Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Trip Into Big D's Part 1- The Rays

Yesterday marked the beginning of the college football season.  I started my day off by sleeping in, after a long week at work, and watched my alma mater NC State take on Georgia Southern.  The game was a little bit closer than most NC State fans would have liked to see, but in the end the Wolfpack picked up a W on a nice pass play by quarterback Jacoby Brissett.





After the game ended I decided to check in at my local card shop Big D's Cards in Raleigh.  It has been awhile since I had been into the store, but Jimmy, the owner of the store, has been busy tracking down cards for my collection.  I had a pretty good stack set aside over the past month or so.  The stack was big enough that I decided to break it into two posts.  Tonight, the Rays.  Tomorrow bingo.  




I have been looking for a copy of this card for awhile, but have had a bit of a hard time tracking this down from half a world away.  This card comes from a Topps Supreme which was a release slated for Asian markets only in 2013.  It is coming to the states this year.  Each Supreme box came with one pack with two autographs in each pack.  There are some good names in the set, but the boxes sell for around $75-$80 US dollars.  While I would love to pull a pack fresh Chris Archer card, I would not like to spend $75 for a pack fresh Chris Archer card.  Cards have a cool design and a nice look.  Happy that I finally ran into one of these for a good price and in the United States.  




Next up is a Desomnd Jennings Allen & Ginter card from last year.  I believe this completes my set of Rays autographs and relics from last years set.  Next.....



This is actually an Astros card, but Zobrist is now a Ray.  I count it as  Rays card.  I already have a copy of this card, which comes from the 2004 SP Prospects set.  However, it was sold to me as part of a larger lot of Zobrist cards.  I also got these:



More Astros, but another rookie.  This is a really cool set if you have never checked it out.  Some really cool rookies.  On to some more, non-Rays Zobrist autographs.......




A Topps Tribute World Baseball Classic Autograph of Zobrist out of 50.......




another from the same set out of 35.......



and the 1/1 for good measure.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Commemorative Coolness

I hope you have enjoyed some of the older cards I have posted on here during the past few weeks.  I set a goal of posting more cards that were already in my collection when this year started.  It's been a busy past 30 days for me at work and I feel like I have had limited opportunity to post new cards.  The cards in my post tonight are two of my favorite older autographs in my collection and I consider sort of prized possessions.

In 1996 Upper Deck issued the SPx set.  The SPx brand had been a football and basketball brand prior to the 1996 year, but the baseball line followed a similar concept as the basketball and football lines.  The cards had a simple die cut design with a hologram picture covering the majority of the card.  The baseball version contained one card per pack with a limited few insert sets and parallel sets also included.  Two of the insert cards were a commemorative card of both Ken Griffey and Mike Piazza.  Each card also had an autographed parallel.

I loved the look of these cards and made both autographs a high priority a few years back.  Both look really good in my collection.





My copy of the Griffey autograph is fading a bit, but I keep it stashed away and rarely take it out of it's spot.  I would consider looking for another copy of the card, but many of the other copies are starting to look just like mine.  The Piazza autograph has held up well almost 20 years later.  Both cards can be found for around $100, but the Griffey has started to fluctuate in price based on the condition of the autograph.  One completed sale on Ebay recently sagged below $70, but the 'graph was badly faded.  Nice copies of the Griffey can still push $200.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

#MyCardMonday

I have had a really rough month with posting cards consistently, but I really wanted to get a #MyCardMonday post up before the end of the weekend.  This week's card comes from the 2011 Topps Diamond Die Cut Set.  These cards could be earned by typing in a code from the back of a card into a website.  Some codes earned collectors vintage Topps cards, while others gave them a crack at one of these cool die-cuts.  I have a few I picked up that year.  For #MyCardMonday I picked a copy of Jon Jay:




I picked Jay because he is having a great season for the Cardinals.  The Redbirds have been a frustrating team to watch this year, but Jay is posting a .309/.280.401 line with a 119 OPS+.  All are career highs.  While many Cardinals fans thought he would not stay on the team through the offseason, he has been a pleasant surprise and one of the few consistent contributors to the team.  I loved collecting Jay cards the past few years and have not found as many this year, but looking back through the old ones always makes me happy.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Throwback Month- Stadium Club Triumvirate Die Cuts

