Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Good Luck Ducks: Alamo Bowl Edition

It's Oregon vs. Oklahoma in a battle between teams whose coaches deserted them. 
College football is nasty business, isn't it? With head coach Mario Cristobal's sudden but not entirely unexpected departure, the Ducks are a shell of their former selves after a disappointing season. Any season that begins with a road win over Ohio State was bound to find a lower point sometime, but the way Oregon was thoroughly beaten by Utah twice in the final weeks of the season added an already disheartening mood to a season that also saw a boneheaded defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory to Stanford. And then the coach left. The assistants left. Recruits backed out of commitments and current players transferred. The way so many things rely on a single person's job, a person that happens to be one of the highest paid public employees in the entire state, makes it increasingly difficult to root for the school when it's not actually the school that's bringing the players in.

The last thing I'll say about the Cristobal era is that I just felt like the games were a lot less fun to watch than I'm used to, and I imagine that I have similar feelings about writing about them. Today, some interim coaches and players who have managed to stick around (for now) will face off against an Oklahoma Sooners team in a similar situation. They had a season of high expectations that ultimately ended in disappointment. Their head coach bailed (for USC?! That's not even a lateral move these days considering the Trojans haven't been relevant since Reggie Bush was there.) I'm not sure if their recruiting situation is as dire as Oregon's because I don't follow that stuff too closely, but I do know their highly touted first week starting quarterback ended up transferring. Their impending move to the SEC, however, should ultimately have more impact on the future than losing the head coach.

The Sooners are led by true freshman QB Caleb Williams, who took over as the starter mid-season. Williams has had some highs and lows as you would expect from someone that inexperienced. As usual with a Big 12 team, offense is everything, and it will be up to the (remaining) Ducks defense to see if they can slow down Oklahoma. With their ranks depleted on the defensive side as well as at receiver, Oregon will have to bring a perfect game plan and hope to catch the Sooners napping in this post-Christmas late game in San Antonio.

Series History: Oklahoma holds a 6-1 all-time edge over Oregon, with their most recent matchup a notorious win for the Ducks 15 years ago. More on that game in a moment.

Opponent Talk: I was unable to find much of anything written about this game from the Oklahoma perspective, except this hilarious word soup that thinks that three of the four key Ducks players that have left or opted out recently all have the same last name (they don't.) Due to holiday travels, I am writing this about five days before game night, so it's possible that the lack of online content is not due to lack of interest.

That 2006 game was wild, as the Ducks came from 13 down with less than 2 minutes left to knock off the Sooners thanks to some inspired play by Dennis Dixon and some classic Pac-10 officiating. (And they still had to block a field goal!)

Game time is 6:15 PM PST on ESPN. Go Ducks!

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Lesser Heritage

A look at the annual minor league version of Topps Heritage. 
Better late than never, Topps released their version of what constitutes a minor league set these days in the by now all too familiar 1972 Topps format. As far as I can tell, these can be a fun and affordable box break most years, as long as you don't mind players in their minor league uniform. I ended up in a group break via Twitter and ended up with most of the Cardinals affiliated cards for my team collection.

The main complaint I have with these is how nearly every card looks the same. I know part of this is paying tribute to the original set, but aside from Jordan Walker, everyone is captured in the same "photo day" style with some sort of blue sky background. The only card I am missing is Matthew Liberatore's card, as he has two cards in the set and I only ended up with the "Traded" one. (It would have been cool to see "Traded" variations in the major league set, but as far as I know they didn't even attempt this.)

I ended up being randomly assigned the Diamondbacks in this break (as I often do), but this landed me my first ever Hillsboro Hops cards. Topps, what are you doing here with the team names? Neither of these two players were on the team when I attended my one and only professional sports event of the year during the summer, out in Hillsboro. Carroll only played a few games for the Hops in May, and Short hasn't been on the team since 2019.

I like these pack wrapper inserts that take the design of the original 1972 Topps pack wrapper and make a baseball card out of it.

