Friday, September 30, 2011

Airbrushed Fridays: 2011 Topps #569

I think I might actually have a baseball hangover. People I know that I actually didn't know cared one inkling about baseball still cannot stop talking about Wednesday night. I've already endured some Phillies smack talk. What is going on? People don't like baseball. All of a sudden now, they do? Maybe this is just a sign that the Red Sox should have never, ever had any ounce of success. Now that they have been defeated, mocked and ridiculed, the timid fans are coming out of the woodwork.

Cameron Maybin was cursed with the five-tool label at a very early age. The next time you hear the words "five tool" associated with any young prospect is the time that you should stay far away from said prospect, for he is moments away from accidentally setting himself on fire and disappointing scouts and baseball nerds for years to come.

Why did Topps airbrush Cameron's photo? Maybin, an outfielder with "no doubt five-tool talent", was part of a big trade in 2007 that saw Miguel Cabrera land in Detroit. By the end of last year, when those five tools still hadn't translated to actual big league success, Florida pawned him off on San Diego for scraps.

What's wrong with this picture, anyway? It's Photoshopped! Horribly Photoshopped! His strange uniform would even look out of place on a modern Heritage card. I don't like it.

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, September 28, 2011

A Fine Line Between a Good Season and a Bad One

I often have a really hard time coming up with a title for my blog posts. Aside from the formulaic ones that write themselves, I usually fill in the title at the very end as sort of a throwaway. This one is different as it popped into my head on my way to work this morning. Win, lose, or draw, I knew I'd feel the same way about this season after Game 162.

It's amazing how the result of one game, or even one play, can affect the way an entire season is viewed. I never want to be one to rush to an emotional reaction and trash everything that went on during a season if it just doesn't work out in the end. This season was a very different one to be a Cardinals fan, however. I could have said, with utmost confidence, that 2011 was an abject failure with no regrets if things had gone just ever so slightly differently tonight. I still feel like the Tony La Russa era has run its course and that it's time for some new managerial blood. Horrible decisions were made, both in roster construction and in game management. Corey Patterson should not be on this or any other Major League roster.

But after tonight, we can look back at this team and say that it was a 90-win playoff team. St. Louis has won the Wild Card for the first time since Albert Pujols' rookie season. I will root like hell for this team, even though I felt like they had basically quit on this season back when they got swept by the Dodgers in late August. Playoff fever does strange things to you. And having already experienced the run of an 83-win team take the World Series after two straight dominant seasons with no rings to show for it, you just never know what will happen.

Red Sox and Braves fans will look back at this season as a bad one. I don't really feel sorry for the Red Sox fans, but I'm sure the future is brighter than it seems right now for the Braves with all of their young talent.

Meanwhile, there's more Cardinals baseball on Saturday, and that feels great right now. And a huge tip of the cap to Chris Carpenter for a completely dominant performance tonight.

Starring Roles

This truly bizarre baseball season just got nuttier, with the Zombie Cardinals falling behind 5-0 to the woeful Astros, before rallying to score 13 of the game's next 14 runs. Tomorrow will decide the Cardinals' fate - or possibly send them to a final tiebreaker on Thursday. Given how this season has gone, I expect nothing less (or more) than a 163rd game.

Here's some trade post cards from Play at the Plate to express my feelings, first starring Lance Berkman as the cagey Photoshopped vet who has every inch of Enron Field Minute Maid Park mapped out in his brain.

Starring: Yadier Molina as the team's batting leader! He's a Top Ten NL Batting Leader! Hey, don't look at me that way.

Starring: Allen Craig as Matt Holliday!

Also Starring: Colby Rasmus as the creepy, disappointing specter that still looms ominously over this season. He hasn't really done anything to suggest that he won't be terrible with Toronto, but many a Cardinal fan remains distraught over his exit.

