Wednesday, June 30, 2010

R.I.P., Portland Beavers... Again

The Portland Beavers are leaving town again for parts unknown next season and no one seems to care. It's frustrating to grow up in a fairly decent-sized television market that only has one franchise in the top four professional sports and seems to be dead set against any visions of changing that. I've often dreamed about what Major League Baseball would be like in the City of Roses. There's been an NHL-ready arena here for 15 years. And while the NFL might be the toughest nut to crack, I'm pretty sure that you could toss a franchise in the middle of The Grand Canyon and it would manage to sell out its games and develop a fanbase.

All along, there was always the comfort of seeing AAA baseball on a warm summer night or a hot summer afternoon. Except, of course, when there wasn't... like when penny-pinching owner Joe Buzas pulled up the stakes and took the team to Salt Lake City in 1994. At the time, mostly due to Buzas's minimalist (i.e. cheap) ideas of promotion and what is now known as PGE Park in a state of total disrepair (the center field bleachers were actually "condemned"), the Beavers departure was met with widespread indifference. You could read about it in the papers, sure, but they were leaving and no one was sad to see Buzas leave town. The Beavers came back 7 years later, as they always do, to a newly renovated yet severely mismanaged ballpark.

This time around, it's new owner Merritt Paulson's push to bring the Portland Timbers soccer franchise up to the MLS level that's driven the Beavers out of town. Paulson hasn't exactly promoted the team well, either. Aside from the season in which he purchased the Beavers and Timbers (2007) in a package deal, he's done very little to promote the club as his clear focus was to take the Timbers to the next level. I can't fault him for that. I also begrudgingly see both sides of the story after initially feeling like boycotting the soccer club. Still, it's hard to get past the notion that if Paulson hadn't bought the team, they'd probably still be on steady ground in downtown Portland. Since the MLS refuses to let any of its franchises share a stadium with a baseball team mostly because of seating configurations, the Beavers are officially homeless after this season and are headed to parts unknown. In the meantime, I've been trying to enjoy as many Beavers games as I can - it feels like 1993 all over again - and I indulged recently in a discounted team set from 2009.

Here are the Venables, father and son... in reverse order. Will has been a mainstay in the outfield for the Padres this year, while his father Max also has a pretty cool looking 1981 Topps baseball card.

You can see Paulson's Timbers logo creeping around in the background of this Chad Huffman card. The Timbers logo pays homage to the much beloved late '70s NASL franchise. I'm excited about, er, "bigger time" soccer coming to town. I'm just really unhappy with the collateral damage. Huffman has been getting some playing time lately with the Yankees lately with some nagging injuries that they've been going through.

Tim Stauffer has been putting up quality stuff with the Padres for years and yet always seems to find himself on the next train back up to Portland. I don't think the Padres, oddly enough, are hating the idea of moving their AAA affiliate closer to home. San Diego and Portland are not exactly neighboring cities, and there's been a trend recently to move key farm clubs closer to the big league club's home base of operations.

This guy was huge... physically. There's been a trend with the recent Beavers clubs where they'll have at least one or two of these monstrous players who are perhaps too awkward to be successful in the majors. Walter Young comes to mind, and even Kyle Blanks could fit this mold if he is not careful.

Finally, here's Lucky... the Mascot. He's Paulson's mascot. I grew up with Round Tripper as the mascot until they left before the 1994 season. (There's a nice history of the team here.) Round Tripper was replaced by Boomer when the Beavers were reborn in 2001. The team went with a really nice old-timey look while retaining their old primary colors of red and black. Paulson decided to tinker with the look, however, by 2008 as he went with the logo and uniform scheme that you see on these cards. This also ushered in the era of Lucky the Beaver, whose costume will presumably be retired in a few months.

PGE Park will hold 20,000 people, after renovations are done.

Those renovations will evict Paulson's baseball team, the Portland Beavers, after this season.

Paulson says even though the Beavers won't play in Portland next year, he predicts Triple-A baseball will return to the metro area "at one point, or another."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Curse You, Scott Rolen!

Don't get me wrong: I love Scott Rolen. The only reason I haven't bothered to add him to my list of players that I collect (outside of a Cardinal uniform, anyway) is that I feel like my collecting has suffered from a severe lack of focus lately. It's a bit frustrating and bittersweet to watch Rolen be so productive for the Reds this season in the tight division race, however.

