Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Three Dollar Group Break (and a contest winner!)

Peter, everyone's favorite Darryl Strawberry collector and author of the Baseball Every Night blog, recently ran a highly affordable group break of 2017 Topps Series 2. For the price of a rack pack at Target, I was happy to sign up for the Rockies slot, once someone kindly brought this one to my attention on Twitter.

I have to admit that I'm not keeping up with the Cardsphere on a daily basis. I'm much more likely to scroll through at least four days of posts at a time, which would explain why I'm listed as the last commenter on many of your posts. But I found out in time to shell out three bucks for some Rockies, knowing I'd end up with most of the team set, and likely a few inserts on top of that.

2017 Topps #371 Chad Bettis
Even though this is Series 2, the card was sent to printing a little too soon. Bettis, expected to be a key figure in the Rockies' 2017 rotation after being "declared good-to-go" following his treatment for testicular cancer, had some unfavorable test results during spring training and had to undergo another round of treatments. That seems to have been successful, and his rehab is progressing nicely. He may even make an appearance this season, perhaps when rosters expand in September.

Bettis isn't the only pitcher this year to be affected by the disease. Jameson Taillon of the Pirates (and my fantasy team) was treated in May but is already back on the hill. He's scheduled to face Jon Lester and the Cubs to close out the first half tomorrow, Lester himself being a cancer survivor. Here's wishing all three pitchers continued good health.

2017 Topps #415 Pat Valaika (RC)
Series 2 is a great place to find some lesser known players that have been making an impact in the early stages of the season. Pat Valaika, brother of former MLB player Chris Valaika, has been a reliable utility infielder for the Rockies, and has played nearly every position this season. "Patty Barrels", as the TV guys like to call him, has six homers this year, more than DJ LeMahieu, the starting second baseman and All-Star reserve.

This card also marks one of the first appearances of Coors Field's raised wall in right-center field on a baseball card. It's a blurred background, but you can see the heightened fence over his shoulders, which is now equally high as the out-of-town scoreboard in right field. It's still a hitters park, for sure, and as a longtime fan, one of the more noticeable changes related to that was the removal of the Darryl Kile memorial banner, visible on this shot I took in 2007.

2017 Topps #516 Tony Wolters
Other than Greg Holland, much of the Rockies' success this year can be attributed to their rookies. It's obviously trailed off a bit in the past few weeks, but Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, Jeff Hoffman, and others kept them right at the top of the standings well into June. Catcher Tony Wolters, stepping in for the injured Tom Murphy, has been doing a great job as the starting catcher. Murphy, on the other hand, came back from the DL in late June and was quickly sent down to the minors.

I haven't said much on the design of 2017 Topps yet other than a handful of trade posts and my annual Opening Day blaster. I think the design looks particularly good on this card, as the lines and angles on the banner match pretty well with Wolters' uniform. It is still odd to see anyone besides Andres Galarraga wear #14 for the Rockies, even though lots of players have, including Josh Rutledge, Greg Norton (one of my least favorite Rockies ever), and even Troy Tulowitzki, once upon a time.

2017 Topps #467 Adam Ottavino
Adam Ottavino, the only Rockie to ever wear the number 0, has been one of the shakier options in the Rockies bullpen this season. Greg Holland has been lights out except for a few instances, but Ottavino has a rather alarming 5.81 ERA so far in 2017. The Rockies are a high-scoring team, especially like last night when they beat the White Sox 12-4, so they are often able to leave their relievers with a bit of wiggle room. But on the other hand, their record in one-run games has been pretty good this season.

2017 Topps #397 Stephen Cardullo (RC)
Stephen Cardullo, last season's surprise rookie, managed to finally make it to the majors just before his 29th birthday. He added some real pop to the Rockies bats in late summer last year, but his inspirational story didn't last, as the Rockies cut him earlier this season. Still, not only did he manage to hit a grand slam the day he turned 29, but also earned a spot in Series 2 of 2017 Topps, complete with the rookie card logo and everything, not to mention a nice example of a first baseman's mitt. It seems likely that this will be both his rookie card and sunset card, all in one, but it's still a great story and would make a nice episode of 30 for 30, a fantastic sports documentary series that is now also a podcast.

