Friday, February 12, 2016

All-Star Weekend

Let's look at some new basketball cards. 

It's All-Star Break time for the NBA. I won't be watching the game on Sunday because Damian Lillard, 6th in the NBA in both scoring and assists per game, was left off the team in one of the worst All-Star snubs of all-time. (This is where I can also point out that Portland is a borderline playoff team this year, currently sitting 7th in the West with the top 8 qualifying, making his exclusion even more inexplicable.) Still, I figured this was as good of an occasion as any to show off some shiny new hoops cards I snagged at the last card show in the form of a discounted retail jumbo pack of 2015-16 Prizm.

Mostly, I was really happy with this lot because I pulled 3 Blazers cards (though no Lillard.) Al-Farouq Aminu is one of the nine (!) new Trail Blazers this season and has been a capable starter from the jump, so it was nice to get my first Blazers card of the Chief.

This one, of course, was a must as it slides right into my Drexler collection. I have mentioned this before, but I have always appreciated that NBA sets tend to augment their size with former players of intrigue rather than silly subsets or other gimmicks.

On the insert side of things, Mason Plumlee was an interesting choice for Team USA. With his former Duke head coach calling the shots, it made sense. Plumlee apparently didn't make the next round of cuts for consideration for the Olympics this year, but like Aminu he's been a starter all season in his first year in Portland. I'm also glad that a potential team collector's dilemma was avoided when Panini included the Blazers team name on this card. I like this.

There were other non-Blazers to be found, of course. Opinions on Kevin Love have been divisive, both in and out of his native state of Oregon. I am not a fan. He snubbed my Ducks.

Speaking of things I am not a fan of, last year's All-Star jerseys were horrendous. They reminded me of something they might throw on a player in an unlicensed Star Pics photoshoot from like 25 years ago, or something some fake basketball player might wear in a B movie. Just awful. This year's threads are probably better, but like I said, I'm not going to be watching.

Each one of these packs of packs contains a special retail-only bonus pack of three Red, White & Blue Prizm cards (Panini's version of refractors).

I'm kind of kicking myself for not including this in my shipment of cards to get rid of on COMC. I'll certainly entertain trade offers for it.

Petro is one of the all-time tragic basketball stories (and there are, sadly, many). I'm glad to see that he's well represented on cardboard even though his career was so short.

I am going to make some updates to the Guilt-Free Basketball Club soon, including some of the Super Traders that like NBA stuff. I'll get these (and others that I have piling up) distributed as best I can.

Airbrushed Fridays: 2014 Topps #495

Sans moustache. Oscar predictor. 

Who is he? John Axford is a reliever who came to big league prominence in an unlikely way. While was drafted twice, he came to his first MLB contract as a free agent and was given up on by two organizations before finding his place. In 2011, he tied for the NL lead in saves as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. And he sported some interesting facial hair. Also, he's Canadian.

How did he get here? Axford had a rough couple of seasons in Milwaukee following his stellar 2011 and was dealt to the Cardinals at the trade deadline in 2013. He seemed to have turned things around in his brief time in The Birds on the Bat, which he parlayed into a new contract with Cleveland. He's bounced around since and heads into the new season on a two year deal with the Athletics.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None, but here's the source photo. Which makes me angry. Because as far as I know, there are no John Axford Cardinals cards and there never will be.

Airbrushed Score: 6

Comments: If you want to realize how terrible the photo situation has become with the flagship Topps sets, here's a good example. Look at how bright and crisp this original photo is. And look at what they did with the card after all of the cropping and processing. Horrible. This would have made a great horizontal card.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Trying Something Different

Cutting the flagship out of my life. 

This is the time of the year that I'm supposed to be excited about brand new cards, but I'm trying something different here. I'm just not excited about it anymore, and buying new packs of Topps Series Whatever over the years has come to feel like more of an obligation than anything intriguing. I am just really tired of the thin white UV coated base set that Topps produces every year, where the card stock more or less hasn't changed since... I don't know... 1994? After going through seven consecutive years of boring white bordered cards, with two years (2010 and 2013) nearly indistinguishable from each other, I was actually looking forward to last year's set. The design was daring, and at least, didn't have plain white borders. But it wasn't enough to get me to collect it, and with this year's design looking more and more like it was inspired by Topps BUNT than something you'd want to show your grandkids in fifty years, I just can't do it anymore. At least, I'm going to try not to. I snagged a goodly amount of Cardinals through a group break and am solemnly swearing to not buy a single pack or box of the stuff all year.

