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.

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