Monday, November 30, 2015

Onward, Rose City!

With the Timbers advancing to the MLS Cup final, a timely envelope arrives.

Thorzul's annual Trade Me Anything affair is always a good time, and this year was no exception. I was able to snag a low numbered parallel and an unnumbered parallel from this year's Topps Update set in exchange for some goodies that I had cooked up. As a surprise bonus, Thorzul included a refractor of Timbers star Darlington Nagbe. (Thorzul's Twitter feed clued me in that he is a PTFC supporter.) Nagbe finally joined the US Men's National Team earlier this month for a World Cup qualifier and got to top things off with a berth in the MLS Cup final after the Timbers dramatic win yesterday.

The Timbers have a long history in Portland that dates back to the '70s and the old NASL. I was too young at the time to have clear memories of their NASL days, but I remember plenty of their bumper stickers on soccer mom van's in the old neighborhood as a kid. The club went through a few incarnations, but the fanbase really started to grow in the ought years as they navigated their way through US pro soccer's second tier before being awarded the current MLS franchise that began play in 2011. I won't claim to be Timbers Fan #1 and was heartbroken when their newly remodeled MLS-ready stadium permanently displaced the PCL's Portland Beavers franchise, but I had enjoyed attending their games in the past and currently follow them when I can. It's been an exciting playoff run so far and the big match against the Columbus Crew on Sunday should be exciting as well.

I should probably get around to getting some Timbers team sets, but they are unsurprisingly overpriced in this area.

As far as the cards I knew I was receiving, both were of the Cardinals variety, as is my standard operating procedure. I haven't checked the odds, but I seem to have pulled (and received in trades) far fewer of these rainbow foil parallels this year than last year's "red hot foil", 2013's "emerald something-or-others", 2012's "gold sparkle", and (don't forget) 2011's diamond anniversary sparkletastrophes. I might just be unlucky this year.

I'm lucky to own this card, however. There are very few Topps flagship black parallels in my collection, so I'm always up for taking what I can get. Mark Reynolds doesn't make a very exciting low numbered pull exactly, but I suppose it could have been worse. There are a lot of relief pitchers in this year's Update set.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Airbrushed Fridays: 1975 Topps #412

My last name can do things.

Who is he? Bill "Froggy" Hands was an 11 year starting pitcher in the majors, with the bulk of his playing days coming with the Chicago Cubs in the late '60s and early '70s. While never an All-Star, he won 20 games with the Cubs in 1969 and had respectable numbers throughout his career.

How did he get here? Hands was in the middle of a down season in 1974 when the Twins waived him. He was claimed by the Texas Rangers, with enough time left in the season to squeeze in two starts but apparently not enough time to get a Topps photographer on the scene.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None

Airbrushed Score: 8

Comments: There's a lot of blue here.

Good Luck Ducks, Week 13: Civil Disobedience

It's that time of year again.

After another big victory with purpose last week, Oregon faces their in-state rival in their final regular season game of the year. It's been a short, strange year! Stanford unfortunately did not hold up their end of the bargain and went on to defeat Cal last week, leaving the Ducks out of the conference title picture. To be 8-3 at this stage after the way things went at the early stages of this season, however, definitely feels fortunate.

Speaking of fortunate, well, the Oregon State Beavers have been the opposite of that. The Beavers are looking to avoid going 0-for-the-conference today, but things are obviously looking grim with the way Oregon has been playing. The betting line opened at 30 was pushing 36 as of this writing. While Vernon Adams Jr. has been earning accolades left and right for his play of late, OSU will start their 3rd string QB, a guy whose name sounds like a weird amalgamation of last season's QBs (Marcus Mariota and Sean Mannion).

It would be unthinkable if this game was even close, but funny thing can happen during rivalry games. The Ducks will be hoping today to keep the humor to a minimum and the Duck mascot push-ups to a maximum. It's hard to get too excited about the game this year, but it is The Civil War, after all. A win likely puts the Ducks in the Alamo Bowl against a strong Big-12 opponent, with a puncher's chance at an at-large bid for the Fiesta Bowl.

