Sep 30, 2012

The Perils of Breaking a Box Without Connection: The Ghost Box

As card collectors, we are accumulators of these objects that are generally rectangular in shape and contain the image of one player or more. It could be a as a part of a set, as a part of a quest, as a part of nothing at all. But there are times when even our normally lucid clarity of judgement becomes clouded by the deal of the day, by the thrill of the hunt, and by the small chance of an exclamatory card that makes your arms go numb.

When this happens, in this modern card collecting age, it comes in the form of boxes. Unnecessary packs can easily be excused. Oh, I just wanted to see what the set looked like....Oh, I wondered what all the hype was about....Oh, I got started on my favorite team's set from this brand....

 But when buys a box with no purpose except to scratch the itch or to seal the bargain of your soul to chase these constantly multiplying creatures, then one must either drown in giddiness or disappointment. Such was the case when I purchased this box of 2008 SP Authentic. I like to call these boxes ghost boxes. The brands don't exist for you as possibilities to collect or bust or flip, but a deal comes and you start thinking about it.

You look at the checklist and think why didn't I look at this before. There's some great names on here....hey look, is that an Evan Longoria rookie, is that a Clayton Kershaw rookie...I can totally get my hands on of those...and all for the low, low price of less than I though I would pay.

 This is especially a great ghost set because the base set is forgettable, the inserts are indistinguishable and generic and the hits are surprisingly strange. Here's what resulted from this box of regret.  (Note: The base set made my want list because I'm nothing if not a completist....I think I'm missing 7 cards out of 100 or something)
Justin Verlander base: Ghostly Justin Verlander is just completely surrounded by emptiness.  Even an MVP can't buy happiness in an empty void like that.
Paul Konerko Base: Paul Konerko is feeling the ghost of pennant collapses past....that he hasn't really experienced.
Hanley Ramirez base: All Marlins fans now regard Ramirez as a ghost.
Jimmy Rollin Authentic Achievements insert: This ghost insert looks like a base card, but isn't.  Check out the ghostly figures in the background.
Ken Griffey Jr Authentic Achievements insert: Griffey's Reds career was notorious for his time away from the field.  The specter of the Kid loomed for a decade.
Albert Pujols/Brad Lidge Marquee Matchups:  This matchup made Lidge want to disappear at one point, but that was 2005....already 3 years before.  Plus, they weren't even in the same division anymore.
Pedro Martinez/Ryan Howard Marquee Matchups:  This matchup disappeared when Pedro became chronically injured and took a turn as a Phillie in 2009.
Brandon Jones Auto: Here's the first of three hits.  See the auto, it's recessed in the card; it's actually worse than a sticker.....
Wesley Wright Auto/Jersey: demonstrated here in the 2nd of 3 hits, where the auto runs off the recessed window.

Here's the 3rd hit.....

Yes, it's invisible because it was an expired redemption, and therefore, does not exist.

How appropriate for the ghost box that I should never have meddled with.

Sep 23, 2012

The Phillies are Feeling Blue...

...because their playoff chances are down to 0.2 (or practically nil).  With the two losses to the Braves this weekend and the Cardinals two wins and the continued success of the Brewers, I will now resign myself to the fact that I most probably likely not going to be rooting for a Phillies postseason run for the first time since 2006.  It was quite a run, but it's still sobering as a fan and for the players involved.

Roy Halladay-feeling blue because he allowed 7 runs in 1.2 innings in his final start, pickmeup suggestion-go fishing in the Caribbean
Cliff Lee-feeling blue because of the small run support he got for most of the year.  pickmeup suggestion-become a dart throwing champion in the offseason
Ryan Howard-feeling blue because of his career low .SLG. pickmeup suggestion-go back to his hometown of St. Louis and have some Ted Drewes.
Vance Worley-feeling blue because surgery on the elbow is never good. pickmeup suggestion-invest in a fashion or costume line that will use his goggles.
Jimmy Rollins-feeling blue because his OBP has dropped to its lowest mark since 2002 and because he keeps on getting reamed once or twice a year for not running out every pop-up.  pickmeup suggestion: three words: radio show host.

So as you can see, they don't seem to be feeling too well.  Amazingly, they stayed in contention until the penultimate week of the season.  Hopefully, they can finish the season with a winning record.......

But of course, if they win all their games and the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Brewers all falter all bets are off.  Is that completely irrational?  I meant it to be.

