Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Trading Post #120: It's Like Having My Own Card Shop

I'm still here.

As you might have guessed, it's been a pretty busy month for me. I haven't posted (or really kept up with the Cardsphere at all) in about a month. I hope I didn't miss a super-awesome Blog Bat Around topic or anything like that.

So what have I been up to? Well, the main event was a trip to London, which happened the same week that MLB announced the Yankees and Red Sox would be playing each other in London in 2019. It was kind of neat to read about that in the evening paper as I headed down to the nearest Tube station. I didn't have a ton of time to read, since I don't think I had to wait more than seven minutes for a train or bus the whole trip. They know how to do public transit in that city.

Other highlights this month included my nephew turning one, my first ballgame of the season on Friday, which resulted in a win against the Reds, and (more of a lowlight), a new ERP system at work, which I managed to miss the first week of due to the aforementioned vacation.

The baseball season has carried on, as have a handful of trades. I'm going a bit out of order here, but one such trade came from Daniel of It's Like Having My Own Card Shop. He did a great job of finding a few cards for my Coors Field frankenset, but one thing he sent isn't quite a card.


Daniel's team, the Diamondbacks, and my Rockies share a spring training facility in the Phoenix area, and Daniel snagged a pocket schedule from the '18 Cactus League season. All the usual Western teams are on here, as well as an exhibition game the D-Backs played against the ASU Sun Devils.

I have yet to visit this park, but I did once see the Rockies play the Cubs in 2008. That was when the Rockies and a few other teams still made their spring training homes in Tucson. It's about a three-hour drive from Phoenix to Tucson, though, so in 2011 everyone decided it would be a lot easier for everyone to just play in Phoenix, and you now find a situation where ten stadiums host fifteen teams, with many teams sharing facilities in a similar arrangement. However, according to the stadium map, the D-backs and Rockies still have separate gates. I'm not sure how strictly that's enforced for incoming fans, or if each team just wants a spot to run their own promos.

2014 Topps #199 Matt Davidson (RC)
The main event was a few D-backs duplicates from Daniel's collection, which all fit perfectly into my Coors Field frankenset. As in spring training, these two teams find themselves in each others's stadiums on a regular basis, whether that's Opening Day, the Wild Card game, the NLCS, or anywhere in between. Many Diamondbacks in 2014 Topps clearly had their photos taken in Coors Field, starting with Matt Davidson. Davidson is now on the White Sox, and he started off the 2018 season with a three-homer game. But before his current tenure in Chicago and a couple seasons of Triple-A, he was a late-season callup in 2013.

I had to do a lot of digging to date this card, but it's either from September 21st or 22nd, 2013. Davidson sure looks like he's casually rounding the bases after a home run, and he had one in each of those games. My initial guess was the 21st, which was a night game, and there are definitely lots of stadium lights reflected in his helmet, a trick we all learned from Night Owl. Davidson hit one to straightaway center off of Collin McHugh to drive in three, but video review shows that the team wore their gray jerseys that day. That must mean it was Sunday the 22nd, where he launched another three-run shot, this time to left field. It was late in the game, and the video shows it was a cloudy day, which would account for the lights.

So there you have it. September 22nd, 2013, showing Davidson rounding second after taking Chad Bettis deep. A close look at the video lets you match the out-of-town scoreboard, the numbers on the left corresponding to the Reds blowing out the Pirates 11-3 in Pittsburgh, and the Marlins beating the Nationals in D.C. Home teams did not have a great day that day, as this shot helped the Diamondbacks win 13-9, even though the Rockies chipped away 4 runs in the bottom of the 9th.

2014 Topps #232 Chris Owings (RC)
Chris Owings, now a veteran Diamondback, was a young rookie when this card was printed. It's very possible that this is from the same game as Davidson's card, but there's not much to go on besides the center field forest and the leg of a pinstriped Rockie who seems to be stuck in an inning-ending fielder's choice. Owings, another late-season callup in 2013, only played 20 games for the Diamondbacks that year. I'm certain it's from the same series, and it probably is from the same game on the 22nd, since a highlight from the Friday game in that series shows the Diamondbacks in their gray jerseys again.

Any candidate plays? Possibly in the first inning, when DJ LeMahieu hit a comebacker, resulting in Charlie Blackmon being forced out at second base. This looks more like an end-of-inning "can I keep the ball?" gesture to the ump, and that play was just the first out. But it's a reasonable guess.

2014 Topps #648 A.J. Pollock
A.J. Pollock, one of my (injured) Fantasy team members this year, appeared in Coors Field much more frequently that year than his rookie teammates. I can't be sure it's the same game, but the jersey matches. The distinctive purple banner on the dugout roof makes it easy to locate, but any one specific pitch is near impossible to pinpoint.

Also, is it just me, or does Pollock's right elbow look a little strange?

2014 Topps #379 Gerardo Parra
I showed this card before, actually just a few months ago when I wrote my entry into the What I Collect Blog Bat Around. It's nice to have an extra copy of this now-Rockie, as it shows an angle that's not often seen on cards. Interestingly, that press box has been the site of an important development in broadcasting. For the first time since 1993, a woman has called the play-by-play for an MLB TV broadcast. Jenny Cavnar, a longtime TV personality on AT&T Sportsnet, has been calling games for the Rockies telecasts all year long, and she's been doing a great job. It's not every game, but she has a wealth of knowledge, and has even inserted her own catchphrase into the Rockies fan's lexicon, "Fire up the fountains!" That phrase refers to the fountains near the center field forest that are turned on after each Rockies home run. I assume it's a home-game-only phrase, but I haven't watched enough games this year to know for sure.

Another change at Coors Field this year is the updated video scoreboard in left field. It's now even bigger, and rather than just a plain old rectangle, it now has the outline of a mountain range at the top. It's quite stunning to see in person, and the traditional analog-style clock still occupies the top areas of the scoreboard during the normal course of play. They do use its full height during some of the introductory videos and between-inning features, and sometimes the top of the action was cut off a little bit. To this collector, that reminded me of 2008 Topps, the set with the bump at the top where the Topps logo intruded into the photograph.

