Monday, April 29, 2013

What IS That? #3

OK, a pretty simple one, not much mystery. But not something I've seen on a baseball card that I can recall.

That ring thing there on his index finger. It is of a piece with the Furcal card that I discovered back in early February, though I didn't blab about it to you fine folks until much later. Let's hope the Topps Voodoo doesn't catch up with Brandon this year too.

I don't know a thing about Brandon Crawford. He somehow helped his team destroy my team last October, but I can't recall his contributions to that. This is why I buy baseball cards...perhaps just to know which batters to pay attention to when listening to a game as much as anything else.

And for such curiosity I am rewarded with great sports photographs like this one; simply a basic personal favorite from Series One. I'm considering putting a copy of it on a binder page for "3-D" cards. Those cleats just seem to be coming straight at you, quite a photo there. For now I scrapped the idea, because the only cards I have found that make me think the same thing are other sliding player cards, such as the Brian McCann card. 3-D is of course a card concept from the 1970s Kellogg's sets and from Topps on occasion as well. And maybe 21st Century sports photogs will surprise me with other 3-D looking action that I don't expect eventually. I'm working on a set of "actual" 3-D cards, the 'Opening Day Stars' from where else but the 2013 Opening Day set. As always, I must type .... list coming soon.

Still no time for baseball cards really. I did get to briefly visit with my card collection, and I perused a shoebox (yes, I know) labelled "Various." It turned out to be mostly movie cards, with some baseball nuggets to put up on the blog some sunny but not busy day. The movie cards put me to sleep, much as I am about to experience right now.

I do look forward to pulling the box with whatever year it was that I half-heartedly tried to complete a set of Stadium Club. I think it will look sooooo good in a binder finally, and it has been great to meet y'all out there the last few months as now I know I can actually trade baseball cards and complete a set of them.

It was on a Stadium Club card where I first saw dirt flying in the air on a baseball card, and this still amazes me. I count cards like this as a Dirt Card, though there are other ways for a Dirt Card to make it onto those binder pages.

But what is up with that ring contraption? Does it magically make the catcher and the umpire disappear?

Just looking at it makes you think Brandon must have broken his finger last year. And this magic compendium of all human information ever, right at my fingertips, confirms this quickly.

At first I had this on a binder page with the Furcal card; I was thinking to label a Frankenset 'Play Through The Pain'. It would eventually need a Schilling bloody-sock card, if such a thing exists. But then I noticed I was wanting to fill the page up with cards like this one:

I still might fill up such a page, just to see how many hitters are using those braces. But I don't think they are a result of injury, like the Furcal and Crawford cards.

Injuries have always been part of the game of course. Now they are a part of the baseball cards too.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I thought the stats went on the back of the card

I have loved this card since I first saw it. It's not quite an official In Action card, though the photo does an outstanding job of conveying action. The card would also get a very, very good grade in Photo Composition 101. And I've always liked Dugout Cards. Jacoby is headed out there to get a triple play this inning, you will be Put Out soon enough.

And this is what I think of when I see the two words 'patch card' together - a card that shows the unique patches on the uniforms, particularly the ones that only exist for a season such as that 100th anniversary of Fenway Park patch. I hope to pick up the Dustin Pedroia 'real' patch card some day for my own small copy of that patch.

And such a nice sunny optimistic day at Fenway. No hint of troubled chicken wings in the clubhouse on this card. Or is there? Dark clouds are brewing.....up there in the corner of the card.

Topps cards have always done an interesting job of explaining the game of baseball. Why did the Red Sox trade Josh Beckett last summer? Sure, salary concerns don't factor into baseball cards. They're still for kids, and kids don't need to know about salaries. 'course, everybody tells me baseball cards are overwhelmingly purchased by us grown-ups these days, so you would think contract status and salary figures that are part and parcel of all sports talk now-a-days would somehow leak onto baseball cards one of these days.

Surprise, surprise, I digress again. Why did the Red Sox trade Josh Beckett last summer? Let's ask Topps. Sure, we could go to either of his 2013 Topps cards to see just what happened last year, with his Series One card having more statistical detail than Heritage of course. And he does look a little non-plussed about life on the front of his card this year:

I will spare you the horror of his Heritage card. Maybe it is some twisted part of the explanation of the change of leagues and coasts for veteran Josh. But the horror, the horror. Google Image that one on your own time there if you haven't seen it. Nice stadium Patch Card up there on that Series One card too....finally linking us back to Jacoby's card here. Digression? What digression.

