Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Speedy Redemption

Well, that was quick. 

It was a rough and abrupt ending for the 2019 Cardinals season, but there was a surprise from Topps (the Scranton branch?!) waiting for me in the mailbox when I got home. Topps was able to already fulfill the Bowman Chrome Prospect autographed card that I snagged a couple of weeks ago.

When I saw the envelope, I was actually hoping it was the Trevor Story redemption I pulled back in the summer, since I am facing a decision about whether or not to request something else now. I don't really want to make that decision. I don't know a ton of Rockies collectors, but Story is a good player. I figure I could easily end up with someone a lot worse than Story (or a Marlin!), so I'll let it sit for awhile longer.

Cards on Cards Fantasy Hoops Seeks New Participant

We have an open slot this year and it's free to participate. 

Let me know if anyone is interested in a casual free head-to-head fantasy basketball league. We draft on Sunday night (probably). Winner gets a prize (some sort of basketball thing.) If there's more than one person interested, I'll keep you on standby in case we have anyone else drop out.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Good Luck Ducks, Week 7: Friday Night Lights

Oregon hosts Colorado on a late Friday night. 

Are the Ducks officially a defensive juggernaut? Some of the stuff they're doing on the field hasn't been seen in this conference since the '90s. Oregon didn't get any points on the board until the third quarter last game, something that hadn't happened in about fifteen seasons, but panic was minimal. The defense was holding down their opponent. The offense did what they needed, and victory was assured.

Oregon also saw the return of no less than three receivers last week, all making their season debuts (if not their Duck debuts). Justin Herbert had no shortage of targets to throw to, but a conscious decision to (re)establish the run probably kept the overall numbers down a bit. (Cal's defense was also a factor.)

Next up is the better-than-expected Colorado Buffaloes in a night game on a short week. The Buffs are led by senior quarterback Steven Montez, who notched his first victory as a freshman against Oregon in Autzen back in 2016. It wasn't a good time for the Ducks, but it was glorious for the redshirt freshman. Montez is the Pac-12's second leading passer in the current season, which means he'll likely provide the strongest test to date for the Ducks secondary. (They've faced two backup QBs so far.)

Game time is 7:00 PDT on FS1. Joe Davis, Brock Huard and Bruce Feldman are on the call. Go Ducks!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

NLCS Series Preview

The Nationals/Cardinals series at a glance.

10-run first innings aside, the Divisional round more or less played out exactly how I predicted it would for the Cardinals. It was a closely matched series, but the Cardinals found a way to pull it off in five games, meaning that they had to clinch in Atlanta. Fortunately, the field wasn't littered with trash this time around. It was a nice catharsis for a fan who had witnessed the horrorshow that was the 1996 NLCS, but few players on the current roster are even old enough to remember it.

St. Louis faces the Washington Nationals for the pennant. By virtue of being a division winner, the Cardinals actually gained the home field advantage over the Nationals even though Washington had a better regular season record. It sucks to be a Wild Card team. Although the Cardinals were markedly better at home versus on the road in 2019, they showed a better ability to win away from St. Louis down the stretch (e.g. the four game sweep at Wrigley) and against Atlanta in the playoffs.

Once again, rosters are not finalized at present, so this is all based on shared speculation.

2019 Season Series: Cardinals won 5-2
The Cardinals took 3 of 4 at Nationals Park (boring name, but huge points for no corporate naming rights) back in late April/early May, and also took 2 of 3 at Busch in a crucial mid-September clash. As usual, the season series results tend to be overemphasized this time of year, especially between teams that don't see each other as often as division rivals do. Managers have tendencies to make different decisions at this time of year, there are different players involved, and there's the whole "playoff pressure" factor. (I'm not just talking about Clayton Kershaw here.) We can probably put a little more weight on the more recent series, with both teams at the time fighting for a playoff spot. Of note, Dakota Hudson, Adam Wainwright and Patrick Corbin all had strong outings in the series while Max Scherzer was roughed up by the Cards.