2016 Topps Wal-Mart Marketside Pizza #3 Nolan Arenado
Finally, Daniel found a card from my Eight Men Out list, my first one from Topps' Marketside set, the one that was inserted into frozen pizza boxes at Wal-Mart. These were all the rage a couple years ago, but I'm not a Wal-Mart shopper so I never ran across one. I was still interested to add one to my collection and see the design up close, so thanks to my trading buddy for unearthing one. It's too bad these weren't more widely available, because it's a solid design. The two bold silver stripes at the bottom are attractive, and the grid of small squares in the background add some character without taking things over. They're about the size of what you'd see on a Chrome X-fractor without being shiny, and remind me of another insert set or two that I can't quite place at the moment.

The back makes that grid theme just a little bit bolder, and also mentions Nolan's excellent defense, plus his ability to reach 40 HRs and 130 RBIs, numbers that he's pretty consistently met or exceeded for a few years now.

Thanks for sticking around. If I missed anything major this month, feel free to let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Blog Bat Around: The All-Autograph Rockies

I haven't participated in every Blog Bat Around (I didn't touch the 30-day challenge, for example), but about two months after my What I Collect post, I'm keeping the trend going with Zippy Zappy's latest topic, the All-Autograph team.

I'm not a huge autograph collector, and I've never played the TTM game like William R so often does. But I did manage to scrape together enough autographs to put a fantasy team together, although you're not going to see as many Rockies stars as you might expect.

SP: Jason Jennings

1999 Topps Traded Autographs #T70 Jason Jennings (AU)
Autographed cards are usually enough of a highlight for me to include them in a trade post. So not only will you be seeing some repeats, I'll probably be able to thank the original senders all over again. This particular example came from Julie of A Cracked Bat, way back on #2 in The Trading Post series. It's easier to just scan it again than to dig within Google Photos for the original, plus I changed my scanning defaults a while back to make images look less contrasty and more realistic.

I keep my autographs, relics, and low serial numbers in toploaders in a two-row box, so I didn't have to dig too deep to start filling out my roster. I doubt this would have sold for $60,000 $75,000 when new, which is the offer for one of Shohei Ohtani's Bowman cards. That would be a lofty valuation for anyone else, even for the only Rockie to win the Rookie of the Year award.

RP #1: Darren Holmes

1994 Topps #562 Darren Holmes (AU)
Out of the bullpen is Darren Holmes, currently the bullpen coach for Colorado. Holmes earned 46 saves during his career as a Rockie, including 25 in their inaugural year. You'll notice that this isn't a Topps Certified Autograph, but it is an Adam Certified Autograph. Mr. Holmes himself signed this card for me in the 1994-1995 offseason, part of a family outing we took to the defunct Northglenn Mall near Denver for an autograph signing.

I mentioned this story a few months ago as part of another trade post from Julie, and I still remember it quite vividly. I remember my dad asking him about the Strike as he signed a couple cards, two 8x10s, a ball, and my hat. Perhaps I was a bit greedy with that haul, but I was also just 10 and he was the first big-league ballplayer I ever met in person.

I have few autographs, and even fewer that I obtained in person. I'll try to use most of them in this post, but my autograph collection doesn't hold a candle to Paul's, one of my buddies from the local card show, who is perpetually getting stuff signed at every opportunity.

RP #2: Rex Brothers

2014 Topps Update Trajectory Autographs #TA-RB Rex Brothers (AU)
Now, more than ever, relief pitchers are a key part of the game. The Complete Game has vanished from baseball even more than the stolen base, so relievers are getting more and more playing time, and managers are getting more and more steps in. The rules of this BBA topic call for a second relief pitcher, so this Rex Brothers sticker autograph is making its second appearance on Infield Fly Rule, courtesy of Matt at Bob Walk The Plank, whose blog was born just a couple weeks after mine.

Rex Brothers was a Rockie for five seasons, but didn't play in 2016. He's been a Brave for the past two years, and as of this writing, has the dreaded "infinite" ERA, one earned run allowed without retiring a batter. One's ERA tends to drop after leaving Coors Field, but the brand-new SunTrust Park has not been friendly to Brothers.

The rules also call for a closer, but I'm tapped out of relief pitcher autographs. Holmes and Brothers will have to get the final outs.

C: Joe Girardi

1994 Leaf Limited #103 Joe Girardi (AU)
Julie recently sent me a non-autographed version of Joe Girardi's 1994 Leaf Limited card, which I showed on that same trade post as Darren Holmes. But here's the real deal, the card that the former Yankees skipper signed in Boulder at the Rockies Dugout Store for me, while sitting next to Eric Young. I believe they just limited you to two items, so I didn't get every bit of memorabilia signed like I did with Darren Holmes. In fact, I recall being pretty far back in line when they announced the closure of the session, and my dad rapidly shepherded my sister and I to the front of the line where he signed this Leaf card and a 5x7. I congratulated him on his previous-night's home run, he did a quick radio interview, and then he was off to Denver for another night game.

I listened to a lot of games on the radio, and I remember hearing about this signing far in advance. I thought it would be a little secret, but the night before, right during the first few innings of the telecast, they announced it to the whole TV audience and the secret was out. I still lucked out, and got an extremely legible signature on the shiniest Girardi card I could find.

1B: Jordan Pacheco

2012 Topps Chrome Rookie Autographs Refractors #161 Jordan Pacheco /499 (AU)
You probably expected to see Todd Helton here. Well, I don't have a Todd Helton autograph, so utilityman Jordan Pacheco gets the first base slot. He also spent some time catching, and is currently in the Twins farm system. Thanks to Brad, of Brad's Blog, I have a shiny refractor to bat for the team. I would have selected the "base version" of this card otherwise, but right behind it in the box is this one, and you can see both copies on a long ago trade post.

I prefer the actual autograph from the base card, but this one gets the nod thanks to its serial number and refractor finish.

2B: DJ LeMahieu

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Autographs #GQA-DL DJ LeMahieu (AU)
Significantly (infinitely?) less shiny is a DJ LeMahieu auto from 2013 Gypsy Queen, sent by Keith of The Home Run Apple. DJ just hit the disabled list to open the Rockies' series at Wrigley Field, so Pat Valaika is starting in his place.

I have a special appreciation for second basemen, since it's where I played in little league, at least when I wasn't out in right field. The rule in my league was that each kid had to play an infield position at least two innings a game, and I didn't quite have the arm strength to play at the hot corner, at least not until the occasional middle school gym class when I had a bit more experience than my fellow students.

It's nice to see that all the blogs I've looked back on so far are still active participants in the Cardsphere, even if I only traded once with some.