Topps puts it all out there for the world to see:

c'Ya Josh. Fenway has had enough.

How'd that work out for everyone? You can follow the results here, on baseball-reference - Beckett Stats. Probably I'll need his 2014 card (and several others) to really figure it all out, presuming Josh is signed to L.A. for next year. Sure would be nice if my handy baseball card would tell me that. Yeah, yeah, there's a website for that. I just linked to it. But I like flipping over cardboard instead.

So, another case of Topps Voodo? Only time and innings will tell of course.

Sometimes, Topps is smarter than me

Actually, they are smarter than me all the time, since I always give them more money than I think later that I probably should have.

But sometimes, they really surprise me.

In a post back in March, I asked Why Topps, Why?, referencing several of their set inclusion selections this year, ending with a question mark on "Papa Grande".

It seemed like a no-brainer at the time. But unlike Ryan Raburn and Delmon Young, Valverde was neither traded nor had signed with a new team. And though Valverde isn't in Series One or Opening Day and I will be very intrigued to see if he makes Series Two (a Pitcher never makes an Out-of-Bounds catch, so they can't sneak him in as a last-minute Short Print). It was very telling that Valverde was not in the Official Factory Sealed Topps Detroit Tigers® Team Set, though Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit are. Perhaps Topps was starting to re-think this.

And yes, that is a Heritage card up there. I have been buying some of those too, mostly just to have a trade stock to get a set of Managers cards that I can't get in The Base Set. Or the "Flagship" if you must, though that always makes me think of either Star Trek or Master & Commander books I wanna read someday. And I want the Leader cards, Heritage gets those so right. And a certain Memorable Moments card. And Brian Jones on a 'baseball' card. And those nifty cards with a pitcher casually tossing the baseball into mid-air, like he might go back to his original calling as a juggler, if getting paid a few million dollars to be a baseball player good enough to be on a Heritage baseball card doesn't work out good enough. And that wicked cool sky-and-clouds Evan Longoria card. And a card with the crisp "Venezuelan" back-in-black. Tight. And more of those cards with a mysterious small tree growing in the Arizona desert on Colorado Rockies cards. And chain-link fence cards. And light-tower cards. And heck, if I buy any more Heritage, I'll just dream up more reasons to buy more of them for weird binder pages to bind them up in.

But one thing in Heritage was mostly eluding me until just recently, which will make for an epic scan of the most evil card I've purchased in probably forever. That will require blowing the dust off the scanner. Anyhow Heritage just wouldn't give up it's Tigers cards to me. They only played in the World Series last year, you'd think that would earn them a couple more spots on the checklist than usual. But then being swept is almost like they never even played in the Classic at all and it might be better to just pretend that never happened.

Except one card. Jose Valverde. The Tiger released the day after the Series and basically told to not let the door hit him on the way out, got a Heritage card. And a sticker in the sticker set, which was also the only Tiger I could pull out of nearly 100 stickers.

The only-on-Topps 2013 Tiger, and the only one I could get in those two sets, despite lots of "pulling". [Author pauses here to open tonight's acquisition of 2 packs of 2013 Topps stickers, purchased in-lieu-of a few more Opening Day packs since you can't quite get the ones with Opening Day Highlights unless you luck into just the right Wal-Mart. No Tigers. Again. Adam Jones blowing a bubble though, pretty cool. How long has it been since you've seen a baseball player blowing a bubble on a bubble-gum card, errr.....whatever.]

But truth is _always_ stranger than fiction, and tonight Topps' faith in Valverde was redeemed. A 1-2-3 ninth inning for his first save of the year in his first appearance. 18 or 19 pitches, all fastballs, two-thirds for strikes....saving his rejuvenated cut splitter or whatever his fancy pitch is for a real jam some other night. And though Series Two might show that faith to have wavered some with no Valverde card to be seen, at least now they already have an easy spot to fill in all the padding called the Update set.

Color me surprised. And wrong. And totally mystified.

