Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Your 2015 Lucky Numbers: The Pitchers

Some of you stopped by on Sunday to see my fantasy baseball lineup, only to ask where the pitchers were. Fear not, as the Lucky Numbers pitching staff is detailed below. I didn't win last week, and now have a record of 2-1, although I didn't lose by as much as I expected. 

Unlike category-based leagues, I don't care at all about ERA or WHIP. The scoring is just on wins, losses, saves, strikeouts, and walks, with the occasional hit batsman, complete game, shutout, etc... coming into the mix.

We added the quality starts category in recent years, and that has led me to focus a bit more on higher-end pitching, especially in this post-steroid era. We start four starting pitchers and two relievers in a one-week period, and after I picked McCutchen 4th overall as my top hitter, I got right into the pitchers.

2014 Topps #279 Corey Kluber
Starting Pitcher: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians (2nd round)

Last year's AL Cy Young Award winner has gone 0-3 already this year. Not what you want to see out of a second-rounder, but at least he didn't tear his Achilles tendon in a freak batting incident like Adam Wainwright. That season-ending injury has triggered quite a bit of buzz about the idea of bringing the Designated Hitter to the National League.

I'm in favor of the idea. For one thing, it might cut down on retaliatory beanings like we saw with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks two years ago. All the bunting, double switches, pinch hitters, and lineup strategy that can be seen late in National League games is interesting, although it's a pain in the neck to keep score of. My mom found that out this weekend when she scored both sides of an 11-inning Rockies/Giants game.

It wouldn't be without controversy, and many old-time nuances of the game would be lost, but at least it would end the annoyance of watching guys get on base only to have the pitcher strike out on three or four pitches to end the inning.

Bartolo Colon sure has been entertaining this year, though.

2013 Topps 1972 Topps Minis #TM-14 Chris Sale
Starting Pitcher: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (3rd round)

Of course, pitchers are highly prone to injury regardless of whether they're at the plate. Chris Sale fell all the way to the third round, a consequence of missing all of spring training with an injured foot. He was handed a 5-game suspension for his role in the Adam Eaton/Yordano Ventura brawl last week, which he is appealing. Unless his suspension is overturned, I'll probably have to bench him for a week while he misses a start.
2015 Topps #142 Masahiro Tanaka
Starting Pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees (6th round) 

And then I followed up one injury risk with another, even larger one. It's known that Tanaka has a partial tear in his UCL, but he hopes to be able to continue to pitch without needing surgery. He hasn't been as dominant to start 2015 as he was last year, when he won his first six major league starts after a stellar career in Japan. 
All looked promising as I wrote this post earlier today, but it appears that Tanaka is headed to the DL due to problems with his forearm and wrist, likely for a month or so. At least his card has that classic Topps Rookie Cup.

2014 Topps #163 Matt Shoemaker (RC)
Starting Pitcher: Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (15th round)

After picking three pitchers in the first six rounds, I had to start focusing on some hitters. I picked Matt Shoemaker as my fourth SP to fill my last open starting slot. I was banking on my top three pitchers to rack up some serious points. With Tanaka headed to the DL, Shoemaker and some of the bench guys will have to step it up.

2014 Topps #188 Mark Melancon
Relief Pitcher: Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates (7th round)

Just a few spots after I picked Tanaka, I selected my first of two closers, Mark Melancon of the Pirates. He has blown a save already this season, but that happens to the best of them. After some early jitters, he seems to have settled down a bit. And the Pirates are likely to give him plenty more opportunities.

2014 Topps #310 Neftali Feliz
Relief Pitcher: Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers (14th round)

Neftali Feliz has held the closer's job a couple times for the Rangers, including when they went to the World Series in 2011. He was the one who gave up the first of David Freese's key hits in Game 6, when the Rangers were just one strike away from winning it all. The Rangers are already in the cellar of the AL West, so it's unlikely they'll be in the World Series this year. At least he's no stranger to the role.