A quick post this evening.  I have done a few posts over the years on die-cut cards.  I'm a fan and I hope you are too.  Some are better than others, like all types of cards, but the Stadium Club Triumvirate Die Cuts were the beginning of the line for me with die cut cards.  Topps issued there inserts from in the mid to late 90s Stadium Club sets and then recently brought them back for in the 2013 Topps Archives Set.  Within the run of Triumvirate cards, each team had three players.  Although there are a few years Topps put positions together.  Put the players from a team together and it looks like this:



The cards looked good without being assembled into a set.  Here are a few of the past designs along with my opinions (generally good) of the cards.  Cards are posted in order of date, not favorites.  They are all cool cards......



The 1998 set was one the Triumvirate set where the "sets" were by position.  You can see the centerfield label behind Ray Lankford.  I believe there is also a Bernie Williams card in this set and a Ken Griffey Jr.  The Junior might be lingering somewhere in my collection, but I am going to go out on a limb and say I do not have a Bernie, or his soft rock guitar.  This year had a simpler die cut, although the lace eyelets around the edge of the cards are actually holes in the card.  In a lot of ways this is the set which most reminds me of the new version issued by Topps in 2013 in terms of the shape of the die cuts.  


The 1999 version of the Triumvirate cards featured more intricate die cuts and the cards had slats cut into the cards.  I have never been into graded cards, but I was also tempted to send a few of these off to see what they would rate.  While the cards are generally plastic, I have seen these cards with dings on the points in the die-cuts.  The "sets" were by team in this issue.  


In 2000 Topps issued a simpler version of the Triumvirate cards.  The cards still had the slats, but the edges had a less complex design.  I really liked the background on the 2000 set.  



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Throwback Month: Pacific Online

This set was the mother of all Pacific sets.  It was 800 cards, I know there are bigger, but by Pacific standards this was as big as it got.  The base Pacific set was usually a pretty decent size, 500 cards or so, but the majority of their sets in their late 90s heyday were smaller 100 and 200 card sets.  The set had a Pacific type of feel from the way the cards were ordered (Angels first) to the design, which looked like it could have been a Pacific base set with a few modifications.



Each card featured two URLs on the top of the card, hence the name Pacific Online, which linked the card to the players page with the MLB Players Association and also with the team page.  Had to put a Devil Ray in this post too.  There were variations within the set too which made it a little bit harder to put together.  There are gold cards, like Wade Boggs above, which were placed one per pack.  There were also silver cards, but those had variations too.



This card features Bagwell fielding, but his regular card in the set featured him batting.  There is no consistency to the variations.  Some are head shots, as was the case in the regular Pacific set, others were changes in jersey colors.  The variation in the variation makes this a tricky set to compile.  There are several different sites which offer checklists, but there is disagreement in some cases as to which card is the variation.  I just picked up both copies.  Problem solved.  



There are also team checklist cards which was a hallmark of almost all Pacific sets from that era.  While many of the checklists were seeded as short-prints, and could be difficult to run across, the Pacific Online checklists were just simply short-printed cards.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Allen & Ginter Cardinals Relics

I am going to catch up with things this week.  I will be posting the second half of my 1991 Topps favorite cards this evening, but in the meantime, here are a few Allen & Ginter cards from this year to look at.  Both cards are Cardinals with the Adams being bat relic and the Molina a jersey relic.  






The Molina relic is slightly dirty, which is always cool to see on a relic card.  I've seen and owned dirtier cards, but still always cool to know that your relic saw a little bit of game action.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

1991 Topps: The National League Teams

One of the most underrated sets of all-time is the 1991 Topps set.  The packaging of the product celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the base Topps set.  The design of the cards was really simple with a simple white border, a colored frame to match the team color, and a Topps 40th Anniversary logo up in the top corner of the card.  The photography was great.  Cool action shots to go along with some really good staged photos.  It seemed like Topps actually cared about their cards.  Strange.

Here's a run down of one cool card from each of the National League teams 1991 style.  No Brewers, yes Astros.  After much thought and consideration:  No words, just pictures.  These were awesome cards.
























