Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Trading Post #38: Wish They Still Came With Bubble Gum

Well, it finally happened.

2009 Upper Deck Signature Stars #97 Troy Tulowitzki
As you've surely heard by now, Troy Tulowitzki has been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. He's headed up to Canada with LaTroy Hawkins, the oldest player in the Majors. In return, the Rockies will be getting shortstop Jose Reyes, along with a slew of young right-handed pitchers, adding to a promising list of minor-league pitching talent with high prospect ratings.

Tulo's been part of trade rumors for years, and with a new GM in the front office, if they were ever going to trade him, this was the year to do it. He's been healthy and productive, especially in the run-up to his All-Star selection, so as they say, sell high.

He's been the face of the Rockies for a long time, especially following Todd Helton's retirement, so I'm sure that many in Denver will sorely miss him, myself included. Jose Reyes, presumably the new shortstop (assuming they don't flip him, as has been speculated), isn't quite the player he once was, and is definitely a defensive downgrade, meaning the left side of the Rockies infield will have to rely even more on Nolan Arenado's magic.

It would have been nice to get a more immediately viable pitcher rather than three unproven prospects. One of them has already had Tommy John surgery, and the Rockies have don't a great track record developing pitching, but at least the front office recognizes that something had to be done. It'll be a long time before this trade can truly be evaluated, but hopefully at least one of the many pitching prospects in the Rockies system turns into a top-30 pitcher.

Anyway, I'm glad that Jeff from Wish They Still Came with Bubble Gum included a Tulowitzki card in a stuffed PWE I received a while ago, as he's certainly the headline of MLB news today.

2015 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP52 Jon Gray
With all this talk of pitching prospects in the Rockies pipeline, Jon Gray's name has come up quite a bit in the last 24 hours. He's the highest-rated pitcher in the Rockies farm system, though he has been slow to develop to a major-league-ready level.

On the card side, which I haven't really mentioned so far, this is my first look at 2015 Bowman. The backs haven't changed all that much, but at least they gave it a relatively distinctive design, for Bowman.

2015 Bowman #48 Justin Morneau
The non-chrome non-prospect version is pretty much the same, except for the team logo and name migrating over to the left, and a healthy amount of Rockies purple both front and back. Morneau is currently on the disabled list, freeing up first base for Ben Paulsen to have lots of playing time. Though Paulsen made a pretty serious blunder last week, he redeemed himself in that same game.

2014 Topps Target Red Border #20 Charlie Blackmon
I went to the game on Friday night, capturing a beautiful sunset that makes Coors Field such a joy to visit.

A photo posted by AdamK (@adamk0310) on

It happened to be Charlie Blackmon bobblehead day, though I didn't arrive early enough to get one. A coworker did, however, and it even comes with a fuzzy beard. Quite true to life, though you wouldn't know it from that Target parallel above.

1998 Pacific #291 Walt Weiss
I'm sure manager Walt Weiss didn't have such a great evening yesterday. How do you even break that news to your star player when it comes from above? Such a scenario makes turning an awesome double play like this look easy, even against his former team, likely taken during the first year of interleague play.

2003 Upper Deck #494 Charles Johnson
Charles Johnson was nearing the end of his career when he came over to the Rockies, having spent most of his career with the Marlins. He was a good power hitter for a catcher, hitting an even 20 home runs during his first season in Denver.

One thing I particularly like about this Upper Deck base card is the disembodied catcher's arm and mitt in the lower right, a bit of a nod to Johnson's defensive position.

1994 Fleer #457 Eric Young
Fleer gave us a very basic design in 1994, although the photo on this card is pretty blurry and obviously blown-up, something more typical of Fleer a decade or so prior. Still, Eric Young can be seen with that trademark smile while running the bases (or more likely a drill, given the lack of a batting helmet).

1994 Leaf #44 Eric Young
He's a bit more all-business on this Leaf card from the same year, and his pose here is reminiscent of his leadoff home run at the Rockies' inaugural home game in 1993, one of the happier Rockies moments in their relatively short history.

Though Tulowitzki may now be just another powerful right-handed bat in an already stacked Blue Jays lineup, he's still given the Rockies years of wonderful memories, which makes it that much harder to see him go. Maybe he'll follow in Young's footsteps and come back to coach once he's retired. I'm sure Denver would welcome him with open arms.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Road Trip!

Last week, my girlfriend and I took a road trip to visit some of her friends and family in Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas. What better week to do it than the week of July 4th (assuming you have air conditioning in your vehicle, of course)? Though my home state of Colorado is a hotbed for craft beers, we found that the microbrewery craze has infiltrated that region as well, as we came back with several six packs from the Dallas area.

While it was nice to get away and relax for a while, the hobby was still in the back of my mind. I was frequently glancing at the many roadside stores, curious if I might find a card shop nestled in one of those towns. As we were preparing to head out of Arkansas and back toward Oklahoma City, my vigilance was rewarded just outside Fayetteville.

