and Rockies, the poor guy lost two World Series in three seasons, but at least he led the majors in Stolen Bases in 2008.

This 2007 UD card is from the Leading Off insert set, and there has been some good talent in that spot for the Rockies. Eric Young, Dexter Fowler (now a Cub), Charlie Blackmon, and Willy Taveras.

2007 Topps Update Red Back #UH143 Jeff Baker
This trade was a real throwback to that 2007 World Series, as many of those players didn't spend a ton of time in Denver. Jeff Baker played off the bench in the 2007 Postseason, and got an RBI hit in the NLDS against the Phillies. He looks quite chilly while playing the Mets in Shea Stadium, a few seasons before that park closed. Chris put this one in a penny sleeve, and that's because its a rare (though not necessarily sought-after) red back parallel. I've run across a few of these, but only in the first two series, if my memory serves.

2007 Topps Update Red Back #UH143 Jeff Baker (Reverse)
Baker was a young player at this time, and the card has his Minor League stats on it. It's a reminder of some of the past teams in the Rockies farm system, which changed just a couple seasons ago. Tulsa and Colorado Springs are affiliated with other clubs now, but Asheville remains the Single-A team. Also interesting to note is that Baker was born on a U.S. Military base in Germany.

2015 Topps #366 Jhoulys Chacin
A bit more recent in Rockies history is Jhoulys Chacin. He's officially the Rockie with a name more difficult to spell than LeMahieu. This card is from the recent 2015 Series Two base set, but by then he'd already been released by the Rockies in an effort to fix up their rotation. I found the move fairly surprising at the time, as Chacin had been a reasonably reliable Rockies starter. Topps incorrectly predicted that "he's likely to return to the heart of Colorado's rotation." He played for Los Angeles of Anaheim (I guess that's how you say it without the team name) this season, but other than his 2013 season, he usually ended up with a losing record.

It seems like a good move now that the Rockies have significantly improved their rotation, but I could conceivably see them bringing him back as a bullpen guy.

2006 Ultra RBI Kings #RBI12 Todd Helton
Fleer Ultra was looking pretty plain by the time Upper Deck took over the brand, a far cry from its gold-laden glory days of the early 1990s. This has the look of a relic card, and there could very well be relic versions of this card out there, but it doesn't scream "Ultra" to me.

They got the statistics right, though. A clean-shaven Helton had already become the Rockies career RBI leader with 915 at the time of printing, about 65 more than Larry Walker, and well on his way to his final tally of 1,406. The 147 pictured on the card refers to his 2000 season, in which he led the majors, edging out Edgar Martinez by two.

I'm sure I'll find a few Cubs in the duplicates box to send in return for all these Rockies. They always turn up when you do a big organization.

That wasn't quite it, though. Around the All-Star Break, I blogged about the 1988 Donruss Stan Musial puzzle. My mom found a few examples of the 15-piece mini puzzle, but the full 63-piece puzzle has eluded me.

1988 Donruss Stan Musial Puzzle #58 Musial Puzzle 58-60
Until now, that is. I put up the eight or nine puzzle cards I needed to finish the set on my new Wish List page (it needs work, I know), and Chris sent them over shortly thereafter. I did end up with a paper shower taking those pieces out of their standard-sized frames, as is common with those perforated puzzle cards, but they fit together just fine and are now in an 8.5"x"11" sheet protector, along with several other Donruss puzzles I've acquired over the years. This was the first time I assembled one piecemeal, though, and the colors and alignment aren't quite perfect. But that's just a reminder of the years-long "chase" I've been on to assemble the puzzle, and also of the great group of trading partners I've found, whether they have a blog or not.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Trading Post #77: Sportscards from the Dollar Store

To coincide with the beginning of Postseason baseball, I've received a small flurry of #Supertrader packages. This one came from the Great White North, sent by Sportscards from the Dollar Store. He's one of the few Supertraders that I still need to send something to. Shipping to Canada is always a bit of a challenge, but I'll find something for him soon.

1995 Bowman's Best #B88 Doug Million
The shiniest card in the package was this Bowman's Best card of former Rockies prospect pitcher Doug Million. Sadly, this card might have been better suited to my previous post on Jose Fernandez, as Million died at the young age of 21 from an asthma attack before he ever made a Major League appearance. Whether he'd have found success as a pitcher in Coors Field will forever be an unknown, but if that tragedy hadn't occurred, pitching in the Mile High City might have a different reputation.