2013 Bowman Platinum Prospects #BPP35 Noah Syndergaard
Bench Guys:
SP Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays (18th round)
SP James Paxton, Seattle Mariners (20th round)
SP R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays (21st round)
SP Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets (22nd round)
RP Luke Gregerson, Houston Astros (23rd round)

I went almost exclusively with pitchers in the later rounds. I'll surely be starting Odorizzi more often now that Tanaka is headed to the DL. Although Taijuan Walker didn't pan out last year, I took a chance on another Mariners prospect in Paxton, who clearly still needs work after some rough outings. The bright spot here has been Gregerson, who has been doing well for the first-place Astros, and I'll be benching Feliz to make room for him in week 5.

I saw Noah Syndergaard's name on lots of prospect lists prior to the draft, and though he's still in the minors, he might make a serious Matt Harvey-like impact for the Mets this summer, especially with Zack Wheeler out recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The injuries are already piling up for numerous teams. It's certainly a frustrating aspect of the game, especially since it's not really a contact sport. 

Unless you're Yasiel Puig, of course.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Your 2015 Lucky Numbers: The Hitters

We're about three weeks into the 2015 season, and my fantasy baseball team, the Lucky Numbers, have worked their way to a 2-0 record so far. Unfortunately, last year was a bust. I drafted lots of underperformers like Chris Davis, Matt Cain, and Billy Butler, and my prospects like Taijuan Walker didn't pan out.

It's unlikely that I'll pick up a win this week in my head-to-head CBS points league, but it's definitely time to present my team to the world via baseball cards.

2014 Topps #393 Devin Mesoraco
Catcher: Devin Mesoraco, Cincinnati Reds (8th round)

Mesoraco has been a disappointment already. He only played a few games before injuring his hip. He's an integral piece to the Cincinnati team, but for some reason, they refuse to place him on the DL. He hasn't played since early April, and I had to pick up Wilson Ramos of Washington to fill the catcher slot while Mesoraco is riding the pine. I feel like he slipped a bit in the draft, so I hope he'll return to action sooner rather than later.

2013 Finest X-Fractors #23 Adrian Gonzalez
First Baseman: Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers (4th round)

Adrian Gonzalez was on fire in week 1, smashing five home runs for 71 points. He's cooled off a bit since then, but is still second overall among hitters.

Like the Arenado card I showed a few days ago, this is an X-Fractor, which has lots of little squares and diamonds in the background pattern. If I had to pick one such design to keep in a shiny Topps set, it would be X-Fractors.

2014 Stadium Club #136 Jason Kipnis
Second Baseman: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (9th round)

Kipnis has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, but the season is still young and there's plenty of ebb and flow, unless you're Clayton Kershaw.

2014 Stadium Club Beam Team #BT-13 Manny Machado
Third Baseman: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles (13th round)

Machado hit two home runs on Thursday, which is always nice to see. It also presents the opportunity to show off two consecutive cards from the terrific 2014 Stadium Club. I am not a fan of Manny Machado at all, but he can contribute to a fantasy squad. Longtime readers of this blog (or anyone that's been to a Rockies game with me this year) know that I'd pick Nolan Arenado over Manny Machado any day.

Arenado, in fact, got on base in the bottom of the 9th on Wednesday, and scored the winning run when Daniel Descalso hit it over five infielders into left-center. That was the perfect ending to a game I watched with some coworkers from a Super Suite at Coors Field. If you ever have a chance to watch a ballgame (or any sporting event, really) from a suite, take it. Lots of good food and snacks, a mini-fridge full of beer and soda, two TVs (which we tuned to hockey playoffs), and plenty of seating inside and out. You can even open a beer past the 7th inning.

2013 Topps Archives #177 Starlin Castro
Shortstop: Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs (12th round)

I bought into the Cubs hype this year, as you'll see later. I waited a bit long to fill the left side of my infield, but if the Cubbies are as good as everyone says they'll be this year, having one (or two) on my team isn't a bad idea. My team is fairly NL-Central heavy, though with no Brewers.