The 2009 Civil War was a lot more competitive than today's game is expected to be.

Game time is 1:00 PST with national coverage on FS1. Go Ducks!

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Mix of Old and New

Cardinals cards from different eras.

While I was being all impressed with myself for being caught up on trade posts last week, Jeff from Wish They Still Came With Bubblegum dropped a power-packed plain white envelope on me. It was chock full of Cardinals both old and new.

Dizzy's an old card on a shiny thick new 2010 Topps Tribute design.

Rob Kaminsky is one of the up-and-comers who hasn't made it to the bigs yet. This is my first card from the 2015 Topps Heritage Minors set. At least, I think that's what it's called. Also received, but not pictured, was a league leaders type of card from this set that included Tim Cooney who did get in a few appearances with St. Louis this year.

After many, many years, the 1973 design is really growing on me. The font is just perfect for the era, and I have to admit that I really like the little logos for each position.

Finally, here's a 1969 Topps card, which would be Torre's first Cardinals card but clearly not his first in a Cardinals uniform. That would come later. Special thanks to my scanner for lopping off the right border.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Good Luck Ducks, Week 12: No Let Up

The Ducks face another huge test as the clock winds down on the 2015 season.

Another week, another thriller. Oregon stopped Stanford on a 2 point conversion that would have sent the game to OT, and suddenly the (still) hottest team in the Pac-12 is starting to dream big. Oregon is back in the Top 25 for the first time since the brutal early loss to Utah and face a similarly ranked USC team this week. The Ducks need a win today and a win over Oregon State as well as a Stanford loss in The Big Game to win the Pac-12 North. It's still a bit of a long shot, but their path to the conference championship got quite a bit clearer after last week's big win. For the fanbase, anyway, it was sweet, sweet revenge.

The Ducks haven't faced USC in 3 seasons, which is a travesty and shouldn't happen with any conference foe. The expansion of the Pac meant that every school would skip two opponents each year, but there's absolutely no excuse for skipping someone in back-to-back years. The Trojans are also on a nice winning streak since firing their coach. In any season, USC is always a football behemoth, so it's nice that the game is at Autzen Stadium.

Vernon Adams Jr. seems to be firing on all cylinders now, and with just a few games left in his career, he's actually been limited in his usage with so much action happening on the running side of the Ducks offense. Oregon's offense was very frustrating and simple for several weeks early in the season, but they've really opened up the playbook recently with multi-position players doing a variety of things. Adams has proven to be adept at scrambling his way out of trouble and has excelled at throwing the deep ball. This might go down as a stunted season for him with the way his broken finger affected him and the team's chances, but he still has time left to do some great things. On the Trojans side, senior QB Cody Kessler is chomping at the bit to get a piece of Oregon for the first time. USC usually runs as often (or more) than Oregon does, but it could come down to very experienced 5th year senior signal callers to determine the outcome of this one.

Last time these two teams met, it was just points, points, points.

Game time is 12:30 PST with national coverage on ESPN. Go Ducks!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Airbrushed Fridays: 2015 Topps #587

Dirty Dan Does Denver.

Who is he? Daniel Descalso is a utility infielder who won a World Series with the Cardinals in 2011. While he was essentially a replacement level player, he filled in at a number of positions when the Cardinals were short-handed and even pitched an inning or two. He isn't much of a hitter, but did provide some key hits in some of the Cardinals recent playoff runs.

How did he get here? The Cardinals eventually let Descalso hit free agency after the 2014 season, and he ended up signing a two year deal with the Rockies, filling a similar role in Colorado

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None, but here's the source photo --

Airbrushed Score: 9

Comments: This is dreadful Photoshop, folks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Night Owl Service

I'm a subscriber.

