Saturday, November 29, 2014

Good Luck Ducks, Week 14: Civil War

Can a rivalry game also be a trap game?

The Civil War is upon us yet again. Last season, a reeling Oregon team barely survived the matchup with the in-state rivals on their own turf in a game I managed to completely block out of my memory. (Except for the uniforms. Oh, the uniforms. My eyeballs melted.) This time around, Oregon State is a bit worse for the wear, needing a win today to become bowl eligible. Oregon has much more on the line, with a potential spot in the new 4-team playoff on the line.

The Ducks, with a healthier Marcus Mariota (new Pac-12 single season TD champion!) this time around, simply cannot afford to look past a hungry Beavers team and think about next week's conference championship game. They locked up the North division some time ago, but it would help tremendously to have an efficient performance like last week's Colorado game. Mariota has actually been noticeably better away from home, so the hope is that he can continue to dazzle and takes down Oregon State early.

The last three visits to Corvallis have not been close. I expect the Ducks to be fired up now that they've suffered a loss, and then climbed back up into national title contention while moving past the protection issues they suffered earlier in the season. This could also be Beavers QB Sean Mannion's final showcase before he enters the NFL Draft, so we could be in for a wild shootout no matter what the outcome.

The last Civil War at Reser Stadium wasn't close, despite both team's Top 15 rankings.

Game time is 5:00 PST with national TV coverage on ABC. Go Ducks!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Airbrushed Fridays: 2014 Topps #646

Take a break from buying things to check out this Photoshopped thing.

Who is he? For the second straight week, we have a former Cardinal on a 2014 Topps Series 2 card. Haren was a one-time pitching prospect with St. Louis and was at the heart of the deal that brought Mark Mulder over from Oakland. While Haren began to develop in the Bay Area, Mulder struggled to figure out where his arm should be when he threw the ball and quickly found out that his MLB days were numbered. After his first All-Star appearance, Haren was part of a big prospect swap with Arizona that returned Carlos Gonzalez among others. (CarGo was flipped again when Oakland acquired Matt Holliday, who the Cardinals eventually snagged for spare parts. Weird.)

How did he get here? Haren's best years were with the Diamondbacks, but he's bounced around with limited success ever since, with stops in Anaheim, Washington, and now Los Angeles. The Dodgers signed him to a two year deal last offseason despite the fact that he's essentially been a league average starting pitcher for multiple seasons now.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None, but here's the source image.

Airbrushed Score: 9

Comments: Does anyone have any idea why Haren is wearing #11 in this photo? He wears #14 with the Dodgers and previously wore #15. This is both awful and mysterious.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cards from Across the Border: Cardinals Edition

A trade so nice I split it thrice.

Occasionally I'll get a package of cards in the mail so generous that I can't conceivably do it justice with my typical five-images-and-a-few-comments approach. A package arrived from Sportscards From The Dollar Store recently that felt deserving of a little extra attention, so I will be splitting it up into three entries. And since I am admittedly pretty stingy with baseball (and Cardinals) content this time of year, I am rolling out the Cardinals portion of this trade first. It does not disappoint.

Breyvic Valera was a name I'd never heard before I opened this package. A quick scan of his Baseball Reference page reveals that he was signed out of Venezuela at age 18 and has hit for average while playing all over the field in his 5 years of pro ball.

Siegrist, the super late round draft pick, basically had a lost season in 2014 after debuting last year as a flame throwing southpaw no one had heard of. It will be interesting to see if he can return to the level of promise he showed at first blush.

I was really excited to pick up a pair of Cardinals certified autos, including this Carlos Martinez card from last year's Bowman Sterling set. Martinez's friendship with the late Oscar Taveras goes way back, and he has switched his familiar number 44 to 18, which Taveras wore in his brief time in a Cardinals uniform.