On that note, I did stake my claim to a bunch of Rolen cards that were being offered up by Stats on the Back. I've actually yet to fulfill my end of the bargain, but I am taking matters to rectify the situation soon. In the meantime, it seems like there are plenty of lots of for grabs (or trades is more accurate), so you should go on ahead and check it out.

I miss Score. I could probably expound on this in a post of its own, but if I could change anything about baseball cards in 2010 it would probably be to add Panini as a second licensee. Why Panini? I would love to see a 99 cent baseball card product out there, and I would love that to be Score. Let's face it, Topps Total isn't coming back and even if it did, Topps would charge more for it and find about 37 ways to fill it full of gimmicks.

That's right. Scotty is with me. It's time to take a stand.

A few random Cardinals cards were included in the package, much to my delight. I find it fairly amusing that Topps decided to take a nice concept that has worked well for them over the years in Stadium Club and add the Chrome action to it, as if slapping two things together like that would work out swimmingly. Actually, maybe this set was awesome. I have no idea. All I know is that it's not around these days and hasn't been for awhile.

Someone should tell Eck to get off the highway when he's playing with the baseball.

Sportflics! Food promotions! Gibby! All great things, thrown together on one card! I had no idea that this set exists, but now I want to see more.

Finally, I failed to mention the other thing that I claimed in the big Trade Away, and that was a Freddy Sanchez 2010 Heritage short print. There's a reason I failed to mention it, actually, and it has something to do with excitement... or lack thereof. However, it puts me one obnoxious card closer to the goal of completing the entire set, so it's the best Freddy Sanchez card in my collection as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Airbrushed Fridays: 1987 Topps #101

Reader Scott has e-mailed me lately with some more suggestions for this feature. I'm starting to think I should just let him take over and write these things. Here's another one from the mailbag and it's a very familiar card to me. I was actually somewhat surprised that I had overlooked Mr. Willis so far. Another recommendation from Scott, incidentally, was Ray Fontenot from this very set. Fontenot was actually the first card I featured here. If I ever get access to a cheap commons box from the late '70s, I may have to actually consider picking up some material to have "in hand" for Airbrushed Fridays.

Carl Wills was a right-handed reliever and occasional spot starter who spent much of his career bouncing up and down between the majors and AAA. He finished off his career with more solid playing time with the Minnesota Twins throughout the first half of the '90s and even made a few appearances with my hometown Portland Beavers who were affiliated with the Twins at the time.

Why did Topps airbrush Carl's photo? Scott writes, "He was on the freakin' Reds at some point from 84-86, yet the airbrusher must have been drunk or huffed the fumes from the Laga airbrush." I couldn't have said it better myself. Willis was in the Reds organization from late in the 1984 season until January of 1988, only leaving for a few months in 1986 when he was a Rule V draft pick of the Angels. He was later returned.

What's wrong with this picture, anyway? My own personal theory is that the Laga "artist" (can we come up with a better name for airbrushing wizards?) must have spilled something on Willis's picture that he had to clean up which resulted in this.

Thanks again to Scott and thanks for reading. Erin and I are still deliberating the results of last week's contest. Expect an announcement early next week.

(If you are interested in obtaining a card featured here, please send me an e-mail. If you have a card you would like to nominate for Airbrushed Fridays, please get in touch as well. I will require that I am able to see the card in person, either on loan or as a donation, so that I can examine the card and experience it in all its cruddiness.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dear Paul

Please sell the Blazers to someone who isn't an asshole.


(P.S. This just became a "not a family" blog.)

5 on the 5: 2006-07 Topps Basketball

In honor of tonight's NBA Draft, I thought I'd show off some packs I rescued from a Target bargain bin recently. When I saw these packs, I immediately thought about pulling a Brandon Roy rookie card. I don't have a ton of recent basketball cards and I certainly don't have a ton of rookie cards of Blazer All-Stars. Here are five packs featuring the stylings of Larry Bird (bleh) and some guy a lot of Portlanders really wanted in a Blazers uniform four years ago. Thank goodness for Kevin Pritchard.

