Jul 28, 2011

Topps Chrome Refractors Reveal the Trade Deadline

Hunter Pence is a desirable commodity. He's on the last year of a relatively affordable contract, and he's having a potentially career year (OPS+=130) at the age of 28. What would you give up for his services? A high-impact prospect or three prospects of varying potential has been the asking price. This is Houston's strength player. They would need many pieces in return.  Plus, he already looks good in orange, that shouldn't be disrupted.  The orange refractor says he will not be traded.
Ryan Dempster needs to leave Chicago.  He's a high-salaried player ($12 million+) on a team that is going nowhere in 2011.  Unfortunately, he has a player option of $12 million for 2012, which would make any contending team wanting his services to balk.  He is a durable pitcher with decent peripheral stats (8.6 K/9 vs. 3.1 BB/9) who has been struggling this year.  As his X-fractor suggests, the trade market is cloudy for Dempster.

Edwin Jackson outlook for a trade has already been realized three times (twice this week) since the production of this card. The purple refractor often portends change in a player's career. The Diamondbacks were using his spectacular inconsistency to land that which they coveted, Daniel Hudson. The White Sox went for an old standby with the tantalizing purple bait, relief pitching. The deal was questionable; his price was low ($6 million) for an established MLB starter, and their replacement is a fragile pitcher (Jake Peavy or Phil Humber). The purple adorned shall do well in the gateway to the west (also changing to the National League).

Gypsy Queens wouldn't be able to do this as accurately as Topps Chrome refractors.

Jul 22, 2011

2010 Heritage National Set: a mini-gallery

This is the set that Topps distributed at the 2010 National. It was given to collectors in two different 4 card packs. The only difference in the 4 card packs seemed to be that the Mantle card had a variation (which I haven't seen). Anyone know what this variation looks like? For some reason, the cards were done in the style of 1960 Topps ala the 2009 Heritage set. Has anyone seen this year's version? Is it in the style of 1961 Topps? This particular set was very New York centric in character, even though the convention was held in Baltimore.  I bet the Ripken was the most popular card on the block there.  Happy weekend to all!

Jul 19, 2011

Junior High Countdown: 90. 1994 Topps Traded

1994 Topps Traded signaled something new for Traded sets from this era. Something so significant that it influenced sets for years to come. That's right, there were card images on the side of the factory set. That never happened before for a traded set. In all seriousness, this set did not have much going for it. It had the extremely cursive 1994 Topps design for the base cards. There were the nice-looking draft picks and prospect cards that carried over from the regular 1994 Topps set.

Essentially, there's only one consideration in grading a Topps Traded set from the 132 card era....checklist.

Significant rookies: Paul Konerko (pictured), Ben Grieve, Rusty Greer

Significant veterans: Eddie Murray, Rickey Henderson, Bo Jackson, Omar Vizquel

Cool Cards: 42. Anatomy of a Trade: Pedro Martinez/Delino Deshields-this would be a fascinating read. Does anyone have this card?
130 & 131: Ryne Sandberg commemorative cards. The Sandberg cards are interesting because this was for his first retirement abruptly in the middle of the 1994 season. He did come back for the 1996-1997 seasons. There were no traded sets for those years, so there wasn't a new commemorative Sandberg card.

Interesting inserted cards: There was an 8 card set with the now-in-its-sophomore-year Finest technology highlighting 6 "MVPs" and 2 "ROY" from the 1994 season.

This set was actually difficult to find for awhile since it was released right around the time of the strike. However, its lack of impact rookies and impact cards in general have relegated it for collectors who need every single Topps Traded set ever (those do exist, right?) and Paul Konerko fans, of which there are many in the south of Chicago, though seeing him in a Dodgers uniform is weird to the untrained eye.

Jul 14, 2011

Second Half Season Predictions: National League

Here are my predictions for each team:

Phillies: Halladay and Lee conspire to make ambidextrious clone of themselves to take 5th starter's slot. Opponents can't handle the extreme platooning they have to employ. Clone only can smile with right side of mouth.

Braves: Chipper Jones and Freddie Freeman start co-hosting Thursday night icebreakers. Jurrjens gets upset when he finds out pitchers have to sing to get in.

Mets: Jose Reyes signs new contract that gives him operating control of the team for 2012-2013. His first orders of business are to have the knuckleball taught by RA Dickey to all the pitchers and to institute a long hair only policy.

Nationals: Jordan Zimmermann and Ryan Zimmerman reveal they are cousins. No one is fooled.

Marlins: Jack McKeon is not fired. He gives cigars to players for each great defensive play.

Brewers: Zack Greinke counsels Rickie Weeks about the booing at the Home Run Derby. His advice...be happy you were noticed.

Cardinals: It is revealed Albert Pujols used the little known remedy known as Skele-Gro to heal his wrist. This remedy was first used by Madam Pomfrey.

Pirates: Kevin Correia/20 wins/pandemonium.

Reds: Joey Votto becomes a starting pitcher because he decides that he can throw harder than the present pitching staff. He goes 5-1 in September.

Cubs: Wrigley Field entire playing surface becomes soaked with beer when all the fans fill a giant bowl in the right field bleachers and express their dissatisfaction with the season.

Astros: Michael Bourn becomes bored with stealing bases one at a time and attempts to go from 1st to home on one play.

Giants: Tim Lincecum grows a beard, dyes it blond, and goes on tour with Green Day. Brian Wilson is jealous.

Diamondbacks: Mark Grace wins one race of the giant 2001 racing Diamondbacks. It could happen!

Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki encourages Ubaldo Jimenez to grow a mullet. Ubaldo balks and cuts off Tulowitzki's.