3B: Vinny Castilla

2015 Topps Tier One Acclaimed Autographs #AA-VC Vinny Castilla /399 (AU)
I'd like to be able to slot Nolan Arenado in here, but I haven't had the chance to find one yet. Instead, one of the original Blake Street Bombers will make an appearance, showing up on a thick premium card from Topps Tier One. This one came from Bob Walk The Plank again, whose trade packages are dominated by cards like these. It's a gorgeous card, with an on-card autograph, light-colored gold foil, and a nice shot of Castilla in his home uniform, wearing the uniform number that DJ LeMahieu would eventually wear.

This is the ammunition the big boys are using in their trades, as we can see in the regular volleys between Matt and his trading arch-nemesis Wes.

I'll let them dig themselves into their respective trenches, and enjoy the gold-colored shrapnel that ends up landing near me.

SS: Brendan Rodgers

2015 Bowman's Best Best of '15 Autographs #B15-BR Brendan Rodgers (AU)
Speaking of Wes, he sent me an on-card autograph of his own in The Trading Post #66 before he renamed his blog. Top prospect Brendan Rodgers got a shiny, simple, yet bold design in this Bowman's Best autograph set, and that giant star is repeated on the back, congratulating me for receiving an autograph of Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers has yet to receive the call to the big leagues, but he may end up taking over at second base if the Rockies decide not to pursue DJ LeMahieu in free agency.

Even on my blog, Matt and Wes are battling for trade supremacy. There's no hiding from it.

LF: Matt Holliday

2007 Topps Highlights Autographs #HA-MH Matt Holliday (AU)
Some players start hot, others finish hot. Joey Votto took a few weeks to wake up this season, but the Braves' Ozzie Albies has been making a mark for himself very quickly. The Rockies have always performed similarly, starting off the season strong, usually finishing up strong, but that often bookends a subpar summer. Matt Holliday leaned more toward late-season strength, as this 2007 highlights card tells us. His September of 2006 found him batting in 34 runs, slightly up from 32 the years before and after. Yes, Matt Holliday helped the Rockies out plenty in their historic 2007 playoff run, making up for the fact that he was a not-so-great left fielder (or plate-toucher, if you're a Padres fan).

This black-bordered set looks a little cleaner to me than the base cards, without the filmstrip squares on each corner. The silver banner at the bottom gives it a bold look, and reminds me of the 1979 Topps set.

This one's also from Bob Walk The Plank, by the way.

CF: Charlie Blackmon

2014 Stadium Club Autographs #SCA-CBL Charlie Blackmon (AU)
Charlie Blackmon has spent many years patrolling the enormous center field at Coors Field, and he'll be around for a good while longer, thanks to a recent contract extension. We have another repeat trader, this time A Cracked Bat once again, and from the now-legendary resurgence of 2014 Stadium Club.

Not bad for a Coors Field card. And unlike 2007 Topps, Stadium Club is premium enough to give collectors an on-card autograph. The beard has grown to wizardly lengths by now, but several years ago it was just a beard.

RF: Dante Bichette

1995 Leaf #135 Dante Bichette (AU)
This card that's clearly from Wrigley Field is especially appropriate, as the Rockies are in the midst of their annual trip to the Windy City. Rookie Noel Cuevas started in right field this evening, but that space was once occupied by Dante Bichette, a card sent my way by Jeff of Wish They Still Came With Bubblegum.

Dante used all of this borderless card to sign his John Hancock in a thick blue Sharpie, without detracting from the rainbow foil on the left that's used for the team name.

I wonder how often players are surprised by the cards they sign. It's one thing if Topps prints up a set specifically for them to sign, but with all the inserts and parallels out there, surely they can't know about every card with their likeness.

Well, maybe Pat Neshek does.

Bench: Eric Young, Jr.

2010 Topps Chrome Rookie Autographs #171 Eric Young Jr. (AU)
Just like his dad, who was sitting right next to Joe Girardi when that Leaf card was inked, Eric Young, Jr. signed a few cards himself. He has a small but legible signature, and he added a little flair with a "3" next to it, his uniform number at the time.

I need a bench player, and since LeMahieu will be missing a few games, it's just as well that E.Y. can come to the rescue. He's more of an outfielder, and is listed as such on this card, but he did play second base on occasion.

I couldn't find a post with this card, so it may have come from a card show. But if you sent it to me, thank you. I've enjoyed looking back at all these trade posts, and it's nice to see that everyone is still putting posts out into the world. These Blog Bat Arounds are a great idea, and I have lots of fun mixing things up a bit from the usual subject matter (i.e. all the awesome trades).

But something's missing.

To properly cheer on a team like this, you need a mascot.

Mascot: Dinger

1995 Rockies Promo #NNO Dinger (AU)
Love him or hate him, Dinger has been a fixture at Rockies home games ever since their second home opener on April 16th, 1994, a date noted on this card as when he "hatched". There was a giant dinosaur egg and everything.

You'll notice that he's a left-handed hitter, liked to wear his hat backwards in the style of Ken Griffey, Jr., and his uniform number used to be #94, the year of his hatching. Dinger wears #00 now, not to be confused with #0, Adam Ottavino.

He signed this card (one each for me and my sister) while we were waiting in line for that Girardi/Young signing back in 1995, which has a border representing the green girders that are so noticeable in Coors Field's construction.

I'm not sure if this post will make me more of an autograph collector, and I'm a little surprised that I managed to fill an entire roster, though I did have to reach in a couple spots. This was a good topic, and the Blog Bat Arounds make me feel like I'm part of this community more than just about anything else.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Trading Post #119: Collector's Crack

Now that hockey playoffs have started, which the Avalanche barely squeaked into, it's a perfect time to write about some football cards I won from Collector's Crack during his annual Super Bowl contest. The Denver Nuggets also had a chance to make it to the NBA playoffs, but weren't able to seal the deal in overtime on Wednesday. So that just leaves three Denver sports teams to cover, as the Rockies' 25th Anniversary season is still just getting underway.

The Broncos didn't factor into the NFL playoffs in the 2017-18 season, but everyone around here still bleeds orange and blue. My pick in the contest was for the Steelers to beat the Eagles. I did get the correct NFC team, but not the outcome. That disqualified me from the main prize, but I still came out on top when the randomizer spit out its results.