Wait... they want to fire Pritchard? What in the world is wrong with the Blazers?
[updated 04:10 PM - per The Oregonian beat writer Jason Quick, Pritchard is officially done but will finish the draft process tonight.]

Pack 1:
240 - J.J. Redick (First card out of the first pack is a rookie. I'm not sure how the rookies were distributed. Sometimes rookie distribution is weird in packs of other sports besides baseball.)

255 - Andrea Bargnani (Here is the #1 pick of the 2006 draft. Let that sink in for a bit.)
141 - Jamal Crawford
33 - Larry Bird (More bleh. His card is #33. I see what they did there.)
116 - Kevin Garnett (A friend of mine keeps reminding me that I used to be a huge KG fan. I wouldn't say "huge" exactly, but I used to mess around with the Timberwolves back in the NBA2K days on the Dreamcast. He is incredibly obnoxious, though.)
64 - Ryan Gomes

3 - Chris Paul (The hot rumor a couple of days ago was that Chris Paul was going to be traded, and one of those teams may have been Portland. Obviously, that was seriously going to happen, right?)

OTG20 - Elton Brand Own the Game (These cards are pretty unsightly.)
135 - Brad Miller
34 - Ray Allen
128 - Brian Cook
82 - Joey Graham

Pack 2:

246 - Brandon Roy (Jackpot! Wait... is it too late to return the rest of the packs? Maybe I will be greedy and hope I get a LaMarcus Aldridge rookie. Roy is the best thing to happen to this franchise since Clyde Drexler. With the way the Blazers are being run, though, I wouldn't be too surprised to see him get traded for a sack of pickles.)
239 - James White (I'm sensing a trend here. Two rookies at the front of each pack perhaps?)
23 - Jason Richardson (J-Rich tore apart Portland in a couple of playoff games this past season.)
142 - Mike Miller
197 - Carmelo Anthony (Gross. There's nothing like opening a few packs to make me realize how many players I hate in the NBA.)
145 - Manu Ginobili
79 - Smush Parker

33 - Larry Bird (So is there a Bird card in each pack? This is a different picture than the first one I pulled. I would have showed that, too, but I have already dedicated way too much space to Larry Bird here. As you can see, Topps took some liberties with the 2006 baseball design here. In some years, the designs are almost identical, like 2008.)
31 - Shawn Marion
78 - Darko Milicic!
76 - Johan Petro
77 - Yao Ming

Pack 3:

254 - Saer Sene (This reminds me... I need to do something with this card soon.)
216 - Adam Morrison (The Stache...)
27 - Peja Stojakovic
92 - Hakim Warrick
140 - Chris Bosh (One of the highly sought after free agents this offseason... I'm not completely sold on Bosh being a franchise guy to build around, though.)
168 - Troy Murphy
84 - Melvin Ely

CCS17 - Yao Ming Clutch City Stars (This is way too busy for me.)
183 - Zydrunas Ilgauskas
110 - Steve Nash
83 - Jason Williams
31 - Shawn Marion

Pack 4:
265 - Shannon Brown
222 - Shawne Williams
1 - Elton Brand
80 - Sarunas Jasikevicius (What happened to him?)

188 - Samuel Dalembert (Dalembert was one of the first pieces to be moved in what is supposed to be a massive offseason for player movement.)
103 - Josh Howard
51 - Chris Kaman

OTG23 - Chris Paul (I always get Paul cards. He's like my Ichiro of basketball... or Mauer lately.)
69 - DeSagana Diop (DeSagana Diop's name is kind of fun to say outloud.)
199 - Etan Thomas
16 - Mike Bibby
47 - Andrei Kirilenko

Pack 5:
236 - Hilton Armstrong
261 - Solomon Jones (Either this was a bad draft after the top 6 or so, or I just have bad luck.)
263 - David Noel
145 - Manu Ginobili (Batman again.)
79 - Smush Parker (Parker played all 82 games for the Lakers in 2005-06. Isn't that hilarious and weird?)
152 - Carlos Boozer (Ugh.)
167 - Brevin Knight

CSP12 - Ben Gordon Clutch City Prospects (You don't hear the term "prospect" very often in basketball. It's more of a baseball term.)
- Checklist 2 of 2
77 - Yao Ming (More Yao cards for the fire.)

121 - Andre Iguodala (Iguodala has been another buzzed about name recently. Clearly he's not playing in a regulation game here.)