Actually, I have a theory on this. For once, something outside of baseball that might affect a player's performance was kept out of the way overly hyper-active 21st Century media. I kinda hope that is the case; that would be cool. Though for it to be cool, I will never find out.

And I hope Valverde saves 93 or 100% of his chances again this year, like only Mariano Rivera can do otherwise.

But I think my second theory is more fun. Scott Boras has a mole at 1 Whitehall Street. So, get ready for Kyle Lohse to be card #662 this year. It will turn out that at some point in the last couple years while backing up the catcher on a long throw in from the outfield, the ball will have bounced off a squirrel down in the corner of the shot, leading Lohse to attempt a catch Out Of Bounds, which spilled a fan's Gatorade and then tipped over a piece of cream pie the fan next to him was eating. Unfortunately, this could not be explained at the Press Conference, though plenty of boring pictures were taken.

This still doesn't explain the inclusion of all the Alex Rodriguez cards no one wants to see any more in the insert sets. Perhaps this mole is under such deep cover they didn't get the memo from the agency on that.

So though you can wonder and wonder just why Topps, why, sometimes the Topps Voodoo works in mysterious ways.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Town Without Baseball Cards

Well hello there. Long time no read, etc. Hopefully the title of this post will explain myself a little.

But we'll start with baseball cards themselves first. Is baseball card fever dragging me all the way back to the 2010 Fish-Eye Lens set I never liked? No, no, I can easily way overspend on packs of 2013 cards without going back to that terribly framed set, even though William @ Foul Bunt suggests I would like the photography in that one too. I do like the use of orange on the Tigers cards - which led me to recently acquire an Austin Jackson rookie card for a buck. Buying single baseball cards for real money now....what is happening to me? I'm pondering collecting all of his "In Action" type cards as they come out, and I think there will be a lot of them as he may develop a better long-term classic center fielder career than the almost-Say-Hey player Detroit traded to get him, Curtis Granderson. An 'Action Jackson' set. Another post for another day.

And I think I might track down that Andy Oliver card though (and in multiple copies), it has A Lot Going On after all. We've got a spring training shot it appears; chain-link fence is always a give-away for that. Oh dear, I think I just launched another mental Frankenset. It's starting to get a little crowded up there in the noggin, I think I better run out and buy some more blank binder pages. This one would end up in a lot of nooks and crannies of my head collection as we not only have Great Sox here, but on 3 separate people. Lurkers. One of them is wearing Shades too. Looks to be a bullpen session perhaps. 'cept that one serious looking dude (a Tigers minor-league coach methinks) has a baseball bat. In the bullpen. Don't mess with that guy.... he'll show you whether that stuff you can throw is good junk or bad junk. And there's a chain-link fence, you won't escape easily. Are we sure this isn't some sort of Ultimate Fighting nonsense card?

Andy Oliver never really panned out for the Tigers, and he was traded to the Pirates last December for a minor league catcher. I was more interested in the trade as an indication that the Tigers are nervous about their starting catcher's long-term longevity, and a possible need for multiple back-ups, as they added several in the last year or so, at all levels of their Farm. A sticky situation there a little. I'm sure Tiger's GM Dave Dombrowski doesn't look forward to the day when he will someday have to end their current catching set-up.

Oliver is still at AAA Indianapolis, where he is on a tear so far this spring. I'm not that up to speed on the 2013 Pirates Opening Day rotation, but I expect to be, especially when Series 2 comes out and the all-too known "small market" teams get their baseball card due. I'm returning to my youth a fair bit this year, perhaps inevitable when you pick up the baseball card habit again. A good thing, I think. Where I am taking this paragraph? Ahh, we'll my youth I was a Pirates fan. Rooting for the Yank errr, the Tigers, is becoming less appealing to me, and I'm starting to set the Pirates as favorite team on my iPhone app a little more often. There are some other Tiger<>Pirate connections, and I'll be showing you some great recent Pirates baseball cards in the months to come. I live near an actual scanner now....

