Sunday, October 30, 2016

Halloween Treats - 2016 Topps Bunt & 16-17 OPC Hockey

Yesterday was a rough day for me - my six year old daughter had an 8 a.m. soccer game and we all had to wake up at 6:30 a.m. to leave the house at 7:30 a.m. Once again our purple team lost to our nemesis the red team, coached by a loud, obnoxious man who gets away with a ton of calls simply by shouting over the other coach or intimidating the poor 8th grade boys who have to ref these games for $5 an hour.

Said ref was not at all interested in calling fouls on any of the five red girls who pushed our purples blatantly and repeatedly. I refuse to be one of those "psycho dads" who insult and berate the refs or coaches to the point of threatening physical violence, but it's hard to watch. Especially because our coach is a nice guy who plays all of the players equally and gives them a chance at all positions. My daughter is new to the team, she's the most inexperienced player, and he went out of his way to praise her defense and improvement.

I definitely want her to keep playing soccer, and my wife is already talking about signing her up for spring. But I'm dreading another season of the red menace and their loudmouth coach exploiting the indifference of teenage referees.

Anywho... after the game we went out for breakfast at the local diner, and then I had to stop at the post office to ship out trade packs to Brian (of Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary) as well as AJ (of The Lost Collector). I was already in a foul mood from the game - and then the postal worker fingered my PWE to AJ four or five times before charging me the full bubble mailer price of $2.64. To ship a light PWE within my state.

The last eBay purchase I received came in a cushioned mailer and the postage was $1.10. I stared at the label longer than I stared at the card - how the heck was it so cheap to ship? I started to wonder how I was ever going to trade or sell again with USPS ripping me off. My depression started swirling again, and so I took a nice long nap. Nothing seemed to help.

Today is a much different story. For one thing, it's 75 degrees and sunny outside. On Halloweekend. Win! My wife took the girls to a Halloween party at the kids' little gym and then they're going to Grandma's ... so I have the house to myself all day.

I decided to do something I almost never do anymore... go outside. So many sports card bloggers have been writing about Topps Bunt that I've made it my mission to buy a box. Since I have no LCS within fifty miles of me, and it makes no sense to spend $10 on shipping for a $20-30 box that won't arrive at my door for 4-5 days my only option for retail therapy was the sports card aisle at Target.

Luckily they had one blaster of Bunt left. It was only $9.99 so I bought a couple packs of 2016-17 O-Pee-Chee Hockey, too. I'm really not as interested in hockey as I used to be - for reasons that I will explain in a future blog post. But the simple, old school stick design of this year's OPC set appealed to me. Pack one was okay:

The Dominic Moore is a rainbow parallel (I think?) but since I'm a Devils fan I have no use for it.

Pack #2 pretty much sucked:

The Plekanec retro is kinda "meh". Both packs were pretty "meh" - two inserts, four semi-star/star base cards.. and no Devils. :(

The Bunt blaster was much better, not only for "hits" but players/teams I collect.

Pack #1:
Ryan Zimmerman
Joey Votto
Dat Dude
Hanley Ramirez parallel #d/50!!!

No idea what they're calling this (a gold parallel maybe?) but I'll take it.

Elvis Andrus
Chris Sale (another angry lefty)

Pack #2:
Clayton Kershaw
Alex Gordon
Nomar unique unis!

I barely remember his Oakland A's days, and I've never seen them wear these awesome Philadelphia throwbacks. There's too much powder blue at the bottom but overall, this is a really neat card.

Jean Segura
Chris Archer
Michael Conforto (RC)

Pack #3:
Brandon Belt
Carlos Correa
a stupid code thing which counts as a card (wth?)
I guess this is for the digital Bunt cards, which I'm not going to bother with. I wasted enough time/money on Upper Deck's e-Pack. 

Marcus Stroman
Jose Berrios (RC)
Billy Hamilton

Pack #4:
Buster Posey
Luis Severino (RC)
Jake Arrieta lightforce

Apparently I forgot to scan this one, and now my scanner is being moody. Will try to add later.

