Monthly Archives: October 2012

Monopoly Jr.

The NBA has extended Panini’s exclusive right to produce NBA cards.  This is awful news.  First and foremost, Upper Deck has always been the king of NBA cards.  They just did it right and the last few years without them has been rough.  Secondly, Panini produces ugly cards, so this is much worse than Topps being the exclusive manufacturers of MLB cards.  At least Topps, and the Bowman imprint, produce solid designs.  Finally, with no competition there is no reason for Panini to improve their products, to create classic designs, and move away from the lazy sticker autos and non-sense insert sets.  The scary part is that details of the deal are sparse and we don’t know how long this arrangement will last.

More details here and here.

Very nice.

Hideous.

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Weekend Pickups

Part 1:  Accidental Purchases

I had to run some errands on Friday night, so I found myself at Target.  I am not capable of entering a Target without leaving with some cards, therefore I found myself in the card section.  I was contemplating getting a blaster box of Bowman Chrome but decided that it would be better not to spend $20 on a blaster, instead I decided on a few packs of BC.  I spotted a value pack (discussed herein) and figured that was the best bang for my buck.  Fast forward to the parking lot, I grab my pack out of the bag only to discover that what I grabbed was a value pack of Bowman Platinum.  I’m not a huge fan of BP this year (see previous post), so I thought about going back in and exchanging it but laziness got the better of me and I decided to open it.  Was I glad that I did.

Turns out that this value pack contained what I like to call a “retail superpack.”  A retail superpack is a retail pack that contains an autograph.  I suppose I could have just said I got an autograph, but why be simple when I can invent terms.  I got a Carter Capps autograph out of the pack, now I don’t know who Carter Capps is or if he is related to Matt Capps, but what I do know is that I got an on-card autograph of a Mariners prospect who threw 28 k’s in 25 innings with the big club this season and 19 saves along with a 13 k/9 in AA.  Seems like a solid performer and card worth holding on to.

Aside from a solid autograph I also pulled a few more interesting cards.  First, a Yu Darvish rookie card.  We all know about Darvish, so I’ll save any sort of analysis but i’m hoping to get a few bucks for it since I’m not a Rangers fan.  I also got a Wil Myers Top Prospect card.  Myers looks like he could go on to accomplish big things as a power hitting prospect in the Royals system.  Anecdotally, I watched him almost hit for the cycle in Tucson, putting solid contact on the ball every time he swung, statiscally he hit 37 bombs between AA and AAA along with an average over .300 and a 10% walk rate.  He’ll need to cut down on a high 20’s strikeout rate before he’s a star in the majors.  I also pulled a Troy Tulowitzki Cutting Edge Stars die-cut card.  This is another straight to eBay item given that I’m not a fan of Tulo or die-cuts, however as far as die-cuts go it’s fairly solid lacking the jagged edges that so often make them look stupid and horribly gimmicky.

The value pack also came with a bonus pack of Purple Refractor Prospect cards.  Nothing too exciting here, a couple of solid pitching prospects.  Hopefully something that will be interesting someday.

Shelby Miller

Matt Harvey

While it is still not favorite product, for reasons discussed previously, I can’t argue with good pulls, so overall this was pleasant mistake.

Part 2: Topps Update

I hadn’t purchased any packs of Update since it was released, so when  I found myself back at Target on Saturday I said to myself “no time like the present.”  I didn’t say that, but I wanted some so I got it.   The design is, of course, the Topps base design this year, so you know already if you like it.  I personally think it is solid as I mentioned in my Topps Mini post.  The draw of Update to me is always the rookies and the All-Star relics.  While I was disappointed on the relic front completely (I may have too high expectations for my two pack purchase), I did get a couple of interesting rookies.  First I got Trevor Bauer, who is a very exciting D-Backs prospect out of UCLA.  He has a crazy delivery and an even crazier warmup routine (look it up), but I’m afraid that his arm will explode ala Mark Prior in the next couple of years, so I’m prepared to enjoy watching him for the next couple of years because that is all we may get.

