Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Trading Post #96: All Trade Bait, All The Time

Dante Bichette always wore #10.

1997 Upper Deck #60 Dante Bichette
Except during the occasional Spring Training game, as pictured on this copper-heavy 1997 Upper Deck card.

I know a lot of people talk about 1993 Upper Deck as one of the best sets of the entire overproduction era, but all the little details, dates, and tidbits found on the 1997 set really appeal to me. Thanks to that little white line of text, we know the exact date that Dante Bichette suited up with #8. It's an appropriate card for today, which happens to be Jackie Robinson Day. Every Major League player wore #42 today, in honor of the player who famously broke the color barrier seventy years ago.

It can be a bit confusing to the casual baseball fan to watch when everyone is wearing the same number. But it's probably even more confusing to rabid fans when regular players are not wearing their normal number. On rare occasions, the uniform even has a mind of its own, as a number fell off a jersey mid-pitch during a recent Minor League game.

2017 Topps #152 Nolan Arenado LL
You can't quite make out Arenado's number on his League Leader card for 2016 NL Home Runs, but he wears #28, something I'm reminded of every day when I open my closet door and see his jersey. Just like in 2015, Arenado finished the season tied for the lead in home runs. In 2015, his 42 shots were on par with Bryce Harper, and he almost equaled that total in 2016, tying Chris Carter with 41. Since then, Topps decided to feature single-player league leader cards for the 2017 set, rather different from the three-player cards they had been using for quite a while.

Of course, that brings up the question of what to do about ties. Arenado played second fiddle to Harper on the 2016 card, but pretty much took over the entire 2017 card, getting the featured photo, team color coding on the back, and the first listing at the head of the top-ten list.

Maybe one of these seasons he will have the lead all to himself.

2017 Topps #17 Daniel Descalso
Daniel Descalso didn't lead any categories in 2016, nor is he even a Rockie in 2017. He migrated southwest in the offseason to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks, so as a member of the NL West, he's sure to remain a familiar face to Rockies fans. He's no stranger to the division, either. Judging by those yellow seats, this shot came from Dodger Stadium, and offers one of the final images on cardboard of the Rockies' old shade of purple.

This Descalso card came from a recent PWE from All Trade Bait, All The Time, one of the many Dodgers fans in the Cardsphere. My Rockies and his Dodgers square off frequently, and the Dodgers were even the visiting team for the Rockies' home opener last weekend. The Rockies are on the road for now, playing in San Francisco. Tyler Chatwood turned in a marvelous pitching performance today, a complete game shutout, and he was perfect through 5.2 innings.

2017 Topps #311 Tyler Chatwood
Speaking of Chatwood, I didn't have this card originally selected when I started this post. But after that shutout against the Giants on the road, I gave it a second thought and decided to include it. I'm probably nearing completion of the Rockies team set in 2017 Topps by now, and while it may not go down in history as one of the great all-time designs, it is starting to grow on me. Especially that beautiful purple on the back.

2013 Topps #461 Drew Pomeranz
Like Descalso, Drew Pomeranz has moved on, even venturing to an entirely different league. An All-Star last year with the Padres, he now pitches for Boston. He built up a dismal 4-14 record in three seasons with the Rockies, but has turned things around since leaving Denver, good enough for about a .500 record in recent seasons.

And that's not a bad Coors Field card in the 2013 set, statistically likely to have been taken during one of his nine losses in 2012.

2016 Topps Chrome Youth Impact #Y-I5 Jon Gray
Jon Gray took the hill three times so far this season for the Rockies, but was pulled early from Friday's game after aggravating a foot injury. Turns out he has a broken bone in his foot and is likely to miss more than a month. The Rockies are still in second place, not that unusual for the month of April, but the injuries are piling up at an alarming rate. Trevor Story is off to a slow start, many of the names that sportswriters picked as key players for the 2017 Rockies are injured, and if not for strong starting and relief pitching, a surprising performance by Mark Reynolds, and Tyler Chatwood's complete game shutout, things would be looking pretty bad.

At least Jon Gray can spend the next month admiring this awesome insert card from 2016 Topps Chrome. It could easily pass for a Topps Finest card, shows off his uniform number 55 perfectly, and evokes images of stained-glass windows. The color scheme is muted a bit on the back, but this will be an eye-catching specimen no matter which direction I display it in the binder.

I always like writing with a ballgame on, but especially so when I can write about a trade during a Rockies win. April is a fun month for Rockies fans, no matter what the uniform numbers say.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Trading Post #95: 2x3 Heroes

It's finally Opening Day!

Baseball has come out of its long winter hibernation. Well, not counting the weeks of spring training and the World Baseball Classic. But you know what I mean.

Writing with a ballgame on in the background is one of my favorite pastimes, especially when someone from my fantasy team is playing. I happen to have Madison Bumgarner on my team, who was on the hill for the Giants this Opening Day. He took a perfect game into the 6th, and became the first pitcher to hit two home runs in a single Opening Day game.

That makes today the perfect day to write about a stack of cards that Jeff from 2x3 Heroes sent as part of his annual 'Tis the Season giveaway.

