Monday, February 28, 2011

30 Teams in 30 Posts: #23

Ah, it's the first expansion team to hit the countdown. When I think of expansion era in MLB, I think of teams that were born after I first became aware of baseball. That really just comes down to the two teams that debuted when I was in high school (Marlins and Rockies), plus Tampa Bay and today's fodder - the Arizona Diamondbacks. When I think of Arizona's team, I think of ugly uniforms, the maddening 2001 World Series and... little else. Well, there's something else, but I'll get to that in a second.

The Diamondbacks nickname has always screamed "minor league" to me, but I really can't say it separates itself from any of the other 3 teams I mentioned above. They did go through a major stylistic change around 4 years ago, but it unfortunately left them open to a lot of this. I've just never seen a lot to like with this franchise. In their occasional matchups with the Cardinals, it seems like frustration is always a factor.

Favorite current Diamondbacks player: Armando Galarraga. I'm really reaching here, so I originally decided to take the ex-Portland Beaver Xavier Nady. I had no idea he was on the roster until I pulled up the page. I had a change of heart, however, and went for Galarraga because... well... you know the story. He pitched that perfect game and was a really good sport about it. You have to like that classiness. This hardly looks like a major league team, though. They don't even have Mark Reynolds and his 798 annual strikeouts to kick around anymore.

Least favorite current Diamondbacks player: Kelly Johnson. He always seems to be on Cards fans' wish list, but he's generally too good to be traded.

Favorite Diamondbacks player of all-time: Reggie Sanders. I always liked Reggie. I'm hoping that somehow Lance Berkman's addition to the right field corner will bring the Cardinals back to the levels of outfield offensive production not seen since the days of Reggie Sanders, Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker. I can dream, right? In any case, with the emergence of Jon Jay as a viable option last year and some other bits and pieces, St. Louis should have some depth in one area at least.

Least favorite Diamondbacks player of all-time: Alex Cintron. His playoff collision with Scott Rolen completely derailed the Cardinals 2002 run. Rolen had just been acquired for the stretch run and was cruising, as were the Cards. I hold in my heart the same kind of irrational hatred for Cintron and his singular offense that certain people do when they get cut off in rush hour traffic on a Monday morning and blame everything that goes wrong for them at work for an entire week on that one moment in time. I remain convinced that the Cardinals would have 11 rings right now if it weren't for him.

The Arizona Diamondbacks enter the countdown at #23 in my reverse-ranking of favorite teams as of the moment I picked them on October 4th, 2010. All of these cards are very much up for trade, so please contact me if you're interested. Wow, I really need to get to work on this series before I completely change my mind and decide to re-rank everyone.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Airbrushed Fridays: 1978 Topps #464

I probably don't mention this enough, but if you're reading this blog and you have a want list posted on the internet somewhere (or even one you could send or attach in an email), please get in touch with me. I'd love to kick some more baseball cards to the curb, when time permits of course.

Jerry Grote was proof positive that you didn't always need offense to be an All-Star. Grote was a defensive stalwart behind the backstop, but only drove in 404 runs in his 16 year career and put together a staggeringly awful .642 OPS. Try telling that to his two All-Star appearances.

Why did Topps airbrush Jerry's photo? After spending most of his career with the Mets, Miracle and otherwise, New York sent him packing to the west coast for two players to be named later who never made an impact.

What's wrong with this picture, anyway? As someone with literally no artistic (drawing) talent, I usually sympathize with these people when it comes to certain team logos. I can't sympathize with anyone when they screw up a Dodgers logo. How hard can this be? The 'L' and the 'A' are not interlocking where they should be at all. Not interlocking!

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, February 24, 2011

Loss, Despair, and Serial Numbered Cards

It's been a rough couple of days for this sports fan. Let's recap, courtesy of some really nice cards from Nick of For Card's Sake.

