Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Trading Post #132: Baseball Every Night

Just a couple weeks ago, the baseball world celebrated National Baseball Card Day, which fell on August 10th. I didn't have a chance to make to any of the few remaining card shops in the Denver area, but I did tune into the Rockies broadcast that evening for the festivities. The TV crew opened some packs of 2019 Topps on-air, and many of the players reminisced in pre-game segments about their history of collecting cards. Scott Oberg said his father worked for Score back at the height of the overproduction era, and the company gave their employees a free factory set every year.

Despite not doing much with cards that day (in fact, I rebuilt one of the more technically challenging Lego sets in my collection), Peter at Baseball Every Night helped me out with a single-card PWE.

2019 Topps National Baseball Card Day #10 Nolan Arenado
Nolan Arenado was the Rockies' representative in the special 30-card set that Topps released for the occasion, and Peter was nice enough to send it my way. Topps even used a picture from this season, as the Rockies no longer wear pinstripes with their purple or black alternate jerseys, just with the full white uniforms. Nolan has his usual level of intensity on display, and Mike Schmidt has some kind words to say about him on the back, such as "He puts up numbers I never dreamed of."

That's high praise from a Hall-of-Famer like Schmidt. And rightly so, since there are a whole lot of red numbers on the card back.

Design-wise, the two slanted opposing corners reminds me a lot of Panini's 2013 Pinnacle set. I'm not too much of an expert on the legacy Panini brands, but maybe there's a bit of 2019 Donruss in here too?

Speaking of Scott Oberg, he is expected to miss the rest of the 2019 season after being treated for a blood clot. Jon Gray is out for the year too, despite turning in a masterful eight-inning performance against the Marlins last week, which I had the pleasure to witness. The race for second place in the NL West remains fairly tight, although 2019 will likely end up being a disappointing season for the Rockies. After two straight years of Wild Cards, 2019 is shaping up to be pretty typical here in Denver. Things look pretty good in spring, then a horrendous July takes the team out of the running, then by late August everyone's attention starts turning to football.

But I have tickets for Saturday against the Pirates, and you bet I'll be there to cheer my team on.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Trading Post #131: Nachos Grande

You're about to see a rare event on Infield Fly Rule. This is a post with precisely zero Rockies in it. I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure that none of these guys ever even suited up for the Rockies. That is surprising, both because the current nature of the game dictates that players are traded almost like stocks, and because this is the largest-ever Trade Stack ever claimed from the recently-redesigned Nachos Grande, at a whopping 35 cards.

I've had Trade Stack #93 on my desk for quite some time, and while everyone's favorite Barry Larkin collector documented his end of the trade in short order, it's taken several months for me to get to it. I've travelled a lot this year, and have seen quite a few MLB games, even one in another city! I had the good fortune to see Billy Joel play at Coors Field on Thursday, who is simply excellent in concert. He even peppered in a couple of Eagles songs.

I haven't been to a Rockies game in a couple months. In fact, my most recent game was the one in San Diego almost a month ago, which is appropriate for our first card.

2017 Topps Heritage #81 Adam Rosales
Adam Rosales is currently in the Cleveland Indians organization, and hasn't played in the big leagues this year. But not long ago, he played a full season with the Padres. That was in 2016, the same year the All Star Game was in San Diego, as noted on Rosales's uniform patch. Topps included him in 2017 Heritage on the '68 design.

Rosales is listed as a third baseman, but he has the versatility to play all over the field. His 13 homers in 2016 was the highest mark of his career, and his signature move is sprinting around the bases after sending one deep. I love seeing hustle like that. He's like the anti-Machado, for a whole bunch of reasons.

One other thing I'll mention about Rosales is that one of my good friends knew him growing up. He's less than a year older than me, and my friend says he and some other buddies "used to take swings in his basement in Park Ridge." How cool would that be for one of your childhood friends to make it in the big leagues? I don't personally know any Major Leaguers, but my sister knows Deck McGuire and his wife. They have kids around the same age, and have all been to storytime at the library together.

2018 Topps Gypsy Queen #130 Michael Fulmer
There were many retro sets represented in this trade, so it's going to take a while to find a glossy card, and even longer to get to the gold foil. Gypsy Queen may be one of the many retro sets out there, but even it is embracing Sabermetrics. The card back tells us that Michael Fulmer had a 0.71 HRA in 2017. I'll admit, I had to look that one up. It stands for Home Runs Allowed (per 9 IP), and Fulmer had the lowest rate in the league that year.

I'm not the type to downplay the importance of advanced statistics, unlike many old-school announcers. This is a game of numbers, and there are some valuable insights to be gained by slicing the numbers a different way. The only trouble I have with them, as I was still raised on batting average and ERA, is that I don't have that innate sense for what a "good" number is. 0.71 HRA sure sounds good, but I'm not at the point where I can, at a glance, know whether that's better or worse than other players. I'm sure it will come with time, but it's a bit like the metric system. I know the math behind what, say 90 km/h represents, but probably couldn't pilot my vehicle to that exact speed without having to convert it in my head. It's a bit like a second language, I suppose.

Even with all this talk of Sabermetrics, I'm reminded of a post I ran across on reddit today. Since the dawn of Major League Baseball there have been nearly precisely as many hits as there have been half-innings. Well over a hundred years of play across hundreds of thousands of games has produced a sport that generates, on average, one hit per every three outs.

