Saturday, August 30, 2014

Good Luck Ducks, Week 1: South Dakota?!

The Oregon Ducks begin another football season with renewed title hopes and one of the top rated players in the game.

Pinch yourself. Rub your eyes a few times. Stare out your window in disbelief, if you will. It's, gulp, football season again. While I wish baseball season could go on forever (and in my dreams, I guess it always will), the schedule makers and handsomely paid devils behind the Great Football Machine have declared this the first week where young people run into each other for little to no compensation.

Oregon begins its season trying to erase the memories of a great season turned spoiled, with ugly losses to Stanford (again) and Arizona (seriously?) relegating the Fighting Ducks to a subpar bowl (Alamo). To their credit, they cruised to victory easily over the outclassed Longhorns playing in their own state, but a new season means a blank slate. Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota is back, along with defensive wizard Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and a host of other stars on both sides of the ball. Gone are standouts like Josh Huff (graduation), De'Anthony Thomas (hanging out with Snoop? or I guess Kansas City) and Colt Lyerla (the less said, the better.) Will the O-line be able to protect the phenomenal Mariota? Will the D-line be able to tackle anyone? You never know anything about a college football team until they get some games in them. I am hopeful about this season but my expectations are not sky high.

Oregon's opponent tonight should also have not-so-sky high expectations. The Ducks continue their educational (for me) tour through the Missouri Valley Conference this season as they play another school that I didn't know actually existed. It's not surprising that there's a state in the union (South Dakota) that has a school named after itself, but I can't recall ever seeing or hearing of such a thing. Not to be confused with the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (playing Missouri today), the South Dakota Coyotes will take the field against the #3 ranked team in the country. I assume the Jackrabbits and Coyotes are bitter rivals as well as natural enemies. The Coyotes reportedly play ground & pound, smash mouth (i.e. Stanford style) football, so Oregon will get a chance to play against a style they haven't performed so well against, albeit with the difficulty setting set to "easy". That's the assumption, anyway. Strange things have happened during the first week of past football seasons, and the hope is that the Ducks don't become the latest shocking early season upset in a long line of them (hello, Appalachian State!)

Well, it at least beats last year's opening opponent. Nicholls State came for the sacks of money with dollar signs on them and left Eugene more or less intact. 

Game time is 7:30 PDT with national coverage on the Pac-12 Network. Go Ducks!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Airbrushed Fridays: 1959 Topps #278

Airbrushed Fridays returns after a short hiatus with a card from one of my favorite sets.

Who is he? Chuck Essegian was a scrub, but he is one of only two people in the world who can rightly say they participated in both the World Series and the Rose Bowl. As a linebacker, Essegian played for the Stanford Indians (yep.) in 1952 Granddaddy of Them All. Stanford was destroyed by Illinois, 40-7. I don't like Stanford, but I won't get into that today. Essegian was a reserve outfielder for the World Series winning Dodgers team of 1959, as he lasted just a few months with St. Louis.

How did he get here? Despite a reputation for hitting "a long ball" as the back of the card suggests, Essegian was traded following his rookie season by the Phillies to the Cardinals for the father of their future GM (Ruben Amaro). Oddly, it was the Cardinals who had actually originally drafted Essegian, and he would be traded again as mentioned above before the '59 season was out.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None

Airbrushed Score: 7

Comments: Is Chuck wearing a white sheet as a shirt? Is he about to sit in the barber's chair and get a fresh buzzcut?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Trade Post For No Reason

A fellow collector asks "do I need a reason??" The answer, of course, is no.

Jeff from 2x3 Heroes sent me an out of the blue stack of cards. He is one of the ones that I send out of the blue stack of cards to, so this seems appropriate. 2014 seems to be the year that Topps is paying tribute to the world's seemingly unlimited supply of 1989 Topps cards, but they rare seem to know how to replicate their own past designs. The die cut minis found in this year's base set are just plain weird looking (and have different border colors?) while the cards from Topps Archives have the player name left justified. Left justified! I know it's been awhile, but this is how you do 1989 Topps with a relatively short player name.