Adam Wainwright is out for the year. Tommy John surgery. Anyone who is into baseball knows that this means that perhaps the best pitcher in the National League, aside from maybe a couple of Phillies, will miss a full calendar year of baseball-related activities because he's having the ligament in his elbow replaced. Also, that pitcher happens to pitch for my favorite team and is one of my favorite ballplayers all around.

Albert Pujols is... well... nevermind. I vowed not to talk about that. No contract talk until the season is over. That goes for this blog, too. Those are his rules, not mine. This card is really shiny and has the good kind of serial numbers on the back (not the cheap looking kind that's on 2011 Topps cards.)

At first I thought this was an ESPN branded set, but it turns out it was just a conveniently framed shot. This card from the 2004 Timeless Teams set also has the nice gold serial numbers on the back.

Can Chris Carpenter step up and perform at maximum capacity, now that Wainwright is shelved for the year? I certainly hope so. Carp is my favorite active Cardinal, especially now that Edmonds (sigh...) is retiring. I'm just concerned that he is on the decline, after seeing some disturbing trends crop up last season like an alarming jump in his home run rate and his lack of effectiveness down the stretch.

Moving on to more local things, Joel Przybilla is no longer a Blazer. As the longest tenured player with the franchise, I felt that Joel was really deserving of his own post. Sadly, I just don't have the time right now. I am cautiously optimistic about the trade that ensued late this morning, but it still sucks to see him go. Przybilla is a shell of his former self on the court, but Dante Cunningham was really fun to watch and the loss of draft picks could hurt in the long run. (In fact, Dante was on the fast track to becoming one of my favorite Blazers.)

Picking up a guy like Gerald Wallace, however, is an opportunity that probably needs to be seized. Heck, picking up Actual Gerald Wallace could prove to be even better. He was an All-Star last season (albeit an Eastern Conference one) and held the de facto "Best Player" title for the Bobcats. It's easy to say that Michael Jordan was fleeced here. I think the move sets up Charlotte decently for the future if Dante Cunningham becomes a better defender and looks a little more like the guy who went off for 18 points and 13 rebounds in a recent game. As for Wallace, I'm at least looking forward to the first time someone accidentally calls him "Rasheed" in a game.

Side note: I'll pretend the Blazers did not play a game last night. It never happened. You can't prove it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More 2011 Topps Firsts

After hitting up a Target store for my first foray into 2011 Topps territory, this past weekend was all about a trip to Wal-Mart. Fortunately, my trips to this chain are few and far between. Living in Portland, I feel fortunate that there's absolutely zero reason to go to a Wal-Mart for any other reason other than to satisfy my curiosity about certain retail exclusive baseball cards. The only Wal-Mart within reasonable driving distance of the city's core barely carries any baseball cards anyway, but I was able to dig behind some other tossed over products to get 5 single packs and one of the Wal-Mart exlusive 9.99 boxes. These are basically replacing cereal boxes this year, but they're not nearly as "cute" or interesting. You get an extra 12 cards over the single packs (or the same number of cards as two jumbo retail packs) and a guaranteed code card, but instead of an exclusive refractor insert you get a plain old fashioned exclusive non-refractor insert. More on that in a minute.

First Wal-Mart Exclusive (This is the Blue Diamond insert - the Democratic counterpart to the Republicans' Red Diamonds over at big bad Target. Or wait... Target is Red because they're no good commies. Something like that. Anyway, these basically look like ToppsTown without the codes.)

First Stephen Strasburg (I wonder how many people have already lost a fortune on this young man. I would be willing to be that he will never ever be as popular as he was early on last year, even if he goes on to have a long and successful career.)

First Cardinals Base Card (It only took until the 12th pack that I opened, but I finally pulled a Cardinal card that's not an insert. Of course, it's one of those three player subset cards. I still like these because they remind me of the '80s and before, but I also wouldn't mind seeing these go away for awhile.)