2009 Upper Deck Goudey 4-in-1 #35-56 Russell Martin / Brian McCann / Ryan Doumit / Geovany Soto
Upper Deck gave us plenty of entrants into the retro set library, including their brief resurrection of the Goudey brand. The 2009 set offered an insert set modeled on the 1935 design, which featured four players per card. This grouping of four catchers, two of whom are still playing, unintentionally foreshadowed Upper Deck losing their MLB license the following year. These four close-ups of armored catchers doesn't feature a single team logo.

This is actually a fantastic card for fans of catchers on the defensive side of the game. Current sets don't give us many catchers who aren't simply batting, and I'd love to see more cards like this, especially with catchers still wearing their masks, as Ryan Doumit is here. Remember that Johnny Bench card from 2017 Stadium Club? Catcher's gear cards are awesome, and might even be mini-collection worthy.

1999 Upper Deck Retro #90 George Brett
Most catchers on cards just happen to be partially in the frame, like this unknown American Leaguer behind George Brett. The mask is there, along with a left-handed mitt, but there's not much else to go on. Some of the coloration in the background is making me lean Blue Jays, but that's just a guess.

Like in the previous Trade Stack I claimed, there was some Upper Deck Retro. This base card is from 1999, the final year of the set's two-year run, and this is the first base card from the '99 set to enter my collection.

The card back has no picture, but includes about half of his annual stats, a color palette similar to the front, the usual Upper Deck diamond hologram, and a fun fact about this Hall of Famer. You may have heard this before, but we're told that George Brett is the only player to win batting titles in three different decades. One of those years, 1980, also was his MVP year.

Back on the front, in tiny print on the lower left, Upper Deck has the slogan "A Guaranteed Hit". I doubt that meant UD was promising a rare card in every box, and more likely referred to their certainty that this set would be a top seller. As "nineteen 99" (also spelled out in the lower left) was the final year of Upper Deck Retro, that did not come to pass.

1998 Upper Deck Retro #115 Mark Kotsay FUT
I've yet to see a base card from the prior year, 1998 Upper Deck Retro, but Nachos Grande has become my sole supplier for 1998's Futurama subset. This marks my fourth card from that subset, one from very early in Mark Kotsay's career. The journeyman outfielder played for seven teams before retiring, and shifted to first base later in his career.

I didn't really notice the sepia-toned photographs last time I saw these, but when you know Kotsay is wearing the bright teal jersey of the early Florida Marlins, it's slightly jarring to see that taken away.

1991 Topps Archives 1953 #25 Ray Boone
A major part of this trade stack was a batch of Cleveland Indians from the 1953 Archives set. Ray Boone, who took over at shortstop in Cleveland for Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau, would be traded to Detroit partway through the 1953 season, leaving the city where he began his career and earned a World Series ring in his rookie year of 1948. His one and only postseason at-bat was a strikeout in Game 5.

1948, of course, was the last time that the Indians won the World Series. That's 71 years, but that number becomes particularly impactful when you remember that was Ray Boone's rookie year, and his son Bob and grandsons Bret and Aaron have all concluded their MLB careers by now. Aaron Boone is now managing the Yankees, and had to argue against Brett Gardner's completely unwarranted ejection during Friday night's game in Toronto.

2018 Topps Allen & Ginter World's Greatest Beaches #WGB-5 South Beach
Boone's card is the glossiest one we've seen yet, but as retro as this post is, let's include some Allen & Ginter, shall we? Every year around this time, the hobby erupts in either appreciation for the set, or indignation for the so-called quality of non-baseball topics in the set. I still enjoy it, and the History of Flight insert set in 2019 A&G interests me, although I will question the skipping of card numbers 301-350.

Anyway, here's a card of a beach. I made sure to get some beach time in during my trip to San Diego, and even managed to avoid a sunburn. I haven't been to South Beach, the subject of this insert card, or even Miami. My beach visits in Florida have been limited to the Cape Canaveral region. It sure looks enticing, though I doubt you'll find three perfect scallop shells like you see on this card.

1994 Post #30 Orlando Merced
I've hunted for them more carefully than seashells, but try as I might, I have yet to find an Utz potato chips oddball card this year. Fortunately, I love potato chips even when they don't include baseball cards, so that's not a huge disappointment. Perhaps I'll just have to keep searching. However, I'm not really much of a breakfast guy. I'll have an apple for breakfast most days, or perhaps the occasional granola bar. I can't remember the last time I bought a box of cereal, so completing a Post cereal oddball set would be out of the question. Fortunately, I have trading partners looking out for me.

Long before Upper Deck lost their MLB license, companies like Post were putting out sets with the logos airbrushed out. Pirates outfielder Orlando Merced was the final card in the 30-card checklist that year, and this is the third card I have from the set. Andres Galarraga is in my collection, which I thought I posted about once upon a time, but I couldn't find anything in the archives.

There was another logo-less cereal oddball in this stack, the Kirby Puckett card from the 1989 Cap'n Crunch set. Bob Walk the Plank added that to my collection long ago in The Trading Post #4.

1995 Collector's Choice #26 Paul Shuey
I was a big fan of Collector's Choice as a kid, and I bought plenty of this 1995 release. I didn't notice until recently, though, how strange these Rookie Class subset cards are. The bubbly pink background wouldn't be at all out of place in 1995 Fleer. Maybe it's just Paul Shuey's card, because a few others in my collection have a much smoother background in the pink area.