Starting Pitching: Anibal Sanchez / Max Scherzer / Stephen Strasburg / Patrick Corbin vs. Miles Mikolas / Adam Wainwright / Jack Flaherty / Dakota Hudson
Sanchez will take the first turn for the Nationals in this series, and with the increased number of games you would expect to see Scherzer and Strasburg stick to regular starts instead of working out of the bullpen at times. As mentioned above, the Cardinals had recent success against the St. Louis native Scherzer, but historically this has not always been the case. Stasburg looked a bit fatigured in the finale vs. LA while Corbin allowed 7 ER in just 8 IP in 3 appearances in these playoffs. Something might be up with him. On the Cardinals side, the starters for the first two games (Mikolas, Wainwright) are set, with Waino trying to build on his successful last outing with another home start in game 2. Flaherty is the ace, but will be held back until game 3 due to his start on Wednesday. Dakota Hudson's defense crumbled around him in his first playoff start. His second will likely come on the road. ADVANTAGE: NATIONALS

Bullpen: Daniel Hudson vs. Carlos Martinez
Daniel Hudson took over the closer role late in the season and has pitched well, while Carlos Martinez did nearly all he could do to send the Cardinals home early this season with some rough work against Atlanta. The rest of the Nats pen features the closer-until-recently Sean Doolittle, the oldest active player in baseball (Fernando Rodney) and the shaky Hunter Strickland. St. Louis has better options than Martinez in John Brebbia, Tyler Webb, Giovanny Gallegos and occasionally Andrew Miller. Martinez is one of the longest tenured Cardinals not named Adam or Yadier, so perhaps manager Mike Shildt feels pressure not to make a change here. ADVANTAGE: PUSH

Catcher: Kurt Suzuki vs. Yadier Molina
There are long time veteran catchers on both sides. Suzuki was injured and left the field in the last game after being hit by a pitch on his wrist that also ricocheted off his helmet, so it's not a given that he starts the series in the lineup. Either way, Yan Gomes will do some catching as well. Molina has relegated his more than capable backup Matt Wieters to pinch-hit duty for the last month and a half. Both Nationals catchers are a bit more offensive minded than the defensive wizard Molina, though Yadi proved he could win with his bat in game 4 of the previous series. ADVANTAGE: CARDINALS

First Base: Ryan Zimmerman vs. Paul Goldschmidt
For the Nats, Howie Kendrick also logged some time at 1st, but there were questions about his defense. If Zimmerman hits, he stays in the lineup. It also happens to be Kendrick's bat that has kept him in the lineup no matter what position he's in, as proven by his series-winning grand slam against the Dodgers. On the Cardinals side, the only guy you're going to see at 1st is Paul Goldschmidt, whose bat seems to be heating up at the best time. ADVANTAGE: CARDINALS

Second Base: Howie Kendrick vs. Kolten Wong
Kendrick hit very well late in the season, as did Kolten Wong before his hamstring injury. Wong was able to start every game showing no ill effects of the injury, and his defense is miles above most at the position. ADVANTAGE: CARDINALS

Third Base: Anthony Rendon vs. Matt Carpenter
Rendon is having a mammoth offensive season, the best of his career so far and one worthy of MVP consideration. Carpenter was inserted back into the lineup to generate offense early on in the previous series, but his speed and defense are becoming a bit of a liability. He was hilariously removed for defensive purposes in the final game of the Divisional series before ever taking the field. We would see Edman back here if Bader is in the lineup for his glove. ADVANTAGE: NATIONALS

Shortstop: Trea Turner vs. Paul DeJong
Turner is one of the better base thieves in the league as well as one of the game's most well-rounded players. He has all of the tools as they say. DeJong is more of a power bat at this stage in his career than anything else, but his defense has improved. His pitch selection could use work. ADVANTAGE: NATIONALS

Right Field: Adam Eaton vs. Tommy Edman
To a somewhat lesser extent than Turner, Eaton is another Swiss Army knife of baseball. Edman moved to the outfield, somewhere he had never played professionally before this season, after Carpenter was slotted in at 3rd for his bat. So far, Edman has stood tall under the brightest lights of the season. ADVANTAGE: CARDINALS