I was a Pirates fan because of AAA baseball. There was no major league team in West Virginia, but the state capitol had a AAA team, the Charleston Charlies, who could easily enough feed players right up the freeway to Pittsburgh. So the players in the headlines in the best major newspaper my family could acquire on Sundays would then sometimes appear in the discussions of Kubek & Garagiola every Saturday afternoon, albeit a year or three later. So knowing those players a little, I pulled for the Pirates. Oh how glorious it all became when We Were Family, especially when a player's card listed a stop in Charleston on the back. A certain logo on a baseball card can still tee off a certain audio chord structure in my mind. Nowadays, the owner of the sports memorabilia store in Charleston can't even recall what Major League team the Charleston minor league baseball team (no longer the Charlies) is affiliated with. A sad post for some other day.

In that long ago fondly remembered youth, I lived in a very small town there in West Virginia. Was it smaller than John Cougar Mellencamp's? No, probably about the same size - they both had a Tasty-Freez. Perhaps it was just a stroke of luck that I discovered baseball cards at all. There I was one day down at the gas station, probably checking the air in my bicycle tires. This station otherwise only sold motor oil and little bags of Lance peanuts. The Coke machine was out front, hot food came from the diner across the street, and groceries came from the grocery store. Where did baseball cards come from? I didn't know. Until I saw this:

You know the rest, or you wouldn't be wasting your time reading yet another overly long blog post.

I will never know why that one gas station owner decided to sell baseball cards. There was nowhere else in town to get them. Occasionally, he ran out. Then I was stuck waiting with my allowance money burning my pockets till a big family shopping trip to a town so big, it had a 7-11 store. They had baseball cards, mixed right in with the boxes of candy bars in the candy aisle, if you looked closely, and I knew just exactly where to look close.

I just finished a week of work in a great little town — New Lexington, Ohio. Population 4 thousand, 7 hundred something. Zero baseball cards for sale. These places always sadden me a little. No, nor for me, I know all too well how to sniff out baseball cards wherever I go, and it is only getting easier in the 21st century. I just think about the kids growing up in these towns. I knew there was probably only one possible store that had baseball cards - the CVS Pharmacy. But they don't seem to be one of the ℞ chains that carry baseball cards. I did buy some this winter at a Rite-Aid I believe, in New Ellenton, South Carolina, not quite a place as small as they come, and a place with all the big boxes just a half-dozen miles away.

Before New Lexington I worked in Lewisburg, KY for a week. Population one thousand. On the dot. I didn't even bother looking for  baseball cards there. Retail in micro towns focus on life's essentials, and baseball cards aren't one of them.

The rest of the economic activity in New Lexington centered around Kroger, and Kroger grocery stores have never had baseball cards that I can recall. All pretty cashiers in that one though....I think the manager of the place is up to something. There were the usual 2 dollar store suspects - Family, and the General (as in Lewisburg). No Dollar Tree with their unique packs. I used to haunt Family Dollar stores quite a bit as they were the very last bastion of buying regular Topps cards complete with bubblegum. No, not the last year of Heritage + gum. About 2009 or so Topps put their regular cards in Family Dollar packs with gum. I always liked the gum, and I have the dental records to prove it.

Andy Oliver is from a small town in Ohio (Vermilion), one that probably doesn't have baseball cards for sale either, though the nearest WalMart is a mere 9 miles away. Today's blog posting research saga has me possibly wanting my first minor league card ever - the MiLB Heritage issue for his stint with the Toledo Mud Hens, just up the lakeshore from his hometown. I like the thought of a small-town baseball start playing for his nearest local minor league team, and a high level team at that, closely tied to The Show. I just can't stand those wood-paneled cards like the one he is on though. And all this is moving a Bucket List item closer to the top of the list - attending a Mud Hens game in person. I watched a lot of M*A*S*H when I was younger. I'll spare you any more tangential digressions on that one and how it relates to baseball, though not really to cards. For today at least.

Now until you cross the Mississippi, there is almost always a Wally World store within 23 miles (the distance from New Lexington to Zanesville) or so of every point in the eastern United States. So unless some small business owner in New Lexington wants to return to his baseball card youth and ring up Topps for some micro-level wholesale activity, the kids of New Lexington will have to wait til Mom makes the run to Zanesville to get some things at Wally World that just can't be had there in wonderful New Lexington.

And then they can discover baseball cards. But to get some more baseball cards, how can kids ride their bikes 23 miles?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rain Delay

Rain Day, Rain Day, oh Good Lord it's a Rain Day.