2010 Absolute Memorabilia Star Gazing #5 Demaryius Thomas
This was a football contest, so it's appropriate for me to start off with a few football cards. Specifically, a colorful Panini card from the Absolute Memorabilia set, a name not seen in baseball circles in quite some time. The extra-colorful design reminds me of the Aurora inserts found in last year's Diamond Kings set, perhaps not surprising as this is an insert card itself. It looks like this design is supposed to be an American flag overlaid in front of some type of spacey image from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Demaryius Thomas, one of the Broncos veteran Wide Receivers, was just getting his pro career started after attending Georgia Tech when this card was printed. He and Charlie Blackmon were both Yellow Jackets in the late-2000s, so it's possible that the two Denver sports stars knew each other in their college days, much like Peyton Manning and Todd Helton attended Tennessee together.

2008 Donruss Gridiron Gear Silver Holofoil O's #32 Brandon Marshall /250
Brandon Marshall has had quite a long career, especially by NFL standards. Yet despite playing for a dozen seasons, he's never managed to make it to the playoffs. He has made it to six Pro Bowls, including his first in 2008, the year of this shiny card. I'll take a shiny card like this regardless of the sport, especially when it has a serial number on the back.

Donruss may have had some type of tabletop game in mind, as this card also came in an "X" variety, replacing the O in the upper left of this card. If you wanted to, I suppose you could make your own formations with your shiny Gridiron Gear cards. Traditionally, Os are for the Offense and X is for the Defense, and of course most football players focus on one side or the other. I feel like I have the more "correct" version of this card, but it's as good a way as any to make another parallel.

2011 Topps Prime Veteran #PV-ER Eddie Royal
I know all these names, but I haven't really followed their careers after their departure from Denver. Eddie Royal, yet another wide receiver, later played for the Chargers and Bears, but was cut before the 2017-18 season and remains an unsigned free agent. He's barely older than Charlie Blackmon, but his career may have drawn to a close. It's a punishing sport to play, and long careers are rare. There's tremendous pressure to play through the pain, lest someone younger and healthier take your spot that you might not be able to get back. The rosters are gigantic, there are a tremendous number of young athletes graduating from college every year, and you only have a short while to really make a name for yourself.

There aren't a lot of R.A. Dickeys, Randy Johnsons, or Jose Bautistas in the NFL. Just look at this Topps Prime card itself. Royal was already a "Prime Veteran" at just 25, barely into his fourth NFL season when this set hit the market.

Side note: remember when Topps made NFL cards?

Corey Seager, by the way, is in his fourth MLB season right now, and only a little younger than Royal was in 2011. I think he has a while before anyone starts calling him a "veteran".

They are very different sports.

2003 Bowman's Best Blue #130 Adrian Madise (AU) /499
I don't follow the world of NFL prospects or the annual draft, but I can only imagine that its even deeper than in Major League Baseball. Other than Marcus Mariota, I can pretty much tell you nothing about which college player ended up on which NFL team. Perhaps that's why I've never heard of Adrian Madise, a wide receiver from TCU who played in 11 games for the Broncos in 2003. That was the extent of his NFL career, but he signed cards for Bowman that year, in this case a sticker autograph that also has one of those small, square, numbered hologram stickers on the back that Topps used to provide.

It's also serial numbered to /499, probably the rarest card I own of a player I've never heard of.

2009 Topps Chrome Cheerleaders #TCC2 Amanda
Another aspect of football that makes it quite different from baseball is the presence of cheerleaders. A stack of about ten cheerleader insert cards from 2009 Topps Chrome was the main door prize from Collector's Crack; the rest of these cards were just an added bonus.

These are the first cards of their type in my collection. I've noted before that there is a pretty glaring absence of women in professional sports, as I mentioned in a post about Allen & Ginter. There are a number of women in an on-field reporting role, but more often than not, most women on-field at an NFL game seem to have pom-poms. And let's not forget the Twitter storm that ESPN launched by putting a woman in the booth next to Rex Ryan during Monday Night Football last season.

Interestingly, you might be surprised to learn who has anchored the most episodes of SportsCenter on ESPN. Not Chris Berman, not the late Stuart Scott, not Scott Van Pelt, not Dan Patrick. It's Linda Cohn, and she did an extremely interesting interview recently with Internet celebrity and Jets superfan Gary Vaynerchuk.

Anyway, what can I say about Amanda, cheerleader for the Baltimore Ravens? Well, Topps Chrome cards still seem to have a curl no matter the subject. And cheerleading looks like it would be an especially cold occupation in the winter months. I'll bask in the sunshine and late evening twilight at Coors Field any day of the week, but I've never braved the cold to see an NFL game, which can easily drop into the single digits in a place like Colorado. Finally, I noticed that Amanda went to the University of Delaware, which is my mom's alma mater.

2011 Topps Legends #87 Tim Tebow
I don't expect to see baseball cheerleaders anytime soon, but Tim Tebow has been the one to blur the lines between baseball and football lately. He's spent a couple years in the Mets' farm system after being cut by several NFL teams. The way the injuries have been piling up for the Mets the past few years, Tebow might make it to the Majors purely because of attrition. They're currently without a catcher, as Travis d'Arnaud will undergo Tommy John surgery (yes, as a catcher), and Kevin Plawecki just hit the DL for a month after a hit-by-pitch.

When Tebow was the quarterback for the Broncos, I remember two things. He'd miraculously pull out a win by taking the lead in the 4th quarter (or even overtime, as Steelers fans and Demaryius Thomas will recall), and he'd run the ball a lot. I kept saying he should be a running back. This card confirms my second memory, mentioning that Tebow ran the ball more in his first three starts than any QB since 1970, starting off with the very first "40-30", a completing a 40 yard run and 30-yard pass in the same quarter.

That was enough to earn him a spot in the Topps Legends set, even though his NFL career only lasted sixteen games over three seasons. But perhaps we haven't heard the last of him.

By the way, did Topps ever plan on releasing Legends or Prime as baseball sets? They're beautiful.

2017 Topps Chrome '87 Topps #87T-24 David Dahl
Like nearly everyone who trades with me, Collector's Crack included a few Rockies in my envelope. Back to the familiar world of baseball and the 1987 Topps design, here's David Dahl, who might see some playing time in the next few days, thanks to the suspensions MLB handed down following a hit-by-pitch incident.