These I'm a little less familiar with. Apparently it's modeled after some sort of stamps in the 1972 Venezuelan release. It's always fascinating to read about those older Venezuelan sets that drew heavily on the Topps cards of the day, but were at times their own thing.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Double Whammy

Affordable group breaks from @flywheels take us back to 2005, while @walktheplank82 sends a bunch of current year needs. 
We're getting close to the end of the year, so let's double up on today's look at some Cardinals baseball cards. As part of Cardboard Collections' ongoing Affordable Group Break series, I called for another shipment of stuff that I had allotted to me from past breaks. As a coincidence, all of the big time keepers happened to be from 2005, including a low numbered (13/30) Sportscasters insert from the 2005 Leaf set. These cards remind of the more squarely-shaped educational cards I saw as a child that usually featured some sort of wild animal and some factoids about said creature.

A second Albert Pujols need from 2005 Leaf came in the form of this Gamers insert in the popular foilboard style of the day.

Another set I completely missed out on was yet another attempt at gamifying the baseball card experience (or baseballifying the gaming experience?) in Topps Pack Wars. The vertical representation of the stats here is pretty tough to look at, but I'm guessing the Pack Wars game itself was probably pretty simple. (It... was a game, wasn't it?)

It's back to the present with a bunch of cards I received from Bob Walk the Plank in a surprise mailer this summer. I wasn't able to buy my usual amount of flagship Topps blasters this year, so I'm very appreciative of receiving any of the commemorative patch cards that are exclusive to that particular retail configuration.

I believe I've mentioned this before, but the difference in this year's patch cards compared to the past is the alarming change in weight. Usually, these cards are fairly heavy, depending on what's embedded in them, even when it's something non-metal like a cloth rookie card reproduction. These are not weighty at all. It's almost like they were made with Styrofoam.

Topps put "Redux" inserts in each of their flagship sets, apparently for people who couldn't get enough of Topps Archives or Topps Heritage. It seems very lazy and wholly unnecessary, but the cards at least are a decent reproduction of the feel of the original sets.

Bob (not actually his name) also sent over a couple of newer Bowman inserts, including this special "Mega Box" version of the Dylan Carlson Rookie of the Year Favorites. Considering that I never saw any regular variety Bowman on the shelf this year, let alone any so-called mega boxes, this was a welcome treat.

Matthew Liberatore's Scouts Top 100 insert has to settle for the indignancy of being a plain old insert. No "mojo" for Liberatore. At least the card is shiny, though.

A special box loader also fell off the plank and into my collection. I recall that these were actually inserted loosely into Stadium Club blasters, almost as an afterthought. The card inside the frame is much smaller than the regular base card, which sort of renders the idea of it being a "master photo" rather foolish. It instead ends up as a tribute to earlier Stadium Club sets. Hopefully, if you pulled any of these, they didn't end up with dinged corners. I was a bit alarmed when these fell out of the two blasters I ended up buying this year.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Contest Reminder!

There's less than 24 hours left to join in! 
Bowl season, and hence the Bowl Pick 'Em contest kicks off tomorrow morning (noon on the east coast). If you haven't signed up yet, what are you waiting for? And if you have signed up, don't forget to make your picks!

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

'Graphs and Such


Cardinals cards and autographs (what else?) from @padrographs include some familiar names and cards. 
Rod from Padrographs bestowed upon me another generous package of cards several months back. As you might expect, there were even some signed cards in the bunch. Let's take a look at a few of the non-signed ones.

I totally missed out on last year's Finest Flashbacks craze. It came out fairly early in the pandemic at a very reasonable price, until people went super nuts over it. I'm glad to at least have secured one of the base cards from the set, which is modeled after the first Topps Finest set from 1993.

Portland Beavers cards are always appreciated here! There are several of the team sets I still need, especially from the team's final years in what was then called PGE Park. Dirk Hayhurst is better known for his career in writing about baseball than the brief time he spent in the big leagues.