Big Mac
Kyle Seager
Roberto Clemente

Pack #5:
Henry Owens (RC)
Adrian Gonzalez
Jon Gray (RC)
another code thingy

Seattle had the best uniform/color combo back in the day.

Hunter Pence
Brian Dozier

Pack #6:
Johnny Cueto
Hector Olivera future of the franchise

I don't think Olivera will be the future of any francihse...certainly not Atlanta's.

Yordano Ventura
Russell Martin

Pack #7:
Jason Kipnis
Wade Boggs!
Michael Brantley
David Price
Honestly, I wish the Sox would have kept Jon Lester.

Ben Zobrist
Joey Bats

Pack #8:
Johnny Bench
J.D. Martinez
Alex Gordon unique unis
Corey Seager (RC)!

I like when Topps mixes in a few retired stars who are not Hall of Famers - like Bo, Big Mac, and Straw.

Jacob DeGrom
Jonathan Lucroy

Pack #9:
Justin Upton
Nomar! (Mazara)
Aroldis Chapman
Starling Marte
Hank Aaron!
I also like when Topps mixes in a few retired stars who are Hall of Famers - like Bench, Clemente, and Hammerin' Hank.


Pack #10:
Ryan Braun
Evan Gattis
Papi program!

No, those aren't scratches on the card (or scanner) - the design has a weathered old program look. This and the HanRam parallel made this box a big win. Everything else was a bonus.

Blake Snell (RC)
Jeremy Hazelbaker (RC)

"bonus" Pack #11:
Jose Altuve
James Shields
Miguel Cabrera
Gregory Polanco
Willie McCovey
Shin-Soo Choo

Overall, a Sox-heavy box...the seven total Red Sox (5 base, 2 inserts) are the most of any team. Every team except for the Orioles, Marlins, and Phillies was represented in this 77-card blaster, and there were two or three cards of most teams which tells me that the checklist was fairly balanced.

If you haven't picked up a box of Bunt I highly recommend it. You can't beat the price, and the base and insert designs are really sharp for a low-price product.

Happy Halloween everyone!


Monday, October 24, 2016

Best of the best: my top ten Cubs and Indians cards

One of the most highly-anticipated World Series in recent memory starts tomorrow night in Cleveland, as the American League Champion Indians battle the National League Champion Chicago Cubs. One of the longest championship droughts in sports history will finally come to an end - and one city's long suffering fans will celebrate long into the winter.

I haven't traveled much, but I have been to both Cleveland and Chicago - though I didn't see a game at what was then Jacobs Field. As a Red Sox fan, I feel a kinship to the Cubs - who were (and might still be) my favorite N.L. team. But the Indians are managed by former Sox skipper Terry Francona, and former Sox players Mike Napoli, Coco Crisp, and Andrew Miller are among the stars for the Tribe. 

Then again, Theo Epstein was the architect for this curse-breaking Cubs team - and there are former Sox on Chicago's roster as well, including ace lefty Jon Lester, veteran righty John Lackey, and the most popular third-string catcher in baseball, David Ross. 

I think I'll just sit back, crack open a cold one (Mountain Dew, of course) and enjoy this series while all the Cubs and Indians fans out there bite their nails with every pitch. 

While we await Game 1, I thought I'd share my ten best cards of this year's pennant winners. These aren't cards of current-roster Indians or Cubs, these are any cards depicting a Cleveland or Chicago player. 

Before I start the countdown, I have another quick story of a card I didn't buy. This was on sale on COMC earlier today, and I could have snatched it up for about $8:

Tris Speaker is one of the more underrated greats of the game - and there aren't a whole lot of Speaker memorabilia cards out there. So why didn't I jump on this card? Have I not learned my lesson from the David Ortiz patch/auto debacle? Well, I did ..and I didn't. 

