Apr 27, 2010

2010 Heritage Rack Pack: The One and Only Pack

I do like buying packs, and I do like buying packs of Topps Heritage(though not chasing after anything in particular). The 1950s were a true golden age of design with variations in theme and style from year to year. The 1960s were more variable in their design sensibilities. 1961 was not one of my favorites...it has none of that vintage personality. The flair for the unexpectedly hatless, posing in Wrigley Field or spring training with no crowds, smiling at a cameraman who may or may not be actually taking their picture instead of the player next to him. "Hey, over here!" That being said, here are the highlights of the pack.

This is a shortprint and one of the more desirable subsets (with the other being the Sporting News All-Stars). It was an innovative idea at the time and hadn't been duplicated very much recently. OK, quick quiz...name the 10 WS MVPs of the 2000s (answer at the bottom of the post)

The obligatory Phillie. J-Roll come back, the offense misses your sparkplug nature.
An insert of a very starry Gordon Beckham. I am very excited for the hitting potential of this young player, but the general ineptitude of the White Sox lineup is going to limit his counting stats this year (fantasy sell alert)
Brian McCann is looking gazed in his goggles. Hand this guy a mask and a coffee.
These were my favorite cards of the pack. The story of Mantle's HR is legendary. It occurred in Washington's Griffiths Stadium in 1956 and they didn;t use any trajectory estimates for this one. One of the executives of the Washington team strided out the distance to the spot where the ball landed and reported the distance (as the story goes). It remains the longest measured home run.

The Big Train hurling shutouts was not as unique. He had 110 shutouts in his storied career. He also had 412 victories, 3508 Ks and numerous times where batters swung after the catcher threw the ball back to the pitcher.

Heritage is a fool's errand to try and complete as a set collector with 75 SPs and a probable update series with more SPs. Therefore, this is the only pack I will purchase. Plus, there aren't any great surprises, value or many cards with intrinsic interest for my collection that will keep me coming for more. I don't understand how the super rare color variations are exciting.

2000 (Jeter), 2001 (Johnson/Schilling),2002 (Glaus),2003 (Beckett), 2004 (Ramirez),2005 (Dye), 2006 (Eckstein), 2007 (Lowell), 2008 (Hamels), 2009 (Matsui)

How many did you get without peaking?

Apr 26, 2010

Set Completion: 2009 Topps Allen and Ginter

Sometimes patience does pay off. Finally after years of searching, the cave of wonders! Or in this case, the final cards needed to complete the 2009 Topps Allen and Ginter base set (with shortprints) and the one per pack National Pride set. (I also have the cabinet card set in hand, I have a problem with wanting 8x10 cards). I'm finally ready to bring on this year's version and not a moment too soon. Can you feel the washed out color palettes, mini cards, and whimsical card subjects? Can you feel it?

Apr 23, 2010

Manager Cards: Danny Ozark and the Pope

Manager cards were always an interesting (though sometimes unwanted) parts of sets. It's not until much later in my collecting life that I can appreciate the quirkiness of manager cards.

There seem to be a myriad of ways in which they are presented. In 2010 Topps for example, the manager is an afterthought with a small headshot on the back of the team card. In 1989 Topps, the first set I collected extensively, the manager cards only had a team checklist on the back (which I colored in of course). In 2009 Topps Heritage (and 1960 Topps), the manager card gotits own unique design with cartoons on the back and everything.

First, on the left is the 1978 Topps Danny Ozark card. What's interesting is that the back of the card mentions almost nothing about the 101 win season and division title from the previous year. Instead, the rear of the card is highlighted by his minor league batting stats. Ozark had a long and distinguished minor league playing career before his managerial days. He played many years in AA and AAA, but never quite made it.

On the right is the final card as Paul Owens as a manager and GM of the Phillies when he led them to the 1983 pennant. This back is more conventional with a managerial record. Paul Owens has been the most influential character for player development in Phillies history, even having the minor league player of the year award for the Phillies system named after him. Does he look like the Pope or what?

I'm split on what manager cards should depict. Outside of base Topps sets or Topps Heritage sets (2010 and beyond), they shouldn't be making an appearance?

What do you want to see if you happen to stumble upon a manager card? An ejection scene? A pitching change? A game of pepper? Managerial stats? Team stats? Motivational speech recordings? Let's design the ultimate manager card.

Apr 19, 2010

Cole Hamels Blog: Start 3 vs. Florida

This is the first incarnation of the Cole Hamels blog. The main reason is that these are the first innings that I have seen him pitch. Because I am on the west coast and my work has taken away my administrative rights so that I can download the updated flash player to watch mlb.tv (anyone know how to get around that by the way?), I will have to make a more diligent effort to watch the archives the next day.