Here's a nice refractor version of one of the Cardinals draft picks from 2020. He had Tommy John surgery earlier this year, so it may yet be a bit before he starts ascending the ranks of the minor league levels.

As promised, there were signed cards, too. Alan Benes, of course, is the lesser known younger brother of Andy Benes. Alan was a top prospect in the mid-'90s but ended up having his promising career derailed by injuries.

Craig Wilson was a part-time player in parts of four seasons with the Cardinals.

Let me say this: "Sugar Bear" Rayford does not really look much like a professional baseball player. He was, however, and spent all but a small part of his career with the Baltimore Orioles. I believe this is his only baseball card with the Cardinals, or at least the only one that comes to memory.

Jim Lindeman spent several years as a bench bat with the Cardinals, most notably as the fourth outfielder on the pennant winning 1987 team.

Lastly, here's one of a former Cardinals farmhand. I'm guessing Rod got ahold of most of these through TTM exchanges, but how does one go about tracking down Ricardo Bautista?

This was some really cool stuff from Padrographs.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Contest Time! College Bowl Pick 'Em #12


It's back! Pick some mostly meaningless college football games for free and win some stuff! 
After taking a year off due to the horrible pandemic, the annual Bowl Pick 'Em contest is officially back!

Our past winners include Adam from Thoughts on Sox (2009-10), Mark from Stats on the Back (2010-11), AJ from The Lost Collector (2011-12), Royal Dan (2012-13), The Prowling Cat (2013-14), Jeff from One Man's Junk (Wax) (2014-15), Matt of Bubba's Bangin' Batch of Baseball Bits (2015-16), MrHaverkamp (2016-17), Anaconda37 (2017-18), Trevor of Bump and Run (2018-19), and GLM1 (2019-20). We've never had a repeat winner!

Because of the gap in contests, I no longer have a way to re-invite the previous season's participants. This will serve as the primary notification for anyone to participate. This means we will likely have fewer entrants than normal, which means that you theoretically have a better chance than ever to win! Why not give it a shot?

If you want to skip all the blah blah blah and just get to the free stuff, go to the bottom of the post for the sign-up link and make sure you submit picks for every game. There are now two separate sub-contests for the non-ESPN people (or whoever!) which should only require a modicum of thought.
  • First place will receive: a 2022 Topps Series 1 blaster OR suitable equivalent (subject to availability)... as well as a small plastic pouch of cards from your favorite team/player(s)/etc.
  • Second place will receive: a mystery unopened sports cards item and a bubble mailer full of cards from your favorite team/player(s)/etc. So mysterious!
  • Third place will receive: a bubble mailer including cards from your favorite team/player(s)/etc. I will also probably toss in a few cards from whatever happens to be lying around on my desk.
  • The Worst Place winner will receive: whatever I feel like sending you. This is probably also going to involve whatever happens to be lying around on my desk and hopefully nothing illegal.
Here are some rules you should really read (important stuff in bold):
  • Participants must sign up through the official ESPN link. Unfortunately, this means that you must have an ESPN account. I know this is a deal breaker for some, but I am not fancy enough to figure out a good system on my own that wouldn't require more time than I allot to this project.
  • Promote this contest! This is not an actual requirement for entry, nor does it mean that you'll gain any competitive advantage by posting about this contest. I just want to see a lot of people participate, as it will encourage me to hold more contests/free box breaks in the future if there are more participants.
  • Points are scored according to the Confidence System. This basically means that while you are predicting which team wins which bowl game, you will also be responsible for ranking how confident you are in each pick. The higher you rank those games, the more points you'll get when they win and prove that you're totally right and deserve all the I-told-you-so's in the world.
  • Email or DM me your contest information after you sign up. You can't assume that I will automatically recognize your contest entry name. [Blogger profile / Twitter profile]
  • You can change your picks at any time, so long as your pick is made before the official start time (usually the TV broadcast time) of each game. This is what ESPN calls a "rolling lock" time.
  • Don't be a jerk and lose on purpose just to try and claim a prize. There are many, many of us who are bad enough at picking these without extra help.
Click here to sign up, and click on the 'Join Group' link! It's free! First-timers are as welcome as tenth-timers! Password: quackquackquack

DEADLINE: There's a deadline of Friday, December 17th at 9:00 AM PST. That's the start time of the first bowl game.

