Sunday, March 31, 2024

A Sunday Night PWE Round-Up

Cards from assorted envelopes featuring goodies from and more! 
Hey, it's spring! And Easter! How did that happen already? Well, before we get completely stuck reflecting on the passage of time, let's check out a few cards from a few envelopes received over the past few months.

First up is a batch from gcrl, which was heavy on the Dylan Carlson content. Just as Carlson was finally starting to show some signs of multi-talented player he was touted to be, a dreadful crash during an exhibition game at the tail end of spring training derailed his efforts to seize control of the starting center field job. (The Cardinals began the season with three CF types all on the IL.)

Along with an insert parallel (or parallel insert?) comes a pair of colored parallels of Carlson's base card from the same 2021 Panini Prizm set. I'm one of those hopeless fools that continued to buy Prizm baseball products, at least until they lost their MLBPA license

Neither green nor purple really suits the Cardinals all that well, but I'd probably go for this one if I had to choose.

We go back to the fully licensed side of things here with a Topps Chrome Prism (not Prizm) refractor of ex-Cards shortshop Paul DeJong. DeJong won a roster spot with the White Sox this spring after struggling mightily with two different teams after leaving St. Louis around the trade deadline last year.

These next few cards were a fairly big surprise. I kept all of the various "Ben Baller" brands off of my want lists intentionally because I just couldn't stand the branding, but if I can manage to block out the annoying logo in the corner, these black bordered Chrome cards actually look really nice. (I hate that!)

I had assumed that this set was released later in the release calendar back in 2022, so I was a bit surprised to see the retired Jon Lester included here. It's basically just a copy of both his regular Chrome and flagship card. I'm guessing they didn't do anything terribly interesting with the checklist for Mr. Baller here.

Harrison Bader is a Met now, which is a bit sad but also makes a ton of sense for some reason. I'm hoping he can hit well enough to stay in the lineup, because he's fun to watch when he's firing on all cylinders.

The next envelope comes from The Lost Collector, who was kind enough to send a few cards my way in order to "test" out my new mailing address. The former Ducks QB Anthony Brown Jr. recently signed up with the Las Vegas Raiders organization. Hey, it's better than one of those wonky spring football leagues that no one cares about.

Royal blue is one of my favorite colors, so there's a part of me that wants to go nuts on trying to seek out all of these parallels. These are one of the few perks of buying retail products, the biggest downfall of which is the horrible collation, of course.

Here's a nice pink refractor parallel of Albert Pujols in the 2009 All-Star game, which his Cardinals hosted. This was the year (2020) that Topps put a ton of cards of past All-Stars into their Update and Chrome Update sets due to the All-Star game itself not being held that year.

This is another nice Chrome parallel, as we see Yadi in sepia tones.

Next up was an envelope with a few Conlon cards in it. This doesn't happen to me too often, but I actually lost track of who this was from. It was from Matthew, and there's a couple of Matthews I can think of that would fit the bill, but I feel bad that I can't give full proper credit here. I'm sure at the time (it was postmarked November 15th) that I was quite confident that I would remember, but... oof.

The last group of cards are from Giants/Stanford fan Nick Vossbrink. He included a pretty excellent TV-shaped card from the 1968 set, commemorating a big World Series win. I would love to see them win another Series soon, but they seem to be in a deep dark funk for the foreseeable future.

I'm glad I kept Nick's envelope, but the whole Giants thing probably would have been a pretty big tip-off. Cueto is one of those dastardly SPs that I'm always needing for some sort of Heritage set or other.

And speaking of Topps Heritage, we end things here in style with the Say Hey Kid Willie McCovey (apparently I was tired after a long weekend) on his Baseball Flashbacks insert from 2019. Not bad!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Oregon is In... Are You??!


It's your last call for Radness. 
The games tip off early tomorrow! Make sure to sign up for the annual March Radness contest and fill out your bracket before the first game starts. Keep an eye on this space for another contest which anyone can enter, even if you don't want to fill out a bracket.

(Card image courtest of COMC. I would love to own a N'Faly Dante card at some point. Go Ducks!)