2016 Stadium Club #117 Charlie Blackmon
Hitters have always done better at Coors Field than pitchers, and Charlie Blackmon is no exception. This is a fantastic close-up of his beard on 2016 Stadium Club, and leads off a selection of horizontal cards in this post. I wouldn't expect anything less from Stadium Club. Blackmon has been great in the leadoff role for the Rockies, offering a great mix of power and speed. Center field is a good spot for him, which gives Dexter Fowler an opportunity to shine in the Postseason for the Cubs.

There are ex-Rockies on most of the teams that qualified for the playoffs. So far, I've seen Fowler, Drew Pomeranz, Ubaldo Jimenez, Charlie Culberson, Jose Reyes, and of course Troy Tulowitzki. They've all been doing well, except for Jimenez, who gave up the season-ending home run to the Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card game.

Though he's yet to appear in a Postseason game, I do wonder why Blackmon doesn't seal the Velcro on his batting gloves. But he went 6-for-6 on Opening Day 2014, and I never hit a home run in little league, so what do I know? But I did go 4-for-4 a time or two.

I didn't pull any Rockies in my Stadium Club value pack from Target, but fortunately I have a great group of traders to fill in the gaps.

2016 Bowman Prospects #BP90 Raimel Tapia
Raimel Tapia was one of the many late-season call-ups for the Rockies, and he looked quite promising, validating his rating as a top-ten prospect in the Rockies organization, right up there with David Dahl. If he becomes a star, I don't know what the Rockies will do with all those outfielders, but it's a nice problem to have.

That's the second look I've had at 2016 Bowman, and for once, I might actually remember this design. And yes, I'll admit that the strength of the Rockies farm system and my recall of recent Bowman designs may be related.

2012 Topps Golden Moments Series 2 #GM-16 Carlos Gonzalez
Carlos Gonzalez, in eight seasons with the Rockies, has had his share of walkoff hits. Topps picked one for this 2012 Golden Moments insert set, in keeping with their gold theme that year. This card features a contest between the Cubs and Rockies at the end of July 2010. The Cubs rallied to tie it late in the game, but Carlos Gonzalez took care of that on the first pitch in the bottom of the 9th, earning a Rockies win and a Topps insert card in the process. This card says nothing about it, but that walkoff homer right to a Cubs fan in the third deck meant CarGo hit for the cycle that day, the only time he's done so in his career.

Based on the video highlights, this photo is clearly from a different game. Probably a Mother's Day game judging from all that pink. Still, it was a great performance, one that Topps called "Better Luck Next Time" for the Cubs, which is something the Cubs and their fans are painfully familiar with. But the Cubs won over 100 games this season, and are doing well in the Postseason so far, winning both games at Wrigley to begin their NLDS.

2007 Upper Deck #314 Aaron Cook
Aaron Cook, second overall in career wins for the Rockies, was the steward of #28 before Nolan Arenado got to wear it. One of the between-innings entertainment options at Coors Field this season was a uniform number challenge, where a fan on the scoreboard was presented with a series of five uniform numbers, and had to come up with any Rockie, past or present, who wore those numbers. There was often an easy one, #17 or #10 maybe, then usually one of the players who had just trotted off the field. But the last two or three were darn tough, and I did pretty poorly in playing along with that activity.

I did finally start getting the little three-card monte graphic they do around the third inning correct, but I had an abysmal streak of getting fooled by those in seasons prior. Lots to do between innings at Coors Field, once you're set on snacks and beers.

Aaron Cook is pitching in Coors Field in this 2007 Upper Deck card, with the Coca-Cola Front Row Seats visible past first base. That's another early-innings scoreboard diversion that can be found at the ballpark, where lucky fans in the first or second inning get to move into those field-level seats you see in the background. With a lefty on the hill, it'd be an even better deal.

2007 Upper Deck #307 Yorvit Torrealba
Both Cook and Yorvit Torreabla were members of the 2007 and 2009 Rockies, the last time they made successful runs at playoff spots. They both got horizontal cards in 2007 Upper Deck, a design that does well when rotated 90 degrees. The two columns on each long edge of the card make vertical shots feel "squeezed", or so goes the complaint about this design. It's a bit like the "salad tongs" 1999 Upper Deck set.