The other autograph is from the same set and is of another Oscar. Mercado was a 2nd round pick last season and is a young shortstop that has years ahead of him to develop in the Cardinals farm system. The strange thing is that these two cards appear to be from the same set, yet one has an on-card autograph while the other is signed on that familiar shiny sticker. It's not like Topps has ever heard of continuity, though.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Good Luck Ducks, Week 13: The Home Stretch

After another week off to heal some injuries, Oregon hits the field for their final home game of the season.

Emerging star tight end Pharaoh Brown suffered a devastating knee injury on the field at the end of the Utah game, but Oregon otherwise survived a tough and crazy game and came out on top in what was likely their last real test of the regular season schedule. Now, comes the hard part. Can Oregon stave off boredom and malaise in their final two games against the dregs of the conference before an expected tough Pac-12 Championship game in December?

Colorado has been wretched since they joined the conference, and have zero Pac-12 wins this season. However, they've managed to keep nearly all of their games close, which should be a red flag to the Ducks. On top of that, game time weather conditions are expected to be less than ideal. It never rains in Autzen Stadium, however, so it remains to be seen how that will be reconciled. I also usually never talk about the weather here, but I'm going to be attending this one. Ominous!

If all goes according to script, this feels like a game that will be decided early. In what is 99.99% certain to be Marcus Mariota's last game in Eugene, I think the starters will be rested much earlier than they have been in other situations this year. Mariota has played in almost every quarter of the season, which has certainly bolstered his stats (and his so-called Heisman credentials), but I think the smart play here is to keep him out of harm's way if it can be helped these last two weeks.

Last season's meeting with Colorado had a lot of strange shadows. And not a very close score.

Game time is 1:30 PST with national TV coverage on the Pac-12 Network. Go Ducks!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Airbrushed Fridays: 2014 Topps #428

I have yet to find a single Photoshopped card from 2014 Topps Update, so here's something from Series 2.

Who is he? Once a Cardinals organizational soldier, Skip Schumaker has become something of a journeyman in his post-Rally Squirrel days. Unfortunately, the most notoriety the outfielder (and one time second baseman) seems to get these days is when he takes the mound in the late innings of a blowout.

How did he get here? After departing St. Louis, Skip spent a single season with the Dodgers, accumulating a -1.4 WAR in his time there according to whichever WAR metric that Topps uses. Former Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty likes to acquire any and every ex-Cardinal he can find so he can put them back in Red and dream of the good times, which must be how Schumaker ended up in Cincinnati as a free agent.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None, but here's the source image.

Airbrushed Score: 7

Comments: Okay, without cheating, can anyone name the ballpark Skip is playing at?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Finest a Junkie Can Offer

When the chips are down, the Internet gives me Chipz.

Awhile back, I made a plea for some Topps Chipz. I really like the things, but I was bummed that I didn't have any Cardinals. I can now claim to be the proud owner of two Cardinals Chipz (Hello, David Freese!) Chipz don't make the most impressive scans, however, so I decided to focus on a few other things that The Junior Junkie sent my way earlier this month.

I think Pacific paralleled everything an unparalleled number of times in their heyday. No, we will never collect all of the colors of all of the players we want.

This just looks like a regular old Topps Gallery card, but it's actually one of those refractory thick cards.

I know I defended this year's Stadium Club a bit at one point, but here's where the set really loses me. Isn't this a set that's supposed to pride itself on its unique photography? Isn't this the exact same photo used on one of those The Future Is Now inserts? Inexcusable. I realize that there's a finite number of quality photos that can be used (since Topps apparently only uses Getty Images instead of its own photographers), but they are so lazy that it's making collecting cards seem even more pointless than usual. Also, adios to Shelby Miller. He's a good pitcher, but I never really took to him for some reason. He'll do well in Atlanta, and I'm just glad they're not in the same division as the Cards.

This was easily my favorite card that I pulled out of the package initially, but I had no idea what this was until reading Night Owl's very informative post last night. This is a Kellogg's card! And Kellogg's, for some reason, made a non-faux-3D set for one weird year before returning to their senses. It doesn't actually say "Kellogg's" anywhere on the card, but it does tell me that Torre is big into "golf" and "popular music".  I wonder if Torre was a Jim Croce man or if he was more into Tony Orlando and Dawn?

