Monday, June 13, 2016

The Trading Post #69: Dime Boxes

In case you hadn't heard, Nick is back.

After a hiatus of several months, the writer of one of the best blogs in the community, Dime Boxes, has picked up his digital pen and resumed writing his excellent content.

I, for one, missed him. But his return to the Cardsphere was accompanied by one of his magical trade packages, full of hand-picked cards just for me.

2006 Upper Deck #204 Brad Ausmus
Nick's always had a great eye for the gems to be found in base sets, and knew I'd be jazzed about this one. Though it's technically an Astros card, it's about as close to being a Rockies card as you can get. A very purple Dinger is clearly visible behind Ausmus, which means this is obviously a Coors Field card. And not many fans know it, but Brad Ausmus was briefly part of the Rockies organization. He was selected in the Expansion Draft from the Yankees, and although he played for Triple-A Colorado Springs for the first half of 1993, he was dealt to the Padres along with Andy Ashby for two starting pitchers, at which point he made his Major League debut.

Between Ausmus, Joe Girardi, Eric Wedge, and Danny Sheaffer, the Rockies had a real surplus of catchers their inaugural year. I'll note that three of those four went on to become managers.

The position tends to generate a lot of managers, including Joe Torre, Jim Leyland, Mike Matheny, Bob Brenly, and many others. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, or maybe Salvador Perez in that role within the next decade or so.

2016 Donruss '82 #D82-21 Nolan Arenado
Panini is continuing the gradual resurrection of Donruss, offering up a either a 1982 or 1983-themed insert set this year. Please hold while I look up which year, since I can never remember which direction the bat points in those two years.

Okay, it's 1982.

A few collectors out there go for these bat rack cards, and this card is almost enough to make you forget there are no MLB logos on it. But I do like seeing the 1982 design in a modern glossy finish. We'll be seeing a lot of Arenado in this post, but get ready for a few Blake Street Bombers.

1999 Fleer Tradition #15 Dante Bichette
Dante Bichette's had more than a few fun cards over the years, and he sure seems to like to perch on golf carts for his photo shoots. I can't quite tell where this was taken. Perhaps Shea Stadium? Wherever this came from, it has Nick written all over it. All that time he spends digging through discount boxes tend to yield some pretty awesome cards.

1998 Fleer Tradition #153 Ellis Burks
Ellis Burks was nearing the end of his tenure as a Rockie by 1998, but not before a fantastic bat barrel card from Fleer, one of Nick's favorite mini-collections. The gold foil mostly obscures the bat barrel, but the beautiful blue sky makes up for it. I'll guess that's Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, the former spring training home of the Rockies before they moved to a shared facility with the Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.

1995 Stadium Club Members Only 50 #18 Andres Galarraga
I know '90s sets were pretty wild and varied, but I thought I at least had a good handle on 1995 Stadium Club. Clearly I have a lot left to learn, as this is the third card I'm just now seeing for the first time. I don't know what to believe anymore.

Stadium Club in its early days was actually a "club" you could join via mail-order. Members Only parallels persist to this day, but this card was from a special 50-card set only for collectors that had joined the club. The entry fee was a bit steep for my eleven-year-old allowance, so I never joined. But I remember plenty of ads at hobby shops and in Beckett. I guess that's why I never saw this card before.

You could almost pass this off as a Draw Four card in Uno with those four colored panels. And if you flip it upside-down, it pretty well approximates the Microsoft Windows logo. Coincidentally, Windows 95 was released right around the same time as this card, and when you think of it that way, this card is positively prehistoric.

2016 Diamond Kings Aficionado #A10 Nolan Arenado
Speaking of playing cards, Arenado makes another appearance on a Diamond Kings insert, which has the same playing card-esque surface that brand has become known for since Panini brought it back. It's an appropriate evolution of a Diamond Kings card, although I can't help but see a little bit of Studio in here. Either way, it's one of the more premium-feeling cards on the market which is sold at a reasonable price point. And Panini is somehow making it less and less obvious that their products lack MLB logos.

2016 Topps Opening Day Heavy Hitters #HH-8 Nolan Arenado
This is one of the insert sets I found in this year's Opening Day Blaster, and while I pulled a Coors Field card from that, it wasn't a Rockie. Nick saw to that, sending another Arenado card along. Judging from the fans' apparel, I'll guess this one was taken in San Francisco. The back of the card talks about Arenado's tie for last year's NL Home Run crown, as both he and Bryce Harper smashed 42. So far in 2016, Nolan has the NL lead all to himself at 19, though a few American Leaguers are right up there with him. Mark Trumbo is the only one to get to 20 so far. Though his pace has slowed considerably from opening week, fellow Rockie Trevor Story is pretty high up the list at 16.

2015 Topps Pro Debut #105 Jon Gray
Minor League cards are always a bit of a rarity, especially when they picture players that have actually made it to the Majors. Though it took a while for him to earn his first Major League win, he was dominant for the Rockies' previous Double-A affiliate, the Tulsa Drillers.

For 2015's Pro Debut set, Topps largely reused the 2015 base design, though they applied a matte finish to the background, leaving only the player's photo and the border glossy. As the trend seems to be toward photos with a shallow depth of field, that's as good a treatment as any to apply to the background.

2014 Topps Saber Stars #SST-12 Michael Cuddyer
Longtime readers might recognize this one of Michael Cuddyer from the Saber Stars insert set. Though I just now became the owner of a physical copy, this one's been in my BUNT collection for some time. The color scheme is a bit different, and they chose to showcase another stat, BABIP instead of WAR.