But wait... there's more! Available to all entrants as well as non-entrants who don't want to use ESPN, there's a bonus contest:

Leave a comment here predicting the final score and winning team of the DUKE'S MAYO BOWL before the Mayonnaising officially begins (the game is on the 30th) and win a retail pack of 2022 Topps Series 1. Whoever is closest gets it. (R.I.P. Belk Bowl.)

Is that not enough for you? Tell me the name of the next weaselly college football coach to accept a head coaching position at another school, and you'll win a mystery prize! This contest will run as long as it needs to and starts as soon as this post is live. The "winning" coach must already be a head coach with another school who accepts the same position with another school and is officially confirmed as being hired by the new school.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Chrome Club

A @CrackinWax #CrackinWaxMailDay features fancier Stadium Club cards. 
For the second year in a row, Topps offered up a premium version of their popular Stadium Club line, in a predictable Chrome fashion. You can pretty much slap some Chrome on anything these days and double up the price. (Is it already Chrome? Then Sapphire it!) I bought into a half-case break from Crackin' Wax and ended up with most of the team set, which is nice.

Like last year, the set also doubles as an update of the basic Stadium Club set, with an additional 100 cards added to the checklist. Like most of the "update" sets this season, they tend to feature rookies who debuted in 2020 as well as a few players that changed teams before the season started. Seth Elledge debuted in 2020 with a dozen appearances and had a nearly identical 2021 season.

Justin Williams made his Cardinal debut in 2020, though it was brief. He was called upon to play a bit more in 2021 but struggled mightily from the plate.

Johan Oviedo is the third of the trio of rookies that found their way to the "update" portion of the set. He made several starts in 2020 and again filled in as a starter this past season.

We also get an updated photo of Nolan Arenado, replacing the spring training version.

Like the basic Stadium Club set, there are also 1991-style variations in the Chrome set.

The nice thing about these is that they are all refractors.

My lone insert was one of the coveted Beam Team inserts. These also look pretty nice when given the Chrome refractor treatment.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Good Luck Ducks: Pac-12 Championship Edition

It's the Utes, again. 
Oregon took care of business against their in-state rival last week to set up another meeting with Utah in the Pac-12 Championship, with a Rose Bowl bid on the line. Two weeks removed from a critical beatdown at the hands of the Utes in Rice-Eccles Stadium that also knocked them out of playoff contention, the Ducks will attempt to do things... differently this time? Let's hope so! Tonight's game is at a neutral site in Las Vegas, although Salt Lake City is certainly a shorter trip than a trek from Eugene would be. (To be fair, it's usually pretty cheap to fly to and from Vegas.) This year's team has been a bit of a challenge to get behind, but the hope is that won't translate into poor support during the conference title game itself.

Anthony Brown Jr. had one of his best games of the season last week against Oregon State, which should hopefully bring some momentum into his play tonight. There's been talk of the Ducks simplifying their defensive schemes this time around, but it's hard to completely fault the defense for a game when you only scored 7 points. There was plenty of blame to pass around for that debacle, and I'm not sure I'd even start with the defense. Oregon will continue to be short-handed in the receiving game, but they have enough talent (hello, Devon Williams!) to keep Utah honest. As is the usual goal, they will have to establish both a consistent passing presence and the running game to have a shot.

On the Utah side, Tavion Thomas shows no signs of slowing down, and QB Cameron Rising continues to be a threat. There's no reason to expect anything differently out of the Utes offense this time around. The key will be to see if Oregon can adjust to all of the different ways they were stifled defensively in the last game, lest they suffer a similar fate (and a lesser bowl game.)

