Monday, November 30, 2015

Mini Monday #3 (and a winner announced!)

Detroit is stacking their rotation again.

2013 Topps Mini #588 Jordan Zimmermann
In case you haven't seen a notification pop up on your smartphone by now, the Tigers just agreed to sign Jordan Zimmermann to a five year, $110 million contract. I'm sure we'll see plenty more blockbuster deals over the next month or two, but with the rotation Washington already has, they can probably spare him. And I'm sure the Tigers are happy to welcome him, as Justin Verlander has trailed off precipitously in the last year or two.

In other news, Colby Rasmus recently became the first player to ever accept a qualifying offer, agreeing to a $15.8 million one-year contract (and essentially forcing the Astros to offload Jed Lowrie). Thanks to a couple dozen iPhone notifications earlier this month, I learned that there was such a thing as a qualifying offer, and that sometimes you're so good at baseball that $16 million for a year's work is a bad deal.

The more you know.

Finally, my readers have probably been itching to learn who won my 100th post checklist giveaway. I had six entrants. To paraphrase some legalese, few will enter, one will win.

Congratulations to Jon at A Penny Sleeve for your Thoughts, a newcomer to the cardsphere! Jon, I don't believe we've traded before, so please get in touch and let me know your address.

Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy your Mini / Cyber Monday!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Trading Post #46: Cardboard Clubhouse

Besides my first packs of 1987 Topps and 1990 Fleer, the 1993 Rockies Team Stadium Club set is one of the longest-tenured pieces of my collection. It's a 30-card team set, with color coding and a large gold foil baseball in the upper right. Ten or so teams got this treatment, including the expansion Rockies and Marlins, along with the Rangers, Yankees, Angels, and a few others.

As you might imagine, most of these cards are in fairly rough shape. Nothing stays pristine in the hands of a nine-year old for long. Even worse, the second law of thermodynamics seems to have dictated that my 30-card set didn't stay whole. Whether it got traded, cast off as a duplicate, or fell into a black hole, Jeff Parrett's card #9 didn't survive into my adulthood, leaving me with a slightly incomplete set of one of my earliest card products.

1993 Rockies Team Stadium Club #9 Jeff Parrett
That is, until Adam from Cardboard Clubhouse came to the rescue, knocking off another Eight Men Out need. Fellow bloggers, if you don't have a short wantlist like that, make one.

Parrett didn't even play for the Rockies that long, mostly appearing in relief during their inaugural 1993 season. But he still appeared in this fairly scarce set, and I'm glad that I got the chance to right that wrong.

1993 Rockies Team Stadium Club #26 Steve Reed
Even better, Adam just went ahead and included the whole darn team set for good measure. I saw this team set at the antique mall a couple months ago, but it was priced at over $6 per 9-pocket page. I knew I needed that Parrett card, but didn't want to spend that much to get it. Much better to rely on this community, and Adam got to add to his collection, too.

Steve Reed was of my favorite pitchers in the early days of the Rockies. His right-handed submarine delivery was fascinating to watch, and since I was so new to baseball then, I probably assumed that every team had a submariner.

His name came up in a statistic I heard recently. Apparently, he's in the top-ten list of career wins as a Rockie despite never having started a game in his entire MLB career. That means two things. One, the Rockies were completely awesome at come-from-behind wins in their early years. And two, the fact that only nine other guys have surpassed a late-inning reliever with 33 Rockies wins to his credit means they have always had absolutely terrible pitching.

2015 Topps Archives #238 Troy Tulowitzki
But we have had good shortstops. At least, we used to.

Tulo's smiling face appears on this resurrection of the 1983 Topps design as part of this year's Archives set. Though it's not a fan favorite, Archives is growing on me more and more. The semi-glossy finish they use front and back makes these cards a cinch to pick out by feel alone, which I think is a great idea for this type of set. There are way too many reprints out there (like Cards Your Mom Threw Out) that can easily be mistaken for the real thing, especially if you're only glancing at the front. I especially enjoy seeing the treatment Topps gives to expansion teams on these old designs. Sometimes they work uncannily well.

