Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Fine Pull from Finest

I stopped by my LCS today to pick up a few items and decided to splurge a bit. I usually don't purchase packs over five bucks, but after the owner showed me the card below on Ebay, I figured, why not?

I knew the odds of pulling such a card are fairly ludicrous. Nevertheless, I opened up my wallet to purchase a 5-card pack of 2017 Topps Finest.
Pedro Martinez was always one of my favorite pitchers. Maybe this was a good sign?

Card 1: Yulieski Gurriel
I drafted Gurriel in my fantasy league hoping I could plug him in 1B or 3B, but he hadn't hit for nearly enough power when I cut bait. So, yeah, a rookie card of a 33-year-old who currently has an OPS of 0.747. The card also has a slight ding in one of the corners. Not off to a great start.
On a positive note, I really like the design of the cards. I think what attracts me the most is the large partial logo in the lower left corner that is shaded in the team's dominant color.

Card 2: Andrew Benintendi
 Yeah, this is a nice pull of a young rookie who looks to have a solid major league career. This specific card is actually a Finest First insert card. It's still a solid design, but I like the base cards better.

Card 3: DJ LeMahieu
 LeMahieu is a former Peoria Chief and also the 2016 NL batting title winner. Some of you may poo-poo this card if you were to pull it in a five card pack, because the Rockies don't seem to get a lot of love, but as a resident of P-town I'm pretty happy!

 Card 4: Craig Kimbrel
I didn't know card companies were allowed to make cards of Kimbrel where he doesn't have his arm hanging out while staring in for the sign. I am also am curious why Topps chose the navy blue instead of red for Boston. Odd.
By the way, if you've haven't seen the season being put together by Kimbrel... Oh. My. Word. His K/9 is 16.8, which is actually down from where it was a couple of weeks ago. Also, that ERA: it's a fourth of what he recorded in 2016.  Lights out!

Card 5: Anthony Rizzo!
 BOOM!  It's not the auto parallel my LCS owner showed me, but this card is awesome!  Oh, and it wasn't card #5 in the pack, but I had to save the best for last! 

Great pull for this Cub fan!

I really like this product and would love to try to hand collate a set, but it's a bit out of my self-imposed budget. Blowout Cards has boxes on sale for $150, but a box is only twelve packs, at five cards a pack. The base set is 100 cards, which means two boxes if collation is good. Yeah, I can't do that. The Break Throughs Anthony Rizzo sure was nice though!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Wrigley Tour and LEGO Convention

This past Saturday my sister, Jane, and two of our friends, Jim and Theresa, and I left P-town at 6a.m. to head north to Chicago. We got hung up in some road construction, but otherwise made it safely to Wrigley Field for our scheduled tour of the ballpark at 10:00 a.m.

I had been on a tour with my wife and two other couples back in 2009, and I was hoping to see some of the newer parts of the park this time around. Unfortunately, the only new-to-me part was a trip through the visitors' locker room. The tour guide was super informative and I learned more about the history of Wrigley Field than I had previously. Plus, I got to see his World Series Championship ring up close and personal like!

I think my favorite part on this tour was sitting in the dugout, but I enjoyed taking pictures of some of the signage in the locker, too.
Jim on the left and Jane on the right.
 Here's a photo of the "Pace of Play Procedures," which resided on the wall in the locker room.
 I hope MLB can find a way to get the length of an average 9-inning game back under 2:50. Enforcing the above rules to the letter of the law and adding in a pitch clock would go far if you asked me.

Instant replay slows the game, but it's here to stay.  This sign is from 2015, which I guess means they haven't made any changes to the rules since then.
 The sign below is pretty neat if you ask me. It resonates with me because as a high school coach we have a number of different game times, and we always try to get batting practice in.
After the tour we checked out the new Park at Wrigley. It seems much bigger on TV and the snapshots I've seen on Twitter.
We hit up the team store and then tried to see the World Series trophy, but it was unavailable.
Empty!  Boooo!
Cubs personnel told us our best bet to see the trophy would be to attend a game or catch a tour on a game day. Bummer.

Next up we traveled to Schaumburg for lunch before hitting our next scheduled stop.