2016 Topps Opening Day #OD-133 Greg Holland
Greg Holland didn't actually appear as a Royal in 2016, as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent shortly before the Royals' World Series championship in 2015. But he still got a card in 2016 Topps Opening Day, a perfect set to highlight on a day like today. Holland, of course, signed with the Rockies in the offseason, and while it's not certain he'll spend all season as the closer, he'll be a solid late-inning reliever to support the Rockies' rotation.

Or maybe he'll end up in more of a high-leverage sort of role, similar to what the Indians have been doing with Andrew Miller. ESPN ran a pretty interesting article the other day, about how the whole idea of the Save statistic has effectively shaped the modern closer role, and perhaps not always for the best. The argument is that it makes more sense to put your best reliever in during the diciest late inning, not simply the 9th where a Save can be earned. Leaving your best reliever in the bullpen in case a save situation materializes isn't necessarily the best strategy. For example, the Orioles famously didn't use their star closer Zach Britton in last year's AL Wild Card game against the Blue Jays, and that ended up costing them dearly in the 11th inning with Edwin EncarnaciĆ³n at the plate.

2016 Topps Opening Day #OD-152A Carlos Gonzalez
Slugging outfielders are a lot more consistent with Rockies history than elite closers. Carlos Gonzalez has been holding down various outfield positions at Coors Field for the better part of a decade, and he's no slouch on the basepaths either. He's sliding into third at AT&T Park against the Giants, a common location for Rockies cards and other NL West teams. CarGo's season doesn't kick off until Monday, as only six teams played their first game today. As usual, the Rockies begin their season on the road, a four-game set in Milwaukee.

2016 Topps Bunt #59 Trevor Story (RC)
Trevor Story is also expected to be in the Opening Day lineup, and while he didn't get a card in 2016 Topps Opening Day, he did get a card in Bunt. Of course, the gray back of this card mentions his "unprecedented" start to his rookie season, in which he hit ten memorable home runs in his first 21 games. Not bad for a rookie in a 200-card set that also includes retired legends.

2016 Topps Opening Day #OD-148 Robinson Cano
I watched part of a Rockies/Mariners spring training game on Friday, one that ended in a 5-5 tie. Robinson Cano is one of the key players for Seattle, but from what I saw he wasn't doing anything special at second. Maybe he was just getting the last minute kinks out, but he's definitely been supplanted by Jose Altuve as the best second baseman in the league.

By the way, I did it! I finally remembered the Astros are in the AL without having to think twice about it!

The Mariners' colors do look good on this card, and especially on Cano's batting gloves. And seeing all those aqua-colored knuckle pads on his batting gloves line up appeals to me. I liked when the Seahawks had similar colors, before they moved to airport-gate-worker electric green.

2016 Topps Opening Day #OD-139 Dustin Pedroia
Dustin Pedroia was once toward the top of the 2B rankings, and he also won the Rookie of the Year award in 2007. He's got quite the career under his belt, but he's no longer the elite second baseman he once was. Still, I did pick him for my fantasy team as the final hitter, with DJ LeMahieu as the primary second baseman. It's nice to have a Rockie this year; it will make watching Rockies games that much more interesting.

Also, with the trend toward beard and facial hair throughout the Major Leagues, it's a bit odd to see Pedroia clean-shaven now. It's even more odd to see Hunter Pence with a much shorter beard than before.

2016 Topps Opening Day #OD-138 David Ortiz
David Ortiz has etched himself into Red Sox lore even more than Dustin Pedroia. Ortiz retired at the end of 2016, so it will be strange not to see him on the highlight reels this year. Ortiz does have a card in 2017 Topps, but with the shift to five years of stats, this is as close to a sunset card as we're likely to see for him. This photograph is much more appropriate for a sunset card than his 2017 issue anyway, but it does skip his still-strong 2016 statistics.

2016 Topps Bunt #133 Stephen Piscotty (RC)
2016 Topps Opening Day and 2016 Topps Bunt were the two sets that Jeff sent as part of this giveaway. Nothing super high-end but I do enjoy these lower-end sets. The no-frills design may not be as eye-catching as others, but the price point really can't be beat. And Stephen Piscotty, whom I saw play when the Cardinals came to town last year, is also on my Fantasy team. I'm not sure if I'll see the Cardinals this season, as my Cardinals-fan friend who I tried to catch a game with every season moved to Chattanooga this weekend. I'm sure we'll catch a Double-A Lookouts game if I have a chance to visit him, but it will be unusual not to catch the Redbirds in Denver with him this year.

2016 Topps Bunt #45 Steven Matz
Stephen Matz of the Mets went just a couple picks later than Piscotty in my league's draft. Unfortunately, Matz is dealing with an elbow injury and will miss the first few weeks of the season. The Mets have some insanely good young pitching talent, but elbow problems and Tommy John surgeries have affected most of them over the years, including Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, and Matz. Mets fans will certainly recognize those names as pretty much the entire rotation, other than Noah Syndergaard. Robert Gsellman will round out the Mets' rotation to start the season, a player I spent a late-round pick on.

2016 Topps Opening Day #OD-73 George Springer
George Springer, along with his teammates Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Dallas Keuchel, are making the Astros look like a very strong young team, despite the Cardinals' computer-hacking efforts. Moving to the AL West could end up being a great move for the Astros, as it effectively takes them out of competition with the Cardinals, Cubs, and even Pirates, all of whom are at least a Wild Card threat. Even if it takes half a decade for their new division to become second-nature to this baseball fan.