With this post, I am officially caught up with all incoming card-related packages for the first time in what has to be years. It seems like years, anyway. And what better way to commemorate this occasion than with some cards from my most frequent mailbox visitor, Night Owl Cards. One of these days I'm going to compile a list of links to everything he's sent. One day... maybe the next time I'm caught up?

Night Owl sent a healthy stack of this year's Heritage cards, which is great as this is the time of year that I start getting tired of looking for Heritage to open. Altuve is a short print in the set as well as one of Erin's guys to collect, but this one I'm going to keep (shh!) since it's hard enough as it is to get ahold of Heritage SPs. Also, Altuve has about a million different cards in this set when you consider all the inserts and variations.

Here's a much loved 1975 Lou Brock Hostess card. I understand there are Twinkie and non-Twinkie versions of this card. I don't see a Twinkie logo anywhere, so I'm gonna go with non-Twinkie.

I kind of miss the old Target red parallel cards now that they're gone. I know that they're just another annoying side distraction that you're never going to collect all of before you die, but the red look always looks good on Redbirds.

I'm a little disappointed that Topps used the same photo for this card as the Pujols 1st Home Run card, but I bet they have to pay some sort of per-photo fee for archival photos. (Side note: does anyone know when they started completely outsourcing their photography to Getty Images? They used to employ their own photographers at one point, didn't they?)

Ah, Kolten Wong's golden home run trot.

And here's a shiny gold low-numbered autograph of the Cardinals young reliever with the funky name. We saw bits and pieces of Tuivailala this past season, but I am guessing he will figure more prominently into the team's bullpen plans in the future.

As a bonus, Night Owl included some laminated lanyard/credentials/backstage passes/whatever from some prominent sports card conventions of the past. I haven't been to any such things before. My card shows are usually very local and homely, if you ask me.

So they used to have a night owl service for our public transit bus system back when I was a kid. I'm not sure why it went away... perhaps things are just too dangerous on the streets of Portland these days, or maybe drivers were falling asleep at the wheel. Whatever the reason, I feel like there's no excuse good enough to shut down something that keeps potential drunk drivers off the road. Bring it back, TriMet!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Shiny and New

A dazzling group of cards in my latest trade haul.

I had a bit of luck with some Topps Chrome retail purchases this year, and thanks to fine collector's like Tim B., I was able to bring home some choice cards for my own collection in return for that luck. I'm showing off just a few cards of what Tim sent over to the Pacific Northwest.

Despite what my scanner would tell you, this is actually an X-Fractor. X-Fractors are extinct now. I do kind of miss their weird blocky patterns. Yadi picked up his 8th consecutive Gold Glove recently and was also awarded the Platinum Glove, some sort of fan vote among Gold Glove winners awarded to the best defensive player in each league. He's won it 4 times in its 5 years of existence. Nice.

One of my biggest disappointments with the Cardinals brief playoff run was Jonathan Broxton's inclusion on the roster. I just didn't feel like he did anything to earn a spot. Even though one of the younger, lesser known relievers could have easily performed better, it ended up probably not mattering as the Cubs smashed holes in the Cardinals depleted rotation. This is one of the rainbow foil (don't call it a refractor!) Update set parallels that I keep forgetting about.

It's a rainbow of Scruggs! I am actually starting to take a shine to the pink parallels, but maybe it's because that color compliments red so well. Scruggs didn't get to do much in his limited time with the big league club and was DFA'd late in the season, so I'm not sure of his current status with the organization. He has a cool name, though!

Hey, it's Tim Conroy!

Why did I scan a Tim Conroy card? Well, of course, it's Miss Tiffany, the Belle of the Junk Wax Ball!

Finally, last and certainly not least, is this low numbered green refractor of blog fave Adam Wainwright. It's numbered 14/99, making it one of my lowest numbered Waino cards to date. Thanks again to I Love the Smell of Cardboard in the Morning!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Good Luck Ducks, Week 11: Spoiler Alert

Oregon faces their most difficult challenge with revenge on their minds.