2014 Topps Opening Day Breaking Out #BO-14 Andrew McCutchen
Outfielder: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (1st round)

You've probably been wondering who my first pick was. Well, here he is. I had 4th pick this year, so after the obvious choices of Trout, Kershaw, and Stanton were selected, I had to pick between McCutchen and Miguel Cabrera. Miggy isn't far removed from the first Triple Crown season in decades, but the now dreadlock-free McCutchen seemed like a slightly better choice this year. The Pirates just keep getting better and better, and the Tigers seem to be on a bit of a downswing, especially when you look at their rotation.

2013 Topps Triple Threads #90 Matt Kemp
Outfielder: Matt Kemp, San Diego Padres (6th round)

This is the first card that doesn't depict the correct team. Kemp was one of many interesting acquisitions by the Padres this offseason, along with James Shields, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, and even Will Middlebrooks. They, along with the Rockies and Dodgers, each have 10 wins so far in the NL West. It's great to see the Rockies up there, as is typical early in the season, but the wheels usually start to come off around the All-Star break. Here's hoping they stay healthy.

2014 Topps #99 Melky Cabrera
Outfielder: Melky Cabrera, Chicago White Sox (10th round)

Though he's not the "M. Cabrera" you most want on your fantasy team, Melky should be an adequate option. He delivered a game-winning RBI earlier this week, and managed to avoid getting caught in the middle of the Adam Eaton/Yordano Ventura brawl.

Here's a fun statistic: A third of ejections this season have been Royals.

2015 Topps Opening Day #25 Jorge Soler (RC)
Designated Hitter: Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs (11th round)

You pretty much have to own at least one of these Cubs prospects. Bryant, Soler, Alcantara (who was sent down to AAA), Russell, Baez. There's a very real possibility that one of these "next years" very soon will finally be The Year. Soler already has two home runs under his belt, and the Cubs are in second place behind their division rivals, the Cardinals.

2014 Topps #46 Kolten Wong
Bench Guys:
2B Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals (17th round)
3B Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates (16th round)
OF Yasmany Tomas, Arizona Diamondbacks (19th round)

I focused a bit more on pitching and prospects this year than on the aging veterans that tend to start popping up in the later rounds. Cuban prospect Yasmany Tomas appeared in his first game a couple days ago, so if the D-Backs see fit to spend $68 million and ease him into the MLB, I can pick him in the 19th round instead of, say, Ryan Howard.

I took some real risks this year, but at least some of them should pay off. Mesoraco was injured when I drafted him and has been out for close to two weeks. Machado is a fragile player. The Cubs could turn into the Cubs at any moment. Tomas had yet to appear in an MLB game. And just wait until you see the pitchers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Trading Post #31: Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary

A couple months ago, Brian from Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary had the bright idea to blend a group break with some plain old trading. Rather than a monetary buy-in, all Brian wanted in return for the Rockies found in five boxes ranging from 1996 to 2003 were some Twins cards. After a trip to the monthly card show last Saturday, I mailed a return package to Brian just today.

As is true for many of our collections, 1996-2003 is a bit of a dark period. This break was particularly interesting, as the boxes Brian opened were these:
  • 1996 Pinnacle
  • 1999 Fleer Ultra
  • 2002 Topps Gallery
  • 2002 Fleer Greats
  • 2003 Stadium Club
Although I was shut out of the Fleer Greats box (in fact, there are only a few expansion teams represented in that set), I ended up with some pretty nice cards from an underrepresented part of my collection.

2003 Stadium Club #59 Todd Helton
As you might imagine, there were more than a few cards of Helton and Walker.

2003 Stadium Club #94 Larry Walker
Oddly enough, I've received the Royal Gold parallels of both cards via past trades, only now adding the base version of Walker to my collection.

No one did full-bleed designs better than Stadium Club, although Fleer Ultra ran a solid second for a few years.