72 - Nate Robinson (This is what happens to fans when they run on the court in an NBA arena. In baseball, you get tasered.)
164 - Shaun Livingston

Enjoy the draft, everyone. Hopefully Pritchard won't be fired by the time it's all over, but I know that's goofy thinking at this point.

Good News, Everybody! Cards on Cards Turns Two

It was two years ago today that I wrote about a blurry 1989 Topps Cris Carpenter baseball card and officially launched this thing. After two years, I still have not made the proper introduction post I originally intended on coming in the first week or so. If you're a casual reader of the blog, hopefully by now you understand what it is and what it's all about. Unfortunately, I don't have any sort of epic anniversary post to write today, nor a best of feature or even a contest.

There's something a lot more interesting going on tonight. The first new episode of Futurama in nearly seven years airs tonight (10:00 PM on Comedy Central) and that's plenty enough reason to celebrate.

Oh, yeah, and there's that whole World Cup thing, too. I can honestly say I've never woken up at 7:00 AM for a televised sporting event, but it was a fun experience.

Hey, I've somehow surpassed 500 posts now. Good news, indeed!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2010 Topps Series 2: Blast It!

We're on to the conclusion of my 2010 Topps Series 2 posts. By conclusion I mean that this is probably going to be the last time that I post about this set, ever. Tomorrow I will begin my new blog, writing about the math rock scene.

For $19.99 or twice the price of options number 1 and 2, you get a whole lot of packaging and not a whole lot of cards. Each pack contains 8 cards along with 1 individually wrapped manufactured patch card for a grand total of 65 cards. Inserts are fairly plentiful here, but really you're paying an extra $10 for a "manupatch". Also, oddly enough, it appears that there is zero chance at pulling any relics or autographs.

This also happened to be a Target exclusive box, which means that the first two packs out of the box contain Target "throwback" versions of the regular base cards. These are nice but incredibly difficult to find. If you toss out the inserts, I actually pulled only 11 of these cards in a $20 box and this is the only way that you can obtain these. Wal-Mart has a similar scam going on. This probably explains why not a single person has traded me any of these cards after last year's Series 1 where you could get entire boxes that came this way if you knew the right UPC code. (If you are holding onto any Cardinals like these from this year or last year's Series 2 or U&H, please let me know immediately as I'd love to get ahold of them!)

The backs look like... well... like a Topps card back should look. It's grey and cardboardy.

Here's my lone base Cardinal card of the box. Allen Craig never got a chance to contribute in his brief time with the big club. He was an internet folk hero last season thanks to his impressive numbers and his consistent lack of attention or praise from management, so of course I expected big things.

I can't believe how many times I've seen this same Johnny Mize photo. Did he ever really play for St. Louis or did he just pose in their unis once? This is from the Vintage Legends insert set.

This is a Mom-related Original Back of a card that looks somewhat similar to a 1985 Robin Yount. Maybe Thorzul would be into this...

Oops... somehow a 2009 card was slipped into this box. Oh, wait, supposedly my mom threw it out, too. She really needs to stay out of my stuff.

The! Best! Announcer! Of! All! Time! Ever!

I'm starting to think that Joe Mauer is slowly replacing Ichiro as the guy I get in pretty much everything ever. I don't mind, because a lot of people collect Mauer. No one gets to have this card but me, however.

I wish I knew an A's collector. I really do.

Oh yes... lest I forget...

Manupatchy Ruth! These look cool, but, eh... it's hard to get too excited about them.

The Results:

Base Cards: 40

Target Throwback Cards (2:8 packs): 11

Gold Parallels (1:18): 1 (These are pretty tough to pull all of a sudden. They are still producing a similar quantity of these as in years past, so does that mean that they made a ton more of the base cards from this year's set? Gee... would a company with a new exclusive deal to produce licensed cards do such a thing?)

The Cards Your Mom Threw Out (1:3): 4 (Pretty good haul there.)

The Cards Your Mom Threw Out Original Backs (1:10): 1

History of the World Series (1:6): 1 (Alex Gonzalez? Really?)

Legendary Lineage (1:4): 2

Million Card Giveaway: 1

Peak Performance (1:4): 2 (Eh.)