Sep 20, 2012

A Bat Card of a Phillie from the Dark Years: Willie Montanez 2001 Upper Decade 70s

Willie Montanez (or Guillermo Montanez) played for the Phillies before the first purported "Golden Age" of 1976-1983.  He debuted in the days of Connie Mack Stadium and ushered in the Veteran Stadium era in a resounding way in 1971.    He finished 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting and hit 30 HR and had 99 RBI.  That would be his career high in power production (.476 SLG) as he inexplicably fell off as he entered his prime.

Willie Montanez is not the first name that comes up when one thinks of Phillies with 30 HRs in the '70s.  Take a moment....

There's Mike Schmidt, #1 thought, of course.  This should be followed by Greg Luzinski in quick succession.

There were only two other Phillies who reached this mark in the decade of the '70s, and they both reached that mark in the same year, 1971.  This was the man of the moment, Willie Montanez and Deron Johnson.  The Phillies must have thought they had the power core to be successful with the ascent of these two mashers, the first full season of Larry Bowa, and the debut of Greg Luzinski.

The hope may have been misplaced since they did finish 11th in the league in runs scored and 9th in the league in runs allowed in 1971.....and then they went and traded their no-hitter throwing, 6 HR hitting ace of Rick Wise in the offseason....for Steve Carlton.  That may have worked out.

Willie Montanez's career did not match the ultimate promise of that first year, but he was a league average hitter for over 14 years. And it's fitting that Upper Deck gave him a bat card commemorating that decade of decades....the '70s.

Sep 16, 2012

For Football Week 2: Two 2012 Topps Football Packs

I decided to try my "luck" and see if I could at least snag a base rookie from the latest Topps offering of football cards.  I think the last time I opened a pack of football cards was 1991, so this is a new experience either way.  I love September and the confluence of the ending of baseball season and the opening of football season.

Pack 1
300-Eli Manning, not a bad start, getting a 2-time Super Bowl MVP award winner.  He was the QB on my fantasy team last year (lost in the finals of this long-time league again)

80-Chris Johnson-C2K is looking for a bounceback season, not quite to the heights of his 2000 yard season  in 2009.  His 2011 is a testament to the perils of holding out all preseason.

320-AJ Green:  He gained 1000 yards as a rookie WR last year, the 15th time that has happened.

163-Green Bay Packers team card-They were 15-1, and didn't make the Super Bowl.  Home-field advantage doesn't mean as much as it used to.

101-San Diego Chargers team card-They have the powder blue uniforms on, it's a nice card.

Game Time Giveaway: It looks like the site is up-unlocked a Tony Romo card, is that good for the site?  Apparently, a card is 1:14 codes instead of a token...not bad.

1965 Topps Tall Boy Insert 16: Miles Austin:  What a strange shape for a mini.

258-Randy Moss:  He is a 49er this year after not playing last year and barely playing in '10.  Can he be a contributor?

413-Aaron Corp- Signed as a free agent after the draft as a Bill, did not make a roster.

126-Quinton Coples-The DE was the Jets 1st round pick in 2012

61-Brandon Gibson-The Rams WR was born in Germany.

106-Mark Ingram-The former Heisman winner had an injury plagued rookie season, but will be the principal rusher on the Saints this year.

Pack 2
52-Alex Smith-He turned the corner last year and had his first 3000 yard passing season, leading the 49ers to the NFC championship game.

408-Marcell Dareus-The DT had the most sacks by a Buffalo rookie in a decade according to the back of the card.

2-Javhid Best-The talented Detroit player has been having concussion problems.  I know how hard those are to shake, and mine weren;t as severe as what a football players' would be.

302-Shane Lechler-He averaged over 50 yards per punt last year and still didn't  lead the league!

122-Jared Cook-This TE was my sleeper pick in the draft for those who miss out on the top ones...he's still sleeping.

87-Joe Haden-He's supposedly one of the top CBs in the league, but is being suspended for 4 games for violating the league substance abuse policy.

1957 Topps Rookie Reprint Red 15-Kendall Wright- a rookie starting receiver in a vintage design, nice.

Prolific Playmakers insert Darren Sproles-had an amazing 86 receptions last year as a running back and averaged 6.9 yards per carry.

196-Curtis Lofton-This Saints LB had 147 tackles last year and a statue of his likeness in his hometwon of Kingfisher, OK.