2013 Topps Archives #155 Wilin Rosario
Like this Wilin Rosario card from 2013 Archives. That's based on 1990 Topps, of course, probably my least favorite Topps base issue of the overproduction era. The random colors and tiny dots everywhere give it a jarring look against some pretty boring photography. But put a modern Rockie on that purple background that didn't match any MLB team at the time, and suddenly it looks completely perfect. It's a shame the Rockies and Marlins weren't around back then; they could have made that set make a lot more sense.

2013 Topps Archives #155 Wilin Rosario (Reverse)
But maybe that mustard-colored back and art-deco font was just too much to overcome.

2015 Diamond Kings #136 Troy Tulowitzki
Another recent set with a pretty unique feel is 2015 Diamond Kings. Nachos Grande opened a box of this for a group break earlier this year, and my girlfriend helped me realize that these are meant to feel like a playing card. This Tulowitzki, along with the Charlie Blackmon I got in the group break, means I got both Rockies that appeared in the 200-card base set. Not great representation there, and that's part of the reason why I struck out a bit on his most recent group break. But that had a silver lining, which you'll see in an upcoming post.

2015 Topps Rainbow Foil #34 Charlie Blackmon
Speaking of Charlie Blackmon, Adam also sent this Rainbow Foil parallel from 2015 Topps. I've seen one or two others by now, and while it's no 2013 Topps Emerald, it's a nice-looking card. The background becomes rather muted in this finish, which blends in well with the stucco-like pattern of the upper border.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter Starting Points #SP-83 Matt Holliday
I haven't seen many Matt Holliday cards recently. He hasn't been a Rockie in many years, and he's done so well as a Cardinal that his time on the Rockies flies under the radar a bit. So I was glad to see this Allen & Ginter card in the package, part of a huge 100-card insert set. Believe it or not, there's a second insert set in A&G this year that's just as large. The base set remains at 350 cards, but Topps' flagship product grew to 350 cards per series this year. Clearly, the card industry isn't exempt from inflation.

2014 Topps Pink #275 Nolan Arenado /50
Last, here is a pretty special colored parallel from 2014 Topps. It's no secret that Nolan Arenado is my favorite current Rockie, and while I'm not wild about the pink border, the serial number is a pleasing 50/50. There are actually quite a few serial numbered cards in my collection, but none other comes to mind with the final number in the print run. It's a satisfying little detail, easily offsetting the clashing colors found on the front.

This was a surprisingly awesome trade package! Adam and I discussed the Parrett card via email, and other than "maybe a few Rockies extras", I wasn't expecting anything like this! Big thanks to Cardboard Clubhouse for keeping the trading ball rolling.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Trading Post #45: Golden Rainbow Cards

If the trading partner for this Trading looks familiar, you'd be right. Mr. Jones from Golden Rainbow Cards was the subject of my prior trade post, sending over a few 2015 Rockies cards. Before that post even went up, he emailed me to say he found one of my Eight Men Out cards that he knew he had on hand but only found after the first PWE went out.

The particular card puts me a stone's throw away from completing a rainbow I've been working on.

2013 Topps Chasing History #CH-97 Troy Tulowitzki
So far, I've gotten the relic, gold holofoil, silver holfoil, and now the base card. All that's left is the mini. And there are no pesky 1/1 printing plates out there, so I'll truly have the rainbow once I manage to find that fifth card. I've never really gone after rainbows before, partially because I'm a completionist and those printing plates would drive me batty, and also because I'm not really a player collector.

Still, the Chasing History insert set might be my favorite from 2013, and it was the only insert set Topps selected for the Mini set that year. Fortunately, that card is quite affordable on eBay, but I might just see if it pops up via trade, which would mean I completed the whole rainbow solely via the generosity of my fellow bloggers.