Don’t sleep on 174 k’s in 146 innings between the majors, AAA, and AA. Crazy numbers.

I also pulled a Jodany Valdespin rookie, not the most exciting player but, as I’ve said, the best name.  I do feel like I’ve seen this card before though…

Hmmm…

Maybe it’s because we have…

Reusing photos is bad form Topps, bad form.  Minus 3.

Aside from a few rookies, the rest of my interesting pulls were parallels.  One gold, one target exclusive red, and one gold sparkle.

Yadier Molina Gold

Rhiner Cruz Red.

Anibal Sanchez Gold Sparkle.

Finally, I just wanted to mention that the Oakland A’s yellow uniforms are the best in baseball.  I dare you to argue with me.

Part 3: Panini Prestige

My second target trip also resulted in a couple packs of 2012-13 Panini Prestige.  My dislike of Panini is well known, but I wanted to get a few packs of basketball because it’s basketball season and I’m starting to get excited.  Prestige, unfortunately, suffers from some of the normal Panini trappings, the cards are over-designed and they shift the emphasis off of the photography as whole and just focus on the player featured.  The base cards do use restraint in regards to logos and the bottom borders that contain the players name, so that is a plus.

The rookie cards, as always are the chase.  While the base design is tolerable, the rookie design is too busy.  I wish that Panini would have just used the base design for the rookies, having a different design destroys the continuity and makes it seem like a subset.  Subsets do not hold up over the years.  On a personal note, I was happy to get a Kyrie Irving rookie, while the second round picks have a place in the set, I’m tired of getting them.

Finally I pulled a couple inserts.  First was a Steve Nash Hardcourt Heroes.  I’ll never forgive Nash for going to the Lakers (if he wanted to win he should have gone to the Heat, at least they are not the Suns direct rival) and this card is ugly and it sucks.  Another generic, non-sense Panini insert.  Blech.  The other insert was a  Larry Bird/Magic Johnson Connections card.  This card, by all accounts, should be something I hate; the pictures are cut outs of the players and the card is busy.  But I like it.  The images are of younger Bird and Magic, the foil logo gives it a nice touch and they way the players are off-set is pleasing to the eye.  Another surprising design success by Panini.  Maybe there is hope.

Prestige boasts a solid checklist, featuring this and last years rookies as well as autographs of past, present, and future stars.  The design is tolerable but not special.  Panini needs to look at classic sports card design and get away from gimmicky, 90’s cards to really get it right.  Overall, 3/5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cards for Sale

I try not to make my blog too commercial, but I’d feel a bit remiss if I didn’t try to help myself here.

Please check out my eBay auctions.  I recently had a bunch of Mike Trout stuff graded and am now selling a bit of it.  There is also quite a few other items for sale at the moment.

Check it out.

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Time Machine: 2013 Bowman Baseball Preview

Apparently Bowman week at Pack a Week continues.  Today Bowman posted a preveiw of their 2013 base product on Facebook (see gallery for images).  So here is my take on the new edition of my favorite product.

The good:  Autographs, autographs, and more autographs.  Bowman is including, as usual, as many rookie and prospect autographs as they can pack in.  Beyond their usual chrome prospect and rookie autos, they are bringing black the Bowman Black autos (black card, silver marker, super sleek) and including Franchise Dual Autographs.  Bowman is also throwing in Oversized 1948 Style autograph box topper cards.  I love the idea and, given that they are limited to /20, they should make for good chase cards.  It is the 65th anniversary of Bowman and I like them going back to the well and making chase cards out of the original design.

Let us not forget prospects, prospects, and prospects; it’s what Bowman is known for.  We don’t know the checklist yet, or who we’re going to be chasing, but it’s so much more interesting getting a new guys first card then Pujols 10,004th.

Bowman returns all the normal paralells, which produce good return on the secondary market (it’s always nice to off-set the cost of the box).  Certain paralells, and the printing plates, are jumbo only.  That may be a bad in some peoples eyes, but it’s a good for me because I always buy a jumbo box.  As an aside, anyone who can afford the jumbo that doesn’t buy it is a fool, you get so much more bang for your buck.