That's a reference to the wonderful TV show Wonder Showzen from about ten years ago now. Kids Show, Kids Show, change the channel it's a Kids Show. If you are a grown-up playing with baseball cards, you should probably enjoy the subliminally subversive content of Wonder Showzen. Things like a little kid interviewing a Wall Street stock trader asking him how well the raping and pillaging went that day. Hard to believe it was ever 'broadcast'. I'm usually allergic to television, but that was some prime stuff.

You don't play with your baseball cards? Too bad for you. They are for kids, you know. Gotta get those kids hooked on gambling as soon as possible, so they can step up and buy lottery tickets and support all us old farts.

But I digress. All too easily when stuck in a fast-food joint watching the day's work possibilities get washed away. Such a nice job site too, full of pissed-off cattle and lots and lots of ticks and absolutely zero contact with the digital world. Which means I can't even get box scores on my phone, like I'm living in the 20th Century or something. But then this job-site probably has had cattle on it since the 19th century.

I got my first "Rain Card" in 2011. I didn't realize what it was until I "pulled" the above card sometime in February of this year. I just thought Mitchell Boggs must sweat a lot:

Seriously. I mean, they don't play baseball in the rain. Unless, of course, lots of TV rating$ are at stake (*cough* *cough* Playoffs *cough* *cough*). Gotta pay those ball players thousands of dollars _per pitch_ somehow, starting-rotation-integrity-be-damned.

[Just noticed the nice Alternate Cap he is sporting there. I think those are busted out Sundays only at Busch Stadium, or whatever they call it these days. Could probably be used with the right website to figure out what day Boggs got that Save, but I'm running on fumes this week. Maybe when I work up my Special Cap page / post. Adam Wainwright is getting lonely hanging out with all those Texas Rangers on that binder page.]

So I have been aware of the changes in baseball cards brought on by the digital photography revolution since probably since one of the Stadium Club sets in the 90s. I'll be working on that one sometime this summer, stay tuned.

But I really did think poor Mitchell must have got really intensely worked up there, saving a game in the bottom of the ninth. Until Marco and the ? first ? do-rag baseball card came along this year. Now that would be a terrible Frankenset; I'll leave that to the NFL collectors.

Instead, I'll be out looking for Rain Cards. Sorry Mitchell.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I only need one card. Card #1.

Of course, it needs the Opening Day bunting on it. Do I really NEED it? No, not really. I probably have 3 or 4 copies of it from Series One already, thanks to my parallel problem. But it is the last card I need from the Opening Day set.

And I doubt I have ever worked on completing a set with card #1 being the final piece of the puzzle. But of course, statistically, it has to happen to someone, somewhere, sometime.

And Happy Opening Day everyone! I had a great day, baseball card wise. How could I leave behind a poor, neglected blaster of 2012 Archive on the shelf on Opening Day? Those wrappers suck me in every time. There are just a few things in that set I want, but it is always nice to build up a little more on the farm system to trade away for the pieces you need up there in The Show, i.e., your own personal binders.

I had random other fun with baseball cards today, and was able to listen to most% of the Tigers broadcast, but I am just too tired to write much tonight. In the month of March I was out on job sites 27 days, spent 2 other days driving most of the day (over 4000 miles on the month), and slept for 2 days, with a little blogging thrown in on those 2 off days. April looks to be probably more intense, and I will have an employee or two with me a lot, so blogging will probably decrease some. I do hope to look into that mobile blogger app, we'll see....

....and I dreamed up a horrible, horribly difficult Franken-Frankenset idea that I will need lots and lots of help from the blogosphere from. Let's just say that it will require mass quantities of common player pink, camo, and black parallels. So when you see a random lot of them available, think of me. I'll dive it into strong about May or so.

Now that I have 2013 Topps Opening Day 99.54% complete, I can share a few observations with you.

I have never built an Opening Day set; I could never figure out a good reason to do it. This year I found one in my very first pack:

Sure, there are the now standard short print image variations. In Opening Day, they are all Press Conference cards. BORING. I'd rather have an Umpire Card, and in fact I found two good ones so far in Opening Day, a topic for another night.

What is the big deal on the Angels #1 starter, aside from the hinting on his card that he is thinking Yo Mama can't throw a fastball like this one? Here is his card from Series One:

So for whatever reason, not every card in Opening Day will be the same as their regular Topps issue for the year. And I don't mean the half-dozen or so variations of players part of late trades and free-agent signings who then have all new images in Opening Day, as compared to their already released Series One cards. And yes, I know, those are all Photoshopped. The horror.