One thing that's great is that people buy Topps Finest (so I don't have to!) I could probably enter a group break or something, but I can't really afford it. It feels like this year's set does a capable job of honoring the '90s Finest days.

See, this is wild! This, maybe, not so much.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Fantastic Rack Pack

I didn't even have to use my A.K.

I was having a pretty lousy Monday (yesterday) when I stopped at the Rite Aid for some cans of soup and some beverages. Rite Aid is a pretty sad place to look for cards, but there happened to be a couple of 2014 Topps Series 2 rack packs on one of the endcaps, calling my name. I picked up one because I'm a sucker. It turned out pretty well.

I actually got a card for my collection, for starters. I am actually missing a ton of Cardinals inserts from Series 1 and Series 2 as well as a good chunk of the Update Series team set.

Not that it doesn't clash with everything, because it does, but the "red hot foil" really superclashes with this guy's camo uniform.

Hey, a rookie card of the Rookie of the Year. I can't complain about that.

It gets better, though! A camo parallel of an actual star player? Hard to believe for a pack that could and probably would have sat on a drug store rack all winter until some employee accidentally knocked it on the ground and swept it up with whatever debris people tend to leave on the floor of drug stores.

And here's one of those SABR variations I've been hearing so much about. BABIP Away!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Offseason Cards from Off Hiatus

A big trade today doesn't stop the trade posts.

Another big batch of cards I needed came through the door recently, courtesy of Off Hiatus Baseball Cards. Tony may be a fan of a team that I really wish would go back to the American League where they belong, but he runs a great blog and is a great trader to boot. He sent over a bunch of Allen & Ginter cards from the most recent set that I'm woefully behind on collecting, as well as some key Cardinals needs.

I have to admit that the Jose Canseco finger story grossed me out so much that I had to stop reading about it. Disturbing. What an insane person.

Jason Motte has probably pitched his last game with the Cardinals, but he is one of the nicest guys in all of baseball. He wasn't content to just undergo the lengthy rehab from Tommy John surgery to focus on getting back in game shape. He made his foundation's Strike Out Cancer campaign his personal mission and pretty much dominated social networking in 2013 to spread awareness. Very cool guy. This is a player with an already remarkable baseball career, converting from catcher to pitcher in the minors to eventually become the closer on a World Series winning team.

The Man.

Trevor Rosenthal may have a little competition next season for the closer's role. Jordan Walden will be joining the bullpen as a piece of the Jason Heyward/Shelby Miller trade. Walden was an All-Star in 2011 while spending most of the season in the closer's role and has been a very solid guy in the bullpen throughout his career.

I can't wait to see Michael Wacha in a key role in the rotation in 2015. He's fun to watch when healthy.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Airbrushed Fridays: 2010 Topps #344

Altered photos on baseball cards for the masses.

Who is he? Brett Myers was a serviceable member of the Philadelphia Phillies rotation for the better part of last decade (whatever we are calling that). He was a member of the World Series winning 2008 team, though he struggled for much of the season and lost his only World Series start. Myers spent much of the 2007 season as a closer, a role he would later revisit.

How did he get here? Houston signed Myers as a free agent early in 2010. The rebuilding Astros needed a veteran starter and he apparently fit the role, though he'd eventually spend some time in the closer role as well.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None

Airbrushed Score: 8

Comments: This is truly an awful look for the Photoshop era. Topps seems to have actually turned a corner if the latest Update Series set is any indication, but back in 2010 things were still pretty ridiculous. Parts of Myers on this card almost look like he's in a video game.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fantastic Trade

Just like the cold weather, the trade packages keep rolling on in.

I don't trade with Cardinals fans often enough, which is a shame because I have more extra Cardinals cards in my possession than the entire rest of the National League combined, or at least it's feels that way. Recently, I came to my senses and exchanged goods with Fantastic Catch. It was pretty fantastic.