And one interesting oddity about these particular cards is that they came to me in reverse order of scarcity. Sort of like a HR/3B/2B/1B cycle. Strange. I bet very few rainbows are built that way.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by for this quick one-card post. Don't forget to enter my contest before Friday night, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Post #100 and a giveaway!

Hard to believe that this is the one hundredth post of Infield Fly Rule. When I started this just under two years ago, I had no idea it would be so successful, and no idea that I'd have found so many awesome trading partners all over the country.

That averages out to about a post a week over that time, although if you look at my archives, it's a lot streakier than that. I have plenty of post ideas, and a couple stacks of trade posts and card show pickups from months ago. Ideas are there, but time, of course, is always at a premium. How Matt at Bob Walk The Plank has done six times as many posts in two fewer weeks is beyond me.

Anyway, since the human mind really enjoys nice, round numbers, I've been saving up some cards for an appropriately-themed giveaway.

1990 Upper Deck #100 Checklist 1-100

These could be found in most sets during the overproduction era, but they became few and far between as the years progressed. They evolved into insert cards rather than actual base cards, then to the back panel of factory set boxes, then disappeared altogether. Topps resurrected checklists a few years ago by combining them with highlight cards, but they're pretty tough to spot at a glance.

With websites like Beckett and BaseballCardPedia out there, printed checklists are less a necessity and more of a legacy item. Sort of like cabooses. But I know of more than a few collectors that love the things, and even more that lament their relative absence in today's collecting world.

But what could be better for a 100th-post contest than the once-crucial checklist? Upper Deck and Donruss both reserved their hundredth card numbers for checklists (as you can see above), while Topps just stuck them any old place. But Topps reserved those special card numbers for superstars, clearly showing us that the 100, 200, 300, etc... card number was an important spot.

So if you want to win a team bag full of checklists, just leave a comment below! I'll close the entry period at 11:59pm MST on Friday, November 27th and randomize to determine the winner.

I'm not the only one doing a giveaway right now, so if you're in the mood for some free cards (or if mine doesn't interest you), head over to Brad's Blog and help take some of his collection off his hands before his move. You also have a few hours left to enter Matt's contest at Bob Walk The Plank.

Good luck!

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Trading Post #44: Golden Rainbow Cards

In the last few weeks, I've experienced a small flurry of trading activity. The amount of snow we got in the Denver area earlier this week turned out to be a little more than a flurry (depending on which part of town you were in), but even in the wintry offseason, there are plenty of cards to write about.

Golden Rainbow Cards agreed to send a handful of Rockies from 2015 Topps in exchange for some Braves (which I still need to send), but these few cards significantly expanded my collection of 2015 parallels and inserts.

2015 Topps Gold #479 Carlos Gonzalez /2015
As they have for many years, Topps continued their run of gold parallels, with a print run matching the calendar year. I picked up most of the Rockies team set from my LCS in the same trip as that Mickey Mantle card, but CarGo was not present in the 5,000 count box I thumbed through.

2015 Topps Update Rainbow Foil #US315 Kyle Kendrick
I can't remember ever buying Topps Update at retail. I often end up with a lot of it, as it seems to make its way into discount boxes more quickly than any other product. Maybe Topps ought to number it sequentially with Series 1 and Series 2. Then it would feel like a continuation of the main set, rather than something separate that just doesn't grab my attention.

Regardless, this is my first look at a Rainbow Foil parallel. It's one of those products that has to catch the light just right, but it's nice to see the rainbow finish on such a regular-feeling card. I've been in this hobby long enough to associate the rainbow look with thick, expensive cards like Topps Finest and Topps Chrome parallels. And it is easier to spot than the rainbow foil parallels from 2014 Stadium Club, which was applied to the foil only, not the entire card.

2015 Topps Update Rookie Sensations #RS7 Troy Tulowitzki
Since I haven't paid much attention to Update, these Rookie Sensations cards are new to me. I first learned of their existence from all the ultra-glitter parallels that started appearing in posts about the $15 Topps Update discount box that everyone's been buying at Target. I haven't bought one of those yet, but I'm a sucker for shiny cards, so I just might.