On this shot of Springer sliding into home, you can spot an Astros' 50th Anniversary patch on his right sleeve. Not the 50th Anniversary patch, a 50th Anniversary patch. Apparently the Astros also celebrated their 50th Anniversary in 2012, but for 2015 they ignored the three years they spent as the Houston Colt .45s and celebrated it again. It's a bit strange, celebrating anniversaries that both include and disregard the team's first name. But it does let you sell twice as many t-shirts.

2016 Topps Bunt #114 Brooks Robinson
Brooks Robinson, the career Oriole, finished a little bit shy of 3,000 hits, at 2,848. But in that time he won an MVP award, became one of the most well-known Orioles in history, and earned himself two World Series rings. He's also considered to be the best defensive third baseman of all-time, winning sixteen consecutive Gold Glove awards. Now, everyone knows I'm a huge Nolan Arenado fan, but as talented as he is on the diamond, he has a long, long way to go before he challenges Robinson for a record like that. 3,000 hits is somewhat likely, but to win another 12 Gold Gloves, let alone consecutively, remains a tall order. Especially so, as much as the defensive game of baseball has been elevated in the past forty or so years.

2016 Topps Bunt Light Force #LF-23 Willie Stargell
There were even a couple inserts that made it in here. Willie Stargell, the career Pirate, got a card in the Light Force set, the same as Luis Gonzalez in the pack of Topps Bunt I purchased. Stargell won two World Series as a Pirate, his second coming in 1979, the same year as his only NL MVP award. That came surprisingly late in his career, at the age of 39. The inclusion of Hall of Famers like Robinson and Stargell help distinguish this Bunt set from Topps Opening Day, and although some have suggested otherwise, I'd be happy to continue seeing these two sets stay on the market.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Trading Post #94: Cardboard Clubhouse

Adam was a fairly common name when I was growing up. Starting in the first year or two of elementary school and throughout my public school career, there were lots of Adams. Adam W., Adam T., Adam G., Adam B., and of course myself as Adam K. There's even another Adam K. at my current place of employment, so our colleagues have to come up with other ways to differentiate us, primarily that the other Adam K. is a talented dancer and soccer player, of which I am neither.

Even in Boy Scouts, there were two Adam S.'s in my patrol, leading to this particular exchange shouted between tents one dark night at a mountain campsite:

"Hey, where's Adam?"
"Which Adam?"
"Which S?"
[frustrated pause] "<other S.'s last name>!"

Even in the Cardsphere, there are a couple of Adam S.'s, entirely different from the ones I knew in my Boy Scout days. Giants fan Adam (aka arpsmith) writes "ARPSmith's Sportscard Obsession", and Adam Sanders writes Cardboard Clubhouse, the sender of this particular PWE.

2010 Topps #51 Eric Young Jr (RC)
The Adam S. in question, a Reds fan, found this Rockies card of Eric Young, Jr. sliding into home plate at Coors Field against a Cincinnati Reds catcher. We might have enough information here to date this card. Ryan Hanigan was the regular catcher for the Reds in 2009, and Cincinnati visited Denver in early September 2009. Young, Jr. scored multiple times during that series, but the most likely candidate is September 9th, 2009. Eric Young, Jr. got on base to lead off the third inning, advanced to third on a Carlos Gonzalez single (wow, CarGo was a Rockie way back in 2009?), and scored on a sacrifice fly by Seth Smith.

He is facing away from the catcher, but that sliding position is fairly dangerous, the way his spikes are up like that. It's a good Nike ad, at least, but it's probably best that the pitcher wasn't nearby.

2015 Topps Rainbow Foil #94 Tommy Kahnle
Tommy Kahnle is now part of the Chicago White Sox organization. I might even get to see this ex-Rockie when the White Sox come to town in July, as part of my quest to see every Major League team in person. Even though Kahnle didn't make a huge splash for the Rockies (originally drafted as a Yankee), I'm still glad to have this Rainbow Foil parallel from 2015 Topps.

The stucco set (is that what we settled on calling it?) already seems like a distant memory, but if it's to be the last-ever bordered Topps base set, then I think they did a great job with it.

1995 Stadium Club #109 Doug Million
That's about it for the new cards, as the rest were mostly from the 1990s. 1995 Topps Stadium Club introduced a new brand logo that would stick around for a couple years, and it appears on this Draft Picks subset card. I've written about Doug Million's sad story before, and this promising lefty never had a chance to pitch in the Majors before his tragic death. The Rockies pitching staff is facing something similar today, as starter Chad Bettis will likely be missing most of the 2017 season as he is treated for testicular cancer.

I hope that I'll be seeing Chad Bettis cards long into the future, regardless of which team he's on.

1995 Stadium Club #94 Walt Weiss
Walt Weiss also got a card in that same Topps Stadium Club set, which was generally being referred to as TSC during this period. I can't quite tell if he's sliding into third or diving back to first base to avoid a pickoff attempt. Probably the former, unless the first baseman is playing far behind the runner. Either way, we can see that the former Rockies manager wore his cap underneath his batting helmet. I don't see anyone do this anymore, but it wasn't that uncommon in the 1990s. When I played my two seasons of little league, I used to do exactly that when I strolled up to the plate. Always wanted to be like the big guys. Unfortunately for me, that is slightly more difficult when your helmet has ear flaps on both sides. I guess I just didn't have the leverage at the age of ten to demand a right-handed batting helmet. But a switch-hitter in the Majors got a choice of either.

