Monday, September 13, 2021

Prizm in Color

Panini Prizm's Baseball offering is colorful fun without logos. 
Panini's MLB sets always come with two strikes against them. The lack of MLB license (no logos) is the most obvious thing, but there's always been the mentality that Topps, with their uninterrupted run at baseball cards since 1952 (ish), is the one true brand to collect. That mentality is about to tested in the Fanatics era, of course. It will be interesting to see how history looks back at baseball cards from other brands that aren't Topps once Topps stops making cards (unless, of course, Topps is purchased and does the overlord's bidding.)

In any case, I like Prizm baseball. It's come a long way from the 2012 set (actually released in 2013.) The early Prizm sets are seriously ugly, even the ones where Panini held a proper license. I bought into a couple of breaks over at Rip City Cards for a reasonable price and feel like I did pretty well for myself. Let's check out some of the goods.

Much like the third-class citizen that it's treated like, the baseball version of Prizm always gets a leftover design. This is the same design as last year's NFL and NBA sets. In some other brands where designs are shared across sports, baseball leads the way, but that's not the case with Prizm.

I'm happy with any set that continues to casually toss in an Ozzie Smith base card in 2021. Someone at Panini loves The Wizard, because he's in a ton of their sets.

Prizm tries a little harder with their inserts than, say, Topps Chrome. I know that it's not completely fair to compare Topps Chrome to Panini Prizm, because Donruss Optic is a closer analogy as long as you consider Donruss to be Panini's flagship baseball set. (Is it?)

Here's the classic non-MLB license player photo. There isn't really a logo to hide here.

Here's Paul Goldschmidt, star player of the 46ers.

Okay, that's just weird.

I did pretty well with the colorful parallels in these breaks. This is a snaky snakeskin parallel of the Cardinals rookie, numbered to just 50. I pulled a rookie year Zac Gallen snakeskin parallel from last year's Prizm set which I think I might have hung on to. Gallen was a Cardinals draft pick originally that was dealt to the Diamondbacks, making his snakeskin version much more appropriate.

Here's a basic blue parallel, Flaherty syle.

And here's a red one. I don't really know the rhyme or reason or distribution odds for most of the Prizm parallels, except that they are numerous and attract only a certain type of collector. I don't think I have it in me, personally, to chase a "rainbow" of any particular card (...or do I?)

This KK "blue mojo" parallel has the same look as the Bowman "megabox" exclusive parallels that people also call "mojo". Who decided this was to be called "mojo" and who came up with this pattern first?

This is another rookie year numbered parallel. Woodford is at least temporarily in the Cards rotation again and has a big start ahead of him against the Mets tomorrow. He can do it! I believe in him.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Good Luck Ducks, Week 2: Buckeye Fever

The Ducks hit the road for one of their biggest ever nonconference games. 
COVID-19 wiped out the home portion of the agreement with Ohio State to play a set of games that was signed a decade ago. Instead, the Ducks will just play one game against the B1G power, at high noon (eastern time) at the place they call The Horseshoe. None of this seems tremendously fair, but if we could go back in time and erase the pandemic altogether (that would be really nice!), it's tough to say that a Tyler Shough-led Oregon squad could have competed with the team that eventually went on to lose in the CFP championship game.

It never rains at Autzen Stadium, though, so you never know. No rain is in the forecast at Ohio Stadium tomorrow, either. Both teams had fairly lackluster opening games, each not securing victory until the fourth quarter.

The Ducks will likely be without their best and most dangerous player, Kayvon Thibodeaux. He reportedly did make the trip to Columbus, but otherwise not much positive news has been heard about his status. Thibodeaux hurt his ankle when his own teammate fell into him at the end of a play, which is about one of the most unfortunate ways to get hurt on a football field (next to celebrating a touchdown, I suppose.) This would put a bit of a damper on Oregon's hopes of knocking off the school that straight up punked them in the 2015 CFP championship, but all of these players were still in high school or middle school back when that was going on. A Ducks win today would establish themselves as an early playoff contender, while a loss could still provide some valuable experience that could be used later in the season. That is to say that the pressure may be on the Buckeyes more than the Fighting Ducks.

Series History: Ohio State is undefeated in 9 tries against Oregon, though they've only faced each other twice in the past 37 years. I dare not speak the name of the Dallas Cowboys running back that bulldozed the Ducks line (and secondary, and everyone else on the field) in that stupid championship game.

Opponent Talk: Ohio State has one of the most intense, content-heavy fan sites I've ever seen for a sports team on the internet. Just check out this gameday poster, for starters. It was hard to even look at this site, because I don't think I'll ever be as big of a fan of any team as much as these guys are.

This is where I usually embed a video clip of the Ducks doing something cool against today's opponent in the past, but I'm not about to put any footage of any of their 9 losses up here. (I'm guessing it would be hard to find anything online from the '80s or before.) Instead, let's check out some Thibodeaux highlights and hope he's on the field at full strength today.

Game time is at 9:00 AM PDT (sheesh!) on FOX. Go Ducks!