I like the concept of this set. A lot. It has guys we haven't seen on a new card in a while, like Fernando Valenzuela and Livan Hernandez. And while it's only 25 cards, Topps did a pretty good job of selecting the best rookie seasons, maybe leaving out Vince Coleman and Mark Fidrych. Adding those two would get it up to 27, perfect for three 9-pocket pages, just how Night Owl likes.

It was just three cards, but Golden Rainbow made sure I stayed current on Topps' latest release and introduced me to one of the best insert sets of the year. Even better, he just reached out yesterday saying he had another Tulowitzki card to send me, one from my Eight Men Out list. And since the Rockies were such a bust in Nachos Grande's group break, I won the pity prize of a complete 2015 Allen & Ginter set (!), which should be in the mail soon.

Baseball season may be over, but baseball card season seems to be picking up a bit.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mini Monday #2

Four total boxes of Topps Mini (three from 2014 and one from 2013), along with other various minis in my collection, means I'll have plenty of material to keep this theme going for a while. One-card posts go pretty quickly, perfect for preparing before a workday or on a Sunday night.

But I'm enjoying some vacation time today, and awaiting a blizzard that's been projected to hit the Denver area for a few days. The weather forecasters have had a tough time with this one, as I've seen snow forecasts ranging from a couple inches to a couple feet. Unsurprisingly, it'll likely end up somewhere in the middle of that range. Regardless, not having to drive home from work in that kind of weather makes for a great Monday.

2013 Topps Mini Black #450 Jay Bruce /5
And so do minis!

This black-bordered mini parallel is one of two I pulled from that box of 2013 Topps Mini, the other being Kyle Farnsworth. The low print run of Topps Mini as a whole means that the numbered parallels are quite rare, and these gorgeous black cards (which work particularly well with the red of the Reds) are numbered to a mere five copies.

Black borders are hit or miss. I was underwhelmed in 2007, preferring the white-bordered variant of Opening Day over the standard 2007 base set. And Bowman's years-long run of black cards that all looked the same didn't help either. But then you have legendary sets like 1971 Topps and cult favorites like 1992 Pinnacle.

Black borders work very well with 2013's "Sea Turtle" design, as the color coding stands out better on a black background than on white. Bruce's card itself is a reflection of the "strained athlete faces" theme that's been taking over their photography for a while, although at least's it's less of a close-up than a lot of the pitcher cards.

Of course, the Emerald parallels were my favorite of that year, and quite a bit easier to chase than a /5 set. But let's be honest. If you slap a #2 of 5 serial number on a card, I think we'd all be pretty happy with it, no matter the color.

I've pulled even rarer cards out of a Topps Mini box, but that's a story for another Mini Monday.

Infield Fly Rule has been quiet the last couple weeks. Perhaps I'm suffering from a baseball withdrawal that's always a little tough to push through after the World Series wraps up. But I do want to dedicate a little space to the recent news. Tommy Hanson, an MLB pitcher who last played in 2013, passed away recently. Like the late Darryl Kyle, he was far too young, although he enjoyed a successful, if short, career.

And of course the world's attention remains on Friday's events in Paris. I'm not sure what else to say other than an offer of sympathy to the French people. One of our own is a Frenchman, and I'm glad for his safety. As our President pointed out on Friday, America has counted France as an ally longer than any other nation, and in the wake of such tragedy, the outpouring of support from all over the world reminds us that the good guys vastly outnumber the bad.

Monday, November 2, 2015

And now we wait.

The end of the World Series is always a bittersweet moment. It marks the end of what's usually a pretty amazing month of baseball, filled with material we'll see on the highlight reel for years to come. A new champion is crowned, or a dynasty continues. Heroes and goats (and more goats) add their names to the history books.

But it also means that winter is coming, and that it's time to stare out the window and wait for spring.

So why not take a look at the best of a box of 2011 Opening Day, part of a giant order from Dave and Adam's Card World that arrived over a year ago? Maybe it'll take the sting out of the long stretch of Not Baseball before us.