Series History: Well, now it's Oregon with a 23-11 all-time edge. Perhaps more important is the Utah/Oregon Pac-12 Championship history, where the Ducks hold a 1-0 advantage. You can also look at Oregon's Pac-12 Championship record, where they are undefeated at 4-0.

Opponent Talk: The Utes are looking to rise to the top of the Pac-12 in their 11th season in the conference.

I didn't want to do this, but... remember Kaelin Clay?

Game time is 5:00 PM PST on ABC. Go Ducks!

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Two Ohtanis

A couple of cards from @realwesmoore and @Thorzul boost one of my unofficial player collections. 
I started pulling Shohei Ohtani cards like crazy back in 2018, the last year that any and every product on the market was readily available at the retail level. I wasn't quite sure I bought into the hype and clearly remember the eyerolling frenzy over Bowman boxes at the time. Nevertheless, I put away all of those Ohtani cards and didn't think about him much until spring training this year. Suddenly, he was destroying baseballs and mowing people down. I went after him in each of my fantasy leagues, which helped me to an impressive year where I won three out of the four I participated in, only losing the fourth league by a half of a point.

What I never ended up with was one of Ohtani's coveted base cards, because 2018 was year three of me turning my back on the Topps flagship product. When I saw one pop up on Twitter recently, thanks to another Wes Moore "Tradeathon", I went for it. Is it an iconic card? I'm not really sure. Interest in the Topps base rookie card has surely increased lately, but if you can't immediately picture what the card looks like in your head (think... I don't know... Mark McGwire's Olympic card?), will it truly be a significant collectible years down the road? In any case, I'm glad to have it. I started squirreling away the rest of my non-RC Ohtani cards earlier this year when it became clear that he was going to have a historically special season. I don't know that he's ever going to be someone I officially collect, but for now I'll see where this goes.

Death Stare Cards (aka Thorzul) held his 15th (!) annual Trade Me Anything, where he trades off his spare parts from a new box of Topps Update for, well, anything. For at least the second year in a row, there were no cards that really fit my collection, but another Shohei Ohtani card was available. This one also heads to the unofficial collection.

This year's All-Star cards are actually inserts due to some sort of printing deadline issue, but they use the base design and seem to be fairly common so I'm not too mad about it. If any of you have been opening Topps Update boxes and packs, I have the team set squared away but can always use help with the inserts and parallels and such.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Good Luck Ducks, Week 13: War

It's rivalry week. 

A long time ago, when I was in college, I watched the Ducks play Oregon State in my dorm room with the person I was dating at the time on a tiny black and white TV. It was years beyond the acceptable date to actually own a black and white TV as ones only means of consuming media, but this was the college days where those sorts of things could be understandably overlooked. The person I was dating was rooting for the Beavers, and at some point in the second half it was announced that the Ducks had clinched a spot in the Rose Bowl regardless of the outcome because of the result of the USC/UCLA game. She was rooting for OSU, and upon hearing the news told me that I could relax and root for her team now that Oregon's fate had been decided.

That's not how rivalry games work, of course.

Thanks in large part to Dino Philyaw, the Ducks won anyway, and I probably said stupid things to said person who challenged me.

In 2008, the Oregon State Beavers needed a win over Oregon to reach the Rose Bowl for the first time in 44 years. The Ducks were having a very good year, but due to their conference record the Rose Bowl was out of reach. One could have understandably rooted for the Beavers to play in that coveted game, but I surely didn't because that's not how rivalry games work. Oregon won 65-38, and it wasn't that close.

In 2017, Oregon was having a miserable season under one-and-done joke of a head coach Willie Taggart when they faced the Beavers who had only won a single game. You could argue that the game had no meaning and wasn't watchable, but it's hard to tell that to a Ducks player because that's not how rivalry games work. Oregon won 69-10. They probably dumped a Gatorade cooler on Taggart's head, but he surely didn't deserve it.

Series History: The Ducks own a 66-48-10 edge (10 ties??!) with 11 wins in their last 13 tries. They're coming off of a loss in the pandemic season, however.

