Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Devilishly Affordable Group Break

A long time ago in this exact galaxy, specifically back in August, Colbey at Cardboard Collections ran an affordable group break that cost only $6. It wasn't the latest and greatest product, but he did have two Fleer products from the mid-2000s on offer, both of which are underrepresented in my collection, so I joined. Who could keep up with all those Fleer releases back then, anyway? As we wrap up 2017, I thought I'd take a look at this stack before the ball drops. At least then I could keep the post in the same calendar year.

2003 Fleer Focus Jersey Edition #2 Preston Wilson
First up is 2003 Fleer Focus Jersey Edition (JE), a set I'd never even heard of before, let alone collected. Presumably, there were some relics to be found in this set, but I didn't have the good fortune of nabbing any with my two team slots. Fleer also tied in the player's uniform number into the print run of the Century parallels, adding 100 to their number. Frank Thomas, for example, had a print run of 135. The base cards are nicely color-coded, giving us a clean, if verbose, design. Between the right vertical banner and the set logo, "Focus Jersey Editon" appears twice.

I guess with so many Fleer sets on the market, they really wanted us to know which was which. Don't forget that Fleer also tells us on the fine print in the back. Topps is (sort of) finally doing this, but that is one thing I miss dearly about both Fleer and Upper Deck. We all know the yellow-bordered set is 1991 Fleer, but as more and more sets hit the market, there's a real need for some identification.

In a move which should surprise no one, I selected the Rockies for my primary team slot. Preston Wilson was about to join the Rockies after his first five seasons as a Marlin (save for his two weeks as a rookie Met), coming over in an offseason trade with Charles Johnson and a couple others in return for Mike Hampton and Juan Pierre. The Florida Marlins (yes, before they were known as the Miami Marlins) promptly flipped Hampton, but they kept Pierre and went on to win their second World Series in 2003. Juan Pierre certainly drew the lucky hand that year.

Like most well-known Marlins, Pierre was traded away during their 2005 fire sale, an event that the Marlins seem to hold about once a decade with alarming regularity. Obviously, we're in the middle of one now, and Preston Wilson didn't even survive this one, as he and Jeff Conine were both shown the door of the broadcast booth.

2003 Fleer Focus Jersey Edition #127 Jose Hernandez
Journeyman infielder Jose Hernandez has only appeared on this blog once before, on another 2003 card, his only year as a Rockie in a long, 15-season career, which immediately followed his only All-Star appearance. Fleer only gave us five years of stats on the back, and a giant, empty gray box below it, leaving us to wonder about his Major League performance dating back to 1991. I vaguely remember his time in Denver, but I can't say I knew how much time he'd spent in the league. I probably have tons of overproduction-era cards of him, but had no idea it was the same guy.

I don't entirely agree with Topps' latest method of only printing the last five years of statistics, especially in this era of Sabermetrics and StatCast. We should be getting more stats, not fewer. But at least they're not tantalizingly filling up the card backs only halfway like Fleer did.

2003 Fleer Focus Jersey Edition #128 Ben Grieve
The team I ended up with in the random selection was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the other Florida team that's undergone a name change in their short history. I guess it makes sense for the Marlins to rename since they're no longer the only team in Florida, which makes you wonder how the Angels got away with being the California Angels for so long. That leaves the Rockies, Rangers, Twins, and Diamondbacks as the only teams named after their states instead of their cities. There's a touch of ambiguity in the Yankees and Mets, but the state name came after the city, so I'd file those two under the "city" column.

Going the opposite direction down that path leads to some very odd-sounding names, like the Washington Mariners, Wisconsin Brewers (not to be confused with the Badgers), the Ontario Blue Jays, the Ohio Reds, and the Maryland Orioles.

Maybe that's why Major League teams tend to go for a city name; they sound a bit like colleges otherwise.

But back to the card. Ben Grieve had cooled off after his red-hot start to interleague play against the Rockies, and spent a little time on America's (southern) third coast. As we can see in the lower left corner, Grieve coincidentally wore the number 18, just like the Rockies' Jose Hernandez. And in the checklist, this is exactly one card further down the stack (or up the stack, depending on which direction you hand-collate). He's precariously balanced on his right heel, and happens to be wearing a wrist band that precisely matches the Rays' later colors after they dropped the "Devil".

2005 Fleer Showcase #106 Scott Kazmir ST
The second set was 2005 Fleer Showcase, a wonderfully color-coded set that uses a lot of thin silver foil lines. I had six cards from this set already, so at least I had a little familiarity with this one. Tampa Bay's team was still known as the Devil Rays at this point, keeping that name until 2008, the same year they finally reached the Postseason. In fact, they'd lose the World Series that year, following in the Rockies' footsteps and crossing their name off the short list of teams without a World Series appearance.

None of the base cards that Colbey pulled from 2005 Showcase depicted a Rockie, nor do any of my other six cards, but this is my first from the short-printed Showcasing Talent subset. That makes this an odd set in my collection, one in which I have no Rockies but at least a dozen or so base cards.

I picked Scott Kazmir as the first one to show, a southpaw who led the AL in strikeouts in 2007. I selected him in a Fantasy baseball draft or two, and I even saw him in person when he was an Angel, toeing the rubber against A.J. Burnett when the Yankees visited Anaheim on September 23rd, 2009. That was the only regular season Major League game I've had a chance to see outside of Denver.

Kazmir didn't pitch in 2017, but his name crossed the wire a few weeks ago, as the Dodgers shipped him and a few other former stars off to the Braves for Matt Kemp. Scott Kazmir, Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, and ex-Rockie Charlie Culberson for Matt Kemp sounds like a mega-blockbuster, until you remember that this isn't 2011 anymore.

2005 Fleer Showcase #66 Carl Crawford
Carl Crawford would fit into that transaction perfectly, and the Dodgers might have actually included him if the last of his giant contract didn't finally expire at the end of the 2017 season. The speedy outfielder inked a monster deal with the Red Sox in 2011, but he was almost immediately plagued by injury problems. The Red Sox managed to get the Dodgers to take him off their hands, and the Dodgers finally cut him in 2016, while still owing him tens of millions of dollars.

But once upon a time, he was the best base stealer in the American League, and led the league in triples three years in a row. That was right around the time this card was printed, which tells us that Crawford was one of less than a dozen AL players with over 50 stolen bases, 50 extra-base hits (including 19 triples), and 100 runs scored in a single season. Decades from now, if the game continues to be more power-focused, Crawford's name might come up as one of the last great base stealers with power. Dee Gordon has the speed, but nowhere near the same power. Even over the course of one man's career, the game can change quite a bit.