I'm not opposed to Sabermetrics, but the one block I do have is just that it's usually not so apparent what a "good" statistical value is. For over a century, we've learned that a batting average over .300 is quite good. Over .400, legendary. But I don't really have any frame of reference on whether a .382 BABIP is anything to write home about. I'd assume so, otherwise Topps would just pick another guy for this 25-card insert set. But we'll need more time to wrap our heads around all these stats before they become second nature.

It's sort of like the metric system. I roughly know how fast 80 km/h is, or how warm 20 degrees Celcius is. But I always have to do a little mental math to convert it into something my brain can interpret better. Maybe that's a bit like learning a foreign language - you cognitively know it, but you're always translating it into a format that your deeper brain knows almost instinctively.

Fortunately, based on the back of the card, it turns out that .382 is quite respectable, as only two players in the league did better in 2013.

2015 Finest #75 Carlos Gonzalez
I hadn't yet seen 2015 Finest until now, and it's a beauty! I'm not sure anything will ever live up to 1994, (although 2003 came close). I'm dubbing this one the Tangram set, as most of what I see in the design are a bunch of trapezoids, parallelograms, and triangles. Not that I ever would, but it looks like you could cut this card up and assemble it into a bird or something. This card reminds us of CarGo's injury-shortened 2014 season, a reference to a finger injury that has been plaguing him in one form or another for several seasons.

2016 Donruss Elite Dominators #ED10 Nolan Arenado /999
Nolan Arenado makes one final appearance on this post with a serial-numbered card decked out in lots of sparkly polka dots. The blue border dominates the design, which is appropriate for a set called "Elite Dominators". Numbered to just under a thousand copies, this one is somewhat plentiful as these types of cards go, except when you compare it to the 200,000-plus print run of those Joe DiMaggio cards from last time. Might as well be a needle in a haystack at those rates.

The dots are a bit bigger, but I'm reminded of Topps' 2013 Chasing The Dream insert set, back when Topps was "All Chase, All The Time." They seem to be easing up on the themes a bit, or at least aren't hitting us over the head with them at every turn.

2011 Topps Update Cognac Diamond Anniversary #US82 Mark Ellis
2011, you may recall, was the year of Topps' Diamond Anniversary. So naturally, everything in 2011 had some sort of a diamond theme, including this Cognac parallel, or as Night Owl liked to call them, Liquorfractors. It has a similar look to Atomic Refractors found in 2011 Chrome, except the "shards" are a bit smaller.

Ellis only spent half a season in Colorado, long enough to get a card in Topps Update, but not long enough for me to remember him. I will point out that he's wearing Andres Galarraga's number 14, a number that Josh Rutledge wore up until his trade to Anaheim.

As an aside, how do you properly say the city the Angels play in? Los Angeles of Anaheim? That makes even less sense than The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, everyone's favorite astrophysicist, notes that this translates to "The The Angels Angels". Of Anaheim.

And that's when you use an 8-year old boy's writing style and append, USA, North American continent, Earth, the Solar System, the Milky Way, etc....

2004 Leaf Certified Materials #43 Clint Barmes
Well, that was a tangent, wasn't it? Let's use a shiny card to get back on track. I was barely aware that Leaf still existed in 2004, so cards like this are always a surprise. I'm not sure I really remember Clint Barmes playing for the Rockies way back in 2003, but he was definitely there for their World Series run in 2007.

The embossed gold seal sticks out quite conspicuously, but I don't know what other color they could use. Silver would blend right into the background and barely be noticeable. It's a minimalist design, and I think they're going for a bit of baseball stitching with those groups of three parallelograms.

My geometry skills are getting a real workout with this trade package. Geometry was never my strong suit. I did a whole lot better in algebra and calculus. But I remember my shapes from Math 102, and don't intuitively get most of the Sabermetric stats. Go figure.

Pun not intended.

2005 Leather and Lumber #LC-171 Ryan Speier (RC) (AU) /256
Prior to Panini taking the brands over in recent years, this was one of the last baseball sets that Leaf would ever produce. This card of Ryan Speier is found in the Rookie Card range of the set, meaning it is serial numbered to 256. He closed lots of games in the minor leagues, but that is a tough, tough job at the Major League level. He never earned a save in his four seasons as a Rockies reliever, a stretch which encompassed his entire Major League career.

I can't tell for sure, but that may be an strip of genuine leather he signed his name on. Say what you will about the various baseball card brands, but I think we can all agree that it beats a sticker autograph.

As usual, this was a great batch of cards from Nick. Great to see him back in the Cardsphere!


  1. I agree with you about the sabermetric stats. It's tough to understand what is average and how that differs from All-Star level to HOF-level. I like the stats like RC+, which is based off of 100. The average offensive player is 100, below average are <100, and above average are >100. Keeps it easy!

  2. As far as catchers becoming managers, I think "Grandpa" David Ross will find himself in that chair before too long. As always, great stuff from the Dimebox King!

  3. With BABIP, you find what the league average is and if a player's BABIP average is 'unusually low' and his actual batting average is subpar, it means he might be unlucky.

    On the other side, if a guy is hitting the snot out of the ball, his BABIP may reflect the good luck he is having, but also the fact the actual batting average is just not sustainable for an entire season.

    1. Here is what BABIP is all about:

  4. Glad you enjoyed everything! I kinda wish Topps had used the matte finish from Pro Debut on their Flagship cards last year.

    1. It is a really nice look. I hope to see it on more of their cards soon.