Torrealba, like his teammate Carlos Gonzalez, hails from Venezuela. There are a few hundred Major Leaguers in history that came from Venezuela, but ever since fan favorite Andres Galarraga, the Rockies seem to have fielded more than most.

1995 Leaf Great Gloves #5 Andres Galarraga
Speaking of the Big Cat, this insert from 1995 Leaf was my favorite of the whole package. The number is a bit weird, mixing numerals and words ("5 of sixteen") but that's a minor issue on a great card. the glove theme is obvious on the left, and Galarraga definitely had a Great Glove on the field for the Rockies. This card mentions the two Gold Gloves he won in Montreal. Surprisingly, he never won one with the Rockies or later in his career, despite his astonishing ability to dig short hops out of the dirt and stretch out just enough to get a runner speeding up the baseline.

Along with seeing the Rockies rack up a healthy collection of NL batting titles, which DJ LeMahieu did end up winning this year, watching the defensive abilities of the Rockies has been something that has kept my interest throughout my fandom. Galarraga was my favorite back then for his performance at first base. They've had some cannons in the outfield, including unexpected names like Jeromy Burnitz nestled among the obvious ones. Tulowitzki was brilliant at shortstop during his time in Denver, and yes, he took the same glove with him to Toronto. I'm sure I don't need to say much about Nolan Arenado and his magic at the hot corner. And the relative lack of defensive skill from Matt Holliday always drove me a little crazy.

In short, this is a very appropriate card for a Colorado Rockie. Batting titles and Gold Gloves are in abundance around here, and Galarraga has both awards to his name, as do numerous Rockies. In fact, other than the ex-Twins Cuddyer and Morneau, every Rockie to win a batting title has also won a Gold Glove, except, you guessed it, Matt Holliday.

Now if they could just get the pitching to click a bit more, I won't have to resort to watching ex-Rockies once the Postseason rolls around.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cut Short

"Fernandez's statistical possibilities boggle the imagination."

2014 Topps Spring Fever #SF-20 Jose Fernandez
So said Topps in 2014 about Jose Fernandez, the Marlins ace who lost his life Sunday morning in a boating accident. He was just 24 years old, but already had a Rookie of the Year award and two All-Star appearances under his belt.

This card has appeared here before, marking the Baseball Solstice in the 2014-2015 offseason. No one could know that it would make another appearance under much worse circumstances. Fatal boating accidents have struck active Major Leaguers before, as you may recall the 1993 incident that claimed the lives of Tim Crews and Steve Olin. Even outside the baseball world, 2016 has seen its share of untimely celebrity deaths, including Prince and David Bowie, to lesser-known figures like Anton Yelchin and Christina Grimmie.

My thoughts are with the family and friends of Jose Fernandez, as well as the Miami Marlins organization.

I've had a post in mind for a while that's a bit of a downer, and I feel like today might be an appropriate day to share it. Of course, this is not to take away from what happened with Jose Fernandez, who was one of the most promising young pitchers in the game.

A little over a month ago, I did a Cubs-focused post with cards I had obtained at a card show in early 2015. Those cards, and others from that post, have been sitting on my card table for quite some time. As I went through them recently, a theme started emerging that really wasn't all sunshine and roses, like it usually is on this blog, various lamentations about Rockies' losses aside.

1994 Fleer Golden Moments #5 Bo Jackson
Bo Jackson, a multi-sport star, was poised for all-time greatness, but experienced a hip injury on an innocent-looking tackle in 1991 that put an end to his NFL career. The Royals didn't expect him to return to baseball, either, but the White Sox gave him a chance, as depicted on this Fleer insert card that mentions the injury. "Bo's Back", according to the back of this Golden Moments card, long before Topps made an insert set of the same name. Jackson helped the White Sox reach the playoffs in 1993, which was the first postseason that I remember watching. Wilson Alvarez, Tim Raines, and Bo Jackson were some of the first American Leaguers I ever watched on TV in the 1993 ALCS.

He played for the Angels the following year, but decided to retire from baseball after that strike-shortened 1994 season, yet another player whose career was ended by the strike.

