Saturday, October 29, 2016

Good Luck Ducks, Week 9: Win the Day

One game at a time. 

The Oregon Ducks are broken now, perhaps irreparably so. Last week's 2OT loss saw the Ducks come all the way back from a 20 point 3rd quarter deficit only to stumble in the second overtime period when they just needed a field goal, minimally, to keep the game going. It was a devastating loss, but in the end, it could have been a lot worse. This loss isn't keeping them out of any sort of title contention or premium bowl game. It's just another loss among losses that have piled up.

In the "Win the Day" era, the Ducks have preached a "one game at a time", "next man up" mantra. You have to believe, however, with all of their recent success on the field, the season starts with a goal of winning the national championship, (Remember, this team was in a title game less than two years ago, their second appearance of the decade.) With a loss like the one to Nebraska, you cross that off and focus on the conference title. But now with their fifth consecutive loss behind them, and bowl eligibility more of a pipe dream than an achievable goal all of a sudden, it's seems like the goal has truly shifted to just winning the day. Oregon hadn't lost five in a row since 1996, the season after Alex Molden and Gang Green split up. It's Mark Helfrich's fourth season as head coach, and while previous coaches like Mike Bellotti managed to pull out of some skids and lead the team to bigger and better things, it remains to be seen if Helfrich will be given that much leeway.

This afternoon's opponent is the Arizona State Sun Devils, a not great team that still has won several more games than Oregon has. A win today at home could put to rest a lot of negativity surrounding the team, at least for a short spell. True freshman Justin Herbert threw six (!) touchdowns last week against Cal, so there was at least some spark that could lead to bigger things down the road. I enjoy watching Ducks football, and I take the bad with the good... but let's hope for a good game today.

Last season's meeting between Oregon and ASU resulted in 116 points between the two schools.

Game time is 2:00 PDT with national coverage on the Pac-12 Network. Go Ducks!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ticking Boxes

This is called maintenance mode. 

With the weather deciding to be crummy and a lot of things just procrastinated away when I feel like doing things like going outside, it was probably a good time to get back into sorting through all my clutter and work on filling some sets (both for me and for others.) A lot of times, trade packages like the one I got last month from Bubba's Bangin' Batch of Baseball Bits are the most rewarding but toughest to find words to write about. Like myself, he is a collector of all things Allen & Ginter, only he does a far superior job at it based on his want lists. Packages like these may just be ticking off boxes on a theoretical checklist, but it's pretty satisfying once these things are bindered and complete. Here's a few bits from last year's A&G set and this year's Heritage...

A 2016 World Series participant!

A Cyclops!

A... uh... search engine!

A tomahawk, one of the symbols of Matt's favorite baseball team.

A Kluber!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hoops Time!

A new basketball season is upon us. 

We've got a fantasy draft coming up this evening, so I thought I'd show off some cards I found in a blaster box yesterday. This 2016-17 Panini NBA Hoops box is the first new basketball purchase in quite some time, and I think they might be the only cards from the new season on the market so far.

The first card out of the first pack was Dame himself. Not a bad start.

There are blue parallel's-a-plenty to be found. I was hoping the Blazers would be the team to sign Cole Aldrich, and not the Timberwolves, but Portland ended up with a different quality signing to bolster the post position.

This might be Panini admitting there's not enough action captured on their base cards. Blah blah Melo blah.

Rookie cards are some my least favorite things about basketball cards (and football for that matter), with all of their awkward posed shots. Domantas Sabonis is the son of Blazers favorite and all around basketball god Arvydas.

Here's the coverboy modeling his new jersey.

The Blazers threw big money at the enigmatic Evan Turner. We'll see how that goes. Hopefully well?

Here's another posed shot, of Festus Ezeli standing in front of a white sheet. Festus played for the Warriors superteams of late.

Gerald Henderson was one-and-done with the Blazers, signing with Philly in the offseason. He's pictured here in a Portland uniform, so it stays in my collection. Amusingly enough, the "traded" line on the front of the card references his trade to Portland (last year) and not his signing with the 76ers.

This is awful.

Jamal Murray starred at Kentucky and should figure heavily in Denver's plans in the near future, if not immediately.

The future is apparently an old photolens.

I thought we'd gotten rid of this guy once and for all, but apparently there's a multi-platform insert set seeing a bunch of these cards in the regular NBA Hoops product and more inserted in the NBA 2K17 video games themselves.

Layup or rebound?

#15 there is caught staring at Olynyk's hair.

Can we ditch the "Los Bulls" uniforms and similar ones that other teams roll out? There's got to be a better way to honor cultures than mangling their language in a cheap ploy to sell jerseys. Gasol has moved on to Los Spurs now.

This insert looks straight out of the '90s.

Finally, here is my promised one-per-pack (on average) autograph or memorabilia card. Jerami Grant is the son of former Blazer Harvey Grant and was born here while his father played in Portland. Philly has a ton of unproven talented young players, but Grant started a significant portion of his team's games last season.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Good Luck Ducks, Week 8: Freaky Friday

Oregon faces Cal on a Friday night. 

After nearly two weeks to think about what they've done, the Ducks will attempt to pick up the pieces tonight in Berkeley as they take on the California Golden Bears. The snowball effect reared its ugly head upon the Oregon season a couple of weekends ago when the Ducks were crushed by Washington 70-21, thus ending their long winning streak against the rivals to the north. 70 to 21? Is that even a real score? True freshman Justin Herbert got the start last week under center for the first time in his young career, and it's hard to pinpoint exactly what he did. Last week's loss was that horrifying. With absolutely no semblance of a defense and a string of turnovers at the worst possible points in play, a green QB is the least of Oregon's problems.