First Mickey Mantle Card (It's a Lost Card, which I guess means it covers a year that there was no Topps Mantle card made - 1954. All I know is that Topps finally doesn't seem like they're cramming Mantle cards down our throat as much as they're just giving him the Derek Jeter treatment and including him in everything. As long as there are no 500+ card insert sets dedicated to one single player, I'm fine with it.)

First Code Card (Along with the guaranteed code in the $9.98 box, I also snagged one in one of the loose retail packs. Guess what I got, guys? A 1993 Dave Cochrane and a 1987 Calvin Schiraldi! Does anyone know the story with the $10 gift cards that you can redeem? I imagine that it would take $10 or more just to ship anything that costs $10 from their website, so I have no idea if it would even be worth it.)

First Mangled Card (Nick Markakis's Topps Town card was my first official casualty to the pack sealing process this year. If you look closely, you can see the rippled effect on the bottom of his card. Oddly enough, this is actually less subtle than those Topps Ticket to Stardom parallels from awhile back that were trying to be deckle edged.)

First Prospect SuperPhenom Rookie Card (I haven't reached the point where I hate Aroldis Chapman yet, likely because his appearances for the Reds were very limited last year. If there continues to be such a heated rivalry between Cincinnati and St. Louis next season, and all indications point to this continuing, then I'm sure that I will be less enthusiastic about owning this card.)

First Bedazzled Cardinals Card (All props to Erin for coming up with the most appropriate term for these ridiculous parallels. I kind of hate them. But don't, y'know, be discouraged from sending me the Cardinals versions of these.)

First Gold Parallel (Also... First Officially Retired Player? I generally am a big fan of the gold parallel cards, but these are probably going to get kicked to the curb in all of the diamond glitter bedazzled hysteria.)

As you can see, Topps unfortunately continued the cheap serial numbering introduced with last year's crop. They do pick up bonus points for appropriate placement of the serial number, however. (I was wondering what that dead space beneath the logo was for.) I realize that it's probably a lot cheaper to do it this way, but I miss the touch of class that came with the standard gold foil serial numbering.

First Exclusive Sapphire Blue Insert Card (Also known as Wal-Mart Hanger Pack exclusives - and here I was wondering what the WHP prefix on the card numbers were for. This is the replacement for the shiny refractors in the cereal boxes of the past two years, and it's pretty uninspiring. However, like most things, there's an Albert Pujols card to collect so I guess I still need that.)

First Cardinals Rookie Card (And finally, it was nice to actually see some real non-subset Cardinals base cards. I had to wait until the very end of the big box to see any of these. Descalso had a pretty nice low leverage debut stint late last year as the Cards were falling out of the division race. With the word that new acquisition Nick Punto will be sidelined for the next 2-3 months with a so-called sports hernia, I'm hopeful that Descalso will be given a fair shot at some playing time. I'm still pretty ticked off that Brendan Ryan was traded.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Still Collecting Ginter? Me Too.

Who would have thought that having a St. Louis Cardinals-based blog would get me so many Cubs fan readers? I'm in the process of basically cleaning out every single Chicago Cubs-related anything that I own right now because of all of the trade commitments I have going on. One such deal I'm actually pretty behind on is with reader Matt from VA. He sent over a nice group of 2010 Allen & Ginter cards. Even though I have yet to complete any Allen & Ginter set that I set out to finish, I'm hoping this summer brings another installment of the product line. (Does anyone know if this is happening? I don't really pay attention to release schedules.)

I'm not really impressed with the sketch card inserts in the 2010 set. It's a nice idea, but a lot of the faces look weird. It's hard for me to critique art, though, considering I have almost no drawing ability of my own.

Does Matt Holliday become the face of the franchise for 2012 and beyond? I seriously hope not, even though I really like Holliday. Meanwhile, I'm setting my own deadline for Albert Pujols contract talks. If he's not signed to an extension by the first day of the regular season, I'm not discussing his future any more on this blog*... until, of course, he signs on the dotted line with the Redbirds.