2005 Fleer Showcase Swing Time #7 Todd Helton
I didn't get any Rockies base cards from '05 Showcase, but I did end up with a hit in this insert of Todd Helton. The angles on this card don't look that different from 2017 Topps, just shifted a bit. It's just about as thick as the base cards, and has that sturdy feel of a premium set. I'm not sure why Fleer felt the need to work the numbers "97" into the Swing Time lettering, but it looks odd, and even more so on the back, where the "N" is written in the preschool-backwards style.

That back uses the same angles, the same noticeable triangle in the center, and the same photo, which is slightly more zoomed in. The upper area has the same partial opacity, which means that Todd Helton's throat is the only area of the photograph that isn't obscured by the design or the paragraph. Stadium Club this is not.

In fact, I think this card helps me understand why so many of you dislike 2017 Topps. The sharp angles detract from the photograph, and just seem to force a lot of odd shapes. Shifting this all to the left a bit wouldn't really help much. But a hit is a hit, and seeing a pre-goatee Todd Helton brings about a sense of nostalgia.

2016 Topps Chrome Pink Refractors #59 Tom Murphy (RC)
Colbey was nice enough to throw in a recent Topps Chrome parallel in addition to the haul from this Fleer group break. Tom Murphy showed up in my last post on another 2016 Topps product, and they both get the Rookie Card logo. As with most Chrome cards, there's a little bit of a curl, but that's expected at this point. This time, the Pink parallel does not get a serial number, but it is a refractor. Topps does not label it as such, but if the light is right, it's easy to tell.

It's surprising how much sharper this photo looks compared to just a decade or so prior. That could have a bit to do with the camera technology, but cards have come a long way since Fleer's relatively recent demise.

Thanks to Colbey for running this group break way back in August, when the thermometer read a wee bit more than 14 degrees Fahrenheit. I hope you all have a healthy and fulfilling 2018, and remember that Opening Day is less than three months away!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Trading Post #108: All Trade Bait, All The Time

It was my own fault, I suppose.

Here I was, mentally acknowledging that I actually felt, you know, good. Happy. Content. And of course that lasted all of about eight minutes, because I had unwittingly tempted fate. Following that thought, what did Blogger decide to do to cut me back down to size than to overwrite a completed post when I was uploading the images with a completely blank draft?

Thanks, autosave.

So please forgive me if this second draft isn't as cheerful or well-written as the first.

But that doesn't change the fact that a fellow blogger, specifically All Trade Bait, All The Time, sent a PWE as part of his Operation Cardboard Christmas initiative. There are several piles on my side table from the usual generous bloggers, including one from Nachos Grande that I haven't even opened yet. But it's the holiday season, and I decided to let this Christmas-themed one jump the line a little bit.

1998 Topps #274 Andres Galarraga IL
The Winter Solstice happened just three days ago, and the days are finally getting longer. It still gets pretty dark at a quarter to five, but the trend is heading in the right direction toward its astronomical opposite, the Summer Solstice, a date that this Topps subset card is only three days removed from. (Yes, I ended a sentence in "from". Deal with it). Interleague play was a big change for the 1997 season, but the way this particular game played out is pretty much what you'd expect for one played at Coors Field.

Heading into the bottom of the ninth with a three run lead is a good situation to find yourself in. But sometimes things don't go your way, and that inning on June 18th, 1997 got away from Rangers' All-Star closer John Wetteland rather quickly. An early error let the leadoff runner on, and after he allowed another batter to reach, Andres Galarraga promptly evened the score at 9 with a three-run homer before an out had been recorded.

As this card tells us, the Rockies kept the Blake Street magic going the rest of the inning, loading the bases, still without recording an out, until the sharp-eyed Walt Weiss came up and drew a walk, forcing in the winning run. As the Rangers' win probability continued to fall of a cliff, that walk elevated the score to 10-9, elevated John Wetteland's ERA accordingly, and led Topps to document the occasion on their first of two straight gold-bordered sets.

That was just the sixth Interleague game in Rockies history, and just the second at home. You can spot an empty Rockies dugout behind the Big Cat's power stroke, and his pinstripes further cement this as a Coors Field card. To my eye, this looks better than a lot of the base cards in 1998 Topps, partially because it's a lot more readable. I do have one gripe, which is that the home team is usually listed on the right, opposite to this card's design. But that's the only point of confusion, as the pinstripes, stadium, and wild 9th inning pretty obviously locate this in a pre-humidor Coors Field.

1997 Upper Deck #197 Vinny Castilla GI
Vinny Castilla was on base during the above scenario, drawing an intentional walk two batters after Galarraga's homer. Remember those? When pitchers had to throw four actual pitches to put a batter on? Those were the good ol' days. And perhaps went just a little further in rattling Wetteland that day than if his manager could do it with a gesture.

Anyway, Galarraga's fellow Blake Street Bomber appeared on another subset card, this time from 1997 Upper Deck, shiny but somehow devoid of copper. I once opened a box of '97 UD, and these Global Impact subset cards were everywhere. I seriously wonder if they were double printed. My fellow blogger must have experienced the same, as he sent me Larry Walker's card in a previous trade. That covers the countries to America's north and south, Walker being from Canada and Castilla from Mexico, even though his card looks more like the Italian flag. You can just barely make out the central eagle feature of the Mexican flag under his left shoulder.


2005 Bowman #56 Jeff Francis
If Bowman International parallels existed in 2005, this one could have had the Maple Leaf behind Jeff Francis, giving us a nice tour of the world's flags. But this is a base card, one with a nice splash of red on the sides. I guess you could sort of pretend that's the Canadian flag. Jeff Francis didn't appear in a Major League game before 2004, but seven appearances that season was enough to qualify him as a veteran in 2005 Bowman, earning these red accents on his card instead of the usual blue for prospects.

I will never really understand Bowman, try as I might.

His photo on the back caught my eye, as it's pretty similar to his 2005 Diamond Kings card, sent by Daniel. In that, Francis is pictured wearing Canada's World Baseball Classic jersey along with his Rockies cap. At the time, I guessed that was an artist's rendering, perhaps to drum up interest in the first-ever WBC in 2006. But Francis has the same jersey on the back of this 2005 card, leading me to assume that it must have been taken during a qualifying round.

Canada never had much success in the World Baseball Classic, which was created in the wake of the International Olympic Committee's 2005 decision to remove baseball following the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The sport was absent from both the London and Rio games, but it will be making a return in Tokyo 2020, surely thanks to the increasing global popularity of baseball. Israel was a favorite underdog in the 2017 WBC, and it's even gaining traction Down Under. I hope the WBC continues in 2021 and beyond, and I think it's important to keep interest going, which was part of the reason that baseball was removed from the Olympic lineup in the first place.