There are other things Topps does that I am actually interested in, and one of those sets is last year's Stadium Club set. I only bought a couple of packs last year but am hoping to collect this one on the side and maybe pick up a discounted blaster or two if I'm lucky. I know parallels like this Gold Chris Davis are at best rather unnecessary and at worst a serious annoyance to team and player collectors, but this design is just so good that I don't mind that these things exist.

This is a fitting card for Cespedes, traveling, with bat in tow. He's made quite a few stops already since coming over from Cuba a few years back.

This is one of the rarer Black parallels, and the typography shows up a little better here.

As far as I know, Topps did not set aside a chunk of this set to be short printed, something that's even more of an irritant to a set collector these days. I like this.

I know this card made the rounds quite a bit last year, but it cracks me up too much not to show it off here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Airbrushed Fridays: 2014 Topps #622

Two weeks until pitchers and catchers report. Two weeks! 

Who is he? Dexter Fowler is a speedy outfielder who came up in the Rockies system after Colorado made him their 14th Round draft pick back in 2004. His most productive season at the plate came in 2012, but he was known for having a severe home/road split like many Rockies hitters before him.

How did he get here? Fowler was traded to the Astros, recently moved to the American League, following the 2013 season. He only spent a year in Houston and played for the Cubs last year. He's currently a free agent.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None, but here's the source photo -

Airbrushed Score: 10

Comments: In the Photoshop era, this is about as bad as they come.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Loot Locker, Looted

A review of my January purchase from @thelootlocker 

I've never belonged to a X of the Month Club, so I recently took the plunge and decided to sign up for a box of stuff: baseball card stuff, as it turns out. For the price of a blaster, The Loot Locker lets you pick a sport and purchase a box of curated hobby packs, which is ideal for someone like me who likes a little variety and is down to only one brick and mortar card shop in a 30 mile radius. (I think.)

In addition to some top leaders (both thick and slim) and penny sleeves from Ultra Pro themselves, this month's box included 4 shiny hobby packs. And, yes, candy! The ordering process was smooth, the price seemed reasonable, and I ended up with some trade bait (though not actually a massive pile of cards considering the products selected.) If I have anything negative to say about the experience, I can only say that I do wish that there was some indication that your box was shipped with a tracking number provided. I get the feeling that this is by and large a one man operation right now, so if this thing gets bigger maybe we'll see this in the future.

Let's check out what I got.

2015 Bowman's Best

TP-44 - Brandon Nimmo Top Prospects - I was going to make a Finding Nemo joke, but based on this guy's Twitter name, I'm guessing he's heard them all.

B15-MCH - Matt Chapman Auto - Two cards in and I'm already in autograph land. I'll probably hang onto this one for awhile, if for no other reason than because I've had this blog for nearly 8 years and I've never managed to trade with an A's fan that I can recall. Chapman could be alright someday?

74 - Charlie Blackmon Refractor - This is really a pretty nice design. This was my first pack of Bowman's Best anything ever, and I can't complain about the look.

 2 - James Shields

26 - Starling Marte

2015 Panini Elite Extra Edition

181 - Gregory Guerrero - This is definitely my least favorite product in the box (no logos), but I'm guessing it was chosen by it's heavy autographed prospect potential. This is Vlad Guerrero's nephew according to the back of the card. Which New York is this supposed to be?

174 - Steven Brault

15 - Luis Severino Hype - This insert really threw me for a loop. It's a current major leaguer and not a minor league prospect, it's thinner than the base cards and it doesn't have the same metallic finish. I think I could find a Yankee fan to send this to... I know that's the right New York this time.

38 - Daz Cameron - Kids these days have cooler names than we did.

31 - Kyle Holder - Again, what New York is this? I'm guessing they got scolded for putting (AL) or (NL) in parenthesis.