Dodgers: Frank McCourt in the news....that is all, the rest is gravy.

Padres: Fences are moved in 10 feet in the alleys when the Padres come to bat. This can happen when secret controls are installed in owner's box. No one notices because hologram is used for previous wall location.

How well do you think these predictions will hold up?

Jul 8, 2011

Phillies vs. Braves or How Pivotal are Midseason Series?

It may seem strange that I'm not leading off a post with a Phillies card for a post about the Phillies considering my blogging history. However, this is the only 2001 Heritage card I have ever had, so it gets top billing for this subject.

In 2001, the Braves were the kings of the NL East, having won every division title since the new alignment began in earnest for the 1995 season. The Phillies were struggling upstarts coming off yet another last place season. The Braves pitching staff was anchored by the outside corner painting trinity of Glavine, Maddux, and Smoltz, while the Phillies pitching staff was anchored by Omar Daal and Robert Person. It seemed that there would be no contest as in past years. But the Phillies, under the fiery leadership of Larry Bowa, the emergence of Jimmy Rollins, and the lineup anchoring by Bobby Abreu and Scott Rolen gave the Braves a run for their money with their young (only one position player over 30) core. They eventually finished two games out, giving hope for future years.

Ten years on, the Braves are the upstart in the division, with the Phillies having won the last four divisional titles. This time the old-guard aces of the defending champs have names like Halladay, Hamels, and Lee. And this time, the Braves have a young core of Freeman, Heyward, McCann, Kimbrel, Hanson, and Jurrjens.

These are clearly the two best teams in the NL up to this juncture of the year. The Phillies have set a blistering pace in the first half of the season, but the Braves have been the most resilient, creating an MLB best record since June 1 and also engendering a league-best road record.

The season series is currently in the favor of the Braves 5-4 and the teams are only separated by 2.5 games in the NL East. They have, by a large margin, the two best pitching staffs in the NL, allowing 3.27 R/G for the Phillies and 3.30 R/G for the Braves. Their offenses also hover around the league average of 4.11 R/G with the Phillies one slot above this number (4.16) and the Braves two slots below (4.02).

In league history, has dominance of your closest rival been a springboard to titletown? Let's examine the last three years in the NL.

(listed as 1st place/2nd place/1st place wins-2nd place wins)

2010 NL East: Phillies/Braves/10-8
2010 NL Central: Reds/Cardinals/6-12
2010 NL West: Giants/Padres/6-12

2009 NL East:Phillies/Marlins/9-9
2009 NL Central: Cardinals/Cubs/10-6
2009 NL West: Dodgers/Rockies/14-4

2008 NL East: Phillies/Mets/7-11
2008 NL Central: Cubs/Brewers/9-7
2008 NL West: Dodgers/Diamondbacks/10-8

So, based on this extremely limited sample, one doesn't always have to be better than the nearest competition in head-to-head matchups. It would definitely improve your situation if you do, but the key to success during a baseball season seems simple. Get your wins wherever you can and don't take any team for granted and don't get ramped up and burnt out from another matchup because they all count the same in the standings. Human nature doesn't always let us shield us from that. It will make for an exciting and tense series in July in any case.

Jul 6, 2011

Bowman Binge Blowout

I think I've opened more packs of Bowman in the last three months than I have in a long time.  Of course, knowing me with such an obvious lead-in, it's not the 2011 Bowman variety.  The images of bygone prospects to be and could have beens lie littered across the landscape of my coffee table in all the many varieties of black or gold bordered cardboard creations.

But I digress...

Like many collectors in this hobby, I am susceptible to hype.   With the Bryce Harper chrome rookie well in hand the week of release by virtue of purchasing a complete hand collated set,  I had no need to heed the chitterings of the newly minted chromey prospect minions.  Alas, my willpower did not hold out.

I blame the Topps Diamond Giveaway with its virtual prize bonanza.  A $10 Topps store certificate?  Sign me up, line me up, and knock me out from sheer anticipation.   I browsed the wares of the Topps store, and the Bowman logo caught my eye.  For the second year in a row, it has been flanked by a Washington Nationals #1 pick; this time obscured by the bottomless roundness of an oversized batting helmet. 

My willpower urged me to press on and tried to distract me with thoughts of my present collection possessions.  "Look at that drawer over there, you haven;t organized the contents yet.  Stacks and stacks of cards remain unscanned, unsorted, and unshared.  Give these cards some consideration before you flood them with more Bowman."

"But I am a Bowman collector!", I replied with a fury fueled by the gift certificate.

My willpower was nonplussed by my enthusiasm.  "You are an ex-Bowman collector from before the days of the "Rookie" logo.  You even halfway started a series about it in this very space.  In any case, you already have the 2011 Bowman set."

"B-u-bu-bu-but HARPER! AUTO! Pineda! Freeman! Refractor!",  I blurted like someone coming out of shock.

My willpower just sighed and turned away.  "I see I have some more work to do on you."

I hungrily clicked the buttons to purchase the items in question and I received more than I bargained for....

Two 24 pack retail boxes of 2011 Bowman.....

The question to those who have read this far is this.....what should I do with them?  I have the base, prospect, and prospect chrome set, so any of those cards would just be duplicates, and we all know how duplicates make set collectors feel.

The choice is yours:  Rip 'em, sell 'em, group break 'em, or keep 'em until Harper makes the majors in 2012. Find the poll located on the sidebar for easy answering.  Also, comments are cool.


Jul 2, 2011

2011 Topps Wrapper Redemption Black Diamond Pack

I did save my wrappers and sent them on for processing. Not bad results...one ex-all star, three once and future all-stars (including the 2010 AL MVP), and one guy challenging the record for lowest batting average in a season.  Presented without comment.