Tbh, the price was right, but this card just didn't appeal to me aesthetically. The Tier One ribbon takes up half the card, and the production run is too high. 399? Pass. (Yes, I know I'm incredibly picky.)

Anyway, without further Apu -- here are my ten best Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs:

#10 Doyle Lade 1951 Bowman #139 

I might have a better Cubs card - but I don't have an older Cubs card. This was a recent eBay pickup and cost only $4.10. I don't know anything about Doyle Lade, but I like the brick wall background. That has to be at Wrigley, right?

#9 Sosa/Wood/Prior 2004 Fleer Classic Clippings
Jersey Rack #JR-S/W/P (#d/99)

This triple swatch of the key players from the Cubs 2003 team has been in my collection for over a decade. It's a neat Cubs card to start with, but there's something on the back that makes this a personal favorite:

This might be the only player-numbered jersey card I have. I was a big Sammy Sosa fan back in the day.

#8 Francisco Lindor 2011 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects
Blue Refractor #BDPP53 (#d/199) 

I picked this up on COMC the day Lindor made his major league debut. It's my best modern-day Indians card by far. However, it's not his first Bowman Chrome card. Why do you lie, Topps? 

#7 Moe Drabowsky 1959 Topps #407 (PSA 8)

This is one of a handful of vintage cards I spotted on COMC and later submitted to PSA. The pink really pops on this card. 

#6 Greg Maddux 1987 Fleer Update Glossy #U-68 (PSA 10)

I was never much of a Maddux fan when he pitched for the Braves, but I got to see him pitch for the Cubs when I went to Wrigley in 2004. Got this card on 4 Sharp Corners when I was hoarding rookie cards of current-and-future Hall of Famers.

#5 Al Rosen 1956 Topps #35 (PSA 8) 

The "Hebrew Hammer" was the 1953 American League MVP and a star slugger for the 1954 pennant winners. This is one of the early additions to my 1956 Topps set, and one of my highest graded. 

#4 Bob Feller 2005 Upper Deck Hall Of Fame 
Hall Of Fame Seasons Gold Jersey/Auto (#d/5) 

This was part of my first official COMC purchase, and at just over $40 it's still one of my highest-priced single card purcases on the site. It's a sticker auto and a pants swatch - but that didn't stop me from adding it to my collection of HOFer autos.

#3 Ernie Banks 1968 Topps #355 (PSA 8)

1968 Topps is one of my all-time favorite sets, and I try to add a Hall Of Famer to my collection whenever I can. This beauty Banks card popped up on eBay shortly after he passed away, and I bought it with a best offer. It's a shame that "Mr. Cub" isn't around to see this Series.

#2 Bob Feller 1951 Bowman #30 (PSA 6)

This is a card that has come and gone and come back into my collection. I've sold a copy or two in the past to fund other collecting needs, but I always make sure to keep one vintage Feller in stock.

And now I present, the number one most valuable Cleveland card in my collection...

LeBron James 2003-04 Topps Chrome #111 (BGS 9.5)

I know, I know... King James never suited up for the Tribe. But he did bring a long-awaited championship to Cleveland - and he finally decided to ditch the Yanks and root for the locals

The most valuable Cubs card in my collection is also the most valuable card in my collection, period. Of any player in any sport, in any era. And it's not even close...

#1 Kris Bryant 2013 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks
Refractor Auto #BCA-KB (#d/500) (BGS 9.5)

This card almost makes me forget about the disastrous decision to sell my Mike Trout auto. I bought it ungraded for $250 in November 2014, and sent it to BGS (by way of COMC) for grading. Hopefully Bryant becomes a Cubs legend - and I can use this card to pay for my girls' college expenses in about 15 years.

Do you have any high-end or unique Indians or Cubs cards in your collection? Are there any current or former players from these teams that you collect? Let me know in comments!


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Next Year Is Here!

