Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rays from the Vault

This is one of those posts where I feel like the scan I spent ten minutes trying to make does not really do the card justice.  I am not really all that into encased cards.  Never really like the whole graded card thing.  All of the Topps sets with slabbed cards, not my cup of tea.  However, every once in awhile I see an encased card or two worthy of my time.  Tonight's card is one of those cards......




This is another card from the Topps Vault.  I have about four other cards I have picked up from their Ebay store over the past two or three years.  If you have never checked out the Topps Vault page on Ebay, it's basically a whole bunch of odds and ends the card giant has hanging out around their offices.  Old pictures, slides, photo proofs, sample cards, and about anything else you could think they'd have sitting around.

This Archer gem is actually a blank back card from the Topps Mini set.  I am not sure what the purpose of the blank back cards are in production, but Topps has a ton of them.  For all I know they just make blank back cards so that collectors like me will buy them off of Ebay.  Either way, I am happy with my latest Archer 1/1.  Third one I have added during this past month.

The card also comes with the really cool and very official looking Topps Vault certificate.........




Of all my Topps Vault pick ups almost all of them have been Rays items recently.  I am going to make it a goal to add something really cool from the Cardinals, or maybe another team, in the near future.  I am going to go do my other job and watch Fantastic Mr. Fox....Have a good evening!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Clipper Contestant

I had a great time this last summer attending The Triple A All-Star Game hosted by the Durham Bulls.  The team did an outstanding job of hosting the event and showcasing the best players from the International and Pacific Coast Leagues.  I still have my program from the game handy and still have some strong opinions about some of the players I had a chance to watch.  The PCL players I do not get to watch outside of the highlights on the Minor League website, but International League players I keep up with mainly just by keeping up with the Bulls.  One of the players I was eager to watch at the All-Star Game was Indians prospect Jesus Aguilar.



Aguilar actually played for the Carolina Mudcats (Indians High A team) back in 2012.  He's was a big guy without a real position, and while he got on base and hit for a good average, it was not clear that he had enough pop in his bat to really make a huge impact in the Majors.  Two years later he was in the International League playing for Columbus Clippers and was one of the bigger offensive threats in the league.  Aguilar was named an All-Star based in large part to his first month of the 2014 season where he hit .356/.440/.667 with 7 homers and 16 RBIs.  I had seen Aguilar in games before, but it was fun to see him hit in the Home Run Derby.  



His raw power was really impressive to see in person.  He has a great swing and generates a good deal of power.  I usually do not like to buy into a lot of the comparisons that people throw out there about Minor Leaguers.  However, the comparisons between Aguilar and Boston's David Ortiz could be pretty spot on.  Aguilar has been kind of late bloomer, has good power, hits for a good average, and draws a lot of walks.  Hopefully the Indians will be a little more patient with Aguilar then the Twins were with Ortiz.  Unless they want to trade him to the Cardinals or Rays....then I am game.  Here's a look at Aguilar during the Derby.....


A video posted by The Snorting Bull (@thesnortingbull) on


After watching Aguilar I immediately went out and tried to find a couple of his cards.  The problem?  There are not very many at all.  A couple of team issues, a Leaf product or two, and an odd or end in a Bowman set, but nothing really to fun looking.  Enter Topps Supreme.....




Aguilar has several different autographs in the product.  Most are flying way under the radar compared to most high end prospects.  His Leaf autographs have been selling for slightly less than $5 over the past couple of months, but his Supreme autographs are only slightly more expensive and can be had for a little more than $5.  It seems that the really low print runs do not add much of premium onto the price of his cards yet either.  My copy of his autograph from the Supreme set cost me $7 and is limited to just 35 copies.  The purple version of this card, numbered out of 25, sold for just a dollar more.  

Aguilar should be a contender for the American League Rookie of the Year next year, especially if the Indians move Nick Swisher and free up some at bats for Jesus at first base and DH.  Last season the Tribe ran Swisher out to first base and DH for 86 games and he hit .206/.278/.331.  Pretty pathetic.  Aguilar can do much better for a lot less money.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

#MyCardMonday

I have not been posting anything on my #MyCardMonday posts outside of some random card out of a box in my collection.  Where's the story behind the card?  Where's the love?  I have learned the errors of my ways and decided to post a little bit of a story to go along with my card this week.  Last Monday I posted a Placido Polanco card, so this week I am going to stick with Cardinals from the early 2000s and go with a cool Fernando Vina card.