1995 Collector's Choice SE #260 Dante Bichette FT
1995 Collector's Choice SE came out in the final month of 1994, and the blue foil made it one of my favorites at the time. I have seen these Fantasy Team subset cards countless times, but I never really looked that closely at them. This was a decade before I knew anything about fantasy baseball, but the back of this card gives a look at per-position fantasy rankings, based on the standard 5-category scoring. Those 5 categories were based on statistics that you'd find in a box score in the newspaper, since this was long before any sort of live scoring you could check on an automatically refreshing webpage.

Strangely, the column for batting average shows a zero in front of the usual three-digit number, as in 0.284. More strangely, there is no column for runs scored, one of the key statistics in 5-category scoring. And perhaps strangest of all, Dante Bichette's fantasy stats don't even appear on the back of his own card. Luis Polonia is at the top of the AL outfielder rankings, and Derrick May atop the NL rankings. Rockies outfielder Mike Kingery shows up midway down the NL ranks, but Bichette is nowhere to be found.

That seems to be an error, as I checked the back of several other cards in this subset. Greg Maddux, Craig Biggio, and Jeff Bagwell are all listed at the top of their league table, in bold no less. Bichette and his stellar seasons as a Blake Street Bomber surely put him as a top-ranked outfielder. Which is pretty much where Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon can be found today.

1995 Donruss #383 Roberto Mejia
Continuing our flashback to 1995, Roberto Mejia, an expansion draft pick, appears in this 1995 Donruss set. The front is pretty standard for a mid-1990s card, with a full-bleed photo and lots of illegible silver foil. But I do think I finally know whose batting helmet Charlie Hayes was wearing on his 1994 Upper Deck card.

1995 Donruss #383 Roberto Mejia (Reverse)
Over twenty years later, the back of 1995 Donruss clearly influenced the 2016 Topps Bunt set, with its huge team logo, a touch of color coding, and a general gray color.

Fake-finger-gun back at you, Roberto. I'm sure that was a nice throw.

1994 Score #528 David Nied
David Nied, the Rockies first pick in the Expansion Draft, was featured in the fragile 1994 Score set. The little yellow 1993 Rookie label isn't quite accurate, as Nied pitched three games for the Braves before the Rockies and Marlins poached rosters from the rest of the Major Leagues.

This photo is probably from 1993, making the blurry foreground catcher likely either Joe Girardi or Danny Sheaffer, both of whom also got cards in 1994 Score. Surprisingly, for as much 1994 Score as I collected when it was new, and for as many early Rockies cards as I get via trade, this Nied looks to be a newcomer to my collection.

Thanks again to Adam S. for sending this Adam K. some great Rockies cards, and I hope he enjoys the upcoming baseball season, which kicks off one week from today!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Trading Post #93: Night Owl Cards

March is usually the snowiest month in Colorado. But in the Denver area, we've barely seen a flake fly in weeks. It's definitely odd, seeing what the climate's been doing these days, and if we're getting summer-like weather at the end of winter, it makes me wonder what actual summer will be like.

2016 Topps Wal-Mart Holiday Snowflake #HMW152 DJ LeMahieu
Pretty much the only snowflakes I've seen recently came on this Holiday Snowflake card, a Wal-Mart exclusive set. Everyone was writing about these a few months ago, but as I haven't set foot in a Wal-Mart in years, I didn't pick any of these up. I also missed out on the Marketside insert cards that came in those frozen pizza boxes. But thanks to Night Owl Cards, this particular Wal-Mart exclusive found its way into my collection.

Unlike many others, I didn't really mind the smoke effect that Topps gave to their base cards in 2016. Seeing snowflakes there instead doesn't make this any better for me, just different. And definitely more festive. This is more like a Topps base card than 2016 Opening Day, as the Topps logo is in foil. But that's the same Jake Lamb in a throwback Diamondbacks jersey, trying to break up a double play being turned by a 2016 NL award winner.

2017 Topps #335 Jeff Hoffman (RC)
This is the third time that Night Owl has sent me cards, and judging by this 2017 Topps card, he couldn't get these Rockies extras to me fast enough. He's no fan of any other NL West team than the Dodgers, particularly not the Giants, but I'm fine with being his designated destination for Rockies cards.

I wrote about Jeff Hoffman earlier this month, but he still doesn't have a lock on a rotation spot as we near Opening Day. But even for the short time he's had in the majors, he did get a chance to get a great Coors Field card in 2017 Topps, probably with a blurry DJ LeMahieu in the background. I've only purchased one retail pack of the product so far, but sometimes these new sets show up in trades pretty quickly. And it's starting to seem familiar already.

2017 Topps #81 DJ LeMahieu LL
It doesn't get the same purple pinstripe color-coding on the front, but Topps has made a giant leap forward by color-coding the back of this League Leaders card the same color as the rest of the Rockies cards. I think that's the proper treatment for an award winner. Perhaps even better is that DJ gets the whole card front to himself, not needing to share it with runners-up or another league as in past years. And as Night Owl himself observed earlier this week, that can make for some odd combinations.