I can't say I fully agree with the IOC's original decision, as there is lots of interest in the sport outside of the USA. "World" Series jokes aside, both Japan and Korea have highly competitive leagues, and the first three players in this post are from three different countries, Venezuela, Mexico, and Canada to be specific.

2016 Topps Archives #174 Tom Murphy (RC)
Tom Murphy adds the USA to that list, and he's a catcher prospect that the Rockies keep banking on.

The two big news stories this offseason are the Angels signing Japanese star Shohei Otani, and yet another Marlins fire sale. But in case you missed some of the more minor news, the Rockies are bringing back Chris Iannetta for 2018, penciling him in as the primary catcher. Veterans Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Hanigan became free agents when 2017 ended, and it doesn't look like the Rockies are pursuing either of them. But no one can catch 162 games, so that means that Murphy and Tony Wolters will be the backups.

The batter's eye at the Salt River Fields practice facilities, Spring Training home of both the Rockies and Diamondbacks, is becoming a frequent sight on their Topps cards, especially in sets with lots of posed shots like Heritage and Archives. This 1979-esque card will go along nicely with several other cards from 2016 Topps Heritage. I just hope that Murphy starts showing up in the lineup as often as he appears in my collection.

2017 Topps Gypsy Queen #19a David Dahl (RC)
The Rockies outfielder situation, as usual, is a lot clearer. Even with the likely departure of Carlos Gonzalez, David Dahl and Raimel Tapia are waiting in the wings, and there has to be somewhere to put them. Topps is already mentioning Dahl in the same breath with retired legend Todd Helton. Both Dahl and Helton turned in .315 batting averages in their rookie year, which is about the extent of what's on the back of this sparse Gypsy Queen design.

2017 Topps Gypsy Queen Green #24 Adam Ottavino
In addition to that GQ base card, this green parallel arrived, which is a bit better centered than the Tapia card that Scott sent in a recent trade. Surprisingly, even though this appears to be precisely the same thickness as Dahl's card above, it feels a lot sturdier.

I have seen a few examples of this year's Gypsy Queen set, but I didn't truly notice the gentle rainbow gradient at the bottom of the design. Somehow the green border made it a little easier for my eye to catch. On the photo side, GQ tends to be hit or miss for me. This one is quite nice, and the shadows aren't obviously highlighted, unlike a particular Ben Zobrist card that I haven't quite been able to forget.

Ottavino had a rough season in 2017, but that was largely due to one rough road outing against the Dodgers. We started this post with that theme, where John Wetteland gave up four runs without recording an out in the middle of what was otherwise a pretty solid season. There's just no telling what will happen on any given day, and it doesn't even need to be in Coors Field. I'll kindly remind you that both roller coaster games in the 2017 World Series took place at sea level.

Depending on what happens with Greg Holland, Adam Ottavino is likely to play a larger role in the 2018 Rockies bullpen, despite his rough patch last year. The team as a whole is set to look quite a bit different next year, with numerous players throughout the talent range hitting free agency. Holland, CarGo, and Lucroy I already mentioned, Mark Reynolds is still on the market, and Tyler Chatwood and Pat Neshek have already signed on with other clubs. There's still lots of young and retained talent; I just hope that reaching the 2017 Wild Card game isn't the high water mark for the next decade.

The Rockies still have some work to do this offseason. But not right now. It's the Holidays, and I hope the Rockies and their front office are all set to spend some quality time with friends and family.

And I wish the same for you.

Just like I did the first time I wrote this.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

On the third night of Hanukkah, what do we do?

I know that one of the most frequent visitors to my Eight Men Out page is my mom. She's always happy to check which cards are missing from my collection, and whenever the holidays or birthdays roll around, a card or two from the list usually finds its way into a greeting card. This is not the first time this has happened, and I'm sure she appreciates how easy I try to make it.

On Thursday night, as we were celebrating Hanukkah, she presented me with the final card that was missing from my page of 1995 Fleer League Leaders, an all-horizontal set with plenty of blue foil. I collected a lot of 1995 Fleer, and I have more completed insert sets from it than anything else in my collection.

1995 Fleer League Leaders #6 Tony Gwynn
The last one I was missing was Mr. Tony Gwynn, the NL batting champion in the strike-shortened 1994 season. He compiled a jaw-dropping mark of .394, the closest anyone's come to challenging Ted Williams' .406, which was set in 1941, the same year as Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak.

Perhaps 1941 would have a little less of a grip on the record books if the 1994 season were played to completion. Conventional wisdom says that the Montreal Expos had their best shot at winning the World Series that year, but many forget that Gwynn was seriously chasing that elusive .400 statistic. The back of this card tells us as much, as the baseball card industry was as upset about the strike as any of us fans.

The Padres were a last-place club in 1994, but they managed to snag two spots in this ten-card insert set. Andy Benes led the NL in strikeouts, whose count of 189 was good for second all-time on the Padres leaderboard. That's since been eclipsed many times over, by guys like Jake Peavy, Tyson Ross, and Kevin Brown, and Benes' 189 isn't even in the top-ten anymore.

The Mariners and Yankees also had double appearances in this set, thanks to Paul O'Neill and Jimmy Key in the AL East, and hall-of-famers Ken Griffey, Jr. and Randy Johnson in the AL West. Most of this set talks about how the strike cut some amazing seasons short, and both Griffey and Matt Williams were chasing Roger Maris' single-season home run record, finishing with 40 and 43, respectively.

Unlike the 2004-05 hockey season which was cancelled in its entirety, there are many more open questions about how the 1994 season would have ended, because over two-thirds of the season was played. We'll never know for sure how things would have turned out, but Fleer made some interesting guesses.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Trading Post #107: Summer of '74

We've probably seen the two biggest transactions occur already during this MLB offseason. Japanese star Shohei Otani has chosen to hitch his wagon to the Angels, and the Yankees just took a nine-figure obligation off the Marlins' hands in Giancarlo Stanton, becoming the first team since 1919 to lead the Majors in home runs and then acquire the individual home run leader. The Yankees acquired Babe Ruth almost a century ago, though it would be a few more years before that turned into a championship.

The trades that occur in the Cardsphere have far fewer zeroes in the value column, but they are still appreciated, especially when there is a new face in our community. Summer of '74 is a newcomer as of this past April, and Matt P has already established himself as a trading partner with many veteran bloggers.

This won't be a two-part post, but Matt sent me a stack of 1994 Topps Gold cards before I could even blog about this first shipment. Watch for that in the near-ish future, but for now, let's start things off with a double play/cameo card:

2000 Topps #306 Mike Lansing
2000 Topps doesn't get a lot of love. The gray border and vertical back are often cited as demerits, but it's one of my favorites of the long period that Topps moved away from white borders. It has generally good photography, and I particularly like the "Topps 2000" lettering, something that really taps into the turn of the millennium craze that was happening at that time.