I also question whether this is a true action shot, because that is certainly a strange look on this reliever's face, which goes along with a comically high leg kick.

Pitchers.

Incidentally, he is one of the few pitchers to pull off the error-assisted feat of striking out four batters in an inning.

1994 Topps Gold #351 Gary DiSarcina
We're finally at the point of gold foil, and what better way to introduce it than on 1994 Topps Gold? There's an anthem shot on the card back for you mini-collectors, and Gary DiSarcina is wearing the same California Angels uniform that was used in Angels in the Outfield, one of the baseball movies I grew up watching.

DiSarcina spent is whole career with the California/Anaheim Angels, and is now the third base coach for a New York Mets team that is heating up at a good time. Their walkoff win on Friday night saw Rookie of the Year candidate and Home Run Derby winner Pete Alonso (aka Polar Bear) hit his 38th home run of the season.

2001 Topps Gold Label Class 1 #23 Darin Erstad
Gary DiSarcina retired in 2000 without any Postseason experience, but his teammate Darin Erstad was present in 2002 for the first World Series title won by the Angels.

Really, he was more than just "present" in that Series. His leadoff home run in the 8th inning of Game 6 kickstarted a rally that would not only see the Angels stave off elimination, but go on to win the whole thing in Game 7 over the Giants, with Erstad himself catching the final out.

This Topps Gold Label card was printed a year before that, with a photo from 2000, their 40th Season. Erstad is sporting an anniversary patch on his right sleeve documenting that milestone, back when the team was still known as the Anaheim Angels and was laying it on a little thick with the heavenly wings motif.

There's another reason I remember Darin Erstad besides his World Series heroics. He was the subject of a trivia question I missed. One day in high school, my teacher asked a question about her alma mater: "Which Angels player went to the University of Nebraska?" I guessed Chad Curtis, drawing on my encyclopedic knowledge of the 1994 Topps set many years too late. Curtis hadn't been an Angel since then, and the correct answer was, of course, Darin Erstad.

Whether they're a friend of a friend or the answer to a trivia question, these baseball players are more than just athletes.

Thanks to Nachos Grande for the swap!


Friday, July 26, 2019

A Work Trade

While the Rockies have been mired in their textbook July slump (though they have managed to put together a two-game win streak), the big news for fans is the recently-announced retirement of Troy Tulowitzki. After 13 seasons, many of them injury-shortened, the All-Star shortstop has decided to step away from playing the game of baseball. After many great years as a Rockie, he spent some time in Toronto, and finally got to live his dream of playing in the Bronx, occupying the same spot in Yankee Stadium as his idol Derek Jeter.

2019 Topps Historic Through-Lines #HTL-22 Derek Jeter / Jackie Robinson
Speaking of Derek Jeter, a card of his came my way this week in unexpected fashion. A coworker whose last day was Thursday mentioned last week that he was starting to get into baseball cards. He knew I was the guy to ask, and after mentioning that he had spent around $150 on some current product after unearthing his 35,000-card childhood collection, I told him I'd be happy to pull some cards out of my duplicates box.

On Monday morning, I had a small box with a few hundred cards for him in my cubicle, ready to drop them off free and clear. But he made a trade out of it, offering up four cards from 2019 Topps Series 2 (presumably left over from his $150 spend), including the Historic Through-Lines insert card you see above. It was most welcome and entirely unnecessary, as I was just excited to be in the vicinity of a fellow collector. But offloading a bunch of duplicates in return for some Hall of Famers that I wouldn't find in the factory set worked just fine for me, especially when they came in four perfectly perfect penny sleeves, the mark of a new collector who just dropped some dough on supplies.

Troy Tulowitzki may not have been a legendary player of the same caliber as Jeter and Jackie Robinson, but his career will definitely remain a question mark of what might have been. He finished with 225 career home runs, five All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves, and a .290 average.

2019 Topps Historic Through-Lines #HTL-44 Corey Seager / Pee Wee Reese
Continuing the shortstop theme is another card from Historic Through-Lines, this one featuring Pee Wee Reese, who shared the middle infield with Jackie Robinson, and Corey Seager, the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year. Reese is pictured as a Brooklyn Dodger, which is where he spent the vast majority of his career, but he did make the trip out West in 1958 to play his final season in Los Angeles. Seager is chipping away at Reese's record mark of home runs by a Dodger shortstop, and in today's game, he's likely to break that sooner rather than later.

Design-wise, I'm not thrilled by this set, which feels awkwardly named and not the best execution of a two-player card. 2011's Diamond Duos came to mind first, although there are some intriguing pairings in Historic Through-Lines, like Ichiro with Shohei Ohtani, Bob Feller with Corey Kluber, and Christy Mathewson with Max Scherzer.

2011 Topps Diamond Duos #DD-GT Carlos González / Troy Tulowitzki
Here's an example from Diamond Duos, which I received via trade from Texas Rangers Cards long ago. Look how much energy this card has! Judging by the helmet rack in the dugout behind both players, these photos were probably from the same game. There's even a Todd Helton cameo in the on-deck circle behind Tulo. Sadly, the card back is an accurate microcosm of Tulo's career, which tells us that Carlos González emerged as a "top run producer" in 2010 while Tulowitzki was sidelined with a broken wrist. Troy did return later that season to hit 15 home runs in the month of September alone, though it was not enough to secure a playoff spot that year.