The Blazers are off to a nice start this season, with a 6-3 record in their first 9 games. Tonight they trounced Denver on the road by putting 84 points on the board in the first half alone. I can get behind this. LaMarcus Aldridge is the cornerstone of the franchise and can set himself to break all sorts of franchise records if he ends up signing a contract extension after this season is up. (I am trying not to let this keep me awake at night.)

Two collecting worlds collide with this card. Casey Matthews was a popular linebacker at the University of Oregon, and now has been thrust into an important role in the Philadelphia Eagles offense, my favorite pro team since 1990 or so.

I have no idea what to make of this card. Is this supposed to be a can of soup or something? Upper Deck's post-license Goodwin Champions sets are really bizarre and rather off-putting. This still gets into the Ozzie binder because that's how these things work.

Here's another one for the Ozzie binder, and it's one with a more traditional look. Hey, it's Ozzie #510 for the collection!

2x3 Hits

All hits, all the time.

I just got home from the Blazers game (big comeback win against the Charlotte Horn-cats) a little while ago, so this is going to be a brief one. I got hit 'n run by JediJeff again and thought I'd show off some of the goodies of a recent envelope I received. He struck repack gold, so to speak, with some autographed cards he pulled and decided to pass along the good fortune to me. This included an on-card Chris Perez autograph from the ill conceived 2008 Topps Stadium Club set. This is the same set that Erin pulled a Jeff Clement (!) redemption card from which took over a year to fulfill if I remember correctly. Maybe it took Clement that long to realize he used to be a baseball player?

My scanner did something really weird to Matt Holliday's name on this 2014 Topps Chrome refractor. This is Matt Holliday #237 for me.

Another repack auto, this one of Kyle McClellan. This is actually a big deal to me, all kidding aside, as I'm trying to collect a certified autograph of every member of the 2006 and 2011 World Series winning teams. K-Mac was a starter for much of 2011, so he was able to contribute that season in ways that go beyond his one postseason inning that year.

Oh, the wonderful blockiness of an Xfractor! It'll be interesting to see if Rosenthal keeps his job as closer going in to next season. Mike Matheny was pretty loyal to his guy throughout this past season, but next season is a new season for a reason.

This one is really nice! Topps has really stepped it up with the inserts in Chrome recently. I actually obtained another one of these via Listia recently, so I have it up for grabs if there are any offers out there. I think I know of at least one Wainwright collector who isn't strictly a Cardinals fan.

Monday, November 10, 2014

One "Weird" Trick to Get Baseball Cards in the Mail

Did you know that you can trade cards with people through the magic of the Internet?

It's crazy, but true! If you just spend a few minutes a day, you can communicate with people all across the world who might be interested in your unwanted baseball cards. And do you know what? (No, you don't know what.) Many of them will send you their unwanted baseball cards in return!

One such person is Night Owl Cards, who I've sent stuff to so many times (and vice versa) that I could practically put my kids through college with all of the money I spent on postage. (I don't have kids!) I don't really understand how anyone could have an unwanted 2014 Topps Heritage Then & Now insert of the then great Bob Gibson and the now great Adam Wainwright, but there you have it.

Night Owl sent me a ton of minis and inserts (and insert minis) from the 2013 Allen & Ginter set, which is great because I didn't them. It's not like I needed them, but I needed them, you know? NEEDED them. I can quit anytime.

Here's something I didn't know that I needed, and yet, I definitely needed it. It has a special foil stamp and everything. This is a factory set exclusive card and if I were Scrooge McDuck and swimming in piles of gold dubloons and encased graded vintage Mickey Mantle cards, I might take pleasure in breaking open factory sets (and pulling out the exclusives and setting the rest on fire.)

This is from some such boring faux-retro unlicensed Panini set, but it also happens to be unique Adam Wainwright card #171 in my collection. Good news, me!

And here's a treat for Erin, because it's hard to get Yadier Molina cards in the door without Erin catching sight of them and letting them be absorbed into her collection. I guess I can always go look for more online, right?