2015 Bowman Chrome (Pack 1)

64 - Michael Saunders - The final two packs were both Bowman Chrome. This is one of the first years in awhile where I didn't get sick of the Bowman flagship design before the year ended.

BSU-JW - Jesse Winker Bowman Scouts' Updates - Rumor has it that he has to keep his shades on in the dugout, too. Because he's a Winker. And it makes his teammates uncomfortable.

BCP213 - Austin Brice Prospects

BCP172 - Bobby Wahl Prospects - A couple of prospects round out the first pack.

2015 Bowman Chrome (Pack 2)

- Nick Gordon Ad Card - This is some sort of non-counting ad card that advertises some sort of Twitter giveaway that probably already happened. I wonder what other players have these ad cards and if I care about any of them.

96 - Pat Neshek - The baseball card enthusiast and ex-Cardinal got a card in this set. Nice.

BCP165 - Luiz Gohara Prospects

BCP152 - Matt Olson Prospects - More A's. Sheesh.

160 - Nolan Arenado - And this will close out the box.

There were no Cardinals to be found, so all of these cards are up for grabs. Next time, perhaps? One nice thing about the ordering process is that you can just sign up for a one time box (like I did) rather than a recurring order, and I believe there isn't a price difference. I will most likely sign up for future boxes, unless they're full of spiders.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Heritage Surprises

Some unexpected surprises from recent purchases. 

I hit up the local card show a little over a week ago and spent most of my time with my head down at the quarter boxes, snagging some stuff for myself and a few people I owed stuff to. My theme for the year, hopefully, is to avoid unnecessary purchases whenever possible. However, there's no way I can pass up Retail Guy's table, which led me to buying two 2015 Heritage blasters at a deeply discounted rate of $12 apiece.

The first box I opened was a High Numbers box. It was easy to talk myself into these purchases because they're from sets I'm actively collecting. The High Numbers box was the most frustrating from a set collecting standpoint as I already had every single non-SP base card and insert card in each pack, instantly growing my pile of dupes past an already unacceptable level. This set is very small compared to most Topps sets configured this way, and with modern collation being what it is, once you see a familiar card in a pack you know that the whole thing is probably going to be Dupe City.

Still, I can't complain, because look at this thing! It's rare enough to snag a great hit for my personal collection randomly out of a pack, but considering Cepeda's relatively short time (3 seasons) with St. Louis versus the rest of his long career, it's a wonder that this exists at all. I love it. I also did get to knock off 3 short print cards from my want list, including the Kris Bryant card that essentially paid for the box itself.

Blaster number two was from the regular (low? series) Heritage set, where I was able to knock off a couple dozen needs from my list. Cool. Even better, I pulled an on-card autograph of an obscure pitcher from the '60s in Gordon Richardson. A quick Google search tells me that the original 1966 version of this card was Richardson's only MLB card. I usually hang on to any interesting Topps Heritage cards even if I don't actively go after stuff like this if it doesn't fit my mostly Cardinals-centric needs, but I could imagine trading this for another similar card if it made sense.

Finally, you may be wondering about the Nolan Ryan card at the top of the post, which uses the 1960 Topps design that was featured in the 2009 Topps Heritage product. It came to me out of another one of those $4.99 drug store repack boxes that I can't keep myself from buying even though they're mostly recycled Gary Pettis cards. This card, confusingly enough, sports a 2010 copyright... not to mention the fact that Ryan only turned 13 in 1960. It turns out that this is another National promo, similar to some Mantle stuff I found recently in the 2010 design. I am going to hang on to this as well, but I don't really have a good reason why.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Airbrushed Fridays: 1972 Topps #64

He'll be your bro... berg.

Who is he? Pete Broberg was a starting pitcher for the better part of the '70s, albeit not a very successful one. He was the first overall pick in the June draft of 1971, back when there were multiple drafts in a calendar year.

How did he get here? Broberg was drafted by the Washington Senators and went straight to the majors in what would prove to be Washington's last season in MLB until the Expos were moved there in 2005. As such, he was subject to the Topps airbrushing department, where his red cap could remain but traces of his Senatorhood were removed. These days, Broberg is a partner in a Palm Beach law firm.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None

Airbrushed Score: 8

Comments: I don't know... sideburns?