For the fourth straight time, Oregon will attempt to turn the page and put one in the win column. This week's opponent has a powerful offense, but with Jared Goff off to ride the pines for the Rams, it's been considered by most to be a rebuilding year for the Cal Bears. Oregon State, for example, picked up their first conference win since 2014 by stopping Cal in OT, so you would expect this game to rate fairly low on the difficulty scale. Of course, the Ducks haven't been able to get out of their own way since the season officially changed over to fall. With an extra near-week to prepare, it will be interesting to see what kind of Ducks team shows up. I don't expect a lot of defense, but a renewed focus on offense and a commitment to hanging on to the football at least would be a nice start.

Oregon won ugly in Berkeley in 2010, which certainly wouldn't be a bad result tonight. Remember Versus?

Game time is 7:30 PDT with national coverage on ESPN. Go Ducks!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Anatomy of a Baseball Card: Jose Cruz 1982 Fleer

Blurry and off-center. 

I complain about photos used on new baseball cards as much as I complain about the designs themselves. I should probably complain more. There's something really sterile and soulless in the photo selection process these days. Topps gets everything from Getty Images. We get it. Getty has an amazing library of perfect images for perfectly cropped cards spit out of fancy computer applications.

A little part of my childhood was ruined when I learned that Topps (and others) probably don't send their own photographers to games anymore. This practice likely ended decades ago. Printing flaws aside, I like to think that whoever shot Jose Cruz circa 1981 was having a bad day. This was as good as it was gonna get. It would be nice if the focus was a little sharper, or if we could see both of Jose's feet, but this is going to have to do it.

On second thought, maybe the photographer was actually having a great day. He could have been four beers and a couple of hot dogs into this game before he realized he didn't have a picture of the Astros star outfielder yet. Baseball is fun.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Blazers & Ginters

Both kinds. 

Reader KO Rob found the blog and recently signed up for the Guilt-Free Basketball Card Club (still accepting all comers!) While I'm still in the process of squirreling away some goodies for Rob, I thought I'd take a look at some stuff he sent my way.

The package was a nice selection of old-school (and middle-school?) Trail Blazers cards, including some Metal cards of some of my mid-'90s faves. The Blazers have had their share of misfortune, mostly on the injury front, but one of the saddest dreams is thinking of what may have happened if Sabas had arrived when he was drafted ('80s) and not when the Cold War was sufficiently thawed.

The Blazers sold the farm to get Kiki, who was a prolific scorer but not much else. Injuries made him a liability on defense, and Clyde Drexler's emergence as first banana probably hastened his departure as much as anything else.

It may be a little loved, but here's an honest to goodness Walton card from the championship season. Nice! Now I have to figure out what to do with this oversized card. I'm not so good at storing these sorts of things. Maybe I can stick them between some books on the bookshelf.

Rob also sent over a healthy stack from last year's Allen & Ginter baseball set. Of all the inserts I received, I thought I'd pick out the former David Arias out of the bunch as I'm in more of a baseball mood than anything else.

I'll end it with this card from the base set. Jonah Keri is one of my favorite baseball writers. Aside from his unbridled love of all things Expos, Keri writes a weekly series of articles called The 30 during the MLB season that you should definitely check out if you're interested in what's going on with the league. It started off over at the sadly defunct Grantland and now appears on if I'm not mistaken. Or, at least it would, if the season was still going on. Sad.

Monday, October 10, 2016

September's Loot

Another funderful box from @thelootlocker - Yep, Cubs again.

It'd been a couple of months since my last Loot Locker purchase, so I figure I'd show off all of the goods this time. In addition to the usual cache of supplies (and candy/gum!), the hobby packs were distributed as follows:

- 2016 Bowman Chrome
- 2016 Panini Diamond Kings
- 2016 Panini Donruss Optic (x2)

2016 Bowman Chrome

First guy out of the box is a single-A guy that I'd never heard of. He just turned 20. Awwwww.

Another Prospect, which means this isn't the Alcantara I've actually heard of.

This is a 1:3 pack insert. All of these Scouts cards are refractors.

The Twins have stockpiled a fair bit of talent, but the Byron Buxton jet still hasn't taken off.

 And there's Eric Hosmer.

2016 Panini Diamond Kings

It's Thor.

The Red Sox went away quietly this postseason, which wasn't something I was necessarily expecting. Cleveland had the better record, but usually when Boston has a good year you can't seem to get rid of them.

These cards look nicer with the old timey players, I have to say.

Second KC player of the box.

I've managed to acquire most of the Cardinals from this set, but I hadn't delved into the inserts and parallels. This framed card is really nice and is almost a direct bite on the style of 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces, not that I'm complaining.

This was also a nice get! Maybe the logo on Lou's helmet fell off?

 Here's another one of those young Twins.

 And finally, here's Luis Severino, who had a rough go of it as a starter this year.

2016 Panini Donruss Optic (Pack 1)

The first card was of a player not allowed here on the blog. He played for the Cardinals in 2015 and some team paid a ton of money for him.

This is a "Holo", Panini's new word for Refractor (what happened to Prizm?) much like their word for Chrome is "Optic". Numbered 15/25. I bet Pirates people like these colors.

Also a Holo. Also a Cub.

The Diamond Kings cards look alright. I'mjustgonnaignorethefactthattheyscrewedupthetextontheback ofthecardssobadlythattheyareacompleteeyesoretolookat. Shameful.

2016 Panini Donruss Optic (Pack 2)

Beltre is a fun player.

Today was Big Papi's final game. That's all I've got to say, really.

This one's a Holo and a Rated Rookie. Before Panini brought back the Donruss name, I had entertained the idea of finding a shirt with the classic Rated Rookie logo on it, but... nah. It'd probably look better on a kid, anyway.

Why is there a weird yellow cloud growing out of Dozier's head?

Everything is up for grab except the Cardinals cards.