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

The Elusive Heritage

A bunch of Topps Heritage short prints from including a couple for the Cardinals boxes. 
As anyone who attempts to build Topps Heritage sets year in and year out can attest, picking up those last 100 or so cards can be quite a shore. They look and feel like the regular base cards, for the most part, but they're a bit of a tougher pull at one in every 3 packs. If you crunch the numbers, I think you'll find that Heritage short prints are not nearly as scarce as their reputation holds. I blame Beckett for, at one point, pricing even the most fringe players who appear at the short end of the checklist at a starting rate of $5 a card, causing a whole generation of collectors to hoard these cards.

In any case, there was plenty of reason to get excited about adding a few dozen more SPs to my collection from Scott of I Need New Hobbies. This was easily the biggest number of these elusive cards to arrive in the mail in a single day for several years now.

Two of these cards will end up bypassing my set builds and head straight to the fancy Cardinals boxes. (Because they are scarce, you see!) This means that I'll need to track down a second 2013 Yadi Molina card, which makes me question why I insist on collecting this way.

For my 2010 set build is this pair of pitchers. These are the only cards in the lot that are easily distinguishable from their printed-in-regular-quantities counterparts without looking at the actual card numbers. The 2010 set has the short printed cards printed on bright white stock instead of the usual cardboard stock. (This was a reversal of the 2009 set, where the regular cards were on white and the SPs used a darker cardboard.)

Here's a four-pack from the 2011 set. I like this set a lot, even though I feel that it was the beginning of the seemingly unending string of boring head shots on Heritage cards throughout the 2010s. (I suppose you can't fault Topps for trying to be true to those original sets here.)

It's a pair of Joshes from the 2012 set. How many Joshes do you know? Is Joshes the right way to pluralize the name Josh? I seem to know a lot of Joshes.

It took me awhile to appreciate the 2013 Topps Heritage set because they were printed on a light stock and felt exactly like the Allen & Ginter cards they had been printing for years at this point. I know that the original 1964 set had lightly colored card backs, but it still seems like the black sheep of the 2010s Heritage sets to me.

Thanks to Scott, I added five cards to my 2014 set build, including another Yadi. It's unfortunate that he has to share with Ryan Braun here, but I already scanned this stuff and it's too late now.

A whopping nine cards received were from the 2015 Heritage set. A couple of these guys are actually still in the game. Off the top of my head, I know that Rodon (a rookie here) is in the Yankees rotation this season and Chris Sale is trying to make another go of it with Atlanta.

Here are three more from the 2016 set, including 2019 World Series champ (ugh) Michael A. Taylor.

Just a single card from the 2018 set made an appearance (and none from 2017) as I am pretty sure Scott was starting to tire of Topps and their shenanigans by this point.

Last up is a pair of grey-bordered cards from the 2019 Heritage set. I believe Yonder Alonso does work with the MLB Network these days.

Thanks again to Scott. And don't forget -- make sure you sign up for the not-actually-gambling-because-it's-free thing soon before Thursday's games tip off.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Contest Time! March Radness XV

The annual March Radness contest is back for the 15th (!) time. Fill out a bracket and maybe win a prize? 

We back. Pick the best NCAA bracket and you can win a prize. There are also runner-up prizes. I will also create a bonus contest at some point, selecting a game for anyone, including those who don't want to fill out a bracket, to predict the final score of (game TBD.)

2024 rules:
  • Selection Sunday is March 17th (tomorrow!), which means that is the earliest the brackets can be filled out. The games that actually count for the contest will start on March 21st.
  • Default ESPN scoring rules apply. You must fill out the entire bracket, including the tie-breaking final score of the final game.
  • First place wins a 2024 Topps Heritage Value Box (blaster) or suitable equivalent (subject to availability! up to $24.99 in value!) I will email the winner shortly after the final game to make the prize selection among the available products at the time.
  • Second and third place prizes will consist of some team bags of cards from your favorite MLB and/or basketball teams.
  • As always, the worst (honest) bracket will get something, too.
  • Click here now to join, and follow the "Create a Bracket Now" link. Make sure to fill out your entire bracket prior to March 21st!

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Seasons Greetings from Oren

A timely big bundle of cards that is finally revealed a few months later. 
'Tis the season (*checks calendar*)... oops, it's March! Well, as the sun breaks are starting to increase and daylight savings is in full effect, let's check out a fantastic batch of stuff from super generous trader Oren.