Thursday, September 9, 2021

All Chrome'd Up and Ready to Go

A #CrackinWaxMailDay from @CrackinWax features the premium version of the Topps flagship set. 

Topps Chrome had a bit of a price hike this year, but I still took a bit of a dip into it and bought a slot in a half-case break over at Crackin' Wax. I also ended up with a free slot in an additional Chrome box break where I was assigned the entire NL Central division thanks to a bit of fantasy baseball success, but I'm going to focus on just my Cardinals acquisitions here. (I did end up with a Pirates autograph and a numbered card of a certain former Reds pitcher whose cards I don't want to display here... I'm tired of pulling his stuff in 2021. The Pirates auto is being set aside for Bob Walk the Plank.)

As you would expect, the cards look like a metallic version of the flagship set. More so this year than in the past, I believe nearly all of the photos are the same. (There are a few short printed photo variations as usual.) We get KK's weirdly floating rookie cup here again as well.

Here's your requisite Yadi card.

There aren't tons of inserts in the Chrome set, which is mostly focused on refractor parallels and autographs. We do get the '86 Topps tribute treatment, however. At least I ended up with another new Nolan card (complete with fake uniform.)

There were some... choices made when coming up with the rookie autographs checklist. Because Topps has fallen further and further behind with deadlines and such, you're not going to see a lot of (any?) rookies in 2021 that actually made their debut in 2021. Since the abbreviated 2020 season was absolutely lousy with pitchers and lower tier roster filler making their debuts due to the huge volume of games missed (due to the pandemic, of course), well... let's just say that there are a lot of relief/minor league pitcher autos. I'm not going to complain about any Cardinals card that's new to my collection, of course, but Roel Ramirez has had an interesting path to his appearance in a Topps set.

Last season, in his MLB debut and lone 2020 appearance, he gave up back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs to the Chicago White Sox. You may have seen the highlights. He was called up a second time, this season, where he gave up another three earned runs while recording just one out. He's not with the organization any longer.

With Chrome, though, we're really all here for the refractors. This Jack Flaherty prism refractor (aka fishfractor) scans pretty well and will look pretty nice in the binders.

Next up, we'll take a look at the competitor's shiny cards for a change. And there might be a football thing. Possibly not in that order.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Good Luck Ducks, Week 1: Fresno Fever

The Ducks kick off the new college football season. 
Whether we're ready or not, it's college football season. From this fan's perspective, last year didn't really count. There were too many bad decisions and risky circumstances that led to an abbreviated Pac-12 schedule that I truly wished wasn't going to happen at all. They were basically the last conference to cave in to pressures to play football, and the so-called season carried all that weight with it. It's not really fair to the players who really wanted to play and gave it their all on the field when given the opportunity, but I just feel like I have to casually ignore what happened in 2020.

Okay, here's one last recap before we officially pretend it never happened. The Ducks started their season strong in November or something, and then sputtered towards the finish line and eventually lost confidence in their young quarterback. They only managed to play in the conference championship game because another team had too much COVID, and ended up winning the title and promoting their graduate transfer senior QB to... co-QB. The young QB ended up transferring, and they are starting the elder QB, a super senior, to start this season.

Conference champions, though! If there was anything done right last season, it was that the Ducks were able to reestablish themselves as conference champs and favorites. They come out of the game this year in the top dozen teams in the country, and with a supposedly healthy recruiting class to back it up. Their first test comes against the Fresno State Bulldogs, a Mountain West opponent coming off of a Week Zero victory by 45 points over UConn. Oregon is led this year by otherworldly defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who has lofty aspirations of his own as he is looking to break the mold as a Heisman candidate. He is legitimately scary on the football field.

Series History: The Ducks are 7-2 all-time versus Fresno State, with their most recent matchup resulting in a 42-25 Oregon victory in 2012.

Opponent Talk: Hey, Tim DeRuyter is the new Ducks defensive coordinator. He was the Fresno State head coach for 5 years about 5 years ago. There was a time when I could have named several Ducks assistant coaches by name, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. It will help if Jake Haener can throw for 300 yards again.

I watched a bunch of YouTube footage of past FSU/UO games in preparation for this, and stumbled across this totally forgotten factoid. These teams played in the very first regular season D1 overtime game under the current rules back in 1996. The Ducks won!

Game time is at 11:00 AM PDT on the Pac-12 Network. Go Ducks!

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Buzzin' Cardinals

A pack of Cardinals cards from @CardBuzz includes a buyback, a messy signature and more. 
With more and more news coming out about the Fanatics deal and what seems to be the imminent end of card collecting as we know it, it's nice to look back at some cards that were sent to me through the mail earlier this year. It's becoming increasingly doubtful that I'll continue to collect cards beyond next year (if that long), but that doesn't mean we can't appreciate what's right in front of us. This latest bunch came to me from Card Buzz back in May.

That is quite the autograph from the former infielder turned reliever Sam Tuivailala. He does have an interesting set of letters to work with in his last name, but that just looks a bit goofy.