Mike Lansing is shown turning two over top of Brian Giles, center fielder of the Pirates. At first, I thought this player was an Oakland Athletic, thanks to the yellow outline on his uniform numbers. It took a bit of digging to find out that neither Brian Giles nor his brother Marcus ever played for Oakland, and what's more, #24 is retired by Oakland, as Rickey Henderson wore it for much of his career. I mistook the black for a shadowy dark green.

This was a tricky one to pinpoint. The Pirates hosted the Rockies twice during the 1999 season, but Lansing only played in the first series. There's no clear situation where Giles was the first out in a double play, so the best guess I have is May 1st, 1999. Giles was forced out at second base in the bottom of the first inning, and it looks like the Rockies may have tried turning a 5-4-3 double play but couldn't pull it off, allowing a run to score. This high slide of Giles', which does not look entirely Kosher to me, may have had an effect. The inning deteriorated from there, as the Pirates batted around and plated three.

I'm not as confident in this detective work as usual, so take it with a grain of salt. But it's a good shot, regardless.

2014 Topps Upper Class #UC-30 Matt Holliday
In 2014, when Upper Deck was several years removed from the baseball card market, Topps was bold enough to name an insert set "Upper Class", and this is my third card from it. There's plenty of gold foil and a nice frame, as well as a posed shot of a youthful-looking Matt Holliday. This 50-card insert set focuses on the player's rookie year, and Holliday's was full of power, including a grand slam. The back also mentions a few other rookies that joined the league the same year, in this case David Wright, Joe Mauer, and Adrian Gonzalez.

None of those players made a dramatic impact last season; in fact Wright didn't play at all. They may have a few years left in them, but their careers are definitely winding down.

2010 Topps Update #US-56 Matt Holliday
Matt Holliday's time in Denver had come to an end by the time the 2010 Home Run Derby was contested, where he represented the Cardinals. He didn't make it out of the first round, and it looks like this particular swing counted as one of his ten outs. But as this card tells us, he did have the longest shot of the night, 497 feet out of Angel Stadium (of Anaheim).

There are logos plastered all over this card, from the huge National League logo in the curve where the team logo is usually found, down to the Home Run Derby logo, which incorporates State Farm, the MLB logo, and a little architectural feature found in the Angel Stadium (of Anaheim) parking lot, which also makes an appearance on Billy Cowan's famed 1972 Topps card.

2013 Topps Emerald #638 Andrew Cashner
Andrew Cashner hasn't been able to take part in any All-Star Game festivities, but he was promising enough a prospect to get a base set card in 2013 Topps. That means there is an Emerald parallel, which is what you see above. The retro Padres uniform clashes somewhat with the design, but in my mind, that's what a Padres uniform should look like. Also notice the camo t-shirt that Cashner is wearing under his jersey, frequently a staple at Petco Park.

This was one of about a half-dozen Emerald cards that Matt threw in, and the retro jersey caught my eye enough to use it in this post. And I'll give a little love to the Padres, a team that the Rockies usually share a similar spot with in the NL West standings. Interestingly, Cashner didn't begin his career as a Padre. He was drafted by a few teams, including the Rockies, but didn't sign until the Cubs came knocking a second time. The Cubs eventually swapped him for Anthony Rizzo, a move that surely helped the Cubs break their curse.

2017 Topps Salute #S-191 Jeff Hoffman
Speaking of big trades, Jeff Hoffman joined the Rockies as the "key return in the Troy Tulowitzki trade". He's young, has performed reasonably well both in the rotation and out of the bullpen, and he may be more of a later-innings guy in the 2018 season, as the Rockies have some work to do in rebuilding their bullpen.

Topps Salute is a rather forgettable insert set that spans a gigantic 250 cards across the two Series and Update. I'm pretty sure I've seen this set before on some of the blogs, and it jumps out at me enough to include in a post, but not nearly enough to make me want to chase the other 249 cards.

1995 Upper Deck #265 Juan Acevedo (RC) (AU)
I remember Juan Acevedo as one of the many pitching prospects that the Rockies fielded before it became clear how difficult it is to pitch in Coors Field. Alphabetically, at least in my collection where the Rockies are first, he was at the top of the stack in most of the 1995 sets I collected. I have his rookie card from 1995 Upper Deck already, but certainly not a signed copy! This was a nice surprise to get from Matt. I have no idea if this was signed during his rookie year, or perhaps during his brief second stint with the Rockies in 2001. He played with numerous other teams in his eight year career, even closing games for the Cardinals and Tigers.

This has the look of a rookie card to me. His uniform is tucked in just so, his glove looks like it just came off the rack at a sporting goods store, and he's got a touch of his own style in leaving the top button on his road jersey open. He has a more youthful-looking photo on the back, where he appears in the familiar Rockies pinstriped home jersey, which is inset next to a paragraph detailing his Minor League accolades. His big-league debut came in a 3-1 loss played in the Astrodome, a few days after Dante Bichette's historic home run.

2017 Topps Heritage #357 Mark Reynolds
Just like 2000 Topps, 1968 Topps and 2017 Heritage gave us vertical backs. Fortunately for Mark Reynolds, there is plenty of space to have a Home Runs column, but not enough for a Strikeouts column. Those counts have gotten better since he was on the Diamondbacks, but he still struck out 175 times last year. It's amazing that you can hit for power, get away with putting up a .198 batting average in a full season, and still be playing toward the end of the same decade.

The Rockies roster is set to undergo some major changes in 2018. Chris Iannetta will be returning to Denver, making it unlikely that Jonathan Lucroy will stick around. Also hitting the free agent market are Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Holland, and this guy, Mark Reynolds. Do the Rockies keep the veterans around a while longer with some short-term contracts, or do they commit to their solid pipeline and start calling up their prospects like Ryan McMahon and Brendan Rodgers? Ohtani and Stanton are off the market, but there are tons of players out there for the Rockies to fill their 25-man roster.


Monday, December 4, 2017

The Trading Post #106: I Need New Hobbies (Part 2: Not as Shiny)

When Scott at I Need New Hobbies reached out to me after a while to do a trade, this was the card that opened negotiations, so to speak.

2017 Topps Gypsy Queen Green #85 Raimel Tapia
Trevor sent me the autographed version of this card early this year, and Scott found this green version for me, always a favorite color around here. Compared to the autographed version, the Rookie Card logo lost its color, while the photo area gained a bit more space. The centering is actually not that great, but it's good enough to show the old-timey border that GQ is so well-known for. And this is one of those situations where I have a few varieties of a card, but lack the base card itself.