1999 Ultra #154 Darryl Kile
This close-up of the late Darryl Kile was one of the best photos to be found among his fellow Rockies in 1999 Ultra. We can even see his uniform number #57 on his glove. The Rockies have a memorial banner facing the bullpens in right-center field commemorating Kile, but I think the Rockies ought to fully retire his number to honor his memory.

1999 Ultra #8 Mike Lansing
Lots of collectors in this community are fans of double plays, and Mike Lansing looks like he's trying to keep his balance as Kevin Jordan of the Phillies attempts to break it up. Fleer saw fit to tweak the design a little and move the lettering off to the right, rather than keep it centered as on the vertical cards. 1996 Donruss could have learned a thing or two from that.

1999 Ultra Gold Medallion Edition #179G Larry Walker
This Larry Walker card was the only parallel I ended up with. The base card was also present, but this is the Gold Medallion Edition, which has that gold background and lettering on the back, plus a unique card number, something that's unusual yet brilliant for a parallel. That's a bit different from previous years, which didn't have a gold background, although there was a raised seal right on the front.

Next up is 1996 Pinnacle, starting with Andres Galarraga signing some autographs for what looks to be some young New York fans.

1996 Pinnacle #93 Andres Galarraga
This was before interleague play, so it was probably shot in Shea Stadium. The horizontal orientation is nice, although many of the horizontal cards in 96 Pinnacle seem backwards to me. When it's in a stack with other cards, either the back is upside down or the gold triangle is on the top, unlike the vertical cards where they're on the bottom.

I must admit, inconsistencies like that bug me a little. I suppose that obsessive tendencies aren't all that uncommon among baseball card collectors. I'm sure that more than a few set collectors were irritated when Topps "retired" #7 in their flagship set. I could write a whole blog post about card designs that are oriented opposite to what "feels" right to me.

In fact, I just might.

1996 Pinnacle #139 Dante Bichette NAT
Nothing out of the ordinary here. Both the back and front are vertical, and there's an appropriate amount of gold foil for a mid-1990s card. There are a few subsets in 1996 Pinnacle, although I seem to run across "The Naturals" much more frequently than others.

Bichette's batting gloves are quite prominently featured both front and back, and that is one piece of equipment that's evolved quite a bit in two decades. They almost look like gauntlets now.

2002 Topps Gallery was a fine final choice. The images are all painted, and with cards like Gypsy Queen and Diamond Kings out there, Gallery is easily the best example of a painted card. Some of the late-'80s Diamond Kings look downright creepy.

2002 Topps Gallery #105 Juan Pierre
Isn't that a great card? It's painted from a photograph, obviously, but of the six Gallery cards that fell my way in the break, this one shows Coors Field the best. Juan Pierre was one of the speediest guys in the league for quite a while, and he won a World Series ring with the 2003 Marlins.

2002 Topps Gallery #43 Mike Hampton
Topps enlisted the services of several artists for this set, and this one chose to go with more of an abstract background than Pierre's card. I've seen a few Topps Gallery cards from various years, but I'd never noticed that each card has a short paragraph on the back about each artist's background. Four different artists are represented in these half-dozen cards.

I'm not sure whether I fared better or worse than the other break participants, as I don't recall seeing many other related posts. Regardless, these cards will go a long way to fill some gaps in my collection, and this was a fantastic idea on Brian's part!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Trading Post #30: The Junior Junkie

Between getting a promotion at work and spending more time with friends and family (including the start of hockey playoffs), I haven't had much time for baseball card blogging.

That doesn't mean that trade packages stopped, though. A plain white envelope (PWE) from The Junior Junkie arrived a couple weeks ago, and it packed a real punch for only including seven cards!

A quick apology: you might have noticed a bad link from this blog in your feed a few days ago. I had started a draft of this post, but just nicked the edge of the "Publish" button. I reverted to a draft almost immediately, but not before it populated the feed. Sorry about that. I guess it's a double edged sword (as are most swords), in that it's cluttering up the blog feed for you all, but at least it went out quickly.

Anyway, I was a bit surprised that seven cards (mostly of the thick, shiny variety) can be mailed with just one stamp!