... And Bud Smith as Ace McNohitter! Wait... ahh!! Bud Smith. Bad luck! Run away! Run awayyyyy!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Power of Chris Duncan Compels You

C'mon Redbirds, quit messing around. Now everyone can see why I feared the final series with dreadful Astros and Minute Maid Park so much. I hope the Cards can go out and do it for Chris Duncan, who succumbed to a freakish neck injury. He was the roving corner outfielder for the last World Series winning Cardinals team, but he's been relegated to the TV studio recently.

Thanks to Section 36 for the Duncan jersey card. I can only surmise that he's going through a similar emotion roller coaster right now. Meanwhile, I realized that I haven't put my end of this trade in the mail yet. I'm a terrible person. But not as terrible as the Astros... or... you know... the Cardinals fundamentals this season. Yikes.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Three Days Left!

It's hard to imagine, but by this time next week we'll already be talking about playoff games, postseason pitching matchups and roster constructions. There are only three games left to play in the regular season. Three!

Apropos of nothing, here's a trade post about a package received from Night Owl Cards, one of the most prolific sports card bloggers and package senderers that you'll find anywhere. Yes, he's a senderer.

I have a feeling that Gypsy Queen is the kind of set that I'm going to really appreciate in a few years, but just haven't had the time for this year. I think I'm actually headed in the opposite direction and have definitely considered not touching anything next year that isn't Heritage or Ginter. I doubt I will have the will to resist the urge to buy random packs, though. That always gets me.

Albert Pujols received multiple, prolonged standing ovations in today's game against the Cubs, the regular season home finale at Busch Stadium. I really have a hard time seeing Pujols in another uniform next year. I think the man will get paid, and I think the team will look at what Pujols is likely to get on the open market and give it to him. They gave Berkman a fair deal, and I just don't see it being advantageous to the team and its fanbase if they try to low-ball the best player in baseball who has been their franchise player for 11 seasons.

Okay, okay... fine. I just broke my season-long vow not to talk about the Pujols situation on this blog! I guess I just couldn't wait.

Here's something different. It seems so long ago that Jim Edmonds was set to join the Cardinals before finding that his injury that he suffered last year with the Reds was much more severe than anticipated. I would have enjoyed that last Edmonds victory lap, and Colby Rasmus would have gotten traded either way.

Most of the package was actually Ginter set needs, but I just couldn't come up with a whole lot to say about any of the cards. That doesn't make them or this package any less important. I just wanted to talk about the Cardinals. Drew Storen makes the cut here, however, as I temporarily became a Nats fan this weekend for... some reason.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Good Luck Ducks, Week 4: Watch Out For Flying Objects

Oregon faces their first road test this week in their first conference game as a member of the newly reconfigured Pac-12 Conference. One could easily count the LSU game as a road game, but it technically wasn't. One could also easily never remind me of that game again and I would be perfectly fine with that.

The last time Oregon visited the so-called Zona Zoo has to rank up there with one of the greatest Ducks football games I have ever seen. It was the highlight of the brief Jeremiah Masoli era as he led the team to a seemingly impossible comeback after the "Zoo" flooded the sidelines prematurely, waiting for a celebration that would never be. I don't think I've ever had a more satisfying sports moment, aside from the Cardinals clinching World Series win in 2006, than seeing the students have to climb back up into the stands and go home with their tails between their legs. Oh, and some jackass Wildcats fan knocked one of the Ducks cheerleaders out by tossing a nearly full water bottle at her head. Nice.

Tonight's game should be an interesting one. Arizona's senior quarterback Nick Foles is one of the conference's elite and will probably get a chance to play on Sundays. His passing game has torn apart the Oregon defense in the past, but the Ducks have found a way to win each time he's faced them previously. Meanwhile, it will be fun to see how Oregon's passing game stands up to a worthy conference opponent after seeing Darron Thomas torch some lesser quality opponents.

Above footage from last season's Ducks/Wildcats shootout.

Game time is 7:15 PDT with national coverage on ESPN2. Go Ducks!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Airbrushed Fridays: 1976 Topps Traded #158T

There are six games left in the MLB regular season. Six! What happened to this season? What happened to summer? Where did the time go? Why was last night's season premiere episode of NBC's Community so... blah?