2011 Topps Opening Day Blue #106 Todd Helton /2011
Todd Helton had a stellar career for the Rockies, and he was my answer when I was asked the other night during a business trip to the Dallas area who the best-ever Rockies player was. All those doubles and a World Series appearance count for a lot. He was loved in Denver (though there was that DUI incident), but you can't play this game forever. Helton retired in 2013, leaving a bit of a vacuum at first base, even if he does have a burger stand named after him at the ballpark. And he played in the era in which Topps Opening Day Blue parallels still had serial numbers. In gold, no less.

1982 Topps #781 Pete Rose IA
Ten years after Topps debuted the In Action subset, they used it again in the 1982 set. All-time MLB hits leader Pete Rose got a card that likely depicts one of his 4,256 hits. Like Rickey Henderson, Rose is the career leader in several statistics, which are games played, plate appearances, at-bats, and of course hits. Rickey leads not only in stolen bases, but also runs scored, and times caught stealing.

Rickey, of course, is in the Hall of Fame, but Pete Rose is not, despite his accomplishments. His gambling scandal landed him on the list of players permanently ineligible from baseball, which has kept him out of the Hall.

There are a lot of names on that list, including the names you might expect like Joe Jackson and other Black Sox players, along with players, umpires, and managers from long ago that were involved with throwing games. Clearly, baseball does not look kindly on gambling. If you're in a position to affect the outcome of the game, that's one thing, but even Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were briefly banned in the mid-1980s for the mere sin of representing a casino in a promotional capacity long after their careers ended.

The Hall of Fame can choose to keep out the all-time hits leader (other than Ichiro, sort of), but if they keep that up, as well as snubbing pretty much any steroid user, enforcing their own sense of morality risks cheapening the value of the Hall itself. A baseball Hall of Fame that doesn't include Pete Rose, Joe Jackson, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, etc... really doesn't give you a complete list, does it?

2013 Topps Chrome 1972 Chrome #72C-RB Ryan Braun
Unless that policy changes drastically, here's another guy that won't be in Cooperstown anytime soon, Ryan Braun. He was suspended for about half of the 2013 season after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Whatever accomplishments remain in his career, he's unlikely to get full recognition for them, even if he happens to lead the Brewers to their first-ever championship someday.

Topps is still happy to print nice, shiny cards of Braun in the great 1972 design, so at least Topps knows what the fans want.

2010 Topps Chrome Refractors #209 Daniel McCutchen
It's not just the superstars that used steroids, even players you've never heard of did too. That's why I think steroid use wasn't such a big deal in and of itself. Bonds stood head-and-shoulders above the league even when a large portion of his competitors were using the same compounds. But Daniel McCutchen tested positive as a Minor Leaguer in 2013, and was slapped with a 50-game suspension. He has no relation to the other McCutchen on the Pirates, Andrew, but believe me when I say I experienced a moment of panic when I saw "McCutchen suspended 50 games for positive drug test" on the ESPN ticker just a couple weeks after I selected Andrew as my Fantasy team's first pick.

Daniel McCutchen, despite his use of PEDs, didn't have his performance enhanced that much. He was almost 27 before his Major League debut, and even then, finished with an 8-11 career record over five seasons. He even had an infinite ERA in 2012, giving up two earned runs in one appearance without recording an out. The old divide by zero error doesn't strike many pitchers, so clearly PEDs help some more than others.

All that aside, at least Topps gave him a nice bunting card in 2010.

2014 Topps Archives #175 Yogi Berra
If you've watched any Yankees games this year, you've probably seen a little numeral 8 on their uniform sleeves. That's a memorial for Yogi Berra, the Yankee great who passed away about a year ago. There aren't many players whose count of World Series rings exceeds his uniform number. He was a comedic genius, too, so he'd probably say something along the lines of "I guess I beat the spread" if he were presented with that statistic.

Yogi does look good on the 1989 design in 2014 Archives. I'd say this photo is better than most of what was found in the actual '89 set.

2012 Bowman Sterling Refractors #47 Jordan Pacheco
Even the normal course of baseball transactions leaves some disappointment in its wake. Jordan Pacheco, who appears on a very shiny, serial-numbered Bowman Sterling card, is no longer with the Rockies. He's bounced around the NL for the last few years, but he was one of my favorite young Rockies who came of age as Helton's career was wrapping up.