1995 Pinnacle Museum Collection #343 Mike Harkey
Ex-Cub Mike Harkey was one of the first out of the envelope, and this is a "Museum Collection" parallel. Pinnacle applied that brand to cards long before Topps thought it would be perfect to slap on a horrendously overpriced product. It's not quite as rare as an Artist's Proof card from 1995 Score Select, but it has a similar look, along with a fuzzy orb of a baseball in the upper right.

They get shinier than that, though.

2014 Topps Stadium Club Triumvirates Luminous #T6C Carlos Gonzalez
Not only is this a shiny card, but it is quite "shapey" as well, according to my girlfriend. It's the rightmost card in a three-card "Triumvirates" jigsaw puzzle, and the second one I own from 2014 Stadium Club. One from the left side of the puzzle and I'll have enough to build a full one, albeit from different teams.

2014 Finest #44 Josmil Pinto (RC)
Speaking of different teams, I found a Minnesota Twin in this envelope. I am sent mostly Rockies cards, but occasionally there will be another team to mix things up. No problems there, as I don't label myself as a team collector. I'm just fine with anything shiny, especially from a brand like Topps Finest.

That wasn't even the only card from 2014 Finest, a set I've blogged about before, including in my previous trade post from The Junior Junkie.

2014 Finest Rookie Autographs #RA-EB Eddie Butler (AU)
That's an on-card autograph of Rockies pitcher Eddie Butler, who started against the Dodgers today. The Rockies are having a sweep-heavy season so far. They swept the Brewers to open the season, and the Giants earlier this week. They didn't manage to pick up a win in Los Angeles this weekend, so the only series so far in which each team picked up wins was the home opener against the Cubs.

Butler is one of the more interesting prospects in the Rockies organization, at least according to Topps. Rosenort at Condition Sensitive put together all six acetate patterns and an autograph from 2014 Topps High Tek. Topps must think he's something special to put him in such a high-end set.

There have only been a few Rockies pitching prospects throughout the years that have panned out. Jason Jennings comes to mind, as does Ubaldo Jimenez. If Butler can get to their level, he'll put himself in rare company.

Unlike elite pitchers, the Rockies have fielded plenty of Gold Glovers in their 22-season history, and Nolan Arenado might be the best yet.

2013 Topps Chrome X-Fractors #78 Nolan Arenado (RC)
In case you didn't see it, have a look at this amazing no-look catch he made in foul territory last week.

I'll just wait here.

It's drawing plenty of comparisons to Derek Jeter's catch in the 2004 ALCS, and with good reason. Though he just lined out to end the game against the Dodgers, he's quickly becoming a fan favorite. He was a little shaky defensively for his first month or two in the majors, but he has my All-Star vote for many seasons to come!

Though Topps Chrome does go pretty overboard with the number of parallels, X-Fractors remain among my favorites. It's not nearly as rare as the /50 X-Fractors from 2003, but since it's of my favorite Rockie (and since his surname is at the front of the alphabet), this one will go right toward the front of my 2013 Chrome collection.

I'm still a little bit in shock that a mere 49-cent stamp can deliver so much great cardboard! Thanks to The Junior Junkie for my first PWE!

Sunday, April 12, 2015


It's already April and we're about a week in to the 2015 baseball season. Though I wasn't able to snag any tickets for Opening Day, I did get two Club Level tickets through work for home game #2. Although the Rockies lost to the Cubs 9-5 for their first loss of the season, spending a spring evening at the ballpark and surrounding bars with coworkers and my sister made for a fantastic Saturday evening.

Mr. Girardi managed to peek out of my wallet mid-game for my first #WalletCard entry of the year.

Rather than just a hat, I now have a proper Rockies jersey to wear to games, and it's of Nolan Arenado, the third baseman. He had a few defensive chances that were just too tough to convert, although he did hit a home run to left field early in the game! That's him at the plate, in a blurred background behind Joe Girardi's 1994 Topps Gold card with my left thumb obscuring most of Girardi's name.