Jeff took down some numbers from my Heritage want list. I decided to scan Didi Gregorious, who both looks and sounds (as in his name) least like a Major League Baseball player. This is the fun side of having a lot of head shots in the Heritage set.

I know that lenticular style cards don't scan the best, but I was truly happy to receive this Greg Matthews card from the 1986 Sportflics Rookies set. This might be my favorite card of the whole package, but I'm at a loss as to how I can explain why. I guess Sportflics just remind me of the days when I couldn't justify buying a pack with only a few cards in it for significantly more than a garden variety Topps pack, although I'm pretty sure this particular card came from a year end factory set. Times have changed, but maybe they haven't changed all that much. After all, I use the same logic to pass on packs of Chrome this and Platinum that in the card aisle at Target all the time. 3 or 4 cards for $3 when you know they're just going to be Pirates and Red Sox cards is just not fun.

Here's a nice Tulo rookie for Erin's collection. I wonder if he'll stop getting injured all the time the moment the Rockies finally deal him away.

Membership has its privileges. Just ask Todd Zeile.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bargain Blaster

Featuring the familiar One Exclusive Patch Card Inside!

I had a $5 off coupon burning a hole in my pocket and finally put it to good use last weekend. Along with my first dip into 2014 Allen & Ginter territory, I also snagged a 2014 Topps Series 2 blaster at a more affordable price. By this time of year, I usually stay far away from the base set because I am usually running out of Cardinals to collect. That's not the case this year. I have a feeling I will still be working on the team set proper by the time the calendar flips to 2015.

The manupatch card could've been worse, I suppose, but I have never successfully traded with an A's fan. When you couple that with the fact that Cespedes was recently traded and probably isn't all that exciting to an A's fan these days (a theoretical fan at that), I am probably not going to be able to get rid of this any time soon.

This was a big pull for me. Craig got traded just as I was starting my vacation a few weeks ago, and his past contributions to the team will be missed. Unfortunately, it seems like he's broken now, so it's quite understandable that he was dealt. Joe Kelly, on the other hand... don't get me started. I will break things.

These don't really do it for me, but they're not terribly easy to find. If anyone is sitting on any of these flashy red Cardinals, you know who to get in touch with.

I could have saved this for a future Airbrushed Friday, but this is a pretty boring card. I would have liked to have seen more of Bourjos this year than what we've gotten, but Jon Jay has been on fire lately.

I think I have 8 of these. Does Bundy even exist anymore?

Red hot blue jay.

These are really boring. Have I mentioned that?

Nomar had one of the stranger careers in recent years. He succeeded at crossing over into pop culture mainstream consciousness (I remember the SNL sketches), but wasn't able to play at a high level long enough to be a serious Hall of Fame candidate.


Gold bordered cards are pretty ugly and unmemorable this year. I bet that's going to change in 2015.

This is the second short printed variation that I've pulled from Series 2. After making some money back on my Evan Gattis bedazzled Photoshop thing, I ended up with a Futures jersey variation of broken Jose Fernandez. Any takers?

McGwire looks awkward here.

The only thing Matt Harvey is SaberStarring in this year is SaberRehab.

Pujols looks more and more like a comic book villain/tough guy with each passing day. I ended up with something like 20 of these Target parallels, but I didn't feel like scanning them all.

I entered my code online and nothing happened.

Zimmerman looks to be the latest of a series of star players that I wasn't familiar with at all when I returned to collecting to be on the last legs of his career. Is that fair? Maybe not, but I remember Topps introducing me to players like Nick Markakis, Grady Sizemore, Brian Roberts and Zimmerman way back when. Now their days of appearing on insert cards seem to mostly be behind them, though Markakis is still a solid regular and plus defender.

As always, send me an email if you're interesting in anything here aside from the Cardinals cards.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Understanding Ginter

Trying to come to terms with the latest Topps release.