Interestingly, Tulowitzki's career batting average when this card was released was .290, and while it did trail off later in his career, it shows what a determined competitor he is, keeping consistent stats as best he could while dealing with frequent injuries.

I enjoyed the privilege of seeing both Tulo's and CarGo's returns to Coors Field with visiting clubs, and was proud to give them each a standing ovation for their long careers in Colorado. In fact, González's game was the same game as Ian Desmond's moonshot, which was documented on my first Topps Now card of the year.

2019 Topps #647 Kyle Freeland
My coworker threw in a couple base cards in addition to the inserts, two with lots of glorious Rockies purple. Kyle Freeland led things off, the "breakout star" pitcher who put together a 17-7 season last year, but hasn't done any better than 2-8 so far in 2019, which included some time in the Minors to figure things out. It's been a frustrating year to be a Rockies fan, especially given their playoff-caliber greatness the past two seasons.

It's almost August, and this is the first appearance of the 2019 Topps Base design on this blog. I'm not super proud of that. Even worse, the Bowman-esque 2020 design was just released this week, so I am way behind the curve here.

The two big design elements that jump out at me are the reverse hockey sticks that emulate 1982 Topps, and the pattern of small dots on the edges, which always remind me of a 2013 Topps insert set called Chasing the Dream. I'm sure those dots have been used in a bunch of sets, but that's the one I think of.

2019 Topps #499 Daniel Murphy
The final card depicts Daniel Murphy, the veteran who is covering first base this year. Earlier in the season, I wasn't quite sure what to think of him. He's a good player, but he's just sort of, goofy. Even this photograph looks a bit goofy to me.  He mixes up his facial hair style quite frequently, always seems to have a smile on his face, nearly got steamrolled during a between-innings mascot race, and belly flopped to touch home plate.

Mets and Nats fans, was he always like this? Because I'm definitely warming up to him.

One final thing I'll mention as part of the July round up was the game I attended in San Diego. I had a Southwest flight credit to use, so I figured I'd venture to another Major League town and visit a new stadium. I was there on July 13th, and saw the Atlanta Braves beat the San Diego Padres in 10 innings.

I did a few laps of Petco Park before the game to check out the dining options, which did not disappoint. There was also plenty of craft beer to enjoy. What surprised me were all the little nooks and crannies on the main concourse. It's not a level walkway that simply encircles the field like at Coors Field. There are a few spots that bend and twist, a couple shortcuts, and some hidden spots, especially in left field between the bullpens and the Western Metal Supply Co. building down the line. My seat on the third base side offered great views of downtown San Diego and the glide path of the airport.

And yes, I did snap a #WalletCard photo op. Fernando Tatis, Jr. was at the plate, and Manny Machado hit two home runs that game, just like I saw him do the last time I was at Coors Field in mid-June.

Three parks down, twenty-seven to go.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

NOW it's the Second-Longest Homer of 2019

I think it's officially a trend. Once spring and summer roll around, I seem to become a one-post-per-month sort of guy. What have I been up to in all that time? The weather has been pretty nice, so I've been spending a good deal of time outdoors. And some of that outdoors time involves watching live baseball at Coors Field.

Since my previous post exactly a month ago, I've been to four Rockies games, all of which they won. The first one was a freezing cold night where it rained and dipped into the low 40s. The rest were much more pleasant, and I saw some long home runs. My friend and I went to see the Cubbies in mid-June, and Ian Desmond drilled one 486 feet onto the left field concourse as a pinch hitter that night.

Speaking of the Cubs, you really should watch the clip of Cookie Monster doing the 7th Inning Stretch at Wrigley today.

Anyway, I've seen lots of huge home runs in the thin Denver air over the years, including some by Trevor Story. But that one from Desmond was just unbelievable. My initial guess from way on the other side of the stadium was 470', but even that underestimated it.

I decided that an occasion like that warranted my first Topps NOW purchase of the year, the subject of this one-card post.

2019 Topps NOW #357 Ian Desmond /146
Check out that power stroke. The current school of thought around the launch angle is very well represented on this card. And at the time, it was the longest home run in baseball this season. However, it didn't take long for someone to eclipse it, which Nomar Mazara did less than a week ago. His moonshot went 505 feet, far into the upper deck in Globe Life Park, home of the Rangers. More than a few fans didn't expect to see a baseball come that far up the seats.

I don't remember exactly which day this arrived in the mail, but Topps NOW might not have been quick enough to get this card to me before the record was smashed. Overall, the 2019 NOW design is pretty similar to years past, but they do a good job with the product. Of all the times I intended to purchase a Topps NOW card, they've never failed to create the card I had in mind. They are pricey, but I really do enjoy having a memento from a game I actually attended.

And if we're being honest, they're not much more expensive than a hot dog.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Trading Post #130: Chavez Ravining

If I were to ask you who scored the winning run for the Rockies in their 8-7 win Sunday over the Orioles, who would you guess? Charlie Blackmon? No, he last played Thursday and just hit the Injured List with a calf injury. What about their superstars like Nolan Arenado or Trevor Story? Actually no, although they both reached career home run milestones over the weekend, which we'll touch on later. Could it be someone from their crop of homegrown youngsters, such as McMahon, Rodgers, or Tapia? Nope, sorry.

2017 Topps Fire Green #58 Jeff Hoffman /199
Of all people, it was Jeff Hoffman, who was called up on Friday to start against Baltimore. The O's, by the way, were making their first trip to Denver since the 2004 season. Hoffman did make it five innings but took a no decision.