I was lucky to see this version of Hamels pitch on this day in the sense that he was successful. He was locating his fastball very well on the outside part of the plate, his change-up had a low and away tailing action, and his curveball...made an appearance. I think I also detected a cutter mixed in.

The WPHL broadcast from Philadelphia really skimps on the graphics. No pitch speed, no strike zone graphics, so most of what I recorded was my own best estimation.

Inning 1: Maybin lines a single on an inside cut fastball. Ramirez strikes out on three different pitches. Hamels induces a fly out from Cantu on a full count fastball. This was a relatively low stress inning with one runner in scoring position with two outs. Fastball count: 8 Other pitches: 5

Inning 2: Uggla leads off with a HR on a high hanging for eternity curveball. That was the bad. The good was that he recovered from this and did not lose focus or control. The next three batters were retired in order. Of particular note, he got out Gaby Sanchez after falling behind 3-0. Fastball count: 6 Other pitches: 6

Inning 3: It seemed like at the outset this would be a disaster. He allowed a 2b to Robertson (the pitcher) on a 1-2 count. It has happened before where this would portend a multi-run inning for the opposition. But again, Hamels did not give in. In fact, the first thing he did was brush back Maybin when attempting to bunt; he essentially reasserted his authority with that pitch. His fastball started to miss a little in the inning, but it was still over the plate. Fastball count: 8 Other pitches: 4

Inning 4: This inning Hamels decided to go curveball heavy for some reason. It resulted in a line out, two singles, and a ground out with the 1st four batters. He made an adjustment on the 5th batter (Sanchez) and utilized his changeup for a strikeout. Fastball Count: 6 Curveball Count: 6 Change-up Count:2

Inning 5: Allowed yet another extra base hit to Maybin on a curveball. Otherwise, this is where Hamels started to roll.

Inning 6: Hamels asserted his authority with the fastball-changeup combination, getting ahead of all three hitters and setting them down in order.

Inning 7: Utley made the play of the night for the first out, scooping the bunt attempt by Baker with his glove. Hamels made short work of the next two hitters.

Innings 8 and 9: Went to my soccer game. Sorry, I was frustrated by the lack of offense.

Final Line: 8+ innings, 7 H allowed, 0 BB, and 8 K, 1 run+1 inherited runner allowed to score.

Verdict: The first great start of the year, but resulted in the first loss. Who said wins were a good measure of pitching acumen? (Whoever says "he has to pitch to the score" I will consider foolhardy)

Pre-Game Quote: “Minimizing damage is the key. It’s something I need to work on.”

Post-Game Quote: “I felt good. I just went out trying to do my best and execute my pitches. The pitch to Uggla hung a little. I’ve had a lot of success with him but it’s baseball, sometimes they get you.”

Apr 16, 2010

Blog Bat Around: $50, 000, 15 minutes, and two blueberry muffins

I was thrilled when I heard the news...$50,000 on ebay for sports related memorabilia. It seems I left my speech in the other shirt's front pocket. Luckily, there's no time for speeches in this scenario. I do what I always do in these unlikely events. I snag the closest blueberry muffins and sit down for the long haul. I was totally unprepared.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 4-$13,750

This has always been the card I wanted. It just completes a collection. I've always said that if I ever got one, I would hold it for one year and then sell it again. Would I really be able to do that though? This is a test.


2001 Bowman Chrome Set (with BGS 9 Albert Pujols)-$5500

The card that launched 1000 ships of limited edition auto rookies. Luckily, there was a set available for a lower price than what the Pujols alone recently sold for plus it's from the 2001 year when everything started going numbered rookie crazy.

2005 Bowman Chrome Ryan Braun Refractor PSA 9-$399.95

I've just always wanted this card. Being a refractor just makes it look nice. Check out Braun's stats, who do they remind you of? A more strikeout prone Ralph Kiner? A more average oriented Willie McCovey? The kid has talent.

1993 Finest Refractor Cal Ripken Jr. $548

During the baseball card boom, 1993 Finest was the hardest pack ever to find. I've seen unopened packs twice in my life. At a card show in 1994 ($30 a pack) and in a card shop in 1996 ($35 a pack). All this, for the chance to pull a refractor that was inserted once or twice per 18 pack box. I want the one refractor that made it all go (the possibly short printed less than the standard 241 print run), Cal Ripken mid-streak refractor.