This time last week a nice long box of cards arrived at my door, as part of my very first Blogger trade. P-Town Tom (from the blog Waiting 'Til Next Year) offered up some large lots of base and insert cards in exchange for... clearing space in his collection. I offered to take some 2013 Topps and 1993 Flair off his hands, and I sent him a couple team bags full of Cubs cards in return.

Here are some highlights of the 600+ cards in the box, starting with a little Flair:

One of my all-time favorite sets. I can still remember picking out a box at my LCS (along with 1993 SP Football) as a Christmas gift. I thought it was the coolest packaging ever -- until Topps Pristine came along. I've started and broken up this set a time or two, but I'm once again close to completion (wantlist is updated here.)

Now for some 2013 Topps:

I'm a sucker for those bright orange Astros unis. The Sonny Gray is from Update, one of about a half dozen in the box.

Sox in my box! Always a welcome addition. I didn't have any of these - though I do have the Ortiz 'speech' variation. It's strange to think that just four years after this set was released there's a good chance that all of these players will be former Red Sox (pending Buchholz's option year.)

Now for the inserts, starting with '72 minis:

Another Ortiz! Another Altuve (sans throwback jersey), and a pair of all-time greats. IMO, these are even nicer than the original '72's. Must be the clean white borders.

Tom sent a ton of Chasing History inserts, including a couple holo-foils:

There are gold holo-foils, too? Sheesh. Topps is really getting carried away with parallels. The Cut To The Chase inserts are a personal favorite, and a big reason why I asked for this lot.

More parallels, including a Prince Fielder emerald and a Jason Kipnis gold. Nice action shot there.

I was out of town last weekend, and it took me a few days to send Tom a 'thank you' package. But the day after I did, he sent over some more goodies - once he realized I collect Red Sox (and Kris Bryant).

More than half of this stack were star players like Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs:

The Boggs Heritage is my favorite in the lot. And I don't mind another 93 Flair Rocket; one for my set and one for my Red Sox album.

Sportflics! Oh man, that Greenwell brings back memories. I haven't seen those in at least 20 years.

Some cool Nomar and Mo Vaughn inserts (the Metal Universe is also a Mo, might be hard to see) and a pair of Bryants for my PC. I've got about 25 Bryants now, including a high-end RC that I'll probably scan up and post about during the World Series. I've actually got a lot of Cubs stuff to share, as they were my second favorite team during the Wood/Prior/Sosa days.

Thanks again to P-Town Tom, for a very generous and memorable first trade.

Go Cubs!


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hall Pass (or "Let's Debate Something Fun like Baseball Hall Of Fame candidates")

The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame announced its list of 2017 Nominees earlier this week.

Earlier this month, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced ten nominees for the first-ever "Today's Game Era" ballot.

I'm a Hall of Fame junkie, specifically sports Halls of Fame. I'm fascinated by who is elected, who is considered, and how each Hall of Fame has their own criteria and selection process. None of the Halls of Fame get everything exactly right; if they did there'd be nothing to debate. Baseball comes the closest, its eligibility requirements and voting process are the simplest and most transparent. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the most confusing to me - which is why I seek a better understanding of the criteria.

I've been to both halls, having visited Cooperstown in 1991 and 1999 and Cleveland in 2004. (You can read my opinions about the Rock and Roll Hall - and this year's nominees - on my personal blog.)

The "Today's Game Era" is one of four veterans' committees designed to re-evaluate deserving candidates that 10-15 years' worth of BBWAA elections may have missed. In my own research (partially inspired by this article from MLB Network's Brian Kenny) I have identified at least 15 baseball players whose lifetime statistics compare favorably to players that have been inducted - so there is definitely a need for such oversight.