DJ and Daniel Murphy were neck-and-neck for the NL batting title as the 2016 season drew to a close, but the Rockies middle infielder edged out his fellow second baseman by a single point, hitting .348. I even snagged him for my 2017 Fantasy Baseball team in Monday night's draft. I'm certainly hoping for another strong performance.

2013 Topps Chrome #71 Ryan Wheeler (RC)
Ryan Wheeler had a card in 2013 Topps.

Various versions of it tend to pepper incoming trade packages, even this shiny and minimally curled one from Chome. But I've never featured it on the blog before. He played in a handful of games for the Diamondbacks and Rockies over three seasons, but never really made much of a splash. Pun not intended related to the Sea Turtle design.

2013 Topps was the year of the "Chase". If you flip this card over, you get a look at Wheeler's valiant attempt to eclipse Tris Speaker's all-time doubles record of 792. At the time, Wheeler had six. As of his most recent MLB appearance in 2014, he chipped away at that a little, leaving just 782 to go. I particularly like Topps highlighting that 792 number, a number that should be familiar to anyone who collected an overproduction-era Topps set.

2016 Topps Archives 65th Anniversary #A65-AG Andres Galarraga
I bought a small amount of 2016 Archives at Target last year, and I initially thought this Andres Galarraga card was an insert card from it. But it turns out that there was another Wal-Mart exclusive last holiday season, the 65th Anniversary variety. It's more or less like Topps Archives, but contains 65 lettered base cards, one for each of the past 65 flagship designs. Andres Galarraga's 1997 card was chosen as the reprint for that year, and I think it looks a heck of a lot better and easier to read without gold foil.

All the backs from this obscure reprint set, one that I largely missed amidst the contemporaneous flurry of Topps snowflake cards (pun definitely intended on that one), are done up in the style of 1975 Topps. I imagine that's why Night Owl made a purchase of this set to begin with, as his love of the '75s is well-known across the Cardsphere. That card back calls out Galarraga for being a five-time All-Star, and for two each Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards, but they neglected to mention his batting title in 1993. Not only did his mark of .370 put the Rockies on the map in their inaugural year, but he did that at the height of Tony Gwynn's career. That's basically like being a leading goal scorer during Wayne Gretzky's heyday.

1997 Select #127 Neifi Perez R
1997 Select isn't something I run across very often. But red foil is always welcome, a relative rarity that appeared on occasion in the late 1990s. The silver area has an interesting herringbone-like pattern with a slight texture. He was never my favorite Rockie, and a Google search turned up his name on a list of most-hated Royals, and for being the first player disciplined under MLB's banned stimulant policy. Then again, he did turn an unassisted triple play in the minors, a tidbit I learned from Night Owl's previous mailing. Quite a legacy.

Pinnacle, on the other hand, missed a giant opportunity by not making this a horizontal card. Or at least by chopping off the action that is obviously occurring at second base to make room for the herringbone foil. Try as I might, I don't think I'd ever be able to determine who got a cameo appearance on this rookie subset card. But it does hit the Coors Field mini collection nicely.

1996 Fleer Ultra Rising Stars #2 Marty Cordova
Everyone knows Night Owl loves his night cards. Fortunately, it seems he had one to spare. This surprisingly thick Fleer Ultra insert card is of 1995 AL Rookie of the Year Marty Cordova. Now, I like the Minnesota Twins as much as the next guy (as long as that guy isn't Brian), but I wasn't sure why this one was included. Perhaps Night Owl is just spreading the gospel of night cards across the Cardsphere. But upon closer examination, Night Owl's eagle eyes (pun intended, again), spotted a special place at the bottom of this card. Below the backdrop of celestial pinpoints is a young Coors Field as viewed from the center field Rockpile. It's looking toward Downtown Denver's skyline, one that has undergone quite a bit of change in recent years.

This is definitely an insert set I'll be chasing. I already had three cards from this set in my collection, and surprisingly, or rather alarmingly, somehow I never noticed that Coors Field was a key design element. It took a fan of an NL West rival to bring that to my attention.

1996 Sportflix Hit Parade #11 Dante Bichette
And as long as we're on the topic of American Leaguers, we'll wrap up with another 1996 insert card, this one from Pinnacle's 3-D Sportflix brand. Dante Bichette is the primary subject of this card, but there's a lenticular animation of an unidentified Seattle Mariner crushing a ball out toward left-center. The umpire and catcher both appear to stand up to watch the ball sail away, but the catcher seems to be looking in the wrong direction as the ball leaves the bat, and his view is obscured by the Sportflix logo anyway.

Perhaps the technology wasn't quite there yet, but an animated reproduction of one of Bichette's many home runs, such as his memorable 1995 Opening Day game-winner, would have really made this card incredible. With the pace of technological change, it's entirely possible that we'll start seeing highlight reels embedded in cards before too long. There's no reason the Topps Bunt app couldn't do that right now, but in the physical world, a little screen of some kind with a power source on a printed circuit board would make a set unlike any the Hobby has ever seen.

Topps already has us paying a couple hundred bucks a pop for the likes of Museum Collection and Tribute. How much more could it be to get a box with little computerized baseball cards?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Yarrrr, Matey

It's time for my annual blaster of Topps Opening Day, and there was a theme to this 11-pack box that became apparent very quickly.