1955 Topps Sandy Koufax PSA 7.5 $1549.99

1954 Topps Hank Aaron PSA 8 $5799

1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson SGC 80 $1800

These three vintage rookies have always carried a lot of weight in my mind. Sandy Koufax was the pitcher that my father said was the greatest he ever saw. Hank Aaron was the past and future home run king for many and is one of the better looking cards of the era. I may have been influenced by the date, but I was thrilled to find the Robinson offered. Plus, the smiling visage on the card is pleasing.

1956 Topps Set $5600

I had the key cards I wanted from 1954 and 1955, so I decided to get the whole 1956 Topps set next. I really like the Willie Mays card in this set.


1965 Topps Steve Carlton PSA 9 $799.99

1973 Topps Mike Schmidt BGS 10 $899.99

1949 Bowman Robin Roberts SGC 40 $100

I then went for the iconic Phillies rookies, as expected. I'm not much for graded cards, but when there's a limit, you have to fill it up.

1992 Bowman Set $150

1995 Bowman Set $150

1995 Bowman's Best Set $249

1948 Bowman Set (all PSA 8) $11999

The 1992 Bowman set was the modern advent of the prospecting before they reach the majors set that really influences the hobby to this day. 1995 Bowman and Bowman's Best have the only RC of Andruw Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Scott Rolen, and Bobby Abreu. Plus, they were always tantalizingly close and rising in price (see Tales of a Former Bowman Collector series on the sidebar). The 1948 Bowman set is the first vintage established set, need I say more?

Mike Schmidt Signed Jersey $399.99

Steve Carlton Signed Powder Blue Jersey $299

I finish up with two Phillies icons jerseys to hang on the wall. I think I need a new room for my memorabilia after this.

This was fun, but the clock never stopped ticking. There was only about a minute to spare to contemplate other directions to go.

Total: approximately: $49, 900

Apr 14, 2010

Philies Bats Hit the Sweet Spot

The Phillies are 7-1 and are hitting .317! as a team through 8 games. Let's just say that their offense has hit a sweet spot (of hitting and the schedule). More analysis to come at the conclusion of the first slice (defined as nine games in this world).

Apr 13, 2010

Swapping Cards with Doc T

As proprietor of the blog Baseball Card Recollections, he has had some truly innovative posts, including last cards of HOF players that were never printed and the start of a card giveaway for kids that all of us must contribute to.

He also put out a clarion call to those interested in cards as he culled his collection. I threw my hat in the ring and asked for Phillies and stickers (yes, stickers). Here is a smattering of the highlights.

1986 Fleer Star Sticker of Kirk Gibson and Lou Whitaker: The Fleer Star Sticker sets in the early '80s was like the original chrome set. It was a partial parallel of the base set in a different form with some of the same images. I think I want them all...eventually.

Old school Topps album stickers (1981 or 1982) of sluggers Cecil Cooper and Ken Singleton: They are wearing two team caps that are sorely missed.

And now the Phillies portion of the program.

1992 Fleer Ultra Dave Hollins: Hollins had two good years with the Phillies ('92 and '93), but he kept getting hit in the hand with pitches and couldn't maintain the pace.
2001 Donruss/2000 Retro Scott Rolen: Rolen was my favorite Phillie in high school, until one day, just before his trade, I saw him seem to give up in front of the home crowd after striking out. That is unacceptable. Also, this had to have been one of the most hare-brained ideas for a set ever. Donruss decided to create designs as if they existed and distributed in 1999 and 2000 as insert sets with retro "rookies" and everything. Talk about confusing.

1994 Ultra Phillies Finest John Kruk: An insert set based on the Phillies? Bring it back. Also, did anyone ever get the mail-in redemptions for these.

Elmer Valo: I was unaware of this name before seeing this card and unfamiliar with this set, but he was a Phillie only in 1956 and 1961. He was a Philadelphia Athletic though from 1940-1954.

1987 Sportsflics Steve Bedrosian: Check out those images of the 1987 Cy Young award winner.

1991 Line Drive Pre-rookie Charlie Manuel: This was before Charlie had to deal with the papparazzi. He really hasn't changed all that much though.

Thanks for the trade, Doc T! Your package is on its way.

Apr 12, 2010

Off-Season Perspective Part IV: Winning Moves Around the Edges: The Twins Perspective

The Minnesota Twins have been a "small market" team in this decade and they have always subscribed to their own philosophy (for better or for worse). I am reminded of their small market designation because of the inane discussion that Joe Morgan and Jon Miller had last night on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN.