On his way to what is now known as Florida, or Heatleland, Ponce de Leon was chased mercilessly by a serpent of the sea as large than the boat he sailed on... according to this expert illustration.

Wow, and Pizarro too? It's amazing anything was discovered in those times!

(*Subject to change without notice!)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stadium Crud: Series 2

Last November, I posted the results of a box of 1994 Stadium Series 3 that I picked up on the cheap. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to pick up a box of Series 2 for even cheaper: 4 whole dollars. There was also a Series 1 box at the same table, but I'm taking my chances and hoping that it'll still be there when I go back to the card show in March.

Here are some of the highlights:

There aren't as many "tilt the camera towards the sky" shots in this set as I've seen in others, but there are still a few. Larry Walker looks statuesque on this card.

Going in the opposite direction, here we have Orel Hershiser, some hay (or is that a giant patch of sod?), and an unnamed Pirate who wants nothing to do with this madness.

Here's Geronimo Pena, showing off some of his superpowers... presumably the same ones that eventually got Joe Torre canned.

Griffey's card is part of a League Leaders type subset, with ugly red metallic stenciling on top of an even uglier background.

Oh, John Kruk and "Quick". That makes an interesting pair.

Another subset is the "Tale of 2 Players", in which Topps boldly tries to make a personal connection between a pair of non-teammates.

There were TONS of "infocards" in this box, one for every other pack at least. This one tries to explain how Topps color coded each player name on the fronts of the cards according to the division the player plays in.

As before, there are one-per-pack Golden Rainbow parallels. I did quite well with these, getting my favorite player in the entire set .

Plus, backup Cardinal catcher eating... something...

... and DK! Nice.

Not at all welcome was the continued presence of the Dugout Dirt insert cards, which fall at 1:6. I got 4. That's all I really want to say there.

My one per box "hit" was a 1st Day Issue parallel of Darryl Strawberry. According to Beckett, these cards had a print run of only 2000 each.

Also appearing at just one per box is a Bowman Preview card - this one being Javy Lopez. Since I've traded a number of times with multiple Braves fans, I'll drop this in the trade stack of the first person who comments on this post (and actually wants the card, of course.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Airbrushed Fridays: 1987 Topps #619

Does anyone miss plain ol' baseball cards? This one doesn't sparkle. There's no die cut. There's no diamond cut. There's no red diamonds here. No blue diamonds. No blood diamonds. No pie, no Abe, no fictitious Japanese characters...

It's still screwed up, though.

Jerry Reed was a right-handed relief pitcher who was in and out of four teams' lineups through the '80s. His best career stretch was a nearly five year stint with the Mariners, for which he appears here... kind of.

Why did Topps airbrush Jerry's photo? Even though Reed was acquired in April and did not pitch for Cleveland at all in 1986, Topps must have found him to be rather elusive as he only logged 11 appearances with Seattle that year. Maybe I need to stop making up excuses for Topps. There's really no good reason for them to botch this. If Reed was really that insigificant, they could have left him out of the set.

What's wrong with this picture, anyway? The M's trident logo that they used up through 1987 is one of the more complicated ones. Let's put it this way: if I had to choose any logo to draw on a card, this would probably rank just ahead of the Trail Blazers pinwheel logo. In other words, it's very far down the list. I like how the middle and right arrows are essentially the same size, but the one on the left is barely even there. Jerry's got some wavy brush strokes on his jersey top that are more easily seen when holding the card in hand.

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.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

2011 Topps Firsts

The long standoff is over. As of about 8:00 PM last night, I am finally in possession of some honest to goodness 2011 Topps cards. I grabbed myself a grand total of 10 packs from Target for this initial venture. The store had rack packs (no blasters), but much like last year, the single packs ensure a greater number and variety of inserts.

First Pack of 2011

First Card of 2011
8 - Julio Borbon (Borbon's card has a slightly dinged corner, which is fitting. I guess I'm supposed to say something about the design here. It hasn't really grown on me. I think it's better than 2010, however.)