51-Gerell Robinson-The Arizona St. alum is on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad.

278-Juron Criner-This WR was the 5th round pick by the Raiders

160-Mark Sanchez-Signed to an extension and challenged by the Tebow, I predict a career year this year for Sanchez.

Sep 15, 2012

1997 Bowman Chrome Box Break....Lights

1997 Bowman Chrome is one of the iconic emblem sets of the past 20 years. It was the first time that Chromium technology was put on the Bowman line after the success of 1996 Topps Chrome. The configuration of Bowman Chrome from then is very different than the configuration of Bowman Chrome now. It was released in a single series of 300 cards and was a partial parallel of the Bowman set.  The design was also different.  The black became gray and pinstripey.  Inserts from the regular Bowman set were also chromed and refractored up.  Color refractors did not yet exist.

I opened up a box of this recently and received no major rookies (Halladay, Berkman, Tejada), but it was interesting to say the least.  Refractors only fell twice per box in these days, and insert refractors were sometimes rarer.  I wouldn't say this was a great box, but here are some....lights, shall we say, of the cards pulled
Ken Griffey Jr: This was Griffey in his prime, a proverbial powerhouse of undying hobby love.
Scout's Honor Roll Dmitri Young: Here's one of those chromed up inserts, this is especially relevant due to the news from earlier this summer and the selling of his amazing card collection.
Jim Thome International Parallel: This was the progenitor year of the international parallels, brought back to the Bowman line in 2011.  Thome was still playing this year, incredibly.
Travis Lee Scout's Honor Roll Refractor: At least the refractors had an R on the back to designate them.  One of my least favorite Phillies players ever.  Also, this card was made a year before the D-Backs existed.  How could this be?
Adam Eaton rookie: Star pitcher of the 2008 World Series champions (actually he was beyond terrible on his second stint as a Phillie, earning -3.0 WAR in 2007 and 2008 combined with >6 ERA)
Jon Garland rookie: Garland had a pretty good career, excelling as a finesse pitcher on the White Sox for many years.
Andy Pettitte: Here;s an example of a veteran base card, of someone who just can't stay away from the pull of the game.
Kris Benson rookie:  Here is the first pick in 1997 draft, he would be a headliner when this set was released.
Jose Cruz Jr. rookie: This guy, though, exploded in popularity in 1997.  He was supposed to be Griffey and Thomas all rolled into one with higher panache.  The trade to Toronto for Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin was one of the more shocking transactions of 1997.  The 12th ranked prospect for 2 relief pitchers? Really?  Not that he became a superstar, but still didn't seem prudent.
Eric Chavez rookie: This was the best rookie I pulled from the box from past and present value.  He's remaking his career as a platoon Yankee.  Until 2006, he may have been the best all-around 3rd baseman in baseball.
Scott Elarton rookie: He was in the Phillies organization earlier this year, so I included a scan of him.  Had a career best 17 wins in 2000.
Octavio Dotel rookie: He's played for a record 13 teams, including the Mets here and the Cardinals last year.
RA Dickey rookie: This is what he looked like before the beard, knuckleball, and mountain climbing.  One of the more compelling rise to success stories in baseball over the past couple years. The league always needs a knuckleballer.  He has a real chance at the Cy Young award this year.
Gary Sheffield International: Sheffield, a flag, and Marlins teal, very '90s.
Nathan Haynes Refractor: The base refractors were much more shiny and reflective by this point.
Nelson Figueroa International: He was a Phillie double-dipper, in 2001 and 2010 (h/t to gcrl)
Albert Belle International: The menacing visage of Albert Belle gave pitchers and his teammates nightmares.  But wow, what a run from '92-'99 he had before his hip deteriorated too far to play.
Scout's Honor Roll Nomar Garciaparra: He actually won the ROY in 1997 unlike the player on the card below.
1998 ROY Favorite Travis Lee: Who did have a decent rookie season and finished 3rd behind Kerry Wood and Todd Helton. He always held his bat like that in all the photos. Can we move on now?

John Smoltz International Refractor:  This was the one per box insert.  At least I received a great player.  I do like some shiny flags.

This box only had 96 cards in it, so this is a difficult set to complete.  I'm glad I had the opportunity to open a box now.  They were $7 per pack in 1997.  The quest for the Halladay continues unabated.