Platinum Rays Autographs

I am doing a few posts the next couple days to catch up for last week.  It was just one of those weeks where things kept popping up and my day job kept me really busy.  I really wanted to put up a post about the 1991 Topps set, but am still working on it.  Probably this afternoon.  Plenty of cards to share, so here are two new cards to my collection:

Bowman Platinum was recently released by Topps.  I have opened wax of this product before and not always faired too well.  This year I avoided opening any packs of Platinum and settled for trading and buying single autographs, relics, and cool cards from the set.  The Cardinals and Rays autographs, which are always my first targets, have a few autographs in the product.  The Cardinals autographs in the set include Oscar Taveras and Stephen Piscotty, while the Rays autographs include Will Myers, Mike Montgomery, and Curt Casali.



Montgomery came over to the Rays in the James Shields and Will Myers trade.  He's been in Durham the past years and has yet to make an appearance at the Major League level for the Rays.  The left-handed starting pitcher made the International League All-Star team this year and is having a nice year for the Durham Bulls.  His last two months have been a little bit shaky, but I still think he will make a contribution to the Rays next year.  I'm not sure he starts, but he's in Tampa next year.  




I also picked up a copy of the Curt Casali autograph.  Casali played his college baseball at Vanderbilt and has spent a large chunk of this season in Durham.  He has also been called up to the Rays where he is hitting .186.  Not a great mark, but the Rays have been a little bit thin at catcher recently.  Not sure if his is ever a starter, but is decent defensively and has some good pop in his bat.  




Thursday, August 14, 2014

OT: Favorites from 1991

It has been a week.  Meetings, Open Houses.  Meetings cannot be emphasized enough.  Meetings.  I have not had a chance to sit down and crank out any posts this week.  Sitting down and seeing that my last post was a #MyCardMonday post makes me slightly sad, but I am going to sleep it off tonight and bounce back strong this weekend.  In the meantime, I am going to give you an off topic thread this evening.  My last off topic post was on pizza.  I was surprised that people still read my blog, so let's try it again.  My next post, baseball card wise, will focus on the year 1991.  Here's fifteen of the most played albums on my ITunes from 1991.  Just for reference I was a freshman in high school that year.  In no order, or ranking:



Nirvana- Nevermind 




Metallica- Black Album




Public Enemy- Apocalypse 91 





Guns N Roses- Use Your Illusion





A Tribe Called Quest- Low End Theory 





Tom Pretty- Into The Great Wide Open





Lenny Kravitz- Mama Said





Pearl Jam-Ten 





Pixies- Trompe Le Monde 




Ministry- ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ




De La Soul- De La Soul Is Dead





Soundgarden- Badmotor Finger




U2- Achtung Baby 





Primus- Seas of Cheese





Matthew Sweet- Girlfriend



Monday, August 11, 2014

#MyCardMonday

Nothing really to say hear other than I love this card.  Happy #MyCardMonday



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Throwback Month: 2001 Fleer Showcase

A personal favorite for my last post of the weekend.  Fleer put out a bunch of base sets during this time and a bunch of them looked the same.  It was a huge problem and they were not the only ones who had rampant problems with duplicating sets, card concepts, and designs across their product line.  The Showcase set could probably be fairly compared to several other Fleer products from 2001, but I like this set for several reasons.  Let's start off with the regular cards in the base set.




First, you have Jeromy Burnitz looking like this.  Sure he's looking up, but the ball is probably 30 feet over the wall or it's in the catchers mitt behind him.  One of my favorite late 90s non-Cardinals players.  Honestly, it's all because of the swing.  I'm pretty sure that he is tearing up some beer league softball right about now.  I also love the Fernando Tatis card in the blue pinstriped Expos uni.




The design on the base set is clean and typical of Fleer cards from this era.  You don't get to see much on the card outside of the design concept and the player.  What team is Fernando playing?  What stadium is Jeromy Burnitz hitting in?  You will never know on a Fleer card, unless you are looking at the Ultra set.  Then maybe.  Despite the flaw, in my opinion, this was about the best Fleer did with this style of card.  The design is clean and all of the important information such as team, position, player name are all visible.  There were also short prints.....


  

It's hard to tell from the scan, but this card actually has a frame and the center picture has a pretty nice finish.  Reminds me a bit of the Topps Gallery cards.  There are also rookie cards done in this same fashion.  