This card pretty much feels like a Topps Chrome card, maybe a tiny bit thicker. I can't remember if I got it from Christian, my usual dealer at card shows, or from the new guy who bought all of Adam's inventory, the other dealer at the monthly show that I liked to visit. Adam bowed out of the hobby, and as I haven't been to a show since then, I don't know if the new dealer is still active.

2012 Finest #90 Jose Reyes
Jose Reyes was briefly a Rockie following the blockbuster Troy Tulowitzki trade. The Rockies cut him following a domestic violence incident, and he's now back on the Mets where his career began. If the Mets don't choke like they did in 2007, Reyes should make the playoffs again with last year's NL pennant winners. They're tied with the Giants for the NL Wild Card spots, but the always-dangerous Cardinals are definitely in the hunt.

The Marlins, where Reyes played for one season as shown on this color-coded Topps Finest card, are a bit further out, but they've been a factor in the Wild Card race for some time. To lose their ace in such a tragic accident marks a bitter end to the 2016 season. They cancelled their game against the Braves today, and the league observed a moment of silence before each of today's games.

2014 Topps Gold #25 Troy Tulowitzki /2014
More than Pacheco, I really liked Troy Tulowitzki. I've seen this photo numerous times before, and it's a reminder of the days when the Tulo chant echoed throughout Coors Field. Now they do the chant in the Skydome, but he might make the playoffs two straight years if the Blue Jays hold on to a wild card spot in the tight AL East. That's definitely not what would have happened if he stayed in Denver.

CarGo was quoted on the back of Tulo's card, right under the serial number. He says, "When [Tulowitzki]'s not playing, we are a completely different team." Players like Arenado, Story, Blackmon, Gray, and Dahl have helped the Rockies forge a new identity following the trade, but somehow it'll never be quite the same.

Of course, the same goes for the Marlins, and for a much worse reason. It puts things in perspective. When they trade your favorite player, it never feels good. But when an accident like that happens to a 24-year old who made his mark in America after defecting from Cuba, it's a whole different story.

2012 Topps A Cut Above #ACA-17 Tim Lincecum
I don't know. Maybe I shouldn't be writing any of this today. Maybe every one of these words is inappropriate given the situation. But it helps, just remembering that even if things didn't end up that great, there are always good memories to look back on.

Tim Lincecum's career has gone through some tough times recently. He has three World Series rings, but a competitor like that always wants to do the best he can. The two-time Cy Young winner's statistics have been consistently trailing off for years, but he keeps setting his sights on a comeback. The Angels gave him a chance, but he went 2-6 this season. As we saw with Bo Jackson over twenty years ago, hip surgeries aren't easy to come back from.

This die-cut card is from the same set as a Troy Tulowitzki card I got via trade recently, and it shows Lincecum's trademark wild hair. He had a lot to do with the Giants' even-year magic, and without his presence, the streak might come to an end.

2014 Topps The Future is Now #FN-3 Shelby Miller
Shelby Miller has also had a rough go of it. He's back in Arizona's rotation, but he was demoted to Triple-A for a month or so this summer. He's getting things back on track, but went 2-9 in the first half. Zach Greinke hasn't had a great first season in Arizona either. And the trade that brought Miller to Arizona was so heavily in the Braves' favor that plenty of sportswriters could hardly believe it. I was expecting a better season out of Arizona, but maybe that will wait until next year.

2012 Topps Opening Day #189 Mariano Rivera
Lots of iconic players that have been the faces of baseball for the past couple decades finally decided to call it a career. The Yankees are having a tough time succeeding in, let alone making the playoffs since Rivera's retirement in 2013. Rivera set the all-time high-water mark for saves, with 652. And that's not even counting the 42 postseason saves he had in his storied career. Five World Series rings (and oh-so-close to a sixth), a World Series MVP award, and the last player to wear the number 42, the same as his postseason save count.

He appears on this foil-free Topps Opening Day card, but Rivera will always be associated with the last game of the season much more than the first.

2007 UD Masterpieces #14 David Ortiz
Ortiz has been just as important to Boston's recent string of championships as Rivera was to the Yankees. He's up to 37 home runs on the year, which is his final season, or so he says. The Red Sox will be in the 2016 Postseason, so Ortiz still has room for a little more. No one has ever hit more home runs in his final season than Ortiz has now, and there's still a week left in the regular season.