Center Field: Michael Taylor vs. Dexter Fowler
Taylor was somewhat of a bit player for Washington this season and seems to be in the lineup for his glove more than anything else. If Victor Robles is healthy, this outfield improves substantially. Fowler manned center after the mid-series lineup change for the Cardinals, and he's solid there if not elite. ADVANTAGE: CARDINALS

Left Field: Juan Soto vs. Marcell Ozuna
Soto is one of the brightest young stars of the game, while Marcell Ozuna has caught fire at the right time, providing one of the scariest two-pronged attacks when he follows Paul Goldschmidt. ADVANTAGE: PUSH

Bench: Brian Dozier / Matt Adams / Yan Gomes / Victor Robles vs. Jose Martinez / Matt Wieters / Harrison Bader / Randy Arozarena
Whether it's due to matchups or injuries, the Nationals bench just seems very deep here. Actually, both teams should have plenty of capable hands on deck, although it remains to be seen if there will be roster changes for this round. The Nats may have the bigger bats, but the Cardinals have a couple of speed weapons they could deploy late in games. If Bader isn't starting his skills might be duplicated in Arozarena. ADVANTAGE: NATIONALS

Manager: Dave Martinez vs. Mike Shildt
Martinez was a journeyman player through much of the '80s and all of the '90s and tookover managing duties in 2018 with the Nationals after other coaching stints. He survived the Bryce Harper exodus and seems to have his club heading in the right direction. The not-former-player Shildt also seems to be heading in the same direction with his career, although questions about his bullpen usage will persist if this Carlos Martinez thing isn't straightened out once and for all. ADVANTAGE: PUSH

Prediction: CARDINALS IN 7

Game 1 is set for 7:00 PM CDT (local time) tomorrow on the Utz Network TBS. Go Cardinals!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Big Box Store Exclusives

No, not that store... the other one! 

There's no good reason that would send me anywhere close to a Walmart store. However, the giant behemoth has regularly had exclusive content in the sports cards department over the years. The other day, I caved in to FOMO or something and visited their website in order to snag a few of these Walmart-only card items.

I was never much of a fan of Bowman Platinum from year to year in the first place, but it totally faded from view when it stopped popping up at the other stores I shop at. I picked up two of the hanger packs, and they provided some decent content -- or at least some items that will end up in future trades.

Here's another one of the inserts. Devers had a huge year and is very young, much like many of the stars of the game these days.

As usual, the Bowman name means prospects-a-plenty. Montero had a rough season, so it may be awhile before we see more of his cards.

Another young star, Gleyber Torres homered last night for the Yankees in the playoffs.

I wasn't expecting a hit (this is retail, after all), so it was a nice surprise to get this sticker auto of a guy from last year's draft.

This is a purple prospect parallel. Lots of P-words!

Apparently the key four rookies in this set were inserted as short printed variations. This is one of them. I'm not really sure how short printed this is, however. They seem to be all over the place online.

I made a concerted effort to go after younger players for my fantasy teams this season. Touki wasn't exactly fantasy relevant this year, unfortunately. Check back next year?

Each box had a four card Topps Gallery "preview" pack insert into it, which was also some sort of tie-in with National Baseball Card Day? This is all very confusing. They also came with some $2 off coupons for future Topps Gallery blasters (or $5 off a "monster box".) These cards are extremely uninteresting to me, so it's doubtful that I will be headed back to the website to buy more when the Gallery set is released next month, let alone to a physical Walmart store to redeem the coupons. Any takers? It's nothing but stars in this preview set, though, making for more trade fodder.

For some reason I read this as "Asthmatic Prodigies" on first glance.

Prism... getting a little close to Panini territory there, Topps. (This is the company that also makes Prism refractors, which are definitely not the same thing as Prizm cards or Prizm parallels, because... you know... the "z".)

Finally, here's a prospect card of new Astros super slugger Yordan Alvarez.

I also picked up a Walmart-exclusive basketball hanger pack, which was considerably less successful.

In its second season (as far as I'm aware), the Panini Status set was a retail exclusive this year, and it was constructed in the worst way possible. In order to complete just the base set, you need to buy from both giant corporate overload chain stores. I had picked up some of this stuff at the red store but still have an incomplete Blazers set. I did not pull any Blazers I needed from the blue store.