Lunch was awesome. I'm a big fan of biscuits and gravy and would highly recommend Gus' Diner if you have the opportunity.  Large portion sizes and attentive service. #winning

We were out in Schaumburg because my sister got us tickets to the LEGO Convention. I haven't played around with LEGOs since my early high school years, but they are still something that genuinely interests me.

This place was crazy. I have to imagine this is what "The National" would be like if I could ever attend.
 Above is a picture of the USS Missouri battleship. It's over twenty feet long, consists of nearly a half-million LEGOs and took about a year and a half to build. The detail is incredible.

There were bunches of vendors at the convention selling their wares, but many people had tables set up to simply show off their creations. Many things were centered around pirates, city-scapes and super heroes, but my favorite were those centered around Star Wars.

 There were some interactive parts at the convention as well. Above is the race track where your freshly built LEGO race car could compete against the cars of others.

 There were some really neat mosaics. My favorite was of a cat and it was 4' by 4' in size. Naturally, all done in LEGOs.
 There wasn't much baseball at the LEGO Convention, but I did find one baseball field! The amount of mini LEGO people at the ball game was really impressive, especially when one considers that most figurines at the convention center were in the $6 to $12 range. Man, and I thought card collecting was an expensive hobby!
Overall, it was a fun road trip with family and friends!

Thanks for stopping by and reading!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Topps Likes and Dislikes Variety

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day and saw a link to Cardboard Connection's page of 2017 Topps Series 2 variations. When I first saw the page there was only about a half-dozen listed, but as cases have been busted more have been found and the list has increased to forty cards.

Some cards have only one variation, like Jose Abreu's card, #593. Here's the base:

And now the variation:

I'm not against variations, especially when they involve a fun snapshot. Plus, it gives collectors something else to chase rather than your standard color changing parallel.

I kept scrolling through the gallery and noticed there are some "legend" variations, which is pretty neat.

Anthony Rizzo and Ernie Banks share a card, but let's switch things up a bit by showing you card #650.  Here's the base:
The standard player variation:

The legend variation:
Cutch is one of my current low-key favorites in all of baseball. Roberto Clemente is probably in my top ten favorite players of all time. (Perhaps I was a Pirate fan in a past life?)

Back to the point: all three of them share the same number, #650.  Now, that's variety!

So, you may be thinking, "Topps doesn't mind putting in a little extra effort to add some variety to its product. Good on them." 

Well, I'm here to tell you to hold on a second before patting Topps on the  back. They are up to their same old tricks again.  Take a gander.

 I was pretty stoked to learn my man, Dan Vogelbach, was included in Topps Inception. I've accumulated all of the auto parallels, except the 1/1, and they look fantastic grouped together.

When I learned Vogelbach would have a base card in Series 2 I jumped for joy! And when I discovered he had two inserts in Series 2, including two autos, I had to pinch myself. I mean, heck, the guy hasn't even logged 30 MLB at-bats yet.

Then pictures started to surface. Ugh. Topps has put out four different (non Topps NOW) Vogelbach cards this year and used the same photo on every one. Where's the variation now?  I went to Getty Images and found 54 different photos of Vogelbach in a Mariners uniform, including the one Topps used repeatedly. I even found a few other photos I thought would work nicely: #1, #2 and #3.

But I guess it wasn't meant to be. Sigh. 

It's frustrating to this collector. Actually, it has me reconsidering my entire "let's chase down every parallel of The Vogelmonster" train of thought. Do I really need two dozen cards with different borders and color tints if they all have the same exact batting pose? 

Maybe I should add some variety to my collection and start buying more Panini and Leaf products?

Or, perhaps, I should just sleep on it and give myself a little time to cool down.

What are your thoughts on Topps variations and their re-using of photos for some players?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Blog Bat Around: The Origin(s) of Your Player Collection(s)

I don't think there's been a Blog Bat Around since March, and Kin made a comment yesterday which sould make for some solid blog entries from our little community:

So, I ask my audience, what is the reason for collecting the players you collect?

