Feb 10, 2016

2013 Topps Chrome Triple Box Break: Dreaming Ahead to Summer

With winter in full swing upon most of the country (except for where I am and the Southern Hemisphere), it's time to present cards that remind us of a time when sunglasses were the norm.  All baseball cards have that type of effect, but none more so than Topps Chrome because they're all about the shine.

Don some shades as we reflect and refract our way to a warmer, more bucolic location where there are no worries except making sure all the packs are ripped, the cards are sorted, and the shine blinds us from the cold reality outside.

Yasiel Puig is happy that summer is coming soon.  The refractory spirit is evident as he runs from the Mattingly-filled past.

And what's more summery than the sun-like shine of the gold refractor? David Freese tosses the idea to us before the snow blinds us all.
But still you shouldn't feel blue.  Fernando Rodney is bathed in the shiny blue, but that's not getting him down.  He's practicing his archery for when those haystacks on the farmstead are clear enough to hang targets on them.
Which would definitely give some the feeling of nostalgia of the days of yore of summer camp.  Matt Harvey is caught in this feeling as well, having washed out all the colors of the playing pepper in a flashback.
Unfortunately, you can not stay in the past, you must move forward or else you'll get burned by basking in the rays,  Desmond Jennings is with the Rays, but clearly not burning except to make it to first base.

Because that's where you ultimately make the connection with another player.  Reveling in days gone by and living up the days to come.  Mike Trout  is sure of  his bat to ball connection.

And there's no better connection than remembering and anticipating your next autograph.  This is Didi Gregorius's first auto.  Little did he know that he would replace a New York legend when he moved onto his next destination.

Just like we all don't know what the future will hold.  Dylan Bundy  has had no troubles that he could not foresee with injuries, but he is working his way back.

Because if there's nothing else that we can glean from baseball cards and life, is that the future is a chance for redemption.

Because they are both dynamic and ever changing.

Nov 21, 2015

Inkquest: Greg Luzinski, 1980 Phillies

Here is the first entry representing the 1980 Phillies.  I am in serious baseball withdrawal right now. Whomever said April is the cruelest month had no idea what they were talking about.  Luckily, videos have been found online with full baseball games, including a few 1980 World Series games.    I was watching game 2 of the 1980 World Series last night and what struck me most was two things: the broadcasting style and the pace of the game was very different.  For broadcasting, they used maybe 4 or 5 cameras to show the action on the field, with none of them being super close-ups of someone's face.  In terms of pace of the game, Carlton sometimes threw 3 pitches within 20 seconds.  It was explicitly stated in the broadcast that a Kansas City strategy was to make Carlton wait between pitches to try and disrupt his rhythm.

Baseball Biography:  Greg Luzinski was the 1st round pick of the Phillies in the 1968 draft and made an appearance in the majors by 1970 at the age of 19.  He established himself as a regular for the 1972 season and first displayed his prodigious power in 1973, hitting .285/.346/.484 with 29 home runs.  Through the rest of the mid-1970s, he established himself as the Robin to Schmidt's Batman in the Phillies lineup, powering the Phillies to 3 division titles in 1976-1978 and also earning two 2nd place MVP finishes and three seasons of >150 OPS+.  During that time, he also established himself as a quality offensive postseason performer, contributing a >1.000 OPS in all three NLCS losses.  Luzinski stayed with the Phillies until after the 1980 season, then moved onto the White Sox, where he finished out his career in 1984, showcasing one last 30 HR season.  He finished his career with 307 HRs and 130 OPS+.

Role on the 1980 Phillies: Luzinski was the starting left fielder for the team that year, and somehow he had his career worst year for the championship Phillies.  He slumped to .228/.342/.440 with 19 HR and 56 RBI.  He was a key contributor in the intense NLCS victory over the Astros, hitting the only tater of the series and extended his playoff hitting streak to 13 games.  

Card Facts: This is a 2004 Topps Retired Signature Edition card. This set was distributed in 5 card packs with 5 packs per box (SRP: $150) with one slabbed auto card per pack.  The signature is on-card, and the photo is a classic photo of the old Phillies baby blues.

Nov 14, 2015

Inkquest: Dick Sisler, 1950 Phillies

The 1950 Phillies.  The Whiz Kids.  The mid-point of the century.    This part of the project will probably be the most challenging.  This was not a championship team, so they're not as well-remembered among the general baseball public like the Gashouse Gang or the Yankees or the Boys of Summer.   After all, it was 65 years ago, finding autographs of players from this era (especially the non-stars) will be a challenge.  