After giving up a school record 742 yards to Arizona State in a you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it 3OT win the previous week, the Oregon Ducks came home to face Cal and promptly set a new school record on the offensive side of the ball to the tune of 777 yards. A slow start had the Ducks down 10-0 before Vernon Adams and assorted backs rolled up 31 straight points on the reeling Bears. While the final score (44-28) wasn't quite indicative of how impressive Oregon's offense was nor was the defense the smoothest thing to see, it would seem that things are heading in the right direction going into today's game.

And boy, what a game it is. Hello, Stanford. Old friend. Ruiner of Ducks national championship hopes in both 2012 and 2013. Currently sitting atop the Pac-12 North. Yeah, that Stanford. Stanford has the only shot in the West at making the coveted 4-team Playoff field this year, so you can bet that Oregon is even more fired up than usual to take them down.

Four year starting QB Kevin Hogan leads the Cardinal, while their biggest star is ex-Denver Broncos star Ed McCaffrey's son Christian, a all-purpose sophomore tailback who seems to never leave the field. After their flat opening week performance against Northwestern, Stanford has looked every bit like the best team in the Pacific time zone. However, with Oregon's offense finally starting to fire on all cylinders, the conditions are ripe for an upset. It's been many seasons since Oregon has even had an opportunity to pull off a bonafide upset, which makes this game all the more intriguing. Beyond just a win today, the Ducks would still need a lot of help if they were to to get a glimpse at the Rose Bowl, so their role is truly of the spoiler today.

In 2011, LaMichael James & Co. took down Andrew Luck's Stanford squad a few pegs.

Game time is 4:30 PST with national coverage on FOX. Go Ducks!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Airbrushed Fridays: 1972 Topps #148

Do you want the cap on... or off? Too bad.

Who is he? Dick Billings was a part-time catcher and utility man throughout his eight big league seasons. The bulk of his playing time came from 1971-1973, as he spent most of his final seasons in AAA ball. Billings' biggest claim to fame was catching Jim Bibby's no-hitter in 1973.

How did he get here? Billings didn't actually go anywhere, but wound up with this dubious photo as a result of his Washington Senators team moving to Texas to become the Rangers. He spent his final seasons under the Cardinals control, but he only managed to get into a few games with St. Louis.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None

Airbrushed Score: 2

Comments: So it's probably not airbrushed, but it's an awkward photo nonetheless. I feel like the Topps photographers would take a couple of different headshots of each player just in case someone got traded (or the team moved!) You see these "looking up into the scary sky" photos quite often.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Edmonds to The Hall!

Okay, maybe I'm getting a little bit carried away.

Baseball Hall of Fame nominations were announced today, and the Jim Edmonds for the Hall Twitter account has been tweeting out fun facts all day. With apologies to a certain blogger whose fave is a first ballot shoo-in, I'm a little more than interested in the plight of Mr. Edmonds, even though it seems like it will be a tough sell.

The Lost Collector was kind enough to send over a few jersey cards of some of my favorites in his most recent mailing to me (including Edmonds card #498.) I suspect Matt Holliday will have a strong case for the Hall by the time things are all said and done, with 3 World Series appearances (1 ring) and a batting title among his accomplishments so far.

Finally, while we know Rick Ankiel won't be in the Hall, I always appreciate his cards just the same. I especially like the ones from his pitching days, because it reminds me of what a true talent he was even though he couldn't keep it together on the mound.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Other Sports

Cards from all flavors from Canada.

It's hard to root for anything in professional American football these days, but I am ostensibly an Eagles fan. I don't mind getting Eagles cards since I pretty much never buy football packs, so it's always nice to get a look at something new, like these cards sent to me from buckstorecards. I like that Topps used a different design rather than copying the baseball template, but they still retained some of the flavor of this year's baseball release by giving it a colorful border.