So what the heck was a starting pitcher doing in the 9th inning two days later? I can't be exactly sure, but he pinch-ran for Daniel Murphy in the final inning, and ended up scoring on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Tony Wolters.

Alex from Chavez Ravining included a couple Jeff Hoffman cards as part of a recent trade. Along with Hoffman's yellowish Flame parallel from 2017 Topps Fire, he also sent this Green parallel, numbered to 199. Not only is the Green less common, but longtime readers know that it's basically my favorite color to find on a baseball card.

2017 Topps Fire Golden Grabs Gold Minted #GG-18 George Springer
A few non-Rockies made it into the trade by virtue of their shininess. As usual, Topps Fire printed up a few insert sets for 2017, including this 20-card Golden Grabs set, documenting some of the best catches from across the league. George Springer of the Astros made it in thanks to this snag from May 19th, 2016, which robbed Jose Abreu of a trip around the bases.

This yellowish color signifies it as a Gold Minted parallel, a very appropriate color for an Astros card. It looks a lot like Hoffman's Flame card, though without any refractor action.

2017 Topps Fire Walk It Off Gold Minted #WO-11 Mark Trumbo
We're seeing something pretty similar on Mark Trumbo's Walk It Off card, another Gold Minted variety from a 15-card insert set. Trumbo, who led the Majors in home runs in 2016, has yet to appear in a game this year while recovering from knee surgery. Speaking of the Orioles, he still plays for them, and this card documents his extra-inning heroics on Opening Day 2017.

2018 Topps Chrome Update Pink Refractors #HMT96 Charlie Blackmon
Advancing a year to 2018 Topps Chrome, here's another card with the "HMT" prefix, which I am still trying to figure out. Charlie Blackmon joined Trevor Story in Washington, D.C. on the NL All-Star squad last year. He was mic'd up for a fun inning in center field, but didn't do as well at the plate as Story did, going 0-3.

The All-Star logo is visible on the waterslide, but unlike the card Julie sent, this one is a colored parallel. It's the second time this background color threw me off, as I kept checking Beckett for a Purple parallel. Officially, it's Pink, which is precisely the line of reasoning I went down the last time I saw one of Charlie Blackmon's 2018 Chrome cards.

2018 Topps Chrome Sepia Refractors #141 Starlin Castro
I may not be able to tell the difference between pink and purple, but I know the art of photography well enough to identify this as a Sepia parallel. Topps helpfully labelled this as a Refractor, a bonus not offered to collectors of the Update version of 2018 Chrome. The presence of that label has always varied from year to year, but I can't remember it varying between sets in the same year.

Starlin Castro had his own extra-innings success during 2017, helping the Yankees sink his former team, the Cubs, in 18 innings thanks to a fielder's choice gone awry. The marathon contest on Sunday Night Baseball featured 48 strikeouts between the two clubs, more than Tony Gwynn had in his worst year.

2019 Topps Heritage #242 Ian Desmond
That sepia-toned card is a great segue into some retro Topps Heritage. This one of Ian Desmond will go nicely with the rest of my 2019 Heritage collection. In fact, I saved a spot in the 9-pocket page for this card. The 1970-themed set does a great job at reenacting some of the more famous cards from the original set, but I don't know of any 1970 card that appears to show a small pile of snow at the shadowy base of the outfield wall. It tends to snow well into May here in Colorado, so I know snow when I see it. Desmond looks really bundled up, too, although this is probably a Cactus League shot.

There are walk-offs referenced all over these cards, and before he took over center field duties from Charlie Blackmon this year, he walked off the Padres on August 23rd, 2018, a 2-out, 2-run shot into the left field bleachers.

Desmond's long career, which reached the 10-season mark last year, consisted of precisely 4,999 at bats when the 2018 season ended. Topps noticed that statistical anomaly, and was sure to point out that his next at-bat would be #5,000. That AB came just a couple months ago, obviously on Opening day 2019 in Miami. He grounded out to short.

2017 Topps Heritage #628 Tony Wolters
Another regular fixture in the Rockies lineup this year is Tony Wolters, who hit his first home run of 2019 last week in Pittsburgh. He's often down at the bottom of the order, but has come up with quite a few key hits this season, including that sacrifice fly that allowed Jeff Hoffman to trot home.

His 2017 Topps Heritage card even mentions sacrifices in its trivia question, asking which Rockie led the NL in 2004. The answer is Royce Clayton, who hasn't appeared on this blog as a Rockie except in a cameo. Also on this card is a rare close-up of a catcher's mitt, plus Wolters's goatee. He's changed it up this year, sporting a pretty awesome mustache.

2017 Topps Heritage High Number Topps Game Rookies #10 Raimel Tapia
It took me a little while to figure out who was depicted on this Topps Heritage insert card, but eventually I realized it was Raimel Tapia, who has been starting in left field most of this season, and performing quite well defensively. This one is part of a 15-card insert set found in the High Number release, which accompanies another 15 cards just like it in the base set. It's a throwback to 1968 Topps Game insert cards, an early example of an insert set. The original '68 insert set is filled with Hall of Famers, including Rod Carew, Hank Aaron, a late-career Mickey Mantle, and Carl Yastrzemski, whose grandson got his first MLB hit on Sunday, and was then picked off seconds later.