For the second year in a row, I managed to completely ignore the release of the unfortunately named Topps Allen & Ginter's (hereafter referred to as Allen & Ginter, A&G or just Ginter) for several weeks until I just couldn't help myself. I bought myself a value pack on Sunday, one of those things at Target that nets you 3 regular packs and some sort of bonus. This set is... fine. For the umpteenth year in a row, however, I feel myself missing some of the minimalist feel of the early Ginter sets and have my doubts that anything Topps designed for this has anything to do with the original A&G cards they are supposedly paying tribute to.

First off, this may as well be a Gypsy Queen insert card. I don't collect Gypsy Queen. It feels unnecessary and sometimes kind of ugly. Gypsy Queen inserts, on the other hands, are usually very well designed. I like it when people send me these (when they're Cardinals, obviously.) However, I couldn't give a rip about accumulating Gypsy Queen cards. This is well designed, but I don't see why these are a part of the Allen & Ginter set. I usually either think something is wrong or that I pulled some sort of weird hit if I get a card out of an Allen & Ginter pack that doesn't have a white border.

The base design is a bit noisy, but I could probably get used to it. The team name is pretty much getting shouted at us, but we don't see this all that often in modern card designs. I'm okay with it. Again, I prefer the minimalist approach when it comes to A&G, but I can't complain too much about this. I chose a horizontal card because this just happens to look really nice. I don't remember Ginter having many (any?) horizontal base cards in the first years of these sets but I know it happened eventually.

This is a plane, I guess. I should probably care about this?

The minis look pretty nice when you consider that they probably had to get created with the space and fitting the team name in. I am guessing this is a black bordered mini as the base cards don't have any kind of border.

Here's the bonus for buying a value pack. It looks like they brought back the gold bordered mini concept from 2012, which I guess I can't complain about. I don't remember what they did last year. In fact, I think that maybe they didn't have these value packs at all last year.

I absolutely cannot stand numbers and symbols replacing letters in words, so I hate this insert set. I hate it with fire. So stupid.

On the other hand, we have cats! I like cats.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ozzie #503 Comes to the 503

Another Listia win becomes one of my lower numbered Wizard cards.

At this point, I'd probably make a better player collector than a team collector. It's much easier to rationalize a single card pickup here and there, but I've always had a hard time with buying singles because the thrill factor isn't really there for me. I like the sense of randomness. I like looking at groups of cards rather than one or two. I don't want to keep most of those cards, but it's fun to go through them and critique the photos and look at the words and numbers on the back.

Even though I hadn't bought any cards in bulk (until yesterday! spoilers!) all summer, I've been sticking by Listia (and to a lesser extent, COMC) as an outlet to pick up a few interesting things. I snagged this sepia mini, numbered 25 of 50, by using the "get it now" option. I wouldn't say that I scored a major deal exactly, but I had the credits and typically have some stiff competition for Cardinals cards on that site. This one is mine, though. You can't have it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

So Long, Topps BUNT

And thanks for nothing. Literally nothing.

I gave Topps BUNT a spin this season. Topps BUNT, aside from being bizarrely capitalized like a lot of bad decisions on the internet, is the virtual trading card app from the MLB exclusive license holder. It's not like me to spill a bunch of words about something I don't like (you'll never find me reviewing places on Yelp), but I found this app particularly frustrating because it had potential to be a pretty good time waster.

Instead, I'm afraid BUNT just a waste. I'll issue a caveat here: I am never going to be a company's ideal "freemium" consumer. I have a really hard time forking over actual cash for something intangible. I consider myself a huge music fan, and I can scarcely get myself to buy anything on iTunes. I really like having something I can hold on to, even if that something (e.g. a compact disc) is going to end up in a storage box for 99.99% of its life. I do download free apps and use them on occasion. And while I'm no economics wizard, I do fully understand that something that no one is paying money for is not going to make anyone any money. I do think, however, that this could have been something Topps didn't really need to make a ton of cash on because it could have been a tool to promote their actual, tangible product -- those baseball card packs that we love to tear open.