For those not familiar with Fernando, he played primarily for the Brewers and Cardinals during the mid 90s into the early 2000s.  He was a spark plug offensively.  Not much power, not much speed, but he found a way to get on base.  He finished in the Top 10 for getting Hit By Pitches eight times during his career and is 19th in the overall career leaders for Major League Baseball.  In fact he ranks second all-time in Cardinals history and fourth all-time in Brewers history at being struck by pitches. What kind of player's offensive game revolves around getting hit by pitches all of the time?  He was like a poor man's Craig Biggio.  

Fernando was also a pretty good fielder, but sometimes bad stuff happened to him in the field.  Probably his most memorable moment in his career involved getting absolutely trucked by Albert Belle.  #Trucked 



Beyond the Albert Belle thing, Fernando landed in the Mitchell Report and worked for awhile at ESPN.  Was it the Mitchell Report?  I'm not sure what Fernando is up to these days, but I keep waiting for him to turn up in another video with Murphy Lee, Nelly, Snoop Dogg, and Puff Daddy.....


NC State Basketball- Game 5 South Florida









State finally played a school from a decent conference and it definitely showed some holes on the team.  The obvious first:  The team won and now sits at 4-0.  The Wolfpack has never won their first 4 games in a season under Gottfried, but they have made the NCAA Tournament every year.  One would think that this team has enough talent to compete in conference play and make the NCAA tournament, but we have to play better than we did tonight if we are going to get there.  While South Florida is from the American Athletic Conference (formerly part of the Big East) and play quality opponents like Cincinnati, UConn, and (last year) Louisville, they were non-competitive in that conference.  They finished 227th in RPI last year right ahead of Norfolk State.

Positives- The Pack scheduled an opponent that was not a total cupcake.  Lacey stepped up and played great hitting shots, grabbing some boards, and really taking the team on his shoulders at times.  Anya and Freeman did a great job on the boards with BeeJay blocking five shots this game.  He entered today leading the ACC in swats.  

Negatives- There are a couple of places I could go here.  Let's make a list:

1.  While the big men are rebounding there is little scoring production coming out of the 4 and 5 spots for the Pack.  Anya hit for 9 points, but bricked some free throws.  Most of his points were of the put back variety too.  Abu barely played and did not take a shot.  Freeman did not take a field goal attempt and again free throws.  Kyle Washington?  Did he play on offense?

2.  Barber did not distribute the ball.  He's faster than everyone on the court.  Pass the ball Cat.  2 assists with 1 turnover is not acceptable out of a starting point guard at this level of play.

3.  Free throw shooting.  As a native St. Louisan it pained me to see the Pack lose to the Billikens in the tournament last year because they could not hit a free throw.  Yet, here we are again.  Too many missed free throws down the stretch.  The team was up by 11 about halfway through the 2nd half and then State started piling up the bricks.  I reworked this Valvano quote to help out Gottfried for practice this week:




Gottfried:  "We practice shooting free throws into the net down every day. I have these orange basketballs [pulls basketball out of blue velvet-encased box] that we use. We save these for one thing: the end the game.” 
 

or......

"Everyday ordinary people make free throws"

Both work for me. Was that too much of a rant for a win?  


Player of the Game- Trevor Lacey 


Gottfried should find this Georgia Tech fan to help out at practice too 



Foodie Post: Lilly's Pizza in Durham

I had a great Saturday morning out with my four year old.  We ventured out to the Life & Science Museum in Durham, North Carolina.  Lots of cool stuff there, especially the dinosaur trail.  The trail is about a half mile walk and features different dinosaurs along the way.  I walked the trail about four times yesterday with my son in between trips to the museum's butterfly house, looking at wolves and bears, the barnyard, and a ride on the miniature train.



After walking around looking at dinosaurs for a few hours we ventured into downtown Durham for some pizza.  Last summer I had done my first foodie post on the pizza in Missouri.  Pizza in North Carolina is a little bit different.  There are not a ton of great stand alone pizza places in the area, not to say there are none, but there is definitely limited selection of truly good pizza places.  Yesterday my son and I ventured out to Lilly's Pizza in Durham after our time walking the dinosaur trail at the Life & Science Museum.  



There are actually two Lilly's pizza locations in the Raleigh-Durham area.  The original Lilly's Pizza is off of Wade Avenue not too far away from NC State.  My wife introduced me to the restaurant sometime in 2006 or 2007.  I am not sure when Durham got a Lilly's Pizza, but it is in the downtown area and convenient to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Duke U, or most of the other attractions in the area.  Both locations offer the same great pies made from delicious organic ingredients.