Wow, Photoshop! In another universe, I could probably do an Airbrushed Fridays feature for football cards considering that Topps still has a license (or has one again.) I think they are losing it soon, actually. DeMarco Murray was the league's rushing leader last season, but he's been disappointing this year as the Eagles have struggled to find a consistent offense and have divided carries among several talented backs. With a win last night over their rival Cowboys, I'm hoping the Eagles can find their way to take a very weak NFC East.

I also got some ex-Ducks in the deal which I am saving for a future Ducks post, but this Mariota card was too choice to pass up for a scan tonight. This card apparently was given out at The National. Mariota plays for a dreadful Titans team, but he's had some bright moments and looked really impressive in his team's, er, two victories.

I also snagged a healthy pile of 2010-11 Donruss NBA cards for the set that I'd love to complete someday. Did anyone remember that Shaq played for the Celtics at one point? I certainly forgot!

Keen observers may have noticed that the Hamm Count also increased, but we're not going to see much of Mr. Hamm until that count reaches 9. I have to be careful how much Hamm I let loose on the blog, you know.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Good Luck Ducks, Week 10: Different Directions

After a 3OT thriller, a defensively challenged Ducks team hosts struggling Cal.

Before the bye week, Oregon cut it close with the Washington Huskies, but I don't think anyone was prepared for the late night Thursday stunner last week against Arizona State. Oregon allowed a school record 7 million yards (or something like that, I don't really want to look it up.) After some back-and-forth craziness for four periods and a couple of extras, the Ducks scored a controversial TD in the third OT. And then they failed to complete the mandatory 2 point conversion, which looked like certain doom for a cream cheese soft defense. But lo and behold, Arrion Springs made a game-saving interception in the end zone on ASU's attempt to win, and the entire Duck fanbase breathed a huge sigh of relief and promptly passed out from exhaustion.

So here we are, with the Ducks at 5-3 with 4 games remaining in their schedule and a chance to put together a still successful 8-to-10 win season. Cal, on the other hand, started hot only to lose their last 3 straight. They have the same overall record as the Ducks, but have 3 conference losses to Oregon's 2. Jared Goff, anticipated to be the top QB selected in the next NFL draft, leads the Golden Bears, who have not won in this series since 2008. The last time Cal won at Autzen Stadium was in 2007, when DeSean Jackson was still on the team. It's been awhile, but it's nothing like the Washington series at this point.

Oregon is still searching for answers defensively, and facing one of the nation's top QBs could be their biggest test yet. This game may not be pretty. It's yet another late one. #Pac12AfterDark as they say. Wet weather conditions may slow down both offenses, but that could play in Oregon's favor as they could ride the ground game and Royce Freeman in particular. It's tough to know what to expect out of this one, but I expect it to be entertaining at the least.

Back in 2009, Oregon got some serious revenge against their rivals to the south (and former offense coordinator) in one of my all-time favorite Duck games.

Game time is 7:30 PST with national coverage on ESPN2. Go Ducks!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Cards from a Jedi

Some red bird cards from a white socks guy.

JediJeff has struck again with some super swingin' St. Louis cards for that... well... me. Let's just jump right in and have a look-see.

Alex Reyes is being hyped as the next in line of powerful young Cardinals starting pitchers. With Jaime Garcia back and Adam Wainwright healthy next season, there doesn't appear to be a ton of room in the rotation, but Reyes could be a lurking a year or so away if he doesn't force himself into the conversation like Michael Wacha did.

I am not Gypsy Queen Fan Number One, but I always appreciate a framed card like this.

It's been awhile since I've had any success finding packs or loose cards from the earlier Topps Heritage set. I need to find a new supplier or something. Anyway, I have a feeling this is going straight into the team collection anyway.

Jeff sent over a few 2008 Goudey Minis, including this blue back version of the already short printed Wizard.

I must have looked at this card five times before I realized it actually wasn't a Panini card. Panini really sort of picked up what Upper Deck tried to do in 2010 and sort of ran with it, didn't they? (Give or take a few more airbrushed logos.)