That said, the ten names on the ballot aren't exactly glaring omissions. There are only six players among the ten candidates, and the only one I'd strongly consider is a non-player:
  • Harold Baines
  • Albert Belle
  • Will Clark
  • Orel Hershiser
  • Davey Johnson (as manager)
  • Mark McGwire
  • Lou Piniella (as manager)
  • John Schuerholz
  • Bud Selig
  • George Steinbrenner

I feel a little sick to my stomach in saying this, but Steinbrenner is the candidate I'd vote for. I don't see any of these men getting 75% of the vote - Selig and Steinbrenner were both polarizing figures (The Boss was even banned for life at one point) and McGwire's well-documented PED use makes his induction even less likely.

There are two schools of thought when evaluating candidates with any kind of PED history or suspicion - the hard-liners refuse to consider anyone who has been suspected of using steroids, while the other side refuses to play "moral police" and considers all candidates based on the numbers alone. I suppose there are more nuanced voters who consider PED use/suspicion as a demerit but not a disqualifier. These are the folks who might justify voting for first-tier legends like Barry Bonds and/or Roger Clemens by saying they were already Hall of Famers with or without the stuff but do not vote for second-tier candidates like McGwire, Sammy Sosa, or Rafael Palmeiro.

While scrolling through for the top players of all-time who are not in the Hall Of Fame, I followed a four-tier system based on the career WAR totals sorted by position. I wont bore you with the specifics, but basically the top tier legends were Bonds, Clemens, and Pete Rose (whose lifetime ban is actually a lifetime ban - unlike Mr. Steinbrenner.)

Tier two consisted of players whose WAR totals were higher than the average of all Hall of Famers at his position. This included recent players you know such as Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Ted Simmons, Jeff Bagwell, Palmeiro, Lou Whitaker, Bobby Grich, Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, and Edgar Martinez - as well as some other worthy candidates whose names you may not know - such as Jim McCormick, Bill Dahlen, Jack Glasscock, Sherry Magee, and Bob Johnson.

The players listed in bold are still eligible for enshrinement and will appear on the 2017 BBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot. (Here's the complete list of 36 eligible players.) This year's BBWAA ballot is a bit difficult to predict; the first year-eligible candidates include:
  • Manny Ramirez (known PED user)
  • Ivan Rodriguez (suspected PED user)
  • Vladimir Guerrero
  • Jorge Posada
  • Magglio Ordonez
  • J. D. Drew
  • Javier Vazquez
  • Jason Varitek

Many baseball fans and experts (including Brian Kenny) complain that the BBWAA is only allowed to vote for a maximum of ten candidates - as opposed to however many the voter feels is deserving. This could be a problem if you are considering players with PED stink on them or if all of the top non-Hall of Famers could retain eligibility forever - as is the case with the Rock and Roll Hall.

Looking at the 2017 ballot, I don't see ten Hall of Fame players who aren't suspected of using steroids. My ballot would not include Bonds, Clemens, Ramirez, or Sosa - and I would have to think long and hard about Pudge Rodriguez.

Here are the eight players I would vote for:
  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Tim Raines
  • Trevor Hoffman
  • Vladimir Guerrero
  • Mike Mussina
  • Curt Schilling
  • Edgar Martinez
  • Larry Walker

Which players would you consider worthy of the Baseball Hall Of Fame? Do you think suspected (or confirmed) PED users should be disqualified? Am I overlooking a player you would vote for? Let me know in comments! 


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Highs and Loes

My final PSA order of the year arrived yesterday. I sent nine cards in, and I (almost) always specify a minimum grade of EX 5 and no qualifiers. We'll do these in reverse order:

1961 Golden Press Joe Cronin

I now have four cards from this oddball set - Carl Hubbell and George Sisler were already slabbed, and I had a Jimmie Foxx lying around in my collection forever that came back in a previous PSA order as an EX-MT 6.

1957 Topps Wally Post & Billy Pierce

I love the photography of 1957 Topps, but they're so hard to find in high grade. COMC described both of these as [Near Mint]...they were close enough for me.

Antonelli didn't make the grade. $6 wasted (at PSA). Not a huge loss, since I only paid $1.82 for the card. The rest of my 1956 Topps cards graded well:

I'm now at about 10% completion of the 1956 Topps set. You can see my progress here.