2017 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-12 Pirate Parrot
Not much has really changed with the brand for 2017. There is still no foil, it still partially parallels the Topps Base set, Target still just charges $10 for a blaster, the inserts are still awesome, and I still can't tell which pack is the Bonus Pack.

Speaking of inserts, the Mascot set continues its run, even if they missed an actual mascot name or two. The Pirate Parrot was one of a few mascot cards to fall out of this blaster, leading the charge with a Pirates logo flag.  The Pirate Parrot, of course, famously appeared on Taylor Buchholz' 2008 Topps card, another of the most frequent Rockies cards I see on non-Rockie blogs, after the humidor.

2017 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-23 Clark
If you look closely, Clark, a newcomer to the mascot realm, has a Sharpie in his right...paw (?) and is ready to sign some autographs for Cubbies fans at Wrigley. Clark refers to one of the Chicago cross streets at which Wrigley Field is located, the other being Addison.

Despite the Cubs' long and storied history, they only brought on a mascot in early 2014, according to the back. That leaves just three MLB teams without one: the Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels. Clark got to wave the "W" flag at the Cubs' victory parade last year, and maybe that's all the Cubs needed to break their century-long curse.

The Dodgers haven't won a World Series since 1988. Maybe they should look into it.

2017 Topps Opening Day Mascot Relics #MR-F Fredbird (MEM)
Have you picked up on the theme yet?

No, I didn't get 77 mascot cards in my blaster, but the NL Central was extremely well-represented, especially among the insert cards. Though I didn't expect to pull another printing plate like I did last year, a mascot uniform relic really fits the Opening Day set perfectly. It's even specified as a "Mascot-Worn Relic" right on the front. The Cardinals are not a pinstripe team, so no chance for one of those on the swatch, but it's a pretty fun card and shows that Opening Day doesn't take itself too seriously.

I also pulled Fredbird's base card, which helpfully informed me of his height and "hatching" date, in April 1979.

2017 Topps Opening Day Incredible Eats #IE-17 Cracker Jack & Mac Dog
One of the new insert sets found in 2017 is the Incredible Eats set, which looks to be a cross-promo with foodservice company Aramark. Their logo is on the back of both insert cards I pulled. The ballpark snack depicted here is about as baseball as it gets, a hot dog with cracker jacks on it. This snack happens to be available at PNC Park, home of, yes, the Pirates.

The foot-long hot dog at Coors Field makes an appearance in this set, a ballpark snack I've had more than a few of over the years. One of those with some onions on top really sounds good right about now. The set offers an interesting look at the cultures and cuisines that exist in various Major League cities (poutine in Toronto, pastrami in Queens, chicken and waffles in Houston, etc...), but the $25 stuffed corn dog at the Diamondbacks' Chase Field is not present.

2017 Topps Opening Day Superstar Celebrations #SC-19 Gregory Polanco
The Pirates showed up again in the long-running Superstar Celebrations insert set. And twice more on the other two Superstar Celebrations cards in the blaster. This one of Gregory Polanco low-fiving Andrew McCutchen was my favorite of the three, and offers the best look yet at PNC Park, home of the Cracker Jack and Mac Dog. The Pirates ended up going on to a 12-1 rout of the Diamondbacks that day, starting off with Polanco's 3-run homer. Disappointingly, the video cuts out just before McCutchen and Polanco connect on their celebration.

2017 Topps Opening Day Edition #42 Yulieski Gurriel
The only rainbow foil parallel in the box was of Astros rookie Yulieski Gurriel. These Opening Day Edition parallels are stated to have a print run of 2,017, though no serial number appears, consistent with the past few years. There are a few games scheduled for April 2nd, but April 3rd, the day all 30 teams get under way, is printed in silver foil below the Opening Day logo.

What's that you say? The Astros are in the AL West now? Yes, I knew that, but it still doesn't sound right. And they suffered a computer hacking attack at the hands of the Cardinals not long ago. The issue has been settled, and the Cardinals were given little more than a slap on the wrist.

Gurriel is just a few months younger than I am, which is certainly on the old side for an MLB debut. But he played for Cuban teams since the tender age of 17, so this photo of him spearing a rocketing grounder isn't that surprising.

2017 Topps Opening Day #165 Alex Reyes (RC)
Perhaps some karmic adjustment has been forced upon the Cardinals, as their star pitching prospect will be missing plenty of time recovering from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent just as Spring Training was beginning. At only 22, he has time to recover, but it will likely be a while before we regularly see him in Topps sets. The Cardinals, long a dominant force in the NL Central, now have the Cubs to contend with, along with a dangerous Pirates team.

2017 Topps Opening Day #115 Carlos Gonzalez
A few Rockies made it into the blaster, always a nice bonus. The Venezuelan slugger looks ready to take his place in the on-deck circle, all decked out in purple, right down to the batting gloves. He helped carry Venezuela to the second round of the World Baseball Classic, but they finished 0-3 in Pool F. The final will be on March 22nd.

But look more closely. What team logo is that on the roof of the dugout? Yep, Pirates. CarGo is scowling at the playing surface of none other than PNC Park. Even the Rockies cards can't escape the Pirates in this blaster.

