Saturday, December 31, 2016

Connecticut cards (my local team/player PC)

I've lived in New Jersey for over a dozen years, and adopted my wife's beloved Devils as my favorite hockey team. It's a tough team to root for, not only because they're lousy again this year, but because so many of the sports fans in this state are loyal to rival teams in New York and Philadelphia. Not sure if the NBA's Nets had that same problem, but my original favorite hockey team sure did.

The Hartford Whalers are sort of a cult favorite now, a gone but not forgotten relic of the "old" NHL, before the league expanded/relocated to non-traditional markets in the southern US. 


The Whalers moved to tobacco country when I was in High School,  and so my fandom was reduced to minor league teams like the New Haven Ravens, double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

The Ravens played a decade at historic/outdated Yale Field, starting in 1994. They pre-dated the Baltimore Ravens and I was so mad that the NFL team stole "our" name I called them the "Baltimore Football Franchise" until about 2001. 

The baseball Ravens were later affiliated with the Mariners, then the Cardinals, and finally the Blue Jays. I think I saw 15-20 Ravens games (including the Eastern League championship) before they moved to New Hampshire in 2004. The best player in Ravens history has to be Todd Helton. Unfortunately I don't have a minor league card of him.

Connecticut still has two professional baseball teams: the Hartford Yard Goats and the Connecticut Tigers. These teams did not exist before I moved to New Jersey so I don't have any cards of them, either. The Yard Goats are the current double-A affiliate of the Rockies, which sort of brings the Colorado-Connecticut connection full circle.

There are also two professional hockey teams in my home state, the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The NY Islanders are their parent club

I never liked the Wolf Pack (even when they briefly renamed themselves the Connecticut Whale) because they are affiliated with the New York Rangers. I did attend a few Sound Tigers games, but I didn't follow them all that much. After the Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes, the franchise shared an AHL affiliate with the Florida Panthers:

The Beast of New Haven was the third NHL-affiliated team in my sort-of hometown, following the Senators and Nighthawks.

The only other hockey fan in my circle of friends was also named Chris, though we often called him "Cush". We talked of buying Beast season tickets once we were working adults but they also moved to Carolina, after the 1999 season. (can somone explain to me why Peter Karmanos deserves to be a hockey hall of famer?)

Around that time, Cush and I had a contest to see who could acquire the most Hartford Whalers cards by December 31st of that year. The loser had to buy the winner a $10 card of his choice.

We ended up tied.

As of now I have about 1,000 different Whalers cards - not including anything in a complete set. I haven't really shopped for Connecticut cards in a while, but there was one in my last COMC order that I had to add to my collection:
2010-11 ITG Decades 1980's - Franchises Silver version ($8.95)

I've got a handful of Whalers autos and a jersey card or two - but nearly all of my Hartford cards are base or parallels.

Lately I've been thinking of setting a few collecting goals for 2017. My primary goal is to purchase a case of 2017 Topps Heritage baseball. I also have one last group of vintage cards to submit to PSA. 

Aside from that I've decided to re-boot my Connecticut collection. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of players in the four major sports (no disrespect to NASCAR or soccer) who have some connection to the Nutmeg state. I can't possibly PC Steve Young, Jeff Bagwell, Ray Allen, Chris Drury, Mo Vaughn, Brian Leetch, George Springer, Jonathan Quick, Dwight Freeney, Emeka Okafor, etc etc... so I'm going to narrow my focus to cards of Connecticut teams
  • New Haven Ravens, Beast, Senators, Nighthawks 
  • Hartford Whalers, Yard Goats, and maybe some Wolf Pack/Whale 
  • Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Bluefish
  • Connecticut Tigers, Defenders and probably some UConn Huskies 
  • Norwich Navigators
and let's not forget the New Britain Rock Cats:

I gotta get me one of these

My hometown of West Haven (which neighbors New Haven) has not produced a whole lot of professional athletes. The high school football stadium is named after New York Giants great and NFL Hall of Famer Ken Strong..

..but the only other West Havener to make the big leagues (that I know of) is Matt DelGuidice, who played goal (briefly) for the Boston Bruins:

Shortly after his NHL debut, my LCS was asking $3 apiece for these junk wax cards. I did not pay $3 for these, obviously. I'm pretty sure that this is all the cardboard Matt appeared on (except the French versions), but if not I bet I could buy all of the remaning cards for under $3 total.

There is one other minor league team I failed to mention, which existed before my time. The double-A West Haven Yankees played in my hometown from 1972-79, and were followed by the A's affiliate until 1982. I only have two West Haven cards but I plan to acquire a few more in 2017.

I wouldn't mind adding more of these Yankees to my collection

Do you collect cards of local players/teams? Has your hometown produced any pro athletes? Is there a minor league team near you? Let me know in comments!


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Today's Best: My Active Baseball Stars base card collection

The Boston Red Sox made a blockbuster trade earlier today, acquiring Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale for #1 prospect Yoan Moncada, pitching prospect Michael Kopech, and two more prospects.