For the grand finale, I sent in two 1953 Bowman Color cards: Roy Campanella and Billy Loes.

The Campy was purchased on eBay from Battlefield Vintage for well over $150:


Was it near Near Mint?

Um...not quite.

It barely made my minimum grade. I've said before that Battlefield inflates the condition of their cards, and this confirms it. Not making that mistake again.

That said I love this Campy and I'm happy to add it to my Brooklyn Dodgers vintage collection. Just wish I hadn't paid so much.

It all worked out, though...

I bought the Billy Loes on COMC for $13.52 in a two-card 'best offer' deal which included the Antonelli. COMC is always hit-or-miss with buying ungraded stuff; sometimes they come back from PSA as high-grade gems.. other times they come back below grade or miscut.

Loes was not one of those.

COMC for the win! That pretty much made my weekend.

I can't wait to take my chances on some more COMC vintage. Sent in a few hundred cards to sell, so hopefully I'll have some COMC cash to spend on Black Friday.

Have a great weekend everyone. Enjoy the LCS games!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Set Break: 2000 Topps Chrome Traded Baseball

A few years ago I started hoarding factory sets of 2000 Topps Chrome Traded & Rookies.

I've thought about selling one or two but I probably won't get any more than I paid (about $100 each).

Since the set itself isn't worth much more than the best card I thought I'd open one up and see if I get a gradeable example. I'd do a box break video but I don't have a laptop or a digital camera. Also.. I know exactly what's in the box so the only drama is the condition of the card in question....

(fyi: I chose to open the set in the top right of the picture, since the wrapper was already peeling. hope it's a good one.)

The packaging confused me for a didn't open from the bottom like I thought it would. I am not the sharpest knife in the shed.

There's a sleeve covering, a top covering, and then the cards are stacked on top of one another. The top card is a Phillies pitcher named Keith Bucktrot.

After carefully taking a small stack off the top I've realized two things: the cards are not in sequential order..and they are horribly centered on the back. This concerns me just a bit.

The third and forth cards are familiar names:

And so is the next card in the stack:

Naturally, this is the card that was well-centered on the back.

The whole pile is sticking together like old cards often do. It's a bit time consuming to peel off each card one by one, but they don't leave any damage - and they still smell pack fresh. (What, you've never smelled your cards?)

This is a sample of the player selection: some names you know, mixed with some prospects that never made it - like "Round" Tripper Johnson here.

Nice Rocco Baldelli. The colors of those old Devil Rays uniform look like Mountain Dew.

Curt Schilling and Jose Canseco were stuck together - kinda reminds me of the Congressional hearings.

Btw, if anyone is team/player collecting and you want something out of this set - let me know. I'm only going to keep the Red Sox and maybe four or five other cards.

Actually I'm 44 cards in and I have not come across any Red Sox. But there are four Yankees. Typical.

Then again, they did with the World Series that year.

I'm actually surprised at how many traded veterans are in the set compared to rookies and draft picks. There were ten straight veterans before the next rookie (Twins 2B Ruben Salazar.)

Oh, wait. It appears that the rookies are all stacked together. That might be it for the established stars.

Finally a Red Sox! And a young(-ish) looking Jose Molina.

Underrated Rangers great Michael Young. Still waiting on the big prize...

Oomph. Poorly centered and the bottom corners are dinged. Not happy.

Oh well, at least I have three more sealed sets. I guess we should see what else is in here..

Have I mentioned the centering is horrible?

Last stack. The Juan Pierre looks pretty nice. Fyi, Oscar Salazar was the bottom card.

Welp, that's it for 2000 Topps Chrome Traded & Rookies. I'll probably sell the Cabrera and keep the two Red Sox (Asadoorian and Brad Baker) plus the Gonzalez, Baldelli, and Pierre rookies. Everything else is tradebait - message me if you're interested in any teams or players.