2017 Topps Opening Day #100 Jonathan Villar
A Rockie even got a cameo appearance on another NL Central card, this one of a Milwaukee Brewer. Jonathan Villar, who represented the Dominican Republic in the WBC, narrowly missed an appearance in the final round, falling to Team USA partially thanks to this amazing catch that Adam Jones made to rob MLB teammate Manny Machado of a home run.

I'm not sure who that Rockie is. Possibly Cristhian Adames, who didn't get a base card in Opening Day or Topps Series 1. But if he has a cameo, the Brewers is as good a team as any when it comes to this particular blaster. Incidentally, the Rockies begin their season on the road in 2017, visiting the Milwaukee Brewers,

2017 Topps Opening Day #70 Jay Bruce
In case you forgot that there are five other divisions in MLB, here's one of Jay Bruce at Citi Field in a throwback Mets uniform. This one really jumped out at me, as those old Mets jerseys I grew up with are among my favorites from that era. It probably doesn't hurt that the first two regular-season games played in Rockies history were against the Mets in Shea Stadium. Even back then, the Rockies rarely began their season at home. 2017 will be no different, as Opening Day at Coors Field falls on Friday, April 7th against the Dodgers.

Some readers will recall that Jay Bruce wasn't always a Met. His previous team? The NL Central Cincinnati Reds. Todd Frazier almost made it into this post as well, before Bruce's blue and orange jersey caught my eye.

Between the snacks, the mascot, the players, division rivals, and even a clear opposing team, this blaster was almost like going to an actual Pirates game.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Trading Post #92: A Cracked Bat

She's back.

In case you hadn't heard, the always generous Julie has picked the flag back up at A Cracked Bat, her wonderful blog that had been dormant for most of 2016. True to form, she included lots of high end cards that I have no idea where she gets. It's good to have a female perspective on the hobby, but as I recall it's pretty much just her and Ana Lu from Hobby Cards Europe, aside from the occasional guest post.

2006 Fleer Tradition #165 Ryan Shealy (RC)
First base for the Rockies has always been pretty buttoned up by fan favorites. Andres Galarraga started off the franchise covering first base through 1997, passing the torch to franchise player Todd Helton, who retired in 2013. Ex-Twins Cuddyer and Morneau covered it for a couple years, as did Mark Reynolds last year. And the plan is to put newly acquired Ian Desmond there this year. Or at least that was the plan before he fractured his hand over the weekend.

So that doesn't leave a lot of room for guys like Ryan Shealy. He was drafted by the Rockies in 2002, and showed promise in his rookie 2005 season, but there just wasn't room for him. He was traded to the Royals for a couple relief pitchers, but only played three partial seasons for Kansas City.

Upper Deck had acquired Fleer by this time, and they kept the Tradition, um, tradition going for another couple years. Unlike the retro cardboard sets released around the turn of the millennium, this Tradition set is glossy and on white card stock. The yellow band at the bottom reminds me of the very yellow 1991 Fleer set, and I like the color coding and the little hat containing the team logo, a nod to 1981 Topps. 1981, of course, was the first year in ages that Topps had company in the marketplace, with Donruss and Fleer hitting the shelves. Fleer was on life support by this point, but Upper Deck was doing its best to save it.

Anyway, regardless of what was going on in the Hobby in 2006, it's for the best that the Rockies didn't unload Helton to make room for Shealy.

2006 Fleer Tradition Triple Crown Contenders #TC-8 Todd Helton
Even pre-goatee, Todd Helton was well worthy of being included in an insert set. This focuses on his stellar performance in the 2000 season, leading the National League, or rather, the "Senior Circuit", which I'd never heard before and had to look up, in hits, extra base hits, slugging percentage, and more. And yes, doubles.

Julie must have opened a box of this stuff since there were a half-dozen or so cards from it in the package. But these two vying for first base stood out to me.

2015 Topps Mini #683 LaTroy Hawkins
Minis also have a tendency to stand out, especially of veteran players like this. This isn't quite his sunset card, as he got a Blue Jays card in 2015 Topps Update before retiring. He was part of the Tulowitzki blockbuster trade, but I don't know if any Jays stats made it onto the back of that card.

You can imagine how tiny the statistics are printed, especially on a mini. Of course, 2017 cards omit all but the last five stat lines, which could be even fewer than five seasons if a mid-season trade took place. That new design decision also calls into question what a sunset card even is, since they won't have complete career statistics on their final card anymore. 2015 wasn't really that long ago, but a lot has changed.

The rosters have changed too, and it's surprising how different the roster is even a couple seasons later. Julie included the entire mini Rockies team set, minus Arenado and Justin Morneau's league leader card, who won the batting title in 2014. Blackmon, De La Rosa, LeMahieu are all in there, but plenty more, maybe even a majority, are long gone.

2015 Topps Gypsy Queen Mini #78 Charlie Blackmon
Before returning to a standard size, the minis got even minier. This is from the distinctive 2015 Gypsy Queen set, and it's a parallel just like the white-bordered one I got from Cardboard Collections. So now there are a couple parallel varieties kicking around my collection, on top of the base version (which I had to check for).

Makes me wonder how close I am to the rainbow. Probably still pretty far away, knowing Topps these days.