For one reason or another, Dylan Carlson seems to have settled into a role as fourth outfielder after arriving in the dreaded 2020 season with much hype. Assuming some semblance of health, Gold Glove-winning infielder Tommy Edman is the anointed starting center fielder (?), but I felt like the outfield had the best overall balance with Carlson in center over the last couple of seasons. That's not to knock what Edman has done in the outfield, as I feel like he could probably capably hold down any position on the field. I'd just prefer Carlson in center for now, at least since Harrison Bader was sold off.

I had never seen one of these white bordered 2020 Topps Heritage cards. In fact, I had completely forgotten that they existed. I think my scanner gave the red printing more of a pinkish glow than it really has, but this is still pretty striking.

I'm a sucker for a black bordered refractor. I also really like the rare black bordered flagship cards a lot, especially during the days when they shared a bit of sparkly magic with the much more attainable gold parallels.

Matty Mo is looking pretty formidable on this busy Donruss Leather & Lumber design. I feel like this brand is one that Panini has unleashed rather sparingly since acquiring the DLP portfolio (though how they didn't retain the L part of that conglomerate is a story I've long forgotten about.)

Here's a young, beardless Jason Motte who was still trying to be a catcher, in a weird photo that makes it look like he was trying to look like he wasn't just caught doing something weird in the locker room. Is that even a locker room? What's going on in the background?

It felt like it took Rob Kaminsky forever to make it to the Cardinals major league team since he was drafted in 2013, and it really did. It was only in his second stint with the club in 2020 when they were keeping an active stable of, I don't know, like 45 pitchers because at any given time a third of them were getting sick. This was all in an attempt to salvage what ended up being a 60 game season. Let's just pretend none of this ever happened, at least in baseball.

I wish this was still a time when a Hall of Fame election meant a serious boost to card values, but if you take even a slight glance at any Scott Rolen cards on the market you'll see that is sadly not the case. Of course, that means all the more for me. People would still rather throw money at some young prospects who may or may not pay off big someday. (They won't.)

Next up is a pair of Cards cards from the much delayed 2021 Topps Chrome Platinum... something, something. I kind of nodded off before I could complete my thought here.

These cards look nice, but yet another variation on the first full scale Topps baseball card set was not perhaps the most original thing that they could have thought of. I do prefer these (and their parallels) to the 2022 set, which likewise happened to be released a year late. The 2022 set looks very off, like most of the photos were AI generated or enhanced.

It's not all just Cardinals here, although that would certainly be nice enough. Thanks to Oren, I was fortunate to add another numbered card to one of my very favorite player collections.

CJ Elleby was a solid Pac-12 (RIP) player, but it didn't seem like he was cut out for the NBA. He's still just 23, but it doesn't seem like he's up to much at the moment.

The Blazers have been a sad mess for the past few seasons. Elleby probably won't evoke many feelings of nostalgia for this specific era, unfortunately.

I will get nostalgic about the Jusuf Nurkic days, however. Like many a Blazers center before him, he eventually became a scapegoat for fans' negative feelings about the direction of the whole team, but this is a guy who went out and did his often thankless job night in and night out in an NBA era that isn't really built around big men like him anymore. He's doing fine in Phoenix.

Noah Vonleh was a lottery pick who played for a lot of NBA teams in his near-decade long career. He's with the Shanghai Sharks these days which is basically a meme, even though he's still just 28.

There were even football cards on offer. Today was apparently some sort of NFL free agency day as my phone kept blowing up with Eagles notifications. They were busy! 

This is just a good looking card. It's probably the green. Blount is an Eagle here but a Duck first, so he goes into the Ducks collection.

I wanted to like Nelson Agholor, especially after the Eagles wisely moved him to the slot and started taking advantage of his speed more than his pass catching ability, but... I don't know, never trust a guy from USC, I guess.

Well, we've reached the end of the scans, but there is so much more. What all can you spot in this photo? There is some amazing stuff!

Monday, March 11, 2024

March Radness is Coming (... paging Pete Lugo ...)


A contest is brewing. Addresses are needed. 
It's officially conference championship week in college basketball, which means that we're gearing up once again for the annual March Radness contest. I am still looking for mailing address confirmation for a couple of folks from the last (football) contest. If you're Pete or Danny, please get back to me as soon as possible via email. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

In the Year 2024

A look at the ubiquitous 2024 Topps set. 
This would have been a bit more timely if it was posted closer to the release date of a few weeks ago, but I thought I'd show off/give some thoughts on the latest Topps flagship set.