The mini trend made it’s way over to the sister product.  Bowman is inserting Mini Chrome Prospect cards in the packs.  I love the little guys and I would love them more if they weren’t chrome.  Which brings me to the bad.

The Bad:  Too much chrome.  Bowman already puts out a 100% Chrome product, why must there be so much Chrome in the base product this year.  Almost all the inserts and autos are chrome.  Even the Top 100 prospect set is chromed, which bums me out because it’s my favorite insert and brings me to my next point.  The Top 100 prospects insert set looks hideous.  The design is stupid and futuristic and the inclusion of refractors and die-cuts only makes it worse (bad designs are not improved by making it even shinier or giving jagged edges, it’s poop either way).  The Top 100 set will only be redeemed if I pull a die-cut auto that I can then sell for a Benjamin.

The most disappointing thing, however, is that the base card design is not so hot.  The borders are intrusive and busy, and as you know I hate busy.  The base set really reminds me of a Topps set, which is ok but doesn’t fill me with the same joy as the normal, simple, clean Bowman designs.  Every few years Bowman has an off year where they go overboard on the design elements and disappoint me.  I can get past it because it’s Bowman, but I really wish they would stick to the simple formula that makes them my favorite.  Bowman cards really need to continue to rely on solid prospect checklists and autographs and clean designs with good photography; it is the essence of the hobby.

The Interesting:  The Ultimate Prospect Card featuring autographs of 25 players.  How big is this card?  Is a two card book covered in stickers or a 25 card book, ala Panini, with a single card for each player.  How much will it sell for?  Will the ebay price make me angry?  What if I pull it?  Just kidding, I never pull anything like that, but I am interested to see what this thing is.

Lucky 5 Redemption.  What is this?  Will they be buybacks?  I love buybacks, especially if they’re autographed.

Blue Sapphire Refractor Program.  These cards will be inserted across various Bowman products next year.  They appear to be reprints of iconic Bowman cards with shiny blue borders.  I love the reprint idea to celebrate the 65th anniversary, however the blue borders look gaudy.  I will reserve judgment until I see the checklist and the cards in person.

In closing, Happy Anniversary Bowman.  I can’t wait until May.

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Retail Pickup: 2012 Bowman Chrome

‘Tis Chrome season.  First Topps then Bowman.  While Chrome is not my favorite color, I do love Bowman so I was more excited about last weeks release then I was about Topps Chrome a few weeks earlier.  I thoroughly enjoyed this years Bowman design.  It had clean lines as usual, quality photography, and nice borders.  While I prefer the non-Chrome version, I appreciate the design even at it’s shiniest.

I decided to forego a box of Chrome (I’m saving my remaining yearly box money for Bowman Draft Picks) and did not have time to hit up the local card shop, so I settled for a value pack from the local retail outlet.  The value pack includes three packs and bonus pack of green refractor cards.  The packs contain three cards each, with one being a prospect.  The package advertises a “bonus pack of 3 green bordered xfractor propspect parallel cards,” but they are lying they are not all prospects and they are not xfractors.  I will forgive them for their oversight, but only because I couldn’t stop buying Bowman if I wanted to.

Here’s the haul:

Green Refractors of Gio Gonzalez, Jason Heyward, JaDamion Williams.  Nothing too exciting here, two minor star types and a speedy prospect with potential to move up in the Twins organization.

Is it just me or did Jason Heyward age 15 years?

All-Star Futures Game Tommy Joseph insert.  These inserts are are moderately tough pulls at 1:12.  It would have been much nicer if it had been the relic version.  As for the design itself, I find it to be overly stylized and busy.  It’s a definite eBay listing in my book, though I’m not sure the market exists for Joseph.

Jordanny Valdespin rookie.  Best. Name. In. Baseball.

Jordaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaany Valdespiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Base cards of Paul Goldschmidt, Nelson Cruz, Dan Haren, and Yunel Escobar.  I’m a big fan of Goldschmidt.  He reminds me of Adam LaRoche with more upside and hitting at Chase Field could mean some monster home run seasons when he fully develops his power.  The D-Backs are my NL team, so I’m hoping that him and Justin Upton can really come together in the next few years to get the D-Backs back in contention.  By the way, what the hell happened to Dan Haren, he fell off a cliff.  His groundball rate is down, his home run rate is up, and he’s walking a lot more guys.  Truly a recipe for disaster.  I’m wondering if he’ll bounceback or if this is it considering he’s 32.

Finally, prospect cards of Roberto De La Cruz, Lane Adams, and Jamal Austin.  I don’t any of these guys by name or reputation.  Basing my opinion completely off the information contained on the back of the cards I would say that De La Cruz is the most interesting.  He is a 20 year old third baseman out of the D.R.  He’s a power hitter who looks like he could stick at third.  The last time the Cardinals had a Dominican power hitting third baseman in the minors he turned out to be Albert Pujols.  Wishful thinking I suppose.

I love this years Bowman design and the checklist is solid, including multiple autograph sets (a must in a Bowman product), Futures Games Relics, and Futures Game Hat redemptions (this is where they send you a dude’s hat, pretty sweet), so I’ll give it a 4/5.  The value pack was a decent value even if the cards weren’t Harpers or Trouts and I would recommend it for those on a budget.

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Art: Left Field Cards

Sports cards are a visual medium.  This is a fact.  As a visual medium, one would imagine that there would be some importance placed on their visual aesthetics.  Unfortunately this is often not the case.  Sports cards are often hideous, ugly things.  Where good design exists, I appreciate it, though in the way I appreciate good graphic design.  This means I appreciate it for its thoughtful design and it’s ability to visually pleasing.  It does not necessarily mean that I think it is interesting in the way that good art is interesting.  Sports cards, for the most part, do not have any intrinsic value related to their worth as a visual medium.  What I mean by this is that it is rare that someone wants a card strictly based on how it looks.  People generally want cards for one of four reasons: low print run, autograph, memorabilia, or because it is a rookie card.  All of these main reasons to chase cards are completely independent of how the card itself looks, and, in fact, people often chase cards in spite of how they look (see my Gem-sanity post).

While I do chase cards because of who signed them or because they are a rookie (I do not, out of principle, chase low print run cards unless I like it for another reason), I also seek out cards that look cool.  I can often obtain cards that suit my aesthetic sensibilities on the cheap because they often don’t fall into one of the four criteria listed above.  While I appreciate that I can get the cards I want cheap, I also think it is a shame that I can get them so much cheaper than an ugly card which is limited to 50 copies.  We all make a visual medium our hobby, but very few of us appreciate it as art.  While a lot of is not art, we need to hold up the cards which are well-designed to be the standard bearer.  Only if cards can be appreciated based on their design, will the cards themselves ever be intrinsically valuable.  While an autograph or a memorabilia card can be intrinscially valuable becauase of what is on the card a card that is a /50 or even a /1 is not intinsically valuable in any way if no one appreciates it for what is on the front.

That brings me to the topic for today: Left Field Cards.  Left Field Cards are letter press baseball cards, which also double as post cards.  Left Field Cards is operated by Amelie Mancini, who (now I’m stealing from her blog) moved from Paris to New York in 2006 and became a Mets fan (I will forgive her for picking the “other” New York team).  She is an artist who turned her eye to art of cards in 2011.  Left Field has now produced four themed series of baseball cards/post cards.  These series include Bizarre Injuries, Edibile All-Stars, Marvelous Moustaches, and the timely United States of Baseball which feature players who share last names with presidents.  Each series contains ten cards split into two five card packs.

When I first saw her blog, and the cards, I was taken by the art style.  The drawings are simplistic in the right way, they highlight the details perfectly and are interesting on more than one glance.  The colors are bright and vivid.  The cards are interesting and beautiful (an adjective I don’t often use for cards).  They actually looked like art and I knew I must have them.  I decided to make my first Left Field pack Marvelous Moustaches Pack One.  I settled on this because as a bearded person I appreciate good facial hair and because it contains Don Mattingly, who is a beloved Yankee (his moustache is also referred to as the “Magnum” which is separately awesome).