There are many more trade posts to come, but I didn't want to let a trip to Coors Field slip by without posting an entry for the wallet card trend.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Trading Post #29: Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary

I had plans to watch the NCAA National Championship game tonight, but a trade package in my mailbox from Brian at Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary (which many bloggers are simply shortening to HSCA) superseded that plan. I do have the game streaming on my iPad mini off to the side of my desk, but a blog post seemed to be in order.

Brian commented on my 2015 Topps Heritage post just a few days ago, saying he had a Rockies team set reserved for me. We also exchanged emails that day, and he offered some 2015 Donruss and Opening Day as well. I have no idea how it got here so quickly. There was even a postal holiday in there! It's almost like using Amazon Prime.

2015 Donruss #83 Charlie Blackmon
Anyway, as promised, I got my first in-person look at 2015 Donruss tonight. It's not all that different from the 2014 set, as the colored banner of tiny baseballs simply runs top-to-bottom rather than side-to-side. However, they got rid of the script for the team name, and made the player's name much more prominent, while omitting the player's position. I like it a bit better, and don't think it deserves the derision it seems to earn in the blogosphere. Personally, the complete incomprehensibility of Bowman's set structure gets under my skin way more than a "meh" design.

2015 Donruss Stat Line Season #81 Troy Tulowitzki /340
And I like it even more when it's nice and shiny! Serial numbered cards are always appreciated (numbered to 340, the same as his average), and Panini's decision to reserve the foil treatment for parallels is more appropriate than what Topps has done in their flagship sets for almost two decades.

Tulowitzki drove in the first run of the Rockies' 2015 season today, as they routed the Brewers 10-0 to spoil the fun in Milwaukee. Tulowitzki had three hits, following up Carlos Gonzalez's 1st-inning double with a two-bagger of his own, well on his way to another solid batting average in 2015. Maybe the Badgers will win tonight and take some of the sting out of it for the Wisconsin fans.

2007 Topps Moments & Milestones Milestone Autographs #MA-GA Garrett Atkins (AU)
As small as my autograph collection is, it completely amazes me when I end up with a duplicate autograph card. You might remember this one from Moments and Milestones as the card I won at a monthly card show last year. His autograph looks pretty similar from card to card, although the one Brian sent was clearly signed when Atkins' Sharpie had a lot more life in it.

2015 Topps Opening Day #41 Carlos Gonzalez
He also included a couple cards from 2015 Opening Day. Carlos Gonzalez, who scored the first Rockies' run this year on Tulo's double, marks my second Rockie from this set. I pulled Tulowitzki's card from this weekend's Target blaster, so fortunately I didn't end up with a duplicate.

If not Tulo, then who was on the second Opening Day card?

2015 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-10 Dinger
Dinger! And he's looking very patriotic in that American flag outfit.

Last year, I had to rely on some luck and a second blaster to get the Dinger mascot card. This year, thanks to the generosity of my trading partners, one showed up in my mailbox as if by magic.

In addition to the great cards above, the main attraction of this trade package was a complete Rockies team set from 2015 Topps Heritage, including the short prints of Tulowitzki, Gonzalez (really, Topps?), and Corey Dickerson.

2015 Topps Heritage #72 Nolan Arenado
Nolan Arenado is my favorite Rockie, and I fully intend to wear my #28 jersey to work on Friday in honor of the Rockies' home opener. No one bats an eye when the Broncos are playing on Monday Night Football and everyone is decked out in orange, so a white jersey with pinstripes shouldn't be too big a deal.

2015 Topps Heritage #239 LaTroy Hawkins
Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins looks rather more perplexed by a baseball than you'd expect from a 20-season veteran. Maybe that's why I'm not so wild about this year's heritage set. The photography is just...odd.

2015 Topps Heritage #93 Wilin Rosario
See? They likely used a short focal length lens to shoot this one, which gives you all sorts of distortion when you're up close for a portrait. At least it's a pretty good image of the logo on the bat knob. Can you imagine if the 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken card were photographed like this? Maybe then it would have caught someone's eye before it went to print.