I'm not too familiar with the original version of 1968 Topps Game, so I'm going to assume that the red back with a nondescript playing card pattern is a faithful reproduction.

2017 Stadium Club Members Only #244 Raimel Tapia
The other Tapia card Alex sent actually included the player's name, rather than a mostly illegible signature. Sharp-eyed readers will also notice a "Members Only" seal in the lower right, just my second one from this super-rare variety. There's no serial number, but it's generally thought that there are around seven copies printed.

On top of all that, an extremely rare rookie card of a current Rockie from my favorite annual set, it also happens to be a Coors Field card. Doesn't really get much better than this.

Except of course when Tapia gets a walkoff hit in the bottom of the 11th on Memorial Day to drive in Ian Desmond.

2017 Topps Allen & Ginter Relics #FSRB-TS Trevor Story B (MEM)
Relic cards are always pretty fun, and there were a couple of those, too. Taking a quick jump back to retro-style sets, Topps gave Trevor Story a relic card in 2017 Allen & Ginter, complete with a black pinstripe. The Rockies relics I have usually feature purple pinstripes, but there have been a few minor uniform changes at 20th and Blake in the past few seasons.

I mentioned earlier that Story and Arenado reached home run milestones over the weekend. Story's first home run on Friday night was the 100th of his career, and no shortstop in history has reached that mark so quickly. That homer was a long one to the top of the bleachers. He wasted no time at all hitting his 101st, which was an opposite-field walkoff in his very next at-bat.

This is a walkoff-heavy post, perhaps a record-setting one on the blog.

2018 Topps Walmart Holiday Snowflake Relics #R-NA Nolan Arenado (MEM)
Remember what I was saying earlier about snow hitting Colorado in May? That happened earlier this month, but it didn't faze Nolan Arenado at all. His snowy home runs are quite appropriate for this wintry holiday card, a Wal-Mart exclusive. No pinstripe to be found here; instead its an all-purple swatch. Alex even sent these over in thick toploaders, tailor-made for relic cards. And let's not forget that Nolan just hit a milestone of his own, his 200th career home run on Saturday, which I had the privilege to witness.

The first time Alex sent cards was long ago, way back in 2014 on The Trading Post #3. The names may have changed, but the theme is similar. All that time ago, I was still admiring shiny cards and discussing the presence of the Refractor label on Topps card backs. I'd like to think my writing has improved, at least.

Thanks very much, Alex! And here's to more walk-off wins.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Trading Post #129: A Cracked Bat

Spring is moving along, and that means that I have less time for blogging, as is often the case during baseball season. Since we last checked in, I saw another game at Coors Field, nearly witnessing Madison Bumgarner pitch an immaculate inning before Trevor Story flied out to left. Last week, I took a road trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park, and while I'm nursing a nasty sunburn, it was a nice visit and quite a sight to see.

With the Armed Forces weekend series wrapping up, which makes every catcher look like they're playing for the Pirates, let's look at a small batch of cards sent by that most prolific of traders, Julie from A Cracked Bat.

2001 Topps Archives Reserve #20 Dom DiMaggio '52
There are a ton of reprint sets out there, and I wouldn't be surprised if there are reprints of reprints to be found, but of all the sets out there, 2001 Topps Archives Reserve (and its 2002 follow-up) is my all-time favorite. It's one of the few that brought me back into the hobby at an early-2000s card show, along with 2003 Topps Chrome. It does suffer from the curl that's common with this type of finish, but how often do you find a card of the youngest DiMaggio brother?

He played center field, just like his other two brothers, and while he never got an entire set all to himself like big brother Joe, he did have an equally awesome nickname, "The Little Professor". Shown in the 1952 set, Dom never quite reached the lofty career heights that Joe did. He did, however, put together an impressive hitting streak of his own, 34 games in 1949, which remains the Boston Red Sox team record. Jackie Bradley, Jr. challenged it a few years ago, but came up a few games short when the Rockies came to town.

It's an interesting rivalry those two teams have. The 2007 World Series is the most important aspect of it, but there are a few other moments, like that hitting streak coming to an end. Just last week, the teams split a two-game set in which both games went to extras. And in 2013, Todd Helton played his final home game against the Red Sox. There are a lot of important moments between two interleague teams that obviously don't play each other very often.

2002 Topps Archives Reserve #42 Roy Campanella '53
Moving forward a year in both the Archives Reserve set and the Topps base design set (to 1953), we come to Roy Campanella. The Hall-of-Fame catcher had just earned his second of three MVP awards in '53, and his third and final one came in 1955, along with his only World Series ring. He was an All-Star in every season besides his first and last.

Speaking of 1955, I'm reminded of the classic film Back to the Future, in which Marty McFly returns to November 5th, 1955. That was just over a month after the Brooklyn Dodgers finally won the World Series, but no mention of that is made in the movie. Granted, the fictional city of Hill Valley is way out in California, several years before MLB expanded to the West Coast. But with the whole sports almanac thing in Back to the Future II, and Doc Brown's excitement at the prospect of seeing "who wins the next twenty-five World Series", I feel like the first movie in the trilogy missed an opportunity to mention a pretty important year for a storied franchise.

1996 Metal Universe #86 Joe Girardi
Most cards in this stack formed into surprisingly well-related doublets. This group is courtesy of Skybox Metal Universe, the etched foil set that got off to a very weird start in 1996. Julie has sent cards from this set before, including one where Vinny Castilla shared a card with a giant stinging insect. This one appears to show Joe Girardi cartoonishly bursting through a stone wall.