I have plenty of past and current players in binders, but there are a handful of guys who I've gone the extra mile and created spreadsheets to keep track of their cards in my collection.  I'm going to break those players down in chronological order.

#1 Ryne Sandberg -- I was introduced to baseball cards at a friend's 10th birthday party and one of the party favors was a rack pack of 1988 Topps. If you recall, one glossy all-star card was on the front of each of those packs back in the day and this was mine, thus effectively making it my first baseball card of a Cubs player. Now I have well over 800 different Ryne Sandberg cards!
#2 Kerry Wood -- I chose Kerry Wood as my new favorite Cub when Sandberg retired, because we're about the same age, both were pitchers, and both had arm surgery at about the same time. I still remember coming back from class in college and turn on the TV and watching him mow down twenty Astros. That was a great day! I currently have 492 unique Kerry Wood cards.

#3 Kosukue Fukudome -- I like following the foreign leagues and I thought his skill set would translate really well to MLB... plus he was signed by my Cubs! I was convinced he would be a hybrid of Ichiro and Hideki Matsui, who both had excellent MLB careers after success in Japan. Yeah, I was a little off on that one. I have 164 Fukudome cards, including 40 from his time in Japan.

#4 The Vogelmonster -- Kerry Wood retired and Fukudome was on his way out of Chicago when the Cubs drafted an affable, hefty, and hard-hitting first baseman with their second round pick of the 2011 draft. I've always loved minor league guys and I figured chasing the cards of a somewhat obscure minor league player would be easy on the wallet. Plus, the Cubs hadn't yet traded for that Anothy Rizzo guy, so Dan Vogelbach became player collection #4. Over the years I got to see him play live a handful of times in the minors and met him twice for IP autographs. We even had a nice exchange at the 2016 Cubs Convention. I'm sitting at 134 Vogelbach cards, but the release of Topps Series 2 should help inflate that number. (See yesterday's post.)

#5 Brooks Kieschnick -- Two way players are very common in high school, much less so in college, and quite the rarity in the professional ranks. It sounds like a couple of #1 picks from the recent 2017 draft may get a chance to pitch and hit, which is pretty exciting. Brooks Kieschnick became one of these players and I noticed his cards piling up in my Cubs boxes. So, why not keep track? The funny thing is Kieschnick somehow flew under my radar until after he retired. (I blame college, starting a career, and getting married for that.) I have 78 Kieschnick cards, but he has many more than that out  there.

#6 Karl Olson -- Karl Olson played back in the 1950's. When I was in middle school my dad picked up his 1957 Topps card at a card show. At the time, I had never considered buying vintage cardboard. In short, I was enamored with his new find. My dad already was picking up cards of Greg Olson and Gregg Olson, players who shared our last name, but cards of Karl Olson seemed like a unicorn to me: magical and unattainable. Fast forward twenty-plus years and now I have a fairly complete Karl Olson collection, of eleven cards. 

So, there you have it!  How about you?  How did your player collection(s) come about?

Banner swiped from Night Owl's blog.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Keep Me In Mind

Topps Series 2 officially drops tomorrow, but I'm suspecting it's already on some shelves of the big box stores across our fair country. Which may, or may not, be fair . . . depending if you're lucky enough to live nearby a store which stocks its shelves early.

As you rip into your packs and find a parallel or auto of some Seattle Mariner rookie, by the name of Dan Vogelbach, do not curse your luck. (Not everyone can pull the next hot Aaron Judge card.) Instead, drop me a line and offer the Vogelmonster card up in trade! Feel free to leave a comment or hammer out an e-mail (mrcoach00 at yahoo dot com), but be sure to leave some way for me to get in touch with you.
In my collection already: 5" by 7" red #/5

I knew Vogelbach was going to be out in Series 2 a couple of months ago when the Mariners team set was released, but I had no idea he would also have TWO inserts and TWO autographs to chase.  And the parallels... curse you Topps and all those parallels!

Here's a checklist of all the cards I need: 
Additionally, here's a link to a Google Docs page, which I will try my best to keep updated. You'll also be able to find this link at the top of the blog. 

Thanks for keeping me in mind and have fun ripping your packs of Series 2!