Ken Reitz was a former All-Star and Gold Glove winning third baseman who played most of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in an era where the Cards were just flat out not very good. St. Louis has had this even/odd decade thing going on, where they have traditionally been far less successful in odd decades. Let's hope that trend ends this decade.

Why did Topps airbrush Ken's photo? Reitz (pronounced like "beets") was dealt to the Giants after 4 seasons with the Cards in December of 1975, only to be returned to St. Louis the following offseason. After three more years with the Cards, he would eventually be involved in the deal that would bring future HOFer Bruce Sutter to town.

What's wrong with this picture, anyway? Where do I start, with the glowing navy blue cap or the ridiculous smudgy crayon look of the 'SF' logo? Whoever came up with the banner headline on these early Traded set cards was at least thinking straight, knowing that they could usually cover up most of the jerseys.

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, September 21, 2011

A Truly Bizarre Season, Represented in Picture Cards

Things are getting pretty weird now, not that they weren't weird from the beginning this season. I already covered Adron Chambers last night. His card, as with the rest of the cards in this post, were sent to me by reader Ryan in a little want-list-filler-for-Cardinals swap.

Matt Holliday's own personal 2011 season might go down as one of the most bizarre of all-time. One can only imagine what his diary would look like this year, if grown multi-millionaire men actually kept those sorts of things. After a spectacular opening game, Holliday went through an emergency appendectomy. He had a balky quadriceps muscle at one point, which caused him to miss additional time. He's dealt with back problems. He strained his side muscle during a pregame workout. At one point, a moth flew into Holliday's ear and he had to get pulled from a game. His latest malady involves a finger that he strained in the on deck circle. He may or may not return this season.

Okay, Rogers Hornsby has nothing to do with the 2011 season. This is just a cool card.

Just to show that this season was doomed from the start, Adam Wainwright was diagnosed with Severe Elbow Failure before the season even starter and underwent successful Tommy John surgery. The trouble is, Wainwright is one of the premiere pitchers in the National League and all the Lance Berkman Berking in the world can't save a beleaguered pitching staff.

As a cruel reminder of the total bizarreness of the 2011 Cardinals, here's a jersey card of the Cards' top young talent... who happens to be a Blue Jay now.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You Can't Stop Adron Chambers, You Can Only Hope To Contain Him

The Zombie Cardinals are still roaming the earth, thanks in part to a key bases loaded triple by first-time call-up Adron Chambers. For Chambers, it was his second pivotal late game hit in recent days. St. Louis kept pace in the wild card race (to go along with an Atlanta win and a San Francisco loss) and I will reveal contents of a new Allen & Ginter blaster in semi-celebration.

Pack 1:
87 - Colby Lewis

173 - Mariano Rivera (In case you haven't heard... oh, nevermind.)
22 - Michael Bourn
215 - Andrew McCutchen (It will be interesting to see how long McCutchen remains a Pirate.)

PP2 - Mike Gellner Portraits of Penultimacy (Dude is from Portland. Good town, I hear.)

HH7 - CC Sabathia Hometown Heroes

Pack 2:
98 - Jason Bay (Bay hit a career high 36 HRs in 2009 and has hit just 18 since.)
58 - Alcides Escobar

BHS-17 - Texas Rangers Baseball Highlight Sketches
325 - Mike Stanton (Stanton may yet be a perennial home run king, but he's got to work on that whole strikeouts thing.)

SRU2 - Fire Breathing Step Right Up

FF18 - HMS Devastation Floating Fortresses (Anything with Devastation in the name must be one fortress to be reckoned with.)

Pack 3:
183 - Mike Napoli (Shockingly, Napoli has an OPS over 1.000 this season. Don't pitch to him!)
124 - Chad Billingsley

41 - Carlos Santana (Santana broke the Cleveland team record for most home runs by a switch hitter on Monday. Not bad.)
166 - Geovany Soto
260 - Alex Rodriguez Mini
HH98 - Clay Buchholz Hometown Heroes

Pack 4:
269 - Derrek Lee (I wasn't even used to Lee in a Braves uniform and he's gone and switched teams two more times since.)
53 - Chipper Jones
300 - Ryan Braun
345 - Zack Greinke
182 - Clay Buchholz Mini (Buchholz again.)