2016 Bowman Platinum Top Prospects #TP-JH Jeff Hoffman
Back in the land of 2.5"x3.5", Bowman Platinum continues its run after a break in 2015. Jon Gray's card, which recently found its way to me from Johnny's Trading Spot, is from the base set, but this card of Jeff Hoffman, the primary return piece in the aforementioned Tulowitzki trade, is part of the quasi-insert Top Prospects set. It's still sort of a continuation of the base set, but Bowman, ever-bent on making things as confusing as possible, didn't even use numerals in the card number. But it is available in all the same parallel varieties as the 100 base cards.

Hoffman isn't in the regular rotation yet, but with the unfortunate return of Chad Bettis' cancer, he might be appearing in more 2017 games while we wish Bettis a speedy and full recovery.

2016 Diamond Kings Framed #169 Tom Murphy
More young Rockies are likely to take the field in 2017, with Tom Murphy a leading candidate to appear behind the plate, sharing duties with Tony Wolters. I wouldn't call him a Diamond King just yet, but Donruss has to pick someone to show off their custom Rookie Card logo. Like that Charlie Blackmon card I linked to earlier, this is the framed parallel, with a raised cardboard border surrounding the card. The playing-card like feel of Diamond Kings cards, coupled with that frame, make this feel even more like a painting than other framed cards I've seen.

When I got a similar card recently from UD Masterpieces, I even said that Diamond King cards were going for that type of look. With this card, I'll say they finally got what they were always after.

1994 Collector's Choice Silver Signature #304 Eric Young
Before moving into the high-end cards, let's take a quick step back into the Blake Street Bombers era. 1994 Collector's Choice was a solid successor to the legendary 1993 Upper Deck, as the 1994 UD base set moved in a more modern direction and allowed them to begin their long fascination with copper. Silver Signatures are a fairly frequent specimen around here, even in Julie's past trade packages. Andres Galarraga gets a small cameo on the back, but the main attraction is this photo on the front. Judging by the blue on the outfield wall, I'll guess this is Shea Stadium. It looks like EY ran in a little bit too far on this popup, but he was a good defender so he likely made the catch.

2016 Topps Tribute #17 Nolan Arenado
Sometimes I wonder if Julie is an anonymous lottery winner or something. Because she sends me a lot of obviously expensive stuff. Judging from everyone else's posts, I'm not the only one. Nolan Arenado, my favorite current Rockie, gets an amazing-looking card in Topps Tribute. It's not much thinner than the whole stack of cards I've shown thus far, and has a very visible rainbow finish. Unlike some rainbow/refractor cards, this is pretty obviously so, meaning you don't have to hold it under the lamp just right.

Going back to the humidor from my previous post, this card points out that Nolan is the first Rockie to put up a 40-homer season since it was installed. Not even Todd Helton did that in the post-humidor era. Which makes a possible Hall of Fame case for Arenado more likely. I hope we don't have to wait that long to see a Rockie in Cooperstown, but if Larry Walker keeps getting the snub, I don't see who else would be on the horizon, other than Helton, who's a borderline case to begin with.

2016 Topps Museum Collection #79 Corey Dickerson
Corey Dickerson has been playing for Tampa Bay since 2016, so even these ultra-expensive sets can't get past the nature of late-breaking offseason trades. Dickerson is pictured as a Rockie, and there's some analysis of his stats on the back, but no mention of his January 2016 trade to the Rays.

It's quite a striking card, the black border with the thin silver foil frame. Some of the lines around the Museum Collection logo are surprisingly even thinner and mostly uniform. And the photograph is as sharp as they come. When I hold such a card, I can't help but wonder how they can even print something like it. That Eric Young card is pretty nice compared to something twenty years its senior, but we're definitely living in the high definition era.

2016 Topps Triple Threads Amethyst #88 Carlos Gonzalez /340
So far we have Tribute and Triple Threads, and don't forget about Tier One. Museum Collection is an outlier, yes, but the high end brands from Topps are clearly being brought to you by the letter T. These are getting so high-end now that serial numbers are making their way onto the cards. A print run of 340 signifies that this is the Amethyst parallel, so this just so happens to be the perfect color-coded variety to match the Rockies' colors. The purple areas you see will vary depending on which colored parallel you have.

Topps changed the Triple Threads logo for 2016, making me wonder if there was yet another high-end set out there. And as long as we're on T words, how about tessellation? The pattern of triangles in the background illustrates that concept of closely stacked similar shapes. By the way, Nolan Arenado isn't the only recent Rockie to hit 40 homers. CarGo accomplished the same feat in 2015, just a few days after Arenado hit the mark.

2014 Topps Triple Threads Unity Relics #UJR-JCH Jhoulys Chacin /36 (MEM)
Jhoulys Chacin's Triple Threads from two years earlier contained the logo that I'm more familiar with. It's still a pretty thick card, and is textured on the front similarly to the swatch. That double-height uniform piece is unique in my collection, as best I can recall. Unfortunately, though it does have one of the prized pinstripes, it is slightly misaligned. I even mentioned such a possibility in my previous post.

Sometimes I wonder how these things are constructed. I'd certainly never tear apart a card like this, especially one with such a low print run, but I am curious as to how these little scraps of fabric stay in place so firmly. I'd be surprised if it were glued, as I'd expect an adhesive to discolor and seep through the fabric. Perhaps one day I'll appease my inquisitiveness and sacrifice a relic card.

You know, for science.