I really couldn't put non-shiny cards like these in the same post as some of the beauties from Part 1, opting instead to split this trade into two posts. Not only are they not shiny, some of these aren't even glossy.

2008 Upper Deck Goudey #65 Troy Tulowitzki
Yes, I know that Goudey cards still have the Upper Deck hologram on the back, which looks pretty out of place on actual cardboard. But that's only on the back. The front gives us a retro look, one of the best bat-barrel shots you can find, and a gratuitous picture of Ken Griffey, Jr., which is found on all the National League cards in Goudey that year. Derek Jeter was the equivalent on American League cards, but neither superstar actually seems to have anything to say about these players. The design certainly seems to suggest that we're getting a quote from The Kid about Troy Tulowitzki, but the paragraph on the back is just your run-of-the-mill baseball card caption.

Upper Deck did this concept correctly in a 1993 insert set featuring the thoughts of Reggie Jackson.

1993 Upper Deck Clutch Performers #R1 Roberto Alomar
In addition to a gold foil facsimile signature from Reggie, complete with his uniform number 44, the back has a small black-and-white headshot and the following paragraph about Roberto Alomar:
"Arguably the best player in baseball. He can beat you every possible way. In 1992, Alomar was the best performer in late innings, and at only 25 years old, he is just scratching the surface of a great career."
It might have been edited a bit, but I can believe that Reggie Jackson actually said something to that effect. The Goudey cards are just too normal-sounding, and don't seem to have a style any different between the AL and NL cards.

1998 Ultra #57 Andres Galarraga
I never snagged one myself, but Andres Galarraga is frequently seen signing autographs for adoring fans. 1998 Ultra shows the same, and this time he's actually signing a card. The blue pen he's using evokes the raised foil on the front of this 1998 Ultra card, but I can't quite tell which card he's signing. Presumably, it's a Fleer product. The few times I've seen this, it's always from the same card company. Rey Sanchez' 1994 Topps card comes to mind. I just can't place which of the Big Cat's cards this is. It's from his days as a Rockie, it appears to be a full-bleed card, and it looks like he's about to field a foul ball.

Anyone recognize it?

1998 Sports Illustrated Then and Now #138 Larry Walker
Larry Walker's textbook swing is shown on this horizontal card, co-branded by Fleer and Sports Illustrated. Just look at how he's turning over his wrists. It reminds me of one of the top ten Todd Helton cards I picked. The back has a similar vibe to the Alomar and Tulowitzki cards, as Fleer brought in legends Harmon Killebrew, Lou Brock, and Brooks Robinson to rate members of this set on Power, Speed, and Fielding. I trust that I don't need to specify which is which.

Larry Walker earned five out of five baseballs on Power and Fielding, missing a perfect score only on the Speed rating, where he got four out of five. There were a few Fleer/SI sets in 1998, but this is my first time seeing this one. I'm not entirely clear on the scoring system, though. One baseball means "Fair", but two means "Below Average". I'm not sure which of those two is supposed to be better. It's sort of like today's credit card offerings. The old Platinum, Gold, and Silver are obvious enough, but when you start throwing Diamond, Sapphire, Titanium, etc... in the mix, it's pretty unclear what the ranking is.

2003 SP Authentic #88 Larry Walker
It's hard to believe that SP was ten years old in 2003. Perhaps it's harder to believe that the inaugural 1993 SP set (and the Rockies, for that matter) will be a quarter-century old next year, but that's a different story. But a decade of SP had passed when this was printed, leading Upper Deck to include a little 10th Anniversary logo in the lower right. It's a clean design, just a bit of gold foil, some color coding, a green patch with just a hint of textured lines, and a crisp full-length photo.

One disappointing thing about that 1998 Sports Illustrated set is that it doesn't rate players on contact hitting. Tony Gwynn got some pretty low ratings in that set. And while Walker had much more power than Gwynn, he could still hit for average. Despite the slew of batting titles won by Rockies in their existence, only Larry Walker is a repeat winner, and three times at that. This card tells us that his 1999 mark of .379 "remains a Rockies single-season record", a fact that holds true to this day.

Unfortunately, SP is no longer around to keep tabs on Rockies batting titles, but it's possible MLB will sign up another manufacturer and take Topps' exclusivity away in 2020.

1993 Flair #40 Joe Girardi
The baseball world got to see lots of Joe Girardi in the 2017 Postseason. He led the Yankees as far as Game 7 of the ALCS, but didn't quite get the job done. The Yankees let him go at the end of the season, announcing Aaron Boone as their new manager a few days ago. Boone knows a thing or two about Game 7 of the ALCS. But Girardi did fairly well as a Yankees manager. They won the 2009 World Series with him at the helm, won the Wild Card a few times, and came very close this year.

Of course, he got his start as a catcher, being drafted by the expansion Rockies in 1993. That's shown on this 1993 Flair card, about as premium as it got in 1993. This particular card has a bit more curling than I tend to see from that set, but it looks great in a 9-pocket page.

The gradual transitions you see from one photo to another on 1993 Flair work better on some cards than others. The action shot of Girardi finding a foul pop in the sun is fine, but the top half of the home plate umpire is edited out, leaving us with an awkward set of pant legs topped by a stack of Gatorate cups. It's almost as bad as that infamous Manny Ramirez card.

1994 Upper Deck Electric Diamond #76 Joe Girardi
This Upper Deck Electric Diamond parallel (shiny, but not shiny enough to be in Part 1) again shows Joe Girardi doing his catcherly duties, observing a Cincinnati Red down at the plate. That looks to be second baseman Juan Samuel, judging by that uniform #8. The Reds visited Denver twice during that inaugural season, but I couldn't find anything in the box scores regarding a play at the plate involving these two players.

And that's where it gets interesting.

Girardi missed about half of the 1993 season due to an injury, which coincided with the Reds' first trip to Denver. That leaves the final three home games of the Rockies' season. Again, no plays at the plate, but then I took a closer look. The ball is nowhere to be found, the coach is nonchalantly leaning on the dugout railing, Girardi is still holding his mask (which he would not do if trying to catch a ball incoming from the outfield), and Samuel looks a bit distressed.

Maybe it's a hit by pitch.

I dug a little deeper, and there was indeed such a situation, where Juan Samuel was hit by Armando Reynoso in the top of the 4th inning on September 26th, 1993. That was the only day game of that three-game series, and the final home game of the Rockies season. Which can mean only one thing.

I was at this game!

I don't recall this exact situation, even though I said a few months ago that I remembered this game "like it was yesterday." Memory is not as reliable as we think. But aside from Topps Now or UD Documentary, I finally found a card of a game I attended!