But smack in the middle of that Heritage team set was an unexpected card.

1991 Stadium Club #463 Tim Wallach
At first, I wasn't sure why this was in here. My initial thought was that Brian intended it for the blogger who is trying to collect all the Tim Wallach cards. Literally, all the Tim Wallach cards. Maybe it snuck (yes, it's a word) into the wrong pile. But suddenly, it clicked.

It's an Eight Men Out card!

With the addition of this Tim Wallach, I'm only one single card short of completing Series 2 of 1991 Stadium Club! I believe that was the first set to include gold foil, and it was super premium stuff in 1991.

Brian's really an awesome trader. I have two older envelopes from him that I haven't blogged about yet. One contains the Rockies from his recent late-'90s group break, and the other includes lots of assorted Rockies that I need to take another look at. I still owe him cards in return for my share of the group break, but I'm afraid I won't be able to get them to Brian with the same lightning speed this shipment had.

Thanks to the generosity of Brian and others in this community, checking my mailbox these past several months has been a lot more fun!

And I won't complain at all that the Rockies haven't yet given up a run this season.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Opening Day is Here!

As I begin this post, the first pitch of the 2015 season is imminent! The Cubs are hosting the Cardinals at a recently renovated Wrigley Field in an NL Central showdown. In fact, the pennant race could be beginning already, if the buzz about the Cubs holds true this year.

As spring training was getting underway a few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the 2013 Opening Day set, so the first game of the regular season is the perfect occasion to show off some cards from a $10 blaster of 2015 Opening Day that I picked up at Target just 24 hours ago.

2015 Topps Opening Day #25 Jorge Soler (RC)
One of the Cubs' most promising young stars is Jorge Soler, who also happens to be a member of my fantasy baseball team, the Lucky Numbers. I got a look at Soler last August when the Cubbies visited Denver, and he is an exciting player to watch, especially at the plate. If this finally is the year, Soler is certain to be a reason for it.

2015 Topps Opening Day #66 Andrew McCutchen
The Cubs won't be the only team in the hunt for first place in the NL Central. McCutchen, one of baseball's elite hitters, will seek to lead the Pirates to another playoff spot. As the anchor hitter of my fantasy team, I'll be hoping for another MVP year like he had in 2013.

2015 Topps has earned much praise, and the same ripple and stucco design carries over to Opening Day, along with a good deal of interesting photography. The only differences are a printed Topps logo instead of foil, plus the patriotic-looking Opening Day banner. Most of the photos are the same as in the base set, although I have seen a few cards with different images, or at least different crops.

I haven't seen much of the 2015 base set in person this year other than the value pack I bought during release week, so lots of these photographs are new to me. I did recognize Tulowitzki's card in this blaster, as well as Hunter Pence's, and a few others from the blogs.

2015 Topps Opening Day #35 Travis d'Arnaud
2015 Topps Opening Day #2 Curtis Granderson
These two Mets were back-to-back in one of the eleven packs. I don't know how often the Mets wear these desert digital camo uniforms, but they appear to be in different stadiums, so these must be from different games. d'Arnaud had a pretty good rookie year last season, and he was awarded the Topps Rookie Cup on his 2015 card, a logo which has been a mainstay of Topps sets for decades with only brief gaps.

2015 Topps Opening Day Blue Foil #23 Greg Holland
I did pull a few Blue Foil parallels, which are a bit different this year. First of all, they aren't serial numbered anymore, which is a bit of a disappointment, and the actual date of Opening Day isn't listed in silver foil. That's too bad, as it would be cool to have a few cards with my dad's birthday printed on them. Holland's base card also made an appearance in this blaster, so other than the /1 parallels, I have the rainbow of Greg Holland's 2015 Opening Day cards!

That's a relief.

Pun not intended.

As I've stated many times, my favorite aspect of the Opening Day brand is the inserts, and this year's crop did not disappoint. Many of my longtime favorites made a reappearance, and Topps gave us a few pretty solid new insert sets.