The prized rookie card from this set is the Albert Pujols, but I do not own it.  It's one of the few Pujols rookie cards that I have not tracked down over the years.  Maybe someday, but it still has not happened.  The best of this set is the autographs.




I have put up copies of the autographs from this set before.  They are really cool and feature some really great names like Derek Jeter, Willie Mays, and Albert Pujols.  Again, I own none of them.  They are out there though.  There are also plenty of really affordable names in the set, at the time many were prospects, but they turned out to be solid Major Leaguers.  Furcal, Glaus, Brian Giles, Ben Sheets just to name a few.  

Throwback Month: 1996 Leaf Signature

I know a lot of people who hate this set.  This was the first autograph per pack set and it flooded the secondary card market with thousands and thousands of autographs.  I am still not sure the flood has ended.  Somedays I type in the search word "auto" into Ebay and filter the searches to show me the cards that are ending soonest.  It's actually a really good way to snag a few good autographs at the last second for some great prices.  About once a week my screen is loaded with someone's long list of 1996 Leaf Signature cards.  You know, these things....




Does anyone actually buy these things?  Are there actually any good cards in this set?  The answer to both of those questions is yes, and in fact you should go ahead and probably pick up a bunch of the cards in this set.  Here are three types of cards that I look for from this set:


1. Hard To Find Signers 





Up until Pedro started signing for Topps the past two years, he had very few certified autographs out on the secondary market.  The Leaf Signature set is very comprehensive and they managed to snag quite a few players who were not the best signers over their careers.  Sammy Sosa, Derek Jeter, Randy Johnson, and Rafael Palmiero are a few others who have tough autographs in this set and can be tough to find away from this set.  Mariano Rivera also has an autograph in this set, which looks spectacular, but be prepared to take out a second mortgage on your house.  


2.  Mark Gubicza, Mike Hampton, Shawon Dunston, Why Not?  




You guys remember Shawon Dunston?  Played for 18 years, first overall draft pick by the Cubs in 1982, two time All-Star, played on four division winners in Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis, and San Francsico.  Solid player.  



Doug Drabek played 13 years, won a Cy Young Aaward, and was the ace of the early 1990s Pittsburgh Pirates teams.  Later played for the Astros, White Sox, and Red Sox winning 155 games in his career.  


Mike Hampton played 16 years, was injured for at least another 4 or 5, and still won almost 150 games during his career.  Had a great year pitching for the Astros in 1999, a pretty good year with the Mets in 2000, and then learned your change-up doesn't change plain, nor speed in Denver.  He could hit too....




Mark Gubicza was won of the better pitchers in the late 80s.  Won double digit games in his first six years in the bigs, including a 22 win season, two All-Star appearances, and a ton of Van Halen t-shirts.  




All these players were pretty good.  All of them played when this set was released.  Do you know another card set with a Mark Gubicza autograph?  There are a ton of solid players in this set, who are not Hall of Famers, but had good years and should be worthy of a place in your card collection.  Most of these cards a just a few bucks at most.  Really good deal for an autograph of a pretty good player.  


3.  This Guy Played For My Team!




Who remembers Allen Battle?  He played 61 games for the Cardinals in 1995 and was then traded for Todd Stottlemyre.  I buy Cardinals autographs.  For 50 cents would you buy an autograph of a guy who played part of a season for your favorite team?  I vote yes.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Throwback Month: Jim Edmonds

A little opinion piece on your Friday night which also fits my Throwback Month theme.  This article all began a few weeks ago with an argument I saw on Twitter (I was not involved) where a few individuals were arguing about the best center fielders of the last twenty years.  Griffey was in there.  Beltran, Andruw Jones too.  Kirby Puckett.  That's a pretty good list, but I have to wonder why baseball fans do not put Jim Edmonds in this group of players.  I am not sure that baseball fans understand how good of player Edmonds was for a long time.  I am equally unsure as to why collectors do not jump on more Edmonds cards.