2011 Topps Opening Day Blue #182 Troy Tulowitzki /2011
Who knew that when this box arrived, Troy Tulowitzki had less than a year remaining as a Rockie? While this card foreshadowed this year's ALCS, it's simply a great action shot from an interleague series in May 2010. I don't recognize that particular Royals player, but perhaps he's now in possession of his own World Series ring.

The Blue parallels found in Opening Day mark the lone appearance of foil in the set, which extends to the serial number on the back. Unlike flagship's gold parallels which have used black serial numbers for several years now, these Opening Day parallels kept the gold lettering.

It's just one little touch that makes me really like this brand.

2011 Topps Opening Day #60 Aroldis Chapman (RC)
Of course, the base cards lack foil, unusual for the past couple decades of Topps products until this year (not counting the retro sets, of course). I don't mind foil, although the scans sure come out great without it.

I am pretty sure that this photo of Chapman was taken in Coors Field. Of course he has his away jersey on, the third base seats are in shadow, typical for a a late summer day game at Coors Field (at least in the later innings when a guy like Chapman would be on the mound), and the red Sports Authority logo behind his left leg can be found on the Coors Field tarp cover, which is kept along the third base wall.

They're little details that require some detective work, but I'm confident in that conclusion.

2011 Topps Opening Day #174 Buster Posey
2011 really doesn't seem that long ago, but hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman has the Rookie Card logo on his card, and Posey a tiny, tiny Topps Rookie Cup in the upper right. These two are pretty much veterans now. Chapman and his Reds have made the postseason twice, and Posey's earned three rings and an MVP award since then.

Time flies, and always seems to be throttling up too.

2011 Topps Opening Day #96 James Shields
There's been lots of buzz about 2015 Update lately, and while I haven't picked any up yet, I've seen a few posts about sparkle variations.

If you look closely at Shields' card above, you won't find a sparkle. Only a little star in the Rays logo that looks just like one.

2011 Topps Opening Day #193 Trevor Cahill
A lot of these guys have moved teams since 2011. Cahill's been with the Diamondbacks, Braves, and Cubs in that short time. But Topps managed to get him in an A's throwback uniform, an outfit that wouldn't be out of place on the Jamaican track team.

2011 Topps Opening Day #123 Stephen Drew
Stephen Drew wears the pinstripes now, but I always liked this card of him rounding third at Wrigley. Unlike gritty guys like Mark Grace and Brad Miller, Drew wears batting gloves. His ungloved hands indicate that he was already on base when he had the opportunity to head home. It's a fairly leisurely trot from the looks of it, so I'm guessing he was RBI'd in this scenario, to verb a noun.

2011 Topps Opening Day #204 Carlos Beltran
"Tatooine" cards are fairly uncommon, but they turn up from time to time. Top-down shots give the best opportunity to end up with one. In this well-timed photo, Beltran is ready to wallop one off a Diamondbacks pitcher. That's probably Miguel Montero behind the plate, who, like Beltran, isn't on the same team anymore. Montero's a Cub, Beltran's a Yankee, and both made the playoffs this year.

A quick side note, especially since Star Wars will soon begin its next chapter. From time to time, I run across articles which point out that finding an entire desert planet (which our all-dirt "Tatooine cards" refer to), or an ice planet, or a forest planet, or even a city planet is pretty unlikely, at least if you assume it can support life. It works very well on screen to establish location, but it's a bit simplistic when you consider how many ecosystems even our little blue planet has.

But that doesn't make Tatooine cards any less awesome.

2011 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-11 Junction Jack
Even the Mascots can have Tatooine cards. Fortunately, the lovable Orbit returned to the Astros a few years ago, one of the best recent transactions any team in the Majors has made. If nothing else you saw on Halloween gave you nightmares, Junction Jack just might.

2011 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-8 Dinger
If you've read this blog for a while, you know that I absolutely love Opening Day insert sets. Dinger usually makes an appearance in the Mascots set, and he's about to slingshot a free t-shirt to a lucky fan in the crowd.