Incidentally, Samuel ended up being the third out anyway, thanks to Armando Reynoso's league-leading pickoff move.

2016 Donruss #114 Dexter Fowler
I'm not quite sure how to top that, so let's move on to the very specific category of "Past Rockies Center Fielders playing for Chicago Teams". First up is Dexter Fowler on an unlicensed Donruss card. There are a lot of red teams out there, but I'll go with this being a divisional game against either the Cardinals or Reds...er... St. Louis or Cincinnati. This would probably look better as a horizontal card, but that's not something Donruss really (ever?) did.

One thing Donruss always used to do was give us the player's full name. That trademark seems to have gone by the wayside, as he's just Dexter Fowler on both front and back, forcing me to head to Wikipedia to learn that his given name is William Dexter Fowler. But I do like that Panini ventured away from referring to the team only by its city, calling the Cubs the "North Siders" in one spot on the back.

1994 Score #431 Ellis Burks
Fowler headed to Chicago after he was a Rockie, but Burks was there before. He was just on the South Side a year before he joined up with Colorado and got his first taste of the National League. Score lauded him as a "tremendously talented athlete who has sizzling speed and graceful moves". He'd probably do pretty well on the Sports Illustrated ranking, likely edging out Walker on the Lou Brock Speed rating.

This is a very 1990s photo. I hardly ever see flip-down shades anymore. Odds are this is being played on astroturf. And there's a nearly life-size elephant pictured on the outfield wall, the logo of the Oakland Athletics, back when team logos from around the league used to dot every stadium. This card is a perfect opportunity to finally learn why the Athletics have anything to do with an elephant, and it goes way back to the early days of the American League. John McGraw, manager of the New York Giants, referred to the newly-created A's as a "White Elephant." Connie Mack proudly adopted it as manager, and it figured into the behind-the-scenes aspect of the 1905 World Series.

And that's why Ellis Burks has a giant elephant on his 1994 Score card.

1994 Topps Gold #468 Dante Bichette
Those Giants would eventually move out West to San Francisco, and their catcher (and future Rockie) Kirt Manwaring got a cameo on Dante Bichette's 1994 Topps card. Of course, this isn't just any Topps card. This happens to be the one-per-pack Topps Gold parallel, a set that was a real hot ticket in my collection as a 10-year old. I still gravitate toward them all these years later. Electric Diamond cards are nice, but these were the ones I chased.

1994 Topps had plenty of horizontal cards, and this one is another good candidate. both Manwaring himself and Bichette's bat are cut off, but we do get a good look at the swing and follow-through. It's the perpetual trade-off of a photographer choosing an aspect ratio.

The card back is horizontal, and it has his complete Major League stats (remember those?). However, I think there might be an error. We're told that his 1993 mark for runs scored was an expansion team record, and that his batting average of .310 (of course) was second-best by a hair-splitting .00007. But I think Topps meant to say third-best. Andres Galarraga had a whopping batting average of .370 that year, so whomever edged out Bichette must be in second place, putting Bichette in third.

1997 Pinnacle X-Press Swing for the Fences #9 Dante Bichette
Contest cards seem to be a thing of the past. These were all the rage in the 1990s as the numerous competing card companies tried to outdo each other. I rarely did anything with them, though I did enter a Score contest once and got a shiny Alex Rodriguez card.

I just saw a card from this set earlier today on The Angels, In Order, featuring Carlos Delgado. Winning the contest itself seemed to be quite a long shot, and an expensive one at that. There was nothing in the fine print about "No Purchase Necessary", so you had to stock up on retail and hobby boxes of Pinnacle to get the proper game cards for entry.

To win, you had to pick each league's Home Run leader, as well as their final number of home runs. It was a sixty-card set, and who knows exactly how many dingers there would be. And with that many contestants, there were some in this set that had no prayer of winning the home run crown. Tim Naehring didn't even get out of the single digits.

The final winners for the 1997 season were Larry Walker and Ken Griffey, Jr, with 49 and 56, respectively. Mark McGwire's card was also deemed a winner, as he split an MLB-leading 58 across both leagues. Bichette had an off year, topping out at 26.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I sent something like this off to the listed PO box. Probably nothing, especially since it seems hard enough to get redemptions for current sets. Would it come back as undeliverable? Does the person who now has this PO box see contest entries show up on occasion? It would be a fun experiment, and wouldn't cost more than a few stamps.

2002 Fleer Showcase Legacy #10 Todd Helton /175
Fleer Showcase was midway through its six-year run in 2002, and Todd Helton could be found as the Rockies entrant in pretty much any set. It's a nice design for a framed set, though the nameplate is a bit unreadable. But it does remind you of a fancy frame you might see in an art gallery, complete with a brass plaque.

If you flip this one over, you'll find the words "Legacy Collection", and a serial number to 175 copies. You'll also see that Helton had a .334 average after four full seasons and a late-1997 callup. He was awfully close to 200 doubles, and had just wrapped up that all-important age 27 season.

2003 Fleer Showcase Legacy #20 Todd Helton /150
Helton's equivalent card from the following year is a variation on the same theme. The nameplate is more readable, Helton is taking a swing in Wrigley field, and the Rockies' 10th Anniversary patch is visible on his right sleeve. Check the back and you'll find more of the same. His career batting average dropped just a point, his doubles count was up to 230, he had just won his third of four straight Silver Slugger awards, and Fleer lowered the print run on their Legacy Collection parallels by 25 copies.

Of the two, I'd say I prefer the front of 2003 and the back of 2002. But they're both easily recognizable as the same set, assuming you can differentiate the vast multitude of sets that Fleer was producing during that era.

2015 Stadium Club #261 Jake Odorizzi
Scott was kind enough to throw in a half-dozen cards from 2015 Topps Stadium Club, a set that is always welcome. One that caught my eye is this horizontal card of Rays righty Jake Odorizzi, a guy that I've picked for my Fantasy squad a time or two.

I've developed a good eye for spotting commemorative patches on cards, partly thanks to trading with Brian, who keeps those as a mini-collection. This one on Odorizzi's shoulder caught my attention, because the Rays are far too young a team to be celebrating a 75th anniversary of anything. It took a bit of digging, but that patch was worn league-wide on July 4th, 2014 to honor the 75th Anniversary of Lou Gehrig's retirement speech at Yankee Stadium. This briefly-worn patch escaped my attention at the time, but I clearly remember the ALS-related Ice Bucket Challenge, which went viral right around the same time.