2017 Topps Chrome '87 Topps #87T-15 Nolan Arenado
Yes, Nolan Arenado got five games for that, as did Padres pitcher Luis Perdomo. He dropped his appeal and did not play in Saturday's loss in Washington. Gerardo Parra is still appealing his four-game suspension related to the incident, so there may be a brief window for David Dahl to appear in his first MLB game since the end of 2016.

Topps has been spoon-feeding us 1987 Topps for a while, but I still enjoy seeing it. The woodgrain border doesn't really come across that well when given the refractor treatment, but the overall design clearly stands up to the MLB expansion that's occurred since its release. Topps even kept the "On This Date" theme on the card back, giving us information from the 1987 season. Nolan's card back tells us about Sachio Kinugasa, a Japanese player who broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games record in 1987, whose streak ended at 2,215. David Dahl's card mentions Dave Dravecky's outstanding pitching performance in Game 2 of the 1987 NLCS, a series the Giants would lose in 7.

2003 Playoff Portraits #21 Todd Helton
This heavily-textured card of Todd Helton was clearly meant to look like an oil painting. Picture UD Masterpieces with brush strokes and you have the idea. It's pretty well done, right down to the swirls on Helton's ear flap.

This texture doesn't carry to the back, which just gets a glossy finish, standard for cards of this era. It's the second throwback to 2003 in this post, and the card brings yet another sport into this post by telling us that "Helton takes a bad swing about as often as Tiger Woods". In case you don't follow golf, Tiger is back. While he didn't contend at The Masters, he did tie for 2nd place a few tournaments ago with Patrick Reed, this year's winner at Augusta.

2013 Topps Chasing The Dream Relics #CDR-DP Drew Pomeranz (MEM)
I like to save relics for the end. This is from 2013's Chasing The Dream insert set, and I remember admiring the non-relic flavor the first time I saw it. I said back then that I wanted to acquire a few more, and cynicalbuddha at Collector's Crack made sure I did. Not only that, but this relic contains one of the prized purple pinstripes that often pop up on Rockies relic cards. Pomeranz has long since left the Rockies, turning in an excellent 17-6 record for the Red Sox last year, and he'll probably make his 2018 debut next week.

It's been a long time since a Rockie has put up a W-L record like that. But many ex-Rockies find more success on other teams. Jason Hammel had a couple great years with the Cubs, although Tyler Chatwood is 0-2 in his first two games as a Cubbie.

I was lucky to win this shipment from that Super Bowl contest. It's surprising that the contest ended over two months ago, but I'm excited to be able to write this post with a ballgame on in the background. Thanks again to Collector's Crack, and don't miss his annual Super Bowl contest once the 2018-19 NFL playoffs are set!


Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Trading Post #118: Nachos Grande

Shipments from Chris at Nachos Grande have been a common fixture in my mailbox so far in 2018. Here's another, and there's still one more yet to come. The prolific blogger has had his Trade Stack theme going on for many years, and I finally managed to claim one.

To claim his Trade Stack #88, I mailed a few 2018 Topps cards sent to me by Peter at Baseball Every Night, plus a couple more from 2017 Topps Archives that probably came my way in one of Chris' own group breaks. As I wrote in my note, the cards came full circle. Chris, who is much more on top of his blog than I am, already posted a month ago about what Trade Stack #88 earned him in return.

2014 Topps Heritage #2 Michael Cuddyer / Chris Johnson / Freddie Freeman
Trade Stack #88 was mostly retro-themed, starting off with a couple of multi-player cards from 2014 Topps Archives, modeled after the iconic 1965 set. Even on this three-player card, the famous pennant is visible right on top, above Michael Cuddyer. Thanks to Cuddyer's prominent photograph, we know that the now-retired first baseman won the NL batting title in 2013, kicking off a run of four titles for the Rockies in the past five seasons, interrupted only by Dee Gordon in 2015.

Two Braves appear on this card, the first being Chris Johnson, who hasn't played in the Majors since 2016 and is now in Baltimore's farm system. Freddie Freeman, on the other hand, has been extremely hot to start the 2018 season, including an RBI single against the Rockies in yesterday's home opener at Coors Field. He's certainly the best player the Braves have, but they're developing lots of young talent.

The beginning of the baseball season also means the beginning of Fantasy baseball, and Freeman has been the second-most valuable hitter in my league, behind only the even hotter Didi Gregorius. Things on my team are getting of to a bit of a slow start, but I did pick one of Freeman's young teammates, Ozzie Albies, who was the R in Freeman's RBI I mentioned earlier. Ablies also hit one out of a snowy Coors Field as just the second batter of the day, which was about an hour late thanks to the snow. Or as the Rockies put it on Twitter, #SnowpeningDay.

2014 Topps Heritage #7 Anibal Sanchez / Bartolo Colon
Speaking of Fantasy baseball, Anibal Sanchez always reminds me of 2006, the first of two times I ended up as the runner-up in my league. I briefly mentioned that when Sanchez' equivalent card in 2014 Topps arrived (well, a parallel), which he also shared with Bartolo Colon and Hisashi Iwakuma. For whatever reason, Topps chose to just feature two players instead of three, giving lots of room to the ageless Bartolo Colon.

Sanchez, by the way, is pitching out of the bullpen for none other than the Braves this season, but he began his career as a Marlin. And in September 2006 against the Diamondbacks, he threw his only career no-hitter.

No hitters are hugely valuable in my points-based fantasy league, stacking with the Win, the Shutout, the Complete Game, and all the strikeouts. I had Justin Verlander's in 2007 and it was worth 126 points, if memory serves. I don't remember the point value, but Sanchez' in 2006 upended the league's playoffs quite a bit. It advanced a competing team that wouldn't otherwise have won. I met that team in the final, and even though my team scored a whopping 550 points that final week, Andruw Jones went on an absolute tear for my opponent, hitting 5 homers and helping them outscore my team 558-550 in a heavyweight bout.

This was twelve years ago, people.

Anyway, I'd have won the league if not for that no-hitter, so the way I see it, Anibal Sanchez owes me about $600.

1998 Upper Deck Retro #103 Travis Lee FUT
Shifting back to cards, the retro theme carries on, thanks to a set literally called Upper Deck Retro. This Futurama subset has an elongated hexagonal frame that 1999 Starquest borrows from, and the set itself has a nostalgic feel that pretty much everyone else borrowed from, and continues to.