Once again Dave Dombrowski makes a "win now" move by gutting the farm. Sale might be better than the two Cy Young award winners currently in Boston's rotation (and he comes with a much more team-friendly salary than David Price or Rick Porcello) but I don't feel great about giving up Moncada, a 21 year old super prospect who has been compared to Robinson Cano.

Sale, Price, and Cano are just three of the active players in my "star player" base card box. I have a lot fewer base cards from the past 5-10 years, so there wont be as many scans in this post. Basically the purpose of this post will be to show you how I choose which players belong in the box, and which players go into the commons binders.

As you can imagine, this is a difficult task for current players. Some players come out of nowhere and have monster years after years of mediocrity. Others start their careers on a path to Cooperstown - but flame out early due to injuries, or other factors. How does one decide which players have 'banked' enough great seasons to be considered a star player?

Let's start with the easy ones.
any objections?

Albert Pujols and Ichiro could retire today and would easily be first-ballot Hall of Famers in five years (unless we find out "The Machine" was fueled by PEDs)

Two more future Hall of Famers: Beltran and Beltre
don't touch my head!

I'm confident that this batch of star hitters belong in the box:

Hanley Ramirez is in the box. So are Ryan Braun, Jose Abreu and Robbie Cano (don't cha know)

After that I'm a little lost. The top pitchers in the game (outside of Kershaw) aren't always valued as such in the collecting world. For instance, Stephen Strasburg appears to be more of a hobby star than Max Scherzer, despite the fact that Scherzer is clearly the better pitcher.

I try to ignore the Beckett star system and use my own formula. Consistency matters. Stats matter. Market factors, national name recognition, and hobby love don't matter as much. Which is why my "star pitcher" rotation would be anchored by Kershaw, and followed by these four aces:

I've also got Strasburg, David Price, Felix Hernandez, and CC Sabathia in the box. I would have Masahiro Tanaka in as well - but I don't have any cards of him. (Same for Manny Machado, in case you were wondering why he's not on the list.)

Now let's have a little fun: here's a list of 25 active players that might be considered 'semi-stars', regional favorites, or what have you. Some of them have been in my "star player box" for years based on reputation and past performance. Some have been overdue for a promotion or demotion - but I haven't had time to review the stats until now. 

  • Jose Bautista 
  • Yoenis Cespedes
  • Aroldis Chapman
  • Gerrit Cole
  • Yu Darvish
  • Jacob deGrom
  • Josh Donaldson
  • Freddie Freeman
  • Adrian Gonzalez
  • Carlos Gonzalez
  • Zack Greinke
  • Matt Harvey
  • Matt Holliday
  • Eric Hosmer
  • Ryan Howard
  • Ian Kinsler
  • Jon Lester
  • Francisco Lindor
  • Evan Longoria
  • Joe Mauer
  • Andrew McCutchen
  • Noah Syndergaard  
  • Troy Tulowitzki
  • Chase Utley
  • David Wright

How would you classify these players? Are there any bona fide superstars on this list? Share your thoughts in comments!


Monday, December 5, 2016

My Second Ever Father-Daughter Box Break: Garbage Pail Kids TV-themed stickers

In my last post I discussed my first ever box break with my now seven-year old daughter - a repack blaster I picked out a couple weeks ago. My second father-daughter box break was a blaster of Garbage Pail Kids... which I held onto until her official birthday. 

I was a GPK fanatic as a kid. I can still remember taking my $5 allowance to the corner store and coming home with 20 packs of Series 4 one stormy afternoon sometime in 1986. There are still remnants of GPK stickers on the closet door of my old bedroom in my mom's house.

My nephew (who was born in '86) shared my passion for GPK - and as he was buying back his childhood he found this book:

...which contains full-color pictures of every 'A' sticker in the first five series. My girls and I were fascinated by them, and I pointed out the ones I had in my collection (the ones I could remember, anyway.)  When my nephew saw us enjoying this book he decided to give us a copy for my birthday. For a few weeks afterward, my girls wanted me to "read" the book to them as a bedtime story!

That got my oldest daughter interested in buying some GPK of her own. She asked about the stickers in the book - the originals from the mid-80's. "Can we buy them, daddy?" 

"Sure we can." I said.

So I scrolled through COMC with her (starting with series 1) and let her pick out a handful of cards she liked - but I told her they couldn't be more than a dollar each. Here's what she picked:

1985 GPK Series 2 - Greaser Greg ($1.00) & Split Kit ($0.95)

1986 GPK Series 3 Barren Aaron ($0.92) & 1986 GPK Series 4 Melba Toast ($0.73)

 1986 GPK Series 5 Haunted Hollis ($0.75) & Jules Drools ($0.74)

She also picked this one (which was not in the book) for a very personal reason:

I picked out some that were personal favorites of mine from 30 years ago:

1986 GPK Series 3 Roy Bot ($0.95) & Dinah Saur ($0.98)
1986 GPK Series 5 Deaf Geoff ($0.75)

Those are all incoming from COMC. As for the new GPK we opened, this blaster was from a series called "Prime-Slime Trashy TV". For $10, we got four 10-card packs and bonus stickers from a 'Bathroom Buddies' series.