And somehow, we just accept this.

If you look closely, which I didn't, you'll notice that this is actually a New York Yankees card, despite showing Joe in home Rockies gear. That honestly escaped my attention until I flipped the card over and noticed a Yankees logo.

2000 Metal Emerald #245 Juan Sosa PROS
Metal dialed it down by its final year of 2000, even dropping the "Universe" from its official name. The final 50 cards of the set consisted of Prospects (note the logo in the lower right), and appearing in that set was Juan Sosa. Sosa appeared in eleven Major League games for the Rockies in 1999, plus two more for the Diamondbacks in 2001. His career at the plate consisted of two hits in ten at-bats, and that was all she wrote.

I'm learning a lot about these cards by flipping them over. Next to the card number is a captial letter E inside a black circle, signifying that this is an Emerald parallel. I didn't really think this was anything unusual at first. The green of the outfield grass is a pretty similar shade to the green at the top of the card, so I just thought it was part of the normal design. But the more I look at it, it does have a little extra of that color I love.

2018 Topps Chrome Update #HMT95 Trevor Story
Trevor Story has had a much more successful career at shortstop than Juan Sosa. It's been so successful, in fact, that he earned his first All-Star selection last season. This photo is from that exact game in Washington, D.C. I'm not sure which play, as Story fielded a pair of grounders in the top of the 9th. More importantly, although it was insufficient for the NL to get a win, Story hit a game-tying home run in the 7th inning.

Topps Update loves to give us All-Star Game cards, and they even included the game logo going down the waterslide on this chrome card. Unlike Metal Universe, I think I have a pretty good handle on Topps base and Topps Update, but I can't come up with anything that fits the "HMT" card number prefix. Any help?

2015 Topps Update Chrome #US170 Mike Foltynewicz (RC)
As sparkly as they are, there are far too few cards from 2015 Topps Update Chrome in my collection. I'll jump at any chance to find more, especially on the 2015 design that has been holding up pretty well.

Mike Foltynewicz was just a rookie back then, breaking into the league with the Braves after a trade with the Astros for Evan Gattis. He's established himself as a star pitcher, even joining Trevor Story on 2018's NL All-Star team, but he's gotten off to a rough start in an injury-delayed 2019, putting up an 0-3 record so far.

That does it for the Topps Chrome pair, so let's move on to...Stadium Club!

2016 Stadium Club ISOmetrics Gold #I-20 Dee Gordon
Specifically, one of the ISOmetrics inserts from 2016, my second. The insert set has some elements of 1995 Fleer, mainly thanks to the assorted statistics displayed on the card front. 58 stolen bases definitely stands out in this era of the game. There are a few names scattered among the league leaders the past few seasons, but Dee Gordon, José Altuve, and Whit Merrifield are some of the last to keep this once-crucial stat alive. Even Gordon is cultivating his power stroke, having hit three homers partway through May. He's never hit more than four in a season, and the only one he hit in 2016, the year of this card, was an emotionally-charged shot in the Marlins' first game back after José Fernández' untimely death.

1994 Stadium Club Dugout Dirt #12 Darren Daulton
Moving back to Stadium Club's first generation, Darren Daulton has shown up in two consecutive posts. This looks like a tight play at the plate with a Tim Wallach cameo, taken at some point during the 1994 season.

That brownish patch on both players' right sleeves marked the 125th anniversary of professional baseball. Technically, MLB hasn't existed quite that long, but 1869 is recognized as the first year of the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Daulton's and Wallach's playing days don't seem like they were 25 years ago, but it's true. Players across the league in 2019 are wearing "MLB 150" patches in just the same spot.

There were gold foil parallels in 1994 Stadium Club, but this is actually another insert, from the 12-card Dugout Dirt set. There's a rather frightening caricature of Daulton in "Daulton's Gym" on the card back, complete with a little heart tattoo on his massive bicep containing a couple of his stats.

I like the front better.

1994 Ultra Award Winners #10 Kirt Manwaring
Our final grouping consists of Giants catcher Kirt Manwaring. First up is another 1994 insert, this one from Fleer Ultra's very yellow Award Winners set. It's not the same shade of yellow as 1991 Fleer, but to my eye, it's unmistakably Fleer. There are actually quite a few Giants in this 25-card insert set, no doubt due to their 103-win season in 1993, just one short of the Braves' 104. Manwaring won a Gold Glove in 1993 for his stellar .998 fielding percentage, and he threw out 42.3% of base-stealers, something we used to track more carefully back when players actually stole bases.

1992 Leaf Black Gold #208 Kirt Manwaring
Manwaring concluded his career as a Rockie, but when I first got into collecting, he was a Giant. The hobby was certainly going in the direction of gold parallels in 1992, and Leaf wasn't about to be left out. Their Black Gold parallels, not to be confused with the Topps inserts of the same name, included a striking black border with a very appropriate amount of gold foil, and also used a gold background on the card back instead of the usual grayish-silver. There's even a Leaf watermark which also appears on normal cards.

It's taken me quite a while to notice, but the little baseball in the lower right corner of '92 Leaf looks a lot like the baseball and its related motion lines in the Rockies team logo. I noticed that shortly after noticing that Manwaring isn't wearing batting gloves in this shot.