HH52 - Ian Kinsler Hometown Heroes

Pack 5:
217 - Shaun Marcum (So many Brewers...)

295 - Chris Carpenter (That's more like it.)
251 - Ian Desmond (Desmond has been swinging a hot bat of late.)

AOM17 - Hominidae Ascent of Man

110 - Jake McGee A&G Back Mini
HH60 - Alex Rodriguez Hometown Heroes (I wonder how long Alex Rodriguez will stick around.)
- Codemaster Jerk (Did anyone solve that thing? I haven't exactly been paying attention lately.)

Pack 6:
285 - Alex Rios
19 - Daniel Bard
127 - James Loney

310 - Matt Kemp (I'm not usually one to praise the Dodgers, but I was happy that they beat the Giants tonight. It makes things a little less complicated in case the Zombie Cards finally bust through the walls.)

AP20 - Bengal Tiger Animals in Peril

MMF22 - Ada Lovelace Minds That Made The Future

Pack 7:
69 - Neftali Feliz
161 - Casey McGehee (AHHHH! What did I do to you, Topps? This isn't nice.)
42 - Heath Bell (The Cardinal that never was. Instead, they have Arthur Rhodes and Octavio Dotel.)

12 - Hope Solo Code Parallel

304 - Madison Bumgarner Mini
HH88 - Roy Oswalt Hometown Heroes
- Binder Offer

Pack 8:
163 - Ian Kennedy (20 game winner... Cy Young contender? How did that happen? How is Arizona a division winner, for that matter?)
219 - The Ghost of Johan Santana
BHS-20 - Alex Rodriguez Baseball Highlight Sketches
327 - David DeJesus

WMF7 - The Man in the Iron Mask World's Most Mysterious Figures (Kinda creepy.)
HH14 - Carl Pavano Hometown Heroes
- Checklist 2 of 5

I will update the want list shortly. If you've engaged with me on a trade lately, thank you for being patient.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Still Summer, Still Baseball Season

Not only is summer not officially over until this Friday, but there are also some wild card races in full effect in this current baseball season. Sick of baseball? That's too bad. I guess you could always fully immerse yourself in cartoon ponies or something. Things have been moving along just as I expected in the Cardinals Dept., which means that they will fall flat on their faces as soon as they are in a must-win situation against a lesser opponent. Yes, that means that the Cubs and Astros scare me as an opponent a lot more than Philadelphia.

Reader Daniel sent over another batch of 2011 Heritage cards to help out the cause. I may finally catch up on posting about these packages by the time 2012 Heritage rolls around. Speaking of which, next year's set will be modeled after the 1963 Topps set. If done right, that set could be amazing.

About half the package ended up being those fun black retail-only quasi-parallels that I love so much. I do hope that they don't come up with another retail exclusive again next year. I have a feeling I will cut my pack purchasing habits down to strictly Heritage and A&G with pretty much no exceptions very soon. I just can't keep up.

Jose Bautista cards were not in plentiful supply until he started tearing the cover off the baseball with alarming regularity. In fact, I'm not even sure that I know what a Bautista Pirates (or any other team for that matter) card looks like. Do these things exist? Is there a market for early/rookie Bautista cards, someone who is already 30 and is just now becoming a marquee player?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Good Luck Ducks, Week 3: It Could Happen To You

Loosely speaking, I attended the University of Oregon for several years during the mid-90s. These were fruitful times, as the Ducks were building on the mild success of the Chris Miller and Bill Musgrave years in which they had made the transition from perennial laughing stock to Independence Bowl and Freedom Bowl fodder. My second year in school in Eugene was the surprising Rose Bowl team. Subsequent years saw the Ducks move up a few notches more, and despite the occasional plateau, Oregon football has been trending upward for the better part of two and a half decades now. This is great stuff.