How many such "new" cards are there? Right now it is impossible to say, because Series Two won't be out for another 2 months. So anything can happen with that I would think.

But since I really like the sea turtle set this year, I do want all of the cards with that basic design. Well, except for the Press Conference short-prints, and the wrestling "Divas". (Google Image that on your own time, I don't have anywhere close to enough of my own). And there are a couple of the insert subsets I want to finish out (again some other night here).

So I dove in. At least Opening Day is cheap. I did discover one other for sure variation from Series One, possibly:

This card is in Series One, sort-of. The back isn't. In Series One, this image is on a checklist card. In Opening Day, Johan gets a normal card back with all his stats. This would somewhat imply that he would have another card in Series Two, one would hope with a new picture.

Until, of course, the sad recent announcement that his season is over, and quite likely his whole career. Seems like a case of Topps Voodoo to me perhaps. And this could then possibly be his Sunset Card. We won't know until early June; I hope Topps uses the slot in Series Two to instead create a new card. I don't hate Santana or the Mets, I just like to see the Base Set be as efficient as possible.

A similar situation arose this spring with another excellent starting pitcher, who did not have any card in Series One:

I kind of just realized this is a dumb post to put up on Opening Day, one of the happiest days in baseball. Just looking at the expressions on Carpenter and Santana on those two cards definitely has me thinking beware the Topps Voodoo.

So despite overdrawing my time bank once again - you have no idea how long these posts take when internet service with "free wi-fi" has been beyond terrible for the last week or so, but then it frequently is as you get what you pay for - I will leave you with a more fun find from Opening Day, one of my favorite mascot cards this year. Sorry Mariners fans, but everyone knows Elephant trumps Moose:

I laughed at the front, I laughed at the back

Has a baseball card ever flipped us the bird before?

'course, that's just the luck of the shutter there with how Gio holds his glove, so I bet it's been printed on card-stock before. But then, he is smiling. He must know I am working on a Frankenset called Uhh-Oh, The Pitcher Is Smiling At Me.

I spent Opening Night Day driving onwards towards an exciting appointment with my insurance agent tomorrow, then the next day an even more exciting meeting with some guys from state and federal regulatory agencies. The cool thing is my client has to attend that meeting, and the gov't peeps will be telling my client exactly what I have been telling him already, even though his boss refuses to listen to certain facts.

The good news for blog readers is that I got to visit with Geoffrey twice more along the way, and there could be an especially dusty store to visit tomorrow, as I am in a state without an MLB team. But, then, both Toys R Us I went to this morning were also. I didn't find any more of those cut-your-own Verlanders, but I fed my purple jones some more. I'll get one last (hopefully) purple hit tomorrow and then I can put up a full have/need list for 2013 Topps Opening Day.

The bad news is that the 20% off sale on MLB "equipment" at Toys-R-Me is over now. Maybe single stores might still have a buy-one-get-2nd-at-50%-off deal on cards, but I only ever saw that in one store.

I did pick up one trick from the 'ole Giraffe today. I noticed at the second store there were no blister packs of regular '13 Series One on the little free-standing card tower rack thingie that is the flame to baseball card moths like me, even though it has dwindled down to a single side of sports cards. Those Yu-Gi-Oh monsters seem to get stronger every year, be careful out there. So like any experienced big box store shopper, I figured I should check the register aisles for wayward baseball card packages, and there they were, scores of blister packs, rack packs, and fat packs, just waiting to tempt all those milfy baseball fans stuck waiting in line with Jr.'s new video game. How did Griffey make the cover of MLB '13? I dunno, I was busy gawking at something there in the line. What did you say?

I don't really need any more Series One, but those purples kinda sing to me. There's a stack of them on my hotel desk right at hand right now.

Shhhh. I think I can hear them..... I think they're singing "From our imagination,

And when he's tall, he's what we call
A dinosaur sensation!

oh dear, be careful with these things. Quick, turn them over, that will shush them....

oh noooo Mr. Bill, they're still singing! A Topps pun just wasn't strong enough! Maybe these things really are for children after all.