55 - Matt Joyce
30 - Gio Gonzalez
330 - Derek Jeter (Not pictured here, but it's somewhat "fun" that each card has a brief mention of a corresponding card in the Topps vaults that shares the same number.)
309 - Chicago Cubs
59 - Gaby Sanchez Rookie Cup (I discovered later, much to my amazement, that there are two Gaby Sanchez "base" cards. There's another one that has a different photo and card number with no rookie cup. I don't remember this ever happening before.)

First Horizontal Card of 2011

279 - Nick Swisher

First Diamond Parallel Madness Card

34 - Rick Ankiel (Okay, so... first impressions? I have seen the love expressed in various circles, but these cards seriously look like some sticker-like something that you could pull out of a hand-operated vending machine for two quarters at the local grocery store. Dragons, fairies, bling... all of these things depicted on a shiny metallic surface built to adhere to anything... your locker, your Trapper Keeper, your backpack.) Others received: Hong-Chih Kuo, Carl Pavano, Brian Bogusevic

First Unwanted ToppsTown Insert Taking Up 1 of the Promised 12 Cards

TT-28 - David Ortiz (These cards seem to very gradually improve over time. I thought Topps totally gave up last year when they went to the Attax code cards for Series 2. These are more like the "foil board" cards from the late '90s/early '00s.) Others received: Carlos Santana x2, Jose Reyes, Dustin Pedroia, Mat Latos, Chris "Diamondbacks" Young, Justin Verlander, Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer

256 - Tyler Colvin
58 - Edgar Renteria
66 - R.A. Dickey

So now that the first pack is out of the way, let's take a look at what else I learned in this initial 10 pack grab.

First Ichiro Suzuki Card (It had to happen. It only took until pack 2.)

First Multi-Player Subset Card (Yeah, these pretty much look the same as previous years. This is the only one of its like that I got, though.)

First Kimball Champions Insert (I was shocked at how flimsy these minis are. I guess I was expecting something more like the Allen & Ginter minis in terms of card stock. These are pretty nice, nonetheless, although I haven't decided if I'm collecting them.) Others Received: Derek Jeter

First 60 Years of Topps Insert (This is just the 'Your Mom' insert set, part two. Very uninteresting to me.) Others Received: Nolan Ryan 1971 Topps, Robin Yount 1976 Topps

First Diamond Duos Insert (These are the new Legendary Lineage, I guess. They don't really add much to anything except for, presumably, provide space for jersey swatched to be spliced into the design as needed.) Others Received: Tommy Hanson/Mike Minor, Joey Votto/Adrian Gonzalez

First Cardinal card (Oddly enough, it had to be an insert card. Along with the 60 Years of Topps reprint-style cards, Topps decided on a special spinoff insert concept consisting of "what if" scenarios with some of their contracted legendary players and their classic designs.) Others ("The Lost Cards") Received: Duke Snider 1953

First Target Exclusive (I'm not very impressed by these, but they exist nonetheless. Unsurprisingly, after pulling a base Ichiro card, the insert versions started pouring in.) Others Received: (another) Ichiro, Babe Ruth

First Card to Make Me Thirsty (I don't care if it's RC... it sounds delicious right now.)

First Extremely Wild Catcher's Helmet

First Extremely Boring Insert Card (This is from the History of Topps insert set. No one really needs to see this.) Others Received: Michael Eisner and Disney Buy Topps or something

First Topps 60 Insert Thing (I suppose he's pretty good at the baseball game.)

First Albert Pujols Card

First Loss Prevention Device (Only one of these was inserted into a pack that I bought. Out of 10... that's pretty strange.)

First Vintage Reproduction (This is pretty well done. I don't know anything about this insert set, however. I do find it rather strange how much vintage designs and sets based on something like this ends up playing into the Topps "60th Anniversary" party when it originally had nothing to do with Topps at all.)

First Bogus!

Well, give me awhile to sleep on this set...