Baseball Biography:  Dick Sisler was the son of a MLB HOFer himself (George Sisler, he of the season of 257 hits, which stood as a record until Ichiro came along).    He was signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1939 during his age 18 season.  He progressed through the minor leagues until after the 1942 season, when he joined the Navy for World War II, missing the 1943-1945 seasons.  He came back to the Cardinals for the 1946-1947 seasons, winning a championship in 1946, and striking up a friendship with Ernest Hemingway.  He was traded to the Phillies before the 1948 season, and established himself as a starting first baseman in 1949.  He played in the majors until 1953 for the Phillies, Reds, and Cardinals, and continued playing in the minors until 1958.

Role on the 1950 Phillies: Dick Sisler was the starting left fielder on the 1950 Phillies, hitting .296/.373/.442, a 115 OPS+.  It was the best year of his career, earning him his only all-star game nod.  He also set or tied career highs in home runs, RBIs, runs, BB, 2B, hits, total bases, etc.  His moment in the sun was on the last day of the season.  The Phillies were 1 game up on the Dodgers.   With the game tied 1-1 in the top of the 10th inning, he hit a 3-run home run off Don Newcombe and sent the Phillies to their first pennant in 35 years.

Card Facts: This is a 2012 Leaf History of Baseball card.  This set was a pure cut signature set, with cut auto per pack/box.  The checklist was enormous, so it had a variety of players from the greatest of the great to all-stars to team favorites.  The SRP of this set was $40 per card, a value product.  Many of the harder to find players could probably be found through this set.

Oct 25, 2015

What Comes Out of a 2013 Bowman Retail Rack Pack? Pack Breaking and Ruminating

The answer is......"cards of mostly unrecognizable figures in the major leagues as card companies continuously to inundate us with a checklist of prospects to cash in on the next big thing."  Xth Round Draft Picks and Top 100 prospects are all the rage and have been for some time in this hobby.  As one of many different kinds of collectors, I can tell you one thing, it is always tantalizing to invest in the upside of the little known and well regarded rather than the well known with varying degrees of being regarded

I was an avid Bowman collector for years because there's nothing more satisfying than discovering a player and making him a part of your collection for the most inane and irrational of reasons, you pulled the first card of that player out of a pack.  Usually though, there were other explanations, that gave you the need to collect a player and seek out their cards, maybe something normal like team association or something visceral like photo selection or something greedy like value in the monthly Beckett's of old.

Let's see where these cards rank on the scale of collectability; all cards scanned are from a 2013 Bowman retail pack, the peak of buying a set for one player, Yasiel Puig (spoiler: none were Yasiel Puig).
Steven Moya: I heard of him recently (definitely not in 2013) since he appeared on the 2015 top 100 prospects by some publication or another.  Even though is an international parallel, which is special and brings back great memories of 1998, his skill set does not give me something to dream on (8:1 K:BB ratio) The choice is No.
Wade Hinkle of the Angels organization is a complete unknown.  Is that how big 1st baseman's mitts are? It looks like a catcher's mitt.  He's still in AA at the age of 25, so not a prospect in the traditional sense.  Also, purple parallels were a bad gimmick for this product to get me to buy a pack.  I blame the marketing department of my house. The answer is a No.
Vance Worley was a well-known name considering that he was a fun Phillie to watch during 2011.  Somehow he kept on making people strike out looking.  I just wanted to point out the horrific airbrush job when he was traded to the Twins during the offseason.
Adeiny Hechavarria is a slick fielding shortstop with the Marlins, so two strikes against him.  The other one is spelling of his name; I can't remember how to spell it, so I can't collect it (Same reason for Jeff Francoeur(sp) when he first came up besides the obvious of being a Brave that challenged Ryan Howard for the NL ROY award).  No.
Roman Quinn is an exciting player, and I'm not just saying that because he's a Phillie prospect.  If he ever can stay healthy, I see him as a Michael Bourn type, which are fun to collect and watch when they;re on your team. Yes.
J.O. Berrios has the most original initials combination ever.  He's a young guy in AAA with potential flamethrower capabilities. He had some great stats this year in terms of K/9 and BB/9.  Someone to keep an eye on with a great cutter grip....Yes.
Patrick Kivlehan is a complete unknown to me, but he apparently has both power and speed capabilities.  His stats remind me of a young Corey Koskie, though with less of a batting eye.  He is a semistar in cardworld in the making, also a Seattle non-star gets lost these days, plus there's dust in chrome scans....No.