I received my pack earlier this week and although I knew what was in it I was just as excited as I would be for a box where I was chasing something.  I knew immediately that I would not be disappointed because the outer packaging was stamped with the coolest return address I’ve seen in a while (if ever).

After tearing into the outside envelope, I laid my eyes on the best designed pack that I’ve opened.

Note the nice note attached. You’re welcome.

The pack itself has a place in my collection, but the cards themselves are the true treasure.

Amazing!

Because they are printed on a letter press, they have a cool texture that doesn’t show up in pictures and it makes for a cool effect.  The cardboard itself is high grade and these just feel like they are of the highest quality.  I’m not going to ramble on about how awesome they look, you can see for yourself.  These cards give me hope that baseball cards can be treated as something other than a commodity or a stock certificate and can be appreciated for what’s on the front, not for what Beckett says they’re worth.  These are cards as art and if our hobby is ever going to be something bigger and better than what it it we need more cards that allow us to appreciate them for art and photography and not low print runs.

Please support Left Field Cards, buy some packs.  Lets start a revolution where cards are thoughtful, well-executed, beautiful, and intrinsically valuable because of what’s printed on the front.

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One Win Short

The Washington Nationals lost game 5 of the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals. They lost in heartbreaking fashion, collapsing in the 9th inning and losing the series. This loss was not only heartbreaking because of how it was suffered by because this was the first time that a Washington baseball team had made the playoffs in almost 80 years. That is an insane playoff drought.

Washington made a great run this season. Years of high draft picks and solid management allowed Washington to put together a fantastic rotation and a decent offense. They finished the season with the best record in baseball. They also called up Bryce Harper, who, with the exception of Mike Trout, is the most exciting young player in baseball. Harper will likely be a fan favorite for years to come and should be a big draw for the Nationals. I, for one, hope that he lives up to the hype and that the Nationals can keep him in Washington. It’s good for the team and for baseball to have guys who define teams. The MLB would really lose something if guys like Jeter, Ripken, Gwynn, and George Brett didn’t exist. Without those types of guys baseball loses its identity. Nobody wants a league of mercenaries who change teams every three years.

Kudos to Washington for what they’ve put together. With players like Harper, Zimmerman, Morse, and Gio Gonzalez their future looks bright, I’m thinking an NL version of the Rays, but with a stronger upside because they are in a better market. However, I’m here today to talk about Stephen Strasburg, the centerpiece of their rotation for years to come. He’s a guy who threw 197 strikeouts in 159 innings. He had a 3.16 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He put up a 2.82 FIP (that’s fielding indepenet pitching, click the link if you don’t know about it).  Not to mention a 4.3 WAR.  He is an ace, a certifiable ace.  We all know that, me, you, the pundits, and the hobby.  If the Nationals can keep him and Harper healthy and under contract, they are a force to be reckoned with.  Washington did not use him in the NLDS.  Let me repeat that, they did not use their best arm in the playoffs.

I understand that Washington wanted to shut Strasburg down after 160 innings.  He is a young pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery and they didn’t want to push his innings ala Mark Prior.  They wanted to “protect their investment” for years to come.  But why are they invested in him?  The answer: to win.  They want to build a winning club.  But they have built a winning club, this years club.  They had the best record in baseball behind the best pitching staff in the majors.  They were set to win this year and they blew it because of an artificial innings cap that they created.  This could have been their year but they will never know because they wouldn’t allow Strasburg to pitch at least six more innings.  One Strasburg start in the NLDS could have made all the difference in the world.  They were one win away from moving on.