The best items to order at Lilly's are the speciality pizzas.  Lots of good choices.  They also come in all different sizes.  Since my son is strictly a cheese or sausage pizza guy I ordered a small pizza, which is still a generous portion, along with a house salad.  The salads are also incredible.  Yesterday I ordered one of my favorite specialty pies called The Sir Walter which is a mushroom and prosciutto pizza with gouda and mozzarella cheese.  The Sir Walter has a great kick of garlic which I love.  Lilly's Pizza also has great crust.  It's soft and chewy.  If it were a menu item I would order it.   Some of my other favorite pizza at Lilly's include The Gus, The Tobacco Stacker, and my wife (she a way bigger foodie than me) loves the barbecued chicken pizza Dante's Inferno.  My pizza are always olive or mushroom heavy.



If you want something simpler Lilly's also sells pizza by the slice.  The slices are generous and the toppings are really good.  My son did a slice of sausage pizza.  Really great ingredients and the same chewy, soft crust as their full sized pies.  He was a big fan of pizza.




Just to give you an idea of how big the single slices are at Lilly's, his one slice of sausage pizza was not much smaller than my small pizza.  Same sized tray.  Overall, this is one of the real pizza gems in North Carolina.  If you live in Raleigh, Durham, or somewhere nearby and have not been to a Lilly's Pizza you are missing out on a good meal.  If you ever happen to visit the area and want a good meal this is one must visit restaurant.  


FYI- Lilly's makes for some great leftovers too.  Maybe I am weird, probably, but I love leftover pizza.  One of the measuring sticks for a great pizza is eating it for the next meal or the next day after it has sat in the fridge for awhile.  Lilly's is delicious cold or reheated.  Overall, again, a great pizza place.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Champ Returns To Durham

The Rays signed minor league free agent Allan Dykstra to a minor league contract today.  The former Wake Forest star was drafted in the first round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres after the first baseman was named 2nd Team All-ACC, 8th best prospect in the Cape Cod League, and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award.  Dykstra spent three years in the Padres organization and four years with Mets.  Last year he made the Pacific Coast League All-Star team and reintroduced himself to the good baseball fans in the Tar Heel State......




Quite a performance out of the former Deac.  I saw news of the signing this morning which reminded me of a card I picked up this summer and never posted.  I thought this was a cool looking card for a few bucks.......




Dykstra should be a good addition to the Durham Bulls next year.  The Bulls always seem to get an older player or two for the roster and this seems like a good replacement for Vince Belnome and Wilson Betimet.  I am just hoping that maybe Allan Dykstra will wear the championship belt from his Home Run Derby Championship in at least one at bat during the season.




Vlad Currency

I have always really liked the currency cards that Topps has put out.  It seems like they have increased in popularity since the card company has included them into their Gypsy Queen product and limited the pieces to small print runs of 5 or 10 or 25.  Very limited.  While I like the look and appearance of the new currency cards, I am not sure I like the idea of paying 25 dollars or more for a coin card.  There are lots of cool autographs you can buy for that much money.

However, the original Topps currency cards, which came from the 2003 Topps Gallery set, are extremely affordable and not really all that limited in cost.  They look fabulous and have many of the same attributes of their modern relatives in the Topps Gypsy Queen sets. 




The front of the card features a nice picture of Vlad in his Expos uni and a Centavo from his native Dominican Republic.  I am guessing that this coin is worth like a 5 cent Tootsie Roll (chocolate flavored wax) from Walgreens, but looks really cool.  I have never collected coins or anything, but always think they are cool to look at.  Other places have cool money.  The only improvement I could have suggested for this card is to have the Vlad picture feature him swinging at some really ridiculous pitch that is five feet off the plate or on top of his shoelaces. 



I do not do the backs of cards very often, but the coin cards definitely have cool backs......




Honestly, it's not that much different from the rest of the "hit" cards that card companies produce, but there is something about the fact that you can see both sides of the coin that I find really cool.  Various card companies have done this with jersey and bat relics in the past and I really think it gives the card a cool look.  I mean, besides slapping a giant "Congratulations" across the top of the card, what can you put on the back of a card like this to spruce it up?  The little Topps slogan at the bottom of the card is not making me want to run out and buy more cards this morning, but that coin face looks sweet.