Well, that was an interesting exercise.  I think my favorite aspect to consider when looking at collecting a player is speed and fun (from either the pitching or batting side).  Though this would mean I would also collect Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon, which has not been the case.  Maybe visceral reactions to the card is the overriding factor after all.

Oct 22, 2015

Blog Flashback to 2012: Cole Hamels Can Now Be a Long-Time Phillie: Top 10 Reasons Why This is Good

NOTE:  I've decided to publish all my thoughts from the past as I reboot this blog to one with actual thoughts.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how many posts I have in the draft folder, so a lot may not be as current as I like.  This post was mostly written in July 2012.  I've finished it up now.  So the perspective is a little skewed.

With the news that all Phillies fans were waiting for in some fashion (either for or against the extension), the wait is over.  Cole Hamels has signed a 6 year contract extension with the Fightins' for a cool $144 mil.   The  Phillies team that Hamels grew up with has not grown up with him.  There are vestiges of the old team left behind.  The "four aces and Blanton" of 2011 have become 2 aces, a broken Halladay, and a Blanton.  Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are hurting, Jimmy Rollins is slumping, and for some reason, Hunter Pence's socks continue playing and pretending to be a cleanup hitter.

It may sound like an expensive investment, but Hamels is 28 with a talent level at about a 135 ERA+ (after the pitching adjustment after the 2009 season), which is one step below elite.  For comparison purposes, Halladay had an ERA+ average of 160 the last four years before his breakdown.  In other words, Hamels would be an ace on many a team.  And now, he's cost controlled at a just below market value.  They'll get him for $19.5 million for 2013 and then $22.5 million per year through 2018 with an option for 2019.

Free agent prices are on the rise, so market value now is essentially the same as below market value in 4 years.  As it is, he will be the 8th highest paid pitcher in the league, and can be as good as the 3rd best pitcher (in my humbly humble opinion) of the league.

Here are 10 reasons why this is good for the Phillies, me, and Phillies fans.

10.  Hamels is at the tail end of his prime, and can be expected to have at least 3 more years of quality ace-like pitching.

9. Hollywood will start to be a popular child's name in the Philadelphia area, confusing everyone everywhere.

8. With his postseason experience, he can serve as a mentor to the Vance Worleys and Justin DeFratuses of the world.

7. Copycat fans can wear long hair again and relive the 1993 season without feeling an identity crisis.

6.   There will be about $50 million of free space on the payroll even with the extension to replace the replaceable parts of Juan Pierre, Ty Wigginton, Kevin Frandsen, et al to improve the depth of the team; those guys were not good.

5. Leftorium stores will sweep the area as all 6-8 year olds start becoming left handed.

4. This is a sign the Phillies haven't thrown in the towel yet on the 2012 season; though they were 14 games under .500 on July 14; I actually don't know what the path is.

3. OK, this is really a positive for everyone, but the pitching simulators at fanfest will be able to recognize the majesty of my changeup after I replicate Hamel's grip and motion after 6 more years of study.

2. If the Phillies ever fall out of contention, which is bound to happen at some point, Hamels will be the perfect launching pad around which to build a team, much like Felix Hernandez is (ok, not the best example)

and reason #1......dancing and more dancing.

Sep 22, 2015

Gint-a-Cuffs VII Packs 21-24-The Finale

And so this journey ends as it begins, with a pile of wrappers staring up at the sky, filled with cards, and taking on the world.  It has been a fun march to mediocrity: there were laughs, tears, and the occasional sportswriter penning odes to the sport.  Join me now as we say farewell to the 7th incarnation of Gint-a-Cuffs.  May you haunt me forevermore.

Pack 21

Mini SP 312 Cole +3
Starting Points 87 Beltre +2 +2 FP
203-Wright +2 FP
108-Fielder +2 FP

This box had more Adrian Beltre cards than of any other player.....
Pack Total: 11

Pack 22

Full Size Relic Frank Caliendo +6
Mini A&G Back 215 Votto +2 +3 FP
Ancient Armory 11 Claymore +2

I like the non-sport relics, but I like to mix it up in the box......
Pack Total: 13