Chances are, you already have a few of these cards and may have formed some opinions of your own. I do really like the design quite a bit, particularly with the way they used foil in the team names. If Opening Day was still around, I could see a cheaper and therefore uglier version of this without any of the foil printing or stamping. With the foil, however, it pops. Aside from this significant turn in design direction, a lot of what you see is going to be the same. Heavily zoomed/focused photos help you get a little more familiar with your favorite (or least favorite) players, but they tend to wash out the background and remove the "action" part of the game, which is a shame. For this particular rookie pair, I do like the way the player positions are stacked when they fit into multiple categories. I like that they chose this route instead of forcing a single position on someone who does a lot of different things on the field.

The Cardinals only managed to get nine cards into this expanded set of 350 cards. There's enough players to field a complete lineup on the field, but that's it. The two rookies likely won't be much of a factor with the big club this year, and Tyler O'Neill is already gone. There's no sign here of Nolan Gorman or Jordan Walker, two of the Cardinals brightest young stars, nor do we see Gold Glover Tommy Edman. Masyn Winn, who debuted last season, is expected to be the team's starting shortstop this year but his RC is also being held back for some reason.

This is why I will never get involved in the deeply stupid RC or rookie card debate. Masyn Winn already has multiple insert cards in this set, and yet he couldn't get a measly base card.

Back to things I do like. The card backs have gotten a bit of a facelift after looking pretty much the same over the last several years. Full stats are represented once again, and everything just looks a bit cleaner.

Let's look at bit more at some of the parallels and inserts. After the success (?) of 2023 Update's holiday-themed parallels (Halloween, essentially), even more retail exclusive parallels were added to fit with this season. This set's theme is Easter, apparently, although the base "Holiday" parallel foil pattern looks a bit like some crappy wallpaper in an old building. It's also going to get confusing very quickly if they insist on calling these "Holiday" if they also continue making a separate Holiday set at the end of the year. (The holiday parallels, it should point out, were ostensibly to replace the one-per-pack manufactured relic cards that used to be inserted into blasters.) Due to the ever popular "shrinkflation", however, you get fewer cards than you used to in a given blaster, as there are now two fewer cards per blaster pack than 2023 Series 1, and still no relic!

The 1989 inserts are back to mark the 35th Anniversary, which is apparently always Topps' favorite anniversary to celebrate. Who knows why? This set is actually fairly large (100 cards in Series 1) this time around, which would make it quite a challenge to complete the whole set if it continues the same way through Series 2 and Update.

Stars of MLB are kind of plague if you only buy retail products. On average, you get around 10 cards per blaster pack and one of these in every pack. With the base set being 350 cards and the Stars of MLB set being 30 cards, it's almost as easy to pull this Goldschmidt insert as it is his base equivalent.

They've been doing this contest for years now, but I never participate. I'm just not much of a gambler and don't want to deface the cards for no reason.

A retired player like Tony Gwynn who was actually in the 1989 set really shows off the deficiencies of this design, with the left justification of the player name font being the hardest thing to swallow. It also looks odd that this uses traditional Padres colors while Gwynn is wearing the '90s (and beyond) shade of blue that they went for at the time.

I think these All-Topps Team cards were supposed to look classy, but I can't say a single thing nice about it. It's so weird that the coloring choices make Julio look like some weird clown alien here.

I'm not a fan of this one, either. I haven't seen much of Buster Posey in sets since his retirement, so that's probably fun for some Giants fans at least.

Yellow parallels are hanger box exclusives and no longer exclusive to any specific retail store (I'm not sure if there are any store chain exclusives anymore.) The design works better for some teams than others.

Royal blue parallels are here once again. I feel like they've never settled on a consistent shade of blue for these, but I don't think I've sat examples from each year side by side to get a good comparison.

And here is a card full of eggs.

I didn't intend this to be an exhausting review of all things 2024 Topps, so I've left out a few bits and pieces. The Superstar Blueprint cards have caused a bit of a stir but every time I pull one someone snatches it up right away. There are more parallels than what I've shown here, of course, but they're mostly just different colors and shiny accoutrements.

In short, I like this set quite a bit and it's one of the few flagship ones I normally wouldn't mind building, but I'm also trying to steer myself away from doing much more set building as it just takes up a lot of space. I'm always going to have more fun digging through my Cardinals binders than I would have in looking through a complete set. For that reason, I do have quite a few base cards that I don't need. Hit me up on TCDB or elsewhere if you're looking for anything. Thanks!