Here was the kicker - a brand new on card auto from one of my favorite current players. This is so awesome! Thanks again to 2x3 Heroes!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Update Impressions

The usual trade bait and snide comments that come with a major Topps release.

2015 Topps Update made its way to the shelves recently while most of us were still watching the playoffs. The $9.99 rack hanger boxes were the only configuration available at my Target as of last Thursday, so I picked up a couple. Everything you see here is up for grabs aside from the Cardinals stuff, so feel free to claim away in the comments.

Apparently these retro quasi-parallel cards are retail exclusives. I wish the card material itself had more of a retro feel. Instead, this is just another weird colored border card, albeit with a throwback uni in the photo, which is a nice touch.

The First Home Run parallels (in, I assume, three flavors again depending on what kind of packs you buy) are now entering the phase where you have to dig up a Kole Calhoun photo from just two years ago. So that's something. Topps decided to restart the card numbering scheme at FHR-1 because they are horrible monsters.

Both of my boxes contained gold parallels, though they were both of the roster filler/reliever variety. Calixte tallied 3 plate appearances this season with the Royals. I suppose this could have been one of them?

In a set lousy with All-Star base cards, I'm not sure that Topps needed an All-Star insert on top of it all. Update usually has an All-Star jersey insert set, so I'm guessing that these are just like non-swatch versions.

I'm glad that vest uniforms are becoming extinct.

Congrats, by the way, to the Royals for winning it all. I'm sure that lifelong Royal George Brett is proud. (Confirmed.)

More of these. I like to be able to look at something and have an idea what set it came from. With these, I'll never know.

Jumbo toiled for many years in the minors, so it's cool to see him get the Topps Update treatment. The expanded set (400 cards!) means even more relief pitchers than before made their way in, I bet.

I'm sure Topps will be milking these Jeter thing for as long as they can.

Hideous phrase, hideous design, hideous font. I'm guessing Boggs's chicken thing is involved in this set somehow?

Whatever Instagram filter was used on this photo makes that streak on Napoli's shirt look even more disgusting than it should.

This was a really cool moment captured here during the All-Star festivities. although the card makes absolutely no mention of it.

I've got zilch to say about this one.

Isn't it more of a rarity to pull a 2015 Shawn Green card?

This is just one of the base cards, but I pulled quite a few of these Rookie Combos. I'm not sure if these players have their own cards in the set, too, or if this is sort of a throwback to the multi-player rookie cards of the '80s and early '90s. I'm hoping it's the latter, though it would be a lot nicer if there was some stats... bio info... anything on the back? There's about two sentences.

More of the same.

I wonder what Topps sent Fleer/Upper Deck in exchange for the rights to this design. Some old gum, perhaps?

Finally, here's the Cardinals cards that I pulled. The Cardinals don't really have a big rookie to hype in this set, so it's mostly the standard bench guys who were late acquistions, relievers and fringe roookies. Last year at this time, Oscar Taveras was heavily featured in this set and we were all still shocked about his sudden passing.

Broxton just had his option declined by the team today, so... yeah, that's where we're at with him.

Cooney got to jump into the mix after Adam Wainwright went down early in the year, but he's now blocked by the surprisingly successful season Jaime Garcia had. Garcia will be back in 2016, which seemed rather unlikely a year ago at this time.

It's probably just Small Sample Size Mania, but Maness seems to be a completely different pitcher when he comes into the game with men on base, as he has worked his way out of a lot of jams. When he comes in to start an inning, he's been extremely ordinary. Being that he's a reliever, this will probably completely change next year.

Villanueva was mothballed more than anyone on the team this year, but he did a thankless job capably as he has done for the better part of his career. He filled the long relief role. Not a lot of teams even have that role anymore. I was a little surprised that he wasn't up for a spot start or two considering the injuries to the rotation and the need to give some of the younger pitchers a rest, though.