Tougher than snagging a foul ball, if you ask me.

2011 Topps Opening Day Stars #ODS-8 Joey Votto
3D Opening Day Stars cards are a favorite of mine, and of the half-dozen or so in this box, I thought Votto's 3D image worked the best. Not that you can see that in the scan.

Votto absolutely lost it a couple months ago when he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, which made for one of the better highlights of the final month of the regular season. I wouldn't mind seeing a card of that incident, or even a whole insert set of ejections. Picture it: Votto, most of the Royals pitching staff, Earl Weaver, Milton Bradley, etc.... It would be epic.

2011 Topps Opening Day Spot the Error #6 Ubaldo Jimenez
Though this insert set didn't last, Topps tried out a "what's wrong with this picture?" theme on ten cards. Both sides have copyright legalese and logos, so you can't really tell the front from the back, but one side contains an unedited picture, and the other a version with an alteration. Ubaldo Jimenez pitching atop a tiny patch of dirt is clearly the "error" here. A few are blatantly obvious, like Jose Bautista missing his bat, but some are pretty subtle, like a disembodied catchers mitt on the edge of a card being changed to a standard glove on David Ortiz's card, or Buster Posey's bat missing the knob.

Pinnacle used to run ads in Beckett along these lines, and they'd send you a redemption card if you wrote to them with a list of all the errors (and a SASE). That's how I got this Alex Rodriguez card, long before he gained notoriety and a season-long ban.

1995 Score Contest Redemption #AD1 Alex Rodriguez
Worth the price of a couple 32-cent stamps, if you ask me.

2011 Topps Opening Day Presidential First Pitch #PFP-9 John F. Kennedy
An insert set of Presidential first pitches is perfect for the Opening Day brand, predating this year's First Pitch insert set by a few years. This grainy photo of President Kennedy was taken before the 1962 All-Star game in Washington, D.C.

Presidents throwing the first pitch from the actual mound is a fairly recent development. For a long time, they simply stood up in the stands and fired a ball out. I'm sure the Secret Service is just wild about the new trend of having the Leader of the Free World® standing in the center of an open field.

2011 Topps Opening Day Presidential First Pitch #PFP-8 George W. Bush
But President Bush's appearance on the mound at Yankee Stadium for Game 3 of the 2001 World Series was one of the highlights of his political career, a moment that he described as "by far, the most nervous moment of my presidency."

2011 Topps Opening Day Stadium Lights #UL-3 Robinson Cano
You saw a card from the Stadium Lights set long ago on this blog, but I like it so much that I thought I'd bring it back. There's a slight texture on the front, and on this one in particular, one of the best examples of the (new) Yankee Stadium facade ever to grace a baseball card. And that's saying something, since it appeared as a background on a ton of cards in the '60s and '70s.

Cano's new home in Seattle is a bit less iconic. For me, it would be hard to top wearing the pinstripes under the lights in the Bronx. Cano's had that experience, as has President Bush (in an honorary sense, anyway), for that matter.

2011 Topps Opening Day Autographs #ODA-JG Justin Germano (AU)
There was a "hit" in this box, a sticker autograph of Justin Germano. Don't know much about him, other than he played for a whole slew of teams in nine years, amassing a 10-30 lifetime record.


2011 Topps Opening Day Superstar Celebrations #SC-14 David Wright
Germano's stats pale in comparison to some of the Mets stars, especially David Wright, who was the hit in my 2013 Opening Day box from this same Dave & Adam's order.

Though the Mets came out on the losing end this year, Wright played his part and hit a few over the wall during the Postseason. His cardmate Johan Santana has been plagued by injuries for most of this decade, and it's unclear whether he'll ever be able to make it back to the Majors. Whatever happens to his career, he did earn the distinction of being the only Met to pitch a no-hitter.

He hopes to return in 2016, but I guess we'll have to wait until Opening Day to find out. April 3rd. The clock is ticking.