If you set aside the issue that free-to-play apps with in-game microtransactions are always going to offer a competitive advantage to those that spend, I still found some things just completely wrong with my experience with BUNT. BUNT is, as near as I can tell, a combination between a fantasy baseball game and a virtual collect-all-the-things game. (There's probably a better name for the latter.) Both of these things appeal to me. But neither of these things really fit well with each other and ultimately rubbed me the wrong way. Is it trying to be too much?

Before I go Full Yelp Review here, I'll just lay out my grievances and sign off for the night:

  • The points for the fantasy element of the game are heavily weighted towards users with the "best" cards, typically obtained by opening a high volume of (virtual) packs probably obtained by spending actual money, since your daily allowance only gives you enough to buy the virtual equivalent of a 1989 Fleer pack each day.
  • There's a trading system in play, but good luck trying to solve that mess. It appears that you need a massive collection to get anyone to deal with you, and each trade is rated regardless of whether or not a trade was actually made. In essence, you can get rated for merely contacting someone about the possibility of a trade. This makes no sense to me. I got "rated" once for having the audacity to send a trade request to someone for a completely common card for another completely common card just to get the hang of how the system worked. I got a "2" out of "5" and now that's on my permanent record.
  • As I mentioned, there's a collecting element at play. I've been sucked into "collecting" games before, and they can be mindless fun if they're done right. My problem with this aspect of the game is twofold. One, most people are focused on inserts, which are downright expensive to obtain. And secondly, there's very little organization in the presentation. There's not really a box to put your cards in or some kind of virtual album. I am someone who collected the entire virtual Panini World Cup sticker album, for some reason.
  • Rules of the game seemingly change at the whim of the Topps BUNT employees. One aspect of the point scoring system (both the time it takes to switch and number of times you can switch a player in your active lineup) changed from week to week during the first few months of the season, and then abruptly stopped. Then, suddenly the entire scoring system was revamped after the All-Star break.
  • Continuing with the above point, players that switched teams (in real life) during the season apparently stopped scoring points when a user activated those cards. The problem is, this was buried in their Terms of Service (or some such thing that no one reads) and they were extremely mysterious about this, blaming it on glitches with the app until they finally unleashed a plan to distribute new cards of players on their new respective teams in just the past week. That should have been embarrassing enough, except they seemingly had no idea how to distribute these cards, and just unleashed them in 10 minute intervals. Users were to buy free packs (as many as they could, apparently?) of the new cards, but they only had 10 minutes assigned in grouped timeslots based on their user name at some point last Saturday.
  • I didn't get any of these free packs. Were this the first ridiculous thing that happened to me with this game, I probably could've gotten over it. Supposedly everybody got a push notification (I definitely didn't), but even if I did, do you honestly expect me to be at the beck and call of an app at some random time on a Saturday? If this was some sort of one-off freebie that didn't drastically affect the points earning potential of every user of this app, it wouldn't have mattered to me in the slightest, but quite a few high caliber players have changed teams this season. As a result of all of this, an already disadvantaged player is further hampered.
  • Have I mentioned this this app is really buggy? Oh yeah, it's full of bugs. It's the only app I've ever used where you basically have to stare at the screen for several minutes to make sure it's doing exactly what you intended for it to do. And once I tried (with much futility) to get help with a bug and got the same boiler plate email something four times even though it had absolutely nothing to do with my actual issue. (Click image to enlarge:)

In the end, I really just can't get over spending real world money for some pixels on a smart phone screen. It's kind of weird to me. Because the internet exists, people take the risk of going outside the game and actually buy some of these cards on the internet. I could pay bills with that kind of money! (h/t to Gellman who is a true believer and does a very thorough job at documenting his travails in the BUNT world in his digital card focused blog.)

I also haven't really bought any physical baseball cards in a couple of months. I should probably get on that.