Travis Lee was one of the top rookie prospects of the day, and let's not forget that 1998 marked the inaugural year for the Arizona Diamondbacks. This card just has his 1997 minor league statistics on the back, but the paragraph mentions his home runs as a full-fledged member of the Diamondbacks, with 17 by the time the All-Star Break happened. He finished his rookie year with 22, a high water mark he wouldn't pass. Lee finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in '98, trailing Todd Helton and winner Kerry Wood.

1998 Upper Deck Retro #106 Mike Caruso FUT
Mike Caruso, another prospect for the much more established Chicago White Sox, only played three seasons in the big leagues, despite finishing third in his own league's Rookie of the Year voting. 1998 and 1999 were decent seasons for him, but he had a gap until he briefly returned in 2002 for a handful of games as a Royal. That's all she wrote for Mike Caruso, one of the least-recognizable names in the entire 30-card subset.

This was an early attempt at a retro set. The design is about right, but the card is a little too smooth, the photo a little too sharp despite the sepia filter, and the jewel-like Upper Deck hologram diamond on the back always looks out of place on these retro cards.

2000 Fleer Tradition #352 Barry Larkin
2000 Fleer Tradition was fully on board with the retro craze, and they gave us a set that is pretty close to 1954 Topps, at least on the front. Topps seemed not to really care, nor did they with 2002 Upper Deck Vintage, so I bet UD was pretty surprised when Topps' legal team came knocking in 2009 after the release of O-Pee-Chee.

Regardless, the card back of 2000 Fleer Tradition is nothing like 1954 Topps, but it is a bit hard to read. The color scheme is sort of like an inverted 1989 Topps. Barry Larkin, the topic of Chris' top player collection, had a few more seasons left in his Hall of Fame career by the turn of the millennium, and it is nice to see a single team listed next to each year.

Perhaps Charlie Blackmon will be a lifetime Rockie, as he just signed a contract that will keep him in Denver for a few more years, possibly through 2023. That seems like a long time away, but it will be here pretty quickly. I was sure that Verlander's no-hitter I mentioned earlier was his second, in 2011, but it was over a decade ago, back in 2007.

2012 Bowman Draft Draft Picks #BDPP109 Johendi Jiminian
There was an extra spot in the PWE, so Chris tossed in a Rockie that wasn't part of the trade stack, one I've never heard of. The longer the Bowman card number, the longer the player's shot seems to be at making it to the big leagues. Indeed, Johendi Jiminian has been toiling away in the minors since 2010. Although he did make it as high as Triple-A last season, he still hasn't cracked the code, and is now part of the Mariners farm system.

It broke the retro card theme, but that's fine. It's part of an even twelve-card trade, and I think it worked out just fine for both sides!


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Blog Bat Around: What I Collect (inspired by Night Owl Cards)

To follow up my rather late review of 2018 Topps, I've got a post that's reasonably on time. All throughout the Cardsphere this month, collectors have been sharing the specifics of "What I Collect", a theme started by none other than Night Owl Cards. It's been unbelievably busy at work this month, and next week will be no exception, but I wanted to carve out some weekend time to join in the Blog Bat-Around fun. I previously hopped on the Kevin Bacon train, but this one's a lot more involved, and I got to pick and choose cards from all over my collection.

We'll lead off with a subject that will surprise absolutely no one.

1. Rockies

2007 Topps #150 Todd Helton
I wasn't always a team collector. I still don't really fully identify as one, as you'll see by the remaining content of this post. It's just so easy to be one in this community. Everyone wants a place to send their unwanted cards, and since there are just 29 teams besides yours, you don't have to look too hard to find a home for them. Unless, of course, we're talking about the Marlins.

Whoever eventually proclaims themselves as a Marlins collector will no doubt be buried in an avalanche of cardboard the likes of which even Wes couldn't match. I have my stack of Marlins extras safely tucked away like the rest of you, waiting for the day they'll have a home. I also have a few spare Royals cards nearby, if anyone wants to claim those.

So I collect Rockies. For better or worse, they are my team. They are my team in the #SuperTraders group, if that's still a thing. They are my team in pretty much every group break I buy into. They are my team when most of you trade with me. They are my team when I go to the ballpark. They were my team a decade ago when my sister and I went to Spring Training in Tucson. They are especially my team during the rare occasion when they make the playoffs. And they're very often my team when I write about baseball cards, as you can see from over four years of this blog's existence.

And who better to represent the Rockies than the face of the franchise, Todd Helton? The only Rockie with a retired number was my entry in a previous Blog Bat Around started by Collecting Cutch. That 2007 Topps card above was #11, the final reject that didn't make my Top Ten list. It hits one of my mini-collections, which we'll get to, but that card has been patiently waiting its turn on this blog since last year. To my knowledge, no better card exists that shows Helton's Mantle-esque post-swing pose, and the black borders and facsimile signature give the Filmstrip Set a retro feel.

2. Sets

2016 Stadium Club #105 Bryce Harper
They're less of a focus these days (see section 1), but if there's a set I like, I still go after it. I usually don't have the patience to build sets by hand (1993 Fleer being one exception), so when I do end up with a full set, it's usually because I just bought the factory set. It's easy, less expensive, and I like the pretty boxes. I've been doing that with Topps for quite some time, and my collection of complete Topps base sets goes back to 1986. I even have a whole blog tab dedicated to the sets I've completed, which is a helpful reference when visiting the discount table of a LCS.

Of course, I realize that not all sets come factory-sealed. In fact, most don't, something that bugs Heritage collectors year after year. But even if not, like Stadium Club, I'll still get a blaster or two, or at least some value packs. And I'll be sure to keep my eyes peeled at card shows.

It's hard to quantify exactly what makes me like a set. A sense of nostalgia goes a long way, like with 2011 Topps Heritage (based on the '62 set). Once in a while I stumble across an old gem like a box of 1993 Leaf and I'll have one of the series done in one fell swoop. Anything on that blog tab that's a single series was probably done that way. Sometimes I just like a set, period. 2011 Topps Lineage is an example of that. But generally, design and photography will seal the deal, which is why I've been such a fan of Stadium Club since its resurgence in 2014.