Pack 23

162-Rizzo +2 FP
What Once Would Be 9 Vacuum Tube Trains +2
Mini 10 Granderson

I had a vacuum tube train at my old job; it didn't work......
Pack Total: 4

Pack 24

Mini 124 Peterson
Starting Points 13 H.Ramirez +2
245-Howard +1 FT +2 FP

Hanley Ramirez has come full circle in his career as has this competition around the drain......
Pack Total: 5

Total Total: 147

Sep 20, 2015

Gint-a-Cuffs VII Packs 17-20

Here we are, reaching the dog days of the competition.  At this point, there is a sort of fatigue as the hot weather wears down even the best on my roster.  They look up at the standings and see that they're barely in the wild card race and can stay in only if they come up with a credible enough musical montage.  With less than 100 points through 2/3 of the box, they may be singing Muddy Waters.  We need a new injection of talent, a new way of thinking in the Gint-a-Cuffs owner's box to get through the season of quirkiness.  Is it possible to get the influence of 19th century players to help out?

Pack 17

293-Ar. Ramirez
Framed Mini Autograph Archie Bradley +7
Mini A&G Back 154 Castillo +2
Great Scott 9 Fingerprints +2

Framed autographs are always a special pull: on-card, nicely presented......

Pack Total: 11

Pack 18

Starting Points 100 Werth +2
Full Size Buyback 2012 Heath Bell +3
Mini 45 C.Owings
119-Scheer -1

Jayson Werth started on Toronto, I did not know that.....I also didn't know what a Paul Scheer was....

Pack Total: 4

Pack 19

Mini 222-Polanco
Menagerie of the Mind 6 Pegasus +2

Do you know what I miss?  Gint-a-cuffs point inflation?  Why are there no more base set SPs, just for the game....

Pack Total: 2

Pack 20

250-Tanaka -1
Ancient Armory 12 Shuriken +2
Mini Black Border 185 Malzahn +3
1-Bumgarner +2 FP

Shuriken is not from shuri or ken, discuss amongst yourselves......

Pack Total:6

Pack Total: 114

Sep 19, 2015

Gint-a-Cuffs VII Packs 13-16

Gint-a-Cuffs is like the weather.  It can run hot, it can run cold, it can run you ragged.  As each card peeks out from behind the next, its visage taunts you with each recognition that it will not yield you points.  Those smiles are mischievous, ironic, and altogether unwelcome set against the anticipatory joy of ripping open packs.  But sometimes, sometimes, there are moments when you think to yourself that it is all worth it as the points pile up and the personal collection is burgeoning with plenty.  Do not judge me lest Gint-a-cuffs judges us all.

Pack 13

273-Hamels +4 My FP! +1 FT
111-Betances -1
What Once Was Believed 4 The Four Classical Elements +2
Mini Black Border 176 Niese +3

Mixed emotions as the Hamels card made an appearance, but 5 point base card wins the emotionals balance!

Pack Total: 9

Pack 14

Starting Points 30 Price +2
Mini A&G Back 96 Hudson +2
138-Pineda -1

There are some years where I think it would be fun to try my hand at the code and then I read the solutions and realize that I work with liquids (and as my brother would tell me a giant spoon) and not cyphers.

Pack Total: 3

Pack 15

Starting Points 39 Kershaw +2
Mini Flag Back 318-Gattis 25/25 +8

First #/25 mini ever from Allen&Ginter in 9 years of opening boxes!

Pack Total: 10

Pack 16

135-Teixeira -1
What Once Would Be 8 Mail Via Parachute +2
112- Buck 65
Mini First Ladies 15 Mary Lincoln +2

What ever happened to Joe Mauer?  Didn't he used to be a favorite player of someone?

Pack Total: 3

Total Total: 91

Sep 10, 2015

Gint-a-Cuffs VII: Packs 9-12: Halftime

I realize you read the title and probably thought that I would provide a halftime show.  I did contract out a marching band followed by a Beatles cover band, but then I realized that blogs don't have microphones.  I also only have enough instruments at home for a 3 person marching band, and that wouldn't be any fun to watch.  So, instead we get some commentary from "The Other World's Talking Heads" as recorded at the conclusion of this pack opening.

Talking Head 1 (TH1):  After 12 packs of intense opening, sorting, and point checking, Dan is coming up short in many facets of the game.

Talking Head (TH2): I agree with you, TH1, he is clearly struggling, especially in the mini card area.  The points are just not there to be had.

TH1:  Also, where are these so-called hits that he keeps on promising the viewers.  The only hits I see are to his chances as he falls further down the scoreboard. Am I right or am I right?