At this point, the Cardinals/Brewers game seemed to be out of reach (7-1 or so) and because it was ESPN, the announcers like to go on tangents about broader topics. Miller was remarking how the Brewers made the playoffs in '08 and still could be competitive and they were in a small market. He then likened that success to the Twins and A's (pre-2007). Joe Morgan disagreed. With the opening of tbe Twins' new ballpark, Morgan opined that the Twins weren't a small market team.

He said (and I paraphrase): small market is just a label that teams use. They say they're small market when they can't sign a guy or to get revenue sharing, and they don't say they're small market when they can sign a guy. They signed Mauer, they're not a small market team.

Miller disagreed, saying, look the Yankees infield makes more than the entire Milwaukee roster put together. And Morgan replied to the effect that if the Brewers resigned Fielder, they're no longer small market. I lost track at that point because the reasoning and structure were just so awful and without thought.

Oh yes, the Twins. The Twins have been successful with a basically homegrown core (Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, Span, Baker, Perkins, Blackburn, Slowey, Crain....etc) and surrounding them with low-cost veterans. In the past, their choices were not, how you say, efficient. They installed Juan Castro as a starting shortstop one year and cycled Livan Hernandez out there every five days to get sent to the showers early.

They still love Nick Punto in Minnesota for some reason (his spectacular diving plays, I guess), but they've started to surround their core with low-cost productive veterans and that is the difference. This year, they acquired a (hopefully) re-incarnated JJ Hardy to man shortstop and they signed a completely capable and cast aside Orlando Hudson to replace the black hole of offense they had in 2009 at 2B (Alexei Casilla had a 44 OPS+). Carl Pavano has also decided to pitch and become a capable 3rd/4th starter. Jim Thome was signed for good measure just in case someone was foolish enough to bring in a right handed reliever in for a crucial situation.

The focus of the team is Mauer. He is a gold glove winning, batting title winning, leading the league in OPS catcher. He's basically Johnny Bench with less power and more average hitting capabilities. Morneau, Cuddyer, and Kubel give credible presence in the middle of the order and they have a speedy outfielder who gets on base. Who let the sabermetricians into the front office? Denard Span hits leadoff and has a career .385 OBP...ideal.

The pitching even with the loss of Nathan as closer has enough depth to cover the hole. Even a league average 86% save conversion rate (a decrease from Nathan's otherworldly one) would cost the Twins 2-3 wins over an entire season. Plus, Pat Neshek is back. Who doesn't love the sidearming Pat Neshek?

All in all, the Twins built a team to compete for a division title this year and next year, small market or no.

Apr 9, 2010

Early Weekend Diversion:Card Brand Quiz

It's difficult to remember such things but try your hand at this quiz:


It covers the span of baseball card collecting. Some of the names are not under what you'd expect, but it's a pretty fair representation. I forgot some recent and obvious ones. Sometimes my brain gets scattered in all-encompassing questions like this one.

Leave your score in the comments if you're so inclined. I received 80; I'm sure most of you can beat that.

Apr 6, 2010

1994 Flair Series 1 Box Break Summary

Now that I've made it back to 2010 safely after bathing in 1993 nostalgia with this box break, it's time to give the final counts.

The box was 24 packs with 10 cards per pack (the intricacies of opening a Flair pack can be an undergraduate research project). The collation was decent (but not perfect), and allinserts were received as promised.

The base set: 216/250 (86.4%) with 12 doubles including a Puckett bipping in a pack

The inserts:

Wave of the Future: Received 6 of 10 (1:4 packs)

Outfield Power: Received 5 of 10 (1:5 packs)

Hot Numbers: Received 1 of 10 (1:24 packs)

Thoughts: In general, it was a refreshing box to open (outside of the physical waste that it generated). The card stock is nearly triple of many base sets today and this was, in a sense, Fleer's bankable brand. 1994 was a good time to collect cards (much as today is). There was a definite cross-section of older stars (Molitor, Puckett, Winfield, etc) intercollated with younger stars of the day (Griffey, Piazza, Thomas, Ramirez). Nearly every pack had a player worth keeping.

Unfortunately, there were no rookies in this series. This was a common theme of this era. Series 1 usually did not have many rookies compared to series 2 or the traded series (or Bowman). There really is and was no investment potential (not only money, but heart and soul) to follow an up and coming player as you grip his rookie card.

Also, the checklists took up the last cards of the series and had no photos or players mentioned at all, a waste of a card, especially if you received one in 1994 when packs cost $4 or $5.

I was satisfied though to get this box for less than 1$/pack and revel in pre-strike 1990s cards. I would recommend it for those who like to build sets of really thick cards.