Topps killed off the old Topps Total set a long time ago, before recently bringing it back in a more understated (and more expensive!) online-exclusive form. This, of course, removed insert cards from the equation. The inserts were never a big part of the set, but there were some interesting looking "Award Winner" cards.

I think the old Topps gold parallels look nicer than any Bowman Sapphire madness you want to throw at me.

There are a lot of memorabilia cards from the 2000s, so it's impossible to be familiar with every design. Still, this was one I'd never seen before. It's from the 2003 Flair set.

People sure seem to like their dufex technology, which made it intriguing when Panini briefly brought it back with their one-off Pinnacle set from 2013. It still doesn't scan well, though.

There's one glaring error with this manupatch card commemorating the 1967 World Series. Can anyone spot it?

I'm guessing Fanatics will focus more on creating card sets like Museum Collection and less on something like Topps Total, which is really too bad. High end cards look nice, but most people can't afford to have more than a few of them. I guess we'll all free up some space in our homes if we don't have piles of cards laying around anymore, though.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Spicy Break Stuff

Some Cardinals on cards from another batch of @Nachos_Grande breaks. 
I have yet another pile of cards to sort through courtesy of the Nachos Grande breakers club. If you haven't signed up yet and are a team collector, you should definitely check it out. There's always a good variety of cards available at reasonable prices. I thought I'd show off another ten or so cards from some of the breaks from last spring.

Jack Flaherty was well on his way to competing for a Cy Young Award this year when injuries repeatedly got in his way. He was removed from his most recent start after two innings with a shoulder injury, after recently displaying that he was all the way back from his previous oblique injury. Sports are dumb, etc.

Short prints from the Heritage sets are still a coveted thing. I'm always happy when I get one, especially when it's a Cardinal (because I'll inevitably find myself needing two.)

At first glimpse, this one would seem to be out of place. There's nothing indicating this Ron Gant card belongs in my binders on the front of the card.

On the back, however, there's a team designation and tiny logo to show that Gant was picked up in the offseason by St. Louis. Usually Topps would make more of a deal out of this on the front of the card (there were a lot of "transactions" type subsets in the '90s), but that's not the case with 1996 Topps Gallery. Of course, if I was a Reds collector, I would still hang on to this one.

Speaking of "transactions", here's one from a subset from the 2002 Fleer set showing Jason Isringhausen with his new team. If I'm not mistaken, the 2002 Fleer set just basically dropped the "Tradition" name after it had more or less served as its flagship set for awhile.

I don't remember if 2015 Topps Finest was actually one of the breaks or if this just ended up being an extra card, but I'm appreciative all the same.

This insert from the 2002 Fleer Focus Jersey Edition set is pretty nice looking. It has rounded corners, similar to a credit card.

This Playoff Portraits set makes the recent Topps Gallery sets look like absolute garbage.

Despite what year it says on the front of the card, it's 2021 and Topps is still cranking out Albert Pujols Cardinals cards. I'll never get them all, and that's okay.

Lastly, here's another nice looking insert from the '00s. This one is numbered to 1250. Scott would like you to have a baseball. It's on the house.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Affordable Cards

Another crop of @flywheels Affordable Group Break Cardinals cards. 
The Cardinals have been a very frustrating team to watch in 2021, but that doesn't mean I've enjoyed adding new Cards cards to my collection this year. This latest group come from some of last spring's group breaks hosted by Colbey of Cardboard Collections / Affordable Group Breaks. These breaks included a nice mix of new products and old-but-still-affordable stuff.

If next year is truly the last hurrah for Topps, and all indications so far is that it will be, I'm glad that they got to pay tribute the 1986 set. That set, which lacked a lot of star power and rookies to chase, still holds a special place for me as it was my first introduction to ripping open packs. I'm significantly less excited to see the inevitable 1987 tributes next year, because it feels like they've been down that road a few times already.

There was a brief period of time where 2021 Donruss cards were available at the local Target store. This must have been before various fights across the country shut down that avenue to buy cards. I never quite got used to this design and wonder if it might end up becoming a forgotten set in the future, especially with Panini also coming up on their final season to make (logo-less) baseball cards.

I don't usually go for a lot of the foil heavy '90s sets, but 1997 Select does have a pretty good selection of nice looking cards. Panini currently owns this brand name. The future still seems to be very up in the air for all of these legacy brands.

The 1999 Pacific Invincible set is a weird one. Given the number of base cards I've seen from the set, it seems like the inserts are much more common than anything else. However, this McGwire Flash Point card is one I hadn't seen before, so I may have beaten the odds here.

Last up is an early Albert Pujols insert card. With Yadier Molina extending his contract for one final season, talk of maybe sort of bringing Albert back to St. Louis has reached more than a murmur. The storybook ending of seeing Yadi, Pujols and Waino all retire together in the Cardinals uniform certainly sounds nice, but would it mean sticking it out through yet another super frustrating season? I suppose the introduction of the DH to the National League (BOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!) would make an offer to Pujols seem much more attractive.