TH2: You are right, and even moreso, you are right.  What can Dan do to turn this thing around?

TH1:  Well, I see only one recourse.  He must be more accepting of his fate.

I think I should fire these guys........

Pack 9

Mini First Ladies 8 Letitia Tyler +2
Starting Points 94 Jose Reyes +2
144-Belt +2 FP

Letitia Tyler was one of three first ladies to pass away while her husband was President.......

Pack Total: 6

Pack 10

Mini 234 Cuddyer
Starting Points 65 Franco +1 FT +2
297-Magna Carta +1
27-Franco +1 FT

Two Franco cards in one pack made me feel like the world is my oyster and Gint-a-Cuffs is my gummy bear....whatever that means.
Pack Total: 5

Pack 11

Mini 125-Aoki
Great Scott 1 X-Ray Diffraction +2
Relic Zach Lowe +6

That is not at all what X-ray diffraction looks like from what I've experienced.....

Pack Total: 8

Pack 12

Starting Points 21 Chapman +2
Mythological Menaces 6 Wisakedjak +2

I was first introduced to Wisakedjak as Whiskey Jack in one of my favorite books ever, American Gods by Neil Gaiman.....
Pack Total: 4

Total Total: 66

Do I get to offer up my gauntlet in submission yet?

Sep 7, 2015

Gint-a-Cuffs VII Packs 5-8

You know that poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?  I think opening a box for Gint-a-Cuffs is just like that.  Two paths can be chosen, a good pack or a bad pack.  If you choose the bad pack, the only thing to blame is yourself as superstitious circumstances are dictated by the way you choose. The pack itself is not of its own mind and can only have contents that are finalized upon the opening.  Of course, if you think about it, it's really all about being in a yellow wood in the first place.  Then, there would be no packs at all.  The poem may not reference this at all, I think I had too much coffee. It's time to stop dawdling and choose a path....

Pack 5
164-Beltre +2 FP
Menagerie of the Mind 9 Hydra +2
Mini 82- Pompey

I already feel like I should be changing my favorite team to the Blue Jays for this competition.....

Pack Total: 4

Pack 6
Ancient Armory 17 Trident +2
World Beneath Our Feet 6 Monarch Butterfly +2

Two deposed closers in one pack=win......

Pack Total: 4

Pack 7
Full Size Buyback 2011 Weaver +3
Starting Points 5 Freeman +2
Mini 311 Brantley +3
308 Freese
218 Rodon

Full-size buybacks look weird and out of place, especially 2011....

Pack Total: 8

Pack 8
Mini A&G Back 238 Gordon +2
Ancient Armory 10 Flanged Mace +2

Carlos Gonzalez has had the largest jump in OPS from the 1st to 2nd half that I remember since 2014.....

Pack Total: 4

Total Total: 43

Sep 6, 2015

Gint-a-Cuffs VII: Packs 1-4+Box Topper

This is going to be my 7th consecutive time participating in the theater of opening up an Allen&Ginter hobby box for points and lack of glory.  As of this writing, I've only opened half the box, and there are a few things that stand out over the years.

1. The box itself is getting smaller and smaller each year.  It used to be a sturdy construction, now it feels like a mid-90s Score box in size and shape.
2.  The cards themselves feel thinner this year also.  The first box of A&G I opened was in 2007, they were thick and weighty and protected me from a hurricane-force wind once.
3. If there's one thing I learned is that Gint-a-Cuffs is a ruthless game that leaves me drained from tension each and every year.  Please keep out of the reach of children under 3.

On with the show, this is it.....

Box Topper

Box Loader Insert B-10 Evan Longoria +4

Pack 1
Mini 181-Hutchinson
What Once Would Be 2 Jetpacks +2

Alas, no points for ex-favorite team members.....
Pack Total: 2

Pack 2
Starting Points 77 Cano +2, -1
Mini A World Beneath Our Feet 5 Seven Spotted Ladybug +2
133- Russell

Torii Hunter's card with a less funny funny face this year.....
Pack Total: 3

Pack 3
Mini 164-Beltre (FP +3)
Starting Points 60 Sabathia +2
329 Gardner -1
182 Frazier

Sabathia looking svelte.....
Pack Total: 4

Pack 4
Starting Points 73 Brandon Belt +2, +2 FP
Mini A&G Back 4-Flores +2
Mini Buyback 2009 Porcello +4

Most complicated athlete's name since Matt Tuiasosopo.....
Pack Total: 10

Total Total: 23