The Nationals set a four man rotation of Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, and Ross Detwiler for the NLDS.  In their defense, we saw solid performances out of Gonzalez and Detwiler.  Jordan Zimmermann was shelled in game 2 and Jackson in game 3.  Now, we know that Zimmermann remains in the rotation even if Strasburg is in it.  If Strasburg starts a game then either Jackson or Detwiler are displaced, most likely Detwiler, as he was the fourth starter.  Now, you may be saying that you’d basically be replacing one of their solid starters in the series, and you’d be right.  But you’d also have a different pitcher for game 2, assuming that Strasburg is slotted as the nubmer 2 starter to avoid giving him two starts, which was a huge loss for the Nats.  Strasburg starts game 2 at St. Louis, maybe works some magic and they go back home up 2-0.  This takes a lot of pressure off of the other starters, gives Zimmermann a home field advantage and maybe we’re talking about a San Francisco and Washington NLCS.  But we’ll never know because Washington decided they weren’t all in for this year.

I sincerely hope, for the sake of the Nats fans, that they make the playoffs in the years to come, because if they don’t sitting Strasburg may go down as one of the dumbest moves of all time.  You always have to play for this year.  Next year may never come (at least the playoffs may not).

This card has sold for some ugodly sums of money. He still hasn’t started in the playoffs though. Frowny face for Nats fans.

P.S.  I’m really tired of the Cardinals.

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Weekend Pickup

What do Greg Maddux playing wiffle ball, Jim Kelly dressed as Tony Montana, William Tecumseh Sherman, a golfer who wears two gloves, and the single season NCAA women’s basketball scoring record holder have in common?  The answer: nothing except the fact that they were all in my pack of 2012 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions.

Wiffleball hall of famer, Greg Maddux?

WTF?

Histories.

“Derek doesn’t know who I am.”

This portrait was brought to you by a fourth grader. Sorry Jackie.

I can say with some certainty that this is the first pack of Goodwin that I’ve ever purchased.  I normally don’t go for the non-licensed, multi-sport stuff, but this was the only thing at the local shop that I hadn’t opened yet, so I thought I’d give it a try.  Firstly, I’m going to review this not based on my pack, which was awful, but on the design of the product.  I’m doing my best here not to let my disappointment in a single pack bias my post.  However, the design itself is too generic for my liking.  It is basically the stock “vintage” card design, which we have all seen quite a few times.  It does include painted portraits instead of photographs, which I appreciate if done well but, as seen on the Jackie Stiles card, these portraits are not top notch.  Black borders are a plus in my book, but otherwise the design is a bit of yawner.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not offensive to my eyes but it’s just not much to talk about.

The actual portraits on the other hand, they are something to talk about.  Since Upper Deck lacks a baseball license we can’t expect Greg Maddux in a proper uniform, but wiffleball?  Kudos I say, wiffleball is underappreciated and I believe an Upper Deck and Greg Maddux team up can bring it to the forefront of American culture.  Who doesn’t love crazy screwballs and 53′ home runs.  Truly the sport of kings.  Jim Kelly, WTF, why buddy?  I know the movie was big and all, but try to maintain a little bit, ok?

Jim Kelly or Al Pacino? I just don’t know.

Another kudos to Upper Deck for drawing our attention to what can only be a ‘separated at birth’ situation.  Not much to say about Tommy Gainey (other than who is Tommy Gainey?) and William Tecumseh Sherman, but someone owes Jackie Stiles an apology.  I googled her and that portrait should offend her.

I suppose the draw of Goodwin Champions is a stacked autograph checklist.  Upper Deck’s stable of stars, including Lebron, MJ, and Tiger, are all accounted for, as well as some other interesting signers like Mike Tyson, Arnold Palmer, and Nolan Ryan.  There are also relic cards including JFK, Eisenhower, and Joe Jackson.  This is obviously a hit based product, so I recommend buying a box if you’re at all interested (three guaranteed per box).  Buying single packs puts you at risk for what is shown above.  Design 2.5/5, auto and relic checklist 5/5.

My local card dealer also threw in a pack of 1991-92 McDonalds edition Hoops.  These were the packs that included the Dream Team cards.  I got a Magic Johnson.  See for yourself.

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Left Field Cards

Letterpress baseball cards, postcard-size.

Bad Wax

Musings of a Card Collector

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Analyzing reality TV, and the world, at the same time