2017 Topps #385 DJ LeMahieu
I realize that few of you have even heard of the five players so far, so we'll move on to a more recognizable name, and one of the four Rockies elected to the 2017 All-Star team. You can just barely make out the seams on this rapidly-spinning baseball that DJ is about to field, something he's been doing a great job of on the right side of the infield. His production at the plate has been less than stellar this season, but he'll always have the batting title from 2016, and a nice little .348 in red italics on the back of all his future Topps cards. Or at least for the next five years, assuming Topps doesn't revert back to giving us complete career statistics.

I'm not sure what stadium this is. I had originally thought Chase Field, due to that odd split that the outfield wall is doing behind his right shoulder. But photos suggest the split in that ballpark is different, so I'm at a bit of a loss. Can anyone help out?

2017 Topps #400a Nolan Arenado
Here's your NL All-Star starting third baseman, Nolan Arenado. He just edged out Kris Bryant for that honor, and we'll see him Tuesday in Miami. Hopefully he gets a chance to flash the leather in front of a huge crowd, so the rest of the baseball world can see what us Rockies fans see pretty much every night. He did commit a very rare error on Wednesday night, bringing his 2017 total up to just three. And those three have come in the last three weeks, meaning he had a perfect fielding percentage until June 17th. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was right around the time the Rockies started losing their grip on first place. They now sit 8.5 games behind the Dodgers, and even the Diamondbacks have slipped a bit, now at 5.5 games back.

2017 Topps Major League Milestones #MLM-3 Trevor Story
The nice thing about packs is that you're certain to find a few insert cards, the lack of which is the primary drawback to factory sets. This group break didn't disappoint, and included one documenting Trevor Story's amazing debut in April 2016, tying an MLB record for 10 home runs as a rookie in the month of April. It was quite a sight, watching six in his first four games, including two in the home opener. There were lots of jokes being thrown around by us fans along the lines of "He's on pace for 243 home runs!"

Of course, he came back down to earth and finished the 2016 campaign with 27, matching his uniform number. He would certainly have made it at least into the 30s if he didn't experience a season-ending injury at the end of July. And the rookie home run sensation has grown even bigger this year, thanks to Aaron Judge of the Yankees, and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers. Both of them will participate in Monday's Home Run Derby. Bellinger has 24, despite not being called up until April 25th. And Aaron Judge is the only player league-wide to hit 30 so far. No Yankee rookie has hit that many in a season since Joe DiMaggio in 1936, and it's not even the All-Star Break yet. Judge has a real shot at Mark McGwire's rookie record of 49, and he just needs 8 more to tie Frank Robinson and Wally Berger in 2nd place.

2017 Topps '87 Topps #87-180 Andres Galarraga
Retired players have their spot too, such as this throwback to the 30-year old (!) 1987 Topps, the set that really kicked off the overproduction era. It's nice to see such a faithful reproduction of the old set, aside from the glossy finish and silver foil, of course. But the back is pretty much just like you remember it, except for the gum stain. Andres Galarraga's "Big Cat" nickname is clearly visible on the collar of his undershirt, and this photo clearly dates to the Coors Field era, in the early days of the Blake Street Bombers. It's tough to tell for sure, but I'd date this one to 1996, based on the sliver of a small memorial patch on Galarraga's right sleeve. That patch had the initials "MDM", after Michael McMorris, the son of then-owner Jerry McMorris. Michael passed away from cystic fibrosis in 1996, and was honored with that patch throughout the season.

Finally, a little housekeeping before I head off to catch the Rockies play the White Sox tonight. I announced a contest for my 200th post, offering a 36-card Moon Mars Space Shots set. There were 12 entries, including plugs on their own blogs from two of the ten commenters.

And the winner is...

GCA of The Collective Mind, thanks to the bonus entry from this blog post! Congratulations, and thanks to all who entered.


  1. I'm really glad you signed up for the break! The design of the set makes me think of scissors about to cut the guys in half.