Basically, the rookies in each set have two distinctly different cards with different card numbers. They generally aren't going to be considered inserts or parallels or variations because the numbering is sequentially ordered with the rest of the base set. Nice.

Here's the guy that brought the title to the second northernmost team in the league. And then he left.

This is one of the rookies, but you can only get this one at Walmart.

Here's another rookie, but this one is an insert. Actually, I think this is a parallel of an insert (note the orange background as compared to the earlier Evans card) which is just about the most obnoxious thing ever.

Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday. I am going to head to an NBA preseason game tonight for some reason. Yes, it's that time of year again already.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Cards from Gavin

A handful of things from @breakdowncards includes a Ducks hoopster. 

It's been a crazy day in sports, so I'll just get right to the cards. Gavin from Baseball Card Breakdown and I arranged another in-person card exchange (not even the most recent one) back in late June. Along with managing to reduce my inventory a bit, I also picked up a few Cardinals and Ducks needs.

This grouping was all about the parallels. Aledmys Diaz is shown here on a entire set that I consider a parallel. Sure, this stuff is packaged separately, but the whole thing is a bizarro version of the regular Allen & Ginter set. That seems like a parallel to me. It's like a parallel Ginter universe.

'90s parallels can be tough to collect. Sometimes I feel like I will be picking out Score Gold Rush needs out of haystacks for the rest of my life. It was cool to get a copy of this one that features the former two sport star Brian Jordan.

Unless you're a fan of college baseball, it seems tough to really like the Elite Extra Edition brand, but Panini has seen fit to carry this thing on since taking over the Donruss trademarks. Still, this is a Cardinals auto and will happily find a way into my boxes o' goodies (not to be confused with my binders o' goodies) along with other Cardinals cards that are signed, numbered or contain some sort of chunk of something someone might have used in a game. Jess Todd only made a single appearance with St. Louis in a counting game, so it may be tough to find stuff with him in the Cardinals uniform.

There were also a number of really nice Ducks cards included. I've purposely held back the football stuff for my weekly football posts, so we'll just take a look at this fantastic low numbered rookie year card of the former star point guard Luke Ridnour. This was from before the Ducks crazy uniform designs found their way over to the basketball program. It also bears a Sonics logo, which makes me miss the former rival NBA team to the north.

Thanks again to Gavin. If you're into music at all (and how could you not be?!) you should definitely check out his new blog about the intersection of music and cards.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Good Luck Ducks, Week 6: Cal Cal Cal

After a bye week, the Ducks are back and still not letting anyone score. 

There's a developing theme in this 2019 Ducks season, and it's the fact that they aren't letting anyone in the end zone. Aside from the team's second half collapse against Auburn way back in the opening game, no one has scored a touchdown on these Ducks. None. Zero. This has also strangely made for some very boring football viewing as a fan, but I'm not one of those who can always appreciate the intricacies of a defensive scheme. I have the attention span of someone who is always fidgeting with his phone these days, unfortunately.

This isn't to say that I don't like what Oregon is doing this year. I love it! I hope they keep it up. The former Miami lineman Mario Cristobal may be remaking the Ducks in his own image and a tougher, more old school kind of team, and so far I don't have a lot of complaints. This is the first season for Andy Avalos as the defensive coordinator, and so far he's picked up where Jim Leavitt left off and then some. The hope is that the Ducks can get back to firing on all cylinders (i.e. both sides of the ball, passing, running, twirling, etc.) so that they aren't so reliant on the D when the weather gets worse, the games get tougher and the injuries start to mount.

Next up after the bye week (which I have a feeling Oregon is going to wish came later in the schedule) is the California Golden Bears. After a 4-0 start, Cal dropped a game last week to Arizona State, meaning that we're only in the sixth week in the season and every single Pac-12 team has lost at least once. Probably not a good look for the conference. The Bears lost their starting quarterback to some sort of shoulder injury last week and are expected to start former UCLA transfer Devon Modster this week. He kind of has a cool last name? With a prime time game at Autzen, Cal will have their work cut out for them especially with a backup under center.

Game time is 5:00 PDT on FOX. Brandon Gaudin, Brock Huard and Bruce Feldman will be on the call. Go Ducks!