1992 Bowman #611 Bill Swift (FOIL)
I spotted a small white sign as we were about to leave town. A few quick turns later, I walked through a windowless and unassuming white door. Inside, I found Cleve's Baseball Cards and Collectibles to be a well-stocked shop, and after wandering around for a few minutes, I asked for a box of baseball singles to dig through, affording me a #walletcard photo op.

A photo posted by AdamK (@adamk0310) on

Bill Swift's card above was the first one I picked out of that box, which more or less ended up being a quarter box, once we settled up. Gold foil from the early '90s draws me in no matter which state I'm in.

1994 Score Gold Rush #118 Willie Blair
I was surprised to find so many Rockies cards in a corner of Arkansas. Almost a quarter of the Score Gold Rush parallels I found were Rockies. The owner even had a flag on display from the 1998 All Star Game, the only year it's been in the Mile High City. Turns out, he is a Rockies fan, and he even owned a chain of record stores in the Denver area back in the '70s. Small world.

1999 Upper Deck 10th Anniversary Team #X5 Cal Ripken
I immediately recognized the 1989 Upper Deck design on this card, but figured it to be a more recent throwback parallel. Sure enough, this is from 1999's 10th Anniversary Team insert set, UD's self-congratulatory set documenting its first decade. The gold foil on the base line is rather tasteful, but there are only so many gold seals you can put on a card before it starts looking cluttered.

There's a tiny photo of Ripken's actual 1989 card on the back, and they picked a pretty similar shot for this anniversary card. I didn't know the specifics of this card when I set it aside, but an iconic design is always worth a second look.

2001 Topps Through The Years Reprints #50 Derek Jeter '93
I knew this was a reprint right off the bat, thanks to the Topps 50th Anniversary logo in the lower right, but I'd know this card anywhere. Other than Griffey's rookie from the aforementioned 1989 Upper Deck set, Jeter's rookie from 1993 Topps is one of very few cards from that era that still holds some value. Last year, I bought the Topps Gold parallel of this card from Christian, my primary card show dealer, for around $15. 

Topps released many reprints in their golden anniversary year, spanning insert sets, a large subset of the Traded set, and even some gold-bordered Factory Set exclusives.

2001 Topps Through The Years Reprints #42 Ken Griffey, Jr. '92
This Griffey is the one of three others I have from this 50-card insert set, and I'm pretty sure it came from one of my first-ever visits to Christian's table, circa 2003.

1994 Leaf Slideshow #6 Barry Bonds
I collected a lot of Leaf cards, even in my childhood days. It was a nice product, and affordable, even on a kid's budget. I thought I knew the 1993 and 1994 sets pretty well, which is why I was surprised when my girlfriend showed me this one out of the dollar box. It's made to look like a slide (remember those?), and might be the first transparent card to hit the market, a few years before 1997 Skybox E-X 2000.

It's full color and everything. And if you could hack a slide projector to fit a baseball card, I'm sure it would project nicely before melting.

And now, how about a few cards with absolutely no gold foil at all?

2005 Finest #162 Reggie Jackson RET
Due to the high price of Topps Finest, I've never actually purchased a box or even a pack of it. I've always relied on scavenging the discount boxes. I find them rather frequently, but there are definitely gaps in my collection. This is my first card from 2005 Finest, and it strongly resembles the ripple/fingerprint element in this year's Topps base set.

I've compared the hexagon-heavy 2003 Finest to 2014 Stadium Club Triumvirates, so if one wants a preview for what Topps has up its sleeve in coming years, Finest seems to be a good place to look.

Speaking of 2014 Stadium Club, this was the first time I found the set in a discount box.

2014 Stadium Club #53 Willie Mays
In addition to Mays and this vintagey-looking photograph (to go along with his Field Access insert), I also found Yasiel Puig's card. Two players that couldn't be more different. 

2014 Stadium Club is only a 200-card set, and I'd love to build the whole thing. I've yet to purchase any 2015, but from what I've seen so far in the blog community, I don't like it as much as this epic 2014 set.

2000 Topps Tek Pattern 5 #9 Andruw Jones
Topps also resurrected the Topps Tek brand last year, and I found a few examples from 2000 in this box. Like all Topps Tek sets, there are numerous background variations, but unlike the nearly 10,000-card master sets of a few years prior, this one is a much more manageable 900.

1996 Leaf Preferred Steel #2 Paul Molitor
I found about a half dozen Leaf Steel cards, which you've seen before on Infield Fly Rule. As you can see, these were all pretty beat up and chipped around the edges, but that doesn't affect their heft or magnetism. It's surprising, though, that pretty much the only metal baseball cards out there are quite fragile.