Needs List

Base Set

2, 12, 20, 28, 29, 40, 62, 63, 65, 96, 101, 112, 122, 125, 127, 136, 137, 144, 145, 152, 153, 161, 162, 172, 182, 184, 194, 195, 211, 214, 230, 232, 235, 246

Wave of the Future: 1, 4, 5, 6

Outfield Power: 1, 3, 4, 5, 10

1994 Flair Series 1 Box Break: Packs 19-24

1993 had a bevy of star quality hitting performances. For some teams, they were the gunstarters. For others, they were the trunk of the team's tree. For yet other's, they were the salt infusion during a marathon. These are some of the hitting heroes upon which (mostly) successful teams of 1993 were built.

Lenny Dykstra Memorable Season and Post-Season: Had a career best season in 1993, with his constant glove adjustment and spitting doing the talking along with his bat. He hit .305/.420/.482 with a league-best 143 runs, 194 hits, and 129 BB. Scored a run in 15 consecutive games at one point. Also, hit a career-best 19 HR which portended his monster 6 HR postseason including a .348/.500/.913 line in the World Series. That game-winning HR in game 5 of the NLCS was pretty clutch.
Fred McGriff-Memorable Half-Season: Traded from the Padres to Braves before the July 31 trading deadline, hit .310/.392/.612 with 19 HR and 55 RBI in 63 G, punctuating his arrival with 3 HR in his 1st 2 games as a Brave.
Joe Carter Memorable Moment: Obviously, the HR off Mitch Williams in game 6 of the World Series. His jubilant hop around the bases makes me cringe everytime I see a replay. I can't hate him because he seemed like such an upstanding player and citizen.
Dave Winfield Memorable Moment: At the age of 41, lined a single off Dennis Eckersley on September 16, 1993 to reach his 3000th career hit.
Frank Thomas Memorable Season: "The Big Hurt" won the 1st of 2 consecutive MVP awards with a batting line that dropped the jaws of thousands with .317/.426/.607, 41 HR, 128 RBI, 112 BB/54 K, and 106 R. Also hit .393/.593/.529 in the ALCS (though the White Sox would not best the Blue Jays)
Carlos Baerga Hot Numbers Insert: This is the rarest insert of the series, inserted 1:24 packs. It is actually a gaudy pink/purple color in person. Baerga did have some hot numbers that year. 100+ R and RBI, 20+ HR, and 200 hits to name a few.

James Mouton and Dave Slaton Wave of the Future Inserts
Ken Griffey Jr. Outfield Power Insert: The Kid hit 8 HRs in 8 consecutive games, need I say more.

Other Notable Cards: Chris Sabo, Bo Jackson, Tim Salmon, Dave Hollins, Barry Bonds

That wraps up the box. A summary is forthcoming.

Apr 5, 2010

Phillies Firsts of 2010

First game is in the books for 2010 and it was a memorable beginning for the Roy Halladay-led squad.

Let's record the firsts of 2010, for posterity's sake if nothing else.

The Semi-Official List of 2010 Firsts
(in order of appearance)
First Single: Jimmy Rollins
First Out: Placido Polanco
First Stolen Base: Jimmy Rollins
First Baserunning Blunder: Jimmy Rollins
First Strikeout, Walk, and Run Allowed: Roy Halladay
First Walk: Carlos Ruiz
First Home Run: Ryan Howard
First Run Scored: Chase Utley
First Sacrifice Fly: Placido Polanco
First Strike out (batter): Roy Halladay
First Triple: Jimmy Rollins
First Intentional Walk Received: Jimmy Rollins
First Grand Slam: Placido Polanco
First Error: Raul Ibanez
First Win: Roy Halladay

Anything else you'd like to add? (for those who actually got to see the game...lucky people)

I'm contemplating how to approach documenting the 2010 season. I was thinking the Slice of a Season from last year was good, though my memory was not always able to hold that much information for 9 games. A review by homestand/roadtrip? A review by series? A review by week?

I would also like to try something new. I wish I could see every game (out here on the West Coast it's impossible) to have it real-time, but I was thinking of doing a "Cole Hamels Blog" for each of his starts this year. I would like to follow whom I consider the most enigmatic of the Phillies' starters from the past two years (varying between brilliant and frustratingly maddening). It will also give answer to some questions about other subplots such as "what is a FIP and can Hamels match it?" "is the 5th inning a good time to get up and get a soda?" "how many grimaces until things unravel?" and lastly, "when is a curveball not a curveball?"

Any suggestions, comments, etc?

Apr 4, 2010

Opening Day

The players are ready to go. Are you? Let 2010 begin!

(This post sponsored by people deliberately traveling toward snow during the springtime; do not mock these people, pity them, for they have erred in judgement)