That means we have a second card we can date. However, Odorizzi didn't start on July 4th, but rather in Yankee Stadium on July 2nd. That doesn't line up with the date the rest of the league wore the patch, but the offcial MLB press release on this topic notes that the Yankees commemorated this event a couple days early, while they weren't on the road. It's a scheduling issue that Peter Gammons took issue with on Twitter (with predictable results), but it's captured on this card nonetheless.

2015 Stadium Club Gold #183 Travis Ishikawa
Finally, here's a third that I'm confident in narrowing down to an exact date. Travis Ishikawa bounced around the Majors like a pinball, but ended up on the San Francisco Giants at just the right times to earn World Series rings in 2010 and 2014. That 2014 championship was partially thanks to his walkoff home run in the NLCS against the Cardinals, an Aaron Boone moment from someone who was definitely not a superstar.

I'm pretty sure the final moments of that game are captured on this Gold parallel, as Ishikawa flung his batting helmet to the ground in elation after sending his team to the World Series. Lots of helmet flinging happens in AT&T Park, apparently. I never saw him play as a Giant, despite living in an NL West city, but I did see him play for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats in 2015, where he hit two homers in a win over the Salt Lake Bees. As best I can recall, his helmet remained on his head.

Stadium Club gives us plenty of awesome photography, that much we know. But if you know what you're looking for, it's easy for a fan to get even more out of the set.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Trading Post #105: I Need New Hobbies (Part 1: Shiny)

I'm a fan of whisky. And a good (but not absolute) rule of thumb is that the longer it's aged, the better it is. That rule held true for a recent trade I did with Scott, who writes at I Need New Hobbies. I first reached out in late 2014, offering up some 1992 Fleer Ultra. We exchanged an email or two, but nothing came to fruition at the time. It wasn't until just a few months ago when he dug up our old email thread and got the gears moving again, something he did with other bloggers as well.

As I'm known to do lately, I split this well-aged trade up into two parts. There was a lot of good stuff in here, and it proves that patience is a virtue. In fact, I've never spent as much time negotiating a trade as I did with this one. Most of my transactions are pretty open-ended. What teams do you like, any sets you're working on, are you building any mini collections, stuff like that. But this time was a different sort of swap. Want lists were carefully reviewed. Images were sent for review and approval. And at the end of the day, we hammered out a deal, even though the 1992 Fleer Ultra I originally offered was long gone.

Put your shades on; it's about to get shiny. Unless you're a flatbed scanner.

1995 Topps Opening Day #2 Dante Bichette
Before Topps Opening Day became the standalone product it is today, it was once an insert set found in factory sets of 1995 Topps. It's as shiny as you'd expect for a mid-'90s insert card, and reminds me a bit of some Topps Stars sets from the same period. Lots of little five-pointed stars in the background, and a bit of texture.

I've told my story about the night I stayed up to listen to the end of the inaugural game at Coors Field, the one where Dante Bichette hit a no-doubter in the 14th inning to win it for the home team. I don't really need a card to remember that, but Topps made one anyway, documenting his 2-for-4 performance, including four very important RBIs.

That opening day occurred a bit later in April 1995, on the 26th to be exact, thanks to some lingering fallout from the strike. I do wonder what the folks running the city of Denver thought at the time about having to open their shiny new baseball stadium a month late, but fast forward to today and it's become a great neighborhood to spend time in. Google Maps can barely keep up with the development around the ballpark and nearby Union Station.

Perhaps that memorable 14th-inning home run had something to do with what Denver is today.

1999 E-X Century #43 Dante Bichette
Clear cards like this present a bit of a dilemma. They're practically their own toploaders, but if you like to keep them in a binder, the card behind it disrupts the theme quite a bit. Still, the parts of this Skybox acetate card that aren't clear are pretty shiny, and even the clear areas have some nice purple coloring in the shadowy areas when you hold it up to the light, or even better, to a white background, like a computer screen or an X-ray illuminator (for example). It's a lot like a Topps Tek card, only without the ridiculous fractured numbering. In other words, it's a set you could actually complete.

There's not much in the way of stats or tidbits on the card back, just his 1998 stats, career totals, and the usual birthdate, height, that sort of stuff. But there's enough to notice that Dante Bichette celebrated a birthday on Saturday, and he wasn't much older when this card was printed than I am now.

Time flies.

2000 Upper Deck Hitter's Club Inserts #HC9 Larry Walker
In fact, quite a bit has happened since my last post. The baseball world experienced a tragic rule of threes, the end-of-season awards have been handed out, and next year's spring training schedule (and hats!) was just announced.

2018's Hall of Fame ballot just hit the newswire, and Larry Walker is still on it. Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, and Vladimir Guerrero are my guesses for this year, but you never know when Barry Bonds will get enough of the vote to make it in. Having steroid-using superstars like Bonds and Clemens clogging up the ballot all these years really makes it difficult on the newcomers, leaving more debatable cases like Hideki Matsui and Omar Vizquel with a tough hill to climb.

And if Walker doesn't make it in, I don't think Helton will, which leaves us looking at guys like Arenado and Blackmon for the first Rockie inductee, assuming they keep up their current pace for another decade or so.

You'd think that an MVP award, three batting titles (one of which is documented on this Upper Deck insert), and darn near a Triple Crown would be sufficient. But Coors Field is about as much a kiss of death as steroids, apparently.

1998 Metal Universe #217 Larry Walker HG
Walker had quite the arm, too. He hit from the left side of the plate, but his right arm was an absolute cannon. The ball didn't quite get up to re-entry speeds during his numerous outfield assists, as pictured on this Metal Universe subset card, but he was dangerous to run against. To quote the card, "baserunners know they are in trouble when they see Walker wind up and a colorful flame trail, otherwise known as the baseball, heads toward the base of their choice."

Fleer laid it on a little thick with the outer space theme of this set as a whole, but 1998 was an odd time in the hobby. And Men In Black had just dominated the previous summer's box office, so I can't really fault them for it. It's a lot like Fleer's Pro-Visions cards, with a bit of added shininess befitting a "metal" set. It's not literally metal like the rust-prone Leaf Steel, but at least it's lighter and won't oxidize, like the surface of Mars does.

2013 Topps Opening Day Blue #219 Troy Tulowitzki /2013
It took a while for the Rockies to actually wear purple jerseys in the field. That happened quite a while ago, but it was a familiar sight by the time 2013 rolled around. This was back when Topps was still putting actual serial numbers on Opening Day Blue parallels, a feature I quite miss. I haven't seen these for a while, but they were showing up left and right a couple years ago. Also note the date of April 1st, 2013, a more proper date to begin a baseball season than April 26th.