Opponent Talk: The Beavers may have been eliminated from Pac-12 North title contention with Washington State's win yesterday, but they're looking forward to the future after locking up former QB star and current head coach Jonathan Smith to a long-term deal.

The 2008 game was one of the most satisfying wins in the big (don't call it Civil War) rivalry.

Game time is 12:30 PM PST on ESPN. Go Ducks!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Summer Fun in November


A #CrackinWaxMailDay from @CrackinWax features the late-arriving Topps Archives set.
For the past decade, the Topps Archives set has been a summertime event, adding some much-needed fun and nostalgia to an otherwise stuffy release schedule. It's a breezy set. It's not essential and not quite low-end, but it's affordable enough that almost anyone could collect it. I usually pick up a blaster or two, collect the team set and then mostly forget about it. In recent years, they've really packed in the nostalgia by adding classic movie tie-ins, an Expos feature, and metal discs that resemble the late '80s (and '60s before them) baseball "coins". This year there was really nothing on that grand of a scale that was added, and the set arrived very late in the release schedule due to the ongoing issues at Topps in their last days as a viable baseball card company.

It's new cards, so I must have them (for some reason.) I once again went to Crackin' Wax to fill my "new cards" need in a case break. I have a few extra team sets if anyone is looking for one.

To be fair, this year's set is still fun, if a little late. The 2011 design gets a nod here, and it looks nearly identical aside from the gold foil replacing the usual silver. I understand that changing the foil color is a good practice for distinguishing reprints from the original thing, but it seemed unnecessary here as none of these cards are actually reprinted from the 2011 set.

Next up is the 1957 design, last seen in 2015 Topps Archives.

And then there's the 1983 design, which... same. This is Topps shrugging and saying "you bought it six year ago, so why not?"

The 1991 design was used even more recently as part of the 2016 Topps Archives set. They just wanted to re-use this design so they could slap the new "70 Years" logo on some of these and call them variations.

The same goes for the 2001 set, except that I don't believe this design has ever been re-used outside of possibly whatever Topps does with some of their on-demand throwback products. This was a welcome sight.

I don't think Archives (in its current form) has used the classic woodgrain 1962 Topps design before. In the early '00s, a number of cards used this design, but those were actually in the style of reprints, which was the original "Archives" concept.

The less said about the "70 years into the future" design, the better. The amusing thing about this to me is that it was conceived long before Topps lost their MLB license, making Topps producing baseball cards in the year 2091 even less likely than it already would have been in the first place. I'd like to add that all of my Arenado cards were damaged in the same spot. I'm guessing there was some sort of issue with the sheet that these were printed on.

Inserts are fun, though! These "movie posters" inserts also have a box topper counterpart that is an actual mini-poster that you can unfold and stick on your wall. This one is just a normal card-shaped card, however.

Topps also went back to 1991 to honor their Bazooka set, which used a similar design as their flagship set.

I also landed a few numbered parallels in this break. This orange something or other Paul Goldschmidt card is numbered to just 15!

Jack Flaherty gets the red something or other parallel treatment with a card numbered 30 out of 50.

A more basic parallel came in the form of this Nolan Arenado, which basically looks like a holofoil card.

That's all of the Archives that I received. As a huge, huge bonus, however, CW threw in a whole team set of this 582 Montgomery Club exclusive foil-stamped factory set. Very nice! I won't subject you to another 21 pictures of flagship base cards with a stamp on them, however.

It turns out that even the bonuses have their own bonuses, because I also ended up with three cards featuring old supposedly lost designs that were part of a small set that was also exclusive to 582 Montgomery Club members.

This design looks fantastic in my opinion. I wouldn't mind seeing this get a wider release with a bigger set.

I'm not sure about this one, however. Was Topps really considering putting out a bright yellow bordered set in the black & white photo era? This seems more like it may have been a Bowman thing, although again I'm not sure I'm buying the yellow here.

Thanks again to Crackin' Wax for the extra goodies!