The cover depicts Series 1 original Tee-Vee Stevie

When I realized there were only four packs I initially had a bit of sticker shock; if you collected these in the 80's you'll probably remember that five-card packs used to cost 25 cents. Then I realized that if 2016 Topps baseball cards had double the amount of cards at ten times the 1986 price...they would cost $5 for 30 cards. That's pretty much what a jumbo/fat pack costs now, right? 

Unlike the old GPK cards these were not numbered 1a/1b, 2a/2b through the end of the series. These appear to be divided into multiple subsets, with no unifying number sequence:

I scanned all of the cards before my daughter took them back to her bedroom. Last I heard they were under her bed, but I don't know if she will stick them in a book (or her bedroom door) or keep them intact.

The green slime parallels are one per pack
My daughter was disappointed she didn't pull a SpongeBob card

As you can probably tell, these are supposed to depict specific shows and characters from the world of television. I got some of the references right away, but others baffled me. 

How many of these TV shows/personalities can you identify?


Sunday, December 4, 2016

My First Ever Father-Daughter Box Break (featuring 2015-16 Topps products)

A few quick notes before I start this post: my "star player" box blog series will resume next week with active baseball stars. Then I might do a post (or two) on football and basketball star base cards at the end of the week and save hockey stars for January - once my COMC order arrives mid-month I'll want to write a few posts about my purchases.

Also I've expanded my wantlist/current projects page, and I've added a former NFL tight end to the Debtor Hall of Shame. Now that we've got the housekeeping out of the way, let's get to the cards!

A short time ago, I was shopping in Target with the wife and kids. My six year old daughter has started to show an interest in my sports card collection (!!) and when we passed by the collectibles aisle she said out of nowhere "Daddy, when are you going to teach me about baseball cards?" Well that tugged at my heart; since I was her age when I started collecting I had to get her a blaster box.

While my girls looked at toys I picked out a repack: 20 packs (plus one relic) for $20.

I was expecting at least 10 packs from the junk wax era - and a crappy relic of some team USA player who never made it above double-A.
I only got two junk wax packs (both 1991 Studio) and three packs of Triple Play I didn't care for, but we did pull the coveted 'real feel' jersey card:

To my surprise, every other pack was from 2015 or 2016 Topps or Topps Heritage. And the relic was not a nobody at all - unless you consider 15 year MLB veteran and 2-time All-Star Shawn Green a 'nobody'.

This is the holder it came in. I've yet to find a screwdriver to jailbreak the thing.

Here's a sample of the 1991 Studio, including a Ken Griffey, Jr with a dinged corner.

 Simple, yet informative card backs.

Did you know Cecil had a son?

I actually didn't mind the prospect of junk wax because I wanted my daughter to open the packs and look through the cards without me freaking out that she'd bend the corners. (I'm 90% sure the Griffey was already bent, it seems the Studio packs took a beating.)

We laid the packs out on the floor and divided them up. I let her open the Studio and Triple Play. I opened most of the 2015 Topps (one of my faves) and we split the Heritage in half.

I got the 2015 Heritage jumbo pack in the box window, which was a total dud. These are the "highlights":
Best of the worst. At least the Goldschmidt is a high #.

The 9 packs of 2015 Topps Series 1 were a lot of fun to open, for a couple of reasons:

My daughter pulled an Eric Young gold parallel, and she knew it was a special card. Later when she got a Pittsburgh Pirate in her pack she assumed that was special too, based on the border color. That's when I explained the difference between insert cards and regular base cards.

There's a difference. I guess.

Sox in my box!

The Ortiz free agent 40 is a dupe :/

Overall, I think 2016 Topps Heritage was the best of the bunch:

Whenever we pulled pull a star player I'd explain to my daughter that "he's the best player in the game" (Trout) or "one of the best" (Harper). So when she pulled the Ichiro card I told her "he's an all-time great player, but he's going to retire soon."
She replied "Why, cause he's really old?"

Lol...yes, dear. Because he's really old.

The purple chrome parallels were one per pack. I spared her the ethics lesson on A-Rod, and only  told her "he's another all-time great player" - but I did tell her about Jose Fernandez, and how he died in a boating accident a couple months ago. This refractor is #d/567.

Santiago Casilla hot box! I pulled one of his cards in each Topps product. Somehow he didn't make it into 1991 Studio. Maybe because he was 11 years old?

Tomorrow I'll post the box of Garbage Pail Kids she picked out for her 7th birthday - and a few classic cards from the original GPK series.