Topps has been raiding the Getty Images archives for some time now, and they've come up with lots of memorable shots. Bryce Harper under the lights at his home park results in a great night card from a favorite brand of mine. Not only that, but this is one where we're given enough detail in the scoreboard to date this to July 7th, 2015. The Nats lost that day, facing the Reds and Johnny Cueto, who ended up with a complete game shutout. But as Harper waited his turn on deck in the bottom of the 6th, there was still plenty of time to stage a comeback.

He struck out, but that's just one at-bat out of many. He's had many successful at-bats, so many that the "34" in his uniform number just might be the first two digits of a nine-figure contract he's expected to sign when he reaches free agency.

Who wouldn't want more of this set?

3. Inserts

2015 Topps Opening Day Hit the Dirt #HTD-03 Billy Hamilton
I'll get more specific, I promise. This isn't just a review of what types of cards exist in the baseball card hobby. The super-high end autograph sets aren't going to have a place here. But interesting insert sets from the basic brands you can buy at Target have a place in my collection. There are so many insert sets year after year that it's hard not to find a few to like. Stadium Club of course gives us great ones, and Topps Opening Day is usually good for a few too, like this one of Reds speedster Billy Hamilton. I'll be buying my annual blaster of Opening Day soon, and I expect to see a few more like this.

Which insert sets I chase are often determined in the same way as which main sets I chase. Sometimes they just catch my eye at a card show and I'm hooked. 2013 Topps Chasing History comes to mind, as does 2011 Topps 60. And we mustn't forget the Mascots set that Opening Day gives us every year.

I seem to have a knack for pulling NL Central inserts from my Opening Day blasters. There were Pirates galore last year. The NL Central is well-represented on this 2015 card, offering a rare shot of someone stealing third base.

I hope base stealing doesn't become an oddity like knuckleballs. As it is, Dee Gordon is basically a lock to lead the league in the statistic. I just don't want him to be one of just three or four guys still doing it, like the Niekro brothers and Charlie Hough.

4. Parallels

1994 Topps Gold #287 Mike Lansing
I'm a little bit pickier when it comes to parallels. I don't chase every color in the rainbow that Topps is doing these days, especially now that they got rid of borders. Purple borders are nice, especially on Rockies cards, but with the demise of Toys 'R' Us, the exclusive retailer of purple parallels, those won't be around anymore. Other coincidental color-coding is pleasing to look at, but they're more of a curiosity. What really interests me is when there are just one or two parallels to be found. Stadium Club First Day Issues, for example, 1994 Upper Deck Electric Diamond, and Opening Day Blue cards.

But what first comes to mind when I think of parallels is Topps Gold. These were the first ones I chased, and I still enjoy running across these. I'll never pass one up at a card show. I also jumped at the chance to get a bunch from Matt at Summer of '74 recently. The above Mike Lansing card has been in my collection for longer, and there's no parallel set better represented in my collection than 1994 Topps Gold.

The horizontal layout makes this example stand out, as does the oddly-placed Topps Rookie Cup logo. It's partially obscuring the Giants catcher, possibly Kirt Manwaring, who had another cameo in 1994 Topps on Dante Bichette's card. On the other hand, that could be Jeff Reed, the Giants' backup catcher, because his black mitt is different than the tan one Manwaring wore on both Bichette's and Darrell Whitmore's 1994 cards.

Either way, they'd all end up being teammates on the 1998 Rockies. Well, except for Darrell Whitmore.

5. Overproduction

1992 Fleer Ultra #383 Darryl Hamilton
I came of age during the tail end of the baseball card bubble, and the earlier parts of my collection reflect that. Many of my overproduction cards are simply there because of pure abundance. I'm sure that is true for many of us. My first-ever packs were of 1987 Topps and 1990 Fleer. When I got a little older, the local Wal-Mart had a great supply of 1991 Topps, 1993 Fleer, and more. Even Toys 'R' Us was a good source for cheap cards like 1991 Score. 1988 Donruss still seems to sneak its way in whenever you're not looking, and 1991 Fleer can practically be seen from space.

It's everywhere.

I collected so many of these sets at so young an age that they're seared into my memory for the rest of time. There is no time period of cards, not even cards released mere months ago, that I remember as well as some of these sets. Case in point: I can tell the difference between 1992 Ultra and 1993 Ultra in a split-second glance.

Darryl Hamilton, the late ex-Rockie, got a great bunting shot in 1992 Ultra as a member of the then-AL Brewers. The bat itself has an interesting woodgrain pattern, and we can see the hollowed out top of the bat as we stare down the barrel.

Yes, I am completely certain this is 1992 Ultra as compared to '93. The team and position banner extends all the way to the border, the team's city is present, there is less gold foil, and most obviously, the marbled area at the bottom is a jade color, compared to the tan color in '93. That's about all there is to go on, but it's enough.

Just don't ask me to place a Bowman set any more accurately than plus or minus five years.

1990 Fleer #363 Larry Walker (RC)
Overproduction cards are so abundant that they've earned a second card in this section, this one from the aforementioned 1990 Fleer.

As a Rockies collector, I don't see a whole lot of this era via trade. Other than two or three cards from 1992, it took most brands until Series 2 of 1993 to give us any Rockies cards. So most of these that I don't already have tend to come my way in various 5,000 count boxes that dealers unload for peanuts as card shows wrap up.

But they're often a source of conversation, because that was when everyone else collected. Once someone knows I collect, the question about what their '80s cards are worth isn't far behind. Nick wrote all about this last month. One recent day at work, our regional VP asked me about his complete '82 Topps Football set and some late-'70s Pete Rose cards. I told him those are old enough that there might be a little value if they're in good shape, a few bucks. But earlier this week, Larry Walker's rookie card came up.

We were beginning a week-long training series for an upcoming system change. The trainer wanted us to go around the room for introductions and share a fun fact about ourselves. When it got to me, what else could I say besides, "I'm Adam K, <various info about my career>, and I write a blog about baseball cards." The next day when I sit down, a coworker sat down across from me who had a slight gleam in his eye. The conversation went something like this:
"So I have Larry Walker's rookie card."
"Oh? What was that, 1989 Fleer?" [my mistake, off by a year]
"Yeah, what's that worth?"
"About ten cents."
[hangs his head in disappointment] "What about like Randy Johnson..."
"Yeah, cards from that era aren't really worth they paper they're printed on, other than Griffey's rookie. That might go for about $25."
It's tough bursting people's bubbles, but I'm sure we've all had to do it. Anyway, I have Walker's rookie card too. And it's not even centered all that well.