Topps AttaxTown: 8 (That's one per pack if you are keeping track.)

Topps 2020 (1:6): 1 (Woo!)

Turkey Red (1:4): 3 (Nice. I like beating the odds here, because I am collecting everything Turkey Red.)

Vintage Legends (1:4): 3 (Including Honus Wagner on a 1990 Topps design. Are you kidding me? That's like a painting of Mona Lisa on a toilet or something.)

Cardinals: 2

Lessons Learned: $20 is a lot of money to be spending on cards for me right now. So... you tell me. What's the best deal out there for a retail buyer? I would love to hear your thoughts. Personally, I think I'm sticking to loose packs and hoping for Turkey Reds and 2020s.

And now, after all that card purchasing, what do I get as my reward? Thanks, Target!

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 Topps Series 2: Part of Your Complete Breakfast

Part two of my in-depth look at spending money on a popular retail product takes us to the Cereal Box. If you're anywhere near my age, you know that you used to be able to buy variety packs of cereal in the grocery store where the boxes would be shrink wrapped in little single-serving sizes. I think they still do this with bags of chips. Aside from being a complete waste of packaging, the entire thing was a huge money making scam as the sum total of cereal contents in one of these variety packs probably amounted to about a quarter of a regular box of cereal, yet you somehow would end up paying more. I was still ticked that my mother wouldn't buy these.

Are the Topps cereal boxes a similar scam? For $9.99, there are a lot of guarantees. There are 55 cards, slightly less than 5 retail packs will contain, but you get 1 of a series of 10 Gold Chrome Refractors. These also serve as a nice "insert sampler" as you get one of every regular non-serial numbered insert in here somewhere.

I'm continually impressed with the quality of photos of the horizontal cards in Series 2. I've yet to be blown away by the rest of the base cards, unless you count whatever it was that I was feeling about that Mariners Franchise History card.

Finally, a Cardinal! Chris Carpenter was held out of Series 1 for some reason, and his photo here is different from his Opening Day card.

I didn't collect cards from 1994 through 2005 or so, so it's fairly unlikely that my mother would have thrown out any Joe Mauer rookie cards. I know, I know... it's so easy to say. Topps just should have chosen more wisely with the naming of these inserts.

This is one of the Vintage Legends cards. The backs of these cards really annoy me, but I'll save that for another post. The thing that annoys me about this is that Topps logo that just doesn't work.

I have fond memories of the 2001 World Series, even though the Yankees ultimately lost in 7 games. On this particular night, which actually happened to be Halloween night, I was out celebrating my birthday with a friend of mine and got to rub it in his face that my Yankees won in dramatic fashion... even though I was never a big Jeter fan. And yes, they're my Yankees when it comes down to playoff time and a certain red birded team is out of it.

I always talk myself into getting cereal boxes because I know for a fact that there will be a Turkey Red card inside. Here's one to scratch from the set.

This isn't a bad side-by-side card. Both of these guys play(ed) ball in the same area for a living.

Do you know those Staples commercials? "WOW! THAT'S A LOW PRICE!" That's kind of how I reacted when I saw this. "WOW! THAT'S A COOL CARD!"


If you don't know what I'm talking about, then I really won't subject you to it. Consider yourself blessed. Anyway, I love these cards and want to collect them. They're some sort of weird hybrid combo of the 3D revival craze and Sportflics, which is awesome.

And lest I forget...

A very curved Lou Gehrig. Two of the ten players are active players, Albert Pujols and Mariano Rivera. Clearly, you know who I am after. This does break the Cy Young streak I had going. I will try to keep flattening this one out and see if anyone is interested.

The Results:

Base Cards: 46

The Cards Your Mom Threw Out: 1 (No "Original Backs")

History of the World Series: 1

Legendary Lineage: 1

Million Card Giveaway: 1

Peak Performance: 1 (I still don't like these. I got Aaron Hill this time.)

Topps AttaxTown: 1

Topps 2020: 1 (Yes!)

Turkey Red: 1

Vintage Legends: 1

Cardinals: 1

Lessons Learned: Basically, you substitute a few inserts for a shiny chrome refractor exclusive thing and this is what you get for about the same price as 5 packs. The boxes are cool, too.

Next up: A blast from the past. From the future. Okay, fine, just a blast.