1992 Kellogg's All-Stars #1 Willie Stargell
I'm not the biggest fan of oddballs, but these Kellogg's cards are starting to grow on me. Unlike the miniature ones we're a bit more familiar with, this is close to normal-sized. It's a standard width card, though it's about a centimeter shorter. It's from 1992, and I had no idea Kellogg's was making these 3-D cards that recently. Whatever they did, they found a way to prevent the cracks that are frequently seen on earlier cards.

2000 Pacific Crown Royale #89 Rickey Henderson
My girlfriend found a few of these "Princess" cards in the same dollar box that yielded Bonds' transparent slide, so I couldn't resist. She also noticed that they had a sealed box of Crown Royale football cards on the shelf, and I had no idea that Panini resurrected this brand in recent years. 

Henderson in a Mets uniform is pretty unfamiliar, but he did play for quite a few teams in his long career, especially toward the end. Unlike, say, John Elway, he didn't quite know when to hang them up, and he kept signing with whatever team would take him.

Just when you thought Pacific cards couldn't get any crazier, they go and do something like this:

1998 Pacific Paramount Special Delivery #20 Jose Cruz, Jr.
From the Special Delivery insert set, they sort of went postal here.

Pun intended.

The back looks like a postcard, with a second photo in the upper right made to look like a postage stamp, echoing the overall outline of this card. The font on the back is script, clearly mimicking handwriting. It's sort of like the Studio credit card idea on steroids. Which is entirely appropriate for 1998.

I guess when you stumble on a card shop a thousand miles from home that's run by a Rockies fan, anything goes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Trading Post #37: 2x3 Heroes

As my readers know, the vast majority of my collection consists of baseball cards. That's further reflected in my blog's title and theme, though think of how awesome it would be to hear an NFL ref call "Infield Fly Rule. Automatic First Down."

Anyway, I've made mention of the occasional basketball or football card, and there are countless non-sports cards out there. But few people think of hockey cards. Hockey happens to be my second-favorite sport, and when I saw Jeff at 2x3 Heroes offer some free cards for a variety of NHL teams (some are still available), I requested the Colorado Avalanche, my hometown hockey team.

They haven't done so well in recent years, only making the playoffs once so far this decade. But I've been a fan since they moved here in 1995 from Quebec, and they've brought home two Stanley Cups in that time. In fact, the 1996 Stanley Cup was the first professional sports championship in Denver history.

1998-99 UD Choice StarQuest Blue #SQ20 Peter Forsberg
Peter Forsberg was a huge contributor to both those Cup wins, and he was part of the famed "AMP Line" with Milan Hejduk and Alex Tanguay.

Upper Deck only has so many designs to go around, so this is pretty similar to other StarQuest cards I've shown on this blog. Though it isn't that lovely shade of green, the dark blue might work even better with the Avalanche colors, especially these home jerseys.

2008-09 Ultra #131 Peter Forsberg
Here's another one of Forsberg in a familiar design. This was years after Fleer's bankruptcy, and some time after even Upper Deck killed the brand as far as baseball was concerned. Still, silver-bordered script lettering with a full-bleed design is textbook Fleer Ultra.

2000-01 UD Heroes #30 Alex Tanguay
Not that I'm an expert, but I don't think Topps has made a hockey card in over a decade. Most of what you'll see today is from Upper Deck, or one of their many brands. This one is also UD, though a design that's different from what I've seen before. As mentioned, Tanguay was an integral part of the AMP line when the Avs made their Stanley Cup run in 2000-2001, and here, we get a look at the Avs' road whites.

2014-15 Ultra #45 Gabriel Landeskog
Landeskog (whose first name I didn't really know until this trade package) is the current Captain of the Avalanche, filling the skates of Joe Sakic, who is one of four players with retired numbers hanging in the Pepsi Center.

Even though Fleer Ultra is long gone from the baseball world, it's worth the occasional foray into other sports to be reminded that these brands are still alive and kicking somewhere. And with a design that reminds me more of Bowman than Fleer Ultra.

2013-14 Panini Prizm #134 Ryan O'Reilly
Ryan O'Reilly was traded from the Avalanche to the Buffalo Sabres about a week ago. I never got to know him that well during his time in Denver, but I do have a shiny Panini Prizm card to document his tenure with the Avalanche.

As a baseball collector, it's downright strange to see official logos and an actual team name on a Panini card. I don't share the general dislike of Prizm that seems to be the norm in the blogosphere, but one has to consider whether it would have a different reputation if Panini had an MLB license.

2010-11 Luxury Suite #19 Matt Duchene JSY /599
One-upping that lovely shiny Prizm card is this serial-numbered relic of Matt Duchene. Hockey jerseys have a different weave than baseball uniforms, so you can see through the tiny perforations when the light hits it just right.

This may be minor, but one thing I enjoy about Denver is that our sports teams tend to have unusual colors. This burgundy isn't so common, the Rockies' purple is a rarity in MLB, and of course the Broncos have virtually trademarked the color orange.

Combine that with a serial number on the back, and you have one great PWE of hockey cards!