The thing I enjoyed the most about game days back when I lived inside of them was the walk to Autzen Stadium from campus. I will have the rare opportunity to relive that walk this morning to go catch the Ducks take on an FCS opponent in what will ultimately be a working practice and preparation for the conference schedule. Originally, Oregon was scheduled to play Utah this week, but when Utah suddenly became a conference ally, suddenly their scheduled non-conference game vanished and no in conference game with the Utes replaced it. Such is life when you start juggling conferences. It could get even weirder next year.

I don't want to underestimate a team I know nothing about at all. I didn't know there was a Missouri State until a few weeks ago, which is less surprising when you consider that until recently they were known as Southwest Missouri State. I am (somewhat) familiar with the Missouri Valley Conference, but only today learned that this Bears football team plays in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, an FCS offshoot from a D1 conference that otherwise isn't interested in the American version of the sport of Football. This game doesn't scare me, but you only have to look back two weeks to Oregon State's debacle with Sacramento State to realize that an FCS loss isn't exactly as rare as winning the lottery.

Above footage from the last Ducks game vs. an FSC opponent. Sorry about the music!

Game time is 12:30 PDT with local coverage on Comcast SportsNet Northwest. If you're going to the game like I am, apparently you are supposed to wear black.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Airbrushed Fridays: 2008 Topps #290

These next four days will determine the true fate of the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals. It's been a long, strange year - mostly strange - and the Cards sitting 4.5 games back in the wild card race and 5.5 games behind in the NL Central has to feel like a disappointment compared to how the season began. The health news surrounding Matt Holliday is less than encouraging. Four games against the Phillies, on the road against the team with the best record in baseball should seem like an impossible task. I just don't think that playing up to the competition has ever been the Cardinals problem. If anything, that Astros series finale looms large as the scariest one to me if we're still talking about magic numbers by late September.

Edgar Renteria is a shortstop who has manned the shortstop position for three World Series clubs, winning two. He was both a walk-off World Series winner (Florida, 1997) and the final out of the season (St. Louis, 2004). And last season, of course, he was the World Series MVP with San Francisco. Throughout his long career, he's provided above average offense for a middle infielder to go with mostly above board defense. To date, he's won two gold gloves and appeared in five All-Star games. To no one's surprise, he's important to me for his six seasons with the Cardinals, the most time he's logged with any club.

Why did Topps airbrush Edgar's photo? Renteria was with Atlanta in 2007 when Yunel Escobar was starting to gain traction in the Braves system. Edgar was shipped off to Detroit for a package that included Jair Jurrjens following the season, which precluded his appearance in a current uniform in 2008 Series 1.

What's wrong with this picture, anyway? I think whoever applied the Detroit logo to Edgar's shirt was intoxicated, as each letter seems to be aligned at a slightly different angle.

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, September 14, 2011

Crinkly Bubble Mailers

I always feel bad when I'm really behind on trade posts because I always know I'll find one or two packages that I haven't reciprocated for. Such is the case, I believe, for this particular package of want list fodder from Crinkly Wrappers.

Minis were on the menu, specifically those of the 2010 Allen & Ginter variety. Protarchaeopteryx must be the Marc Rzepczynski of Mesozoic era.

Who would win in a... oh, forget it... clearly, the Komodo dragon because it's a DRAGON. I don't care if it can't breathe fire (or can it...?)

This is the second straight post where I've been able to feature 2010 Turkey Red. I love Turkey Red. I need to buy some more. I wonder how much I'd have to shell out for a box of 2005 or 2006 Turkey Red. Heck, I'd even take a blaster or a few packs.

You know the deal here. Crummy set, but fun little insert. I only wish these were on a Heritage quality card stock.

Ahh... I don't see the connection at all. Prince isn't even a switch hitter! Flipping over the card, it's revealed that both players led the majors in walks in the previous seasons (1962 & 2010.)

Thanks again to Crinkly Wrappers. I'll have to get some Blue Jays headed back in your direction soon.