2015 Topps Opening Day Stars #ODS-20 Joe Mauer
"Opening Day Stars" returns with the 3D effect from its lenticular printing, and this Joe Mauer card was the only one in the 77-card stack (including an undifferentiated bonus pack!). I've kept an eye on Mauer in recent years, as the Rockies seem to have an interest in Aging Twins Stars. They've brought over Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau, so it seems like Mauer can't be far behind.

2015 Topps Opening Day Superstar Celebrations #SC-07 Jordan Zimmermann
"Superstar Celebrations" makes a comeback in 2015 as well. Commemorating Zimmermann's no-hitter at the end of the 2014 season, this card wouldn't be out of place in the "Ballpark Fun" insert set of 2013. There were lots of post-game antics in that one.

2015 Topps Opening Day Hit the Dirt #HTD-03 Billy Hamilton
In addition to the old veteran sets, there are plenty of new ones this year, such as "Hit The Dirt", which features lots of gutsy baserunning. It's a lot like the "Sliding Stars" set from Gypsy Queen, and is a good showcase of speed, which again has become a more important aspect of baseball now that the steroid era has passed. A guy like Dee Gordon can be a lot more valuable if all the guys surrounding him in the lineup aren't hitting 40+ home runs per season.

2015 Topps Opening Day Stadium Scenes #STA-CP Cameron Payne
Topps has been embracing social media quite a bit recently. and that's reflected in the "Stadium Scenes" set. All its photos were shot by fans and then submitted online to Topps. This allows a real fan's perspective to appear on cards, which is unusual. I like the concept; it's a chance for a fan to be immortalized on cardboard, and documents how a fan actually sees the game, rather than someone with a press pass.

Angel Stadium of Anaheim, home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is the only Major League park I've been to outside of Denver. You can't see them on this card, but flanking this entrance are two giant metal baseball caps. I snapped a picture or two myself when I was there to see the Angels host the Yankees (in Anaheim, yes), and here's what those caps look like.

2015 Topps Opening Day Franchise Flashbacks #FF-08 Julio Teheran
"Franchise Flashbacks" might be the best new insert set for 2015, especially if you're a fan of throwback uniforms. There aren't many Rockies to be found in any of these sets, but the Rockies have done minimal changes to their logo and uniforms in their 22-year history (has it really been that long?).

Braves pitcher Julio Teheran appears on this card in an Atlanta Black Crackers uniform, a team that played in various Negro Leagues for a few decades in the first half of the 20th century. Nick at Dime Boxes is such a fan of this 20-card set that he bought the whole thing in one fell swoop, dubbing it the "Insert Set of the Year". I am not at all surprised that such an appellation would be awarded to an Opening Day release.

I've written this whole post without a single mention of my favorite insert set from Opening Day, which means that it's time for...

2015 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-02 Atlanta Braves

I think the Braves could do way better than this. Their unnamed mascot is a blatant rip-off of Mr. Met, as the back of this card fully acknowledges. Short of calling him "Mr. Brave," I'm not sure what else can be done with a mascot wearing a Braves uniform and a baseball for a head. It's Georgia; at least make it a peach or something.

2015 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-12 Billy the Marlin
Miami does a better job, as their mascot is simply a marlin. It's a type of billfish, which is where Billy the Marlin gets its name. With those wild eyes and gaping mouth, this mascot looks really excited to be cheering for the Marlins. I can't quite tell for sure, but that might be a Rockies catcher behind the plate in that photo. Colorado visited Miami for their first four games last year, so if this was actually taken on Opening Day, then that's Wilin Rosario with a cameo appearance in the Mascots set.

It seems like the Rockies begin most of their seasons on the road, and that'll hold true this year as well. At noon tomorrow (mountain time), they'll send a man to the plate in Miller Park, home of the Brewers. By then, the Brewers will know who they're chasing for the division lead. Unless the Cubs step it way up tonight (they're down 3-0 as I write this), then St. Louis will be the first team to 1-0 atop the NL Central.