Us collectors were chasing things all over the place in 2013, and Troy Tulowitzki was busy chasing down Barry Bonds' all-time Home Run record, about 632 short at the time. He's tacked on about another hundred since then, but all the records featured in the "chase" theme seem safe. It would have been a lot more interesting if Topps picked milestones (see this reddit post) that were reachable for some of these players, rather than Cy Young's 511 Wins, a record that will outlast the pyramids.

2013 Topps Heritage Chrome #HC45 Troy Tulowitzki /999
Out of curiosity, do the scratch-off areas of these 2013 Heritage cards actually work like the 1964s did? I haven't tried, and I'm not about to take a coin to this serial-numbered chrome parallel, numbered to just under a thousand. Neither a nickel nor a dime will come anywhere near this card, and especially not a quarter.

Coin buffs out there are likely to know that 1964 marked the end of the line for silver quarters, changing to the copper-nickel alloy we know today. There's no way kids in 1964 could have known that the silver quarter in their pockets and the cards in wax packs would appreciate so much in value a half-century later. But that's a long time to hold an investment, and in that time, the cards got shinier, and the coins duller.

1998 SPx Finite #269 Darryl Kile /9000
Speaking of copper, how about some Upper Deck? They embossed the SPx cards in 1998 with a copper seal, and serial numbered the most common of three varieties to 9,000 copies. The seal is surprisingly detailed; you can even make out "1998" at the top when looking closely. Further inspection with a magnifying glass lets you spot "USWest Sports Complex" below Kile's gloved left hand, set against a deep blue sky, locating this photo to the Rockies' former spring training facilities in Tucson. USWest was one of the "Baby Bells" created after the breakup of AT&T that has since evolved into CenturyLink, taking a similar corporate path that led the Giants' home park to be renamed so many times.

2006 Bowman Chrome Refractors #53 Kazuo Matsui
The first infielder from the Japanese leagues to play in the Majors, Kazuo Matsui, more frequently known as "Kaz", was a former pitcher in his native Japan. Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has been back in the news, with star Shohei Otani looking to make the transition to MLB. The trail has been blazed by now, thanks to numerous players like Hideo Nomo, Hideki Matsui (also on this year's Hall of Fame ballot), Ichiro Suzuki, and many others.

Kaz was a Rockie during their World Series run in 2007, shortly after this ghostly-looking refractor was printed. Bowman always gives us a decent scouting report, and tells us that Matsui (no relation to potential Hall-of-Famer Hideki) used to play for the Seibu Lions. Curiously, just a few days ago, Kazuo re-signed with the Lions as a player/coach, proving his longevity along with fellow countryman Ichiro.

It remains to be seen where Otani will land. Naturally, the Yankees are a favorite, but if it ends up being the Cincinnati Reds, that will mean that every team in the MLB has fielded a Japanese player. The Reds are the lone holdout, something that's sure to be a trivia question someday.

1995 Stadium Club Crystal Ball #CB7 Jason Bates
Jason Bates held the second base position a decade or so before Matsui, performing well as he progressed up the Rockies farm system. That progression earned him a spot in yet another card from 1995 Stadium Club that I've never seen before.

Seriously, was there something wrong with the collation that year? I swear I collected 1995 Stadium Club, and I found heaps of Virtual Reality cards, but it seems like every time I look, there's something else from that set that's escaped my attention for two decades.

Despite the Crystal Ball theme, Topps did about as well as most insert sets of rookie stars, offering up a couple Hall of Famers like Derek Jeter and (soon) Chipper Jones, a few well-known names like Shawn Green, LaTroy Hawkins, and Phil Nevin, plus several others that didn't really amount to much. Prospects are notoriously hard to predict. No one selected first overall besides Ken Griffey, Jr. has made it to the Hall of Fame, but Chipper will likely become the second. A-Rod has a case, and younger players like Bryce Harper are certainly on track. But 2013's first selection, Mark Appel, was DFA'd by the Phillies earlier this week, so it's anyone's guess.

2011 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractors #56 D.J. LeMahieu
Two-time Gold Glover DJ LeMahieu currently holds down the second base position for the Rockies, even though he's pictured here as a Cub. Bowman refractors can always be counted on for a bit of shininess, and every once in a while, they depict a player who has actually made an impact in the Major Leagues. The Rockies were lucky to get him, a player who "plays the game the right way", according to Bowman.

That little green accent on 2011 Bowman prospect cards is a nice touch, especially when it's in the lower part of the card to blend in with the field a bit. Though he's shown in the field where he was recognized with an award this year, his scouting report also tells us that he "usually hits for high average". Little did Bowman know that DJ would one day win a batting title with the Rockies, and award that's become as synonymous with the Rockies as Rookie of the Year is with the Dodgers.

2008 SPx #31 Todd Helton
I've seen cards from this die-cut SPx set before, and while it's not serial-numbered like Kile's, it will fit well with a Matt Holliday card sent by another trader. It's still one of my favorite die-cut designs ever, and this was included in the batch of scans that Scott sent to me for approval that really caught my eye. UD's clever use of shadows really makes this card pop, almost making it look like a secret compartment should slide out from somewhere.

1996 SPx #25 Andres Galarraga
SPx hit the market in 1996 with this design. Their trademark hologram, found on the back of nearly every UD card printed since 1989, inspired them to develop a whole brand around it. They had played around with it in 1994's Holoviews insert set, and they decided to scale it up to occupy most of the card, along with a rounded die-cut design. The only demerit is a practically illegible nameplate on the back, which looks like a rectangle of silver foil unless you look at it just right. We've seen a lot of SPx in this post, but this is the one that got the brand started. And it makes me miss Upper Deck quite a bit.

This is the first card from the '96 SPx base set in my collection, besides the Larry Walker card that Scott also included. I do have Fred McGriff's gold parallel from this color-coded set, which is obviously a lot more red. Coincidentally, those three cards offer a pretty good look at the 1995 NLDS playoff series between the Rockies and the eventual champions, the Atlanta Braves. McGriff whacked two homers in that series, more than both Walker and Galarraga combined.

2000 Bowman's Best Franchise 2000 #F17 Larry Walker
They don't get much shinier than this. Scanners really just don't do it justice. It's a shiny, mesmerising, textured insert card from Bowman's Best, as black on the reverse as it is shiny on the front. The back mentions Walker's home/road splits, a common criticism of Coors Field, and perhaps why he's not been able to make it into the Hall of Fame. But the card is right for the time, "No one puts on a better show for the home folks".

It actually takes a while to notice that the front is actually monochrome. The whole rest of the thing looks like a hundred little prisms, so you don't realize that Walker's image itself doesn't contain any color. That's how shiny it is. And if you ask how much shinier it could be? The answer is none. None more shiny.

Thanks Scott, and I'm glad this trade finally worked out!