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.