1996 Topps Laser #115 Kevin Brown
That does it for the pairs, but there's one last card all on its own, perhaps just the way Kevin Brown would like it. Julie has sent Topps Laser before, and this set always impresses me. There are a few designs to be found in the set, and this flaming baseball is reserved for some of the game's best pitchers. 1996 ended up being one of Brown's better years, as he finished second in Cy Young Award voting, made the All-Star team, and went 17-11. He also led the league in hit batsmen, which doesn't terribly surprise me given his volatile reputation.

I always expect these laser-cut cards to be more fragile than they are, which is a welcome surprise. I also enjoy running across the Marlins' original turquoise color, which is ever so slightly present in their redesigned logo.

Thanks, as always, to Julie for these five happy pairs of cards and Kevin Brown.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Pinnacle of Affordable Group Breaks (Part 2: Phillies)

The teams I got in Colbey's Pinnacle group break were basically a preview of this past weekend's series at 20th and Blake. Part 1 contained the hosting Rockies, and Part 2 will be the visiting Phillies, who dropped three out of four to Colorado, allowing the Rockies to climb out of last place.

Of course, all the names since 1995 have changed, but they should be pretty familiar to anyone who followed the Phillies and their playoff-caliber team in the early 1990s.

1995 Score Summit #34 Lenny Dykstra
Lenny Dykstra was one of the key members of that Phillies era, covering center field and putting together a near-MVP season in 1993. He retired rather early, at 34, so this 1995 card is one of the later ones of his career, which spanned from 1985 to 1996. He got his start with the Mets, but post-career (and even during), he has been in and out of lots of legal trouble.

Fraud, embezzlement, and much worse than that notwithstanding, he did get a solid horizontal card in 1995 Score Summit, showing a full extension and some allegedly steroid-enhanced muscles.

1995 Sportflix #133 Gregg Jefferies
I got cards from all three of the boxes Colbey opened, so there won't be any new designs to see until a bonus card at the very end. Still, this Sportflix card is different than most. Rather than containing two action shots, this lenticular card of Gregg Jefferies alternates between a headshot and the Phillies team logo.

The switch-hitter was reunited with Dykstra, his old Mets teammate, after signing as a free agent with the Phillies in the 1994 offseason. That shows one way the game has been changing in recent years. There's been plenty of talk about a slow free-agent market; in fact Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel are still watching the 2019 season unfold from the comfort of their homes. But back in 1994, even during the dark days of the strike, there were free agent signings happening during the Hot Stove season.

1995 Sportflix #27 Darren Daulton
Darren Daulton was another famous member of that 1990s Phillies squad, serving as their longtime backstop. His talent was rewarded with half of an entire insert set in 1994 Fleer Ultra, splitting the checklist with John Kruk.

Like Dykstra, Daulton was nearing the end of his career at this point too. He almost spent his whole career as a Phillie, but was traded to the Marlins for his final 52 games. Sadly, he passed away in 2017 at the young age of 55.

His Sportflix card is a lot more representative of the brand, as Pinnacle found a pair of action shots. They actually did an awesome job with photo selection, showing Daulton in very similar lunge positions, one wearing his catcher's gear and another as a batter. It's really a shame this brand didn't last, because these lenticular cards are mesmerizing. On the back, Pinnacle did their best to sweep the strike under the rug, telling us that "he missed the last six weeks of the '94 season with a broken clavicle". It's not wrong, but really he missed the last twelve-plus weeks of the '94 season, the second part of that for obvious, non-injury reasons.

1995 Zenith #96 Rusty Greer
For Zenith, there was a Texas Rangers stowaway in the Phillies team bag. It's an easy mistake to make, as the Rangers' colors around that time contained barely any blue. And like the Phillies, their road uniforms didn't have pinstripes. Rusty Greer was the player who managed to sneak in, a left fielder who spent his whole career with the Rangers. He wasn't a power hitter like Dante Bichette, and didn't manage to hit any opposite-field home runs in his rookie 1994 season.

Even though he was a rookie, Pinnacle chose to give his card the normal gold brick design, deciding that his 80 games of experience no longer warranted inclusion in the Rookie subset.

1995 Zenith #68 Lenny Dykstra
Len(ny) Dykstra makes another appearance in Zenith, this time with the only Phillies home uniform of the post. He was much more of a contact hitter, only hitting five homers in a "full" 1994 season. There was no way the Phillies would have made another run at defending the NL Pennant if the season was completed, but there will always be question marks. Who knows, maybe he'd have gone "oppo taco" given the rest of August and all of September.

I find it unusual that Pinnacle decided to be a bit more formal with Dykstra's first name on this card. I don't remember announcers of the day calling him Len, and anyway, Lenny seems to fit someone better whose nickname was "Nails".

1987 Topps #684 Kent Tekulve
Colbey was nice enough to throw in a couple bonus cards to close out the break. Kent Tekulve seems to have something of a cult following in this community, so here's one of his cards. Like most players in this post, his career was nearing its end, as he retired in 1989 with the Reds. The reliever's career overlapped with the emergence of the closer role, and he put up a pair of 31-save seasons in the late 1970s. He never had the name recognition of a Rollie Fingers or Dennis Eckersley, but he was a reliever through and through. In 1,050 appearances, he never once started a game.

I always look forward to these inexpensive breaks, especially when they include sets from my early collecting career. I get to add Blake Street Bombers to my binders quite regularly, but seeing a stack of cards of players who appeared in the first World Series I ever watched is a rare treat.