Tuesday, May 10, 2016
On the Brink
Baseballers and basketballers from @CardJunk as I try to make sense of the intersecting seasons.
A big heap of cards from my two favorite teams arrived the other day, courtesy of old-school card blogger Cardboard Junkie. This blog was around when people still had to use clicky things to navigate to their favorite "websites" instead of sliding their greasy fingers across a tiny piece of a glass-like slab. The Grouchy Junkie sent over some Blazers cards, some Cardinals and a bunch of set needs from the wayback machine (circa 2006-07). I thought I'd lead with some basketball cards because the Blazers are on the brink of elimination in the NBA Playoffs, with a Game 5 against the Warriors set for tomorrow night. It's been a remarkable season for Damian Lillard and a bunch of relatively unknown guys, a team expected to finish at the bottom of the conference and win no more than 25-35 games. Hopefully there are even bigger things on the horizon for this fun to watch group.
I remember getting these cards in my cereal and noting how frustrating they were. They're just slightly too big to fit in a normal 9-pocket page, or penny sleeve, or top loader, or really anything. It's not even a Topps Big Baseball situation. It's just kind of random. I'm pretty sure I had the Hakeem Olajuwon card from this set and maybe another one, but definitely not The Glide. This is now my 176th unique Drexler card.
I am pretty sure this is my first Blazers McBob card. I miss Fleer. Ultra wasn't always the best, but it certainly held its own.
I've been reading Breaks of the Game lately, David Halberstam's informative but somewhat rambling book about life in the NBA at the end of the '70s. It focuses on the Blazers in particular. It's definitely helped fill in a lot of information gaps in my brain, having been raised to listen to and watch the Blazers since birth. I heard a lot about the '77 championship team and have seen the final game in its entirely, plus a bit of archival footage. My first memories of listening to and/or watching games came about a few years later, so the book has done a good job filling in the years after the Bill Walton blowup. Lloyd Neal's card is from the championship season, when Topps was experimenting with card sizes (this set is HUGE, dimensionally speaking).
From Walton-to-Oden, the franchise has been cursed with serious injuries to core members (not to mention poor draft choices and, for a time, mismanagement.) This card actually comes apart in the middle and can be slotted back together. I don't know, it's weird.
On to baseball... St. Louis baseball! (Portland baseball was exterminated.) There are several Bo Hart candidates on this year's team, players who get inexplicably hot from the moment they are called up. Jeremy Hazelbaker and Aledmys Diaz could quality, although Diaz was a guy that was imported from Cuba and given a serious MLB contract. Hazelbaker is a guy who had been flushed out of a couple of organization's minor league systems before ending up on this year's Cardinals. This year's team has beaten up on bad teams and has looked feeble against good teams, good enough for a just-barely-above .500 record.
I've mentioned this several times recently because I'm excited about it, but I will be up in Seattle to catch the series against the Cardinals next month. The last time I got to see St. Louis play here in the Northwest, Bud Smith was on the mound and things did not go well.
Carlos Martinez has, once again, looked like the best pitcher in the Cardinals rotation. He was pulled early from his last start and has been pushed back a couple of days (until Saturday) for his next outing. Supposedly he's not hurt. Supposedly!
HAMM! No one has sent me more than one Hamm so far, so JediJeff remains Hamm King for now.
For a number of years, there was no flagship Fleer set even as there were many other Fleer sets. Some have decided that Fleer Tradition replaced (Plain Ol') Fleer for these lost years, but how do you explain this 2002 Fleer set?
I wonder what Scott Rolen is up to these days. I wonder if he has Tony La Russa's face on a dartboard at home, just for when he gets bored?
Every time I get a Tyler Johnson card, I'm reminded of my plan to collect a an autograph of every member of the 2006 and 2011 World Series teams. I should get on that someday. I have a few Tyler Johnson autos at this point, but I am less optimistic about Scott Rolen.
Waino hasn't pitched like an Elite pitcher this year, but he is showing signs of "turning it around", which in baseball lingo means competency.
As mentioned above, part of this trade package was a bunch of cards from 2006/2007 sets, Bazooka and Allen & Ginter. This one is headed straight for my Cardinals collection, however. I don't have many Grudz cardz in a Cardinal uniform as he just spent the one season with St. Louis. He did well.
With the Cardinals currently playing the Angels in a series in Anaheim, I thought it best to leave you with this card. If both teams had a chance to reconsider the Pujols contract today, I wonder what would happen. How much would the Cardinals offer Albert in hindsight? Would the Angels want to sign him at all?