Like Rivera's saves, Ortiz's 17 postseason home runs carry more importance than his 540 in the regular season. He's certainly worthy of an Upper Deck Masterpieces card, and he still had two rings yet to earn when this was printed, one against my beloved Rockies.

2012 Bowman Gold #63 Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod isn't as well-liked as Ortiz or Rivera, but he's still one of the greats. And will probably be in line behind Ryan Braun in the Not-in-the-Hall-of-Fame club. He entered the majors at just eighteen years of age. I knew he was a young rookie, but I checked Baseball Reference to be exactly sure. I thought I had heard seventeen at one point. His first game was on July 8th, 1994. That date looked very familiar, and I collected enough cards back then to remember seeing that date on John Valentin's 1995 cards as the date he turned an unassisted triple play for the Red Sox.

Even weirder, guess who the Red Sox were playing that day? Yes, Seattle. A-Rod was in the hole when it happened, but A-Rod got to witness an unassisted triple play in his very first Major League game. You can even see him in the dugout during that clip. I remember hearing about it on the radio, but I had no idea that a rookie in that game would go on to be such an important figure in the baseball world. Who would know that? The announcers barely realized what happened during the play.

He's known for one of the most valuable contracts in baseball history, and there was talk of him hitting 900 home runs before his career ended. However, he was suspended for the entire 2014 season over his involvement with PEDs. He retired earlier this season with 696 career home runs. He probably wouldn't have caught Bonds or Aaron, but if he played in 2014, I bet he'd have passed Babe Ruth.

1998 Topps HallBound #HB2 Tony Gwynn
Topps was spot-on with this 1998 card of Tony Gwynn, predicting that he was on his way to being voted into Cooperstown. That prediction came true in 2007 on his first ballot. Topps did a pretty good job with these. They picked fifteen players for this die-cut insert set, and all are indeed in the Hall of Fame, or at least they should be. Most who aren't I've already mentioned, which are McGwire, Bonds, and Clemens. The only arguably borderline case in the set was Juan Gonzalez, who did have two MVP seasons, but was one of the main faces of the steroid scandal, which torpedoed his already unclear chances.

Tony Gwynn won eight batting titles in his career, and he was rightly awarded with a plaque in Cooperstown. His career average was .338, and that's the highest any recent player has attained by quite a bit. Come on, he's the only guy in the top-20 with a color photograph.

Sadly, he only got to enjoy that Hall of Fame status for less than a decade. He passed away in 2014 from what he attributed to a tobacco-caused cancer.

2013 Topps Chasing History #CH-55 Ken Griffey, Jr.
Like Gwynn before him, Ken Griffey, Jr. is now a member of the Hall of Fame. He's the highest draft pick to ever make it, and Mike Piazza, his counterpart in the class of 2016, was the lowest draft pick to ever make it. This Chasing History card, one of my favorite insert sets from 2013, told us that Griffey could consistently be relied on for at least 20 home runs a season. Sometimes a lot more. In 1998, while McGwire and Sosa were battling to break Roger Maris' record, Griffey quietly finished in third place with 56, the same count he had in 1997.

Plus he was the guy to collect back in the 1990s, along with Frank Thomas. Those two guys were the blue chips of pre-strike Beckett values.

2007 UD Masterpieces #65 Alex Gordon (RC)
I guess at the end of the day, despite tragedy, misfortune, illness, disappointment, and the simple passage of time, the game carries on. Sometimes it's as simple as this: you get to win a World Series, and your biggest problem is being dropped from the 2006 Topps base set. Cory Lidle, on the other hand, made it into the 2006 Topps Update set, but for a sad reason.

Baseball has been there for this country in hard times. It helped distract people from the depression as soon as they figured out how to light a field. It helped normalize relations with Japan after World War II. And it helped America start healing after the world-changing events of 9/11. It just becomes a little paradoxical when it occurs within the baseball world itself.

And we won't get to hear the legendary Vin Scully guide us through the game after this season, as we have since 1950.

I'm sure we'll see the Marlins wear a memorial patch next week and for the duration of next season. But they lost more than their ace pitcher with amazing reflexes. They lost a bright young athlete who loved the game and who loved life.