I did have a friend who asked me about a 1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson once, and I referred him right to SGC. But that is definitely the exception.

6. Coors Field

2014 Topps #379 Gerardo Parra
So far, my collection probably isn't terribly different from yours. But there are a few things that make it mine. Primarily, that would be my Frankenset of Coors Field cards. I've attended nearly seventy games at the ballpark, I've sat in every area, I've seen many wins, many losses, a few Hall of Famers, and many, many home runs. I know the park like the back of my hand, and I can pretty easily spot it when it's on a baseball card. This Frankenset currently stands at 143 cards, with about 60 more on the wish list (discovered thanks to many of your blogs), and another 25 or so that I rejected due to card number overlap.

Clearly, they don't even have to be Rockies to make it in. Many teams are represented, including the Expos, who had quite a few of their photos taken in Denver. I guess the photographers didn't want to schlep all the way up into Canada to get their images for 1997. For obvious reasons, the other NL West teams appear frequently, most commonly the Diamondbacks.

Gerardo Parra is now a Rockie, but he was a divisional rival from 2009-2014, and that puts him in the third-base dugout sometime in 2013. The press box and retro architecture behind the plate are visible in the background, but the purple "Coors Field" banner on the front edge of the dugout roof is one of the key telltale signs I use to locate a card to 20th and Blake. That banner used to be green (see Helton's card in section 1), and in the early days, it wasn't there at all.

A clear but rare shot of the stadium's architecture itself is a dead giveaway. Sometimes you have nothing more to go on besides a Rockie who is wearing pinstripes, but even that can be deceptive, as their road jerseys also had pinstripes in the early 2000s. Other notable features are the right field out-of-town scoreboard, the forest in front of the batter's eye (but don't confuse this with Cleveland or Anaheim), segments of chain link fence under the yellow line in various spots along the outfield wall, and of course Dinger.

If there's anything that makes my collection mine, it's this.

7. Shiny

2011 Topps Lineage Platinum Diamond #76 Roberto Alomar
I'm a sucker for shiny cards, whether it's gold foil, chrome, dufex, or just lots and lots of sparkly facets, like this Roberto Alomar card from 2011 Topps Lineage, a set I mentioned in section 2. I tend to prefer the obvious ones like Topps Finest or maybe Pinnacle Certified over something like Stadium Club Rainbow cards, which you have to hold up to the light just right to see what's going on.

Topps went a little overboard with this in 2011 for their Diamond Anniversary, and the Hall of Famer Alomar looks a bit fuzzy in this photograph. But shiny is shiny, and the large blue area of the outfield wall takes on a striking deep sapphire color when given the sparkle treatment.

Shiny cards tend to scan quite terribly, but in person they're always a sight to see. Once in a while the scanner gets it right (like this time), but more often than not, they look a lot darker and flatter than they really are.

There's a holy grail set out there in the land of shiny cards, which are the ultra-rare 1993 Finest Refractors. That's something missing from my collection, and a gap I'd like to remedy one day. Even the common cards are not cheap, probably $20 minimum, and for a name like Griffey, you'll be looking at a couple grand.

8. Serial Numbers

2003 Topps Chrome Gold Refractors #84 Derrek Lee /449
The first time I saw serial numbers on a card was at a card show in 2003. This card itself may have been purchased at that exact show, since I remember the 2003 Topps Chrome set quite specifically. I was astonished that I was holding something so rare in my hands, especially as someone who wasn't too far removed from buying packs of 1991 Score at Toys 'R' Us. To this day, these are one of my favorite types of cards to collect, and I even have the extra rare ones (less than about 50 copies) in toploaders kept in a two-row box along with my autographs, relics, and a handful of special favorites.

This particular Derrek Lee card is a Gold Refractor, noted as such in tiny print next to the card number on the back. Topps has gone back and forth on that many, many times, but in 2003 they were happy to specify what we were holding. The serial number is 042/449, not exceedingly rare but still worth mentioning. Like many of my favorite cards, it falls into a few of these categories. No one will question a Gold Refractor's shininess.

I'm a bit ticked at Topps for removing serial numbers from Opening Day Blue parallels, even though they're supposedly given a print run equal to the calendar year. Hopefully that returns someday, if it hasn't already in 2018.

9. Green

1994 Finest #185 Paul Sorrento
Finally, the last thing I'll mention are green cards. There's something about the color that just works when it's on a card. Maybe it approximates the field of play so well, reminding us that baseball is a summer sport, when the trees are in bloom, the sunlight lasts forever, the birds are singing, and the ballpark smells like fresh-cut grass if you sit close enough. It's one of my favorite colors anyway, but when it's on a card, it really stands out and compels me to linger just a little longer.

1994 Topps Finest was my first exposure to green cards, particularly a preproduction version of Andres Galarraga's card. I was hooked ever since. And even though they're not really my team, I've considered collecting Oakland Athletics cards to increase this portion of my collection, at least the cards from color-coded sets.

Paul Sorrento, the subject of the common card I pulled from a large stack of 1994 Finest, has the claim to fame of getting the first hit at Camden Yards, and just a couple days later hitting the first home run there. And that's appropriate, because Camden Yards was the first retro classic ballpark, the one that so many others emulated and brought a dark green color back into the setting of Major League Baseball games.

Picking this card was basically at random, and Topps could have given us any number of Finest Moments in Sorrento's career. But one about a brick-and-green ballpark is oddly coincidental. I'm not necessarily the type to believe in coincidences, but my dad would point that out as "a signpost that you're on the right path."

Of course, there are other parts to my collection, including a handful of vintage cards, some minis, the occasional relic or autograph, a couple dozen pins, and a complete run of Rockies pocket schedules. But I could fit all that into a pretty small space, and it's not where my focus tends to lie. If money were no object, I'm sure I'd chase some of the 1950s classics, and Nolan Ryan's rookie card is one of the first things I'd buy if I were to win the lottery. But what you see above is where I tend to spend my time and money when it comes to card collecting.

It's a diverse hobby, and I'm sure many answers will be different. Some will be very different. I hear there are even other sports. I'm one of only a couple Rockies guys in the community, so my chosen team sets me apart from the bloggers who follow the major market teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, and Yankees. But my niche is just right for me, and I'm glad you're along for the ride.