Let's start by breaking down the numbers on Edmonds.  The Jaffe WAR system (or JAWS) rates Edmonds as the 14th best center fielder of all-time.  The list in front of him includes Mays, Cobb, Speaker, Mantle, DiMaggio, Snider, Ashburn, Dawson, and Billy Hamilton (Sliding Billy).  Throw out those nine and Edmonds would be fifth amongst modern center fielders behind Griffey, Beltran, Lofton, Andruw Jones.  No problem conceding the top spot to Griffey.  That's not a debatable point.  After that each of the three remaining players have positives and negatives to be made for their case as Hall of Famers and "Best of Their Generation" types of talent.

There are several statistics which support Edmonds laying claim to the top spot in center field behind Griffey and should merit Edmonds receiving Hall of Fame consideration in time.  One knock against the Edmonds Hall of Fame profile is longevity.  He played from 1993 through 2010, but their were several partial seasons and lots of wear and tear on the eight time Gold Glover.  For example, Beltran has played the same number of years as Edmonds, but has almost 1200 more plate appearances.  Mainly, the lack of plate appearances hurt Edmonds with counting number stats, but they are still strong.  He's only 7 home runs short of 400, 20 more than Beltran, and only about 40 short of Andruw Jones.  To get a better idea of the production Edmonds provided the Angels, Cardinals, Cubs, and Brewers over his career, a better picture emerges when you simply look at his sabermetric stats.

I am going to focus in on three areas: OPS+, OPS, and WAR7.  Let's look at OPS+ first.  Remember that a mark of 100 represents an "average player", so possessing a mark over that shows an above average players.  Edmonds comes in with a career mark of 132 which easily puts him ahead of Beltran (122), Jones (111), and Lofton (107).  In fact, Edmonds is only slightly behind Ken Griffey in this area (136).  Break it down by the top 3 OPS+ numbers posted by the players during the players career and it would look something like this:






Again, Edmonds stands out above this crowd and ranks much closer to Griffey than the other three modern center fielders in this discussion.  Lofton, Jones, and Beltran's top three numbers would not place on Griffey's chart, nor Edmonds, but Edmonds top season is equal to Griffey's top mark on this statistic.  The OPS discussion breaks down much the same way. 

Griffey has a top 10 OPS with a .907 mark.  All of the center fielders ahead of Griffey's mark are either Hall of Famers or Mike Trout.  Edmonds is just a shade behind Griffey at .903 for 11th all-time as a center fielder.  The rest of the players in this discussion are much further down the list measuring by this statistic.  Beltran ranks 24th all-time with an .850 mark (just ahead of Ray Lankford at .840) and Andruw Jones ranked 39th with an ,823 mark.  Lofton is 76th.  

While the career marks of Griffey and Edmonds are near on OPS they each got to their number in a different way.  Edmonds had two seasons north of 1.000 and 8 seasons above .900.  Griffey had 4 seasons above 1.000 and 10 seasons above .900.  Breaking this stat down into it's original two components of on base percentage and slugging shows Griffey at a career OBP of .370 and a SLG of .538.  Edmonds had an OBP of .376 and a slugging of .527.  Clearly both players got on base, both players hit for power.  Griffey just hit for a lot more power.  

Final statistic and the best argument for Beltran and Lofton.  If you have never looked at the WAR7 stat on Baseball Reference you should take time to explore a little bit.  I am a big fan.  While I think longevity is an important factor in consideration for the Hall of Fame, I do not think it's the end all, be all in the conversation.  The statistic is actually quite simple.  It's the sum of the best seven WAR seasons for a player.  Here are the top 20 center fielders with the WAR7 stat highlighted next to the player's career WAR.




This is the one weak area for Edmonds that I have brought up tonight, but he is still in the same ballpark as Andre Dawson.  He was pretty good.  Lofton and Beltran look good here, but this is also a stat that can be helped out by longevity, which I already mentioned Edmonds lacks.  

So what does all of this mean?  In my opinion, Edmonds is not too far behind Ken Griffey and should end up in Cooperstown sooner than later.  The last few years have brought out tons of baseball fans in support of a Hall of Fame with Carlos Beltran, but Edmonds is clearly a much better player.  Carlos does have a great track record in the post season, but Edmonds did one thing in the post season that Carlos never got around to.....



Which also brings up another question: Why are Jim Edmonds rookie cards available for $2 and $3?  Sure, they are 1993 issues, which means there are probably 100,000 of each, minimum, but this guy is awesome.  Buy his cards.